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Monday, February 23, 2015


It was late December 1902, five years after we returned to Nri, my native land, five years after we were freed from captivity in the land of Benin. While the Harmattan breezes swept over the coast of Lagos, and while most people kept warm by the fireside, I had someone keeping me warm in bed, though not out of my volition. This had been my lifestyle since my aunt Adanne brought me here a couple of weeks earlier. Each night, as I lay on the cold mattresses of my bed, and as Aunt Adanne’s men thrust me; I shut my eyes and wept. In the dark recess of my mind, all I could see were images of that cold night at the Benin slave camp. It was like living my most painful memory all over again. Every day. One night, after taking my shower, I sat on the bed, waiting for the man Aunt Adanne had collected money from. His name was Chukwuma. He was a dark skinned man probably in his early thirties. As he walked towards me, I was scared, nervous and angry all at the same time. So I moved away from him towards the headboard.
Don’t worry honey, I would be gentle with you,” the man whispered as he climbed onto the bed. He unbuttoned his shirt and started crawling towards me. I felt like screaming but I didn’t. I also felt like slapping him and then pushing him away, but I didn’t. All I did was just sit there and sob.
Please, I don’t think I’m ready for this. I…don’t…I… don’t want to do this anymore,” I said tears rolling down my cheeks. As those words came out of my mouth, I wasn’t sure what his reaction was going to be. I closed my eyes right after speaking, thinking he was going to force himself on me like the other men did. But as I continued sobbing, he stopped, sat on the bed and told me he wasn’t going to touch me if that was what I wanted.
Why are you doing this?” he asked.
I don’t know,” I said, my words muffled by tears. I couldn’t think of anything else to say. Should I confide in this man who seems caring? Maybe he would help me get out of aunt Adanne’s house forever. Maybe he was sent by the gods to save me. Or maybe he would tell Aunt Adanne all I told him and then continue with his life as if nothing ever happened. This would only worsen my situation. So, I don’t know was the best answer I thought of.
I have a sister your age,” the man said as he buttoned his shirt. “I, um…also have a wife whom I love very much and she’s given me two boys: Ejike and Chijioke.” He smiled mildly. “I love my family very much, but recently my wife and I have been having problems in our marriage. I work with you aunt. Yesterday, after work, I told her I was having problems with my wife and that we were no longer intimate. That was when she mentioned you. Honestly, I feel guilty about this,” he continued facing the floor. A couple of seconds passed before he lifted his head and continued. “Please do all that you can to get out of this house; I don’t think your aunt has any good intentions for you. You are a beautiful young lady who should be doing something meaningful with her life,” he said as he stood and made for the door. All I did was nod as he spoke. In the silence that followed, he walked back to the bed, gave me a hug and kissed my head before leaving the room. I couldn’t believe it. I was surprised-and pleasantly so-at this sudden turn of events. His display of affection and concern suddenly brought back memories of life with my mother back at the slave camp. If only mama were alive, she wouldn’t have let me leave the village even if I wanted to. I was her only child and she loved me very much. In that moment, as I sat on the bed, wiping tears off my eyes, I recalled the story my mama had told me of how they were captured by Oba Ewuare, the Benin monarch and marched out of their home town in chains and fetters. It was the story of how we were forced into a life of slavery by the Benin Empire. I still remember the expression on mama’s face as she narrated this story. It was an expression indicative of disgust, hatred, anger and yet hopes in what the gods could do to save the Nri people.

It was the eve of the eke market day and children were gathered by the fire in the cold of the evening listening to stories from their parents. It was like any other peaceful day in old Nri,” mama had said in Igbo. “Traders sat under the canopy of the odala tree, discussing sales, when suddenly, Ogidi, the chief warrior ran past our house, screaming at us to run for our lives. In a matter of minutes, confusion broke out throughout the village. Parents searched for their children as they sought for safety in their mud huts; children wailed as they searched for their parents in the midst of the stampede, confused and frightened about what was happening. You father jumped to his feet, and carried me into our hut. One man ran out of the bathroom naked, and a creeping child who was playing outside was accidentally kicked into one of the burning firewood. Ogidi was however too late, for before he could get to the market square, half of the village was surrounded by the Benin warriors. Our Igwe was ripped of his crown and throne; the council of elders, the Nze and Ozo title holders was dissolved and the entire kingdom was abandoned. In a couple of hours, the raid was over, the entire village was taken captive and we became part of the ancient Benin Empire. That was a day descendants of Nri kingdom will never forget. It was a moment of severe pains for pregnant women, some of which had miscarriages,” mama narrated and then paused. She heaved a mournful sigh, and then wagged her head before continuing. “I was pregnant with you at the time, but thanks to the gods, I managed to escape a miscarriage. I guess the gods had an important assignment which they wanted you to carry out.”

That night memories of my late mother’s life came flashing back and I thought, again, in passing that she would never have let me leave the village with aunt Adanne in the first place. But then, I wondered: why would my aunt, my own mother’s sister, my blood, treat me with such inhumanity? Maybe she wasn’t really my mother’s sister; perhaps, she was just another family relative from my mother’s side. 

to be continued...

