The automated voice drowned out the voice of hope that sprouted slowly in my heart. It was the same old response. Each time I tried to call the number. The voice always mocked me: ‘The number you have called is not available.’
‘Could there be no respite for me?’ I asked no one in particular. I stared with unseeing eyes at the smart phone in my hands.
‘Mummy, are you crying again?’ The voice distracted me. I tried to clean the tears that had sneaked through my eyes, shattering my resolve to be strong.
‘I am okay love. I thought you were with Kelvin.’
‘Mummy, you are crying.’ This time it was a statement of fact.
‘I will be okay dear. Just run along.’
‘When will daddy come back?’ My son asked me, his innocent eyes, so disturbingly like his father’s boring into mine.
‘Soon dear. Very soon.’ I said with a conviction I did not feel.
I watched as my son, Solomon bounded down the stairs and was soon out of sight. To play with my neighbour’s son, Kelvin.
‘When will daddy come back?’
The question echoed like loud sirens in my head. A question I had asked myself so many times. A question that brought more questions than answers.
‘When will I find peace? When will my life move forward? When will this prison become a fruitful garden?
I had no answers and the tears blinded me as I thought about my life. Time they say heals all wounds. Not in this case. The passage of time only served to increase the pain in my case. Was there still hope? Could I sing a song of joy again? I could not dare to believe that for my torment was like a torrent of never ending pain.
I walked slowly into my room and sat on the bed. To do what I seemed to take solace in these days.
Brood over my past sins.
The grass felt soft against my flesh. I looked at the people that walked around the park and envied their carefree disposition. While my own world shattered daily before my eyes.
‘Excuse me.’
I looked up as a young man sat close to me.  He looked so disturbingly like Peter that I almost stood up to hug him. But I caught myself just in time. In times past, I would have put on my seductive charms but I was satiated with all that. That was what landed me in my present predicament and I avoided those enticing moves like a plague.
My mouth was full of enough gravel.
‘Yes, what do you want?’ I asked in a not-too-friendly voice.
‘I could not help noticing your sad expression from where I watched.’
‘Interesting. Is that how you go around chatting up every ‘sad’ lady you see around?’
‘Not at all.’
It was obvious this male intruder was not perturbed by my harsh attitude.
‘So what is this about?’
‘Just wanted to check if you are okay.’
‘And if I am not, what can you do about it?’
‘Nothing. But I can lead you to the one who can.’
‘The one?’ I asked, recognising the trend.
‘Yes. I do not have the answers to the problems that are obviously plaguing you but Jesus is the answer and he asked me to tell you that you can smile again.’
‘He asked you?’ I took a good look at him then. His bright smile and joyful countenance beckoned to me.
‘Yes he did. He told my wife and I about you.’
‘Your wife?’ Instinctively, I looked around. I noticed a petite lady dressed in a lovely red dress strolling leisurely towards us.
‘Good afternoon dear.’ She greeted me with such a beautiful smile on her face.
‘Good afternoon.’ I looked dazedly from one to the other, trying to gather my thoughts together.
‘My wife and I came here to have a quiet moment together. We are ministers of God and we rarely have time alone to ourselves. So we sneak away sometimes to this place to spend time with each other.’ The Peter-look-alike explained.
‘We were just about to round the corner to our favourite spot when we noticed you. I felt the nudging first.’ His wife spoke.
‘Then I felt it too. And we decided to talk to you.’ Her husband added.
‘I don’t know what to say.’ I said as I looked at two of them.
‘Just say you will let God heal you of what troubles you.’
‘You make it sound so easy. You don’t know what I have done.’ I said as the picture of my past paraded itself before my tear-moistened eyes.
‘It does not matter what you have done. There is power in the blood of Jesus to wash away every sin.’
‘What God are you talking about?’ My voice hardened as I remembered the voice of the preacher at the marriage seminar I attended years ago. I echoed the words he spoke as I faced the obviously- blissfully-happy couple.
Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant……….Bread of deceit is sweet to a man; but afterwards his mouth shall be filled with gravel.
‘You cannot build a happy home when the foundation is faulty. You need to repent and start afresh.’
‘Is that the God you are referring to? The God that has punished me all these years?’
‘God is not vindictive. He gives everyone the option to repent. He is willing to restore you if you embrace his love.’ Pastor Mildred said in a soft voice.
I broke down then. The mountain of pain I had carried all these years brought me to my knees. I wept for the years of betrayal of a sister who loved me so selflessly. For the disdain I suffered from a man I wanted to the point that I inflicted deadly wounds on her. I cried out the torment I had suffered and the guilt I endured.
‘It has been ten years. Ten years since it happened. Yet the pain seems so fresh. My wounds are still bleeding. My husband has abandoned me and our son. Can I still find peace? Can I stop choking on the waters I stole?’ I sobbed out in the arms of the petite lady in red as the story poured out.
‘Yes you can. There are so many scriptures that promise you peace.’ Her husband assured me.
So I sat side by side with this couple who were obviously enjoying the marriage of their dreams. The way I wanted it to be with Peter.
‘My name is Pastor Matthew and this is my wife, Pastor Mildred.’
‘My name is Angela.’
‘Angela, God does not hate you. He only hates what you did. He sent his son Jesus to die for you and his word is full of stories of lives that were transformed when they came in contact with him. We will share three of them with you.’ Pastor Matthew gestured to his wife who continued from where he stopped.
In the book of Luke chapter eight verse two, there is the story of a woman called Mary Magdalene out of whom went seven devils. Jesus healed her and in Mark sixteen nine, the bible records that Jesus appeared to her first. A woman with such a sordid past. In the book of John chapter four, we read about the woman at the well who had five husbands and was cohabiting with the sixth one. She had been drinking stolen waters but Jesus invited her to drink the water of life and never thirst again.’
I listened, enraptured by the discussion. I had not heard the message of salvation preached in such a practical way before.
‘In the book of Second Kings chapter two from verse nineteen, there is the story of a city that had bad water. When Elisha was told about it, he took salt and placed it where the water source was. He made a pronouncement: ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘I have healed this water: from it there shall be no more death and bitterness.’ And the Bible records that the water remained healed to this day according to the word of Elisha which he spoke.’
‘The salt represents the word of God that is sharper than a two edged sword. It can destroy every yoke that threatens to imprison a child of God. I speak that word to you today, Angela. God has healed the bad waters that surround your life. You shall no longer choke on it. Just believe it.’ Pastor Matthew’s voice resounded with a calmness that spread peace over my soul.
In the book of James chapter three verse eleven, God asks a very significant question: ‘Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?’ Mildred fixed me with her lovely smile and saintly countenance. ‘God has turned the bitter stolen waters you drank into sweet waters. You shall no more suffer shame and pain.’
‘Amen. Amen. Thank you Jesus.’
That day, I embraced the love of a saviour who loved me so much that he interrupted a couple’s retreat to wipe away my tears of anguish. I went home reborn, revived and waiting for the manifestation.
I was sure my husband would come back to me.
I held the sheets of paper so tightly, they were in danger of being torn. My hands shook with fear. This was not what I prayed for. This was far from the assurance I got from the amazing couple I met at the park. The door bell sounded and I rushed to open it. They stood there, looking serene as usual but I was a roaring ball of confusion.
‘Read this.’ I thrust the sheets into their hands as I lowered my tired frame on the nearest chair. They glanced at the paper and looked up at me.
‘Is that why you look so pale?’ Pastor Mildred asked in a calm voice that made mincemeat of my fear.
‘You think this is not enough reason to feel anxious?’ I asked incredulous at her calmness. ‘Why can’t God forgive me? What else can I do?’ I wailed.
