‘Do you want to tell me where you were on Friday night?’ Kola asked.
Shade looked at her hands in silencel.
‘We can’t go on like this. If you are not willing to tell me where you were maybe you are not ready for this wedding.’
‘I don’t remember what happened,’ she said. ‘I spaced out and remember waking up on my bed.’ This was not completely accurate, but she wasn’t going to tell Kola about Soleye until she had some solid evidence to show him. If she told Kola a part of the story he may take matters into his own hands. She loved Kola and she didn’t want to see him rot away in prison for attempted murder. She wished she could tell him what Soleye did to her and allow him beat the living daylights out of that evil man. But she didn’t have any proof. But today at the luncheon she hoped to get some proof.
Kola regarded her with concern. ‘This has never happened before. Do you think you should see a doctor?’
Shade nodded her head from side to side. ‘No. That won’t be necessary. It was probably some hormonal imbalance caused by my monthly flow.’
‘Are you sure about this?’ Kola asked.
‘Yes, I am. I didn’t want to alarm you yesterday that was why I didn’t tell you what happened.’ She reached out and touched his hand, looking into his eyes. ‘I know how much you love me and would do anything to protect me.’
‘I still think you should see a doctor,’ Kola insisted.
There was a knock on the window of the car. It was Uche Okpara. ‘Shade please come with me. The pastor wants to see you.’
‘I will see you at your place tomorrow after work,’ Shade leaned over, gave Kola a kiss and got out of the car. She and Uche walked towards the church were people gathered in small groups chatting after the church service.
‘What did you tell him?’ Uche asked.
‘I told him that I must have slept off at home.’
‘Do you think he believed you?’
‘With Kola you can never be sure what is going on in his mind. He keeps thinking about a matter long after it is over just to make sure he didn’t miss anything. Of all the people I met it was the one with the inquisitive mind that I decided to marry,’ Shade said.
‘God works in mysterious ways,’ Uche said. ‘This man is good for you. He will make sure you don’t get carried away by strange gifts of jewellery from strange men,’ Uche chastised her friend.
‘Speak of the devil,’Shade said looking beyond Uche.
‘Good morning, ladies. Are you ready for the love feast at my house?’
Uche turned around. It was deacon Soleye.
A frown creased Uche’s face like a white man eating bitter leaf soup for the first time.
Soleye brought out the blue bed sheets that the cult leader had given him. The leader assured him that these sheets were special. He had immersed them in charms for weeks. Soleye removed the old sheets and spread the blue one on the bed. His wife was returning from China on Tuesday afternoon. By then he should have completed his assignment.
The leader had promised him that the blue sheets would get the job done.
‘What will happen to the sacrifice?’ he asked.
‘You don’t have to bother yourself about that. Your business is to make sure the woman lies with you on the bed. The rest is mine to worry about,’ the man said.
He opened the first door of the wardrobe and it led to a secret room. Inside were various charms, amulets and effigies scattered around the room. He picked an amulet, wore it under his clothes. He muttered some incantations, opened the black pot on the floor and brought out a small tortoise tied with seven cowries and red pieces of cloth. He lifted the tortoise and looked at it to make sure it was still alive. The charm would be useless if the creature was not alive. He returned to the bedroom, lifted the bed and kept the tortoise under the mattress. He looked around the room with some satisfaction on his face. ‘Now to make sure I bring the sacrifice to the altar.’ He rubbed his hands together and left the room. Continue reading
‘You have to let Kola know what is going on. You shouldn’t keep this to yourself. If he finds out on his own it may destroy your relationship.’
Shade regarded her friend for a moment. ‘You want me to tell my fiancé that I spent the night in the home of a cultist but nothing happened? Kola will never believe me. This is the end of my marriage plans,’ Shade sobbed.
Uche placed a hand on her shoulder. ‘I know this is hard for you but the best thing for you to do would be to come clean, be totally honest with him.’
Shade looked at her friend. ‘Honesty cannot work in this matter. If I tell Kola that I was in that man’s house, I cannot predict his reaction. He may drive down to his house and confront him.’
‘That wouldn’t be a bad idea,’ Uche said. ‘That short man should get his butt kicked for what he attempted last night. I can see him running away from Kola, totally scared out of his evil mind,’ Uche said.
Both women burst out laughing.
