BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED Episode 3 by Ife Grace.
Femi opened his eyes, squinting at the light that shone from the ceiling above. For one moment, he forgot where he was. His eyes stopped at a man snoring beside him. He jerked backwards.
Who is this?
He rubbed his sleepy eyes and peered closer at the man.
‘What’s Rotimi doing-’
‘Oh.’ he sighed, suddenly remembering he was in his mother’s village for her burial. He relaxed and snugged the pillow closer to his chest and closed his eyes.
The woman in the purple gown touched his leg. ‘Femi.’
Femi’s eyes flew opened. Did someone just touch his leg? Did he just hear a woman’s voice?
He raised his head. A woman was sitting at the foot of the bed.
He sat up quickly. ‘Jesus!’
‘Femi.’ The woman smiled sadly.
‘Are you surprised to see me?’
Femi blinked twice. Was he dreaming? ‘I don’t understand.’
She leaned against the wall and covered her face with her hands. Then she began to sob quietly.
Confused, Femi moved closer to her. ‘Mum, why are you crying?’
Femi’s mother wiped her tears and fixed her gaze on her son. ‘Listen Femi, my spirit is restless. My life wasn’t supposed to end like this. I am still angry at the world. I was cheated!’
What was going on? Why would his mother show up few days before she was buried?
He took a long look at her. His mother before she died had aged greatly even though she was just fifty-four. The disease had eaten into her body, leaving her body shrunk and her disheveled hair hanging loosely over a wrinkled face.
But this woman here was different. She was his mother back in the early days at Garden assembly. It was this body symmetry that had left married men at Garden Assembly hungry for lust while their worried wives set up cages to protect their men from her. His mother had broken down some of those cages, drawing those men into her arms.
‘Femi, those people in Garden Assembly, they are very wicked.’ His mother lamented. ‘Has any of them contacted you about attending my burial ceremony? Where is the Pastor? What about the women’s fellowship where I was active for ten years.’
‘But mum, remember all the troubles you caused them. They have every reason not to show up.’
She shook her head. ‘I can’t even believe you are supporting them. I know I did a few bad things but look at my good side too. They hate us Femi. Even if they are still upset with me, what about you? You practically brought life to their youth group. Remember when we first got there, their youth fellowship was dead. You mobilized those young men, organized programs and outreaches. Remember the nights when you stayed on your knees praying for those teenagers. How many of them have called to sympathize with you.’
Bitterness crept slowly into Femi’s body and slithered quietly around his heart. His mother was right. Except for a brother who lived on the same street with him, nobody had paid him a visit, not even the executives of the youth fellowship.
When he’d sent a text to the youth president, he’d expected him to mobilize the members to help with the burial arrangement. The Pastor had not call for once even though he had been at the forefront when his own father passed away. He remembered the contributions, the journeys he had embarked on when some of the youth fellowship members lost their loved ones.
His mother’s eyes was full of rage. ‘Avenge the hurt they have caused you. Don’t let them rest for treating us like trash!’
Femi stared at his mother, wondering why his body shook so much with anger. Why had they not stood by him when he needed them? Was it because he left their church two years ago? What about the years he’d spent with them? The commitments, the sacrifice.
She touched his legs. ‘You don’t need them to succeed. Femi, you will be very wealthy and famous. I have seen it already. Your future will be great. When you become powerful, bring that church down. Don’t ever let that Pastor go unpunished. ’
Femi sighed in frustration. ‘Oh God, what’s happening to me. Why am I so full of rage?’
His mother smiled. ‘The anger is good. You need it to fight well.’
Femi turned his face away from the woman sitting in front of him. Something wasn’t right. His mother was dead. He knew that once a man dies, his spirit leaves to face eternity. He also understood that demons took the form of humans to create familiarity and gain access into people’s minds.
‘Femi, what’s wrong?’ The woman asked, her eyes tenderly holding his.
‘My mother is dead. Who are you?’
The woman jumped to her feet, annoyed. At the same time, Rotimi yawned and released a thunderous fart that sounded like a machine gun.
