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She swallowed hard and tried to steady her trembling body. She had fallen in love with him and she knew how much he loved her, but, she had not expected him to propose so soon. Was he really serious?
‘God is this really happening?’
“Promise will you marry me?” He went down on one knee and brought out a golden ring from his pocket.
Her heart melted when she saw the ring. She glanced back at him and nodded several times.
“Yes, Gbenga. I would love to spend the rest of my life with you.”
He rose and swept her off her feet.
Osagie and his family sat outside the house eating roasted corn and boiled pear.
Prince and Gift had returned home that weekend for the August/September holiday. Their school had just rounded up another session.
“Have you guys picked a date yet?” Gift smiled at her sister. She was glad that Promise was settling down. She would move into her room once she was out of the house. She had always envied her sister’s large bedroom.
“We will pick a date once I have visited his mother and siblings,” she smiled back at her.
“I heard they don’t live in Lagos,” Prince refilled his glass with Five Alive juice.
Promise nodded, “His mum lives in Abuja and his younger brothers live in Port Harcourt.”
“Wow!” Gift shook her head. She wished she was the one travelling all over the country.
“We are going to see Mrs. Lewis next weekend and visit his brothers the upper weekend.”
Blessing nodded in agreement, “The sooner the better.”
“Darling, do we have any leftover roasted corn?” Osagie winked at his wife.
“I think so,” she got up and pulled Promise along. They both headed into the house.
“My first daughter is getting married, I am so happy.”
“Thanks mum,” she followed her into the kitchen.
Blessing placed a bowl of roasted corn on the table and faced her daughter.
“Have you both discussed everything in your past, present and what you want in your future?”
“What is that supposed to mean?” She eyed her.
“I know all his dirty little secrets mum, take a chill pill,” she chuckled.
“I see. It is necessary and important that you both bear your hearts before you tie the knot.”
“Really?” She drew out a stool and sat down. There was no stopping her mother whenever she wanted to trash out whatever she considered an issue.
“Yes. Whoever you want to marry must be given an opportunity to accept your past, present and future or reject it.”
Her brows knotted in a frown, “Reject it?”
Blessing sat on one of the stools in the kitchen.
“Listen my dear. Regardless of how good or bad you are, whatever the kind of past you must have had, no matter the kind of future you have imagined, whoever wants to marry you must accept you hook, line and sinker.”
“Or reject you?”
Beads of sweat broke out all over her face. She had not thought of it before.
“Whoever cannot accept your past and align with your future isn’t ready to spend the rest of his life with you? It will never work.”
Promise shifted her gaze. She told Gbenga about every relationship she had gotten into, but, she didn’t really expand details about her affair with Keshinro. Does it matter?
She noticed her daughter’s worried expression, “Whatever is kept in secret will eventually come out. Many marriages have broken down because one or both partners hid things from each other. It is better to be rejected now, than when you are already married.”
Promise folded her arms across her bosom. She knew that the divorce rate all over the world had increased. She had also heard of couples living like intimate strangers due to one misunderstanding or the other. She doesn’t want to have a broken home. Isn’t a broken relationship better than a broken marriage?
Gift strolled into the kitchen, “Dad wants his corn.”
Her mother pointed at the bowl of roasted corn on the table. She picked it up and glanced at them. She had a feeling they were discussing something very important.
The moment Gift was out of ear shot, Blessing turned to her eldest daughter.
“Not everybody will accept your past, but, there is always someone out there who will accept you for who you are, no matter where you are coming.”
Promise exhaled loudly. She wondered if Gbenga was that kind of person. What if he wasn’t? Her heart missed a beat. No wonder so many people do not tell their partner about their past. It was difficult to discern whether the person would accept or reject one. It was a painful risk to take, but, it was worth it.
“Thank you mum.”
Blessing smiled, “You are welcome dear. I am always here whenever you want to talk.”
They locked gazes.
“Can I hug you?”
She stared back at her daughter in surprise, “Yes baby,” her voice thickened with emotion.
They both got to their feet and embraced. Promise felt relaxed. It had been a while since she had hugged her mother. She needed to do it more often.
Blessing felt a tear drop sliding down her face. She couldn’t remember the last time she hugged her daughter. She had felt closer to her while they chatted. She had longed for Promise’s trust. She hoped she would gain it soon. One day in the nearest future, her daughter would confide in her. These thought filled her with joy.
Promise and her mother joined the others outside the house.
“What is your position at TL Communications and when will you be starting work?” Osagie pushed his empty bowl aside.
She took a seat beside her mother.
