Jeff was going over the pictures of his ex-girlfriend, Ejiro.They first met in church during a meeting organized by the leaders of the youth fellowship to appoint a few of them to form a committee that would be charged with visiting members who had special needs. It had been observed that those who lost a loved one, or needed company at one social event or the other, often complained that they lacked brethren to go with them. They would be named Youth Hangout.
He had been a member of Mountaintop Church since he moved to Lagos and served in their technical department. People who saw him manning the cameras or carrying heavy equipment would not have believed he was a HR manager. But he was too humble to care. He never forgot where he came from or who it was who had lifted him from the pit of poverty. Ejiro and Jeff became fast friends. They were inseparable for months, attending weddings together, going to the beach, shopping, seeing movies: the entire church knew them and everyone was expecting to hear of their engagement.
1 year later, Jeff proposed. It was during a visit to a park in Abuja. He had enlisted her friends and family to surprise her. She was ecstatic as he slipped the diamond ring over her finger. They began to plan their wedding for the later part of that year. Jeff scrolled over her pictures which he still had in his phone 1 year after their break-up. She was tall, slightly taller than he was, fair and slender, with striking features that never failed to earn her a 2nd glance wherever she went. He was immensely proud of her. She made him feel lucky. He, Jeff, the local campus photographer, the orphan; engaged to such a princess, a lawyer working in a multinational company? It had to be a miracle.
1 month after their engagement, they went to Ghana together to attend a wedding. Jeff booked two rooms that were opposite each other. Ejiro did not know of this arrangement till they arrived Ghana. She was livid.
“What is really going on? Are you avoiding me or you are hiding something? ,” she asked in the taxi.
“Nothing is wrong! What could I be hiding?,” he was surprised.
“Ever since we got engaged, you have not given me so much as a kiss. Now that we have the perfect opportunity to discover one another, you booked different rooms for us! Are you for real?,” she asked not caring that the cab driver could hear them. ”
I told you how I feel about honouring God with our bodies from the day we met,” he defended.
“Yeah, I feel the same way. The same God said we should not go into anything without being sure. How will we know if we are compatible?,” she questioned, crossing her arms across her chest.
“I can’t believe you are saying this.”
“Saying what? I have no intention of taking a blind leap. We will soon be married and I believe no one expects us not to be together.”
” I love you, honey. Can we not argue in front of everyone? ,” he cajoled.
She turned away from him with a humph. The wedding was a disaster as she refused to say a word to him. When they returned to the resort, he walked her to her room and tried to give her a hug but she pushed him away. He returned to his room in torment.
“Lord,” he prayed. “Should I go and beg her?”
“No,” he heard. “If you go to her, you will not be able to say No. Ask her to meet you outside.”
He sent her a text asking her to meet him in the garden of the resort. While he waited, he prayed. He had not told her he was a virgin because he never saw it as a big deal. It didn’t matter to him if the girl he married was a virgin or not. All he cared about was that she had practiced abstinence after giving her life to Christ. He believed in the God of a second chance. Ejiro had told him that she had been celibate for the 2 years she had been a believer. That was enough for him.
He watched her approach him, drawing stares from 2 men who were lounging by the pool. Rising, he held out a hand to claim ownership. She leaned in for a hug. He guided her to a stone bench and told her his conversion story. She listened silently.
“I love you so much, darling,” he said at the end. “Please, understand how much you mean to me.”
She sighed as she held his hands. “You mean you are a virgin? At 31?” she asked, incredulous.
“Yes, Is that strange?” he wondered.
“No, I think it is great. It’s just not for me,” she said.
“What do you mean?” he asked, frowning.
“I cannot marry a virgin. I don’t think it is possible for a ‘normal’ man to see a woman and not be moved. Let me not get into what I will regret.” As she spoke, she released her hands from his grasp and averted her gazed.
He was pained. “Are you implying that something is wrong with me? I am very much okay,” he defended.
“Please, don’t misunderstand me. I applaud your self-control. God will give you a girl who deserves you. As for me, I need a little more experience. ”
“What does that mean? You were once a virgin, were you not? Can’t we learn together?”
“No O! Please, I don’t want stories that touch the heart. Let us end it here. No one has to know. I will just say we found out we were not compatible. ”
Jeff rose. “Ejiro, I thank you for being honest with me. Have a great life.”
She also rose and scratched her head. “Ummm, yeah, take care.”
Jeff watched her walk away. It took all his ego not to go after her. She was the woman of his dreams. He debated lifting her in his arms, carrying her to his room, pinning her to the bed, and showing her exactly how much of a man he was. Then he felt a calm descend over him. He could not describe it. It was like ice cream in a hot desert. Suddenly, he did not feel the need to prove himself anymore. He did not need to bask in the glow of her adulation. He did not need her to validate his existence: Not anymore.
Ejiro’s pictures had remained in his phone despite their break-up. Now that he realised he was spending far too much time thinking about Veronica, he decided to do something about them. God had been dealing with him about cutting off totally. He had stopped calling her and cut off from her social media accounts though they remained civil in church. However, just as the Israelite kings often left the high places in Israel, he had clung to her pictures.