‘Sorry bro. That beans last night was something else.’ Rotimi muttered to no one in particular. He was sure Femi was deeply asleep.
As Rotimi reached for his bible, he was surprised to find his friend awake, staring blankly into space.
‘Who are you?’ Femi asked, unaware that his friend was watching him.
The woman started crying. ‘Femi, why are you doing this to me? Have you also abandoned me? After all I did for you when your father left.’
Rotimi tapped his friend on his shoulder. ‘Guy, who are you talking to?’
‘One foolish spirit is standing over there in the exact replica of my mother. I was almost fooled.’ Femi said, without looking at Rotimi.
‘And you are still holding a conversation with the useless thing. Send that nonsense out of here.’ Rotimi pulled the coversheet over his head and faced the other side.
Femi pointed at the woman. ‘In the name of Jesus, Get out!’
She staggered backwards and hit her legs against a chair. Suddenly, she changed into a bare chested, pot-bellied man wearing only a red cloth over his loins. Femi closed his eyes and opened them again. Was he hallucinating? What just happened? He blinked twice. The man disappeared out of sight.
Rotimi pushed the sheet down. ‘Has the thing gone?’
‘Yes.’ Femi said and returned to bed. He couldn’t sleep.
Why had the youth fellowship of Garden Assembly abandoned him? He had sent a copy of the details of the burial arrangement. Why didn’t they call him?
Rotimi leaned on his elbow. ‘I don’t know what was planted in your heart, but you have to flush it out or else you will be giving the enemy room to take hold of your mind.’
Femi exhaled and took out his phone from under the pillow. He tapped on his bible app. A scripture flashed in his heart.
The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, casting down imaginations and every thought that exalted itself against the knowledge of God and bringing in every thought to the obedience of Christ.
The words of the woman came back. Tears stung Femi’s eyes.
‘Garden Assembly, why? Why did you treat me this way after I gave my all to your church.’ Femi let out a deep breath. ‘Oh God, take this bitterness away from my heart.’
Memories flooded his mind again. Pictures of the years spent organizing crusades, days he’d gone hungry to pay for conference materials, times he’d fallen ill from overworking himself.
Femi threw the phone aside in frustration. ‘What’s wrong with me?’
Rotimi climbed down from the bed. ‘I can’t even sleep again. Let me pray jare.’
Femi tossed the coversheet aside. ‘I think I’ll join you. I don’t even understand how I’m feeling right now.’
The two men began to pace the room, praying. Femi stopped at the center of the room and lay on the floor.
‘You spirit of bitterness, you do not belong to my life. I am seated in heavenly places in Christ.’
After all the countless sacrifices you made, they couldn’t even reach out to comfort you.
Femi shook his head. ‘As Christ is, so am I in this world. I love because Christ first loves me. The love of Christ fills my heart. oh yes! I walk in love. I have been called to a higher life. I shall not respond in the same the way I’ve been treated. While men mocked the son of God on the cross, he looked at them and said, Father forgive them. I-’
How can you just forgive them? They threw your mother out of the church. Can you remember how most of the ladies didn’t want to have anything to do with you? You knew that if you had proposed to any of them, they’d have said no. They hated you.
Femi sat up. ‘Oh Jesus, help me.’
Remember Bro Dare, there was vacancy in his company. You had the qualification required for that job. He didn’t give it to you! Obviously the Pastor talked him out of it. Now you are a common driver. The sin of your mother is finally catching up with you.
‘Jesus, help me. I need your strength.’ Femi cried out.
For you are washed. You are sanctified, you are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of God
Immediately that scripture reverberated in Femi’s heart, he felt strength course through his body.
Pray for Garden Assembly.
Femi went on his knees. He prayed for his former church with all the passion he had. He declared prosperity over the congregation, prayed for strength for the Pastor and numerical growth for the church. The more he prayed, the weaker the voice that plagued him. He continued praying until he could not hear the thoughts anymore. Gradually, peace settled in his heart.
Saturday morning, Femi’s mother was buried behind the family house and the burial party took place at Adunni Event Center.
