Lease on Life – LOL

lease

     “The ceremony is about to start, father. We need you outside,” Nava said and then exited the room.

Nava was not her birth name but one she adopted barely two years ago; she answered to nothing else from anyone… not even me! That, however, was a much smaller matter in comparison to the event of the day. Nava’s older sister was getting married and that was worth all my attention. My joy was, however, tainted with a lot of pain from wishing her mother was here to witness this day.

Was it not just yesterday we came to this land as foreigners? In less than three years their culture and doctrine have become such an intrinsic part of our lives, like we knew no other before the migration.

I know parents should not think evil of their children but oh the many times my wife and I wondered if our older daughter would ever get married…and for good reason!

When we first heard she was a prostitute our hearts broke. Although whoring was considered an act of worship to our gods but, of all the things we hoped for her to be, prostitution was not on our list! We always knew she was some kind of rebel, doing her best to go against the grain of norms but this “job” was taking it too far.

We tried every approach possible but nothing worked. I honestly thought I would die sooner from the heartbreak. After a few years we all accepted her for who she was and moved on from there; all except her younger sister who got married to a merchant and lived in a nice corner of town.

Both sisters could never see eye to eye in meetings and it did not matter that one was older than the other. Their older brothers found their behaviour obnoxious but the prostitution did not help her case. They stopped patronizing the temple prostitutes for worship just to avoid running into their sister. We were all embarrassed by her but she did not seem to notice.

The day she walked in and said she had urgent news, her mother and I looked at each other and thought the same thing – What does she want to say that could be worse than what we already know of her?

      “Did you hear about the spies from Israel?”

We nodded.

     “They came to my house and I hid them,” she said with a smile. Her eyes lit up too.

In my younger days I would have smacked her hard across her face, drawing some blood in the process, before she completed her statement. But I was no longer as agile.

This girl has gone crazy, I thought.

     “I see you want to get us killed for treason,” I said with as much steel in my voice as I could muster.

She explained to us as best she could how they served a God mightier than all our gods combined. She did not need to extol the wonders of their God though. Everyone in the city was well aware of the God who parted the Red Sea and fed his people for decades without clothes or shoes wearing out; the God who destroyed every enemy in the path of His people. This God already had quite the reputation!

     “They’re coming back papa,” she said, her eyes glistening with so much excitement and thrill it was worrying.

My weakening heart beat even faster. Any faster, I thought, and it will explode in my chest. Her mother and I wanted to know if she slept with them and considered them better men than the ones in our city but we dared not ask. The thought of it was scarring enough.

She told us about their return and convinced me to call for a family meeting the next day so she could explain the plan to everyone.

The only reason we listened was because news of this God had instilled a healthy fear in all of us and death was not as attractive an option. We could all sense the hesitation in her younger sister whose husband we finally convinced to tag along.

Really, we had nothing to lose. We knew the Israelites were coming and if their success stories at wars were anything to go by then we were as good as dead. It did not matter that we had walls as high as the heavens and warriors skilled in fierce battles. Any God who could part the Red Sea for his people to walk on its ground could break down our walls with just his thoughts.

I convinced them that if we perished at least we would die beside each other as one big family albeit in a whore’s house! So gradually we deftly moved our most precious possessions to her house in case we did make it out. We went back to our various homes and then we waited, and waited but nothing happened.

     “They’re here!” she squealed as she burst into my house waking me and her mother up from sleep.

     “How do you know?” I started to ask but soon heard the sounds coming in from the streets. I raced to the window and saw the entire city gathered outside, mumbling.

Our finest priests donned their finest apparel and climbed on top of the altars set up in public spaces for ceremonial cleansing. People huddled around and wailed for salvation, drenching each other in ceremonially holy oils. Virgins were brought forth to engage in orgies of all kind in order to appease the gods. The first born sons of a few noble men were offered as sacrifices to gods because they were believed to be pure breeds with blood of the highest purity… all for the greater good of the city.

We watched all of this from the convenience of my daughter’s house in the wall once we arrived there. Our combined guilt tore away at our hearts for not being a part of the ceremony on the one hand. On the other, we desperately hoped she was right. If she was not right and our people won, we would be sacrificed for not participating. There was never a secret in this city. Someone would have noticed our absence and would only be waiting to report when things returned to normal.

Things never returned to normal.

My wife covered her ears as pain and death rummaged our city before some men came to whisk us away. I was still in shock at how our fortified walls fell. They did not hack at the walls. There was no new magic employed to pull it down. They simply marched and blew horns… the same thing they did the first day that informed us they were back!

For the first time, I let go of my guilt and embraced the remote possibility of knowing and serving this God that they served…if he would accept my worship. It was obvious He was at work, else there was no way a marching band of priests could pull down our walls.

     “Father,” Rahab said as she knelt down in obeisance when I walked into her room in preparation for her ceremony.

My heart melted at the sight of her. She looked stunning in her regalia. It was nothing like what we used to wear in Jericho… it was better. She was indeed different. Nothing about her life followed a normal trajectory.