“I am one of the Public Relations Officers. I will be working with four other people under the Public Relations Manager. I heard she is a Margaret Thatcher. I was asked to resume on the fifteenth of September.”
“Hmm… That leaves you basically three weeks to hand-over to someone else at our Textile company,” her father eyed her.
“Yes, I have the perfect candidate in mind.”
“Really?” Blessing wondered who her daughter had in mind.
“Yes mum. Just keep your fingers crossed.”
Osagie chuckled. He trusted his daughter’s judgement. She had been a great asset to their firm. His dark eyes caught sight of a black Prado jeep parked close to the gate.
“Is that not Gbenga’s car?”
They all followed his gaze. Promise recognised the car and her heart leapt with joy. Although they had not planned to meet that day, she was glad that he was around.
Gbenga got out of his car and walked into the Daodus’ compound.
“Here comes Prince Charming,” Gift winked at her sister who ignored her and drank at the sight of the man she had given her heart to.
He was putting on a blue tee-shirt with black shorts. The blue tennis shoes made his legs to stand out admirably.
“Good evening sir, ma.”
“Good evening Gbenga.”
“How are you doing?”
“Very well, thank you ma.”
He nodded at Prince and Gift and sat beside Promise.
“I didn’t know that both of you were back from school.”
“We arrived yesterday,” Prince informed him.
Gift nodded in confirmation.
“Please excuse us,” Promise got to her feet and pulled him along. They both went into the house and settled on the sofa in the living room.
“You didn’t call to tell me that you were visiting,” she eyed him.
“Do I need your permission to visit?” He reached out for her hand and started playing with her fingers.
“No, but, I would have… You know, I would have prepared something”
He smiled at her, his glowing hazel eyes held her dark ones firmly.
“I understand. Seeing you is enough. But, the corn I saw your dad eating… Any leftovers?”
She started to laugh. She wished they had bought more.
“Am sorry love, my dad ate the last set.”
“Can I get you anything else?”
“Yes, I want more of you.”
She blushed and tore her eyes away from his arresting ones.
“My mum and siblings cannot wait to meet you. They are excited.”
She smiled, but refused to return his gaze. Her discussion with her mum earlier that day drifted into her mind. Was it the right time to talk her fiancé?
“Hello,” he waved a hand in her face.
Her thoughts evaporated.
He noticed her concerned expression. He wondered what she had been thinking about.
“A penny for your thoughts.”
“What about a million dollars?” She teased.
She started to laugh again. He held her hands and squeezed it a bit.
“Talk to me,” his assuring eyes soothed her.
She took a deep breath and exhaled.
‘God, over to you’, she said a silent prayer within her.
“I omitted some details when I told you about my past.”
His heart beat accelerated. He hoped that whatever she had to say, they would be able to iron it out.
“I am listening.”
“The last affair I had before I met you, I … He… We…” She looked away. Memories of her past left her tongue-tied.
He patted her on the shoulder, “Take your time.”
She took another deep breath and exhaled again.
“He is married with two children.”
What she said didn’t register at first. He replayed it on his mind and shuddered.
“Did… ” He cleared his throat, “Did you know? At the time you were… Did you know?” Gbenga felt anger brewing within. He had always had issues with unfaithful married men and the women who went after them, especially those who fell for their lies and wealth.
She watched him, his expression had hardened.
‘Oh God help us!’
She ran a wet tongue over her dry lips.
“Yes, I knew.”
He eyed her and shifted backwards, creating space between them.
“Were you born-again at the time?”
Sweat broke out all over her. She didn’t like where the conversation was heading.
“Yes, I was.”
He folded his hands across his chest.
“You had an affair with a married man, despite the fact that you were aware that God was against it.”
Her heart sank.
He began to shake his head, “What were you thinking?” His voice rose. He eyed her again. Does he really know the woman he wanted to spend the rest of his life with? He had to be honest with himself. Marriage was a life-time commitment. Was it possible for him to love a woman who deliberately disobeyed God? He wasn’t even sure if she had fully repented. She could be prone to extra-marital affairs for all he knew. That was something he wasn’t ready to deal with in marriage.
A tear drop slid down her dark chocolate face. Gbenga used to look at her with love and tenderness, but at that moment, she saw the disdain in his eyes. She doubted if he could handle her past. Could this be the end of their relationship? She shook the thought from her mind. She needed to remain positive.
“So what happened? Did he grow tired of you and left you or did you suddenly return to your senses and left him,” the sarcasm in his voice wasn’t lost to her.
The tears came in torrents. He had already judged her. She felt as if her heart was being crushed from all sides.
