THIS THING CALLED LOVE – GRACE OCHIGBO
Noise and loud chatters went on and on as the elders exchanged pleasantries on their way out of the board room.
“Amen, sir!”, “God bless, you my brother.”, “Oh, Elder… you are lifted!”
Pastor Festus said all these and more as the elders took turns to shake hands with him. It had been a delightful meeting as lots of matters were raised and thrashed – so many burdens were lifted but as the door closed behind Elder Achem who was the last person to step out; as Fred Williams took the seat beside Pastor Ikani’s, the atmosphere in the room gradually thickened until the tension therein became literally palpable.
Silence sat between them for a long time and it was obvious each one pondered over not just what he should say first but how he should say it.
“Report has gotten to me and I reckon that the assistant head of media ministry has been absent for about… next Wednesday would make it exactly six months and two weeks since her absence.” Pastor Festus picked something on his empty jaw as he was convinced that statement would be a good place to start their discussion from.
Fred Williams sat up straighter as he felt blood draining gradually from his face; his mouth turned sour by the minute, but he needed to be calm. Pastor Festus was supposed to be his partner in ministry. His partner, not his superior as the situation was making it look like right now. It shouldn’t be this way, he cautioned himself.
“Festus…” Pastor Ikani was taken aback and felt strange being addressed by his first name. It wasn’t a bad idea dropping the titles and getting back to who they truly are after all. They’re first of all men and thence men of God. It would be good to talk from that standpoint at times like this too.
“You see? Fred, I’ve gotten wind of this for a while now.” Pastor Festus’ voice was slow. “I’ve been wondering why you didn’t talk about it and have waited patiently for you to open up but when I realised you weren’t going to, I had to call us to talk heart to heart.”
Fred Williams swallowed against the lump in his throat. “I disowned her long time, Festus. I have no child of my own anymore.”
Pastor Festus didn’t look shocked at all and there was no need pretending about it. He only searched deep within. There was this thin line between ethics and friendship. He didn’t want to do anything that would soil the friendship they had built over the years knowing how easily angered his friend, Pastor Fred Williams can be. Notwithstanding, he needed to tell him the truth. That’s what friends are for, right?
“Apart from the fact that your daughter fell in love with my daughter’s former fiancé who broke out of the wedding plans less than a week to it, may I know why you disowned your only daughter?”
Fred Williams gave him the ‘are you for real?’ expression. If there was any reason at all to disown a rebellious child, doesn’t that sound logical enough? It’s like a child spitting on his father’s face for crying out loud.
How could Vera choose Caleb?
A guy she barely knew, a guy with history of breaking hearts –well, at least, two among whom he witnessed first-hand. He couldn’t place why his daughter had chosen the path of shame but he knew of a surety that he wouldn’t go that way with her. He wouldn’t soil longtime relationship because of a little girl’s youthful exuberance. He wouldn’t. That he was sure of.
What he didn’t understand now was why Pastor Festus was sounding defensive. It had better not be what he’s thinking, Fred Wiliams consoled himself.
“Do you think God was being unreasonable when he fell in love with a corrupt, sinful and hopeless race like we humans – His own very creation?” Pastor Festus started; searching his friend’s eyes to be sure he still had his attention. “Do you know how many times we offend him? I mean God…” He quickly clarified. “We’ve done enough to make him not love us but you see what I’ve come to discover?”
Fred Williams urged him to go on.
“That love is unconditional. The real love is to him that doesn’t deserve it and may never even merit it.” A sly smile tucked around Pastor Festus’ face. “The real love doesn’t keep records of evil. With God, our lives start on a fresh slate the very day we decide to confess our sins and ask for his forgiveness. And you know who I think acted like God in all the past sagas?”
Fred Williams frowned, daring him to say another word. Pastor Ikani ignored, with that smile still stuck in his lips.
“Vera!” Pastor Festus announced. “Vera found a reason to love someone every one of us considered a ‘never-do-well’; someone who had meticulously caused us so much pain in degrees that cannot be quantified. You know what I think?”
Fred shifted uncomfortably on his seat.
“We may only understand and be able to forgive and love more genuinely if we are all allowed to go through what my daughter went through.”
“How do you mean, Festus?” Fred finally found his voice.
