STARLESS NIGHTS by Nissi Adeola. Episode 14. Finale

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I sincerely appreciate everyone who journeyed with me through this journey, despite the fact that it is not our usual romance fiction. You are angels on earth. Your comments and shares mean the world. Thank you all. That done, back to the Rogers…

Episode 14

Seconds turned to minutes, minutes to hours, hours to days, days to weeks… Loveth knew the sound of silence. It is the loud echo of nothingness which deafens the ears even when there are voices all around. There was a stabbing pain in her little heart that wouldn’t go away, no matter how hard she tried. She should have talked to him when she had the chance. She should have told him how much he meant to her; definitely should have told him that she loved him so much. She should have been there, been there with him in the hospital, holding his hand as he grabbed ferociously onto the reins keeping him alive. She should have been the cord that held him together; she should have been his anchor… like he had been to her, her whole life.

Tim was the one who always understood her. Even when others misunderstood her and probably thought her a bit weird, Tim was the one person who could tell what she was thinking. He defended her even against their parents when she was about to be punished for doing something wrong. Still… she wasn’t there for him when he needed her the most. She wasn’t with him, and when he begged to speak with her, she had refused. Her reasons for not speaking to him seemed senseless now. He had begged, God knows he begged to hear her voice, and yet… and yet…

Loveth bit hard on her lips, as she filled herself from crying. That unconscious act probably runs in the family. She blinked severally times as she watched Tessy and Jerry play a bit sluggishly in the compound. If only she could be as young and as naive as them, Loveth thought, feeling way older than her nine years old self. She was growing up but maybe that wasn’t a good thing. If she was to be granted one wish, she will she’d be as young and naive as Jerry was, maybe that way, she won’t feel this pain anymore.

“You’re doing it again”

Loveth jerked out of her reverie and turned to the watchful gaze of Mrs Peters. The beans they were obviously picking was poised between them, in a fairly round tray. A bit was suspended in her small palm, only God knows how long it had been there.

“Sorry ma” Loveth said shortly.

Mrs Peters let out an exasperated breath as she dropped a palm full of picked beans into a bowl. She fastened her eyes on Loveth who had her eyes on her palm, picking out chaff from the beans. “Loveth, you are too young for this. You need to stop worrying so much”

Loveth blinked, pouring the beans into the bowl without a word.

Mrs Peters sighed, put her hand under Loveth’s chin and raised her head till the girl was looking at her. “I’m sure your brother is fine”

Loveth pulled her head away gently as she fastened her eyes on the beans, obviously to hide the pain in her eyes. “No, he’s not”

Mrs Peters gasped. “Don’t say that, Loveth” This was the first time Loveth was actually saying that.

Loveth’s eyes snapped up. “You know it is true” her eyes watered. “You know it. We have not heard from him or my parents for several weeks now. No calls, daddy hasn’t even come visiting like he used to.” she dropped the beans in her hand, her eyes flashing. “Obviously… Tim…” she bloke off, unable to continue. “… it has happened and they don’t know how to tell us”

Mrs Peters stared at the little girl with compassion. “Nothing has happened” still she couldn’t deny that not hearing from the Rogers for so long was really weird.

Loveth stared into the older woman’s eyes, reading it as surely as she’d read a book. “You don’t believe it yourself”

It’s no use lying to Loveth, Mrs Peters had learnt this quickly. The girl might be so young but she surely had a mature mind. The only thing that could work is tact, a child would always be a child. “Okay, Loveth… I admit I am also very worried” she leaned forward, coming at level head with Loveth, “but we can’t afford to give our hopes up. We have to merge our faith if Tim would be fine again, I have told you this, right?”

Loveth’s eyes watered so much, Mrs Peters thought she’d actually cry for the first time. “I’m so scared… What if… What if he…”

Mrs Peters watched Loveth struggle with tears, feeling bad for the girl. She so wanted the tears to win, Loveth badly needed to let the tears out, it might help sooth the pain she was feeling. “You can cry, Loveth”

Loveth froze, seeming to realise that she was actually on the verge of tears. She blinked back furiously, rubbing the moisture that managed to slip past her steel lashes. “No, I can’t cry.” she cleared her throat, picking the beans again. “Crying means something bad has truly happened” she choked out

Oh, so there’s hope there after all. “Come. Come give me a hug”

Loveth hesitated for a brief moment, then went ahead to hug the older woman. Who would have thought she and Mrs Peters would actually get along after all that happened. But it seemed people are not averse to change. Mrs Peters had changed drastically since her husband reprimanded her, and slowly, she had tried her best to work her way back to the hearts of the children. For Tessy and Jerry, it was pretty easy. A few gifts here and there and she was the queen of the world in their hearts. Loveth had required a lot more but Mrs Peters, ready to .make up for her mistakes had been patient. Loveth loved cooking, Mrs Peters had realised and harnessed that, teaching her how to cook and creating a motherly atmosphere around her. It had kept Loveth’s mind busy – which was a good thing – and also won her the little girl’s heart. Mrs Peters and Loveth were inseparable now as Mrs Peters became a mother and a friend.

