Lord see I’ve realized
When it comes to sin
You just don’t compromise
It’s a matter of death and life
Be weak and do wrong
Or be strong and do right
And I don’t wanna keep going to church
Singing all about how You’re worth
And then continue doing my dirt
Living as if I didn’t care if You’re hurt . . .
The song No Gray by Jonathan McReynolds played on the stereo as Daniel drove to church and he wondered why it had to be that song at that exact moment. He reached out and turned the radio off. But that didn’t change what he felt presently.
Guilt. Sorrow. Conscience pricking. Shame. He felt like he was carrying a heavy load on his chest, and he had felt that same way a few years back. He knew for a surety . . .
Last-night had been a big mistake.
He was beating himself up for what he had done with Adesewa. He felt bad when he relived the moments in his mind and found himself loving all the things they did to each-other, and wanting her all over again. Her kisses. Her touches. Enjoying the way she felt in his arms. . . Even now as he walked into church for mid-week service, he felt like everyone could tell that he had committed the sin of fornication.
He just couldn’t maintain eye-contact with anyone for long. He couldn’t take part in leading praise and worship. He was afraid to meet with God in the place of prayer. He had been in that same state before and now he had brought himself back there again. But he guessed there was one good thing about it; Ade had decided to give him another chance.
There was no doubt of his love for her. None at all. But then how was he going to tell Efe? How was he going to tell her Ade was back? He bowed his head, placing it in his hands. What have I gotten myself into? What’s wrong with me? Efe doesn’t have to know . . . Shebi you aren’t getting married to her. The voice whispered in his head and he saw sense in it. Efe didn’t have to know since they weren’t getting married.
“Brother Daniel, are you okay?” He heard a fellow chorister whisper to him as the word was going on.
He raised his head. “Yeah, I’m fine. Just a slight headache.” Great! I’ve added lying to it as well.
“Sorry. You want a sip of cold water? I bought a bottle on my way in. ”
“No, thank you. I’ll be fine. It’s probably ‘cause I’m hungry.”
She chuckled. “You men and food sha. Don’t worry we would soon be done.”
And I can hurry over to Ade’s place. . . Daniel almost smacked himself on the head for having that thought.
The pastor finished preaching and Daniel couldn’t remember half of the sermon. He knew the topic was responsibility and he caught on to a few bible scriptures that were quoted.
At least it’s better than nothing, Daniel psyched himself.
He noticed John afar off, relating with members of the congregation. He didn’t want to talk to his cousin; sometimes he felt his cousin could sense when he had sinned, like he could smell it on his body.
Daniel greeted a few people on his way out and rushed to his car. He drove out of the church premises and made the decision to go home instead. After the incident with Efe years back, he had been asked to step-down as head of choir. It was a blow to him. The shame had been unbearable, even more so that the youths who usually looked up to him deserted him; he had been the talk of the church and he stopped attending services for three weeks. John had spoken to him and brought him out of the guilt and shame. Telling him God was ready to forgive him if he was willing to confess and repent, and Daniel had to forgive himself as well.
Daniel had repented and avoided flirting with temptation whenever opportunities presented themselves.
Things were just getting better and few people were looking down their noses at him, while most had forgotten the incident. Back then the glances he got made it seem like he had committed murder. But then there was really no difference; sin was sin. And now? Was he going to go through all that again? He shook his head as he stopped at a Red traffic light. He wasn’t going to tell anyone. He had to get his act together. Just like John.
John had always had his act together.
Daniel’s parents never ceased to pass that fact across to Daniel; John was always the pedestal they used for him. At first he had been jealous of his cousin. Annoyed that he was this seemingly perfect man of God and could do no wrong. But that emotion had waned. He knew they were both different and no need for comparison.
Daniel guessed he couldn’t absolve himself from the problem he had. The weaknesses that held him bound. He loved Ade and was willing to meet all her needs in order to get her back. That’s what love is . . .right? He changed his mind and decided to go to Ade’s place instead. Ignoring his heavy heart prodding him not to.
Dele held his phone and tapped on the BBM icon. He was pissed off and tired of Funlola’s procrastination in giving him an answer. Was it so difficult to be certain you wanted to settle down with someone? He knew women who would jump at a marriage proposal from him without giving it a second thought.
The other day, while he was preparing for the photo shoots, Funlola pinged him. He went through their BBM chat again as he had done since the day before.
F♥ns: Hey luv
D-Max: Bae! What’s up?
F♥ns: I’m great. How’s u? U busy?
D-Max: I’m aii. Never too busy for you. Why?
F♥ns: I wanted 2 ask u sumfin. Y do u want 2 marry me?
D-Max: Lol. Is this a joke?
