PEN & PAPER
So let’s take it one more time”, the instrumentalist said as he ran his fingers through his keyboard with acute familiarity.
I nodded in agreement. The bass guitarist equally fondled the guitar strings. I had barely taken the first line of the solo when the drummer rushed in, to avoid interruptions he mouthed his apology for coming late and made way for his drum. I sang on, gliding through the musical notes with seamless ease like the feet of a ballet dancer.
My voice resounded in the near empty auditorium, I closed my eyes, lost in the music. Then I felt it, someone was watching me, apart from the instrumentalists of course. I felt a pair of eyes glued to me. I opened mine and scanned the auditorium, no one else was in.
From the corner of my eye, I caught a movement up in the gallery. My eyes flew there immediately, and there I found him. A man, tall, both hands in each pocket. His gaze was fixed on me, unwavering.
His gaze was intriguing. Surprisingly it tickled my senses. Completely flustered by his bold approach, I managed a curt nod, and dropped my gaze. I rounded up the last verse of the song, thankful the instrumentalists were too focused on their instruments to notice my slight distraction.
“ Could he be one of the media. guys?
I asked myself. “I don’t remember ever seeing him before in church”, I thought. I could still feel his eyes on me, I was tempted to look again. Miss Kumbi bustled in at that exact time, stealing my attention.
“ Wow, wow, amazing, you sound like an angel as always”, She said as she hugged and pecked me all at once.
She smelled of fresh flower, her usual cologne.
“No wonder Ray insisted you lead this song, its like the song was made for your voice.” Miss Kumbi said with obvious satisfaction.
Miss Kumbi is the music director, and Ray composed most of the songs. Together they always deliberated on who takes each song even though Ray is just a member of the choir. Ray is quite good looking, and he had a way around women, so almost all the “untaken” ladies in the choir had their eyes on him.
I walked into this Church eight years ago, Ray was the most active on the follow up team, he did amazing at it. Ever since then we became good friends till date.
Something strange happened during a monthly program where everyone would look for a quiet spot within the church, and spend some alone time with God. I was unusually praying for Gods will for me in marriage, I was deep in prayer when I heard a drop in my spirit.
“Raymond Awala is my choice”.
I was so shocked, I rebuked the “voice” and went on with other prayers. A week later, I visited my parents, it was my mum’s birthday. Our conversation that day seemed like yesterday. We were laughing over a comment she had passed as we sipped tea in the kitchen dining. Suddenly her face turned serious
“Lest I forget, this past weeks, God has been giving me a message for you.”
She said, all initial traces of humor gone. My mum doesn’t take God’s messages lightly, she went on.
“He says He told you something. But you have hardened your heart against it. I asked what it was, but He says I should ask you, so…do you have an idea what this might be?” she asked her gaze intent.
I was flustered, in the first place I had not told anyone about “the voice”, in fact I had disregarded it. I stared at her blankly trying to hide the fact that I knew what she was talking about. She knew me too well to fall for it.
“Well, I’m waiting, you obviously have something to say, so…spill”. With a heavy sigh, I reluctantly told her about the voice. She was quiet for the first few seconds,
“Ray is your friend, but did he propose?” she asked softly.
“No!” I said rather sharply.
“We have to pray about it”.
“I don’t think I want to, mum the whole thing makes no sense…its totally unreaso..”, she silenced me with one of her stern penetrating looks.
“This is God we are talking about here. Your future!”, I rolled my eyes at her. Regardless she went on.
“We will…no we must pray about this”.
My dad rushed into the kitchen with the phone to his ear. He handed my mum the phone, and he mouthed, so the caller wouldn’t hear
“Sophie wants to wish you a happy birthday”. My mum nodded with understanding, she smiled as she spoke over the phone. Well, we closed the Ray chapter that day. I got busy with life, Ray’s issue banished into forgotten land, not a single prayer rendered about it.
I was lost in personal worship one day, when like a ripple of many waters stirring my heart, I heard again.
“Raymond Awala, is my choice for you”
. That dampened my entire month. For some ladies Ray was prefect. Just not for me. I had always pictured that my future partner would be like a surprise, someone I have never met beforehand. I always had a subtle attraction for men with Charisma and composure, men whose presence commanded attention. Men with intense spiritual depth.
And Ray?. He talked a lot and was everything but coordinated. His humorous remarks which a lot of people found endearing, repelled me instead. It gave me the impression of an unserious person that lacked spiritual depth. Women always clustered around him helplessly, a complete turn off for me. By all standards, Ray can’t be the one for me.
The voice couldn’t be God’s. Ray and I spoke at length the day before I heard the voice. I was certain our lengthy discussion had clouded my imagination. Which, resulted in the so called “voice”.
To make matters worse, the Ray in question saw me as “just friends” and clearly nothing more.
So I can’t imagine what “the voice” expected of me?!, to fall in love with a guy who doesn’t even like me?!. No way!. I can’t afford such luxury. I had never subjected myself to such humiliation before and I’m wasn’t about to start now”
With that conclusion, I closed the chapter.
I leaned on her car till she was done. She was discussing with one of her drama members, who did most of the talking. Sometimes, I had to remind my self that she’s my twin sister, because we were the most un-identical twins I had ever seen. From physical distinct differences to paralleled interests and tastes. I looked at her, as she stood in the distance. The physical differences spelt out clearly, as usual.
The upper half of her body is fuller, She’s much bustier with narrower hips, straighter legs. Basically shaped like an inverted triangle, a replica of our mum. She loved wearing her full hair down. It added a touch of elegance to her already beautiful face.
I, on the other hand, the exact opposite, basically shaped like a triangle. The lower half of my body fuller instead, with much wider hips, and rounder butt, though almost flat chested, thank God for His mercies. My legs are far from straight. I had been on semi low cut since university days.
My sis had forced me to try soft curls once, in a bid to “feminise” me and I actually loved it and it thus became my signature. I hated hair dropping anywhere around my neck. I loved to bath with my head in direct contact with the shower.
She can act as well as I can sing, but, I am as bad in acting as she is in singing. My sis is actually tone deaf, and I…I’m like a jelly fish on stage. She loved dresses and heels and I loved jeans and sneakers. She likes cars, I love power bikes. We own one of each. It totally beat my imagination how God could make two strikingly different people come out of the same womb on the same day, with only a few minutes apart.
Way back we both made a joke, that we must have both been swapped at childbirth, and that we each had our original twin enjoying life somewhere. It’s a joke that cracks our mum up whatever mood she was in.
Well, we have a few similarities, the same deep dimples on both side of our cheek. The same jet black hair, a lot of people don’t believe we never dyed it. The same medium fair complexioned and sensitive skin, the sam…
The loud call of my name drew me out of my musings. I turned sideways. I saw it was Miss Kumbi who had called me.
She walked towards me excitingly, someone closely behind her, her heels made rhythmic tap sounds. Apparently I had been lost in thought I didn’t notice my twin had ended her discussion, in fact she was practically a step away from where I stood, focused on whatever she was doing on her phone. A beautiful ring sat elegantly on it’s usual spot, her tallest left finger. She and Femi would be getting married soon.
“It’s easier with you both in one place”
Miss Kumbi said as she came closer, she beamed unusually. My eyes automatically landed on the guy with her, and surprise hit me with force.
The gallery guy!, I screamed inwards.
Before I had the sense to look away quickly, his intense gaze settled on mine. I pulled my gaze away. I suddenly felt unexplainably self conscious. “This is crazy, stop this nonsense!!!”, I sounded myself a stern warning.
“So, let me introduce someone special to you both”, Miss Kumbi said, my twin and I exchanged familiar glalnces, we simultaneously raised our brows, at the mention of the word “someone special”.
“He’s my sweet priceless cousin”. Unlike my sis whose attention shifted on the guy, I rather focused mine on the smiling music director, deliberately.
“Don’t mind that’s he’s much taller than me, I’m older than him o!” she teased.
“TJ, meet my terrific twins, Bliss and Blossom” she said as she gestured towards us in a dramatic manner. I just had to smile, she’s so sweet to watch. He extended his hands towards Blossom, they shook hands briefly.
“Nice to meet you”, they said almost at the same time, and they smiled. He took my hand in a firm handshake, his eyes searched mine. His handshake lingered, his lips tilted sideways in a teasing smile.
“Nice to meet you…officially”. His gaze bore into mine, it awakened the seemingly conserved feelings within.
“He joined our church a week ago” Miss Kumbi ranted on, clearly unaware my twin sis was her only audience. My insides quacked at the intensity of his eyes that seemed to say many things at the same time.
Slowly and deliberately, he let go of my hand,
“Wow, hope you like our church?” Blossom asked with a welcoming smile.
“He has no choice, in fact enough of his bathroom singing. I would make sure he joins the choir!” Miss Kumbi said before TJ could speak for himself.
“Oh common KB, cut me some slack, me in the choir?, no no”, he said in mock protest.
“Yes yes….or would you prefer joining security?” she said as we all shared a laugh. Miss Kumbi’s phone rang, she picked up and excused herself. She walked away from us as she spoke on the phone.
“Are you new in this town?” Blossom asked, opening a conversation. Striking up a conversation comes naturally to her.
“Yes, just moved in with KB two weeks ago” TJ replied, and from that we flowed from one topic to another, and we laughed, like old time friends. .
Kumbi had ended the call and was busy with Protocol head of department.
“I’m a Chef, that’s what i do for a living” TJ said when Blossom asked.
“We are event planners” I replied when he returned the question.
“Bliss deals with the interior décor, seat arrangements, and she’s super good at that, and i..”
Blossom went on batting her eyes dramatically, her hand on her chest
“I handle every thing cuisine, ushering and all that. We haven’t exactly hit the jackpot yet, but well…we are getting there” She said in conclusion.
“Wow, that’s really cool. Talking of events, I’m opening my restaurant next month. If you both don’t mind, It would be a pleasure to have the terrific twins grace the event with their presence. So what do you guys say?” He asked expectantly.
His gaze moved back and forth between my sis and I. I was about to say we would get back to him, after all we just met him a few minutes ago. I had barely opened my mouth when my sis replied
“Of course we don’t mind at all, just fill us in with the details.
_“The usual Blossom, talking before thinking!!”_, I groaned inwards.
TJ seemed elated to say the least. His smile spiced up his entire facial features, another layer of attraction. I looked away.
“Too bad I don’t have the hard copy of the invite here, but we could exchange contacts and I send you a soft copy on what’sapp”
“Works for us” Blossom said.
Thus the next few seconds were spent exchanging contacts, mine inclusive, I didn’t have much of a choice anyway.
Miss Kumbi called she signaled for him to join her where she stood with our Pastor’s wife. She probably wanted to introduce them both.
“I would be expecting you ladies yea?” He asked, slowly walking away backwards, his gaze fixed on mine.
Deliberately, he waited for my voiced response, his gaze lingered longer than necessary.
“Sure” I said.
Satisfied, he turned, and walked in hurried steps towards the duo that were waiting for him. Certain he was beyond hearing distance, I fixed my sis one of my “pissed off looks.
“What did I do this time?” She asked innocently.
“Of course we don’t mind at all, just fill us in with the details”. I said mimicking her voice.
“You didn’t take one second, like a second to think about it” I said with extra emphasis on the “think” part.
“For Gods sake, we just met the guy” I added.
“Common!, Bee!, what’s there to think about again. We love events!. More so TJ is Miss Kumbi’s cousin, duuh, plus, he’s a super cool guy!” she said.
“plus its too early for us to know that, because we became friends like less than 30 minutes ago” I countered.
“Bee, I made the right decision!, it would be fun and we would meet new people, seriously!!”
“Yea Yea” I said, not convinced.
