‘Charles, I want my money now!’
Charles had never seen his best friend in a fit of rage. Shola had barged into his house, shouting at the top of his voice and demanding for his money. Why won’t his friend be patient with him? Shola knew he didn’t have a job yet. His wife just got out of the hospital barely a week ago. He had emptied his account to pay the hospital bills.
‘Shola, I’ll give you this money. Things are tough for me now. Please be patient with me.’
‘Are you mad? I said give me my money, you dey yarn rubbish. I’ll call the cops on you. Haba! I need my money!’
Charles leaned on the sofa, exasperated. Where would he get money to pay Shola? He had given the last five thousand naira in his account to Funmi for housekeeping.
‘I don’t have any money.’
Shola grabbed the collar of his red polo. ‘Give me my money!’
Charles was annoyed. How many times had Shola borrowed money from him and he’d allowed it go because Shola couldn’t pay. When he had an accident and needed seven hundred thousand naira for medical treatment, Charles had raised funds for his bills. How dare he embarrass him like this. Twice Funmi had been rushed to the hospital, Shola never showed up for once.
‘Shola, stop this nonsense!’ Charles said, pulling his hand away. Shola held on tightly.
Ebun came out of the guest room. ‘What’s going on here?’
Shola released his grip and turned in the direction of the voice. His mouth opened wide in surprise when he saw Ebun.
‘Wow. You are so beautiful.’ Shola muttered quietly, walking towards Ebun. He planted his feet in front of her and held out his hand.
‘Good morning Angel.’
Ebun shook his hand. ‘I’m Ebun not Angel.’
Charles was not surprised. Shola’s eye for beautiful women had been his greatest weakness. He’d lost count of the number of women Shola has had a one night stand with.
Shola gave his friend a broad grin. ‘Charles, you didn’t tell you had a visitor.’
This one is clearly a womanizer, Ebun thought. Where did Charles get this kind of friend from? ‘I’m Funmi’s sister.’
Shola thrust his hands in his pocket and glanced at her lustfully. ‘Oh, beauty sure runs in the family. Can I have your number?’
Ebun was irritated. ‘You’ll get your money before the end of tomorrow.’
Shola was taken aback by the response. He chuckled, his eyes still feasting on her.
‘Ebun, it’s not a woman’s issue.’ Shola said, ‘Leave that to me and my best friend. Men know how to sort money matters. So baby, can I call you?’
‘Shola, get out of my house!’ Charles yelled.
Shola turned slightly and smiled at his friend. ‘What is wrong with you? Somebody cannot just threaten you small? Ogbeni relax. Your blood too dey hot.’
‘I said, leave now!’
Shola’s smile died. He stepped away from Ebun. ‘If I don’t get my money before the end of this week, you won’t like what I’ll do to you.’
When he left, Charles sank into the sofa and put his hand on his head. He should be ashamed of himself. He imagined how embarrassed Ebun was to discover the state of his financial mess. He’d failed at taking care of her sister.
‘God, are you still punishing me for my sins? I just wish I know what to do to earn your approval again?’ Charles said in a low tone.
‘You want to talk?’
Charles raised his head. Ebun was leaning against the wall, her hands folded on her chest.
Charles nodded. ‘Yes, please.’
Ebun sat on the sofa beside him and prayed silently that she’d be able to reach his heart.
Charles sniffed, fighting tears threatening to spill. ‘My walk with God has been on a halt for several years. At some point, I didn’t even know what it meant to have a relationship with God.’ He paused and shook his head. ‘I’d sinned so much that I convinced myself I am irredeemable. In my service year, I was so consumed by lust and slept with different ladies. I was tired and I knew I needed help. I believed God would not help someone like me. I’d gone too far.’
Ebun sighed. ‘Condemnation. It had eaten deep into you. It makes a believer lose confidence with God.’
Charles nodded his head. ‘You are right. I kept wondering why God would come to my aid when I kept doing stuff he hates. At least if I made attempts to do the right thing, then he’ll help me.’ Charles laughed dryly. ‘I was certain the Holy Spirit had added me to his black list. I completely stopped reading my bible or praying. I stopped going to church. I kept getting worse.’
