The dial tone came on as Ethel anticipated and she waited to hear her voice. Sheila. A name that would have been perfect for her daughter.
“Hi Daddy!” Sheila’s voice was young and strong.
“Hi Sheila. This isn’t your…daddy. This is…”
“Please no. I beg you. Don’t do this, please,” Charles was begging, unashamed.
It was the first time Ethel was seeing Charles express so much emotion over someone that wasn’t him and it touched somewhere in her unexpectedly. Why?
“Hello? Hello? Who is this?”
“I…I think I better let you talk to your father,” Ethel glanced at him, “he has a confession to make.”
Ethel held the phone towards Charles. “Either you do it or I do. I think she’d be able to take it if it comes from you, though. Your choice, honey”
“Please…I’ll…do…it. Just please, let me go,” he was bleeding less now, although the sheet beneath him was bloody.
“Tell her everything.”
And he did. Every sordid detail. There were times Ethel could sense that he wanted to stop talking, or even add a white lie but one look at her determined face changed his mind. He wept as he spoke; a captive of his own immoral craving.
As she held the phone to his ears listening to him confess, she waited for the feeling of relief, of fulfillment. She waited for the pain that hung in her heart like a road block to subside.
It will come, Ethel. Be patient.
She knew when he was done talking because he let out a loud wail that pierced the air. Sheila had hung up the phone on him.
He didn’t say a word; he just lay there sobbing.
“You want to know how I felt when I found out that you’d taken away what I treasured?” she asked. “Exactly like this. Now you will know a little of the pain I felt. Both physical and emotional.” She raised the knife again ready to deform him some more.
Her name rang out from somewhere behind her; she paused, her hands poised in the air.
“Ethel, drop it. Put down the knife now” It was Amaka.
“Because you don’t heal by hurting someone else. It’s not going to work. You’ll only be opening a new wound.”
“Don’t spin me those clichés, Amaka. What do you know? You’ve not been through what I have,” she didn’t lower the knife, neither did she look back. “You should stay away from me.”
“Well, if you want him, you’ll have to go through me first,” with that Amaka rushed forward and wedged herself between Ethel and Charles.
“Get away from him, Amaka”
“What are you?” Ethel asked, exasperated.
“Your conscience. A voice of reasoning. Listen to me Eth, if you do this, God will forgive you alright but you…you will never forgive yourself.”
“Let her kill me. I have nothing…else to lose,” Charles whimpered.
“Don’t listen to him, Eth. You don’t need this nightmare, you don’t need more problems.”
“But…how do I stop hurting? How do I go on living, knowing what I know? How?” Ethel couldn’t stop the tears that were flowing from her eyes.
“You can’t do it on your own, honey. God is here to help and so am I. Put down the knife, sweetie, please,”
Ethel lowered her hand.
“I can’t live with it. I just can’t,”
“Crazy bitch! Kill me! Kill me!” Charles screamed.
Ethel stood still for a split second and then suddenly she crumpled to the floor.
“Ethel? Eth?” Amaka dashed to her side, “Jesus Christ. She stabbed herself! Ma! She’s bleeding! We need to get her to a hospital now!”
Ethel’s mother materialized from where she’d been hiding and rushed to her daughter’s side.
“Eno! Eno ooh! Jesus ooh!”
“That won’t help, let’s get her to the car and you drive her to the hospital, okay?”
The blood was gushing out from the knife wound and Ethel’s head lolled from side to side as she fought with consciousness.
Both women heaved Ethel across the house to Amaka’s waiting car with Ethel’s mother muttering ‘blood of Jesus’ repeatedly.
“Take the car; I have to go attend to that man. Take her to the Specialist hospital close by. I’ll join you in a few minutes.”
Ethel’s mother was weeping as she took the keys from Amaka.
“Don’t worry, ma. I’ll be praying for her.”
With that Amaka returned to the house to set about freeing Charles.
The day Ethel was discharged from the hospital, her mother was there helping her along; little wonder since Ethel’s bones seemed to be threatening to burst out of her skin. She was weak and had lost a generous amount of weight.
Her survival was a testimony Amaka couldn’t stop sharing. She told how Ethel had been in the theatre for thirteen hours because the knife wound had been fatal and deeper than expected. It was obvious that she’d intended to kill herself.
Even after the surgery, the doctors had kept her heavily sedated because she was still fragile. It wasn’t until four days later that she opened her eyes and even then she kept slipping in and out of consciousness. The doctor who kept checking on her told Amaka that Ethel’s problem was more psychological than physical. She seemed to have lost the will to live and if that was the case, no amount of surgery could save her.