“Jeez!” she said suddenly.
“what?!” I asked, startled.
“My dress!, the one I’m supposed to wear to Church
tomorrow!, I forgot to pick it from Elsie’s Fashion on my way here!. They would close in…”
She checked her wrist watch “Ten minutes!!”
“Dial her like right now and hand me the phone!” I said as we both rushed in to the car
I answered the door on the second knock, Femi stepped in as I opened the door. He looked especially nice. His Ankara shirt did justice to his broad chest.
“Blisses” he said, the way he fondly calls me.
“Femi, you look wonderful” I complimented as we hugged
“Bee!, Femi’s here” I called out to Blossom who was taking forever to get ready. Then I resumed the bouquet I was making prior to his knock. I heard him walk towards the fridge behind me. He was pouring himself a glass of the usual. Cold water.
Two years ago, Blossom had brought six promising proposals out of the ten she had. One Engineer, two Pastors, a rising film producer, a textile designer and Femi, the Software developer.
From the onset, in her heart, Blossom liked Femi, and Femi was convinced she’s his wife. Yet Blossom crossed Femi off the list, because He’s Yoruba, forgetting that our late maternal grand mum was a Yoruba woman. Thankfully Blossom forgot to strike him off the list she gave us. Mum insisted that no one was to be taken out of this list and we would pray about every single name. I agreed.
Like writing the same exam in separate halls, weeks later, we all, our spiritual parents inclusive, brought our results together. Alas, all arrows pointed at one person, Femi. A month later they started dating, courting, his parents treat her like a long lost daughter, especially his mum. Femi is controlled, organized, stern, as opposed to my sister’s feisty nature. They made up in character what the other lacked, a fantastic blend. Femi is like a fertilizer to her drama ministry.
When they were in courtship, he hadn’t found his footing in any ministry. He didn’t even know he had the gift for drama. They went for ministrations with their team, a working miracle on stage.
“Gift is making a cake for a wedding too, is this bouquet also for the same wedding?” Femi asked, he faced me, the table between us. He squatted to the level of the bouquet as he looked at it. Gift is his pet name for Blossom.
“Yup, the very same”, I replied.
The opening and soft closing of the door indicated Blossom was finally set. Femi’s soft gasp got my attention, he was facing her but my back was to her, so he saw her first. I could tell from the awe in his eyes that Blossom looked amazing.
“Oni Temi ” he whispered so softly,
if he wasn’t so close to me, I wouldn’t have heard. Though of course I had no idea what the Yoruba words meant.
From the look on his face, it was as if he was seeing her for the first time.
“How do I look?!” she asked, her eyes bright.
I turned from my position till I could see her properly. The knee length, teal green dress, one of her latest from Elsie’s Fashion. She had tried it on more than once in my presence, so this wasn’t my first time seeing the dress. It was her curled hair extension that didn’t run down her shoulders as usual, that drew my attention. Instead she pinned each curl together meticulously like a work of art, a few curled strands were let loose in front. Thus, it gave her the overall look of a Disney princess. Beads were her signature jewelry, and they sat pretty on her ears and neck. I couldn’t remember ever seeing her this dazzling. I felt proud having a twin like her.
“Dazzling ” I said with a smile.
I continued my work, as Femi showered her with various adjectives, both in Yoruba and English. In a few minutes they were out. The house quiet again. I worked non stop for thirty minutes straight. I leaned against the sofa to rest my back. My eye caught the wall clock. I sighed heavily. I had less than an hour to get ready for the dinner, I got up, work aside for now.
I pulled out my sandaled heels from the farthest corner of the shoe rack. Months of little to no use evident in the accumulated dust and dull sparkle. I wear heels of course, but obviously not often.
“How on earth had Bea talked me into this” I grumbled.
Two weeks ago, she had said she wouldn’t be able to go to TJ’s dinner as planned.
“How can you say you’re not going again, were you not the one campaigning this whole thing in the first place?!” I asked, glaring.
“I know and I still wish to go, but it’s not
possible. Femi’s parents invited me to dinner at their place. I can’t possibly decline such an offer all for a friend’s restaurant opening!”.
Deflated, I sunk into the sofa.
“Fine, then I simply won’t go either!” I said shooting her an angry stare.
“Bee, that’s not fair, we gave him our word, he’d be eagerly waiting.” She said in a plea.
I knew she was right, TJ and I became surprisingly close friends through the weeks. He joined the choir, though still on probation. Thus, we spent more time together, and we realized how much we shared in common. Lengthy phone calls, chats. We just never got tired of conversing. Although he gave a few hints indicating he wants more. I deliberately ignored any of such hints.
“Fine!” I said rolling my eyes angrily.
As expected she hugged me, and kissed me playfully, so many times I couldn’t help laughing. When it got to dress code. Our argument kick started.
“Bee, for Gods sake!, jeans and polo-shirt is completely inappropriate for this kind of event, and don’t tell me you intend to go with your power bike!” she exclaimed as if it was a sinful thing to do
“What so special about the event, it’s a restaurant opening, not my mum’s birthday!”
“The invite says Dinner, it’s a restaurant opening in form of a dinner!, and you want to go there looking like the delivery girl?!”
“Bea!, those polos and jeans are just as expensive as dresses!”
“That’s not the point!, Bee”
“Ok I totally get your point, so since you won’t be going, I should like take your place abi?!, looking like African Cinderella right?!”
“Bee, you’re blowing this stuff out of proportion, as if this is the first time you would be wearing a dress. You look like a super diva when you wear dresses”
“Don’t patronize me, I’m wearing jeans and polo, full stop”.
“You are just indirectly saying you won’t go, common Bee, it won’t hurt to wear a dress. Don’t make me beg”.
And here I am actually wearing a dress. I accessed my reflection in the mirror, I felt overdressed. The high neck dress in deep purple, was sequenced to perfection from the waistline down. Slightly narrower around my knees in a stylish fish tail. My sandaled heels, almost totally covered by the dress, save for manicured toes, that peeped adorably beneath. The dress had been sent from my paternal Aunt abroad, sometimes ago. Every dress she had sent was always breath taking. Annoyingly she had a flare for bare backs. This dress for example, the back was cut in a wide v shape, that ran all the way down to my lower back. Thankfully, my tailor bailed me out by padding it seamlessly with layers of lace in the same purple shade. My hair, nothing beyond the usual, semi low cut in soft curls, with a little more shine tonight. I decided to go a bit bold with my make up.
Convinced that I was over dressed, I turned to change. My phone rang and stopped within 2seconds. “James the professional flasher” I said with a smile. James my reliable pick up cab guy, flashing was his way of saying
“Madam, I dey outside o”.
With no time to change again, I picked my purse, dashed out and locked up quickly.
I put the Chinese rice with chicken casserole in my mouth, chewing it slowly. Savoring the taste with absolute delight. It wasn’t too spicy, just the way I like my chicken casserole. We had eventually reached the end of the opening. I enjoyed every bit.
The restaurant setting spoke of class and taste. It wasn’t my first time of seeing black leather upholstery chairs that graced the place or the intercontinental cuisine served.
The cellular chandeliers that hung magnificently from the ceiling weren’t a new sight for me either. Yet I was blown away by the fact that TJ could pull something as breath taking as this. The caliber of guests present were mostly elites, evident in their exotic rides and outfits.
I was so grateful Blossom insisted I wear a dress instead of my usual. I would have indeed looked like the delivery girl, but I definitely won’t admit that to her. Apparently the larger percentage of the guests were residents of the estate. Their satisfied expressions indicated this wasn’t going be their last time here.
The choice part of town where the restaurant was located, said enough about the standard to expect.
My buzzing phone called my attention, I pulled it out of my purse, caller ID, TJ.
I could sight him at the fore front. He wore black pants, white shirt with folded sleeves and a grey waist coat. He was attending to some guests, his back to me and phone to his ears. Instead of picking up, I strolled towards him. Thankful he was finally alone as I reached where he stood, and tapped his shoulder from behind. He turned.
“Guess who showed up!!” he said in excitement.
“You just made my whole year” he added, we hugged.
“You were around from the beginning?”
“From start to finish, you were so busy with this and that and so I didn’t want to, you know, get in the way”
“Oh common, if I had seen you then, I would have placed you here in the front, so that your pretty face would boost my confidence.” He said with a teasing smile which arrested my gaze.
“My oh my!, your dress is divine!” Miss Kumbi said from behind, breaking the moment. I turned to face her,
“Thank you, You look lovely yourself”
“Awwn, how sweet of you dear. Where’s Blossom?” she asked as she looked around
“That’s true, where is she?” TJ added
“She planned to be here but had to attend to something equally important” I told them both.
One of the guests called Miss Kumbi’s attention, she excused herself, laughing towards whoever she’s going to meet. TJ and I resumed,
“TJ, this is not fair o” A man said as he walked towards us, hands in his pocket.
“You don’t hesitate to introduce me to your male friends, but when it comes to stunning beauties like this, I’m always left out. Fear God o!” He said as he got to us, TJ laughed heartily. TJ shared a striking resemblance with the man, except that the man looked more handsome and older. Streaks of grey hair sprinkled sparsely on his head and moustache.
“I’m sorry, my bad” TJ said amidst his laughter.
“Bliss meet my one and only older brother, Bolaji, who flew all the way from South Africa to grace my event. BJ, meet my…”.
“My wonderful friend, Bliss.”
Shaking my hand, the man smiled.
“Nice to meet you. Your presence and appearance depicts royalty. Permit me to call you Bliss the queen, a beautiful woman with the fragrance of God,”
He leaned towards me and teasingly whispered
A guest had dragged TJ off by then.
“TJ talks a lot about you” he whispered.
“Really!” I said surprised.
“Ssssh, don’t say I told you o” he said feigning seriousness. Running his gaze from my top to bottom, he added
“I mean, common, you can’t blame the poor guy. Thankfully I’m happily married to my own queen, so you are safe with me ”, he said flaunting his ring.
TJ joined us again, there was a young lady with him. One of the most beautiful dark skinned beauty I had ever seen. Her white laced dinner gown compliments her skin so well making her rich dark skin pop out in a fascinating way. Cute pointed nose, supple pink lips, a ravishing beauty.
“Aunt K says she’s outside” she said in distinct American accent.
BJ excused himself. She turned to follow him, TJ drew her back playfully.
“There’s someone I want you to meet” he said with a smile. Her gaze on mine she flashed me a charming smile.
“Bliss, meet the baby of our house, and my personal princess, Adunni, Dunni, meet the hottest babe in town, Bliss”
“Hello, Bliss”, she said, my name sounding more like “bless”.
“You look really pretty, I want to be like you when I grow up” she said delightfully, rattling on in seamlessly fluent American accent.
Thank God I watched a lot of American movies, that made me understand her a bit. But still, I couldn’t catch up with her incredibly fast pace.
TJ was busy with another guest, occasionally he glanced in our direction.
“So how long did you stay in the U.S ?” I asked, not intending to embarrass myself by mimicking her accent.
“Was raised there, schooled there, still studying there though. Been to Nigeria a couple of times”
“You are here only for your brother’s event?” I asked in disbelief
. “Yea…be back in the States by the end of the week, for Big Bro anything is worth it, that’s what family is all about right?”.
I nodded. Our discussion went on from family to career to fashion, personal interests,
“I love power bikes too!” she exclaimed, clasping her hands together loudly.
“Don’t tell me you love heels too, cause im crazy ‘bout ‘em”
“Not a fan, but my sis is”
“Oh your sis?, yea you mentioned that earlier. Can I see pictures of her?, puleeze!!” she pleaded.
We scrolled through my phone gallery,
“She’s just as pretty, I don’t know what its like to have a sister” she said, undertones of longing in her voice.
