Click here to read Episode 6
There were four other women in the cell with me. Their faces were hard. Anger was what I saw in their eyes, not fear. They just stared at me while I settled in a corner of the room.
With my back against the wall, I stared blankly into space.
Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Who had mentioned that scripture to me recently?
Patrick. I remember! The night Ranti showed me the sex video, I had chatted Patrick up on WhatsApp and he had quoted that verse.
I sighed. ‘God, are you there? I don’t know who else to turn to. I’m tired of my life. I’m so tired. I don’t care about money. I don’t care about anything.’
The tears returned. ‘God, please. I need you to help me.’
Anyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
I went on my knees and bowed my face to the ground. ‘Jesus, I come to the cross where you shed your blood for my sins. Please have mercy on me. Oh God, I am weak and tired and fed up. I want you Lord.’
Tears formed a small pool on the floor in front of me. ‘Jesus, please.’
I went flat on the floor, tired from crying. I stayed there for a long time and I must have slept off in that position. When I opened my eyes, everywhere was dark. I sat up, wondering what the time was.
‘You are awake.’ A gentle voice whispered beside me.
Because It was dark, I couldn’t see whoever was talking to me. But I felt a presence. Which of the inmates, I couldn’t tell.
‘Yes I am.’ I responded.
‘I’m going to die.’ The woman said.
How do you respond to such an emphatic statement.
‘Why would you say that?’
‘I was arrested few hours before you got here. I poisoned my husband.’
I blinked. ‘Why?’
‘He’d been cheating on me since we got married. For years, I internalized the pain but I just couldn’t bear it anymore when he announced he was taking in another wife. He said I was of no use to him since I couldn’t give him a child. As always, I smiled when he said that. I have never been known for emotional outbursts. I always remained unruffled, no matter how hard you try to upset me. But Inside, I was a volcano ready to erupt. My husband looked at me one day and said, ‘don’t anything get to you?’ I wish he could hear my cry of frustration. Anyway, the morning he was supposed to pay the bride price for his new bride, I poisoned him.’
I sighed. ‘Is he in the hospital now?’
‘He is dead.’
I gasped. ‘oh no!’
‘I was the suspect since I served him breakfast that morning. Yet it’s difficult to pin it on me because my in-laws were around that day, bustling about the kitchen in preparation for the ceremony. I denied having anything to do with it. I told them I only served my husband the food handed over to me from the kitchen.’
‘But it was you who poisoned him?’
‘Yes I did. Although I have lots of witnesses ready to prove that I wasn’t capable of committing such a crime. My mother-in-law believes I did it. She was the one who got me arrested.’
My head was as dark as the place I was. What advice was I supposed to give in this situation?
‘Tomorrow when my lawyer arrives, I’m going to tell him I’ll plead guilty to the crime. I know my husband’s ghost will chase me to an early grave even if the judge acquits me.’
I reached for her trembling hands and I could tell that she was crying. Her head fell on my shoulders. She wept uncontrollably. I wept with her too. We were two women doused in pain by choices they had made.
I imagined how for many years, she had held back the pain and told no one about her feelings, but here she was, letting it all out. My dress was soaked with her tears.
After a long time when I saw she was calm, I wrapped my hands around her shoulders.
‘I am Tinuke.’ I said.
She sniffed ‘Adunni.’
‘How do you feel now?’
She chuckled. ‘I feel better. Thank you.’
‘Adunni, there is only one person you can trust at this point in your life. I’m not promising that by having faith in this person, you’ll escape the consequences of your action but I can assure you that he’ll never leave you nor forsake you. For everyone who believes in him, where we are right now is just a transit to a better life. A life where there’ll be no pain or sorrow.’
‘Please Tinuke, lead me to him. I want that same peace I saw on your face yesterday. If he’ll accept me, I’ll gladly follow him.’
I got a new convert that day. We talked about a lot of things and I shared a few scriptures I could remember off the top of my head.
‘I feel so peaceful.’
I laughed. ‘I know the feeling.’ I played with her fingers, all the while wishing I could see her face. ‘Adunni, the devil will come at you. He’ll bring guilt and make you feel like Jesus is not with you. Don’t listen to his lies. Resist him and he will flee from you. You have a father you can talk to. He’ll always listen.’
