THE PROMISE - Episode 5

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Liverpool Street, Indira Gandhi International airport, New Delhi, I work for Microsoft, the biotech capital of India, Nigeria, kiss.

Abhimanyu tried to kiss Lydia but she turned away, avoiding his kiss. They were in front of her university. He had dropped her off in the morning before going to work. “This is in front of my university!” She said, pretending as though that was the reason she would not kiss him. “But we are in the car honey. Even at home, you won’t kiss me,” he complained. She turned sharply and planted a weak peck on his cheek. Then, she opened the door and ran off before he could say anything in reply. “See you tonight,” she said. I can’t wait to marry her, Abi thought as he watched her curvaceous figure disappear into the building on New Cavendish Street.

Shomaila got off the train at Liverpool Street Station and quickly climbed out of the underground. Her phone rang and she dug into her purse to find it. Her mother was calling. It had been nearly two years since she spoke to her or anyone else in her family. Even her siblings had boycotted her. She was both excited and terrified to receive a call from her mother. “Mama!” She said into the phone. He heart was beating and her hand shook. “Shomaila, you have to return home now. You father is dying and he has one wish – just to see you before he dies. You must come home now,” she replied. Shomaila nearly dropped her phone. She had hungered to see her family or hear from them in the past two years. Her relationship with Everest had gone very well. They were both out of graduate school and now working in separate Universities. The one thing that was lacking in her life was a relationship with her family.

“What happened to him?” She asked. Her voice was laced with fear. “He had a heart failure. His condition is getting worse by the day. You must return home now. Tears began to stream down her face in the middle of the bust Liverpool Street. “I am coming mama. Please nothing should happen to papa. God please keep my father,” she said into the phone unable to control her feelings. “I will call you back mama. Let me run home to book my flight. I am coming home tomorrow,” she assured her mother. She quickly called Everest before she descended back to the train platform on the underground. Everest was waiting for her at home when she arrived. Tears were flowing down her face uncontrollably. “I wonder if he had heart attack because of me,” she remarked as soon as she saw Everest. “Just go home first and see him,” he urged her. He helped her to book a flight. By the next morning, he saw her off to Heathrow. Several hours later, she arrived at Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi. Her brother, Suresh was on hand to drive her home. She cried throughout the flight and the ride to their house.

“Papa! Papa! I am here…I am here papa,” she said through a maze of tears as she tucked into the bed beside her frail father. His speech had become impaired by the heart attack. The once boisterous Mr. Zayad was now a shadow of himself. Shomaila looked down on him still crying. Her mother and sisters stood behind her. Her father looked up in pain. A weak smile went across his face. “You are here…you are here my daughter,” he managed to say. He spoke with difficulty. “Yes papa, I am here. Please papa, tell me you are not mad at me. I love you so much papa,” Shomaila said desperately. Her father looked at her, smiled and then said, “You must…you must promise me one thing my daughter.” He paused to gather his fading strength. “What papa…anything, just ask me.” “Promise me…promise me you will not marry that boy. Promise me…you will marry one of our own,” her father asked.

Shomaila was left tormented. She could not say no to her father on his sick bed. At the same time, she could not imagine her life without Everest. “You cannot deny your father this one last wish before he dies,” her mother interjected. “He is not dying!” Shomaila shouted. “There is no need to shout dear. Please answer him while he can still hear you else God will never forgive you,” her mother replied. “Maybe this would restore his health,” said Azka, her older sister. “Please my daughter…please…please promise me you will…you will marry one of our…” “I promise you papa. I promise you I will not marry him. Please don’t die. I will marry one of our own, papa,” Shomaila succumbed to the pressure. Her father smiled through pain, shut his eyes and took a deep breath. “Let him rest now,” her mother urged everyone. They moved to the living room to catch up. The next morning, Mr. Zayad died.

Shomaila cried her heart out and so did her entire family. By evening, her father was buried. A few days later, she began to make plans to return to London. The sadness of losing her father was like a dagger that gorged and cut her soul with brutality that she could not describe. She wondered what he had thought months before his passing. She felt guilty for the time when they did not talk. She would go into her parents’ room and watch old pictures of the entire family, reliving memories from years gone by. “So, when do you leave?” Her mother asked. “I want to leave next week, but I guess I am still bruised inside. I don’t really know what to do,” she replied. “Whatever you do, you must not break your promise to your father you know.” “What do you mean mama?” “You promised your father that you’d marry from home. You cannot break a promise to the dead – particularly, a dead loved one.” “But mama, I said that just to try to save papa. I did not mean it. How could I say no to him while he lay on his sick bed?” “A promise is a promise, my child. Before he died, he got the message that you’d not marry the Nigerian boy you are dating.”

“This is not the time to argue mama. I need some time to sort out my head. We can talk about that later.” “Okay, I will not trouble you, but keep that in mind – you don’t break a promise to the dead.” Her mother’s voice sounded somewhat ominous. She left the room leaving her to glance through old pictures through tears.

