When God Writes A Love Story (chapter One)
THE STORY OF FIVE BROKEN, DAMAGED, ABUSED INDIVIDUALS` WITH A HAUNTED PAST THAT SEEMS TO DESTROY THEM. THE LOVE OF CHRIST WILLING TO SET THEM FREE. WILL THEY ACCEPT HIS LOVE OR SURRENDER TO THE VOICES THAT DRAW THEM TO HELL WHERE LUCIFER RESIDES?
Stella Bankole screamed. It was finally happening. They were at the beach; the whole place was littered with red roses and balloons. Her favorite love song, Perfect by Ed Sheeran, was playing in the background. Cameras were flashing from different angles. Everyone was cheering, shouting yes. She looked down at the man before her, and with tears welling up in her eyes, she knelt to hug him, whispering a yes. As he was about to place the ring on her finger, a light shone so brightly, almost blinding her…
"A-d-u-k-e-e-e." She cried, rubbing her eyes, still half asleep. "What the hell?" Stella asked in annoyance. Any time the light was on, she found it very hard to sleep. Two rules. She had just two rules, which Aduke always trespassed. First, don't touch or take any of my stuff without my permission. The second don't wake me up unless it's an emergency.
Aduke Oguntoyinbo, her cousin from the US, had been living with her ever since she started her national youth service. Now that she was done, she was expected to be back in the US, living with the rest of her family. Aduke chose to stay back cause she enjoyed her stay in Nigeria, saying something like, Nigeria is a land filled with opportunities. It was her homeland; it needed people like her who believed there was hope for transformation. That was the most absurd thing Stella had heard; everyone was looking for a way to japa, even if it was a neighboring country.
Aduke didn't have a job and was in search of something different, more voluntary work. She was always home, taking online courses that would be of help to her career. She also had a side hustle, selling pastries and zobo. She advertised everywhere and to anyone she found. Although it wasn't bringing in a lot of money, she was very determined to sell. Aduke didn't need to work; her parents were influential. They owned hotels, bars, supermarkets, estates, and an airline in Nigeria. In the US, they worked as top businessmen at their head office. The scary part was that Aduke was their only child, and she wanted nothing to do with the wealth of her parents. Independence meant everything for her, wanting to start out on her own, build her brand, and get herself recognized in the Nigerian market without her surname mentioned as the sole reason for her success.
Mr. and Mrs. Oguntoyinbo was the reason Stella had completed her schooling; when her parents were struggling to meet their needs, her father was ill, and they had owed him two years' worth of salary, and her mother was a school teacher in a government school nursing three children, two yet to be in school. Her mother was doing well before she met her dad, who was an alcoholic and security guard. He had lied about his family, job, and status. Mr. Oguntoyinbo, fondly known as Uncle Patrick, had seen right through him and warned Helen severally about him, she refused, and they parted ways after the wedding.
Two months into the marriage, he came home heavily drunk and assaulted her, leaving bruises all over. In two years, she had lost her job; he forced her to leave anyway, claiming a wife could not have a job higher than her husband, she had no money to fall back to, and even starting a business was hard; he had spent all her savings. When she reached out to her brother, he insisted she divorce him, but she refused. Things got worse; her children had to hawk on the streets, and one would hardly see what had become of her mother.
Helen Oguntoyinbo-Bankole, a top designer and filmmaker, was now the wife of a security guard living in the slums of Lagos. One day, she was hawking along with her mum, a wealthy merchant who was a regular customer, was moved with sympathy and decided to give out 50 thousand nairas. It appeared on the news the next day; Patrick saw it and reached out; the rest, they say, is history. "I'm sorry, but girl, you scared me." She turned the lights back off. "Well, don't leave like that. What was so scary that you had to wake me up this early on a Saturday morning?" She asked, following Aduke to the kitchen.
