A Nigerian Easter

The last time I attended confession, I was mighty troubled. It’s a miracle that in the midst of all my iniquities, my conscience somehow finds a way to remain alive. So, I was in turmoil over my own deeds and misdeeds, all of which I relayed to the priest through the dusty net at the confessional. I really put it out there…reeling out tapes and tapes of the times I fell, and how hard I tried to get back up, and every time it felt achievable, how I went crashing back down again. I ended by confessing that I had tired of trying; I saw no point in it if every time, I ended up hurting my Creator and disappointing myself.

When I finished, the good ol’ toughie – Monsignors are always the toughest – kept mute for a dozen precious seconds. I wondered if maybe he hadn’t heard me, or maybe my litany of iniquities had lulled him to sleep, or worse, maybe he had never seen that much filth all up in one man.

So there I was, on my knees, brow sweaty in the cold morning air, thinking of how best to escape quietly. Then he coughed. I heard his robes ruffle as he shrugged.

Then he said, “son, try again”.

This time last year, I wrote a six-part series following Christ from his condemnation, to death on the cross, and triumphant resurrection, and I called it ‘The Medallion’ (look HERE for a re-read or a first read).

I have never claimed to be the best Christian – unless in circles where I am the ONLY Christian 🙂 – but I am pretty certain of the fact that Good Friday is not a story of a second chance. Jesus, by bowing to shameful death on a cross, did not give me a second chance at doing good. No, His death gave me the grace of many chances; because of Christ, I shall never suffer the dearth of opportunities to get it right, no matter how many times I err, for as long as I live.

That is the joy of Good Friday, and the glory of Easter.

And THAT is the bane of the victory of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari of APC in the recently concluded presidential elections. Some of the sweetest ones among you readers have asked why WAW was uncharacteristically mute in the middle of all the brouhaha before, during and after the elections. The answers to this will come in a future post, hopefully, but suffice it to say that a major reason was the painful manner in which I was disenfranchised. I still owe Oross that story.

Anyway, I stayed home, laughed my insides raw on social media memes, and drew up Excel tables and charts with voter results. For those who are still unclear about whose side I was on: I did this

mocking laughter

when Kano and Katsina happened; then I did this

high five

…when Buhari scored above 25% in Edo and in any other ‘unlikely’ state.

And when it became clear we had a new president even though Borno was yet to come, I did this…

dance African kid

So…

  • WHY APC, AND NOT PDP?

Tuesday’s victory was more for Nigeria, than any individual or political party. For the first time since we first saw democracy, we proved to the world that we count. More importantly, we proved to ourselves, the political parties and the men in power that we are still capable of democratic unity in the face of adversity, and that in our strongest elements, we are never to be taken for granted again.

I recently followed this sister on twitter, @KingUcheOdoh, and she pretty much summed it up as follows:

“Just so we are clear we didn’t say Buhari is our savior! We just voted out a government we were not satisfied with to give another a chance!”

Dazall!

  • WHY BUHARI, AND NOT JONATHAN?

I cannot tell you that I ‘voted’ the party and not the man – it would be a lie. If anybody says that to you, kindly ask them “if Atiku had won the ticket instead, would you have voted APC still?”

I am Igbo, a proud son of the Nnewi soil and so it came as quite the surprise to a number of Igbo brothers and even non-Igbo friends when I spoke of my support for the Fulani GMB over the Niger-Deltan Ebele.

Simply, I was dissatisfied with the leadership of President Jonathan. Beyond that, as the campaigns progressed, President Goodluck increasingly looked to me like a man who has had his fill of the Villa. The more I watched the news, watched video clips and viewed pictures, I had this nagging feeling that the campaign for reelection was being run more by the people behind the curtains, than by the man who wore the crown himself. Needless to say, the fate of a country in as precarious a situation as ours should not be combined with an unwilling or indecisive leader.

Buhari on the other hand is a man whose integrity and sense of discipline I judge to be well above most other Nigerian politicians’. Even the opposition with all their technological and pecuniary clout was unable to find any mud to sling at it. All I heard was talk about the General’s tribalistic tendencies and religious extremism. My views on tribalism and religion, especially in the context of government, are not secret. Suffice it to say that I’d rather not lend the matter any credence seeing as it deserves none. For my thoughts in detail, read “A Debt That Must Be Paid” and “The Nigerian State and Religion I and II

Many of the ‘Change’-opposers are genuinely afraid; while I do not dismiss the fears as baseless, I believe that as enlightened a country as we are, as diverse as we are and in a democratic dispensation, it will be difficult for one man or one religion to hold us to ransom.

I do not expect miracles from General Muhammadu Buhari; all I expect is that he acknowledges the sacrifice and immense trust of Nigerians, in actions, in Aso Rock. By merely assuming an uncompromising stance of incorruptibility, equity, fairness and justice, the General would have done most of the job required of the office he will resume at in May.

  • WHY 2015, AND NOT 2019?

Yes, I heard this argument as well. President Jonathan deserved a second four-year tenure, they said, so he could either prove or disprove our distrust. My answers?

Because as the president himself said while contesting in 2011, anything that cannot be done by a government in four years cannot be done by that same government, even in ten years.

Because I’d rather run a preventive marathon, than a corrective one.

Because maybe it’s too late already, and we may not even know it.

Because like Christians have at Easter, we have the grace of many other chances, not just one chance. If the new government fails, we will vote them out come 2019.

And because for the next four years, I’d rather have as my First Lady, this woman

Buhari wife

than this woman

11082544_10155371763255514_8708964379917998631_n

In the form of a new government and a ‘new’ country, this Easter is a gift to Nigeria…a Nigerian Easter.

Happy Good Friday, lovers…and a Merry Easter ahead!

Chisom

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UNFORGIVEN VIII

…continued from Unforgiven VII

unforgiven

“What on earth are you talking about Amaka?” the bewildered expression on Ethel’s face couldn’t be faked.

