Must Read: A Chance For Love… Episode 16

A Chance For Love

Episode sixteen

Forgiveness

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Continues.

“And then I knew my heart had led me to

the one I wanted to spend my whole life

with.”

***

Rumors of me living with Sir Aaron had

spread all through the school, and everyone

believed he had ulterior motives, but he

didn’t seem to care. So why would I?

Just as the teacher for last period made her

exit, Raheem advanced to me. “We need to

talk.”

Nonchalantly, I threw my books in my bag.

“If it’s about the rumors—”

“Screw those rumors,” he said, his voice

loud enough to steal everyone’s attention.

“I just want my Toria back. Is that too much

to ask? You won’t even speak to me.

Farah’s upset. She thinks I hurt you

somehow, when in reality you’re the one

hurting me.”

My Toria. He’d called me his Toria. But

why?

I ignored the butterflies in my stomach.

“Please keep your voice down.”

Raheem smirked. “Is that a yes?”

“A yes to what?” I asked.

“Going home together so we can clear

things up,” he said. “You must think ill of

me.”

“I can’t go with you,” I said. “Sir Aaron—”

“I’ll go talk to him. I’m sure he’ll be okay

with it.” He turned to leave, but I sprang to

my feet and grabbed his arm.

“Please, don’t,” I said. “I’ve got a phone

now. I’ll give you my number so we can

talk.”

Without waiting for his response, I picked

up my pen. As though reading my mind, a

grinning Amarachi presented a piece of

paper on which I wrote down my number.

“Here.”

Raheem took it with a smile. “Look how

desperate you are to give me your number.

It’s not like I asked. Gee, thanks.”

Sir Amadi’s voice screeched over the

intercom. “Victoria Brown. Main office.

ASAP.”

“Someone’s in poo,” Amarachi said.

“Oh Lord, what have I done now?” I thought

aloud.

“Let’s go find out,” Raheem said.

“What? No. There’s no way you’re going

with me.”

“So you think.” Winking at me, he walked

out of the class.

“Someone’s twitterpated,” Amarachi said.

“Yeah, right.”

“Keep me updated.”

“Okay.” I waved her goodbye and headed for

the main office, only to find Raheem

waiting for me in the stairway. Wordlessly, I

led the way.

***

The familiar figures seated opposite Sir

Amadi made me freeze. What did they

want? Had they come to drag me home with

them? Now, I couldn’t be happier Raheem

had followed me. With him around, they

wouldn’t be able to harm me.

“You sent for me, sir,” I said.

Sir Amadi glared at Raheem. “Why is he

here?”

“Why?” Raheem asked, seemingly

unaffected. “Hate me that much, good sir?”

Turning to me, he said, “I’ll be in the

reception.”

“You don’t have to go,” I said. “It’s all fine.

You know everything already anyway. With

you here I know no harm will come my way.

For all I care, they’re murderers. They

killed Bruno. They can do that to even me.”

“That is no way to speak of your family,” Sir

Amadi said.

“Family?” I asked. “No, sir! This woman is

no mother of mine, and I certainly don’t

know that girl sitting beside her!”

Cynthia gasped as the words left my lips.

She could never have thought I’d ever speak

about them like this. And surprisingly, I

could never have thought so myself.

Vacating her seat, my stepmother turned to

look at me. Her eyes glistened with tears.

“My daughter. I know you hate me. And I

deserve it. I know I’ve been unfair to you. I

know I never gave you the love you needed,

but please believe me when I say I’m sorry.

I’m so so sorry. I never intended for things

to go this far.”

She hiccupped between sobs. “Bruno’s

death was a mistake. The poisoned bread

was meant for the rats disturbing the

house.”

“Mum, please,” Cynthia said. “Stop it.

There was never any rat. It was your plan to

kill him, and you did it, showing no

remorse.”

For once in her life, my supposed sister had

given humanity a chance. I could only stare

in awe. I’d be fooled if I didn’t know the

people before me were skilled actresses.

How long had it taken them to rehearse

their roles? A day? Two?

