LOVED (A Mini Series): Episode 1 – Serendipity
Written by Joy A. Adewumi
You know, mine was like the plot of stories I enjoy most. You know that kind where one of the partners has no idea how deep the feelings of the other runs and is the last to realize it. That is my story. The story of a girl very loved but it took the universe coming to together for me to realize it.
Everyone else knew it except me. They all tried to make me see how loved I was, but being the hands-on girl I was, I needed to see hard facts. Love after all is an action and sorry, but the He-gave-His-life-for-you-on-the-cross story was simply not doing it for me. It felt too much like a story they desperately needed me to believe so I could become like them. It never for once felt real and as soon as I could think for myself, I made it clear I wasn’t buying the fairy tale. I think my mum almost suffered a cardiac arrest that day.
However, it was what it was. There was too much hypocrisy around me. Way too much to stomach and I promised myself I was never going to join the bandwagon of people who believed a particular idea but lacked the change their beliefs were supposed to influence in them. Their lives often contradicted their profession and I wasn’t going to be a part of that.
My dad kept preaching that you just have to believe because it’s true but I could never wrap my head around that manner of thinking. It sounded too much like indoctrination for comfort but after the near-cardiac-arrest when I made my first free-thinking profession, I became more careful what I said back to either of my parents. However, my mind was made. If I was going to believe God loved me and went all out for me, someone somewhere would have to do better than ‘Jesus died for you’ as their closing argument. Heck! I didn’t even see that happen neither do I feel like anyone has made such great sacrifice for me!
Those were simply my thoughts, though. And that school of thought took me through my first decade from age fifteen when I made my first startling profession. And I was just fine with it! Oh, make no mistake, I was no rebel. In short, the fact that I was inarguably morally better than most on the Jesus-team sealed the deal for me. And only few could dispute that.
I decided since I was seventeen that I wasn’t going to be a disappointment and give people around me reason to fault my school of thought. I was bent on living above reproach as much as was humanly possible for a self-acclaimed free-thinker and darn, did I do a great job! Of course, it wasn’t easy three quarters of the time but I was pretty happy with myself for being a better girl than most hypocritical church girls.
READ ALSO: The Snare (A Short story)
I think it was my high moral standard that gave me breathing space from the much preaching I got from family and friends, at first. All I needed was to hint at the moral character of one fervent church girl turned night crawler and the conversation would end. It was a brutal method but I couldn’t care less, it was my survival tactic and I would milk it for as long as it had any to give.
That was pretty much the summary of my not-so-perfect-but-quite-satisfactory-life till the world began to spin wrong.
It began with one weird conversation with the most annoyingly intriguing man I’d ever had the displeasure of meeting – well, at that time. Plus, of all places, it happened while standing in one of those equally annoying and ever overcrowded red buses through a gruesome holdup on a starless Lagos night.
‘You look familiar.’
The first thought I had in response to that line was that if he would pick upon a girl in the middle of a terrible traffic jam, he could at least put in a little bit effort, if only to lighten the mood. I might have even appreciated the effort.
When I didn’t reply, he raised his hands up and said, ‘I promise, that wasn’t a pick-up line. I really do know you from somewhere.’
Who was this guy and why wasn’t anyone seeing that this was the result of not teaching teenagers any modicum of etiquette in secondary school. They grew up to be the worst of the pack not knowing what C stood for in Chivalry. Wait, that’s even if they knew the word to start with. This creature was sitting down comfortably while I was practically slouching from exhaustion as I held on to one of the overhead hangars. Someone chuckled lightly beside me and that was when I realised I had hissed in annoyance. I couldn’t even find it in me to be remorseful.
‘Adekanke!’ He finally said and the eureka glint I found in his eyes as I gave him a proper glance told me he really had been trying hard to place my face. He did know me after all.
Then he stood up while holding down what I now realised was about three sacks situated around his feet. ‘Sorry,’ he said, ‘I was trying to rearrange this before standing up and offering you my seat.’
I took a good look at his face in the dim-lit bus. I couldn’t even recollect his face if I tried, but it was not a new thing. In our circle of influence, especially in the church where my dad was a pastor, many people I’d never even being acquainted with knew my family.
‘Aunty, if you no wan sit down, shey make I help you?’ The jovial request from a lady standing beside me to take the seat the guy had vacated in my stead was the prompt I needed to accept his offer.
READ ALSO: Redeemed (Episode 1)
The sigh of relief that escaped my lips was totally the responsibility of my exhausted subconscious, but the guy’s not-so-subtle chuckle called my attention to it. I replied with an answering chuckle. ‘Thank you. And sorry about earlier.’
He chuckled again. ‘It’s fine, I know how it is. But really, it has been ages. I had to be sure it was really you. Thankfully, it wasn’t so hard, you Adekanke ladies are carbon copies.’ I raised one brow wondering if probably he had the wrong sister. There were three of us Adekanke girls and we all look like a set of triplets minus the different stages of maturity showing on our faces. So, at that point till he guessed the right first name, he could have been talking about me or any of my sisters. If he knew my family from church, however, then he might not have a hard time guessing the right first name.