“Yo!, I’ve never had a brother, I’m like so sad right now” I said lightening up the mood, making a fake sad face. She burst into laughter. Amidst our laughter, TJ returned
“Ok ok, Dunni time up, can I have my guest back, thank you” he said playfully, as he pulled me away from her, his hand on my shoulder and lower back in a possessive gesture.
“Oh common Tee!” she said in protest
“I love you too!” he replied her. He ushered me to a seat.
“I finally got to be alone with the queen”.
“Thank you, I actually told KB that you just might not come, though I secretly hoped you would come. By the way, you look mesmerizing tonight, your dress is beautiful.”
_if only you knew what I initially planned to wear_
I thought to myself, as I smiled to him.
“Thank you” I said
“Honestly, Thank you for coming”
“what are friends for?” I said.
An expression passed across, so fast I didn’t catch it.
“I won’t be foolish enough to settle for friendship with you Bliss. I want more, much more. I won’t be friends with the woman whose presence makes my heart race uncontrollably fast…leaving me breathless” The heat in the intensity of his gaze, washed over me, burning. I felt hot despite the saturated air condition.
Fortunately I had mastered the art of submerging my emotions. I only show what I want to be seen, thus, my expression revealed nothing of the war of emotions that raged within.
“Don’t be deceived by my calm demeanor, my heart is under attack, from the lady who has no idea about the havoc she causes by simply holding my gaze” _Im the one causing havoc?!. Really?!. Then you are causing a hurricane_. I shouted inwardly.
“TJ..” I said in a controlled voice regardless of the melting effect his gaze had. Like magic he switched, an expressionless look filled his face, suddenly pushing back any sign of vulnerability gone. It felt like I was watching myself, except he had mastered the art of submerging emotions at a more advanced rate than me.
“You know, this is not the appropriate setting or time to express myself. Do you mind us discussing this at a more appropriate time, place?” he asked in a casual tone.
Recovering from the sudden switch, I blinked, twice.
“Of course, I don’t mind” I said softly.
“I didn’t intend to keep you this late, my apologies my Lady “ he said purely teasing as we stood.
“I need to call the cab guy “ I said, I reached for my phone
“Dunni’s driver will take you home, all you need is to give him directions. He knows all the nook and crannies of this town” he said in a charming protective mode.
“I don’t think…” “Bliss just say yes, common”.
He signaled to one of the waiters, whispered something into his ears, the waiter left with a slight bow. TJ got the driver ready in no time, the waiter returned with two packages.
“This is for Blossom” he said lifting one heavy package. “and this, this is for you, ”.
“Wow, Thank you”
He instructed the waiter to drop them in the car. We hugged briefly then I stepped into the car.
“Call me when you get home” He said firmly and I nodded, and wound up.
I pushed myself to a sitting position on my bed to rest my back against the wall. I decided not to turn on the lights. I sat there in the dark. I reached for my phone, 12:56a.m. I had about thirty minutes before my midnight altar.
I heard Bea stepping out of her room thirty minutes ago, to observe hers. The last few months felt like years, encumbered with events, bellied with change. It began from that night TJ and I went on a casual date, as he called it. Exotic taste and class was TJ’s style, regardless of his simple unassuming appearance.
Just two weeks prior to that night, he bought himself the latest Venza. I felt he was being unnecessarily extravagant, it appeared he was trying to impress. With one or two hints from the gossips of some choir members who knew TJ’s family well. I got to know that TJ came from a family background with generational wealth. Such that even if TJ decided not to work for next ten years, he could still afford to live comfortably.
In their opinion, TJ is an hardworking person, willing to grow and develop his own business. Then I understood his actions better. He was raised by people that, dinners, tasteful wardrobes and rides, was the language they speak. Which explained the exotic rides, and why we sat in one of the most expensive restaurant in town.
“Bliss, I love you,” TJ resumed after the waiter brought our orders and left.
“It’s far more than attraction. There’s this presence you carry that magnetizes the entirety of my being. Its like a tranquillizer. Your voice, personality intrigues me”
“We are a dynamic match, like different sides of the same coin”. He was right and I knew it.
TJ was my exact kind of man, in every way. A committed christian. Hardworking goal getter, despite his wealthy background. Charisma and comportment personified. With a baritone voice that complements my voice in the most melodic way.
“Your type was made in limited edition. I have found you, and I can’t afford to take chances. I want you to be my wife, having a treasure like you for just a day is mouth watering, and for a lifetime?, its mind blowing”
“Plus, don’t get it twisted, I can’t deny my attraction to you”. His gaze settled on my lips with desire, my heart beat faster. I couldn’t deny my attraction either.
“It would be completely unchristian of me to begin to describe what I find attractive, don’t you think?” He said softly, teasing.
“Say something Bliss. Marry me, make me the happiest man alive, say yes” He said the words with such tenderness, I was lost in his gaze.
I could understand his dilemma, he had no idea if I felt the same or not. My countenance gave nothing away, my usual habit. My emotions tucked in, reserved for me alone. But I wanted to tell him how I felt, and let him see in to the depths of my heart. Maybe not love in the real sense, but pretty close.
_my twin and I will now have one more thing in common. Yoruba husbands_. I thought to myself. Stifling a smile.
“TJ..” I said in a tone that he obviously hasn’t heard me use before, a soft tone that caught his attention.
Suddenly I began to choke. I let out a little cough. Like stirring of troubled waters, my heart beat hard. I coughed harder. It was an experience I was familiar with. It had happened when God had told me to quit my regular job and go into business to have more time for His work. I didn’t listen, and then I experienced this and ended up in the hospital.
I experienced it each time I prayed about my feelings for TJ. It was the warning bell of the Holy spirit’s disapproval. I gulped down a full glass of water.
Anger welled up within me,
_What sort of disapproval is this?!. Why would the Holy spirit bring my type of man. Make me fall for him only to disapprove of him. Why would God hand me what He didn’t want me to have?!_ .
“Are you better?” TJ asked, worried.
“I’m fine thank you”
“Yes, just a stubborn cough”.
He sipped his drink,
“You were saying earlier?”.
I was still fuming within, yet I effortlessly maintained a calm demeanor. That was the only way to avoid sounding foolish if i tried to explain what had just happened.
“Yes, I was saying….that” I scrolled through my mind to find an appropriate replacement for what I intended to say, fast!. He was waiting.
“I really appreciate you opening up”.
A forced cough.
I had to thread carefully.
“and so I will pray about it”.
_*Yea right!, like the one hundreth time!*_.
“That’s refreshing” he said, with a satisfied smile.
_phew it worked!_
. Dinner ended gracefully.
Everytime I prayed about TJ’s proposal, the same thing happened, just not in a serious cough as usual. Instead a feeling of unease settled on me. Either ways, I felt no peace. I considered the feelings might just be my fear of getting married to such a wealthy guy.
I asked Bee to pray about TJ, she did and said she saw a red light. I concluded to myself she probably saw that because I had told her about my feelings of unease, from the onset.
In a dilemma, I spoke to my spiritual parents over the phone. Shortly after, they responded. Usually, we would discuss it all on the phone as we did in Bee’s case, after all it was just a matter of confirmation. Instead they asked me to come over to their place. Surprised but curious, I went to meet them.
I sat there in their living room, a place I was familiar with since uni days. My spiritual father sat with his wife. We all discussed expressly over many issues. Then, the time I was waiting for, came.
“Bliss, a life partner is a sensitive issue. This man you asked us to pray about is not God’s choice for you” Papa, the sterner of the two, said.
He dropped the bomb just like that, no sugar coating, nothing, his style. I blinked twice, as if doing that will help me understand the situation better.
“Bliss darling” Mama, my favorite, said in her signature soft encouraging voice.
“You have become daughters to me, yourself and Blossom. , I want you to know that God will settle you two. Let go of any resistance you are building right now”.
Her spiritual sensitivity usually unnerved me. She could practically see right through the places I kept for myself.
“This guy is not your husband, if you marry him, you are indirectly stealing another woman’s husband. And you know what happens to thieves”, she said lovingly, calmly hitting the nail on the very head.
Then came the question I had been dreading.
“These should be confirmations. First there is the place of personal conviction.
“So, when you prayed about him, what did you feel, hear?, I’m certain God spoke in whatever form” He asked, blunt and expectant.
I swallowed hard, I found my way around the safest answer.
“I didn’t hear God speak” I said, in my usual calm voice.
“That’s strange” Mama said, she looked straight at me. Thankful they didn’t probe further, yet careful not to show any obvious signs of relief lest I arouse suspicion, I appeared neutral. We then prayed at length together. Days and weeks passed, the issue weighed heavily on my heart, my feelings only grew stronger.
Bee and I went over to our parent’s place one weekend. Mum and Bee were trying out a new recipe, as usual. I assisted them, sort of.
I missed the days when I would sneak out of the kitchen to join dad, working in the garage. When Bee and Mum would be so busy cooking this and that. Back then, I always enjoyed the garage work more, cars, bikes. Overtime, I had added interests, cooking inclusive.
In the kitchen that day, the bomb tripped off.
“Mum, there’s this guy’s proposal that I plan to take seriously” I said.
She paused, shooting me a surprised look, then she resumed marinating the chicken..
she said casually, very unusual of her. Even Bee looked up in surprise at mum’s reaction.
“It’s the same TJ guy you mentioned some few weeks ago?”
“Yes!” I said, sounding upbeat.
Bea and I made eye contact.
“Mum, is something wrong?” I asked.
“You have the nerve to disobey God and you are asking if something is wrong?, everything is wrong!” she said in an angry tone. Marinating the chicken with such force, that had my mind not been on more important things I would have had time to pity the dead chicken.
“Disobeying?” I asked, in disbelief.
“Oh pls don’t play dumb now!” she said with a smirk. I just stared at her, almost unblinking.
“God spoke to you, in simple English, telling you who he has chosen for you. I prayed about it myself, and I got confirmations which I shared with you. You waved them off, and now you are talking about another man, discrediting what God said. That is what I call disobedience!! “ she said in a rising tone, pointing her finger at me frantically.
“Personally God didn’t give me any confirmations!. I’m beyond certain TJ is the one for me!. For all I know, that voice about Ray being my husband was just a figment of my imagination!”.
Bee stood wide eyed, blinking severally, staring at us both, completely shocked at the new revelation. I didn’t tell her about “the voice”, back then, because Ray is her very good friend, they are really close, and I was sure she would be sentimental in her decisions.
“That TJ guy being the one for you is what is the figment of your imagination!”.
“Mum!, you haven’t even met him!”
“Neither have I met Ray. From what you said about TJ, anyone who has lived with you for just a month!, a month!, Would know that TJ is the kind of guy that will command your attention. I know your type of man. TJ isn’t God’s choice for you. He is the man you picked for yourself!!”.
“He’s a child of God, a committed Christian, for crying out loud. Its not like I’m hooking up with an unbeliever!”.
“And so what!” She said facing me squarely, the marinated chicken forgotten.
“For once in a long time mother, I found a man who understands me, loves me. A child of God, an amazing singer. Everything. What is so wrong in wanting something this good?!. You don’t meet Guys like that everyday and I’m supposed just let this one go, because there was no “thus saith the Lord?!”.
“The God who knew you and loved you before your dad and I ever came across each other. If you think that same God does not know exactly what you need in a man. Then think again!”.
“if not for marriage?!, why would God lead TJ to into my life at a time like this”
“To test you,if you will still obey him regardless!”.
“And what exactly does the voice want me to do?!. Propose to Ray?!. I will certainly grow old waiting for a man who doesn’t even look at me twice?!. I would never waste my time on that nonsense!!!!” I said at the top of my voice, fuming.