‘Tinuke, thank you.’ she said, calmly. We lay on the floor holding each other’s hand and slept off.
It was the voice of a police officer that woke me up the next morning. I opened my eyes and turned to see Adunni lying beside me. Her eyes were opened. She smiled at me.
‘I talked to God this morning. He said he’ll never leave me. Thank you for leading me to Christ.’
I couldn’t stop staring at Adunni. She had a very sweet face and it was just impossible to believe that someone like her could think anything murderous.
A police officer appeared in front of our cell.
‘Who is Tinuke!’
I sat up. ‘That’ll be me.’
The police officer unlocked the gate. ‘You are free to go. Oya come out.’
Adunni and I stood up and faced each other. I wish I could whisk her out of the cell. We hugged. When I pulled away, there were tears in my eyes. She had tears in hers too.
‘I’ll be praying for you.’
She nodded. ‘Thank you.’
I waved her goodbye and left with the police officer.
At the counter, Patrick was chatting with one of the officers while Monica and Tola stood towards the entrance. Tola’s hands were across Monica’s shoulders as they talked.
When Patrick raised his head and saw me, he moved away from the counter and pulled me into his arms. Tola shouted for joy and ran towards me. Monica just stood at the entrance, watching us. Patrick thanked the officers and we left the station.
Outside, three cars were parked. I recognized one of the cars as Funmi’s Ford Ranger. The one she had taken me in after that hangout at the restaurant. I wondered where Ronke and Susan were now. How long had it been since I went to that church? Wale, Mercy, Funmi and a woman I’ve not met stood beside one of the cars. They were all excited to see me and that left me puzzled.
Wale led me to the woman, the only face strange to me.
‘Tinuke, this is my wonderful sister-in-law.’
‘We call her Mimi.’ Patrick added. ‘Kai, Tinuke, She breathes rhema. She is a woman of God.’
Her smile was beautiful. There was something about her that immediately drew me to her.
‘Since she married my brother, his life has not remained the same. My brother is now very soft and gentle.’ Wale added.
Tola clapped her hand. ‘Have you seen where Mimi is dishing out word of knowledge. I want to be like Mimi when I grow up.’
Funmi’s hands were around Tola’s waist. She was laughing so hard it made me wonder the story behind her sudden friendship with Tola.
Mimi shook her head. ‘Don’t listen to them. I’m just God’s daughter as you are.’ She hugged me. ‘I’m happy to finally meet you.’
Having all these people around me after what had happened, embarrassed me. it would have been easier to deal with disgust and irritation, but not this show of affection.
‘There is an extra room in my house, if you need a place to stay.’ Mimi said.
I smiled, wondering how she knew I was battling with where to go from there.
‘My house is opened too. But Mercy now lives with me. We can still manage together, if it’s fine with you.’
They waited for me to make a decision. Monica stood quietly by her car talking with Mercy. I asked to speak alone with Monica.
Mercy moved away to join the others. I stood in front of Monica.
‘I’m sorry about the pain I caused you by hooking up with your husband. I was stupid and foolish. I hope you find a place in your heart to forgive me.’
Monica folded her hands. ‘Ex-husband.’ She moved closer. ‘Did he ever hit you?’
I nodded. ‘Yes he did. Several times. He did worse than that. He made a sex video of us and threatened he’ll upload it if I leave him.’
‘Stupid man. I wonder what made me hold on to him for that long. I saw it coming even while we were dating but I was just too dumb to call off the relationship. Ranti made me feel like a woman and I just couldn’t leave him. After the divorce, I went through depression that almost killed me. I had no friend in the US I could confide in and I was too ashamed to talk to my friends here. I pleaded with Ranti to come over. I wanted him so bad. He came and hurt me again. I was pregnant when I saw your pictures on his phone. I just went crazy.’
I sighed. ‘I’m really sorry Monica.’