Loveth was just pulling out of the much needed hug when she heard the shrill.

“Daddy”

Loveth spun so fast as her siblings ran towards the towering figure of her father, seeing as he scooped up Tessy and Jerry into .his strong arms. Loveth blinked severally. “Dad?” she ran forward, as she also gave her father a hug. Her heart was pounding wildly in her chest. She was so happy to see her father after several weeks but she was also scared, really scared. She couldn’t tell if this was a good development of a bad one… a very bad one.

Loveth tried her best to hide her anxiety and put a smile on her face as her father squatted before them but for the first time, her feelings were not easily masked.

George saw the anxiety in the face of his children and his heart broke. Tears were not an easy thing for a man but George has been doing a lot of that this past few days and weeks. “How are you children? I’ve missed you all so much” he put a big smile on his face for the sake of his children.

“You didn’t come to visit us” Tessy accused instantly as Jerry stayed poised in his father’s arms. Mr and Mrs Peters watched the children silently from a distance.

George rubbed his hand on Tessy’s cheek, smiling softly at them all. “I’m sorry, but now, we are going together”

Everyone’s eyes flashed with delight. “I’ll see mummy?” Jerry mouthed.

George grinned at the baby of the house. “Yes, Jerry, you’d all she mummy”

“And Tim?” Loveth asked pensively. Everything depended on this question.

George stared at his eldest daughter for a second, then nodded. “Yes, Loveth, and Tim”

Loveth stared at her father. She couldn’t read his face the racing of her heart had pretty much engulfed her senses. Tim is alive! “He is better now?” she mouthed again. There was something she couldn’t read in her father’s face. Surely, she was imagining it and over thinking things like Mrs Peters said she does. But why was he much quieter than his usually quiet self?

George smiled widely. “He is alright now”

Undiluted happiness filled Loveth. Surely her instincts were wrong. Her father couldn’t lie; he had never lied to her before. “Alright kids, why don’t you go pack some we can get going”

In a flash, Loveth and her siblings dashed into the house. Mrs Peters turned. “I’d help them pack” she mouthed, leaving the two men alone. They surely had much to talk about. Weirdly, Mrs Peters was sad thinking she’d not be seeing the children again. Despite her initial reception, the children had grown on her till she developed deep affection and love for them; she was probably missing her own children too much.

Mrs Peters helped the children pack and watched them fuse their clothes into bags carelessly, too impatient to worry about folding them. Loveth had never looked to do excited and enthusiastic. Mrs Peters hoped to God that their hopes were not bashed. She hoped George told the children the truth.

*****

The taxi wasn’t moving fast enough. It didn’t look like they were going to their house. George had told them that they were going to another house but it seemed so far away. As long as Tim and their mother was there, the children couldn’t ask for anything more.

Loveth took her eyes from the road, turning away from the window. Her large eyes met her dad’s as she asked for the umpteenth time. “How much longer?”

George smiled and repeated what he had been saying over and over again. “We would be there soon”

Loveth sighed lightly, turning back to the window. She continued her daydream of what she’d tell Tim. And what he’d tell her. She just wanted to see his face and hear his voice. He’d be so shocked when she told him that she could cook now… that she could cook so many things. Loveth smiled to herself in anticipation, already envisioning his stunned face. She doubted she’d be able to catch a whim of sleep tonight.

She stared at the road again, it never seemed to end, she thought with a frown. Patience. Patience!

Finally, after a few prolonged minutes, the taxi pulled off the road and into a large compound, with tall buildings. The place was beautiful. Way more beautiful than their former apartment, this place looked like it’s meant only for the rich.

Loveth started towards the first staircase she saw.

“Loveth, won’t you carry your bags?” George called.

Loveth nodded and backtracked hastily. She grabbed two small bags from the trunk of the taxi as George handled the rest. George led the way, followed closely by Tessy and Jerry. Loveth trailed behind them.

Suddenly, she became apprehensive. What would she say to Tim first. She had never premeditated words with her brother, but now, she was suddenly feeling shy. It’s been months. What if her brother wasn’t how she remembered him to be? What if he had changed? Loveth sighed. Well, she’d just have to see for herself, wouldn’t she?

They arrived at a door and George put down the bags on one hand to push open the door. The children stared at the door as it pushed open, unconsciously holding their breaths for whatever laid ahead.

*****

“Mummy!!!”

The children ran into the waiting arms of their mother. Bola knelt down on the rug of the moderately large sitting room, enfolding her children in her arms. Tears filled her eyes and spilled over as she felt extreme happiness. “Oh… My babies” It was like nothing she had ever felt before. It was pure bliss. The distance could have pulled them apart but instead, it brought them closer than they were before.

Bola pulled back, inspecting them to see if they held up well. She never wanted them away from her again, not even for a minute.

