Lanre sat at dining table watching his parents set the table since they wouldn’t let him do anything, they said he was their guest. His Mum placed the ceramic plates on the red checkered table linen and she dished out the meal. Lanre had always admired his parents marriage and he wished to have a home like theirs, idyllic and godly.
“So, how far now?” his Dad turned to him.
“I’m okay.” Lanre replied with a shrug
“What’s new? Have God said anything yet?”
Lanre sighed and dropped his spoon.
“Eer- I don’t really know sha.. But when I was praying about it, I received two scriptures.”
“Nawa oh, simple yes or no answer you had to go ‘er- I don’t really know sha’” He shook his head. “Tell us what you received jare.”
Lanre chuckled. “Ecclesiastes eleven verse one and Hosea six, one.”
Mr Martins looked up, so his eyes could meet Lanres’. “What’s in the second scripture?”
“Come, let us return to the Lord; for he has torn, that he may heal us; he has striken, and he will bind us up.” Lanre quoted.
Mr Martins looked into his wife’s eyes and they smiled simultaneously, she pulled his ears playfully towards her mouth. He mumbled “Ouch!” and she said something in a hushed tone to him, he smiled.
“Hello, someone is here. Fill me in.” Lanre said and they laughed.
“Well, I think what God is trying to say is explicit. Abi what came to your mind when you received those passages?” Mr Martins asked and his wife nodded.
It was a cold Saturday morning, it had rained cat and dog overnight and it was still drizzling outside. Lara sat on the stool before her dressing mirror, conveniently seated between the cosmetics shelves. She combed her hair and pulled it up into a bun, the bouffant was perfect. The mint-green bun matched the colour of the butterflies scattered all over her ashen chiffon gown. The gown made her remember the day Lanre had proposed. It was the same gown she wore that day.
She heaved a sigh, her reflection said she was beautiful. She let out a smug smile.
Things had become better between her and her Mum. The other day, after she led her Mum to Christ in the cottage, Mrs Ayeteju took her to her room, she said she needed Lara’s help on something. Lara watched as her Mum pulled out a box, nothing less than two feet tall, from under her bed, fetched the keys from under her pillow and unlocked it. She wondered what the box was and what it contained.
When Mrs Ayeteju lifted the lid, the dankness that sprang out of the box wasn’t that of disuse but of age. Mrs Ayeteju overturned the box, spilling it’s content on the floor.
Lara stood in shock as she saw the poignant memories before her. Gradually she sank till she was sitting on her haunch. The first thing she picked was the old album. On the first page was the picture of her father and mother on their wedding day. The were standing on the steps, outside the church. Both of them wore lavish grins. Her Mum clutched her bouquet, it was just a white mass in the monochrome picture, with both gloved hands, while one of her father’s hands was thrown over Mrs Ayeteju’s shoulders and the other stood limply by his side. They looked beautiful, content. She leafed through the album and then stopped at a random page.
Flora was standing in the middle, right before the small table that had a round cake, a bottle of Coke, a bottle of Fanta and flower vase on it. Flora’s hands were on the ribbon-tied knife that was in the cake. The rough icing on the cake was used to write ‘Flora is 5.’ Standing next to Flora was Lara and both parent hunkered beside the duo. The father carrying a baby Esther, who was wearing a confused look.
Tears sprang into her eyes. She snapped the album shut. Before her were notes, love notes. Clothes, her father’s clothes. Her Mum’s wedding dress. More pictures and a few other things.
“I even kept the pen with which he signed the divorce papers.” Mrs Ayeteju said, lifting the Eleganza pen from the floor. She smiled dismally. “I’m messed up, I know.” A dry laugh. “You know, no day passes without me looking at these things. Lara I’ve called you here to help me do something I’ve been unable to do by myself.”
“To destroy all these.”
“I’ve been held down by my past,” she pointed at the spilled content of the box, “for long enough. Jesus is setting me free and so Lara, I have to do this.” She wiped a tear drop.
As the flames ascended, Mrs Ayeteju lifted her face heavenwards and in spite of the tears that rolled down her cheeks, she smiled, a genuine smile.
Lara smiled. If the salvation of her Mum was the only good thing that came out of her leave, it was worth it. She had been praying for this for so long and seeing her mother become a brand new person from the inside-out gave a joy.
The opening of the door cut short her thoughts.
“Lara, mo ti jade oh. (I’m going out)” Mrs Ayeteju came in walked over to Lara and pecked her, leaving a small stain of her maroon lipstick on Lara’s cheek. Lara looked her over, She wore a black sequinned gown and though the design was simple, it reeked of money. There was a silver brooch on the red turban on her head.
“Where are you off to?”
Lara frowned. “What for now?”
