Mr Cole went straight to the bar from work and remained there till late that night. He repeated the same practice for the next one week during which was the exams for the students offering his course. Goke was allowed to sit for the exams and he passed just as Mr Cole had assured him. Mr Cole however still felt uneasy. He couldn’t fathom where he’d begin to gather the pieces of his life together from if that picture leaked. As he sat in one of the booths with his friend, Kola, all he kept thinking was how he got himself into that mess and how he could get himself out. He hoped more than anything that Goke would let the sleeping dogs lie since he had passed his course.
‘Dare, what have you being thinking about these past few days? You always seem lost in thoughts’ Kola asked him and took a sip of his drink.
The music was blasting at its loudest, guys and ladies were busy digging it on the dance floor but none of these caught Mr Cole’s fantasy. He was miles away, he didn’t even realize Kola was talking to him
‘Dare!’ Kola gave him a slight hit on his shoulder, raising his voice even louder than he did before.
Mr Cole jolted back to reality. ‘Yes? What is it?’ He had a frown on his face. He wasn’t in the mood. If he had his way, he wouldn’t have wanted any company.
‘What is not it?’ Kola sat up. ‘Can’t you see how you are gradually becoming?’
‘I have a lot on my mind, Kola.’ Mr Cole signaled to the waiter to get him another drink.
‘That’s pretty obvious. See, you better forget about your worries and enjoy yourself. That babe has being checking you out for the past 30 minutes, I bet you haven’t even noticed.’
‘Abeg (please) who the babe help? She should better go and check out her destiny.’ Mr Cole hissed.
Kola hadn’t seen his friend like this before. Usually a drink or two was always enough to calm whatever storm was raging in his life but this time around, he had had five bottles and was about to go for the sixth, yet nothing.
As Mr Cole started with the sixth bottle, his phone rang. He checked the caller’s ID. It was Funmi. His heart skipped a beat.
He got up and without saying a word to Kola and stepped out of the bar. He usually picked calls in the bar but he knew he needed to hear Funmi clearly especially now that the sound of his racing heartbeat almost deafened him.
‘Hello Funmi, what is it?’ He asked with apprehension audible in his voice.
Funmi sobbed endlessly. ‘I thought you said you had it under control, Mr Cole?’ She could hardly get herself together.
‘What do you mean?’ Mr Cole felt strength leave his legs. He pressed the phone harder to his ears in order to hear Funmi properly.
‘The picture, I thought you promised to handle it.’
‘What happened, Funmi?’ He wanted her to go straight to the point. He feared the worst had already happened.
‘It’s all over the school and social media. So many people have been calling me that they saw a picture of me naked with a man.’ She burst into tears.
Mr Cole couldn’t believe his ears. He wished the ground could open up and swallow him at that moment.
‘Hello…. Hello’ Funmi’s voice faded away as Mr Cole slowly removed the phone from his ear and sat on the ground. He didn’t care who looked or was passing by. His image and reputation had been tarnished anyway.
He covered his face with his finger and clenched his teeth hard. ‘How could that idiot have done this to me?’ He asked himself.
Kola came out of the bar to look for Mr Cole, he was taking too long. He saw him seated on the ground and rushed towards him.
‘Dare, what’s going on?’ He bent over and asked him.
Mr Cole didn’t answer.
‘Dare… Dare’ Kola tapped his shoulder.
‘I’m doomed!’ Mr Cole looked at his friend. ‘Ha! My life don finish.’ He bit his lower lip.
‘Talk to me Dare, what happened?’ Kola was so concerned.
‘Please can you take me home?’ Mr Cole asked.
‘Alright, no wahala (problem).’ Kola went inside, settled the bills, picked their bags and quickly returned to Mr Cole who had now stood up and was waiting by his car.
With the remote in his hand, Kola opened the door and Mr Cole sat at the passenger’s seat.
Kola entered the car and looked at his friend. ‘Are you sure you don’t want to talk about it?’
‘Kola, where would I even start from? Please just take me home.’ Mr Cole’s voice trembled and even though, it was dark, Kola could still see that his eyes were moist with tears.
He turned on the ignition and reversed out of the compound.
Neither of them said a word to each other as kola drove him home.
