Somewhere in Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
“That was how our story changed and we started having financial breakthrough.” Chinedu listened with rapt attention to his new convert’s story.
“All the friends I lost began to return; You know when there’s wine in the bowl, flies would be expected. I began to hang out with friends frequently and consequently I had little or no time left for my family. Funmi, my wife frowned seriously at my association with friends who were just gold diggers but I wouldn’t be deterred.” Mr Eriola continued narrating.
“One thing led to another and I lost all my morality. Gradually but steadily I swung from the thoughtful, responsible father and husband I used to be to an drunk, womanizer and a spendthrift.” He face-palmed and sighed.
“I don’t really know what happened next but about two weeks ago I got a call to inform me that Tade died in a plane crash. The moment I heard the news, it was like a padlock was removed and the gates of my eleven years imprisoned mind swung open. It was thereafter I was made to understand that I had abandoned my family eleven years earlier and had moved to Port Harcourt with Tade as my new wife.” The wiry man shook his head in anguish.
“That woman, Tade,” he whispered, taking in his lower lip. “She was one of the ladies I patronized back then and now she has ruined my life!” he was now almost screaming. Chinedu however was trying hard to understand his tale, it was a bit complex.
“That Tade used diabolic powers to drain me, turn me into a nonentity and ruin my entire future! Look at me now, I’m a barrow pusher at 60!” He cried out hitting his chest repeatedly.
“Funmi was the love of my life, she stood by me all the way and this Tade emerged from the blues to mess it all up!” He slouched in his seat as he lamented. He sighed and he shook his head as he tried to picture Mr Eriola’s awful story.
Chinedu now understood why he was moved by the holy spirit earlier that day to preach to the aged wheelbarrow pusher that helped with his luggage at the garage. After he slipped a five hundred naira note into the scaly hands of the barrow pusher that he now knew has Mr. Eriola, he briefly preached to him and here he was. Chinedu’s mind went out for him and he clasped his hands together.
He cleared his throat.
“So how about your kids?” Chinedu finally asked and Mr Eriola lifted up his eyes.
“My kids?” he asked rhetorically “I abandoned them with my wife now.” he replied wrinkling his forehead.
“I know, I’m talking of the ones you had with -eerm- whats that her name again?” Chinedu tried to recall.
“Oh! You mean Tade… We didn’t have any child together.” He said and Chinedu nodded.
“Mr Eriola, I want you to know one thing; no matter how wrecked your life is, God still loves you. I’m not saying that all your pain and past would enigmatically disappear. No! In fact the scar may remain, but you’d still have hope in Christ. At least the hope of eternity.” Chinedu said truthfully, he wasn’t the type that soothed people with lies.
“You see I want you to know that my meeting and preaching to you isn’t coincidental. God planned it and that’s a proof that he still loves you-”
A portly woman sauntered into the parlor where the two men were; with a tray in her hands. She served them pineapple juice briskly.
“Thanks dear.” Chinedu mumbled, she smiled spontaneously and oh, she had the sweetest smile.
The brief display of affection unclasped a wistful reminiscence for him. He immediately swallowed the sob that bubbled into his throat.
“Like I was saying, You have to just give your all to God now. Your being, the little strength you have left in you. Just pour out yourself, give yourself wholly unto the Lord as your reasonable sacrifice to him. The earlier days of your life might have been irretrievably wasted but you could still make the most of the days ahead.” Chinedu spoke passionately as sweat beaded his forehead.
He sank to his knees and with lifted hands, eyes and heart; he prayed the best way he could.
Chinedu knew certainly in his heart that the Lord had begun a good work with this his new convert.
“Did you fart?” She asked.
Lanre felt a frisson of embarrassment as he focused on the road.
“I’m sorry. I didn’t know it will be that bad.” he muttered apologetically while he powered down the windows to allow for the escape of the stench of his fart and the entry of fresh air.
“Do you have a dead rat in your gut or something?” She asked chuckling. Lanre tried to little avail to suppress his smile.
His mind went back to the beginning of his love story. It started with Jessica. He smiled again.
He felt she was the one for him and was ready to go for her. He told his parents about her even before he proposed but there weren’t forthcoming, or so he thought. Impatience led him to inundate them with pressures and at last his Dad gave him the permission to pop the big question. Although it was obvious his Dad’s consent was due to his pestering, Lanre went ahead.
The memory of how he stood before his dressing mirror, rehearsing his lines jeered at him.
He recalled how he sat in his parents house the next day very quietly. His Dad finally came to break the silence that had been on since the previous day.