‘He made me feel I was ugly and he was the only one who could accept me. I believed him. I needed him. I gave him whatever he wanted. He lived off me Tinuke. Thank God I reached out to a Christian psychiatrist. I don’t want to bore you with my horrible past. I just want to say I don’t have anything against you. You can continue to live in the apartment as long as you want.’
I shook my head. ‘I can’t stay there anymore. Too many painful memories.’
Monica stretched out her hand. ‘It’s nice meeting you Tinuke.’
I took it. ‘Same here.’
As I returned to join the others, I knew exactly the next step to take. Mimi. I perceived there were things God wanted me to learn from her. I needed discipleship so badly. I needed a hand to guide me along this Christian journey. I wanted so badly to solidify this new relationship I had started.
‘I’m going with Mimi.’ I announced. Mimi smiled and opened the front door of her car for me. I climbed in.
‘So you are abandoning me for Mimi.’ Tola said, pretending to be angry.
I laughed and blew her a kiss.
‘We are hanging out next week Friday. You wanna come?’ Funmi said.
Funmi and hangout sha. I smiled. ‘I’m not sure. But I’ll get back to you.’
Patrick leaned on the car window.
‘Tomorrow, we’ll move your things over to Mimi’s place. You are not going to Akure again o.’
‘Patrick, I still might. It was a mistake coming to Lagos in the first place.’
Mimi placed her hand over mine. ‘We take it one step at a time. We follow Christ as He leads.’
Patrick moved away as Mimi drove out of the compound. I had many questions to ask this woman. Why had she come with the others? Had God sent her to take me in? The only time I’d heard about her was when Wale narrated how his brother had waited years with her to get his father’s consent.
I didn’t know where the next phase of my life will lead me to, but like Mimi said, my responsibility was to follow Christ daily.
Mimi turned on the stereo and I relaxed against the headrest. A song was playing and I remembered hearing that song when I was still in Tola’s house. It only made sense to me that day. I asked Mimi to turn on the volume a little more.
Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh it chases me down, fights till I’m found
Leaves the ninety-nine.
I couldn’t earn it,
I don’t deserve it,
Still you give yourself away
Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Those words left me teary. I felt God’s love in ways I’d never known and right there with my eyes closed, I prayed for Adunni. I asked God to reveal his love in the cell and see her through the trial.
I was right. Moving into Mimi’s house was the best decision I made. It was like starting my Christian walk from the scratch.
What had I been learning all those years?
Mimi opened my eyes to an understanding of the grace I had received. I learnt scriptures on my identity in Christ and the victory I had through Christ’s finished works.
I began to see in many ways what it meant to know God.
For hours, Mimi sat with me in the dinning room as we moved from one epistle of Paul to another. I looked forward to morning devotions. Bro Femi, Mimi’s husband, made the scriptures so easy to understand.
Even when I followed Mimi to her shop every day, the scriptures weren’t far from our lips. Within three months, I had grown in the realities of Christ so much that I decided I didn’t want to have anything to do with business. I wanted to be a missionary sold out to God’s work. If it meant that I go hungry for days and live out in the open, I was ready.
The thought of trekking from one village to another preaching the gospel and living in one hut with no electricity thrilled me.
One morning, as I prepared to go with Mimi to the shop, she entered my room.
‘You have a visitor.’
I raised my head. ‘Who?’
‘Monica and one other lady.’
‘Thank you ma’am. I’ll go see them once I’m done dressing up.’
As Mimi turned to go, she stopped. ‘Tinuke, you are a very smart woman. Within the short time you got here, I’ve learnt so much about business than anywhere else. I think it’s time for you to step out and do something bigger. You can’t remain a staff in my small baby shop forever.’
I slide my feet into my sandals. ‘Who has time to be chasing the things of the world. Mimi, I’m thinking of signing up for full time missions. There is a short-term training coming up next month and I hope to attend. After that I’ll join a mission body and get posted to a village to serve.’
Mimi folded her hands, her gaze fixed on me. ‘Who is giving out that instruction. The Lord or your flesh?’
‘How can my flesh give out an instruction to suffer for the kingdom. You taught me that the flesh does not like the things of God. Mimi, there are men and women out there who live in shacks and barely have anything to eat. I need to be there with them. I want to be a village evangelist.’