“Mummy missed all of you, so much… so so much” she muttered.

“I missed you too, mummy”, the children murmured simultaneously. Tessy and Jerry wiped at the tears in their mother’s eyes as Bola wiped at their.

The children’s eyes started going round almost instantly. Something wasn’t right. Someone was missing…

“Where is Tim?” Loveth mouthed the unspoken question as she shrugged out of her mother’s arms, looking around, wildly. Her heart raced fast.

“Loveth…” George began.

“Where is T.boy?” she cried, her voice rang out in the room as she stared at every corner, only seeing walls and doors. “You said he is here!” she screamed at her father. “you said he is here with mummy” this time, Loveth couldn’t control the tears that filled her eyes and spilled over for the very first time.

“Loveth… honey, calm down” Bola gasped out. Tessy and Jerry looked on in confusion as they started tearing up also.

“No!” Loveth yelled. “I want to see Tim! I want-”

“Love”

Loveth froze in place as that voice that she knew so well beckoned. The voice that belonged to only one person.

“Tim!” Tessy and Jerry squealed as they ran in one direction.

Loveth turned around slowly as her eyes connected with the one person she really wanted to see. He was smiling in that familiar way she knew so well as he bent fractionally, lifting Jerry into his arms, while holding Tessy by the side. They were all smiles and less words, as they reminisced in the reunion of the family. Tim lifted his smiling gaze till it connected with Loveth’s.

“T.boy” she gasped out. And for a weirdly unknown reason, Loveth started crying. And once the tears started, they never seemed to stop. It wasn’t what she had imagined their reunion to be, she surely hadn’t thought she’d be crying like Jerry – like a kid. But she was ‘still’ a kid and for once, she was glad about it.

*****

After the storm comes the calm. The wind normalizes, blowing gently across the earth, swaying trees and grasses as they dance seductively to celebrate the return of normalcy. The dark clouds shift, revealing clear skies, a mockery of its former state. Still, the havoc the storm wrecked remains fresh in the minds of all. The grounds are wet and water flows in torrents in gutters and canals.

Loveth looked at the darkened sky from the veranda of their new apartment. Stars littered the sky, some bright, some dim. She exhaled. A movement behind her made her turn.

Tim smiled at Loveth as he joined her at the railings. He brushed aside her hand gently so he could see her face. “You shouldn’t be out here alone”

“I know” Loveth answered shortly, staring at nothing in particular. Then she looked up at her brother. “I was scared, T.boy… I thought I’d never see you again”

Timothy was silent for a while, seeming lost in thought. “Me too, Love”

“I should have been with you”

“Maybe I wouldn’t be here if you were” Tim countered.

Loveth blinked, looking away. “I should have spoken to you”

“Maybe I wouldn’t be here if you had”

Loveth opened her mouth and closed it. “What happened Tim? Everyone stopped calling, we thought…”

Timothy breathed. “I was flown out of the country”

Loveth’s eyes flashed with curiosity. “You went to America?”

Tim nodded, grinning. “With mummy and daddy” He hadn’t felt the thrill of it then though, he had spent all the time in the hospital. It was a terribly painful time, thinking he was alive now was nothing short of a miracle. “Mrs Pascal paid all the expenses”

“Who is Mrs Pascal?”

Tim smiled. “You’d meet her soon, and Doctor Kemi”

Loveth frowned, she hated not knowing something. “But you are okay now?”

Tim nodded with a sincere smile. “Yes, Love, I am fine now”

Bola stood a few paces away, concealed by the curtain as she watched her two eldest children. She wiped at her tears, her heart bubbling over with joy and gratitude to God. She had missed sights like these – her children together, happy and without fears. She watched Loveth launch into tales of the past weeks. She watched their laughter, feeling bubbles of happiness envelope her insides. She had thought it impossible to have this again, she had thought her son couldn’t live again, she had thought their family couldn’t be complete and happy again, but here they stood, the storm had passed and they were still standing, their bond even stronger than before. They had learnt to be grateful for the challenges life brought their way because it made them stronger.

Bola stepped into the veranda. “Okay kids, time for bed”

For once, Bola noted that Loveth didn’t argue about not being a kid. She smiled.

“Let’s go, Love” Tim held his sister’s hand and together, they walked into the house. Bola smiled, her heart full of happiness as she walked in behind them.

They never heard of Fred again. No one saw him, heard from him or even knew what happened to him. George and the family were forced to forgive Fred in their hearts because unforgiveness has a way of turning around to hurt the offended.

Ironically, Mr Haruna grew to be a really wealthy businessman but he lost what was more important and couldn’t be bought with money – family. But after all said and done, the Rogers were grateful for the journey they’d been through, they were grateful for the flowers found amongst thorns, the ones who made life a bit more bearable as they journeyed through the wilderness. And they knew that whenever life brings a starless nights, they’d fight through together, knowing that afterwards comes the dawn of a bright new day.

Starless Nights

THE END.