Ebun smiled. ‘Of course you will get worse. You stay away from the word and a consistent prayer life and you’ll fulfill the desires of the flesh.’
Charles let out a deep breath. ‘I don’t even know what to do. Sometimes, I can’t help but doubt that God is with me.’
‘Charles, If God should leave you, you are damned for life. He is forever committed to you because of the finished works of his son. That’s the basis of your relationship with him. Who is supposed to help you deal with your struggles? Who cleans our mess and points us continually to Christ’s sacrifice?’
Charles rubbed his head. ‘I’ve tried so hard to live a good life. I’ve made resolutions, I determined in my heart to stop all those things but why do I keep falling short? ’
‘God is not asking you to try to stop anything.’ Ebun started. ‘Paul says, as you have received Christ, so walk in him. How did you receive Christ? By faith. How do you live the Christian life? By faith in his finished works. Charles, if from today you start to draw your identity from Christ, you will see remarkable transformation. The blood of Jesus has set you free. You are sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. You are forgiven. You are a son in the family of God. Put these before you everyday.’
Charles stared at his sister-in-law. He could feel the words burning his heart.
Ebun continued. ‘You can’t draw your identity from your performance. When you do well, you feel God loves you and is with you. When you mess you, you feel he has left and does not care about you again. A double minded man cannot receive anything from God.’
Charles let out a deep breath. ‘When I came back home from school and slept with Ireti, I was convinced God was angry that I had disobeyed his instruction. I was so afraid of talking to him. I wish I knew better. He had all that time been waiting to help me.’
Ebun smiled. ‘Keep your focus on who God says you are. No matter what happens, keep it there. He calls you redeemed, blameless, loved. He has called you his very own. Don’t let anything shake your confidence. It’s the Holy Spirit who carries out the work of transformation. if you at any point doubt what God calls you, the Holy Spirit can’t help you because you’d have moved from the realm of faith and that’s the only place he operates.’
Charles lay flat on the floor. ‘Father, thank you for loving me. Thank you because you never for once left me. You were there, nudging my heart, calling out to me. I am your son because I believed. I stand before you boldly. There is no condemnation to me.’
‘That’s it!’ Ebun exclaimed. ‘You are the righteousness of God in Christ. You are forgiven! This is really who you are, not your misdeeds. You are dead to sin. When Christ died, you died. When he rose up from the dead, you did with him. Fix your gaze on these realities and let the Holy Spirit teach you how to walk with the Lord.’
The door opened. Funmi entered, sweating profusely. In her hands were two black sacs. Charles lay still on the floor, crying and praying. Funmi looked from her sister to her husband.
‘Welcome.’ Ebun helped Funmi with one of the bags.
‘What’s going on here?’ Funmi asked her sister.
Ebun slid her free arm around Funmi. The ladies went into the kitchen.
Charles wrote quickly on his notepad. He stopped and looked from his bible to the commentary Ebun had given to him. His heart was full of joy. It was as if God was physically sitting with him in the living room talking to him. He wanted to get every word the Lord was saying to him.
‘Lord, slow down. I can barely keep up.’ Charles said, as he scribbled down more words.
He could almost hear God laugh heartily.
Charles, who are you?
He heard those words in his spirit.
Charles smiled and flipped over to his notes.
‘I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. I have the nature of God. I have a right standing with my father.’
‘He adopted me as his son. I belong to the family of God. When my father looks at me, he sees the sacrifice of his son, Jesus.’
‘God has poured the riches of his grace on me. I have access every time to this abundant grace. I walk in this reality.’
‘I am redeemed. I am forgiven. I am justified.’
‘He gave me his Holy Spirit who lives and abides with me forever.’
Charles laughed hard, whistling a song Ebun had taught him the previous day. ‘Thank you Jesus.’
He stopped when he heard a door open. When he turned, Funmi was standing in front of the bedroom. He glanced at the time. 2am. He’d been sitting there for three hours?
‘Baby, you are awake?’
Funmi came to sit beside him. Charles wrapped his hand around her shoulder. A deep love surge in his heart for his wife. If she knew all he had done, would she still stay with him?
