Charles awakened, wondering where he was and why he was lying on the cold floor. Everywhere was dark. Where was Funmi?
He struggled to his feet and held the wooden frame of the bed for support. When he found Funmi’s legs, he was relieved and groped his way to the empty space beside his wife.
‘Funmi, move your legs.’ Charles said as he raise the duvet to cover his body. Funmi’s legs were sprawled on the duvet. No response. He touched her legs. They were cold.
Why was she so still?
Power was restored and light flooded the room. Charles stared in shock at the blood stains covering the bed.
‘Jesus! What happened-’
The memories of the event before he blackened out returned in a flash.
Tears filled his eyes. His wife was dead? He jumped out of bed and reached for his phone. His stopped, remembering that his aunt had burst into the room unannounced and stopped him from calling for an ambulance. He ran to lock the door while dialing the emergency numbers of the hospital he was registered with.
God, am I just wasting my time? Is she still alive?
‘Hello, good morning. My wife is in a coma. Can you get here fast?’
Those twenty minutes of waiting for the ambulance were the longest minutes in Charles life. He prayed, paced the room, sat on the floor, cried and stood over his wife watching helplessly. If Funmi survived this, he swore he was going to divorce her this time.
The ambulance arrived. Charles tip-toed out of the room to open the front door for the paramedics. As he led them to the room, Aunt Toyosi stormed out of her room.
Charles froze. What was his aunt going to do now?
Aunt Toyosi started to wail. She hurried to the bedroom with the men, her face smeared with tears. Charles stared at her in disbelief.
‘Madam, calm down.’ One of the men said as they administered first aid and placed Funmi gently on the stretcher.
‘Don’t tell me to calm down!’ Aunt Toyosi shouted. ‘My daughter-in-law is dead. How can you say I should calm down. Don’t you know she was pregnant? Now I can’t hug my daughter-in-law and I can’t carry my grandchild. Oh no! Funmi you cannot go like this!’
Two men carried the stretcher out. The third man stopped by the entrance and turned to Charles and his aunt.
‘She is still breathing. I believe there is hope. But we have to get her to the hospital fast.’
Charles moved quickly to his side. ‘I’ll go with you.’
From the side of his eyes, he saw his aunt’s expression change. The tears had dried up and was replaced by anger. Charles didn’t care how she felt. All he wanted was his wife well again.
Charles sat on the floor of the bus, holding Funmi’s frail hands as it sped out of the compound.
What disaster had he brought into Funmi’s life? If only he had gone ahead with the divorce, this would not have happened. At least their child would be alive since his aunt would have had no idea about her pregnancy.
I won’t be able to carry my grandchild
Charles let out a foul word. Aunt Toyosi had said those words while the men attended to his wife in the room. Why was Funmi so stubborn and blind! He had warned her not to tell his aunt about the pregnancy.
He reclined against the body of the ambulance. He was tired of everything. Why won’t God be kind enough to end his life?
She will not live.
An image flashed across his mind. A casket containing Funmi’s dead body. He was flanked by Funmi’s parents and her sister, Ebun. He’d stared at the corpse in defeat.
‘My wife will not die in Jesus name!’ Charles prayed aloud.
If anything happened to his wife, he would not forgive himself. This was all his fault. He shouldn’t have married her in the first place.
The ambulance gave a violent jerk and came to a dead stop. Charles stretched his head to see the driver starting the engine again. The bus roared to life. The tires screeched forward and died. The driver climbed down and went to the front of the bus. One of the men joined him.
Charles heart raced. Every minute felt like eternity.
He couldn’t stay still anymore and jumped out of the cabin. He rushed to the front of the bus where the driver and paramedics were bent over the opened bonnet.
‘What’s happening?’ Charles asked, looking from the driver to the road. Everywhere was as silent as the dead.
‘I don’t know. We serviced the bus yesterday and I filled the tank this morning.’ The driver said, puzzled.
One of the paramedics, a short man with thick spectacles dialed the hospital line. No one answered. When he tried the second time, the network on his phone disappeared. Charles reached into his pocket for his cellphone. He had left it at home.
He sat on the ground and put his hand on his head. Tears gathered in his eyes. There was no hope anymore. Funmi was going to die if she was not dead already. His aunt had won finally.
His mind went back to the first time he’d brought Funmi to see Aunt Toyosi. After lunch, she had called him aside.
‘You can’t marry that girl.’ She said.
He had asked why. She’d told him Ireti was the woman assigned to his destiny. He had wondered what that meant. Annoyed, he told her he would never marry Ireti. His aunt had laughed.