     “I wish mama was here,” she whispered in my ear and I held her in a warm embrace.

     “Every day I wish for nothing more but today… we don’t have time for regrets. Just rejoicing.”

She smiled. She always had a ready smile.

     “Come on, let’s not keep Salmon waiting,” I said and we made our way out.

I should have cried. I wanted to cry hot tears of joy for many things but at the moment I focused on gratitude to this God. He proved to me that He was not only about the big miracles that affected everyone at large but anyone, individually… regardless of our doubts. I did not believe that my Rahab would ever get married but Salmon found a treasure in her and was not letting go; neither was she.

Overall, I was grateful for a new lease on life…for her, for me, for my entire family.

Advertisements

Everything he said

Hey guys, this month the JAW community has a “challenge” for its members to write a story on any character of the bible. It’s not a twist on an existing story. Just a different angle and maybe even from another character’s perspective. I’ve settled on a character whose name is not recorded but whose experience was. For the bible version of this story please read 2 Kings 4. The story is only a few verses long in the bible.

Happy Reading!!!

Father n son

Sometimes I wonder which is harder – grief or dashed hope. I once had hopes that father would rise above the debt that effortlessly swallowed him. Death however had other plans.

Sooner than later my grief morphed into anger. At first I was angry at my late father for leaving us with the debt he owed, then at my mother who insisted on maintaining the status quo on religion. My ultimate anger was against The One behind the religion – the one whose name I must not mention in vain let alone speak ill of lest I die… appealing as the prospect of death may be.

For the longest time we did not have anything to our name except the thread-bare clothes on our backs; nothing of value to trade for food. On the one hand this was humiliating but on the other this also meant we did not have to buy any pigeons with which to make sacrifices for our sins. I was past caring about my sins and offerings to a being who only reserved his attention for prophets.

I struggled to understand how my father could have been a prophet of The One yet died like… I refused to speak ill of my late father regardless of how disappointed in him I was. Did he not see that it was either The One did not exist or he just was not called to be a prophet? I was made to understand that He spoke with prophets and my curiosity was eating away at me in large morsels in a bid to know what else He was saying that was so important that He could not stop father from borrowing more and more money!

It’s bad enough inheriting a debt you did not owe but worse when you are the collateral! My brother and I were sitting ducks, waiting for the day my father’s creditors would show up and seize us for good. At times we joked about how it would not be so bad to be someone else’s possession – at the very least there would be food to eat! Other times the humour simply did not suffice. The thought of never seeing the only family you know and being a slave is crippling for anyone to imagine but that was our reality!

For a while, mother was the only one going out to beg for alms. My brother and I stayed indoors under strict instructions to ignore any knocks on the door and if we thought our lives were in danger, to run as fast as our feet could carry us.

Some days ago mother came running back home. As soon as I saw her through one of the many cracks in the wall, I knew there was a problem. Mother does not run!

Instantly I grabbed the small bag of scrolls my father owned (only because mother insisted I took it along in case of an emergency flight) and grabbed my brother by the shoulder. We were on the move through the back of the house. I was about to burst through the back door when I realized something was wrong about the picture I saw. Yes, mother was running but she was not being chased! So I stopped my brother by placing a firm hand on his shoulder and asked him to wait. I ran back and opened the front door just as mother did and she almost fell on me!

     “I want you to go to the neighbour and borrow as many drums as they can lend.”

From my stance she could tell I neither shared her enthusiasm nor was struck by the same insanity that plagued her. How could she forget who we were? We were the poorest people in our immediate community. To borrow something meant we had something else to give back. Unfortunately, we had nothing!

Mother saw right through me and smiled for a second. She cupped my face in her right hand and spoke.

     “Despite our condition we’ve never made a promise we could not keep. We have our word my prince. That’s enough for now.”

She only called me her prince when she needed me to do something special or urgent.

     “Is it okay if I ask what’s going on?” by this time my younger brother had joined us and was the one who asked this question.

     “A prophet came visiting. He’s…”

     “Prophet!” I spat with disgust. I hated the lot of them. None of them did anything for father when he was alive and so far they had plumbed the depths of their hypocrisy since his demise by not helping. Some of them were even bidding for our possession as slaves.

     “My prince, it’s prophet Elisha!” she said.

Involuntarily my eyes popped wide open. I’d heard of him and how different he was from many other prophets. I was not entirely sold but she had my attention. I thought hard but short and figured if everything I’d heard was anything to go by then it was worth a shot. If it turned out to be a farce like the others then…

 I turned around, grabbed my brother by his ear and ran out through the back door. As we ran, I gave him instructions on who to meet and how many barrels to borrow per household. It sounded stupid but so was the concept of believing everything we’d been taught about The One!

When we returned to the house with all the barrels and drums we could borrow I saw mother waiting eagerly with the remaining jar of oil we had at home. She asked me not to say anything when she noticed the confusion on my face.

     “Is this everything?” she asked.

I nodded in response. It really was not everything but it was a lot and I was just tired of people asking me questions each time they saw me dash back to the house with a barrel.

     “Lock the door,” mother said.