“You know how you promised to talk about Charles Umoh before you ran out on me that day?” Amaka was glowering at her.

Ethel nodded slowly, “I’m sorry about that Amy. I just…I guess I wasn’t ready then.”

“And now?”

“Now I just want to go home. I’ve had a long day and…what’s this about…an abortion?” the meeting with Charles had left Ethel in a disagreeable mood and really she didn’t want it to rub off on Amaka. Her sense of urgency, the need to get out of church to where she’d feel a bit saner, was increasing.

“I think you’re gonna want to hear this, so tonight you’re coming home with Tayo and I. This hide-and-seek you’ve been playing with me, ends now,” it was the sternest she’d ever seen Amaka and Ethel knew she wasn’t getting off this one easily.

“Amaka, please…”

“No. No pleases tonight Eth. We’re going home to talk about this.”

“I have to go to work tomorrow.”

“Not a problem. I’ll make sure you’re home early enough tomorrow to get set for work. Or better still, if you finish off your story early…we’d get you back home tonight. Capiche?”

“Yes ma,” she let the sarcasm creep into her voice.

“Now I think you’d want to look at what’s in that envelope before we talk. Tayo should be here any minute with baby Sharon.”

If there was anything Ethel hated, it was being put on the spot. She knew however that there was no hiding away from this confrontation with Amaka. She had to come clean about everything. Even yesterday. But would she be bold enough to tell Amaka that if not for the fact that she and Charles had wound up outside last night, she’d have willingly jumped into his arms, his bed again? What did that say of her? She’d been willing to give the devil a chance at her again!

Would Amaka understand that this thing between her and Charles couldn’t be salvaged by time and distance alone? Would she know what it meant to feel such a destructive love for a man? She, after all had the perfect life. Perfect husband and child, everything about her screamed perfection and sometimes it hurt Ethel that she couldn’t have a normal life like Amaka. Those were thoughts she didn’t intend to voice, though.

“Are you reading this at all?” Amaka’s voice jolted her from her reverie.

Ethel hadn’t realised that she’d taken out the paper from the envelope and had spread it before her. Her thoughts had been elsewhere. Now to read this mystery-something; she blinked, looking at the numbers, squiggles and letters. They were written in doctor shorthand. It was obvious it was a medical report. The only thing that made sense to her was her name written in the space provided for ‘Patient’s Name’.

“What’s this? I don’t understand. You know I can’t read a doctor’s report,” she accused.

“Well, good thing I can.” Amaka had done a stint in the nursing school during her earlier years. She retrieved the paper from Ethel’s hand and spread it out.

“Wait, shouldn’t we wait till we get to your house? I’m not comfortable doing this in church,” Ethel looked around nervously. She had a feeling Amaka was about to open up a can of worms and she wanted it done somewhere private. Although the church was almost empty now, Ethel couldn’t help feeling like God’s eyes were staring down at her, huge and disapproving.

“Let me get Tayo and we’ll leave. If that makes you comfortable,” she sighed as she stood. “If you like, disappear again. It is what you’re good at, abi? I’ll take this paper with me, as insurance.”

Ethel didn’t reply. Amaka had never reprimanded her in such a manner before and she knew she had a right to be angry. She’d behaved like a child to the only person she could really call a friend in this town. No matter what, Amaka deserved an audience and no matter how squeamish it made Ethel feel, she knew she couldn’t bail out on her again.

The drive to Amaka’s house was quiet except for bursts of laughter from baby Sharon and the occasional flippant question from Tayo. Ethel didn’t know whether Amaka told her husband everything and frankly, she didn’t intend to find out. Let him judge her! Let him look at her with pity, she didn’t care! None of them knew what she’d gone through so they had a right to their opinion! So she wasn’t perfect like them, she didn’t have the most spectacular Christian life but Lord knows she was trying. God, how she was!

So, go ahead and judge me Tayo. Look at me with those glassy eyes of yours and pretend to not feel anything, even pity. I don’t care!

The painful thing was that she did care. She cared what these people thought of her because she was actually making an effort to be a better person.
Stop making any efforts. Let me do that for you.
She knew that voice anywhere. It was coming from somewhere deep in her soul. It was different from all the other voices; calm, soothing and all-knowing. It was deep calling out to deep. This wasn’t her head talking or her mind rationalizing, this was better – a voice providing solutions.

Cast all your burdens on Me; no worries.

In the backseat of her friend’s Volkswagen, Ethel felt her heart begin to come apart. She wanted to do so many things at the same time. Scream, weep, go on her knees and even sing but she sat, still. Holding on to the cherished words of assurance.

When they got to the house, Amaka led her without a word to the kitchen after handing baby Sharon over to her husband.

“We can talk here but first let me say something,” she took her friend by the shoulders, “I’m sorry. I haven’t been fair to you. I got angry that you left without a word that day and I forgot how difficult it must be for you to spill all those things about your life to me. I should’ve understood. It’s what Jesus would’ve done. So, please forgive me and if you don’t want to talk tonight, that is okay; I can drive you home now.”

Ethel responded by opening her arms and hugging Amaka. She was too overcome to speak. No one had ever apologized to her for something like this. Not her mother, nor Charles, nor any of the runs-girls she’d moved with, in the University.

“Forgive me,” she whispered, “I am ready to talk now.”

And she did.

“I was pregnant for Charles but I…” she began.
“You know what? Start from the beginning. How you met Charles,” Amaka prompted.

 

To be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN VII

…continued from Unforgiven VI

unforgiven

She didn’t resist as his lips claimed hers. They were soft and warm. The kiss stripped her of her resolve, her confidence and the years melted away; once again she was twenty-two and putty in his hands. Oh Lord.

This is it. What she’d missed…

Stop it Eth! This is not you!

He’s married!

That particular thought seemed to bring her back to her senses and she pulled away violently and raised her hand to hit him. This time he caught her in time. He gripped her hands firmly.