“This is not the time to cry. I want to know what happened.”
She turned away and folded her hands across her chest.
“What happened?” His impatience grew.
“I left him!” She snapped.
“You should have known better.”
She frowned and wished he would leave. She wished she had told him everything from the very beginning. She couldn’t believe he was acting so self-righteous. Was she the only Christian who had sinned against God deliberately? Wasn’t he at least happy that she was back in God’s good book? His judgemental attitude was beginning to irritate her.
Gbenga placed a hand on his forehead. He loved her, but, he couldn’t come to terms with the fact that she got involved with a married man. He knew God had forgiven her, but, he wasn’t sure he could live with it.
If he got married to her, he wouldn’t be able to trust her completely. If he doesn’t trust her enough, then, he definitely didn’t love her enough. Trust and love worked hand in hand in every relationship. No marriage could work without both.
“I need to know everything that happened Promise. I can’t get married to you if I don’t know your complete past,” his voice softened.
She wiped away her tears with the back of her hand. She knew she had to give him the opportunity to either accept or reject her past. But, he was already showing signs of rejection.
“I left him. Till this very day, he is still searching for me, but, I know better.”
They remained silent for several minutes. No one spoke.
She turned to look at him. Her red eyes saddened him.
“Sweet heart, I know and believe that someone out there will accept your past and love you unconditionally. I am not the person.”
Her eyes smarted with tears. She felt as if he had just punched her in the stomach. She couldn’t believe he was actually breaking up with her. Did he ever truly loved her?
“I am sorry. I don’t know what happened between you and this married man. I don’t think I want to know. The truth is that, I won’t be able to stop thinking about it and I can’t trust you completely. I can’t live like that.”
Promise tightened her grip on her arms and comforted herself. A broken relationship was far better than a broken marriage. She slipped off the engagement ring from her finger and handed it over to him.
He collected it and pulled himself up, “I am sorry.”
She watched him as he took his leave. She could hardly believe what had taken place. He couldn’t handle her past. Someone that cannot handle one’s past isn’t welcome to one’s future.
‘Oh God, oh God, oh God. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! Hold me God, hold me. I need you now,’ she laid on the sofa and cried out to God, her saviour.
That night, Promise couldn’t sleep. She had series of nightmares that kept her awake. She sat up and switched on the yellow bulb. Her blurred eyes found the wall clock. It was some minutes past two.
She got out of bed and changed into her pyjamas. She slipped on her bathroom slippers and headed for the master bedroom.
Osagie and Blessing woke up. Someone was knocking at their door.
“What kind of children disturb their parents at two in the morning?” He grumbled.
“The desperate ones,” she sat up and looked around for her night-gown knee-length jacket.
“Please find out who it is,” he pulled the blanket over his head.
Blessing found the jacket at the foot of the bed. She reached out for it and put it on. She stretched and yawned. Her eyes watered and she pulled her weight off the bed. She took slow steps towards the door and unlocked it. Her heart beat accelerated when she saw Promise standing at the doorway.
“Are you all right?”
She shook her head and walked into the room.
Blessing closed the door. She had known something was amiss when Gbenga left their house that evening.
Promise settled at the foot of the bed. Her red eyes felt peppery and she wondered if a splash of water on her face would help.
Osagie peeked through the blanket and saw his daughter. He groaned and sat up.
“Why have you decided to harass your parents?”
She turned her neck and saw her father. She thought he was asleep.
“I am sorry dad.”
Her mother sat beside her, “We are here for you love.”
She took a deep breath and exhaled, “Gbenga broke up with me.”
Osagie closed his eyes and opened them. He felt her pains through her words. He drew near and patted her on the back.
“I … I told him that I dated a married man while I was serving in Abuja. He said he doesn’t trust me enough to marry me. I … I thought he loved me,” she began to sob.
Osagie and Blessing exchanged glances.
“He couldn’t bear to hear the whole story. He just judged me and pulled out of the relationship. Who does that?”
She reached out for one of her hands and held it. She looked at her husband again, he was close to tears.
“Dad, mum, I got distracted while I was serving in Abuja. I gave in to temptations and had an illicit affair with a married man. He was my boss at work, it was hard to stay away from him, but, that is no excuse for what I did.
“I tried to break up with him. I actually did, but, he chased me. I… I… I almost died. I got pregnant and he drugged me. He and his wicked family doctor tore my baby from my womb. I almost died. I had to come home.