"Honestly, It's kind of embarrassing," Aduke confessed. "You were sleep talking, and it went on for like hours." Stella sighed, "That's perfectly normal; it can happen to anyone." She said in a defensive manner. "This was different. You were making some kind of sounds. Very strange sounds." She gave her hand a tight squeeze. "Are you okay? You've been working so hard lately. I think it's because of the stress at work." Her job required her to work for long hours coupled with juggling multiple responsibilities, and at the beginning of a week, they were assigned challenging tasks and critical projects that were required to be handled for that short time frame. It was nerve-wracking, tough, and detrimental to her mental health, but because of the friends Stella had, she was able to balance work with a budding social life.
Her friends were A-list stars and successful entrepreneurs; Anne Gbadamosi was an actress featuring in top Nigerian movies, her role in still waters won her the best-supporting actress in AMVCA, Chisom Ikenna was a Marketing Executive at a top Advertising firm in Lagos, Adanne Roland was a Software Engineer at Microsoft being one of the few young women to break out in tech. Stella worked from Mondays to Fridays. Friday and Saturday nights were for outings, and Sundays were for rest and leftover work. They went for major events―movie premieres, celebrity weddings, vacations―minor outings like parties and shopping.
"I'm fine," Stella pulled away and sat on one of the stools close to the window where she could see people walking on the streets. "Honestly, I am. You worry too much." She shut the windows to keep out the cold. "When last did you take your medication?" Stella had suffered depression and anxiety issues in the past, so the doctor prescribed anti-depressant pills and premium green tea to relax and improve her condition. "I don't need them anymore. My stress levels have reduced." she folded her arms, still facing the window.
"Okay, if you say so," Aduke felt it was best to leave it alone. Stella could be stubborn at times." Just so you know, if anything happens like a mental breakdown or whatever…" she paused, carefully rethinking her words. "You know what." Stella turned to face her. "What?" "Forget it. I'm sorry I turned on the lights." "I get that you're worried and all, but it wasn't a nightmare" Aduke looked confused. "It wasn't?" "No." "But you sounded like you needed rescuing..." Aduke said slowly, feeling more confused. "I was excited." Stella gave a shy smile remembering the contents of the dream. "Wow, I must have misunderstood." she washed her hands and wiped them on the towel, using it to clean the counter where she had finished mixing the custard.
The electric kettle went off, "Oh, look, the hot water is ready; I should quickly prepare the custard before it develops lumps." It was their usual tradition to eat custard and Akara every Saturday morning. "I had a nice dream," Stella continued. "As a matter of fact, Ifeanyi proposed." "No way," Aduke said nonchalantly as she poured hot water into the bowl of custard mix. "You don't sound very excited. You're not happy for me." Stella said, "Well, that's because I'm not too fazed about this Ifeanyi guy; it's been like six months. You need to take things slow." Aduke voiced her concern.
Aduke was sincerely worried. They were not even dating, and Stella was already love-struck. Every time, Ifeanyi this, Ifeanyi that, It was either about how he took her out to one of those fancy restaurants in Lagos island or how he bought something very costly for her, like the iPhone 12 pro he got for her on her birthday. It seemed too good to be true. He was a flirt, and everyone in Lagos knew it except Stella. He was one of the fast-rising techpreneurs in Nigeria, partnering with large companies home and abroad. The founder of the biggest financial app in Africa, MoneyWise, a savings and investment app with high-interest rates and could receive payment from any part of the world. It was rumored that Mike Adenuga of Globacom and Tony Elemelu of UBA had bought shares in his company. He was currently the managing director of IBM (International Business Machines) Nigeria, which ranked among the world's largest information technology companies, providing a spectrum of hardware, software, and service offerings.
She found it hard to believe he was interested in a girl like Stella, a 25-year-old average, a short, light-skinned, Nigerian lady who was hardly his type compared to the tall, dark African-American models he dated. How they met was strange, Stella was transferred to the Ikoyi branch as the new assistant customer relations manager. He had an issue with one of his transactions; he transferred 4.5 million nairas to one of his clients, he had seen the debit alert, but the client never got the money. He stormed into the bank requesting to see the manager; unfortunately, He was on leave, and Stella had to fill in for him. It took about two hours, but they were able to resolve the issue; in appreciation, he decided to take her out for dinner, and from there, their friendship progressed.