‘So, Elizabeth, right? I’m Ayo.’ Huh! He did know me, after all.
‘Right,’ I replied, taking his outstretched hand. ‘Nice to meet you, Ayo. I’m sorry, though. I can’t recollect your face.’
He chuckled self-deprecatingly. ‘Don’t beat yourself over that. I have a forgettable face.’
I didn’t think so, but I didn’t voice my opinion. That would sound too much like I was flirting, which I certainly wasn’t doing. But really, he might have had a forgettable face as a teenager, but his face was anything but forgetful that night. Or maybe, it was the conversation that ensued that was unforgettable. Whichever it was, for a long time after that night, I kept wishing that conversation never happened. I wished I wasn’t coincidentally standing beside him. I wished I wasn’t on that bus that night. Little did I know that very little about that encounter that night was up to me or my fanciful wishes. It was not even a coincidence. It was what it was – a divine arrangement.
‘I’m still surprised you recognize me. I spent barely two years in the teens church before I left.’ I commented to break the lull in conversation. If a guy, whose face I could not recollect, remembered my first name and relinquished his seat in a traffic jam like a proper gentleman, the least I could do was make conversation.
‘Oh, there were many reasons you stuck to my head. Naturally, the first was because of your not-so-secret free-thinking profession and the resultant scandal that broke out many years ago. The second was that for ages, you were not only the topic of hot gist among males and females alike in the teens church, but also a rather cogent prayer point in the whole church – that lasted as expected only for a while though. It wasn’t new for a child to go wayward. I think what was different about you was that, you didn’t actually change in the sense of going wayward. Someone said, after you left, that your appearance even passed for a good girl more than the average church girl. I guess what was shocking was that you were so open about your school of thought and stuck by it. But, more than that, the reason you stuck to my thoughts is because I’ve been praying for you.’
I wasn’t looking at him when he spoke and I could tell he wasn’t looking at me either, but I almost had a whiplash as I turned to look at him at that point. Everything he’d said up till that last statement was nothing I didn’t know. Even the last statement was not an unfamiliar one. It was the cursory end to many a conversation with friends and family alike, and though I had no doubt those people mentioned me occasionally in their prayers, I knew it was hardly half as frequent as they made it sound. I couldn’t criticize them for it either and it even made me feel better that people were not overly concerned about my life. However, the way this guy said it, it rang with a note of pure sincerity. Like he was praying specifically for me, not simply all of us church kids turned bad into a category, making us a one-line family altar prayer point. Like he really was praying for me every single day with every fibre of his being. I don’t know how I was able to pick that from one mere statement, but I did. Turned out I was right.
READ ALSO: The Link… (Episode 1)
‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Why are you praying for me? Because, you sound rather specific. Do you just select random backslidden Christians and pray for them?’
‘Honestly, no. I’m rather specific about you.’
I blinked rapidly in surprise. ‘You do realise that’s creepy, right? I mean, why?’ I asked bemused and borderline irritated.
He simply chuckled again and leaned closer as he spoke. ‘Nothing creepy, I promise. Naturally, it didn’t start when I was a teenager. When you left, I was just another teenage boy with hot stuff to discuss with his friends. It didn’t matter that we were not any better. It didn’t matter that ninety-nine percent of us were just waiting to get into the university and bail. What mattered was that another minister’s kid just became fodder for interesting talk.’
‘So, when did you start praying for me and WHY?’ I asked again, growing more impatient with each syllable.
‘It was my third year in the university. No, actually, I started praying for you in my fourth, but it was because of what happened in my third year.’
‘Are you going to answer my actual question today or will you continue stalling with the finer details?’
He chuckled again. Now, it just grated on my nerves. No matter how hard I tried, patience was never my strong suite. ‘Relax, young lady. It’ not like you are getting off this bus anytime soon except you aren’t getting to the last bus stop. We’ve hardly moved a hundred metres since we switched positions. You might as well enjoy the ride.’
I glanced outside and took in the buildings. He was right. We were literally crawling. Pedestrians had better hope than we did at that point. But that wasn’t the reason for my impatience. I was very curious as to his reasons for praying for me but I couldn’t help throwing in a jibe. ‘You know, you don’t exactly qualify to call me young lady, right?’
A smile danced on his features. ‘Says who? Have you forgotten it was quite easy to figure out a person’s age based on when thy joined the teens church? I have it on solid authority that I was there two good years before you toddled in.’
It was my turn to chuckle. ‘What? Toddle in?’ He joined in and we had a good laugh.
‘Okay! Commercial break over!’ I announced after few short minutes of silence. ‘What happened in your third year that made you start praying for me in your fourth?’
He sighed. ‘I had a close call.’
(Episode two drops next week!)
I trust you are as glad and excited as I am to be back on this space. I hope you love what you’ve read thus far in this mini series. Don’t worry, the journey has just begun but it promises to be a fairly short one.
Open your hearts to whatever message the Holy Spirit has for you through this series. It might not be the obvious but there’s something for you here. I pray open, the channels of our spirit’s to receive what the Spirit of God has for us in this series in Jesus name. Amen.
Yours in Christ,