“Lanre so how was yesterday now? You’ve not said anything about it.”
“My proposal was rebuffed on no uncertain terms. ” He said straightly.
Lanre’s Dad grinned and then burst into laughter.
What humor could this man be finding in my pain? he wondered and his confusion waxed into anger as his Dad kept on laughing hysterically.
After a long fit of laughter Lanre’s Dad coughed.
“So how does it feel?” he had asked derisively.
Lanre’s head thudded.
“Dad, are you mocking me?” he asked sternly.
“Okay, I’m sorry but what did she say was the reason?” Mr Martins had asked.
“She said she’s engaged.” Lanre replied coldly and his Dad nodded.
“Yeah. She and her fiancé actually came to us for counseling sometimes back.” Mr Martins said then he seeped some juice.
He goggled at the older man.
“Wait… Dad, so you knew about this and you let me ridicule myself like that?” Lanre snapped.
Mr Martins stood up and reached for the shoulder of his son.
“See Lanre, I wanted you to hear well from God. He’s your father. That was why I kept referring you back to the place of prayer but you were unsettled and your pressures were rather compelling.” He paused and looked intently into his face.
“Lanre you need to settle your mind. Stop every agitation. Sleep! Be still and know that he’s God. You’d only be able to hear the still small voice when you’re calm. God won’t raise his voice above the din in your mind.”
A hapless fly perched on the windshield and like Lanre had been waiting for it, he swooshed the windscreen wiper over it, leaving the smashed corpse as a stain on the windscreen its bodily fluid spattered around it.
“Gross!” Lara expressed her disgust as she grimaced and Lanre smiled.
“That was unfair!” She said twisting her mouth in disapproval.
A reckless micra driver hurtled out of the lane were his car was parked without looking into the rear-view mirror or turning back and if Lanre didn’t hit the brakes with the alacrity he did, his car would have been barged.
“Just imagine that!” He mouthed and hissed. Lara chuckled.
“Ehn ehn… Back to the matter… Lanre, what was that fly’s offense?” Lara asked.
“God! Okay, it perched on my windshield; who knows it might be coming from a toilet.” Lanre quickly said and Lara shuddered.
“Eeew… But I hope you know you’re like that fly before God. What if he chose to do same, what if-”
“Common, God won’t do that. He loves me!” Lanre quickly interjected.
“Aheem.. So aren’t you supposed to be like Jesus?” Lara asked tauntingly.
Lanre was starting to regret ever hurting the fly meanwhile Lara was having a swell time troubling him, she always did.
“Okay, I’m sorry. Does that settle it?” He finally surrendered because he knew as factually as he knew his name that Lara wouldn’t stop any time soon.
“You should be charged to court for murder.” Lara said jocularly and Lanre smiled. He didn’t smile because of what Lara said, though she thought that was it.
He smiled because he now understood better. His Dad was right, Jessica was only a product of inner agitations and self-will. After his ugly experience with Jessica he became calm and relaxed. So when he felt he was being led by the holy spirit to Lara, he was not in a hurry at all. He took quality time to pray through and he made sure it was nothing else but God’s idea. After thorough internal scrutiny he shared it with his parents.
His Mum smiled broadly and his Dad was glad too. It was much later he got to know that they had known Lara was God’s will for him but were only waiting for him to hear God.
Even after Lanre got the go ahead, he was still scared to propose. For every attempt he made to approach Lara, his experience with Jessica would relive in his mind and thus dampen his morale.
“Eeerm… Lanre, please let’s branch an eatery first. I’m starving. Plea…se.” Her cooing cut into his reverie.
“Okay, but we’ve got to be quick. We’re running late for the bible study.” Lanre said.
“Thank you.” Lara muttered smiling. He nodded
Lanre returned to his thoughts. After sometime he summoned enough courage to declare his love to Lara.
“It’s okay, I’d prayerfully consider it and I’ll get back to you.” Were her very words two months before she called him and they fixed a meeting.
Lanre recalled how he rummaged his wardrobe to pick the best fitting attire and after a thorough examination a brown blazer emerged as the chosen one.
As he drove to the venue of their meeting, he was under great tension. His heart thumped at the thought of a ‘No!’.
“Lord, if she says no…” he had paused to swallow hard. “help me walk out of that place with some shreds of dignity.” The words of his prayer which were sincere and came from the deepest part of him, now struck him as ridiculous.
He remembered how he sat before Lara who was just beaming with smiles and looking radiant with her braids falling over her shoulders. Lanre was just as comfortable as someone sitting on a throne of thorns. He picked up his towel and mopped his sweaty and anxious face.
