Must Read: A Chance For Love… Episode 24
“Whenever you’re close to me, your
presence sucks out every trace of oxygen. It
I awakened to the sound of my ringing
phone. A smile flitted across my face as I
found Raheem’s name on my screen. I hit
the answer button.
I made to speak, but Raheem didn’t give me
a chance. “I’m at your gate.”
The line went dead. I gazed at the phone in
my hand. What the hell had just happened?
Why had he sounded like I was the last
person he wanted to speak to? It was
almost as though he didn’t want to hear my
voice. What had gone wrong?
A possibility dawned on me. What if he’d
pondered over my loss of self control and
decided to end it all? Or did it have to do
with his family? Did it involve his dad?
Staying in bed and musing over these things
would not give an answer. I rose to my feet
and advanced to the gate. Unlocking it, I
stepped outside. And there, before me,
stood the answer to my questions. Raheem
sat on his bike, his eyes hiding behind dark
glasses. My stepmother stood beside him.
I knew without a doubt that Peter had
informed him of the graveyard scene. What
would Raheem think of me now? What if my
stepmother had filled his head with lies
aimed to turn him against me?
“Thank you,” my stepmother said, smiling at
Raheem nodded. Without acknowledging my
presence, he started the engine. I sprinted
to his side. No way in hell would I let him
leave. No, not like this.
“Raheem, I…I can explain,” I said.
“Don’t,” he said. “You were right, Victoria
Brown. This can’t work.” His words
tightened my stomach into a tortuous knot.
Without another word, he zoomed out of
sight, leaving me to swim in the smoke of
everything I once had, now burned to the
ground. A bolt of rejection hit me squarely
in the chest, knocking me out of breath.
Tears sprang to my eyes.
I had lost the one person who gave me
reason to live. How would I go on without
Bursting into tears, I darted into my room
and threw myself onto my bed. With my own
hands, I’d destroyed the happiness I’d
worked so hard to build. I’d only intended to
make my stepmother pay for her wrongs.
How was I to know my actions would drive
away the one person I cared about the
I felt a new kind of pain build up within me;
one I could not fathom. A pain so similar to
losing a loved one in death, and yet so
different. It clawed at my chest and
threatened to break everything I was. My
breath came in short, ragged gasps, setting
my lungs ablaze.
Once, I’d thought losing a loved one in death
was the worst kind of emotional pain. But
today I realized the rejection of a loved one
hurt no less. At least, with death, I knew my
loved ones had left without a choice. If they
could, they’d still be with me.
But in this case, Raheem had a choice. And
he had chosen to reject me now when I
needed him the most. Although I’d seen this
coming, I could never have guessed it hurt
so much to be heartbroken. Why did I feel a
pressure on my chest, as though something
heavy sat atop it? Why did it hurt as though
my heart had been literally ripped out of my
I grabbed my phone and dialed his number. I
wouldn’t give up without at least trying to
win him back. His phone rang. Once, twice.
And then, the line went dead. I dialed again,
but found his phone switched off.
He wanted nothing to do with me. Every
memory and dream we ever shared wilted
before my eyes. How could I heal this
rawness in my chest, a deep hole where my
heart should be?
He’d been my shadow, my best friend,
staying close in good times and in bad.
Despite my many flaws, he’d loved me. And
now, my whole world crumbled at my feet
like a pile of ashes.
“Victoria,” my stepmother called. I hadn’t
noticed her come in.
I raised my face to acknowledge her
presence. She stood a distance away,
obviously conflicted about approaching me.
“Are you happy now?” I asked, getting out of
bed. “You have always wanted bad things to
happen to me. When I grieve, you have a
thousand and one reasons to smile. Things
were fine between Raheem and I until you
came along. Now he wants nothing to do
with me. All because of you! You!”
“Please believe me when I say I didn’t mean
for any of this to happen,” she said.
The sound of her voice was no different
from a pestering bug waiting to be squished.
Squeezing my eyes shut, I clapped my
palms over my ears. “Stop! Just stop! I’m
not a fool anymore, okay? I’m not the
person I used to be, the person you treated
like a rag. I stopped being the naive little girl
who swallowed every insult and believed
every lie. So, just stop. Enough lies already.”
