Read Episode 1
Ebun passed a clean white handkerchief to her sister. Funmi had stopped crying. ‘You need time alone. Just put yourself together and let God guide your thinking process. I’ll be in the living room.’
Funmi nodded and blew her nose into the handkerchief. When Ebun moved towards the door, Funmi ran after her.
Ebun turned swiftly, worried. ‘What’s the matter?’
Funmi looked terrified. The image of the cowboy man was back. He’d almost killed her in that room. What if he tried to finish what he started?
‘I can’t stay here alone.’
Ebun looked around the room as if searching for a third party responsible for Funmi’s fear.
‘I was right.’ Ebun said. ‘I noticed you never stay in this room except I’m in. I thought it was just an assumption until Charles confirmed that the day Aunt Toyosi came here, you left her bag at the entrance of the room and pleaded with him to take the bag into the wardrobe.’
Funmi made a bold face. ‘Why would Charles say that? I’m not scared! I am a child of God.’
Ebun pulled the key out of the door lock and smiled at her sister. ‘Really?’
Funmi glanced at her, fear filled her face. ‘What are you trying to do?’
Ebun dashed out of the room before Funmi could get to the door. She slammed the door and locked it.
Funmi pounded her fist on the door. ‘Ebun!’
‘Face that fear Funmi. You know who you are in Christ. Deal with it! It has no right to torment your mind anymore.’
Funmi’s heart panted. Her hands trembled as her eyes darted from one side of the room to the other.
She heard mock laughter. Dread shot at her chest.
Where did that laughter come from? Her head?
Funmi stared at the window. What was that movement by the curtain? She backed against the door, her heart thumping hard.
That night, the man had smiled mockingly as he stood to attack her. What if he tried to hurt her again? Would she survive this time? If Ireti knew how to get to the master bedroom, she’d know about the guest room too.
An image danced in her mind. Ireti holding a club and heading towards her.
Funmi closed her eyes. There was no one in the room with her, she knew. Fear was the greatest weapon of the devil. If she didn’t face it now, she’d battle it for the rest of her life.
She paced the room slowly. ‘For God has not given me the spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’
She repeated the words again, touching the bed sheets while sweat trickled down her neck. Her heart pounded. The images were like stumps in her mind.
‘You spirit of fear! I rebuke you. I am a son of God! I am loved by my Father. I do not take what God has not given me. I have authority over the powers of darkness. I have the mind of Christ! As Christ is, so am I. I have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear.’
The images disappeared. Funmi sat on the bed, breathing heavily. She broke into a song and danced round the room.
Charles stood in front of an old building painted white. The house stood tall in the middle of a large sparse of land covered with weeds. The building was fenced by a forest and beside it was a large pool of stinking stagnant water. He moved towards one of the windows and tried to peer in. It was completely dark.
As he returned to the front door, he sighted an animal standing by one of the trees, watching him.
Panic stirred. Was this a leopard or a Jaguar? Frightened, Charles pushed the entrance door. It didn’t budge. He tried again, nothing.
When he glanced at the animal again, there were more at every corner. He was surrounded by a pack of wild animals.
He had to get into the building. Was there a back door left opened? Discouraged, he tried again, pushing with all his strength.
It opened slightly. Surprise mixed with relief, he squeezed himself through the small opening. His face was covered with cobwebs as he stepped into darkness. He brushed off the cobwebs and moved further into the house. His legs kicked something.
Groping in the dark, he reached for it. It was a small flashlight. He turned it on and looked round the house. The ground floor was empty. He saw light above a flight of stairs and began to ascend slowly.
Charles reached the first floor and counted the rooms. 32. Which of the rooms was he supposed to enter.
His eyes stopped at a door at the far end of the floor.
That has to be the room, he thought.
He moved quickly towards the door.
Charles froze. He turned slowly to see Aunt Toyosi glaring at him.
‘Don’t you dare enter that room!’ She yelled.
‘He is going into that room and there is nothing you can do to stop him.’ A voice said from behind him.
Charles turned sharply. Pastor Gabriel!
