I am Christian. If you have read my stories, you know this by now. I believe in the Father, in Ben Elohim Chayyim, in the Ruach HaKodesh. Joseph Ayo Babalola, the man noted for Nigeria’s first revival began his ministry near my hometown. He was also married to one my of great aunts. While the marriage was nothing to write home about, the man himself has piqued my interest to no end.
I didn’t intend for this story to end this way. But sometimes the Ruach Kodesh takes the keyboard from me and does what He will.
“Awake, O north wind, And come, wind of the south; Make my garden breathe out fragrance, Let its spices be wafted abroad. May my beloved come into his garden And eat its choice fruits!” Songs 4:16
‘The place of forgiveness…’ the seer had told her.
Yet as Morenike stood at the bus park, Olumu looked nothing like a place that offered forgiveness or hope for that matter.
The village looked cold even though it had to be at least over 35 degrees. Nothing had changed very much since the last time she stepped on this soil 29 years ago. Her father’s transfer from the village clinic to LUTH in Lagos had come at an opportune time and Morenike and her family had never looked back, not even once.
She beckoned to an Okada rider who took her to the river, or at least as close to it as he could get. She walked the rest of the way. The path to the river was just that- a path, a simple way through the bushes, nothing special, yet it felt like the path of no return. It was early afternoon and if she remembered well there would be no one there at this time. Most people did their chores at the river in the early hours of the day, before the sun intensified its assault on mankind or in the evenings when the un had been appeased with libations of human sweat.
As children, they had been severely warned not to venture to the river alone. In her 6 years in Olumu, she had not disobeyed, not even once. But she was no longer a child and now knew that some battles were best fought alone. Besides, the rest of the army were long gone. She was the last one left.
The river was quiet except the birds calling out to each other in songs she had heard before, in her dreams. It had been a while since Morenike experienced such a peaceful moment and as she stood by the river side, hope soared in her heart.
She closed her eyes and remembered that day 30 years ago when the four of them had stood at that same spot and made a vow to keep what happened secret.
It had been an ordinary day, nothing to distinguish it from any other. They had finished from school and come straight to the river as usual; Bami, Sunkanmi, Laide, Omotunde and herself. They were the children of the most notable people in the village. Omotunde was the best swimmer, always eager to show off his skills or teach one of the others. They had been too young for romance back then but it was a foregone conclusion that she and Omotunde were destined for forever. Omotunde’s father was the superintendent of schools in the region. Bamidele was the brains of the team and had no desire to venture beyond the shore of the river. He preferred to do his homework or read the latest Marvel Comic while the rest splashed their way through the late afternoon. His mother was the head of the market women in the village. Laide was the oldest and the leader of the little group. Whatever she said held. Both her parents were chiefs.
And then there was Sunkanmi, Laide’s brother. Sunkanmi came along because Laide had nowhere else to leave him. He was the youngest and invisible to the others. So it wasn’t until it was time to leave the river that day that they noticed his absence.
“Maybe he didn’t come with us. I don’t remember him coming with us.” Morenike remembered Bami saying.
“What do you mean? Are you blind? Can’t you see his clothes? He was here, he came here with us!” Laide had retorted, her hands flying around wildly in desperation as if searching for her brother somewhere in the air.
They had spent hours looking for him and then gone home but not without Laide making each of them promise never to say a word.
“He was never with us, okay? If anyone asks, we never saw him. My parents will kill me if they knew we ever came to the river much less that I brought him here. Please swear none of you will ever tell.”
And so they had never told and three days later, Sunkanmi’s bloated body had been found by fishermen two villages away where the river flowed less forcefully.
“We were wrong Sunkanmi. We were wrong but we were children. We didn’t know any better.”
Bamidele had died in a motor accident four years ago. No one else in the car had a scratch. Laide had slept one day and not woken up. Her husband had confided in Morenike and told her she had been having nightmares about her late brother prior. And Omotunde? Omotunde was the reason Morenike was here.
Like everyone had predicted, she and Omotunde had ended up together. Happily married for 12 years now with two children. That was until his nightmares started last year.
It seemed stupid, talking to the river like this yet it is what the seer had instructed. The birds had stopped singing the moment she opened her mouth. It was all very still. She could hear a pin drop.
“Did you know I loved you Morenike?” A voice suddenly echoed in answer from the river.
The seer had told her to be prepared to hear back but nothing could have prepared Morenike for the voice that came out of nowhere.
“Did you know much I loved you? How much I hoped you would someday notice me? Did you know that day I drowned it was your attention I had been trying to get when I slipped and hit my head on the rock? “ The angry child-like voice continued.
“The four of you always treated me like a shadow, like a pesky little fly, only useful for covering up for you or running errands.”
“Shut up. It is my turn to speak now Morenike.”
She knew she had to take back control but she didn’t know how.
“So you don’t want Omotunde to die? Because he is the love of your life? Did you cry when I died? You didn’t even show up for my funeral. Only Bamidele did and I killed him. I killed my own sister. Why should I let you or Omotunde live?”
“Because our lives were never yours to take in the first place. You might have usurped the rights of the others but you won’t win here Sunkanmi or whoever you are. You won’t win.”
That was when Morenike remembered the song the seer had taught her to sing.
She sang it now, over and over again, until the birds started to sing and the river resumed its melody. When she could no longer sing, she continued to say the words of the song. Until she could feel the load lift, the one that had settled on her shoulders the day the doctors said they couldn’t find anything wrong with Omotunde yet he had been disappearing before her very eyes. Until the river washed away the sadness of losing her best friends, the hopelessness that had become Olumu. Until the ground she was standing became the place of forgiveness indeed.
“Jesu Olomi iye de
Omi iye de
Olomi iye de”
“The Living Water is here”
The Water of life is here”
She was at the bus park when the call came in:
“Morenikejimi, where are you? I woke up late in the morning and you were gone.” It had been ages since Omotunde called her by her full name so she closed her eyes before answering.
“I had some things to take care of. I will be back soon. How are you feeling?”
“I can’t describe it babe. Everything is just easier today; I can’t explain it over the phone.”
There was nothing to say after that so she got on the bus and got home as fast as she could.
Song of the day: Phil Wickham – Spring up oh well