“Don’t pretend this was all me, Thelia, he breathed down her neck. “You wanted it as much as I did.”

“You tricked me!” she yelled.

“Tell me you didn’t enjoy that. That you haven’t missed it, missed us.”

She couldn’t look at him; her face was awash with shame.

Arrogant bastard. Lord, no. I’ve disappointed you.

“Ethel…” he held on to her hand.

She didn’t reply instead she withdrew her hand and began fumbling in her purse for her house keys, willing away the tears that were threatening to pour.

“Ethel please, just one last time,” he pleaded, “I’ve missed you so much.”

“Listen to me, Charles. I might have said you…you were like a drug in my system but…even drug addicts get cured. And I am cured, so get the hell out of my life.” With that she found her keys and stumbled into her apartment with her last shred of dignity, banging the door firmly behind her.

No! No! No!

How had this happened? She sank to her knees, sobbing.

I’m so sorry Lord. I disappointed you.

“Ethel please let me in. Let’s talk,” he obviously wasn’t taking no for an answer.

Her body heaved in sobs. This couldn’t be happening. She’d promised herself that nothing would happen.

And then she’d let him kiss her!

You weren’t so immobile yourself, madam.

This dinner was a bad idea. She should’ve known that from the start. She wasn’t ready to face Charles again.

You haven’t changed one bit, Thelia. Beneath all the churchiness, you’re still the adventurous bad girl.

The voices were back; the accusing ones and the soothing ones.

“I’m leaving Thelia, but I’ll be back,” he’d obviously given up.

Why? Why won’t he let her be? He’d left her once. Why had he returned to make her life miserable?

************

For the first time in a long time, Ethel was distracted during service that evening. First, she hadn’t spoken to Amaka all day in school, not because she hadn’t wanted to but because she was too ashamed to. Her actions of the previous day still hung over her head, accusing her. And it seemed Amaka was pissed at her too because she said nothing to her beyond exchanging pleasantries.

Teaching the students had done little in lifting her dark mood. Until she got a call from her mother that afternoon. Since she’d turned sixteen, her conversations with her mother had reduced to monosyllables.

“Hello ma,”

“Eno, how are you?” whenever Mum used her name at all, it was her native name.

“Fine.” Nothing else, just fine. Anything else would be weird. Ethel pretended she wasn’t interested in her mum’s life because she was afraid what she’d find out.

“Eh…I’m in Abuja. I came in yesterday and I…I wanted to…er…tell you,” she stammered.

“Okay. Thanks for telling me,” Ethel hesitated. “And welcome to Abuja.”

“Thank you.”

There was awkward silence from both ends of the line. It was always like this, they had nothing to say to each other.

“Ma, I have to…”

“Come and see me please…I…”

Oh please don’t say you miss me.

“I’m…alone,” she completed.

What does that mean, Mum? You’re with no male guest?

“I’m busy Mum. Maybe one of these days when I’m free. Bye for now,” Ethel knew she sounded cold but what was she to do? Her relationship with her mother had been damaged a long time ago; her loathing for the woman she called mum had grown as she grew older. Could it be fixed now?

She hung up feeling as she always did after speaking to her mum. Choked. It seemed like her chest would burst with the bitterness she felt.

She blamed her for everything that had gone wrong in her life. Especially Charles. Maybe if her mum had taught her that love was something to embrace rather than run from, she wouldn’t have gotten involved with Charles.

Thus was her mood when she got to church later that evening. It seemed as though fate had ganged up on her to make her life miserable again.

She came to church intending to bury her pain and guilt and just as she was beginning to feel better, halfway during Pastor Tim’s sermon, she felt it. The charge. The feeling that someone was watching her closely. Too closely.

She turned and searched the seated crowd with her eyes. At first she didn’t see him. Until she did a second sweep with her eyes.

He was there, seated at the back between two men, grinning at her and looking incredibly ravishing. Her pulse quickened as she turned away.

It was Charles.

How on earth was she expected to concentrate on Pastor Tim’s sermon now knowing that Charles was somewhere behind her? And she was sure everyone would know from one look at her, that she’d kissed him the previous day! And what about Pastor Tim? What if the Holy Spirit tells him what she did? Yes, He was capable of that. After all, He’d told Peter what Ananias and Sapphira had done.

Oh Lord no.

And yet the memory of the kiss seemed to be burned in her head. It completely blocked out the on-going sermon and instead ignited her carnal thoughts.

Father forgive me, for I know not what…

“…shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” Pastor Tim’s voice reverberated.

A drug in my system. A drug in my system I can’t get rid of…

“…brethren, your body is the temple of God.”

Crazy, you’re going crazy Ethel. Stop thinking about that man, dammit!

But she couldn’t. Her head was abuzz with sensuous memories. Memories of the past she chose never to speak about.

“Sister Ethel,” the voice, an urgent whisper brought her back to the present.

She looked up, into the face of her assistant Welfare director- Mrs Ohaneze.

“Service is almost over, should I serve Pastor’s drinks?” she asked.

Service? Almost over? She blinked.

“Yes, yes, yes please do. Thank you,” her smile was polite but apprehensive. Service was almost over, she had to make a run for it as soon as the benediction was shared. The last thing she needed now was another confrontation with Charles.

Of course, she wasn’t to be that lucky because as soon as service ended and she began making her way to the exit, someone tugged at her arm.

“Siss…sterr Ethel, not so fast,” the mockery in his voice was evident.

Ethel froze. There was no escaping now. She turned, imagining that she’d already gone several shades of red with embarrassment.

“Leave me alone,” she said in an urgent whisper, “don’t tell me you came to church for a booty call.”

“Only your booty interests me Thelia,” he grinned, “what do you say we get out of here and finish what we started yesterday?”

Ethel’s hand flew to her mouth in surprise. She sneaked a quick look around, hoping that no one had heard their conversation. Lord, this was a nightmare! Charles was becoming a pain in the butt.

“You should go and see Pastor, your soul needs salvation. Honestly I wonder how you two are brothers,” she glared at him.

