Reviving

By Ukeme-obong Christopher 2 months ago

PROLOGUE

“Mummy is there a God?“ Tehila asked while sitting on the kitchen island and fiddling with her teddy bear. Her legs bounced unsteadily showing her agitation. 

 

Her mother stopped drying the dishes that she had been doing for the past minutes and thought carefully before answering “certainly dear, we’ve taught you that since you were little.”

 

Within her, she knew where Tehila was going with this line of questioning and she could not lie to herself that she was exasperated and, losing the will to keep answering. 

 

Tears formed in Tehila's eyes and her mother’s heart broke a thousand times over.

 

“Why did he let it happen then?"

 

That is the answer even her mother had found a long time coming to terms with.

 

“I guess because some things are meant to shape and test us on our Christian journey, Tee.”

 

Tehila shook her head vehemently.

“Maybe there is only a sadist we revere as a God.”

Her mother stared at her speechless.

 

CHAPTER ONE

I hurt so much I cannot feel anything.

My pounding heart makes me scream

Psalms 38 vs 8 ERV

              

The sky was still dark, evidence that it was not yet dawn. Yet, a steady thump of Tehila's feet was heard, in the otherwise quiet world except the sounds of chirping birds and insects echoing in the country road. She could not believe how far she had jogged till she broke into a run. 

 

Restless, she seems to continually push her body beyond limits always attributing it to the excessive pump of adrenaline. The neighborhood was still with no sound, no littered refuse could be seen lying around, decent. Most importantly there were usually no reports of robbery in the community which made her feel momentarily safe. She knew that soon the fear she often experience when it was dark will surface.  And, she was lanes away  from her own home and neighborhood. 

 

Tehila heaved heavily, hands on her bent knees by the roadside trying to regain her calmness and breathing. For a moment, she regretted her earlier decision to jog on the deserted country road at 2am. what had emboldened her was the fact that the neighborhood was relatively safe, that did not however stop her from taking along with her homemade chilli-spray for defense. She had learnt never to walk alone at odd hours without a tool of safety or self-defense. 

 

She wondered how many people woke up that early to run, she however quickly  came to the conclusion that they were many sleep deprived and damaged people just like her who would rather run miles to burn the pent up energy than to sit in depression or pace around sulking about their misfortune.

 

She always felt better in channeling her energy to better use like exercises. She wanted a win-win situation where she did not feel utterly defeated and drained without sleeping because of her nightmares, and staying fit. 

 

"If only I could easily enjoy the calmness of the night in the arms of a sweet sleep just like everyone else” she muttered and cussed, regretting her existence as she had been doing for the past years and not feeling any better about it. It only made her feel more depleted.

 

No matter how she had tried not to think of those haunting negative thoughts, following the procedures of some notable self-help books written by best selling authors, she still found herself going back to the same old habit of feeling inadequate. She was glad that the exercises helped her stay fit. 

 

  The frequent nightmare had roused her from her sleep. Just few hours before setting out to jog at those odd hours, lying on her bed, she tossed and turned, her mind in turmoil and disarray, sweat breaking out on her body despite the maximum functioning of the air conditioner, it was the usual nightmare! Re-occurring again this night;  at about 2am she gave up on sleep and got occupied with something else. And alas she found her comfort in the hands of her early morning jogging.  

 

Fully dressed in a cardigan over a leggings, a pair of canvas to do with a an headset, she headed out. Jogging had always seemed to clear her head, it also helped to shift her focus to other things than her inability to sleep at moments like that, but she wondered why it wasn't helping her this time around. 

 

"Things change" she mused. She was an evidence of change itself and she didn’t like every bit of it. 

 

Regaining her breathing pace, she checked her wristwatch and decided to head home. The sun was going to rise soon, she would be damned if she wasted time and arrived late at work. 

 

Her home was situated in a decent neighborhood where there are no tales of robberies or any other vices. It was a residential area where people were homey, friendly, courteous and minded their business.  It was a bit out of the hustle and bustle of the main city, which she loved dearly each time she comes home from work. 

 

She had made a conscious effort in getting the apartment, with the help of her agent. Her happiness had no limits when she visited the house at her first meeting specifically meeting her taste, without hesitation, purchased it since it met all her requirements of a dream house. 

 

Tehila’s home  has always been an escape abode and a safe haven for her which she made sure has enough fire alarms and security locks. The few people the only set of people that comes around visiting are her parents . she had no friend and she needed none. she resolved that she did not want to be liable for someone else security. They had often joked that she was being paranoid over her security . She'd always huffed and said "you don't know the value of security till you need it".

 

Reaching home, she put in her codes on the lock, got in and shut the door after her. She went to the kitchen, removed a bottled water from the refrigerator, leaned against her cabinet and gurgled the water languidly. Enjoying the feel of the cold water in her throat after her run.

 

Involuntarily, Her mind went back to her life before that night, she was living a happy life with her family, good friends and everything was perfect till things took a plunge for the worst. Their lives had been so perfectly planned out even as kids, there were long term goals that had been written and she was disappointed that Treasure couldn’t fulfill any of them. The hurt enveloped her again. 

 

So many things have lost appeal to her over since then, her life a monotony of activities that she felt she had to participate in, in order to make her parents happy though within her, she was numb and  dead, she wished many times she could let go of the guilt which has been living with her for far too long, of the pain but for a long time she had buried all those feelings, knowing that it was worthless and won’t take her anywhere "Maybe I'll die unhappy" Tehila said while sighing and resigning again to her fate. 

 

Tehila walked slowly to her room and sat on the edge of the bed and turned off the music that was playing from her iPod. She went through her itinerary for the day drafted on her mobile and sighed, already tired with the activities of the day that  hasn't even begun.

 

She loved her job, but it was so demanding.  Most times, she wished she could take a break but she knew that taking a break will only dredge up bad memories she has been suppressing. she would rather constantly, over and over again get herself distracted than loosen up for a free time.  She mentally cautioned herself from slugging into those dark places of her memory.  

 

Music blasting from her speakers as she went on to have a shower and get ready for the day. She hummed along with the music playing and danced freely to the beat of the music, at the same time wondering when she'll ever find peace and fulfillment. Growing up, she had thought that with all her achievements she will be happy by now. But, she had been in for a rude reawakening by nature. 

 

She pondered on her life and sighed again, she had the dream life that many could kill for. A good paying job, comfortable and modest accommodation with two cars, large chunk of money in her savings and parents who dotted on her. She closed her eyes and Treasure's face once again hunted her and she quickly opened her eyes, mopped her body and started dressing up. She couldn’t sit around and mop, she had decided to close her mind and heart concerning that and it had to stay that way. 

 

Looking at herself in the mirror donned with a white camisole, tucked in a black skirt which had just enough slit at the back which didn't make her look slutty with a black suit top and a red six inches heel Jimmy choos shoe. Tehila was convinced that she looked beautiful in addition to her hair packed up in a tight bun which always screamed professionalism. With a minimal makeup always content with just a slight touch of a brown powder on her face and nothing else. She always wore that charming smile that was a facade and held her demons at bay. Assuring herself she looked beautiful and professional which was what she was aiming for. 

 

Tehila grabbed her bag, put her laptop and iPad in her laptop bag, put off the speakers, made her bed, carried her car key and headed to the sitting room where she dropped them carefully and went to the kitchen to see what was available. She opened the fridge and realized that she was running out of stock. She made a mental note to get some supplies on her way home. She quickly made scrambled egg to eat with toasted bread and tea. She washed everything when she was done because she had a liking for a clean kitchen and generally a clean place, she grabbed her things, locked the door and drove out in her car.

 

Perks of being single and independent are because she does anything she wishes to do, sometimes stay up late at work, returning home anytime she wanted, though, she barely had a social life. She remembered how she and Treasure had always wished they could grow up fast and have a place of their own, live life and enjoy. Though she sometimes missed being with her parents, and having them fuss over her. 

 

Alisson her secretary stood up to help Tehila with her things as she made way into her office. Tehila always felt somehow happy each time she stepped into her office. It was her one dream that she didn't allow to die that day. She worked for one of the top housing agencies as an architect and she loved every bit of it. The joy in seeing someone’s face light up when they finally see their dream house or building was always the highlight of her career for her. 

 

Arriving early each day to work was not easy because of the traffic, more reason she liked leaving her house quite early. Prize Agency was located in the midst of the city which accommodated other business premises. The city always seem too busy as if everyone was rushing especially in the morning.

 

 She sat on her swivel chair while Alisson powered her laptop, prepared her coffee, and served her.  Tehila nodded her appreciation as she took a sip. Her office was modest and airy with top of the art furniture. It afforded her view of the city looking through her window.  

 

Alisson stepped back eager to get on with her own tasks "anything else?” Alisson asked. 

 

"If there is an update on Mr. Ray's contract you inform me, and that'll be all Alisson, thank you" Tehila replied, already opening a file and concentrating on it.  Alisson curtsied and left.

 

Hours later, Tehila being engrossed in her work didn't pay attention to the repeated knocks o her door. At the the third reprise, her attention was caught, gently rubbing her neck, she lifted up her face from the documents in fromt of her with a gentle voice she answered “come in”. 

 

Mr. Prize, owner of The Prize Agency where she worked waltzed in followed by a young man that seems unknown or better still, strange to her. Though eager to know who he is and his mission in her office that early morning. 

 

 "Well, hello there Ms. Joshua"

Tehila looked up smiling on hearing the voice and stood. 

 

"Good afternoon Mr. Prize, please do sit" Tehila said while motioning at the seats in front of her, Mr.Prize extended his hand for a handshake while Tehila took it, all the while smiling, she also shook hands with the young man in Mr. Prize company, the trio sat after the exchange. 

 

"Soft drinks?" Tehila asked and Mr. Prize declined. 

 

"Nah, I could easily drink in my office if I was thirsty” Tehila rolled her eyes at the humor and they laughed. She had always enjoyed a friendly and cordial relationship with Mr. Prize even though he was her employer and she did not know why because she was closed up. 

 

“I came to discuss with you"

 

"I was wondering what brought the mighty Mr. Prize to my office" Tehila replied while beaming and relaxing back in her seat, Prize laughed while sitting up. Mr. Prize loved the fact that Tehila was never afraid to speak her mind to him, though she was still respectful while doing so. He turned to his companion. 

 

"Here's my nephew Mr. Praise Joshua"

 

"Is it a mere coincidence that he shares my surname? I guess I would not be able to reject anything you came to say then" Tehila said while smiling at the young man who grinned back at her. 

 

"Maybe...." Praise answered drawling and Tehila couldn't help but notice that the young man was good looking, exuded confidence and had a nice accent in his voice, she always had a dislike for accents but was surprised at how good it sounded coming from him,  she turned her attention back on Prize who looked between the both of them with a smug smile. 

 

"He's fresh out of the university, served his father land and with a brain like his I decided to make him join the company, he'll be interning under you as the H.O.D of architecture, he is just going to be under your wing for 3 months to learn the ropes then as times goes on we will decide the next step to take. ” Prize explained. 

 

"Can't he be under any of the other officers here Mr. Prize?” She was  uncertain of the whole idea of having an intern. 

 

           "You are good at what you do and I want my nephew to be under your tutelage because believe me Ms. Joshua but you both have a lot to learn from each other, consider it a favor I'm asking and I’ll sure owe you. Good day Mr.  Praise"  Prize said while moving towards the door. 

 

“excuse me sir?"

 

“yes…"

 

“you know my rule regarding this, need I ask why? “ she queried clearly agitated. 

 

Prize beamed and Tehila mentally knew that she won’t like whatever he was about to say “in every rule, there is an exception. See him as the exceptions you’ll be making for a long time. Good day” he strode from the office and Tehila starred at his retreating form and the closed door. Trying to let everything he had said sink in. 

 

"Well, where do we begin?" Praise asked, snapping her back to reality and, she faked a smile, putting on her best poker face. 

 

"Eager to start already?"

 

"What can I say?" Praise asked, leaning back with a shrug. Tehila knew within her that her life was about to change, she could not shake th e feeling off,  maybe for the better she hoped and she was more surprised that she was eager for it. 

CHAPTER TWO

I know you can do everything, you make plans and nothing can change or stop them. 

Job 42 vs 2 ERV

 

Driving through the busy traffic is just one of the bad ways to end a stressful day! Part of the reasons Tehila never loved living in the city. Struggling with her door lock; she dragged in herself and collapsed on the couch. mentally groaning with herself. 

