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I’m wearing my flowing black gown again today. It’s just been five months since Femi’s body was laid to rest and yet again, the Morris family was mourning. And yet again, I had lost someone dear to my heart. Jumoke.
I knew Jumoke before Gbemi’s wedding but it was at Gbemi’s wedding I had the opportunity to interact with her closely. Gbemi was the last born of the Morris’ family and all through the weekend of her wedding, Jumoke stuck close to me. She was free-spirited and very down-to-earth. I remember envying the relationship she had with her daughter, Francessca. The daughter and mother shared inside jokes like high school buddies. Francessca even called her mum by name.
Standing here in the same cemetery my husband was buried, I could hear Jumoke’s voice in my mind. I could hear the notes of her floating laughter wash over me and I struggled to come to terms with the fact that I’d never see her again. They said she committed suicide, that she hung herself to the chandelier of her room. With how rampant depression is, and the rise in suicide rates, I would have believed this tale if it was any other person. But Jumoke wasn’t just an ebullient lady and great mother, she was also the wife of Dosunmu Morris.
Something about the fact that Mama was careful to avoid eye contact with me, about the fact that she was wearing a cervical collar, didn’t sit well with me. Three times I randomly looked in Dosunmu’s direction only to catch him staring at me with that burning intensity that made my arm itch. Something was off. Just like something felt awry in my heart at Femi’s burial and look at all the ghosts time uncovered. So, forgive me for refusing to accept that cheap narrative that Jumoke committed suicide.
I hugged my bodice and started on a walk. I spoke in tongues under my breath.
Father, grant me clarity. What is this haze?
I turned to see Francessca beside me, walking at my unhurried pace. She was wearing a black blouse and a pair of black jeans. I couldn’t help noticing how chic her blouse was.
“Frances, I’m s-” I remembered how that irked me when Femi died. I sighed. “I found that annoying. The fact that everyone was sorry and no one could do anything to change what had happened.”
I let out a weak smile and held her hand. I dared a slight squeeze and she squeezed back. I didn’t have to say a word. We just continued walking.
“Do you believe the chandelier story?” Frances quizzed, looking straight at me.
What was I meant to say?
“Tell me what’s in your heart.” She answered my unspoken question.
I hesitated. It seemed she was looking for validation for her gut feeling, it’s either that or she was looking to see if someone else could see what she saw.
I shook my head.
She smiled and nodded. “I knew you were different.” And then, she hit a gusher. She sobs were so wrenching that they stopped her dead in her tracks. I sat on the slab and gently pulled her down. She plunked beside me and leaned on my shoulder. I stroked her hair absently.
She straightened. “Do you know what Mum told me?”
“What?” I asked, curious.
“Frances!” Dosunmu called from a distance before she could say what was on her mind. I turned to see Dosunmu standing some miles away, waving his daughter over.
Frances stood up and smoothed her jeans before she approached her father. Dosunmu’s eyes were on me. Those eyes said: ‘I don’t want you around my children!’ Instead of feeling affronted, all I felt was a sweeping sense of compassion. Compassion for Dosunmu who now had two teenagers and a nine-year-old to parent all by himself. Compassion for Frances and her two sisters. Compassion for the Morris family. Two family members dead in less than a year. And all of this was happening because a man had a pact with the Devil.
“Father, deliver this family. Let your light shine and expel darkness from this family.” I prayed.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill which can’t be hid. You are my battle axe.
I nodded. God was calling me to responsibility. By the Spirit of the Lord in me, it was my responsibility to shine the light in this family.
I walked towards Dosunmu. I needed to commiserate with him. I needed him to know that in spite of what he did to me and my family, I had no black blood in my heart towards him.
“Save it.” He didn’t even look at me. He walked away.
My mouth was still open. I looked around, abashed. Before I could recover from the cold shoulder Dosunmu met me with, I staggered as Gbemi jostled me out of her way.
“It would be better if you excused all of us. We won’t be facing all these troubles if you excused us. I curse the day you stepped into the Morris family, you witch!” Gbemi rasped and ended her statement with an exclamation. The exclamation was a glob of warm spit targeted right at my face. I gasped. I looked around; people looked away. Was everyone going to act like it was absolutely normal for Gbemi, who I was older than by at least 7 years, to disrespect me and even worse, spit on me? I saw Mama Gbadegesin return my shocked glare with a hiss and eyeballing. They were all not acting like what happened was normal. They were acting like they believed I deserved it. I looked all around me and I couldn’t see one person who was on my side. The vibe of hostility being emitted all around zeroed in on me like a spotlight. I hugged myself as a feeling of desperate loneliness engulfed me. I didn’t even care that Gbemi’s glob of spit was still sitting on my cheek.
What have I done to deserve all these? What lies have these people been fed about me?