My stepmother sobbed like a child. “What

was I to do? At a tender age I was attacked

by a vicious dog. That encounter instilled in

me a fear of dogs, and I’ve never been able

to live through it. For this reason, I never

want to be around dogs. They make me

relive that painful moment. Seeing that dog

in our house scared me into thinking it

would hurt one of you. I didn’t want that. I

did what I had to do for my children.”

“Bruno never posed a threat, and you know

that,” I said. It took much effort not to yell.

But I didn’t know for how long I could keep

my emotions in check.

“I’m sorry, my child. I’m so sorry. Please

forgive me.”

“Is that all, Mrs. Brown?” I asked. “Have you

come all the way to fill my head with lies?

Do I look like a fool to you? Your crocodile

tears don’t fool me. You should know that

by now.”

“Stop it!” Sir Amadi yelled. “This is no way

to speak to an elder. I will not condone this.

Not in my office!”

“Forgive me if I strike you as disrespectful,

sir,” I said. “But every ill trait I have, I

learnt it from this woman. Now, Mrs. Brown,

what do you want?”

“Please come home,” she begged. Her

request left me speechless. “Please, I beg

you. Your departure has left a hole in my

heart. I promise to be a better mother. I’ll

let you have the privilege I deprived you of.

I will be your mother. Please, just come

home. I’ll be better, I promise.”

Drawing nearer to me, she glued her palm

to my cheek. “My daughter, life has not

been the same since you left.”

I would be moved into returning with her if I

didn’t know her intentions. Snatching my

face from her evil hold, I put my hands

together to applaud her brilliance. “Bravo,

mum! Just bravo. I’ve been away for eight

days and you never thought of wanting me

back. Why today? Why now? You won’t

speak? Okay, I’ll say it. This morning, my

guardian went to speak to you of his plan to

take custody of me, and he requires you to

give me a monthly pay of thirty-five

thousand naira. And you don’t want that.

You know that it might lead to you facing

the child abuse sentence. You know that

getting me back and forcing the public to

believe you’re a good mother would save

you from facing the sentence. Prove me

wrong.”

“Honey, this has nothing to do with your

guardian’s visit.”

The word ‘honey’ contorted my face with

disgust. How dare she call me that, after

everything she’d done to me?

“Did he not come to you with the custody

request?” I asked.

“He did. But…but—”

“There,” I said. “So I am right after all. You

are the same conniving snake you always

have been. Please, don’t try to contact me

again. My guardian wouldn’t like that. Oh,

and in case you’re wondering, he’s a perfect

father figure. And his wife, she’s everything

you’re not. Their children treat me like I’m

a part of their family, and in their company

I don’t even let my mind wander off to

people like you. You can rot in your sea of

riches for all I care. I, Victoria Brown,

refuse to keep being your slave.”

My stepmother fell at my feet. Gripping my

ankles, she said, “My daughter. I’d do

anything. Anything—”

“Can you bring Bruno back to life?” I asked.

Only when she brought him back would I

return to being her loyal dog.

Tears spilling out of her eyes, she shook

her head. “No, you know I do not have the

power to—”

Seething, I snatched my legs from her grip.

“Then how dare you take his life like he

meant nothing? How dare you, mum?”

“I’m sorry, my child. I’m sorry—”

“Don’t call me that,” I yelled. “You’ve never

called me your daughter or treated me like

one, so do me a favor and stay away from

me.”

“You can’t possibly ask me to do that,” she

begged. “Please just give me one chance to

prove myself to you. Return home, please.”

“Come near me again and I will publish a

newspaper article of everything you’ve been

doing to me since dad’s death. Everything,

from your words that cut deep like a two-

edged sword, to the scars you’ve inflicted

on me. And I mean every word I say.”

With that, I stormed out of the office.

Raheem trailed behind me like a bodyguard.

The scene in Sir Amadi’s office played on

and on in my head. I’d never thought the

day would come when I’d speak to my

stepmother with so much bitterness. Father

hadn’t brought me up like this, but what

could I do?

“Your food is getting cold,” Sharon said,

advancing to me.

“I’m not hungry,” I said. “I just need some

time alone.”

“You’ve had two hours to sob,” she said. “It

isn’t your fault you lost control. Don’t

torture yourself so. Please come and eat.”

