Click to read Episode 8
Tomi pulled out a long Ankara gown from a cabinet and handed it to a young fair skinned lady sitting on a stool. The woman held up the gown and ran her eyes over it.
‘You can try it on over there.’ Tomi said, pointing to a makeshift changing room at the far corner of the studio. The woman walked over to the changing room, drew back the curtain and stepped behind it. After a few minutes, she stepped out and stood in front of a mirror hanging on the wall.
Tomi stopped rolling the hand wheel of her sewing machine and went to her customer. ‘What do you think?’
The lady’s face lit up with a smile. She placed her hand on her waist and gazed at Tomi’s reflection from the mirror. ‘This is so beautiful. You are really good at this.’
‘Aunty, you look sweet.’ One of Tomi’s apprentices commented.
The lady ignored the remark and turned sideways, staring at her buttocks.
‘Can you make the hips firmer?’
‘Sure.’ Tomi said. ‘Is that all?’
‘Yes.’ She responded, facing the mirror again. ‘I really like it.’
She returned to the changing room and pulled off the gown. When Tomi made the adjustment, she paid her balance and left the fashion studio.
Tomi returned to the working table where a flowery material was spread out on the table. She picked up her phone and was checking the style the customer had requested when one of her apprentice called her attention to a couple that had just walked in.
The woman, a very pretty lady, in a long flowing gown held an infant in her arms. A tall man with an afro stood beside her.
‘Good afternoon. My name is Tomi. ’ Tomi introduced herself.
The woman with the child wanted to make some wears. Tomi took her measurement and they went back and forth on the style for the Ankara materials. When they settled for a price and the pickup date, Tomi escorted them out and thanked them for coming.
‘Forgive my bad manners, I didn’t even ask for your names.’ Tomi said, as they got to a tinted green Sienna.
‘My name is Rotimi.’ The man said. He touched his wife’s shoulder. ‘She is Chidera.’
Rotimi? Tomi thought the name sounded familiar.
Rotimi smiled at her. ‘Does the name Rotimi ring a bell?’
Tomi frowned. ‘Kinda. Can’t place it though. Have we met before?’
Rotimi gave her a long look. The baby started to cry. Chidera stepped away from them and got into the Sienna.
‘I am Femi’s friend and prayer partner.’ Rotimi said.
The name clicked. Femi had spoken so much about him. They had planned visiting Rotimi’s family before the breakup happened.
‘Yes, I remember. We’ve spoken on the phone once.’
Rotimi nodded. ‘You have a wonderful memory.’ Rotimi moved closer to Tomi. ‘Femi really wants you back. He deeply regrets his actions and he is pleading for another chance.’
Tomi looked away. ‘How sure am I that he won’t just wake up one morning and say he is not interested?’
Rotimi thrust his hands into his pocket. ‘Tomi, sit down with him. He is ready to explain the event that led him into taking that decision. Afterwards, you can conclude if the relationship is worth pursuing.’
A white lexus pulled up behind Rotimi’s car. Segun got down. He frowned as he walked towards them.
He pulled Tomi into his embrace at the same time sizing Rotimi up. When Tomi tried to pull away, he kept his hand clamped on her waist. Tomi scowled at him defiantly and reluctantly, he released her.
‘Hello.’ Rotimi said, stretching out his hand. Segun looked at his fingers. No ring. He shook it, annoyed at the calmness on Rotimi’s face.
Tomi couldn’t understand why Segun was acting so weird. Annoyed, she stepped forward and fixed her gaze on Rotimi. ‘I’ll think about what you said.’
Rotimi tapped her lightly on her shoulder and walked over to the driver’s side. At the same time, Chidera opened the door, the infant now asleep on her laps.
‘My husband and I look forward to having you at dinner soon.’ Chidera said, and glanced briefly at Segun before shutting the door. Segun felt embarrassed as the car eased out into the road.
‘Segun, what was that for?’ Tomi said, clearly upset.
Segun’s eyes burnt with desire as he gazed into Tomi’s eyes. He had been up all night thinking about her. She said she loved him. How those words had sounded like music to his ears. He’d know his coming to Ado was divine. It was no coincidence that they had been led to return to Ado. God had a greater plan for them.
‘What do you mean by what was that for?’ Segun asked, feigning ignorance
‘The way you were clinging to me and the look you gave Rotimi.’
