And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being Acts 17:26-28 NKJV
A ‘Romantic’ Elope
Demi woke up with a very funny idea. It always amazed him how creative he was in the mornings. After a long hard brainstorming last night and some prayers (this he was learning, and so far, it appeared to work), he had a plan. He texted Shade, well he rewrote the text five times to arrive at:
Good morning Beautiful. Arise and shine. Call me when you see this.
She called back two hours later.
“Demi?!….” What kind of game is he trying to play?
“Hey you. Um…can we do lunch?” Was he asking her out on a date?
She agreed, they did lunch that afternoon. Over a steaming bowl of Amala and Gbegiri at Bukha Hut, Demi unraveled his mysterious plan: “…..And that baby is how we get out of this scheme.” He thought it was brilliant, she thought he was crazy.
But when she arrived home that night to see printed Invitation cards and her father signing them at the table, too buried in the activity to even return her greeting, she was irritated.
“Demi, uh….thanks for lunch today, do you think the plan would work?” She said with desperation when she finally settled in to make a call.
“Say what, Girl? The network over here is bad.” Demi replied with a chuckle.
“Do. You. Think. The. Plan. Would. Work?” Shade asked again.
“Ofcourse it would. Oh I heard the first time. Your American accent is gorgeous damn….”
She cut the phone, and put it down smiling. She couldn’t tell if it was the plan or the man that tickled her.
Thursday afternoon, they were in Abuja. A delayed flight due to weather conditions meant that they had to spend three and half hours together before leaving Lagos’ MM II. Now they were a little more than just acquaintances.
Demi now understood Shade wasn’t obnoxious, and Shade understood that Demi was not a Lagos ‘player’ with a lot of money. They had exchanged stories.
The plan went sour the moment they found out that Shade couldn’t just buy a ticket to the US, just like that. Currency issues with the Naira meant the foreign airlines were quite hesitant with selling tickets, thus Shade was on a waiting list. If they approved, she would be given a ticket.
“You are always….always on the laptop.” Shade blurted out on Friday evening. Demi Shrugged. She wasn’t lying. “Let me tell you something Mr would-be CEO, the company would flourish in your absence, the world would move on if you God-forbid died. Take a chill-pill.”
Demi put down his glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. “This is why my father wants me to get married. Would you marry me?” He chuckled.
“Joker!” She smiled. “Hey, let’s take a selfie. If we are supposed to be on a trip shopping for the wedding, we have to make it appear so.” They took selfies: the smiling one, the pouting one, the crazy-faced one. Ten shots later, and three Instagram posts later, it was boring.
“I like this one, Bae and I…the world can wait…Are you always mysterious and introspective?” She asked curious as ever.
Truth was he just wrote something. “Um…I’d rather refer to it as being spontaneous.” his was a cheeky yet smart reply.
The evening wore on beautifully. They went to dinner, and just…talked! And with each conversation, they felt less vulnerable with each other.
“So….how does it feel to be a billionaire’s son?” She asked with a soft laugh.
“You tell me. Your father is a billionaire as well. Billionaires in Naira are just starting. When you convert the net worth to the dollar, it’s not so much anyway.” He shrugged.
“Oh please…..this is not an interview with the Financial Times, can you just be real?!”
“Ok…well there are two sides: you have a lot of fun because you can do almost anything, money is not exactly a problem. It can make you stupid because what others consider a blessing, you see it as a right. Then there’s the other side where you work crazy hard to protect your wealth.”
“….And you play hard as well?” She asked with a wink.
“Maybe in my early twenties. Straight out of college, partied hard, painted the town red. I almost got into trouble a lot. But God’s mercy, that’s what I call it, just helped me cos the moments of pleasure versus the long-term effects….” Is there something she wants to know?
Their dessert arrived just in time.
“So are there any liver problems, STDs or diseases I should know about?” They both laughed.
“Girl, are you like out of your mind? Oh wait you’re a doctor, I forgot that. I’m sorry I can’t provide my medical history….” Another laugh. “….But as far as I know, I had none of those. I consider that to be a miracle in itself.”
The marriage issue was the elephant in the room though and as they ‘washed down’ dinner and desert with a glass of wine. Shade decided to ‘hunt the elephant’:
“I have being dying to ask a question..” Shade started.
“Shoot.” Will the questions ever end? He played cool though.
“This marriage benefits you more than me. You become CEO, you lead a Billion Naira company into the future, and I give you kids. You can play along and have an affair outside, like some side-chick or something like most African men….why aren’t you going along?”
He sighed, and took a long sip from his chapman; The grilled Chicken was to die for!
“First of all, when you say MOST African men cheat, that’s an accusation without empirical evidence…..”
“…..Second I don’t want to do this to you to me, to us…this….arranged thing where we have no commitment, and we are almost being forced….”
“Who says we have no commitment? We’d say vows in front of a pastor or priest in front of God?!….” She protested.
“…more like lying. Because we haven’t made up our minds to…or more like I haven’t made up my mind to. I’m not sure this is how God intended marriage in the beginning.” Demi made his case with the most serious look she had ever seen of him.
There was a silence brief but meaningful and her next words came right out of her heart. “You are a godly man. Are you religious?”
He gave her a look that made her clarify her question: “Mercy….miracles…..now…marriage and God’s intention?!”
“Well I am a Christian…..” He replied afraid that all his street-cred was about to be burned yet at peace with his confession.
“Jesus-follower Christian? or Christianity as per religion?” Shade asked her voice slightly lowered.