Mr Cole thanked him and alighted. He didn’t wait for him to leave before he entered the compound and went straight into the house.
‘Welcome sir’ his children echoed. They were seated with their mum in the dining, having dinner.
‘Welcome dear’ Mrs Cole said with a smile on her face. He had begun to notice some changes in his wife and kids but today’s welcome was exceptional. The smiles well all broad, they seemed very happy; these things that hadn’t happened in years.
Mr Cole wondered the reason for the warm welcome from his family members. ‘Do they already know? Are they being unusually nice in order to make me feel terrible?’ He went into his room without responding.
‘Mummy is daddy okay?’ Bimbo asked. It was one thing for her dad to be mean but it wasn’t his usual nature to be snobbish.
‘My dear, I don’t know too. Let me go and check on him. You all should continue eating.’ She stood up and went into the room.
She opened the door leading to her room and to her surprise, she met her husband sitting on the floor crying. She rushed to him and knelt beside him. ‘Dare, what is the problem?’ She placed a hand on his shoulder.
He was too ashamed to look at her. He suddenly felt he didn’t deserve a woman like her. His life flashed before his eyes. He realized what a terrible husband and father he had being. Then he burst into tears and cried like a baby.
Mrs Cole wondered what could have happened. She was determined that no matter what it was, she was going to stand by her husband. She sat on the floor with him and patted his shoulder.
He curled up, rested on her laps and continued crying.
Mrs Cole lifted up her head, faced the ceiling and began to pray in tongues under her breadth. She told God to take control of the situation no matter what it was. As she prayed, a scripture dropped in her heart.
“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you 1 Pet 5:7”
She immediately knew the scripture was for her husband. As he threw his body on her laps like a child, she called his name ‘Dare.’
His sobs reduced. He lifted up his body and looked at her waiting to hear what she had to say.
Mrs Cole had never seen her husband that vulnerable. He looked like a child that had just been beaten by his parents for doing something terrible. She felt so much pity for him.
‘I don’t know what is wrong’, she started, interlocking her eyes with his ‘but I want you to know something.’
Mr Cole paid rapt attention.
‘I have a word for you.’ she continued. ‘Whatever it is you are going through, God wants you to cast your cares upon him because he cares for you.’
‘It’s not possible Funke.’ He shook his head. He can’t care for me!
‘That’s what I thought about myself too, Dare.’ She held his hand. I was convinced beyond every reasonable doubt that God didn’t care about me or this family but I had never been more wrong.’ She tried to explain to him, hoping that he’ll understand.
I’ve been a terrible person. God is certainly punishing me for all I did. There is no way he cares.’ Mr Cole just couldn’t fathom how God who he had consciously turned his back on cares for him.
Mrs Cole wanted to know what her was referring to as a punishment but she didn’t want to push it if he wasn’t ready to tell her. ‘You know it is the one God loves, He chastises?’
‘Funke, I’ve done terrible things. Too terrible, I can’t face you to tell you.’ he avoided eye contact with her.
‘Dare, I’m your wife. You can tell me anything.’ As those words left her mouth, she wondered if she could really take what it was he had to say without being hurt after all, she was human too. She prayed for God’s strength and grace.
Mr Cole took a deep breath and gave a heavy sigh. He held his wife’s hand. ‘Funke, I am so sorry.’ He started. I have been a terrible husband to you and a terrible father to our children. He remembered what he did to Seyi, how he defiled his own daughter. He burst into tears again.
Tears flowed down Mrs Cole’s face. She remembered, the times he beat her, the times he wasn’t there for them as a family. It’s okay’, she muscled all the energy left in her as she patted him on the back.
‘I don’t deserve all this Funke, I don’t. Promise me that as I tell you these things, you’ll find a place in your heart to forgive me.’ He more or less pleaded.
Mrs Cole sighed. ‘I promise.’
He spent the next five minutes opening up to her about all the terrible things he had done, including what he did to Seyi. He concluded by telling her the mess he was in and how the picture had leaked.
There was stark silence. Mrs Cole didn’t utter a word. She stared into space as hot tears flowed down her checks uncontrollably.
‘Please say something Funke, I’m begging you.’