Friday, February 20, 2015


Resilient, that’s the word that best describes me. I’ve been to the hottest parts of hell and back; I’ve watched my heart ripped out of my chest and then thrown back in place. I’ve wallowed with pigs and swam in ashes. I’ve been abused, depressed, dejected and suicidal. But in spite of everything, I refused to give up; I refused to let my past define me, because a long time ago, I came to the understanding that good or bad, life’s what you make it. So I decided to quit blaming God for what some may call my misery, and I decided to rise from the darkness that was once my life. But it wasn’t always easy. There were times I felt like I would be better of six feet below even in what many may have considered the brightest of days-which to me were as few as the number of hairs on my chin. But I was determined to make the best out of my life, not just for me, but as I would later learn, for others who would one day get to read about me. This is why I believe that no matter how bad it is, there can always be a silver lining in your dark clouds. Sometimes, you would have to dig through the clouds to find it, but trust me, it’s always there. Today, as I lie on my hospital bed, my eyes deeming with weariness and my bones shivering beneath my skin, I hear the sound of my ancestors calling me to return home to the Creator; but I smile and say to them, “After I tell my story.” My children and grandchildren have no idea about this conversation and ever since my hair became as white as a ghost and my skin as wrinkled as a prune, they’ve been pestering me to tell them about my life. Why they’re so curious, I don’t know. Today, they're all gathered by my bedside-all fourteen of them-eager to hear the story I once promised to tell them. To the optimists, it’s an inspirational story; to the romantics, it’s a love story; but to me, it’s a combination of both-a story about finding strength to live again after dying many times, and then finding love while doing so. It sounds easy now as I think about it, but finding love wasn’t easy for me at all. In a world where you’ve been conditioned to think men want only one thing from women, not only do you stop looking for love, you become skeptical of it even when it is true and genuine. I was opportune to find true and genuine love, once, but then fate took it away from me and Cupids decided not to pay me another visit. I don’t like to feel sorry for myself, no, not at all; no time for pity party, because such is life-you love, you lose, but you go on. Some things we pray will never happen, but they happen anyway. What do you do then? Kill yourself? Of course not. If you’re like me, you cry, and then you try to move on. But you don’t let go of the memory; you just don’t let it paralyze your life. So for the longest time, I lived with the memory of my lost love; I drenched myself in a fantasy that I will one day find him again. And just when I thought all hopes were lost, fate surprised me in a way that to this day, still fills my eyes with tears; tears impregnated with a feeling deeper and far reaching than joy, one akin to euphoria and sheer paradise.

The heat from the heater beside my bed spews hot air over my body. Yet, I shiver with a cold that’s been ninety years strong. I’ve always had an abnormal body temperature since birth, but now it feels worse than ever. Even with a gown and two thick sweaters, I can still feel my hands shiver as I reach for the bottle of water on my night stand. One of my grandsons hands me the bottle and as I let the water trickle down my throat, I’m convinced the next generation will never remain the same after hearing my story. I put the water down and my last daughter helps me sit up and props me against the headboard. Then, I take a deep breath and begin to narrate this story, my story. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


Good afternoon, family,
   This is to inform my dear readers that a new novel by yours truly has just been published via Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing. Here's a link to the novel on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/THE-TRUE-TEST-LYSIOUS-ebook/dp/B00I3GV2VO/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1392239705&sr=8-4&keywords=the+true+test
Kindly check it out, read and leave a review on Amazon. The good part? You don't have to buy it, you can borrow it, read and leave a review.

Friday, April 26, 2013


Another Victim of False Love is a short film that tells the story of Ashley and Jarrell, two college undergraduates whose lives are a classical example of the dangers of false love. Check it out and be sure to leave your comments, and indicate your reaction in LIKE or UNLIKE. I hope you like it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vqwL_ZcxGn0

Saturday, April 20, 2013


      Tears rolled down Jane’s cheeks as she stared at the framed picture on her bed stand. It was 10 am in the morning and she was still in bed. She’d been awake for an hour, but she wasn't ready to face the day. She’s been living like this since the news of the boat mishap which supposedly claimed Jake’s life was published in the Washington Post one week ago. She’d wake up every morning and just stare at the picture she and Jake had taken on the afternoon they visited the Mall together for the first time. That was the last time they spent together before the boat mishap. As she stared at the picture, she continued to sob, letting the tears from her eyes trickle down her cheeks and soak up her pillow. So many memories flooded her mind as she stared at the picture: the afternoon she had received the news about the mishap on the Potomac River, the search team that was launched, and the success the search team had in recovering the other bodies involved, which she didn't really see as success because Jake’s was not among the bodies recovered. She thought about Sam, John and Philip and the way their unconscious bodies had looked when they were rescued from the river. She was eighteen years old and remembering the summer she and Jake had fallen in love, the summer she had a heart attack and how Jake had been by her side the whole time. Even though she and Jake had only been seeing each other for a year, she felt as though he was the reason she was able to face the many challenges of her life. He was the reason she found strength to press on with her life after she lost her dad and her doctor told her she didn't have much time to live because of her heart condition. Every moment she spent with Jake made her feel that she could live longer than her doctor had predicted. Now that he was gone, she wondered whether she would be able to face life anymore. The strength to live was no longer in her and with the passage of each day she felt weaker and weaker. She continued to stare at the picture until she was interrupted by a knock on the door. Her mom poked her head in.
                “Breakfast is ready. I made you your favorite: pancakes with gravy.” Jane didn't respond. She sat up on the bed and continued to stare at the picture. “Sweetie, are you crying again?”
               When Jane didn't answer, her mom crossed the room, sat beside her and gently clasped her hand. “Sweetie, you can’t continue to live like this; no amount of tears is going to bring Jake back to life.”
               “Mom, he was the only boy I have ever truly loved and we didn't even get to spend our lives together like we had hoped. First it was dad and now Jake.” She buried her face in her mom’s shoulder and continued to sob.
               “It’s okay, sweetie; stop crying, everything happens for a reason.” Her mom patted her back. Jane looked up at her mom and sighed.
               “What reason, mom? What can possibly be the reason that he was the only one who didn't make it alive?”
               “Sweetie, I don’t know but you’re going to have to pull yourself together; you are still very young, you have your whole life ahead of you and I don’t think you want to spend it mourning Jake.”
              “Jake was my life, mom; without him there isn't much for me to live for.”
              “Don’t talk like that, sweetie; you have me and Jaden, and I’m sure if your father were still alive he wouldn't like to see you like this.” Her mom sighed and continued.
              “It’s okay, pumpkin; stop crying.” She pulled her close and kissed her forehead.
              “Where is Jaden?” Jane asked.
                “He’s in the living room; he just finished eating. He thinks you’re sick and that’s why you haven’t been coming out for breakfast. I think he misses you.” Jane looked at her mom and let out a smile which faded as quickly as it had come.
               “I know; he left this note on my bed yesterday. I think he writes very well for a thirteen year-old.” She brought out a piece of paper from underneath her pillow and handed it to her mom.
                 Good morning sister; I pray that you get well soon. I miss watching the Amazing Race with you. I also miss going to the mall with you every Saturday. Sorry about Jake, I miss him too. I miss him driving me around in his car. Anyway, I just pray you get well soon. I really miss you. Love Jaden.
Her mom smiled after reading the note. “I guess those after school English classes really worked for him.”
              “Mmhmm,” Jane nodded. In the silence that followed, her mom wiped the tears off her face and twisted her long hair into a loose pony-tail on her back.
              “I think you should always carry your hair like this; it’s beautiful,” her mom said. Jane smiled and nodded.
             “Mom, Jake was very ambitious; he had so many great dreams for us. He didn't have to die.”
             “I know, sweetie. And I’m sorry about everything. You know, I was out of town when everything happened, and you never really told me how it all started. Sometimes it helps if you talk about it.  You've been so quiet these last couple of days.”
            “I don’t even know where to start.”
           “You can start from the beginning. Jaden mentioned something about paper kites.”
             Jane crossed her arms, knowing the story hadn't started there. “Not really,” she said. “I think it started with the boat.”
             “What boat?”
Jane reached for the stack of magazines and newspapers on the bed stand and gently removed a fairly new travel magazine sandwiched between two large books. She opened to a page in the magazine and then handed it to to her mom.
             “This boat,” she said. “The one at the Washington Harbor.” Her mom looked at the picture of the boat in the magazine for a couple of seconds and then placed it on the bed.
             “What has the boat got to do with anything? Besides, there are many boats at the Harbor.”
             “I know, mom, but this boat was different. It was used by Queen Victoria for short-distance travels around the British Isles. It was refurbished and placed on auction three weeks ago.” She paused and then continued. “Jake’s father bought the boat for half a million dollars, and three days later, Jake decided to take it for a test ride on the Washington channel of the Potomac River with his friends: Sam, John and Philip. He had asked me to come but I told him I didn't feel like it. Two days passed and I didn't hear from Jake or any of his three friends. I tried calling him several times, but he didn't pick his calls. I knew something was wrong because Jake had never gone for a whole day without calling me, let alone two days. So after I didn't hear from him for another two days, I decided to pay him a visit. When I got to his house, his father showed me the report in the Washington Post about a boat mishap that drowned four teenagers in the river. He told me that Jake was among the teenagers and that the police had launched a search team. But as it turned out, the search team never found Jake.” Tears stood in her eyes as she finished.
           “It’s okay, sweetie; I heard the police is still searching for Jake. Who knows, they just might find him.”
           “Mom, it’s been seven days; they’ll never find him. His dead,” she said tearfully.
           “Baby, you can’t be so sure.”
           “Even if they find him, mom; I’m sure he’ll be dead by now. It’s been seven good days, mom.” She stood up and walked towards the door.
           “But miracles do happen, sweetie.”
      Jane snorted. “Mom, you said that when dad was in a coma, but he never made it out alive. You said that when I was first diagnosed with a heart condition, but nothing changed. You said that when Jaden became paralyzed, but he is still in a wheel chair. Mom, I think miracles stopped happening to us a long time ago.” Her mom didn't say anything. She knew Jane was right. She, too, was now beginning to doubt if miracles still did happen. As far as she and her daughter knew, they hadn't happened in a long time. And most importantly, they hadn't happened when her family so desperately needed them to happen.

