WHEN he thought of marriage, and the truth was that he’d never much thought about it—until now. But when he, in those few moments, thought of marriage he’d always thought he’d have a perfect sense of readiness and a perfect feeling of love towards it and her.
He was right, Jeth thought, watching with all the love his heart could well up as Shiloh stretched her small length across his sofa, crossing her small feet at the ankles. On that day when he’d first heard her singing in church he hadn’t thought himself ready for marriage and he hadn’t thought himself ready for love. But he’d been ready and God, the perfect Creator and the One who best orchestrates all things, had known he was ready and had nudged him in the right direction.
He was in love. He was so in love with her. He loved her more every breaking day. And he hungered even more to spend the rest of his life with her.
“I’m thinking I need a bigger place.” He said.
“Why?” Shiloh angled her neck to cast him a glance. “You live here alone and it’s already more than big enough for one person.”
“It’s just two bedrooms.” Jeth lightly tugged up his shoulders.
“And two bedrooms are not enough for one man?”
“They are not enough if that man is thinking of a wife and of children.”
Shiloh went still for a moment, absorbing the rustle of love and letting it spread through her. “Are you thinking of a wife and of children then?” She finally said, voice soft.
Jeth lifted off his armchair and strolled over to squat beside her. “You are so beautiful, you know that?” He touched her cheek. “Your eyes are the loveliest shade of brown.”
“It is dark brown. The eye colour of most Africans. Nothing unique.”
Her low-pitched voice came out a trifle breathless and so much more seductive. “It is unique to me. I look into the brown depths and all I can see is love and laughter and fun and a strong woman.” He leaned his head down and kissed her once. “I am so in love with you, Shiloh. I didn’t think it was possible to love a woman so much. I didn’t think it was possible to want to give all of your heart to a woman. To want to give her not only my heart but also my mind and my body. I love you.”
“I love you too, Jethro.” Shiloh cupped her palms around his face. “I too am shocked by the depth of love I feel for you. It happened so fast, yet that does not make it any less real. I love you with the heart and mind and body of a woman.”
“My precious lily.” Overwhelmed, Jeth kissed her and then drew her into his arms and held her against him. “I am so blessed to have found you. You are God’s gift to me.”
“Oh Jeth, you’re such an amazing man.” Shiloh held on to him, letting the sizzles of desire blend with the sweet feeling of love. “You’re so generous of heart and so free of spirit. You have shared all that you are with me and it amazes me beyond words.”
“Who I am and what I am, all of that I want now to belong to you.” Jeth pushed back and kissed her forehead. “I want us to be one with nothing between us.”
“Tell me, what is that one thing that you cannot stand in anyone you love?”
“One thing I cannot stand in anyone I love?” Jeth repeated the question. Gosh, the way he desired her shocked him. If he wasted too much time they’d surely fall into temptation. “Um, I think deception. I’d hate to think anyone I love is lying to me.”
Shiloh’s heart summersaulted against her ribs. “It’s something you can’t forgive?”
“Can’t forgive? Uh, no. I’d hate to think that there is something I can’t forgive.” Jeth gave his shoulders a tug up. “God expects us to forgive like he did and does every time we err, so I hope I can do that. For his sake, at the very least. It probably will be tough since we are talking someone I truly love and that person making the choice to deceive me… but I’d like to think I’d manage to forgive at the end. But all that is pensive talk not for this moment.” Jeth chuckled, planting another kiss on her forehead.
“Maybe it’s just the right talk for this moment. Maybe this is the time for it more than at any other time.”
“Hmm?” Jeth swept back and studied her expression. The serious face and faint frown puzzled him. “Anything on your mind, Shiloh?”
“Actually there is.” It was time. No more procrastinations. “I’ve been battling whether this is something I should share with you or not. But you’ve shared all of you with me and I think it’s only fair I do the same.”
“What is it, Shiloh?”
His eyes were worried. What will they be when she was done? “You’ve never asked me about my past—relationship-wise.”
“Your past does not matter to me, Shiloh.” Jeth caressed her cheek. “Today, I love you and you love me. That is all that matters—today and tomorrow. Not yesterday.”
“I believe so too.” And she prayed he continued to believe it when she was done. “It was my past and not who I am today or who I will ever be again. I know that but I’d like to share that past with you. So you too will know.” She pushed back from his touch and into the sofa. “I would like you to sit down, please, and to listen without interruptions.”
“Okay.” Jeth sensed the tug of disquiet and didn’t like that it reared up. “I just want you to know that I love you, Shiloh. And I will love you no matter what.”
Shiloh nodded. Then she inhaled, clasped her palms together on her laps and started to speak. “I lost my father twelve years ago. You already know that. I was only sixteen and I’d just finished writing my SSCE. I don’t know what I’d have done, how I would have made it if it had happened before I’d completed my exams.
