BLINKERED- GRACE OCHIGBO
EPISODE TWENTY TWO
The breaking of a new dawn
“In the soon unfolding year, I decree that light will pop out of darkness for you in Jesus name. Lines are falling for you and yours in pleasant places… A lot of packages… hits you from all corners… Receive! Receive! Good measures…” Pastor Ameh Enemona of the Covenant Glory Assembly, Lokoja, blared out thunderously through the microphone; his voice was already beginning to crack from excessive continuous screams as he jumped from one part of the blue-coloured rugged elevated podium. Recurring choruses and screams of ‘Amen’ filled the whole church auditorium which is one of the largest auditoriums in the area. The monthly prayer vigil was more or less a tradition here as it is in most churches, bringing people of various tribes, ages and sizes into this church till it is filled up to the brim. Water-proof canopies would then be mounted outside, a place they refer to as ‘overflow’, with large televisions displaying every single activity going on inside. Today’s crowd is so remarkable because tonight is ‘crossing over’ into a new year. Brethren are expectant, eagerly awaiting God’s directives and instructions for their lives in the New Year that will kick start just in a matter of few minutes from now. The choristers dressed in white plaid shirts on flowered flare skirts added melody to the strong backup sounds by the instrumentalists, the keyboardist, the guitarist, the dark young man on the drums and the organists as they re-echoed each prophetic release from the man of God.
“Be it sickness, terminal diseases or whatsoever you came here with tonight, you aren’t leaving with it … So check your body… confirm your healing and rush forward for your testimony…” The pastor announced. The young men and women of the protocol team, dressed elegantly in different colours of attractive suits came to file out in front of the altar, before the pastor could barely finish his statement, to take down testimonies from the long queue already emanating from the congregation.
“Honey, do you think we made a mistake by letting Tonia go?” Abigail Abuh plunged upward because of her height and practically screamed into the ears of her husband amidst the loud claps and responses of ‘Amen’ from every corner of the church. He in turn courteously lowered his shoulders a little amidst the loud screams.
“How do you mean?” he asked looking confused at first but continued almost immediately with his head nodding from side to side after his brain simulated what she meant, “No Darling, I don’t think so. Last moments are priceless and shouldn’t be denied anyone. And you remember the appeal was made by the Doctor herself”
“I was only saying, perhaps if she came here, God could be merciful onto us and heal her. We need miracles, right? We won’t have to continue in this nightmare waiting for a kidney donor any longer…” she tried to scream as before but her voice started breaking along the line.
Her husband held her hands tightly locked in his,
“Don’t begin a new year with tears Honey. Some questions in life never get answers.” He said slowly, trying to pacify her. “Moreover God’s ways aren’t ours. It takes him barely split seconds to take action when he wills and distance is never a barrier. Just believe.”
Abigail smiled. The smile wasn’t real but she had to. It was still a blank cheque for the New Year and she wouldn’t let tears ruin it all. Her husband’s words did wonders to her inner strength and no matter how dim it seemed she saw some light at the end of this tunnel.
She readjusted her head tie more firmly over her head. She looked up and forward at the altar as a pastor narrated mind-blowing testimonies to the awe of the whole congregation.
“Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.” she voiced out in a tone of helplessness and total surrender.
“Five… four… three… two… one… Happy New Year!”
Everyone cheered excitedly as tumblers clicked each other to a toast in the wide spaced dining hall of Dr Wale’s house. They have been patiently awaiting the second hand of the large golden wall clock to tick the twelve point.
“Happy New Year Darling Tosin… I wish you better and more fruitful days ahead this year.” Dr Bukky said as she hugged her son.
“Thank you mum. I wish you more of God’s grace and strength in this new year too…” Tosin replied still in his mother’s arms
“And you too Moppet… Happy new year, I wish you fulfilment of your life’s dream.” Dr Wale said, drawing closer and hugging me warmly,
“That’s my gorgeous daughter. I wish you happiness and fulfilment too this year.” Dr Bukky left Tosin and joined her husband in hugging me.
I felt so loved. I guess it wasn’t a mistake after all joining the Adewale family in their New Year eve celebration at home, inasmuch as I would have loved to also attend the vigil in church with my family.
“Thank you sir and thank you ma…” I replied politely, almost at loss for words
“Call me the correct thing, c’mon!” Dr Bukky attacked me, in a playful manner.
“Ooh! I’m so sorry ma… erhm… I mean … am so sorry mummy… Thank you mummy.” I said, gesticulating with my hands.
Everyone including Tosin burst into laughter. I think he loved it that his mother is extremely fond of and free with me. Though it wasn’t all he wished for… but he could at least do with this. Who gets all he wishes for nowadays, anyway?