I thought he stepped into my territory, Segun wanted to say. ‘I’m sorry.’
Tomi eyed him and returned to her studio. Segun caught up with her and wrapped his hand around her shoulder. Tomi didn’t push his hand away. Instead, she leaned into him as they walked into her fashion studio.
Femi stood outside Rotimi’s gate and checked his wristwatch. His friend had been gone for over an hour. Every minute felt like eternity. He returned to his Blue Camry and sat down. Restless, he played Creflo Dollar’s The art of being alone with God, but he couldn’t concentrate on the sermon. He was too distracted.
Would she allow him back into her life? Would she listen to Rotimi?
Femi jumped out of his car when he saw Rotimi’s car approaching from a distance. When the car stopped in front of the entrance, he opened the gate and Rotimi drove in. He shut the gate quickly and hurried to meet his friend.
‘How did it go?’ He asked as soon as Rotimi climbed down from the car.
Rotimi’s son, Joshua, rushed out of the house followed by a teenage girl. The girl took the baby from Chidera and was playing with him when Joshua tapped his father’s legs and stretched out his arms.
‘Daddy, carry me.’ he cried.
Chidera pulled Joshua away from the men. ‘Daddy is coming inside very soon. Let’s go inside.’
Joshua wrapped his hands around his mother’s finger. They all went into the house. Rotimi motioned for Femi to get into his car. Femi went around to the passenger’s side and sat down beside his friend.
‘Do I stand a chance of getting her back?’
Rotimi looked at his friend. ‘I spoke with her. She was skeptical of you running off again.’
Femi flopped back against the car seat. ‘It’s not going to happen again. It won’t!’ He rubbed his neck, tired. ‘How do I convince her?’
‘She said she is going to think about it.’
‘At least that’s a way forward.’
Rotimi gave his friend his full attention. ‘I’m not saying this to discourage you but a man showed up while we were talking. It is very obvious he has an interest in Tomi. The way he held her possessively, it’s glaring he has a thing for her. So it is either Tomi is at the verge of moving on or she has already started something with this guy.’
Femi let out a sigh. ‘I’m not letting her go. She belongs here with me. No man is going to have my girl.’
Rotimi touched his friend’s shoulder. ‘It’s not by power or by might. Don’t let your five senses lead you in this matter.’
Femi opened the door. ‘I have to go now.’
‘Won’t you join us for dinner?’ Rotimi asked.
‘Not today. There is something pressing I must do.’ He gave his friend a cursory glance. ‘I’ll see you after church tomorrow.’
The door was slightly opened when Femi got home. He entered and quietly closed the door behind him. He stared at the body sprawled on the floor. His eyes drifted to two empty bottles lying carelessly on the floor beside her.
He was worried about his sister. Since he came back from Lagos on Friday, he noticed she had withdrawn into her shell. She had left the house that night and returned home Saturday morning drunk and now again it was happening.
He pulled her up from the floor and led her to her room before placing her gently on the bed. He covered her with a duvet.
Femi went into his room and locked the door. There were things he needed to settle with God. Lagos had sapped his time and energy but here he was, back in Ado on a one week leave. He intended to use it well.
Tomi. He wanted to know what to do. What was God saying concerning this? Was he supposed to let her go and trust God for someone else? She seemed to have moved on, was it not a waste of time waiting for her?
Then there was Bukola to pray for. The devil was never going to have his sister. No way. He would pray until something happened.
Didn’t the scripture say, the effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much?
Femi sat on the floor, his back against the bed. He prayed. He prayed until there was no more strength in him. Hours later, when he got up from the floor and reached for his bible, his heart was flooded with joy.
******** ************* *************
Segun drove through the entrance of the University of Ibadan and turned to Tomi who had just woken up from sleep.
‘What department do you say Stella is again?’
‘Microbiology.’ Tomi responded. ‘I can call my friend to ask for directions.’
Segun got to a junction and turned left. ‘I know the place.’
He drove for a while and stopped in front of some pale yellow bungalows. Tomi looked towards one of the buildings and saw her friend standing in front of a corridor.
‘Ireti is here.’ Tomi turned to Segun. ‘Thank you so much.’
