Lillian Lillian .. Lillioan Lillian
The first thing the next morning, Thursday, Ajuna drove me to the bank. I deposited forty million into Leona’s account and gave her a call.
“Hello, lover boy,” she answered.
“For Christ’s sake, stop calling me that!” I yelled angrily.
She laughed. “Oh, I love it when you go all macho on me.”
I calmed down fast.
“I just called to say, thank you. I just paid the money back into your account, you should get verification soon enough.”
“That was really quick.”
“Actually, the opportunity to use it sort of passed me by, so I really don’t need it anymore, at least not forty million of it. I’m keeping ten million as a gift from you to keep me a bit buoyant in my inconvenient circumstance.”
She laughed. “You could have had it all and more if you had just delayed for two weeks.”
“I’m not sleeping with you, Leona.”
She laughed again. “Every man I know kisses my ass except you. You’re different. Maybe that’s why I can’t just give up on you so easily.”
“Well, you can keep giving it your best shot, but you’ll never succeed in swallowing me up.”
She laughed. “That cocky tongue of yours! Oh, I think I may have an answer to your temporary financial inconvenience.”
“Not interested,” I said at once.
“You’re not interested in a lucrative multi-million-naira contract to supply transformers and tons of the stuff you import?”
That got my attention. “What’s the catch?”
She laughed again. “There’s no catch, lover boy. Just chalk it down to a favor. You remember Bobby, don’t you? I introduced both of you at my party three months ago.”
“Yeah, I remember him.”
“His company is tied into some new big deals up north. I’ll text you his number in a minute so you can give him a call. Just mention my name and the contract is all yours in no time.”
“Some clout you’ve got,” I said with grudging respect.
“You are welcome, dear. Don’t forget to send me a gift this Easter.”
“If this thing works out fine, you’ll get two fake diamond necklaces.”
She laughed. “Au revoir, lover boy.”
The line went dead before I could blast her.
“Crazy bitch,” I cursed fondly.
I got the text instantly and called Mr. Bobby Efosa right away.
Everything went like clockwork and I got an appointment for the following day.
By seven the next morning, I was awake and going through my regular exercise routine in my bedroom when Ajuna came in.
He waited patiently till I completed the thirty pushups and stood up.
“Good morning, boss.”
“Morning,” I replied, stretching my arms. “What’s wrong?”
He looked as serious as death. “Sister Lillian called me at six o’clock this morning.”
I hid my surprise well. “What did she want?”
He seemed hesitant. “She said she had a very bad dream about you last night. In the dream, she saw you driving on the expressway, you suddenly had a terrible accident and died on the spot. She advises you stay at home today and not go out at all.”
I stared at him. “Is this a bizarre joke or what?”
He shook his head and his worry showed clearly now. “It’s no joke, boss.”
A hundred thoughts flew through my mind and I didn’t like any of it.
“Look, I’m almost completely broke and deep in debt up to my eyeballs. This appointment today will put some good money into my pocket and I’m not about to give it up because of a common dream, okay? People dream all the time, but there’s absolutely no guarantee it must come to pass. You tell that woman for me that I’m not interested in whatever game she’s playing and she should stay the hell out of my damn business!”
I started to turn away from him.
“At least let me drive you today.”
“No, goddamn it!” I snapped, wheeling back in sudden anger. “You go to the warehouse like I told you. Enough of this damned woman and her dream!”
He bowed respectfully and left without another word.
By nine o’clock I was dressed and ready to go, but the car keys had vanished into thin air, all three of them. They weren’t at their normal place atop the dressing table or in any of the drawers. I went quickly over to the window and looked down. All three cars were parked there in front of the house.
“Damn Ajuna to hell!” I cursed and went for the spare keys, but they too were gone, all of them. “AJUNA! … AJUNA!! ….. AJUNAAAAA!!!”
I galloped downstairs, bellowing for Ajuna at the top of my voice and found Mary standing frozen with fear at the dining table where she was setting out my breakfast.
“Where the hell is he?” I demanded furiously.
“He went out long ago,” she said quickly.
“SHIT!” I cursed venomously.
“He said your taxi is waiting outside,” she added.
I stared at her. “My taxi? I own three cars and I have to take a taxi?”
I whipped out my phone and speed dialed, but Akuna’s phone was switched off.
“I swear to God, I will kill this bastard when I get my hands on him,” I swore venomously and headed for the front door.
At the front gates, a fairly nice taxi and a driver waited. I got in without question and gave the necessary directions.
The air conditioning in the taxi didn’t work, which only infuriated me more, but I forced myself to calm down and sat quietly in the back seat, saying nothing.
The accident, when it happened, was very sudden.
