Don’t miss any of the previous episodes, click the appropriate link.
DOWN- Episode one
DOWN- Episode two
DOWN- Episode three
DOWN- Episode Four
DOWN- Episode Five
DOWN- Episode six
DOWN- Episode Seven
DOWN- Episode Eight
DOWN- Episode Nine
When men are cast down,
Then thou shalt say,
‘There is lifting up!’
And He shall save
The humble person.
“Five months!” Lovette whispered, teary-eyed. “Lord you are faithful”
Today Precious clocked five months and Lovette felt as though he had spent a decade on earth. She didn’t think he was going to last so long. She held him closer and tickled him, he gurgled. Andrew sat on the bed, smiling.
Father, you are God!
You are the most high God,
You are the most high God,
You are the most high God.
He sang arms raised. Lovette joined him and after they sang, Andrew let himself fall on the bed. He put his hands behind his head, and looking up, he exhaled.
A whole lot happened over the past five months that he was surprised at how much could change over such a short period of time. Next week, his book would be launched and his PR team that comprised two other internet junkies asides his wife said the book seemed to be getting an acclaim if likes and retweets were anything to go by. He decided not to dwell on that, he had handed over his worries to God, he would leave them there.
Lovette plunked playfully on Andrew’s laps. He groaned and chuckled. The Bible club had become larger over time, especially with the inclusion of more children from MRF. Some parents were harried that their children were sitting in the same room with kids with DS. Mrs. Anigbogu said “Watching those retards might just fashion my son in their likeness and that’s the risk I can’t take! It’s either you stop those children from coming here or I’m afraid this is the last time you’d be seeing Jerry around”
Those words hacked her heart. At that point, she wanted to promise Mrs. Anigbogu that she’d stop allowing the children into the Bible club. She tried to convince herself that it was what was best for the sake of peace but she knew it was cowardice. It would be total hypocrisy if she worked with MRF to create a world where people with Down’s syndrome are reckoned as humans in every way, on one hand, and then she joined the other with people like Mrs. Anigbogu to pick out children with DS from a community of their equals because they thought retardation was infectious.
Deciding against being a charlatan, she looked Mrs. Anigbogu in the eyes. “If I send the other children away, where will I send my son?”
“Oh, please don’t get clouded up by sentiments. I’m only after what’s best for my son and other normal children”
Normal children. It rang in her ears.
“Mrs. Anigbogu, the children stay!”
The woman hissed and entered her car. Standing by her words, that was the last time Lovette saw either Mrs. Anigbogu or Jerry. And it hurt to hear Goke ask after ‘Yeyi ma fen’ every other day.
But when bad things like that wanted to dampen her morale, there were good things like the work God was doing in the Adejuyigbe’s home to strengthen her hope.
After Bimpe’s huge scandal of beating her in-law to coma, she hit rock bottom. It took Philemon’s influence to keep her out of jail but his influence could not bring hungry rumour peddlers to pull down the juicy gist from their blogs and tabloids. Everywhere one turned on the media, what came at the fore were headlines like, ‘Wicked TV personality nearly kills in-law’, ‘Adejuyigbe Adebimpe now a murderer?’, ‘For unknown reasons, popular TV host, Adebimpe Adejuyigbe attempts to kill a poor sixteen-year-old’
Philemon’s power was also useless when her manager told her the taint on her name was bad publicity for the TV station and her services were no longer needed.
Realizing his daughter was being molested for so long in his house devastated Philemon enough to make him sober.
Adebimpe drew closer to Lovette, she rededicated her life to Christ and started over. She spent a lot of time bemoaning spilled milk and Lovette had to remind her that what mattered was the forgiveness she had from God through Christ and the years ahead. Yes, she had scars but if she would trust the Lord and walk in step with him, he could still fulfil his counsel with her.
Adebimpe told Lovette of how Lilian coiled into her shell, how she became cold and reclusive since Jide was admitted. She found it ironic and somewhat irritating that Lilian always asked after Jide. “Will he die?” She would ask and then burst into tears. She always asked to see him and Bimpe thought it best to keep her away from him. Lovette advised that Lilian should be taken to a professional and that was how her Thursday evening sessions with Mrs. Cole started.