Multiple thanks to everyone who journeyed with me through this nonfiction series. To everyone who might be going through a trying time, I hope this story has been able to inspire hope and faith in you as it has in me. To all, everyday is another episode in life’s novel, don’t be the villain, be the hero. Be the reason for someone’s smile and leave a positive mark in life.

Special tribute to the late Dr. Stella Ameyo Adadevoh, the true life ‘Dr. Kemi’ in this story. The same woman who saved Nigeria from Ebola outbreak. She was truly a flower amongst thorns. Her tremendous acts live after her, may she rest in peace.

I love you all… Await word from me as we explore another exciting world of fiction. Till then, may stars never cease to beautify our lives. Kisses.

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STARLESS NIGHTS by Nissi Adeola. Episode 13

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Hi lovelies, it’s a beautiful and rainy Tuesday, please read, comment and share with friends and enemies alike. Kisses.

Episode 13

Mr Pascal stared incredulously at his wife. “One would think you already learnt your lesson, but you haven’t”

Teju sighed and sat beside him on the couch of their large sitting room. “It’s not that, darling”

“It is what then?” he turned to face his wife. “You almost got lynched by someone you’ve been helping all your life. Someone you’ve spent so much money on, and barely a week after, you still want to help some… boy in the hospital?” Mr Pascal’s voice rose fractionally. He was clearly displeased with her.

Teju sighed and drew closer to Mr Pascal on the chair, putting her arm slightly around him. A wife always knows the way around her husband’s temper. “Cal” she called gently; he always loved her calling him that with her sonorous voice. “I know I just got out of a really sticky situation, but Cal, that doesn’t mean I should stop helping people because of one bad person” her husband pretended not to listen as he fastened his eyes on the flat screen television ahead but Teju knew he was listening to her every word. “Besides” she continued, “this is a young boy battling with his life… a young boy that truly deserves to live” Teju sighed as Cal fastened his eyes on the television. She put her hands on his cheeks and turned his face to her.

“Cal, listen to me” she said earnestly, looking into his eyes and compelling him to look into hers. “That boy could be our John”

“Don’t bring our son into this” Pascal snapped.

“He could be our son, Pascal” Teju insisted as her husband pulled out of her arms gently. “You need to see his face, he looks so innocent and sweet, all smiles despite his condition. Why should we food our arms when we have the ability to help that sweet child and his family?” Teju saw the straight face of her husband and caressed his lap gently. “You always supported my charities and even encouraged me, why are you saying something else now?”

Mr Pascal shook his head. “You know how to twist a situation in your favour, right?” he grounded out. “I almost died thinking I had lost you, just last week. I was screaming like a lunatic on the road, I couldn’t get to you fast enough…” he shifted uncomfortably on the chair, “… and all because of an ingrate…”

Teju swallowed. She had known it would be hard to convince her husband. Since she discussed Timothy’s state of health with the doctor, two days back, she had been looking for an opportunity to broach this topic. She understood her husband’s reactions, appreciated it in fact, but she really had to see Tim recover. Maybe it was time to tell her husband what really happened the day she hosted assassins.

“Do you know that I was actually shot that day” she blurted out.

Mr Pascal turned his eyes to her slowly. “What do you mean?”

Teju Pascal’s eyes turned dreamy as she envisioned the incident of the past week. “The assassins actually trained their guns on me and pulled the trigger” she explained, “but nothing happened.” she stared into her husband’s disbelieving eyes. “The first guy had already shot my secretary, but when he shot at me, nothing happened. The other guy shot at me, yet, nothing happened, it was then you came in with the police”

Mr Pascal looked frozen in time as he stared at his wife.

“When I found Timothy’s parents at the general hospital, Timothy was in coma and I had to rush him to Wickins. When he became conscious, Timothy prayed for me that God will pay me back in multiple folds. That prayer kept replaying in my mind until that day; I got a warning in my spirit which made me give the assassins false information”

Teju stood. “It was after the whole episode that Timothy’s prayer became clear to me. In my little way, God used me to save him from death and I was in turn saved from death.”

Mr Pascal took a deep breath as his wife squatted before him. “You see why I am so passionate about this? That boy is special; I can’t not do something” Teju sat on her husband’s lap, playing with his hair with her fingertips. “I need your support…” she paused with a sly smile, weighing her words. “… and your funds”

Mr Pascal’s mouth twitched as he shook his head. “I knew there was more to this than my support”

Teju grinned, adjusting herself provocatively on her husband’s lap. Pascal’s breath caught slightly and his eyes thinned. “You know what you’re doing, right?”

“Damn right, I do” she kissed his ear gently, enjoying the catch in her husband’s voice, glad that she still had so much effect on him despite their years of togetherness. She needed no answer from him, she already knew he’d do her bidding; it was for a just cause, and despite his initial reluctance, Pascal wasn’t one to turn down a good deed.