Had Pastor Gabriel been following him all along? Charles had not seen him when he tried to get into the house.
‘He can’t enter that room.’ Aunt Toyosi said again, this time her voice was shaky.
Pastor Gabriel pointed at the door. ‘Charles, go into that room.’
Charles looked from Pastor Gabriel to his aunt. He felt boldness replace the fear that had consumed him earlier. He smiled and turned the door knob.
It was a large room with ten bunks. Children between five and seven years were chained to the edge of the bunks. They stared at him quietly and he stared back, looking out for familiar faces. They looked like robots, sitting there without making a move. When Charles looked behind him, he was alone.
Where was Pastor Gabriel?
He walked down to the end of the room and stopped at the last bunk.
His heart fainted. A boy of five sat on the floor, his wrist chained to another girl his age. The boy bore striking resemblance to him.
‘Charles.’ He said to the boy who looked ready to bolt out of the room.
He turned to the little girl beside him. Ireti’s eyes. This had to be Ireti. She had tormented him for years. Was this the covenant his aunt talked about?
As he moved closer, the girl started to fidget.
‘Leave me alone!’ She screamed.
Annoyed, he touched the chains. A deafening explosive sound nearby made Charles release his grip on the chains.
Suddenly, the window opened and a one-eyed dark man jumped in. Charles recognized him. The man had beaten him in his dream several times in his first year on campus. He had stopped appearing in his dreams when he accepted Christ.
‘What are you doing?’ The man asked, furious.
‘Whoever the son of man has set free is free indeed.’ Charles said, boldly. ‘Just so you know, Charles has been delivered from the power of darkness. He has been translated into the kingdom of light.’
Where had this boldness come from?
The chains snapped and the boy got up from the floor and reached for Charles’ hand. Charles couldn’t understand how that had happened. He held the boy’s hand. The girl wailed.
The dark man, stewing, shifted backwards, afraid. Charles grew more confident.
Aunt Toyosi came into the room. ‘Charles, I took care of you. I loved you like my own child. I-’
‘Shut up!’ Charles barked. ‘Your schemes end in my life! God is my father. I only know the love of God! Every evil pattern in my life has been broken. He that is joined with the Lord is one spirit with him!’
Aunt Toyosi made a low groaning sound. Suddenly, Charles was lifted off the ground. He didn’t let go of the little boy as he landed in front of the animals he’d seen earlier.
The boy screamed in fear. Charles carried him and buried his head in his neck.
His heart pounded fast. The animals looked starved.
‘Fear is not in your reborn spirit. Go!’
He knew the voice. Pastor Gabriel. He looked around but did not see anyone.
He proceeded forward, holding tightly to the boy. A scripture dropped in his heart.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Charles held his breath as he walked towards the animals. It was like walking into a death zone. An image of the animals fighting for his flesh crippled him with fear.
‘Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me.’ He said aloud.
A leopard stepped aside, bowing slightly. Charles couldn’t believe it. He got bolder. More stepped aside for him as he walked right into their midst.
Charles lips moved.
‘The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?’
‘ I will say of the Lord, he is my refuge and my fortress. My God, in him will I trust. He shall give his angels charge over me, to keep me in all my ways.’
Charles stopped. There were voices singing. He looked around. He was not in any forest. Instead, he was lying on the floor in a building filled with people. What was he doing here? What about the little boy he’d rescued from that building? Did he really escape death in that forest? Had he died and gone to heaven?
He sat up, confused. A man in a blue suit and a tag, ‘usher’ helped him to his feet.
The hall was packed full with people, dancing and singing. He looked towards the front of the hall. A lady in a white blouse and flowery skirt held a microphone leading a song he was familiar with.
‘How did I get here?’ Charles muttered to himself.
His eyes caught Pastor Gabriel behind the lady and then he remembered. Pastor Gabriel had touched his forehead during the prayer session and he’d felt electricity surge through his body. His legs had given way and he’d landed on the floor.
Charles lifted his hands as tears ran down his face.
Who the son sets free, oh is free indeed. I’m a child of God Yes I am!’ Charles joined in, singing at the top of his voice.