He tilted his head back and laughed, he was obviously enjoying her discomfort.

“Step-brothers, actually. Perhaps we should take this conversation elsewhere, Thelia.”

“Yes. Absolutely. Let’s take it back to the hotel where you and your wife are staying!!” she hissed at him.

He froze for a split second giving room for Ethel’s savior to show up. Amaka.

“Hey Eth, what’s up?” Amaka slid in smoothly beside Ethel, placing a hand on her shoulder.

“Er…I…”

“Who’s this? A new brother in church? Hello brother, my name is Amaka,” she held out her hand with a smile.

Charles looked at Amaka, exasperated and had no choice but to stretch out his hands to accept hers.

“This is Charles. Charles Umoh,” Ethel said, her eyes lowered, wondering if Amaka would make the connection.

“Interesting,” apparently she had.

Ethel bit her lower lip in nervously. Her life as she knew it had just come crumbling and it was up to her to face the consequences.

“You know what? We need to talk Eth so I’ll just wait here while you say goodbye to Brother Charles here, okay?” there was an emphasis on the ‘brother’.

Ethel was visibly trembling as she nodded. Amaka wanted to talk to her! She wasn’t sure if she could face her. Especially not now.

She glanced at her friend and the stern look on her face told her she meant business this time. Quickly she turned to Charles and beckoned him to follow her.

Her nervousness caused her to be clumsy and her purse fell to the ground and spilled open, scattering its contents.

“Crap,” she murmured as she bent to pick it. Could this day get any worse?

“I’ll do it. You go on,” Amaka offered.

She needed Charles far away as fast as possible so she smiled gratefully at Amaka and walked Charles to the door.

“How did you know about my…wife?”

“The same way she knew about me. You’re a shameless liar. Don’t come looking for me again,” with that she left him staring agape after her.

When she returned to Amaka she immediately knew something was wrong. Perhaps she was still angry.

“Thank you Amy but I have to go home. I’ve got an early day tomorrow,” she spoke fast, hoping Amaka would ask no questions.

“We have to talk,” Amaka replied in a grave voice.

“Not tonight please,”

“Yes, tonight,” she waved an envelope in front of her, “about this.”

It was the envelope Charles’ wife had given her the previous day. She’d forgotten it in her purse!

She snatched it from Amaka’s hand and tucked it away. “You had no right to pry.”

There was no apology as Amaka asked, “have you ever had an abortion?”

“What??”

“I think we are going to have that talk after all. Now.”

 

To be continued next week…

By Mimi Adebayo

 

 

UNFORGIVEN VI

…continued from Unforgiven V

unforgiven

“Some men talk about their wives whenever they are with their mistresses. But…not you. Why?”

“I didn’t think my mistress would want to know my wife. Why do you want to know?”

“Because I want to know. Why don’t you talk about the Missus?”

“Well babes; I’ve long since learned not to mix my family and my extracurricular activities. We don’t want any mix-ups there.”

************

Unbidden, the conversation flashed in Ethel’s mind as she stood toe-to-toe with Charles’ wife. Why hadn’t Charles warned her about this? The woman looked intimidating and well…older, much older than Ethel and if she wasn’t mistaken, older than Charles.

But she was a beauty. In every aspect. And she was expensive. Everything on her reeked of wealth…from her finely starched designer shirt to her knee-length ash skirt that hugged her hips. Her make-up was finely applied and took away a lot from her age.

Why would any man want to cheat on this woman?

“Are you done analyzing me?” she sounded amused.

“I…uh…I wasn’t. I just…this is weird,” Ethel stammered.

“Meeting your lover’s wife?”

“You’re wrong. We are not lovers. We’re just supposed to have dinner together. I didn’t know you were in Abuja too.”

“He didn’t tell you that he accompanied me for a doctors’ conference. Typical Charles – chasing some bimbo while I’m working my ass off.”

“No. We haven’t had much time to talk. Believe me, there’s nothing between us.”

“Again?”

Ethel looked away. “Again. How did you know about today?”

“I’m not stupid. I’ve known about you for a while sadly I thought I’d gotten rid of you three years ago,” her voice was unsympathetic. “Charles has no idea I’ve got him within my sights.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Oh. When it comes to choosing between his family and extracurricular activities, Charles always chooses right,” sarcasm dripped from her words.

The words stung more than Ethel would admit. Extracurricular activities. Translation – you

“Madam, please explain what you mean by getting rid of me three years ago,” there was a tremor in her voice. She sensed that what she would not like was what she was about to hear.

“Remember the last time you saw him? That was my doing. I gave him an ultimatum,” she dipped her hand into her Prada handbag and pulled out an envelope, “he’s going to be here any minute. I’m glad we decided to have this talk. Meanwhile I’m sure you’d be pleased to know what information is in that envelope. It’d enlighten you about your err…relationship with my husband.”

“Why did you come?”

“Charles cares about his family more than he lets on. He was nothing when I married him but look at him now – every stray girl’s dream. No matter what happens he’ll always choose me, the mother of his children. Remember that when next you think of screwing him.”

Ethel was silent. She didn’t say a word as Mrs. Felicia Umoh dropped the envelope on the table.

“And oh…it’d be in your best interest not to mention our little meeting to him.” With that she stalked out of the house.

Ethel crumpled into the chair, her head whirling with thoughts. Her breakup with Charles had been painful. It hadn’t even qualified as a breakup because there’d been no teary-eyed goodbyes. He’d simply left one day without a word.

She’d been in the hospital; still recovering from her recent miscarriage. Her mind and body were affected and she had needed all the support she could get from him. The man she loved. But he’d been nowhere to be found.

The day she was discharged she’d rushed home to the apartment he’d rented for her, only to find it locked with a few of her things packed into a small duffel bag and kept with a neighbor. There was no note, no explanation and no way to get in touch with him. It had literally killed Ethel. The not-knowing, the silence, his unceremonial disappearance.