“Unekwu was the most hurt amongst us all. She was the one brought to shame and ridicule with everything she had ever worked for taken away from her in a blink of an eyebrow. She’s the original wearer of this pinching shoe.” Pastor Festus swallowed.
He narrated briefly the ordeals in his house in the months since Unekwu was finally discharged. The young woman became very excited about her support group meetings, because in her own words, she derives so much inspiration from the people there. It was there one lady shared her story with them in the group and said, “After a stroke, she preferred to die but now she helps other people”.
“You see, Unekwu would hug Caleb excitedly if they ever get to meet now. They may even end up becoming friends again and if anyone tries to point out the sad part of her past to her, she wouldn’t understand. My daughter cannot remember anything from her past – nothing whatsoever. Her mind has become like that of a child; learning entirely new things and finding joy and happiness among those that care about her.”
Fred Williams cleared his throat. “I thought the doctors said she may regain her memory?”
Pastor Ikani smiled. “Well, its several months since then. If she ever regains it, fine. Hallelujah for that! But there’s something her situation has taught me and I don’t want us to overlook.”
“And what’s that?”
“Maybe we all will forgive easier if we lose our memories after a particular event. More like format our brain’s memory space and start all over again.” He chuckled.
Fred didn’t find his statement funny at all. Whoever jokes with memory loss? Pastor Festus noticed the frown on his friend’s face and sat up straighter.
“I’ve found not forgiving to be like picking a coal from a burning furnace to throw at our offenders. We get burnt first, however small.”
Fred Williams swallowed. “I hate to hear that my daughter is associated with that young man after all the havoc he’d wroth in our individual and collective lives.”
“Before the tides and storm, when my daughter’s wedding plans were intense, you were one of those that told me how impressive you were with Unekwu’s choice of a life partner and that you pray Vera acts that reasonably as well.” Pastor Ikani raised an eyebrow.
Fred Williams shrugged. “Well, that was before he showed himself to be a green snake under a green grass. That was before he decided to show us his numerous colours and he chose the same time to reveal them all at once.”
“Take your mind back to those early times and find reasons to love Caleb again, whether or not he deserves it. That’s the only way you can really prove that you are God’s as the bible rightly said.”
Fred Williams swallowed hard. “The idiot! Only God knows what’s up with my daughter. Would you believe, Festus, that the silly girl moved into that man’s ill-gotten mansion? Mansion he got as inheritance for a family he wiped out.” He drew a long hiss
“Fred,” Pastor Festus waited until he caught his eyes and held his gaze. “Forgive Caleb. Go for your daughter. Let Love lead, my friend! Let love lead. Please!”
Fred pushed his back against the seat. Unbelievable!
Debby Adams looked curiously as the pastors walked out of the boardroom – the two of them, Pastor Festus Ikani and Pastor Fred Williams. Their countenances looked like that of two friends who had decided to just end the relationship between them for a reason or two or no reason at all and move on with their individual lives. Each walked with hands locked to the back and gazed on the floor as though they weren’t sure the next part of the building could bear their weight.
A lot had happened and the last thing that Debby Adams would want to hear about, the last straw that would break the horse’s back would be when these two pillars decide to crash, for whatever reason. It would be the case of ‘strike the shepherd and the sheep will scatter’.
She adjusted herself, placing attention pretentiously on the computer before her as Pastor Festus walked towards her side of the secretary’s office.
“Ever smiling Debby Adams, you are lifted. The lord bless you.” He complimented and the latter smiled quickly. “Here are the keys.” He dropped the bunch on her table. “Please reschedule all appointments for today.”
“Yeah. Ehn? But… but sir…” Debby Adams called out but the men were outside the door and heading towards the lift already.
She took in a deep breath. She didn’t like the odd feeling she was getting about the mood of the usually cheerful pastors. She muttered a word of prayer underneath her breath and clicked on the appointment folder on the computer in front of her.
“Mount Patti! I love the air here.” Estelle giggled as she threw a leg carelessly in the air, her blonde hair dancing all around the place. She looked really excited
“Watch it, girl!” Victor screamed and Eneojo dashed over to her side just in time to catch her before she reached the floor. Her boots had hit a stone and that made her trip over.
