HE SAID NO
Written by Sodamade Olamide Tolulope.
Amifel was so thankful that her mum was away. Even though she didn’t know where she went to, she cared less as she just wanted to be left alone. She used her spare house keys to gain access into their house, Mrs. Robert was definitely close-by as the television set was on. Just as she made her way into her room, there was a power outage that plunged her room into stark darkness and that was just perfect for her. She crashed into be-d, after removing her shoes, she had dumped everything else she c@m£ back with on the sofa.
She heaved a weary sigh as she had just come to realize that she had been running in circles and she felt so exhausted,
“Father, I am tired.” She sobbe-d, “I am so tired,” the room was as quiet as a graveyard, no sound could be heard outside either, she wept for a fairly long time. She felt like someone who had been running a marathon race and had become frustrated because the finishing line was not anywhere in sight,
“Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” she heard that familiar voice in her heart, it has been so long since she last heard it. Ever since he told her to let go of George and she had refused, she had judged herself as a disobe-dient child and felt too condemned to pray. It even seemed like she could no longer hear his voice,
“Yes, I nee-d rest, my soul nee-ds rest,” she cried, “I am sorry, father. plea-se don’t be angry with me, I have been such a coward and I have been living in disobe-dience. I was too ashamed to pray, ”
“But I am not angry with you daughter, I have been waiting patiently for you, ” she stifled a sob as she felt God’s love and forgiveness wash over her, then a pas-sage of the scripture dropped on her heart and she stretched towards her drawer and picked up her bible while using one hand to wipe the tears off her face.
For some weeks, she only got to use it whenever she went to church, she just felt like it would be hypocritical of her to look for new instructions when she had not paid heed to God’s last order.
She opened to the book of Hebrews chapter 4 and she started re-ading it with teary eyes, she paused when she got to verses 15 and 16, it struck with the high intensity. She looked over the verses again and her eyes lit up with hope, then she re-ad it aloud amidst sobs,
“For we have not a high priest which cannot be t©uçhed with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tem-pted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us, therefore, come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of nee-d,”
She had re-ad that verse countless times before then and it had not as much as struck a chord in her. She was meditating on that verse when she heard her mum’s voice, she was back. quic-kly she stood still, lying face down on her be-d so that her mum would as-sume that she was slee-ping.
ba-rely 5 minutes later, her mum c@m£ to check up on her, she must have smelt her perfume and seen her purse on the sofa. She left almost immediately she entered, seeing that she had ‘sle-pt’.
Amifel stayed still in that position, she had st©pped crying and was just meditating on what she had re-ad.
“I love George, I think he loves me too, moreover I am getting older every day and if I forget, my mum is always there to remind me. This is one of the ha-rd est situations I have found myself in. I’m hurt father, telling him would hurt too and I don’t want him to be, ” she prayed in a low tone,
“I know how you feel Amifel, and I totally un-derstand. Trust me, I do. I also want you to un-derstand that I care about you and I want the best for you. You have to realize that your emotions are not reliable, they are temporal and you should not let them take the lead.” The room was as silent as a graveyard but she could clearly hear his voice, ” Amifel, do it know why you are finding this difficult?” He asked,
“It is because you feel you can over-ride your emotions by your will power, and you have proven that by refusing to talk to me. Amifel, it is not bad to admit your weakness before me, in fact, that is the most courageous thing you can do, Allow me to help you, ” he said,
“Start by admitting that you nee-d help, believe that my arm of help is always stretched towards you, and then finally receive my help, ”
“Okay Father, I am sorry for trying to figure it out on my own. I felt that it was not a big deal, I mean it does not sound ha-rd to tell George that ‘we cannot get married’, but I have realized that it is much more than a big deal, and I have come now, father. I admit that I have put myself in a mess, I believe that you are always willing to help me out and I receive your well-timed help in this time of nee-d, ” she prayed,
“That’s my dear daughter, I am always here to help you. My Grace is sufficient for you and my strength is made perfect in your weakness. I’ll have it sorted out,” he continued,
“Thank you, father, thank you,” she sobbe-d,
“Always remember that you can approach me freely in the name of Jesus, to receive well-timed help and mercy for your weakness, I will always be here for you Amifel, I love you, dear daughter,” he continued, she had heard that same phrase from quite a lot of people, Bolaji told her that he would always be there for her, but he left all the same. George had also told her that countless times but hearing it from her father sounded different every time, it sounded genuine.
“Thank you, Father, thank you for not giving up on me,” she kept muttering and chanting songs of Thanksgiving, power was resto-red and the rolling standing fan made her drift off into the night fas-ter.
Amifel’s tattered and dirty clothing was soa-ked in sweat, as she sat down on her bu-ttocks inside a dark cell, there was just enough light (probably powered by a candle), for her to see that she was in a rather hopeless condition. At first, she thought she was the only one in the cell until someone coughed beside her. She looked closely, it was George,
“When are we going to get out of here? We have been here for so long and I am tired, I nee-d to be free!” She said to him, she must have been talking to the wind because George paid no heed not gave any response to her words.
Amifel gave up and sat there not too far from him, wondering if she was going to spend the rest of her life in the dark closet, it seemed not to be so,
“Amifel!” A young man in uniform called, clinging to the iron barricades of the cell. Amifel stood up quic-kly, wondering what the matter was,
“You have been granted bail, we picked the wrong person.” He said as he fiddled with the locks of the cell in a bid to open it.
As Amifel walked out of the cell, led by the uniformed man, she saw two other different uniformed men, dragging another lady into the cell, she had a long hair which covered her face but her stature and physique looked familiar.
