Episode three: A lump of gristle in honey
He alighted from the cab and strolled down the street to his flat, swinging his hands and humming a happy rhythm. He was tired from work but he was eager to get home, have a quick shower and change of clothe before he hurried off to the Collin’s to pick his fiancé so they could go out together. This evening, they’d go to see a movie and on Thursday they would have their usual meeting where they discussed, studied the Word or listened to a sermon and prayed.
“Oga Deme, ekabo o (welcome)” Iya Alade, the akara seller whose shed was on Demetrius street greeted him.
“Ah, ekurole ma (good evening ma)” He bowed. “S’aje nwa? (Hope sales are going on well?)”
“A dupe o (We thank God)”
He continued walking, reminiscing on how far he had come with his sweetheart, Abigail. After successfully cyber stalking her, he established an online rapport with her over the following weeks while he maintained his church friendship with her. Soon enough, the chat moved from Instagram to What’s App and then he could call her whenever he wanted.
He was patient through the friendship phase although he was careful to drop hints that made her know his intentions was not just to be another friend. On several occasions when they returned from Sunday service or midweek service, they’d stop by at Mama Celine’s shop to buy soft drinks and her delicious puff-puff. There was just something about Mama Celine’s puff-puff that kept one returning and Abigail was the most dependent addict.
As they got closer, Demetrius convictions grew stronger. He shared his intentions with Dare, who was an older friend and his spiritual leader. He got a word of confirmation. Finally, he decided that the time was right to propose.
That Sunday he asked her if he could see her later in the week.
“Yeah, sure. After Wednesday Bible study” She replied, flipping her straight weave.
“No now, I mean alone.”
She had a small frown on her face. “Are you asking me out on a date?”
“Ehn, something like that. Where would you like to go?”
She smiled. “Let’s see how well you know me, guess.”
“I don’t know, just tell me” Demetrius had never been queasy or uneasy talking to Abigail, but this time, he was.
“Mama Celine’s shop na”
“Let’s be serious Abigail.”
“I’m not joking na.. What’s wrong with Mama Celine’s shop? You know how much I love her puff-puff. Don’t worry, we’d sit on the bench in front of her shop and gist.”
“How do you want me to tell our children that I pro-” Demetrius stopped himself but it was a little too late. Abigail paused before she burst into laughter.
“You want to propose? Wait, I’ve not even consented yet, what am I even saying? You’ve not proposed yet and you’re already speaking of our children
Fear gripped Demetrius’ heart. Was she going to throw him the same words Tolani threw at him? I really love you Demetrius but you should know by now that we are only good for each other as friends.
When the silence between them was becoming awkward, Abigail broke it. “See you on Tuesday in front of Mama Celine’s shop”
Demetrius could not stay still over the next two days, especially because Abigail was not saying anything about what he said.
-Can you tell me what your response would be?- He texted her when he could stow his anxiety no longer.
She would say no? His heart cut.
-Because you’ve not even proposed yet, so what am I responding to?-
He heaved a long sigh.
Demetrius entered his one room apartment and quickly went to the kitchen. He was already gulping down a bottle of pulpy 5 alive before he remembered his resolution to cut back on his soft drinks intake. He dropped the empty bottle and started feeling bad. Deme, when would you ever go through with a plan?
He hissed and left the kitchen, taking off his cuff links. When he entered the room, he flung his gray shirt on the bed, kicked off his shoes and hopped around the room trying to pull off his fitted trousers.
He cinched a towel around his waist and went into the bathroom. As the shower sent down streamlets of water, he slathered up his body and his mind travelled back to the day he proposed. He remembered his careful, thoughtful words.
“For the future I want to build, I want this architect to join in. I want to build with you the plan you have, I want us to build the plan God has for us. I love you very much Abigail, and I want to marry you. Will you marry me?”
Abigail had laughed and asked him why he was sweating. He ignored the question and quickly said, “I will give you time to prayerfully consider my proposal”
She huffed. “And what makes you think I would wait for your proposal before I pray about my marital life?”
“So you have your answer?”
She let the silence stretch taut as she munched on puff-puff and seeped her La Casera. She laughed hard after staring at Demetrius for some seconds. “Man, you should see your face right now”
Demetrius sighed. “Abigail now, I’m not joking. This is a serious moment for me” Did she think he was just playing?
“Okay, fine.” She raised her hands. “I think you take life too seriously and it would be fun telling our children you proposed in front of Mama Celine’s shop”
A second passed, then another before realization hit Demetrius.