 

Her day had taken an unexpected turn with Praise being her right hand man and she was way uncomfortable. The opposite sex getting close is one of her worst nightmares; what she dreads the most! Not even after the nasty experience with her ex-friend Raymond who seems to see her as unstable as the wind and never hesitate to tell everyone about it. 

 

The tension in her office had her begging the heavens for help. She wasn't a Christian neither was she an atheist but, she knew that there were forces at work in life and she did not know which was having the upper hand at the moment. 

 

She thought back to the time that she had made her life revolve around God, how she had made fellowshipping with people and generally being in God’s presence her priority, now, she wondered if she had been happy doing all those things, her mind reminded her that she was always eager and excited to serve God in all capacity though she tries to act otherwise. What a deep struggle within. 

 

So much had changed since then she thought. She had a policy to  tutor only female interns, she didn't like the fact that the men constantly hit on her, and Mr. Prize was well aware of that laid down principle of hers and yet, he had gone ahead to dump his nephew on her laps for her to baby sit which she wasn't pleased to have.  But the question is ‘does she really have a choice’? I doubt no.  she has to follow her boss's order.  She wondered why Mr. Prize had never mentioned aforetime   he had a nephew in all their previous discussions  ‘Nevertheless, that’s not a  business of hers’ she murmured. 

 

She shrugged out of her blazers and set to work on removing her heels which she always looked forward to at the end of each day, her high heels was what gave her joy, coupled with the fact that it made her look extremely tall, but, she suffered it pains at the end of each day,  she massaged her calves slowly, grateful that she had the opportunity to do that. she wished that she could be grateful for other things in her life.

 

With no strength to cook, she picked up her phone and ordered a menu from her favorite restaurant which was down the street, ‘what a glad news, delivery will be  in less than twenty minutes. She avoided cooking, never liked the chore as a kid, her sister was more of the cook while she the baker, her mother has always tried to teach her but she had made it clear that there was no need, it helped she was living alone, she saw it as a waste of time to learn how to cook when there was always a fast food or eatery restaurant nearby and she knew that she won't enjoy eating it alone. Though she knew how to make the basic fast recipes like noodles, spaghetti, rice and the rest. Besides no friend comes visiting.   Hence, her well stocked kitchen was always pristine clean except when she was in the mood to bake. 

 

While awaiting her delivery  she flips through the TV channels . Seeing a girly show that she thought might be interesting, she dozed off few minutes into watching. The doorbell startled her from her nap, quiet sure it is going to be the delivery man. , she lifted up her tired body to get the door, gave the young man a tip, got the food ,heading straight to get her cutleries from the kitchen, she proceeded without hesitation eating while returning to the living room. She was happy that the food was tasty, just the way she liked it. 

 

Enjoying the taste of the moment, a commercial flipped through the screen of the TV indicating an upcoming christian program. In disdain she spilled out ‘how on earth has it become impossible to peacefully enjoy a television channel without religious activities and church things! and hissed as she searched from one cannel to another to get something else that might be of value.

 

Eight years ago had she made that solemn decision when she moved out of her parents house to start her life as an adult, never to have anything doing with religion and even those associated to it. She had long stopped believing God exist.  And she needs no one to change her conviction. 

Life is in phases, in stages and in seasons.

 

Perhaps she is in a complete season of unbelief but has no idea of how long it will last. Change is a constant event in everyman’s life, how she greatly desire hers could have been a positive change evolving into a life of joy, liberty, fulfillment, and pleasure but its just the other way round. Nevertheless, life goes on.  

 

Her parents had tried drawing her close to God but she'd revolted, she didn't understand why her parents will be happy to serve a being who took much from them and did not give anything in return except pain, they brought up the gospel each time she visited them and now she only visits them on important occasions like their birthdays and other family ceremony, she felt choked with their endless talk on salvation and that God loves her.

 

"Where was God that night we needed him?" She kept asking them and they had no satisfactory answer to that because they too still suffered from the painful memories of that night. The pain was always evident in their eyes each time they saw her. 

 

Tehila's mind drifted back to Praise Joshua involuntarily, he had proven in just few hours that he was a fast learner and did not just got employed based on his relationship with his uncle but clearly on merit grounds. His intelligence and apt for learning are evident.  She disliked people who got things out of connection and not merit. 

 

To satisfy her curiosity, she had requested the Human Resources Department to send her a copy of his Curriculum Vitae and his motivation statement at the moment of application to the firm, she was well satisfied seeing his credible profile, his skills, strength and weaknesses which will also channel her effort properly into the right track in her tutoring.  

 

Tehila was impressed that he was one of the few who graduated with a first class in Architecture, a feat which she had also achieved, she knew that attaining that feat in architecture was not easy, she remembered the many parties she had to curtail, many hours of sleep she had forego in order to achieve her goals. Her course mates had told her that there was no need for studying that hard.  She was however glad that it was not a waste, had paid off with a good certificate Which has been a great tool in getting her dream job and earning a comfortable life. 

 

She could not stop her bugging curiosity as she wondered why he  just graduated at the age of thirty-three whereas she has bagged her Masters degree and currently running her PhD program at twenty-four years. She chided herself for thinking about him, and from trying to figure things out on his behalf when she cautioned herself that life and chance happens to all. Not really of how fast but how pretty well. 

          

She shrugged out of her thought as she smiled in awe at the way her heart wandered over a man she barely know which has never happened to her before except the usual thoughts of her parent. 

          

Dumping the plastic plates in the trash can, she headed to her sweet room to settle in for the night or probably gracefully enjoy the rest of her evening. She remembered she had a leftover work from office, a design to review before the building commence, She corrected some errors, signed, and forwarded it via email to the HOD of the Building's department. She hated slacking up on her work or keeping works that could be completed that present day to the next. 

          

Tehila slept off and woke later panting for breathe, her nightmare had occurred again, she glanced at her clock, it read 1:58am, she knew as always that she won't be able to sleep again, she was however grateful that she'd slept for hours before now. 

          

She reached to her bedside drawer, removed a small box, she caressed it fondly, opened it while looking at the mementos inside, she removed her album, thumbed through the pages, she looked at the pictures one by one, they were so many happy pictures of different celebrations, captured moments with her family and friends, she could not help but smile at all the memories, but on glancing at her photo and that of Treasure tears slide down slowly. 

          

Tehila knew that she could not avoid being choked each time she saw Treasure’s picture or heard her name.  She could  not rein the tears, she always felt guilty for not being able to be her  big sister the day it mattered the most. Could not stop admitting to herself that she deserved the pain and nightmares which had become her companion. 

           

Tehila sobbed silently while cradling the album, she was jolted when her phone rang, she picked up the phone, realized it was an unknown number, while debating if to pick or not, the caller ID flashed, indicating that it was Praise Joshua. She cleared her throat and answered the call, people knew better than to call her by this time, she also wondered where he got her number from because she remembered clearly that they did not exchange contacts , Praise's voice jarred her back to the present and it soothed her. 

          

"Good morning Ms. Joshua, sorry if I woke you up" 

          

"Morning Mr. Praise, this is past 2 in the morning and some people might have been sleeping you know" Tehila replied sounding irritate. 

 

she wondered where the irritation came from but blamed it on the bad timing of his call, Praise could not help but smile, he had to give it to her that she kept him and everyone else on his toes. 

           

His uncle had told him that Tehila literally commanded the whole room with her presence and aura, he found it to be extremely true because his uncle rarely comments  on people and he has also experienced it first hand.

 

Praise mind went back to meeting her the previous day, he was still surprised that the lady was everything most millennial ladies were not, he saw her as an embodiment of beauty, brains, charisma, but he could not help noticing the sadness that was resident in her eyes because he had been housing such pains himself for a long time. 

          

Tehila knew that he was smiling, she imagined his lips tilting up to give an easy smile. The man exuded so much peace and  confidence. The peace she so desperately craved when she let her mind wander. 

          

"I'm sorry for disturbing, I could call back if you are indisposed" 

          

"You already called and I picked, you might as well tell me what could not wait till work hours" 

          

"Actually, I wanted to say that I'll be few hours behind schedule, I have things to attend to please and I would appreciate if you don't report me to the boss" 

          

"Starting to request favors  from me already? Mr. Praise I do not appreciate tardiness and I would like it if you do not make a habit of it" Tehila admonished already considering letting him off. 

          

"I promise that I will explain when I come by the office tomorrow, and tardiness is not my strong suit" Praise assured in a calm voice. 

            

"Fine, but you better have a good explanation, bye Mr Praise" 

            

"Good night Ms. Joshua" Praise replied and hung up. 

            

After ending the call, Tehila wondered what to do with her time. She could not help agreeing that if felt good to talk to someone asides her parents. She decided that she had to join social medias and make friends like other people. 

           

Before arriving at her office, Tehila had decided mentally to put in her strict professionalism in interning Praise, she couldn't start being lenient with him or playing favoritism now,  if not they won't complete their target which will be up in the next nine weeks, and she did not want tongues to start wagging in the office. She couldn't bear to disappoint Mr. Prize who has much trust in her, couldn't think of also disappointing herself or Mr. Praise who also had much to learn from her.  

          

Her strict professionalism and discipline has helped placed her on the pedestal of her career and she couldn't change now. She didn’t change even though her colleagues told her she was too serious, didn’t stop even when her parents complained. She always felt wonderful each time she set a goal and accomplished it and her goal this time around was to intern Praise well. 

      

Later, when Praise showed up trying to explain, she waved the explanations aside and asked him to try as much as possible to be punctual always. She couldn't bear to have rumors flying around the department that she was all soft with the boss's nephew, it will cause problem. She personally hated preferential treatment and, didn't want to be guilty of it. 

          

The following days, true to her resolve, she and Praise got along cordially and with no excuse of tardiness which she was grateful for. Tehila also discovered that there was a lot to  learn from each other as Mr. Prize had said. 

 

CHAPTER THREE 

 

So don’t remember what happened in earlier times. Don’t think about what happened a long time ago. 

Isaiah 43 verse 18 (ERV) 

 

“That will be all, people. Have a good day” Mr. Prize said. There was a cacophony of voices as people greeted him. People started filtering out of the office after a successful meeting which will set the building of one business complex in roll. Tehila remained seated and went through some files with Praise. Mr. Prize smiled and walked towards them, he took a seat near them and asked 

          

"How are my two favorite people in the world doing?" 

         

"I'll be sure to tell your wife that you have lowered her in your chart of favorites" Tehila said teasingly. 

           

Everyone could attest to the fact that Cassie and Prize loved each other so much. Their display of love was sometimes nauseating for Tehila to watch. Her parents were not one for so much public display of affection and she was happy about it because she often wondered how she would have coped if the opposite was the case. 

          

"Please don't, you know Cassie won't let me live if she hears it" Prize said while shuddering at the mere thought of it. 

          

Tehila enjoyed the fear in his eyes and she grinned broadly. She often wondered how it was possible to love and seriously respect the same person so much. She often thought about having such love and respect if and when she marries. 

          

"I think I might just pity you" 

          

Mr. Prize looked relieved from the earlier threat and the trio burst out laughing. They knew perfectly well that Cassie would not do anything to him. 

          

"I take it that she doesn't appreciate your sense of humor uncle" Praise said and they laughed again 

          

"She sure isn't one to fall for my charms" Prize admitted faking a pout which only made Tehila to stick her tongue out and they continued laughing. 

           

Praise wondered why Tehila was free with his uncle, even bantered with him  and was not shy about being herself with him when she was uppity around others. The side of her she showed her uncle was breath taking to him. The way her head fell back in laughter and the way her eyes glittered with humor was a spectacle to him. 

          

He would admit that she really was a difficult person with a lot of shells which she didn't allow anyone to  break, he couldn't help but wonder what will be in there if he succeeded in peeling off  those layers, she was the best at what she did especially her job,  the  more reason he admired her. 

           

Although he mostly wished he could break her walls and allow people in. He knew it will take a lot of work, and he was ready for it. He always has the knack of achieving anything he wanted. The night God had spoken to him, he had doubted, telling God to change his will. At the end, he knew he had to obey and he was happy he listened. 

          

Praise remembered one night they were working late on one of the projects, he passed by her office to go home but saw that she was still buried in work through the open door of her office. He ordered dinner, making a guess on the preference of her meal. 