“You will wait if thats what it takes, !!” My mum fired back, with a stance that challenged me to counter her.
The silence in the kitchen was so deafening, the soft ticking of the clock suddenly felt so loud. Bee, where she stood, signaled to me to stop being stubborn. I wanted to satisfy my anger and fire back. Thanks to the restraining voice of the Holy spirit and good home training.
But I dropped one last bomb.
“I’m going to accept TJ’s proposal until God tells me personally that TJ is not His will for me.” I said undauntedly.
“You once said you have feelings of unease each time you prayed about TJ’s proposal”
Bee said as she rolled her eyes in exasperation, behind my mum.
My mum turned to face her so fast, I thought she would fall.
She turned to face me almost immediately. The part I always deliberately left out had now been let out. I felt like punching Bea.
“feeling of unease… can be.. related to anything” I defended clumsily.
“Osarieme!!!, you two are the only children I have on this earth oo!. I won’t watch you walk into fire!”. My mum exclaimed, I groaned. She always used our native names for extra emphasis. I knew what was coming,
“You lost God’s precious peace over an issue and you claim God hasn’t spoken to you!!. Osarieme!!!!. When did you become desperate?! Hanging to a man even when God is saying no!!. Marriage is not the end of the world. Seek first the kingdom, all things will follow. Focus on your vision, relax and God will settle you”.
I had that look of “yea whatever”.
“Its not like…”
“You will not say yes to a man God does not approve of” she said cutting me off.
“Pass me that sesame oil” she instructed resuming what she was doing, declaring the issue closed till further notice. I reluctantly passed her the oil, though every fibre of my being wanted to walk out right that minute.
Indeed the issue ended that day in the kitchen. I totally lost my peace from then on. One word my mother said that day kept on replaying in my head “seek first the kingdom of God, and all other things shall be added”.
One afternoon, I reminisced. The reality of my foolishness dawned on me. Ahead of all things, I always wanted a man who will help me serve God. That used to be top priory on the list.
_When did I allow other things to take its place?_. _How can I serve God with a man God didn’t want me to be with in the first place?. Who was I kidding?!_,
I was practically forcing TJ on God and I knew it. I also knew I also lied about God not confirming Ray. I refused to tell anyone about the second time I heard the voice. I knew the reason and I wept, like a baby.
Deep in my heart, I knew why I had done all I did. It was all because I had waited eagerly for God’s will, rejecting various eligible suitors, only for God to bring a man below my expectations. Ray.
I was beyond disappointed. And then came the man who in my opinion deserved my heart. TJ.
I felt ashamed at the pride that I had allowed to eat at my heart. The lover of my soul, my King, gave me the honor of choosing for me, and I had the effrontery to look down on his choice. With a repentant heart, I kept pleading. Night after night, I prayed and asked for mercy. Blossom was worried, and I was glad she knew me well enough not to ask.
One day, like a stirring of many waters, I heard a drop in my spirit
“ *let go* ”.
I didn’t need an explanation, I knew. I had to let TJ go. I still dreamt about him, and was yet to give him a reply, on purpose. In tears I laid him on God’s altar. I cried all night, something I hadn’t done since my first ever heartbreak many years ago.
When I let go, peace washed over me. Days after that I met up with TJ for his answer. I had told him and one thing he said pricked my heart.
“Could the real reason be that I’m not good enough,I’m not Christian enough maybe .” He sighed.
“I would never understand why you said no. We can’t be lovers, we can’t be a couple. Fine. I said it before and I meant it. Then we can’t be friends either. It would be unbearable for me”
My heart sank. _Why?!?!, don’t do this to me. Not the friendship too!. Pls_!” I screamed in my mind. At his unshaken resolve. I swallowed hard, and said
“Ok, however way you like it”. His very expression indicated he wanted to beg me to change my mind. But I knew him, we were different sides of the same coin after all, so I knew just like me he would rather die single than beg for love.
With that, I stood up, we bade our goodbyes, and I left. I felt lighter since then. I finally decided to talk to God about Ray. I pleaded that since Ray was truly His choice for me, He has to help me love Ray. With that, I got busy with kingdom business, my music ministry and life.
The soft knock of Blossom on my door, a reminder that she was done with hers and its time for mine. I turned on the lights from the switch close to me, got out of bed, picked up my bible and headed for the sitting room.
With the assistance of the driver, I loaded some of the luggage into the boot of the bus. It was that time of the year again, the annual Gospel drama festival (GDF). This time it would take place in a state about six hours drive from here. They all had prayed, planned, rehearsed tirelessly since the beginning of the year. They would be gone for three whole weeks.
Apart from the love of God, nothing seem to fill my sister’s tank of joy like her love for drama ministry. Drama out of her life would be like burying her alive.
GDF was one of the most important events in her life. My heart swelled with unspeakable joy that God gave her a man who shared that same fire and passion, with fierce intensity.
I watched in delight as they both conversed, some steps away from me, even with Blossom’s back to me, I could hear the excitement, anticipation, agitation that filled her voice, just like each year. Femi nodded from time to time, as he did most of the listening.
Finally, the person that kept them all waiting arrived. Apologizing countless times, as she loaded her luggages.
After many hugs and pecks, byes and then prayers. They set off, the rest of us waved till they were out of sight.
I sighed, I was going to miss her.
I walked towards my bike, I was about to mount it when I heard a voice singing teasingly from behind, I knew the voice and the song, I smiled to myself.
“All by my all my self…..” Ray sang, teasing me till he was standing in front of my bike.
“Awwn, someone looks sad already” he said teasing on.
“Stop rubbing it in, be nice!” I said, equally teasing. .
“Guy, move o” I said half serious, as I mounted my bike.
“hey, you coming to the beach this weekend right?”.
“Beach?” I repeated puzzled.
“the hang out the youth organized, have you forgotten?”
I had actually forgotten, but I didn’t intend to go anyways, I had work to do, Bee’s wedding was drawing nearer.
“I remember now, I can’t make it, I have stuff to do”
“All work and no play makes Bliss a dull bae!” he said persistent.
I rolled my eyes in impatience. He even leaned on my bike.
“Roll your eyes all you want, its not my concern. Say you will come this weekend, and I would move out of your way nicely”
“No!” I said stubbornly, wearing my helmet.
“Ok,” he relaxed even more on the bike.
“See, the get together is for us to strengthen our bond as youths in the church. Have fun, discuss, play games. If you come it would encourage new members. Its just one day, stop forming ah!”. He said, tilting his head.
_Ray should be church PRO, He has a gift in persuading people_ I thought to myself.
“You probably initiated the whole beach idea right?, that’s the reason for this campaigning” I asked, I knew I guessed right.
“Lets say I have a hand or two in it” he said with a smile.
“Ray you are cornering another person for this beach turn up isn’t it?!” Esther, said from a distance. She also came to drop her younger brother earlier.
I burst into laughter.
“Esther pls, if I don’t, who will” he said smiling.
“Babe, let me give you a heads up, the earlier you say yes, the better for you. If not he won’t let you breathe o!. He can be a pest o!!. I’m talking from experience!!”. She added.
I laughed more.
“Wait Esther, you are not helping matters?!” he said with a half smile.
“You are welcome dear” she replied, laughing.
“Busted!, turns out I’m not the only victim”. I said smiling under the helmet.
“So you are coming, thanks so much for your time, Miss, and thanks for complying” he said moving out of my way .
“Esther!, now I have time for you.”
He said racing to meet Esther. I laughed as I drove off.
The breeze at the beach blew vigorously, the noise of the sea waves drowned the excited squeals of those at the sea shore. As it were, Ray’s pestering paid off, the youths really turned up. We all were having a swell time, eating, drinking, playing games and getting to know each other. I sipped my coconut water.
TJ was there, he brought a dashing beauty with him. We acted like complete strangers, perfect at it.
We all spread out, some horse riding, swimming. Mrs and Mrs Adebayo, a young couple amongst us, were having their intimate moments at a distance. Ray, photography was his profession, his camera hung over his neck as usual. He snapped endless pictures.
“Bliss, right?” An average height guy asked. He is a new member in church. He introduced himself earlier.
“Yes, Bliss”. I said, as he walked towards where I stood, away from the seashore.
“Thanks to hang out, i finally got the chance to talk to you” he said.
“The name is Paul, in case you don’t remember” as if he knew I couldn’t remember.
“I must say, you sing so beautifully. Your voice is enchanting, The divine power that backs your voice can’t be denied. You are a raw kingdom talent”
“Thanks, a lot I appreciate”
“The Holy Ghost invasion concert, you know about it right?”.
It was a bi-annual mega concert with great gospel musicians . I had attended it severally.
_Who wouldn’t know about Holy Ghost invasion concert!!!_.
. I nodded.
“I have an Uncle who is one of the organizers. This year’s edition, they intend to create a slot for upcoming gospel musicians one or two. I’m very sure what is deposited inside of you needs to go global. When I speak to my uncle, I would get back to you.”
I couldn’t contain my excitement.
“Wow, I’m blown away!, thank you so much Paul. I would be expecting your call!”. We exchanged contacts.
Restless with excitement, I strolled to where some of the youths were at the seashore.
_I might have a slot at the HolyGhost invasion!!!!!, Holy Ghost invasion!!!!._.
I continued screaming in my mind. I had been privileged to minister in places, but nothing like this concert. I felt like floating. Then a cloud of anxiety settled on me.
_What song do I sing?!_.
My heart desired fresh songs. I reprimanded myself for worrying and instead rested everything in Gods hands.
I squatted at the shore, many swam, and some just stood close to the sea, and waited as the sea washed their feet, they gleed in excitement. I caught Ray looking in my direction about two or three times. His camera was safely somewhere I guessed, when I didn’t see it around his neck.
The wet sand reminded me of Blossom and I as kids, at the beach, we would write our names on the sand. Blossom was the type to think of doing something like that even as an adult. I decided to be her for now. I wrote my name on the sand. Precious from the ushering department, followed suit, and a few others, in a moment we were all sharing sweet childhood memories.
Suddenly I felt something hit my forehead narrowly missing my eyes, it fell off quickly, some one had thrown a sandball at me. Precious laughed out loud at the way the sand decorated my face. Ray had a mischievous look on, even if he tried so hard to hide it. I had caught the culprit.
I moulded mine and made a calculated throw at him. It caught him unawares too and smeared his entire face. More laughter. I watched him stand gently, stifling laughter.
I watched as he came close, his hands at his back innocently. He got to where I was, by the time I realized he had skillfully hidden a sand ball in his hand, it was too late to flee,he rubbed it in my hair!!.
Desperate for revenge, I scooped some and chased him.
I could hear laughter from the others as I ran after him. He went further going so fast.
Fortunately, he tripped. I laughed at the funny sight he made as he fell. I caught up with him and smeared his entire face and hair. He looked so funny, I laughed. He laughed at himself. Then he got up
“ Let’s go wash ourselves clean!”.
Not waiting for my opinion, he pulled me, running towards the sea. I wondered how he could pull me effortlessly.
“Ray, I don’t want to swim!” my shout drowned by the waves of the sea.
_This guy is so spontaneous!!_
I could swim, but not at the beach, or with my clothes on!.
“Don’t worry we won’t go deep.” He shouted. By then we were already right in the sea, the water felt so cool against my sun tanned skin. I swam with delight, safely close to the shore. A wave was coming in our direction!.
“Don’t fight it! Enjoy it” he screamed, laughing.
I held my breath and it washed over me, it was sensational.
We had enough, and then stepped out. Dripping wet, and laughing loudly.
We collapsed on the sand, so much for washing our selves clean!. I couldn’t believe I was wet and laughing.