‘It’s a good cause.’ Mimi said, ‘But my question still remains, who is calling you to do this. Remember our study of the epistles? At the beginning of almost every book, Paul pointed out with all conviction from whom he received his call. If this is an instruction from God, then go ahead and obey him. I just don’t want you going to the extreme because of your past experiences. We stay exactly where God wants us to be.’
After Mimi left the room, I stood there, pondering over her words. Even if God did not expressly say anything to me, as long as my desire was not wrong, God should be fine with it.
It was this thought I battled with as I left the room to attend to my visitors.
Shade was sitting with Monica when I entered the living room. She stood up when she saw me. Her eyes were filled with pain.
‘Good to see you again.’ Monica said, after giving me a side hug. ‘Look who I brought here to see you.’
I turned towards Shade. ‘Hello Shade.’
‘Tinuke I’m so sorry for the way I treated you. Please forgive me.’
I smiled and motioned for her to sit.
‘Shade, If God could forgive me my sins, who am I to hold anything against you.’
Monica faced me. ‘Tinuke, I didn’t even know you’d been fired until two days ago when I got back into the country and Shade came to tell me she was taking you back whether or not I let the firm handle my father’s investment. She was shocked when I told her we were good. I had to bring her here as quickly as I could. ‘
Shade moved to the space beside me. ‘I’ve been trying to reach you for months now. Tinuke we need you back at the firm, Please. Most of the clients have been asking after you. Some of them have refused to do any business with us now that you are away.’
‘What of Francis. We both know he’s way better than I am.’
Shade sighed. ‘Francis has gone. He left for the US shortly after you were fired. I need you Tinuke. Come and head the Finance department. You’ll receive double of what you earned as at the time you left.’
I chuckled. I wish Shade knew that money held no place in my heart anymore. What I wanted was to be in a village eating fried worms and drinking water from the stream.
‘Shade, things has changed in the past few months. I’m sorry I cannot come back.’
Shade sighed. ‘Okay. Can I at least have your new line?’
We exchanged numbers. As we walked out of the house, Shade turned, ‘I hope you change your mind.’
‘I’m not sure about that.’ I responded.
Later that evening, Patrick picked me up and we drove to an eatery around Admiralty road. When I told him of my plans to attend a training for missionaries, he didn’t say anything.
We talked about other things. The two bedroom apartment he had just rented in Bodija. His experience with the students in his class. His invitation to speak at the Ibadan Varsity Christian Union (IVCU) service. My daily experiences at Mimi’s shop. The ideas I’d given to Mimi to expand the shop. We spoke for hours.
At a point, Patrick looked at me and said,
‘See the way your eyes lighten up when you talk about business. Are you sure God is calling you to be a missionary?
‘Yes. See, you and Mimi cannot stop me.’ I started singing.
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
I have decided to follow Jesus
No turning back, no turning back.
Patrick laughed. ‘I don hear you.’
We were interrupted by a staff of the eatery. They wanted to close up. It was then we realized we had been sitting down there for hours.
Instead of driving home, we sat in the car and talked. When Patrick starts the engine, another gist would come up and he’d turn it off and then we’ll talk. We went on like that for about an hour.
‘You’ll be leaving Lagos for Ibadan tomorrow?’ I asked, as we drove towards V.I where Mimi’s house was located.
Patrick nodded his head as he reached for a bottle of water. ‘I’ll be very busy for the next two weeks.’
‘So you won’t come to Lagos at all?’
He shook his head. ‘Nope.’ He winked at me. ‘Are you going to miss me?’
‘Who will miss you. Go joor.’
Patrick laughed. His eyes fell on the car clock. ‘Oh my God! It’s 11:30.’
My eyes widened. I brought out my phone. ‘Oh no! Mimi has called me several times.’
When we got to the gate, it was locked. I had never stayed out this late before.
‘Patrick, what do we do?’
Patrick dialed Mimi’s number.
‘Hello.’ I could hear her voice over the speaker.
‘Good evening ma. Please we are at the gate.’ Patrick said.
‘Ok.’ She ended the call.