“So, that’s a yes?”
“I guess” Abigail smiled, rolling her eyes.
“You cant be guessing Abigail. Say Yes, please.”
The memory still warmed his heart.
He finished up in the bathroom and quickly wore a pair of jeans, a blue T-shirt and Vans shoes. He picked his watch and checked the time. 6:44.
He called Abigail to tell her he was about to leave his house, she said she’d be ready before he got to Bodija where she lived with the Collins. There was something about her tone that seemed hard, an edge to it that Demetrius found hard to place.
Abigail brushed her hair. Slowly turning the tresses this way and that, stroking the manes in a repeated absentminded fashion. It was about time she came out clear before Demetrius. She was advised to tell him all about her past from the start, but she thought it was wiser to wait until she was sure; sure of his love, sure he was interested in her and not just the idea of her. Sure he knew God enough to see her the way he did.
Now, she’d had sound three months of courtship asides the two months of being friends, to test the waters and she felt Demetrius loved her enough to accept her past. She believed that he could love her warts and all. Now, she could afford to be transparent.
Abigail felt different prods of pain that melded into one throbbing wave of numbness in her chest. She wished she could run back in time, she wished Dayo never happened. Perhaps if Dayo didn’t happen there wont be Chris, then Emeka, or Harrison and the several others whose names and faces inundated her mind. Emma, Tobi, Muyiwa, Muhammed, Pascal.. Dayo was not to blame, she had made a choice. Oh, Medad Abigail if only you weren’t so stupid.
Abigail, snap out of it. Regret won’t get you anywhere. Lord Jesus, I know you’ve forgiven me, I know you have no record of my past sins. I know you have blotted out the handwriting of ordinances against me and have fulfilled the righteous requirement of the law in me, by your death on the cross. Help me Jesus. Today, I have to relay my past. Help me to relay my past without reliving it and the guilt of it.
She sighed and picked her purse.
Peju sat up on her matrimonial bed, worried. She had just returned from Aanu and John’s school to pick them up and receive their term results. She had gone hoping that things would be different but once she got into the classroom and found Aanu at a corner staring ahead with puffy eyes and John beaming and eager to hand in his report book, she knew the old trend had repeated itself: John topping the class and Aanu taking the rear. The irony of life and balance, was what their class teacher called it. How could she even spit a statement so cruel, so spiteful?
As Peju glanced through Aanu’s result that had all grades save one in red, she couldnt take her eyes off the only grade in blue. Agricultural Science: 98%. Teachers remark: Excellent. While for all other subject the teachers remark was, Poor. John had a 79 in Agric and nothing less than 86 in every other subject. Peju didn’t know if it was Aanu’s jarring performance that troubled her or her strong passion for Agriculture. How could a five year old be so resolute? Peju had her own dreams for the girl, she hated to admit it but it was true. She wanted her daughter to be a doctor, perhaps a nurse, even a physiologist. Something along the medical line. Peju’s parents were both medical doctors, of the 5 children they had, 3 ended up as doctors and the other two as a nurse and physiotherapist. Were on earth is Agric coming from ntori olorun?
Seeing her daughter fill Agriculturist into Future Ambition blanks was like a hard smack on her face. Several times she had tried to dissuade her subtly. She told her all the beautiful stories attached to the medical practice, she took her to the hospital, She made her wear a stethoscope and scrubs when they played dress up in school. But Aanus displeasure was never hidden. The other day she cried on the way to the clinic. “Mum, why do you keep forcing me to go to the hospital? I hate that place. I hate the smell. I hate seeing sick people, blood, crying people. It just makes me sad.”
Peju could hardly believe her ears. How could Aanu be sad seeing sick people? How could she not feel the need to help? She remembered how much she pleaded with her own father to allow him take her to the clinic. She remembered how she came alive watching nurses and doctors, hoping to be in their shoes someday. How could Aanu not feel that?
But when David got Aanu seeds as a gift, Peju was stunned to see how excited she was. No, she wasnt stunned, she was appalled. Why would anyone delight in having soil cake their fingers in the name of planting? Aanu woke up every morning to water the vegetables she planted in the backyard. When the Ewedu bloomed, she brought the news to her mum jumping. For the past month, all the Ewedu they had been eating on Sundays was from Aanu’s little vegetation.
Peju knew God wanted her to allow Aanu be what he wants her to be, but it was really hard. She stood up from the bed and decided to push the thoughts aside. She walked out of her room to the passage and there she saw Abigail, filling the hallway with the queer fragrance of her perfume.