I nudged my brother to get the door while I kept my eyes on mother.

I watched her pour the oil from the jar in her hand into the first barrel and I almost laughed. I was right. She was plagued with insanity. The lack of adequate feeding was finally affecting her mental health too. How long before it got to…

I noticed that her hand was still tilted. I’ve known and poured oil from that same jar since I could be sent to get the jar from the yard! I knew the capacity of the jar. More so I knew the jar was half empty as it was the last thing we had at home. Were oil edible in and of itself she may not have met any of it at home.

Mother kept pouring till the first barrel started to run over and then she moved along to the next one. Drum after drum, barrel after barrel she poured. Maybe I was the one struck with insanity after all. My mind could not process what my eyes were seeing. Something was wrong… in a good way.

When there was only one drum left I proceeded to the door but as usual mother predicted me well.

      “Don’t. His instructions were clear.”

I was about to go and borrow twice the number of drums we already did. This was nothing short of a miracle.

Mother got to the last drum and only when it filled up did the oil in the jar cease to flow. We all stood there in the room in awe. We could scarcely believe what our eyes beheld. Mother burst into tears – the silent kind that was loud enough to hear the mixture of pain and relief in it.

Without wiping her eyes, she opened the front door and there he was – Prophet Elisha. I caught a glimpse of him before she shut the door. They talked for a short while and then he was gone but I will never forget his face.

It’s been a few days since this happened. As the barrels empty and mother’s money pouch gets fatter, I can see mother making trips to settle some of father’s debts starting with the highest ones. I can see mother smiling more and sleeping more soundly. I can see myself and my brother in new clothes and a happier countenance.

What’s most glaring for me to see is The One. Although I still cannot see him physically, what He has done through the prophet confirms everything father taught me. From the burning bush to the crossing of the red sea and the pillars of fire and cloud… everything he said was true as I beheld the miracle in that room.

I realise every now and again that I’m no better that my doubtful, complaining forefathers who did not make it into the promised land because of their unbelief and complaining. My anger at Him is all gone, not because of the plenty but because I feel remembered, like I’m not alone after all. I feel graced because I don’t deserve it. Father was right about The One who led our fore fathers out of Egypt. The One is still with us. He never left.

Rain Check

Hey readers, It’s been a minute (weeks really) since I put anything up here and my conscience won’t just let me go one more week. #apologies

Hope you like this read. It’s a short one. Enjoy and leave a comment if you want to, like if you do or are just happy I’m back. hehe

rain-check

From the second I picked him up and started the trip I could feel his unease. The sight before him was unusual for him but a norm that refused to age for me. He tried to be casual about it but I was not fooled. We rode in silence for a few minutes. The trip was going to last about thirty minutes so I knew there was time to allow the tremors of the initial shock to reverberate.

“I will say, I was not expecting this!”

“What?” I said, feigning ignorance even though I knew quite well what he was talking about.

He was referring to the fact that his taxi driver was female. Although I readily informed him that I was not the only one, he did not look like he was buying it.

He spoke with a faint foreign accent, the residues of time spent abroad. I remember when I used to have that but it’s all gone now. Lagos has a way of taking that away from you… assuming it mattered anyway.

“What do you do?” I asked him.

“Oh I work in the finance sector.”

“That’s a rather vague answer unless of course you work in the finance department of a secret agency!”

He laughed.

“This should be interesting!” he said.

We got into an intense conversation about the finance sector, the most recent being the currency trade between China and Nigeria. He shared his opinions and I shared mine, subtly stating that macroeconomics was not my forte to which he snorted. We did agree about the benefits it would have on the economy in a typical case where policies were put in place but knowing our leaders… we both stopped talking at that point, unsure if the other party was working with or had connections in high places.

“You’ve got some strong arguments woman,” he said after a few minutes of the financial banter. “This may sound ridiculous considering I can see what you do but what do you really do?”

“I’m a Lagos taxi driver…”

“Who just happens to understand how an economy works down to the finer macroeconomic details of something so vague to most Nigerians even with Masters degrees!”

“What can I say? I listen to the radio a lot…occupational hazards of being a driver…” I shrugged.

He smiled. He did not believe me. As if to ease an abused person out of their shell, he let me into his own world with one single statement. “I went to LSE. You?”

“New haven,” I instinctively said. The words were out of my mouth before I realised it.

His eyes almost popped out of his head when I looked at him in the rear view mirror.

“You’re an IV leaguer?!” It was both a question and a dawning for him.

I was silent and tried to focus on my driving. We both knew the school I went to and it almost seemed too hallowed for him to enunciate.

“What are you doing driving a taxi? Did you drop out? Did you lose your license? What did you even study?”

Of the many ways I imagined this trip would go, this was the farthest from my imagination.

When he would not stop asking questions, I started laughing. I imagine he thought I was crazy but it was a ruse, albeit a lame and anxious attempt.

“What’s so funny?” he asked, nonplussed.

“How seriously you’re taking this.”

“Oh?”