“lets dry ourselves” he teased as we lay on our backs facing the setting sun. We were quiet for a spilt second. Supposedly “drying ourselves”. He sat up suddenly
“babe, I want to ask you a serious question, kind of “.
“You either want to ask or not, what’s kind of?” I said raising my brow.
“ok I want to ask a serious question”
He was suddenly quiet, a pensive look on his face, as if reconsidering what he wanted to say. My curiosity heightened.
_Oh my God I hope it’s not what I’m thinking?!_
*“Whatever it is, just say yes”* .
I heard a drop in my spirit like a calm stirring of many waters.
_What?!, Holy spirit, don’t tell me he’s about to propose, ewww!
_Why should I say yes?!._
Oblivious to the internal war going on. He went on.
“I have wanted to ask this for so long, I just couldn’t exactly bring myself to it. Time is not on my side anymore, so I just have to say it now or never. You may not like it, but at least hear me out to the end. Why it has to be you”.
“Bliss, it not just because you are really beautiful, there are many more beautiful options!”.
_What?!, really, you just had to spell that out!!!!_.
“It not about your perfect shape either”
_How touching_, I said sarcastically in my mind.
“I can’t explain it, honestly, I think God just put you in my heart.” He looked so serious, and his long speech bored me. I so want to yawn right now.
_Just get to the point dude!._
*”Say yes”* I heard again, I groaned.
“Bliss will you be…”
He cleared his throat nervously. He was quiet for a while, he searched my face, I gave him the “blankest” expression available.
_Sweet Spirit,even you can see that this is the most boring proposal of all times!_
“Ok, let me just get it out, Bliss will you be my muse?” he said really fast.
I blinked twice, speechless.
“Ok let me explain better, Power woman fashion magazine. Have you heard of it?!”
_I know nothing about fashion anything_. I said inwardly still recovering from the shock
“no”. I said dryly
“ well, it’s a fashion magazine, and its really popular. Babes if my pictures get on that magazine, it’s a serious breakthrough, for my profession. I want you to be my model, for the magazine. The Holy spirit won’t stop dropping you in my spirit. So..will you be my model?.”
_I’m just like a little above average height, and I’m not thin_. I grumbled to the Holy spirit
“Forget about your height, or stature, it perfectly fits the African woman I want….” .
He paused for a split second, he looked at me with such intensity, I was sure I had imagined it. I was surprised at his accurate response.
“I mean the kind of woman that I want to portray, so I know you are new to all these, but don’t worry I would help you out. So what do you say?” he asked, his entire attention was on me.
*”Say yes daughter”*
My answer clearly shocked him, it was written all over his face he couldn’t even hide it.
“wow. You are the bestest” he said hugging me, even as I lay there, I didn’t expect it!.
“so now to business” he beamed openly.
“This is a business transaction not a friend to friend discussion, having said this,how much is your price”
I had no idea about all these, I was clueless as to what to say. I wanted to tell him, I would think about it.
I didn’t understand.
Then it clicked, my heart soared.
“Ok, let’s make it like a trade by barter”.
He looked confused. Ray was so easy to read, like an open book.
“You compose songs right?”. He nodded slowly as if saying “what has that got to do with anything”.
“I might be given a slot at this year’s Holy Ghost invasion concert.”.
“What?!” His jaw dropped
“Might” I repeated.
“so you can compose songs for me,as my pay”.
He was thoughtful for a while. Ray has a special gift for song compositions. His lyrics are out of this world. I prayed silently that he would just agree to the deal.
“deal!” He said at last.
“Send me the theme, and I would get you the songs”.
“Excellent!” I said bubbling with excitement. He checked his watch
“we should be heading back “ he said as he stood up and dusted his shorts and hair, I did same. We were semi dry as we headed back, discussing the details of the photoshoot, laughing at his comic insertions.
We got back on time, most of the youths had converged. Engrossed in whatever they were gisting about.
I caught Tj’s gaze on me and then on Ray, his expression unreadable.
“Give me fierce!”
Ray said, as I struck a fierce pose by my bike, my helmet in one hand.
“A little more, that’s it “ .
Shutter, shutter, shutter.
“Your leg on the pedals, yes , excellent”.
It was second and final day of the photoshoot. I wasn’t a fan of taking pictures to begin with, and so the whole process was tiring at first. Quickly I got used to it. I actually enjoyed it. It was exhilarating how everyone was so concentrated on me.
If I sweat, someone would rush to clean it, if I sneezed, someone would get a tissue, if I showed any signs of tiredness, someone was there to say “lets take five, she needs a break.” I felt like a total super star. Plus I could be so many people at the same time, one minute I was dressed up as a man, the next minute, dressed like a CEO, the next like an expecting mother. It was so fascinating.
The fashion designer was equally precise and professional. Ferb’s clothings. She beat Elsie’s Fashion hands down. I couldn’t wait to gist Blossom all about it.
Every dress was a perfect fit, she had measured me a week before the shoot. Plus she was so nice, relational and understanding. The make up artist, Onome, was extremely professional, it was as though she brought the whole make up in the world. She was equally helpful, she even made herself my personal assistant. The hair stylist, Drew, we had issues on the first day, he has an attitude, and l didn’t like him straightening out my curls unapologetically.
And he passed a comment about how I should be grateful he brought life to my semi-dead hair. I was furious, and I gave him a hot sizzling piece of my mind. Soon, the issue was solved.
We understood each other better and became best of friends, to everyone’s surprise and Ray’s delight.
Even when I had to colour my hair green to represent flag of the nation pose. Drew totally asked if I was OK with it before applying the colour. Even Onome was surprised.
I was being prepared for the bridal shoot. Drew was styling the invisible 360° lace wig, as he described it. Onome had applied the bridal make up, and I looked too much like a bride.
“Honestly, when Ray said he wouldn’t be using a professional model for this shoot, I was furious. Yea, I know Ray loves taking risks and all that, but this is a major deal mehn!. Power woman is no joke.” He said as he worked on the hair on my head.
“I understood his idea about what he intended to achieve and all that . I became more furious when he brought a babe with curly short hair, looking like anything but a model!.” .
_Drew and his mouth!_
“Curly semi dead hair” I said as I quoted him
“Don’t mind me babe,can’t believe I said those” he said giggling,we shared a laugh.
.“Really, you shocked me. You embraced the challenge. Posing like a pro. Its so impressing..” he went on, I smiled.
I remembered how I had told the Holy Spirit how clueless I was about the shoot. I was then reminded about one of friends. Chantal, who had been a model since uni days. She was really thriving in her modelling career. Grateful to the Holy Spirit, I called Chantal. She was elated to say the least. I explained my predicament to her.
She told me Power woman was a great magazine she had featured in many times in the past. Thank God for Skype. We did enough video calls, and she sent me several pictures for inspiration. She was of great help.
“Awwn thanks a lot” I said to Drew, as I recovered from my quick flashback.
“You welcome darl”.
I changed into the wedding dress.
“My iyawo is ready!”
Ferb announced as she dramatically led the way out of the changing room. Everyone’s eyes were on me except Ray’s. He was on a call, his back to us.
So many “woows”, “awww” were directed at me. I looked at my reflection in the mirror, it was breathtaking. The wedding dress looked too imported. I almost didn’t believe it was Nigerian made. As I admired the dress, all I could think of was Blossom, wearing such a breathtaking dress for her wedding. Ferb’s voice broke into my thoughts.
“Ray, where on earth did you get this multi purpose model, as in. Her body just rocks any dress. She is a stunner in maxis as she is in fitted. Eii, O ga o!” she said as she hugged me playfully.
“Bride, I’m single ooo, and seriously searching, I want to famz you ma!” Drew said kneeling towards me playfully.
“I have a brother that’s single too ooo, let me famz on my brother’s behalf!” Ferb said, laughing.
Ray turned to us just then, he looked at me, open admiration all over his face.
“My God, pls who is this?!” Ray said, he rubbed his eyes with his hands.
“This beauty is too much, I’m fainting oo” he started going down dramatically.
“Nooo!” Drew said, running towards Ray in playful slow motion, adding so much drama, it was hilarious to watch.
“Save the boss!, what do you need my Boss” he said, as he “saved” Ray from hitting the ground.
“One cup of Bliss. Pls, one cup”.
Ray said with such exaggerated gestures,. I shook my head as I smiled at the unserious duo.
The bridal shoot took off, and soon we were done.
“It’s a wrap people!”
Ray announced happily. Shouts of excitement followed.
We all went downstairs to the eatery to have lunch as usual. I shared a table with Ray
“so..how was I,the model me, I mean” I asked with anticipation. His eyes lit up,
“Awesome, you went beyond my expectations. The mannequin pose you pulled was jaw dropping, honestly”.
I felt my heart swell.
“wow thank you!” I said barely containing my happiness.
“You should start rehearsals quickly “ he advised as we ate.
“Ferb is the CEO, and her company is mega” I said thoughtfully. Ray watched me, chewing slowly, waiting for me to land.
“How come she can spare time to be here persaoanlly. I mean she could have sent an assistant. And those clothes are expensive!” I said, my last words in a whisper.
. Ray smiled.
“We go way back”.
“You and who go way back?” Ferb asked from behind me, as she joined us on our table with her half eaten food, and a big paper bag that had her logo on it. Despite her petite stature, she had the charming charisma of a boss lady.
“You and I” Ray said absentmindedly, as he ate.
“Oh that’s true, thing is” she said as she bit into her chicken. Careful not to mess her dress.
“When I had just began. There was this investor who wanted to invest in my little business. But, I needed to give them pictures of what I was capable of doing. I couldn’t afford a simple photographer. And I dared not take phone pictures. The guy would never take me serious” she continued.
“Ray here” she said pointing at him with her chicken thigh.
“He was a struggling photographer then o, he didn’t own a camera sef!, she said.
“yet, he rented equipment from the little he had then and snapped amazing photos. The investor was beyond impressed by my efforts. Voila, my business stepped up. If Ray has any major project, who am I not to show up.” She said as she smiled at him.
“He’s a brother indeed, I can never repay him” she said.
“Issokay!, madam” Ray said.
“See, he likes it o, he’s blushing” she said teasing him. I saw Ray in a different light.
Totally overwhelmed by what I had heard. As he laughed, his handsome face lit up.
“Bliss, remember I asked you to pick your favourite amongst the clothes?”.
“Yes” I said nodding, digging in to my food.
“here” she handed me the paper bag of clothes.
“you can have them”.
Shocked, it took a few seconds to register those words.
_Are you kidding?!!!._
“courtesy of Ray” she added.
I was speechless, I shot Ray a look. I opened my mouth to oppose, but, he was faster
.“Bliss, Bliss, just say thank you” he said, pulling my cheeks.
“Thank you both, I love them”.
I was so happy, I almost lost my appetite but the vegetable sauce and rice was too tempting, so I dug in.
I removed the baked snacks from the oven. I had spent the entire morning making dozens of them. I had to deliver them to a customer later in the afternoon.
I left them to cool off in the kitchen. I relaxed on the sofa, the house was awfully quiet. I switched on the TV, my back ached.
I decided to watch anything the entertainment station had to offer.
*TIME OUT WITH CELEBS* was airing. So I watched it for the time being.
“Welcome back from the break, we are having a swell time with Mr Adegbite”.
I was busy with my phone, I didn’t look up
“Mr Tijani, you were telling us how much you love what you do for a living”.
“Actually, asides from the fact that my family business for generations has centred on food making, processing, packaging. Personally, i love everything kitchen”.
“Wow, it surely runs in the family” the presenter said with a smile.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as I watched TJ being interviewed. His charisma and confidence stole the show.