*****

Doctor Kemi looked up with a smile as Teju Pascal entered her office. “Teju” Kemi dropped the file in her hand. “I’m sure seeing you today means good news”

Teju smiled, pulling out a chair for herself. “I wanted everything to be ready before I come back here, so we can tell Rogers the good news together”

Doctor Kemi smiled wholeheartedly. “You have the money”

Teju nodded. “Most of it”

Kemi leaned forward. “I was also able to rustle up something with a few coworkers. It’s not much though”

Teju smiled. “You always amaze me. There’s something about that boy, right?”

Kemi nodded, looking thoughtful. “There is”

I know the feeling, Teju thought with a smile. “Why don’t we break the good news?”

Kemi stood instantly. “I can only imagine their happiness”

*****

“Loveth didn’t talk to you still?” Bola asked, looking concerned.

Timothy shook his head with a soft pained smile. Bola could see in his eyes just how much he wanted to hear from his sister. It broke her heart to see him like this… it broke her heart that Loveth wouldn’t want to speak with her brother, knowing his condition. “You want me to speak with her?”

Timothy thought for a second, then shook his head. Bola couldn’t understand anything. Loveth was the closest to Timothy, Bola couldn’t get why she wouldn’t speak with him. There was no quarrel between them, so why…

Bola’s eyes widened as comprehension dawned on her. Oh God! That explains the pained look in Timothy’s eyes. God! When would she understand the reasoning of her eldest daughter?

“Mummy” Tim called.

“Uhn?” Bola pulled closer to her son. He had been in pains for two days now, she had told him countless stories, in her bid to ease his pain and divert his attention from it. She had sang to him and with him, and with George. They had tried their best to create a good atmosphere around him to make the pain a bit bearable. But Bola wanted it all over, she didn’t want to see her boy in some much pain.

“Can you tell me about heaven?” Tim muttered suddenly.

Bola’s heart skipped several beats and for a moment, Bola became tongue-tied. Bola stared at her son for a while, biting her inner cheek nervously. “Why… Why do you ask?”

Timothy smiled drily. “I just want to know”

Bola blinked back tears. She wished George was here now. She should have gone to buy the food instead of him. How was she to deal with this?

Bola drew closer to the bed, running her fingers on Tim’s bald head. Softly, she spoke to her son about God and the angels, about the elders, the gold streets of heaven, the mansions, the music… Slowly, she watched a smile seep through Tim’s face. Bola didn’t know what to make of this. Fear ravaged her heart and mind as she watched her son’s face earnestly. Answering his questions the best way she could. “You’ve been thinking about heaven a lot” she commented.

Tim paused slightly, then nodded. As a Christian and the wife of a pastor, heaven should be one of her hot topics, but now, she wanted to talk about anything but heaven. “Are you hungry?” Bola frowned. “Tim?”

Bola jumped to her feet as Timothy started gasping for breath. “Tim… What’s wrong?” Tears of fear sprang to Bola’s eyes as she watched her son struggle to breathe. Tim pointed towards the door, struggling to breathe as he mouthed ‘doctor’.

“Doctor” Bola screamed, scared of leaving her son. “Tim… Tim, please stay with me” Bola didn’t bother wipe the tears in her eyes as she ran to the door. “Doctor… Nurse…” she screamed on top of her lungs. “Anybody…” she ran back to Tim as his chest heaved fervently.

“Tim please… Please breathe honey… Please…” she sobbed as she watched her son struggle with life. It was like a living nightmare. Bola was sure she’d go crazy very soon.

Doctor Kemi dashed into the room with two nurses, moving Bola out of the way immediately. “Get two doctors in here.” he shot at a nurse then looked at Teju, nodding at Bola. “Get her out of here” she snapped as she tried to stabilize Tim.

“No! No, I won’t leave my son” she yelled. “Tim” Bola ran to the other side of the bed, trying to stabilize her son with her hands. Timothy continued gasping, his chest heaving heavily. Goosebumps scaled Bola’s skin as she sobbed, seeing through the film of tears covering her eyes. Teju couldn’t get her to leave as three doctors entered the room.

“Bola… Bola”

Bola’s face turned around as George’s arms enveloped her, dragging her forcefully out of the room. “George… no! Tim” Bola cried. Just before the door slammed shut, Bola saw Tim go still on the bed. Bola froze in George’s arms as the door slammed shut as Teju came out. Cold ravaged Bola’s being as she stared hypnotized at the closed door. No! No!

*****

“No”

Loveth jerked up from the bed, breathing heavily. “T.boy” she muttered into the empty room. Sweat covered her forehead, slipping down her face as she blinked continuously. She never dreamt during the day, this would be the first. She almost never dreamt to start with. “No, Tim” she muttered as tears sprung to her eyes. No. She wasn’t going to cry because her brother was surely not dying.

Loveth climbed down from the bed, her small feet making contact with the cold floor. She shivered, feeling intense fear in her heart for the first time. Loveth had heard several times in church that God hears the prayers of children. And though she was the daughter of a pastor, she never really prayed a serious prayer on her own. It was time to test that theory.

