The sooner, the better

the sooner the better

As a kid, I transitioned through a zillion crushes, and the objects of my infatuation were often older and bigger females – don’t ask, I dunno why. In primary four, I did something she didn’t like to my ‘girlfriend’ at the time – don’t ask, I dunno what – so she chased after me, and I ran. As I reached the class door, I tried to execute a ‘drift’ but my momentum was too high and the sole of my sandals too weak to handle the traction. So I slid until I slammed into the wooden doorpost knee-first. Even before I got off the floor, the knee was already as large as a water melon.

After she heard what happened, my mother drove me straight to a traditional bone-setter in a part of town I had never been before. And thus commenced the torture. With every touch, the elderly lady tortured every nerve-ending in my body with heart-wrenching pain. I tried to run away, I plotted many escape plans but Madam WWD – wicked witch doctor – and my mother were always a step ahead. So I modified my plans.

I discovered that the worst pain I felt was to the right of the injured knee, just about the ‘dimple’ area. So every time Madam WWD massaged my knee, I would deftly maneuver my leg so that she was faced with the part that hurt less. Every time her hand strayed to the worst pain area, I clenched my teeth and – painstakingly – kept a straight face, but whenever she stroked an area that didn’t hurt at all, I yelled and screamed curses on her. Gradually, she started to concentrate on the other parts of my knee – all the parts except the part that hurt most. My plan worked!

With time, I learnt to endure the pain while walking, and even the worst pain area started to feel better. I was discharged less than a week afterwards, and the pain eventually disappeared.

Fast forward fourteen years and I had just discovered my passion for running. I was not fast, but I had a lot of stamina and it helped me think, so I jogged three times a week. After doing this consistently for a month, I started to feel pain in my left knee. I thought it was ‘good pain’ which would pass with more vigorous exercise so I continued through the pain.

Soon however it became obvious that there was nothing good about pain, and not long afterwards I found myself lying on my back in the doctor’s consultation room.

“Here?” he poked at my knee.

I shook my head. No.

“Here?”

Still no.

He clamped his right hand over the left and palm open pressed down on my right leg, just above the knee. “Try to raise your leg,” he said.

I tried.

“Any pain?” I shook my head. None.

He applied same pressure on my left leg, and asked me to try lifting it. Immediately, I saw a flash of hot white fire blast across the inside of my eye lids. The pain completely muted me, I could not even yell. My body recoiled and my hands ferociously latched onto his, wildly clawing them off me. After he stepped away, I dropped back, feeling beads of sweat form on my forehead as I struggled for breath.

His verdict was bad news for me. I had to stop jogging, not for a while until it got better, but for life. I told him it wasn’t possible, that there had to be something else that could be done. The physiotherapist said there was, and went ahead to explain to me the merits of other sports namely cycling, swimming and rapid-walking.

I didn’t want to cycle, or swim, and like hell, I was too young for rapid-walking; I wanted to jog, and I tried to explain it to him. But the doctor was adamant. He said they were all the same, all sports.

But it wasn’t just sports for me. For the first time in my active youthful life, I had come to love a sport, really love it. And now, I couldn’t do it again. I left his office pained.

I was speaking with my mother shortly afterwards and I mentioned the doctor’s visit.

“Left leg kwa?” she went, “the same one you broke in primary school?”

Gbagaam!!! Like a bad Nollywood movie, the memories came back to me: of injuring my knee – my LEFT knee – on the class doorpost, of the many sessions with the traditional bone-setter, and of my ‘genius’ plan which I had effectively employed to avoid the worst of the pain. I had gotten away with less pain, but even though I didn’t think of it at the time, I had also gone away with an unhealed knee. And all these years, the injury had stayed hidden, festering, and showing up just in time to truncate my joy.

 

Point:

Thanks to literature, movies and my imagination, I have ‘experienced’ the pains suffered by Igbo people during the Nigeria-Biafra war of 1967. I have also read several venomous posts and tweets aimed at Igbos on social media. But none of it had ever felt as personal, as demeaning, and as hurtful as reading @kunleafolayan’s Igbo-targeted hate tweets.

I might have taken it a tad personal because of my admiration for the man’s art, but beyond hurt, I am worried. It isn’t just the sheer hatred in the words that worries me, no, what worries me most is the realization that this hatred is not new-found. And this applies to the Oba’s tweets as well. While some see men yielding to the influences of chilled Orijin and piracy-induced frustration, I see prejudice that has lain for so long beneath an exterior of societal decorum. And as I read the ensuing e-warfare between supporters and protesters, I got even more worried.

