“I’ll follow you. Just sit down a while. Please,” she said softly.
She could see he was angry. Who wouldn’t be? He sat down heavily and buried his face in his hands. She touched the back of his head feebly and he looked up, tears in his eyes threatened to spill. She felt sorry for him, for all of them.
“You could have made this easier a little for all of us, you know. If you’d told me, I would have brought you here, registered you and made you more comfortable…”
“I know. It just had to be like this.”
She was weak and tired from fasting and praying all day. She had cramps all over her body from weeks of sleeping on the bench. She couldn’t argue with him.
He shifted then stood. “Let’s go home.”
She bit her parched lips. “I have to know what I’m going back to.” He sighed and sat, looking into her eyes. She swallowed. “I also have to tell you I really can’t marry you. I’m so sorry…”
“I came with a proposition in the case that you refused to come with me,” he said. “I don’t want to cause you more pain or grief than I already have so, Modele…”
“Sorry to interrupt, Modele can remain with you. She’s yours. I relinquish my authority to you completely. I will support you in any way you want me to in her upbringing, but she’s all yours now.” She blinked. She smiled. “It’s fine.”
He took several deep breaths. “Will you stay in the house I’m building for you? Allow me to keep and care for you?”
“God will take care of me. I can’t be a burden to you.” It took all her courage. All her strength was gone. She looked longingly at him. He stared back, reading her thoughts, weighing his words, she assumed.
“You are not a burden. You can never be a burden to me.”
“What you ask is too much. I can’t be your kept woman.”
“What are your plans then? Where do you plan to go from here?”
“I haven’t really thought about that.” She licked her lips.
What had she prayed and fasted for over six weeks? He was just as hardened as she’d left him. And he was still making demands, even though, with caution. She just wanted to throw herself on the hard ground, and weep. God was nowhere close to hearing her.
“Ronke, you’ll kill me if you go on like this. You’ll destroy me.”
“I’m sorry if my actions upset you but I had to do this. I’ve been thinking of myself, for the first time in a long while. I don’t even know who I am. I don’t know what I want from life or what God wants from me. I’m nobody. I have no identity. I’m floating—” She stopped, holding back the tears laboriously.
Kola got up and walked away. Her eyes followed him down ten or so rows, and then he turned and walked back to her, tears pouring down his face, yet he was smiling.
“I have a brilliant idea.” He knelt in front of her. “Modele moves back with you into the new house. It’s your house. I’ll pay all the bills but that’s all. It’s your house, and it’s your life. I will never interfere again. I will remain totally invisible in your life. You can leave here anytime you wish. The house will be ready. It almost is, anyway.” He bracketed her. “What do you say?”
A sob escaped and she clasped her hand to curb it. She could have her daughter back. She had to give her up before God touched Kola to give her back. Her Isaac!
“Ibitam told me you started attending our church.” She changed the subject, her heart heaving. He hauled himself up to sit beside her.
“Yes, primarily to catch you whenever you sneak in,” he said and they both laughed. “Pastor Matthias preaches well, anyway.”
Ronke searched his face. “Did his preaching leave any impression on your heart?”
He tilted her chin to look into her eyes. There was such a deep hunger in his. Would he honour his word to return Modele and stay off?
“Your preaching changed my life. Your actions convicted me. You are my bible, Ronke. I am your convert,” he said softly. “I cried to God I wanted what you had. I confessed my sins.”
“How? I never said a word to you.”
“You speak volumes to me. I just never really felt different.”
Ronke shuddered. “You never told me.”
“We always got so angry with each other, I couldn’t ever see any chance to. And I guessed you would just feel I was trying to manipulate you. I wanted so much to marry you the desire consumed me.”
“God has answered me,” she shouted, then laughed out.
One or two people nearby looked at her and shouted, “hallelujah” to support her.
“Your stand not to marry an unbeliever challenged me…”
“I failed at the end.”
“No, you decided to pay the price for the sake of your child. I told myself that even if I had not given my life to Christ earlier, I would do it then. I knew it was painful for you. I knew how painful it was after you ran away. I discovered how poorly rated I was as a prospective bachelor to you.” He took her hands in his. “Tell me, what is it you detest so much about me that helped you to take your stand?”
“Nothing. Absolutely nothing. You are the most prospective, and tempting bachelor in the world, and it took all the God-given grace I could summon for me to resist you, Kola Eiba.”
He knelt in front of her, looking at her with intensity, and pulled out the ring on his small finger.
“Don’t! You promised you’ll not disturb my life again.” She shrieked, and he bent his head.
She looked at the man kneeling before her and love burst free in her heart. All the love bottled and sealed up for over a year so she could honour the word of her God. She splayed her hand over his head and caressed him. His head shot up.
“You said you wanted to marry me before, is the offer still open?” she whispered.
“Let’s go home.” He jumped to his feet. “I don’t want to defile these holy grounds.” He pulled her into his arms.
Ronke giggled and pulled back, but not far enough. “I don’t want to remember what happened the last time you pulled me into your arms like this.”
“Remind me.” He kissed her neck. Ronke whispered something into his ears and he drew away repulsively while she laughed.
“We’re going home.”
In his car, he drew to him, and slipped the ring into her middle finger. It was a little loose.
“I will always love you,” he said and pressed a kiss into her palms.