It was a car accident. A terrible one. He was battered. Everything that could break in his body was broken and battered. I’ve never seen a human body so mangled up to the point there was no part that wasn’t strapped in bandages. I never again want to see anyone like that. I never again want to see something so shattered and horribly pieced together.” His hand slipped over hers but Shiloh broke the hold.
“He was in a coma. He was in a coma but he wasn’t dead. That was my only hope. He wasn’t dead. You see, he and I were so close. We were a unit. We were all close as a family but I was particularly close to him. He was my hero, my superstar, my best friend, my confidant. There was nothing I couldn’t and didn’t share with him. I loved him so much and he loved me same way. We had a bond and everyone knew it.
Seeing him that way broke me. My mum hadn’t wanted me to see him at all. But she couldn’t prevent it. I was somewhat headstrong those days and I’d made promises that I could take seeing him and not breakdown. I kept that promise—but only because I filled every fibre of my being with hope.
He wasn’t dead. He might not be awake yet but he was still alive. I held on to that and I went to God with that. I prayed like I’d never done in all of my sixteen years. The family prayed, Pastors and church members prayed with us, but I prayed alone with my God in a way that even I knew I’d lifted my spirit up to him like never before.
I made promises. A million of them. Over and over and over again. And they weren’t just words or cajoling. I meant every one of them. I would serve God with all that I am for the rest of my life if he would just send him back to me. I would live a sinless life as much I could if he’d just spare him. I would dedicate myself and my life to his service. Whatever he wanted, I would willingly give—only don’t take my father from me.
I didn’t just make promises. I gave all I had too. Every penny I’d saved up until then, I gathered and made a seed offering in church. I gave everything, even gave up some clothes and shoes I loved to the orphanage home if only he’d hear me.
Then on the ninth day of his coma, I was alone with him in the private ward where he was. Mum had excused herself to go use the rest-room. I started praying again and I slipped my hand through his right hand. Then I called him: ‘daddy’. Just that one call and next, I felt the flex. His fingers flexed over mine. Not strongly but I felt it.
I was shocked. Then I was ecstatic, overcome, wild with joy. He was coming awake at last. I ran from the ward to get the doctor… or a nurse. Anyone. But… But when they came in and they checked him—he was dead. Just like that, after that flex, he was dead. Nine days in coma, nine days of prayers and promises, and he was dead.
I stumbled back. Out of the ward. Out of the hospital and I walked all the way back home. It was a long walk. But I didn’t notice and I didn’t care. And I didn’t cry. I didn’t cry, not until I got home, swept past my aunt and my brother and went into my bedroom.
That was when I started to cry, when I was alone and I had locked the door of my bedroom in the face of my worried aunt. I cried and cried and cried. I don’t know how long I cried but it was for hours. And then, I stopped cry and I started hating.
My first point of hate was God. Fury, black and vicious, filled my heart and my soul and every part of me. I was furious with him and I hated him. He had done this to me. I’d prayed and begged and made promises… I’d given him my money, given him all that I had to give, and still he had done this. He had taken my father. He had killed him.
I said everything and anything I could think of that was vile and hateful to God. I told him that that was why atheists wouldn’t believe in him—because he never did anything and allowed bad things to happen to good people. I swore and cussed and I poured out unspeakable words at him.
Then I turned on my father. He too was guilty. Why had he abandoned me? Why did he let himself die? Why couldn’t he fight to live? Why give up and go away?
I cried and cussed and cussed and cried. My bedroom door was broken in by my cousins and my mum came in to hold me and console me. But I wouldn’t let her. I couldn’t bear for anyone to touch me then. I felt hate for everyone—for the entire world and its creator.
He was buried two weeks plus later. The Pastor, the church members who visited, they kept talking about how it was the will of God that this should be. How no one can question God. How it was God who gave live and took live. How he had the final say. I hated hearing them. But even more, I hated that mum bought into them. She’d started to say such things to me and my brother. He was only twelve and he’d always been closer to my mum, so I guess he found solace in her words.
But I hated to hear such faith-filled platitudes and because she said them and even worse, believed that God had a right to take my father from us, I started to hate her too. So, I became rebellious. I did anything and everything that would offend and hurt her. I wouldn’t do my chores. I went out and came in when I pleased. I wouldn’t read for my UME. She talked, I talked back and on one of such days I yelled at her that I wished she was the one who had died.
She slapped me. I was startled but I knew I deserved the hit. Somewhere deep in my heart, I knew I deserved that hit and that I had hurt her deeply but I wouldn’t allow myself to care. Instead I withdrew more from her and my brother and I became even more rebellious. I started coming up with varied excuses not to go to church and when she put her foot down and forced me to go, I made sure to be a nuisance at service that Sunday.
When she forced me to see our Pastor, I clammed up and stared blankly at him for hours on end and on repeated visits. No one could help. And simply because I refused to let them in. I failed my UME and blamed it on God and hated him even more for it. All good friends were shooed out of my life and I surrounded myself with rebels such like I’d become.
