Read Episode 1
Ibidun glanced at her wristwatch.
She’d been talking with Silas for three hours. How did time run so quickly? Her heart fell when she remembered bible study was already two hours gone. What excuse would she give Pastor Mayowa for not showing up in church? Her Pastor was probably rounding up service and he’d have noticed her absence. What was she going to say?
‘Are you okay?’ Silas asked, sliding his hand across the table to cover hers. ‘You seem distracted.’
Ibidun nodded. ‘I’m good. What were you saying?’
A waitress arrived with dessert. Velvet cake and cups of Greek yoghurt.
Ibidun rubbed her stomach and pushed the tray away. ‘My stomach’s full. There is no space for this.’
He moved the tray back. ‘It’s just Greek yoghurt and cake, Ibidun.’
Ibidun obliged and scooped a spoon of yoghurt to her mouth. ‘You were saying something before I lost you.’
Silas leaned forward, his hands clasped in front of him. ‘I’ve known you for four months now. We’ve talked every night. I know your best food, I know what makes you happy and what disgusts you. I think about you every day, pray for you. I know your dreams, I see the woman you are becoming.’
He hesitated. ‘I think we have a future together. I don’t know how to say this but I really love you. I want us to move this friendship forward. Be my girl, Ibidun. Go out with me and let’s see where the relationship will lead us to.’
Ibidun’s heart raced. She wanted to scream, Yes but she restrained herself. Silas loved her. She could see it in his eyes. She loved him too. Wasn’t this an answer to her prayers?
I need to appear calm, she said to herself. Silas must not think she was pushy.
Ibidun sighed. ‘This is a huge step Silas. You are a wonderful person no doubt but I need some time to think about it.’
He shrugged. ‘That’s fine. Please don’t take too long or else I’ll just faint.’
Ibidun laughed. ‘Why will you faint?’
‘I once asked a girl out. She said she was going to pray about it. For six months, she kept me waiting. It was the longest wait of my life. She came back to say God told her we didn’t have a future together. I was so angry ehn.’
Ibidun took the last scoop. ‘Six months keh. I won’t do that.’ She cleaned her hands with a paper towel. ‘It’s getting late. Your flight is by 10am. You need to get some rest.’
Silas pushed the tray aside and held her hands. ‘Thank you for today. I enjoyed every moment I spent with you.’
‘This was more for me.’ Ibidun said, smiling. ‘It’s the best birthday celebration I’ve ever had. Thank you.’
She blushed when her eyes landed on his lips. Embarrassed by her obvious display of emotion, She turned her face away and pushed her chair backwards. How could a man she’d barely known for few months drive her this crazy?
Silas walked her out, his hand firmly on her waist in a protective gesture. ‘I’ve ordered a ride. He should be here in a few minutes.’
At the car park, Silas led her towards a dark corner close to the fence and put his hands around her neck. Ibidun drew in, melting in his arms, her pulse quickening as they stood there in silence.
Ibidun swallowed hard, trying to quell the fire he had started. Did he have to return to Abuja so soon?
He held her face in his chin. Ibidun closed her eyes for a brief second. Was Silas going to kiss her?
He pulled his arms away and sighed deeply. ‘I resist this temptation.’
Ibidun placed her head on his chest. ‘I’m missing you already. Do you have to go tomorrow?’
Silas voice thickened. Ibidun was driving him crazy. If he kissed her, he was sure she’d end up in his hotel room. He loved Ibidun and wanted something deeper than a few minutes of sexual pleasure. He’d never forgive himself if she cut ties with him out of guilt. He was relieved when the taxi called that it had arrived at the restaurant.
They lingered a little before heading back to the park where the taxi was waiting.
‘I wish I could take you with me to Abuja.’ Silas said, as he opened the door for Ibidun.
‘Have a safe trip tomorrow. I’ll call you when I get home.’ Ibidun waved as the car left the restaurant. She turned to see Silas still standing, watching the car leave with his hands thrust in his pockets. She was downcast. She wanted to jump down from the taxi and run back into his arms. There was no way she was letting Silas go. She knew in her heart that they belonged to each other forever.
Sighing deeply, Ibidun reached for her phone. She gasped when she saw fifteen missed calls. She’d turned off her ringing volume at the restaurant. Pastor Mayowa had called, his wife and some members of the church.
She tapped to read the text messages. One was from Remi and the other from Pastor Mayowa.
Hi babe. Na wa o. You didn’t even show up in church at all. You must have really had fun with Silas. Well, I had to lie. Told Pastor your boss didn’t release you from work. I’m saying this so that you won’t go and say something else.
She read Pastor Mayowa’s message.