        “Jane, I am so glad you are finally feeling better,” Jaden said as Jane pushed him down R Street where they lived, near the Montrose Park.
        “Me too bud, I missed you.”
        “You know why I like summer?” Jaden asked.
        “No, why?”
        “Because it’s always bright and sunny; the flowers are always fresh and the air always smells so good. Do you like summer?” Jaden asked his sister.
        “Mmhmm,” she nodded.
        “Well, let’s see, it’s always sunny like you said, and don’t forget the butterflies.”
        “Ah, yes, the butterflies; you've got to love them butterflies.” As Jane listened to her brother talk she knew that she had just lied to him. She knew that she didn't really like summers anymore. Not since their father died in the summer of last year from a heart attack and she had her first heart attack six months later. The doctor had said her heart attack was hereditary. It ran in her father’s family blood line. It was also during the summer, two years ago, that Jaden had woken up one morning and suddenly couldn't use both of his feet. And now, this summer wasn't yet over and she was already mourning the love of her life. As Jane and her brother continued down the sidewalk, Jaden called out at a boy who was about to cross the road in front of them.
         “Charles!” Jaden yelled. The boy turned and looked in Jaden’s direction. He started walking towards them as soon as he saw Jaden. “Charles just moved into the neighborhood. He’s into cars and basketball. I think you’ll like him, he’s my friend and he’s pretty cool,” Jaden said to Jane as the boy approached them, but she didn't say anything.
          “J-force,” the boy said as he drew closer.
          “He calls me J-force. Pretty cool name, huh?” Jane didn't answer. She seemed to be taken aback by the muscular 6 feet 2 inch-boy whose long, dark, lustrous hair touched his shoulders.
         “What’s up, J-force?” the boy said as he ruffled Jaden’s hair.
         “I’m fine, Charley boy; how have you been?”
         “ I've been great, man; was about to go shoot some hoops with the guys.”
         “Cool; hey, Charley boy, meet Jane, my sister; Jane, meet Charley boy.”
         “Hello beautiful,” Charles flashed his perfect teeth. 
         “Nice to meet you,” he stretched his hand for a handshake.
         “Nice to meet you, too,” Jane shook his hand and for a moment, their eyes were locked.
         “Ahem,” Jaden coughed to interrupt the moment.
        “Don’t get too friendly, Charles; she’s not available.”
        “J-force, you didn't tell me how beautiful your sister is.”
        “Well, you didn't ask.”
        “So, you just moved into the neighborhood?” Jane asked.
        “Yeah, one month ago.”
        “So, how do you like it?”
        “It’s a pretty cool neighborhood and I think your presence makes it even cooler,” Jane twirled her hair and smiled.
        “See, I've got to go now, but I’ll see you later.”
       “Okay, later.”
       “Hey, J-force, you wanna come shoot some hoops?”
       “Not today, man; I’m having some alone time with big sister here. It’s been a while since we hung out.”
       “All right, man. See you later,” he said and then went across the road.
       “You like him, don’t you?”
       “No! Why would you say that? I don’t even know him.”
       “You like him, I saw how you stared into each other’s eyes when he shook your hand and how you blushed and twirled your hair when he complimented you.”
        “Okay, so I think he is cute; but it doesn't make any difference. Nothing is ever going to happen between us.”
        “And why is that?”
        “Because I don’t think I’m in the right frame of mind to go out with somebody else. Besides, it’s been barely a week since the incident with Jake; I think it’s too early to start dating again,” Jane said as they went down 32nd Street NW towards Montrose Park.
         “I agree, but I think you need to start dating again, because that’s the only way you can really get your mind off Jake.”
          “What makes you think I want to get my mind off Jake?”
          “Are you going to spend the rest of your life thinking about Jake? Jane, Jake is never coming back; you said that yourself. You’re going to have to let go of your memories of him and move on with your life with somebody else. I’m not saying Charles is that person; all I’m saying is keep an open mind, because you just never know.”
          Jane smiled. “Sometimes I forget you are just thirteen; you've always sounded older than your age,” she said and ruffled his hair.
     He, too, smiled. “Some people say I have an old soul.”
          “You sure do,” Jane chuckled. “Yesterday, mom said that miracles do happen, I didn't believe her. But deep inside me I wished that some miracle will bring Jake back to me. So, I forced myself to still believe that miracles still do happen. I figured maybe if I believed in miracles again, they just might begin to happen again, starting with Jake,” Jane said as they stopped under an almond tree in the park. She sat down on the wooden bench underneath the tree and stared at her brother.
          “Why are you looking at me like that?”
           “Nothing, I’m just amazed at how quickly you are growing into a young man. Is that a mustache you are growing?” Jane laughed.
          “Where?” Jaden felt the area of his mouth above his upper lip. “Are you serious?”
          “No, I was just kidding; there’s nothing there yet, maybe in another three years. But you really are growing into a handsome young man.” Jane smiled.
          Jaden beamed. “Aww; thanks sis,” he said. “So, about miracles.”
          “What about them?”
          “I too don’t believe in miracles; I think it is easier to believe in magic,” Jaden chuckled. “And I know I said Jake was never coming back. But, I was thinking, what if, may be, Jake was found by a kind fisherman and is right now receiving treatment at a hospital in, say, Virginia?”
          “ I've wished for that for the past one week and it still didn't happen. Sometimes, I try to tell myself that this whole thing has been a dream that is soon going to end. But I think this dream has refused to end. In fact, this dream has permanently become my reality.”
          “Jane, people have been found after having been declared missing for years.”
          “I know that, but I try to keep myself from hoping for the best. My hopes have always been dashed. I hoped that dad was going to live, but he didn't  I hope and pray every day that I won’t have to worry about a heart failure, but I've had two heart attacks in the last three months. Every day I wake up in the morning, I hope that one day you will get out of this wheel chair and walk on both your feet.” Jane sighed and continued. “Sometimes, I think it is the hope that we have for the best that prevents the best from happening. Maybe if we hoped for the worst, then the best will happen. Come on Jaden; let’s go home before mom starts getting worried.” Jane stood up and started pushing her brother out of the park.