           

Quite pleased with himself when she  smiled in appreciation of the gesture, and even told her to join him for the dinner. They had talked, mostly about work and she consciously steered the topics away from herself, achievements, or family. He wondered what story was lurking around. 

           

Working with her the past few days had figuratively kept him on his toes, she was hard to please plus her constant mood swings and people including him didn't want to suffer the brunt of that, though he wouldn't dare say it to her. 

           

She was a hard worker, expected extreme perfection in the drawings and compared to her and what he's learnt from her, he couldn't understand why he was called the best back then in the university because he was way out of his element when compared to her. Her attribute of appreciating people often endeared her to her coworkers though she kept them at arms length. 

          

She challenged him daily with her intelligence and work ethics, though he keeps trying profusely to meet up. She only chattered about mundane things when they went out to lunch together which had suddenly become a habit that wouldn't break and he looked forward to it every working day, that was the only time she looked truly relaxed and not trying to be all professional. He discovered he loved her more usual self which she hardly reveals to anyone except his uncle and probably her family. 

          

"I'm impressed again with the idea your department has presented to the group today. Once we get the necessary approval we'll get to work quickly" Mr. Prize commended the duo who smiled appreciatively. 

     

" It will have lots of expenses but, the profit will certainly be worth it" Praise chirped in 

            

Mr. Prize and Tehila nodded in agreement  "totally, in as much as I'll love to continue this chit-chat, duties call and I'll have to go. See you both around" 

          

Tehila and Praise nodded, exchanged good byes with their boss and headed to their different offices.  Tehila was typing on her laptop when Praise knocked and came in. Unlike most people who had to wait for her approval, he sauntered in. Over the course of the days, he had realized that she seemed to always be engrossed with her work, so, Tehila had decided he just come in when he wanted to see her. He asked 

          

"May I? " 

          

"Sure" Tehila replied while looking up momentarily from her laptop. She continued with her work. Praise sat down and started speaking 

          

"I've started working on the project you said, I won't deny the fact that it's a little demanding" 

         

Tehila looked up from her laptop, giving him her full attention  "That is more of what you'll be doing, rumors flying around is that the old man will be retiring and you'll take over. More reason you need a feel on all the department. It is better you learn now, that is the why I’m  here to put you through” 

          

"You don't strike me as one to listen to the grapevines” 

          

Tehila grinned while leaning back in her seat "I bet there are many things that you don't know about me and, some office gossips can't be avoided you know" 

          

She remembered going to the typing room to print out some documents because her printer was bad. Her back was turned from her coworkers when she heard them talking. They had stuttered when she turned, announcing her presence in the room and smiling sweetly at them. 

          

"I bet" Praise said smiling. Tehila noticed that he did not affirm or rubute her claim and she thought that it had to be true.

 

" it's few minutes to lunch time, how about we head out now and take a good spot before it starts getting crowded” 

          

Tehila smiled and Praise knew that it was forced, he knew her and observed that the smile didn't quite reach her eyes. He was surprised that he observed those little things about her. 

          

Praise knew that whatever she wanted to say will not be good. Tehila looked at him and did not know how to tell him without hurting his feelings. She was surprised that she cared about how he will feel.  She didn’t like that she started liking all the attention and the time she spent with him. She only knew that she had to stop it. She did not need a responsibility, she also did not need another person to care about. 

          

"I am afraid but today I can't head out to eat lunch, Alisson will be bringing mine later, I have a lot to finish up" 

          

Praise smiled, sensing that she wants to withdraw. He also knew that it was a lie since they did not have any backload of work to do. He could persuade her to change her mind. He also knew that with the efforts he had made, he couldn’t allow her to erect back those walls because it will be hard to break them to that extent again. 

          

"You always tell me that health is wealth, I promise we won't spend up to thirty minutes and the company will cover the tab, Mr. Prize wanted to celebrate our department and he bought lunch for all, you wouldn't want him pouting again. We can not break his heart” 

          

Tehila faked a glare and Praise grinned. They both knew that Mr. Prize looked like a lost kitten each time he pouted and they always have to cover up the laughter that threatens to erupt each time he does it. She also knew that Praise was manipulating her, but she won’t put up a fight. Sincerely, the idea of eating lunch in her office alone lost appeal. 

           

" Give me a few minutes let me finish this up" 

           

" Sure boss". 

            

After eating to their fill and having dessert, Tehila was glad that she didn't eat hers after lunch because, it would have been junk food and she knows better than to indulge in it all the time. Junk food always increase her  weight and, her punishment was to work out in the gym in order to maintain her body. 

          

Their conversation wasn't forced and always flowed easily. As they were conversing on another mundane thing, Praise phone rang and Tehila stiffened, clutching the spoon she was holding with much force,  Praise who did not notice  took an excuse and stepped out to answer the call. He was surprised to see Tehila fuming when he came back and rejoined her. 

         

"What happened while I was gone?" 

         

Praise asked carefully gauging her. He wondered if someone had offended her or something 

         

"Nothing" 

          

Praise observed that the warmth that was there a few minute ago was gone, he tried making light conversations to lighten her mood but she answered in a  clipped tone. He decided to take his shot regardless of her outcome. 

          

"We have a mid week service today and I'd love you to be my guest in church" 

          

There was momentary anger in her eyes but, she quickly replaced it with a weak smile 

          

"I'm sorry Mr. Joshua but I'm busy for the evening. I'd like for us to get back to the office now, that's if you don't mind" 

          

"Certainly". 

           

Throughout the ride back to the office, Tehila remained quiet and Praise wondered what he had done to upset her. She mumbled a "thank you" when they reached the parking lot and she left to her office. She could not concentrate anymore, not with her anger, instead of wasting her time in the office doing nothing she grabbed her things and went home. She could always continue working at home. 

          

Reaching home, she slowly peeled the heely shoes off her leg, casually rubbing her aching calf. She went to her kitchen,  poured red wine and slowly sipped it while sitting on the couch when her phone rang, she sighed while picking the call and using her best cherry voice 

         

"Good afternoon mummy" 

          

Her mother's happy voice made Tehila smiled though she had not been in the mood of speaking to her mother primarily 

          

“ adiaha mmi, abadieh?" 

          

"As good as I can be mother, you?" 

After catching up for some minutes in the happening of both their lives. Rachel continued 

          

"A man of God is coming, I was wondering if you could make it to an all night. The presence of God will flow Tee. The man is renowned…” 

          

Tehila stiffened, Wondering why people were asking her to church programs today. She was exasperated. 

          

"I'm sorry mummy but I'm not coming. You know that. I wonder why you bother asking " 

           

“Tee, it has been long” 

           

“No mummy it hasn’t “ 

           

When her mother wanted to protest, Tehila knew that she could end up saying things she'll regret and she opted for ending the call while her mother went on speaking. She knew she will get an earful for doing that, but, her sanity was important at that moment. 

          

Tehila groaned and wondered what Praise would be thinking about her mood swing earlier on, she couldn't bear to think what his reaction will be if he told her that her mood had changed because of "the old rugged cross" which was his ring tone. She knew that most of her colleagues called her names behind her since none of them had the courage to say it to her face or suffer her wrath. But, she was the least bit concerned since it helped wad off nosy friends in her life. 

          

She didn’t know why she was concerned that Praise should not also see her in a negative manner.  Though, she couldn't help but wonder if some of the things they said about her was true and if Praise believed them. She couldn’t start changing, it has been part of her life.  Many won't know why she lives her life the way she does and she doesn't care or owe anyone an explanation.

 

CHAPTER FOUR

 

So I run like someone who has a goal. I fight like a boxer who is hitting something, not just the air.

1st Corinthians 9 verse 26 (ERV) 

 

The gym was buzzing with activities when Tehila stepped in with her track suit, tank top and a bottle water with her bag slung on her arm. The gym was located in the upscale part of town and never lacked enough clients which kept the place busy. The receptionist had a friendly smile which keeps attracting people in coupled with the positive review of their service quality.  

          

She went to the locker room and dropped her things. She headed to the boxing ring. She so desperately needed someone to punch right now and, punching was what she needed each time she was pissed and, her adrenaline rushing fast. 

          

Tehila couldn't carry out her anger on Praise and, neither could she explain to him how he'd wronged  her knowing fully well that it will be unfounded . He hadn't intentionally wronged her but, she still blamed him. She hated herself in moments like this. When her anger and pain seemed to overtake her. 

          

Rachel always knew how to get on her nerves which was always annoying to her. Most times, Tehila wished that Rachel was anything asides her mother so that she will cut her off. For a fleeting second, she remembered how she and Treasure will team up and do things that will make their mother angry though at the same time happy that she was blessed with them. 

          

Her mother could not have a child again after Treasure, the doctor said that it was early menopause. That made her mother to spoil them sometimes while also not slacking in disciplining them.  

          

Their childhood was fun. Her father would always remind them of how blessed he was to have them. When he was back home from work, he spent quality time with them. She quickly chased away the memories. She did not have the luxury to dwell on her past that only brought pains and, a gnawing sense of loneliness. 

          

Her trainer, the owner of the gym walked in. The man was always busy and she was surprised when he had decided to take her training up personally, his name is Nelson ; a man in his mid-forties though so blessed with a much younger look. 

           

Everyone knows he is well built, in shape, and also looks healthy.  Tehila often pondered on how he was still strong with no health challenges and summed it up to be the exercises he did, he always know how to take and dish out a good punch and Tehila was quite good at taking his punch and equally dishing out hers, their session was always therapeutic for her. 

          

" Well hello there, Barbie" 

          

Nelson said it as a greeting with a smirk on his handsome face while entering into the boxing ring. He was handsome for someone of his age, but Tehila knew her father was more handsome she chuckled thinking that he would route for her father simply because he was her father.  

          

He knew how she hated the name, he remember her telling him that countless times, but he kept on calling her that to grate on her nerves and to make her worked up. It usually helped though. But today, she was furious enough. She had came here straight from the office after speaking to her mother. 

          

Tehila stepped in and threw the first punch, hoping to wipe away that smug expression on his face but Nelson was like a brick wall. 

          

"That's for calling me Barbie" 

          

Nelson laughed while taking a stance, he merely moved after she threw the first punch which only made Tehila more aggravated 

          

"What brings you here today, another rough day?" 

          

Nelson asked preparing to take another shot which Tehila dished out as he had calculated. He was genuinely concerned about her. 

          

"I hate them" Tehila said angrily 

          

"Who are those people getting on Barbie's nerves?" 

          

Tehila didn't notice his mocking tone because she was boiling in rage and throwing punches. She could only talk in that state easily. 

          

"They talked shit about going to church" Tehila said just as she dodged a blow from Nelson. One of the things she liked about Nelson as a trainer was that he wasn’t soft on her at all. He gave her just like she dished it. 

          

"Who are the 'they' you keep referring to?" 

          

"My mother and my colleague" she replied while throwing another punch that sends Nelson to the floor. Tehila chuckles, her temporary fury gone, she was getting really good at throwing punches and she was happy. 

           

None of her workers knew that she engaged in it. Her life was always secluded, and she kept people at bay. She had decided to take the lessons after that night as a form of self defense. Though, she hasn’t had the chance to use it. She prayed that the day should never come. She hated being vulnerable. 

           

Nelson stumbled back on his feet swearing and cursing, Tehila smirked. 

          

"Well I'm happy that I could humor you with my epic fall. You are getting better by the day and the release of pent up emotions help" 

          

Tehila nodded and took her stance again ready for another round. 

          

"I know it's not their fault that they invited me, but, mummy knows better, she knows I swore not to step foot there again, she remembers the hurt I suffered, then the song is his ring tone, I got angry, acted impolitely and left him to wonder what he did wrong " 

          

Her eyes grew misty but she promised herself not to cry, tears are for the weak and tears didn’t help. It only made her weak and vulnerable. She reminded herself that and kept throwing punches till she was exhausted. 

          

She sat on the floor,  Nelson sat beside her slowly and not saying anything, that was the longest thing she had said to anyone about that night apart from her parents. Nelson had always wondered about what happened to make her shut down emotionally and each day she came for her training she released it bit by bit in the punches she threw. 

          

He  had easily realized that she was a complex person who had been hurt deeply and had bottled it in. She wondered if she knew how relieved she will be if she let the hurt out because it was weighing her down terribly. 