“Tee, can we go sit outside?” Tosin interrupted our prolonged laughter.
His parents moved their gaze from Tosin to me then turned to face each other and thereafter started laughing again. I stood fixed unable to see whatever was hilarious. Tosin’s request? Or was there something else I didn’t know about this time?
We strolled out hand-in-hand towards the fountain at the centre of the compound. The moon was out and outside shone like daylight with the extremely chilly harmattan air. We walked in silence, everyone deep in thoughts. Until I become a sorcerer, I can’t tell yet what was going on in his mind, I could only tell mine- I’m losing another dear friend. My consolation has remained the fact that social media makes far away people come so close to us in that when I see him off to the airport later on this morning, I can still keep my constant communication with him.
He released my hands and came to stand tall in front of me. I stared at him trying not to imagine what he was up to as diverse thoughts flashed through my mind. ‘I hope he wouldn’t be asking for a New Year kiss under this leering moonlight and soft breeze atmosphere?’ I was just thinking… Or raising me up as he did on Monday? I got into the house that day to see on the TV that the wife of the governor of the Central bank of Nigeria was kidnapped. That was startling and strange to me, frankly.
“What?” He asked with his mouth opening widely to the centre, “…you don’t have to stare at me like that, like I was going to do somin evil to you. Oh oh! And now she is panting…” he mocked, laughing out, “Relax please… C’mon, you know you can think aloud around me.”
I heaved a deep sigh and pulled back my popping eyeballs a little in.
“What do you want Tosin?” I was beginning to get impatient.
“I’ll be going back this morning. I’ll stay with elder bro for some weeks because mum has sold back our house since I didn’t plan leaving here soon…” he chuckled lightly before continuing, “…but can’t we elope? As we see in Korean and Mexican movies, let us elope right away.”
Has something come lose in his head? I looked at him with my shocked eyes begging him to seal his mouth but he wore a confusing serious look.
“This is no time for jokes right?” I asked,
“I have something to give to you. And am giving it now…”
I smiled. That sounds dramatic,
“OK?” I raised my left eyebrow and lowered the other one beckoning him to continue.
“So are you ready to receive it?” He questioned again.
“As long as I don’t get to close my eyes first…” I retorted eagerly
“Nah! You wouldn’t have to. Just keep your eyes open while you take it straight from me.” He said in a calm sultry tone.
I looked on at him expectantly as my heart beat fast against my ribcage, not knowing exactly what to expect.
“One of the plenty benefits of getting a woman in your life… See how your tummy has started protruding in just two days.” Jerry teased Simon as they both sat on the rugged floor of Simon’s sitting room playing chess. Though Jerry had been defeated in two consecutive rounds, he isn’t losing hope even with Simon’s rants and mockeries.
“Seriously guy, she is… I don’t even know what to say. I am just beginning to realise how true the adage about the way to a man’s heart is…” Simon replied after laughing heavily as he drew on the chess board.
“So the way to yours too is food, huh? You have seen chef!” Grace said, joining them from the kitchen with a tray in her hands.
“Well, am only responsible for what I say not how you read it. Help me God!” Simon exclaimed stretching up from the game as he greedily sipped in the aroma coming from the plates of hot pepper soup Grace neatly set on the centre table beside them.
“Comot! What is God helping you with? E sure me pieces say if we leave you, you go lick the three plates in one minute.” Jerry jeered again in pidgin language and everybody started laughing,
“What is your problem this morning nau! Early hours of a new year and you are just finishing me up? Why you carry your ‘coconut head’ come my house abeg? Your mates dey do vigil for church. At least start the year on a good note for once.” Simon scoffed, picking up his own plate and starting to bite hastily at the meat.
“Good note huh? We should be preaching that to you… Come please, Gracey, my head and your oga own, which one resemble coconut?” Jerry asked beckoning to Grace who sat comfortably on her chair, eating in silence.
She let out a mild chuckle, shaking her head alongside,
“Please the both of you should leave me alone… There is so much pepper in this food.” she responded, waving him off.
Jerry and Simon wouldn’t bulge. They continued with their teases and mockeries but were careful so as not to get choked with the over peppered meat soup. It’s typical of them when they are both together. Grace was beginning to think that her stomach would burst from excessive laugher over the past two days.
“Nna, you said you were still confused because you don’t know why that your babe left you…” Simon changed the topic immediately he was done with his food and dropped his plate back in the tray.
“Jerry? Which girl please?” Grace asked, looking curious.
“Haba, how many girls do this one have in his life? He is also an ideal man like me.” Simon rubbed his chest proudly as he said those words.