We all pretend that the hurt of the Civil war passed away with the war itself but surely, recent events have proven otherwise. From the comments, one could infer the following as the summary of the present Nigerian state: while the Igbo man continues to exist in a bitter semi-auto defensive mode – seated with one buttock, as my grandmother might say, the Yoruba man merely tolerates him, the Hausa man wonders why this man has to always make everything about himself, and the Urhobo man waits to see what happens. And this is just when the Igbo man is the centre of discourse; insert the other 249 ethnic groups into that slot one after the other and the permutations will unfold like the Judgment scroll.

Like it or not, ethnic sentiments lie deeply ingrained in every Nigerian, be he/she Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Efik or Urhobo. While there are a number of reasons for these sentiments, an overwhelming majority stems from the pain of a war which was badly fought and too quickly discarded into the dusty cabinets of history.

The injury of the Civil war lies hidden and festering beneath this façade of ‘Allizzwell’ and like that lingering knee injury, it’ll never go away. We need to first uncover the festering wound so that it can be treated with some stinging disinfectant, and then we can allow time to lay its healing hands and complete the process. But first we must act. And the sooner, the better.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

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Roses and Angels

roses and angels

The room is chilly and quiet, so quiet that the tick-tock of the golden vintage clock resonates. Unlike the other times, you are not entranced by the tasteful furnishings this place. It is tagged first-class, this room in which you have lodged four or five times now. Johnny always tells you how lucky you are. He says suites of this sort are meant ‘for the rich, or the accessories of the rich’. The very first time he said it, you decoded what he meant, and into what category you belong – the accessories of the rich. But you did not mind.

The clock keeps ticking. On the muted television screen is a thin woman in tight khaki shorts. She is making frantic gestures. The piece of terra-cotta art work which you learnt is over a hundred years old and have spent time admiring on your previous times here has been replaced with a blue abstract painting.  But you do not notice its absence. Your thoughts are rooted in the fields where anxiety reigns, but you do not know why. There is something amiss about today, and you know it. You cannot explain it, yet it feels strange. Stranger than the sudden stiffness you now feel on your neck.

You try to shake off the present feeling. You decide to take a warm shower; it has always had a magic effect on you. Standing from the bed, you take slow numbered steps towards the wide mirror. You hold up your naked ebony complexioned breasts, wondering if Chief your new client will, like the others, find them attractive. You have heard he has high taste for women, and you are certain that that is why Johnny chose you for him today. Unlike other times, Johnny did not even spend much time bargaining. He had just mentioned the prize – your prize, and chief had accepted without objection. Your heart bounced again when Johnny dropped the phone, with that boyish smile plastered on his bleached face.

The water is running gently over your velvety skin when you hear the entrance door open and shut with a small thud. You hasten up. Chief’s heavy voice comes from outside,

‘Baby, don’t tell me you’re not ready yet.’ Silence follows for brief seconds before he speaks again, ‘Baby, I hate to be kept waiting, so you just tell me if your ass ain’t ready, and I’ll give Johnny boy a quick call,’

Chief’s voice is laced with impatience, arrogant impatience. But wait. You have heard that voice from somewhere. There is something about its heavy baritone that makes it so familiar. You have no time to dwell on such thoughts, to compare the similarities, and reach a conclusion. So you hasten up, calling back with mild apologies.

You rinse the last trace of lather off your body and step out of the sky-blue Jacuzzi. Chief has switched off the light and the only source of illumination is the bathroom room light which is sneaking into the room. You see Chief’s silhouette on the bed. You are sure he is annoyed, but of course, you know what to do to bring him back in the mood. It is your vocation, your calling.

You immediately drop your towel, unveiling your naked form like it’s a precious offering to a god. You can see Chief’s full cheeks move and you assume it is smile. It is a boost to your morale, so you gently mount yourself on the bed and get down to business. You are about to think of how impressed Johnny will be with you, when you notice on the old man’s face, a tinge of familiarity. You wish the lights were switched on. Anxiety slowly spreads its tentacles on you and tightens its wicked grip when chief mounts on you. His breathing is labourious. His movements are deliberate. His thrusts are quick and forceful, belying the shriveled features of his elderly frame.  

Morning comes with a new awareness. The sun’s rays are creeping into the room when you awake. Chief is still asleep and all other sounds, kowtow to his heavy sporadic snores.

You open your eyes, the environment looks surreal at first, then everything takes shape, and the first thing that your eyes behold is…

‘O god!’