Intercessions went on for Lilian from Dupe, Bimpe and Lovette’s ends.
Adebimpe came over to Lovette’s an hour before the Bible club meetings with Lilian so she could join Dupe and Lovette for prayers and a brief study on what Lovette and Dupe had to teach. Bimpe was only there to learn, it was the instruction she’d received from the Holy Spirit after her relationship with him was re-established, to learn Christ and be a disciple under Lovette.
While the women were busy, the children would be in the parlour. It was amazing how Lilian was always her most boisterous self only when she played with Goke and Precious who would coo from his blue cot.
When the Bible club was over Philemon would come to pick his wife and daughter. On most days, he’d come about thirty minutes before the Bible club was over and he’d just sit in his car. When this was becoming frequent, Lovette sensed in her spirit it wasn’t just coincidental, that his hungry soul was searching. She shared with Andrew the burden on her heart.
Andrew started praying for Philemon and he stopped visiting ‘Read to Your Fill Book Hub and Cafe’ after work but instead borrowed books from there for each week. After work, he drove home and joined Philemon at the garage.
Sitting beside the haughty and supercilious young man in his glinting fully air-conditioned jeep was very uncomfortable for Andrew for the first two times. They had no common grounds. Andrew didn’t like football, Philemon didn’t like Basketball. Philemon was all about business, Andrew was a geek’s geek. Philemon had always looked at the world from beneath his nose, Andrew hadn’t had his life as a time of fun at the SPA.
Andrew hated how he stuttered and sweated in the cold car, he hated how self-conscious he was in his presence. It was extremely awkward discussing with a total stranger who also happened to be his ex’s husband.
After the first time, he told Lovette point blank that he’d not be having a talk with Philemon again. She could take over.
“You are the man. The man should relate with the man. You’re not the closer one to Bimpe or Dupe. And this is not about convenience this is about what God wants to do, this is about a hungry soul, Hun. Jesus never sent the people who came to him back, hungry. God has directed the steps of a hungry man to you, now you have to trust him to do a miracle that would feed and satisfy this man. Your life ceased to be yours when you took on the life of Christ, don’t forget that”
Andrew thought the first meeting with Philemon was the worst until Philemon shocked him with a question the next time they met.
“Why did you not give Bimpe sex when she wanted it?”
“That day at the park, she told me everything. Why did you run?”
“I’m a believer”
He scoffed. “I would call myself that too but given the same situation, I wouldn’t have acted the way you did, so, what’s different?”
“The difference is just in the fact that I have an actual relationship with God and I obeyed the voice of the Holy Spirit at that point. When one has come to the realization of God’s love, it makes one love God back. And when this love relationship is established, one would not wilfully or perpetually do that which displeases God, which is sin. Mr. Adejuyigbe, God loves you and he wants-”
“You’re always so ready to make a sermon out of every discussion,” Philemon said waspishly and Andrew felt affronted. He said nothing in response.
“Tell me about the Bimpe you were in a love with”
“She’s your wife, you can ask her whatever you wish”
Philemon laughed. “Calm down man” he paused. “I just-”
“I’m not comfortable discussing your wife with you sir”
Philemon sighed. “I never really knew her” He looked through the window. All of Andrew’s irritation and defenses thawed when he noted the vulnerability in Philemon’s tone. “She just came in from a friend as a highly recommended wife material and I, I sort of purchased her”
Andrew was now back at being angry with this proud money bag. While he was loving Bimpe with all his heart, Philemon was buying her over and buying won over love?
“So it was just another business deal”
“Now you make me sound like the Devil” Oh, aren’t you? “That’s all I know to do, business”
“Life is more than business” Andrew swallowed the toxic remains of what he had to say.
“She really loved you” Philemon confessed and hated the pang admitting the fact cost him.
“But she loved your money more” Andrew muttered and made a sharp guttural sound.
Philemon stared at Andrew. “Hey, young man. I know you’re the one who’s meant to be doing the preaching but it would seem you have a heavy chunk of bitterness right beneath the surface.”
“Maybe you too would be bitter if you were capable of actual real-life things like love and then you give your heart out only to have it thrown back at you in several pieces”
Philemon smiled. “Profound, you’re a public speaker or writer or something? I’m not the one who has an actual relationship with God and obeys the voice of the Holy Spirit, remember?”