At the event center, Femi stood at the back of the hall wondering where so many people had come from.
He didn’t know half the people shouting for more amala and ewedu soup. At the caterer’s stand, Aunty Morenike hurled insults at the people gathered in front of big food warmers. Bukola stood beside her pushing back the crowd and giving orders to the servers.
Femi gestured to his sister as he stepped out of the hall. Bukola grabbed a bottle of coke and joined him outside.
‘Ah! These people are something else. Why do they act like babarians.’ Bukola lamented.
‘Do you think Mummy knew most of these people here?’ Femi asked, wondering at the new arrivals, ready to take up more spaces.
Bukola adjusted her gele. ‘Trust me, they heard there was a party somewhere and ran here. Who cares what the occasion is about, as long as there is food to eat.’
‘Where’s Rotimi?’ Bukola asked, looking behind him.
Femi pointed to the middle of the hall. ‘He should be somewhere there, feasting on pounded yam and efo.’
Bukola tapped her brother. ‘Look who’s here.’
Femi followed her eyes and saw his boss’ daughter, Becky, advancing towards him. Two familiar faces walked beside her. His eyes scanned for Tomi. She hadn’t shown up. He was disappointed.
Becky shook hands with Femi and his sister. ‘I’m so sorry for your loss.’
Femi smiled. ‘Thank you for coming.’
He greeted his boss’ secretary and the chef. ‘I’m glad you made it.’
‘Please come with me.’ Bukola led them into the hall. She sighted Rotimi and headed in his direction.
Becky settled into an empty seat beside Rotimi while the other visitors found empty spaces at a table behind her chair. Femi introduced Becky to Rotimi. They shook hands and got into small talks.
‘Nobody from Garden Assembly showed up?’ Becky asked, looking around.
Bukola hissed. ‘We are devils. Angels don’t dine with devils.’
Becky smiled sadly. ‘My parents send their regards. They’d love to be here if not for the urgent trip they had to take.’
Bukola leaned towards Becky. ‘Your father is an amazing man. We’ll forever remember how your family stood by us until mum passed away. I’m just glad your family left that stupid church. Rotten eggs.’
‘Bukola!’ Femi shouted.
‘Why are you calling my name like that.’ Bukola snapped at her brother. ‘Look at the sacrifices you-‘
Femi raised his hand. ‘I don’t want to hear it.’
Bukola directed her attention at Becky ‘Please what would you like to eat? Amala, pounded yam, rice.’
‘Rice is fine.’
The secretary wanted pounded yam. The chef settled for amala and gbegiri. Bukola hurried to get their orders.
Femi sat there, wishing Tomi had come. He had only seen her once since she got back to Ado. Every emotion buried had resurrected the day she stood before him at his boss’ house. His heart ached for her. He imagined she was sitting across from him. Why didn’t she come?
‘How’s Tomi? I thought she’d come with you.’
Femi noticed the broad grin on Rotimi’s face as he wiped his hand on a napkin. Why was Rotimi smiling? He’d poke him in his ribs later.
Becky didn’t respond immediately. Instead she pushed a brown envelope in front of Femi. ‘That’s a cheque from dad.’
Femi’s eyes widened in surprise. ‘I didn’t expect this. I’ll send him a mail once I get home.’
Becky crossed her legs. ‘You were asking about Tomi. She is not in the best frame of mind right now.’
Femi frowned. What could this mean? Was something wrong with her? Becky sensed his worry.
‘Oh no, it’s not something so serious. She’ll get over it.’
He brought out his phone. ‘I’m not sure I still have her number. I’d love to give her a call sometime.’
Becky tapped her phone and scrolled down to Tomi’s number.
‘Good job, boy.’ Rotimi mouthed and winked at his friend.
‘Babe, you have to move on.’ Ayo stood at the foot of the bed, looking at her sister curled up under a duvet.
‘You turned off your phones and you refused to eat. Everybody is worried about you. If Daniel has chosen to walk away, then he doesn’t deserve you.’
Tomi hissed and got down from the bed. She reached for her phone on the bed and turned it on.
