TUESDAY ROSE BUSHES – HIKER IN THE HOOD

Thomas Garet sat on the plain grass under a pine tree by the road and untied his shoelaces. Time to reconsider his move and make a plan.

The May sun burned his forehead, but he’d been used to these harsh twists in the weather closer to summer. Earlier it had been so cold, he’d donned his hoodie when he walked out of Mrs. Covender’s basement accommodation to see to his daily chores.

“I won’t be back,” he’d told the septuagenarian when he handed over the keys to the small studio room he rented from her later on.

The old woman’s niece walked in as he headed out, and his head spun. Who? He lingered at the entrance.

“Lacy baby,” Mrs. Covender cooed. “You never say when you’re stopping by.”

“Aunt Ann, I called. Don’t tell me you’ve forgotten,” the young woman said.

“You did? Oh, is today the 15th?”

“Yes, it is. And I’m not staying longer than two cups of coffee.” Lacy’s noisy kisses on her aunt’s cheeks sent a strange sensation down Thomas’s loins.

“Dear Thomas, do throw the trash before you leave, dear.” The landlady raised her best voice.

“Who is he?” Thomas heard Lacy say before he closed the door. And then, “Aunt Ann! You can’t take in strangers all the time! What if he’s a psycho or something?”

Who cared? He did look psychotic. He’d not shaved in four days, and his anger burned hot through his cold blue eyes.

About half an hour later, a white sedan drove past and stopped just a few meters ahead. Thomas looked at it and shook his head subconsciously. He wasn’t leaving yet. Lacy was right. Mrs. Covender shouldn’t take in strangers anyhow, and he hoped when he got his act together and his heart rate normal, he would go back and take her basement again.

In the three months of his stay, he’d paid part of his rent with manual labor. He cut her lawn, did her laundry, threw her trash, and sometimes, much to his amusement, did her nails.

The driver of the car pressed the horn tentatively. Thomas waved. When the horn went off a little longer, he paid attention.

A head full of brown curly hair sprung into his view, and his stomach tightened.

Lacy?

He got to his feet and walked over to her. “Ma’am?”

She cleared her throat. She had the most remarkable grey eyes. “Are you going my way?”

If she warned her aunt not to house strangers, she shouldn’t pick hikers either.

“Depends,” he mumbled. He knew only one other woman who had those same grey eyes, and that woman wasn’t mixed.

“I’m heading toward Baltimore.”

City girl. He hated all of them. “I’ll stop—” He had no clue where he’d stop. “Before you enter the city.”

“I live in Elicott City. So I won’t get to Baltimore, actually.”

“Oh.”

“So? Where are you headed at?”

He got into the car. “Nowhere actually. I’ll find a job, stay a bit and then move on.” He was talking too much. “What did your aunt say about me?”

She pulled back on to the road. “That you do more than your due around the house.” She shrugged. “She hated to see you go.”

“If you lived in Union Bridge with her, I might stay.”

Now, that was more than necessary. Her silence proved it too. He was drawn to her. He knew why but couldn’t bring himself to admit it. She was Mrs. Covender’s niece, the one the old lady spoke about often. He never imagined what she looked like, never cared.

The rest of the drive was in strained quiet. This was one of the reasons he moved around a lot. He couldn’t develop or maintain relationships.

His heart pounded. You have to know about this girl, the sane voice in his head admonished. She was beautiful, and young, and wore no ring.

Those were not the reasons for his conflict. If he wanted any girl, he could have gotten. He didn’t want any girl anymore.

“I’ll stop here,” he said before the thought formed in his heart. He combed through his dark blonde shoulder-length shaggy hair.

“Why?”

She slowed down though. They were in a beautiful semi-rural community called West Friendship. The houses looked huge and far between but it was the signpost of the Elementary school that drew Thomas.

He frowned. “Why? Because I’m stopping here.”

She pulled the car over to the shoulder. “You didn’t want to stop here.”

“I do now. Thanks for the ride.” He opened the car and rushed out of it. He slammed the door after him.

His shoelaces dangled and he remembered what he’d been about before Lacy stopped for him. He’d walked away from the house. Never hoping to see her again.

She drove off without a word.

Thomas watched her go. For eight years he’d roamed the states and counties around his former home in New York. Slowly, he’d drifted farther off, and been in the State of Maryland for almost three years. The longest he had stayed in any state since Molly was brutally killed in a senseless drunk-driving accident, taking their unborn daughter with her.