She tried to squint her eyes to see who it was but the darkness wouldn’t grant her the permission, the young lady was taken, to the cell that she was just re-leased from, and in a twi-nkle of an eye, she found herself outside, the rays of the sun shone graciously on her,
“I’m free! I’m free, ” she chanted, and then she woke up. It was a dream!
It was around 10:30 am on a Monday morning, and the weather was just starting to heat up, Mrs. Akinwale Grace wo-bbled into city bank, she walked down the banking hall, dragging her feet as she did. She was putting on a long flair Ankara go-wn with black and white prints on flat black sandals, her dressing was p@rticularly awkward for a Monday morning.
She looked disorganized and bloated with her loosely packed undone hair and her protruding tummy in full glare. Her ATM card had expired and she was there for a new one.
Looking at the long queue of customers also waiting to be attended to made her feel dizzy, she asked the last person she saw on the queue,
“plea-se uncle, are you the last person on the queue,”
“No, there are two ladies behind me,” she sighed as she clung ti-ghtly to her funny-looking black bag, which had started losing shape due to excessive use, it seemed like she was going to be there for a really long time.
“Okay, uncle. I am behind them,” she said, before settling on one of the seats provided in the bank for customers,
Grace, Amifel’s friend who was coming back from the staff toilet, saw Mrs. Akinwale Grace sitting with her face cu-mpped in her hand. Although there were many other customers seated all around the banking hall, she caught her attention because she took notice of her big baby bu-mp and she sort of looked pale.
“Excuse me, ma’am,” Grace beckoned as she bent slightly beside her, “Hope you are fine?” she asked, Mrs. Grace, looked up on impulse to find a beautiful young lady dressed in an onion-colored corporate go-wn in front of her, she would have mistaken her for a customer like herself, save the identity card hung around her n£¢k.
“Yes sister, I am fine, I am just a bit stressed out,” she said, hoping to get some sympathy,
“May I know what you are here for?”
“I c@m£ to request for a new ATM card, my old one has expired for almost a month now,”
“Okay, just wait here while I try to get some help,” Grace offered, she had walked a few meters before she c@m£ back again,
“plea-se may I have your form?”
“Oh, form? “she asked, looking puzzled,
“Yes ma, you are expected to fill a request form,”
“I totally forgot,”
“Not to worry, I’ll be back shortly,” Grace said before she walked briskly to the front row, where another staff was attending to customers who were there for new ATM cards as well. She c@m£ back some minutes later with a form which she waited for her to fill before taking it back to the staff in charge, all the while Mrs. Akinwale Grace was seated,
“It would be re-ady shortly ma, “Grace said to her,
“My sister, thank you so much. I am very grateful.” Mrs. Akinwale said with gratitude, as she adjusted on her seat,
Grace who had no customer to attend to initially alre-ady had a couple of them waiting to air out their complaints. She apologized before taking the time to attend to them. Some minutes later, Mrs. Akinwale Grace was given her new ATM card and as she stood up to leave, she scanned throu-gh the hall and sighted Grace where she was seated, she had a few people to attend to but she still decided to wait, she was there for almost an hour after she was attended to, and just when Grace was done attending to the last customer, Mrs. Grace approached her,
“Sister, thank you so much for the other time. I am really grateful,” she said as she approached Grace,
“Madam, you are still around? Don’t tell me that you are yet to be attended to?” Grace asked, alarmed.
“I alre-ady got my card, I noticed that you were busy and I wanted to say thank you before leaving. plea-se have this for lunch,” She said as she folded a number of crispy 1000 naira notes into her hands, Grace who was dumbfounded stood up at that instant,
“No, madam. Don’t worry, it was nothing,” she declined,
“I insist, plea-se.” She pleaded, Grace collected the money while thanking her profusely,
“What’s the name plea-se?” Mrs. Grace asked,
“My name is Grace Eribo ma,” she answered,
“No wonder, my name is Grace too, Mrs. Grace Akinwale,” she said, as her face curved into a smile.
“Wow, really. That’s amazing, no wonder I was drawn to you,” Grace smiled, as a new customer walked down to her table.
“Thank you for showering me with grace,” she continued, flashing her beautiful set of white teeth.
“It was nothing ma, thank you once again,” Grace said, beyond the stress lines drawn on her face and her rou-gh dressing, Grace couldn’t help but notice that she was beautiful, or used to be.
“plea-se don’t mention, I guess we’ll talk some other time, Miss Grace,” she said while she hung her bag more comfortably on her shoulder,
“That would be fine ma, plea-se let me have your contact,” Grace said, reaching for her phone which was in her drawer, as Mrs. Grace called out her number, she added, “Maybe I’ll visit you, one…”
“No! “she cut in bluntly, as her countenance changed almost instantly, “my husband might not like it,” she continued,
“Oh… okay ma, I totally un-derstand, ” she said, obviously she did not un-derstand a thing. “I’ll see you some other time, ” Grace quic-kly said, saving the day.
As Mrs. Grace Akinwale bade her farewell, she settled back on her seat and dropped the folded money into her drawer before she attended to the next customer. When she was done, she opened her drawer to count the money,
“10,000 naira for lunch!” she said aloud, Mrs. Grace didn’t look like someone who could conveniently afford to give out 1000 naira, talk more of 10,000 naira.
“What happened?” Ngozi, her colleague in the customer care dep@rtment asked her, she was seated close to Grace.
“Nothing, Ngozi. Don’t mind me,” she answered,
“She must be really comfortable,” she said to herself before keeping the money in the small pocket behind her bag, she was thankful for the free money she just got, but she could not help but wonder why she was so poorly dressed and in p@rticular, “Why did she talk about her husband with so much dre-ad?”
She hoped to find out…
To be continued…