For the first time since it all began, Amaka cried for her friend. She knelt by the bed and broke down in tears. She sat beside her all day and talked to her even though it didn’t seem like she could hear and then she told Pastor Tim everything.
When she finally revitalized her will to live, her mother was on hand to hire a personal therapist for Ethel against her will.
“I almost killed him. What does that make me? A monster, yes. I am a terrible, terrible person. Why should I live?” Ethel often told the therapist.
“But you didn’t.”
“I wanted to. I would have, I know.”
“Because I wanted vengeance. I wanted to stop the pain.”
“How do you feel now?”
“Like a monster. I know everyone thinks I’m crazy. Am I?”
“What do you think?”
“I asked you a question and you are asking me back. Isn’t it your job to tell me whether I am crazy or not?” she sighed. “Go away. I’m tired.”
And so the sessions continued. Sometimes Ethel was calm and reasonable, at other times she was irrational and lashed out unnecessarily. She also hated the fact that her mother moved in with her temporarily.
“Don’t you get it, Amaka! She’s still the same person she was years ago! She caused this!” she screamed one day.
“I think it’s time you stopped playing the blame game. Your mother has nothing to do with what is happening to you now. This is you, Eth. Until you accept that, you will never truly be free.”
“You’re being harsh. You’re taking her side.”
“No. I’m telling you the truth. I love you Eth but I can’t bear to see you like this. You can’t forgive your mother, how do you expect to forgive yourself?”
“I feel dirty. I feel like I can’t talk to God anymore…after everything I did.”
“Sweetie, that’s where you’re wrong, Jesus is here to intercede for us. Because of Jesus you can approach God’s throne without fear or guilt. He still loves you as much as He did when you first accepted Him.”
The words brought tears to her eyes and Ethel marveled how Amaka’s perceptive words usually did more for her than her sessions with the therapist.
It was four months after her suicide attempt that Amaka dropped the bombshell. She was doing better already; had regained her former weight and returned to her job and also the church, her sessions still continued but she was coping better with them and with her mother.
“I have something to tell you, Eth.” Amaka’s face looked grave which was strange, especially since she had just finished teaching her kids.
“Oh no. What is it now?”
“Pastor Tim just told me. You might want to sit down for this.”
“What is it? Spill it.”
“It’s Charles. He was involved in an accident last night. They said he was drunk and driving when he collided with a tree.”
“Oh my God! No! Is he okay?”
Amaka took a deep breath, “by the time they found him he was dead. He suffered a brain hemorrhage.”
“I’m sorry dear,” Amaka opened her arms and embraced her.
Ethel felt the walls closing in on her. Why did this have to happen just when she was finding peace with herself and God? Charles was dead because of her!
The guilt came flooding in like before.
“When is the funeral?” she asked quietly.
“This weekend. What, you want to go?”
“I have to. I don’t know why but I have to. This is my entire fault. He’s dead because of me,” she sniffed.
“Stop it Eth. This has nothing to do with you. You’ve paid your dues, hon. Attend the funeral if you’re up for it but not because you feel guilty.”
Ethel leaned forward and hugged Amaka again, smiling through her tears.
“You’re the absolute best. Thank God I met you,” she said.
“Same here, hon. But I need to know…how are you doing? How do you feel?”
“I had a dream last night. I think I saw angels…then one of them smiled at me and said, ‘you’re forgiven’. I woke up feeling absolutely refreshed. I even had a real conversation with my mother. So I think, I’m not where I’m supposed to be yet but I’m not where I am months ago. I actually feel forgiven.”
“Good. Because you are.”
“You think life will ever return to normal for me, Amy?”
“Better than normal, Eth. You have a blank page in front of you…write in it.”
Ethel beamed at her friend. Those were the best words she’d heard in a long while.
by Mimi Adebayo
AUTHOR’S NOTE: The ride has been a pleasure for me, the writer; thanks to you, my faithful readers and to Chisom for featuring me. It’s been a pleasure writing this series knowing I’d have y’all here waiting to read. I couldn’t have asked for better.
Now I know the Charles and Ethel saga might not have ended as you wanted or expected it to, but this is how my Muse led me; my Muse being God Almighty. Life has never been a bed of roses (clichés, I know), the question is how do you handle the thorns, the things that deter you? This is a story of thorns and road bumps in the journey of life; I hope that among other things you were able to learn something remarkable from it.
I appreciate those who read and took the extra step to comment. Wow! Lovely people y’all are. As for the silent readers…hehehehe, there is God in everything we’re doing. I assure you this isn’t the last you’ve heard from me. I hope to always see you on here. And please endeavor to mark the end of the series by dropping a comment no matter how short or tacky.
Lots of love, everyone. Ciao!
– Mimi A.