I came very early to the church. Being the last day of the programme and a Saturday. I knew that the congregation will fill the church before long. It is better I have a seat on the front pew.
I do not want to miss any of the messages by being distracted sitting somewhere in the middle pews where people will move up and down. I kept looking around as the seats filled were up with people coming in after me.
I am not amused when people gathered wearing their Sunday best in every church meetings. Everyone is on their best dressing as if God was coming to conduct a beauty peasant; I also chose my attires to fit the occasion.
I was wearing a dark blue suit I had picked just last week when I got the invitation to attend a friend’s wedding ceremony; I was the cynosure of all eyes: a bride adorned for the groom.
Ol’ boy, am I feeling on top of the world? It was a 3 three-day event dealing on ‘Divine Partnership’ for youth, conducted by the Local Branch of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in Port Harcourt.
I do not know what advertising strategy they had used, but by the second day, the talk of the event has become a hype in town, and the place is now filling up in swabs of humanity.
Then my eyes caught him, coming in with another man. That was Tonye I have just seen coming into the church. My heart skipped a breath. What is Tonye doing in a church?
I checked him again as he jovially talked with his friend, making their way to a seat away to my far right of the auditorium. He was wearing a white ‘Etiboh,’ a traditional dress of the Niger Delta people.
This is the first day I was seeing him in three years. Oh, my God! Why am I feeling all this worked up in seeing him? But I cannot help it.
The circumstance of our separation not withstand, he is still the best of buddies to get along with. Tall and royal in appearance, Tonye was the team leader in our Youth service year at the orientation camp in Lagos; and coming from the same state, our relationship has blossomed like a wildfire.
The blaze of the union has been too strong and sudden, and we had somehow, did not nourish it enough, and had allowed it to crumble. Three years of wondering about him, yet I was too proud also to check him up on the social website.
And here he is; thrown on me by nature’s craftsmanship and Divine arrangement. What will he says if I walk up to him? I will mortify that foolish pride gnawing at me and take the plunge.
I do not know how I managed the next two hours plus; I spent at the service, and I cannot recall a single message from the preacher. I was stealing a look across at him at every opportunity.
Then, on one of such moment, I saw him looking at me. From the short distance, I could see the surprised look on his face, his mouth opens as if he was shouting my name silently across the sea of heads in the auditorium.
I was putting my bible and things into my bag at the close of the service when I felt a tug on my hand. My eyes opened wide like a full moon as I looked up. Tonye was trying to hold on to my arm against the pushing and pulling off the crowd.
His friend was standing beside him looking at me as if I was the best thing he has ever seen since freedom day. It was with all my will power mustered together that I resisted the temptation to fling myself at him, regardless of every eye upon us, or the place. Not even a consideration at the circumstances for our separation could stop the tense emotional outflow I was feeling.
“Ebi,” I could hear him whispered. “You are like a dark angel in that dress and you look so gorgeous.”
“You also look like a Prince Charming, Tonye.” I cannot help looking him over to express my appreciation as he led me out of the auditorium; his friend, looking befuddled, coming behind us.
This is the last part in the free to read Excerpt of my book, ‘The Queen of Ottawa and Mbellecie: Chapter 9
I heard the honking of a horn at the gate and guessed that it would him. I looked at the clock on the wall; 12.30 PM. I can’t imagine how many times I have done that today; that is, checking the time. Babe, am I anxious? I hope not, but that was exactly how I was feeling right then.
I have had a light late breakfast of rice and dodo when I returned from the office and took a long while sorting out what to wear. It will be telling much if I appear as a new bride out on her honey-moon garbed on a new dress, but I do not also want to appear too formal.
I guess I will have to stick to something in between. I checked through my wardrobe and came out with a slack. This is not a dinner party and I believe I will just pass on with this one for a Saturday outing. I hoped that Tony would just be his normal self; casual and unassuming.
I picked a light-blue long sleeve blouse; a look at the mirror gave me the confidence that I will pass on as any person on every occasion: I am ready to go.
I heard the sound of the car in front of my door, then rattling of the protectors, and followed by a light knocking.
I opened the door and held my breath; I could hardly recognize the man standing in front of the door.
I guessed he noticed my hesitation and moved in too fast for me to open the protector for him to come in. He eased it open and stepped into the porch.
“Hello, Miss Queen, God, you look stunningly smashing in this outfit,” he said, his eyes scanning over me. “Now, I realized why your parent said you’re a Queen.”
He was dressed in a white Nylon long sleeve shirt with a golden ream lining the edge of the collar, the cuffs, and the button lines, on top of a pair of chinos trousers.
“Thank you, Mr. Tony. But you are also not Mr. Tony I’m used to be seeing on duty right now. But you aren’t going to be standing at the gate appraising me: do come in.”
He came into the room, looking around as a property agent, inspecting a house for sale.