As eneojo caught her, the brightness of the sun shone so brightly on her face that they locked gaze with each other for a long moment. His hand felt rigid as it pulled her up from a lower position. The reassuring smiles on his face, the aura of ‘I got you anytime’ around him, made Estelle blush carelessly.
“You OK, baby?” He wiped the sweat off her front head.
Estelle nodded, smiling. “Africa is very beautiful in every sense of the world. Nigeria?” she found his eyes. “Look at this mountain, numerous sharp ends, scary landscape that would make any man with a lion heart melt.” She pressed her body towards Eneojo. “But when I’m with you, I know I can surmount any hurdle, I can climb any mountain, go up the sharpest hill, so long as you are right beside me.” She locked hands tighter with him as he leaned over and kissed her.
They had forgotten they had company.
Unekwu panted heavily as they finally found a place to sit.
(So guys, you don’t want to imagine how hot Lokoja is. People say that it’s only ten naira bike to Hell fire. Lol. I didn’t say that. But seriously, this city is hot, so imagine now that we are on a mountain they say 1349 foots high. Ehen! Now you see what I’m saying?
Ouch! Did I just use that phrase? That’s daddy’s most used line. Yeah. He is daddy now. The woman is mummy. We are not always family by birth, mind you? It could be by adoption. Adoption here was done by me and not the other way round. Hehehe. But seriously, they’ve been superb in the past months. I need a group of people that would help me really thank them.
You see that young man over there, the one that’s kissing a white lady to stupor?… lol… Who kisses on a sunny day on top of mount Patti for that matter? It has to be Eneojo; my adopted younger brother. Let the young man enjoy his life o.
Yeah. I know you are concerned. I’ve not fully recovered yet. Or have I? Apart from the fact that I still limp on my right foot, there are things my adopted family say and think I should just blend in and flow but I always seem to be lost. We had a handful of those episodes in the first four months since I was discharged but now I think everyone is gradually taking things easy with me.
Well, everyone except this other young man with me: my greatest troubler of the century. He can talk? He told me his best friends ever were females. No wonder! Because the way the guy talks ehn, you will think he was a transgender. Ouch! Forgive me. It’s that bad. Now let’s listen to him. His name is Victor! Victor Adams)
“Hello… Are you here at all?” Victor tapped Unekwu’s shoulders lightly to bring back her attention.
“Uh Uhuum.” Unekwu nodded in the affirmative.
“Your kid bro is really in love with his Italian babe!” Victor started, picking at a little grass beside him. He was careful not to look in Unekwu’s direction because if he did, he would stare. He’d always caught himself staring at her a lot and wondering how childlike, innocent her heart had become. That drew him nearer to her. It made his heart sink at the thought of her, consuming his thoughts with sweet memories from good old day. Well, life happens, he’d always tell himself, life is what happens when one is busy making plans.
“Perhaps, we can get you a white man too?” Victor curved his lower lips downwards till it appeared like a letter ‘U’.
Unekwu smiled quickly and readjusted her face like she stole it. “For me, being with someone is a personal decision and not an act of state.”
The sentence took Victor aback. The lady had been talking like a philosopher lately. Whether she learnt it at the social rehabilitation support group she attends every other day or it’s true that a nut wasn’t firmly adjourned back in her head during the treatment and recovery, he couldn’t place it. At the same time, he wasn’t going to push it.
“Well, you can’t change what people are!”
Unekwu turned to find his eyes now and he felt his heart skip beats in rapid successions. “What is one supposed to do then?”
Victor glanced at her for a second before returning his face to the innocent grass that he held onto in the past minutes. He didn’t think before making his initial statement, and now that she’d asked what he didn’t see coming, he couldn’t place what answer it was she required.
He took in deep calming breaths quiet enough not to be noticed.
“What one is supposed to do?” He took his hand to the lace of his loafers. “You love them. Yeah. If you can’t change what people are, you just love them.”
Unekwu started slowly until she burst into full-fledged laugher. She laughed so hard and so real that Victor felt embarrassed.
What was funny? He meant to ask but the question only came as far up as his larynx.
“You know, it’s funny but I don’t want a husband.” Unekwu said between laughs. It was like Victor’s life was all falling apart in shreds on hearing that statement. “I don’t think I want to be someone’s property. I don’t mind being a bride at a wedding if I can without a husband.”