“There she is, our lovestruck sister”
“I’m afraid.” Abigail blurted. “What if Demetrius doesn’t see the Abigail he loves in me after he knows about my past?”
“You are not the lady any more. That lady is dead. And Demetrius would be foolish to treat you based on the sins of a dead man. My dear, can you remember the song we composed with Psalm 32?”
Abigail nodded, a weak smile on her face. She remembered how she and Peju would sing the song and jump in excitement in the early days of her walk with God.
“Sing it to me”
She started singing, leaning against the wall.
“No! that’s not how to sing that song” She grabbed Abigail’s hands and started shaking as she sang along with her.
“Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
By the time they were singing the fifth time, Abigail was running across the hallway back and forth, reminding herself of who she was in Christ and the fact that it was independent of who she used to be.
Then, the doorbell rang and it occurred to Abigail that the question was not about if or not God had accepted her, the question was, would Demetrius love her the same if he knew her for who she really was? Just when her shoulders were slumping, Peju lifted her chin firmly.
“What matters most is God’s acceptance and that, my darling is what you have”
Abigail crashed into Peju’s arms, muttering her gratitude.
As Peju patted Abigail’s back she wondered at the tumoil in the heart of the woman offering a shoulder to lean on for someone else. Then she remembered Jesus. When he was sorely grieving over the unjust murder of his cousin and forerunner, he went apart to be alone and then in that well deserved personal time, a multitude came to him and from a stand point of love and compassion, he pushed past his own needs and ministered to them.
Demetrius side hugged her, grinning in his usual infectious way.
“The movie would soon start, let’s get going”
Abigail looked up at him and she chewed on her lower lip. He drew back, giving her his full attention.
“What’s the matter, Abigail?”
“I don’t want to see a movie, I want to talk instead”
“Oh, sure.” He gestured to the sofa. “let’s sit and talk”
“I need to let you in on my past and honestly it’s ugly” Abigail blurted.
Demetrius heart started a wild beat. Whatever was to come had to be big.
Abigail started her narration of how her closest friend when she was in 100 level had raped her when she visited him. After Dayo violated her what plunged her deeper into depression was the way he avoided her like her plague. Her virginity which her Mum taught her to keep in order to be valuable in the sight of her husband had been yanked out of her grip. She was worthless. The only times she felt something close to worth was when she made a man burn with passion. That power made her feel worthy of something and so she gave her body often.
She hopped from one bed to the next club to the Lounge conveniences.
This continued until she thought she was pregnant when she was in 300 level. She had been religious with her pills, how could that have happened? She was petrified. Her father would feed her to a pack of wolves, her mum would have her head for dinner, the church community at home would ostracize her.
Before she could abort, she had to confirm the pregnancy in a clinic. Luck smiled on her and the results turned out negative. Peju was the doctor that attended to her. Peju ceased the opportunity to minister the gospel to her and at that moment Abigail emotions were all over the place, she was under the conviction of the Holy Spirit and there she gave her life to Christ.
Peju followed her up diligently and by God’s grace, she did not slip back into her old ways.
Demetrius did not say a word. His silence encouraged her narration but when she was done, the silence became awkward. She lifted her eyes slowly, not knowing what she would see in his eyes.
There was an intense, unfathomable look in his eyes when hers’ met them, he leaned back his head and shut his eyes. He stayed that way for a long time. Abigail waited for him to sigh, hiss, say something. But he did not as much as move a muscle. It was a lot to take in, so she allowed him absorb it. Tears streamed down her face.
“I’m sorry Demetrius. I really am. You don’t deserve this”
When Demetrius opened his eyes, all the emotions were gone, hidden. His eyes held nothing but a thin film of sheen.
He swallowed and said, “We can still make it in time to see the movie”
What? God, his pushing reality away. Is he also going to treat me like Dayo did? Abigail wondered. He just needs time to internalize it all. And if he wants a little distraction, it’s the least I can do for him.
All the way to the cinema, Demetrius was wordless and he looked through the window the whole time. At the cinema, he sat ramrod straight beside Abigail and she was certain that even though his gaze was fixed on the screen, he wasn’t watching the movie. If he was watching any movie, it certainly wasn’t the one showing, it was the one playing in his mind. The pictures his mind put to the narrative he heard from her lips. That was the movie on repeat in the cinema of his mind.
Now, things are getting intense on Idols, yeah? 😁 See you next week.