Monday, June 9, 2008

Novella: In The Bid To Love (Chapter 2)

What was that on her face when I walked in? He was taken aback by the warm and broad smile Chioma used to usher him in. He was both surprised and embarrassed. He couldn’t deny that he had almost wanted to stay and just watch her smile; her smile was beautiful. He wondered why he hadn’t noticed that earlier.
While still musing over Chioma’s sudden and unexpected pleasant attitude, he heard a knock. It was Miss Akpuru. She came in and looked impressed at what she saw. “You’ve done a pretty good job on this room.”
“Thanks. Mum taught me”
“Really?” she asked, happy that Bade had mentioned his mother for the first time in her presence since her death.
“Yeah, she taught me how to decorate a room and make it cozy with affordable things”
“She must be proud of you”
Bade nodded and lowered his head but not before Florence saw tears fill his eyes. “Come here”, she said and extended her arms to him. He reluctantly did but gradually eased into the embrace and sobbed quietly.
“It’s going to be okay, Bade. God will take good care of you, and we’ll do our best too.” She assured him.
When he was comforted, he wiped his tears and pulled back from her embrace. “Thanks; I’ve needed that for a long time now”, he said rather shyly.
“I’ve wanted to since you came but I guessed you needed time to sort things out.” She patted his shoulder, smiled, and then added “we would like to speak with you” Bade looked up confused. “Who’s ‘we’?” His mind raced and he thought he had been betrayed and handed over to a welfare organization. How would I ever cope in a teenage orphanage? He looked at Florence with fear in his eyes, and she understood what his fear was.
“Easy boy, it’s just me and Chioma. We want to have a family kind of chat with you, is that okay with you?”
He heaved a sigh of relief. He didn’t even know he had been holding his breath until he exhaled after Florence had assured him. “That’s fine, thanks!”
“You’re welcome”
She led the way, and joined Chioma who was sitting on the rug, watching TV. Florence started up the conversation as soon as they were seated. “Bade, we want you to feel a part of this family. You’re like a son to me, and a big brother to Chioma…”
Bade felt nervous with all the attention on him in the little living room, and stole a quick glance at Chioma when her mother mentioned the ‘big brother’ part. He saw a combination of amusement and mischief on her face. He couldn’t help letting loose a smile. He noticed he had been distracted, smiling at Chioma’s expression and tried to catch up on what Florence was saying. “… or have you felt neglected so far?” she had asked as he recovered from his sidetracked thoughts.
“Then, I hope we’ll be able to become family”, she pressed.
“I hope so too” he said, optimistic but still doubtful.
“Chioma, do you have anything to say?” Miss Akpuru asked, facing her daughter.
“It would be my pleasure for us to become close and be like family, Bade”, she said smiling at him and in turn smiling at her mother. Florence smiled back, and with years of experience, she knew what her mother’s smile meant – thank you!
Chioma sounded so confident and intelligent all at once that Bade had suddenly felt insecure and intimidated but the moment she smiled, his fears were allayed and he knew she did not despise him in anyway. Florence rose, signaling the end of the family tête-à-tête, praying silently and desperately that things will work out fine.
“Dad, I have a huge crush on Chioma Akpuru.”
“Every time I hear her sing in church, I get lost in her voice”
“Is that all, son?” Dr. Makun asked, keeping his eyes on his fishing pole.
“No dad” he smiled shyly, looking at his now sweaty palms. “She’s pretty, sweet, and very intelligent. I’ve never met a girl as pleasant as she is”
“Aren’t you forgetting something, Femi?”
Knowing his dad, he knew what was missing. “She loves God and is passionate about Him too”.
“Now, we’re talking, and do you know what, son?”
“I’m proud of you”
“Thanks dad.” Femi said, delighted to hear that.
As a psychologist, Dr. Shola Makun had learnt the power of affirmation before counsel. “I’m glad you know what counts when you say you admire someone. But there’s still something you need to know.”
“I’m listening”
“The best things in life don’t always come when we want them to. We often have to be patient like…” At that, there was a sudden thug at the string. They both stood as Dr. Makun pulled in the line to see their catch.
“Wow!” Femi exclaimed.
“Impressive, isn’t it?” his dad said, almost out of breath.
“Really is! This is the largest fish I’ve seen us catch since we started fishing here last year. I had wondered if there was potential in this lake at all.”
After unhooking the fish, Shola Makun looked his son in the eye. “I believe God planned that as a sign of affirmation to the lesson I was teaching you. Patience helps you get the best out of circumstances. Take your time with Chioma, son. There’s no rush; none at all.”
Femi was disappointed but knew that his dad was right. “Thanks dad. But it’s really hard, I confess. I don’t want to lose her to some fast guy.”
“I understand your plight boy,” he said and tousled his son’s hair “but you’ll learn with time that love is indeed patient like the bible says.”
“So, what should I do now?” He sounded desperate.
“Build friendship; be real with her – no trying to impress her.”
“I’ll try dad and if I get stuck, I’ll let you know.”
“It’ll be my pleasure to help you”
“Thanks dad. I love you”
“I love you too” Dr Makun replied but couldn’t shake away the guilt he felt that he never followed the counsel his own father gave him when he was in secondary school. Looking at Femi, he said “Son, I have a confession to make!”
Femi looked perplexed. What on earth did his father have to confess, but looking at his father, he knew he really had something to let out. “I’m listening, dad”