“With this job I’m able to do two of the things I love the most – drive and meet people. At the moment I’m on a one-year hiatus from my regular job while I nurse my first child. She’s going on two years now. I drop her at the crèche and get into a taxi. I work till a little past noon and then go pick her up and my day is complete!”

Even as I said the words I could not believe how easily they flowed off my tongue. The rest of the trip was quiet in the car. I felt like my head would explode from the pressure of the silence in the car.

He finally got out of the car, handed me his card and asked for my name.

“If you ever need a job or need someone to bounce ideas off, call me. This of course is me assuming I don’t call you to pick your brain first.” We both smiled.

With those words I could tell he knew I was lying but was honourable enough not to prod. I’ve always been bad at acting. I went off the taxi grid and headed home two hours earlier than I was scheduled to. I needed to clear my head.

As I drove home I wondered if he will ever know that I have a Masters degree in engineering and an MBA but was living in a nightmare of a marriage where I was not allowed to work simply because my husband held on to archaic ideals. I wondered if he would ever know that the taxi job was only on days when my husband was not in the country (and that was almost half the year in total). I wondered what the possibilities were if I could be allowed to work remotely and the fulfilment it could bring to me. I wondered if my marriage was worth keeping over my happiness. My conversation with him reopened paths in my brain I had forgotten existed. It was time for a rain check.

Baby Mi (My Baby) – Part 2 of 2

The first time I noticed it two weeks post Leah’s arrival, I quickly blamed it on Baby brain. I stepped out of the bedroom to go take a shower and I came back to meet Leah in the opposite direction from how I left her ten minutes before. How else was I to stay sane if I didn’t blame it on baby brain?

How do you explain a two week old baby turning 180 degrees in minutes or turning at all? This was seventy nine when growth was normal unlike these millennial babies that start changing from the day they’re born but I digress.

When this happened about two or three more times I was convinced I had a demon child. There was simply no other explanation. I didn’t have a help so there was no way someone was moving the baby and even if someone were why would it be only when I was in the bathroom or generally away from her?

I tried not to freak my husband out so I didn’t tell him. I wanted to tell my best friend but I was afraid she would either avoid my house or avoid carrying my baby. I mean, I was already afraid of carrying her!

There were days when I did nothing but watch her all day waiting to catch her turn but she never did. She only turned on days or at moments I was away from her.

And so I started deliverance prayers on my daughter, rebuking, binding, casting, setting loose and everything in between (except death of course).

I kept up this prayers for the next three weeks, expectant that this symptom of whatever it was (I dared not think evil of her) would cease but it did not.

One day I was sweeping the front of the house while Leah slept, praying as I swept. I heard the front door creak a little bit and then I saw my first daughter Sharon holding her baby sister by the head, feet dangling off the floor. She looked at me and said “Baby Mi”.

In case you missed what I just typed, I said my two year old daughter carried her four and a half week old baby sister by the head with the rest of her body dangling and she smiled when she saw me, saying “baby mi”.

The broom stuck to my hand for all of one second while my brain processed the one single thing that could go wrong if I screamed – Sharon would be alarmed and drop… I shudder just thinking about it.

So I said, “Hello Sharon,” while inching slowly toward her like an animal stealthily approaching its prey. “Thank you, how are you?” I sing-sang in the way parents sing-song to their children.

Sharon smiled, most likely thinking she was doing a good thing.

Once I reached her and snatched Leah from her hand I smacked both her hands (yes I’m African and a two year old isn’t too young to be reprimanded) and warned her sternly that her baby sister was not the same as her dolls.

It was then I realized that she had been the one moving her sister in the cot whenever I stepped away from her for a while.

To think I’d been wasting precious time binding and casting. The things God must be privy to and maybe find hilarious while we labour and slave hoping for an intervention.

sigh

The other day Leah had her first child and at some point said “Baby mi…” somewhere in the middle of the conversation.

I smiled.

Baby mi is all grown up with her own “Baby mi”.

Baby Mi (My Baby) part 1 of 2

Baby mi (my baby)

My first pregnancy came with all the drama that is deriguer of pregnancies. I threw up, had swollen feet, could not cook for the life of me simply because the smell of anything in the kitchen made me nauseous. I could barely keep anything down the first trimester and by my second trimester I had early contractions that threatened my baby’s life. It was a nightmarish experience and I began to wonder how my mom did it seven times. SEVEN FREAKING TIMES!!! Who does that?

Anyway by the time Sharon arrived none of that mattered. She was the cutest thing I’d ever seen. All the otherworldly symptoms that came with the pregnancy were gone and I was literally walking on sunshine. There were days when I felt like all that drama during the pregnancy prepared me for motherhood as I suddenly felt empowered post partum.

When I got pregnant the second time I knew something was different. First of all, I didn’t even know I was pregnant until I was at the start of my second trimester. What?! This was so unlike the first one when I could have sworn I started throwing up the very next morning after conception!

I quickly went to the hospital to be sure it was really pregnancy and to check if everything was okay. That ride to the hospital was perhaps the longest one I ever had. I kept wondering if Mother Nature was punishing me for all the horrible things I said during my first pregnancy and during labour of the same.