When Mimi opened the gate, I couldn’t tell if she was upset with me, but when I saw her husband standing beside her, my heart fainted. Mimi might not say much but you see Bro Femi, he does not take nonsense.
‘Patrick, look at the time you are bringing Tinuke back home.’
Patrick prostrated. ‘I’m very sorry sir. It won’t happen again.’
‘Don’t try it again. Good night.’
Patrick left and I walked quietly into the house like a teenage girl ready to be spanked. How did time fly so quickly. Patrick had been away from Lagos for almost a month and it felt like we hadn’t seen in years. He was my best friend. There was nothing Patrick didn’t know about me.
As I changed into my nightgown, Mimi entered the room.
‘Tinuke, I don’t want you to think we are treating you like a child. You are an adult and even though you are under our roof, you are old enough to make your decisions. We are not in anyway trying to be forceful. We just want both of you to be careful. We are not ignorant of the devices of the devil.’
I nodded. ‘I’m sorry for staying out so late. It won’t happen again.’
She hugged me. ‘Goodnight dear.’
‘Goodnight ma.’ I responded.
Yetunde called very early the following morning. She had found my father. I held my phone to my ears and for several seconds, I couldn’t say anything.
‘Tinuke, are you there?’
‘Oh..Yes. How did you find him.’
‘I was in the kitchen preparing breakfast when I heard mum on the phone. She was talking so low I could hardly hear her. But from her tone, I sensed something was up. Out of curiosity, I went towards the window and eavesdropped on her conversation. I figured it was dad because she kept saying, ‘No, you cannot see them. Where were you, when I suffered to take care of them.’ When she ended the call and went into the bathroom, I took her phone and copied out the number.’
‘Tinuke, I called him. Immediately I heard his voice, I knew I was talking to dad. I introduced myself. He was so happy. We talked for almost thirty minutes.’
‘Where was mum at that time?’
‘She had gone for prayer meeting. Dad said he has been trying to reach us.’
‘I don’t believe him.’
‘I don’t care what you believe. He is in Lagos and I’ll be leaving Akure this morning to spend some time with him.’
‘Dad is in Lagos?’
‘Yes. He asked after you. I told him you were working in Lagos. Tinuke, let’s go and see him.’
I hissed. ‘You and who? I’m on mummy’s side. I don’t have any business with him.’
After the call, I sat back on the bed, picturing how my father looked like. Had he been in Lagos all these years? I was just six when he left and the picture I had of him was blurry. Two years before he finally left us, he was hardly home but I remembered that the times he came home, he and mum always quarreled.
Mimi’s kids were getting ready for school while I sat in the living room working on an organogram for Mimi’s business. Mimi sold baby clothes but wanted to diversify to other baby products. We had worked on some ideas together and already we were seeing results.
Bro Femi came out of the room with a small box.
‘Has your friend called you to share the news.’
I looked at Bro Femi puzzled. ‘What news?’
‘My father has finally agreed for Tola and Wale’s wedding to hold’
‘Halleluyah!’ I clapped in excitement. ‘I have to call her.’
Mimi came out of the kitchen, brushing her long wavy hair. ‘Sweetheart, let’s go. You don’t want to miss your flight.’
He stood up. His son, Jerry, one of the most introverted boys I’ve ever met, took his box to the car. His sister, a complete opposite, had her hands wrapped around her father’s waist. She was jumping and shouting, ‘Daddy, don’t go!’
‘Pray for me.’ Bro Femi said. ‘I’m travelling to Calabar to see my father. He’s been admitted in the hospital and wants to see me. I hope to minister Christ to him. Please, pray that his heart will be opened to the gospel.’
‘Amen.’ I responded.
‘Will you be able to make it to the shop today?’ Mimi asked.
‘I should. Once I’m done with this.’
When they left, I had this urge to pray. I dropped my pen on the table and bowed my head. The moment I did, I saw myself back in Fidson Corporate Solutions. But this time, I was sitting in Shade’s chair, talking to some of the staff. I opened my eyes.
‘God, what’s this?’ I uttered aloud.