“Sharonita, there’s a girl at the door,” Vicky

said, standing in the threshold.

“Who is it?” Sharon asked.

Vicky shrugged. “Never seen her. Should I

let her in?”

“Let me go see who’s at the door,” Sharon

said. She walked away, with Vicky trailing

after her. I picked up my phone and found

four missed calls from Stella. I’d expected

one from Raheem, and although I tried to

hide my disappointment, it gnawed at my

soul anyway. If he cared as much as he

made it seem, shouldn’t he have called to

know how I fared?

Vicky skipped into the room. “The girl says

she’s a childhood friend. Should we let her

in?”

Childhood friend? I had no childhood

friends. At least, none that I knew of. “Did

she tell you her name?”

“Tonye C.B,” she said.

What did she want? Drying my eyes, I

dashed to the living room to see her. And

there she stood, holding a paper bag. For

some reason, Sharon didn’t seem to like

her. She hadn’t even allowed her step into

the house.

“Victoria, do you know this girl?” Sharon

asked. “She claims to be your childhood

friend. I don’t know, but sorry, she doesn’t

look like one you’d associate with. But then

again, I’m probably wrong.”

“She’s a friend,” I said.

Sharon didn’t seem convinced. But she let it

slide. I stared at my guest. She seemed to

have been crying. She’d never fancied her

native name. But today, the name she so

detested had let her see my face. If she’d

introduced herself as Cynthia, Sharon would

have slammed the door in her face.

“Sharon, do we mind if we use the room?” I

asked.

“It’s okay,” Sharon said.

I advanced to Cynthia and took her by the

hand. Gasping, she snatched back her hand.

Following her gaze, I found Sir Aaron

staring at us with fire in his eyes.

“Why is she here?” he asked.

My mind went blank. “She—”

“You can throw me out if I create a scene,”

Cynthia said. “Or if I exceed ten minutes.

But I must have a word with my sister.”

Sister. For the first time in seventeen

years, she’d called me sister. And she

meant every letter of it, from the S to the

R. My heart leapt with a hope I hadn’t seen

coming.

“Please, sir,” I begged. Surely, whatever

she’d come to say meant a lot.

“Ten minutes,” he said.

Nodding my appreciation, I led Cynthia into

the room and closed the door behind us.

“Why are you here?” I asked.

Teary-eyed, she gave me the bag she’d

brought along. “Your mother probably

wanted you to have this. It contains every

jewelry that belonged to her, including the

ones she used on her wedding day. Although

my mother gave them to me, I know I don’t

deserve them. They’re yours. And then,

there are pictures of her. I’m sure you’d

love to have them. I’m sorry I kept them

away for so long.”

“Okay.”

“And then there’s a letter from your mum.

Remember that letter daddy told you about?

He said he was going to give you when you

were older, and then after he died mum kept

it from you?”

“Thanks,” I said. “For the letter.”

“You will never return to us, will you?” she

asked.

“Look, if your mum sent you here—” I said.

“I came on my own,” she said. “Vicky, I

never thought a day would come when I’d

miss you. I see you in my dreams, you

know. I can’t believe you walked out of my

life. I thought we were sisters. You just

abandoned me. Life has been hard.”

I rolled my eyes. How stupid did she think I

was? “Only because you have to do the

chores yourself.”

“Screw those chores,” she said. “I miss

having you at home. But I will not beg you

to come back. It is your choice. If I were in

your shoes, I’d have done this long ago.

You just made me realize how unfair I’ve

been to you all along. We are sisters. And I

feel horrible right now. I see you in class

every day, and you have fun with your

friends, but you don’t even look at me. Am I

that insignificant? I know you’re mad about

Bruno’s death. And I am too. The day it

happened, I cried so hard. Do you know

that? I stayed locked in my room, crying

because an innocent soul was lost and I

hadn’t done anything to stop it. An innocent

life was taken by my own mother. You

probably don’t know this, but before that

incident, things were starting to look up.