She had been left with nothing except a broken heart and depression. No home, hardly any clothes; so she’d gone to the one place she’d vowed she wouldn’t return to – her childhood home. With Mum.

Now what did this woman mean by she’d gotten rid of her? Ethel found herself too stunned to think. Had she had something to do with Charles’ disappearance from her life?

What did that matter now? Three years have gone by, Ethel. Just drop it.

She picked up the envelope. How was she going to face Charles today after such a visit?

Cancel the date.

Nah. Too late. You’ll suck it up and pretend he didn’t lie to you. Then you’ll get your closure.

At that precise moment the doorbell rang and, Ethel quickly tucked the envelope into her purse. She’d take a look at it later.

“Who is it?” she wasn’t going to be taken by surprise twice in one day.

“Charles.”

She glanced at the time, 7:45pm. He was forty-five minutes late.

“I’ll be right out,” she didn’t want him in her apartment. She picked up her purse, took a deep breath and went out to face him.

He stood there confidently, looking so sleek and irresistibly fine. He had an aura, a certain contagious confidence that threw Ethel off balance when she first met him. It always pulled her like a magnet.

“You’re late,” she accused.

“Had some car issues. I’m sorry. You look gorgeous. Well covered up, I see,” he smirked.

“Get used to it,” she snapped, shrugging off his hands that went around her shoulders.

“What? Now I can’t hold you anymore? You forget…I’ve seen some intriguing parts of your body,” there was a twinkle in his eyes as they walked to his car.

She hid a smile. He’d certainly turned the charm on.

“What are you doing in Abuja?” she asked, taking her seat beside him in the car.

“Work. But I had to see you.”

Liar, liar. “What about your wife?”

“Thelia, this night is about me and you. No third parties please,” his eyes were on the road as he drove.

Why are you here Ethel? Why are you here with this man who is a danger to you physically, spiritually and mentally? Why do you want to torture yourself?

“No, Charles. I’m the third party here. You’re one with your wife and I’m nothing but a passing fancy. That’s what I’ve always been to you.”

“Why are you talking like this? I thought tonight was not about the past,” he reached out and placed a hand on her knee, “besides if you were a passing fancy then you really did a good job because you kept my attention for four years.”

Ethel moved her leg away from his touch refusing to admit how much it affected her.

She couldn’t believe that she’d given four years of her life to this man.

“Why did you leave without a word, Charles? You left me stranded when I needed you most,” she needed to know.

“Let’s have dinner first. Then we can talk. I want to give you a treat tonight.”

**********

He stuffed her with food, spoiling her by insisting she take whatever she wanted. The evening was almost magical; it was like he was intent on stripping away the years that had separated them and bringing back the memories. Yet Ethel couldn’t take her mind off his wife’s visit.

Charles was nothing when I married him. He will always choose me, the mother of his children.

It was nine thirty pm when they arrived at her doorstep. As she stepped out of the car, Ethel felt a twinge of sadness at the thought that she might never see him again. She’d wrapped up this chapter of her life and it was over. The visit from his wife today had proved it.

“Won’t you ask me in?” he asked, following her closely behind.

“Of course not Charles,” she turned to face him, “before you leave I have a question.” 

 He was staring intently at her in a way that made her skin burn. God, why did the man have to be so damn attractive?

“Yes?”

“Did your wife have anything to do with the…way our relationship ended?”

“Family always comes first, Ethel, you know that,” his face gave away nothing.

 Yes, now I do. “That was my mistake, right? Falling in love with you?”

“No, no, no. We had an agreement, Ethel. Love was never part of the equation from the beginning. It was one of the ground rules you set, remember?”

Yes, she did remember. Oh she remembered so well. But what had she known then? She’d been just twenty-two, in her final year at the university and still very much in the claws of her mother. Meeting Charles had been like a miracle; he was older, charming, smitten with her and rich. What more could a girl like her want? She’d known he was married and it had added more to the thrill.

“Well I broke the rules at some point. Why couldn’t you? Was I that terrible to love?” she asked.

Careful, Ethel. Tread cautiously.

“No but I already had someone I loved. I had a wife! A family! I couldn’t risk all that for…for…”

“Say it. For me. I wasn’t worth it. I was always going to be the mistress, right? Not even when I got pregnant? What if I’d had your child?”

He was silent and unsure. He stood, looking at her, helpless. A first for Charles Umoh.

“Leave, Charles. Just leave. This is over. Thank you for a nice evening. I hope you have a nice life with your family,” she had to get away before she burst into tears.

“I’m sorry Thelia, I wish I could’ve been more,” he caught her hand in his and pressed it to his lips. “What? No hug or…even…a kiss? For old time’s sake?”

“No. Get out of my way Charles.”

“C’mon Thelia. Please. Just a goodbye hug and a peck on the cheek.”

Insane. Insane that she actually wanted his arms around her. Totally insane that she was actually thinking of hugging him.

“I said get out, Charles and let’s not make a scene.”

“You know me. I won’t leave until you give me that hug and peck. So how about that scene, Thelia? Please?” his eyes looked so beautiful when he begged.

“Don’t. Don’t call me that.”

“Why not?” he stroked her face.

Because it jumbles my head! Because it reminds me of whom I used to be! And I don’t want to be that person anymore. I’m better! I don’t want to be here with you; feeling this way about you! The voice in her head screamed but her mouth refused to move.

How could she be thinking this about a man that just told her she meant nothing to him?

One hug, Ethel and get this man out of your front yard. And out of your life.

Too risky Ethel, don’t do it. Leave him standing out here and walk into your house.

Oh I wish. Just one hug and I’m outta here.

Forgive my weakness, Lord.

She let him pull her into his arms and envelope her. Ah…it felt so good. So right. So warm. She’d missed this, Lord. She really had.

Pull away now, Ethel. He’s feeling you up.

 Her head was obviously thinking straighter than her heart and her hormones.