It happened along the Oshodi-Apapa superhighway. One moment, all was fine and the next moment, a loud explosion and the car was out of control. The driver screamed, and then the car crashed into something. I was thrown violently forward, hit my head on something, and then darkness.
I regained consciousness briefly as powerful hands pulled me out of the car and I could have sworn Ajuna was right there. When I opened my eyes again, I was lying on a hospital bed with my upper body covered in bandages. Ajuna was definitely there now and with him was a doctor.
“Good morning, boss,” said Ajuna smiling down at me.
“Good morning,” said the doctor and bent to examine my eyes with a thin flashlight. He straightened. “How do you feel?”
“My body hurts badly and it’s like… there’s broken glass in my lungs,” I mumbled.
“The painkillers are wearing off. You’ll get another shot in a minute,” he pointed at a nurse off to one side preparing a syringe. “You sustained a few injuries, but nothing too serious or permanent. You have a few cracked ribs, which is why breathing is that painful and these bandages are over your abdomen. You also have some fractures in the bones of your left arm and shoulder, but the injuries to your head are merely flesh wounds. In all, I would say you’re in good shape and should be back on your feet in days.”
Ajuna shook hands with the doctor. “Thank you so much, doctor. I’ll like some time alone with him, please?”
“You can have thirty minutes, but that’s it,” said the doctor. “He needs lots of rest.”
The doctor soon left with the nurse and Ajuna pulled up a chair to sit close to the bed.
I lay quietly a while until the pains in my body began to ease, then turned my head on the pillows to look at him.
“You were there when that accident happened, weren’t you?” I asked quietly.
“Yes, boss,” he said gently. “I followed you in another taxi and after the accident, I got you out and rushed you here. You regained consciousness a few times on the way.”
“How did you know it was really going to happen?”
“It’s complicated, but I’ll try to explain. A few days after we gave Sister Lillian the child, she informed me of a strange dream she had of my mother who she had never even seen before. She said she saw my mother coughing up blood, and then died suddenly. She told me plainly that my mother in the village had a cough at that particular time, but it was no ordinary cough like everyone was thinking and I should have her taken to a good hospital right away for tests. I called my mother at once and heard her coughing even as she swore she was fine. I sent my sister money at once to take her to the hospital and there, tests showed it was a rare type of
tuberculosis. Treatments started immediately and my mother got better. I can’t even imagine how Sister Lillian knew what she knew when I never even talked to her about anything, but from that time on, I started looking at her with a different eye. When she called me so early in the morning with another clear dream concerning you,” he shook his head and shrugged. “I just knew there was great danger and you had to be protected at all costs.”
I stared at him a moment. “Was she the one that suggested you hide the car keys?”
“Not really. She predicted you wouldn’t listen to the warnings so I must have to find a way to stop you from getting behind the wheels of a car that very day or else you would surely die in an accident. Her suggestion was that I puncture all the car tires in order to force you to take a taxi. I just took the keys instead, since I knew where they were.”
A thought suddenly occurred to me.
“The taxi driver…?”
Ajuna shook his head sadly. “He died on the spot.”
I was stunned.
“That taxi smashed into a parked trailer at high-speed and the whole front section was crushed. Most of the steering wheel was crushed into the driver’s chest and the front section of the roof caved in on his head. That’s where you hit your head and shoulder, the front part of the roof. In fact, if you had been wearing a seatbelt, you would have escaped unhurt because the entire back section of the car where you sat wasn’t affected at all. You were bleeding badly and had lost a lot of blood by the time I got you here, but the doctors were good, I knew your blood type and they had it at hand.”
I stared at him.
“So if I was sitting anywhere in front, I would be a dead man now?”
He nodded. “It’s a very good thing you hate sitting up front with other drivers.”
I stared sightlessly up at the ceiling for a long minute.
“You did good,” I said. “But don’t expect a raise, don’t even expect your salary at all in the next few months because I didn’t make that appointment.”
“About that, I had Paul ready to handle everything. He attended the appointment on your behalf and explained to Mr. Efosa that you were in a minor accident and so couldn’t make it. Things all went well and we got a signed commitment. We will be awarded the contract in full, within two weeks.”
I relaxed in relief. “Yeah, you did real good.”
We were silent for a while, and then Ajuna spoke again.
“There’s a minor problem, boss. Mary has figured out something is wrong with you and talked to your sister.”
“Oh, no,” I said in dismay. “She’ll panic and come rushing down here recklessly?”
“Won’t even look well before crossing the road,” Ajuna nodded. “That’s exactly what I’m worried about. She has already called me five times this morning and I can’t give any more excuses without sounding funny. You need to talk to her right away.”
“Yeah, but it’s Mary she’ll be listening to for the real details. What you should do is have Mary prepare a special meal for me this evening and brings it here along with the baby. With a shirt to cover up these bandages, I’ll put on a good show and she’ll get on her phone in no time to say I’m fine, problem solved.”