Shade wiped the tears from her eyes as she laughed. ‘Uche, you have such a dark sense of humour. I can imagine Kola using him as a punching bag.’
‘At least I made you laugh,’ Uche said.
‘I love Kola very much. I don’t want anything to come between us. He has not called me since he dropped me off at my place. I am afraid that this situation is irredeemable.’
Uche’s phone rang. She looked at the caller. It was pastor Cornelius Akanbi.
She covered the mouthpiece and whispered ‘pastor’ to Shade.
‘How are you doing?’ the pastor began.
‘I am fine sir. Thank God.’
‘All the group leaders in the church have been invited to a love feast at Deacon Soleye’s place tomorrow after the church service,’ her pastor said.
Uche had always suspected that her pastor was spiritually immature. Now he had succeeded in eliminating all remaining doubt from her mind. Inviting all the heads of department of the church to a luncheon at Soleye’s home was the height of spiritual irresponsibility. How could a man who called himself a pastor be so blind that he couldn’t see that the man organising the luncheon was the enemy of Christ? It bothered her deeply that a pastor who was supposed to watch over the sheep was sending them all to the slaughter in the house of their mortal enemy.
‘Uche, are you there?’ the pastor asked. Continue reading
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. Continue reading
‘This looks so good on you,’ Uche said admiring the necklace on her friend’s neck.
Shade smiled. ‘And it is real gold,’ she said with some pride.
Uche examined the pendant that swung from the chain. She had a concerned look on her face. ‘Shade, this looks like a mermaid. Why are you wearing it?’
Shade caressed the pendant. ‘This was a Christmas gift from deacon Soleye in church. It came with a matching bracelet.’
Uche sat back in her chair. ‘Deacon Soleye gave you a necklace and bracelet as a Christmas gift? That doesn’t sound right. Why would he give you such a gift when he knows that you are already taken by another man? What did Kola your fiancé say about this?’
Shade’s eyes fell like a child who was caught lying. ‘I didn’t tell him about this.’ She lifted her head. ‘And I will really appreciate it if you kept this between us.’
Uche regarded her friend with suspicion. ‘You mean a man gave you such an expensive gift and you didn’t tell the man you are going to marry? What is going on here?’
Shade was silent for a moment, then she turned to Uche. ‘Kola is my fiancé and not my husband. We are not yet married. Should I tell him everything that goes on in my life? Shouldn’t I have some privacy?’ she asked.
Uche’s mouth hung open as she regarded her friend in shock. ‘I don’t understand. Are you telling me that the introduction and wine carrying ceremony you did in Osogbo counted for nothing? Remember that Kola was ready to go ahead with the whole wedding formalities but you said he should wait until April. Why you did that I have no idea. That guy was ready to marry you but you said he should wait and now you are saying that you want some privacy in your life? Are you really sure you want to get married? Uche asked her friend.
‘This is not what you think it is. You are taking everything out of context,’ Shade said.
‘What context? Isn’t Kola your fiancé anymore?’
‘He is but this gift has nothing to do with our…’ Shade stopped talking mid-sentence. She tilted her head away from Uche as if she was trying hard to hear something. Uche noticed the far away look she had in her eyes.
‘Shade, are you okay?’ Uche asked her.
Shade dropped the glass of orange juice she was drinking on the table. ‘I have to leave.’ She began to look around to put her things inside her bag.
Uche gave her a look. ‘Why are you leaving? You haven’t spent thirty minutes in this house.’ Shade said nothing. She was still looking around her to make sure she took all her items with her.
Uche regarded her closely. ‘Where are you going at this hour of the night? This was supposed to be a sleep over. Is it your mother?’
Shade nodded, her eyes not really focused on anything. ‘Yes, it is my mother. She needs me now,’ she stood up. Uche got up with her and held her hand.
‘Shade,’ Uche looked into her eyes. ‘It is almost 11pm at night. You told Kola you would sleep over at my place. Why are you changing your mind? It seems so sudden.’ Uche noticed that Shade’s hand was growing cold. She dropped it and stepped back. ‘Shade, I don’t think you should go anywhere tonight. Wait until tomorrow morning and I promise you that I will go with you to go see your mother.’
‘It will be too late by then. I have to leave now.’ She reached for the door and opened it.