My thoughts swerved to another direction. Jumoke died the morning after my encounter with the bird in my dream… Mama was wearing a cervical collar… Jumoke supposedly hung herself, severing her atlanto-occipital joint in the process. What are the odds?
My eyes widened slowly as everything came to a head. Mama took the brunt of my defiant response in the spirit. Mama was meant to die for she was the bird that attacked me in my dream, but in her stead, Jumoke’s life was given. Jumoke’s death was also a statement from Oriade. A statement of how ruthlessly vengeful he could be.
My heart twisted at the injustice of it. Why was it Jumoke that had to die when it was Mama who committed the crime? But I remembered, with a hiss of regret, that as kind and pleasant as Jumoke was, she wasn’t saved. And in this wicked world, any soul that isn’t secured in Christ could easily be preyed upon by the Devil and the predators he sponsors.
The ringing of my phone snapped me out of my reverie and only then did I think to wipe off Gbemi’s spit. As I delved in my bag for my phone, I realized that I had received a new commission. God had sent me into the Morris family as a light. It was time to wage a good warfare and bring to halt the wicked schemes of the Devil. It was time to call as many as would heed into the marvelous light. I picked the call.
“Please come… Now.” She sounded exhausted.
The line disconnected.
What was that about?
My eyes skittered around in my confusion and again, I caught Dosunmu staring at me. I stared back, challenging him with the slight dilation of my pupils and angling of my head. What? He sniffed a dangerous chuckle and shook his head. I pursed my lips and cocked my head to a side too. You don’t scare me one bit, ogbeni.
Tola looked a mess.
“Tola, what happened?” I went to sit beside her.
“Thank God you came.” She breathed.
The door burst open and her sidepiece sauntered in, his self-congratulatory smile interposed between his full moustache and beard. He looked around and observed me with leery eyes. I wanted to stand up and give him a slap.
The upturning of his mouth’s corner betrayed the innuendo in his thoughts before his words did. “Tola, you’ve called a friend to join in?” He sniggered. “I don’t mind. The more the merrier.” He stretched out his hand to me.
“Tejiri, I’m Tola’s good friend… You are?”
I ignored his hand. “Tola and I were about to have an important discussion, it would be really nice if you excuse us.”
He took his seat. “Tola and I are also friends…” He looked at Tola. “Not so?”
Tola nodded, drawing a shuddering breath. The freak’s confidence was becoming more and more irritating.
I leaned forward. “Tejiri, listen to me, you will stop sleeping with my friend.”
He blinked and as fast as the blink his smile left. He stood up. “I better get going.”
I smiled and stood up. I blocked his path.
“Excuse me.” There was a slight tremor in his voice. He looked down. I gave him a once over and my eyes stopped on his hands. Why was it dripping blood? I looked at the ground and the drops of blood were not landing on it. I smiled. God was giving me a word of knowledge. Tejiri tried to move past me, I blocked his path again.
“You are going to get off Tola’s back.” I blocked his path again as he tried to move away. “You have blood on your hands, I know this. Run far from my friend!”
He might well have seen a ghost. He brushed past me and hurried out of the living room. As I watched him hurry out, something hit me like a thunder bolt. I lurched, panting. I kept looking at him as he hurried out of the compound and I couldn’t help the quickening of my memory, the horrific flashes of images flooding my mind. The back frame of this man looked exactly like that of the man who assassinated my husband. His gait as he hurried out of the house was too striking. It was him. My whole body shook. The blood on his hands… the look in his eyes when he realized who I was… His frame.
I just came in close contact with the man who murdered my husband? The wife of my husband’s best friend was having an affair with him? It was too much to take in. I plunked on a sofa, head spinning.
“Sola, what happened?”
I heard Tola’s voice as though she was in a distance even though she was perched right beside me on the arm rest of the sofa I was occupying. It took some minutes to recover from the impact of the shock.
“Who is that man?” I asked Tola.
Tola couldn’t answer.
“You don’t know the person you were having an affair with?” I snarled. I was angry. Angry about everything.
Tola burst into tears. “I met him at my mechanic’s.” She paused, looking scared. “is he a murderer?”
I exhaled, trying to calm myself. “Just tell me everything you know about him.”
“He came to the mechanic’s workshop to repair his car the same day I went to get mine from the mechanic. This was around a period when I was seeking wild fantasy, I was looking for…” She shook her head and bit her lower lip. “I’m such an idiot! You know I thought marriage was going to end my addiction to porn, but it turns out porn will be the end of my marriage and my very life.” She let out a morose chuckle. “When I started the affair with TJ, it was exciting. I felt in control… until things took on a new turn. He started making demands. He started creeping up on me. He started blackmailing me. The other day I was doing a presentation at the office and I espied him through the window and then he disappeared as quickly as I had seen him. I thought I was losing my mind until I saw him through another window… I went into my car after work and I met him there, waiting. He smiled and told me to drive home, he wanted to have on my matrimonial bed. He had already tracked my husband’s movement and he knew he was on an official assignment outside town.”