“So, Abi, what do you think your family would think of me if we married,” Lydia asked Abhimanyu. She had made dinner for him for the first time in months. Often, he’d do the cooking or they’d order takeaway food from nearby restaurants. “What do you mean?” He asked her. “You know, your family is Hindu and we are Christians; don’t you think they’d be mad at you…and me if we married?” “I think so, but in the end, it is my choice not theirs. I have told them already that I’ll be marrying you and they have accepted it, grudgingly.” Lydia felt a jolt in her heart. Her attempt to use religion as a wedge to crush any hopes of their marrying each other now looked bleak. “But don’t you think they have a point? You know, I have been worrying about this for a while…” “Is that why you don’t want to marry me yet?” “Not really, I was just thinking that…you know…you want your family’s support on a big issue like marriage.” “So, what does your family think?” “My mother is…is opposed to it.” “Really? You never told me that. Can I talk to her?” “Not yet, there is no need for that. I will handle her eventually.”

“What of your brothers and sister?” Abhimanyu asked. Lydia’s father had passed on years ago. “They…they are not really in support,” Lydia lied. “I am sorry to hear that. I did not know all long. I mean, when I met your mother, I did not get the impression that she was opposed to that. Besides, I would never stop you from practicing your religion.” “But, what of our children?” Lydia asked. “When the time comes, we’ll work it out, Lydia. What matters is that we love each other and we are willing to raise our children in love,” Abi philosophized. “You have a point, but I would not want to go ahead with it if I don’t have my family’s full support,” Lydia stressed. The next morning, Abhimanyu called Lydia’s mother whom she had met both in India and in London. “Ma,” he said. “I have something very important to ask you,” he said. “Go ahead.” “I…I was wondering if you could please allow me to marry your daughter, Lydia despite our religious differences. I deeply care about her and I would never hurt her. I have told you this in the past and I say it again – I will take care of her like a princess.”

“Aww! Abi, you are such a wonderful young man. I know you would let Lydia practice her own religion so I don’t care if you two marry.” “Thank you mama. I am very grateful.” “You are welcome my child.” He called Lydia’s brothers and neither of them cared at all about their differences and he got the same impression from her sister. He rushed to the kitchen and announced his discovery to Lydia, “Honey, I have just spoken to your family and they have all given their blessings for us to get married. Will you marry me now?” “Abi, you were not supposed to talk to them!” She yelled. I told you I would deal with that. Do you think they’d tell you straight that they are not in support? I am really mad that you spoke to them without my consent.” She dropped her apron and charged out of the kitchen. She went to the living room, picked up her things and left the apartment. “I am sorry honey….please forgive me. I did not mean to hurt you.” Lydia turned a deaf ear on him and walked out.

“Shomaila!” A male voice called to her. She had been sitting in the park near their house. She looked up. It was Ismail. They had not seen each other in many years. She and Ismail sort of dated before she left for London. “Ismail, so good to see you. What are you doing here?” “I came to see you. I heard of your father’s passing so I decided to come and pay my last respects.” ‘That is very kind of you, Ismail. Sit down here. I am glad to see you. What have you been up to?” “I work in Bangalore now. I am in Delhi on holiday. I work for Microsoft.” “You always had a flair for computers. I am not surprised. Good for you.” “I hear you are a Dr. now…you have a PhD.” Shomaila smiled humbly. Ismail sat beside her. There was an awkward moment for a while then he said, “I never forgot you.” “Thanks.” “Did you forget me?” “Ismail, we ended our brief relationship before I left the country, remember?” “Yes, I know, but when you love someone, you don’t just walk away from them like that.” “It takes two to tango, my friend. You were such a great friend and you actually gave me my first ever kiss, so I treasure that in my heart. However, I have moved on to other things. I am in love with someone else now.”

“Your father gave me his blessings. He said if it were his choice, he’d like me to marry you. Shomaila, I have never stopped loving you. Look at this…India is developing. There are jobs at home now. With your PhD, you can achieve great things in India. Let’s give each other one more chance. You and I can be a real winning team. Bangalore is the biotech capital of India. You will find a job easily. I will help you. Please consider my proposition.” “I am sorry Ismail; I am really in love with someone else.” “Is it the Nigerian guy?” Shomaila nodded. “Do you trust him? You know they always have Nigerian wives even when they are married abroad. I don’t want to see you get heartbroken.” ‘Thanks for your concern, but I don’t really feel the same way about you. Thanks for stopping by. I really appreciate that.”

He got up shortly afterwards and left. Later at night, Shomaila’s grandmother came over to see her. “Shomaila, in case you did not know, if you break your promise to your father, you’d suffer great consequences. I have come to warn you not to do that. Your father had carefully picked Ismail for you before he passed. As your grandmother, it is my jo to warm you of the grave consequences that lie ahead if you break such a promise.” “Grandma, thanks for coming. I am sad over my father’s passing and frankly, I don’t feel like I made a pact with him before he passed…” “You did…your word is your bond my child!” Her grandmother interjected.

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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THE PROMISE - Episode 5
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Liverpool Street, Indira Gandhi International airport, New Delhi, I work for Microsoft, the biotech capital of India, Nigeria, kiss. An African Literary Blog
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