‘You don’t have a choice in this matter. When you were five and your mother brought you to stay with us, we settled that deal.’
He stared at his aunt, waiting for more explanation. What deal was his aunt talking about?
‘Don’t try it Charles. Let that girl go.’
He wished he had obeyed. Funmi would have married a good man. She’d have had a better life.
There was no one he could reach out to. He had cut off relationship with his friends from university when he started sleeping with Ireti. Guilt and shame had gnawed at his heart. Since he got married, he had not stepped into a church.
I know I don’t deserve God’s help, he cried silently.
The roar of the bus brought a loud cheer among the paramedics. Like a speed of lightening, everyone jumped into the ambulance.
Thank you Jesus, Charles muttered as the ambulance sped down the street.
Thank you Jesus, Charles said again.
‘My baby is gone.’ Funmi glanced at Aunt Toyosi, tears running down her cheeks.
Aunt Toyosi squeezed her palms gently and fed her another spoon of pap. ‘You are alive Funmi. That’s enough to be grateful for.’
She turned to her nephew standing beside the bed, fuming.
‘Get a bottle of water for your wife.’ Aunt Toyosi ordered, pointing at a pack of bottled water beside a tray of bananas. Charles didn’t move.
‘Please leave us.’ He said to his aunt, without looking at her. When she remained seated, he glared at her and spoke harshly. ‘Excuse us for a moment, Aunty.’
It was the first time he’d stand up to her. He knew how she loved to be in control. Not anymore. His life was worthless anyway. If she decides to kill him, he’d accept it with all joy.
Aunt Toyosi chuckled. Did her nephew just call her Aunty? She was not ‘mum’ anymore? What’s wrong with this boy?
‘I need to teach him some lessons.’ She muttered quietly.
‘Aunty please. Leave us alone.’
Aunt Toyosi shook her head and strolled out of the room. Charles took her place and immediately pulled his wife into his arms. They wept. Funmi from the loss of her child and Charles from the joy of seeing his wife alive. The couple locked heads together, their mouths trembling, unable to say anything. They stayed there in silence, communicating more than words could say.
Charles kissed her palm and rubbed it against his cheek. Funmi was alive. This was all that mattered right now. His wife was alive.
‘Sweetheart, I thought you were not going to survive but you did. Look at how fast you are recuperating. I am amazed.’
Funmi turned her face away from her husband as she spoke. ‘I’d named our baby Ayanfe. I had planned all the beautiful things I’ll do with her. Charles, I thought of her every day. I saw her first walking steps. I heard the first time she called my name.’ Her eyes gathered tears again. ‘Why did she have to die?’
Charles kissed Funmi tenderly on her cheek. ‘You will have more children okay?’
After the divorce, she’d marry a great man who will give her sons and daughters. The thought left a deep pain in his heart. He reminded himself he did not deserve any good thing in his life.
Funmi glanced sharply at him. ‘Why did God allow her kill my child? Why didn’t he stop her from using that club on my stomach?’
Charles stared at his wife, curious. ‘What are you talking about?’
She let out a deep breath. ‘Before I passed out, a woman hit me with a club several times. I didn’t see her face but she was dressed in a free gown and she had very long nails. They were painted red. Funmi paused. ‘I’m still wondering why I couldn’t see her face.’
‘Can you describe how she looked like?’
Funmi tried to remember. ‘I can’t remember much. She is slender and has a good shape. Dark skin. Soothing voice. Oh I remember, she has a scar on her wrist and on the other wrist is a tattoo of X.’
Anger rose in his heart. He was fuming terribly.
‘Did she say anything to you?’ Charles asked.
‘Yes she did, but I can’t remember what she said.’ Funmi grabbed her husband’s hand. ‘I remember now. She said something about me taking her husband and how that can’t happen. It’s all muddled up in my head.’
Charles stood up, his body quavering with anger. ‘I’ll be right back. I need to deal with this nonsense!’
Before Funmi could ask him where he was going to, he stormed out of the room.
Funmi was scared. Charles had been away for several hours. Aunt Toyosi had not returned to the room after her husband sent her out. She felt lonely and hungry. How she missed her phone.
‘God, I don’t even know who I am again. I am just tired of everything. I feel like I have gone so far beyond your reach.’
Funmi, don’t ever forget this. God will never leave nor forsake you. He is right there with you every time
Funmi remembered her mother’s words again. This time they felt like cool water poured on her soul.