Mrs Cole stood up from the floor where they both sat and went to a corner of the room. She buried her face in her hands and cried. ‘Lord, this is too much for me to bear.’ She lifted up her voice and cried.
Mr Cole stood up from the floor, came to where she was and knelt in front of her. He held on to her legs and pleaded ‘Funke, I’m sorry. Please find it in your heart to forgive me.
Mrs Cole looked at him, she struggled with the rage welling up within her. His sight disgusted her. She wished she could forgive him but it seemed so difficult. The hurt she felt fueled the rage. The more she remembered the hurt, the more angry she felt.
‘Dare please step aside,’ she said in a hushed tone, her teeth clenched together. She knew if he didn’t, she was going to raise her voice.
He let go of her legs.
She wished she could go as far from him as possible but it was night, leaving the house at that time wasn’t the wisest thing to do. She decided to go into the bathroom and locked herself inside.
‘Dear Lord please help me. I can’t do this on my own.’ As soon as she said that short prayer, she was convinced of the next step to take.
Dare remained on his knees, he didn’t know what else to do or who else to turn to. He closed his eyes and prayed, ‘God, you said you care. If you really do, please bring me out of this mess and I promise to serve with everything I have and I am.’
Immediately he said those words, Mrs Cole came out of the bathroom.
Still on his knees, he turned around, and watched as she approached.
She stretched her right hand out to him. ‘Stand up’ she said.
That was the last thing he expected her to say. He probably thought she’d rain curses on his head. Still not sure what was going on, he took her hand and got up.
‘It’s okay Dare, I have forgiven you.’ She knew, ordinarily, by her strength, she couldn’t have forgiven him but right from within, she felt a fresh surge of strength to let go of the pain and hurt.
‘Thank you Funke, thank you very much.’ He felt like hugging her but wasn’t sure if she felt the same. ‘I promise to change and turn a new leaf, Funke.’ There was excitement in his voice.
I’m glad but it’s not me you are to promise, it’s God. He is the one that can give you the grace and help you need to turn a new leaf.’
‘Please pray for me, Funke. I need what you have.’
Mrs Cole prayed for her husband after which she told him all about Emeka. He took it well and they both agreed that henceforth, they were both going to be open to each other.
‘Is there something you want to tell the children?’ Mrs Cole asked with a smile.
‘I believe there is,’ he returned the smile. That was the first time in many years, they had smiled at each other.
They both left the room and went to the sitting room. Bimbo and Bayo were watching TV while Seyi was in her room.
‘Bimbo, go and call you sister.’ Her mother told her.
‘No let me go and see her myself’ Mr Cole told his wife. I need to talk to her alone.’ He left the sitting room for her room. As he knocked the door, he prayed for God to help him say the right words and help Seyi forgive him.
‘Who is it?’ Seyi asked form inside the room.
‘It’s me.’ he waited for her to tell him to come he but didn’t get a response. Just as he was about telling Seyi how sorry he was, the door was opened from inside and he saw Seyi standing in front of him.
He didn’t know where to begin. He froze and was speechless.
‘Daddy do you want something?’ Seyi asked, wondering why her father stood at her door speechless.
He went on his knees, not minding if anyone walked in on him. ‘Seyi please I need you to forgive me.’ He clapped his hand together.
‘Daddy, please get up’ a weak smile broke out on her face. I have forgiven you.
He got up and hugged her. ‘I’ve been a terrible father and I’ve asked God to come into my life and make me a different person.’ He told her.
‘I’m so glad to hear that.’ She hugged him back.
‘Let’s go to the sitting room, your mum and I have something to say.’
‘Okay sir.’ She followed him behind.
When they got to the sitting room, they all sat down. Mr Cole spoke first. ‘I don’t know where to start from.’ He paused and searched their eyes to make sure they were all following. ‘I want to apologize for my terrible attitude these past years.’
A smile broke out on Bayo’s face. He looked at Bimbo who was sitting next to him and gave her a high five.
Mr Cole smiled and continued. ‘I have asked God to come into my life. I promise that from today, I will be the best father and husband there can ever be.’ He looked at his wife and smiled. I want us to collectively invite Jesus to be the foundation of this home.
They all held hands and he led the family in prayers after which they hugged. Everyone was happy.
To be continued. Read Part 30 Now Here
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