She began to pull away but his grip on her was firm, caressing.

“A peck on the cheek please,” he whispered, huskily.

Ethel was afraid of what her neighbors would think seeing her locked in a seemingly passionate embrace with a man. Even though her front yard was dark she wasn’t too comfortable, so she reached up to plant a quick peck on his cheek.

And then he did something. He turned his head so slightly and her lips touched his. A shiver of apprehension sailed through her body as her lips began to part, slowly.

 

To be continued next week…

 

by Mimi Adebayo

UNFORGIVEN IV

…continued from Unforgiven III

unforgiven

 

Ethel was looking for a job when she first arrived in Abuja, Amaka had quickly taken a shine to her and informed her about the opening in the school where she taught.

Ethel had been reluctant at first, to take the job and also Amaka’s offer of friendship but eventually she’d had no choice. She’d taken both; promising to keep Amaka out of the darkness of her life.

She’d failed however because Amaka showered her with a kind of love she’d never expected and slowly but surely she’d infused herself into Ethel’s life, tearing down her walls of defense little by little.

The first service she’d attended at Harvest of Hope church, Amaka had sat beside her throughout; throwing reassuring glances her way and squeezing her hand with affection. Ethel remembered thinking how impossible it was to not like this woman. She’d been present at Amaka’s wedding and even though it made her happy to see her friend happy, it didn’t shake her disbelief in the system of marriage. She’d made up her mind long ago that it wasn’t for her. That much she’d learned from Mum.

It wasn’t really Pastor Tim’s sermon or the altar call as much as Amaka’s blind love that had persuaded Ethel to surrender her life to Jesus. It was an unplanned event and the most difficult thing Ethel had ever had to do. All she knew was that she wanted the kind of life Amaka had; the sheer happiness and joy she exhibited at every possible opportunity, her blind trust in the God she served and then the peace, mostly the peace. It was like an aura around Amaka; something Ethel could feel and almost touch. Yes, it was that peace that led her to stand up in the congregation of hundred people and profess her new faith.

And it was the seeming loss of that peace that pushed her to open up to Amaka about her past.

“Are you going to talk to me or are you going to just stare into thin air?” Amaka’s voice penetrated into her thoughts.

Ethel sighed. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, after all.

“Eth, break time is going to be over by 12:30pm so I suggest you use the time wisely,” her tone was firm.

“I…I…don’t know where to start from Amy,” she said in a solemn voice.

“Start from what happened yesterday. You look pale.”

Ethel hated the fact that Amaka could easily read her.

“Nothing…nothing happened. I just…” she looked away, “maybe this was a bad idea.”

“Eth, look at me,” Amaka took her by the shoulders, “you can trust me. I’m not just your friend, I’m your sister too.”

Her words tore at Ethel’s heart. A sister! How she’d always longed for a sibling!

“Tell me why you are so kind to me Amaka. You don’t know me, you never have. I’m not who you think I am.”

“Shut up. I don’t care who you used to be but I know who you are now. You are a child of God. A royal priesthood. Whatever past you have is exactly that…your past. Besides honey, there’s nothing new under the sun. I bet it’s not as terrible as you think.”

Ethel blinked. Wait till you hear this one.

“I lost my virginity to a fifty year old man. I was just fourteen.”

Amaka didn’t flinch.

“C’mon say something. I know you wanna say something,” Ethel urged with a wry laugh.

“Is that all?”

Amaka obviously meant business because Ethel couldn’t see the look of disgust she had expected to see.

So she began to speak, delving into a lifetime of memories.

Mum had been a call girl, of sorts; one of the few in Lagos that was discreet and also had a child. She didn’t outright demand money for sex like prostitutes did but suffice it to say that most of the men – married and unmarried – in the elite parts of Lagos had dallied with her at one point or the other.

Ethel had never known her father and mum had never bothered to tell her the full story; but over the years Ethel had pieced together the fact that her dad had been married when he met her mum and at some point in their relationship they’d fallen in love and he’d promised to leave his wife and marry Mum. It was a promise that never came true, the details of which Ethel never knew.

She’d become aware of Mum’s ‘business engagements’ when she turned seven. Mum had rented the boys’ quarters’ only a couple meters away from the main house. She called it her ‘office’ and there she held ‘business engagements’ behind closed doors. Her office had been off limits to Ethel and she didn’t understand why; all she knew was that somehow even though all Mummy had was her private office right next to the house, she still managed to send her to one of the expensive schools in Lagos. Whatever it was Mummy did, it was big and profitable.

Once when she was eight; Ethel had said carelessly, “when I grow up Mummy, I want to be like you. I want to have an office like you and make money like you.”

Mum stiffened and without another word, left the room. Later Ethel thought she heard her crying in the bathroom.

It wasn’t until she was ten that she let her curiosity get the better of her. Mummy always locked her office when she wasn’t home, which made young Ethel interested in its content.

Her curiosity was satisfied one unexpected Friday. She’d been sent home from school because Mummy had forgotten to pay her fees. When she arrived home, she heard sounds from the boys’ quarters’ and she went to investigate. The door was half open, her mother and the man were so consumed in themselves that they didn’t notice young Ethel staring at them, mouth agape, eyes twinkling in fascination.

Thus began her downward spiral into the kind of life her Mother lived. She found every way possible to watch Mum and her ‘clients’. She was fascinated by her Mum’s occupation; it seemed like power. After all, it made Mum rich. All one had to do was get down on your back, spread your legs and the men were hooked. They came back for more.

At thirteen, Mum caught Ethel with porn in her bathroom; she was trying her hand at masturbation for the first time.

“Ah. You don old now, I see,” Mum had remarked in her usual dry tone.

Ethel stared at Mum, defiant, refusing to feel guilty.

“How long you don dey watch am?” Mum asked, sometimes she spoke in pidgin whenever the mood suited her but her English was impeccable. She often told Ethel she’d taught herself.

“Since I was old enough to hear,” Ethel retorted.

