It was a hot St. Valentine’s Day and customers were busy buying and haggling. Dubem walked int...
It was a hot St. Valentine’s Day and customers were busy buying and haggling. Dubem walked into the shop and searched for his mother. When he found her, he waited for her to finish making a sale. “Dubem, how are you today?” I am fine mama. I came to say hello to you.” “That is very thoughtful of you my child.” Then, he pulled out an envelope and handed it to his mother. “I wanted to tell you that you are my first real Valentine mama. When I am sad, I only have to think of you…despite everything you have been through; you refuse to let your smile dim. You refuse to let life take the sunshine out of your heart. Your smile empowers me to be happy…to believe in life and a better future. Your love for me and everyone around you amazes me. You never stop caring about others. You are ever so ready to give…to take time to stop and help others. Thanks. I hope I can be half as happy and loving as you are mama. You are the best mother in the world,” Dubem said. He had arranged with all his mother’s staff to witness the speech. They were standing by watching as Maria cried happily. Dubem wrapped his arms around her and gave her a peck on the cheek. “You have made my day Dubem. I will cherish this for the rest of my life. You are the best son anyone could ever have. There were times I wondered why God put me through all that pain, but amid all that, He gave you to me. You are the best my boy.”
Soon, they moved into a decent flat in New Haven, Enugu. By now, Maria was shipping her wares from abroad. She had been very meticulous every step of the way to make sure that she did everything right. The first time she was in China, she had travelled with Dubem, who was studying for the University Matriculation Examination. He was hoping to study Medicine. Their first consignment arrived, and before long, it was all sold. More goods came in and flew off her shelf with relative ease. Her clientele continued to grow. One evening, Matthew came over. They were seated in a well decorated office in a building that Maria’s shop had just moved to. “I wanted to write your last cheque to you Mr. Mathew. I have had the money for some time now of course, but I was looking for the perfect moment to thank you for showing faith in a woman who had little experience but a passion to fight and try. May God reward you. The business is doing very well. We are hoping to buy this building soon. My son is going off to University and I don’t have to worry about his wellbeing.” Dubem was seated beside his mother.
“It is all because of you Mr. Mathew. I will forever remain grateful to you. Thanks for believing in me.” “It was hard not believing in you Maria. I saw the fire in your eyes. Over the last few years now, I have come to know you well. You have been through a lot in life, but that fire still glows in your eyes…and in your heart too. You treat your customers with exquisite finesse. You run the business with brilliance and care. You love people and it shows in the way you treat your life. Thanks for touching my life. I have something else I would like to ask you; I already discussed this with Dubem. You know, you have changed my life. You have shown me that it is never too late to dust up our lives and fight some more when things look rough. And to do it with happiness and kindness. I never thought your kind still existed. I have…I have…I am in love with you Maria. Ever since my wife died, I never really met anyone else who inspired me as you have done. Please would you go on a date with me? That will make my day.” Maria looked at Dubem who winked at her. “I…I…don’t know what to say. If you don’t mind Dubem, please can I talk privately with Mr. Mathew?” She asked. Dubem obliged them. As he left, he made sure to brush past his mother. He whispered in her ear, “Say yes mama!”
“I had a very rough time in the past with relationships,” she began. “I know I have told you I went through a rough time in the past, but I did not get to explain the whole detail to you.” “I know all about it Maria. When I began to develop feelings for you, I had to make sure I was on the right track. I had a chat with your son and your best friends, Ejikeme and Mgbafor.” “They told you everything?” “Yes.” “You see, I…I have problems opening up to anyone at that level. I guess I am still afraid. I…I am not sure I fully understand what love is on that level due to my past. I don’t want to ruin my friendship with you by getting involved with you. I wonder sometimes if…you know…if I truly know how to love a man. My son’s father beat me terribly and my uncle defiled me. Sometimes I think it was all my fault. I am afraid of loving anyone…I think I do better being friends with people.” “It was never your fault that someone or some people took advantage of your good-heartedness Maria. You have not had the chance to be with a man who will adore you…one who will worship all the good qualities in you. I am not saying I am perfect, but I know that in my heart, I feel a deep slow-moving stream of love for you. I stay up at night thinking of you. Let me walk through this path with you. I will never lay my hands on you. I want to ADORE you. I want to help you get over the trauma that you still harbor deep within. You have to let it go. You are too good not to be loved and adored.”