Weeks soon ran into months and Jane started going out with Charles. Their relationship had developed at a rather fast pace and was getting really serious. But Jane did not realize how serious Charles had taken their relationship until the evening they had dinner at the Citronelle restaurant on M Street. Charles had paid for a special place at the restaurant where they could have a cozy time together. The evening was warm and breezy and Jane was enjoying her chocolate cake desert as the lobster meal she had eaten lay balmy in her stomach.
          “Jane, there is something I've always wanted to say to you; I knew this from the day we started going out,” Charles had said as Jane took a quick sip from the glass of wine on the table.
         “Okay, I’m all ears.”
 Charles took a deep breath and then sighed. “Jane, you are the most beautiful young lady I've ever been with; and of all the girls I've dated as a teenager, you’re the only one that I’m sure I would like to spend the rest of my life with.” Jane’s jaw dropped when he said this.
         “Charles, don’t you think you are getting a little bit ahead of yourself here; I mean, you are only twenty and I’m just eighteen.”
         “I know, but I think at twenty, I know what I want in a wife. Jane, here,” he brought out a ring from his pocket. “I want you to wear this ring as a sign that we are going to be together forever.”
          “Charles, I’m not sure about this.”
         “You’re not sure about us?”
         “That’s not what I mean, Charles.”
         “Then, what is it?”
         “Look, Charles, I love you, I really do; I mean, the past three months have been great for me. You've given me the strength to press on with my life again. But I just think we need to take some time and think this through. Charles, marriage is forever, and we want to really be sure this is what we want.”
        “I know this is what I want, Jane. What I don’t know is if this is what you want. You do want us to be together, right?”
        “Yes, Charles, but…”
       “There is no but baby, we are meant to be together, can’t you see?”
Jane looked at him silently for a while and then sighed. “I need some time to think about this.”
       “Okay, take all the time you want,” Charles said and then put the ring back in his pocket.
      “I want to go home,” Jane said.
      “Why? We just got here.”
      “I know, but I want to go home.”
      “Is it what I said? Look, Jane, I’m sorry if it was what I said.”
      “It’s okay, Charles; it’s got nothing to do with you; just take me home.” Jane stood up and started walking out of the restaurant. Charles followed her.
      “Baby, I’m really sorry if it was what I said, I…”
      “For the last time, Charles, it has got nothing to do with you. Just take me home, would you?” Jane snapped and stormed off towards the parking lot.
      “Okay, I’m sorry,” Charles said. As they drove home, Jane stared out the window of the car, without saying a word. The car was silent until they pulled up at her place on R Street. She didn't wait for Charles to come around and open the door for her as before; she came out of the car and started walking towards her house.
       “Thanks for dinner,” she said when she got to the door of her house.
       “You’re welcome. Good night,” Charles said and then planted a kiss on her lips. She gently pushed him away immediately his lips touched hers, and then walked into the house without saying goodnight. When she walked into their living room, her mom was in the kitchen doing the dishes and Jaden was fast asleep on his wheel chair, with a copy of Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone on his lap.
       “Good evening, mom.”
       “Good evening, sweetie. You’re home already; how did the dinner go?”
       “I don’t want to talk about it, mom,” she replied and then walked into her room. Her mom knew that something was wrong, because as far as Jane was concerned “I don’t want to talk about it” was code for it went horribly bad. As she got into her room, Jane took off her pumps and lay prostrate on her bed. She thought about what Charles had said and she wondered whether she had overreacted just a little bit. Was she wrong to have declined his proposal? Or maybe he was wrong to have made such a proposal after just a few months of being with her. He wasn't in love, he was delirious, she thought. How can anybody be so in love with somebody after dating them for three months? But as these thoughts ran through her mind, she wondered whether her reaction at the restaurant had something to do with the memories of Jake she still struggled to get over. Somehow, she felt that saying yes to Charles’ proposal would have been like putting a no-return stamp on Jake. It would have been like finally giving up hope on the possibility of Jake ever coming back alive. And as much as she knew that the possibility of Jake’s return were slim to none, she found it very difficult to accept that fact. Her stream of thoughts was interrupted by the mild knock on the door. Her mom gently opened the door and walked in with a plate of stew-covered rice.
          “I brought you dinner.”
          “I’m not hungry, mom.”
          “Okay,” her mom said and then placed the food on her bed stand. “How did dinner go with Charles?” she asked as she sat beside her.
          “I don’t want to talk about it.”
          “Okay, sweetie; but just so you know, I’m always here for you. You don’t have to carry your burdens alone,” her mom said and then stood to leave.
          “He asked me to marry him,” she said, startling her mom.
          Jane sat up on the bed. “Charles asked me to be his wife; well, those were not exactly his words, but he offered me a ring which he said was going to be a sign that we would be together forever. He said that of all the girls he had dated, I was the only one he was sure he wanted to spend the rest of his life with”
          “But you two are too young for marriage, he’s just twenty and you are eighteen.”
          “I know; that’s what I told him.”
          “So, what did he say?”
          “Nothing; I told him I needed some time to think about it.”
          “Think about what, sweetie? You are just eighteen for crying out loud. You can’t possibly get married at eighteen.”
          “Mom, I don’t think he wanted us to get married now; I think he just wanted me to know that when we get older, he would like me to be his wife.”
          “Sweetie, Charles is only twenty years old, he cannot be so sure of a life partner right now; I’m pretty sure he’s going to change his mind by the time he turns twenty-one.”
          “But I didn't say no because we were too young for marriage. I said no because I felt accepting his proposal would be like totally giving up on Jake’s possible return.”
          “Sweetie, it’s been three months since Jake got drowned in the Potomac River and was never found. His family performed a funeral service in his honor three months ago; even they have moved on, and so should you.”
           “But what if Jake is still alive? What if he was found by someone in say, Virginia and has been admitted in a hospital where he is receiving medical attention?”
            Her mom chuckled. “Pumpkin, even if Jake was found by someone in Virginia like you say, don’t you think the person would have contacted his parents by now? Sweetie, it’s been three months.” Jane looked at her mom and then looked away. Her mom was right, she thought.
            “Honey, you need to move on with your life; Jake is dead and the earlier you start seeing it that way, the better your life would be. Don’t worry, you will find another friend who would love you like Jake loved you.” She pulled her close and gave her a tight hug.
           “Thanks mom.”
           “You’re welcome, sweetie, you’re welcome,” her mom said and then stood to leave. She picked up the plate of food she had come in with and made for the door.
           “Good night, mom.”
           “Good night, pumpkin.”