‘I’m not happy with you.’ Funmi said, frowning. ‘I’ve been thinking about many things and I just need to pour out my heart.’
Charles looked at her, worried. ‘What is it?’
‘When I told you about the lady who hit me that night, I felt you knew her well. You stormed out of the hospital that day and returned without any explanation. Since we got back from the hospital, you’ve been very quiet until the day I came in from the market to see you on the floor crying. I’m wondering, are you more comfortable talking to Ebun than your wife?’
Charles pulled her closer. ‘Oh Funmi! it’s not like that.’
‘Shola called me yesterday asking me how you were able to repay the five hundred thousand naira you owe him. He wanted me to talk to you because you didn’t want to hang out with him and you were rejecting his calls. I was confused. When I asked you about it, you said Ebun and some of her friends contributed the money to pay the debt. Do you know how shocked I was? I wonder if I am really so unimportant that I shouldn’t know these things. It’s like you trust my sister more than you trust me. I don’t get it.’
Charles kissed her. ‘I’m sorry. Baby, I’m so sorry. I completely forgot. I trust you.’
‘What about the other secrets. I have many assumptions that I need clarity on. Ayanfe, the woman who killed my child, your family. I want to know what’s going on.’
‘Can we talk about this later today. I’ll tell you everything, I promise.’ Charles said.
Funmi put her head on her husband’s shoulder. ‘Okay.’
Charles ran his hand over her head. ‘I love you very much.’
Funmi lifted her head from his shoulder. ‘Can we pray together?’
Charles smiled. ‘I was just going to say that. Apart from the devotion we’ve started every morning. I want us to pray for thirty minutes every night.’
‘I like that. I’d also love us to share God’s word together, more like bible study.’
Charles squeezed her shoulders. ‘Yeah. That’s cool.’
‘When Ebun told me she’s been praying consistently every night for the past four years with Izu, I was shocked. She said at a time for six months, they concentrated on the prayers from the epistles and the months afterwards, they received a burst of revelations concerning their marriage and areas they needed to settle in prayers.’
Charles nodded his head slowly. ‘I’ve been thinking about the Pauline prayers too. We need light in this family. I believe Paul’s prayers are a great place to start.’
Funmi wrapped her hands around his neck. ‘Praying in tongues is the best thing since slice bread. Chei! It’s been long. Ebun just held my hand and gbam! I started flowing in tongues.’
Your sister is a blessing to us.’ Charles pulled her close. ‘Funmi, I really love you. After God, you are the most important person in my life. Nobody can take your place.’
‘Thank you’ Funmi said and kissed him lightly. ‘We should pray now.’
Charles pulled her to her feet. They held their bibles and flipped from one scripture to another as they paced the living room.
‘Oh Lord, we pray for the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ.’
‘The eyes of our understanding are enlightened. We experience the wealth of this inheritance bestowed on us.’
‘Our eyes are enlightened Lord, we know the exceeding greatness of your power towards us. We come to comprehend the authority that we have in Christ.’
‘We abound in knowledge and discernment.’
‘We are grounded in your love for us. We comprehend the breadth, length, depth and height of this love that passes understanding.’
‘Lord, we are filled with the knowledge of your will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.’
‘We walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing. We are fruitful in every work. Oh lord, we increase in the knowledge of you.’
‘Strength Father, we are strengthened with all might. Thank you Father!’
Ebun opened the door to the guest room slowly and peeped into the living room. She grinned and raised her hands up in thanksgiving.
God is faithful, she muttered.
She leaned against the doorway and placed the phone to her ear.
‘Izu, can you hear them praying?’ She said, with her mouth close to the speaker.
Izu laughed. ‘Yes! Oh my God! I love this. Oya, get back into the room. let’s not disturb them.’
Ebun laughed and quietly entered into the room.
Ebun was in the kitchen preparing carrot stew when she heard a knock. Charles and Funmi had prayed until early hours of the morning and she knew they’d still be fast asleep.
The knock came again. She turned off the gas burner and went to answer the door. A woman in her mid-fifties, dressed in a brown chiffon gown and her braids wrapped in a matching head tie was at the door.