Not once had he second-guessed his decision to sell everything he’d built with Molly and become destitute. Till now.

Why did Lacy look so much like Molly? Everything was the same, except Molly was full Caucasian and Lacy was mixed.

Thomas Garet dropped on his butt and wept for the first time in eight years.

Image by Jacqueline Macou from Pixabay

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PRAYER WARRIOR – IN TIMES LIKE THIS

Ope tried to keep his voice low, knowing Aduke was somewhere in the house, but he couldn’t get over the fact that Maya had shunned him for two days in a row.

He sat forward until he was just right there at the edge of his seat. “Did you check your result?”

Maya pouted. “I topped my class.”

“I know.” He reigned in his temper. “That did not answer my question. I asked if you checked.”

Maya threw up her hands in the air. “What difference does it make for goodness’ sake?”

“Are you raising your voice at me?”

“Look, Ope, please, come and start going.” She’d been on her feet since she walked in a few minutes earlier to find him waiting for her. “I’ve had a long day. I’m tired.”

“It’s just noon…”

“And I’m even going out again in another five minutes.”

He jumped to his feet and whispered harshly. “Maya! What has come over you?” He could shake her.

“Nothing! You just think you can continue to boss me around and now you can’t! I’m not a small girl anymore.”

He scoffed. “The last time I checked, you were still seventeen.”

She folded her arms across her chest. Ope could not believe his eyes. Giggly, excited Maya had her brows furrowed and lips pressed together. He doubted he had ever seen her this aggravated. She’d rather cry when upset. For a moment, his heart only just thudded in his chest. Something has gone totally wrong, but he couldn’t find an answer in his spirit. From the week before exams, she had been almost unapproachable, and constantly cross. He feared she had joined a wrong group, but he never saw anyone around her. In times like this, what does one do?

Father, talk to me.

He never saw anyone with her, except the old bat, Ben. And that wasn’t even often. Maybe once in all of three weeks.

Ope drew in a deep breath. “You haven’t been in school since exams finished. You didn’t come to holiday fellowship. You…”

“I got a job. Didn’t my mother tell you?”

Her tone, goodness! Where did this come from? He knew he had to handle this properly or it would escalate, whatever it was. Or did she have a crush on him? That would be terrible. He had no plans for a relationship any time soon. Not with Maya who he took as his little sister. But then, someone with a crush will not be so angry, avoiding him.

“Is it me you’re talking to like this, Maya? So, if I didn’t come to your house, I will not see you. You said you’ll come to school two days ago, and didn’t show up and I was there waiting…”

“Come, Ope, please! What’s all this about? Did you want to see me about something?”

“Who did this to you?” He took a step closer. “Is it that wicked old man, Ben?”

“You’re stupid!” Maya stomped out of the parlour and out of the house.

Ope staggered back as though he had been hit. “Maya!”

Aduke walked slowly out of the inner house, her mouth drooping. “Yeepa, Ope!”

“Ma! Ma, I’m short of words.”

Aduke’s wide eyes appeared sunken. Her harsh whisper seemed also to carry more weight than what just happened. “Who is Ben?”

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PRAYER WARRIOR – MOMENTS

Maya sat on the couch and closed her eyes.

“Don’t be sad, darling. We can work around this situation.” Ben crouched in front of her and smoothed back her hair. “I’m thinking really hard.”

“The problem is your age.” She opened her eyes and sat up. “She will never accept someone older than her for me.”

He sighed. “She wants that stupid boy, Ope?”

Maya shrugged. “I don’t know. But I told you he’s in that their prayer warrior group too.”

Ben took hold of her hands. “I love you so much, Maya. My life will be miserable without you.”

“I love you too, Ben. But what do we do?” She stared into his eyes, hers tearing up. “I’m just tired.”

“Don’t cry, my baby.” He stroked her cheeks, feeling the emotions in his words stronger than he would want to admit. “My sweetlove.”

He hadn’t kissed her yet. It was the next stage and with this, her mother being so prayerful, he didn’t want to rush things and mess her up. He would then need to start building up again. He’d come too far. She was a truly remarkable woman with such a bright and beautiful future.

“Stargazer,” he whispered.