“This’s quite a nice place you’ve got here, Miss Queen. I hope the landlord is not charging you dry?”
“It’s not much, and I think I can manage it for now. Mr. Tony, you’re welcome to my humble abode, anyway. You won’t mind a taste of wine or something, as a token of your welcome,” I said, as I opened the small refrigerator beside the dining table.” I could perceive the thick scent of his cologne almost absorbing that of my own perfume.
His face was smoothly shaven, and with a pair of white framed eye-glasses resting on the ridge of his nose, his feet shod in white sandals; he appears like a hermit of a sort.
“I’d be disrespectful if I say no, but I can take some water. You can’t believe that I’ve decided to skip my breakfast for our lunch as to have room for the meal; and right now I’m ready to eat a horse”, he said with a smile and sat down on the settee.
“That quite unfortunate, Mr. Tony, as we do not breed horses in our compound as you can see,” I said as I handed him a bottle of water.
“I have a place in mind where we can have a decent meal, that’s if you do agree that we’ll not just have to go across the road to eat out at that restaurant over there.”
“Come on, Mr. Tony, it will not speak well of me to allow you to come to my house only to go across the road to eat,” I said and looked at him as I reached for my handbag. “Where do you have in mind to go? I’m all set.
“Well, there is a place called, ‘The Asian Town’ in Old GRA, downtown. You’ll love the place.” He was looking at me with a slight smile hanging in his face.
“So then, let’s go,” I said and moved toward the door. “I think I’ve heard the reputation about the place, though I’ve not been there. But Mr. Tony, you never stopped to amaze me.”
“How’s that?” he asked as he stood up, still holding the bottle of water. “I mean, my amazing you?”
“Though I’ve never been to Asian Town, I heard it’s one of the exclusive places in town.”
“Miss Queen, I’ve made enough provision to take you only to the best place in this city. So, if you don’t mind we should be on our way now.”
“It’s a pleasure, Mr. Tony, there’s always a first time for everything, and this sure is one of those,” I said, as I locked the door and followed him to his car.
“Sir, but why did you have to wait until this morning to bring this up?” I had asked him when he brought them to me in the morning.
He was already in the office when Andrew
drove into the premises in the morning and had come out smiling to meet me as I
came out of the car.
“I knew you’ll not disappoint me, Miss
Queen,” he said, stretching out his hand to me. “But it’s a good thing you’re
I looked at him, he was putting on a red
T-shirt on a navy blue Chinos trouser and a white face cap.
“But Sir, this is most inconveniencing to me; rushing out to the office on a Saturday morning; you understand how very tasking the week has been to me.”
“I knew, Miss Queen, but this won’t take much of your time,” he said with a smile and turned toward the door. “Come on, cut out that frown, Miss Queen. No amount of frowning you do will change your appearance. So you‘ll just be whom you’ve ever been.” He turned around to go, almost colliding with Indiara who has come out from the passage with a teapot in a tray.
She looked at him, pushing her way past him
and walked into the reception hall.
“Sir, you’ll not want to be here longer than I do,” I said smiling, in spite of myself and went into the reception.
“Ah, Miss Queen, so he dragged you out here
also,” she said turning again to look at Engineer Adigio, who was already going
toward his office, her eyes sparkling.
“How ‘re you doing, Indiara? Well, nobody dragged me to the office. I came out here on my own. Please, do bring a cup of tea to my office, would you.”
“I’ll be there in a minute, Miss Queen, but you know it’s not easy climbing those steps to your office.”
Engineer Adigio had come into my office soon after, with a couple of files, his own cup of steaming coffee in his hand.
“You knew the Chairman returned late last night
from a meeting with some people from SPDC and called to intimate me about these
particular files,” he said, putting the files on my table as I put aside some
other documents I have already brought out from my drawer. “I would have called
you immediately then, but I felt you’ll need an early evening rest after the
“How very polite of you, Sir, not to have called. I may not have answered,” I said, reflecting on how we were just talking about him then.
He raised his eyebrows and regarded me briefly.
“Would I have disturbed anything if I had called?”
“Not at all, Sir, but considering that you
guessed that I must have been very tired, you would have disturbed my sleep. If
you could imagine how I needed that rest; even today.”
“Okay, I knew,” he said and started opening
the files. “Probably we could go out and have brunch if we are through with
this little work we have here.”
I noticed him looking at me hopefully. “Sir,
how long do you think this work here will take us?” This is not happening to me,
right? I thought to myself. Tony would be coming to the house soon, and I am
locked up with this.
“I don’t think we will be here for more than a couple of hours, latest. Just sort out the reference numbers, write a short memo based on the serial number of the jobs, and the cost details; then you type them, or possibly you can save it on soft copy. I will take them to the Chairman”.
He paused and looked at me briefly for. “But
probably, we can go together to his house and have a late breakfast, or we
could just go our way to have our brunch after I have handed the files over to
“I’m sorry Sir, that won’t be possible
today, I have a mid-day date.”