‘Let me know when you are done. I’ll just head over to Agric and make my findings for my Ph.d programme.’
As she opened the door to get down, Segun stopped her. ‘No hugs?’
Tomi gave him a quick hug and climbed down. She rushed to meet Ireti who was already hurrying towards her.
‘So good to see you.’ Ireti said, touching her friend’s cheeks. ‘You look so fresh.’
‘You look good too.’
Students began to pour out of the building, laughing and chatting. It made Tomi remember her school days when the only thing she thought of was reading her books and bagging a good grade. If only these students knew that once they stepped out of the four walls of school, life would stare them squarely in the face.
Ireti turned towards one of the classrooms. ‘Stella should be out in a minute.’ She looked at her friend. ‘But wait o, there is something about that girl that bothers me. Whenever I take their class, she seem so lost in her own world. I feel there is something troubling her. I’ve tried reaching out to her several times but she keeps pushing me back.’
Tomi clapped her hands. ‘Ireti, you carried this your welfare mama attitude into your career. I still remember back at school when you were always checking up on us and encouraging us in the faith. ’
Ireti smiled. ‘The lecturing job is just a platform jare. We are here to snatch souls for Jesus. This is a huge field Tomi. But I’m so grateful for what God is helping me do with these students. Some of them are so broken, their stories will make you cry.’
‘I’m so happy for you. This is-’
Tomi sighted a lady in black pants and green t-shirt walking out of the hall. ‘I think that’s Stella.’
Ireti looked in Tomi’s direction. ‘Yes she is.’
‘Stella!’ Ireti shouted.
A dark slender girl in her late teens turned. A black handbag hung over her shoulder while some books rested on her arms. She stood for a moment and then began to walk towards the ladies. She stopped when she saw Tomi.
‘What are you doing here?’ Stella asked, clearly unnerved by Tomi’s presence.
Tomi stepped forward ‘Stella, please can I have a word with you?’
Stella’s hand trembled. She began to retreat. ‘I’m busy. I have a class in an hour.’
Tomi reached for her free hand. ‘Stella, please.’
Stella jerked free and started to walk away. Ireti stood there, observing in silence.
‘Mama Bimbo is dead.’ Tomi said, not knowing how else to get Stella’s attention.
Stella froze. She spun around, her face white.
‘What did you just say?’
‘Mama Bimbo is dead. Please I need to talk to you.’
Ireti looked from one person to the other. ‘You can use my office.’
Stella walked with her eyes on the ground as Ireti led them down a corner that led to a bungalow behind the lecture rooms. She stopped at a door that had her name neatly inscribed on it. She reached for a bunch of keys in her bag. Slotting the key into the doorhole, she turned it twice and opened the door.
‘This should be comfortable enough. Call me when you are through.’ Ireti said and shut the door leaving Tomi and Stella in her office.
‘Stella, please sit.’ Tomi pointed to a chair. Stella sat down, tears already streaming down her eyes. Tomi sat beside her. She was full of compassion for the teenage girl. She still remembered the day Stella was born. Her mother had come to pick her from the junior church when some women at the back of the church auditorium began to dance in excitement.
Iya Dotun had given birth to a daughter, she’d heard them say.
Tomi’s mother had driven them straight to the hospital to see the baby. That baby had grown into a beautiful young lady.
Tomi sat there and waited. Something was eating Stella up. She reached into her handbag and pulled out a piece of Kleenex and gave it to her. Stella wiped her tears with it and stared at Tomi.
‘Sis Tomi, why are you here? My parents have left Ado. We don’t attend Garden Assembly anymore.’
Tomi shrugged. ‘I came to see you.’
Tomi’s mission to discover the truth about Stella’s abortion was replaced with a genuine desire to reach Stella’s heart.
‘What killed Mama Bimbo?’ Stella asked.
‘She was sick.’ Tomi responded. When Stella didn’t say anything again, Tomi took over the conversation.
‘What level are you?’
‘100.’ Stella responded quietly.
‘Listen Stella, you can talk to me. Let it all out. I believe God sent me to talk to you so you can get whatever is eating you up off your chest.’
The tears were back. Tomi drew her into her arms. She covered her face in Tomi’s chest and wept.
When she became calm, she stared at her fingers. ‘I loved Jerry very much. I told him we should until we were married before having sex and he said, that was a long time. If I really loved him, I’ll give him my body now.’