The next day was Saturday and as early as 8 am in the morning, Jane’s doorbell was chiming loudly and continuously. Jane’s room was closest to the living room, and because she was partly awake she was the first to hear the chiming of the doorbell. She sat up on her bed, and let out a long yawn while stretching. As she slipped her feet into her pink foam slippers, the doorbell continued to chime, and she wondered who was disturbing her family’s peace this early on a Saturday morning. Maybe it was her Italian neighbor who always came to ask them for sugar.  She rubbed her eyes as she stood behind the door, and without looking through the peephole; she opened it and there he was, Jake, the long-lost love of her life. He looked very pale and for a moment she couldn't recognize him, until he said her name in the way he alone did, with soothing softness in his voice. She couldn't believe her eyes. Was it Jake or was it his ghost? She had seen the movie, Sam the Ghost and just two weeks ago, she had gone to see The Ghost of Girlfriend’s Past with her mom. So, the concept of ghost was not strange to her and she believed in ghosts. As she stood there looking at him, speechless, everything began to spin around her, her heart suddenly slowed down and she collapsed. Jake rushed to resuscitate her.
          “Jane, baby, please wake up,” he said as he raised her head and then tilted it forward. As he was bent over trying to resuscitate her, Jaden came into the living room, and seeing a supposedly dead Jake with his sister, he screamed.
          “Ghost! Mom! Ghost!” His mom ran out of her room.
         “Jaden, what is it?”
         “Jesus Christ, Jake! What, you, you are supposed to be dead,” she stuttered.
         “I know Ms. Jacobs, but I’m not dead; this is not my ghost. It’s a long story.” Jane opened her eyes as he was speaking.
         “Jane, sweetie, are you okay?” her mom knelt down and tried to fan her with her hand. She and Jake then moved her to the couch and placed her in a reclined position. Then Jake went on to tell them the story of how his lifeless body was found floating near Harper’s Ferry in West Virginia by a fisherman. He had been in coma for the past three months. He almost died, he said. After he came out of coma, he was in the hospital for another two weeks before he was finally discharged two days ago.
        “I just came back from Virginia this morning and I told my dad I had to come see Jane before doing anything else,” Jake said as he stared into Jane’s eyes. Tears streamed down her eyes as she listened to him speak.
         “I can’t believe you made it out alive.”
         “I too can’t believe it, Ms. Jacobs”
         “You see, Jane, miracles still do happen,” Jaden said.
         “Yes, Jaden, miracles still do happen,” Jane replied and then gave Jake a tight hug.
        “Baby, it was your love and prayers that kept me alive.”
         “Thanks for staying alive for me,” Jane said tearfully as she planted a kiss on his lips and then hugged him again. This time, both her mom and Jaden joined in the hug.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