Turns out there was nothing wrong as far as the doctors could tell but I had a gut feeling still. I chided myself several times because it seemed like I was hellbent on having something bad happen to my baby with the relentlessly nagging feeling I couldn’t shake off.

On my EDD I looked at my tummy and doubted the scan from months before. I looked like I was at the beginning of my third trimester. Something definitely was wrong.

When my water broke in the 41st week I was scared and certain my baby would be premature.

I’ll save you the suspense and tell you that I had a perfectly healthy baby at 11:19am on the 25th of March 1979. I insisted that the doctors ran several checks on her and all came out good.

Finally I put aside my fears and just accepted that I was either badly scarred by my first pregnancy or I was just a chronic pessimist who couldn’t be hopeful for a second of her life. Everything was fine until the second week after Leah was born.

The Wake: Series Finale

shadow

 

“Whoa!” Ferdinand screamed when he saw the henchman on the floor. He looked up and took in more of his environment. “Who is he?” he asked referring to Sam’s body.

“Nobody,” Paloma said dismissively.

“Hey sister or should I say stranger and…” Ferdinand started.

“That’s enough,” Paloma ordered. “Take his body to the SUV,” she instructed, referring to her henchman. “I’m sure his wife would at least be happy to see his body.”

“And what about the other guy?”

“On your way back up bring the ropes. We will be taking her with us to finish her up,” she said, ignoring his question.

***************

Ferdinand came back upstairs with the ropes in hand and headed toward Vera who struggled with the tying process.

“Mom can you ask her to be still so I can tie her up?”

“‘Mom can you ask her to be still so I can tie her up?’ What kind of a wimp are you? Do you ask a wild animal for permission before you subdue it? Hit her damn it. She will get the message.”

Ferdinand sighed, exasperated already.

“She’s my sister and you know how I feel about hitting women after all I saw growing up.”

“Awww. Aren’t I glad I raised such a fine young man!” she cooed. “You see, you fool. I did something right after all,” she said to Vera. “If only you weren’t such a useless, needy child who stole my Dennis from me. I could have…”

“MOM!” Ferdinand shouted. “Stop talking so much. It’s almost morning.”

Paloma muttered something unintelligible, took the gun with her and went over to help restrain Vera. The moment she squatted beside her daughter, Vera began to laugh. It started out small and then grew, crawling under Paloma’s skin.

“I won’t do you the honours of asking what is so funny,” Paloma said.

Vera laughed even harder.

“Aren’t you both cute together. Mother and son, murderers in your little mafia minds,” and she laughed much harder.

Paloma dropped the gun in anger and grabbed one end of the rope, tying it furiously around Vera’s ankles but Vera did not stop laughing.

“Give me your handkerchief. I need to gag her NOW.”

Ferdinand reached into his pocket to produce his handkerchief. As Paloma stretched out her hand to collect it, he head-butted her so strongly that she fell over backwards while he reached for the gun and took it.

Paloma held her head with her eyes closed trying to understand what happened.

“You fool. What was that for?” she said with her eyes closed.

Vera was still laughing in the background and the sound of her laughter was really starting to irritate Paloma who struggled to open her eyes.

When she finally got on her feet she saw Ferdinand and Vera standing side-by-side, each with a gun in hand pointed toward her. Vera was no longer laughing.

“Ferdinand what are you…”

“Shut up mum. You’ve said enough for one night.”

“So I would tell you how this night will end but that’s what they do in the movies. This is not a movie. Now, on your knees woman!” Vera ordered.

Paloma grudgingly knelt down, all the while not taking her eyes off her son, hatred and betrayal oozing from every pore on her skin.

Vera walked over to her, gun still in hand and whacked her hard across the face.

“That is for thinking you can walk into my life and try to take control like you used to.”

Vera walked backwards towards Ferdinand who started walking toward his mum.

“I should hit you for all the horrible things you said about my father. He was imperfect but telling me those things from an early age really affected me mom. But you’re human. I get it,” he stopped talking and took two steps backwards before lashing out his hand harder than Vera did against his mom’s face, knocking her to the ground. “That is for killing my dad. Surely you must have imagined that I would piece it together somehow.”

Paloma held her face. Her fingers touched the blood seeping from her mouth as she herself was sprawled out on the floor.

Vera walked up to her. “I will say, that was genius of you. You must have gone to great lengths to stage his accident but I’m sure it wasn’t all you. Your buddy in the SUV must have been instrumental too.”

“Kill me now.”

“You’re in no position to make demands or even pleas,” Ferdinand said.

Vera walked back, grabbed the rope and tied Paloma while Ferdinand held the gun to her head.

“I promise to come and visit you at some point,” Vera said. “For now I hope you enjoy what’s coming your way. Please take her away and send the guys in to clean up this mess,” she said to her brother.

“Sure thing sis.”

Ferdinand bundled his mom and left the apartment.

Vera waited a couple of minutes and peeped out of her apartment to be sure no one was there. She walked back to the kitchen counter, picked up her phone and made a call.

