UNFORGIVEN – THE END

unforgiven

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.”

“What? Daddy?”

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.

“Ethel! No!”

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.

“Why?”

“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”

“You first”

“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.”

“Why?”

“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.”

“Oh…no…no…no.”

“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.

 

THE END.

 

 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.

               

 

UNFORGIVEN IX

…continued from UNFORGIVEN VIII

unforgiven

She told how she’d met Charles, in a night club on the day she turned twenty-two. Her ‘friends’ had taken her out to celebrate and she and Charles had hit it off almost instantly. He had been wearing his wedding ring that night, which was unusual and yet that was what had thrilled Ethel. She’d long since made up her mind to live the kind of life her Mum did but in a classier way. She didn’t sleep around with every Tom, Dick and Harry who had money, she picked her men. Older, married and damn rich. She didn’t want love so she went with married men. At least those ones had wives to have and to hold; all she did was stroke their egos and satisfy them how she knew.

At the time she met Charles she’d been single. Just ended a relationship with a former lecturer who wasn’t ready to meet her financial needs. Stingy man and not so good looking too!

Charles had been it. Many married men took off their wedding ring when hitting on a girl, not Charles. He’d confidently struck up a conversation with her and eventually asked her to dance. Their first dance had been breathtaking and intense. Their chemistry was instant and standing so close to him had made Ethel feel like she’d explode with longing. And yet they had not touched each other that first night. Not even a kiss. He’d dropped her off at her hostel and requested a date.

“You sure your Missus won’t be mad?” she teased, drunk.

“Definitely not as mad as I am for you,” he’d re-joined.

One date turned into two, then three and finally their fifth date they couldn’t stay off each other anymore. They sat in his car, afraid to touch before the passion exploded beyond control.

“What do we do?” he asked.

“We can’t go to my hostel. We can’t go to your house.”

“A hotel?”

“No. I don’t want that. We have to reach an agreement.”

“I’m listening.”

“What do you want from me? A one-night stand?”

“Sweetheart, we’ve had one too many dates for this to just be a one-night stand.”

“Good. So you want more. And I want more too but not love.”

“Oh?”

“Yes. I am not interested in falling in love with you and I want it to be clear. There isn’t going to be any love declarations blah blah blah. You have your life. I have mine. I will not sleep with anyone else while I’m with you, though.”

“Why not?” he was smiling, not believing that they were having this conversation.

“Because unlike some people, I do believe AIDs is real and I want to live awhile. Besides I will be too spent to juggle more than one guy, after I finish with you,” her voice was husky.

“So where’s the catch?”

“I want an apartment where we can meet. Then of course, my upkeep. I am, after all, to be your mistress.”

There and then the deal had been struck. The next time they met it was at Ethel’s new apartment and finally all their desires were sated.

Life with Charles was good. He treated her well; there was no time to fight because they knew nothing about each other to fight about. Everything about them was physical. Until ‘disaster’ struck.

Ethel became pregnant in the twenty-fifth month of their relationship. It was unexpected and obviously unwanted. A lot of blame went around; Charles blamed her, then she blamed him, he blamed her again until they realized they needed a solution.

Ethel didn’t want kids. Not with the kind of childhood she’d grown up with. She wanted a life free of encumbrances. And yet, she couldn’t bring herself to get rid of the thing growing inside her. Fear impeded her. What if she died? She’d heard stories of girls who went in for abortions and never came out the same. They were either dead or damaged. Did she want that?

She told Charles of her fears and eventually decided to have the child and give it up for adoption or something. She was that afraid to be a mother. Charles saw she’d made up her mind and stopped arguing with her and instead became more attentive to her. If she was going to be the mother of his baby, he’d better treat her right, he said.

It didn’t last long though because it was somewhere in her tenth week, she started having cramps and saw blood. She was alone at home that evening and had called Charles who immediately came over and took her to the hospital. The doctors confirmed that she’d lost the pregnancy.