‘Do I know this Jerry?’ Tomi asked Stella.
Stella shook her head. ‘No. He is a boy from my secondary school. He was in SS3 while I was in SS2. I was standing on the assembly ground when I caught him staring at him. I was shocked that he was interested in me. You know, Jerry was the ladies’ man and I believed I could never be good for him. The following day, he sent a card through one of the junior students, expressing how much he loved me. I was mesmerized.’ Stella wiped the fresh batch of tears trickling down her face. ‘And then we started dating. He’ll call to tell me how much he loved me. I was happy to hear those words. And then we started having sex and…’ She paused. ‘I got pregnant. He denied it. Mum found out and rained insults on me and said I had to get rid of the pregnancy.’
‘You didn’t want to do it?’
Stella raised her head. ‘I was afraid. I felt connected to my child already. I was ready to go through with childbirth but mum said if my father found out, he’d kick me out of the house. Then one morning, I was sleeping when my mum called me to the living room. One of her friends was already sitting there. They had both planned to take me to a doctor who’ll help me remove it.’
‘Your mother’s friend, who is she?’
Stella pressed her lips together and shifted in her seat. ‘I’d rather not say.’
Tomi squeezed her hand. ‘I’m listening.’
‘After the doctor finished evacuating my baby, I was in serious pains. I felt like I was going to die. I remembered lying helpless in that room and wishing for death so that the pain could end quickly. I remembered the monthly breakfast meetings we had with Bro Femi and how he spoke passionately to us about God’s love and deliverance from eternal damnation.’
Stella stopped talking. ‘I remembered one particular scripture he quoted. He that believeth on him shall not be condemned but he that believeth not is condemned already because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. Those words came rushing to my mind again. It was then I received Christ. If I was going to die, I didn’t want to go to hell. I drifted into darkness afterwards.’
‘Stella, the woman who went to your mother, was it Mama Bimbo?’
Stella shook her head. ‘No! Mama Bimbo had nothing to do with the abortion. It was a set up.’ Stella rose and paced the room. ‘I know she did some bad things. But she was a nice woman. She didn’t even know I was pregnant.’
Tomi wanted to get to the root of this dark secret. ‘Stella, Mama Bimbo was falsely accused. We need to get the truth out to clear her name. Please, who was the woman your mother went with for the abortion?’
Stella returned to her seat and remained quiet.
Tomi looked at her. ‘Was it my mum?’
Stella raised her eyebrow. She stared at Tomi. ‘Yes.’
Tomi sighed. ‘Thank you for telling me this. Now, let’s talk about you. Stella, you have to forgive yourself. You can’t keep holding this guilt.’
‘I killed my child.’ Stella said, her eyes brimming with tears.
e can’t change the past. God’s love for us is deeper than any sin we might have committed. He has adopted you into his family. You have been washed and redeemed by the blood of the lamb. You must embrace this truth. There is no condemnation to you. You have the gift of righteousness. Stop listening to the devil. Embrace the life and the peace God has made available for you. ’
Stella nodded her head. ‘Thank you.’
Tomi held her hands. ‘Can we pray together?’
While Tomi prayed, Stella broke down again. Tomi asked God to reveal his love to Stella. She prayed for strength for the teenage girl and for her emotional health.
‘God please heal me. Help my heart Lord.’ Stella cried quietly.
‘Amen.’ Tomi responded to Stella’s prayers.
Few hours later, Ireti joined them at the office. She noticed that Stella’s eyes were lit up. .
Tomi addressed her friend. ‘I leave Stella in your hands Ireti.’
Ireti smiled. ‘One more soul to disciple. I’m excited already.’ She pulled Stella into her arms. Stella laughed, keeping her hands around Ireti’s shoulders.
‘You can’t go back today.’ Ireti said to Tomi. ‘It’s not safe for you to drive in the dark and there is so much we need to catch up on.
Tomi wanted to object. She wasn’t sure Segun would be willing to stay the night in Ibadan. ‘Ireti, I didn’t come alone. I’m not sure my friend planned to stay back.’
‘Don’t worry, we’ll convince him. There is enough space for both of you here.’
Tomi was quiet on the way back to Ado the following morning. Everything began to make sense.