Jerry threw the remote in his hand at Simon, but he caught it before it would hit him and replaced it on the table.
“Simon, what kind of creature are you nau? Eje mi nmin?” Jerry yelled, asking Simon to let him be.
“Jerry did you just speak Igala? Oh my God, my guy is learning fast!” Grace interjected with sarcasm in her voice.
“C’mon nau! What do you mean by that? I am a full born Igala… my both parents for that matter, why shouldn’t I speak my language?” Jerry defended himself.
Simon cleared his throat… “Oya make una no change topic… Una be Igala and I be Igbo, we are all Nigerians… Don’t bring tribalism into my house… There is unity in diversity, biko” Simon pleaded facetiously. It happened yesterday afternoon, unnecessary arguments about who speaks the language better, Jerry and Grace blocked him out of their conversation completely because he didn’t know how to get in, and he wasn’t going to let that start again today.
They both laughed and readjusted.
“I think Tonia still believes you are in a relationship with Lara.” Grace said in a rather calm way
Jerry dropped his empty plate in the tray also and moved back to lean against the chair behind him,
“The funny thing was that, before Lara’s show in their class; I haven’t asked her for anything yet. It was later when I thought I needed sanity that I proposed relationship to Lara. But we had to break up, about a week ago. Obviously, I couldn’t get over Tonia and there was no need wasting Lara’s time…” he said giving a knowing look to Simon who confirmed by nodding in the affirmative.
“So why won’t you just open up once and for all to her? Tell her exactly how it is deep down and how you are not willing to let her go…” Simon admonished in a very serious tone for the first time.
“That girl can be crazy at times. I don’t want her rendering me into pieces like she did to me August 15th last year. Ha! She just started it like joke, like joke o, after returning from home one weekend. And right there in their room she broke us up and walked me out…” he sighed deeply, placing his gaze on Grace… “I think she gets inconsiderate only when she realises someone loves her so deeply… And apart from that, she is always with this cute guy, so much so that they play childishly in the public without shame. One time, I even called her house and they said she was out with the same guy.” He mumbled on, drawing out a long hiss in spite, unable to hide the jealousy in his voice as much as he hid the one on his face.
“Ha! Jerry, you can’t even hide your jealousy? It’s a new year o. Jealous people are wizards” Simon interrupted jokingly. Someone needed to lighten up the tense atmosphere that was beginning to cover the whole room.
“Yeah, I guess am tired of pretending after all.” Jerry voiced out in frustration, blowing out hot air through his mouth “I love that girl like my life depends on it. My parents will feel like they have succeeded in their choice for me, so I can’t let them know this truth. I would rather keep acting to frustrate their efforts. Tonia herself too should be shut out, I don’t want a replay of the last scene neither do I need a ‘drama queen’ to again shatter my entirety as it were.” he said dejectedly.
“So what do we do now? New Year resolutions. At least it’s only 3am, January 1” Simon asked, forming his lips into a tight slit.
“She used to tease me then that I should come marry her immediately after law school. I wanna live out that plan, regardless of our present situation. Though I made it sound like it was our parents’ idea the last time I told her about it but she gave one of those her ridiculous responses again. Tonia can be really frustrating…” He confessed
“What are you talking about, Jerry?” Simon asked, feeling the hurt in his friend’s sober voice.
Jerry cleared his throat. “She said she hope she is still alive till then. Can you imagine that?”
Grace sat up on the settee and sighed,
“I’ve seen Tonia turn people down in that room, I’ve seen how guys fall over themselves to be in a relationship with her and she keeps rejecting them, you know she is smart and fun to be with. I was even surprised when she wouldn’t let me be with tales about Jerry this, Jerry that. At a point, I became very curious and eager to meet the Jerry potent enough to steal my roomie’s heart that much, which I eventually did. But then I was still hoping her emotional insecurity, which wasn’t her fault but part of the social symptoms of her condition, wouldn’t set in between you two.”
Jerry and Simon’s eyes popped wide open as Grace spoke, as if they wanted to ‘see’ her voice.
“What condition is that, Gracey” Jerry asked with curiosity.
Grace ignored him and just continued,
“I know she loved you truly and I kept encouraging her to hold on to the love. She promised me she would, but she couldn’t keep to her promise after all. The mere fact that you cherished her so much was enough to scare the living daylight out of her, so much she drowned in those fears.”
“Really? Who has allergy for love and care? What exactly are you saying, Grace?” Jerry asked unable to control himself anymore…
“Tonia has been battling with sickle cell disease all her life…” Grace responded firmly.
Jerry stared blankly at the framed picture on the wall opposite him as though addressing it. So much news to start a promising new year with.
To be continued.