When Valerie opened her eyes, it took her a couple of seconds to figure out where she was. She couldn't remember how she ended up on a bed, naked and covered with a blanket. She tried to remember exactly what happened the previous night, but all she had were vague memories of it. The only thing she could remember was that she was at a party at her boyfriend, Victor’s house. It was the type of party where people challenged themselves to liquor-drinking bouts, and got high on all manner of substances they could sniff or smoke. The type of party where girls walked around in bikinis and people had sex at every corner they could find. It was a party she had lied to her parents about, giving them the impression that she was going to a friend’s house for a sleepover. A party she was feeling guilty about the whole time she was there. Victor’s parents were out of town for the weekend, and since he had the house to himself, he decided to have as much fun as he could before Monday, when his parents were scheduled to return. As Valerie lay on the bed still trying to remember what happened last night, she recalled in the fuzziness of her mind that she and Victor had been very drunk and were making out on a couch. She also remembered being carried by Victor into his room, and being stripped of the floral frock she was wearing. That was it. That was all she could remember. The rest of it seemed to have gone away with the night. As she rubbed her eyes, and tried to get out of the bed, Victor walked in with a smile on his face.
          “Good morning babe,” he said and bent forward to kiss her. “Last night was one hell of a night wasn't it?”
          “Victor, what happened last night?”
          “Baby, last night, we had a great time, you and me; great party, great music, and oh the sex was…”
          “The sex?”
          “Yes babe, the sex.”
          “We…we had sex?” she spluttered.
Victor chuckled. “Don’t tell me you were so drunk that you forget all that happened last night; baby I was rocking your world!” Tears streamed down Valerie’s cheeks as he spoke. “Babe, what is it?” Victor asked as he drew closer to her and pulled her to himself. She didn't answer, but started sobbing as more tears trickled down her cheeks. “Come on baby, what is the matter? Why are you crying?”
          “I made a promise to God, my family and myself, that I was going to remain a virgin till I’m married. But now, you have helped me break that promise.”
          “You were a virgin?”
Valerie nodded. “Victor you were the only boy I have ever truly loved, and I trusted you with my life; but you betrayed me.” She continued to sob.
          “But Valerie, we were both drunk; it’s not like I raped you.” Valerie didn't respond. She knew he was right. Last night, they had made a stupid mistake; one that they were both responsible for. She sat still for a while as Victor stared at her, unsure of what to say next. Then she stood up and slowly walked towards the bathroom with the blanket wrapped around her, up to her chest.
          “Baby, I’m really very sorry,” Victor said as she walked into the bathroom. She shut the door behind her, and started sobbing loudly.
          “God, please forgive me; forgive my disobedience, and dishonesty. I know I've been unfaithful lately, but please…” Her voice trailed off in tears as she prayed. Standing next to the bathroom door, Victor could hear her pray, and in that instant, a new feeling of guilt overshadowed him. Somehow, he felt he was solely responsible for last night. He knew Valerie was a Christian, born and raised in a Christian family. Her father was the presiding prelate of the St. John’s Episcopal Church in Georgetown, where Valerie lived with her parents and younger sister, Vanessa. Her mother was a deaconess and Valerie herself was the lead soloist of the church choir. He knew that Valerie had come to the party last night because she loved him; because she wanted to please him. In spite of her father’s open disapproval of their relationship, Valerie had secretly continued to see him, in the hopes that one day her father would see beyond Victor’s apparent secular lifestyle and know that deep inside, he is a good person, who had a heart for God. Victor’s parents never went to church, neither did they believe in God; and they were very vocal about it. The only God they believed in was their media company which they had built into a billion-dollar empire from nothing. But Victor believed in God even though he didn't go to church. Lately, he had begun to attend the St. John’s Episcopal Church because of Valerie. He didn't like going to church, but he would do anything to make Valerie happy. As these thoughts flooded his mind, he also recalled that last night, he was the one who got Valerie drunk so he could have sex with her. They've been seeing each other since they were fifteen, and after two years of being together, Victor had shared with Valerie, his desire to have sex with her. But she had declined, saying the time wasn't right. She never told him that she was keeping herself for marriage, and for some reason, he had begun to think that she was playing hard to get. So last night, after promising his friends that he was going to “seal the deal” with Valerie, he decided to get her drunk so he could sleep with her. But as he listened to Valerie sob uncontrollably, he felt very sorry for her.
          “Valerie, I am so sorry; it was entirely my fault. All I wanted to do was just have a little fun with you. I had no idea you took a vow of chastity.” He moved closer to the door and tried to open it, but it was locked. “Val, baby, I’m so sorry; if I hadn't gotten you drunk this would not have happened.” That part had slipped out his mouth. He hadn't meant to say it. Valerie flung open the door of the bathroom and stepped out.
          “You did what?”
          “Baby, I’m …”
          “Don’t baby me, you bastard!” Victor was shocked. That was the first time he heard Valerie use that word. “You got me drunk just so you could have sex with me?”
          “Valerie, I’m sorry; I don’t know what I was thinking. I…I…it was John and the guys, they dared me to…”
          “So you made a bet on me with your godforsaken friends? Victor, you are the only boy I have ever truly loved in my entire life. I loved you with all my heart, and to think that I was considering a future with you, when you saw me as nothing but a piece of item to bet on.”
          “Valerie, it’s not like that. You know I love you.” He moved forward and tried to touch her.
          “Don’t touch me!” She knocked off his hand, and stormed back into the bathroom with her dress. Moments later, she came out of the bathroom, all dressed, and as she looked around for something, she continued to sob, while Victor continued to apologize.
          “Baby, I’m terribly sorry. Please find it in your hear to forgive me.” She was silent as she continued to search the room. When she found her purse sitting on the floor, underneath the bed, she picked it up and dashed out of the room without saying word.
          “Valerie, wait!” Victor called out, as she slammed the door behind her. After standing there speechless for a while, he slowly sat down on the bed and ran his hand, miserably through his hair.

That night as Valerie lay on her bed, sleep departed from her. As she lay stretched on her bed, facing the floor, her whole life flashed before her. She remembered her father’s sermon from when she just turned thirteen. It was a sermon titled, “Worth the Wait.” Her father had preached the sermon to her and other children at the church who just turned thirteen. It was during that sermon, four years ago that she decided she was going to save herself for marriage. In a matter of seconds, more sermon titles rushed through her head. Watch Your Friends; Consequences of Immorality; the Result of Disobedience; Light and Darkness; Avoiding Temptation. She also remembered the sermons she had preached herself, to the teenage girls at her church who looked up to her. Don’t Give Him Your Treasure was the one that now stood out in her mind. After she preached that sermon, a fourteen year-old girl had come to confess to her about being pressured by her friend to have sex. Valerie had prayed with the girl and encouraged her to stay away from the boy and continue to keep herself for God. Valerie was a role model to all the young people at her church. Both her parents loved her very much because in their opinion, she had wisely chosen the way of life, and she was everything they desired. And her sister, Vanessa was already following in her footsteps. At age thirteen, she could recite all sixty-six books of the bible, and she knew off hand the memory verse for each week’s Sunday school. As Valerie lay still in her bed, and as these thoughts rushed through her mind, tears trickled down her cheeks. She felt like a hypocrite and a failure. She felt she had let everyone down, and sooner than later, she knew what happened last night was soon going to become public news. She knew Victor was going to tell his friends about it and somehow, either her father or her mother would end up hearing about it. So, she decided she was going to tell her parents first. But almost immediately, she changed her mind. Instead she decided to hold her peace and see what happens. Her life had always been filled with bliss. But last night had, and was still about to change everything forever.

