She rose in a fit, wiped her tears, smoothed her gown and peeked through the peephole.
“It’s him!” She screamed beneath her breath. Excitement surged through her, hope then guilt and fear. She wished she could look into a mirror, she didn’t want to step out to meet him looking disheveled especially not when the glimpse of him she caught in the peephole looked so sharp. She wished she could touch up her make-up. She puffed and opened the door.
Rays of sunlight grazed the edges of her face, the gentle breeze susurrating the wisp of her rich dark hair that had escaped from beneath the bun. The natural arch of her brows, dainty sloe eyes and lush lips were all perfectly fitted in her swarthy skin. Her stud earrings cast different shafts of colours of the light spectrum on her face. He stood there, one step out of the home savouring the beauty of Lara who stood one step in. He flicked his eyes down her body. If God took a day to create every other person, he must have taken a week off to make Lara, he thought. At that moment, he felt like Adam in the beautiful garden of Eden watching the Lord walk Eve up to him. A part of him, the completion of him, his help-meet. His heart leaped. A smile tugged at his lips and then claimed it.
Who will ever make better matches than you, oh God? You’ve been in this game since inception, you own the game, you rule it.
His neatly oiled and combed jet-black hair ran in curls, shimmered in the light of the day and flowed unbroken to his sideboards and goatee. His dimples, what she found most charming about his body were more pronounced, he had lost some weight. His broad frame filled the brown tuxedo he wore. Wait a second, wasn’t that the suit he wore the day he had proposed? He smiled and then the whole world stopped. The flaunt of his ivory white teeth made th-
You shouldn’t just stand and stare, dumbo! She berated herself stopping her admiration. What would she say? Should she greet him first or apologize again? She was contemplating kneeling to beg him when he went down on both knees.
Both knees.. Don’t men go down on one knee when they want to propose? So what with the complete kneeling?
Seeing him look up at her over a held out Tiffany box made her mind travel back to few minutes earlier, when Noah struck the same pose. Lanre looked just like Noah did.
“Omolara, let’s do this again.”
Tears burnt her eyes as emotions swelled within her. She slapped an open palm over her mouth as she sobbed. Her knees weakened and went down on their own volition.
She was crying too hard to say a word. Her sobs so wrenching that she was starting to drool. Lara thumbed off the drool. She blushed, feeling a twinge of shame.
The moment they were sharing was intruded on by the honking of a car. Kalu scampered to the gate and trundled it open.
Lanre rose, Lara did same and they walked to the veranda. Gravel crunched as Mrs Ayeteju’s car pulled up in the garage.
The duo watched as Mrs Ayeteju stepped down from the vehicle with a gaunt looking man. She was discussing with the man and they walked together down the compound. She was probably showing him around. There was something about that man. Ever since Lara saw him there was a niggling feeling in her mind. She couldn’t understand the feeling, neither could she shake it off.
She pushed thoughts about the man aside and brought her thoughts to Noah and Lanre.
They had to propose on the same day, in that very similar fashion. Hmmm. This counterfeit clone thing sha. Anyway, Lanre is the real deal. He even wiped my spittle. She winced.
“Good riddance jare.”
“To bad rubbish.”
Lara swiveled her head to Lanre. Does he now read minds? She wondered, or how else would he complete the statement on her mind?
“What are you talking about?” She asked.
He chuckled. “I only completed your statement-”
Statement? Did I say that out? Oh God! Now I must sound like a mugu
“So, you tell me, what were you talking about?”
“I- er- it’s noth-ing.” She stuttered.
He smiled. “You know I saw Noah on my way here, he was driving out before I drove in.” Lara had never heard Lanre have Noah and that safe, secure tone in one sentence. And Lanre too was surprised that for the first time, he mentioned Noah’s name without the pit of his stomach going hot.
“Yeah, he was here and I could tell you all that happened. He came to-”
“Shh.” Lanre stopped her. “I got all the answer I needed when you yelled at me when I knocked.”
Lara smiled. Lanre held out the glinting diamond ring. Lara held out her hands with glee, but as he slipped the ring down her fourth finger, a surge of fear and doubt rose fiercely within her.
Hadn’t they started out on this path about a year earlier? Didn’t it end with ‘I’m done with us!’? Would this last? Wouldn’t she get another heartbreak? Or worse yet, their marriage could probably crash.
A myriad of questions flooded her mind. Causing her to palpitate, perspire profusely and doubt. She wanted to tell Lanre to take back the ring.
Dear Lord, I’m afraid. Will this fail again?
TRUST ME, BELOVED. MY GRACE IS SUFFICIENT FOR YOU.
I put my trust in you, Father.
She exhaled, her peace returned. She splayed her fingers before her and put the other hand on her chest. Looking at the beautiful ring made her feel mushy and a little silly.
“Aww, it’s so beautiful. Thank you very much.” She wore a silly grin. “It’s even finer than the one Noah brought.” She watched Lanre’s face.