“What I’m about to tell you is a secret that only your mum and I know about.”
“Are you sure you want to add me to the list, dad?” Femi asked, rather frightened. Dr. Makun seemed pensive a while and finally said, “Yes. Your mum and I had decided that we would tell you someday, and I guess this is the best time to”
“If you say so, dad.” Femi conceded.
They stacked the fish in the basket and sat back down. “I wasn’t close to my parents. My mother died prematurely in a car wreck, leaving my dad to fend for their seven children alone. My father was so busy trying to make ends meet after her demise that he hardly spoke a word to us except when it came to paying our school fees and miscellaneous bills.
“I lived quite wild; partied and had many girlfriends. I once even dated three girls on the same night. I was good at it” a sad smile curved his lips. “It was in one of my partying sprees that I met your mum.”
“Mum!” Femi felt like he had been slapped on the face.
“You’re surprised, right?”
“It’s hard to believe”, Femi said still trying so hard to imagine his mother in a club house or a similar setting. It just didn’t fit.
“Yes son, I know. We gave our lives to Christ one year after we met but not before we messed things up.”
“You… I mean, did you…?”
“Yes, we did. We weren’t Christians then, okay? Sleeping with your girlfriend was no issue in our circles then. But around that time, it also happened that papa, as we often called my father, was very sick and he called me into his room one day. It was so strange to be called into his room for a talk that I couldn’t even look him in the face through the monologue”
“You mean he talked all the way?”
“Yes. I couldn’t even get a word to come out of my mouth. Moreover, he was instructing me on many things, he really did not need any comment from me. And can you guess what his last instruction was to me?”
“That you should marry mum?”
“No, it wasn’t – nice try.” Shola Makun looked into the lake, reliving the day again. “He told me never to cover up a sin by committing another. He asked me to own up to my sins, repent of them, and not try to make them disappear by committing more. I listened to him but I couldn’t make much sense of the instruction at that time until something happened that redefined my life.”
“What was that, dad?” Femi asked both curious and afraid of what he might hear.
“Your mum got pregnant.” Femi was too dazed to ask any questions. He just listened. “So, I just recommended an abortion as quickly as I had to my many other girlfriends, but as I did, the words of my father kept eating at me. ‘…never cover up a sin by committing another…’ but I was too stupid and selfish then to heed.”
“So, mum aborted?”
“Yes she did.” Shola Makun could barely breath, remembering the day.
“It must have been awful for her” Femi said with tears welling up in his eyes.
“Yes it was but that wasn’t the worst part. There is a part that made me regret my decision with a passion… the abortion was poorly done and your mum’s womb was damaged.”
Dr. Makun couldn’t bear to talk anymore and Femi wasn’t ready for more bad news. Silence hung in between them for a couple of minutes. Then, as light begin to dawn on Femi; he looked up at his dad, with tears streaming down his face. “So, how did I come about?”
“We prayed so hard for a kid afterwards. We had accepted Christ and married shortly after. We trusted God but eventually, we discovered that it was a problem we would have to deal with for the rest of our lives, so we-”
“You adopted me?” Femi couldn’t even believe he had just said the words. The tears now came flowing faster as he turned away from his father and sobbed.
Dr. Makun knew better than to begin with any apologies immediately. Instead, he reached out and pulled Femi into his embrace, crying himself. They stayed cuddled for some minutes before Dr. Makun broke the silence. “We have loved you since we held you in our arms. You were just two months when you became ours.”
“Why didn’t you ever tell me?” Femi said in-between sobs that seemed would never end.
“We’re sorry son. We wanted to tell you when we were sure you knew we loved you as our own son. We didn’t want the information to create doubts in your heart about how we feel about you.”
“Are you sure I have no doubts now?”
Shola Makun stroked his son’s hair as he gave space for the question to take root in both their hearts. “Even if you have doubts son, I’m convinced that the love we share as family will kill the doubts easily. And for the record, Femi, your mother and I love you so much and couldn’t have asked for a better child.” Still stroking Femi’s hair, he added, “We still wish every now and then that we didn’t abort our child. We still imagine how beautiful he or she would have been. We calculate how old our child would have been. We still wish we hadn’t and regret the decision we made but anytime we remember you, we thank God that in His great mercies He comforted us with the best child we could have ever asked for.”
Another moment of silence passed. “Did mummy know you were going to tell me this today?”
“Yes she did. She said she couldn’t bear to see the pain and hurt she would see in your eyes when you found out. We’re sorry, son but we hope you understand.”
“I do, dad but it would take some time to get used to the fact.”
“I know but please know that we’re still family.”
“Thanks dad. I still love you so much”
“I’ve always loved you and always will, and so does your mum. Now, do you understand what I said about patience with Chioma?”
“Yes dad. But whatever the case, I still can’t wait to see her again tomorrow; I’m still in love”
“I bet you are” Dr. Makun said and pulled his son in for one more hug and silently committed Femi’s feelings for Chioma into God’s hands.

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