          

Nelson remembered that when he had first started a session with her that she was scared, had looked at him warily and with fear, she acted cowardly and ran out and, when she came back the next day, raw determination and anger had taken over and slowly she had progressed, venting each time she threw a punch and he had always been there to listen without judging which endeared him to her. 

   

He knew better than to press for information, when she was ready, she will share. He was happy that she was making little efforts. He hoped that it will be sooner rather than later. The darkness in her eyes was apparent to anyone who looked carefully. 

          

"Sorry for today" 

          

He smiled "that's what I'm here for kiddo, I would be disappointed if I keep winning all the time" 

          

Tehila nodded and smiled, Nelson ruffled her hair. He couldn’t help letting her know that he was there for her. 

         

"You know that one day you have to see a therapist and get rid of this guilt. You could talk to me when you are ready, you know my office" 

         

"I don't think that one day will ever come" 

          

"If you quit stalling it, it will come" 

          

Tehila looked at him and offered a weak smile. He was one of the few men she allowed into her life and trusted. She hoped that she will take him on that offer but, she doubted that she was ready or ever will be. It hurts too much to remember, more reason she kept the ugly memory shut and forgotten. Though it has started resurfacing and she was at a loss. 

          

They sat with each other and talked about life, she left the gym better than she had gone in and wondered how he always had this calming effect on her after speaking with him. 

           

Tehila groaned when her phone rang and saw her mother's number. It was Friday afternoon and she was still in the office, she wondered why her mother couldn't take the hint that she wasn't coming for the church program no matter how she insisted or how happy it will make her mother.  She silenced the phone the three times it rang. 

           

Tehila was happy that her mother didn't call again but it was short lived when a message popped up "I know you are with your phone so just pick up, it isn’t about church". Tehila smiled, her mother knew that she barely went anywhere without her phone and while growing up her dad will most times seize her phone as a punishment and because they thought she was addicted to it. She shook her head and picked it up when it rang the fourth time. 

          

"About time you picked up" 

         

"Good afternoon mummy" Tehila greeted cheerily and her mother snorted before answering 

          

"So, if I didn't send that text you wouldn't have answered the call ehn?" 

          

"Mummy, you know this is work hours, it is not fair I take non-work related calls by this time and I didn't want you bringing up the program to spoil my mood" 

          

Rachel let out an exasperated sigh. Sometimes Tehila could be so difficult. 

          

"You know I'm still praying and I don't loose hope on your salvation, anyways, there is a little get-together at home this Sunday afternoon, your dad is celebrating his retirement" 

          

"I'll be over there on Sunday morning, anything I can help out with?" 

          

Though Tehila couldn't see she knew her mother was shaking her head in disagreement before replying 

          

"Everything has been taken care of, just be there in the afternoon, unlike some people we will be in church that morning and, Tee?" 

          

"Yes momma" 

          

"Bring a date" 

          

Tehila laughed shaking her head. Her mother did not need to know that she had no man in her life which was worrisome at twenty four years. Many men had come, but she could not enter into a relationship with them, not when she had so much baggage on her own. 

          

"Okay momma, gotta go. I love you" 

          

"Love you too baby" Rachel ended the call and Tehila smiled while mumbling "that wasn't so bad after all". Her parents were getting worried that she paid no attention to the male folk but, she didn't care. Men had taken so much from her already. 

          

Moreover, getting into a relationship with someone was draining. She remembered how her room mates would cry, refuse to eat and be bitchy when their relationship turned sour. She also thought about how some of them would be so worried when their boyfriend refused to pick their calls. She could not stomach it. The thought of making a man have so much hold over her was appealing to her. Coupled with thinking of how to buy gifts, please him and do other stuffs when she would rather enjoy her own company. 

          

When they start nagging about grandchildren she'll probably adopt and make them happy. That is if she will be able to care for them.  With that decision, she went back to her work. 

 

CHAPTER FIVE

 

But let good people be happy. Let them gather before God and enjoy themselves together.

Psalms 68 verse 3 (ERV) 

 

 Walking into the garden which was already filled with people,  Tehila fidgeted. She quickly scanned the crowd and saw her mother and father exchanging pleasantries with the guests and smiling like the perfect host and hostess, and she smile, relaxing slightly.

           

They were always at ease with people. Right from her childhood years, they made it a habit to host parties ranging from birthdays to graduations. She often wished she was more like them in that aspect. Free and ready to socialize. While she was the introvert, Treasure was the extrovert and free spirit. She was always too bold and did many things which Tehila found hard. 

          

Once, Tehila had needed to borrow a book from the library to take home and do her assignment. She was worried about being disappointed by the librarian. Treasure had stepped in, as courageous as she was and got the book coupled with the friendship of the librarian. 

 

Her family house was situated out of town. Her parents loved the relative calmness and less busyness of their neighborhood. Since they had relocated from their first residence, they had moved in here and stayed there ever since. She also loved it here because everyone seems to know each other and they looked out for each other. 

          

Tehila had planned to arrive early to the party, to help out, she could not bear to think that her mother would handle all the preparations alone. Also, she had a rule of always arriving minutes before a meeting or event was scheduled  to start. This was because when she was in the university, she had overslept one day, though she heard the alarm, she believed she had few more hours to spare and she ended up missing her test. She had to claim she was sick in order to write it. 

          

She had kept changing her outfit repeatedly, not liking how it was on her body.  She knew she had a great body and loved good clothes. Tehila often indulged in shopping for clothes and shoes. She was never at a loss as to what to wear. So, she mentally chastised herself for being overly concerned about her choice of clothing when she would be around a bunch of people who were in her parents circle. 

          

Not wanting to distract her parents since they were in a conversation with one of the guests, and dreading the idea of being fussed over by her parents and guests,  she quietly slipped into the house using the back doors which will lead her to the kitchen. 

 

She desperately needed alcohol to deal with the people she will have to face who would subtly hint that she was aging with no husband, and she had to bear it with enthusiasm and happiness. She could not afford being rude to her parents guests. Her parents were not always aware of it, since they were not mean people. 

She had to settle for a cold water, though the soft him of alcohol would have made her feel bold to deal with it all. Mr. and Mrs. Joshua  did not have a bar in their home and no alcoholic wine was served. They were the definition of ingrained born again Christian that always rattled on Tehila's nerves. Though, she could admit that amidst the pain, their faith worked for them. 

          

From the kitchen, one could get a clear view of the garden and she noticed her mother scanning the crowd for her. She smiled because though her parents were busy and had guests demanding attention, they had always put their children first and she loved them for that.

As kids, though her parents work schedule was tight, they never missed any of their events at school and teachers always commended them for that. She knew it was because of their love for her.  She noticed her dad excusing himself from one of the guests. 

 

He removed his phone from the pocket of his well tailored trouser suit to make a phone call, she picked the call on the first ring knowing it was her father probably worried

          

"Where are you darling?” her father asked worry evident in his voice. 

          

"Calm down handsome, I'm hiding away in the kitchen for some minutes to allow you guys soak up in the attention" Tehila assured him

          

"You better head out here when you're done hiding, want to show my princess off" her dad replied with a smile in his voice. 

          

"Sure dad, in a bit" Tehila smiled when the call ended, as much as she loved her dad and loved hanging out with him,  she also dreaded going out there and dealing with the motions of smiling and engaging in chit chats,  though she knew that she could not hide out in the kitchen forever. She could definitely buy time for herself. 

          

While Tehila placed the cup in the sink, Praise cleared his throat behind her causing her to squeal, Praise placed his hand on her shoulder in comfort.  Tehila smiled realizing he was the one. She also admitted to herself that she was excited to see him even though she had talked herself out several times during the week to invite him to the celebration. 

         

 "Didn't think you will be hiding out here" he said with amusement. 

          

"Didn't know my parents were going to invite my boss and his nephew. But, leave it to them to do things like that"

          

Praise grinned, having expected a sassy response from her. He noticed that he started predicting her. 

          

"I take it that you aren’t happy to see me" said Praise feigning sadness which Tehila saw right through. 

         

 "Even if I weren’t , I can't possibly kick you out since it is not my party"

          

Tehila had been avoiding him since their lunch on Wednesday. Praise has been worried, Wondering what he had done to make her grow cold towards him. The stoic appearance she put in front of others was now extended to him and he did not like it one bit. 

 

she refused to go out with him, claiming busy, only spoke to him now relating work. He had wanted to see her in a neutral ground and, had literally jumped on the offer of following his uncle here when Prize had extended the invitation to him. Though, he had no acquaintance with the host.

          

After few minutes of starring at each other without a word, Tehila decided to break the silence while fidgeting. 

 

"I have to go out now and mingle with the guests"

 

"Right after you Ms."

 

Tehila cringed when he addressed her formally, outside the office it felt so wrong and, she didn't know why. Torn between telling him to call him her first name, she decided not to say anything. Deciding it was better to maintain the formality. 

 

They stepped out and Tehila was swallowed in a warm embrace of her parents. Together, they mingled and she went to see Mr. Prize and his wife, they hugged her warmly and exchanged pleasantries while Praise excused them to make a phone call

"You and two of your best people will be travelling to Akwa-ibom tomorrow to present a plan to a business partner of ours that is based there" Mr. Prize said with a smirk, preparing himself for Tehila’s unhappiness.  Tehila looked at him with a surprised expression 

 

"We are not prepared and you are just informing us. You can’t just blow that on us. It is not fair”

 

“Well, I am the boss and I received the call this morning. I didn't want you to bail out of your dad's celebration to deal with work" Prize said laughing, Tehila turned to his wife. 

 

"Cassie, why do your husband do things like this?"

 

Cassie responded with a wave and shrugged with a smile on her face. She was always cordial with her husband’s workers. Was not a snob, people generally liked her because of her approachable nature. 

 

"Oh please, he's an old man and his brain does not work the way it should. But sincerely, he received the call today on our way back from church” Tehila and Cassie burst out laughing while Prize fixed them with a glare that only make them laugh more

 

"Be sure to include Praise in the team, boss's order"

 

Tehila stiffened, the laughter no more forthcoming  and Prize tried his best not to laugh as he grinned and left her there with his wife who smiled knowingly . 

         

 Tehila knew that Mr. Prize was trying to play match maker but, she wondered what he will do when he finds  that she wasn't interested in a man, talk more of marriage. She wondered what kind of a wife she would be if the opportunity presented itself to her. 

 

Her mother had tried setting her up several times and she had turned down many proposals. She couldn't imagine herself being tied to any man. Her eyes went to Praise who was typing away on his phone. She would not deny that she liked him, she was not one to have friends but, she found out that she enjoyed the company, friendship and small talks. But, that was as far as it will go. 

           

Praise watched and smiled when he saw Tehila making her way towards him. He was happy that she wanted to start up a conversation with him.  He knew she was beautiful. Many of their male colleagues secretly has a crush on her but none had the boldness to walk up to her. 

 

He would not say that it was a mere coincidence that God sent him to that office. Thereafter, he had the revelation that had cemented his conviction. God told him that it will take time, but, as the days progressed and, she shutting him out of her life, it made him wonder if they're ever going to head any where.

 

Talking about marriage to her will freak her out and, he knew it. He also knew that she does not keep any friends not even males. it made him feel somehow lucky that, when her moods permits, she finds him worthy to spend time with and that he had no competition. 

 

"We'll be travelling tomorrow to do some presentations, your uncle just informed me, so, you'll have to meet me in the office early tomorrow  to get some work done" Tehila informed him after taking a sip of her wine.

 

"Yes boss"

 

"I take it that Mr. Prize informed you already" she asked furrowing her brows. 

 

"He was also thinking that you might start working on it right now since you always strive for perfection which I am a living witness to"

Tehila couldn't help but smile. She was used to getting compliments but from him, it meant so much more to her than she let herself admit. 

 

"Very well then, I will inform my assistant to book our tickets. Excuse me" Tehila said and left. She went to discuss with her dad, which will help distract her. She kept turning to see Praise fixing him with an unrelenting stare and, against her better judgment, she loved it. 

 CHAPTER SIX

Nothing I say makes my pain go away. But, keeping quiet does not help either

Job 16 vs 6 (ERV) 

 

The evening breeze blew gently, and the scent of the beach filled their nostrils as people walked lazily, relaxing after a stressful Monday.  

 

Tehila always loved the beach. It was one of the spots she loved going to when she had the time. It was also one of the places she took as a safe haven aside her abode and the gym; a good place to clear her head when the need arises.  and where she often went to clear her head if she didn’t visit the gym. 