‘No need to talk this way, Angela. God is on top of this situation.’ Pastor Matthew assured me.
‘With this evidence in your hands?’
‘Yes, even with this. The enemy is fighting hard to stop your miracle but he has lost the battle already. You will sing a song of victory.’
They burst into a song I had come to love in my moments of rebirth:
We are victorious
Yes we are victorious
Glory be to God who has given us victory
I sang the song with half-hearted interest and said amen to the prayers they prayed. Yet my heartbeats could not stay steady after they left. I kept on imagining the worst.
I picked the document and stared at it again.
Peter had sent divorce papers.
Just when I was basking in the joy of my new found faith. When I was convinced that my bitter waters had turned to sweetness, this had to happen.
Peter left home three years after our court wedding. He had been transferred out of Lagos. I was sure he had initiated the transfer just to be away from me. In all those years, he still had not touched me. He slept in the guest room and only spoke to me when the matter concerned Solomon. He hardly paid attention to the boy but once in a while, tried to play the part of the loving father.
Solomon loved his dad and cried almost every night after Peter left. Peter never called or visited after his transfer. I did not know where he lived. His old number always gave an automated response each time I tried to reach him. His short text still mocks me:
I have been transferred out of Lagos. Take care of my son.
That was the last correspondence I got from him.
Until now. When he sent the divorce papers.
A sad end to my emotional journey.
‘You have to fight for your marriage. You cannot let go now. Except you do not love your husband.’
Pastor Mildred’s words kept playing over and over again in my head each time I tried to give in to anxiety.
Did I love my husband? Of course I did. No other man appealed to me since the day my eyes collided with his in Lovette’s sitting room. And I could not sit back and let him slip off my fingers.
I ‘erected’ a war room in my house. I used all the scriptures that Pastor Matthew and his wife Mildred counselled me with. I told the devil that the battle line had been drawn. I either won the war or died trying! I prayed as if my life depended on it and tarried in the war room as I called upon the forces of heaven to fight my battle.
The words sounded as if they were from a land far away. One beyond my reach. I opened sleepy eyes as I wondered at the intrusion. Then my eyes widened immediately as I saw them.
‘Mummy, it’s daddy. Daddy has come back.’ Solomon beamed delightfully.
‘No! It cannot be true. God cannot love me this much. This is a dream.’
‘It’s not a dream, Angela. I am home.’ Peter’s voice, rich, velvety, with all the undertones that stole my heart away, enraptured my senses and made me do all I could to have him, sounded in my ears.
I yelled like a deranged woman as I flew into his ready embrace. I wept on his shoulders as he massaged my back slowly and our son watched us, his grin as wide as that of a cheshire cat.
I turned slowly as I felt tender hands all over my skin. I jerked up at once, but the soothing voice calmed me.
‘It’s me honey.’ I relaxed in his embrace as I remembered where I was. I snuggled back into the loving arms of a man who shunned me for ten years. But was now back.
‘Please hold me. Never let me go.’ I said as I clung tightly to him.
‘I won’t. I am here for always.’‘
‘Mummy, when are you and daddy coming back?’ Solomon asked.
‘We will let you know when we return. Just be a good boy and don’t disturb your aunty.’
‘I am sure he won’t.’ Lovette said as she waved to us.
Peter and I had gone to drop him in her house. She now had two sons and two daughters for her doting husband, Michael. Solomon loved to spend time with his cousins and he was always treated like a member of the family. Peter and I were sure he would be in safe hands.
‘I know you are burning to hear it.’ Peter said the moment we checked into our hotel in California. It was a perfect place for what he called our real honeymoon.
‘Hear what?’ I asked, feigning ignorance.
‘All about my escapades.’ Peter said, a mischievous glint in his eyes.
‘I am content to have my husband by my side and eternally grateful to God for this miracle that seemed so long in coming.’ I snuggled into his arms.
‘Time to tell my own story.’ Peter said as I gave him the full force of my gaze.