“I want to get a mani-pedi plus, its been a while since I’ve been to FLAR’EST. You know, ever since you fell ill I’ve not gone there. I need to ensure that things are running smoothly.”
“Okay oh. Just don’t stay too long.”
“I won’t. Bye.”
After her Mum left, she rose from the stool and went downstairs to fix herself Capuccino.
She placed the mug on the saucer as she gulped down the alkaline coffee. The lull would soon be over and by Monday she’d have to resume work. Oh, the stress of nursing. She drew a deep shuddering breath.
A lot had happened during the leave. Those six weeks had held a lot for her, she wished her wounded heart healed as fast as her gastric wound did, had she not got them about the same time?
Yes, a lot had happened within those six weeks, but much more would happen before she’d resume work.
She picked up her phone from atop the golden napery. Two missed calls from Noah. Oh, Noah. She’d been trying to get over him and that required avoiding him, but for how long could she? Today was Saturday and on Monday she’d be meeting him again. She sighed. She heard the honking of a car horn.
She walked over to the window and pulled back the drapes to see who it was. Kalu, the gatekeeper rushed to open gates and a car entered the compound.
The car looked really familiar and it didn’t take long before she placed it.
Her heart stopped and her stomach clenched tight, heat poured into her face.
“What’s he looking for, for goodness sake?” She asked rhetorically, stamping her feet like a recalcitrant child.
You! Came that voice. He has finally come for you. You’d better be wise.
She knew she had little or no time to think, when the door bell shrilled. Her heart started beating wildly.
She prayed it was someone else, anyone else that just had Noah’s type of car. The peephole confirmed her fears and she became more edgy.
She closed her eyes and drew a slow breath, holding it and expelling it slowly. That was supposed to calm her, but it didn’t help much.
“Oh Lord help me.” She mumbled as she wiped the beads of sweat on her forehead.
She opened the door.
The familiarity of his scent gripped her, before his looks did. The patented Noah scent that was a mix of his perspiration, cologne and aftershave. He looked dapper in his well tailored blue suit. It was happening again, he was having the usual effect on her. That she didn’t throw herself into his arms took a lot of self control.
“Good morning Noah.” She hoped she didn’t sound as stupid as she felt. She held out her hands for a handshake.
“Morning Omolara.” He said taking her hands. It was just a handshake but he made it somewhat flirtatious. It was with the way he stroked her fingers with his thumb, the way he looked down at them like they were jewels and when Lara saw that he was holding on for longer than necessary, she slipped her hands out of his grip.
“It’s not fair oh. You just took your leave and completely forgot about the hospital and all of us.”
She forced a small smile. “It’s not like that, Noah.”
“Perhaps it’s not. I guess you are just avoiding me, ’cos you don’t reply my texts neither do you pick me calls.” He was now searching her face. She gulped saliva like it was vinegar.
“Noah, I was seriously ill and was even on admission and after that I was recuperating.”
The diplomacy worked.
“Oh, I’m so sorry.” His voice was so soft, it was almost a caress. He inched closer. “I hope you’re better, what really happened?”
Boy! Don’t come any closer! You don’t know how much you’re making life difficult for me right now.
“I’m alright now, thanks for your concern.” She waved him off.
“Thank God.” He sighed. “So, can you guess why I’m here?”
“To say hello to your friend.”
“Yeah, that’s one of the reasons.” He said with an unfathomable smile that made Lara narrow her eyes.
“What’s the other reason?” Lara asked but not before Noah reached into the inner pocket of his jacket. By the time the statement came out of her mouth she knew what he was up to. He was down on both knees, holding out a Tiffany box.
“Omolara make me the happiest man on earth. Please marry me.”
Her heart started jackhammering.
Stretch forth your hands and take the ring!
Oh Lord what do I do?
She didn’t hear the voice of the holy spirit but she knew deep down that she knew the right thing to do. Why was all these happening today that her Mum wasn’t around?
Her left hand twitched. She stretched it out and closed the ring box. Noah frowned, he opened the box and took out the ring.
“Will you marry me?”
Yes! Say yes. Just say yes! The voice was reverberating in her head.
She exhaled. Sweat was breaking out on her cold skin.
Lord help me, please.
“Noah but you know there’s someone else.” She said trying to convince herself.
Is that so? Who is the person, please tell me. Lara, when are you going to wake up and smell the coffee? Lanre said ‘I’m done with us!’ which part of that statement is difficult for you to understand? Lanre left with you without so much as a backward glance, he’s probably out there with another lady and here you are pushing away your lifeline for his sake. Lara please be reasonable.
It was getting harder and harder as the storm in her grew fiercer.
Lord please… This is really hard.