It was then Andrew saw that he had let his emotions control him and not the spirit or love of Christ. He bowed his head and sighed, praying in his heart.
“I still have a flesh that lusts against the spirit and there are times I don’t walk in the spirit and I fulfil the lust of the flesh like I just did. But this is not meant to be. I’m supposed to walk in the spirit always”
“Ah, I see. I thought being a true believer makes one a superhuman of sorts”
“You’re not too far from the truth. The spirit of Christ in us is the supernatural element, but we have this treasure in earthen vessels we are however meant to yield our souls, mind, and body to the working of the Holy Spirit on a continuous basis. We are to yield this earthen vessel to the dealings of the potter”
“This is quite interesting. What exactly do you mean by yielding to the working of the spirit? And treasure in earthen vessels sounds like something I’ve heard in one of my sparse visits to the church, what does that mean too?”
Bimpe smiled through the window and Philemon was surprised to find himself feeling a frisson of sorrow at the end of his conversation with Andrew.
As Andrew got down he said, “You’re right. I’m a writer.”
“I don’t guess wrong. I’d see you tomorrow”
Andrew smiled and walked to the house. It was that point that Philemon stopped being Mr. Adejuyigbe to Andrew. The proud, boxed up egocentric Mr. Adejuyigbe, he became Philemon, a man in need of a saviour, a man for whom Jesus died and until he saw him as Christ did, he was unable to extend Christ’s love the right way.
Andrew sighed and struggled to shift Lovette on his lap.
“Mama, are you trying to break my legs? Abeg carry your fat bumbum from my leg jor”
Lovette stood up and plunked heavily on his knees again before she stood up. Andrew groaned Lovette stuck out her tongue at him.
“We should celebrate!”
“Yeah, we should”
Andrew went to the kitchen and came back shaking a bottle of grape wine. When he popped the wine it frothed over and splattered all over. “Whuuuuuhuu!”
“You’re going to mop this whole place when you’re done”
“Don’t be a spoilsport. Come here and grab this glass” He extended the glass. Lovette came closer and it was then it started.
Precious lunged forward suddenly and recoiled as sharply as he had been propelled forward.
The glass slipped from the hand of a stunned Andrew. The shatter of glass was a jolt to Lovette who hoped she was dreaming. Precious’ spastic jerks did not stop.
“Let’s go to the hospital”
“We have to pray first,” Andrew said, trying to be calm.
While they prayed, about two minutes and fifteen jerks later, the spasm stopped. Lovette could see Precious’ eyes through his blue-rimmed glasses, those eyes were tired. The boy looked drained, completely.
They took him to the hospital.
The peal of the bell was a tickle to the school’s body. Students from different classes roared with excitement. Who didn’t like break time?
Lilian shrugged on her backpack and walked out of the class in her usual unobtrusive manner, at the door she was jostled by a group of boys who were hurrying to the tuck shop. She walked past the playground that was alive and seething with animated children and continued walking all the way down to the deserted old playground. That place was fast becoming her favourite spot in school.
She sat on the rusty swing. Once, this was the beehive of activities until the new playground was built, and now only she came to the old playground.
Lilian picked up her book of personal things and pen from her Mickey Mouse bag. She opened the first page and where ‘No one else hears me
But Liliy’s book cares for me’ had been written was now neatly overlaid with correcting fluid and in its stead were words written in her Mom’s cursive handwriting.
By Jesus stripes,
You are healed,
On the left side her Dad signed a heart under the words, ‘Jesus cares. Daddy cares. Mummy cares’
She bit her lower lip and smiled. The building of the bridge between her and her parents started when her mum chanced on her book of personal things while she was tidying up her room. That night when she got home, her mum apologized to her and tried to discuss intimately with her. She was uncomfortable. It was the first time her mum would be delving beyond the safe periphery, and it was all so strange.
Lilian wasn’t shocked that her mum had seen her book. Actually, in her heart of hearts, she wrote so much in her book hoping that someday, someone would find the book and actually know her and then it happened, what she wanted happened but it still caught her unawares, it still made her feel exposed and abashed.