Victor felt like spanking her in his head. What weirdness? Really, strange things were coming out of Unekwu’s mouth these days and they needed to watch it. It used to be Vera in this standpoint, saying she didn’t want to marry; didn’t want any sort of possessiveness over her life anymore than the ones her parents had meted on her as a result of being an only child. Unekwu was the ‘let’s be quick to settle down’ type. She was the one to talk Vera out of those thoughts that came across as crazy to everyone. Why then was she now sounding exactly like Vera?
“Trust me, Unekwu, being married is not like possessing a property. It’s actually getting a perfect partner.” He used his most convincing voice now.
“Come off it, Victor. There are no perfect persons.”
“Yes. I agree.” Victor jumped up, as though trying to catch his next words. “There might not be any perfect persons but there are people who are perfect for each other.” He finally summoned the boldness to look into her eyeballs. “I know you want to ask how one would know that second person that’s perfect for him or her, right?”
“Uh! Uhum!” Unekwu nodded, eagerly urging him to go on.
Victor swallowed deeply. “When the heart breaks, it doesn’t make a sound but someone with a broken heart can hear from another broken heart.”
Like magic, that set Unekwu on another long trail of laughter. This time, she giggled and her body trembled so much so that she landed her head on Victor’s laps. The sound of her voice made Victor chuckle.
“What’s really amusing you, Unee?”
The young woman just continued in her cheerful state with all joy and reckless abandon. It was not long before Victor joined in. The laughter caught Eneojo and Estelle’s attention from the distance they were and the latter ran over to inquire what the matter was.
“Babe, how did you get out there? Thought you were in the kitche…”
The words gradually drifted away, leaving Caleb transfixed at the door immediately he opened it. It felt as though all the bones in his body had become disjointed and the flesh, no longer in proper apposition.
Caleb jerked back and out of the way. “By all means, sirs!” He left off the doorknob and Pastor Ikani walked in majestically followed by Fred Williams. Caleb felt his body tremble and the door had to be his saving grace right here.
“Sweet, the oranges aren’t so ripe and…” Vera also became reflexively transfixed as she entered the living room from the kitchen to see them. She didn’t know whether what she felt was anger, or pain of rejection or both. There was just this feeling there that’s making her hate everything happening here right now. Her father and his best friend of all times, the friend he could dish off his wife and daughter for, had come over to the house of the ‘ex-convict’
“Nice place you have here, Caleb!” Pastor Ikani broke the deafening silence and everyone seemed to let lose the breath they’ve been holding the whole time. He moved over to take a seat and Fred Williams accompanied him, eyes fixed on his daughter the whole time but Vera made sure to avoid eye contact.
“If you don’t mind, precious daughter, your father and I would love to have a word with Caleb.” Pastor Festus could be correctly referred as the spokesman of today’s outing and that was another cause of worry for Vera. Her father becomes speechless only when he is extremely bitter or had made a resolve on a matter he wouldn’t be changing his mind. “I hope you don’t mind?”
Vera turned her head slowly in Caleb’s direction as if seeking permission and immediately the latter nodded in the affirmative, she walked towards the stairs.
Caleb had his heart in his mouth the minutes it took until Vera was out of sight. It felt like eternity, as he sat right there staring to the floor, knowing fully well that the older men were looking at him. His head couldn’t wrap around anything. Yeah. He had taken Vera in. It’s been six months since her father chased her out of the house barely a week after the day he slapped her. He said he regretted having her as a child and from thenceforth considered himself childless. Vera talked about how her mother had cried her eyes to blindness in an attempt to appeal to her husband but Fred Williams, like Vera, was self-willed. Whatever his mind was made up on remained that way. He even went as far as threatening the poor woman with separation if she ever mentioned the occurrence to anyone. Vera was crushed. She wasn’t able to eat in the first few weeks. Caleb tried as much as it depended on him to pacify her, to make her feel safe, to shield and protect her, all to no avail. It had taken Vera the first two months to finally realise that love required sacrifices, always. And if her parents were the sacrifices this particular ordained love would require? Then so be it.
Why had they waited till now, six months later, now that Vera was healing completely and getting used to staying away from her parents, to come here? Caleb almost spilled these questions off his mouth but stopped when Fred Williams cleared his throat.