 

They both observed their surroundings as they walked in companionable silence.  Some couples walked hand in hand, playing and gazing lovingly at each other.  some families having nice time together, dancing, sharing stories and the sounds of their laughter echoing. Some engulf in their little picnic. 

 

Tehila's team had successfully done the presentation to their client, and he was impressed, promising to do a follow-up with them. She was glad for the positive feedback though the notice was short, they had still succeeded. Tehila could picture the contract awarded already in her mind; once again, she appreciated her team for the good job well-done. see the contract in her mind's eye and she was grateful to her team for doing a good job. 

 

Unfortunately, they could not find a flight heading back to Delta that day since they had finished a bit late.  With great reluctance, they agreed to spend the night again in an hotel which Tehila did not like the idea. She was never comfortable in sleeping anywhere asides her home or her parents. 

      

Being bored and having nothing to do, Tehila had  succumbed to Praise's request that they stroll to the beach. She had acted as though she had other important things to do, when in reality she was going to just watch the television and order room service to enjoy herself while eagerly waiting for the day to break. 

 

Tehila particularly liked the feel of the sand under her feet as they walked. She felt carefree and it reminded her of when life was good, having nothing to worry about and generally enjoying life.  She decided to let herself relax even if it was just for one evening away from her life of chaos,  something she had not done in a long while. 

 

Praise sensing her good mood, wondered if he could ask her questions. He knew also that this was the only time to ask questions that were bugging him. He went straight to the question without beating around. 

 

"Why did you flip out on me since Wednesday?"

 

Tehila stiffened momentarily and slowed her pace, she had been expecting that question for a long time but Praise hadn’t asked and she was also not the type to give explanations when she was not asked. She had to give him accolades for having maintained his cool since, not asking and not being pushy. Not many men in her experience could have given her time like that.  She knew that he deserved explanations and she will give him at least that. 

 

"Your ring tone" she confessed

 

Praise looked at her befuddled, seeking clarity with his questioning look and Tehila sighed before continuing, she knew that it wouldn’t make any sense but she had held out hope that he would magically understand and not make her go through the stress of explaining in detail. 

 

"The choir sang the song that night we were crying and looking for help but they couldn't hear us. We were to also sing with the choir that night" Tehila explained further with a far away look in her eyes. 

 

Instead of clarity Praise was met with more confusion and he wondered how that could be. 

 

"I'm lost Tehila" he fessed up. 

 

"That's all I'm willing to share" Tehila answered with a note of finality that left no room for negotiation. He often times thought she would make a good business woman with her no nonsense personal and savvy business mind that left people with admiration. 

 

Praise watched as she masked herself with a smile. The same smile he had often used to hide his own pain until he surrendered completely.  He knew that she was in pain, had received several confirmations about it, but, it was blurred and he didn't really know what to do. 

 

He often wanted to broach the subject in several instances but wondered what her reaction will be. But, he knew that whatsoever was the problem was making her die slowly and he could not dally around again. Without thinking, he asked. 

 

"Come to church with me on Wednesday"

 

Tehila paused and look at him as if he was an alien before speaking, countlessly he had invited her and she kept turning him down. She wondered why he wouldn’t give up. 

 

"I don't like churches and you keep inviting me"

 

"If you come this once, I promise not to ask you again"

 

Tehila thought it over in her head, it was better she went to avoid being invited again. It sounded like a business plan, a win-win kind of situation where she went once and he stopped inviting her forever.  She hated when people mentioned and also invited her to church with fliers that bore nice titles, and she didn't want him to do it again. 

 

"Fine"

 

"Fine?" Praise acted stunned, he couldn’t believe that it was this easy. He was excited beyond comprehension. Excitement that his prayers wasn’t in vain made him curl up his lips in a beautiful smile. 

 

"I'll come so that you won’t  bother me again" Tehila said with a smile that was not eye reaching. 

 

"Thank you" Praise replied with a suppressed grin. Preventing himself from doing a happy dance. Though she thought he was doing him a favour, Praise was happy that it will lead to a positive change. 

 

          Praise kept glancing at Tehila as he drove her home from the church, he observed that she was silent and looked out the window,  he had thought that she'll change her mind about coming. But, one thing he realized about Tehila over the weeks is that, she didn't make promises she didn't intend to keep.

 

She was surprisingly quiet, and had replied his questions in a clipped way on their way back to her house, which had him worried. She wasn't cold as she usually was, but, she looked like one with conflicting emotions.

He comforted himself with the hope that God has started working in her. He desperately wanted to know about what she thought about the service, but knew it was not a good time to ask, she seemed to seriously try to come to terms with that herself. 

He admitted that she had dressed elegantly when he came to pick her up, the evening gown had hugged her body perfectly well, it had seemed as if the gown had been designed with her in mind.  she was one who loved dressing beautifully and decently.

Tehila  had sat all through the service, didn't follow in chorusing the "amen".

 

She looked as if she was a spectator, who wished to be in another place. He was able to watch her from the ministers seat because he was a minister and, for a while he had felt disappointed but, he knew that God's work can’t  be hurried, he takes his time, and for Tehila to come to church was an indication to him. 

 

Tehila was surprised to find out that Praise held a senior position in church, she wouldn't have guessed that he was that involved with God, no wonder most Tuesdays he came in late in the morning. It started to make sense. She also realized that because of his close relationship with God he tended to act differently and she liked it. 

 

Her mind went back to the service involuntarily, She couldn't deny that the service was great, indeed the power of God was there, and for a fleeting second, she missed the comfort and peace she always derived in church. The church had been her home, and communing with God daily was what she had thought she couldn’t live without. 

 

I guess it was a lie then

She told herself. 

 

The minister who spoke  had urged the congregation to cast their burdens on the Lord, he'd took time to explain that there was no reason to carry around a burden God could bear. He quoted scriptures and one particularly struck her mind, reminding her that it was her favourite. Matthew chapter 11 verse 28.

 

She found herself remembering it “come to me all of you who have a heavy burden that you have been forced to carry. I will give you rest” it left her feeling heavy, she felt as though the load she had been carrying for years was suddenly unbearable, but, Treasure's face flashed before her, reminding her why she hated the church and she decided against answering the altar call she had contemplated. She couldn’t believe how close she was to Surrendering again. 

 

After the service, she had waited at the parking lot for him. He had to check up on some people and make some idle chats. Most of the women there were fawning over him. She struggled really hard not to roll her eyes at the fact that he paid them no attention, and only spoke to them as their minister. 

 

"You can come in and at least drink water" Tehila said, not looking at Praise as they arrived at her house and he parked outside her bungalow. Even at night, Praise could see and appreciate the beauty of the house. After all, he was an architect who knew a good building when he saw one. 

 

"I'd love to" he readily answered, eager for their night not  to quickly end.  He had thought of how he was going to invite himself in without seeming like he was imposing or disturbing her. 

 

They walked in a comfortable silence inside the house as Tehila typed in the codes, disarming the alarms. Praise was impressed with her house, modestly furnished and clean with good security detail in place. He loved people who were clean and knew how to spend their money wisely on good things, he told her just that and she thanked him. 

 

Tehila ushered him to sit and make himself feel at home as she went to the kitchen and, brought fruit juice with two glasses. She poured the fruit juice into the glasses and they drank.

 

The silence stretching between them became heavy and unbearable, knowing that Tehila won't make an effort to speak because she seemed like one who never saw the need to fill up the space. Praise decided to break it, he however wondered how he'll start without pissing her off. Starting off on a neutral ground seemed the best idea. 

 

"How was the service?"

 

Tehila shrugged non committantly as she replied. 

 

"As expected"

 

"When you say that, is it in a good way or bad way?" Praise asked, looking closely at her facial expression as she replied. He did not want to miss any detail. 

 

"Good way" Tehila replied, unaware of Praise's smile and fist pumping the air. Tehila decided to also ask questions of her own that had been nagging her. 

 

"Does God really care about those who serve him?"

 

For a moment, Praise was surprised about the question, it was certainly not what he was expecting, seeing Tehila's expectant stare, he answered 

"Yes, there's evident in the Bible and there are living people here as proof. It is demonstrated in Him sending His only child to die for us when we were not even conceived”

 

Tehila looked amused and trying but failing desperately to hold in her laughter, she laughed, a laughter that Praise noticed was sounding somehow maniacal and forced,  she set to task on removing her shoes

"Believe you me when I say he doesn't" she replied with assurance in her voice. A voice that conveyed that there was no need to argue otherwise. But, Praise would have none of it. 

 

"You have no proof"

 

"Oh really?" Tehila asked angrily and Praise nodded goading her on. This was what he was waiting for, her snapping and pouring out her mind so that, she could heal. She was too calm or cold and shut out the pain that was gnawing her. He knew that she would never heal with her trying to go numb, so that she doesn't feel the pain. Suppressing pain never helps. She needed to let go so that God will take the lead. 

 

"How about that night?  we served him, sang in the choir, we were to even minister in songs that night, we had no one to help, we cried and shouted, he was supposed to hear us, he shouldn't have allowed it happen to us, we did everything we could to please him. But, the one day we so desperately needed him, he turned deaf ears to the voice that sang daily to him, voices that sang and drew souls to him each time we ministered. And you stand there and tell me that he cares for those who serve him. Even a wicked person wouldn't do that to his enemy  and I, refuse to be a servant to such a being!"

 

Tehila’s voice had risen in octave as she gave her reasons. Praise stood stupefied as Tehila stomped away to the balcony, heaving with tears and breathing raggedly, he was even left wondering if she could see well with the way she was heaving with rage. 

 

He didn't know what to do, he knew that Tehila had an aversion towards God but never knew how deep it ran until now. she still spoke in parables but he could deduce that she was hurt and that had changed her faith and completely alter her believe in God. 

 

He remembered a point where he'd felt as if God was a partial God. The thought that God did not know he exist had always been on his mind. But, he'd realized that there is a reason for everything, he was glad that he had let go and allowed himself to be reborn and revived and he was going to help her revive that thirst and hunger for God.

 

He knew that she was still hungry for God and he will help her get there. Yes, that passion will be restored! If that’s all he could achieve in her life, he is ready for this journey if restoration with the help of God in heling her wounds, in realizing that God never sets us up in tribulations and  hurt just for his pleasure , no,  but to build us up for a greater task ahead; modeling us into who he wants us to be.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

God might injure you, but he will bandage those wounds. He might hurt you, but his hands also heal. 

Job 15 vs 18 (ERV) 

          Gripping the balcony's iron ornate balustrade till her knuckles turned white, Tehila cried and cursed. She hadn't meant to give a vague explanation to her past, but, right now she didn't care. She didn't even want to think about how he viewed her now.

 

Frankly, she was glad she had started talking,  the hole was still there, and, just maybe she wanted to be free, feel whole again as a normal human being. She was tired of hurting inwardly with no one to explain it to. Maybe, this was the closure she needed. 

 

"What happened that shut you down emotionally and spiritually?"

 

Praise asked startling her, she could sense that there was genuine concern in his voice. It was better than the fake concern of the therapist her parents had insisted she see when she had not spoken for two weeks after her unconsciousness. 

 

She wondered if she could trust him by telling him everything, and if he will judge her for not having stood up for sister. Her past was always firmly locked and it kept haunting her, especially at night which was in the form of nightmares, no matter how she thought positive thoughts like the self-help books suggested. 

 

Only her parents had an idea of how deep she was hurt because they were there through it all. Had loved her unconditionally which she sometimes thought was fake. She could not even love herself that much. Tehila wondered why they acted as if she was not to be blamed for all they went through. 

 

Since she had started telling him in bits, she only saw it fair to complete it. Tehila shut her eyes and Treasure's face appeared, giving her the right fuel to carry on. She shuddered before speaking while tears silently streamed down her face. 

 

"I was sixteen, the typical firebrand Christian, I practically lived in church with my sister. We sang in church, ministered and won souls for Christ. We literally had no life outside the church. But, we loved every bit of it, we lived and breathed Christ. Many said we were being too holy, we were jeered and mocked, being called virgin Mary and, all that. You probably get the picture because you are a man of God. Funny thing is, we never minded. We saw it as a great honor." 

 

Praise nodded, comprehending and, wondering where the conversation was leading. 

 

"Then, what changed?" Praise asked, prompting her to continue because she looked undecided. If she so much love Christ why then did she stop?  He couldn’t fathom it because she sounds so happy with only the memories. 