Lilian started locking up her book, her mum didn’t ask for it, instead, she wrote lengthy vulnerable letters to Lilian every day and tucked them under her pillow. Lilian never replied nor acknowledge that she saw the letters but Bimpe continued. In her letters, she shared her funny life experiences, the word of God, the fact that Lilian was a beautiful girl with a great future in Christ. She opened herself up to Lilian and before long, Lilian started looking forward to the letters.
Every night when she screamed out of her dream, she’d find Bimpe by her side, stroking her hair, muttering words of prayer, quoting scriptures and Lilian would sleep back, relaxed.
She let her mum read her book, they bonded over laughs, Bimpe said she had to work on her sentence construction and punctuations, she had to stop using abbreviations. She’d circle wrongly spelt words or improper expressions in red and ask Lilian to correct them. Adebimpe corrected the unbiblical and wrong notions in the entries. They did her assignments together.
Bimpe related closely with Mrs. Cole, Lilian’s therapist and it was from her she learned that Lilian blamed herself for all that went wrong around her and she was living under the crushing guilt of killing Jide, even though he wasn’t dead. Bimpe had to sit Lilian down and tell her the whole truth of what happened to Jide, she also took her to the hospital so she could see him.
Mrs. Cole also advised that if it was possible, a change of environment would really help Lilian, the house she grew in had too many dark memories for comfort. Bimpe told Philemon and Philemon took a day off work to go on a drive around the houses available for sale with his realtor and Lilian. He asked her for which home she preferred and what she wanted to be better in the house.
Lilian spoke excitedly, as far as she was concerned, it was just an adventure tour. The day she returned home after school to an empty room, she could not believe her ears when her Dad told her they’d moved to the house she loved best. One thing became clear to her at that point: her parents loved her. She then knew that indeed it had been the Devil that orchestrated every evil that had happened. For every time her parents showed her love, they never forgot to ascribe it to the greater love of God.
Lilian rocked on the swing and it creaked, she squinted up at the sky. Dark clouds hovered round white cottony patches, the gold of the sun was a dauntless warrior facing his foes, mere mortals. And all these stood on an azure backdrop. She looked towards the huge Gmelina tree that blossomed green and to the ground beneath it that was dotted with small green balls, droppings from the tree.
The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Lilian remembered the verse she read in her quiet time that morning.
She started writing.
God I thank you. I thank you for jesus, for daddy, for mummy, for aunty lovet and aunty dupe thank you for mrs cole.Thank you for sky and tree, for blue and grin. thank you for healing, thank you for jike my puppi, thank you for my friends, pris and goke. Thank you for making goke hapi, thank you for making me hapi.
Daddy still travuls for biznez trips but he stays at home more. Yestiday he tuked me in bed and sang jesus loves lily this i no for the bible tells me so… Daddy has a bad vois. Hahaha. But i like it when he sings for me. Mummy still loves her closet but she loves me more.
Tomorrow is bible club yaaayyyyy! Daddy will take me to mrs cole ofice after school today.
She was happy that she’d be seeing Salvation at the bible club. She imagined him sitting on the next swing and talking to her, making her smile with his charm and winsome mien. She stopped her thoughts. Was it God-glorifying to think of a boy? Did God like crushes? Was it a sin to think of Salvation like she was doing? After debating in her mind, she decided she was going to ask her mum when she got home.
She read her entry again, careful to correct her errors before her mum would spank her for repeating the same errors. She quickly changed the j in jesus, to J. She replaced hapi with hapy. She knew the spelling of her biznez was wrong but she didn’t know the right spelling. She flipped through previous entries and she found the correct spelling, she effected the change. She changed yestiday to yesteday and vois to voice.
She sighed, satisfied. Her mum would be proud.
She felt a sudden hard shove on her swing and her breath caught as her book and pen flew out of her grip. She turned to see Priscilla smiling at her.
“Pris!” Lilian hugged her friend.
“Why are you always here all by yourself? What are you always writing?”
Lilian quickly picked her book and held it to her chest “Nothing”
Priscilla frowned fleetingly. “Duurh, whatever,” She settled on the swing beside Lilian, the one she’d been hoping Salvation would occupy. “I have gist”
“You always have gist”
“Oya, I will not tell you again” Priscilla crossed her arms.