She bent her knees and knelt by her bed, bracing her hands on the soft mattress and for the first time, Loveth really prayed.

STARLESS NIGHTS by Nissi Adeola. Episode 12

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Hi family, it’s a beautiful Tuesday. Please read, comment and don’t forget to share. Much love. 😘

Episode 12

George left his brother’s house a little more lightened than he initially was. He dug his hand into his pocket, feeling the Naira notes brushing against the back of his hand. He pushed away the fact that his brother could do more than this. Surely thirty thousand Naira was nothing where his brother was, but he refused to think about that. He was grateful for the money he was given and knew that the God that brought this would bring the remaining. There was that nagging thought though. This was just thirty thousand Naira, where was he going to get the remaining two hundred and seventy thousand Naira?

George’s tired legs moved methodically by the side of the road, he barely felt them beneath him. His feet were sore and achy, emitting enough heat to roast a chicken. The sole of his shoe announced the level of his tracking louder than words but George couldn’t care less.

A bitter taste eroded his mouth as he remembered Fred. George had preached about forgiveness more times than he could count, but this? No! George didn’t think he could forgive Fred for what he did. He couldn’t forgive Fred for adding to his pain and sorrow. He couldn’t forgive Fred for being the cause of his current misery. He just couldn’t. That was one of the many downsides to being a pastor. How could he be seen to be contradicting what he always preached about?

George pushed that thought aside and tried to think of another place he could get money. He had been to five people before he put aside his pride to visit his brother; where could he go from here. He surely wasn’t going to ask money from any church member, but the days were running out. He had just three days left, three days to give Mr Haruna his money back. Yet, Timothy was still in the hospital. He needed money. He needed money especially now that they had taken him to a very expensive hospital. Money was needed now more than ever. Yes, Mrs Pascal had asked them not to worry about anything but George couldn’t just sit back while someone else took charge of what was his responsibility. Nothing frustrates a man more than his inability to help those he love.

A car horn blared and George jerked out of his reverie, letting out a loud yelp as his leg slipped into the deep gutter by the road side, causing him to lose balance and tilt dangerously towards the gutter. A passerby grabbed his hand almost instantly, pulling him out of the gutter before he fell face first into it.

“Are you okay, Sir?” he asked bewildered, looking at George with concern.

George nodded. His leg hurt so much, it was almost unbearable. “Thank you” George murmured as the guy turned to leave. He stared down at his leg and saw a small dash by the side of his leg. George moved away from the road and leaned against the fence of a building to recoup his strength. His phone rang and he quickly removed it from his pocket.

“Hello” he murmured.

“Hello Pastor, It is Brother Isaac, please where are you, sir?”

“Hope there’s no problem sir” George asked. God just healed Brother Isaac’s daughter, surely she was fine now.”

“Yes sir, everything is fine. I just want to give you something.”

George reminisced on it briefly. “Okay. I’m not so far from your house, I’d just come there” he said finally.

“Oh, thank you sir; I’ll be waiting”

George dropped his phone in his pocket and took a cleansing breath. His foot, though sore, felt better now. Pushing away from the fence, he made for Brother Isaac’s house.

*****

Mrs Pascal stared at the DPO in stunned disbelief. Her husband, seated right next to her was also shocked beyond words. “No, I’m sure there’s a mistake somewhere” she murmured. “I mean… You can’t be serious” She muttered, looking stunned.

The DPO shrugged his shoulder. “Unfortunately, I am ma’am” he looked towards the door and yelled. “Bring her in”

Teju stared at her husband, still finding it hard to believe that Cynthia wanted her dead. It had been four days since the incident at her office and yet Teju couldn’t get the incident off her head. After waiting in stunned silence for about a minute, the door of the office opened and Teju turned as a police officer pushed Cynthia into the office. Teju stood up slowly, her mouth slightly agape as she stared in shock at Cynthia. Cynthia had been Teju’s friend for so long. They were so close, even got married in the same church… But where Teju was rich, Cynthia was poor. While Teju got married to a wealthy politician, Cynthia married a struggling entrepreneur. Teju – as always – took it upon herself to change this, by setting Cynthia up in a business. She initially wanted them to work together in her plaza with Cynthia as her assistant, but her husband had warned her against it. She never knew a day would come when she would be eternally grateful for not doing that.

Teju had instead opened a boutique for Cynthia and furnished it perfectly; even at that, Cynthia still always asked her for money every now and then and Teju never hesitated in giving her until…

“Cynthia” Teju gasped out, staring at the battered face of her friend. Her face was swollen from severe beating and torture. “Cynthia, you? You sent assassins to kill me?” Cynthia couldn’t meet her eyes as she looked at the ground. “How could you? How could you, Cynthia?” Teju yelled.

“I’m sorry” Cynthia said unevenly, the swell in her mouth muffled her voice as she winced painfully.