“Yes, the package is en route. Remember, I want her alive for a long time but she must not be able to talk or write.” Nothing will kill her faster than not being able to abuse anyone even if verbally, she thought.

“What about the guy bringing her?” the voice on the other end of the line asked.

“Waste him. He’s broken too and a disaster going somewhere to happen. The world can use one less person of his kind,” she said and ended the call.

Vera sighed. Everything was working out just as she planned it. She thought about her two other younger siblings and paused. She grabbed her phone and redialled the number.

“Keep him. I’ll keep tabs on him from now on,” she said and ended the call.

She looked at the clock and saw that it was almost 6 am. She knew James would be sleeping because it was a Saturday but she wanted to go out. She did not want to be alone. He was the only person she could think of who would jump off a bridge for her even though she knew she would dump him in a few weeks.

“Hey V,” James’ groggy voice called out on the phone.

“I’m sorry for waking you up so early but…”

“No, no, no. It’s fine. What’s up?”

Vera smiled. She knew he would cancel his plans for her.

I am not my mother. I am not an abusive person, she chanted in her head as she scheduled a hangout with James.

 

 

******************

 

THE WAKE: BACK STORY

So this story was written with the aim of exploring the subject of abuse without going into detail or focusing on one type of abuse only. There are many kinds of abuse like sexual, emotional, psychological, physical etc. Reading through this story you will find that abuse was a common thread among most of the characters.

The truth is, abused people usually end up being abusive themselves even when they try to run from it. If you know someone who is being abused, please get them help. If you’ve been abused, please get some help. And if you’re the abusive person (probably because you were abused too) you need to forgive yourself, forgive whoever abused you and get some help too.

Getting someone help is an act of love. The month of February is often dedicated to love but some people are too broken to accept the concept of love.

Here’s my act of love to you in addition to this piece I’ve written. As a believer in Jesus Christ, I know first-hand that there’s nothing too hard for Him to do. So if you’re too shy to talk to someone or have tried professional help but didn’t get results, turn to Jesus.

See you guys.

The Wake: 6

shadow

     “Surprise!” Vera said as she walked toward Sam who gave her a fatherly side hug.

Paloma had tears in her eyes instantly but tried to blink them back. She could hardly believe her eyes.

     “It’s been what? Twenty-eight or twenty-nine…”

     “Not so fast. I was enjoying your version of events. I think you…”

     “Sammie, please. Let’s not do this in front of our daughter. Can we get some privacy?”

Sam and Vera burst out laughing.

     “Oh now I’m daughter? Do you know how long it took me to find him? Anything you want to say will be done here before I…” Vera paused as Sam pinched her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I can’t mention any of my plans to you so I don’t implicate you.”

     “You plan to dispose of me?” Paloma asked, surprised.

     “Like you came here for a pillow fight or slumber night! By the way, this is a family meeting so why is he here?” Vera asked Paloma without looking at her henchman.

Instead she allowed Paloma look at the guy and before either of them could communicate any message across Vera very deftly fired a single shot into his forehead. The henchman was on the ground before he knew what hit him.

Despite the fact that the gun had a silencer and barely produced a fart for a sound, Paloma still quavered with shock considering how fast and how smoothly the shot was taken. She looked from the man on the ground to Vera with what looked like a mixture of awe and hatred.

Paloma ran to her henchman’s side and shook him violently.

Sam and Vera looked on in amusement.

     “Was she sleeping with him too?” Sam asked.

     “Nah, too young. Maybe a child from someone else?”

     “Must have been before I met her.”

     “Could she have hidden that from you too?”

     “Hey, it’s Paloma! You never know.”

While they made jokes neither of them saw Paloma slip her henchman’s pistol into her left hand and then into the pocket of her trousers.

     “Now it’s just us. What a wonderful family reunion,” Vera cheered. “Get up,” she ordered.

Paloma got up, playing the victim very well. She stood and faced the two of them while calculating her next move.

     “So, it’s true you were abused although now that I think about it who’s to say you did not fabricate that?” Sam asked Paloma.

     “I swear it Sam. I was. You remember when…”

     “Yes, yes, I remember. I believe you. What I don’t believe is this lie about me not wanting to take responsibility for my child.”

     “But you left me.”

     “No. YOU left.” Sam turned to face Vera. “So your mother was very intelligent and had job offers right out of school. When we found out she was pregnant she feared what the future held for her because her father…”

     “Because your father, Vera darling, was an athlete who yearned to be poached by a foreign firm. The norm at the time for all athletes was to go abroad and never return to their girlfriends. Most of them married white girls and…”

     “And it did not matter how many times I promised her that I would return.” Sam turned to face Paloma. “I gave you my word,” he spat out in frustration.

     “So what happened next?” Vera asked.

     “Your mother tried to…”

     “Shut up Sam,” Paloma yelled.

     “Ooh, touchy!” Vera chipped in.

     “She tried to get rid of you but it did not work. In anger I left because I could not be with someone who…”

By the time Sam saw the gun it was too late. He did not hear the gun shot before the bullet hit him in the chest. The gun did not have a silencer and so the loud bang shook both women in the room.