“I almost died, but God gave me a second chance. God was merciful. He forgave me. I wanted to tell you… I … So many times, I wanted to… ”
Osagie wrapped his hands around her and began to pray. Blessing bowed her head and held unto her daughter’s hand. They prayed for God’s instant healing and His direction.
Promise felt light in her father’s arms. It was as if a burden had been lifted off her shoulders. Regardless of how hurt she felt, she sensed the assurance that everything would work out for her good.
Gbenga sat at the dining lost in thoughts. He pushed away his plate of half eaten white rice and chicken stew, almost knocking down the glass of water on the table. He didn’t sleep a wink the other night. The ache in his heart seemed to intensify with each passing minute. He had thought he had found the woman he could spend the rest of his life with, but, her past had shattered his dreams. Unfortunately, he was back to square one.
What was he going to tell his mum and siblings? They were expecting to see his fiancee.
“God! What kind of problem is this?” He placed both hands on his head.
He wondered how Mr. And Mrs. Daodu felt. Were they angry at him? Was his position at the company stable or would the break-up earn him a sack letter? He folded his hands across his chest. All the years he had been working for them, he had never seen them act partial, even towards family. They were role model Christians who had enviable integrity.
He loved Promise, but, he couldn’t live with her past. He admired her for her honestly. It would have been disastrous if he had found out the whole truth about her past after they had gotten married.
He glanced at the wall clock. It was exactly eleven a.m. It was too late for him to prepare to go to church. He wouldn’t have been able to concentrate during the Sunday service if he had gone. He might as well drive down to the beach and take a walk, in hope that it would clear his mind.
Gift knocked and walked into her sister’s room. Her mum had asked her to stay at home and check up on Promise, while they attend the church service. Her father had informed them during breakfast that Gbenga had called off the wedding. She had sensed that something was up when he left their house on Saturday looking like a zombie. Her sister must be divested. She felt so sorry for her.
She found her sprawled on the bed in her pyjamas staring at nothing in particular.
“Morning Promise, hope you slept well,” she sat at the side of the bed. Her sister remained motionless. Her heart beat quickened. Was she all right? She reached out and placed the back of her palm on her forehead. Her temperature was normal. She sighed with relief.
“Why are you not in church?”
A smile brightened her saddened face. Her sister spoke! That was a good sign.
“I will go to church next week Sunday,” she drew closer.
Promise pulled herself to a sitting position and eyed her sister who was clad in a blue tee-shirt and matching blue jeans trouser.
“You were asked to stay at home because of me. I am not a baby. I can take care of myself.”
“Fantastic news. Why don’t you take a shower, dress up and let’s bounce to the beach? I am bored already.”
She slumped on the bed with a thud, “I am not going anywhere.”
Gift eyed her, “Then you are a baby,” she pointed an accusing finger at her.
She threw a pillow at her and she ducked.
“Get out of my room Gift! Leave me alone!”
She threw back the pillow.
“You are the one who needs to leave this room, this house. You need fresh air,” she tried to cajole her.
She hissed, “You just want to go to the beach.”
“True. You need to go too. You need the fresh air,” she laid beside her sister.
“There is fresh air in here,” she stuck out her tongue.
“The air at the beach is fresher,” she winked at her.
Promise raised an eyebrow, “Hmmm… “
“It is going to be all right.”
“I know, but it hurts so much,” her eyes smarted with tears.
“I feel you,” she felt so sorry for her sister, “Come, let me hug you,” she sat up and pulled her up.
“Thanks,” her voice trembled.
They both hugged. Promise started to cry. Gift tried to console her but ended up crying too.
Gbenga parked his Prado Jeep at the open space close to Kuramo beach. He paid some boys hanging around a sum to look after his car. They thanked him and promised to watch over it.
He walked down to the beach. The cool moist breeze greeted him. He inhaled it and exhaled, feeling refreshed. A group of young men and women, numbering five, circled him and offered to get him a good seat and whatever he wanted to eat or drink. He declined their offer and took a stroll.
There were not too many people at the beach. Some people stood at the mouth of the ocean while a few daring ones swarm comfortably, despite the fierce waves. He walked past a group of youngsters having a picnic and dancing to the music blasting from one of the speakers of one of the bars.
Most of the bars at the beach were filled with young girls who traded their bodies for money. He pitied the men who patronised them.
He heard a woman screaming. He turned towards the direction of the noise and saw a man chasing her. He caught up with her, lifted her and spinned her round. The coupled made him to remember the love he shared with Promise.
He sighed and went on walking. He had been here with her on a few occasion. He shouldn’t have driven to the beach. It brought back memories he was trying not to indulge in. He took a u-turn and headed out.
To Be Continued…
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