Promise turned on her side and drew the satin covers up to her shoulders. Her eyes remained shut but her mind was wide opened. She turned again and placed a pillow over her head.
“Sleep where are you? Consume me with your sweet darkness. Wrap me in your intoxicating arms and lure me into Slumberland,” she whispered to herself.
Nothing happened. A low groan escaped from her dry lips. She really needed to sleep. If her strength failed her the next day at work, many heads would roll and one of them would be hers. She lifted her small frame, the covers fell off and laid in layers. In one single jot, she got out of bed and her feet found themselves in the comfort of a pair of slippers kept at the side of the bed. The blue lamp at the bedside illuminated the room. She stretched and let out a loud yawn.
“I am so tired, but I can’t sleep!” Her voice echoed through the walls.
She walked briskly to the door and opened it. She hoped she didn’t wake parents? Talking out loud in the night wasn’t one of her habits. Her eyes darted left then right, everywhere seemed still and quiet. She closed the door and sighed.
“What has gotten into you girl?” She berated herself.
She ran a hand through her braids and strode over to the window. She pulled apart the curtain and opened the window. Fresh moist cool breeze enveloped her, she closed her eyes and took in a deep breath.
She exhaled slowly, “I wish everything was as fresh as the wind, soothing me into relaxation,” she sighed again, her mind felt like a plate of noodles. Everything was interlocked and the culprit was Keshinro!
He had made good on his promise and had remained in Lagos to pester her, despite her refusal to pick his calls or reply his messages.
“God!” She pounded a fist on the wall, “Do something God, anything.”
She turned away and returned to the warmth of her bed. She needed rest. It was almost dawn, if only she could get an hour of sleep, she might be able to stand the chaos at daybreak. She slipped into the satin covers once again and closed her eyes.
“Are you okay?” the masculine voice came from right behind her.
She turned and noticed Boma a few feet away from her. Her creamy brown skinned friend was clad in a cream suit with marching brown tie. Why would anyone come to work in a cream suit especially on a day like this? Promise kept the thought to herself and smiled instead.
“I am good, just a little bit tired.”
He had noticed her disturbed state of mind for over a week. He doesn’t understand why she had refused to open up to him. He would continue to pray for her, that was the only thing he could do.
Every three months, the management of the company held a general meeting. Over the years, the meeting became an opportunity for people to lash out at one another rather than solve or resolve pending issues. At the time she was employed, the general meeting had turned into a battle ground. Staff members who couldn’t defend themselves were used as weapons of warfare. If anyone had told her that these were the things she would experience while working at TL Communications, she would never have accepted their appointment letter.
“What are you thinking about?”
She returned his stare, “Nothing, Mr. Nosy Parker.”
“I am just concerned about you. You have been sort of distracted these past few days.”
He was right, she had not been herself lately. Her concentration at work was suffering and her jovial self had diminished to a zombie-like state that was very unlike her.
“You worry too much. I am fine,” she punched him on the shoulder.
She stuck out her tongue at him and halted outside the conference room.
“Ready for war?”
She took in a deep breath and nodded. He opened the door and they both walked in.
Three hours later, all the staff members of TL Communications streamed out of the conference room. Promise squeezed her way out and headed straight for her office. The phone in her hand kept ringing, but the rhythm was lost to the noise in the hall. She met Boma and her colleagues discussing the outcome of the meeting in the office. She was in no mood to joina them and remained at her desk, staring at her phone. She could discern who the caller was.
She tapped her short finger nails on the thick desk. What should she do? She had to put an end to it. But how? It had stolen her sleep, rendered her peace of mind irreparable, slowly it was creeping into her work-life. She ran a hand through her braids and gave a shake of head.
“Are you okay?” He approached her.
She looked up to meet Boma’s questioning gaze, “I am fine. You have asked me before, please stop asking,” she cut the call and opened one of her drawers.
“I will stop asking when I am satisfied with your answer,” he sat at the edge of her table.
She closed the drawer, “Back off Boma, I am fine,” she picked up a pen and a sheet of plain A4 paper, “Boma, stop acting like my shadow.”
“All right, all right. I will leave you alone for now. I am here if you need anyone to talk to,” he walked away.
The phone started ringing again.
‘Oh God! What sort of nonsense is this?’
