Shade felt the warm rays of the sun caress her face and her eyes flickered open. She turned her head away from the sun and saw the picture of Kola her fiancé smiling at her. Next to that picture was the picture they took on a boat in Dubai with the Burj Khalifa in the background. She had fond memories of that weekend in Dubai. She tried to smile but was rewarded with a headache.
She sat up in bed and noticed that she was still wearing the clothes from yesterday. One thing she never did was wear her work clothes to bed. She got out of the clothes, rushed into the bathroom and took a shower. Minutes later she emerged from the bathroom, did her beauty routine and put on some new clothes.
She entered the kitchen and made herself a cup of mint tea. The heat of the brew helped to clear her head. The clock on the microwave oven read 9:23am. A frown creased her face as she looked at the time. She never slept this late on a Saturday. She was supposed to be at the gym at 7:00 am, but she had missed today’s session by two hours. She pushed aside the cup of tea as concern rose up in her mind. She remembered going to Uche’s apartment. She couldn’t remember leaving it or what happened afterwards. As hard as she tried she couldn’t remember where she had been last night.
Her phone beeped and rescued her from the agony of trying to figure out where the last eight hours of her life went. It was a text from Kola, her fiancé. He was on his way to her apartment and wanted to know if she was back from the gym. She evaded the question. Yes, she was in, she ended the conversation. He had requested for a key to her apartment but she had refused. They were not yet married and until then he had no right to barge into her apartment whenever he wanted. She needed her own space where she could think her own thoughts, process freely and do as she pleased. She felt some sadness as she looked around her apartment. She would miss this apartment when she moved into Kola’s house in Magodo after they returned from their honeymoon. She had so many fond memories, secrets locked in the walls of this house. After living here for seven years, the environment, the people, sights of Surulere had become a part of her life. She wished she could keep the apartment and return to it when she needed some alone time. But society wouldn’t allow her do that. It would be regarded as an act of rebellion for a young bride to retain her former apartment. Her mother would see it as resistance to marriage or the fear of moving into an uncertain future with her husband. She stood up and touched the leaves of the plant that grew in a pot by the window. She liked the scent of the flowers when they blossomed. There were other flowers pots on the balcony but this one was special. She even gave it a name. Cher. Its flamboyant colours reminded her of the ageless, iconic rock artist.
‘Where were you last night?’ Kola asked her as he drove.
‘I was at Uche’s place then I came back home to sleep,’ Shade avoided his eyes.
Kola gave her a curious look. ‘I called your phone over ten times but it was switched off. When did you start turning off your phone? We had an agreement that our phones should always be on in case of an emergency.’
‘I must have forgotten,’ Shade said without conviction.
Suddenly Kola veered off the road and entered a gas station. He found a spot and parked the car. Shade looked at his face and feared for what was about to happen. This could very well be the end of her intended marriage to him.
Kola held the steering wheel tightly. Shade watched him.
He turned to her. ‘Shade, I am going to ask you one more time. Tell me the truth. I know you weren’t with Uche last night. I called her at 11:25pm. She said you had left her apartment and you said you were going to your mother’s place. I called your mother and she said you were not at her place.’ Kola paused and rubbed his palms together. Shade said nothing.
He continued. ‘I was tempted to call your pastor and let him know what was going on but it crossed my mind that if I brought him into the matter, there were questions I wouldn’t be able to answer. He could also tell us to call off our wedding. I didn’t want that to happen, so I didn’t call him. but if you don’t start talking to me, I will call your pastor and tell him what is going on.’
Tears came to Shade’s eyes as she listened to Kola. She saw the end of her relationship with him. She saw the wedding cancelled. She saw herself shamed out of the church. She saw herself mocked by fake and false friends who would rejoice about her break-up with Kola Owolabi. Her face would be splattered on social media platforms and people would call her mean names.
‘Shade, you know I love you. I want you to be my wife. I want us to have children together and raise a family. I want to live with you, and only you for the rest of my life. Tell me the truth. Are you in a relationship with another guy? Who were you with last night?’Kola asked in agony. ‘If you don’t start talking now, we are through,’ Kola said.
Shade saw the anger in his eyes and realised that her future hung treacherously by a thread. If God didn’t intervene, her dream of getting married to Kola was going up in flames.
‘He said he is going to call off the wedding,’ Shade lamented to Uche. ‘Our Saturday outing was a disaster. We spent most of the day fighting about what happened yesterday.’
Uche regarded her friend with suspicion. ‘Shade you need to come clean and tell me what happened last night. Where were you?’
‘I don’t remember!’Shade said with tears in her eyes. ‘I don’t remember a thing.’
Uche got off the sofa, knelt on the floor before her friend and held her hands. ‘Shade, please tell me the truth. We have been friends for over five years. You can be honest with me. I won’t judge you. I won’t condemn you. Is there another man? Who is he?’ she asked her friend.
‘I don’t know where I was. I don’t have any other man. I have been faithful to Kola. I don’t understand what is going on.’