“So what do you think this meeting is for, Lanre?” Lara broke the silence still smiling broadly.
“Eeerm…” Lanre started with a mechanical smile. “I thi..nk you wa..nt to give me an an…swer.” he stuttered, clutching his knees with trembling hands beneath the table.
“Yeah.. That’s right.” Lara said and her smile waned into a serious look. Lanre’s throat went dry, he could feel the cold moistness in his armpit spread.
“I’ve heard God and I’ve got my reply to your proposal.” Lara paused. Time stood still. Lanre could hear the rataplan of his heart like the drums of a brigade.
“Lanre, I’m saying yes.” She finally said. It felt like an ice cube dropped on the desert in Lanre’s heart.
“You’ve been smiling to yourself. A penny for your thoughts?”
Lanre smiled. “I was thinking about how our journey began.” He replied.
“Oh, that’s nice.”
“Yeah. let’s stop over there,” he gestured towards a restaurant, “if you don’t mind.”
“No I don’t. Thank you.”
“You never miss an opportunity to prey on my pocket.” He scoffed glancing at her.
“Excuse me? You know I could just vex and not go in there, right?”
Lanre goggled at her with an exaggerated surprise as the car pulled up in the garage. “Is that supposed to be a threat? Who will starve?”
Lara sighed. “How pathetic, if niceness was measured on a number line, you’d be found somewhere on the negative side.”
“Ouch! And I was thinking of coming to open you door oh, but since I’m not nice, help yourself.”
“It just further shows that you’re not a gentleman. If you are you would do just that to redeem your image.” Lara said with a mischievous smile hanging on her lips, she was going to make him open her door.
“Reverse psychology does not work on me, girl.”
“The bottom line is, you are not a gentleman,” she shrugged “or rather you proving that you’re not.”
Lanre sighed as he stretched to reach for her door. “Satisfied now?” He said after pushing her door open.
Lara smiled smugly. “Not quite, that’s not how it’s done. You were supposed to get down, walk around the car and open the door from outside. But I’ll pardon you, I know you’re a bush boy so you don’t know these things.”
In the restaurant Lanre pulled out her seat, she smiled and said, “That’s why I like you, you learn quite fast.” he did a mock bow before taking his seat.
The waitress dropped cocktails before both of them and then she left quietly with their orders.
Lara’s mind went to something unusual and she immediately voiced it out.
“Lanre, what about that lady, I mean your secretary and her antics?” Lara asked.
“Oh! You mean the Vannesa that wants me to harness her?” Lanre asked and slurped his drink intentionally as he peered at her over the cup. He was being naughty and he knew it.
“Are you for real? Are seriously making a joke out of it? Don’t underm-” she spoke fast before Lanre broke in.
“Madam take a chill pill now. There’s no cause for alarm at all. I’ve warned her sternly against all those her funny moves and advances. I’m her boss and I’ve drawn the sidelines!” Lanre explained calmly but clearly before sipping his drink again. “So relax ehn. For you na zero competition.” He added jocularly and Lara quickly mumbled “That’s better!” as she was still feigning seriousness and Lanre chuckled.
The waitress returned with their meal.
“So how about your colleague friend too? I mean the pharmacist at your hospital- Noah?”
“Noah is there.” She replied as she munched slowly. “He’s such an amazing fellow. You can’t be bored around Noah.” Lara shook her head for emphasis. “Boredom is just dispelled naturally whenever Noah is around and He’s also far too kind, very nice guy he even drops me at home most times.” Lara enthused.
“Uu..uhn I see.” Lanre observed dryly. Just then did Lara lift up her face. She had been focused on her meal all the while. She stopped her spoon midway before dropping it and she paused her moving lips.
“Lanre!” She called.
“Yes.” he replied and she smirked.
“What’s that look on your face?”
“What look?” Lanre asked somewhat surprised.
“You tell me.” she retorted. “Lanre you are jealous!”
“How?” Lanre asked splaying his hands.
“It’s written all over you.” Lara answered then she chuckled. “Okay, quoting you ‘na zero competition for you’.” She said sarcastically, raising her hands to quote him.
“Ehn.. And quoting you too ‘that’s better’.” Lanre said and raised his hands to quote her theatrically.
“You are not serious.” Lara said amidst laughter.
“I hope I’m now more interesting than Noah?” Lanre teased and she laughed harder.
Welcome on board, I wish you a wonderful ride on Leave To Cleave.