“Oh,” Lanre’s brows flickered up in an exaggerated surprise. “He brought one?” He was now search her fingers dramatically. “But I can’t see it.”
“See what? Haven’t you heard that a river can contain only one elephant at a time? Well, this river,” She raised her hand and brandished the ring. “is already occupied.”
They both laughed. So a day would come when they’d share hearty jokes and not just the barbed wisecracks they sent to each other, about Noah?
“It’s just funny that what we were unable to sort in our relationship, God sorted with a break up or rather short break.” Lanre said smiling.
“Chai, when God handled me ehn, all my gragra just dissolve.” Lara shook her head. “Man, I was such a jerk.”
“Oh, you were a huge jerk.” Lanre rejoined.
Lara punched his shoulder, he winced nursing as he nursed it. “What? You thought I’d tell you that you weren’t a jerk?” He laughed.
She shook her head. “It’s pathetic, you’re still as ungentlemanly as ever. I guess I have to pray to God to change that about you.” Another silly grin. “I should feel flattered, men in suits are queuing at my doorstep, each man with his ring-box in the inner pocket of his jacket.” She struck a dramatic pose, thrusting her chin in the air. “As the queen that I is now.” She said mimicking the farce character, Nkechi created by Nigerian comedian, Nedu.
Lanre laughed. “And you’re still as Omolara as ever.”
They both laughed.
“So tell me, what have you been up to in the past month?” Lara asked looking up at him.
“Asides sulking you mean?”
“Aww.” She pouted. “Poor you, so you were sulking?”
“Don’t act like Sam didn’t tell me all about how you locked yourself up.”
Lara goggled. “He did?!”
It was Lanre’s turn to wear a silly grin. “No, he didn’t, but that look you’re wearing just did.” He laughed. “Omolara you should see your face.”
She hissed and punched him again. “You must think of yourself as one of the smartest persons on the face of the earth.”
“The way you’re punching me, I hope I’m not about to enter an abusive relationship.” Lanre said and they both laughed.
They said nothing, their eyes locked. Lara’s heart fluttered.
See how he’s looking at me. If it were to be in the movies either of us will grab the other, or we’d just magnetize and share a passionate kiss. Jitters scurried up her spine. How would it feel? Let me guess, it will be sensational, surreal. What if I’m wrong? What if it feels better than that? There’s only one way to find out. His pink lips would press against min-
She saw that her thoughts were drifting to nowhere safe.
You’d know how it feels after marriage, silly mind! She chided herself as she halted her thoughts, just like Lanre was halting similar thoughts in his mind.
Lara curled her left fingers into a fist and admired the ring. “This time it will be only the three of us.”
“Ehn?” Lanre furrowed his brows.
She looked up. “Just God, you and I. A threefold cord is not easily broken.”
Lanre nodded as he sighed in relief. Lara laughed. “Wait, did you think I was talking about Noah initially?”
He chuckled. “Ah, I for fear.”
“Er- I suggest you suggest Vanessa for a transfer.” Lara tried to sound as casual as possible, so that her words seemed unpremeditated but Lanre knew her better. He doubled over as he laughed hysterically.
“I suggest you suggest” He continued laughing
“Is it such a bad idea to make a suggestion.”
“You are marking territory Omolara.”
She rolled her eyes and took in her lower lips. “Ehn eh, and is it a bad idea to mark MY territory?”
“Oshey! Territory owner.”
“Yes,” she said with an air of pride. “So I’m telling you to suggest her for a transfer.”
“Madam I already did.” Lanre said still laughing.
“It’s a good thing you get to use your brain once in a while.” She looked away.
“Hmmn?” She turned to him with feigned innocence. “Did I say something?”
Lanre laughed. “Your Mum has influenced you more than you know.”
She laughed. “Speaking of whom, guess what.”
“My Mun has given her life to Jesus.”
Lanre gaped. “It’s a lie”
“Well, it’s true.”
Lanre and Lara turned their heads to see Mrs Ayeteju who was emerging from the other side of the house.
“I told you that one day, one day Mrs Ayeteju would become born again, didn’t I?” Mrs Ayeteju added with a smile as she joined them at the veranda.
“Mummy!” Lanre shouted as he went to hug her.
Lara stood watching, smiling, blushing. Her smile vanished the moment she looked away from her Mum and her fiance to the man standing beside her Mum.
The niggling feeling returned. Her heart raced. What’s with this old eerie man? She looked him over from bald head to feet shod in tattered boots. He was gaunt and sick looking, his clothes were old but not raggedy, rumpled but not dirty. Where did her mother ever find a man like this?
Her mum must have seen the questions in her eyes.
“Lara, this is your father.”
She paused to process what she just heard. She must’ve heard the wrong thing.
Tears stung her eyes. She could still remember what her father looked like, and this gaunt man definitely wasn’t her father. Even if her memory was failing, she couldn’t forget her father’s rotund paunch, his smooth skin. Before her was a sallow-skinned man whose bones were lost in his blousy clothes. So the man she thought was her father for the past 25 years actually wasn’t?