Then I turned seventeen and decided it was time I had a boyfriend. Not because I wanted a boy in my life or because I felt any form of affection towards any boy. It was just one more thing to hurt my mum with, to flash in God’s face and tell him: ‘see you took him and now, I’m going to break your commandment.’ It was also rebellion against my father who’d chosen to leave me because we’d talked relationships in the past and I’d promised him I’d wait until I was ready—body, mind and spirit.
I wasn’t ready but this was payback. So, I found me a boyfriend and when he demanded sex, I gave in. I didn’t give in because I believed his effusive confessions of love—I knew that he lied. But I didn’t care. I took off my clothes on my own and asked him to do as he pleased. He did. And I hated it. I hated that first sex and I hated that boy and I hated myself. Then I started all over again hating God, my father, my mum and the entire universe.
Somehow, maybe a mother’s instinct, mum knew as soon as I came home that day. I saw the pain in her eyes. I wanted to see condemnation and rejection but I only saw pain and compassion. It infuriated me for God knows what reason and I callously told her not to worry that we used a condom. That day she told me: ‘I cannot help you unless you let me, Shiloh’. I smirked in her face and announced that I didn’t need her help.
I failed another UME, got unbearable worse at home and completely stopped attending church services. Then the year after, I managed to pull through my UME and got into the University of Lagos. I wanted to leave home badly enough to make myself read for it, so that worked in my favour.
Freedom at last meant getting in the clique of the ‘trending girls’ on Campus. I mixed with the worst kind and I did whatever they did—sex, booze and even cigarettes. I drew the line on weed only because I hated the over-heightened euphoria it buried me in. But everything else was acceptable and I did them all without a shadow of regret.
I came home one evening and my mum smelt the cigarettes on me. She asked me if I’ve degenerated into smoking too. I stared defiantly into her eyes and told her yes and then asked her what she was going to do about it. She stared at me for a moment, then she came close, took my frigid hands in her own and started to pray. It was a short pray. And it only said that she was handing me over to God now. She couldn’t save me but he must save me.
I sniggered when she finished and told her God was likely to answer her prayer if she’d asked him to kill me instead of save me. She said nothing. But after that day, she prayed for me every time I was in the house and I guess she prayed even more when I wasn’t there. I hated her prayers and to deaden even more my conscience, I delved deeper into my wild lifestyle and did everything that was forbidden by everyone and permitted by me. My grades were poor but I didn’t care. They instead gave me immense pleasure when mum’s eyes filmed and I saw pain in them.
She prayed but we were like two enemies from opposite warring camps. Sometimes, she couldn’t hold back and yelled and threatened. But I’d just yell back and dare her with even worse behaviours. It was a war and a bitter one which only my sadism enjoyed.
Then I became pregnant. The discovery shook me to my core. I was a big girl. I knew how to protect myself. I never allowed anyone have sex with me without a condom. But there it was, I was twenty-three and in my third year—no thanks to incessant ASUU strikes—and I was pregnant.
Of course, my big-girls-friends knew the solution. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want a baby but I knew it was life—a baby’s life—inside of me and I didn’t want to kill it. But I did. I went along with a friend and I had it flushed. Then I wouldn’t get over it. It haunted me. I thought of it—my baby whom I have just killed. Unable to bear it and no one to understand me, I went home.
I walked in, saw my mum in our living room and just fell on my knees before her and started crying. She didn’t question me. She just ran to me, fell on her knees too and grabbed hold of me. She held me, rocked me and cried with me. We cried together for God knows how long and then I told her everything. Not only about the abortion but about everything I’d done with and to myself since my grief started. And then, I talked to her about the grief. About the pain. About my anger against God and against my father and against her.
I talked and talked and talked and talked. And she listened. When I was done and spent, she hugged me again and simply told me: ‘I love you, Shiloh, and I am here for you’. And so, we started the healing process from there together. It took time and a lot of counselling but she stood with me, went through all the processes with me and prayed with me.
But in those years from when I lost my virginity at seventeen to when I became pregnant at twenty-three, I’d been with thirteen men and one of them a married man who was desperate for my body and paid me two hundred and fifty thousand naira for it.”
Shiloh made herself look at him. “That is my past. That is the place I am coming from.”
Jeth stared at her.
Then he moved, shifted across the sofa, reached for her and pulled her into his arms. “I am so sorry. I am so, so sorry that you had to go through all of that. You’re okay now. You’re okay now.” He rubbed his hands down her back and kept repeating the words.
Dedication: For all March celebrants. Love… Life and Happiness
Burdens, we all have them. They come in different sizes and they weigh even heavier as time sweeps by. I have mine, you have yours, everyone has theirs. And everyone has a special way how they carry theirs. It is tough but we are still here. I will be away for some days. Not sure if I will be back before Wednesday. My people say: you don’t watch the dance of the masquerade from one spot. I have scheduled a Soul Train post for Sunday and a All About Gist post for Tuesday, let’s all be a part of these posts. We’ll talk when I get back. Have a great weekend.