She dropped the paper and pen on her desk and picked the call. It was high time she took the bull by the horns, but the moment she heard his voice, she knew she had made a very big mistake.
She held her breath, ‘Why did I pick the call? I should have allowed it to ring till he got tired of calling’, these thoughts ran through her mind.
“Promise are you there? Darling, I have been trying to reach you for over a week, I want…”
“And I have been trying to sleep all week long!” Her voice cut across his.
She had the feeling that she was being watched. One glance upwards, eight pairs of eyes stared back at her. Her colleagues must have been alerted by the way she reacted to the call. They must be wondering who she was speaking to, especially Boma. He might try to cajole her into spilling the beans afterwards, but she was in no mood to talk things over with anyone, not yet anyway. She turned her chair around and faced the wall.
“Stop calling me Keshinro. You are making this harder than it is already. Please Keshinro, let me go,” her voice softened.
“Promise, you know I can’t let you go. I am drunk in the waters of what we shared.”
She closed her eyes, trying to block the images that assaulted her. What does he think he was doing? Why can’t he accept defeat and return to his family?
“Sweet heart, can we meet today?”
“No…” the whisper came from deep within her.
She had to be strong for both of them. She had to stand firm, “No Keshinro…” Her voice hardened, “I told you it is best that we remain incommunicable. Stop being a nuisance and get hold of yourself.”
She ran her fingers through her braids. It was high time she changed her hairstyle. Her scalp was beginning to itch like hell.
“I can’t do without you, I… I can’t.”
“Keshinro Phillips you have to stop this.”
“I have gone loco already, don’t you understand?! There is no turning back for me; you are all I have got, you are all I need.”
“Stop it! Stop it! Stop it Keshinro!” A tear drop slided down her smooth brown face, “I can’t do this anymore. I… I just can’t,” She cut the call and placed a hand over her mouth in order to block the sound of her sobs.
She staggered to her feet, pushed her chair aside and dashed out of the office. She didn’t stop running until she got to the restroom. She locked herself up in one of the toilets and released the torrent of tears that had gathered.
‘Oh God! Oh God! When will this end? This man is driving me nuts. Get him out of my life Lord. Get him out… ’ she prayed within her.
“Is that girl okay?” Kemisola asked no one in particular.
Adaeze shrugged, “She probably had an argument with whoever called her.”
Oyetunde returned his attention to his system. He wasn’t interested in whatever was wrong with Promise. She could sort herself out. It was none of his business.
Boma felt greatly disturbed. Something was going on. He could feel it in his bones. Whatever it was, it had unsettled Promise. She had become distant over the last few days and her daily to-do at work was unsatisfactory. It was only a matter of time before their boss pounced on her. He hoped it won’t earn her a suspension. He wished she would open up to him. Why did she withdrew from him?
Blessing hurried into her husband’s office without knocking.
“Are you okay darling?”
“Yes, I am, but Promise isn’t.”
“Promise? What’s going on?” His heart did a somersault.
She sat on one of the chairs at his desk.
“She called me a few minutes ago. The married man she had an affair with in Abuja is in town.”
He stood up in anger, “What?! How did he find her?”
“His company was one of the firms TL Communications invited for a business meeting last week. They met by coincidence.”
“How convenient!” He could still remember what his daughter went through when she returned from service.
“He has been disturbing her for a while… ”
“And she is just telling you now?! What rubbish! Nonsense!” He picked up his phone.
“Honey… ” She got up, she knew how upset he was. She had also been very angry when her daughter called her.
“That man needs to be put behind bars. He almost killed my daughter for Christ’s sake. I can’t believe he has the guts to start chasing her again,” he dialed a number on his phone.
“Darling, please remain calm, don’t do anything rash,” she hoped he wasn’t calling his lawyer or the police. She knew her husband, he would deal with anyone who tried to hurt his family.
He eyed her, “Where is Promise?” Her composed state surprised him.
“She is at work, she called from the toilet. She is devastated and she has been crying.”
He met her sad gaze. He cut the call he was making and sat back on his chair. They needed to act fast, but, with wisdom.
“I am going to see her at the office. Pray along with me. I believe we can sort out this issue without involving the authourities. It is a family matter.”
He nodded. She was right. He wished he had paid closer attention to his daughter over the past few days.
“If this man proves stubborn, I won’t hesitate before getting him arrested and suing him for attempted murder.”