 

Tehila continued with a sad smile "It was a program , tarry night to be precise, men of God all over the country came to minister. The church had been preparing for the service for months.  I was the choir mistress and my sister, the lead soprano singer. I could count the number of times we had fasted for everything to go well and for souls to be saved. 

 

She paused to regain her breathe “ Few minutes to ministration, I was pressed, I  begged my sister to accompany me because I couldn't go alone. I always had this phobia of going somewhere in the dark alone. Treasure reluctantly agreed. She was always the bolder one out of the both of us. Maybe it was her intuition or something. But, for the past years of my life, I wish we had listened. 

 

    "The convenience rooms were filled and, somehow unhygienic  especially it being a crusade. My family had always been this hygienic freak, we dared not play outside and come in without washing our hand with soap and water. Behind the church there was a path, call it a bush track, we opted to go there in order to go back in time for ministration, so we hurried along " 

 

Tehila paused again trying to gain the strength to continue, Praise put his arm around her and drew her close, she didn't fight the closeness and, was awed that it was comforting, she hadn't been more grateful for a touch as at that moment. She went on. 

 

“That side was deserted, we started urinating, and out of nowhere, three guys jumped out of the bush and raped us. we cried and shouted but, we weren't heard because the choir was ministering "the old rugged cross" wasn't it ironical that we were calling and clinging to that cross at that moment?"

 

Praise couldn't answer, his eyes watered as things started to click, he now knew why she was angry at the restaurant the other day. The pain felt raw in his chest and he wondered how a little girl like her would have felt that day all alone with such evil. He realized that he could not really fault her.  Tehila undettered  went on,  fighting back the tears that was spilling freely. 

 

"After gang raping us they fled, we couldn't move and, we had passed out, I woke up hours later in the hospital, I remember being confused and trying to come to terms with what happened. My dad cried in my presence for the first time, I wondered what broke my heart the most. His tears or my pain?"

 

Tehila shook her head as if it will chase away the memories that resurfaced “Treasure couldn't survive the rupture in her organs, mom told me slowly that she had died. I remember falling into unconsciousness which was a big relief. she was just twelve!" 

 

Tehila screamed and slowly sank to the floor, Praise did same, not knowing what else to do and, totally understanding her pain. He wished he could turn back in time and take the pains for her. Buh he knew that the pain was to shape her. To serve God better. Nothing made a man enjoy the good moments as remembering the past bad moments. 

 

"Weeks later, I was confirmed pregnant, I wanted to abort the baby but, my parents wouldn't have it. I started growing attached to the baby, sincerely, I  couldn’t wait to have the baby after coming to terms with the fact that I was indeed pregnant with a child. 

 

“I saw it as some of compensation for what I and Treasure had gone through,  though I had hated it at first. In the third month, I woke up with serious cramps and blood. When my parents rushed me to the hospital it was confirmed that  I had a miscarriage. 

 

“ I remember how I had prayed to God to save my baby, I wondered if it was my punishment of primarily wanting it dead, but, I realized that your God doesn't just care or listen to cries of people especially His people. I also thought over the years that it was probably for the best since I was too young to be a mother. 

 

"I was numb for months, I stopped singing or listening to music, I disappointed Treasure and my baby. I could not save them or bring them back to life. They both died because of me and I sometimes think that I am a murderer and deserve all the pain I experience. 

 

“I nearly ran mad but, my parents made me get help from a psychiatrist but, I refused to open up because my problem was not mental but it was in my heart. I was heartbroken that I was disappointed by God whom I loved the most. 

 

“ Though, till today I am still numb, I decided to block my past out. I don't tell people my past because, I don't want sympathy, I don't know if those bastards who preyed on underage girls are still alive. That night, I lost my sister, my virginity, my dreams, my child, my voice. 

 

Her voice was now hoarse as she continued speaking “The day my child died, a part of me died. My parents tried to forget it, but, I see the pains. I always think that in a way I disappointed them. I have nightmares, Treasure's screams re-echoes every time I sleep, that is why I jog at night most times to block the noise out. The nightmare usually come around 1 A. M. When it happened  "

 

Tehila looked at Praise and asked after regaining her composure a little bit. 

 

"So, tell me, does your God cares about His servants?"

 

Praise studied her for a long time. He knew it took courage for her to share parts of her life with him and he decided to reciprocate the gesture though she had not asked for it. He asked. 

 

"Do you wonder why I am just graduating at my age?"

 

Tehila, unable to hide the fact that she has been curious and, fishing for that information nodded, giving Praise the opportunity to go ahead.

 

" I was once a lost in the crowd with no sense of direction in life. embittered and abandoned I became a drug addict, initiated into a gang, dinned and wined with armed robbers and what have you; I maimed and killed to survive. My parents had died in a car accident when I was just a kid. No one knows the call-time of the cruel hands of death, their death was never envisaged they will die any time soon, so, they didn’t make any will.  My extended relatives took everything without leaving even a penny for me.

 

“ Orphanage homes couldn’t take in a boy who was nearly hitting adolescent.  I didn't know any other means to survive, though I'm not justifying my past actions. I just want you to understand why I did what I did back then. I was being told to repent and I refused. I scorned any one who dared mention Christ to me. 

 

His voice sounded wistful “I was hurting, and every single day I hurt more.  Eventually, I was caught, sentenced to serve a long term. In my second year, a group of evangelists came to minister in the prison, Mr. Prize was among. I don't know how he preached and made me give my life to Christ till today but I’m gad he did"

 

They both exchanged a smile and he continued. 

 

"The night I got born again, I had a dream that I'll be free. Primarily, I didn’t believe in revelations but I figured I had nothing to lose by believing.  I erased my doubts, I started preaching to other inmates, I basically turned a new leaf. 

 

“Few months later, there was a presidential pardon and I was set free because of my good behavior and mostly because God said so. I contacted Mr. Prize who took me under his wing and trained me in the university . I suffered a car crash that made me crippled for years, I couldn't help myself but, I saw it as my restitution for the havoc I had caused. I decided not to murmur or doubt just like Job"

 

Tehila looked at him incredulously while waiting for him to continue.

 

"I gave my life to Christ again and had unwavering faith. I knew that God was continually working in me. In my predicament I still went out for evangelism and, won many souls in that state.

 

He faced her fully “ Sincerely, those experiences has helped me draw many souls because they shaped my life.  I promised myself that I won't do a performance based relationship with God again. He is too faithful to fail.  My story is still touching lives, I'm still serving God, telling Him to take the wheels of my life while I take the back seat because I trust that He has the best destination for me. " He sighed before asking. 

 

"Tehila, what's the meaning of your name?" Tehila looked at him, wondering what the meaning of her name had to do with anything. 

 

"It means songs of Praise"

 

Praise grinned before replying. 

 

"Yes, because that is what you are. Your parents wouldn't have known your talent as a baby while giving you that name. God had a purpose for you and, you have to fulfill it. You can’t be and feel fulfilled without following God’s plan.  Don't feel betrayed or anything. Believe me, I know it hurts. But, how many have lost their lives because you have refused to heed your call and save them?"

 

The tears slid down her eyes. 

 

"Remember Job and what he passed through. He would have simply cursed God and died but he didn't. His children died at once, his friends wondered why he still hung on to a God that took everything from him. Maybe you are Job, go back and study that Bible portion and, you will have clarity. See all you have achieved without involving God.

 

“ He loves you Tee but, sometimes you need to pass through the fire and Red Sea to get to your promised Land. The journey of Christendom is full of thorns and roses, don't give up when you see thorns, know that there will always be roses intertwined.  God said he'll restore the years the cankerworms and caterpillars had eaten. Own your life again Tee, get back everything from the devil, you deserve happiness and peace that passes all understanding”

 

Praise paused before continuing “I know this is probably not the best time, but,  at the same time pray about my marriage proposal" he hugged her and left, Tehila looked at him speechless as he retreated to his car. She couldn’t believe that a night that had started with sharing each other’s darkest pain could end with a proposal. 

 

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

Lord my God, look at me and give me an answer. Make me feel strong again, or I will die. 

Psalm 13 verse 3 (ERV) 

The persistent ringing of the phone jolted Tehila from her sleep. She fumbled around in a bid to get her phone. She grumbled and slowly opened her eyes after reaching blindly for her phone in vain. The call ends before she could pick it, and Tehila sighs relieved but it started ringing again. She picked up the phone and groggily answered with a sleep filled voice, not bothering to check the caller ID. 

 

"Good morning" she greets. Tehila always had the habit of greeting. She often believed in making a good impression on someone. It was ingrained in her by her mother while growing up, and she had cultivated it.

 

"Tee..... " Rachel's shrill voice fills Tehila's ear and she rolled her eyes.

 

Not in the mood to deal with her mother and the conversation that was about to happen. 

 

"How is dad?"Tehila asked, trying to understand why her mother would call her early in the morning. It was quite unlike her mother. 

 

"Your dad is fine and I am also fine since you can not ask how I'm faring adiaha" her mother replied feigning annoyance in her tone while Tehila knew it was a ploy to make her feel bad.

 

They both laughed and Tehila felt better, after being drained emotionally yesterday. Her mother's voice was like a balm to her wounded soul. She now believed that her mother's voice could make her feel better. 

 

"I miss you Tee. We don't gossip again anymore. I don't even know anything about you again" her mother said in a somber voice which made Tehila feel down and miss her too. She often times felt like going back in time when all was well. 

 

Since moving out, she had decided to put the close relationship she had with her mother in the back burner, so that the loneliness won't feel too much. But, at the moment of vulnerability, she crumbled. She ferociously missed her mother's friendship. 

 

"I miss you too mommy, so much"

 

"You are probably saying it to make me feel good. But, if it is true, why don't you visit as often as you should? Your house is not really far away from here, but you don't visit us except for holidays and birthdays which is not fair"

 

After Tehila moved out, in the name of being independent. Her mother had tried to understand the reason behind the distance from them. She often thought back to when Tehila was young. She was close to her and told her everything from her fears to insecurities. She had often smiled realizing that the opinion of a woman's first daughter being her best friend was true. 

 

Rachel's mind moved back to when they, as a family had experienced that emotional trauma and deaths. Tehila had shrank into a shell that they could not bring her out from, even with their intercessions which had not helped. Therapy too was a bad idea. 

Tehila's voice broke through her hazy memory. 

 

"I will try and come during this weekend or the next, and I promise to spend the night"

 

Her mother smiled warmly with all the imaginations to make the homecoming wonderful for all of them. She knew she had to put certain things in place. It has been long since Tehila had spent the night in their family home talk more of the weekend. Rachel was eager, her mind whirling on all the fun things that would be done. 

 

"I'd love that. Your father will love it too"

 

"I will get back to you on it mom. Know that I love you both so much" Tehila said with a voice chugged with emotion. 

 

"I love you too my baby. But, it has been long you said that. Anything the matter?"

 

Tehila trusted her mother to always be attentive and know when something is wrong, even though she was miles away. She shook her head even though her mother couldn't see

"nothing is wrong. I have to go mom. Bye!"

 

Before her mother could protest, she ended the call before she would unload all that is bothering her on her mother. Rachel always had this soothing voice that would make you confess your secrets to her. 

 

Tehila smiled when she remembered when she had started texting a boy in her class during her secondary school days. She was always jumpy and stayed close to her phone. Not even Treasure, whom she confided in knew about her likeness for the boy. 

 

It had hurt Tehila when on valentine's day, the boy had bought gifts for another girl. She had the illusion that the feelings were mutual. She had withdrawn into her shell. Her mother had sort her out, speaking like a friend. Till Tehila had spilled her guts about the whole thing to Rachel she did not know. 

 

Her mother, being the understanding mother she was, went ahead to advise her. Letting her know, that she had to wait for her time. Rachel had went ahead to tell her that she was loved and valued by God. Hence, she had nothing to worry about. That had help boost her confidence which was waning. 

 

Tehila made a walk to her rest room, brushed her teeth and sprinkled water on her face. She plopped down on her bed. Her bed was a queen size, with enough throw pillows, blanket and teddy bears. She kept her room very clean and neat. Her wardrobe was every girl's fantasy. 

 

She picked up her phone. She was surprised when she realized that it was late. It was past 10 in the morning. It had been ages since she slept that long. She smiled at her earlier thought of her mother calling early, when in reality, she was the one that overslept. 