God is our Father. He loves us unconditionally. He never leaves. We are the ones who withdraw from his love. At anytime we need his help, he is always ready to help us. Call upon me, he said and I will answer you.
Funmi wanted to speak with her mum. She wanted to hear those encouraging words again.
A nurse came into her room, beaming with smiles. She replaced the empty IV bag with a new one.
‘Nobody has brought dinner for you yet?’
Funmi pointed at the loaf of bread on the bedside table. Charles had brought it along with the rice he got from an eatery nearby. ‘Could you please help me with that?’
She didn’t feel like eating bread but she had no choice right now.
‘Do you want me to get anything for you?’ The nurse said as she poured tea from a flask into a mug. Thankfully, the tea was still hot.
‘Yes, one more thing. Can I get a bible?’
Charles heard the loud sound of music from a stereo. He opened his eyes and closed it.
Where was he?
He opened it again when he felt a hand poking his hairy chest. Ireti’s legs were locked in his.
He jumped and pushed her hand away. ‘Jesus, what am I doing here?’
Ireti lay on her side, her chin resting on her palm. ‘Hello, my darling husband. I’m very sure we are going to yet have another beautiful round tonight. You came in here boiling with rage and we had a good time together. I swear, sex is sweet with you when you are angry.’
Charles scratched his head. How did he land on Ireti’s bed?
She knelt on the bed, twisting her naked body. ‘We’ll always be together for the rest of our lives. You see that we-’
‘Shut up and let me think!’ Charles screamed at her.
Where was his phone? He had gone to the house to pick his phone before going to Ireti’s house. He had wanted to beat the hell out of her. How did he end up on her bed again?
His wife was in the hospital and he was here screwing with another woman. What kind of stupid man was he? He was worse than the witch masked as his aunt. She should have died at birth.
Depressed, he pulled up his trouser and searched the room for his shirt. He found it hanging on the chair.
Oh God! What have I done?
His phone vibrated.
He sighed in frustration. On his way to Ireti’s house, Ebun had called. She was leaving Lagos for Ibadan in an hour. Charles promised to pick her up when she arrived Ibadan. What was the time now?
He wondered how long she had been waiting for him.
He had to get out of the house as fast as possible.
‘Baby, where are you going to? We were going to spend the night together.’ Ireti was already standing up and reaching for his waist. ‘You belong here Charles.’
His body was burning with passion. He wanted to take her to bed again.
What kind of sex maniac was he?
He pushed her away and grabbed his car keys from the table before hurrying out of the room.
Aunty Toyosi was sitting on a velvet couch that faced the bedroom when Charles came out. At a corner of the living room, a stack of flat plates and food warmers were arranged neatly on a dining table.
Aunty Toyosi stood up. ‘Dinner is ready.’
Charles looked away from his aunt. ‘I am not hungry.’
Aunty Toyosi’s face darkened. ‘I insist.’
‘I have to go to the hospital to see my wife. I can’t stay here.’ He headed out.
‘If you step out of that door.’ Aunty Toyosi said, frowning.
Fear coursed through Charles’ body. He released his hand from the door knob and turned back into the house.
‘Good boy.’ His aunt said as he sat down on the chair she had pulled out for him. Ireti came out giggling in a dress that barely covered her body. She took the seat opposite him. Charles kept his face down.
When his phone rang again, Aunt Toyosi demanded for the phone. Charles gave it to her. She switched it off.
‘We thank you for this food. Bless it and may it nourish our bodies. Amen.’
‘Amen.’ Ireti responded, closing her eyes.
Charles didn’t say a word. A voice was ringing loud in his ears.
You are a coward. You can’t stand up to your aunt. You can’t defend yourself. You were here in another woman’s arms while your wife was worried sick about you. You are a shame to manhood. It’s frustrating, I know. Forget your worries and enjoy the pleasures of Ireti’s body. After all since you married Funmi, all she has ever brought you is sadness.
A hand touched his, drawing lines on his arm. ‘Baby, eat. We are going to have the best night together.’
He looked at the food and muttered quietly. ‘Jesus, please help me.’
It was the first time in a long time he’d made a statement like that. How could God answer a person like him? His atrocities were too much.
Stand up and walk out of this house. Don’t be afraid. I am with you. Be courageous.
He had not heard the voice for years but he knew the voice. It was a familiar, soothing one. How could God communicate with an adulterer? Did God really talk to him?
Trust me Charles. You asked me to help you. Here I am answering your request. Leave this place and don’t look back.
Charles pushed back the chair, grabbed his phone from the table and walked out.