“Oya, sorry now”
“Beg me well”
Priscilla smiled. “Rebecca started crawling yesterday!!!!!” She jumped up. “I’m proud of my baby sister”
“I’m proud of her too. Does she still eat your shoe?”
Priscilla laughed. “No, now she scatters my room”
“Rebecca is now crawling,” Lilian said thoughtfully. “but Precious is always inside his blue baby bag”
The ringing of the bell ripped the air and elicited a general “Ooooh!” of protest from the playground.
Lilian picked up her bag and swinging hands with her friend, she walked back to class singing one of her favourite songs, the song her mum sang to her or played whenever she came to pick her from school, River of Grace by Christy Nockels.
“Baby you weren’t made to carry such a load
Lay it down and we can watch it go
Down the river of grace
Oh, oh, oh the river of grace
And all it takes is a little bit of faith
Jesus comes and carries it away
Down the river of grace
Oh, oh, oh the river of grace.”
Dupe entered the room from the bathroom and Jarret noticed her pallor.
“What’s the matter?”
She sat on the bed and passed the PT strip to Jarret without looking at him. Jarret’s jaw dropped and gently turned up into a huge grin.
“You are pregnant?” She didn’t respond. He pulled her to her feet, she jerked free muttering, leave me. Jarret stepped back.
“What is the problem now? We should be rejoicing, we’ve been hoping for this like forever”
Dupe walked to the window, she put her hands on her waist and sighed. “What if the child has Down’s again?”
“Come on baby, the chances are really slim now. About 0.1 percent, if I remember correctly”
“Yeah, the chances were also that slim when we had Goke.. And I think the chances are even slimmer now, the risk factor increases with maternal age” She shrugged.
Jarret pulled her to the bed. “Don’t give fear a chance now-“ He slapped a palm on his forehead “I really wish I knew scriptures like Andrew, I don’t know the exact thing to say but I know we are to trust God and be optimistic”
Dupe smiled. “I don’t need you to be like Andrew, I’m cool with you and I trust the process of your growth”
“Aren’t you just cute? But you know I don’t like mush, I like this better” He reached for the strap of her underwear.
“Are you trying to implant another baby in me?”
“Don’t be a bush girl, it’s called celebratory sex”
Andrew sat in the study, his head resting on crossed arms. He was in a deep conflict, torn between what he knew God wanted from him and what he thought was best for himself. Ever since he stopped enjoying his job as a programmer, he started sensing God nudging him in a different direction but he did a good job of ignoring God’s nudges and convincing himself that what he felt was a fickle emotional thing. But his dissatisfaction on his job grew as rapidly as his love for books and writing grew. When he saw that he was going to have no peace ignoring God for the fear of losing what was tangible, he came before God with open ears and what had been his fear hit him.
How could God tell him to leave his job and be a full-time writer? Like that wasn’t bad enough, he was also leading him and his family, like he did Abraham out of Lagos all together, to the eastern part of the nation. When last did Andrew leave Lagos? He had not left the city since his undergraduate days except of course when he went for his master’s degree in Hungary.
How could he leave all that he had in Lagos, all that was fixed, a job, a good, albeit rented apartment, a steady source of income, for a place where he had nothing certain?
His novel only hit the market last week and the reviews were already pouring in. People were asking for more, just the previous day Lovette told him he had a mail from a primary school board asking for permission and a supply of the book since they wanted to make it one of the literature texts for the children.
All of that made him happy, they made him fulfilled. He was already working on the synopsis of another feature story, the time he had to spend at RTYF Book Hub and Café was now too little, the time he had at night to read his novels were being vied for by the need to write, reply emails, and keep up an online appearance. He could actually do with a relief but the odds were heavily against this.
How could he tell his wife out of the blues that they had to move? She loved her job at MRF, she was one of the executives of the MRF parent’s board, what about the Bible club? And most of all, what about Precious?
The young child just got his glasses about a month back, he had to continue his visits with the ophthalmologist, and his progress had to be monitored. Just about two weeks back his jackknife spasms started and the doctor had to put him on adrenocorticotrophic hormone. What about the community the boy was used to at MRF?