Her mother had been involved in Stella’s abortion. Femi must have found out about it and had to end the relationship. He had every right to do so. If she were in his shoes, she’d do same.
Her heart boiled with anger as she remembered the conversation with Stella. How could her mother be involved in something abominable as this and yet treat her father like trash because of something he did years ago? That was the height of self-righteousness and hypocrisy she’d ever seen.
‘We’ve been driving for more than an hour and you’ve not said anything.’ Segun said, interrupting her thoughts.
Tomi looked at him and smiled sadly. She was surprised that the emotions of love she felt the night after the Pastor’s meeting had disappeared into thin air. She loved him, but only as a friend and nothing more.
‘I’m sorry, I just can’t get over what Stella told me.’ Tomi said.
‘What did she say?’
‘Femi’s mother is innocent. My mum was involved.’
Segun sighed and said nothing. After they’d travelled for a while, Segun looked at her.
‘What do you want to do now with this information?’
Tomi hesitated before responding. ‘I don’t know yet. I’m still processing the whole thing.’
What kind of stony heart does her mother have? How could she sit in the pew and watch the Pastor accuse Mama Bimbo and yet not feel a thing. Tomi shook her head and stared ahead, thinking about Femi.
Something must have happened the night Femi broke up with her. They’d been discussing about his trip to Lagos and he had told her Bukola was at the door. He ended the call and an hour later called to say he was no longer interested in the relationship.
Had Mama Bimbo opened up to somebody before she died? Probably she had left a letter addressed to her children. It had to be the day he broke up with her that he discovered the truth.
‘God, Femi wants me back in his life even after this? I don’t understand.’ Tomi muttered under her breath.
Was it possible that Femi had broken up with her for another reason? If he didn’t know about her mother’s involvement, then the information she was armed with would definitely push him away forever.
‘He knows.’ Tomi muttered. Why else would Bukola attack her mother and accuse her of setting Mama Bimbo up? Tomi’s head drummed.
Segun glanced at her worried. ‘Tomi, we are already in Ado. You’ve not taken anything since morning.’
Tomi sat straight. ‘Segun, I’m fine. I’ll eat when I get home.’
‘No way, we are stopping at an eatery and I’m getting you a pack. What if lunch is not ready?’
‘Thank you.’ Tomi mouthed.
Segun pulled up in front of a white building. He turned off the engine and touched Tomi’s shoulder.
‘I’m so sorry Tomi. I was praying your mother would be exonerated from this issue but unfortunately, that’s not the case. You have to forgive mum and move on. Some secrets are left buried. Just let it go. It’s not like I’m supporting what mum did, but she might have had a good reason.’
Tomi stared at Segun, irritated. ‘What are you saying Segun? That my mum had a good reason to take Stella for an abortion? That she had a reason to put the blame on Femi’s mother who was falsely accused before the whole church?’
He rubbed her shoulders. ‘I didn’t mean to upset you. It came out all wrong okay? Let me get our food.’
Segun left her in the car and went in through the glass door held by a security officer in a brown shirt and dark khaki trouser. Tomi was still seething in anger at Segun’s words. As she reached for her earpiece, she saw Segun coming out of the eatery.
Had he gotten the food so fast?
It was then she saw the other person with him and her heart raced.
Tomi stared at him, awestruck. He was dressed in a white t-shirt and knickers and held a loaf of bread visible through the customized nylon made by the eatery.
Segun stood outside with him, laughing, hugging and shaking his hand. Tomi could have stay glued in her seat staring at this man forever. He looked more handsome than the last time she saw him. She wanted to run into his arms and tell him how much she loved him.
‘Oh Femi, I’ve missed you so much.’ She whispered, holding her chest to stop it from pounding so fast.
Segun pointed at the car and it was then Femi looked her way. Her heart did a flip. She froze for a second as they approached the car.
She opened the car and got down. Femi stopped, his eyes locked with hers. He caught his breath and released it slowly, unsure what step to take with the woman who meant the world to him.
Tomi flew into his arms and began to cry. Femi wrapped his hands around her and held her tight. He felt powerful emotions bursting through his body and raked his hand lightly into her hair.
‘Tomi, I’m very sorry. Please give me another chance.’ Femi whispered into her ears.
Segun stood watching them, confused.
Click here to read Episode 10