That same calm that came over him in the garden when tears were stinging his eyelids descended on him again. He was lying on his bed, holding his phone in his hands. Praying in the spirit, he began to delete all her pictures. It was like getting rid of an over-grown beard. He felt new, lighter, refreshed. A smile stretched out his lips. Maybe, God wanted him to try again. Heaven knew he had avoided women like a plague but today, he felt like trying again; casting in his net for 1 last haul.
Perez and Abel were hanging out at a bar. It was 11am but they were already high on drugs and alcohol. They were alone. It was a bar that belonged to a friend so they were allowed in though it was not yet officially open. They were bored at home and had decided to get wasted.
“What did that lawyer say about our chances of getting dad’s will overturned?” Abel asked.
“He is optimistic but he is costing us so much. I think we may have to sell more of the stuff at home. We are running out of cash,” Perez replied groggily.
“I wish we could just sell that house, man…”
“Yeah, mate. Lots of cash tied up there. You know, I got a script that I think will make a great movie”
“What’s it about?”
“This tough dude who just goes ballistic when a guy breaks into his home and kidnaps his baby. He rescues her after bashing in the bad guy’s head!”
“That’s what I’m talking about,”Abel exclaimed and slapped his thigh.
“Yeah! Some serious kung fu moves there too.”
“When does filming start?”
“Money, mate, money is the issue! How do I pay for stuff when that little girl is sitting on our inheritance? ”
“Even if we took over the hospital today, we would have to sell it to raise that kind of money. Running it will only gulp more money cause that girl has run in down.”
“In 2 months?”
“Yeah. Kasarachi told me she doesn’t know what she is doing. I don’t think the staff believe in her. Patients often refuse to see her.”
“Who’s Kasarachi? ”
“The one who gave you sexual healing? “Perez laughed as he slapped his brother’s shoulder.
“She has mad talents, mate. And they are not medical.”
“I tell you. Empty upstairs, gifted in every other way,” Perez agreed.
“And how would you know that? You have not been…”
“She sent me her nudes”
“Whaaaaaat! You are a bloody liar. How did she get your number?” Abel was bristling with fury.
“See for yourself.” He handed his brother his phone.
Abel took it and looked at the page that was opened for him. His eyes widened at pictures of an unclothed Kasarachi in various poses. The pictures had been sent over the course of the week that he had spent chatting with her via text. He could not believe his eyes.
“Forget her, mate. She is not worth it. Let’s call that guy that bought the Prado SUV. Maybe he can find a buyer for some of the other stuff. We need money fast.”
Abel was silent for a while before nodding. No woman had ever come between them. No woman ever would.
Veronica was in the emergency room attending to a patient when Nurse Anuli came in.
“Doctor, some policemen are in your office. They said they came to arrest you,” she whispered so the patient would not hear.
Veronica’s felt like her heart would drop into her stomach. She could not concentrate.
“My God!”she exclaimed.
“Let me finish up while you go and see them. Don’t worry, God is in control.”
Veronica stumbled from the room to the hallway, already feeling the sting of tears on her eyelids. How could she handle the police? This was more than she had bargained for. Nothing in her medical training had prepared her for a life behind bars. What would become of her if her licence was revoked? She had dreamed of being a doctor all her life. It was all she knew to do and all she wanted to do.
Matron Ngwanu came across her standing in the hallway. She was a tall, overweight, woman in her 50s, who believed she was better than everyone else and made sure they knew it.
“Doc,” she mocked. “Why are you here? The police are waiting for you. I think you should go with them so they don’t disturb the patients. Dr. Korede and I can manage the hospital.”
Veronica looked at her angrily. She opened her mouth to say something rude but shut it when she felt a nudge from within.
“Are you okay?” Matron Ngwanu asked again.
Veronica ignored her and turned away. She headed for the restroom. Once she was sure she was alone, she pulled out her phone and called Barr. Obi.
“Sir, I just heard that policemen are in my office to arrest me. What do I do?”
“What station are they from? Do they have a warrant? What is the charge?”
“I have not spoken to them. Right now, I am hiding in the toilet.”
“Go to them. Stall them, that you won’t go anywhere without your lawyer. Blow hot air, say you have a critical patient. Whatever it takes, delay them till I get there. I will do my best to meet you in 1 hour.”
“1 hour! I doubt I can stall them for that long,” Veronica cried.
“Just do your best.”
Veronica ended the call and knelt down in the bathroom.
“Heavenly father, I have served you with clean hands all the years I have known you. Now, I am faced with a giant of a problem that is bigger than me. If I could trust the legal system, I would not come to you but you know how things work in Nigeria. Father, deliver me from those that are stronger than me. Give me courage. I am so afraid. Make me bold. Let my appearance be larger than my frame. Silence my accusers and give me victory. Above all, let not my good work of trying to save that boy turn to my downfall. I know you have sent angels to guard me. Thank you”
Suddenly, she felt as bold as a lion. Rising, she rinsed her face with water, dried it with a paper napkin, straightened her clothes, and fixed her hair. Facing her reflection in the mirror, she smiled.
“No temptation has seized me but that which is common to ladies with my kind of abilities. God has provided a way of escape so I will be observant so as not to miss it. It must end in praise,” she declared.
Then she turned to the door, opened it and stepped out. *************************************************************************************