Funmi drew the curtain aside again while she dialed Charles’ number.
‘His line is switched off and it’s already midnight.’
Ebun touched her shoulder. ‘Let’s go to bed. We’ll try again in the morning. I’m sure wherever he is, he is fine.’
‘Are you sure I’ve not driven him into the arms of that lady again?’
‘Funmi, you can’t take responsibility for a man’s choice. Assumptions won’t do us any good. God is in charge of Charles’ life now. Let’s go to bed.’
Funmi couldn’t sleep. She kept tossing from one side of the bed to the other.
Where was Charles now?
Was he in bed with Ireti?
She thought about her decision to walk out of her marriage and the restlessness increased. She was not sure she could trust Charles again and she really wanted to be alone. She had forgiven him but the pain he’d caused her was still raw in her mind.
Remember the story of the adulterous woman?
What was God trying to say again. She didn’t want to hear his voice but she found herself listening for his voice.
Remember what I said to her? ‘Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more’
Lord, what does that have to do with this?
Imitate God therefore in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God.
She knew what God wanted her to do. How could He ask her to stay married to Charles after all he had done to her?
‘But I’m hurt. I’m really hurt,’ She said aloud and faced the wall. She’d go to sleep and forget God said anything. She’d convince herself that it was her mind deceiving her.
Funmi heard her name. She sat up and listened.
Her heart jumped. Who was calling her at this time of the night. She waited.
She climbed down from the bed and opened the door. She could hear the voice clearly. It didn’t sound like Ebun’s voice.
Funmi went into the guest room. Ebun was fast asleep. She closed the door and headed back to her room.
Funmi stood in front of her room.
‘Who is calling me?’ Funmi asked.
She went out through the front door and walked towards the gate. It was opened. She stepped out of the gate.
Everywhere was dark. She stopped outside the gate, wondering whether to go to the left or the right.
The voice came from the direction of the left. She followed the voice. Suddenly she saw a large pit in front of her. She drew back, shocked.
Funmi heard footsteps and turned quickly. A gun was pointed at her forehead. Funmi gasped, her mouth opened. Her body began to quake. She raised her eyes.
‘Big Mama, what are you trying to do?’
‘I have killed your husband. It’s time for you to go too.’
Panic filled Funmi’s heart. ‘You did what?’
A gunshot went out followed by a loud wailing sound. A body rolled into the large pit.
Charles threw the last piece of sausage into his mouth and refilled his glass cup with water from the jug. He gulped all of it down quickly and rose to clear the dishes. Hannah, Pastor Gabriel’s sixteen year-old daughter stopped him on the way to the kitchen and took the dishes from him.
‘Thank you very much.’ Charles said to her.
The teenage girl smiled. ‘You are welcome sir. Dad is waiting for you in the living room upstairs.’
Pastor Gabriel was reading 21 irrefutable laws of leadership by John Maxwell when Charles entered the living room. He put the book on the center table and asked Charles to sit beside him.
‘Where’s your wife? I’ve not seen her since the family devotion this morning.’
Pastor Gabriel smiled. ‘She leaves for work before seven a.m. I married a smart woman who runs two thriving businesses and chairs two company boards.’
Charles nodded his head slowly. ‘Wow.’
Pastor Gabriel pulled a brown envelope out of his pocket. ‘Charles, God is intentional about your life. He is already working things out for you. Just stay in alignment with his will. You’ll get a job soon. But for now you can have this.’
The Pastor held out the envelope. Charles hesitated before taking it from him. His mouth opened in surprise when he saw neatly packed one thousand naira notes. Were there still people this generous?
‘That’s the contribution from the church. We’ll help as much as we can until you can stand on your feet.’
Tears of gratitude filled Charles’ eyes. ‘Thank you so much sir.’
The Pastor tapped his phone screen.‘Let me have your account number.’
It was then Charles remembered his phone had been turned off. He went into the guest room and found it inside a bag containing the clothes and toiletries the Pastor had given him the previous evening. He switched the phone on and returned to the living room.
His phone beeped. It was a message from Ronke, Aunt Toyosi’s daughter. Curious, he clicked on the message.