Thankful to the Holy spirit who helped me deal with any feelings I had harbored for him. I finally saw him as any ordinary guy.
_Is TJ’s family that wealthy?, to be interviewed on such a popular program?_.
.I was surprised.
The interview was going on smoothly and he was very coordinated like he had done things like these countless times.
“There is a partenal cousin of yours, whose name I would like to remain unmentioned. According to our sources, he decided one day to drop the family business and is presently a missionary in East Africa. It appears the Adegbite dynasty so to speak, was strongly against such an act. As a child of God yourself. Do you think you could also be found in such a situation?”.
“No”. He said plainly.
I was shocked, I almost thought I had heard wrong, until he went further.
“No because it think it was a completely stupid act on his part. I am a born again Christian. I believe in Jesus, but I also have common sense”.
“Pls elaborate sir”.
“How can your parents spend so much to send you to the best school and all that, and you think the best way to pay them back is by throwing it all away for “missionary work?! In quote!”.
“Are you against people working for God?”
“Defintely not, what I mean is you don’t leave your ambition just because God called you”.
“But some people claim vision involves playing your own part with the talent God gave you, In order words giving back to God.”.
“Can we really give back to God?, Jesus died on the cross and saved us nothing we do can come close to that. Then why the flimsy excuse of doing something for God. Work for God In your local church, sing, or anything. That’s enough, not gallivanting all over the place, for ministry’s sake.”
“What if you have a child who also takes a bold step like your cousin, will you prevent him.?”.
“My children and wife would never even think of such. From the onset. I would make sure to provide my family with everything they need and so they won’t have to go about doing ministry all for small change. They sing or express their talent in church and that’s ok. Then they focus their lives on their career”.
.I was baffled as I stared at the TV.
Blossom and I had been instructed by God to leave our salary earning jobs and go into business, so that we could concentrate on ministry. I didn’t obey.
I got sick and landed in the hospital.
God asked me to release the job and he would release me from the hospital. I gave up in the end.
Later on, I could almost say God did us a favour back then. We enjoyed ministry. Of course we had others who still worked and had independent ministries. It wasn’t easy for us in the beginning. But God showed up time and time again.
Vision wasn’t all about what we would derive from there financially, it was about the fulfilment and joy that comes with doing the kingdom business. The joy of being a blessing.
_How could TJ not understand that!_.
Ministry had become my life, giving me a reason for living. Filling up a space in my life that nothing else could fill.
A terrifying thought sprang up in my mind. This is the same TJ I wanted to marry at all cost. I felt so ashamed, I buried my face in the hollows of palms.
_Would he have forbidden me to minister after we were married ?_
_“Would he have restricted my gifts to the confines of the church?”_
_How could he even think wealth could fill the vacuum of fulfilment in ministry?!_
_What happened to shining our light for the world to see, and glorify our father in heaven?!_
I closed my eyes to pray right there, I asked for forgiveness once again for being stubborn about TJ.
I prayed for TJ, for God to change his heart about vision. I prayed till I felt a sense of peace. I went into the kitchen to package the snacks.
I heard my phone ring from the living room where I had dropped it. I rushed to pick up. I had called Blossom earlier but she had been busy. She was probably the one calling, I couldn’t wait to gist her all about TJ’s interview.
I picked up the phone, and spoke without checking the caller ID.
.A ruffling sound.
“Bee?”a deep voice asked on the other end of the line.
Shocked,I checked the called ID,it was a strange number,not Bee.
_Yikes!, who is this?_ I wondered.
“Is this Miss Bliss on the line?”. The baritone voice asked.
“Yes” I said in a bored tone.
“Good. I am William from the Holy Ghost invasion. My nephew Paul has put in good words about you. I feel convinced to give you the last slot remaining for the upcoming music ministers at this year’s edition”.
.I was taken aback.
_I was going to minister at Holy Ghost invasion!!!!!!!!!!!!!_
I danced silently. I forgot I was I still on the call.
“Hello Miss Bliss, are you there?”.
“Yes.yes..” I said composing myself.
“Sir,I cannot express how grateful I am sir, for this golden opportunity, God bless you sir. Keep you…..”.
“Amen,amen,” he said. I could tell from his voice that he was laughing softly.
“It appears you are equally a prayer warrior”. He teased.
“Tell you what,I will hand the call over to my PA. So that all the necessary details regarding your time slot, and arrangements would be discussed. So have a nice day”
“You too sir, thank you so much sir, I sincerely appreciate”.
In a minute, the call was transferred to the PA, and that lasted for about 45minutes.
I thanked and thanked the PA, before the call eventually ended. I quickly placed a call to Paul, thanking him countless times.
I was so happy I knelt to thank God, so many songs of praise flowed out from within me.
The rehearsals towards the Holy Ghost Invasion had begun.
I had been told by the P.A, that I should come with my back singers and instrumentalists. I had no personal band. Each time I had ministrations, I made use of my fellow choir members.
Unfortunately, there was going to be a major program in church that same night.
So I was lacking a tenor singer. With the situation of things, I knew I should be grateful I could get two singers willing to sacrifice attending the church program and go with me.
I ran my hands through my hair, sighing in frustration.
“OK, verse 1,” the keyboardist said.
I took the verse. I knew the lyrics offhand and so I just sang absentmindedly.
_Lord, thank you for providing a tenor singer_.
I said by faith. I had put it in prayers several times, I was holding on to faith.
*“Look to your left”*.
I did. A lady was seated on one of the empty congregation seats.
I remembered I saw her at the last two rehearsls,and she at that same spot, watching us rehearse. She was looking at me so intently, as she had looked that day. I remember I had taken my eyes off her to avoid the distraction her stare could cause.
_“what about her Lord?”_
*“She is a tenor singer, use her. She will be heaven’s nightingale, I need you to groom her, till her ground. Go to her”*.
I was reluctant, I couldn’t imagine asking a complete stranger to be my back up, talk less of grooming?! . But I had learnt to just obey.
The two back up singers were busy mastering their tonic solfas. I took the opportunity to steal away.
I walked towards the lady, she looked apprehensive, like she was scared I would ask her to leave.
“hello” she said nervously.
“What’s your name?!” I asked softly, taking a seat opposite her.
She looked really young, probably 19 or in her very early 20s.
She looked everything like a precious stone. She was pretty with captivating delicate features. She looked a little shy, which I’m certain a lot of guys would find appealing
“What part do you sing?” I asked, straight to the point.
“I would be ministering at a very important program. And I don’t have a tenor back up singer. I would love it if you could help me out.” I said watching her as she considered it.
“You think I can do it?”
“To be honest, I don’t know, but I’m certain God has chosen you”. She bit her lower lip, contemplating.
“You don’t have to, if you don’t want to” I said quickly.
“No, I really want to,I’ve always wanted to sing with you, and sing like you” she said in a rush, with a smile that made her glow.
“Really? Sing Like me? Aren’t you new in this church?” I asked puzzled.
“I’m not!” she said amidst laughter.
“My entire family attends this church. But, I was in boarding school and now I’m busy in the uni. So, I’m hardly frequent in church, but I always notice you” she said shyly.
Amazed at her confession, I just smiled.
“ I’m flattered, but do you know the song?”.
“Yes, I was here throughout the previous rehearsals”.
she said with delight.
Her smile was contagious, talking with her was so refreshing.
We walked back together to join the others.
“This part, you need to modulate” Ray said as we went over the songs.
For over an hour we had been going through his composed songs. The composed songs had lyrics that revealed hours maybe days of brooding in God’s presence.
I wondered how someone who composed such powerful lyrics could not sing.
Curious, I asked as we sat in his office at his studio. The air conditioner hummed softly.
“Ray, how come you don’t sing or is it that you can’t sing?”
I asked casually with a smile. I saw a shade fall over his expression.
“I can’t sing, anymore” he said, an edge of sadness in his voice. He was quiet for a while, tension filled the air. I regretted asking the question. Yet I was still curious.
“Its something I don’t like to talk about,” he said, his voice thick with sadness, my heart went out to him.
“I will say it anyways. Growing up, I was in the choir. Going on ministrations. I was so young and zealous”. He said, a far away look on his face.
“My parents were just religious Christians, they didn’t understand the burning fire of vision”
“They couldn’t understand my desire to serve God with music. They just wanted us to go to church and come home. They forbade us from going any further.” He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“My older sisters obeyed. I obeyed for a while. As the only son, I was groomed to take over the family business”.
He reclined in his chair, quiet for so long, I thought he couldn’t continue.
“But my heart yearned for more. I always felt satisfied just composing songs and singing, even when I had not eaten anything” His passion reflected in his voice.
“To obey their strict orders. I stopped singing for so long, I didn’t know how to sing anymore. The day I realized that, I wept.” His voice was laced with pain.
“I told my parents that I would take over the family business only if they allowed me to fulfill my calling. My dad refused and threatened not to see me through university”. He sighed deeply
I listened intently, lost in his words.
“I heard clearly from God to come out from amongst them and be separate. I did. I moved out of the house. It was tough” he said, staring into space.
“I had to fend for myself. Everyone knew my parents were wealthy and so they didn’t take me serious anytime I asked them for help.” He said sadly.
“That’s when I went into photography. A friend and brother, who was a professional, put me through this and that. He borrowed me his camera from time to time. Omo I struggled gan o”. He said with a smile.
I wondered how he could still smile despite his sorrows
“I couldn’t sing still, but I could play all kinds of instruments and compose songs. I had a mentor, who ran a music studio. He passed it on to me when he traveled abroad” He said.
“I still manage the studio. A lot of people don’t know I had bought it. I have helped a number of young talented ministers to produce their song. I have big plans for that studio, as the Lord wills”
“In my final year. Dad was sick, he finally called for me. We reconciled,by then I was content with photography and I had no interest in family business” he reclined in his seat, a look of contentment spread across his face.
“He had an encounter with God and gave everyone else the go ahead to pursue their vision.” He said, with undertones of undeniable joy.
“Today, my eldest sister is a saxophonist. The next a Poet. The one right after me a drama minister, the next a child evangelist”. He said with a smile.
“The next, has an amazing voice. She’s in school. I know God will prepare the right mentor for her in music. She desperately needs one” he added.
“Oh my God!” he stretched
“Babe, you’ve jazzed me o!, I can’t believe I just told you my entire life history!” he said.
His playful mood restored. Ray couldn’t stay gloomy for long, I had come to realize.
“So what kind of jazz did you use” he asked teasingly.
He leaned closer, he used his index finger to tilt my head such that our eyes levelled.
He looked deep into my eyes,
“You don’t need jazz sef, those eyes of yours are the culprit. They can make a man lose his head and tell you his deepest secrets.” He said quietly.
I didn’t know what was on his mind, but I could guess from the way his eyeballs darkened with emotion.
My heart doubled its usual pace. Never in my wildest imagination did I believe Ray could be capable of brewing such feelings within.
“You are beautiful” he said softly.
He held my gaze. I caught my breath. Unlike romantic movies, time didn’t freeze, activities around us didn’t stop. But I couldn’t deny that he pulled the strings of my heart like a skilled guitarist.
The times I spent with Ray made me see him, like actually see him. He wasn’t just a funny guy who had no purpose like I had believed.
He was a guy who had a fire and passion to serve God. Good at his profession, and had a compassionate soul for helping people. He was handsome as well, with a baby face that automatically made him look years younger.
“We had better join the others, it’s a fatal distraction with you this close. No wonder some brothers can’t take their eyes off you in church!” he said, a teasing look on his face as he stood up, initial traces of emotion replaced by a teasing smile.
l stood up also, and smiled, all the connection we just shared wasn’t a joke to me. I couldn’t explain why I desperately wished he felt the same
The roar of the audience chorusing the song was deafening. The sea of people gathered there was mind blowing as always.