The next day was Sunday, a day Valerie was always excited about. Because it was the day she always had the opportunity to use her voice in serving God and His people. But this Sunday was different. Not because the summer sun was unusually hot, or because she was wearing for the first time, the hundred-dollar red chic gown her father bought from Paris the last time he visited. This Sunday was different, because of the guilt that now lay heavy in her heart. As Valerie looked out the window of her father’s SUV on their way to church, she remembered what her father had told her the day after she brought Victor home.
          “Valerie, honey,” he had started out. “I love you and I want the best for you. I would hate to see you waste your life with someone who is clearly not right for you.”
         “What do you mean dad?” she had asked.
        “Valerie, that boy you brought home yesterday; what’s his name…”
       “Yes, Victor. Valerie, that boy is not right for you.”
       “But dad, Victor is a nice boy,” she contested.
       “I believe you honey; but being nice does not make him right for you. Valerie, the bible says, ‘Can two walk together, except they agree?’ No, Valerie. The answer is no. That boy is clearly not interested in the things of the lord. Don’t forget the bible says, ‘Evil communication corrupts good manners.’”
       “But dad, people change. You did. You once told me that it was mommy that led you to the lord, remember?”
      “Yes, Valerie; but that was different. Your mom and I were not dating when she led me to the lord. She was evangelizing to my friends and I, and I happened to be the only one who gave my life to the lord when she gave us the opportunity to do so. And we didn't start dating until I ran into her at a youth camp meeting five years later. Five years Valerie. By then I was no longer a babe in the lord and she on the other hand, was still waxing strong in the lord. So, you see my point? We were already in the lord, together.” He paused for a moment and then continued. “Trust me, pumpkin; if that boy does not first change his ways, he is bound to take you down the path he’s on,” he said sternly.

Her father was right; Victor had indeed taken her down the path he was on, and now she was going to regret it for the rest of her life. As they got out of the car and made their way towards the main entrance of the magnificent church building, Valerie felt like turning back and heading home. She felt totally unworthy, and even though she had asked God for forgiveness, she still struggled with guilt. Valerie managed to sit through the service, and by what seemed like God’s way of assuring her of His forgiveness, her father preached on the topic, God Can Still Forgive You. It was as if he knew exactly what she was struggling with. At the end of the sermon, as Valerie stood on the stage to sing, she spotted Victor in the middle row. He was seated with his head bowed. She decided to seize this opportunity to tell him that she had forgiven him. After all, she was the one holding the microphone, and she was supposed to exhort the congregation before starting the song.
          “Praise the lord, church,” she said.
          “Praise the lord,” the congregation chorused.
          “The title of our song this morning says, Oh Happy Day. It’s a song that reminds us of what our lord and savior did on the cross of Calvary to redeem us. It’s a song that reminds us that we are forgiven no matter our sins. Hence, we are expected to forgive those who hurt us. Two days ago, a friend of mine did something that really hurt me, and I refused to let go of it. But after hearing today’s message, I have decided to forgive my friend, because, I too, have been forgiven by the lord. I encourage us to do the same as we go home today. God bless you as you listen. Amen.”
        “Amen.”  The congregation chorused, but this time with a round of applause. Victor lifted up his head and smiled in her direction, knowing full well that she was talking about him. She, too, smiled when she saw him. After the service, when he came to thank her for her forgiveness, she told him that it will be best if they stayed apart from each other for a while. He agreed, saying it would be best for both of them.

Exactly one month later, Valerie and her family were gathered around their dining table for breakfast, when she was asked to pray.
        “Dear lord, we thank you for this meal that we are about to partake of,” she started off. She was about one second into the prayer when she suddenly felt an unusual irritation in her stomach. Something was making its way up her mouth as Valerie abruptly ran into the bathroom. She threw up twice in the sink, and walked out looking exhausted. Everyone brushed it off as nausea triggered by lack of food in her stomach. But Valerie knew something was wrong, she just wasn't sure what it was. She hadn't had her period in the past month, and although she knew this wasn't normal she didn't think she was pregnant. She thought perhaps, her period was delayed for some other reason.  Later that evening, Valerie was helping her mom in the kitchen, when her sister Vanessa walked in.
        “Mom, can I help you cook? I’m bored.”
        “Sure pumpkin, help me wash up the tomatoes, cut them up and blend them when you’re done. Be careful, pumpkin. Make sure you don’t cut your finger like last time.”
       “Okay mom, I won’t.”
       “Mom,” Valerie said.
       “Yes sweetie.”
       “Were you a virgin when you married daddy?”
       “Of course, sweetie; and that’s why I’m so glad you girls are following in my footsteps,” she said as she affectionately rubbed Valerie’s cheek. Valerie immediately felt that irritation again, in her stomach. This time she couldn't make it to the bathroom. She threw up right into the kitchen sink.
       “Valerie, are you all right?” her mom asked with concern.
       “Yes, mom; I’m fine. I think it was the potato pie I ate earlier.”
       “But this is not the first time you are eating potato pie; why all of a sudden is it making you throw up?”
      “I don’t know, mom.” She shrugged.
      “I think she’s sick mom; you should take her to the doctor. This is the third time she is throwing up today.”
Valerie widened her eyes at her sister. “Who asked you?”
     “I’m just saying; you are probably sick and need to see a doctor.”
     “Well, you need to mind your business,” Valerie retorted.
     “Sweetie, she’s your sister; don’t you think it’s her business to be concerned with your health?” Valerie didn't answer. “All right, come on; let’s go and see the doctor.” Valerie felt her heart skip a beat. Make that three beats.
     “Mom, I’m fine. I’ll be okay,” she insisted.
     “I know you are fine baby, but it doesn't hurt to be sure. Prevention is always better than cure.” Valerie knew that something was wrong.  And now it was slowly dawning on her that the past one month had not been normal at all. First, she had missed her period and now she was throwing up like one who had food poisoning. Not to mention her frequent urination, and the fact that she could hardly climb the stairs without gasping for breath or feeling dizzy. Last night she felt so exhausted after just doing the dishes and she hadn't read past the first page of the Last Song, when she fell asleep, and didn't wake up till 11 am the next day. None of these were normal and she knew that something was definitely wrong. As her mom walked out of the kitchen, and as she watched Vanessa cut up the tomatoes into four equal halves, Valerie felt shivers run down her spine. What if she was really pregnant? What if her missed period and the many other abnormalities she experienced, had something to do with the last night she spent at Victor’s house? A night her parents had thought she spent at a friend’s sleepover. Again, she thought of saying something to her mom about that night, but she didn't  She couldn't get herself to face her mom. So, she decided to let things reveal themselves, and face the consequences. Consequences that she wasn't sure she was prepared for.