Hey coz, been trying to reach you. I just got news that mum died in her sleep last night. Good riddance to bad rubbish. Now we can all breath some fresh air. Just want you to know that I won’t be attending her burial. None of my siblings will too. It’s too risky for our lives. I also want to warn you not to go. Be sure those blood sucking witches will be there. How are you?
Charles looked aghast. Aunt Toyosi was dead? He leaned on the wall for support. He read the text message again. He was supposed to be relieved, why was he sad?
‘What’s going on?’ Pastor Gabriel asked, concerned.
Charles slumped into the sofa ‘The woman I told you was a thorn in my flesh, she is dead.’
Funmi sat on the floor weeping. ‘Oh God, why did you allow that witch get to my husband. Why did you say I should forgive him when you knew Charles was dead.’
Ebun shook her shoulders. ‘You can’t be sure about that!’
Funmi glanced at her sister amidst blurry eyes. ‘In that dream, Aunt Toyosi said she killed him and that I was next. That dream was real. Ebun, why didn’t I go instead of Charles. I know he hurt me but I love him.’ She cried. ‘I love him!’
Ebun slid beside her sister on the floor and held her hands. Her heart broke as she watched Funmi sob uncontrollably.
Funmi wiped her tear smeared face. ‘Where do I start to look for his body? This is my fault. I told him to get out of my sight after he opened up to me. I said I didn’t want to have anything to do with him again. I was so angry. Now look at me. I am a widow. Oh God!’
Ebun pulled Funmi into her arms again. ‘Everything will be okay.’
Funmi sniffed. ‘God, help me get through this. I am tired of life. I’m tired of everything.’
Someone rapped on the door. Funmi shot her sister a quick glance. Her heart jumped into her throat. Had Charles’ body been found? She tried to stand up but her legs would not move. Ebun went to answer the door.
A man with strands of white hair at the center of his hair and on his beards walked into the house. He was alone.
Funmi rose slowly, her eyes filled with tears again. Her dead husband had been found. She waited for the man to say something but instead, he fixed his gaze at her and remained silent.
Funmi’s eyes went to the door.
Why was Ebun smiling?
She was saying, ‘Come in. Funmi is not mad at you anymore.’
Who was she talking to?
Charles appeared at the entrance, staring at his wife with pleading eyes.
Funmi covered her mouth. ‘Jesus!’
She screamed in delight and flew into his arms. She kissed him and allowed the tears pour down her face.
Charles was alive!
When she pulled away, Charles stopped to catch his breath. This was not what he’d expected.
‘I forgive you.’ Fumni said, burying her face in his chest. ‘Oh baby, I forgive you. I want to stay married to you. I don’t want you to go anywhere.’
Charles couldn’t believe this. His eyes were teary as his arm came around hers. He kissed her forehead.
‘Thank you.’ Charles said, cupping her face in his hands. ‘I love you very much.’ He kissed her fully on her lips. ‘ Come and meet my Pastor.’
Pastor Gabriel grinned. ‘I’m Pastor Gabriel.’
‘So we have a church now?’ Funmi said, eyes lit. She went over to the man and shook his outstretched hand.
Charles nodded. ‘We have a family. I don’t know most of them yet, but with time we’ll get to bond with them.’
Funmi looked from the Pastor to her husband. Ebun had retreated to the guest room.
‘I was so scared. I had a dream. Aunt Toyosi tried to kill me. She said she had killed you and she wanted to do same to me,’
Charles sighed. ‘You remember Ronke?’
‘Aunt Toyosi’s second child?’ Funmi said, curious.
‘I got a text from her shortly before I came here. Aunt Toyosi is dead.’ Charles announced.
‘What!’ Funmi stared at her husband, eyes widened.
Was it Aunt Toyosi she saw in that large pit? How did it happen? But she was the one with the gun.