“Oh, you’re sorry ehn? If you had succeeded in killing me, I’m sure you’d be passing your ‘sorry’ condolences to my family by now, isn’t it?” Teju yelled.

“Calm down, baby” Mr Pascal said calmly.

Teju ignored him. “I’ve dedicated my life to making you better; what did I not do for you? Yet, you sent assassins to kill me…” Teju shook her head. “Is it because of our little fight? Because you asked me for money some weeks back and I refused?”

“She asked you for money?” Comprehension dawned on the DPO as he stared at the scene in front of him.

Teju turned to the DPO furiously. “She came to me about three weeks ago and asked for five hundred thousand Naira. I refused. How could I? I don’t pluck money from trees, do I? I opened a boutique from her but despite that, she’d always come to me for money.”

“Interesting” The DPO said, running his fingers around his stubble.

“I always gave it to her but that last time, I refused because I expect her to be financially stable by now.” Teju continued. “How was I to know that she’d go as far as hiring people to take my life?” Teju’s eyes were ablaze as she glared at Cynthia.

“I… I am sorry… Teju… Please forgive me” Cynthia fell on her knees, crawling towards Teju. Teju scrambled out of reach.

“Please get her out of here” Mr Pascal said forcefully and the DPO nodded at the policeman standing by. Cynthia was dragged out of the office pleading and crying. Teju could hear the furious undertone in Pascal’s voice when he spoke. He could keep calm in the face of a storm and that was what Teju loved most about her husband. “Come here, baby”

Teju stared at the closed door and exhaled deeply, wishing she could release all the anger she was feeling as she moved closer to Pascal, sitting beside him again. He squeezed her lap lightly, in a comforting manner as he looked directly at the DPO. “I want this case charged to court as soon as possible. She has to pay dearly for this.”

“She can’t escape it. I am just glad she is being charged for attempted murder and not murder.” the DPO smiled at Teju. “You really handled the situation well before the police arrived.”

Teju shook her head as her eyes turned thoughtful. “Believe me sir, I am not the one who deserves the credit”

*****

Timothy looked up as the doctor approached him. It hasn’t taken anything to like this woman, she was just so likeable. Her smiles made him feel less pain and gave him hope of one day leaving the confines of a hospital. Timothy received the doctors big smile with a smile on his own.

“How is my favorite patient doing?” Doctor Kemi asked, smiling at Tim like he was the sweetest thing she had ever seen.

Tim smiled. “I am better, Doctor, I always feel better when you come around”

Doctor Kemi raised her brow with an amused smile on her face. “Oh, a flirtatious lil boy, eh?” she muttered and Timothy grinned slightly. She noticed the slight wince of pain Timothy quickly hid but she made no comment. “Okay, if you are flirting with me, I think that’s a good sign; it means you are getting better”

Timothy suddenly turned serious. “Am I?” he looked so hopeful, Doctor Kemi already used to this kept her face straight, with her smile not faltering. “I want to go home”

Doctor Kemi feigned a sad look. “You want to leave me so soon?”

“It’s not that… It’s just…” he looked away. “I miss my siblings”

Doctor Kemi stared at Timothy’s sweet face and felt an unfamiliar emotion. In this profession, it was always advised not to get too personal or attached with patients. Doctor Kemi often succeeded in being perfectly professional without getting emotionally attached to her patients, but where Timothy was concerned, she seemed to be failing woefully.

She lowered herself, sitting at the edge of the bed. “What are their names?”

“Loveth, Tessy and Jerry” he answered automatically.

Doctor Kemi smiled. “You’ll see them again, I promise you”

Timothy’s eyes flashed with hope. “Soon?” Doctor Kemi nodded. She couldn’t remember ever seeing Timothy so enthusiastic.

“Why haven’t they visited you?”

“No” Tim said almost instantly. “I don’t want them to see me like this.” he looked away, feeling sad. “I don’t want to see them cry for me again”

Doctor Kemi blinked then smiled forcefully. “Well, I guess I’m happy I have you to myself now” she got what she wanted because Tim smiled. “Your mum?”

“She went out to get something to eat” Tim explained.

Doctor Kemi nodded. “I noticed you hide what you feel, Tim. I don’t want you to do that; whatever it is that you feel, I want you to tell me or anyone around, do you understand? That way we can treat you faster and you can go home faster, how about that?”

Timothy nodded. “Okay ma”

Doctor Kemi straightened, did a few routine checks and left, promising to return soon.

*****

George still couldn’t believe that Brother Isaac had actually given him a hundred thousand Naira. It had taken all his willpower not to burst into tears right there in Brother Isaac’s sitting room. God always had a way of pulling him out of whatever mess the devil had in store. And to think that Brother Isaac didn’t even know that he was in financial crisis… didn’t even know that his son was hospitalized. George knew that one hundred and thirty thousand Naira was not even halfway through what he was expected to pay but he had faith Mr Haruna just might give him more time; probably wait till Timothy was out of the hospital before demanding the rest. He couldn’t be going around, searching for money to pay off money he didn’t spend while his son was in the hospital.