And just when I thought I could finally put

aside my bitterness and find out what you

have that drives Raheem, Stella and Sir

Aaron crazy, this happened, pushing you out

of my reach. But like I said, I won’t ask you

to come back. No, you’ve suffered enough

in our house, and I don’t wish that for you.

At least not anymore. Find happiness,

okay?”

She turned to leave, but I dashed to her

side and wrapped her in an embrace I’d

longed for all my life. Her arms around me

felt like heaven.

“Did you mean every word you said?” I

asked.

“Every word.” Disentangling from the hug,

she looked into my eyes. “If life presented

me another chance to have you home with

me, I would stand by you, support you, and

protect you from mum’s hate. We would be

sisters. But is it possible for you to still

want me after everything? I know I have

sinned against God and against man by

treating you the way I did, and asking for

forgiveness is asking too much, but—”

I took her hands in mine. “Shh. You mustn’t

think like that.”

“I have to go now,” she said. “I just had to

come give you what’s yours.”

Without a word of goodbye, she walked

away. I had found my lost long sister. I

would not let her go again.

“Are you alright?” Sharon asked. I hadn’t

noticed her presence.

“I don’t think she is,” Vicky said. “She’s

crying.”

“Did that girl hurt you?” Sharon asked. “If

she did, I swear I’m going after her.”

“I’m alright,” I said. “She didn’t hurt me.”

Vicky sat beside me. She didn’t seem

convinced. “Then why are you crying?”

I smiled at her and ruffled her hair. “I’m not

crying, silly.”

I emptied the bag Cynthia had given me. It

contained a jewelry box, a letter, and

volumes of pictures of mum and dad. Later,

I would check the pictures, but now, I

needed to read mum’s letter.

“Is that a letter?” Sharon asked.

“It’s from my mum,” I said. “She wrote it

before…before she died.”

“Okay,” she said. “We’ll let you read it in

private. Come, Vicky, she needs to be

alone.”

They had barely left the room when I

yanked open the glued envelope. A mix of

grief and excitement drove tears to the

brink of my eyes.

‘If you’re reading this, then I didn’t make it.

Reading this letter would send me on a

tearful journey, and would reopen my

wounds, but I ached to read every word of

it.

And I am so sorry, my darling. Can you ever

forgive mummy for leaving you all alone in

such a big world?’

Mum wouldn’t have left if she had a choice.

So, she hadn’t done anything to be forgiven

for. I, on the other hand, had sent her away

with my presence.

‘I cradled you in shaky arms. I watched you

breathe, watched you cry. And despite the

pain ripping me apart, my reason for joy

abounded. I had you. My Victoria. Smart,

intelligent, and beautiful, you are everything

I am and more. I can see you in my mind’s

eye, my Victoria, and I see a charming

young lady. A girl who has the soft heart

and beauty of her mother, and the strength

of her father. I sincerely hope the image I

see of you is what you are.’

My gaze strayed from the letter and fell on

a photo of mum and dad. Mum’s eyes

sparkled with an emotion I could rightly call

love. The photo was taken on their wedding

day, afterall. I stared intently as though I

were watching her picture for the first time.

It enchanted me how we shared similar

features, save for the angelic smile on her

face; a smile that could make the world

stand still in awe. She had a reason for joy;

something I didn’t have.

I couldn’t help the wave of guilt spreading

within me. Had I not been born, she would

still be alive, and happy. But I had to come

along, bringing her life to a premature end.

I gazed at dad, a light skinned man with a

smile that could light up the world. His eyes

brimmed with emotions that matched

mum’s. Life would have been a lot different

if I had grown up with them.

I returned my attention to the letter.

‘How are you, my darling? Does life treat

you well? While I hope it does, because you

deserve the best, I’d be deceiving myself to

believe your life is all smiles and no tears.

Life isn’t a bed of roses. Good times will be

here, and bad times too. But either way, we

always have to find a sliver of hope in the

darkest of times; a sliver of light in the

darkest of places. Where there is none, we

can make ours.’

In the darkest of times I had found my Fairy

Godmother. I wished I could tell mum about

her, my new family and their intention to

free me from my stepmother’s clutches.