…to be continued next week

by Uche Anichebe

Dear future me…

dear

Dear future me,

WHO AM I?

That is the question I was born with this morning.

In between puffs of cigarette smoke, our mutual friend asked, who are you? You should remember…I laughed, loud and hard, and opened my mouth to answer – but nothing.

I did not know. I do not know who I am.

You know me very well, brother, so you can understand why it came as a shock that I couldn’t answer that question. Shouldn’t I have had it all figured out? Shouldn’t I have had for an answer, words of wisdom, with fancy conjunctions stringing together their exquisitely-woven philosophies? I should have, right? But I did not. And I can‘t help but wonder if that is an answer by itself.

I do not know how long it has been for you since we wrote this letter, but I hope – I really hope – that you have an answer by now. There is also a lot more that I hope you are by now. There are some I hope you aren’t as well.

I hope our family is a huge part of who you are. I hope our parents are alive and aging well. I hope Poppa hasn’t gone bald (for both our sakes) and he still enjoys walking around the house in baggy Ankara trousers and looping singlets. I hope he still derives pleasure in swinging that broom – to rid cobwebs from a corner – or machete – to trim those flowers – or whatever equipment it is he is besotted with at the moment, with which he tends the house. I hope he has a lucrative line selling in Onitsha or Nnewi and that the umunna meetings he attends these days are filled more with laughter and camaraderie than anything else. I also hope he now has time to sit in the garden at night, surrounded by luxuriant grass swimming in a flood of garden-light, sipping something healthy and reading books. Somehow I know the dude is a reader, he just had to give it up even before he had the chance to choose it.

I hope Maama is old and agile, like granny; I hope the calls are less frequent, where she narrates her dreams and prescribes the bible verses that would cure the impending doom. I hope she still calls to pray for you and run her business ideas by you. Even though you do not need it, she probably tells you about every new job opening in the Federal Ministry because “government jobs dikwa very reliable”; I know you know to pretend to listen every time and say you’ll think about it. I know she’ll probably never be worry-less but I hope she is very happy, and that she got that doctorate degree she always wanted. I hope she has a horde of grandchildren whom she can fuss over, and worry over, and whom she can tell more of those folktales we heard very few of.

Talking of grandchildren, I hope you contributed – maybe even still contributing – a sizable chunk of that lot. I hope our siblings are well and alive, and still bound together by the laughter and unpretentiousness that made our childhood memorable. I hope you and Piro found a way to buy more land in one place, so that you built your houses within walking distance of each other, no gates or fences in between. I hope the girls visit during Christmas with their families, and I hope you all stay awake long into the night, gisting about nothing in particular, reminiscing and playing video games. And when the kids fall asleep, I hope they can do so easily and stay till morning regardless of whose house they are in at the time, Poppa’s, Piro’s or yours.

Fiona thinks what I just wrote doesn’t make any sense – yes, she’s reading over my shoulder; the woman never learnt either of courtesy or coyness. You know how big and chummy a family she comes from so she can’t possibly understand why I would, in her words, “make something so little to coman be looking imirimious”. This woman i

It’s been six hours since I typed that last ‘I’. After Fiona yabbed what I wrote, I shot back – I called her Phyno and told her to go collabo with Wande cole if she had nothing better doing. She hates it when any reference is made to the straggly hairs that occasionally sprout on her chin but I have boyfriend immunity so I call her Phyno. When I hit her with the line, she smacked me over the head; I spat chewed gum at her, and she started a pillow fight. We went through the throw pillows in the sitting room and went on to the large-size fluffy pillows in the bedroom and then…why am I recounting this? You know exactly what happened afterwards.

Anyway, Phyno is asleep now and I hope you married her. Because she’s a great girl. She says I only say it to get in her pants but you and I know I mean it when I say that she makes imperfection look perfect. I hope you married her and if you didn’t, I hope you married a truly beautiful woman who is your best friend. And I hope she married a man who loves her even more than I love her now.

Because you married her, I am sure that you love your wife with all that you are and will ever be (if you still have time left). I hope that she loves you just as much. I hope your dreams and passions align so that neither of you has to die so that the other can live; movies make those sad endings look sweet but really, man, the Word says that God gave us the earth and its fullness for a reason – to savor it!

I hope you know the Bible well enough now to know what verse it is I just quoted…and I hope you just smiled because there is no such verse. Or is there? Anyway, I hope you love our God nearly as much as I try to and I hope you worship him in the people whose paths cross yours every day.