It hadn’t hurt that much then. She consoled herself that it was answered prayers. She didn’t want the child in the first place so God had saved her and the child further grief. Charles spent more time with her as she recovered, treated her like a wife and not a mistress and it was during this time that Ethel realized she’d begun to fall in love with him. She wanted more. She wanted to feel like she actually belonged to someone. To him. She didn’t know whether it was the pregnancy that had made her go soft, all she knew was that she wanted more of him.

The second pregnancy had been planned by her, in the fourth year of their relationship. She’d done everything she could to get Charles to commit more to her; to fall in love with her but it hadn’t seemed to work. And truth was she’d begun to feel the pangs of motherhood. The first pregnancy had opened up something in her that made her rethink everything she’d formerly believed in. And it suddenly dawned on her that she wanted children, a family with the man she loved.

When she got pregnant this time, she waited till her twelfth week to tell Charles. She wanted to be sure that the danger of miscarrying the pregnancy had passed.

Charles froze. He yelled. He couldn’t believe she’d gotten pregnant again after the first mistake, hadn’t she learned anything?

She’d screamed at him too; excuse me for getting pregnant for you! I didn’t know I’d make such a terrible mother!

It’s not about you, woman! Don’t you get it?

Well, it’s my body and my baby and I’m having it. So prepare to be a father!

How far along are you?

Three months.

And you’re just telling me now?

I wanted to make sure it stayed.

How come I didn’t notice?

Because you were too busy admiring my breasts that had grown bigger.

The shouting abated and Ethel tried to convince Charles that this was a good thing. They could start a family together.

Maybe that would’ve happened if the pregnancy had stayed. It hadn’t. A week later, the cramps came in fuller force that brought tears to Ethel’ eyes. For the first time in a long time as she doubled over in the toilet, vomiting and losing blood at the same time, she prayed. She asked God to save her baby. Just this once.

He hadn’t. Like before she ended up in the hospital, worse off than the first time because she was broken in body, soul and spirit.

Charles had dropped her off in the hospital and disappeared. She later found out that he’d paid the bills in advance. Her recovery had been slow and painful and the cramps had continued for a week. At a point Ethel had thought she was going to die.

She cried day and night for her unborn child and eventually she’d been discharged. When she got to her apartment, she found that she’d been locked out and Charles had left her.

It was like another nail in her coffin. Her man had left her without a word. She’d swallowed her pride and gone back to her mum.

That had been the lowest point of her life. She’d fallen into a depression so bad that she’d once attempted suicide.

It was after her suicide attempt that she packed her things and moved to Abuja.

 

“That’s it, Amaka. Charles showed up in church on Sunday and he’s Pastor’s step-brother. I didn’t know what to do,” she concluded.

“That’s not important for now. What I want is to get to the bottom of this,” she waved the paper in front of her. “Who gave you this report?”

“I don’t understand what that means. I recently got a visit from…er…Charles’ wife,” Ethel shrugged.

“Why would she give you this?”

“She said something about it telling me the kind of man Charles is. Tell me what it is.”

“It’s a medical report. Look, it’s dated 2010. Do you remember the name of the hospital Charles took you to when you had your miscarriage?”

“Er…that was when I had my second miscarriage. I can’t remember the hospital’s name.”

“Okay, wait. Look at this. The signature of the doctor that wrote this report. It looks like someone’s name. Does it look familiar?”

Ethel took the paper and stared hard at the signature. It was difficult but eventually she made out the name.

“Felicia…Umoh,” she read out slowly.

It was only when the name had escaped her lips that it dawned on her.

Oh. My. God

 

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

 

UNFORGIVEN – I

unforgiven

Ethel nuzzled the baby’s cheeks and couldn’t help beaming as the child let loose a toothless grin. That feeling of rightness crept upon her as she cradled the baby.

“You’re so good with babies and you aren’t even a mother yet. How do you do it?” a cheery Sister Amaka spoke.

Ethel refused to let the words dampen her mood. Amaka meant well, she knew.

“I guess it’s God’s gift,” she responded, thinking how it wasn’t a gift. And definitely not from God. “I think she’s hungry.”