"You also need to calm down. You're always uptight about everything. Learn to relax, have fun, and enjoy the moment." Stella said. Her phone chirped. A text popped up on the screen. "Speak of the devil." Hey, I'm sorry I haven't been picking up your calls or replying to your texts. Let me make it up to you, dinner at Tugo's? I'm bringing a friend, just got out of a breakup, so bring a friend along. She texted back immediately. Sure, I'd be ready by 7. "What's up?" Aduke asked. "He asked me out to dinner. You should tag along." "No, I definitely don't wanna be the third wheel." She refused. "And besides, he doesn't text or call for like two weeks; he then shows up asking you out to dinner. Something is fishy."
Stella was tired of Aduke treating her like a child. This wasn't her first relationship; she could tell Ifeanyi was crazy about her and her alone, no other women. She had met his parents and siblings, went on a few outings with his mum and younger sister, and been introduced to his inner circle; his friends always teased them about being a couple. What else? She knew about his past, which was really dark. Yes, he was a chronic womanizer amidst other things, but things were different now; he was turning a new leaf. However, he hadn't confessed his feelings for her, which worried her a lot. Her friends had reassured her that he was taking things slow. Great things take time; the city of London wasn't built overnight, they said. Her patience was growing thin. She hated to admit this, but Aduke was making a lot of sense.
"He's a very busy person, a workaholic like me. He'd explain everything over dinner tomorrow. He's bringing a friend, I guess it's Chike― "And why invite me? What about Chisom or Anne? What's your plan?" "Fine. I'll ask Anne. She's been bugging me to hook her up with one of his friends." Aduke decided to reconsider, meeting Ifeanyi in person; maybe then she would be able to convince Stella. "On second thought, a double date wouldn't be bad. I need to meet him to see if what you say is true." "Okay, but I get to choose your outfit and do your makeup." Aduke was about to respond when a call came in. "Anne. What's up?" "Hold on for a second. It's a group call; let me invite the others." After exchanging pleasantries, Chisom decided to ask, "Guys, are we still on for tomorrow?"
Shoot! She had forgotten. They planned a weekend getaway at the beauty salon. They had all been busy that week and decided to catch up over a few drinks and massage at the spa. "Yes!" Adanne screamed. Her tiny voice surged through the phone speaker. "My hair is in a frenzy; I need a new look. Something that says Ariana grande, you know, with the ponytail." Ada, the youngest of them, was a fashion freak. She always had a new look for every week. "Well, for me, I just need anything that would distract me from work. It's been crazy over here. A date would be nice." They all agreed. Anne was the only one single among the group. Her last breakup was brutal, leaving her defenseless and with a strong hatred for men.
"I might have to cancel. I have a date tomorrow; Ifeanyi asked me this morning. And I said yes." Stella said in an apologetic tone. She hated to do this to her friends. "Bella's before fella's," Anne said with an eye roll. It hurt because she hadn't been in a relationship for two years. There was always a problem with every guy she met. This was like a knife stabbed in their backs. "I know. How about today?" "We're all busy. So, what are you saying?" Chisom asked. "I don't know what to say." she mouthed a "help me" to Aduke.
Aduke, sensing what was wrong, decided to butt in, "I'm sorry to interrupt, but I think she should be given a chance. You guys had the opportunity to talk to your boyfriends this week; some of you might have seen them. Do you know Ifeanyi hasn't called or texted in three weeks? It's taking a toll on her mental health; she really likes him, so let her off the hook this time. Who knows when next she'd get a chance like this? He's a very busy, extremely busy man." she said finally, feeling satisfied with her explanation, before handing the phone over to Stella.
"Your cousin is right. I can't believe how selfish I sounded. I think we should cancel, guys; next week would be a better time." Anne finally conceded before ending the call. They all agreed immediately. Aduke pulled a tense Stella into a warm embrace, whispering into her ears. "It's going to be alright." Stella relaxed in her arms, heaving with a sigh of relief. At that moment, she felt safe, and her worries seemed to disappear.