 

She decided to call in sick, before she could make the call, Alison, her assistant called her. 

 

"Good morning boss"

 

"Good morning Alison"

 

"Ma'am where are you? It is quite unlike you not to arrive by now" Alison asked sounding worried. 

Tehila knew that many would be worried. Since she started working in the agency, she hadn't missed work except she had meetings to attend to outside the office. 

 

"I was actually planning to call in sick before your call came through" Tehila admitted. 

 

"what is wrong, can I get you anything?" Alison got hysterical. 

 

"I am fine, or rather, I'll be fine. I just need to rest. Any work that is urgent, forward it to me, okay?"

 

"okay ma. Bye"

 

Tehila knew that her absence will be making rounds soon in the office. Not that Alison was a gossip, but her absence will be noticed. Being home was better especially with her frame of mind, and she won't feel guilty about that. Important work will be handled. 

 

Preparing her breakfast has served as her reflecting period. She couldn't remember the last time during work days she spent time cooking a good home cooked meal. It was only during some weekends that she indulged in baking some cakes or cookies. 

She missed the whole process of preparing a meal and sitting down to enjoy it. After some minutes, her breakfast was ready. She sat in her dining room and ate her breakfast of spaghetti with fried egg in silence. Not bothering to on the television in the living area. She was always comfortable in silence, did not see the need of feeling in the void. 

 

Her mind couldn't wrap around the events of the previous day. She had fallen asleep exhausted from crying and barring her lungs out in screams and it had been strangely fulfilling. Though her frequent nightmare had occurred it was surprisingly not as intense. She was also surprised that she had been able to easily fall back into sleep. 

 

Tehila still found shock when she thought about Praise proposal. Leave it to her to get a proposal she didn't think of in her worst state. She remembered Praise advise to read the Book of Job. She decided to devote her day to doing that when she was done eating. 

 

Tehila reminded herself that she did not plan to totally become a Christian again overnight. But she needed reason to believe that every pain was not in vain. If Job will help her understand that, then she didn't see any lose in reading it. 

 

Against her earlier decision not to get wrapped up in the cloak of Christianity Tehila found herself sifting through her childhood properties that was in the storage room of her house. While moving, she could not get herself to part with them. She found a bible, it was the first bible her father had bought for her while growing up. The memories of the many bible quizzes she had won, came flooding back. 

 

Feeling nostalgic while opening it, she realized as expected that the pages were worn from over use between her and Treasure. It was her favorite book because it contained all the answers her young mind had demanded. When she would have a bad dream, she used to put the bible under her pillow, with the hope that it will chase the bad dream away. 

Tehila trudged solemnly to her sitting room and sat on the sofa. She flipped through to the book of Job and started reading. As a kid, she used to read it, but never paid much attention to it back then. This time, she decided to read it, and hear her own message. 

 

The verse twenty two of the first chapter intrigued her. "Even after all this, Job did not sin. He did not accuse God of doing anything wrong" 

The tears flowed unbidden. She could not understand why a man could trust God so explicitly. Understanding of why Praise asked her to read it dawned on her. He wanted her to relate to it. Like Job, she had lost valuable things. But, she had cursed God unlike Job. Yet, God had shown her that he cared. 

 

The ringing of the door bell startled her out of her meditation, bringing her back to the present and making her have a grasp of her surrounding. She opened the door and was stunned to see Praise standing on the foyer with his work clothe, head bent, and tapping his feet anxiously. 

 

"what are you doing here?" she asked when she finally found her voice. 

Praise smiled "well, hello to you too. May I come in?"

 

Tehila remembering that he was still standing outside, blushed furiously for barging him with questions before welcoming him. She was always a good hostess, but her mind was reeling about what she had read. 

 

"Well, come on in"

 

she paved way for him and he sauntered with Tehila following behind after locking the door. 

Praise took time to admire the house and the artistic decoration. Last night, he hadn't had time to take it all in. He was impressed. He looked at the soft and beautiful sofas with throw pillows arranged which were in tandem with the color of the curtains. The big flat screen television which took up enough space on the wall. The portraits of Tehila, her parents and other arts design. 

 

"make yourself at home" Tehila gestured to the sofa and he smiled while sitting down. She went to the kitchen and returned with fruit juice and glasses. 

 

"I was worried when I did not see you at the office" Praise spoke and Tehila looked at him, unsure of what to say. His proposal from the previous night came back to her mind. But, she doubts she heard him well. 

 

"I thought you disappeared or something " Praise continued and Tehila couldn't help but laugh. 

 

"Disappearing, seriously? I'm not a coward you know"

 

"I have a confirmation now that you are not. Though everyone that works with us in the department was astonished. Work was not the same"

 

"that is because I was not around to baby you" Tehila retorted with a grin, trying to diffuse the tension after his admission. Praise threw his head back and laughed. He liked that she had not lost her spirit. 

 

Tehila could not help watching him. It was rare to see him that relaxed and carefree, and she found herself considering the proposal and wanting to be surrounded with that kind of contagious peacefulness. But, she also knew that she needed to get peace for herself. It could not just be transferred. 

 

Sobering, Praise reminded her "I was serious about the proposal Tee. I've waited for long but I don't want to pressure you. I need you to take your time "

 

"why me? " Tehila blurted "upon all the fire filled, God loving ladies. Why me?"

 

"I wish I had an answer to that but I only know that God chose you for me. I told him to show me his precious daughter I can fulfill my assignment with, and it was you. Tee, because of God, I've grown to love you, we've passed through a lot. You are also fire filled and loves God if you will surrender to Him totally Tee" Praise turned and looked at the bible that was open and lying on the side stool. 

 

"I take it you've read it" Praise comments and Tehila nods. "Dig deep and find out the lesson in all these" Tehila nodded. 

 

CHAPTER NINE

 

You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.

John 8 verse 32 (ERV) 

The light filtered in through the curtain indicating that it was dawn. Tehila had to admit that she slept more soundly for the past few days than she had in years. Though the nightmares still occurred, it was not as intense as before, and she often found herself drifting back to sleep easily without exerting herself. 

 

Tehila stood up, brushed her teeth, and set to task on wearing her fitting polo and short. If she was in her home, she would have settled on wearing her night gown to the kitchen. But, at her parents' she had to follow their rules of no night wear when leaving the room. She did not really see the reason why. 

 

In the mood to surprise her mother by cooking. She pulled out foodstuffs and utensils and set to work. she was making breakfast when her mother strolled in, rubbing her eyes weakly in order to focus. 

 

"Good morning momma"

 

"morning darling. Glad you're making breakfast " Rachel responded while hugging her briefly. Tehila nodded in agreement. 

 

Tehila had made do on her promise of visiting her parents that weekend. On Friday morning she had parked her bag, and after the close of work, she had driven down to her parents home. 

 

She was surprised that it was Sunday already, and she will be going back to her house that evening. Being around them had been so comforting and loving. They had settled into their former pattern of activities as if she was always around. Tehila felt more guilty of always staying away when she had no reason to do so. 

 

Joshua walked in wearing his favorite blue shorts and a white polo. He greeted the ladies who greeted him back. He smiled warmly at Tehila. Joshua was overwhelmed with happiness when he had come back from the men's fellowship to see his daughter. 

 

When Rachel had informed him within the course of the week that Tehila would be coming, he had doubted. Knowing fully well how Tehila avoided sleeping over in their home. Seeing her made him realize that nothing was impossible. 

 

They bantered back and forth as one big happy family, while Tehila served their breakfast and they moved to the dining area. Mr Joshua said a short prayer as it had been his norm, then they dug into their food, eating with gusto while complimenting Tehila. 

"This is so delicious adiaha. I am happy you still know how to cook" her mother teased while swallowing a mouthful of the rice. 

 

"Absolutely. She has improved" Joshua agreed. 

 

"I learnt from the best" Tehila said batting her eyelashes with a smile on her face. She realized how much she had missed them and conversations like this. 

 

Tehila nibbled on her food while thinking about the questions weighing her down. She always felt bad each time she remembered that they were primarily a family of four. 

 

She remembered how she and Treasure would share inside secrets. The memory of how they hated vegetable soup stood out in her mind prominently, to escape being shouted on by their parents , they would drop a water proof near them, and slip the food inside when their parents were caught up in each other and did not notice. It was their tiny little secret till today.

 

Joshua and Rachel exchanged glances, communicating their question as to why their daughter was not eating. He rubbed his hand softly on Tehila and said. 

 

"A penny for your thought"

 

Without thinking, Tehila asked "do you miss her?"

 

Her parents were taken aback with the question since it sprung out of no where. The confusion showed clearly on their face as they looked at each other, wondering if the other understood. 

 

Tehila sighed before elaborating "Treasure" she paused and continue "do you miss her?"

 

Tehila's eyes got glassy as she saw her mother struggling with tears. Her father's face was set in a hard line. She could see the pain emanating from him. It answered her question, it also reminded her that no matter what she did, she could not take Treasure's place. she was surprised when her father turned the question on her. 

 

"Do you miss her darling?"

 

Tehila nodded. Her parents looked at her, waiting for her to continue " I miss her every single day as if it was just yesterday and not eight years ago." 

 

She turned accusing eyes at them "you both act as if she never existed. As if it was always the three of us. As if you don't inwardly blame me for her death"

 

The last statement was said slowly and her mother gasped. Her father smile soothingly. He was glad that she had gotten it off her chest. Joshua had always figured that Tehila blamed herself for Treasure's death. He noticed this when she was parking and decided to go with Treasure's things to her new home. 

 

"Darling look at me" with unclear eyes, Tehila looked. Her lips quivering with the tears that was falling. Joshua went on to ask "you think we blame you for her death?" Tehila could not talk, she simply nodded. 

 

Her mother watched the both of them with rapt attention. Rachel also had the same thoughts with her husband. They had often discussed it. But, she had not know how far it was. Rachel however knew that the devil could make one guilty for things that were not worth it. 

 

Joshua asked Tehila "how long have you had these thoughts?"

 

Tehila's voice was low when she replied "since it happened "

 

Joshua shook his head disapprovingly before saying "we never have and will never blame you for Treasures death because what happened was just plain evil and out of your control. You never knew that it will happen that day. We love you Tee and will always do. Yeah! we wish more than anything that it never happened" Mr Joshua admitted. 

 

"But, nothing can be done. We're sad for all what you lost that day and its actually a miracle that you have succeeded for this long and not lost your mind. You have to forgive yourself because we don't blame you. You are survivor Tee"

 

Tehila nodded with tears streaming down. She could not believe how she had let guilt weigh her down for so long. Rachel pulled her in to a tight embrace and both women sobbed.

 

Joshua joined and hug them, murmuring assurance to them. The talk had been long overdue but he was nevertheless happy that it was still done. He only hoped that Tehila will set herself free from the baggage she has been carrying. 

 

He sincerely wished that she surrendered her life fully to God. She needed to experience her God given life and live it to the fullest. She deserved that after all she had been through. But, God's work can not be hurried. 

 

CHAPTER TEN

 

With sweats dripping down her body, Tehila hauled the last of Treasure's things that was stored in her storage room to the backyard of her house to set it on fire. At first, she could not bear to do it, but for her freedom she had to. Moreover, she did not see the need of keeping baggage that only took of space mentally, physically and spiritually. 

 

Watching the flames burn the things up, it felt therapeutic for her. In a way that she had not felt before. Her weekend at her parents home had helped put things in perspective which she was happy about. She had felt so relieved when she finally believed that they did not blame her and that they loved her unconditionally. 

 

Tehila showered, dressed up and went to the gym. She decided to take up Nelson's offer of talking. She was ready. His secretary ushered him into his office. For a gym establishment, the office was quite swanky and beautiful. She appreciated a good building when she saw one. 

 

Nelson stood up and briefly hugged her, they exchanged pleasantries and sat down. Nelson's secretary came in with soft drinks, served them and left. Tehila got straight to the point. 

 

“I decided to take up your offer”

 

Nelson observed “I am so happy to hear that. But, I must confess, there is a change and lightness in you that was not there before”

 

Tehila thought back to when she gave her life to Christ in her parents home about their discussion. She had felt as if she was now light. Many people used to share their experience of a weight being lifted off their shoulder and she had thought they were exaggerating. 

 

Experiencing it first hand was what she never thought of and she had to admit that being taken care of by God was both humbling and wonderful. It was the reason why she had the courage to burn Treasure’s properties that had taken up so much space in her life. It also made her decide to seek Nelson out. 