Paloma recovered first and aimed the gun at Vera who tried to run for cover.

     “Put it down and kick it away,” Paloma instructed, referring to the pistol in Vera’s hand.

Vera dropped the gun and kicked it far away from herself.

     “Good girl. Now we’re even.” Paloma walked to the fridge and got herself yet another alcoholic beverage.

     “How can you even compare my dad to that thug?”

     “He was my boyfriend too you know?”

     “Which of them?” Vera asked, confused. “You know what don’t answer that. You already gross me out as it is.”

Paloma chuckled and drank from the bottle in her hand. She brought out her phone and placed a call.

     “Come upstairs,” was all she said.

The Wake: 5

shadow

It was impossible for Paloma to hide the shock on her face. Her shock soon gave way to anger.

     “So you’re waiting up for me then what?”

     “You have quite the nerve to break into my apartment and ask me questions. I could…”

     “Shush it!” Paloma said with her right hand raised in the air. “Who asked you to speak?”

In those few seconds Vera was mentally paralysed. To her it felt like her childhood all over again but worse, she was not a child anymore and Paloma still exerted some control over her. She watched as her mother walked to the refrigerator and rummaged through it for some liquor. When she was growing up Paloma would dismiss or disregard her and then help herself to some liquor as if to drink away her existence with it.

     “This is the strongest thing you have?” she said with disdain.

Vera involuntarily switched to the subordinate role she was used to. She got up to go get something stronger from the pantry but again was shouted down by Paloma who sat across from her.

     “Since you prepared to kill me,” Paloma said. “I might as well enjoy my final moments. Cheers, daughter!” She burst out laughing.

Vera looked mortified. She berated herself mentally for thinking Paloma had no more control over her. Stupid! Stupid!! Stupid!!! she chimed in her head.

Paloma gulped down her drink at a go and slammed the bottle on the kitchen counter. The sound woke Vera from whatever mind trip she was on. Paloma eyed her for a few seconds, looked at the pistol and back at Vera and then chuckled.

     “What gave you the effrontery to think you could waltz back into my life and rip what was left of it apart?” Paloma asked.

     “The same thing that gave you the effrontery to break into my apartment tonight,” Vera replied, masking the trepidation in her voice better than she thought she could.

Paloma shrugged. “Fair enough but…”

Vera did not know what hit her but something about what her mother just said and the way the night was unfolding made her very upset.

     “Fair? Fair enough? Fair was giving me the benefit of doubt and believing me when I told you Dennis was…”

     “He’s daddy to you and not…”

     “SHUT THE HECK UP and don’t interrupt me again,” Vera warned, waving the pistol in her hand rather firmly. “Do you know the many things I went through in the hands of that bastard that you called a husband? And as if life was not hard enough you had to slather on a generous serving of wickedness by sending me out of the house at sixteen. Sixteen Paloma!!! Did you think for once how or if I would get by? Do you know what I…” Vera’s voice broke as tears began to pour down her face without warning.

Vera began to pace while half crying and half hyperventilating.

Paloma sat cross-legged watching the drama with the blankest expression she could muster.

     “Is your royal highness done? May I speak?” Each word dripped with sarcasm.

Vera ignored her while still pacing.

     “Fair was not aborting you when I had the chance.”

Vera stopped and turned sharply to look at her mom.

     “Did it ever occur to you that that may have been an option for me?”

   “Did it ever occur to you that that may have been better for me than the hell you brought me into?”

Paloma smirked.

     “Hell,” she looked around the apartment. “If this is hell, can I move in please?”

Vera looked at her mother in disbelief.

     “You’re crazy.”

    “You’re the one who’s crazy and ungrateful. Yes, I admit I should have believed you but I was also living in hell. How was I supposed to…”

     “Who else was in a better position to help me if not you?”

     “That’s what I did by sending you away you idiot.”

Vera had no come back. She paused and looked at her mother expecting an explanation.

     “I don’t expect you to understand. You were… still are a child.”

Vera was incensed. “Oh don’t you play the child card with me mother!”

Paloma sniffed, showing what appeared to be the first real emotion of hurt.

     “I too was abused as a child. It makes you seek love in all of the wrong places. Your father was one of those wrong places Vera. I was needy and I know you’ve suffered a similar fate. I was too broken to know how to help you. After your father denied the pregnancy I had no choice but to…”

A voice from the hall way broke out into a bout of laughter. The voice was loud enough to distract Paloma who quickly looked at her henchman at the door and asked him to be on guard.

The owner of the voice started clapping in addition to the laughter, his voice getting louder as he inched toward the open area. Finally, he emerged.

     “Sam?” Paloma whispered, her face pale.

     “Hello Paloma darling! Missed me?” Vera’s biological father, Sam, replied.

The Wake 4

Vera stood by the window in her office on the 18th floor of the consulting firm where she worked as head of the finance unit. She was the youngest person to attain that position in the firm and on some days she really did feel like she had accomplished something in her life…but not today.