This was not my first time, at the *HOLY GHOST INVASION*, in fact i hadn’t missed an edition since it began.
This was my first time at the invited guest section.
Usually, no matter how early I came, I couldn’t get a good view. The view i was used to, was different from this.
I couldn’t believe I was up close with the music ministers I had always admired. I tried so hard not to stare in admiration. Paul was seated with us. Ray was there.
The program was living up to its name. The atmosphere was so saturated with the Holy spirit.
The seasoned invited ministers kept recharging the atmosphere. I felt alive, as I sang along, worshiping.
My adrenaline pumping. We had spent about five hours of pure praise and worship. One minister to the other.
Tominsin was ministering. She was one of my favorite music ministers.
I sang along with her, like the thousand other people in the audience. I loved that particular song of hers. I was lost in worship, suddenly I was tapped. It was the MC.
“So sorry for the inconvenience, pls you are coming up right after her” he said on top of his voice against the loud noise.
I felt my heart beat wildly in fear.
“You need to come to the back stage now” he continued.
I nodded, nervousness gripped me, though I appeared very calm and collected. I signalled to the others and we moved to the back stage. My heart was beating too fast.
At the back stage. We prayed.
Spiritually, I had prepared for this, yet I couldn’t shake the unfamiliar feeling of fear that ate at me. I had ministered in various places in the past, but none had come close to this.
The crowd, the sound system, was suddenly overwhelming.
_What if I go off key?!, what if the audience does respond?!_?.
Countless questions of doubt clouded my mind.
Ray pulled me suddenly to the corner of the back stage, I had almost forgotten he was there with us. He looked at me straight in the eyes,
“Bliss, I know this is intimidating. The stage, the crowd. You need to remember you are a representative of the Most High. You have prepared in your own capacity. Its time to step aside and let it be all about God tonight, ok?!”
Slowly, very slowly, I felt peace seep into me. I felt like God just spoke through him. I nodded. I gathered my composure gradually.
Tominsin rounded up her ministration. She stepped in to the back stage. She looked more beautiful and fairer in person. She had charged the atmosphere with her ministration. I was skeptical about going to meet her.
She caught me staring, and she smiled at me charmingly, she even blew me a kiss. I was surprised and smiled back, in a minute she was out.
I heard the MC,
“…Bliss for her ministration..”
I was surprised by the applause I heard. Ray gave my hand a squeeze. I nodded, calmed.
_Holy spirit, that I may decrease and you increase, thank you in advance for showing up for me tonight_, I said silently, and mounted the stage.
The place was dead quiet. All eyes on me, waiting, anticipating.
I thanked the hosts for giving me the opportunity. As I took the first verse, I felt a rush of energy seize me, I knew He had taken over.
A song that had never been sung before, pulled at the hearts of the audience in an incredible way. They went wild in worship.
My voice yielded to the call of its maker, as it escalated beyond my expectations.
The ministration ended.
Even after the MC had taken the mic, and I had gotten to the back stage. The large percentage of the audience chorused the song to my surprise.
Back up went hysterical at the back stage. Paul hugged me.
Ray and I exchanged glances that said enough without us uttering a word.
Shortly after, the MC handed me a note from the organizers that read:
“Anointed ministration. You have been given one more slot, right after AdeolaJerry’s ministration”.
I nodded to the MC with understanding. My heart swelled with gratitude to God.
“Oh my God!, I can’t believe I won’t be there with you on your special day!” Blossom squealed over the phone.
The *HOLY GHOST INVASION CONCERT* was finally here, it was the morning of the all-night.
Blossom and her team ought to have been back yesterday, but they were tied down by another important ministration. I actually wished she were here, but I knew God needed her there.
“Ruby’s brother is still taking you guys right?”
“Yes, I hope he hasn’t changed his mind” I said as I leaned on my bike in the church parking lot.
Blossom and I talked tirelessly, and then she rained prayers upon prayers towards my ministration.
Femi also rained his own set of prayers. I was thankful to them both.
I ended the call and joined Thelma and Ify, my two back up singers, in the auditorium. We were all waiting for Ruby, whose brother according to her, will drive us to my parents place. Which was really close to where the program would take place.
I had arranged with my parents that I wouldn’t be coming alone. *HOLYGHOST INVASION*, was always held in the state where they lived.
And so in the past years my sis and I would usually travel to their place the day before the program.
Ruby beeped me, an indication that she was at the parking lot. We all moved there.
Ruby stood by a black space bus, she waved at us. The guy beside her looked too familiar even from a distance.
It was Ray, just as I guessed.
“Sis Bee” she said, her usual way of calling me, she had grown fond of me amazingly fast.
I couldn’t deny she was a sweet little darling.
“Ruby” I said and we hugged.
“Where’s your brother so I would thank him” I said and she burst into laughter.
Ray on the other hand simply stared at me in disbelief.
“This is my brother” she said, as she hugged Ray fondly.
As they stood side by side, I saw the striking resemblance that never occurred to me before.
“You don’t know Ruby is Ray’s sister?” Ify asked, surprised.
“No!” I said.
This church was Ray’s family church. Everyone including myself knew Ray’s siblings and parents in church. So I knew he was the only male child with five sisters. Two older, three younger.
I had always been told the last daughter was studying in Kenya,I just never put a face to the name.
“I would forgive you because she’s always not around” Ray said to me playfully.
“So are we all set?” He asked as we all settled into the space bus.
“Yes” we chorused.
The fact that Ray would be there would with me at a very important stage of my life, brought about a feeling I couldn’t explain. It was like the rekindling of a fire, warning my heart.
Blossom’s wedding preparation went into full gear, the moment they got back.
I had suggested Ray’s squad, to Blossom. With all that I had gisted her about the photo shoot, her mouth was watering.
Femi on the other hand, wanted to see hard evidence before buying the idea. The only problem was how to get them all in one place, to make it easier.
Thankfully, Onome’s birthday was coming up. The studio wanted to give her a special treat, at a newly opened polo club in town.
Ray suggested Femi and Blossom show up. Femi embraced the idea.
And so that explains Blossom and Femi’s presence at the Polo club with us all.
“Hip hip hip!!!, hurray!!” Everyone chorused happily as Onome glowed like a new bride, as she cut the cake. There was more than enough to eat and drink.
Onome basked in all the love showered upon her. She deserved it more than anything.
The other crew members of the studio, turned up. Blossom had blended in so much that it appeared she was the one who had come for the shoot then and not me.
Countless selfies were taken. Ray snapped various pictures.
Ray had preempted his squad about the meeting with Blossom and Femi so, Ferb, Onome, Drew all came with their past works to show. Femi was more than impressed with their works, and he was finally convinced.
They began the negotiations.
“Who wants to go horse riding?!” Samuel, one of the crew members, announced.
I stood, others stood as well, moving to the horses.
I had never ridden a horse but I wanted to try. I moved to where Ray stood. I couldn’t explain why I was always drawn to wherever he was.
He was speaking to the horse, so gently as he stroked the mane. I watched in fascination.
“Can you ride?” he asked his eyes not leaving the horse. I was surprised he had seen me,
“Yeap” I said confidently.
“There’s only thing, you need to do” he said, finally looking at me.
“Even if you are afraid of the horse, don’t show it, that should come naturally for you, right?!” He said.
_What was that statement supposed to mean?!_
I opened my mouth to ask, but he was helping me mount the horse. He mounted right behind. I felt so high up, the horse moved gently.
It was until Ray spoke that I realized that he was so close.
“Do you trust me?” he asked from behind me.
I didn’t understand if I was confused because of his extreme nearness or the sultry way his voice sounded, or the fact that I couldn’t understand what he was asking.
“Do you?” he asked again. Unconsciously his breath caressed my neck.
.I blinked twice
“Do I what?” my voice betrayed the calm demeanor I was trying to portray.
“I want to ride faster, do you trust me?”.
“Of course I said clearing my throat.
_What have i gotten myself into?! o lord!_
The soft rekindling fire was growing in my heart, by the day.
The horse picked up speed, and we raced though the field, I was scared, but I trusted him. We raced round and round, I couldn’t help screaming in excitement. He laughed.
Finally we slowly dismounted. I was breathing hard. I was dizzy and laughing at the same time.
He held me to steady me. His face was inches from mine. His gaze smoldering, fanning the already blazing fire.
My heart fluttered wildly, like a trapped animal. Panic gripped me, as I realized I had shown too much of my feelings.
Quickly as usual, I pushed them to the farthest corner of my heart.
“Don’t lock me out, don’t close up, let me in,please “ he said softly, his fingers traced my jaw line.
_Do you feel the same?!, tell me, say something, let me know if I’m in this alone!_ , I screamed in my mind, frustrated.
The horse neighed loudly, jerking us to reality.
“Let’s…..get going” he said huskily, avoiding eye contact.
I nodded, disappointed.
I just had to admit the obvious, I was helplessly falling for Ray and he wasn’t feeling the same.
I felt sore from my wounded pride.
CHAPTER TWENTY – ONE
The day we had all, prayed, waited, and prepared for, finally arrived. The day that meant the world to my family.
Blossom was getting married.
I had mixed feelings. I was beyond happy for her. Yet my friend, sister, twin, adviser, other half, was going to another family.
We had shared everything from breast milk to perfumes. She understood my unsaid words, the depth of my soul.
She stood. I watched as mum fussed over her.
The wedding gown Ferb made for her was outstanding. She looked extremely beautiful. Onome took special care with the make up. Drew styled her hair with expertise. I felt proud of how brightly she shone.
Blossom looked exactly like I had imagined. When Femi’s Mum and my mum were done fussing.
I went to her.
“Bee”, she said in a whisper.
“It is finally here” I said with a sincere smile.
“You are the most beautiful bride in the whole world” I said.
A lump formed in my throat.
She looked gorgeous
“Thank you, I wish.…” she said, fighting tears.
“Sshh, this is the happiest day of our lives” I said silencing her with my fingers.
We were both fighting tears.
I knew what she wanted to say.
All our lives we had both dreamt of walking down the isle on the same day, both dreamt of saying our vows about the same time.
Discreetly I pinched my self so hard to stop the tears that threatened to burst forth.
“God is the master planner….He makes everything….beautiful in his own time, this is your big day. Let not a tear slip down this beautiful face”.
“I wish…I was tough like you”.She said as she looked upwards and fanned her teary eyes with her hands.
“Blossom, you are soft…and sweet, I never in my entire life would have wished for a better….twin”.
We had cried enough last night.
We hugged, for minutes, our silence saying more than enough.
I felt alone suddenly, like a part of me was being ripped off.
_“Oh Jesus help me!”_
“Oya oya, omo mi” Femi’s mother said, taking Blossom delicately out of the dressing room.
As the Chief bridesmaid, I followed suit.
CHAPTER TWENTY – TWO
“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do Bee” I said over the phone. Worried.
She had been Mrs. Ade Ajayi for six months now, and she was still every bit like my sister. Except she was happier, relaxed and she was far from me,plus our calls weren’t so frequent.
“But he could hardly take his eyes off you at my wedding thanksgiving, I already thought he had made a move by now” she said, thoughtful.
“Exactly, the way he looks at me,like there’s something he wants to say to me. There’s a strong chemistry. Bee, but he’s not saying anything. Nothing!. Do you think he’s playing with my emotions! Because if that’s it. He’s going to pa…”
“Don’t conclude, let God decide. I know Ray, he has a soft heart. I know he has feelings for you. Just give him time”
“Its driving me crazy, knowing something is just within my reach, but I can’t have it!, or do you think he’s scared, I can just help him, and tell him what I feel, and what God said”.