He knew again that the love of Christ had to compel him and there was no peace outside walking in God’s will. So he prayed sincerely for the grace to obey and he told God that he had to tell Lovette all he had told him since she was his daughter too.
Stories about children with Down’s being killed, banished as evil, locked up and deserted in the Eastern parts of the country always seemed to find their way to Lovette’s desk and one Tuesday while a general conversation was on in the staff room, a fellow teacher just mentioned in passing that it’d be good if there was such a place as MFR in the East. From that point, Lovette could hear nothing else of the conversation going on around her. A burden had dropped in her spirit.
After they both agreed to do the Lord’s bidding, Andrew tendered his resignation letter but the company’s policy had to hold; he had to give a three-month notice before he could resign. So he had to spend extra three months in Lagos. That bought Andrew and Lovette time. Andrew used that period to tie up the projects he was working on in the office, by now, his peace had returned and he could programme like he used to, although all he still wanted was to just sit with a cup of juice, a bottle of groundnut, maybe with suya and write all day. Lovette, on the other hand, prepared Modupe and Adebimpe for the task of taking over the Bible club, especially Bimpe who would have to at some points, handle the Bible club alone since Dupe was pregnant.
Precious took his six-month test and it was a great relief for his parents to know that he had neither Leukemia nor hypothyroidism. The hospital said his file could be transferred to the teaching hospital in Enugu, when Andrew and Lovette informed them about their intention to move. Lovette spoke with Dr. Amogbonjaye about the hospital in Enugu and she was reassured that the hospital was well equipped enough to cater to all of Precious needs.
Yellow, Black, and White fared far better in the market than Andrew could have imagined and before they left for Enugu, it snagged an award at a book festival. That night when they got home, Andrew cried tears of joy.
They stood at the foot of the stairway of their new home in Enugu, holding hands and Andrew snuggled Precious close with his other hand. They did not know what lay ahead, but like Uncle Barns would always say, they had greater in them than whatever lay ahead. So they were content knowing they were walking in the counsel of Abba, the Greater in them.
Precious whined and stretched, he wanted to stand on the floor. Andrew smiled and placed him carefully on the ground.
“What are you doing?” Lovette asked, fear in her voice.
“Whatever I’m doing, you trust that I would do him no harm”
Andrew held his son’s hand. The boy swayed on his toes and landed on all four limbs. He started crawling. Slowly, painstakingly, but progressively.
“That’s my boy!” Andrew clapped, grinning as the boy crawled up the first step.
“He has always been a fighter” Lovette whispered tearfully.
“Just like a certain beautiful woman I know” Andrew nudged her side and his elbow sank into the pad of fat in her abdomen. She smiled.
He remembered that frigid February night, the epoch of it all, just eight months ago and yet it felt like a lifetime behind. He remembered his dream, not hazily this time. It was uncanny, but he remembered it in details. Lovette rolling on the bed, he singing and dancing with his crying son in his hands, Lovette grunting and saying “Oooh Hun, go to the guest room na. You and Precious are disturbing my sleep”
His eyes widened.
“What is it?” Lovette asked.
“Apparently, I got Precious’ name in a dream the day he was born”
“Oh, wow. You remembered right on time.” Lovette remarked sarcastically and they both laughed. Andrew knew that later that night, when his wife would be sleeping soundly, he would tower over her and savour her beauty.
Andrew turned his eyes to his son at the top of the stairway. A sweating chubby boy with blue glasses, leaning on the railing and grinning at his parents. Yes, it took him almost twenty-five minute to crawl up the stairs, but he did and if he could, he’d do greater things at his own pace as God ordered his steps. Andrew couldn’t love a child more, neither could Lovette.
Wheeew! My experience writing Down would make for another series on its own. But what can I say? It has been God. Honestly, people, I’m not just being modest here I mean it when I say it’s been God, every single step of the way. All these ten weeks writing and blogging Down.
Thank you so much for following this series. Your readership is highly appreciated and it would not be bad at all if you stop by at the comment section to drop something. Thank you very very much.
If you’ve enjoyed and have been blessed by this series, why not share it with someone else? God bless you.