“So?” The older man started, but his face wasn’t loosening an inch.
Caleb took in deep breaths as a thought came into his mind. Before Fred Williams could say any other thing, he bent down till his broad chest touched the rugged floor and the older men were taken aback.
“Please, don’t, sir.” Caleb’s voice was mild, sober. “Please, don’t express your hurts anymore, sir. I know ‘I’m sorry’ is not enough to make up for all the lost things in the past year. I only request one thing, sir, please?” He attempted to hold onto Fred Williams’ leg, sceptical the latter would flog his hands off but he didn’t. That was a bit assuring for Caleb.
“Vera won’t marry me until her parents come back to terms with her.”
Shut up your dirty mouth! Was the statement that rang in Fred Williams’ head but he refrained himself from saying anything. He knew his daughter – how stubborn she could be – but above all, he loves his daughter, however God made her to be.
“You are married to her already, aren’t you? She’s been living here with you in the past six months. And I’m quite certain you share the bed already. I mean, what else would you rather, children of this generation?” Fred Williams had sarcasm in his voice. “It only cuts deep down in my heart that my daughter doesn’t know who and what she’s worth.” His voice sounded really bitter.
Caleb pulled himself till he got up. He drew down the edges of his T-shirt to the utter amazement of the other two persons in the room. They couldn’t place what he was up to and he could see clearly the curiosity in their faces. He took his time to sit, maintaining eye contact with them.
“I love, Vera. I love everything about her, sir. I love her soul.” He was slow in speech, taking his time to say a word like he spelt them out letter by letter. “They lie about intimacy, daddies.” He found and held their gaze. “It has nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the skin.”
The two men stared at him as though he had bugs crawling out of his nose.
“I may not be the everyday good guy whose father is a pastor…” Fred Williams gave a scowl at Caleb’s statement and the latter smiled lightly. “…but I know about marriage being honourable to all, a bed undefiled, Sir.”
The older men shifted in their seats, wondering how truthful the young man’s statement could be considering the circumstances. Whatever the situation, there was little or nothing they could do or say. He chased his daughter out, made her homeless and vulnerable in the first place. He should accept the blame for whatever the outcome. All of it!
“I love him, daddy!” Vera called out from her position on the third step of the staircase. The men in the living room jerked up as her voice rang out loudly in the slim air. They hadn’t notice her walk down before now. She took a deep breath and moved downwards, approaching them.
“I love him. There’s no condition attached to my love for Caleb, daddy, none whatsoever. Not his past, not his present, not his future. I chose to stay with him for all the things he had ever done right and not leave for the ones that he had done wrong. I chose to forgive, daddy!” she dropped to her knees, tears flooding down her face.
Caleb rushed to her side and grabbed her shaking body. She trembles whenever she cries and the sound of her tears broke his heart. He had come to realise that every time someone mentions Vera’s name, his love for her starts to flow from his eyes like tears. She was and would forever be his soul mate. He knew this. He was sure.
Fred Williams pulled himself to the edge of his chair. He was stone-cold and amazed at the same time. This thing called love is mysterious, he had always been told. It only took him till now to see it.
“You both don’t need my consent to do anything anymore, kids. I mean, what else do you want me to do?”
“We love each other unconditionally, daddy. Please accept our love and love us right back!” Vera pleaded amidst her tears.
The scene outside the window is out of focus as Vivian looks and listens unwaveringly to her grandmother.
“So what happened grandma, what happened?” she is so curious and her voice didn’t hide it.
The old woman coughs and adjusts herself on the couch. “Right there, right there in the living room of Caleb’s mansion, Fred Williams gave the lovebirds his blessings. He knew better about love being a force that cannot be stopped! Caleb and Vera got married two months after that day in a registry. It was the quietest wedding ever.”
“Awww…” Vivian giggles on her seat, so much so that her handbag drops off her laps, falling onto her box. She had packed her load angrily earlier and was already storming out of the house when her grandma requested only a few minutes to tell her a story. Even though they’ve been on the story in the past four hours, she seems not to notice the hand of the clock. “How about Unekwu, grandma? How about my darling girl?”
“She never recovered her memory.” Her grandma says through her weakly cracked voice and Vivian’s countenance falls. “I know your next question!” A wry smile curves around the old woman’s face, bringing all the wrinkles into bare.