‘Lord Jesus,’ Funmi said softly
Pastor Gabriel thrust his hands into his pockets and looked at the couple. ‘Listen guys, Your aunt was not the real enemy. She was only used by the devil to carry out his agenda. The devil is still out there roaming about with his tricks, planning moves to pull your home down. Stay alert. Follow the leading of the Spirit every time. Your mind is your battlefield. We’ve won this battle but there are more battles to win.’
The couple sighed. ‘Thank you sir.’
That night, as Charles entered the bedroom, he saw Funmi sitting on a chair facing the mirror. He went to her.
‘Thank you for giving me another chance. I don’t deserve it. Thank you.’
Funmi sighed. ‘Charles, I’m still learning to trust and it may take some time. I-’
Charles touched her shoulders, interrupting her. ‘Sweetheart, I understand. I really do.’
Funmi kept staring at him from the mirror. If only Charles knew how much she loved him fiercely. She didn’t understand it. He’d hurt her badly and few hours ago, she didn’t want to have anything to do with him.
Why would she love a man who had hurt her this much. She’d almost lost it when she thought he had died. She wanted him to hold her. She knew things were different now but something in her held her back. Fear. What if things went wrong again?
Charles changed into his pyjamas. ‘Pastor Gabriel has placed me under a spiritual regimen. I’m supposed to pray an hour every day and listen to the sermons he gave me for this week. He must get a report daily.’
Funmi turned to her husband. ‘I thought you were supposed to meet with him and a couple of men for bible study every Saturday afternoon.
‘That’s part of it too.’
‘Wait a minute. This is different from the report of our daily prayers together that we are supposed to be sending to his associate pastor?’
Charles nodded. ‘He calls it accountability. He says if we don’t build a reporting system, the likelihood that we would slide back into complacency will be high. There is an accountability structure going on in the church. We’ll have to be part of the couple’s group as soon as soon as possible.’
Funmi smiled. ‘Wow. We have been in this town and we didn’t even know a place like this existed. Pastor Gabriel said his wife will meet with me this weekend. I’m just wondering the regimen that awaits me.’
Charles wrapped his hands around her neck and kissed her hair. Funmi relaxed, caressing his fingers, wishing they’d stay that way for a long time.
‘We are ready, aren’t we?’ Charles said. ‘I want to know Jesus much more. I want to know all the things he has made available to me. I want to enjoy a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit.’
Charles removed his hand and patted her shoulder gently before leaving the room.
Funmi kept staring at her reflection in the mirror.
‘I want the dead warrior in me to rise again.’ She said, quietly.
Charles watched the casket lowered into the grave. It’s been six months since Aunt Toyosi died.
His eyes shifted to seven women in black moving round the grave in a circle, making incantations. His aunt would have been buried earlier but the women had refused, claiming they had to perform some sisterhood rites to grant his aunt safe passage into a land of peace.
He wanted to get out of the place. The atmosphere was depressing. Even though it was just 8a.m, it was as if a blanket of darkness had covered the cemetery.
He looked around for his aunt’s husband. The man was probably still sitting in the living room looking like a vegetable. Ireti was nowhere to be found but he sensed she was somewhere around.
A small crowd watched the seven women from afar in fascination. Charles and a few of his cousins stood away from the crowd, silent.
A hand touched Charles. ‘Hey.’
Charles turned to find a tall light-skinned petite lady smiling up at him. His eyes widened in surprise.
He had not seen her in years. She was Ronke’s best friend. Back in his secondary school days, he’d crushed on her, pleading with his cousin to convince her to get into a relationship with him. Lola had never been interested.
‘It’s been ages Charles. You look really good.’ She said, engulfing her hand in his.
‘You don’t look bad yourself.’ Charles responded. ‘I’m surprised to see you here.’
‘Ronke told me you are a christian now. I was so happy when she said so. I’m the youth Pastor in my church.’
Charles eyes widened with interest. ‘That’s interesting.’
‘Can I have your number? I’d love to chat you up on WhatsApp. We could catch up on old times.’
As they exchanged numbers, Charles felt a quiet warning in his heart. During one of the Friday dates with his wife, they had looked over the notes from the last couples’ meeting in church. They’d agreed to stay accountable to each other. He made a mental note to inform his wife about Lola.