‘Baby, I don’t know what situation you’re

currently facing, or will face in time to

come, but always remember that you are

stronger than every thorn. When things get

tough, don’t give up. Don’t let any situation

break you. But forge ahead, and someday

you’ll look back and say ‘wheew, that was a

bumpy ride.’

I wish I were there with you, and we’d

engage in conversations, opening up our

hearts to each other like friends would. I

know there’s a lot you want to share with

me.’

Raheem. For a reason I didn’t understand, I

thought of him way too much; way too much

that it started to scare me. I wished mum

was here so I could tell her about this

craziness. I wished I could tell her about my

dreams. Together we’d have found a way to

transform them into reality. Although, to be

honest I barely had any dreams other than a

chance for love.

‘With each new day comes new decisions.

Don’t rush into them, ever. I would tell you

to follow your heart. But it’s not 100% safe

to do so. I did a number of times, and the

places it got me were undesirable. Only

once did following my heart yield good

results. That was when I met him. My rock,

my best friend. And then I knew my heart

had led me to the one I wanted to spend my

whole life with.’

I smiled as an untold love story flashed

through my mind. I wished mum had written

a thing or two about it. If she had written

another letter, I trusted she would have

included it.

‘But even still, the heart is a really twisted

ally and will lead you down the wrong path.

So it’s best to use your head to follow your

heart. Since I mentioned your father, it

wouldn’t be fair to not tell you how we met.

But your father will tell it and tell it all, I

promise. It’s a story that deserves to be

developed into a script. I just hope he tells

it all. If he doesn’t, I’ll groan in my grave.’

The word ‘grave’ made me cringe. How did

mum feel so comfortable speaking of the

grave?

‘Take care of yourself for me, my dear. And

take care of your father. I will write him a

letter, and if the pain allows me, I will write

you another. If I am unable to, please

forgive me. Know that I just couldn’t.

If I could, I would fight this sickness to be

with you. I would cross seven seas to watch

you grow, hear you call me mummy, smile

with you when you find your first love, and

comfort you when you have your first

heartbreak. But life is no movie, and here I

am, confined to this bed, waiting for the

end to come.

Poor death, it thinks stealing me away has

separated us. It doesn’t know I live in you.

Or do you not see me in your dreams? Do

you not see me in your mind’s eye? Do you

not think of me so much that I’m real

enough to actually be touched?’

I clutched the letter to my chest, and with a

shaky breath, more tears stung my cheeks.

‘Sweetheart, sometimes you blame yourself

for being born. You torture yourself with the

thought that I’m gone because of you. I

know. Please stop. This was meant to

happen. And just so you know, if I was

meant to die for you to live, I’d do it over

and over again, because you are a blessing

to the world, and I’d be selfish to hide you

away.

I would write on and on. No, I would do

more: live on and on (if only). But the pain

forces me to drop my pen.

Stay safe, my darling. And stay strong. I

love you.’

“I love you too mum.”

Mum’s letter would always be a part of my

life. I would tattoo it in my heart, where it

could never be erased.

***

Hours later, mum’s words continued to float

above the surface of my mind.

“You should enlarge it and frame it,”

Amarachi said. “That way, you always see it

just before bed, and once you awaken.”

Musing over her words, I let a sad smile

stretch my lips only slightly. I would take

her suggestion. Surely, Sir Aaron wouldn’t

mind helping me convert this vision into

reality.

Seeing Nancy and Precious sitting alone

during recess struck me as weird. Cynthia

had never absented herself from lunch. But

today, she had. She’d become a walking

ghost, a shadow of herself. Guilt ate at my

heart each time I tried to analyze this.

“You’re not touching your food,” Flora said.

I bolted to my feet. “I have to go.”

“What?” Amarachi asked. “Where are you—”

I didn’t wait to answer. I dashed to our

classroom and found Cynthia in her seat

with her head resting on the locker.

“Cyn,” I called. Tentatively, she looked up

at me. I gasped at the sight of her teary

eyes. “What’s wrong? Are you alright?”

She broke into tears. “It’s mum. She has a

very high blood pressure and the doctor

says she could have a heart attack. I’m so

scared, Victoria. I don’t want my mum to

die. Without her I’m nothing.”

To be continued

.