He turned to look at me, his eyes pale, the hand on the chair going firm suddenly; I was intent on opening the files he had placed on my table innocently.
“Miss Queen, a date? With whom are you going out with?” He asked, the tone of his voice sounding a little whimsical.
“Sir, why are you asking me that? I have my
life to live outside of Dowel.” I said and gave him a patronizing smile. “Well,
if you really want to know, I’m going out with my friend, Ebiere.”
“Oh, Miss Queen, you had me going there for a while,” the wrinkles on his forehead smoothened out. “I don’t think you’ll need me to accompany you then?”
“Sir, you’ll be out of place sitting between
the two us when we’ll be sharing our feminine jokes,” I said and started going
through the files. “Sir, if you’ll excuse me, let me see how fast we can have
this work here done.”
“Okay, you do that, I’m not holding you back,” he said and stood up to go.
As he was going out, I heard him whispering
under his breath, “like a tack on a marble stone,” and the door closed after
What’s that supposed to mean, Engineer
Adigio? I said to myself. But you have not told me anything; you have said
anything to me Adigio.
It’s 9 ‘0’ clock; not too bad, I guessed, as
I started tidying up the files and pushing them away everywhere. I have already
typed out the information needed and saved it in my flash drive. I will have to
go to the secretary’s office and have them printed out.
I hope there will be someone in that office
to do that for me. I do not know if Engineer Adigio had called in any of the
secretarial personnel to be around this morning.
I was very fortunate, I met Ani sitting on her desk polishing her nail. Aniefiok Udoh is one of the oldest staff in Dowel. About 40 years old and about 4’8, her bulk seems to be a shape planted permanently on her seat. Her round chubby face has a fixed smile that you cannot tell even when she upset with a particular situation; which is quite rare.
“Aunty Ani, Good morning. I didn’t know they also invited you to the office.” I greeted her and moved into the room and handed the flash drive to her.
“Oh, Miss Queen, my dear, this your company is full of work. You are not even allowed to have an early morning rest on a Saturday.” She said, her teeth flashing as she reached to collect the flash from me. What’s in here?”
“Aunty, it’s why we get paid and are still working here. I didn’t know you are in the office, I would have called you from my office and send the document through the net. It’s just a Memo I want you to print out for the Chairman.”
“Please, do have a seat. I hope it’s not a large document?” she asked inserting the flash into the driver of the desktop. “Queen, I heard that you’re the one in the field working on the contract with…now, what’s the name of that company…Mbell..” she raised her face up to me.
“You mean Ottabellecie Holdings?”
“Yes, Ottambellecie. What a name? How do they even give that funny name to the company by the way? Anyway, how’s the work out there, Queen?” she asked and rolled around her seat to switch on the printer, still looking at me with a sly smile.
“Well, Aunty, it’s not easy with all those machines and engines whining and grinding, and the smell of the mud mixed up with diesel choking one’s breath, you will give credit to the men working out there all through their lives,” I answered speculatively.
I could almost hear and see the men battling
with the machines and welding gears, and the high pitched and whining sound of
“But you know, I’m not involved in any of
the tedious work on site. I’m only there to observe and to learn.”
“Well, I’d still say you are very brave to
be out there, Queen,” she said and looked at me, “which is the file you want to
print out, and how many copies of each page do you want to print out?”
I move up closer to her and indicated the
file on the screen. “Just print out 3 copies each. It’s only a 3-page
document.” I starred back at her. “And Aunty Ani, money doesn’t tell where it’s
coming from; just some crisp bank notes to be expended on our vanities.”
“Well, it’s so, my dear. All I’d say is that you do take good care of yourself. There are already some tread marks on your face, though you’re still a young girl; you know those young men out there like their ladies to remain gorgeous as they have always known you to be,” she said and rolled her eyes at me while reaching for the sheets of paper from the printer.
“Nothing to worry about on that regard,
Aunty Ani, I can look well after myself so that when they start coming to look
for me, I’ll be as radiant as the beautiful Queen I’ve always been.” I reached
out and collected the papers from her. “Thank you for your candid advice and
for printing out my files.”
“You don’t have to thank me for printing your work for you, it’s Dowel’s job and it’s added to my monthly salary,” she said smiling and handed my flash drive to me, patting my hand in the process.
It was 10 ‘O’ clock as we drove out of the
premises. I furtively looked at the watch.
“Miss Queen, I thought you will have to go
with Engineer Adigio to the Chairman’s residence to deliver the job,” Andrew
said as he pushed the car forward to join the traffic on the road.
“Whatever that gave you that impression,
Andrew?” I asked him, reaching into my bag to bring out my makeup pack.
“Well, I heard the Engineer telling Indiara
that we will not be staying longer today, that he’s going with you to the
Chairman’s place and that the others should lock up early soon after him.”