And how exactly is this funny? Why is Mum smiling? Does she think this is a joke? How could she have lied to me all along about who my father was only to come here with this sickly stranger.
“Lara I said this is Akin.”
Everything around her was whirling, she was feeling lightheaded, she was falling, passing out.
“Omolara!” Lanre screamed before catching her in his arms.
She opened her eyes, everything was blur, she blinked a couple of times and then she could see people looking down at her. She jerked up. Where was she? She took in her surrounding and realizing that she was in the living room made her calm. She looked from her mum to Lanre. Lanre? What was he doing here? The memory came almost immediately. She smiled as she stroked the ornament on her fourth finger with her thumb. She looked away from Lanre to the man.
She remembered everything, including how she felt lightheaded and how she heard Lanre’s voice as a slur.
“You fainted when I told you this was your father.” Mrs Ayeteju started. “I know it’s difficult to believe, but it’s true.”
Lara looked at Akin again. Her eyes focused on his sharp features, jutting bones, sunken eyes, pockmarked face. This couldn’t be her father.
But those gimlet eyes stirred a Deja Vu feeling in her. Those eyes reminded her of when she sat on her father’s lap and looked into his eyes while he read her bed time stories. Though the eyes were now sunken and beneath wizened lids, they still seemed to draw her, to connect her to him. Could this be her father?
Why she was crying she didn’t know.
“Gloria.” His mellow voice sliced the quiet and that voice cleared every doubt in her. Every other thing might have changed but the voice was the same. Only her father called her by her middle name.
The tears became hotter, poured faster.
“How?” She asked thickly turning to her mum.
“The Lord did it.”
“How?” She couldn’t say any other thing.
“So I get to the SPA and I’m told that there was this old man that’s been coming to the SPA everyday for the past three weeks and he wouldn’t take no for an answer, they say he’s hell bent on seeing me. I say they should let him in and-” Her voice broke as sobs tore at her throat. “and it turns out to be him.” She gave in to the tears. “Lara is this how God works? I ask him to let me see Akin before I die and the answer was waiting for me, even before I prayed. Is this how he works?”
Lara couldn’t take her eyes of her father and a myriad of emotions welled within her. “Daddy!” She screamed as she crawled to him, she melted into his embrace. She buried her head in his shoulders and wept, filling her lungs with the musty smell of him. Lara could feel the calluses on his hands as he rubbed her back like sandpaper. Only God knew what could’ve befallen her father on his prodigal journey. He reminded her so much of the prodigal son. Like him, he left with plenty. Like him, his substance was whittled till he had nothing, till he became chaff, a shadow of who he used to be. Like him, he was greatly missed and hankered for. Like him, he’s returned. Like him, he’s been accepted.
Lara drew out of the embrace and studied his face. On a closer look she could see some resemblance with the image of the man she saw beside her Mum in the monochromatic album picture the other day, but at the same time there was a world of difference between the man before her and the image of her father in her mind. Compassion and pity filled her. Who plays games with the devil and walks away unscathed?
She was sobbing wildly, she was drooling again. Her father wiped the spittle. She felt embarrassed and she looked around self consciously. She saw Lanre leaning against the wall, smiling at her. She smiled back as she stood to her feet.
Mr Eriola was fighting tears. He was beyond grateful.
A song tugged at Lara’s heart, she sang it, lifting her head heavenward, her arms outstretched.
All these pieces,
Broken and scattered,
In mercy gathered,
Mended and whole.
But not forsaken,
I’ve been set free,
I’ve been set free.
The tears flowed as she sang. Lanre harmonized with her in his fine timbre tenor as they sang the chorus.
How sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me,
Oh oh oh.
I was once lost,
But now I am found,
Was blind but now I see.
Oh, I can see you now…
I can see the love in your eyes,
Laying yourself down…
Raising up the broken to life.
The words of the song made Mr Eriola sink to his knees as the tears he’d been holding back dribbled down in torrents.
Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, (or whatsoever distraction) and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. Genesis 2:24. Emphasis mine.
Without a leaving, there can’t be a cleaving. You LEAVE TO CLEAVE.
And no one writes better love stories than a God who himself is love.
I’m really grateful to the Lord for bringing us all through this series. I return all the glory to him. Really, it’s all about him.
Then I want to say a very big thank you to everyone who has followed this series till the end, to anyone who read any episode, to everyone who sent a feedback. I’m really grateful, God bless you. I hope you’ve been blessed. Please feel free to drop your comments, I’d really appreciate it and also if you find this series meaningful, please do share with your friends and family.
Once again, thank you. All the glory belongs to God.
PS: The song used in this episode is Hillsong’s Amazing grace.
This is my little gift to every reader, a short film that I’m sure would bless you greatly and er- yours truly features in. *winks* Please click HERE to watch Damilola Mike-Bamiloye’s Last Minute.