Happy birthday Ibidun. We planned praying for you in church during the service but you didn’t show up. Your friend explained you were tied up at work. Try to reach me before you go to bed tonight.
Ibidun tossed her phone into her bag and relaxed on the head rest. Her eyes were heavy, her thoughts drifting from her meeting with Silas to the mails she had to send at work the next morning. She got down from the car and dragged herself into the house, longing for a hot shower and five hours of sleep. Her phone vibrated in her bag.
That must be Silas, she smiled. She’d return his call after she showered and got into bed.
Ibidun’s step-mother was sitting on the dinning, chewing dates from a plate. She frowned when Ibidun stepped into the house. Ibidun had learnt to ignore her. She mumbled a good evening and walked to her room. Her step-brothers were engrossed in a video game they were playing.
‘Where is the ATM card?’ Her step-mother’s voice stopped her.
Ibidun turned ‘What ATM card?’
‘Oh you think I can’t see that you are turning your father’s back against me?’ She pushed her chair back, fuming. ‘Don’t you have a life rather than poke your nose into the relationship between me and my husband?’
Ibidun met her eye to eye. How she hated this woman. ‘He is my father.’
She clapped her hands and pushed the plate of dates aside. ‘You have done nothing but brought trouble to this house. Please leave us alone. I don’t know what you want!’
Ibidun ignored her and continued to her room. She was not going to allow anybody upset her. She’s had the best time of her life. Where did her father even find this woman? She was nothing but a pain in the butt.
She tossed her bag on the bed and ignored the phone that was ringing again. Her father was the only reason she was still in the house. He’d have died if not for her watchful eyes. The witch would have killed him.
Ibidun threw her shoes aside and walked to her father’s quarters. He’d either be listening to the news on the radio or singing Jim Reeves songs.
She was right. He was sitting in his private sitting room, listening to news on a small radio on an empty cubicle of a tall shelf full of books. Her father looked pale. She smiled as she hugged him.
He kissed her on her cheeks. ‘Happy birthday angel.’
How she loved this man. Ibidun sat on the edge of the chair and wrapped her hand around his neck. ‘Dad.’
She wanted to tell him about her day. The set up by her friends, her friend’s appearance at the restaurant and his offer for a date. All that would wait until she called Silas. He’d be dead worried if she didn’t get back to him soon.
‘What have you eaten?’
He looked away and she knew he had not taken anything. ‘What! She is punishing you because I took the ATM cards.’
‘You changed my pin.’
‘Of course I did! I saw the financial statement. She is spending so much on irrelevant things and I can’t watch that happen. She withdrew one million naira last week. What did she use it for? The other time, it was 2.5 million. Dad, your business is not thriving like before. I was with Dapo and he’s been giving me update. You promised me a car and yet you’ve gotten her two cars. It’s not fair.’
‘Ibidun. I want-.’
Ibidun was boiling with anger. ‘Is that why she didn’t give you dinner?’
‘Dad, divorce this woman! I don’t know why you married her. She doesn’t care about you at all.’ Tears stung Ibidun’s eyes. ‘Dad, I’ll take care of you, I promise. Please, don’t let this woman send you to an early grave.’
Ibidun missed her mother. The memory of her death was still as fresh as if it had happened yesterday. She was in SS2. She had just returned from the boarding house and was playing whot with her father in the living room when they heard a scream from the bedroom. They had rushed there to find her mother sprawled on the entrance. She died before they got to the hospital.
She’d never seen her father cry like he did when her mother died. His light had gone after that. In her second year in the university, she’d returned to find a woman and two young boys in the house. Her father had married her while she had been in school. Ibidun hated the woman from the first day she set her eyes on her.
‘I know you don’t like me.’ the woman said, the night Ibidun returned from school. ‘I don’t like you either. Let’s stay out of each other’s way.’
Ibidun decided to move away from home after graduation but she stayed back. For her father. He was everything to her. She would protect him from the witch who wanted to ruin his life.
How can a wife starve her husband of food. ‘Dad, should I prepare amala for you. I made ewedu soup yesterday.’
There were winkles in his eyes as he nodded sadly. Tears trickled down her face. She wiped them quickly.
When she got close to the door, he called her back.
‘What’s my pin?’
Ibidun looked away. She brought her gaze to the man behind the spectacles. One of his eyes was gone. The other one was fast disappearing. That wicked woman will not destroy the most important person in her life.
‘Dad, let me prepare your food first.’
She entered the kitchen and froze. The sink was filled with unwashed dishes and pots. Palm oil splattered the sides of the cooker. The floor was messy. Ibidun filled an empty pot with water and cleaned around the gas cooker before turning it on.