‘Good morning ma.’ Ebun said, kneeling slightly. A foul smell hit Ebun’s nose. Immediately she sensed a dark presence around her.
Who for goodness sake was this woman? Could this be Aunt Toyosi Charles talked about?
‘My daughter, how are you?’ The woman said, touching Ebun tenderly on her arm. ‘I am Charles’ mother.’
She was the one, Ebun thought. ‘Oh, welcome ma. Charles didn’t say anything about your coming.’ She took the woman’s handbag and stepped out from the way.
‘It’s a surprise visit.’ Aunt Toyosi said as she strode into the living room. ‘Peace be unto this house.’
‘Can I get you water?’ Ebun said, dropping the handbag on the sofa.
‘Not at all. I’m fine. Where is everyone?’
The door to Funmi’s bedroom opened. Funmi came out with sleepy eyes. Her eyes widened when she saw Aunt Toyosi.
‘Big Mama!’ Funmi ran to hug her.
Aunt Toyosi gave a soft laugh and patted Funmi’s back. ‘My dear girl, I hope you are not angry with me. I should have been here before now. I’m really sorry.’
‘It’s alright Mama.’ Funmi pointed in the direction of Ebun. ‘Meet my elder sister, Ebun.’
Aunt Toyosi shuddered. She tore her eyes away from Ebun. ‘I didn’t know you had a visitor. I shouldn’t have come. It’s just that my visit was cut short by that unfortunate incident and my traveling bag is still here. ’
‘There is no problem at all. Ebun will move to the other room while you stay in the guest room. Mama, God has been working mightily in this family. Can’t you sense a different atmosphere? Charles and I had a great time praying together yesterday night. I’m so happy.’
Aunt Toyosi sat on the edge of the sofa. ‘I see. Glory be to God.’
Ebun sensed a strong urge to share God’s word with Aunt Toyosi. She turned to her sister.
‘Funmi, is Charles awake? I think you should let him know his mother is around.’
Aunt Toyosi sat there, tapping her feet and clenching her fist. As Funmi stood up to go into the room, her eyes caught Aunt Toyosi’s wrist. A tattoo of X was drawn on it. Beside the letter was an image of a slithering snake.
‘What!’ Funmi muttered in shock and hurried into the bedroom.
Charles was brushing his teeth. ‘Sweetheart, is that you?’
Funmi sat on the bed slowly. She couldn’t believe what she had seen. The lady who had hit her with the club had the same mark. The dream became clearer. Yes! she had seen a slithering snake beside the mark. Even though it’d been dark, she had seen the mark clearly. Who were these people?
Charles rinsed his mouth and blew air into his toothbrush. ‘Making love with you after that prayer session was the sweetest experience I’ve had in a long time. Can we just stay in bed today and have some more fun?’
Funmi shook her head. ‘You are here talking about sex. Aunt Toyosi is in the living room.
Charles shot his head out of the bathroom. ‘ What! What’s she doing here?’
‘I don’t know. But I want her out of my house!’
Charles looked at her puzzled. ‘Really?’
‘Yes! The woman that hit me with that club had the same mark I just saw on your aunt’s wrist. Whoever the person is, I am sure she is connected to her. I can’t believe I’ve been blind all these months. Your aunt is evil abi?’ She didn’t wait for her husband to answer. ‘For goodness sake, Charles, what are you not telling me? I want to know everything about your family and your life! I don’t want surprises anymore.’
Sadness filled Charles’ heart. This might be the end of his marriage. He could already see the panic on his wife’s face.
‘Why are you asking me these questions. What do you want?’ Aunt Toyosi was getting uncomfortable. She felt a burning sensation on her feet. Voices screamed in her head. When she looked at Ebun, there was a confidence that made her shiver. It made her want to run away.
‘Big mama, it’s a simple question. You said you are born-again. I’m just asking, how do you know? Let’s share God’s word together.’
‘I’m not answering your question, okay?’ She looked towards the bedroom door. ‘Where is your sister? Where is Charles?’
‘God loves you Mama. You would have been a great instrument in his hand but you allowed the devil use you for his purpose.’