“Well, grandma, did she ever get married? I mean, she lost interest in marriage, right? At least that’s what her last conversation with Victor at the mountain top depicted.”
Grandma tries to pull her staff closer but staggers backwards until her back hit the couch again. She smiles. One failed attempt, another to go. “Well, Victor got enrolled in the Nigerian Defence Academy for naval short service. A dream he had let go for a really long time. He remained friends with Unekwu for some years. They became very close inseparable friends!”
“Just friends?” Vivian couldn’t hide her contempt
Grandma smiles again. “I told you these stories to teach you several lesson but one other important lesson you mustn’t forget.” She makes sure the young lady is looking at her. “Love is mysterious. We can’t blame gravity for falling in love. Love is a journey starting at forever and ending at never. You don’t marry someone you can live with. You marry one you cannot live without.”
Vivian takes a deep breath. “Another lady, grandma!” She wipes at the lone tear dropping down her eyes. “Adejoh impregnated another lady.” The words sounds unbelievable coming from her mouth. She hates the sound of it. She’s not been able to bring herself to accept it; to identify with the evening her husband, Adejoh, woke her up in the middle of the night. He was in tears and knelt down sobbing loudly while asking for her forgiveness. ‘Viv’ as she’s often called, was busy, yes. She works with the NTA and always almost stays away the better of the time. But does that give her husband a reason to cheat? If a man had sworn to stay with a woman forever, he should get detached from every other woman, right? She should, whether his wife is available for him or not.
Her grandma’s story is pointing out to her another perspective to love anyway.
“Maybe it’s true what they say about our finding it easier to forgive if we get to lose our memories like Unekwu did.” Grandma makes a face after Vivian turns her face into a scowl. “Well, because the girl was able to live the rest of her life away from the hurt and pain and whatever could have left her miserable for a long time.”
Vivian takes in a deep breath as the woman continues. “Since we don’t have to wait for amnesia to forgive, please, my daughter, forgive Adejoh.” The statement, like slicing onions, set stormy tears down Vivian’s face. “Because loving someone mustn’t come with condition doesn’t give the parties in love any leverage to cheat, Viv. But if it has happened because of reasons beyond our control and the person is genuinely sorry for the act, instead of packing into your grandmother’s place and leaving your husband fallow, you should forgive him, knowing that the best thing to hold onto in life is each other.”
Vivian cleans off the tears with the back of her hand. “I feel really hurt and disappointed, mama.”
Her grandma reaches out to her and she falls on the old woman’s slim chest.
“After Victor became a naval officer, Unekwu had arranged her life together and found a new passion in travel photography or whatever it’s called by the time.” Vivian shifts her head, enough to see her grandma’s face. The old woman smiles and continues. “One of her adventurous trips on the sea was masterminded by her bosom friend, Victor actually. They were going on shore or whatever the naval term is and he had invited her to join as well as take wonderful photos over the sea. Unekwu was very excited about it not knowing what awaited her.”
Grandma narrates that somewhere on that ship, right in the middle of the sea, Sublieutenant Victor Adams proposed marriage to Photographer Miss Unekwu Ikani.
“Ah awww awww…” rings in the air coming from Vivian. She loves love stories. “So Unee baby finally found love?” she giggles excitedly, now sitting face to face with her grandma.
“Yes baby. Not only that she found love and got married to Victor, but they became parents to a handsome young man who’s an engineer in Lagos.”
“Awwnn…” Vivian spreads out her lips in smiles. “Aww… an engineer? Aww… so sweet. And he stays in Lagos too.” She turns questioning eyes to her grandma. “Lagos? Engineer? Grandma?” she couldn’t help her spinning head.
“Yes baby. Engineer Adejoh Adams, your husband, is Unekwu’s son. And of course, I’m Ajifa Ikani, Unekwu’s mother.”
“Jeez!” Vivian screams out in shock.
“Your mother in-law cannot remember all these stories.” Grandma gives a sad smile. “In the first years, I and my late husband, Pastor Festus tried to joggle her memory back to remembrance, but after long unfruitful attempts, we let our daughter have her life – her fresh life.”