Her beautiful eyes widened. “I thought you said you don’t do that thing again.”

“I had to go back and check. With all this pressure from your mother. I needed to reassure myself we are meant for each other.”

Her face relaxed. “And what does it say?”

“Our stars are woven together, my love. And it went so far and deep in the night.”

“Meaning we will live together as man and wife for many years.”

“Till our very old age.”

She snickered. “It’s the same reading for the last three times.”

“You need to come see it with me, love. See for yourself.”

She gasped. “My mother will kill me.”

“She will never know. Or how else am I going to convince you we need to fight for our love.”

She leaned back again. “I’m hungry…”

He shot to his feet. “The fried rice and chicken I bought remains. I should bring some?” She nodded and he hurried off.

In his kitchen, he took his crystal ball out of the cabinet and invoked his star. It was the same. If he could get her to watch it too, that would be progress. He said the words over the food and returned the ball.

Maya had her feet on the floor, and her shoes on. “Ope just called.”

He pulled a stool closer. She had to eat before leaving. He wasn’t ready to through precious concocted food away. Everything she ate or drank in his house added to the influence. Very soon, in another month hopefully, his star would start fading hers. He hoped she would be a living carcass in a year. A vegetable worth nothing to no one. He couldn’t wait.

“What does the fool want?”

“He said they pasted results. I need to check mine.”

He laughed. “Wait. Start eating. I’ll be right back.”

“What? I have to go.”

“Just one second, please.” He rushed off into his room.

Ben returned with a silk scarf and a different crystal ball from the one in the kitchen. Maya had some food in her mouth. Good, he moaned inwardly.

She shook her head frantically. “Ah no. I can’t do that thing with you.”

“Just watch. You don’t have to do anything. Wait, my love.” He placed the ball beside her food and draped the scarf over it. He closed his eyes, conscious of her intent eyes on him. After muttering his words, he pulled off the scarf. “Look.”

She leaned over and for several seconds just glared at the ball. Then she screeched. “It’s a lie!”

“It’s true, my love. I was so nervous about your exam, I checked the results but I didn’t want to say anything.”

She jumped to her feet. “I have to go. Mummy will be so happy.”

“Sit and finish your food.” He snapped. Then smiled. “At least now, you know you topped the class.”

He glared as some of his hypnosis took effect on her. She smiled foolishly. “Sure.”

At these moments when he could vividly see his power at work, he wanted to rush it. Take possession of her body and fill her out, drain her. But it could backfire. He just had to be patient. He could feel his eyes roll to the back and he brought it back quickly. He didn’t want to spook her. Yet.

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PRAYER WARRIOR – SENSITIVITY

Bimisola, a plump woman who lived on the other side of town, walked into Aduke’s sitting room shortly after her call to Ope, with Aunty Ranti behind her. The visitors were not expected. Aduke stared at Aunty Ranti’s grim expression.

“Aunty, hope nothing. You didn’t call. I could have just come up to your house.” She threw a glance at Bimisola. “Sister, good evening o.”

Bimibola clasped her hands together. “Good evening, Sister Aduke.”

“Mama is asleep, and I won’t want to disturb her.” Aunty Ranti moaned. “We need to pray fire tonight. The devil is not joking.”

“Ah, amen! Amen!” Aduke stepped away from the door. “I am ready.”

Aunty Ranti sighed. “The brothers are joining us. Ope said he can’t come but the others will soon be here.”

Aduke gasped. “Everybody?”

“Yes. At least, the people we could reach. We just need to be two or three as the word of God says. But the more the merrier.” Aunty Ranti gesticulated. “When we clash our anointing. The devil will not be able to escape.”

Aduke and Bimisola chorused. “Amen!”

“Amen.” Aunty Ranti sat. “We can tell you why we had to meet urgently while we wait for the others.”

“Yes ma.”

Aduke and Bimisola sat too.

“My husband brought in another woman tonight. He said that is the woman who will bear his children,” Bimisola said softly.

“Ehn! God forbid.” Aduke clasped her hand over her mouth. “We reject it.”

“Hmm.” Aunty Ranti nodded. “Exactly what I said too.”

“Did he send you out?” Aduke said.

“No. At all,” Aunty Ranti said before Bimisola could respond. “The woman just carried her bag into the master bedroom. Bimisola called me, crying. I told her to come here. We are not prayer warriors for nothing.”