Burial over, Charles walked back to his car followed by his long lost crush. Lola talked about her commitment to the Lord. The retreats she organized for members of her youth group. How she increased the membership by one hundred percent. Her two time award in church as best steward for the year
Charles got to the door and opened it. ‘I’d love you to meet my wife.’
Lola didn’t sound happy about it. ‘I don’t want any wahala o. You know women and envy. I don’t want to come between you and her.’
Charles laughed. ‘That’s not possible. My wife and I are like conjoined twins.’
Lola sighed. ‘You guys must really be close. That’s good. Can I chat you up tonight? I can’t wait to know what’s been going on in your life,’
Charles shook his head. ‘Once it’s seven p.m, I’m hardly online. I love to spend most of my evenings with my sweetheart.’
Lola folded her hand on her chest. ‘You and this your wife sef. Don’t make single ladies like us jealous o.’
His phone rang. He glanced at the caller ID.
‘That’s my wife. I have to pick her up now. We have a long trip to make.’
‘No goodbye hug?’ Lola said, pretending to be annoyed.
Charles wanted to, but he felt a restraint. He laughed and got into the car.
‘Another time. I have to rush home now.’
He waved at her and pulled the car out of the cemetery. From the rear mirror, he saw Ireti standing under a tree, watching him leave. She looked distraught. He prayed silently that God would send someone to help her.
Charles dialed his wife’s number. ‘Sweetheart mi.’
‘Guess what? Mum and Dad have arrived Ilorin for Ebun’s wedding. I can’t wait! Please get here fast. We must get into ilorin before dusk.’
‘Yes, ma’am. I’ll be home in ten minutes.’
Thoughts ran through Charles’ mind as he pulled into his street. A verse dropped in his heart.
My son, attend to my words, incline thine ear to my sayings. Let my words not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart. For my words are life to those who find them and health to all their flesh.
Life was spiritual, he concluded. He believed without any doubt that if he stayed yielded to the Holy Spirit, his marriage would be beautiful.
Charles pulled up in front of his house and rushed in to get the boxes. He smiled to himself. Ebun would be a married woman in two days time. She had been a great blessing to his family. There was no way he’d miss her wedding for anything.
Charles placed the boxes in the trunk and climbed into the driver’s seat.
Funmi came out of the house in a knee-length maternity gown. Charles smiled as he watched her walk slowly towards the car. Even with her swollen face and protruding stomach, she was beautiful.
‘Pregnant woman. Carrier of nations.’ Charles teased as he opened the back door for her.
Funmi chuckled, settling into the seat slowly. She stretched her legs on the seat.
‘Dear, I’m craving hot roasted corn and pear.’
Charles started the engine. ‘Don’t start today o! Where do you want me to see roasted corn in February.’
Funmi gave a mock cry. ‘I want roasted corn.’
‘I will report to mummy when we get to ilorin. Two midnights ago, you made me prepare custard and you didn’t take more than two spoons. Let’s get to ilorin first.’
Funmi pulled his hair with one hand and tickled his side with the other.
Charles laughed. ‘Baby! I’m driving. Stop joor!’
Funmi rested her head on a throw pillow leaning against the door. ‘If we don’t see roasted corn, what about roasted yam? I don’t mind roasted plantain too. In fact, I don’t want roasted corn again. It’s roasted plaintain I want.’
Charles glanced at her briefly before facing the road. Dunsin Oyekan’s Channels of my Spirit rang loud from the car stereo
‘Can we stop at that your customer’s place and get okpa?’
‘Funmi!’ Charles shouted.
His wife burst into laughter and stared out the car window.
Thank you for taking out time to follow this story series. It’s been a great journey howbeit short.
Life is spiritual and we must come to the awareness that we cannot be ignorant of the devices of the devil.
I pray that you will strengthened much more by the Spirit in your inner man. I pray that you will not lose momentum where spiritual activities are concerned and that nothing will come between your communion with the Father.
Thank you for always leaving a comment. I enjoy reading them as always. I look forward to sharing more stories with you. You are blessed.
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Read: You are beautiful Episode I-11
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