Ayo stared at her. ‘Please don’t tell me you are going to call Daniel.’
Tomi didn’t respond. She dialed a number and waited for a response from the other end. When a voice came on, she cleared her throat.
‘Good evening ma’am. This is Tomi, the fashion designer recommended by your daughter. I was wondering if I can come pick up the materials today.’
‘Ah, I’ve been trying your line for days.’ The voice on the other line said. ‘Yes, you can. I’ll send you the address to my house.’
‘Thank you.’ Tomi responded and ended the call.
Ayo laughed. ‘This is what I’m saying. Keep building your career. We don’t stay down at all. No matter what, we rise still.’
Tomi walked to the bathroom. ‘Ayo, I’m hungry.’
‘I made quaker oat.’
Tomi made a face. ‘That’s boring. I need something to lighten me up.’
‘Your head is correct.’
‘I’m going to make it right away.’ Ayo got up and left the room.
From the bathroom, Tomi could her sister’s voice. She was shouting excitedly.
‘Mummy! Your daughter is back to life.’
Later that afternoon, as Tomi stepped out of the gate that afternoon, Becky pulled up in front of her house.
She got down from the car. ‘ Halleluyah o! My friend is back on her feet.’
Tomi didn’t smile. ‘I don’t even know why I spent a minute mourning over that idiot. He was no good to me anyway.’
Becky raised her hand. ‘This one is not good o. idiot keh? You have to forgive him and release him from your heart. Listen, all things work together for good. We trust God for the best okay?’
Tomi sighed. ‘Thank you jare. I can’t remember when last I prayed. My life has just been upside down.’ She hugged Becky. ‘I’ve missed you. What have you been up to? ’
‘I was at Femi’s village over the weekend. His mother has been buried.’
‘Oh, I should give him a call. How’s he taking it in?’
Becky shrugged. ‘I guess he is fine. He asked for your number. I gave it to him. Hope that’s fine with you.’
Tomi laughed. ‘After you’ve given him the number, you are now asking me if it’s fine.’ She opened the door and slid into passenger’s seat. ‘Drop me off at the junction jare, I have a business to run.’
‘When are you finally going to hit Tomi with this question?’
Rotimi was playing with his son in the living room while his pregnant wife Chidera served Femi water melon.
Femi hesitated. ‘It’s so hard. What if she says No. I’m thinking I should wait for a little while.’
‘It’s been six months since she returned to Ado.’
‘Seven months actually.’ Femi corrected.
‘You’ve been talking with her on the phone. You suppose don do small inspection.’
Femi rubbed his hand on his knees. ‘I know she is not in a relationship but I think she just sees me as a friend.
Chidera chuckled. ‘Femi, ladies like Tomi will not be in the market forever. If God is prompting you to make a move, please obey. If another brother gets her because of your lack of faith, it is you who will lose. Talk to her. The worst you will hear is No. At least you made a move. That’s how my elder brother was just doing one kain, dragging his feet. He was in tears two years later when he saw the lady he loved in a wedding dress.’
Femi’s eyes widened. ‘Eh! Are you serious?’
Rotimi handed a toy car to his son. ‘Siddon there. Keep quiet, you hear?’
The following day, Femi gave Tomi a call. It was time to take the bull by the horn.
Fear gripped his heart again. The stains his mother had left in Garden Assembly. His mother’s sexual involvement with Tomi’s father. The way he left the church without any explanation. The hatred Garden Assembly had for his family. Would Tomi be able to look past that and accept him into her life? Would he even be worthy in her eyes?
‘Hello Femi, what’s up.’
Femi’s heart raced. ‘I was wondering if you have a minute. I’d like to talk to you about something.’
‘That’s fine. I’m at the shop. The painters are about finishing up with their work. We can stay here and talk or we can go somewhere else. Are you coming now?’
Femi sighed. ‘Yes.’
‘I’ll be waiting.’
Femi stared at his phone. What exactly would he say to Tomi? I love you? Will you marry me? He picked up a pen from the table and flipped to the back of his notepad.
It was time for rehearsals.
BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED
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