D-Max: *sigh* Funlola is this question necessary?
F♥ns: Yes baby. *pouts* I need an answer from u.
D-Max: *sigh* ‘cause you’re an extremely attractive woman. You’re funny. You’re ambitious. We have great sex.
F♥ns: Awww *blushin* Okay. Is that all?
Dele took his eyes off the phone. After quizzing him she said she had to get back to work and would chat him up later. He had been puzzled at everything but hoped she would have her answer by the time he got back to Lagos in the next two days.
Jasmine, his assistant and partner, walked up to him then. Dele looked up to her face and down to what she was wearing. Black ripped jeans at the knee and thigh, a white see through blouse, a long grey sweater and white converse snickers. Her camera hanging around her neck. She was tall, slim, had everything in little proportions, not how he usually liked his women, but she was beautiful all the same.
“The bride and groom are rea-” Her voice trailed off when she took in how he looked. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing.” Dele stood up and shoved his phone in his back pocket.
She raised a brow. “Okay? I’m not going to be up in your business if you aren’t willing to share.”
“I appreciate it.”
She rolled her eyes and walked out of the room. He followed her. Jasmine was a brilliant photographer and he knew she was going places. She was confident, hard-working and efficient when it came to her job, but too emotional for him when they had been together as a couple. But that had ended a while back before he met Funlola. Funlola was wild and spontaneous, willing to take risks and always down for an adventure. She was more his type of woman.
Dele watched Jasmine as she smiled and spoke to the couple. Now, his relationship with Jasmine was strictly work. Well, that was until two weeks ago when they had both spent the night together. It had been the day before they travelled. He had gone over to her place to drop some pictures she was to edit. It wasn’t planned. It just happened, after which she asked him to leave in tears and hadn’t spoken about it since then.
Jasmine was a commitment woman; she wanted him to commit to her and not play around with her heart because he knew she was crazy about him. She wanted to move on from him and not wait around for him to make his mind up; especially since he had a steady girl-friend.
He didn’t know if Funlola knew he wasn’t faithful to her, and if she did know she didn’t seem bothered by it. That was the kind of girl he was looking for; someone who didn’t trail him or accost him for sleeping around. They understood each-other. He knew she was also having some by the side, but he knew at the end of the day she still wanted him. That was why he wanted to marry her. He wanted her exclusively to himself, and he was sure she would stop her promiscuity by the time they got married and he set his foot down.
He would make sure of it.
“If your mother was alive I’m sure this would never have happened. I must have missed something when I was raising you.”
The thought of her mother grabbed her heart tightly and the effect was a great pain in her chest. Efe shook her head at what her father said. “Don’t say that daddy.”
He shook his head. “I have to. I have to reprimand myself in-case I did anything wrong. I didn’t remarry after your mother passed on when you were just fifteen years old. Probably if I had a woman around . . .” His voice trailed off as he sat at his desk; his eyes looking far-off than the door behind her.
They were seated in his study. Book-shelves surrounded them, the smell of old and new books filling the cold air. The AC blowing on her legs from where she sat. It was in that same chair she had sat on when she told her father she was pregnant. Prior to the revelation she had done series of tests and each turning out positive. It had been a terrible day for her. The look of disappointment on his face broke her heart. She had let everyone down. The youths in church had been shocked and some had jeered her for finally behaving like she was human and not a paragon. Yes, she was human ‘cause she made mistakes but she was willing to make amends.
That didn’t stop the elders in church from casting furtive glances at her, from scolding her. The shame had been unbearable. Her first thought when she found out she was pregnant was to have an abortion and Daniel had been in support of it. She begged God for forgiveness for what she had done and what she was yet to do. But God kept ringing it in her heart not to do it. She had broken down in tears the night she heard Him speak to her; sobbing to exhaustion. Her father had been supportive and Daniel’s mother had offered to look after her first grand-child. Efe had missed a year of school. By the time she returned, most of her classmates had graduated except for those that had extra year. That year had been terrible for her.
He cleared his throat, bringing her attention back to him. “Efe, you are my only child and I want what’s best for you. Marry Daniel. Stop all this beating around the bush the both of you have been doing. I have had enough of it.”
She stared down at her hands.
“You don’t love him? I remember,” He began with a smile in his voice, “when you were little you had a crush on him. I caught you staring at him when he came with his parents.”
Efe laughed a little at the memory. She could remember most of her childhood days with Daniel. The way she would look adoringly at him and listen when he spoke about football. A sport she took no liking to. But she had listened to him ‘cause she liked him. If it made him happy, it made her happy. Her feelings for him had no bounds as she had even sent a text message to his then girl-friend that he was in love with someone else. He had been so pissed at her when he found out, but they had patched things up. According to him, he had remembered she was still a ‘kid’.