“I concur one hundred percent. I will be back soon,” she got up and reached out to squeeze one of her husband’s hands.
“I will pray while you talk to Promise.”
“All right love,” she headed out.
Osagie bowed his head and began to intercede for his daughter.
Blessing called her daughter via phone when she got to TL Communications company’s premises. Promise met her at the reception. She followed her mother to her father’s SUV Jeep which was parked in the visitor’s space, at the car park. They got in and said a word of prayer.
“What exactly do you want?”
“I want Keshinro Phillips out of my life for good. I wish he will repent and go back to his family. I am tired of his persistent harassment. I can’t go on like this mum.”
She held her daughter’s hands, “I understand baby. I do. If he calls you again and refuses to return to Abuja, tell him you will report him to the authourities as a stalker.”
She folded her hands, “But what if he doesn’t give up?”
“Your father will report him to the police and sue him for attempted murder. I am sure that doctor he connived with won’t want to lose his license. Keshinro will have no choice but to leave you alone for good.”
She sighed with relief. Her parents’ plan seemed like it might work. Why didn’t she confide in them sooner?
“Thank you mum.”
“You are welcome my darling.”
She bit at her lower lip, “Mum, I am scared.”
“About what?” She had a feeling it was concerning Boma.
“Boma and I have grown close over the past few months and I am sure that he wants more than friendship.”
She smiled, “Good. So, why are you scared?”
“If I tell him about Keshinro, I don’t know if he will reject me like Gbenga,” tears gathered in her eyes.
She squeezed her daughter’s hand, “It is okay dear. If he rejects you, then he isn’t the one for you.”
Tears slided down her face, “Is this how it is going to be? How long will this continue? How soon will I find the man that will accept my past?”
Blessing cleared her throat. She could feel her daughter’s pains. She wished she could stop it.
“Everything is going to work together for your good. Have a little faith.”
Promise sniffed again and again. She really liked Boma. She had grown fond of him and it would hurt if he couldn’t handle her past.
Boma sat in the comfort of his home that evening watching the television. He had wanted to speak with Promise earlier that day, but, she avoided him.
It had become clear to him over the past few weeks that he had fallen in love with her. It pained him that she was withdrawing from him. Why can’t she just open up to him?
He picked up the television remote and reduced the volume. He bowed his head and began to pray.
The door bell rang. He opened his eyes and raised his head. He wasn’t expecting anyone. Maybe it was his neighbour. What did that guy want now? He got up and headed for the front door.
The bell rang again.
“Hold on,” he unlocked the door and opened it.
He blinked in shock when he saw Promise standing at his doorstep. He couldn’t believe she was standing right there in front of him.
“Can I come in?” She noticed his astonishment.
“Yes, sorry, please come in,” he stepped back.
She walked into the apartment. He noticed that she was still clad in the trouser suit he saw her in that morning. Why hasn’t she gone home yet? He was sure she left the office before he did.
She took a seat and placed her hand bag on the tiled floor.
“Can I get you anything to drink or eat?”
She shook her head. She doubted if she would be able to swallow anything.
“Okay,” he joined her on the three settee.
She swallowed hard and met his intent gaze.
“I know I have been a bit distracted and I am sorry that I didn’t open up to you. What are friends for?”
He remained quiet. He could discern that she had a lot to say.
“There are some things you need to know about me. We have grown very fond of each other and it wouldn’t be wise to… to move on without transparency.”
“I am all ears Promise.”
She closed her eyes and opened them. She clasped her hands together and cleared her throat.
“It all began when I went to serve in Abuja,” she narrated her experience and her affair with Keshinro.
He folded his hands across his chest. Some men had no shame and they called themselves Christians. He wondered how God felt.
“Was this the reason why Gbenga broke up with you?”
Promise nodded, unable to look at him.
“It is not everyone that can handle your past.”
She nodded again.
“I believe you have repented and re-dedicated your life to God.”
“Yes, I have.”
“Promise, look at me, please.”
She lifted her eyes and met his soft ones.
“God forgave you. Who am I to hold your past against you?”
Her lips parted in shock. She had been afraid that he might judge her like Gbenga.
“Your past is past Promise. Focus on your future and live a fulfilled life in Christ Jesus.”
Tears gathered, she could hardly believe her ears.