Opening the freezer, she searched for the bowl of ewedu soup. It had disappeared. She found a plate of frozen eguisi soup and placed it in a bigger bowl of water. This was not the time to get angry.
Food ready, she served the food on a tray and took it to her father’s room. Her step-mother was grumbling as she came in. She placed the food in front of him.
‘Ibidun, the pin.’ Her father said again, this time sternly.
‘Eat first.’ Ibidun said. She put the bowl of water and waited for him to wash his hands.
‘You heard him. He said you should release the ATM and the pin.’
Ibidun lost it. ‘What kind of wife are you? You are a wicked and selfish woman. Your plans against my father will not prosper. How could you starve your husband because you couldn’t get him to do what you wanted! You are nothing but a manipulating woman. My father shouldn’t have married you!’
‘Ibidun, stop that!’ Her father shouted.
Her step-mother laughed. ‘When you are done ranting, you will release the pin. Whatever goes on between me and my husband is none of your business. Your mates are married.’ She clapped. ‘Go and marry. Leave my husband alone.’
‘Ibidun, release the ATM card and the pin.’
‘The ATM card is at the office.’ She lied. ‘I’ll bring it when I return from work.’
Her step-mother held out her father’s phone. Ibidun wished she had changed the password.
‘The ATM is not important now. Just give me the pin.’ Her step-mother said.
‘I can’t remember.’ She lied again. ‘I’m not in the best frame of mind. You’ll get everything tomorrow.’
She needed time to transfer the money in her father’s account to another one before the woman swapped everything away.
She sat back on the sofa and watched her father eat. She couldn’t dare leave him alone now. The witch could take the food and leave him hungry for the night. She relaxed when the woman left.
‘Dad, drive this woman out of here. I’ll take care of you. She is dangerous.’
Her father threw a lump of amala into his mouth and swallowed. ‘You are like your mother. Great cook.’
‘I miss her. I’ve never stopped asking why God took her away from us. One minute she was in the kitchen preparing dinner and the next she was gone. Why do bad things happen to good people? People like that evil spirit you call a wife should not be alive.’
Ibidun father frowned. ‘Don’t say words like that about my wife. She can be hard sometimes but she is a strong woman. You don’t know what she has been through.’ Ibidun poured water into a glass cup. He drank out of it and gave the cup back to her.
‘How did your birthday go. Did any Prince Charming take you out?’
Ibidun smiled. The anger dissipated and was replaced by memories of the time she spent with Silas. She started from the beginning. How she left the conference to find her friends in the staff room. Her clothes soaked with wine and the trip to Cecilia’s house. How she met Silas and the offer for a relationship. She saw her father’s eyes light up again.
God, please keep my father safe. I love this man with every breath of my being. Don’t allow that witch get to him. Send her away from here.
‘He seem like a good man. You deserve the best Ibidun.’
She imagined her father leading her into the church and handing her over to Silas. It would be the happiest day of her life. She imagined visiting with her grandchildren who’d run over grandpa’s body, shouting for attention. She imagined the joy in his eyes.
Plates cleared, Ibidun sat with her father and leaned on his shoulder as they listened to her father’s favourite preacher. He paused the sermon and played a song which he sang loudly. It was a song by Jim Reeves.
I’ll fly away oh Glory!
I’ll fly away
When I die, Halleluyah bye and bye
I’ll fly away.
Ibidun’s eyes were heavy. She enjoyed the sound of her father’s voice and the way he patted her head made it difficult for her to keep her eyes opened. She slept off.
Philip awakened to the sound of clapping and singing. He recognized the voice. His mother. He wondered why he was on lying on the floor.
We welcome the father
we welcome the son
We welcome the Holy Ghost in our midst
His mother raised another song.
Good morning Jesus
Good morning Lord
I know you came from heaven above
The Holy Spirit is on the throne
Good morning Jesus
Good morning Lord.
He shifted and his leg hit a hard surface. He cringed in pain. He opened his eyes, shocked to see he was surrounded. His mother and his two sisters stood around him in a circle, clapping and singing at the top of their voices.
He tried to remember what had happened the previous night. Everything seemed blurry in his mind.
His mother stopped singing. She rang the bell thrice, praying at the top of her voice. Her voice was shaking terribly like she’d been crying.
‘All the enemies standing against the progress of this family. In the name of Jesus, the fire of God burn you now! Fire! Fire! Fire!’
Philip sat up and looked from his mother to his sisters. They were screaming fire and stamping their feet. At one corner, his twelve year old brother leaned against the sofa, sleeping. Philip’s mother went to him and slapped him hard on his face. He jumped out of sleep and began to cry.
‘Do you think we are playing here?’ She pushed him back into the circle.