I hope the future isn’t as shitty as we fear it will be. If it is, I know you have found a way to be happy while keeping life sane and productive in your immediate environment. I hope you have not given up on hope of a better future too; tell the children the lores of how we right now live in fear and suspicion of our own kin; use characters like the tortoise and the lion to relay to them how we in their past, go to bed afraid we’ll never wake only to wake wishing we never did. Don’t scare them oh, you bully; okay, scare them a little if you must, but let them learn the lesson – they must learn to live together like brothers or they will perish together as fools. For the adults, the ones with whom we dreamt big, drank down and pissed it all away, tell them you lot haven’t failed yet. For as long as you breathe and your hearts thud, failure cannot laugh in your faces yet. Don’t let him.

If it isn’t – if the future is not as shitty as we fear it will be – then I am glad I was one of those who hoped. I am glad that somewhere along the line, we did something right, something different, and turned it around for better. And I hope I played my part.

I read Long Walk to Freedom again today – don’t bother saying it. It’s just that I am constantly overwhelmed by the magnitude of the sacrifice he and all those other good people had to make for the prize of freedom. There are times when I find that I am all fired up about the good fight – like two days ago when the members of parliament ‘turned up’ in full glare of the public eye, or that time Piro was arrested and detained for not giving up his seat on the bus to a uniformed man. Times like that, I see thorns, red thorns.

But there are also those times when I think about the ‘goods’ of my life, and I find that I am not fired up for any fight whatsoever, good or bad. Like yesterday, just sitting, all snuggled up and watching Chioma Jesus music videos with Fiona; and that time last week when I stumbled upon that video clip from last Christmas, of mum dancing Alanta while we cheered. Times like that, I see roses, red roses.

I hope having to worry about such is already in your past. Because it would mean you survived it all. Evil thrives in a society when the good men do nothing – true; but it also thrives in a society where the good men are in a hurry to be good and get themselves killed off. There is a reason martyrs never get to laugh last.

I hope you never have to choose that path; I hope you never have to choose between the people or/and the things you love. And if it ever happens that you have to, I hope that somewhere in the life I have already lived, the life I am living now, or the life I will live before I become you, we learnt something that will help you make the right choice.

If you kept your part of our bargain, then it’s our birthday today. As you celebrate, I hope you have grown – not just aged – but really grown with every passing second of this shy but ruthless fellow called time. I trust that you are not worse, neither are you the same person I am right now; you are a better person. For that reason alone, it’s a pleasure knowing that I’ll be you.

Happy birthday.

Yours,

Me.

I am @ojukwu_martin on twitter

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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 XI

…continued from UNFORGIVEN X

unforgiven

She needed to convince him that she was for real. She gave him a demure smile as she let him in; he perused her body with hungry lust and didn’t say a word as he made a dive for her and began to kiss her.

And for the first time ever, Ethel felt nauseous. That was when it dawned on her that his hold over her was broken. She could never let him touch her again.

“Easy, champion,” she chided as she pulled away, not wanting to show resistance.

“God, you look so sexy!” he mumbled, running his hand over her breasts.

She stiffened in disgust which he mistook for desire because with one hand he drew her to him, nuzzling.

“Look, I have something special planned for you. Something you’d like,” she winked at him, pecking him lightly on the lips.

“What made you change your mind, Thelia?” he asked, breathing in the scent of her skin. Good thing she’d dabbed perfume on her body before he arrived.

“I realised how much I missed you,” she purred. “Besides if we do this, you stop hounding me, so come…follow me.”

“I want you here. Let’s do it here, then we…”

“No,” the single word rang out like a threat. Ethel felt her façade begin to slip. “I mean…I want you to see what I had in mind. It’s exactly what you used to like.”

Fall for it, you idiot!

“Can’t we do that later? You’re so hot I think I’m gonna burst in my pants,” he groaned, pressing her to himself.

By all means, do.

“No, it has to be my way, honey. I promise you’ll like it. I haven’t forgotten how to take care of you; she disentangled from him and began leading him to the bedroom.

“This better be good. I could eat you, you know,” his eyes were burning with a passion she’d once shared but not anymore.

He followed her this time, touching her at every opportunity he got.

The cuffs were in plain sight and caught his eyes like she knew they would. He stared at her like a puppy that’d just been told he could have the largest bone.

“Really? That’s what you have in mind? To…play?” his eyes shone.

“Yes. I’ve missed it,” she said, casually picking up the cuffs.

“How do you want it? You want to…should I cuff you?”

“I was thinking I could cuff you first. Later, you can do me,” this was the part she needed to really put her acting skills to practice.