That sounds presumptuous of him; though he tried to do just that, I persuaded him to free me as I have something to attend to in my house, and he had graciously obliged me.
“Do you realize, Andrew, that today is
“Of course I Knew, Miss Queen. I’m even surprised
that you were asked to come to the office today, in the first place.”
“Anyway, it’s a good thing that we have
closed earlier,” I said stealing a look at my watch for the umpteenth time
Andrew deftly maneuvered the car around the hoards
of tricycles emerging from every crevice of the street like a swarm of bees in
this mid-Saturday morning.
It was gladdening to notice that the sun was
not quite as fierce this morning and the sky was so clear with just the rolling
of the cumulus cloud under the blue sky chasing one another and then spreading
out to form varying shapes and dissolving into the distant horizon.
This is just another day filled with its own
activities in life’s adventure; I wondered what it holds for me before it will
close in the evening. The idea of a date with Tony was just as exciting as it
was foreboding. I wondered what Ebiere will say when she sees him.
This is Chapter 9 free to read, of the excerpt of my book ‘The Queen of Ottawa and Mbellecie’: to follow the serial of this free to read, go to chapter 8 on my blog, the hallmarkinfoblog here and write a comment of what you think about the story.
“I think we could work out something that will give us an opportunity to find out about this Mr. Tony,” she said and sat down on the only stool in the kitchen.
After she had outlined her strategy in about ten minutes I felt like a heavy burden is been lifted off my shoulder.
Ebiere has been my childhood friend. We have passed through school together. So many people had thought us to be sisters and have always treated us as such: a fact we have also not done anything to discourage. She is just about my age, a very likable person.
Her father has a law firm that has been operating successfully. Her mother is a matron at the State-owned Baham Memorial Hospital (BMH) in Port Harcourt, both of whom are from Kalabari.
We both attended the Government Girls Secondary School, Habour Road, and graduated from the University of Port Harcourt in 2010. While I had pursued a course in Project Management, Ebiere had read Banking and Finance.
During our 1year mandatory National Youth Service Program, she was posted to Edo State, I had mine in Osun State. That was thep only time we have been ever separated from each other for quite a long while.
I stirred on my bed, reflecting about our discussion of the previous evening. Could Ebiere be right that I have fallen in love with Tony? But it was not herself that had put the idea in my mouth to say that much.
What is Tony’s status at Ottablecie Holdings? Though, it is not all about what he is in the company that matters. I am sure that company, the way I have seen it from both the inside and about their ethics, would not erroneously employ any staff with a shady character.
Tony himself also looks quite a decent sort of a man. If he is not acting for vanity, he would make a good home builder. What is that thing Mom always says about a Bishop from the Bible?
That a Bishop should be a man of one wife and not giving into strong drinks, and all the dos and don’ts about what a good man would have to be. Though I am not in the waiting list for a Bishop to come calling as a life partner, or whatever the relationship would lead up to, I see in Tony not being far from that list.
Then, so is Engineer Adigio and all the other men that have taken a shot at you, Queen, I heard the sneering in my head.
I coiled in tightly under my bed covers and mumbled a short prayer, and deliberately shut my eyes, trying to sleep out today. Tomorrow is floating into the world from the horizon, cocooned in a silvery sheet of fog, bearing in its wing the sadness and joy that each day deposits into our lives, and fleeing away into an infinity of time-space.
From the distance, the city of Port Harcourt is humming with the sound of power plants from every home like tuneless grunge.
The grungy sound was insistent and seemed to be coming from under my bed. I rolled out of the sheet and tried vainly to shut out the noise by closing my ears with my hands.
Oh, it was my phone that was ringing beside my bed. I stretched my left hand to reach for, knocking it down onto the floor in the process. God, I hope I have not damaged the phone.
The ringing has stopped as I picked it up. Thank God, the screen was not broken and it was still on. Engineer Adigio’s name was showing on the screen.
This is not possible; what would he be calling me up for on a Saturday morning? I hope there is no problem at the site.
I sat down on the edge of the bed, and as I was trying to redial his number, his call came back in.
“Hello, Sir. Good morning. I hope all is well?” I asked grumpily.
“Hello, Good morning Miss Queen. I’m terribly sorry. I hope I didn’t wake you up from your sleep?” He asked, his voice sounding pleasantly over the phone. “There is a memo we have to raise this morning. The Chairman will be traveling with it to Abuja later in the morning……….
“Excuse me, Sir, today is Saturday, and yes, you just woke me up from my sleep. I can’t be in the office this early, and you know it, Sir.”’
My mind was in a turmoil; I need a break and they knew that I need it after the week’s hustling in the swamp.
“Come on, Miss Queen, it’s not that bad yet. Okay, Don’t worry. I’ll try to make up the time for you. I have already called Andrew, he should be already on his way to your house to pick you up and bring you to the office. He will be at your places latest by 08:00 ‘O’ Clock.”