He heard his aunt shouting. ‘Charles, come back here. You know what I can do. Don’t drive me mad. Don’t make me hurt you terribly.’
He had nothing to lose. He was going to trust what he heard. Maybe there was hope for him, just maybe his life would make sense again. If God didn’t come through for him, his aunt would kill him. He wanted to die anyway.
He turned on his phone as he jumped into the car. He called Ebun. ‘I’m so sorry for everything. Can you find your way to the hospital? I’ll send you a voice note on whatsapp with the directions. Please pray for me that I get to the hospital in one piece. I could be killed like my parents.’
‘No you won’t. There are angels with you.’ Ebun said, calmly. ‘I’ll see you in the hospital.’
Charles sped quickly, turning in a corner and coming out of another. What excuse would he give for staying away from Funmi’s side for so long?
He pulled into the express that was now almost empty. In a flash, An old woman with a hunchback dashed into the road and began to walk slowly. Charles had not seen her in time and slammed on the brake. The car skidded forward and veered off the road towards a deep pothole. He felt a force take over the wheels, pulling the car back on the road. He straightened his hand on the steering as the car sped past the side of the woman without touching her.
‘Jesus, that was close.’ He muttered, panting heavily.
Through the outside mirror, he looked for signs of the woman. There was no one. She was right at the center of the road, few minutes ago. Where had she disappeared to? Was he dreaming? Charles’ heart pounded fast.
‘God, help me get to the hospital. I know I’m a jerk but please, help me.’
I’m here son. Keep going. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. My promise stands. I will never leave you. I’ll never forsake you.
Charles pulled up in front of the hospital and bent his head on the wheels. He wept. How could God still want him after everything that had happened? He missed that warmth, that peace of being close to God. It’d been a long time since he felt this way.
‘Oh God, I repent. I need you Lord. I have hurt Funmi. Jesus…’
Charles, I love you. I saved you with my precious blood and washed you clean. I justified you. I gave you my righteousness. I destroyed the hold of the devil over your life so you can walk confidently and freely.
God, are you really talking to me?
Come apart, spend time with your Father. Trust the future into my hands. I’ve been waiting for you. I look forward to beautiful conversations with you.
Charles reclined against the headrest, a sweetness spreading over his body. He sniffed as more tears trickled down his face.
Someone rapped on the car window, jolting him out of his reverie. He sat up and rolled down the window.
‘Ebun!’ He shouted and climbed down.
‘Charles.’ Ebun said and hugged him.
‘Ebun, I’m so sorry for keeping you waiting. I’m really sorry.’ Charles took her box and tossed it into the trunk of his car.
Ebun patted his back gently as they walked into the hospital. ‘I got into Ibadan late anyway. The traffic on Lagos-Ibadan expressway was terrible. We spent almost five hours on one spot. But I’m here now. How’s she?’
‘She is getting better. A surgery has been scheduled for tomorrow. The doctor said they have to remove the remains of the pregnancy tissue from her body. Ebun, I’m a jerk. Your sister does not deserve a man like me.’
Ebun stopped walking and faced him. ‘Why did you say that?’
Charles shook his head and pulled her hand gently towards the private ward. ‘How long are you staying with us?’
‘I don’t even know yet. A week or two. I have a wedding to prepare for.’
They reached the door of Funmi’s room.
‘Wedding! Great! How’s Izu? I can’t wait to see you two married. It’s long overdue.’
Ebun smiled without saying anything. She pushed the door open and walked in quietly with Charles behind her. Funmi was on her back, her eyes closed. Dried tears lined her cheeks.
Ebun touched her arm. ‘Funmi.’
Funmi opened her eyes. When she saw her sister, the tears returned. Ebun held her close as she sobbed loudly. Charles sat on the only chair in the room and stared at the floor.
‘Everything will be okay.’ Ebun said, rubbing her fingers over her swollen eyes.
Funmi turned slightly to her husband. ‘Don’t you think you have an explanation to give? You left me here and just disappeared. What kind of husband does that? Where did you even go to?’
Charles scratched his head, aware of Funmi’s hard stare. She was waiting for a response. What was he going to say? That he had been on Ireti’s bed while she was in the hospital?
‘Have you had dinner?’ Ebun asked. Charles was grateful for the distraction.
Funmi was still unhappy. ‘I’m fine.’
‘Charles, I’ll spend the night here. It’s almost midnight. You should go home to get some rest.
Charles knew going home was a bad idea. His aunt could be waiting for him in the house. He’d sleep in the car till daybreak.
He stood up, kissed his wife on her forehead and left the room. Funmi waited until he shut the door.