Blossom was quiet for a while, before she finally said.
“Nah, just chill instead, face ministry”. I thought so too.
I had humiliated myself by falling for a man who probably wasn’t sure if he felt same, it would be suicidal to go tell that same man how I felt.
“why are you still out by this time?” I smiled at the way she sounded like we still shared an apartment.
“I will be on my way in a bit, catchya later Mrs A.” she chuckled and hung up.
The moment she hung up, Ray’s call came in. It had become a habit, him checking on me in the morning and night.
“Hey” he said, and there was that tone of delight in his voice, like he was speaking with a lover.
“hi” I said stiffly. I was fed up with the emotions he stirred within.
“What’s wrong?”, there he was again, detecting the slightest shift in my emotions.
It was annoying how he could read my mind so much, it unnerved me, annoying me even more
“Nothing I’m fine!”, I said sharply.
“You don’t sound…?”.
“Ray pls do you mind?!, I’m going home, so I will just call you when I get home”.
He was silent.
“Why are you out late?” he asked, protective.
“Because I’m out late!” I replied .
“Ok, call me when you get home “ he said after a few seconds.
I wore the helmet, and gloves. Zipped up my leather jacket. The weather seemed cool.
I drove out of the complex, straight home.
I felt my phone buzz, I couldn’t pick up on motion. I reached the T junction.
I trafficated from a distance, the distinct sound of my power bike filling the silence of the less busy road. I noticed a police check point ahead.
_“Police check point, here?. By this time?”_ I shrugged and went ahead.
The flash of the torchlight indicated I slow down. I had gotten really close before it dawned on me what was happening.
They were robbers, dressed in police uniform!!. I also noticed too late, their other victims from a bus and a Camry lay on their faces.
I tried to turn, the deafening sound of a gun fired at my front tyre.
“You wan form strong man for us!” the closest to me said, he rammed the bottom of his gun into my ribs.
He dragged me to the others, I saw many other people raided. They forcefully removed my helmet. Pushing me roughly to the ground, face down.
“You dey form James Bond abi?!”,
. I was shaking.
They were about eight, fully armed.
“Na man like you dey make us kill person” another said.
_“Man? . They think I’m a man!_
_That must be because of my skillfulness with the bike and my hair cut_
I heard noises as I lay there, they had obviously caught another victim.
My phone was long gone. Everything was dark I couldn’t see a single thing, let alone plan an escape. I began to speak in tongues silently.
Suddenly I saw the torch headed in my direction. I froze.
The lady lying beside me stood shaking. I could hear her screams, my heart rammed against my chest with full force. They obviously took her to the nearby bush. I prayed on.
I saw the torch again.
“You sure say you don search this guy” one asked as the two of them towered over me.
“We don search am nothing remain for im body”. The other replied.
“You! standa!,” he said, roughly kicking me with his boots.
“oya search am.”.
The guy did.
As he began to search me, he touched my chest, he felt my breast and retreated as if he had been electrified. My heart beat wildly.
His bloodshot eyes met mine, and he slapped me hard across the face, I fell straight on the floor. I could taste blood in my mouth, the other one dragged me up. My left ear blocked.
“Say wetin, she be woman?!. Na lie.” He said, He reeked with alcohol.
With the pocket knife. He ripped my jacket, the torch pointed there revealed the purple bra that covered my small cup.
I tried to cover myself. Another slap hit my face, I fought to retain consciousness.
“Carry food mey we make chop. You too like beating.”
Despite my struggle, they were stronger, they dragged me to the nearby bush.
I screamed, but it drowned as they pushed me hard on the ground. I landed on the grass, drained.
The smell of grass and earth filled my nostrils.
“Na me, first o”
“You way you go beat her finish, before person go chop anything, abeg”.
_Jesus!, have mercy on me !._ I screamed weakly.
_Jesus Save me, Jesus!_.
I felt energy seep into me, and I ran a straight blow into the face of the one about to pounce on me. He let out a cry and swore. About the same time, I heard cross fire in the distance.
I took advantage of the distraction, I tried to get out of their grip. I felt something heavy hit my legs, I screamed in pain.
As I crawled away I heard a gun fired at me.
I felt blood tickling down. I passed out.
CHAPTER TWENTY – THREE
“It’s a miracle to see you alive, my princess”.
My dad said as he held my other hand lovingly. My mum nodded softly.
They were right, according to Ray, he had tried to call me that night when he heard of the ongoing robbery from someone. He had tried to warn me, not to take that route. It had been too late. When he realized I didn’t pick up.
He called his police friends who contacted the closest police station and they came to the rescue.
I had been shot at the arm, by one of those guys.
Thankfully, the bullet didn’t slide into my heart.
The operation was successful, and I was getting better. Many people had visited to show their love and concern.
Bee had been here with her husband twice. They were staying at a guest house close by, mum and dad also.
Ray visited also, daily. Sometimes he slept in the ward there. There was a sullen look he had on since that day.
I knew only Jesus had saved me that night.
*to be continued…*
I woke up. As I sat up, I saw that he looked intently at me, his eyes showed he had been awake most part of the night. It was very early in the morning. It was still dark outside.
“Ray. Thanks a lot for staying up. You should rest”.
He looked at me for so many seconds,
“I love you Bliss”.
The words shocked me to the root of my being. I knitted my eyebrows in confusion.
“I have a confession ” he said.
I watched as a tear slipped down his eyes.
“Ray, you don’t…. “ I said worried.
“Pls Bliss, let me just let it out, just listen”. He moved closer and sat at the edge of the bed. “A year ago, I was praying for a life partner. God said it was you, Bliss…. I was confused. I felt my senses were messing with me”
“I had never asked God to give me the woman I want, I always asked for only His will. Yet when he brought a woman that was everything I ever dreamt of. Physically and spiritually. I thought I was just imagining things. I never knew God can give us what we want and need in one package. I was overwhelmed”.
Too shocked to speak, I stared at him.
Even if his words were by any chance fake, the open love radiating all over him for me wasn’t mistakable. I had never met a man with his emotions boldly written all over his face like Ray.
“I couldn’t wait to propose. But,God said I had to wait,you weren’t… readyy”.
My heart constricted slightly.
I knew God was right. Then, I had been fighting for a man that wasn’t mine.
_”Wasting time”_, I thought painfully.
“God said he would give me someone else”. My chest tightened painfully, when he said that
“Because, your heart….was with another… person.”
His voice broke, he bent his head to compose himself.
My heart shattered to several pieces. I couldn’t touch him or comfort him. I was the cause of His agony after all .
“I couldn’t bear the thought of you marrying someone else, i begged God Bliss, not to change His mind, God had given you to me, why should someone else take you away.”
When he looked up, His eyes were glassy, tears hanging in them.
“When God brought us closer, I couldn’t control myself anymore. I wanted to show you my heart. But I was confused, I didn’t know if you still had that someone in your heart.”
The tears dropped now, in rapid succession, he didn’t try to stop them.
I had no idea men were capable of such deep emotions.
“When I came with the policemen to the crime scene, I saw you lying, bleeding.My heart stopped”.
“I couldn’t breathe, there I knew there’s no one else for me but you. I can’t marry someone else Bliss. I realized you were customized for me. Bliss, my love for you is like fire, burning in my heart, it has consumed me. If there’s still someone in your heart. Then….” he knelt by my bed.
“Tell me what it takes to be the one you love. What do I have to do?” His tears flowed more.
My heart bled.
“Nothing” I said, fighting the tears that spilled none the less.
“Then marry me, be my Queen. With you,I know my ministry would soar”.
_”I questioned God’s will for me, and had made a foolish choice for myself”_.
_”I would have dropped a diamond whilst picking pebbles. If only I had seen the bigger picture, I wouldn’t have been stubborn and kept him waiting”_.
_*”You caused him hurt and pain and you still think you are worthy of marrying him. You selfish woman!”*_
a sinister voice whispered accusingly into my heart.
I felt unworthy of a man like Ray, regret washed over me.
My heart stirred still, as a gentle voice admonished
_*“ITS NEVER TOO LATE, ITS ALL BEEN FORGIVEN, SAY YES, DAUGHTER”*_
Ray seached my face, fear written all over his face at my hesitation.
“Bliss, I don’t want pressure you, but I can’t let go of this consuming love either. Will you.. “
“Yes!, a thousand yes!, I love you Ray!”.
“I have waited so long for this day, i have imagined it countless times. I can’t believe its happening in real life”. He said excitingly.
He hugged me, i returned the hug with my good arm.
Only Ray could do a crazy thing as declaring love to a woman with a swollen left eye, bruised lips, a slinged arm and bandaged leg. Yet love shone unreserved for me in his eyes .
“Sorry there’s no ring yet, crazy right?”.
“I love crazy” I said with a smile.
“Excellent” he said with mischief in his eyes.
“I’m thinking of a formal proposal, no wait, a crazy formal proposal”. He said his eyes glistened with pure mischief.
“Bring it on!” I said in anticipation.
CHAPTER TWENTY – FOUR
The audience chorused the song as I sang on. The depth of my voice, and the presence that backed it up filled the entire auditorium. Another of my husband’s song had hit the waves again. I rounded up and dropped the mic.
I moved to the back stage.
Ruby stood there in anticipation, she hugged me.
“Pray for me” she said in a whisper.
“God is waiting for you on that stage dear, you have nothing to fear” I said with assurance.
I patted her shoulder lightly. As if on cue the female host said
“Next on the list to bless us with her rendition, is Heaven’s very nightingale as she has been named. Your hands together for Ruby!.”
I squeezed her hands as I rendered a word of prayer for her. She mounted the stage.
I returned to my seat with my husband.
“That was awesome” he whispered in my ears. A smile on His face.
“You composed the song remember?” I teased.
“I want to say a big thank you to the organizers of this program.” Ruby said as she smiled in our direction.
This very concert had been Ray’s idea. It begun at a small hall few years ago. God had breathed upon it and it was gradually growing mega with rising partners.
I was thankful to God that I had obeyed God and groomed Heaven’s nightingale, whose voice was now blessing countless lives.
Maybe if I hadn’t married Ray, the bond between Ruby and I might have never grown this strong. Maybe there would never have been enough chance to groom her.
The shocking realization that a destiny was tied to my obedience shook me.
I watched, my heart swelled with pride at how much she had grown over the years. Her melodious voice mirrored mine, some people could hardly tell our voices apart. Goose bumps formed in my skin as she sang on.
The audience stood, as they worshipped along.
I repositioned them properly as they slept. They had spent the entire afternoon chasing after one another tirelessly. No wonder they slept peacefully despite the loud noise around them.
Just like my mom, I had twin daughters as my first, except they were too identical. Looking everything like their handsome father.
Their character differences reminded me everyday of Ray and I.
Sapphire was playful, feisty, friendly, carefree, emotional like her father.
Diamond was every bit like me, controlled, calculated, skeptical. The quieter one. She was all fire when she wanted to be.
I watched Ray with open admiration.
He had been my pillar, strength. He had been more than I could ever ask for in a man and husband. He was an excellent father to our daughters. Our intense love for each other grew undeniably over the years.
He looked at me then, perplexed at why I had such look on my face.
He gestured to me, and I leaned closer, the girls slept on the seats that separated us.
“With the way you are looking at me, you are asking for trouble, whatever you get when we get back home. You asked for it.” He said with a wink.
He ran his gaze all over me, before he faced the stage.
I looked away as I smiled at the effect of his gaze, I couldn’t wait to get home.
_*A big thank you to everyone who has followed the journey of BLISS from start to finish. I am humbled and touched by the encouraging comments. I appreciate everyone. Thank you*_