Monday, June 9, 2008

Novella: In The Bid To Love (Chapter 1)

Walking through the garden, Bade hardly noticed the scenic beauty he had always taken time to admire anytime he was in the Olive Resort. Tears blurred his vision as he absent-mindedly bent over to pluck a flower along his path. He put the flower to his nose and the sweet smell brought with it more memories. The tears stung his eyes some more and forced their way down in a steady flow.
It was one week since his mother died of breast cancer. The week had seemed like a long, painful, never-ending year to Bade. He had cried every night. Putting the flower to his nose again, he remembered a moment, the previous year, when he had come to the park with his mother. They had lain on the damp grass with Bade resting his head on his mother’s chest. Fourteen years of age at that time, he was still his mother’s baby. They always spent time together.
In school, he was called all kinds of derogatory names. The school’s tabloid, which made it a duty to gossip about students’ private lives, had even done an article on Bade when he turned thirteen. It was titled “Bade still mummy’s baby at thirteen”. The article featured a picture of Bade crying in his mother’s arms on the school’s soccer pitch the day he broke his leg in a match. He didn’t mind however because he loved his mother, was close to her and had no apologies about it.
That day, a year ago, at the park, he had excused himself to use the gents. On his way back, he had plucked the same type of flower he was holding at the moment and given it to his mother. He could still remember every bit of the ensuing minutes.
His mother had taken the flower and smelled it. She kept it close to her nose and closed her eyes for such a long time that Bade had been agitated. Lowering her hand and opening her eyes, her eyes glistered with tears. Fighting them back, she stretched out her hands to Bade and he eased himself into her embrace: it was so natural for them. She held on to him for a while and then whispered in his ears. ‘The last time someone gave me a flower was about fifteen years ago. Thank you dear. I love you’ she had said.
She then pulled back and wiped her tears. That was a year ago but it seemed like yesterday to Bade. He knew it would have been his father that gave his mother the flower. He died when Bade was three months in his mother’s womb.
Thinking back at that day, he was glad he had made his mother happy. He only wished she had stayed. Did you have to go, mum? He looked up; expecting an answer, any answer, but nothing came.
He had attempted suicide twice in the last week but had not been successful. Living without his mother was punishment – simply unbearable. His life had been tied to her for the fifteen years of his existence. They had talked, laughed and cried together since he knew himself. Life was indeed crazy and God must be definitely very cruel and heartless to be tormenting him this much. That was his conclusion.
Human beings were not any better as far as he was concerned. All those he had expected to rally round him were nowhere near. He had been disappointed by the turnout at his mother’s burial. Family and few friends were around but seemed rather in a hurry to leave. He had wanted to scream, ‘Don’t you people care that this woman loved you and worked out her life for you! Is this the best you can do?’ The words never got out of his mouth though.
Mrs. Thomas, Bade’s mother, was a committed member of the Strait Gate Assembly. She served in the welfare department and was the backbone of the department. She was always visiting folks in the hospital, prison, and in their homes depending on the situation. She was a selfless Christian, wife, mother and friend.
Bade remembered the day his mother missed his soccer match and he was mad at her. That was the first time she had disappointed him. When he got home, he saw a note she had written to him.
I’m so sorry I disappointed you. I heard Amina was ill and I had to attend to her because her family is out of town. I hate to hurt you but you know I always teach you to love all as Christ would; that’s what I’m doing. Would be home at 8pm tonight and would take you out to Tantalizers – just you and I.
I love you. Mum
That was just one of the many sacrifices his mother made for people. When she was diagnosed with cancer, one of the few things she was bothered about was that there’ll be many needy people without anyone to care for them when she was gone.
How could humans be so callous? There were still few good ones however, he conceded. He had been living with Miss Akpuru, one of his mother’s friends for the past one week. She was one of the few who he knew really appreciated his late mother. She had taken him in immediately his mother passed on but her show of love was like a drop in the ocean compared to what he had enjoyed with his mother.
There had been only one highlight so far in the week, but not strong enough to keep him indoors. Miss Florence Akpuru, his present hostess, had a beautiful daughter, Chioma: Chioma Akpuru.
Bade had exchanged pleasantries with Chioma at different times but their conversations had been rather succinct. He had excused himself over and again from the house so as to spend quiet moments alone. He did not have close friends to visit with; his mum had been his world. He had dreamt on different nights about his mother, basking in the euphoria, only to wake up to the reality that he was never going to see her again.
He put the flower aside and considered his options. His previous attempts at suicide had been futile. He could use a knife to cut himself but quickly discarded it; he wasn’t use to physical pain. His mum had never beaten him. Another option was to take an overdose of valium but he worried about what the side effects would be if he didn’t die eventually. I don’t know how it’ll happen but I know I’ll kill myself somehow.