“Sir, I hope it will not take the whole day,” I said looking at the time on the phone. It’s 07:00 AM; I cannot believe I have slept through the night.
“It will not be; just a couple of hours for you to write up a brief report which the Chairman would take with him on his journey to Abuja, and we’ll be done, and you’ll be on your way home and to have your rest, I promise you. I won’t waste your day Miss Queen,” I could hear the relief in his tone.
“That’s okay Sir, I’ll be waiting for the driver.”
“That’s my most dependable ally,” he said. I could hear his laughter at the other end before he hung up.
I’ll not have to call Mr. Tony to tell him that I’ll be engaged somehow in the office briefly in the morning, trusting that the little job will be through with before his coming. It was then I remembered that I do not even have his number; I had failed to collect it from him when he was arranging for this lunch date.
Isn’t that just great, I smiled to myself and went to have my bath. What a way to start a new day. It has come bearing in its stock the nuts and twists that will shapen our lives and activities. Let’s see how much of the surprises I am going to receive before it gives way to the night which is just rumbling away into the western horizon.
I looked up at the clock on my table; 09:30 AM. Tony had said he will be in my place before 1 PM. I do not think it is a wise idea to have him waiting for me; it’s not so much important as missing out on the date, but it does not just sound polite.
There were still piles of papers on my table that Engineer Adigio had dumped on me to sort out about some details on cost and their references, and to also raise a work order for a client which the Chairman will be taking along to Abuja later in the day.
“Sir, but why did you have to wait until this morning to bring this up?” I had asked him when he brought them in the morning.
He was already in the office when Andrew drove into the premises in the morning and had come out smiling to meet me as I came out of the car.
“I knew you’ll not disappoint me, Miss Queen,” he said, stretching out his hand to me. “But it’s a good thing you’re here.”
I looked at him, he was putting on a red T-shirt on a navy blue Chinos trouser and a white face cap.
For a while, I lost my thoughts about Timi and tried to be part of the congregation for the wedding, cheering and clapping for the couple. Betty’s friend was a young beautiful girl. Even with the veil on, I could see her charm oozing out with the grace on her steps as she walked down the aisle with her bridal train.
She poised elegantly as she extended her arms for the groom to link her with his, and together they marched down the aisle to the front of the congregation.
It was with all by the will power I had to hold myself together from looking across the sea of heads in the direction behind me and tried to be in the mood of the exuberant congregation. My mind kept fleeting to him. I was not looking at their seat as much as I could avoid it, but I was feeling his presence sitting there with his friend enjoying the wedding celebration.
I could hear the voice of the Pastor droning into my ears but I was unable to make much sense of what he was saying. I knew he was reading the wedding vow to the couple.
I saw hazily, as in a vision, the exchange of rings and the crowd roaring with applause and approval. Betty was also in the swing of the moment, jumping up and down, clapping her hands with the congregation, while nervously throwing a sideways glance at me suspiciously, and nudging me to tag along with the mood.
I looked at the groom, a young man of about 30. They made a very lovely and harmonious couple, full of life and energy. I cannot help imagining them making a home and building up a family and that was what the pastor was counseling them about. One of the greatest relics they would have as long as their relationship remains will be the image of this celebration and the goodwill it offered.
I wondered if I could build a happy home someday. With whom will I build my future with? Then it crossed my mind that Timi had not said he loves me. It is true that I lived with him in his house, but then, I was only a friend to Vera, his girlfriend, and whatever he had done then was only to please his girlfriend. He took me away from a troubled situation that would have aborted my education at the time.
Timi was my angel. How else could I ever think of him? He had been like a father to me while I stayed with him; ok, not quite like a father, probably like an elder brother. Even when I openly flirted with him – though cautiously – he had kept me at arm’s length.
I knew I made a great impact on him, but he had always treated me like a sister; sure, like a younger sister that needed to be protected. But he kissed me that night in my room, and it was not just a spur of the moment sort of a peck on my cheek.
It was an intense and emotional kiss, full blast on my lip. Oh, cut this stuff out Loundah. What if he has reconciled with Vera over the years? What if he is married?
I drifted on and off between the wedding ceremony and Timi, sitting just somewhere within the congregation. He had been many miles away in the distance some few hours ago, but he is now very close; a shouting distance from me. I stood up and marched forward with the congregation to make the traditional wedding offering with the choir singing ‘Amazing Grace.’
It was a joyful moment and everyone dancing and swaying to the rhythm of the song to the front where an offering box was standing. We were all dancing out in rows from the front line of seats going out first, followed by the second line; that was our line.
But as I returned to my seat with Betty swinging to the rhythm of the occasion behind me, someone was standing behind my seat. He drew back the seat a little to allow me a space to sit down, then I held my breath. Betty came bumping onto my back.