George felt the throbbing pain from his injured leg as he walked towards his office. He had called Mr Haruna to meet him there. On getting there, he met Mr Haruna already waiting for him. “Good afternoon sir”. George was certain that Mr Haruna was way younger than he but that wasn’t important.

Mr Haruna had that hostile look in his eyes. He didn’t come with his wife and George knew it was a deliberate act just so his wife wouldn’t interfere with his decisions. “Do you have my money?” Mr Haruna ignored George’s greeting and asked without preamble.

“I have part of it” George brought out the One hundred and thirty thousand Naira.

Mr Haruna scowled. “I didn’t give you part of the money, I gave you three hundred thousand Naira” he stated emphatically.

“Excuse me sir, but you gave Fred, not me” George pointed out.

“You asked me to pay to Fred when I was ready didn’t you? How sure am I that this is not part of the money? Besides, how could you have gotten the money so fast if you didn’t get your share from your accomplice cousin?”

George swallowed and took a calming breath. He stretched the money wordlessly. “This is one hundred and thirty thousand Naira, it’s all I could raise. Please give me more time to get the rest; my son is hospitalized and I have to be with him now. I promise to pay you back every penny once my son is out.”

Mr Haruna looked at him like he had gone mad, still not collecting the money. “I should wait for your son to get better? Mr man, I don’t think you know who you are dealing with. If I collect this, I need the balance tomorrow”

“I can’t. It was a struggle getting this money, please understand me.” George had been hoping that Mr Haruna would at least be understanding but now, it seemed that was an impossible task for the man.

“Does it look like I care?” Mr Haruna’s voice rose. George wasn’t ready for another embarrassing scene. His name was smeared enough as it is. He took a deep breath. It was decided! He was going to do it.

“Can I give you my car?” George asked suddenly.

“What?”

*****

The mechanic stared at George like he had gone completely crazy, then stared at Mr Haruna. “Pastor, don’t do this” he finally said when George was done explaining the situation. “Someone promised to come get this car next week for four hundred thousand Naira” he explained.

“I need my money now” Mr Haruna said stiffly. His eyes brimmed with concealed delight as he gave the car a thorough look.

George sighed. He was tired of this. He had his name to protect and if he had to forfeit his car to free himself from this mess, he was ready. “Mr Haruna, I believe this car is enough payment. This car is worth four hundred thousand Naira but I’m willing to let it go as payment for the money my brother took from you.”

Mr Haruna walked around the car, feigning a look of indifference when they all knew for a fact that he was probably jumping for joy internally. The car was worth much more than the mechanic wanted to sell it, George had bought the car when he was financially buoyant, he knew the value of what he was giving away.

Mr Haruna finally turned. “I’d take this car under one condition” he looked directly at George. “I’d take the money also”

“What?” Baba Sodiq yelled. “Ah! Eeyan ma nika o” People are wicked. “How can you be so heartless?”

Mr Haruna ignored the mechanic. He was a business man, he was used to being called names. “I already have a car, this is more or less, a liability. If I am taking the car, I am taking the money, or no deal”

George smiled painfully. He just wanted this over. “I can only give you hundred thousand because I have to pay the mechanic. He repaired the faults and has been the one marketing the car, I’d give him the rest”

Baba Sodiq just stood, looking stupefied.

“Alright.” Mr Haruna conceded.

George counted a hundred thousand Naira and gave Mr Haruna. They signed undertaking stating that George had paid Mr Haruna back fully and with that, George watched Mr Haruna drive away in his car until the shiny black car disappeared from view. George closed his eyes briefly and turned to the mechanic. He was supposed to pay the mechanic about twenty thousand Naira but Baba Sodiq collected only five thousand and told him to forget the rest. George thanked him for all he did and left. That chapter was closed.

*****

“I want to know what can be done about Timothy’s health, Kemi” Teju Pascal sat facing her doctor friend. “I know cancer is a serious disease, but tell me categorically, Kemi; what are his chances?”

Doctor Kemi sighed and leaned forward, bracing her hands on the table. “Honestly, Teju, his case is a peculiar one. His best chance at survival would be get a bone marrow transplant. I say it is peculiar because the rate at which the cancer cells spread is way above the normal, making me feel, despite my medical ethics, that there’s something above the ordinary at work here. However, the good news is that he is responding very well to the chemotherapy treatment. I’m actually very impressed.” Doctor Kemi took a deep breath and looked straight at Teju.

“I have some doctor friends abroad who have been successful with similar cases. I forwarded his case to them and they are positive that he can be cured. I’m sure, Teju, if Timothy is flown abroad, with lots of prayers, he’d survive this”

Teju let out a breath she had unconsciously been holding. “What you are telling me now, Kemi, is that there’s hope”

Kemi smiled. “Yes, Teju. There’s hope”