Vivian is crying now. Her mother in-law is the Unekwu in the story? If the woman can’t remember any of these, that mean her son, Adejoh, also doesn’t know of it. Why had grandma told her the story? Yeah. She’s very fond of her husband’s grandmother so much so that people mistake grandma for hers but why did the woman take her time and energy to explain these age long tale to her?
Ajifa Ikani pulls herself to the edge of the seat. The smile on her face feels as though it is plastered there. She takes Vivian’s hands and holds it.
“Don’t wait till everything is ruined to make amends. Remember, we only truly love once, but if you do it right, once is enough!”
Vivian is about to say something else when her phone vibrates and rings out loudly. She jerks up, reaching for it. She doesn’t know why her heart is skipping and missing beats. She glances at the caller ID which doesn’t look familiar but that’s soothing for her.
“Yes.” She says dully into the phone as she places it against her right ear. “What?” she screams, jumping onto her feet. Ajifa also jerks up but couldn’t jump onto her feet like Vivian. Worry is spelt out on her face. “Jesus! Oh my God! Ok! Right away!”
Vivian drops the call and paces the distance from one couch to another with hot searing tears gushing down her eyes. “I’m leaving for Abuja right away to book the next flight to Lagos, grandma. Adejoh fell off a cliff at site.” She pulls her box up. “See what I’ve caused, mama? See what my anger and bitterness has caused the man I love?”
“It was an accident, Viv. It’s nothing of your fault.”
“No, mama. Adejoh must have lost concentration at work to fall off a cliff. God. Please keep my husband. God please.” She drops to her knees with the tears clouding her sight. “God, please, let Adejoh live. I now know that I can’t live without him, God. Please. I love him. I forgive him. I will not hold onto this one mistake of his anymore, Lord, please!”
Ajifa shakes as she tries to balance her two feet on the ground. She stands slowly and hobbles towards the spot where Vivian is kneeling, overwhelmed in tears on the floor. Grandma’s stooping back is standing up straighter now, as though an indescribable weight has been lifted off it after sharing the story she and her husband, and of course everyone else including Caleb and Vera, had chosen to bury in the deep oceans of their hearts over the years. She places her right hand on Vivian’s shoulders.
“Now is the time. Go for your husband.” She gets her stance. “Eventually you will come to understand that love heals everything and love is all there is.”
Vivian wheels Adejoh down the familiar path they take every evening. The breeze from wet flowers oozes out as they make their adventure along the walkway. It’s been forty years now since the accident that claimed her husband’s legs, confounding him to a wheel chair. She had watched and been there for him throughout the ups and down moments that comes with unexpectedly becoming a disable, especially as a fulfilled civil engineer the most productive part of his life. She had smiled with him, cried with him, starve with him when he rejected food, played with him, be there for him, sleep with him and prayed with him. She did everything and became everything to him. As part of the forgiveness package for her husband, she decided to accept the son from the other woman into her house and raised him together with her own kids so much so that no one can differentiate her kids from their half-brother whenever they visit. They’ve been no incidence of infidelity from any angle again after that and she realised that her husband was genuinely sorry when he had asked for her forgiveness then.
Now they are old, with grey hairs to show for it, but their love, like wine seems to be getting sweeter by the age. They’ve decided to cherish moments shared with one another because that’s what love is. Mama, who died only three years after sharing the story with her, had said that love requires sacrifice always. She chose to make real sacrifices for her husband; for their love; for their marriage; for their home. She found out that the more sacrifices made on the altar of love; the more closely knitted the souls.
True love stories never have endings.
This thing called LOVE – GRACE OCHIGBO.
Thanks for reading, dears. The comments and all have been overwhelming. I appreciate everyone that read and even shared. We are done with this one. Another would come after I return from sabbatical leave. Lol. Yeah. I said sabbatical leave. It may be long, it may not, I don’t know yet. I want you to take a moment to think through whatever this story must have taught you. I personally believe in love. I believe that we all have capacity to love and we deserve real love without conditions attached to it. The issue is usually that we often want it so badly that we ruin it before it begins. Overthinking. Fantasizing. Imagining. Expecting. Worrying. Doubting. Just let it naturally evolve, OK?
I hope you find love that’s your best friend. Your loudest laugh. Your biggest smile. Your number one fan. Your happiest memories. You deserve it.
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I love you, right? You already know.