Welcome to the final episode of Dance With the Masquerades. If this story was worth your time, please share with others. Lessons from this story will be highlighted on twitter tomorrow evening at 9pm with hashtag #tpc. Please keep it a date. Enjoy.
The flight from Nigeria was smooth, but Frankfurt was a little cold for April, and Michael wondered if he felt cold because of the guilt in his heart, or springtime was a little delayed. He seemed to notice many happy and smiling couples inside the airport, and he wondered if he will ever make a happy marriage with Ifeoma. He prayed she will find a place to forgive him; wondering what her reaction will be when he eventually told her about Tope. He sat at the departure lobby, and waited patiently for his flight of destiny. In less than two hours, he will be knocking at Ifeoma’s door in London. He made a decision to call his cousin in Manchester once he arrived in London. If Ifeoma kicked him out of her flat, he would take the next train to Manchester. He hoped sincerely that the likelihood of such an occurrence would be zero.
It was a few minutes past 2am on Tuesday morning. Tope woke up in the middle of the night, and realized Jennifer, her colleague and friend since the incident at the office was not beside her on the bed. She had been sleeping in Jennifer’s house since Friday. Going home was harrowing; she was not even used to sleeping alone anymore. She had a little relief when she tested negative for pregnancy. She considered resigning from Skyscape Architects as a result of the likely trauma of working with Michael. Jennifer had been speaking with her about a new life, which was more important than the decision to resign her appointment. For her, she had come to her wits end, and she had struggled with suicidal thoughts. Waking up at this time of the night was to make a decision, and her first option would be carried out easily since Jennifer was not in the room; she knew she was praying in the sitting room.
“If I kill myself, then I’ll be free of all this misery’”, she said aloud.
“No you won’t”. Jennifer responded from the open gap through the door.
“You would have missed the chance to be an inspiration to this generation”
“Jenny, please let me be. I cannot continue living like this. As young as I am, I have lost count of the number of men that have been between these laps. I feel wasted.”She wiped her tears.
“Everyday I wonder if I was made to be used like a mop and dumped on the streets. Life has just been unfair to me”.
Jennifer had watched Tope for some days, and she had always suspected she will be a homicide suspect if Tope killed herself in her house. Tope was a victim of sexual abuse; her step father bedeviled her for four years as a teenager until she left for the university. She still lives with the guilt of sleeping with a man her mother loved, and was always in search of a man who would deliver her. Jennifer knew by herself that torture to the soul was more than enough reason for one to take one’s life, but she had heard stories of people who had gone through worse things, and still became voices of hope in their lifetime.
“I took your drugs from where you kept them.”
“Here they are, have them.”She brought out a pill bottle of morphine and handed it to Tope.
“I have already spoken to you about Jesus. I have spoken to you about the woman with the alabaster box. After a wasted life, she had only one thing to give to Jesus; an alabaster box filled with expensive oil which she bought from income earned as a prostitute”
“You can swallow the pills in your hands, or you can kneel before God, and give him what is left of your life.”
Tope held the drugs in her hands and wept bitterly, as she listened to the current song on the Don Moen album Jennifer was playing.
“I have two hands, one heart
One life to offer you
Two hands, One life
That’s what I give to you.
Use me today. I know you can
Lord I surrender to your will…”
Lost in the melody and lyrics of the song, she knelt down crying bitterly.
“If my life is still worthy, then I give it to you Jesus”
Jennifer didn’t wait to hear the next set of words when she burst out praying. The moment was rapturous, and she knew a miracle of life had taken place. She knelt with Tope and they prayed together.
Michael swiped his Guaranty Trust Bank naira master card and the receipt for his taxi fare from Heathrow rolled out of the POS. The cab driver was a Nigerian, and he looked at the receipt twice before handing it over. Yes! It was a Nigerian card working perfectly in London. Michael stood in front of the terrace flats trying to trace Ifeoma’s window. Baker Street was littered with bottles from night time revels of the rich students that lived in the neighborhood. He crossed the road and headed to the main door wondering how he would get into the building without informing his fiancée. Luckily, a lady and a guy walked out of the building holding hands. He barged through the door almost as soon as the lady was going to shut it, and ran up the flight of stairs to the topmost floor without looking back. Studio Flat 23 was his destination.