‘Are you calling me a witch?’ Big Mama stood to her feet. ‘Ode! Oniranu! Do you know who I am? Go and ask around about me. Nobody plays with fire. I am dangerous!’
Ebun smiled. ‘Big Mama, Christ died for you. Please receive the life he is offering you.’
Aunt Toyosi laughed dryly. ‘Right now I feel insulted. You think you are better than me? You sit there preaching to me. What are you saying in essence? That I am a sinner? How dare you judge me? I will deal with all of you in this house. Nobody messes with me! In fact, I’m out of here. Tell Funmi that I’ll get my bag later.’
Ebun watched her leave. Compassion filled her heart for Aunt Toyosi. She noticed the foul smell followed her out.
Charles came out of the room, followed by his wife.
‘Where is she?’ Charles said, looking around the living room.
Ebun folded her hand. ‘She has gone.’
Funmi lifted her hands up. ‘Ope o! Thank God. I hope she went away with the evil bag she left in the guest room?’
Ebun looked at her sister. ‘Why are you hot this morning. Calm down.’
‘Calm down keh! Ebun, this woman would have killed me. Jesus Christ! I’ve been dining with my enemy.’
‘Christ died for her too, remember? I think we should pray for her.’
Funmi walked back and forth the living room. ‘Ahh! How could I have been so foolish.’
Ebun looked from Charles to Funmi. ‘Are you ready to eat? It’s almost noon.’
Funmi stopped pacing. ‘Not yet. we can’t eat until I know what I’m dealing with. Charles and I are going into the room to have a long talk.
Charles’ heart fainted. ‘Now?’
‘Yes. I can’t rest until I hear everything.’ Funmi said as she walked towards the bedroom. ‘Charles, please join me in the room.’
Charles heart fell. Why did things have to get bad whenever he was happy?
‘I’m scared. I don’t think I have a marriage anymore.’ Charles said to his sister-in-law.
Ebun touched his shoulder lightly. ‘We trust God okay?’
Charles didn’t respond. He walked slowly to the bedroom, Wherever this was going to lead, he knew he had a Father who loved him. He was going to allow God handle this.
When he opened the door, Funmi was sitting on a chair with one leg crossed over the other.
The atmosphere was tense. Funmi was not smiling. Charles heart fainted.
‘Charles, start from the beginning. I want to know everything.’
Ebun yawned and stretched her body on the bed. She’d been working on a paper and her back hurt badly. Izu had warned her to stop working on the bed. Sit on a chair, he’d say.
Her stomach rumbled. As she climbed down from the bed to get something to eat, her phone vibrated. She smiled when she saw who the caller was.
‘Daddy!’ Ebun screamed excitedly. ‘It’s not fair. You don’t even have time for us again.’
‘Ebun, don’t talk like that. I always think about you and your sister. The work here is intense. I almost broke down but God is faithful.’
‘Mum said so. Dad I know you are passionate about ministry but please take time to rest.
‘That’s what I’m doing now. I left the field yesterday. Your mum and I are in the ministry’s guest house in Accra. We’ll be here for a couple of weeks before returning to the field.’
‘I’m so happy to hear this. I’m begging you daddy, don’t be doing ministry from your bedroom.’
Ebun’s father laughed. ‘You can trust your mother on that one. I’m just enjoying sitting by the pool side, reading a book. How are you? Your mother has been keeping me up to date with your wedding preparations. How’s your sister? Is she there with you?’
Ebun sighed. ‘No dad. She’s been in the room with Charles for almost four hours now. Dad, please pray for them. The conversation they are having now is intense.’
Ebun’s Father sighed. ‘We’ve been praying, everyday. God is in control.’
‘I’ll let you know when she comes out. Where’s mum?’
Before her father would reply, Funmi burst into the guest room, fuming.
‘Dad, she is here.’ She held out the phone to her sister. ‘Funmi, dad.’
‘I don’t want to talk to him! Dad was not there for me all through the issues I went through. I don’t want to talk to anybody!’ She paced the room. ‘This marriage is a scam! I’m done! This was a mistake in the first place. I regret the day I met Charles. What nonsense!’
‘Dad, I think I’ll have to call you back.’