“Is that all?” He smiled at her. God forgave him when he erred, who was he to judge another man? If God could forgive and forget one’s sins, he believed everyone should be able to do the same.
She shook her head, “Keshinro is here in Lagos and has been pestering me to come back to him. My parents have decided to sue him if he doesn’t stay away from me.”
He frowned. Some men were incorrigible.
“Do you want to go back to him?”
“No, heaven forbid! I can never go back to my vomit.”
“Good. Hold on and stand firm. Your past has no power over you. Focus on Jesus and your problems will cease to look big,” he squeezed one of her hands.
She nodded and smiled. She felt wrapped up in peace. Why didn’t she open up to him sooner?
Her phone began to ring. It was the same number Keshinro had been using to call her.
“Is he the one?”
She nodded and sighed.
“Give me the phone.”
She placed it in his hand, wondering what he would do.
Boma picked the call.
“Hello, Promise love, why are you doing this to us?”
“This isn’t Promise, this is Boma Etuk.”
There was silence at the other end of the line.
“Who are you? I want to speak to Promise.”
“I am Boma Etuk, Promise’s future husband.”
She looked at him in shock. What did he just say? When did Boma become her future husband?
“What? What are you talking about?”
“Please stop calling and disturbing my fiancée. Go home to your wife and children.”
“Future husband? Promise is your fiancée?! How? This is pure nonsense.”
“Don’t dare me Mr. Keshinro. If you fail to desist from your devilish and obsessive acts, I will not hesitate to sue you for attempted murder, kidnapping and all sorts of other crimes you committed while dating Promise.”
“You… You can’t be serious. Promise is mine. Please let me speak to her.”
“Mr. Keshinro, let this be the last time you will ever call her and if you are seen as close as ten feet to her, you will be arrested and jailed.”
“I… I… I can’t believe this. You… You can’t do this.”
“Goodbye Mr. Keshinro,” he cut the call and returned the phone.
“You are welcome,” he got up, “Give me a minute,” he walked out of the sitting room.
Promise sighed with relief. She wished she had opened up to him sooner. She believed that Keshinro would never disturb her again. He must devastated and scared. God had answered her prayers.
Boma returned and sat beside her.
“Do you remember the day you wanted to steal my pot of soup?”
She started to laugh. Why was he bringing that up?
“Yes, I do.”
“Do you remember when I said I wished you could stay here forever?”
She stopped laughing, their gazes locked.
“Yes, I remember.”
He took one of her hands and held it.
“I still do.”
She felt warm all of a sudden.
“I have known you as a colleague and a friend for a while. As far as I am concerned, I know you well enough to be sure that I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
She opened her mouth and closed it. Her heart began to hammer wildly against her chest. What was he saying? Was he out of his mind?
Boma got down from the settee and went down on one knee. His actions made her breathless. She took in a long deep breath and exhaled.
“Promise Daodu, will you marry me?” He held her left hand and slipped a golden ring on her fourth finger.
She stared back at him. Was he crazy? Why would he want to marry her? Was the fact that they had strong feelings for each other enough to tie the knot? Was this what she wanted?
He was a good friend. She had always wanted to marry someone she could call a friend. He had always been there for her, no matter how often she withdrew from him. They were intensely physically attracted to each other and somewhere along the line, she had fallen in love with him, but, she had been too scared to admit it because of the fear that he might not accept her past. What more was she looking for? Wasn’t this an answer to all her prayers?
“Promise, since the day you walked into TL Communications, there had been a strong earth shattering chemistry between us. Aside that, you struck me as the kind of girl I would love to marry. Over the past few months, I fell in love with you.”
Tear drops made her face wet, “I am in love with you too.”
Joy and excitement made his face to glow, “Fantastic! I believe we can grow in love together, forever, a day at a time.”
“I believe so too.”
“Will you marry me? My knee is aching me,” he rolled his eyes.
She began to laugh.
“Yes, I will marry you, Boma Etuk.”
He pulled her down to her knees and crushed her in his arms.
“I love you Promise, you are my dream come true.”
She bit at her lower lip, unable to speak. God was indeed faithful. He had answered her prayers. He forgave her, healed her wounds, mend her heart and brought along her way a gift; someone she could spend the rest of her life with.
Boma swept her off her feet and carried her in his arms.
“Boma!” She squealed in surprise.
“You are mine,” he got to his feet and spinned her round and round.