Aduke spat. “We give her one hour.”

Aunty Ranti laughed. “Ah, Bimisola, you see you are kind? Giving 24 hours?”

“When your babies have already been prophesied?” Aduke said. Someone knocked. “Come in.”

The front door opened. Two men walked in. The women exchanged pleasantries.

Pastor Praise lifted his hands high in the sky and started to sing with a sonorous tenor. The other, Ezekiel, who looked half Praise’s age, bent in reverence to the women as culture dictated. Before the men could settle down, two more men walked in. Then a woman and then another woman.

“We’re almost complete,” Aduke said.

“But Ope is not coming, and we couldn’t reach the others.” Aunty Ranti gestured to Pastor Praise. “Let’s start, sir. Lead us, as led.” She spent the next five minutes updating the group why a meeting outside the usual day was called. Everyone gave the other woman in Bimisola’s family just one hour to pack and go.

“She won’t be there by the time you return,” Pastor Praise said.

They chorused. “Amen!”

“In fact, we don’t want drama either. We don’t want your husband accusing you of having anything to do with this. So, we send the angels to do the deed, right now. To make the woman leave in such a way, Bimisola’s husband or anyone at that will not fault her.”

“Amen!”

“Prayer!”

The heat and fervency in the room could not be undermined. Some lay face down, others were on their knees. Each prayed in tongues and in their understanding. When Pastor Praise as the prayer leader for the night deemed fit, he asked that they form a circle and hold hands.

“One by one, we will pray for Bimisola. Prophesy, pray, curse the devil, anything the Lord lays on your heart. Then Bimisola herself will round up the prayer,” Pastor Praise said.

And so, each person prayed.

When it was Bimisola’s turn, she opened her eyes and looked at the others. “The Lord showed me a vision as we prayed. The woman said she wanted suya and my husband drove her out. But he didn’t return with her. Instead, he went into the room and took her things out.”

The others shouted, “Amen!”

“She or another of her kind will never return,” Pastor Praise said. “Who is Ben in your family?”

“Ben?” Bimisola shook her head. “I don’t know anyone like that.”

Pastor Praise narrowed his eyes. “Who knows any Ben or a friend, family member. Even at work. But this Ben is close. He’s not someone you haven’t seen in a month.”

Everyone shook their heads.

“Ah, we have to pray. Ben must go. If he will die, let him die. If he will give his life and repent, let him repent. If he wants to disappear and never show up around us again, then he is free. But Ben must go! Prayer!”

They broke the link of their hands and started praying all over again. After a while, Pastor Praise clapped his hands and rounded up the prayer. He raised a song and they sang it over and over. Then he ended the meeting with a prayer.

“God is faithful. We will meet for our next prayer meeting on Friday. Let’s just be thanking God for deliverance on every side.”

The prayer warriors hugged and smiled, their faces shone with joy and victory. As the last person left, Ope and Maya arrived.

Aduke clapped. “My dear brother. You said you will bring her yourself!”

Ope bowed in greeting. “Good evening, ma.”

Maya rolled her eyes. “You worry too much, Mummy!”

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PRAYER WARRIOR – ATTITUDES

Aduke looked through her email and opened the one from Maya, her brows drawn into a frown.

Mummy, I got accommodation on campus today. And I will be moving in immediately.

“Aha?” Aduke scrolled up and down. “Why is she sending me email?” No greeting or courtesy?

It was close to 8pm and Maya should be getting home soon. Aduke picked her phone and dialled her number. Maya picked up after the third ring. There was a lot of background noise and Aduke moved the phone away from her ear for a second.

“Hello! Maya? Where are you?”

Maya laughed. “School.”

Aduke gasped. “Why is there so much noise? Aren’t you supposed to be coming home?”

“Didn’t you get my email?”

There’s loud music now and Aduke had a feeling Maya was in a hall or some public place where a party was on. Someone said something and Maya laughed louder.

“Email? What do you mean? Is it email you will use to tell me your plan? Anyway, when are you coming home? It’s almost eight.”

“Ah, I told you I’m moving to campus. I have accommodation, Mummy. Ah.” She hung up.

“Eh?” Aduke looked at her phone. “Maya?!” She dialled the number again, but Maya just cut the call. “My God! What is going on?”