When I closed my eyes again and began to pray in tongues, I was again in a boardroom, talking to stakeholders. The picture disappeared and next I saw myself talking to men in suits and women in high-heel shoes. They all had laptops in front of them. It faded into a large room with hundreds of women standing up as I mounted the podium. Behind me was written in large prints. ‘The Business Woman under God.’
I opened my eyes again and picked up a bible from the dinning table. As I opened it, the verse Patrick and I had read together the night before returned.
I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you.
‘Lord, show me what you really want me to do. I surrender to your will.’
I stood up and walked into the room to get dressed to join Mimi at the shop. When I reached for my phone, I noticed Tola had called me several times. I was about to call her back when my phone rang.
I stared at the phone, battling whether or not to pick the call. I let it ring. it stopped and few seconds began to ring again.
‘Tinuke, my father wants to see you.’
My eyes widened. ‘Your father is in Lagos?’
‘Yes he came in two days ago. He wants to meet with you. Please Tinuke don’t say No. Even if you don’t want your job back, just come and see him.’
‘Where is this meeting taking place.’
‘Can you come to my house this evening? I can come and pick you up.’
‘Don’t worry, just send the address. I’ll find my way there.’
‘Thank you so much Tinuke. Dad is so eager to meet you.’
Since I’d given out the car Ranti bought for me, I had to call for a taxi to take me to Shade’s house somewhere in Lekki. She meet me at the gate when I called to inform her that I had arrived.
‘You mean you stay here alone?’ I asked as we walked towards the front door. The duplex was gigantic.
Shade smiled, her hand locked into mine. ‘You see why I insisted you join me here. Anyway, I have a housekeeper, a chef and some cleaners living with me.’
‘That’s better. I’m not sure I can sleep alone in this kind of place.’
When we got to the entrance, Shade stopped and faced me. ‘I’ve missed you so much.’
‘I’ve missed you too.’
We hugged. She held my hand and we walked into the biggest sitting room I’ve seen in my life.
A man was reading newspaper when I entered.
That must be Shade’s father, I thought.
By the left was a flight of stairs that led to only God knows where.
‘Dad, she is here.’
He put down the newspaper and stood up. He looked more handsome than I’d seen him in the picture in Shade’s office. I was surprised when he stood staring at me.
Again, the face. the familiarity. The connection.
Shade’s father began to sing.
Omo o, ke i pe d’agba
Omo o, ke i pe d’agba
Kekere, jojolo, mo feran re
Omo o ke i pe d’agba
Omo o ke i pe d’agba
Like a thunderbolt, my head exploded with hidden memories.
This is my father!
‘Dad.’ I muttered.
I saw him holding me and dancing in front of our house singing this song. I remembered that whenever he came from his long trip, I’d beg him to sing me the song. He’d put me on his shoulders and whirl me around singing.
Omo o, ke i pe d’agba
I turned to Shade. ‘This is your father?’
Shade looked confused. ‘Dad, you know Tinuke?’
Footsteps hurried down the stairs. I looked towards that direction and there was my sister descending down the stairs. Was I dreaming?
‘Tinuke!’ She stared at me surprised.
Jesus, what’s going on? I grabbed the edge of the sofa for support.
‘Dad, your daughter finally made it here.’ Yetunde said, excitedly.
Shade looked from my father to me. ‘What’s going on here? Tinuke is also my step sister? Dad, say something.’
My father nodded and sat down.
I was up on my feet and heading for the door. Yetunde called my name but I didn’t answer. Shade blocked my path.
‘Tinuke, I’m as shocked as you are. Please don’t leave. Let’s talk this as a family.’
I felt like slapping her right there. How dare she refer to us as family? She enjoyed the privilege of having a father while we lived from hand to mouth. Was this not the child mum said my father had for the Chief’s daughter, a secret he’d kept away from us? All the while I was pursuing a life of comfort, ending up with a maniac and landing in police custody, she lived comfortably in this big house.
How ironic it was that I’d been chased out of a company owned by my father.
‘Shade, please let go of my hand. I have some thinking to do.’
I stormed out of the house.
I don’t have a father, I repeated several times, anger burning through every part of my body.
Click here to read Episode 8