Ajuna chuckled. “You got it, boss. And don’t forget, we’ll have to thank Sister Lillian especially. She’s been fasting and praying relentlessly for you since yesterday.”
I stared at him. “How long have I been here?”
“Two days now.”
“And you are perfectly sure she’s been on prayers for me since then, without food and water?”
“Yes, boss, it’s how Mary figured something was wrong with you. I never talked.”
I sighed tiredly, “Leave me, I need to rest now.”
He left quietly, closing the door gently behind him.
That evening when they arrived, Mary wept with relief, but calmed down quickly because it was affecting the child.
“How is my baby,” I teased, tickling the child fondly under the chin as she held him up for me to see.
“He’s fine,” answered Mary for him.
My son was fat and happy, wonderfully pleasing to my eyes. The plaster on his forehead was gone now and the wound was healing fast.
“He looks quite happy,” I observed, grinning in spite of myself.
“Happy? He’s not happy now, you should see him with Aunty Lillian.”
I looked at her in surprise. “You take him to Lillian?”
“Of course, Dede,” she said firmly. “He’s always with her and she takes care of him very well.”
I could barely hide my astonishment. “When did you take him back to her after I brought him home?”
“The next day,” she answered.
“And Lillian has been looking after him very well since then, she breastfeeds him regularly?”
“Of course, Dede,” she said firmly, actually looking annoyed that I could even doubt such a thing.
“You still go to her place each day from morning till evening?”
“Yes, Dede,” Mary looked confused now and glanced at Ajuna as if for help.
“Boss, I take her there and back each day. The child has been with Sister Lillian and she has been taking very good care of him as always. She released him today so we could bring him here as you wished?”
I stared at him. “You still take Lillian to church?”
“Not just her, all of them, she always goes with Mary and the two babies. I’ve taken them twice this week, Sunday and this morning when she did final prayers for you.”
“She did it without food or water from yesterday till twelve o’clock today,” put in Mary.
I stared from one to the other. They didn’t look like Lillian had told them a thing or given me out in any way. Hell, it didn’t look like she’d breathed a word to another soul or changed her manner towards me in any way, except for those rejected phone calls.
“Is there a problem here, boss?” asked Ajuna, looking puzzled.
“No, no problem, bring me the food, I’m hungry.”
They both hurried to obey.
They left about two hours later at seven o’clock and I got on the phone to the Prophet right off.
“Good evening, sir.”
“Ah, Larry, how are you? I haven’t seen you in the church in over a week now and when I called yesterday, your assistant answered your phone, but was evasive. I hope there’s no problem?”
“I was involved in an accident yesterday.”
“WHAT? How bad is it?”
“Not too bad, I’m fine. I only sustained minor injuries nothing more. The doctors say I should be out of the hospital in two or three days. God was on my side.”
“Hallelujah!” cried the Prophet. “The evil machinations of the devil will never come to pass in your life in Jesus name.”
“Amen,” I responded. “Sir, there’s something about this I need to talk to you about.”
“What is it?” he asked at once.
“To be blunt, sir, have you ever had even the slightest reason to connect Sister Lillian to witchcraft?”
The Prophet was silent a moment.
“Why would you ask such a question?” he asked quietly.
“Well, she predicted this accident so accurately just a few hours before it happened and according to my assistant, it’s not the first time she’s done such a thing…”
He listened quietly as I explained everything in detail.
“… Dreams that come true within hours are strange enough, but giving an alternate prediction? That takes things to a completely different level. That taxi driver died on the spot exactly like she predicted I would. I would still be dead if I had been sitting in front with him because the whole front section of that car was completely crushed. I keep wondering how she even knew I wouldn’t sit there in front when she suggested the taxi to my assistant in the first place. This whole thing is giving me a sinister feeling and that’s putting it mildly, sir. I feel like another life has just been taken in place of mine.”
The Prophet inhaled audibly and let it out in a sigh.
“Larry,” he said quietly. “I will ask you just three simple questions and I want you to give me three straightforward answers, okay?”
“First question, do you really think that a witch, wizard or any such evil person can come into the House of the Living God, even for one second, and leave unnoticed by me and untouched by the power of God?”
“Second question, do you really think that I, a Prophet of the Living God and my wife, a Prophetess in her own right, would recommend someone to take care of your only child without thoroughly examining her first, spiritually and physically, even checking for possible future misfortunes for the child while it’s in her care?”
“Well, no, sir,” I said, beginning to realize my stupidity.
“Third question, when my wife and I introduced Lillian to you, do you remember me telling you in so many words that she was a unique Christian?”
“Yes, sir, I remember.”