Charles might be horny but he wasn’t stupid. Any false step and he might smell a trap.

“Wow. You sure are in the mood. Didn’t think getting you into bed would be this…” he smirked.

He’d wanted to say ‘easy’. She could bet her last breath on it.

“Get into bed Charlie. It’s play time,” that was the phrase they used whenever they wanted to go kinky.

He obeyed, pausing for a second to unzip his fly.

Her revenge was so close she could taste it. She didn’t realise she was sweating as she cuffed his hands to the bedposts.

“What next?”

“I will take off your pants and do with you as I please,” she promptly replied.

He nodded.

And take off his pants she did. She stripped him to the very last until she bared his bulk. Looking at it, she recalled times that she’d lived for the pleasure it brought her. Not today. Not anymore.

Smiling, she walked over to her wardrobe and took out her camera.

“What…what are you doing?” he asked as he saw the camera trained on him.

“I want to see the look on your face as I strip you of the thing that makes you a man,” she spoke in a cold voice.

“What? What is this? What are you talking about? Put away the camera Ethel. This wasn’t the plan. No tapes…”

“Shut up! Shut up you murderer! You thought you would get away with it, right? You thought you’d kill my babies and go scot free?”

“What? What is this…God, what is this?” he was beginning to shake. This wasn’t just kinky sex anymore, he gathered. “Please, for God’s sake just put away the damn camera and let’s talk about this. And please uncuff me.”

“You didn’t think about God when you took away my babies. You didn’t think about me when you drugged me time and time again, you bastard! You know what? Say cheese to the camera and let’s catch your pretty face. We will show this to your precious daughters when you’re gone.”

“Ethel please, please don’t do this. Please let’s talk about this!”

“Yes, beg me. Cry. I wanna see it,” she grinned as she clicked away on the camera.

He wasn’t crying yet but she was pretty sure he soon would. She went to her wardrobe again and this time took out the kitchen knife.

“See, isn’t it beautiful?”

“Blood of Jesus!”

“His blood didn’t save you before. It won’t now. Any last words, honey?” she stroked the shiny blade with an insane glint in her eyes.

“You’re mad. Ethel you’re not well. You want to kill me? You will go to hell! You will go to prison! Ethel, think about it! Are you ready to have my blood on your hands?”

“How did you live with the blood of our babies on your hands all these years?”

“I am sorry! I didn’t mean to! Please! It was…”

“Don’t you dare blame the devil for this! This was you!”

“Forgive please!” he was blubbering now as he struggled to move, to cover his nakedness.

His erection was still there. The treacherous thing hadn’t given up even at the sight of the knife.

“I want you to call your daughters and tell them everything.”

“What? I can’t do that! You will have to kill me first!” he spat.

“Watch me,” she moved closer to him and lashed out with the knife.

It was his face she aimed for. That handsome face that had charmed so many a woman. She dragged the knife deftly over his face watching the blood ooze out with satisfaction as he twisted from side to side.

“Please. No…please…” he was crying now and bleeding. A bad combination as the salty tears fell into the open cut.

“Will you call them now?” she asked again.

“I…can’t. They’re my life. Please…don’t…do…this. God, no.”

“Why am I asking? I can easily get your phone and send the pictures to your precious daughters. That would be good huh?” she slashed his face again, anger boiling within her.

This man that’d damaged her! He deserved this!

“Nooo!” he screamed.

“Then make the call. Or I go to your balls. How would you feel if I cut that off, huh?”

“Jesus Christ!” he was weeping profusely now, tired of struggling.

“Make the call,” she moved away and began searching the pockets of his discarded trouser.

“Bingo!” she smiled, waving it in the air, “Now, what’s the name of the older one? And don’t mess with me Charlie. I still have my friend here,” she used the knife to poke his bulk.

“Please forgive me. Don’t do this. Please…I will do anything.”

“Oh. Can you bring back my babies? Or make me pregnant again? The name, Charlie! Don’t waste my time!”

“Sh…Sh..Sheila. Please don’t.”

“Ah Sheila. What a beautiful name. It would’ve been lovely for our daughter, don’t you think?”

“N…No…I mean…Y…Yes,”

“Why, Charles? Why did you do it? Wasn’t I good enough?” she couldn’t hold back her tears any longer.

“I’m sorry. Please forgive me. You…you were the best thing that happened to me…I…”

“Don’t. Don’t lie any more. It would only make your situation worse. Besides we have a phone call to make to Sheila honey.”

She punched in the letters and the name popped up.

And then she dialled.

to be continued next week…

by Mimi Adebayo

 

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