Her call with James – her most recent boyfriend – left her angrier than she wanted to be. Of all the guys that she tried to date he was the most clingy of them all and it irritated her to no end. So she ended the call in frustration.

She often loathed the person that she was inside – broken, needy and in constant search for love.

The first night Dennis raped her when she just turned thirteen was still fresh in her mind. The months leading up to that night he began to show her special attention. He would buy things for her and often defend her whenever Paloma would find yet another thing to accuse her for.

She thought it was because she was acing through her studies in school. Much later she realized he only started to ask about her studies because he was trying to warm his way under her clothes. By the time he made his move she already felt indebted to him.

Truth is she had always been book smart from the day she started school. There was never a term she did not come first in class despite all the heat at home but Dennis never knew or cared until he was ready to.

She tried to fail once and still failed at that because passing was the only thing she found she could do well without anyone – Paloma inclusive – faulting her.

Vera thought Dennis was a weird man. Soon after he started abusing her he also started confiding in her. Sometimes when he was drunk he would tell her things while raping her. Other times he would just stroll into her room, sit with her and tell her things not even Paloma knew about his business. A couple of times he even apologized for the abuse while crying saying he felt helpless about it.

None of that changed the damage that continued within Vera but she listened nonetheless, too afraid not to.

Her complaint of the rape to Paloma was met with further accusations of lies and seduction.

Vera stared blankly out the window. In the middle of her career success her past was a landmark that no matter how far she thought she had gone it was still visible.

**********

Back in her apartment, around midnight Vera got out of bed and stretched. She knew something was up. She walked to her kitchen which really was an open plan of some sort merged with her living room.

She sat at the kitchen counter facing the entrance with the lights out.

When she saw the door knob turn slightly and what sounded like a spare key turn in the door, she knew.

Vera saw them before they saw her. She smiled even though she was a bit nervous. She waited for their eyes to adjust to the darkness while they whispered. Just when she thought they were comfortable she turned on the lights, catching them by surprise.

“Hello mum. I’ve been expecting you,” she said hiding the gun she had beneath the table; safety button off.

The Wake 3

Vera sat in the back of a taxi crying as she left the venue of the wake.

After she announced that Paloma was her mom and felt the shock reverberate throughout the gathering she began to go into detail of the abuse she suffered before the shock wore off. She tried to speak quickly before someone would cut her off.

Ferdinand and Paloma snapped out of the shock first. Once they did, Ferdinand moved with incredible speed and carried her like she was a sack of feathers over his shoulders. Within minutes she was bundled into a taxi and on her way away from the venue.

Although Dennis was dead she was happy she got a chance to expose a bit of the real him. Paloma on the other hand… she was happy to have ruffled her feathers if nothing else.

As Vera sat in the back of the taxi on her way from The Wake she had no idea she was being followed…

*********

A month had passed since Dennis’s wake keep but Paloma was still hurting.

Paloma sat alone in her room crying. Of the few things she regretted, Vera was number one on the list. She often found it puzzling that she could regret having birthed Vera as much as she regretted losing her.

Paloma was betrothed by her father to marry Dennis. She did not like the idea and so eloped with her boyfriend at the time. When she was pregnant and the boy refused to take responsibility she found her way back to Dennis and tried to sleep with him so she could say the child was his.

Dennis caught on to her scheme and when he threatened to expose or kill her she begged and they reached an agreement. He would marry her and pretend like the child was his but he would not touch her until he was ready. He also told her to stop working and become a house wife.

Paloma agreed out of desperation wondering how long it would take for Dennis to be in the same house and not make contact. But she did not know Dennis. Dennis found satisfaction outside their marriage for the first five years until, indeed, he was ready. Although she begged, pleaded, tried to seduce him and more during those years he did not give in. He wanted to make sure that she was punished for running off and getting pregnant. Ferdinand arrived in the sixth year.

Paloma gradually became a bitter woman and Vera, the one who suffered her frustration. She blamed Vera for everything that was wrong in her life. As Vera grew up, despite the lack of love in the home, the little girl excelled in school – a constant reminder to Paloma of her own failure in life.

Paloma graduated top of her class in secondary school and University. Her attempt to defy her father’s wishes to marry Dennis landed her right back in the very place she was running from but this time with stringent conditions. For the umpteenth time in her life she asked herself, What have you done? How did your life end up this way? How did you go from top of the class to bottom of life?

When she learnt that Dennis was abusing Vera a part of her was happy because of the hatred she had for the girl. When Paloma could not take it anymore, she decided the only way out was to chase Vera away. She could see how it would have been misunderstood and taken for an act of wickedness but it was the kindest thing she could think of doing.

Paloma heard a knock on the door and quickly mopped her tears.

You should have stayed away you fool. Now you’ve come to tarnish my reputation which is about the only thing I have left.

“We have everything ma,” the male voice said.

“Good,” she said without turning to look at him.

“When do we move ma?”

Paloma thought hard but not for long.

“Tonight.”

“But ma…” he sounded surprised.

“The iron is still hot. Let’s strike it,” she said and smiled.