Mum flinched, taken aback by her daughter’s sharp tone then she began ransacking the room. She seized every porn movie she found in Ethel’s room and left.

Later that day, Ethel thought she heard her crying. Again.

When she turned fourteen, her body began developing nicely and boys began to really notice her; it excited her tremendously. One day, she began flirting with Chief Bala, one of her mum’s clients. To her, it seemed cool and adult-ish and she wanted to test how far her sensuality would take her. It did take her farther than she expected, it took away her virginity.

Ethel refused to call it rape because she realized that in a twisted way, she’d wanted it; she had even enjoyed it.

“Why would you say that?” Amaka broke in as she told the story, “You were the victim. You were just fourteen for Chrissakes!”

“But I knew more about sex than anyone my age. I was ready. My mind was mature.”

The school bell rang at that moment signifying the end of the break period.

“Oh Lord. Not now! Ethel, promise me you won’t close up. You’ll tell me everything after school,” Amaka asked.

Ethel hesitated and glanced at her phone, distracted. Then she nodded slowly, hoping to get Amaka off her back. She succeeded.

She sighed and read the text message again:

*Where are you? I want to see you*

It was signed. *C.U*

 

to be continued next week…

 

By Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN – III

…contined from Unforgiven II

unforgiven

Charles Umoh had a touch of arrogance, perhaps the fact that he was wealthy added to it. Those two aphrodisiacs were enough to attract any woman to him.

Standing on her doorstep, Ethel couldn’t avoid looking at him; really looking at him. He was greying at the temples in a way that made him very attractive.

“Won’t you ask me in?” he spoke in a low drawl.

His voice jerked Ethel from her semi-trance. She turned to Maria.

“What is this, Maria? How do you know this man?”

“She doesn’t. She just led me here. Because I asked,” he replied. “Thank you, Maria. You may go now.”

Without hesitating, the petite woman turned on her heels.

“Still used to getting your way, Mister Umoh?” she folded her hands across her chest.

“Still defensive around me, Ethel?” he indicated her posture, “Listen, we can do this here and cause a scene or you can let me in and we’ll talk like old friends.”

Only, we aren’t old friends. She thought, we aren’t even friends.

She moved aside and let him in, against her better judgment.

“Nice place you’ve got here, only it’s a bit small. Don’t you think?” he was walking around, like he owned the place.

“What do you want, Charles?” she asked.

“I miss the old apartment. It had memories, you know.”

She stiffened. He was toying with her. The old apartment had been his; he’d only leased it to her for their dalliances. That much had been clear when the relationship ended.

“What are you doing here, Charles?” she wasn’t going to let him get to her.

Her blood was pounding. With rage and hatred for this man. And something else. Excitement – a teeny bit of the old excitement raced through her veins.

It was the Charles effect. It didn’t matter that he was twenty years older than her or that they hadn’t seen each other for three years; he still had that effect on her.

You’re not this person anymore, Ethel. You have Jesus now. You have no right to feel this way about this man.

“I missed you. I’ve missed you all these years, Thelia,”

She winced. That was the name he’d called her before. When they were…together. It was the name she’d told him on their first date.

“You must be crazy. You think you can waltz in here after three years without a word and tell me you what? Missed me? You really must think the world revolves around you, Charles.”

He took a step forward, closing the little space between them. She didn’t look at him, didn’t want to look into those eyes, because then she was afraid her body might betray her. His eyes had always mesmerized her. His gaze had a hypnotic effect on her.

Be strong Thelia. No. Don’t call me that. My name is Ethel. Be strong Ethel.

“I’ve never been the same without you, Thelia. I should never have left,” he continued.

“Yet you did. And that’s the best decision you ever made,” she turned away from him, getting her strength back. “You should leave now, Charles. I’m not that person anymore.”

“What’s different?”

“I found Jesus. I’m saved.”

He laughed; a deep rumbling sound.

“Get out, Charles. I don’t know why you came but it’s time you left. I have work tomorrow.”

“You can’t keep up this good girl act for long, Thelia,” he was coming toward her again, “Remember what you told me once? I am like a drug in your system that you can’t get rid of. What we had was special, Thelia; people don’t recover easily from that.”

She remembered saying those words, when she’d begun falling in love with him without realizing it. It shamed her to think of it now. God, give me strength here. She prayed silently.

“Look at me Thelia. Look at me and tell me you don’t long for me as I long for you? That you don’t feel anything for me,” he was standing very close to her now, and although she was backing him, she could feel the heat that rose in her body as he came close.

“How’s your wife, Charles? And your two daughters?” her words broke the tension and he moved away from her.

“Low blow, Ethel,” he growled.

“Get out before I call Pastor Tim and tell him he’s beloved brother is hitting on his ex-mistress.”

“Tell me how you ended up in church, Ethel. You of all people do not deserve forgiveness.”

Without thinking, her palm connected with his cheek in a movement that surprised even her.

“You! Do. Not. Deserve. Forgiveness,” she said, anger rising in her eyes, “now, get out!”

He looked at her, “this isn’t over. I always get what I want.”

With that he marched out of the house and Ethel crumpled into the chair behind her.

Doesn’t knowing Jesus kill all evil feelings?

How could she still be attracted to this man who’d left her broken when she needed him most?

Love isn’t part of the equation, her Mum usually said while she cleaned up to meet another ‘client’.

What about my daddy? Did you love him? Ten year old Ethel had asked then.

Why do you think I have you? Mum had snapped in response. Love is a mirage and men don’t deserve it. Even though Ethel hadn’t understood Mum’s words then; she knew that somehow, men were the enemy. So Mummy said.

You’re not that person anymoreYou’ve let go of the hate and bitterness.

So why don’t I feel better? Why can’t I be immune to Charles?

Her eyes fell on her bible that lay on the table and she reached for it.

Cast all your cares on me.

As she opened the Bible and began to read, she felt that strange peace draping itself over her.

Be of good cheer; I have overcome.