Perhaps, I had better clarify the issue further. Sister Lillian is an exceptional member of the Prayer Warriors group and one of the two developing Prophetesses in the church right now, the other is my eldest daughter. Unfortunately, Lillian tends to suppress her gifts rather than letting it flow. She never gives prophecies during open church service so most members don’t even know she possesses the gift, and for your information, Prophets and Prophetesses, though having different abilities, are all unique dreamers. That’s how the gift always begins… through dreams.”
“So she’s the real deal, a Prophetess?”
“A very gifted one actually. Her gift of spiritual vision is complete and very powerful indeed. She often sees things other Prophets can’t see and doesn’t even need deep concentration to do so.”
“Then why does she suppress it?”
“Because she is so obviously a Calabar woman and Calabar women are too well renowned for both their beauty and witchcraft. See how fast you came to the conclusion that she was a witch? And all because of a dream, irrespective of the fact that it saved your life, and the life of your assistant’s mother before that. This is the story of her life exactly. Her troubles started as a child of eleven whose strange dreams and warnings scared people because they always come to pass. At the time, she was living with her parents in a small town in Akwa Ibom State, someone went to report her to the town Oracle and the priests came to burn her alive like they do down there at the slightest whisper of witchcraft. Her family had to run away from their home to save her life and that of her mother. Things are worse now that she has matured into a full-blown beauty with those strange colored eyes. Once she starts talking spiritual issues, people take one look at her and think ‘evil water goddess’, they run scared. You have no idea what that woman has been through in this life.”
“Actually, I do, which is why it so bothered me in the first place. I grew up in the South-South States where she comes from and the ‘Calabar witch’ syndrome is epidermis down there. They torture and lynch Calabar women, young and old, even girl children, just on suspicion of witchcraft.”
“The thing is everywhere now even in churches. She has had very bad experiences in three different churches within the last four years alone. A lifetime of wariness has made her so adept at suppressing her gifts that I’m now having so much trouble getting her to loosen up. Frankly, I’m surprised she even mentioned the dream to you at all considering her recent ordeals in matrimony.”
“What ordeals?” I asked at once.
“Let me put it this way and for your stubborn ears only. She first warned her husband, privately, of the impending deaths of his two brothers on the same day, in the same car accident if they traveled together in the same vehicle. The man did nothing and it all came to pass. When then she started warning again of impending financial misfortunes that would ruin his life, he panicked and reported her to his mother. The whole family cried witchcraft and threw her out of the house, pregnancy and all. That is the real reason for her separation from her husband and why the man has cut himself off completely from her.”
I was surprised. “Mother Nwachukwu told me it was due to her inability to produce a male child in three years of marriage.”
“That’s the convenient cover story Lillian is using, because there’s a little truth to it. Not even Mother Nwachukwu is aware of the real nature of things. Sister Lillian is now extremely sensitive to the whole witchcraft thing so whatever you do, never mention it to her hearing or you will be needing another wet-nurse very quickly. One more thing,” he paused a moment. “When you first came to me with this problem of your wife leaving you, I gave you a prophecy and prayers against any evil spirit from the shrine your wife did things against you which has marked you for death within three months. Do you remember it?
“Yes, sir, I remember it.”
“As you were talking about the accident, the Holy Spirit informed me that it was that evil spirit that visited you with death. Had you been driving any car that day, you would be as dead as that taxi driver is now.”
My blood went cold.
“The evil spirit has been driven away from you now and you are safe. As long as you worship the Living God, never doubt his ability or desire to deliver you from evil. Our God is great and mysterious are His ways.”
“Yes, mysterious are his ways,” I agreed in a quiet voice.
“The issue of the taxi driver’s life being taken in atonement for yours arises from your stubbornness to heed the initial warnings, but don’t worry when I return we will pray over it and all will be well. I am at a crusade in Port Harcourt right now, but I will be back in two or three days. I will come straight to visit you in the hospital.”
“No, sir, that won’t be necessary, I’ll be out of here and on my feet by then. I will come and see you instead.”
“Once you are discharged from the hospital, endeavor to go and thank Sister Lillian for the determined role she played before God in saving your life. Show appreciations and it will make her willing to use the gift again, if not for others at least on your behalf.”
“You have my word on that, sir,” I said firmly.
“Good, now you must rest, I’ve already taken too much of your energy.”
I chuckled. “Thank you, sir.”
“May the power and the Spirit of the Lord be with you.”
“Amen. Goodbye, sir.”
Lying in the bed, propped up on the pillow, I stared sightlessly across the room.
“Christ!” I breathed in horror. “I’ve really put my foot in it. Other men rape ordinary women and walk scot-free, but when I begin mine, I go and picked a whole Prophetess of God!”
I didn’t sleep well that night.