Uche watched her leave with trepidation. Continue reading
He stood before the door to the private hospital room with trepidation. He hesitated and muttered a short prayer. What lay behind this door, he wondered. He wanted Susan to be okay. Two nurses walked past, giving him side glances. They whispered to themselves and looked back twice as they walked down the long hospital corridor.
He stepped into the room and stopped. Susan lay on the bed sleeping. In spite of the bandage tied around her head she looked beautiful. He stood by her bed side observing her breathing. She opened her eyes. When she saw him, she forced a weak smile. ‘Thank you for coming,’ she said.
‘How are you doing?’ He asked.
‘The doctors say that I will live.’
He didn’t want to pressure her but he had to know what happened to her husband. ‘How is Bassey?’
Susan shut her eyes. When she opened them they were angry. ‘Please don’t ask me about him. He is the reason why I am in this hospital.’
Ogedengbe ignored her. ‘Where is he?’
She was silent for a moment. ‘He is dead,’ she started crying. Ogedengbe stood there not knowing what to tell her.
The maid brought in drinks and set them on the centre table. As soon as she left the room Susan turned to Ogedengbe and kissed him on his lips. Ogedengbe didn’t know how to respond to her.
‘I have wanted to do this for a long time,’ Susan said, kissing him again.
Ogedengbe’s mind was racing. He was in the house of a man who was buried ten days ago. This was supposed to be a condolence visit but it was getting out of hand. He looked into her eyes and unbriddled passion stared back at him. He wanted her, but not here, not now, not like this. Continue reading
He entered the sitting room and sat on the sofa. He picked up the remote and surfed through channels, his mind pondering the possibilities that existed in his relationship with Susan after this new information he had acquired purely by accident. Ogedengbe did not consider himself as spiritual as pastor E. A Adeboye or Bishop T.D Jakes, but he could recognise God’s providence when he saw it. Listening to Susan’s conversation with her husband was an act of divine providence. It was a sign that God wanted him to move on with his plans for Susan. How else would you explain this wonderful gift that was given to him even without his asking? A placed his hand on his forehead trying to sooth a twitching vein. No matter how he felt, there was only one meaning to what happened this evening: God wanted him to deliver Susan from the hands of that monster called Bassey Akpabio. He will assume the role of a deliverer sent to her by God; his relationship with Susan would be an act of mercy. No, it would be a supreme act of God’s grace on his hurting daughter who desperately needed help.
The thought crossed his mind that he was married and this would be a sin in the sight of God and man, but he waved it off as you would an irritating mosquito buzzing around your ears. As a deliverer he was entitled to some collateral benefits arising from his acts of mercy. What was wrong with Susan thanking him personally with her love if she so desired? She could reward him with some money, but he didn’t want her money. She would be his reward.
The thought he had swatted away returned, this time louder, like an enraged bee. Yes, he knew this would be considered sin in many religious quarters but he refused to be judged by any of those hypocrites who pretended to be better than him. His face creased in anger as he thought about the religious licence his colleagues had given themselves to contravene all the sacred teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ by acquiring material things and heaping up money like pagans who didn’t know God, yet they preached publicly that their followers should follow God.
‘Hypocrites!’ Ogedengbe spluttered, throwing out the word like a piece of stone found in a meal of beans.
‘Who are hypocrites?’ Ngozi asked, walking into the sitting room. Continue reading
The sermon notes he was preparing for the following morning were scattered on his table. He picked up a note and read it. He sighed deeply, pushed aside the papers, stood up and paced his study. It had been four days since he spoke with Susan. What was going on in her life, in her marriage? Had Bassey changed his ways or was he still treating her bad? This silence was almost driving him crazy. A thought scurried through his mind and he stopped pacing. Had Susan found a man? Had she found somebody who would treat her with the respect that she deserved? A frown creased his forehead. From somewhere within him anger rose up slowly like steam rising from a pot of hot okra soup as he contemplated the possibility that Susan could betray him in that manner. He sat down heavily on the orthopaedic chair he had bought to help with his lower back pain. It didn’t seem to be working. The pain shot through his back and he stood up again. Surely Susan couldn’t have met another man and abandoned him after all the work he had done for her? She should understand that he was important to her happiness. She should recognise that he was a man who has feelings for her. He had gone beyond the boundaries of counselling her and now took her life as a project. No, it felt more like a calling to make her happy, to put a smile on her face and deliver her from the misery that Bassey inflicted on her daily. That man was nothing but an animal. Continue reading