WHEN PETER FOCUSED ON THE STORM, HE SANK. KEEP YOUR EYES ON ME
Noah stood up. “So who is this person?” He asked with distaste. “Omolara, so you want to spend the rest of your life that loser that came to my office to make noise? You deserve better.”
Nuts flew out of Lara’s head. How dare he speak ill of Lanre? He thinks Lanre isn’t good enough and then he thinks he’s the better she deserves? What? The anger died the moment she realized she was the reason why Noah could disregard Lanre. She was the one who put Lanre were Noah saw him. Didn’t the Yorubas say that buyers will call the goods what the seller calls it? The anger gave way for guilt and regret. Tears welled up in her eyes.
“I know you very well Lara. You have a kind heart and that’s probably the problem. You don’t love that guy, all you feel for him is pity. I,” he pointed at his chest. “am the man who holds your heart. If not, why couldn’t you introduce your so called fiance to me? If not why are you crying?” Noah said in that very condescending tone of his.
This guy has to be one of the most conceited persons on the face of the earth. What did I ever even see in him? Lord, his guts is grating on my nerves.
Lara bit her tongue as she fought for control.
“My question was ‘will you marry me?’ and your answer was ‘there’s someone else’ can you give me a straight answer Lara, Yes or No?”
Lara, don’t be a fool. Say yes, yes, yes, say yes!
Lara looked past him, swallowed and mustered strength. “No.”
“Look into my eyes and say your answer.”
Why was she finding it so difficult? She wished her mother was at home. She would’ve come out to chase Noah away, but she had to do this herself.
She faced him squarely as resolve built within her. “No!”
The fear disappeared the moment she said that. Where the courage came from she didn’t know, but she knew she could feel it down to her toes.
“Now Noah, let me set you straight.” She balanced on her feet. “Even if there was no other person, I would not be with you and if I have to choose between you and Lanre, trust me, I’d choose him over you a thousand times.”
He quailed. There was a flash of hurt, of disappointment across his face. He didn’t look like a person from whose hands love just slipped like he looked like a business man who’d lost a major investor. That was all she was to him, a trophy to be won.
“If that’s the case, why were you leading me on all along?”
“I never led you on. I told you right from the start that we were just friends.”
“Your words said a thing but your actions were saying another.”
“What actions?” Lara quickly asked defensively. She sighed. “Okay, to be fair on you, I have my faults. I should have told you about my relationship with Lanre from the start and probably shouldn’t have been so close and emotionally attached to you. So if you feel like I led you on, I’m sorry. I’m very sorry, I didn’t mean to play on your emotions,-”
Oh, you should be more sorry for yourself
Satan, shut up!
“but, we won’t happen. You are a good man and I hope you find a great lady.” She stretched out her hands for a handshake.
He didn’t take it. He chuckled, adjusting his jacket. “Even if you’re going to rebuff my proposal, we should at least go in to discuss.”
He won’t give up, would he?
“Negotiate you mean? No, there’s nothing to discuss.” She held the door. All this while they’d been standing at the threshold. She one step in and he one step out of the house. “And if you would excuse me, I have other things to do.”
“Are you asking me to leave?”
“When did you become so cold?”
She rolled her eyes. “Are you going to leave or do you want me to slam this door in your face?”
When she saw that he was taking a step towards her, she hurled the door shut. He grabbed the door knob and turned it but not before Lara locked the door from inside.
She held unto the doorknob for some seconds, her head bent.
Oh wow, that was a brilliant act. You should delve into acting, you’d easily clinch awards. The voice was back, this time with heavy cynicism. She let go of the doorknob and turned around, she leaned her back on the door.
You just let your only, last hope slip off your hands because of arrogance. What were you thinking?
Was it arrogance? Lara wondered.
Oh, yes and now you’re hopeless. You think you have all the time in the world to play picky with men? Haven’t you heard that the competition out there is really tight? Lara, you might just die a sad single woman. As hopeless as your mother, except that she was once married, you might not even have that luck.
She saw the line her thoughts were towing and she immediately halted them.
I’m not hopeless! My hope isn’t dependent on Noah or any other man. Christ in me is the hope of glory. I’m not falling for your lies.
She felt peace. She slouched, her hands on her chest. She knew she had taken the right step even though she didn’t know where it led.
She plunked on the floor. “Lord I thank you for helping me. I will keep my trust in you, you will lead my life.” She exhaled.
She heard knocks on the door. Noah wasn’t the type to give up so easily. She didn’t say anything. When he’s tired he’d leave, she thought.
“I said no and I said go!” She kept her voice controlled but firm.
Her heart stopped. She recognized that voice. It was unmistakable; it wasn’t Noah’s, it was Lanre’s.
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