I looked up at the eyes staring at me. He was not smiling, just looking at me as someone hypnotized. I stared back at him, aware of my legs were almost wobbling under my weight. For a moment, the world stood still. Betty looked at us. She looked at my face, then at Timi’s and back to mine, her eyes questioning.
“Hello, can you excuse me for a minute? Can I talk to you outside for a few seconds, please?” He was pointing his right index finger behind him.
“Timi?” my voice was a whisper amidst the cacophony of sound in the church Then, his smile came out; his eyes were tearing into my soul, seemingly to ask all the questions that I also want to know the answers.
“It is you, Loundah, isn’t it?” he stretched out his right hand and gripped mine firmly. “Please, can I see you outside for a moment,” he was not saying it but pleading. He looked at Betty, “just a minute, I will release her back to you.”
She merely nodded her head. He literarily dragged me outside the church, as I grabbed my handbag and followed him out. He did not release my hand till we had come out through the front door, and away from the crowd outside the church. He then turned to look at me.
“I will first just ask you about your family. How is your family, and your mother?” he looked around the churchyard at the crowd of people.
“Where have you been, Timi?”
“That’s a long story I cannot stand here in a church courtyard to tell you about. But you have not answered me.”
“My mother is fine. She is doing greatly considering her age.” I said
“That is nice to hear, though I don’t consider her to be an old lady just now. But w…what about your kids?” he was fishing and that almost break my heart. How grateful I was at that moment to have waited for him.
“Do you really want to know about my kids now, standing in a church courtyard?”
“Okay, I got it, but please don’t think I am prying,” he said smiling. “Loundah, you are a lady now. A fully grown woman, not the little student I use to know at Abonnema. That’s been many years ago though. Well, I saw you sitting with your friend back there in the church, and I was not quite sure if my sight were not playing a fool on me. You have grown up to become a very lovely woman.” He looked closely at me.
“Thank you, Timi. Though, you are also not looking bad at all. You must have been doing something great about yourself. You are now Timi, the man.”
“See? That’s what I meant that you are now a woman,” he said looking around furtively then continued in the same breath, “I cannot speak what I have to say unless I know I’m saying the right thing and to the right Person. Who is the lucky dude that was able to have searched you out as a partner?”
I looked at him. He was staring at me intently, his face cleanly shaved. He was wearing a white Etiboh shirt on a black trouser, the stud hanging down from the lapel of the collar of the shirt. I can perceive the cologne coming from him, his voice when he speaks, was still that purring baritone as when I had first met him. He looks more masculine now and seemed to have a grip on things firmly in control. This is the Timi of my dream.
“The lucky man that found me out was not a dude, he was a perfect gentleman; only, he is still searching and has not found me.”
“Please, I didn’t want to do anything stupid here to be considered a low life usurper, but are telling me, Loundah, that you are not married?” he was regarding me with his eyes and mouth opened wide.
“I’m afraid all the men that have come to me do not seem to consider me attractive enough to be wife material.”
I do not know if that was the right thing to say right then or the right place to say it, but before I had finished saying it, Timi held my hand, drew me to himself and plastered a sharp peck on my lips.
“Ah! Stop it, Timi,” I drew away from him, though not wanting to, and looked around to see if anyone took notice of us. Everybody seems to be minding their business. “Do you want to draw the attention of the whole congregation to us?” I said smiling.
“I have found you, Loundah,” he said, seemingly to be unaware of my mock protest. “Our years of searching is over. I thought I would never ever find you, or be too late when I do. But I thank God we all waited. Now I know that God is faithful to answer the prayers of those who patiently wait upon him.”
He let my hand go. I do not know how we got to that same scripture, but I have just opened a new page in my life and Timi is reading it from his memory. I looked up at the entrance to the church and Betty was standing there looking at us; and she was not alone, she was standing there with Timi’s friend, all smiling at us.
The church was half filled when we arrived. However, we were able to find some empty seats on the second row in the central column. We meandered our way there and sat down, facing the pulpit. The celebrants were yet to come, though some of the officiating ministers were already in their seats, and the church choir was playing some soft worship songs.
“There, on that front row, are the parents of the bride,” Betty explained to me as I scanned over the congregation.
I never felt to be amused in a ceremony like this when everyone is in their Christmas best clothes; everyone sizing each other up especially the women. But then I think they are doing it for the couples.
I looked at the couple she was pointing out to me. They are a middle-aged couple, the father dressed in chieftaincy attire, chatting with the wife, also dressed in traditional attire of the riverine people. It is their daughter’s biggest day and I think, no one can take that joy away from them.
Any moment from now I think the Bride would be marching in with her bridal train. The officiating ministers have all taken their seat. I looked behind me at the door, expecting either the bride or groom to come in.
I saw two men came in through the door. The light from the early morning sun was slightly reflecting on the door as the men came in laughing. One of them was gesticulating with his hand as if he was sharing a joke.