“Jesus follower Christian!” Demi said even more sure this time. She was quiet. He did not know what to think.
“Karl Max said religion is the opium of the masses. Most people around here need God for blessings, miracles and breakthroughs, why on earth do you need God? C’mon you know I’m right.” She had to speak a bit louder above the sound filtering from a Jazz band playing on the hotel foyer across the room.
“Shade, the point of Christianity is not getting blessings. Man’s ultimate purpose is to worship God. Without it, life is empty and meaningless. This applies whether you are rich or poor.” Where did that answer come from?
“Wow, well I wouldn’t call myself religious. I am sure God would be very mad with me at the very least.” Shade forced a laugh. He was straight-faced.
“Let’s see…one….I partied hard in college, alcohol, some drugs in my freshman year. And oh…sexperiments in my sophmore year. I was sober in my Senior year” Shade winked. Demi mouthed ‘wow’. She laughed.
“….oh one more…” She looked away. “..Early on in my medical practice, I lost a child, a patient, due to neglect. I mean I misdiagnosed his condition, and prescribed a drug that killed him. My supervisor swept it under the carpet and the hospital paid a very heavy fine to keep the family quiet. I was fired to avoid the scrutiny of a medical board which could revoke my license. And to this day, I live with a guilt nothing can ever take away.”
“…..But the blood of Jesus certainly can! And before we had our crazy life moments, God was ‘crazy’ enough to send his son to die on the cross so that anyone who believes in Him via His son Jesus can have their sins paid for, thus they are forgiven and free. Nothing we have ever done is bigger than what Jesus did on Calvary. But we have got to accept and appropriate the grace freely given.”
There was silence! Like one where no one is sure exactly what should be said. He took her hand and squeezed it gently but firm. Are you even supposed to do that? Demi Focus. He cautioned himself.
The night was getting windy and it was their cue to hitch a cab to the hotel. “Demi, did you just preach to me?!” she said once they were in the cab. She had switched moods almost instantly.
“Yup. I think I might have. Was it good?” Demi replied attempting to sound upbeat.
“I don’t know…But if it was I’m supposed to be crying and converted. But since I’m not…oops sorry.” She laughed in a way that if he hadn’t known better, he’d call her drunk.
“You are evil.” He said with a grin.
“Sorry! But seriously I would think about it.” She said with a smile.
“I have to write that letter to my Dad tonight.” Shade said a few moments later, bringing their minds back to the plan. He agreed she should. They needed to stay focused.
The plan was for her to go to the US and email her father vowing not to return until the whole marriage was cancelled. Abuja was also Demi’s secret part to see if he was right to dismiss Shade. Only he knew that part though. So far, he wasn’t sure if he ever wanted to let her go though.
It is so hard to say Goodbye
Saturday moved so quickly. In the morning, Shade got a call from the airline:
“Yes ma’am your ticket purchase was approved and we even have a flight to New York you can be on tonight, if you want?”
“I’d take it !” She replied quickly before she changed her mind. Demi wasn’t sure if he liked the plan anymore.
All afternoon, they shopped. She wanted to take away as many Nigerian memories as possible: Sandals, hats, hand-made shoes, books, Kilichi, bags, clothes, etc. By early evening there was a full box, scratch that, two full boxes.
In the evening, she was ready to go and when they got to the airport, neither wanted the plan anymore but neither had the courage to opt out.
She checked in and thereafter they had some time before she would finally disappear. They shared a Coke, just one can, with plantain chips. They were barely talking now.
“Shade, you are beautiful and smart. A doctor with prospects and a bright future…..”
Oh God please let him beg me to stay, not to go. I won’t even move. Wait Shade you’ve got to have a response. Focus.
“….Get a job in the US! You have lived your life with your father’s decisions, now you live! Live the life you have always dreamed and don’t you look back.” He closed his eyes meaning every word.
What?! Is he pushing me away? Is he even serious? “What?!” Shade blurted out.
“What?!” He replied. She stood up suddenly. “Are you sending me away? Demi? I live where I want, I do what I want! My decisions are my decisions. Yes my father has directed them, but I made those decisions. Don’t you tell me what I can or cannot do with my life!” Now Shade was raising her voice as tears welled up in her throat.
What did you just do Einstein? You just ruined a perfect moment Demi. Why are you just stupid? “Shade please don’t take this the wrong way!”
“How am I supposed to take it?” He begged. This wasn’t happening. “I was…….” He was interrupted by the airport announcer.
“Passengers boarding Emirates Flight A630 to JFK, New York, please proceed to gate 3 immediately! Passengers boarding Emirates Flight A630 to JFK, New York, please proceed to gate 3 immediately.”
Shade turned and left. Demi stood wondering what in the world had just happened. It would be a long trip to Lagos in the morning. He would take the bus.
Somewhere midflight across the Atlantic, Shade recalled the entire situation and cried her eyes out. Did she overreact? Was Thursday, Friday and Saturday a romantic scam? For one moment, she had felt he was very sincere but why did he push her away? “Get a job in the US? Who is he to tell me where I am to live. If he didn’t want me, why didn’t he just say so..?” She gathered herself and she wondered if she hadn’t created a scene already. Thankfully she hadn’t.
Her eyes travelled across the aisle to a Hispanic couple. The man appeared to be in pain and what appeared to be a nebulizer on his nose. The woman, his wife seemed to reading to him from a tablet. Was she speaking English? Shade strained to listen for some reason:
She could hear the woman reading in English above her accent: “….I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you and watch over you. Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you. Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him.”
Was God trying to talk to her?