Uche looked into her friend’s eyes. ‘Are you telling me the truth?’
‘Yes, I am,’ Shade said.
Uche shut her eyes in contemplation, but she never let go of Shade’s hands. She muttered some words in prayer then opened her eyes. ‘I want us to pray. Let us ask the Holy Spirit to bring to your remembrance where you were last night. You know where you were but I sense a demonic veil blocking you from accessing that memory.’ Uche let go of her friend’s hands. She entered the kitchen and returned with an object wrapped in plastic. She placed the plastic on the floor before Shade and opened it. It was the bracelet Deacon Soleye gave her.
‘Do you recognise this bracelet?’ Uche asked.
Shade wiped the tears from her eyes and looked closely at the bracelet. ‘Yes, it is the bracelet Soleye gave me. Where did you find it?’
‘I woke up last night praying for you. I was led to search this living room and I found this bracelet under the dining table. As I prayed, it was revealed to me that you were in danger and it was connected to this bracelet.’ Uche pushed the bracelet and the plastic bag aside. ‘Where is the gold chain Soleye gave you?’
Shade found the chain in her bag and handed it over to Uche, but the intercessor refused to touch it. ‘Place it on the bracelet,’ she commanded. Shade regarded her friend’s face and noticed that she had a stern look. She suspected that the Holy Spirit was taking over her friend. She did as she was told. Shade could be stubborn but whenever she sees Uche operating in her prophetic gift, she follows her instructions. If it hadn’t been for Uche’s help, she wouldn’t even be in a relationship with Kola. It was Uche who encouraged her to date Kola, that he was a good man. It was Uche who prayed for her to get a Job as a Human Resources manager at Proctor and Gamble. She wouldn’t be able to count all the times that God had used Uche to rescue her from her impulsiveness. It seemed like this time she had gone too far by accepting the gift from Deacon Soleye. She thought it was a harmless Christmas gift. Now it was turning out to be something that could ruin her prospects of getting married to Kola. If Kola called off the wedding, she wouldn’t be able to forgive herself.
Uche rose up, entered her bedroom and returned with a bottle of olive oil.
‘You will have to confess and renounce any association with the man who gave you this gift.’
‘Is this really necessary…’ Shade started.
Uche stopped her with an angry stare. ‘It was your greed that made you accept this accursed objects from that man. The Lord blessed you with a good job, you earn a good salary. You can afford good jewelry. Even if you couldnt afford it, Kola your fiancé can get you good jewellery. It was nothing but greed that made you accept this gift. Now you cannot account for almost ten hours of your life.’
‘I thought it was a friendly gesture…’
‘Then why didn’t you tell your fiance about it?’ the intercessor challenged her friend. ‘Hiding things from your fiancé is a sign that there is no trust in the relationship.’
‘I thought it was…, ‘ Shade made a weak effort to defend herself.
‘No Shade,’ Uche continued. ‘It was your greed that made you accept this gift blindly and see where it has brought us today.’ Uche held her friend’s hands. ‘You have to repent of your sin and ask the Lord to forgive you.’
Shade confessed the sin of covetousness and asked for the Lord’s forgiveness.
‘You also have to ask for forgiveness for hiding the jewellery from your fiancé. ‘
Uche raised her voice in prayer. ‘Lord, we receive your forgiveness. I ask you to cleanse Shade and I from all sin. Lord, please bring to Shade’s remembrance where she was last night and what happened to her.’
While Uche continued to pray, Shade shut her eyes and was silent. She realised something supernatural was happening to her because she began to smell incense. Uche never burnt incense in her home, so the smell had to be connected to where she went last night.
‘I smell burning incense,’ Shade said, her eyes shut tight. Sweat began to form on her forehead and drop down her face.
‘Don’t worry, it will all come to you,’ Uche said. ‘Is the Lord showing you anything?’ the intercessor asked.
Suddenly Shade began to see images flash before her eyes. It was as if someone set a huge television screen before her. As the images emerged she told Uche what she was seeing. She watched herself walking into a strange house. Her face creased in horror as she watched the events of the previous night unfold before her eyes. She saw herself entering a dark room. There was a pungent smell that attacked her olfactory senses. The room reeked of the stench of hell. A man sat on the bed but his face was hidden in darkness. The man held a ram’s horn in his left hand and was speaking some incantations into it. Each time he spoke, smoke came out of his mouth like a mythical beast. She saw herself standing before the bed upon which the man sat. She saw herself taking off her clothes before the evil presence that dominated the room. The pictures kept coming faster, filling up the screen of her mind. ‘No,’she screamed and threw herself on the floor. ‘Leave me alone,’ Shade struggled with an invisible force.
Uche held her friend tightly and prayed over her in strange tongues. ‘Satan I bind you in the name of Jesus. Let her go! Let her go!’ she commanded unseen forces.
Shade opened her eyes and tears rolled down her face. ‘Uche, what have I done?’ she asked the intercessor. ‘What have I gotten myself into?’
Uche Okpara regarded her friend in silence.
To be continued…