At the hospital, Dr. Cynthia, Valerie’s family doctor, held her by her wrist and checked her pulse. She shot Valerie a puzzled look before proceeding. She took her stethoscope from off her neck, positioned the ear tips in her ears and placed the chest piece on Valerie’s chest. After a couple of seconds, she took of the stethoscope and placed it back on her neck. She then held Valerie by her wrist and checked her pulse again. Then, she tilted her head, and checked her eyes.
          “Ma’am, we’re going to have to run some tests,” the doctor said.
          “Is everything all right?” Valerie’s mom asked.
          “Everything is all right, ma’am. We just need to run some blood tests on her.” The doctor led Valerie through a double door to a well-lit room where she collected some of her blood using a needle syringe. After a couple of minutes, she came back into her office where Valerie’s mom had been waiting. Valerie was standing next to the doctor, wishing the test results in the doctor’s hand had nothing to do with what happened between her and victor, a month ago.
         “Go and have a seat, Valerie,” the doctor said. Valerie slowly walked across the office and sat beside her mom.
         “After checking Valerie’s pulse, I noticed that it wasn't normal for an average seventeen year-old. So, I decided to do some tests, including um, a pregnancy test.”
         “A pregnancy test?” Valerie’s mom turned to look at her, but she was facing the floor, afraid to look into her mom’s eyes.
        “Yes Mrs. Jones and the result of the tests shows that your daughter is approximately four weeks pregnant.”
       “Four weeks pregnant! No, doctor that can’t be; Valerie is still a virgin, she can’t possibly be pregnant. Valerie,” her mom said, and as Valerie slowly lifted her head, rivulets of tears were already streaming down her cheeks.
        “Mom, I’m sorry,” she said, her voice muffled by tears. “I should have told you and dad about it. It was a mistake. Mom, I never meant for this to happen; I’m sorry.” As Valerie’s mom listened to her, she couldn't hold back the tears in her own eyes.
        “Valerie, I trusted you; we all trusted you. How could you let this happen? What would people say? That the preacher’s daughter, who encouraged other teenagers to practice abstinence, was in fact doing the direct opposite of what she preached.”
       “I’m sorry, mom.”
       “Did you think of the consequences of your actions? Did you for a second, stop to consider how this was going to affect us, especially your father? Valerie, you are a pastor’s daughter for crying out loud.”
       “Mom, it was a mistake; believe me, I never meant for it to happen.”
Her mom looked at her for a while and then sighed, “Who is responsible?” Valerie didn't answer.        “Valerie,” 
         “Yes mom.”
         “Who is responsible for the pregnancy?”
Valerie looked at her mom, and then turned her face towards the floor, again. “Victor,” she finally said.
         “Which Victor?”
         “The one that leaves on M-street, by the Montrose Park.”
         “The same boy your father warned you about?”
Valerie nodded without saying a word. After a long pause, in which her mom fixed her gaze on Valerie, she sighed and then turned to the doctor.
        “Thanks, doctor.”
        “You’re welcome Mrs. Jones. Now, I know you’re very upset with her but please take it easy with her. These things happen. I’m sure she had learned her lesson.” Valerie's mom wanted to tell the doctor that although she knew these things happened, they shouldn't be happening to her daughter, because her daughter was different. But then she decided against that almost immediately. There was no point explaining anything to the doctor. 
        “Thanks doctor, for everything. We’ll be on our way now.”
        “Okay madam; please be sure to bring her back after two weeks for a routine checkup.”
        “I will, doctor; thanks again,” her mom said as they left the doctor’s office.

Valerie’s father sat across the living room from his daughter; as he listened to her narrate the story of how she got herself pregnant.
          “Dad, I know I have disappointed you and everyone; and I know I will never be the daughter you have always wanted me to be, but I beg that you please forgive me.” Tears rolled down her cheeks as she spoke. “I never meant to let you down, daddy; I’m so sorry,” she sobbed. In the silence that followed, her father walked over to her and put his arms around her.
          “Baby girl, the day you were born; I blessed the lord for giving us a daughter who would grow up to love the lord and be a source of pride and joy to me and your mother. That is exactly what you've been for the past seventeen years. And even with this pregnancy, I want you to know that, you are still my pride and my joy; I don’t care what people would say and neither should you. You are my daughter, and I love you, no matter what happens.” He kissed her hair, and hugged her as tightly as he could. Both her mom and sister also joined in the hug. Valerie was pleasantly surprised. She had expected her dad to render at least a thirty minute sermon, filled with quotations from the book of Corinthians, Romans, and Thessalonians. But his reaction was totally unexpected. It was pleasantly unexpected. 
          “Thanks, dad; I love your dad,” she said as she hugged him again.
          “I love you too, pumpkin,” her dad said as he withdrew. “Does Victor know about this, yet?
          “So, we’ll let him and his parents know; and he would take responsibility for his actions. He would have to father his child. Come on baby, let’s go have dinner.” They all stood up and walked towards the dining table.

Both families were present at the hospital on the day Victor Jr., was delivered. When Valerie held her 7 pound 11 ounce baby boy at the hospital, her lips cracked open in a radiant smile, as she watched with joy the life that she had carried within her for the past nine months. As Victor watched her smile, he knew right then that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with Valerie. She was his first love, and he was her first love, and they were both in love with each other. Valerie and Victor went on to marry after graduating from college. The birth of the baby made both families realize that though they had different beliefs they could still be a united family. Valerie also realized that although that night at Victor’s house changed her life forever, it did not change her father’s love for her; neither did it change Victor’s love for her.

Saturday, June 2, 2012