She looked up at her father. The wrinkles around his tired eyes. She hated herself for stressing him out. “Dad that was a long time ago. That crush has long since faded. I admit I made a mistake, but dad we can’t force anyone to get married to someone they don’t love.”
The corner of his eyes crinkled and a smile appeared on his lips. “But you love him.”
That doesn’t matter any-more, I’m getting over it. She forced a smile. “Daddy it doesn’t matter.”
Her father looked at her closely and she shifted her eyes away from his gaze. “It doesn’t mean he would never get to love you. Efe, you’re a beautiful young woman; not just on the outside but on the inside. You are the spitting image of your mother in all ramifications.”
Efe smiled. “You miss her still . . .”
“Yes, time is not enough to forget someone you love but the assurance I have is we would meet again.” He sighed. “My darling, I know what’s best for you, asides God. And I believe it’s better you marry Daniel.”
“No buts again. I’ve had enough. I’ve known Daniel for a long time. He’s my godson and I don’t believe Felix and Abasi-Ofon raised him to be irresponsible. I’m going to Lagos next tomorrow and we would commence preparations for the wedding. I would meet with Daniel too.”
Efe knew it was out of her hands. It was left to Daniel to dissuade her father. “Yes daddy. I’m sorry I hurt you this way.”
“I forgave you a long time ago. If God can forgive you, who am I not to?”
Efe walked over and closed her eyes as she wound her arms around his neck, she hugged her father. “I love you daddy.”
He patted her arm. “I love you too. I’m always here for you as long as God gives me breath.”
Funlola wasn’t the most liked in the office. But she didn’t care. She knew there would always be haters in life. It didn’t matter what career she did or what country she lived in or how rich or poor she was. Haters were there to tell her she was good at what she did. Haters where her cheer-leaders. That was how she liked to see it. She smiled and uploaded her picture on Instagram and wrote, ‘perspective always matters’.
One of her colleagues sauntered over to her and tapped on her table. “The boss wants to see you.”
That’s strange. Why does Mr. Bello want to see me? Funlola muttered a thank you as her colleague ambled away to her seat. Funlola didn’t miss the smirk on her face. There must be something up.
Funlola sat in-front of Mr. Bello, the manager for their branch, and her mouth opened in shock. “You’re firing me? Why? What did I do?”
“Word has gotten to us. Complaints. That you have been into some illicit acts to acquire some of the accounts you have brought into this bank.”
And so? Isn’t that my business? “What illicit complaints sir?”
Mr. Bello looked down his nose and beyond his large frames. His big eye balls looking at her. “You know exactly what I’m talking about Miss. Abe.”
“I’m not sure I do.”
“Okay. Let me spell it out to you. You have been sleeping around with your prospective customers to get accounts.”
“And so you are fired.”
Ehn? “What? That doesn’t make any sense! You can’t just fire me like that Mr.Bello. I could sue you.”
“On what grounds? Harassment?”
“You people encouraged us to do whatever we had to do to get accounts.”
“Do you have any proof of that? A written document?” He rested his back on his seat, a cocky smile appeared on his big saggy lips and she felt like slapping it away from his face. “You have no case Miss Abe. Please clear out your desk. You would be paid your salary and would be given a letter to effect your . . . Departure.” He stressed on the word departure.
Funlola balled her fingers into fists and glared at him. To her, Mr. Bello was just a useless, fat man without form and shape who had a reputation of harassing women to get what he wanted. As long as he got what he wanted he remained happy and made their lives less miserable. So now he had turned his ugly head on her.
And he thinks he can treat me like this?
She rose to her feet. “This isn’t the end of this rubbish you started Mr. Bello. You are just an evil, wicked man! You want to deny you haven’t gotten into my pants as well? Just because I’ve refused you on different occasions you decide to stoop this low? You would hear from me and trust me you would regret it. Sleeping with your staff for promotion would not go unchecked.”
The grim look on his face showed his distaste for her words.
“Get out of my office.”
Funlola walked out of his office and slammed the door. Her colleagues stopped talking and looked at her. A few of them had grins on their faces. God punish all of you people!
She stayed in bed all day; either eating ice-cream or other junk-foods and watching movies, skipping soap operas. She was supposed to meet up with Dele at his place. He had called earlier on that he was already home. Time was up, and she knew he wanted the long-awaited answer. She was ready to give it to him. There was no holding back. There was really no use any-more. Her life had suddenly taken an unexpected turn and she didn’t know what to do.