‘That’s fine. We’ll be praying here. When she is calm, I want to talk to her.’
Ebun ended the call and stared at her sister. She prayed silently that Funmi would listen to what God had to say concerning the situation.
‘Can you imagine? Charles has been cheating on me before we got married and he didn’t even stop after we were married! I don’t even know how I got into a demonic family like his. I don’t want to see him again!’ Tears rolled down her cheeks. ‘Why didn’t he tell me his aunt disapproved of me?’
She pointed at the bed. ‘I would have died on this bed. That man almost killed me. I had one night mare after another. The demonic girl he was sleeping with used a club on me. She wanted to kill me.’
‘Funmi sit down, your legs are shaking.’
Funmi shook her head and sobbed aloud. ‘I shouldn’t have married him. Oh God! This is the biggest mistake I made in my life. Why was I so blind?’
Ebun led her sister to the bed and wrapped her hands around her. Funmi’s body trembled as she wept.
Charles walked aimlessly, tears blurring his sight. His marriage was over. Funmi had looked at him and uttered the words he feared most.
‘I’m done with this marriage!’ She had yelled and stormed out of the room.
He had nowhere to go. He had no job. His car was at the mechanic and there was no money to fix it. He had nothing on him, not even a single dime. His life was finished. There was no hope for him again.
His phone beeped.
Baby, Ayanfe wants you badly right now. Check your whatsapp. I made some videos for you. I love you. You are mine forever.
Charles stared at the text message. His heart pounded loudly. He needed a relief from the pain he was feeling. He had to see the nudes Ireti sent.
Don’t turn on your data.
The still small voice again.
Turn it on. You need a relief from this excruciating pain. Look at what has happened to your marriage. How can you say God still loves you? See that eatery over there, get into their restroom and you’ll have the privacy you want for a couple of minutes. The eatery is almost empty. There will be no distractions. Do it now! The pleasure will calm your nerves.
Charles fixed his gaze on the building painted yellow and brown. He had used their restroom several times to watch Ireti’s nudes. Every time he went there, he’d rushed to Ireti’s house, consumed by lust.
Charles shut his eyes. ‘Jesus.’
Ebun’s voice came out so clear in his head.
Charles, you are the righteousness of God in Christ. You are not an adulterer. That is not who you are. Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Open your mouth and speak. You silence the thoughts of the devil with the words of God.
Another voice yelled at him.
Your wife does not want you anymore! You have been stripped bare. No job, no money. Nothing. Stop deceiving yourself. God has not been speaking to you. He wants nothing to do with you. Sin has ruined your life. Take away this pain. Get into the eatery.
‘Jesus, help me.’ He thrust his hands into his pockets. ‘I am the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus. God loves me. He is my Father. I received the gift of the Holy Spirit. Sin has no dominion over me.’
He kept moving towards the eatery. Images of Ireti filled his head. He stopped in front of the eatery.
‘Oh Jesus. Please. My mind is going crazy. I know lust has no dominion. Oh Jesus…’
A plump man with strands of white hair on his beards came out of the eatery. He was dressed in a red jersey and blue jeans. He stopped when he saw Charles.
‘Mr Charles.’ The man said, beaming with smiles. He stretched out his hand.
‘Do you remember me? I’m Pastor Gabriel. I live down your street. I picked you up one morning while you were going out to work.’
‘Oh.’ Charles exclaimed. He remembered the man. He’d thought about him while praying with Funmi the previous night.
Don’t listen to him. You have an unfinished task! Videos are waiting. This man is a distraction.
The man touched his shoulder. Charles felt his body relax.
‘Are you okay?’
At the same time, his phone rang. He looked from the phone to the Pastor, his hand trembling. Ireti.
The Pastor moved closer to him. ‘I’m heading to the church for bible study. You want to come?’
Charles swallowed hard. Thoughts of Ireti and what she’d do to his body wanted to cripple his mind.
Charles let out two deep breath. ‘Yes. I’ll love that.’
The man pointed at a black Toyota camry. ‘That’s my car over there.’
Charles phone rang again as they walked to the car. He ended the call and switched off his phone.
EPISODE 8. MONDAY