Ifeoma had woken up since 3am as was her custom in the last couple of days to wake up early, and pray a little for her relationship with Michael. She still loved Michael, and she constantly reminded herself of the dreams they had to change lives together. She remembered how they had both planned to set up a programme called Inspire Africa to give hope and relief to the children of war torn nations in Africa. Her relationship with Michael was not just about love, it was about a purpose, and a passion for living and for life. She cried while she prayed, because she did not know what had happened to Michael, and she asked God over and over again why he instructed her not to travel to Nigeria. Her Pastor told her after service one Sunday to stay where God had asked her to stay, and a miracle will show up.
The unusual knock on her door sent chills through her spine. She froze on her knees, wondering who could be at her door on a cold April morning. She walked stealthily to the door, and looked through the keyhole. A scent wafted through the hole and it was a very familiar scent. She rummaged through her repertoire of colognes and it wasn’t long before she concluded it was the woody and semi fruity scent of Kenneth Cole Reaction. She looked through the keyhole again and unlatched the door instinctively. She stood speechless in front of the door trying to wake up from what seemed like a dream.
“It’s me Ifeoma”, Michael opened his arms.
She threw the door ajar and jumped into his arms. She hugged him tightly not just because she had missed him, but his presence had become a testimony to her that God answers prayers. He was not here by accident but by design. He was guided here by a force God generated from her tears and her knees.
Michael quickly grabbed the opportunity of the hug to enter the flat and shut the door with his left leg while his right leg supported Ifeoma’s weight. He heaved a sigh of relief in his head; the first moment of anxiety was now behind him.
Ifeoma touched his head, and ran her fingers down the contours of his face.
“Is this my Michael?” She asked him.
He dropped her on the floor and dropped his bag staring at her.
“Ifeoma darling, I am sorry”
“Sorry? Michael, don’t come here telling me no sorries. I am not welcoming you here. You have only thirty minutes to state your mission in this house, today is a busy day for me”
She realized how badly she had missed him, but her façade was important. A little discomfort and stress should get him confessing and talking. She will not be swept away by his characteristic charm but at the same time she was grateful to God for answering her prayers.
Six hours after Michael arrived at Ifeoma’s place, his mouth was dry and his stomach walls were collapsing from physical hunger, and emotional exhaustion. He had blurted every detail of the last three months to his fiancée. She screamed and wept in between, and he knelt down pleading for forgiveness. He was not sure what her response will be but he decided to make a final statement.
“Ifeoma, as a man I am prone to many errors. I have decided and asked God to help me live my life through Him; so as frail as I may be in my weaknesses I will find strength in him to live right every day. At this point, if I had to lose you to find my strength in God it seems to me a reasonable sacrifice. My love for you will forever serve as a reminder that there was once a Micheal that was stupid.”
He did not know where the words came from, but he realized they were too deep for a carnal mind. Ifeoma looked at him for some seconds, while processing the words he spoke. She remembered her Pastor’s words ‘A real man acknowledges his weaknesses, but remembers to hide them in Christ; in whom he has victory’. She was willing to give him a chance.
“I prayed for you to come back. I cried to God to help me understand what was happening with you. Here you are; a testimony that God cares about everything that concerns me, even my relationship. I still love you Michael and I still want to spend my life with you. I just have one question to ask you. When judgment day comes, and God asks me what I did with my life, will I be able to say I spent it changing lives with you?”
Michael a sighed. This was more than a question. She was asking him if he will be committed to a lifetime vision of affecting people’s lives for the better. This was beyond saying “I do” at the altar; it was about a purpose for coming together, a purpose for living. He had always wanted to serve God and this was a time to affirm his decisions again.
‘Yes, you will say confidently and the life we would have lived will attest.”
Michael spent the rest of the week in London visiting friends and family, introducing Ifeoma as his fiancée. He travelled back to Nigeria amidst high expectations for their introduction ceremony planned for July.
In December of the same year Michael and Ifeoma were married in a Holy Solemnization at Kingsway Church International, London.