Tola shook her head, sniffling. “Even when I was heavy with Christy, he insisted on having sex with me.”
“Is he Christy’s father?”
She shook her head. “The whole affair started after I had conceived. The whole problem with Moses was as a result of a careless statement I made in a fit of pregnancy mood swings. He was so mad at me… I decided to turn my libido elsewhere. Is TJ truly a murderer?”
I looked away. “He might have been the man who assassinated Femi.”
Tola gasped. Moses kicked the door open. “What?”
Tola and I froze for a second.
“For how long have you been there?” I asked Moses, but he wasn’t looking at me. He wasn’t listening to me. All the fire in his eyes was on Tola.
“Your boyfriend killed FM!” He charged at her. I stood and intercepted him. He reached past me to grab Tola. I stopped him.
“Sola, get out of the way!” He barked a curse. “Did you also have something to do with my friend’s death?”
“No, no… I swear I knew nothing about it.”
Moses’ chortle was cold. “And why should I even believe you?”
Tola cowered, whimpering.
“Answer me!” That was loud and vicious. “Why should I believe a lying, cheating piece of shit like you?”
“Language, Moses.” I faced him.
He laughed and nodded. “You are really taking sides with this snake? She might have had a hand in your husband’s death!”
“Moses, just calm down.”
“Calm down? Are you even listening to yourself? You’ll pay for your sins, Tola! I swear by everything I hold dear, and that doesn’t include you, you will pay for every last one of your sins!”
He pushed me out of his way. Tola ran for cover as he stormed down the hallway, spewing curses. Today had to Sola-pushing-day or something.
Tola was hysterical. Compassion filled my heart. Tola was just a victim, a slave of sin. She was suffering under the wicked taskmaster that sin was and she was reaping well of its wages: death. Death of peace… Death of joy. But the good news was, Jesus was right there to give life and give it abundantly.
I sat beside Tola.
“God must really hate me right now.”
I scoffed. Satan had no new lies to tell. Wasn’t that the same thing he was saying to my heart when I was out of fellowship with God? He made me feel like God wanted nothing to do with me and with that lie he made me stay away from God. I shook my head.
“Listen, Tola, God wants you to be reconciled to him. That’s why he sent Jesus to die on the cross for you. God demonstrated his love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ came to die for us. God’s love for you is not a function of your performance, it’s a direct reflection of who he is! God is love! God wants you to be reconnected to him vitally. God wants you to be restored. God wants you.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Have you soon forgotten? Though your sins be red as scarlet, he’ll make them white as snow. He’s calling you, Tola. He’s calling you back to him. What will be your response?”
Tola crashed to her knees. “Jesus, I’m deeply sorry. I used to love you, I used to be fervent but I fell into sin and stayed down. I let my lusts draw me away and lead me into sin. Sin conceived and brought forth death. But Lord, you are the giver of life, you are the source of life. Restore life to me, dear father.”
And so it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
1 Corinthians 15: 45 stayed on my mind and I smiled as I watched Tola pray her heart to the Lord.
“Thank you, Jesus, thank you father.” I whispered.
Tola heaved a heavy sigh.
I smiled. “The relief, yeah?”
She nodded. A small smile was cracking on her face, but like a smouldering flame suddenly exposed to harsh breeze, Tola’s smile was extinguished. Moses trundled a box into the living room. Tears sprang into Tola’s eyes. She stood up and stood in front of Moses. She knelt slowly.
“Moses, I’m very sorry…”
“Sorry for what exactly, darling?” Moses’ sarcasm was stinging. “For telling me porn would have been a better husband or for frolicking with the murderer of my best friend?”
Tola bowed her head.
Moses hissed. “Please get out of my way.”
“You stay, and let me leave.” Tola offered.
Moses scoffed. “So that everyone will think of me as that husband that kicks his wife out of the house, right? You want me to be the face of misogyny in the next feminism campaign, right? Nice try.”
Moses seemed obsessed with public opinions and keeping up appearances.
He marched out of the house. I followed him, but not before I told Tola to relax.
I entered the car with Moses.
“What now, Sola?”
“You know Tola had no hand in FM’s death. I know who hired the assassin. It has nothing to do with Tola.”
“I can’t live with that woman anymore. She was bringing that psychopath right into my house. She was sleeping with a murderer on our matrimonial bed! God! My skin crawls!”
I frowned. “You knew?”
“That bastard sent me pictures and videos after each episode with my- with Tola.” It was a good sign that Moses was so angry about the fact. “I’ll block his line and he’d send more pictures with other lines.”
“How did you feel about that?”