But my eyes were on the second man. My breath seized all of sudden as if a wrench has been forcefully inserted into my lungs to hold the flow of air. The first time I saw that figure, he was wearing a custom uniform. From that day, my life seemed to have been cast into a mould.
I watched on speechless as he looked at his friend, seems to suppress a burst of laughter, as he pointed to some vacant seats on the far right of the auditorium. The angle of his face now showing clearly; that is Timi. He is so full of life and happy. I don’t think he is passing through an emotional wreck like me.
All this flashed through my mind in that split second. I could not say anything, just staring, and my eyes popping out of their socket; my breath finally came out sallow. I turned to look at Betty, I do not know what I hope to see on her, but I think she was about raising an alarm on account of me.
“Girl, what’s happening? Have you seen a ghost or something?” she was looking into my eyes.
My breath was coming out tightly through my chest and I cannot make out any clear sentence. I just pointed my finger at the direction where the two men were sitting.
“Timi,” the word came out huskily from my throat, I could not hear myself, but I guessed Betty did. Her eyes opened wide as she raised her face to look at where I was pointing.
My last recollection of that face was ten years ago in my room, as a student, when he had held me close to himself and kissed me. That was in the night, but then, I have lived with him in his room for about two weeks and have had contact with him for almost a year. The years would not dilute my senses or my eyes too dim now, that I cannot recognize him.
As I looked at the pair, they both raised their heads and looked at the choristers singing on stage, laughing. We happened to be sitting in the line of his vision and the singers. Somehow, they did not see us, or even if they did, they would not have recognized me from that distance. But to me, I saw the face very clear.
I cannot mistake the face of that tall man that had swept Vero off her feet when she met him at Abonnema. The man that had set her face aglow that I was able to notice the spark on her the moment I saw her. I have had the same sweeping sensation the first day I saw him coming along that foot part to our room when he came to visit Vera.
If there is any change about him now, it was the fact that Timi is now a man; a full grown man. I wondered if he still works with the Nigeria Customs Service.
“Are you sure that’s him?” Betty broke into my consciousness.
She has been trying to tug the sleeve of my blouse for the last minute while I was daydreaming.
“No Betty, you can’t try that on me now,” I hissed. ‘I mean, you are looking at a man in a crowded church auditorium almost 15 meters away from you. How would you confirm that he is Timi?” I could hear the tension and fear in her voice. “There is only one way to find out,” I said getting to my feet. But Betty pulled me back onto my seat. “Don’t tell me you want to walk up to him?” “That’s the idea.” “Don’t be a bitch, girl. Well, I mean, even if he is Timi that is sitting there, you can’t just walk up to him to say, ‘hi Timi, do you remember me? I am Loundah, your ex…” “Oh shut up, Betty,” I almost shouted at her. I saw heads turning to look at us. “Okay, well, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout at you, but you alone could understand what I have gone through lately.” “It’s okay, Loundah. I think this is what we will do. I will go over to them and ask him if he is Timi. Oh, the wedding is about to start. Let’s wait till after the church ceremony.” She looked at me smiling, “come on, girl, we won’t let him again to vanish this time. I nodded my head smiling and looked up at the Pulpit where one of the officiating ministers has just taken over the podium.
“Em…Pastor, if there is anything we should pray about, it is for Timi, and not against,” he raised his eyes brows to look at me. “He was someone I fell in love with some ten years ago when I was in College. But we were unable to push our relationship further before events wrenched us apart.
“So you were very close to him?”
“Not ‘were very close to him’; I am very passionate about him.”
“You are not thinking if he may now be married with a family? Ten years is a pretty long time.”
I shifted a little on the seat, but my eyes were still holding to his stare. “Sir, if that would be the will of God, I will accept it and look elsewhere, but for now; I have suspended my life these many years, waiting and hoping that he would come around someday: I will still keep that faith and hope and be praying about Timi.”
“Sister Loundah, I will admit that you have infected me with your faith. I will join you in your prayers for the will of God to be made manifest in your life. In the book of Psalm, chapter 40, in verse 1, King David gave us inspiration.”
He reached for the bible on the table, flipped through the pages until he got to where he was looking for, and read it out loud. “I was patient while I waited for the Lord. He turned to me and heard me when I prayed for help.”
He closed the book held his hands together in front of him on top of the table, looked across at me. “The Lord that answered David when He cried to him for help, will answer your prayers, Sister Loundah.”
He prayed with me shortly and I left his office to go to my house. It was not much of a distance between the church, which was in Woji road, GRA phase 2 in Port Harcourt, and my house. I have an apartment in Igbuku Street, ‘D’ line.
As I sat behind the wheel, I could feel the early morning dew enveloping the atmosphere all around the car. I felt cocooned inside the car. I immediately saw the image of Timi being enveloped by the mist as in my evening dream.