Philip staggered to his feet. His head still hurt. His eyes wide opened now, he looked around the living room and moved away from the circle.
‘Come back here! Where do you think you are going?’ His mother screamed at him. She didn’t wait for him to respond. ‘You disgraced me before the whole world. Ah! Choir master. They found you in a gutter Philip. Those amebo, Iya eleja and Aunty Fisoye. Awon gbeborun, oniranu, oshi, they brought you home and you had the guts to vomit right on your sister’s body. Every body in the neigbourhood is talking about you. Choirmaster! Why have you brought shame to this house. Philip, why?’
Philip felt the house spinning and leaned on the wall for support. How many bottles of beer had he taken? His breath stank. He wanted a shower. Would his mother just stop talking?’
‘Where are you going to? Come back here and let’s destroy the demons in your life.
Philip kept walking to his room. His mother continued to call out to him and he could hear her wailing and crying. Angry and disappointed with himself, he grabbed his towel and went into the bathroom he shared with two other neigbours.
He hated it when his mother cried. When his father died in a ghastly motor accident, he had promised he would take care of her. He’d never lived up to that promise. His mind went to the money he owed his cousin and his heart was dampened again.
He finished bathing and laid on the mattress in the small room he occupied with his brother. His head felt lighter but it didn’t take away the heaviness in his heart. There was a text message for him and some calls he had missed.
‘Philip, there is an interview this morning at Roboss Child health foundation.. It starts in thirty minutes. You need to get here fast. I’ll send you the address. Come with your documents and CV.’
Philip jumped out of bed and searched his hanger for a shirt to wear. They were all rumpled. He settled for a sky-blue shirt, pulled up his trouser and added a black suit to it. There was no time to knot a tie right now. He searched around for something to clean his shoes and grabbed the brown envelope containing his CV and photocopies of his documents. He ran out of the house.
‘Your zip, your zip!’ one of his sisters shouted after him.
With one hand on the zip of his trouser, he ran to the bus stop.
God, let this one work please. Let it work.
Ibidun called Silas on her way to work. She knew he would be worried and unhappy. She had slept off on the sofa in her father’s living room and woken up at 7a.m. Thankfully, her office was just a mile away.
‘Silas, I’m so sorry.’ She said, as she flagged down a taxi.
Silas was quiet on the other line. Ibidun held her head wishing she knew what to say to pacify him.
‘You had another fight with your step-mother?’ He asked, softly. Ibidun remembered Silas was her listening ear every time she had issues with her father’s wife.
‘Yes! she is frustrating me. Imagine, she left my father hungry and I had to get into the kitchen to prepare meal for him. I slept off while attending to him. I’m so sorry.’
‘I was just worried since I didn’t hear from you. I’m glad you are fine. You are at work already?’
Ibidun alighted from the taxi and walked towards a black gate with a fence painted yellow.
‘I just got to the gate now. You?’
‘On my way to the airport.’
She pushed the gate opened. ‘Silas, thank you for making my birthday memorable. It was great seeing you.’
He chuckled. ‘I’ll give you a call when I get to Abuja. Don’t forget my offer. ’
Ibidun frowned as she walked into the reception. ‘What offer?’ She remembered. He wanted to date her. ‘Yes I remember.’
‘Please don’t keep me waiting. I want to officially call you my girlfriend. I miss you already.’
‘I miss you too. I just got into the office. Call me when you get to Abuja.’
The Programs Director walked into the reception as Ibidun entered her details in the staff register. Behind him was a tall light-skinned lady she had never seen. Her boss didn’t smile at her or pat her like he always did. It was strange and she wondered why.
‘Ibidun, see me in my office.’ He said without looking at her.
The receptionist was ready with gist. ‘An hour after you left yesterday, a posh car drove into the premises and that lady you just saw came out of the car. I heard an international foundation has a huge interest in the model of the dental project you worked on and what they are offering is huge.’
Ibidun’s eyes widened with surprise and a smile broke out of her face. Harvest day is here.
Another colleague from the admin shook his head. ‘Ibidun, I don’t think you are going to like the outcome. I heard that girl’s father has money and his daughter wants to head a new project connected to the model. I heard it’s the second phase of Clean your teeth. ’
Ibidun laughed. ‘A project I built with my sweat. They had better not try me in this office or I’ll scatter everywhere. It’s my project.’
‘Like I said, there are rumors.’
‘Miss Ibidun!’ Ibidun heard her boss’ angry voice.
‘Yes sir! On my way sir.’
Ibidun hurried into his office. The tall girl was sitting with her legs crossed on a creamy sofa. She sipped coffee with one hand and with her free hand tapped her phone screen. Ibidun knew whatever this was, would not be good.
Click to read EPISODE 3