He eyed her red maxi-skirt that came up in-front and showed off her slim legs, and cropped black top that exposed her flat tummy and the tattoo at the middle of her back. Her black sandals and purse to match. He had on a blank look. Funlola on the other hand was all smiles as she sat across from him.
“How was your trip?”
“Good to know.”
Dele rose and walked over to the bar and came back with a chilled champagne bottle and two glasses. “This is to celebrate our upcoming wedding.” He dropped them on the glass centre table. He came over and sat next to her. He brought out the same ring he had presented to her the other day at the restaurant.
“Dele – I don’t want to get married to you.”
He stared at her for few seconds then chuckled. “You’re joking right?”
Funlola knew it was going to be hard. She had always known that, but there was nothing she could do to prevent whatever pain he would feel.
“No, I’m not. I’ve had time to think and I don’t want to get married. I’m not ready. I’m sorry if it seems I led you on Dele, but I had no idea it would end up this way. I lost my job two days ago -”
She heaved a sigh. “Evil witches conspired against me.”
His forehead creased as a frown crossed his features. “Evil witches?”
She waved it away with her hand. “It’s all a long story, but I’m not ready for marriage.”
“If you’re afraid I won’t take care of you, push those silly thoughts away from your mind. I’m doing well and I would take care of the both of us.”
This guy isn’t ready to take no for an answer sha. “Dele it has nothing to do with that.”
“I have no concrete reason. My answer is no. We could still hang-out together.” She placed her hand on his chest. “You’re a great guy Dele. The most understanding I’ve been with so far. Maybe I would be ready later on, but for now I’m not.”
He rubbed his eyes gently. He removed her hand from his chest and reached out to the champagne bottle and poured himself a tall glass of the yellowish-orange liquid. He took a sip at first and then a gulp of it.
“Good night Funlola.”
She didn’t want to press further. She took her purse from the floor and got up. She didn’t say a word but left his apartment quietly. She was relieved, at least she could cross it out her list of things to do. Thus far, her week had been terrible.
John packed the remaining of his clothes into the second suitcase. He didn’t have much, mostly ‘cause he gave out most of his clothes when he didn’t wear them for at least six months.
“I can’t believe you’re leaving. . .” His mother said. She stood at the door-way and watched him.
“I should have done it a long time ago. I should move to my own place and begin preparations for marriage.”
Her eyes brightened at the mention of marriage. “You have a girl-friend? Why didn’t you tell me?! Who is she? What’s her name?”
Wahala, why did I mention marriage? “Mum I don’t have one right now. I’m just saying I should get ready.”
He zipped his bag and dropped it on the floor.
“John, you’re clocking thirty-two and you haven’t gotten married. It worries me.”
“Audrey hasn’t gotten married too.”
“Audrey is confused about what she wants. Today she brings home a dark man, and the next-day it’s one yellow-pawpaw man. I’m praying for her.”
She rubbed her forehead gently then put her hand down. “Now that all my children have left the house, what else is there to do?”
“Knowing you, I’m sure you would figure something out.” He walked over to his mother and hugged her. “You would be fine. Moving out is a part of life.”
“You’re telling me.”
He carried his suitcases down one after the other. His father had travelled to Abuja for a meeting but he had been fully aware of John leaving that weekend. He had not seemed interested and had told him to not be a stranger. His two-bedroom apartment was somewhere in Surulere. It wasn’t as posh as his sister’s but it was comfortable and from what he had heard there was frequent light supply. He would have to drive a distance to his church at Lekki but he didn’t mind much. He could drop by his sister’s after service, but knowing Funlola would be up to no good made the idea less appealing.
Something strange popped in his mind. A voice spoke something into his ears. It was something he would never have considered in a million years even he had a gun to his head and was being forced to do it. He was sure it was ‘cause he had just thought about her. But then, like an assurance, he heard it again.
Marry Funlola . . .
NEXT . . .
Eghosa nodded, wondering if his daughter had spoken with Daniel and they had agreed on it. He knew his daughter loved Daniel but the problem was surely from Daniel; he didn’t love his daughter. What was he going to do now? He had prayed to God but everything still looked difficult. He had to talk with Daniel soon.
“What do you think about it all? What is the best solution?”
“I have always liked the thought of our families becoming one. Efe is a wonderful young woman and it baffles me that my son is so blind to see it! He goes after women that lack sense and integrity. Women that would never take him to his future. But what can I do? I talk but he doesn’t listen. In this matter I’m putting my foot down. He must do the right thing and marry Efe!”
Eghosa drummed his fingers on the arm of his chair. He had passed the stage of being angry. If someone else had told him his godson would be like this, he would have denied it. Daniel had always been a good boy. Where had his change come from? Was it when he had schooled abroad? He was beginning to wonder if he even deserved his precious daughter.