She looked at him. She could sense sincerity in his voice, but her fears were very strong. “Since my wife died, I have not met anyone that took my breath away…except you. That morning you gave me a presentation at the bank, I got home and thought about you all night. The passion you have for life…the way you poured yourself into your son all these years… I am in awe of you. Let someone else put their arms around you…to kiss you and make you laugh. Let me be a part of you and you a part of me, Maria.” She had tears in her eyes by now. “I brushed love out of my heart after Ikoro. I noticed the way you looked at me sometimes, but I quickly brushed the thought out of my mind. I have been very afraid to love anyone…to let anyone love me, apart from my son.” “I wish I could unzip my heart Maria so you can see what I feel for you deep within. Please give me a chance. If it does not work, we will call it off before it gets too far. I need you like oxygen Maria. Please give me a chance.” “You will not beat me?” “Never!!!” Mathew assured her. He moved closer to her cautiously. Carefully, he took her in his arms and held her close to his chest. “It is okay honey. No one will hurt you anymore. I will always protect you. I am not Ikoro. Every man is not Ikoro. I will love you with all of my heart,” he promised. Like melting butter, she curled up in his arms and listened to his heartbeat. “Please keep your promise to me Matthew,” she said. “I will. I promise you sweetheart.”
Two years later…
“Does this fit?” Maria asked Mbgafor. “Yes, that looks perfect,” Mbgafor answered. She tried it on and removed it. Then she tried on another one and asked the same question. “You are going crazy girl,” said Mgbafor. As Maria’s business flourished, she bought a house for herself and Dubem who was studying Medicine at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University. Next to the house she bought in Trans Ekulu, she bought another one which she gave away to Mgbafor and Ejikeme. They had all remained close friends. With Maria’s help, Mgbafor and Ejikeme had a business of their own too, selling building materials. “You have been on multiple dates with Mathew, why is this one so special?” Mgbafor asked. “I don’t know but the way he is going about it, I think this is going to be special. He might pop the big question. I want to be in my best outfit when that happens.” “But how do you know?” “I know Mathew girl. I know him well enough to know when he planning something big.” “Then you should wear this one,” Mbgafor said pointing. “Really?” “Yes, that one is the best of them all.” “Okay, I will take your word for it.” Maria was feverish with excitement. Over the past two years, she and Matthew had fallen deeply in love. They hardly went for a day without seeing each other. When Matthew travelled for work or Maria went on a business trip, they stayed glued to the phone at night blowing kisses to each other by phone.
She parked in front of Golden Dishes Restaurant on Ogui Road Enugu. Matthew was on hand to get the door to the restaurant for her. They ate and chatted away. Maria felt her heart quivering with excitement. She could tell that something was going to happen. Three hours later, they were heading home. I may have read the signs wrongly, she thought as they walked outside. Then, Mathew closed the curtains behind the glass doors instead of opening them. “What are you doing?” Maria asked. “Turn around honey,” Mathew encouraged her. She turned and saw all the staff of the restaurant walking into the main hall with candles in their hands. One of them presented a bouquet of roses to Maria. Stunned she looked on with her heart pounding against her ribs. She knew that Matthew was up to something, but not even that had prepared her for this. The restaurant staffs were smiling boldly.
Then they began to sing her favorite song, Cindi Lauper’s Time After Time;
Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Caught up in circles
Confusion is nothing new
Flashback, warm nights
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories,
Time after time
Sometimes you picture me
I'm walking too far ahead
You're calling to me, I can't hear
What you've said
Then you say, go slow
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds
If you're lost you can look and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you, I will be waiting
Time after time…
“We are all lost in life Maria. We are lost people waiting to be found. For years, you wallowed in the forest of pain and hurt. So did I…so has every other adult. Then in one moment, it happens. Our pains turn to inspiration. When my wife died, I was thrown into an abyss of pain. I considered suicide several times. I could not see light at the end of the tunnel. I was lost. I covered my pains carefully. I did everything I could to smile and pretend all was well with me. Then you walked into my branch that morning with a smile on your face and a glow in your heart. You told me that there was reason for me to live…to rise above the ashes of my pain. I have watched you grow and shine ever since. Please, would you let that sunshine of yours become a permanent part of my life? I’d be lost again without you. Please keep me permanently in your heart…in your life. Will you marry me?” Matthew said. He was on his knees, crying honestly out of love. He held a big diamond ring towards Maria. She looked past the ring and stared him in the eye. “Love truly exists! You have made all the pains of my past go away in two years. You were the one who brought sunshine into my life Matthew, by believing in me. I will marry you with all my heart. Thanks for believing in me. Thanks for showing me what love really is…Love truly exists…I know from this man,” she said emphatically as though she were on a mission to convince everyone there on the existence of love. He slid the ring on her finger as they kissed. The restaurant staff began to sing another song by Cindi Lauper that Maria loved a great deal… I See Your True Colors
You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
But I see your true colors
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors are beautiful,
Like a rainbow
Show me a smile then,
Don't be unhappy, can't remember
When I last saw you laughing
THE END CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 2
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