She dialled Ope’s number.

“Hello! Ope? How are you?”

“Hello. Good evening, ma.”

“Ah, Ope. Please do you know where Maya is? She hasn’t come home. She said she has accommodation on campus. Just this morning, she left the house and didn’t tell me anything. Where are you?”

“Hold on, ma.”

Aduke heard movement and then the sound of a chair scraping the floor. “Ope? Ope?”

“Hello, ma. I’m here. Sorry. I was in the library, so I didn’t want to talk loud. Yes, Maya.”

“Do you know where she is?”

“Yes, ma. We were in the library together just now. One of her friends called her and she rushed out. She’ll soon be back.”

Aduke sighed. “Ah, thank you. Thank God. At least you know where she is.”

“Yes, ma.”

“Please, tell her to come home tonight. I don’t think it’s a good idea for her to stay on campus.”

“Maybe because of the exams. She feels she can read better here.”

“No,” Aduke shook her head. “No, I don’t approve. She didn’t even call me. She sent an email.”

“Email? Ah, why?”

“I don’t know. Just tell her to come home.”

“Yes, ma. I will even come with her.”

Wo, God will bless you for me. Thank you so much, my dear,”

“Yes, ma. Thank God. Good night, ma.”

 

Ope stared at his phone right after the call with Maya’s mother. What was he to do now? He had lied that he knew where she was. She ran off saying someone was calling her, what if she didn’t return. He hurried back into the library and packed his books. This was not good at all with exams coming up. Would he be able to concentrate on his studies with all these attitudes coming off of Maya? And she needed to study too.

He called her number and she picked up after the first ring. “Ah, I’m coming. What is your problem?”

Ope rolled his eyes. “I’m waiting for you outside the library.”

She giggled. “Calm down. If you were my husband sef, this jealousy will not be this much.”

He snapped. “I am not your husband and can never be. I’m waiting for you.”

He hung up on her. What was that? Maya and he never made jokes about a relationship until Ben came around accusing him. Had he sold that rubbish to Maya too? He had to find out and stop it!

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PRAYER WARRIOR – RUN MAYA RUN

Maya laughed again when he moved his nose simultaneously with his ears.

Someone snapped. “Sshhh!”

“It makes your ears big like a rabbit’s.” She tapped his nose as though she’d not heard the voice of caution. “Your nose is like an elephant’s.”

He feigned as though he would bite her finger. She withdrew it from his nose. “Why are you running? Let my rabbit teeth bite your finger now,” he whispered with laughter in his voice.

“I have to read, o! Stop distracting me.”

“Maya!”

She turned and looked around the near-empty library. Several students had their heads buried in their books. No one was close. She faced Ope who sat across from her, now rolling his tongue in addition to flaring his nose and ears. But Maya wasn’t amused. Someone called her name and she didn’t see who.

“I can roll my eyes back at the same time,” Ope said. “Maya, are you looking at all?”

“Someone called me just now.”

“I did.”

“No, not you.”

“Maya!”

She jerked to her right. And then the left side. No one. “Did you hear?”

“No. Okay, break over, let’s read.” Ope opened his big anatomy textbook.

Maya stood, packing her books slowly.

Ope frowned. “What are you doing?”

“I want to check outside. Someone is calling me.”

“Aha, nobody called you.” He rolled his eyes and stood. “Ehn, let’s check together then.”

There were no windows where they sat. The two walked outside and stood gazing into the dimly lit library lawn.

“Maya!”

“I have to go home. They are calling me.” Maya sighed. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” She walked off into the night.

 

Ope stood gazing after her. He didn’t know whether to run after her or assume she was okay and return to his books. She was strange. Maya…something was different. Just the day before, she had disappeared from the library and didn’t know why when he challenged her later in the evening when she returned.

He checked his watch. “It was around this time.” He frowned. “Maybe I should get my books and find her.”

But he didn’t think it was a good idea. When she disappeared the night before, he had been worried and spent over an hour searching for her, calling her. Maybe “they” had called her too then. A strange sensation crept up the back of his neck. This was not quite okay. No one had called her. Was she hearing voices in her head? Ope scratched the back of his ear. He needed to catch up on his academics. These exams had no respect to anyone, and Maya had better understand. He decided to give himself a couple of hours and if she didn’t return like yesterday, he would go in search of her.

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