I switched on the headlights, but they could not help me much, as they were not able to penetrate more than just a couple of meter through the mist. All around me, I could see other members of the congregation pulling out their cars from the parking lot. Mechanically, I eased my car out from the parking lot to the road and drove off to my house.
My mind was searching through the counseling session I had with the pastor, to take hold of any substance of his talk that bears a reality in my situation. What was that thing he said about waiting patiently for God?
Sure, there was that part that really mattered to me. I Loundah, have patiently waited for the Lord about Timi; as David also waited upon the Lord. Yes, I have waited for the Lord about Timi. Surely, He must have taken notice on me and heard my midnight cries.
Yes, is it not true that I have been waiting upon God, about Timi, and the Lord took notice of me? Oh, my head was spinning around with the turns on the road as I drove to my house with the light traffic on the ever busy Port Harcourt streets.
That was what I believed you have done. You have taken notice of my pains and sacrifices, my desires and my yearnings, and above all, my cries. Thus, you took notice of me. Don’t you, my Lord? Just the way the bible said you took notice of Hannah when she was groaning and weeping bitterly in her spirit on account of her bareness.
I turned the key of the door and kicked it open with my right foot, and burst into my sitting and flung myself on the couch. The house was silent, save for the sound of the cars on the street.
Still lying down, I stretched out my hands and started worshipping and thanking God. I could feel His Spirit lifting me out of my depression. I felt His power washing me from the pain and gloom of my thoughts. I felt the room brightening up as if someone has put on a very powerful flood light.
When I opened my eyes, I saw the sun slipping in through the window into the room. I looked at my wristwatch; it was 7.30am. Oh, what am I still doing, lying down here? My cousin, Betty had invited me to go with her to attend a friend wedding ceremony at Borokiri, downtown, and she would be here any moment from now.
I stood up unsteadily and using the wall for support, and walked to the bedroom, pulling off my clothes along the way. I have to take a bath and have breakfast before going out with Betty.
I will just have a cup of tea with bread this morning. NEPA has been very merciful this night to have given us an uninterrupted power supply till now; I do not have to worry about warming my soup in the refrigerator. I do not tell you; NEPA is the acronym the National Power Supply is known here in Nigeria. That is by the way.
I had hardly sat down at the dining table when there was a gentle knock at the door; Betty. I opened the door and there she was.
“Ol’ girl, you look all radiant up, like a diamond, Betty. Are you the mother of the bride?” I was looking at her standing at the door dazzling in her traditional attire. She was tieing a red holland judge double wrappers on a white lace blouse; a diamond pendant slightly showing just above the top of the blouse dazzling like a midnight star.
She cat walked into the room, almost shoving me out of the door, looking closely at me as she turned to face me.
“We’re like Siamese twin in our dressing, Loundah,” she said laughing. “I decided to put on a red gele – hair tie- as against your green. And your shoes are as high as mine. I like this contrast between us so that somebody doesn’t end up picking you instead of me.”
“And who could that be? I thought we’re going to a wedding ceremony.” I said, sitting down to finish my cup of tea.
“Sure we are, but one cannot tell which predators are swimming in that ocean, and we aren’t getting any younger girl,” she poured herself a cup of tea from the jug, still standing, looking at my face.
“Betty, you’re making me feel antiquated already with your jibes. I’m just 27.”
“Ah, girl, who’s talking about you being twenty–seven, and I aren’t talking about you. I am talking about myself. After all, the girl we’re going to attend her wedding is just 25, a year younger than myself,” she carefully chipped off a slice of bread not to rub it on her lipstick.
“Can we then start going now, before all the sharks there have got too much feed and lose their interest on my sweet cousin?” I picked up my handbag from the couch.
Mine was green like my shoes and hair tie. Betty’s red, otherwise, we have just duplicated ourselves. As I turned to her, I saw that she was peering closely at my face. “What? Why are you looking at me that way?” instinctively, I touched my face.
“Loundah, have you met someone recently that you want to talk to me about?”
“What is that? What did you see, or hear about me?”
She sat down, leaned her two elbows on the table, holding her jaw with both hands, and whispered, “You have a spark in your eyes. And don’t tell me you don’t know what that meant to a lady. Have you met somebody since the last time we met?”
“Ah, Betty, you’re serious, aren’t you? You aren’t kidding, are you”? I said, patting her.
“No, Loundah, I’m not laughing and I’m really serious. You look happy and your voice rings when you speak. I am so happy for you for whatever it was that has restored joy into your life.” I know who did, but I cannot tell her that.
How can she believe if I tell her that it was Jesus that has given me an assurance that God has heard my cry and had relieved me of my pain?
“Come on, let’s start going so that we will not be entering the church late and become the cynosure of all eyes – but probably that’s what you’re craving for, Betty.
“You want to bet your life? I’m going to crack the tiles in that church with my heels, that everyone will take me for the bride,” She stood up laughing at her threat.