Chioma was tidying her room when her mother came in. “Still sorting things out?”
“Yes mum. I would want to have a decent and organized room when school resumes next month. I know I won’t have much time to clear up often then.”
Florence sat on the bed and watched as her only daughter worked through her wardrobe. Chioma was fourteen. She could not help admiring her daughter. She looked more beautiful with every passing day. Florence noticed Chioma was developing an impressive figure. She was proud of her but worried-sick at the same time. She hoped her daughter would turn out better then she did at that age.
She had gotten pregnant with Chioma at age seventeen and her parents, very religious people, had insisted she have the baby. Unfortunately, she did not know who owned the baby because she had lived on the edge. Many boys had a field day with her; she was as good as public property. Now thirty-two, and still a single mother, she hoped and prayed her daughter would turn out far better than she did.
Florence Akpuru gave her life to Christ in her first year in college. Then, Chioma was three years and attending daycare. She finished her part-time college programme and earned a diploma in secretarial studies, which qualified her for the job she had. She had risen through the ranks in Micropost Ltd and was now the secretary to the CEO.
Her growth in Christ, on the other hand, had been slow but steady. She was now firmly rooted in him and so was her daughter, Chioma. Florence was in charge of the ‘Y4C’, Youths for Christ, interdenominational youth group of which Chioma was an active member. She had noticed a couple of well meaning guys stealing glances at her daughter and some out rightly staring but it seemed Chioma never noticed.
She had sat Chioma down and talked about it one rainy Saturday. Florence had learnt, by personal experience and via years of counseling teenagers, never to make assumptions. During the tête-à-tête, she discovered that Chioma was aware of her pull on guys and mentioned the names of some guys who had asked her out. But Chioma told her mother that she wasn’t going to get involved with anybody yet and gave her reasons. It was that day that she decided she could trust her daughter’s emotions. Chioma seemed to know what she was doing.
In her own words, she had said ‘Mum, frankly speaking, the pressure is much. But I have God, you, my books and the Y4C choir to be bothered about. I cannot afford any unnecessary distractions right now. I can take care of myself without any guy’s help.’ Florence had been so impressed with Chioma that day. But there was something else on Florence’s mind this time.
“Yes mum”, she replied while folding her blue camisole.
“Do you remember what we learnt at the Y4C camp last month?”
“We learnt so many things, mum” she smiled.
“Oh-” Florence got the message. That was something else Miss Akpuru loved about her daughter. She was always so specific when talking and expected others to be; a sign of intelligence. “I’m referring to the Thursday night when we had the bonfire, remember?”
“Yeah! We talked about being instruments of God’s love to those around us who feel no one cares about or understands them.”
“Honey”, she said to catch Chioma’s attention, and patted the bed. Chioma took the cue, dropped what she was folding and sat next to her mother. Florence wrapped her arm around her daughter’s waist and Chioma rested her head on her shoulder. “I think there’s someone God wants you to show love to”, she said slowly and deliberately.
“And who might that be, mum?”
Chioma immediately raised her head and looked at her mother. The expression on her face showed she was serious. “But we’ve hardly spoken to each other in the past few days. I don’t see that being feasible. He seems unreachable – so unresponsive.”
“That’s my point. He’s hurting badly. It would be your responsibility to break through his shell and reach out to him”
Thinking a while, Chioma said, “Why are you asking me to do this? You are better at this than I am.”
A smile curved Florence’s lips. “I was once as naïve in helping and encouraging people but I started from somewhere. I started someday and I guess you’ll have to start somewhere and someday too.”
“Then, I am not ready now, and obviously not starting with someone that looks like he’s tired of living – not Bade Thomas.”
Understanding dawn on Florence and she could imagine how Chioma felt. Bade had hardly eaten in the few days he had spent with them. He said very little and was in the room prepared for him most of the time when he was indoors. Otherwise, he was out of the house. It could be so hard loving someone that didn’t seem to need or appreciate your love. But that was what Christ did and He expects the same from His children. He expects us to love the unlovable.
Florence stroked her daughter’s hair. “I would have taken up the responsibility but I have to begin preparing for the company’s AGM from tomorrow and I’ll be so occupied with typing letters and stacking files.”
“Like last year when you became an absentee mother?” Chioma said, smiling.
“I would try my best, mum but I’m making no promises.”
“That would do because I know my sweetie has what this young man needs to get his life back.”
“Thanks mum. I appreciate the compliment. I trust God to help me.” In affirming her daughter’s statement, Florence squeezed Chioma’s hand gently. Little did they know that things were not going to work out as they had hoped.

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