 

“Your observation is quite correct. I feel that”

 

They proceeded to catch up with each other. Tehila decided to ask Nelson the questions she had pondered about for the past days. She had noticed when she signed up newly in his gym, that he did not personally train any one. He had trainers to do that. 

 

Most of the ladies who came there for their workouts normally gave her the stink eye each time they saw her with Nelson in the classes. They acted blind towards the wedding band he wore and flaunted regularly. 

 

“Why did you train me?  Why did you fight with me in the ring? “

 

“Do you want the truth or the one that will appease you? “ Nelson asked teasingly. 

 

“The truth…I did not come all the way here for lies”

 

Nelson leaned back in his seat. He made a show of drinking his soft drink in a bid to buy time. He did not want the truth to freak Tehila out, knowing that she paid no hoots about God. But, she wanted the truth and he will give her just that. 

 

The day Tehila signed up for the class would always remain ever green in his memory. Nelson had an intuition to stay beyond his normal close of work and he refused. Trying to start his new car which did not have any issues prior to that day was difficult. 

 

He called a mechanic and headed inside his building when it started raining. Hanging and found the workout rooms he observed what his trainers and clients did discreetly. Soon, Tehila stepped in and went strength to the punching bag and started throwing the punches aimlessly. 

 

After Tehila ran and left the building, too scared when he started training her. He went with the mechanic to see what was wrong with the car. The car started with the turn of the key. He could only get confirmation that everything was divinely arranged. He decided to train her personally, pending when God wanted to take over fully.

 

“God told me to train you. I don’t know if you have finally developed a relationship with him but know that God has been there for you. Even when you don’t think he cares. 

He paused to look at her. Hoping that what he said made meaning to her.

 

“The circumstances that made me stay behind the day you signed up is beyond me. Our meeting was divine. Maybe He wanted you to channel your energy to something other than your grief, guilt and pain. He loves you”

 

Tehila was speechless. She relaxed into her seat, mulling over everything Nelson had said. She realized that though she did not want to acknowledge it, but, God had been there. 

 

She took an inventory of her life starting from her gaining admission to further her education on scholarship. Finishing her master's degree. Having a well paying job. Having no health issues. She admitted that indeed God had been there even though she forced herself to believe otherwise. 

 

Tehila decided to fully surrender her life to God. She decided that she would not hold back again. She had repented after her meeting with her parents. Yet, some misgivings were lurking around. This time, dropping everything at God's feet was what she had to do without dilly dallying around. 

 

“one more question and I won’t ask again”

 

Nelson grinned “pretty lady ask away”

 

“can two broken people be made whole?”

 

“Who do you see as broken Tehila? One thing I have realized overtime with God is that he makes things to be broken in order to remold into a perfect shape. Being broken is just what we need for God to mold us back. That period might be our worst, but it is all good. Though never a pleasant process but always a glorious golden outcome.  

 

“In the bible, Mary broke the alabaster box and the fragrance came out. If it was not broken, no matter how costly it had been, it would have been meaningless. You were broken to be molded back. You were broken to be a fragrance to the world” Nelson explained. 

 

In an effort to diffuse the tension Tehila asked “why weren’t you a pastor?"

 

“who said I’m not a pastor? “ Nelson countered. He continued “God called us to serve in every capacity. I am first a priest before any profession or title I have. This is my ministry. You probably did not notice the bible verses plastered on the walls”. 

 

Tehila smiled because she never paid attention. 

 

“Why did you ask if two broken can be made whole?"

 

Tehila wondered if she should tell Nelson about Praise's proposal. She knew that Nelson was not one to talk, and everything they said stayed between them. 

 

“well… someone proposed”

 

“you don’t seem too excited about that “ Nelson said in observation. 

 

“The problem is, he is just as broken as I am. Though, he has risen above his past. But, I think it is just plain toxic”

 

“The millennia generation” Nelson commented chuckling. Then, he got serious “If  the person loves God and has a deep relationship with God, take it to the Lord in prayer and He will guide your heart, trust Him to lead you and He will. Marriage is a ministry; call it a business and you need to know who your life business partner will be"

 

Tehila thanked him profusely. She decided more than ever to stop stalling, to stop having excuses and to atop thinking that God does not love her. She got down on her knees when she arrived home and she prayed. She poured all her heart fears, worries, desires all to him. At this stage, she knew she needed Him more than ever before. Even though its been long she deliberately and sincerely prayed this much, yet she felt a sudden urge of reconnection back to her heavenly Father as soon as she went on her knees. 

 

“Daddy, I am surrendering now. I am sorry for thinking about only myself and feelings. Refusing to trust that everything is for a purpose. I’m sorry for being stubborn for so long. But, thank you  for being there, for not leaving me, for loving me regardless. 

 

“Today, I am entering into a total partnership to be used by you. No more grumbling. No more putting myself first when you should take the lead. No more blaming you for your perfect will and plan for my life. 

 

EPILOGUE 

 

Six years later

 

Tehila grinned while starring  at her two kids who were playing in the garden with their friends. Each time she sees them, her love for them filled her heart. It was her 30th birthday, against her protests, her husband had decided to celebrate it for her and, the celebration was done in a lavish manner though, she had declined the offer of an exorbitant spending.

 

Tehila  had routed  for an indoor affair with close friends.  She was however happy that her husband had insisted, seeing the happiness on people's faces to celebrate her life. Many had come to grace the occasion and, she couldn't feel more loved  and blessed. She couldn't believe how far she had come since six years ago. But she was grateful for every step of the day. 

 

  In the months that followed and, her waiting for a confirmation from God, she got closer to Praise. She was surprised that he didn't judge her and, was quite supportive towards her during her healing process. She couldn't be more grateful for having him in her life. She was also incredibly  happy knowing that he was not just pretending to be a child of God but was genuine in his walk and love for God. He actually encouraged her in her quest to discover herself and grow spiritually and she loved him even more for it. 

 

Weeks into their courtship period, her parents had invited Praise over for a family dinner. Praise had been worried about making the best impression and, Tehila was happy with his discomfort  because he always seemed unflappable. 

 

"Why are you smiling? "

 

He asked as they turned a bend,  leading to Mr and Mrs Joshua's home. He could not understand what was so hilarious about his mood. 

 

"The fact that you are worried about meeting the girl's parents. You look so adorable right now. I can’t wait to recount this story to our kids some day” Tehila replied with a smug expression on her face and Praise relaxed. 

 

"This is my future in-law we're talking about. What if they don't like me when they hear my past. I don’t want to loose you Tehila. I love you, you know.  I wouldn't be angry, considering you are their only daughter "

 

Sensing his vulnerability, Tehila squeezed his hand reassuringly. That he was bold enough to tell her his fears confirmed that she made a right choice in picking someone who was not to be vulnerable with her. 

 

"They will love you. The past you've been able to overcome will make them love and respect you  more, okay? Moreover, you’ve met them before"

 

“That wasn’t as your fiance but I believe you”

 

Praise didn't say anything more, he just nodded. 

 

  True to Tehila's words, her parents loved him and, soaked up all his words. They saw in him, a fit husband for their daughter. Respecting him the more for what he overcame. While Tehila helped her mother to wash the dishes in the kitchen after lunch and, Praise discussed with Tehila's dad. Rachel couldn't hide her excitement from her daughter. 

 

"I'm glad that when you finally decided to marry, you've picked a fine young man that is God's purpose for your life. You both are just so perfect together, and I couldn’t be more happier "

 

"Awwwwn mummy, I'm glad you and dad approve" Tehila replied and hugged her mother. Though she had not express her uncertainty to Praise, she was glad her parents accepted him with open arms and she could not be more grateful. 

 

"You've gone through a lot Tee, just be happy now. You deserve that my dear" Tehila nodded. Too emotional to say anything. 

 

Few months after their wedding which had been a fairly small celebration with close families, friends and full of love, Mr. Prize retired and handed over the Agency to Praise who in turn legally listed Tehila as partner.

 

Tehila who had not seen the need told him so “babe, what you have is mine, I don’t See why not” was Praise reply.  While celebrating in their modest home, Tehila had snuggled up with her husband. 

 

"So, the rumor was actually true that you’ll inherit the company" Tehila said grinning and Praise chuckled and replied. 

 

"I'm glad it was one of the rumors you heard and paid attention to"

 

"What other rumors wasn't I aware of? " Tehila asked. 

 

"The rumor that you were smitten by me and that I was your only friend " 

They both laughed and Tehila felt glad. The contentment and fulfillment she had craved for was finally hers and she was grateful of where she was. 

 

  The birth of their children had been a wonderful experience for them, it made Tehila to remember God's word when he said "I'll restore the years that the cankerworm and caterpillar had destroyed". 

 

They'd name their twin children Fulfillment and Restoration. Tehila could now fully close the lid on her bitter past and, lived her life in appreciation of God's grace. 

 

She remembered when she got the news of her pregnancy. After the initial excitement wore off, she got scared of loosing the babies. It was challenging. The fed their mind with the word of God and her faith was strengthened. 

 

"Come and mingle with the guest stop hiding out here"

 

Tehila was startled on hearing his voice since she thought no one would see her, she smiled seeing Praise beaming at her, she hugged him closely, at the same moment being appreciative of everything. Most times she felt as if it was a dream. 

 

"Maybe I prefer here" she said with a hint of laughter in her voice. 

 

"Maybe you are just reflecting"

 

Tehila sighed "you know me too well " she leaned into him. 

 

Tehila was always glad that her husband heard her even when she was quiet. It was the kind of relationship she watched her parents have and, daily while growing up, she had prayed and wished for it. She valued what she shared with Praise. His show of love was beyond her imagination. 

 

  Minutes later, the attention of guests were drawn for Tehila to speak, her husband held her hand in encouragement and, she gave a weak smile, Prize and Cassie played with their children, her parents often looking at their grand children with affection in their eyes. Tehila cleared her throat and started speaking. 

 

"I thank you all for coming to this party today, sincerely, I wasn't expecting this kind of turn up but, it has made me realize that indeed I have friends" Tehila looked at people's faces who beamed at her. She continued. 

 

"Indeed life's journey is bitter-sweet, most of you know my story. One thing I learnt during my reviving process is that, the wheels of your future is better laid in the hands of your creator than in the guilt of the past. The past never determines the future except you give it an authority to do such; and this; will definitely pull down your existence. 

 

“Most of us have passed through dark times, wondering when it'll be all over, constantly looking over your shoulder, feeling insecure, not thinking that the vacuum can be filled up. But the best way to move ahead is ‘liberation’. Yes the liberty of your hurts, the guilts, the past, the liberty in turning hem all to him without restraining while he gives in return liberty to our souls; liberation from sin and guilt from within.

 

How sweet and whole such an experience. 

 

“ I've been there, blamed myself for long, but you know, you aren’t living the life you deserve. Your life keeps dying and you need reviving. The only person that can revive you without judging you is God. You need him... "

 

        Hours later, after putting the children to sleep, and the hired helps for the party clearing everything up. Tehila snuggled with her husband on the couch, watching a television sitcom and eating popcorn. 

 

"You did well today babe. Many lives were touched again and, for a moment I feel jealous "

 

They both chuckled before Tehila asked. 

 

"Why would you be? "

 

"What you've passed through has spoken to many, in a way that preaching with Bible portions wouldn't. Each time you take the microphone to sing, the power of God is palpable. You've been the most loving mother, supportive wife and, great instrument of God. I couldn't be more proud of you "

 

"Awwwwn thank you babes for being the best" they both smiled, looking at each other with affection. 

 

"I'm only glad that we've allowed God to revive our lives. I'm happy we're living up to his expectations "

 

"I got you a little something "

 

Tehila's eyes watered when she saw the book Praise gave her, she caressed it lovingly, Praise looked at her gauging her reaction. 

 

"Where did you get it? "

 

"I did a little digging in your parents basement, I thought its best to regain everything. You deserve it"

 

Tehila smiled. Touched by his gesture.

 

"Most of the songs here were composed by Treasure you know. But, she'll be glad if people heard her lyrics. I think she deserves that"

"Of course love, of course "

 

They hugged each other, thankful to God for where they are heading and assured that his mercies will see them through. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   

 

 

If you enjoy it, and want it continued please leave a comment. 

 

 

          

  

 

 

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