“I really wanted to feel nothing. I wanted to not care…” He rubbed his face.
“But you still loved Tola.”
“I hate her! I freaking hate her!”
“Why are you shouting? To convince me or yourself?”
Moses shook his head violently. His hands and jowls were twitching again. I could see the effect my words were having on Moses, I could see how restless he was becoming. I could see that I had a knife in his gut… I decided to give the knife a little twist.
“Was that why you started your own affair? You wanted desperately to be past feeling anything for Tola…”
“But even then, this sidepiece feels nothing like Tola…”
“It’s because Tola, and only Tola, is your wife…”
Moses swore, banging the steering wheel.
“You love her… You can’t deny it.”
“Get out of my car! I will never return to Tola! Never!”
I got down from the car and watched Moses zoom out of the compound. I feared that he might have an accident.
In the following weeks, Grace took me through intense drills spiritually. We had several vigils together. We shared burdens… we studied the word… we took time to groom our children in the way of the Lord. We went for Bible studies at Stephen and Ope’s place and together, we were raising Tola for the Lord. When we were not engaging in one spiritual exercise or the other, Tola, Grace and I made a nice team of chattering companions. And Tola’s astute sense of humor did a lot in moving those conversations.
We prayed for the Morris family. Our prayer was that the Lord would encounter the family with the power of his word. That liberation will come into the household. That the word of God may gain free course and be glorified even in the family of the Morris. We prayed that the gospel of Christ will be received with joy and readiness by the family members. Our prayer for Tola’s home was that the Lord would do what only he could do in restoring the home. We prayed that Moses will receive grace to forgive his wife. We prayed for Tola too, managing a newborn and a job all by one’s self wasn’t easy. We also prayed for her mental health. She opened up to us about the suicidal thoughts that sometimes hovered around her.
All was moving on well until one fateful Tuesday afternoon when I returned home to find my house going up in flames.
That day, I left the office to go pick my children from school and then go home with them. As I drove down the street, I saw a dense mass of smoke rising. When I saw that it was indeed the house that took Femi and I three years of frugal spending to build, burning, I pressed hard on the brakes. The children jack-knifed in their seats.
“Mummy what happened?” Sandra asked.
“Jesus! Our house is burning!” Deyemi shrieked and opened the car door. He jumped out. Sandra followed suit.
“Somebody help us!” I could hear my son scream and that was the last blow. Strength left me completely.
God why? Haven’t I had enough for two life times?
I could hear the sirens of a fire service truck in a distance. I sat there behind the steering wheel, and I let the tears fall. I watched as a crowd gathered around the house, I watched as the fire swallowed the gush of water the firefighters were sending into the conflagration.
“For what exactly?” I snapped.
I looked through the windshield. I saw Deyemi and Sandra standing beside each other, crying. My heart broke. I saw Mama and Dosunmu walk into my field of view. I frowned. How did they know my house is on fire?
I stepped down from the car and approached them.
Mama was still wearing her cervical collar. Her buba was crisply starched, it stood few inches away from her bodice like a statement of pride. Her eyes were fixed on the burning house and she looked like an artist admiring his handiwork. Dosunmu hunkered beside Deyemi and Sandra. He placed his hands on their shoulders. Now, I was close enough to greet them but before I could say anything, Dosunmu spoke to the children. The steel in his voice chilled my blood.
“Now that your mother is burned to ashes, you have no choice but to go with us.”
I looked up at Mama. She was smiling. The depth of wickedness in those beautiful, sloe eyes was staggering. I didn’t know when a gasp escaped my lips. Mama swiveled her neck in my direction. I lifted my chin, spiting the glee that had been in her eyes, the glee that was quickly ebbing to reveal stark horror.
I looked from Dosunmu to Mama and back, relishing the uncultured convulsion happening on their faces. I took a step forward, never tearing my gaze off the duo. Dosunmu straightened and nervously wiped his brows.
“You… you…” He stuttered.
I sniffed a chuckle. A verse of scripture plopped on my heart and I voiced it. “My God frustrates the tokens of the liars, he makes diviners mad; he turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolish.”
I hadn’t even finished speaking when Dosunmu started hoping about, snapping out of his clothing like it was made of burning rubber. He let out an eerie growl and then an ear-piercing shriek. He made a beeline for the gate, running like he had gunmen on his tail, as he did, he threw off his clothes, singlet and every restraint. Mama ran after him, moving at the speed her old age could permit. I guided my dazed children back into the car, muttering my gratitude to God for delivering us in his mercy.
Oh, faithful father. Only you know the many battles you’ve won on my behalf without me even having an inkling. Thank you. And pardon my petulance.
We have one more episode to go, fam. Next week, the finale shall be uploaded by God’s grace. Thank you for reading. Don’t forget to share. God bless you.