Amaka gave a grateful smile and plucked the baby from Ethel’s hands. Ethel longed so much to watch her feed the baby; there was something soothing about watching a baby being breastfed. The way the child gripped the mother’s breast with the knowledge that it belonged to him/her fascinated Ethel.

“She’s so cute. Looks like you,” she slid into the seat beside Amaka; the church premise was fast emptying.

Amaka tucked the nipple into the baby’s mouth, “I think she looks like her daddy,” she replied, “you’d be a good mother, you know.”

Ethel stiffened. She’d been a member of this church for three years and friends with Amaka for two, yet she’d never opened up to talk about her past. Not with Amaka or even Pastor Timothy. Trust had never come easily to her and she wasn’t going to start now.

“Ethel!” an urgent whisper from Amaka bought her back to reality.

“I’m here Amaka.”

“You had that look in your eye again.”

“What look?”

“That look you get when I mention children. Or marriage.”

Damn her intuition. Ethel winced.

She’d built a new life for herself. In Christ. Then why did she feel this turbulence within her every time? Why didn’t she feel forgiven? Why couldn’t she forget her past?

“I don’t know why we’re friends if you can’t talk to me,” Amaka continued, “I pray for you every day Ethel. But I wish you’d open up to me more.”

“I’m…fine, Amaka.” No. I’m scared, tired and unhappy. A voice rang in her head.

Amaka opened her mouth to speak and just then her husband came up to them.

“Sorry to interrupt ladies but my meeting with Pastor is over and we need to go home,” Biodun was a hulking six feet where Amaka was teetering on five-two. An unlikely couple in Ethel’s eyes but a happy one. At least happier than she was.

“Okay darling. Let me just finish up with baby Sharon.”

“Be quick ooh. My stomach is complaining. Meanwhile Sister Ethel, Pastor wants to see you.”

She’d been expecting it. As head of welfare unit, she usually catered to Pastor’s needs after church.

“Eth. We’ll talk later, okay?” Amaka gave her a knowing look.

Ethel nodded and blew Sharon a kiss. Even as she headed towards Pastor’s office; she knew she wouldn’t talk to Amaka. Not about her sordid past. She wasn’t ready.

No matter how Pastor Tim preached about being a new creation in Christ Jesus, she still felt like her dirty old self. Like He hadn’t forgiven her yet.

She took a deep breath as she got to Pastor Tim’s office. She heard voices from within as she knocked.

“Sister Ethel, come in,” Pastor Tim called.

The office was almost too plush for a man of God. So Ethel thought the first time she’d entered but as the years went by, she’d come to know it fit Pastor Tim’s person. He liked art and it showed in the spontaneity of his office arrangement.

“What do you need sir?” she asked.

There was someone facing the window. Probably one of Pastor’s minister friends.

“Ethel! Get my brother here a drink. Hollandia preferably. He’s visiting from Lagos. Charles, this is our head of Welfare department…Sister Ethel. God has used her greatly to bless us.”

A smile escaped Ethel’s lips. Pastor Tim had a way of making one feel valuable.

“Good day sir,” she greeted the visitor who was still turned away.

“Hello,” and he turned. Finally.

Time stopped. Not literally. But it did, for Ethel. She looked up at the man before her. Charles. This man who’d…

Those were her last thoughts as she felt the floor give way beneath her.

 

to be continued next week

 

By Mimi Adebayo

 

Miracle Adebayo is a young lady with an incurable passion for writing. She has her eyes firmly set on the top ranks of the New York Times Bestsellers List and believes that she will make it someday by the grace of God who is her main source of inspiration. Mimi, as she is better known, writes to entertain and to inspire; she crafts more fiction prose than any other genres and considers herself terrible at poetry. But that is not to say she wouldn’t try her hands at a few poems for an attractive incentive. Her works have been published on several literary sites some of which are Naijastories.com, thenukanniche.com, theafricanstreetwriters and the latest now, chisomojukwu.wordpress.com! You can catch more of her stories on her blog http://www.mimiadebayo.wordpress.com.