‘My husband is hiding something.’ Funmi said, her eyes fixed on the door. ‘I just wish he could be more open with me. I’m tired of going in and out of this hospital.’ She looked at her sister. ‘The first time, a man almost strangled me. This time it was a woman with a club and a syringe. Before hitting me with the club, she said I stole her husband. Was Charles married before I met him?’
Ebun rubbed her shoulders. ‘You should not be thinking of all that now. You need to rest.’
‘Ebun, this is not normal at all. This is spiritual.’
‘And you remember how we fight spiritual battles? With spiritual weapons.’
‘The weapon of our warfare are not carnal.’ Funmi muttered.
You can’t have my husband. You are going to die today
Husband? Has Charles been married before? Is Charles a demon dressed as a human being? Had he been sent to her life to torment her? Twice, attempts had been made on her life. Who was Charles?
‘Mum has been trying to reach you.’ Ebun said. Funmi was lost in thoughts and didn’t hear what her sister said. She jerked when Ebun touched her.
‘What’s on your mind?’ Ebun asked, concerned.
I want to run far away from that man! This marriage is a scam. Charles is a demon sent to destroy my life.
Funmi forced a smile and faced the wall. ‘Nothing. I think I’ll sleep now. Goodnight sis.’
Ebun pecked her on her cheek. ‘Sleep well.’
Ebun sat on the chair, fagged out. She was tired from the long trip but she felt restless. She had to pray. As she knelt beside the chair, a picture of Charles in tears dropped in her mind. The more she prayed for him, the stronger the burden tightened in her heart.
‘Charles, you do not belong to darkness anymore. You are a child of light. You have been set free from the power of darkness. Walk in the liberty you have in Christ. You are light.’
‘Every power of darkness hovering over your life. I cut it off right now. You are God’s beloved. You walk in the light as He is in light.’
Funmi turned to watch her sister pray. She tried to sit up but the pain in her side was sharp. She fell back to the bed.
A word her father had said the day she moved to Abuja to take up the banking job came back to her.
Funmi, you are a warrior. The things of this life will seek to choke the expression of the life that you carry. Don’t allow anything quench that life. Guard it with all your heart. You are a warrior.
Funmi closed her eyes. I am a warrior. Lord, I want to stand in my authority. How could the devil have messed with me for this long. I am a child of God. What happened to you Funmi!
There was a stirring in her heart to pray. She lay on her back and with her hands on her chest, she prayed silently.
Jesus, take the wheels of my home. Set me on fire for you again. I ask for an unending passion for you. I want to know you more Lord. Nothing else takes priority in the name of Jesus. I surrender my will, my life, my all. Oh Jesus.
Charles was sweating profusely, kicking against a heavy man punching blows on his face from every side. He tried to sit up in the back seat but the man pushed him back roughly. He gasped for breath even though the windows of his car were opened.
The man suddenly disappeared. Charles sat up, panting for breath.
A voice was laughing in his head.
Stand up now and wander around the earth. You will eat from refuse dumps. You will walk naked. You will be avoided and no one will take you in.
‘You spirit of insanity, get out of this environment now!’ Ebun declared.
Insanity? Funmi said, puzzled. Was a patient in one of the wards about to go insane?
‘Amen’ Funmi responded, aloud.
Charles held the door handle firmly as he felt hands pulling at his feet through the other passenger door. Right before his eyes, a door he had firmly locked opened and hands pounced on his legs. He couldn’t see anyone but he sensed strong hands trying to get him out of the car.
‘You have no hold over my life. God is for me. He said he will never leave me nor forsake me!’ Charles shouted.
You are a fool. You just slept with Ireti few hours ago. You defiled your marriage bed. God will deal more mercilessly with you than we are doing right now. You are forever condemned. You are irredeemable.
Charles knew he had to speak out. He knew if he agreed with them, they’d win. He had only one option: Drag them into the realm of faith. In that realm, God’s word was his sword. Faith was his shield. It was the way he had survived on campus after he got saved and faced several attacks.
‘God’s word says, In Him I have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of my sins. I stand on the authority of God’s word! Greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world.’
Silence. They disappeared.
Charles let out a deep breath. ‘Thank you Jesus.’
Funmi laughed heartily as her sister raised the same song that had dropped in her spirit shortly before her arrival. Why was God bringing this song again? Tears welled up her eyes as she sang along with Ebun.
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God
I’m no longer a slave to fear
I am a child of God.
EPISODE 7 NEXT.
Have you read any of the Monica Series?