An insane idea dropped into her head as she read and Ethel reached for her phone and dialed a number.

“Hi Amaka,”

“Eth, what’s up?”

“I’m ready to talk.”

“Oh. Now?”

“No. I’ll see you tomorrow at the office. Kiss Sharon for me.”

As she hung up, she realized what she’d done. Was she indeed ready?

 

…to be continued next week. Happy Sunday!

 

By Mimi Adebayo

 

UNFORGIVEN II

Continued from Unforgiven I

unforgiven

She heard the voices around her as she began to regain consciousness. She recognized Pastor Tim and his wife Mrs Adeleke’s voice. And then the other voice. Charles’.

She didn’t want to open her eyes; she wished she could stay like that forever. She thought she’d left her past behind her… why had it come back to haunt her when she was just picking up the pieces of her life back?

“Maybe she wasn’t feeling too well,” Mrs Adeleke was saying.

“She attended service today and…anyway, let’s give her some space. I’ve prayed for her, she’ll be okay,” Pastor Tim’s voice sounded soothing.

“How long has she been in your church?” It was Charles.

She didn’t want any conversation going on about her, especially not with Charles involved. Her eyes sprang open immediately.

“She’s awake. Ethel, how do you feel now?” Mrs Adeleke leaned over her, touching her head.

“Fine. I’m okay. I guess I was just tired ma,” she sat up on the couch, her eyes avoiding Charles.

Oya come, let me put you in a cab so you can go home and rest,” Mrs Adeleke helped her to her feet.

Ethel wasn’t sure how to feel about leaving Charles alone with her Pastor. Only God knew what he would say.

“Are you sure you’re better now?” his voice filtered into her ears.

She thought she could detect a tinge of concern in it. Concern indeedCharles doesn’t care about anyone except himself. Remember that Ethel.

“Maybe someone should take her home. She might not be coherent enough in a cab,” he continued, “Tim, what do you think? I know you people have had a stressful day so you need to go home and rest. Let me take her home instead. I have my car here.”

What?? “No!” her single shout rent the air. She straightened herself, pulling away from the support of Pastor’s wife. “I’m okay. I’ll be fine in a cab sir, ma.”

She’d successfully avoided looking at Charles. Hang on Ethel. Only a few more seconds and you’d be out of here.

“Okay dear. Let’s get you a cab,” this time Mrs Adeleke led her firmly out.

She didn’t breathe easy until she was seated in the cab and on her way home. And then the tears came. The pent up emotions she’d kept for three years. The tears she’d failed to release when Charles had left her without a word.

She momentarily forgot that the cab didn’t contain just her because she let out sobs that racked her body uncontrollably.

Why now? Why this coincidence? Pastor’s brother? Charles! God!

“Madam wetin happen?” the cab man peered at her through the mirror.

She was after all; a pretty lady. It wasn’t all the time fine girls cried in his taxi. Although she hardly qualified as a girl. Woman, more likely.

She didn’t reply. Instead all he heard were sniffles and it was as though he hadn’t spoken.

Three years it’d taken her, to get what she called a semblance of her life back and now he was here to destroy it. Just like he did; all those years ago.

Not like it was entirely his fault. A voice reminded her. You weren’t exactly blameless.

Where are you at times like this Jesus? Why don’t you just strike some people dead so they don’t have to ruin other people’s lives? She wondered.

And yet she knew He wouldn’t do that. No, God was far too kind to strike Charles dead.

And what about me?

The taxi rolled to a stop and it wasn’t until the driver honked three times that she realized she was home.

She fumbled in her bag for her wallet, tears and catarrh dripping from everywhere possible on her face. She didn’t bother to wipe them off as she rummaged her bag.

“How much is it?” she asked.

“No worry. Dat other madam don pay,” he replied, watching her curiously.

Ah. Pastor’s wife. Such a kind soul. Everyone was kind in Harvest of Hope church. Perhaps that’s why she found solace there; hoping that a little of the kindness would rub off on her and make her kind too. She sure needed to do some kind acts to atone for her past.

She stumbled out of the cab, clutching her bag in one hand and her high heels in the other.

Walk bare feet. Who cares? After all, Jesus washed his disciples’ feet.

What does that have to do with anything? Jesus isn’t going to wash my feet no matter how filthy they are.

The conversation in her head made little sense to Ethel as she walked up to her doorstep; yet she welcomed it. She’d taken refuge in those imaginary conversations when she was younger; when Mum was busy with another client. They kept her company, sometimes the voices were witty and sometimes they were cruel. To her and to others.

But they were all she had when there was no one to talk to.

She unlocked the door to her one room apartment and stepped in. Home; sweet home. More like home, sour home. This used to be the other place she liked being, apart from church. But right now, it felt like the last place she wanted to be.

Maybe the morgue would have been better. No trouble there.

She wanted to cry some more, to make herself feel better but she realised she was closing up again. The self-protective wall was coming up again; making it impossible for her to shed more tears.

Slowly, she walked to the bathroom and peeled off her clothes. A shower was the next thing on her mind. It would make her feel better, cleaner.

But it won’t make her forget the fact that Charles was back. In town. At least not in her life. He would never get that part of her again. So why was she afraid? He was over and done with. Her past was past…she was born again now.

So why don’t I feel like it? Why don’t I feel new? Why don’t I feel forgiven?

The pattering of the water drops on her body did nothing to answer those questions. She showered in silence, no humming and no voices.

It didn’t take long for her to fall asleep on the couch in the living room. It was when she woke up five hours later that she realized how exhausted she was.

The doorbell began ringing the exact moment she woke. She glanced at the clock; 7:06pm. Who could that be? A neighbour?

“Who is it?” she asked.

“Maria!”

Just as she thoughtHer neighbour.

“Okay. I’m coming.”

“So what do you want…” the words died on her lips as she opened the door. It was Maria all right; but right behind her, stood Charles.

 

…to be continued next week

 

By Mimi Adebayo