“I would never lie to you,” she said.
I glared at her. “Your voice…it burns. Every
time I hear you speak, I ask myself over and
over again why you didn’t die six months
ago. You know why? I hate you. I hate you
so much that it hurts. Whenever you’re
close to me, your presence sucks out every
trace of oxygen. It suffocates me. You
suffocate me, mum. I wish you died back
there. I really wish you did.”
Sobbing, I went on, “Why continue to torture
me? Why don’t you just go away, out of my
life, just so I can find happiness? Why do
you keep destroying my life over and over
again? Why didn’t you just stay dead? You
should have died back there. But no, you
had to wake up to ruin my life over and over
Although I had so much more to say, I held
back. Nothing I said or did could change
anything. I swept my phone off the bed and
stormed off into Cynthia’s room. Once there,
I locked the door, keeping intruders away.
My fairy godmother came to mind. She’d
been my rock, even before Raheem walked
into my life. Talking to her would bring a
measure of relief. Or so I hoped.
I dialed her number. After a few rings, she
answered the call. “Vicky dear, hello. How’s
“Bad,” I said.
She freaked out. “Oh dear. What’s wrong?”
“It’s Raheem,” I said. “It’s over. He just…
ended it. He wants nothing to do with me.
I’m so broken right now, I don’t know what
to do. I wish you were here. I really wish you
“I thought things were fine between you
To be honest, things had never been fine
between us. Every moment, we’d fought
over my stepmother. I’d even been surprised
we made it through six whole months.
Although our feelings for each other could
sustain our bond for a lifetime, our
relationship had always been a fragile line,
thanks to the legged misfortune called my
“He didn’t like the way I treated her,” I said.
“He wanted me to put the past behind me
and move on. But I…I just couldn’t. I mean, I
can’t. I’m only human. I can’t erase
memories of the way she treated me in the
“Sweetheart, I know just how you feel,” she
said. “But you know forgiveness is a trait we
all must master. Everyone deserves a
second chance. From what I’ve heard, your
stepmother is a different person and has
been showering you with love.”
“How do I know she’s really changed?” I
asked. “How do I know this is not one
twisted game? How can I trust her after
everything she’s done? Just how?”
“Sweetheart, she was in coma for two whole
weeks. Do you think she faked it? Truth be
told, she turned a new leaf the moment she
lost her daughter. Now she begs for just a
chance to be your mother. Isn’t this what
you always wanted?”
“Things are changed,” I said. “I changed.
And so did my desires.”
“Okay, so what is it you want?”
I made to speak, but she beat me to it.
“Don’t say it. I know. You want him back, so
go. Go get him. Just go see him, admit your
mistakes, and be the you you really are, not
the stone hearted person you’re pretending
to be. That’s all he wants. Tell him you’re
willing to let go of your grudges and accept
“But…what if I don’t really want that?” I
“But you do, don’t you?”
I didn’t know if I needed my stepmother in
my life, but I did know I wanted my life to
be whole again. And for this, I’d do anything.
“I’ve got to go,” I said.
“I’ll call you later, okay?”
“Okay.” Ending the call, I mused over
Raheem wanted me to admit my mistakes,
to be me, the sweet girl he had fallen in
love with. He’d always preached about my
stepmother needing a second chance. If he
thought she did, then I did too.
Brimming with a hope I never saw coming, I
set out to go see him.
I’d been standing in front of the Kadirs’ gate
for no less than five minutes, conflicting
within myself to knock or not to knock.
Thoughts swirled around my head. The good,
the bad, and the ugly. What if Raheem
didn’t want me back? Then what next?
Maybe seeing him now was not a good idea.
He probably fumed over our break up, and
would talk to no one. Maybe I had to let
time float a while, then his heart would grow
soft and he’d listen to me.
I sighed, torn between the choices before
me. But who said I had to make the
decision myself? For a moment I’d forgotten
other people always sought to make
decisions for me.
And now, history repeated itself. I heard
footsteps approach, and I knew it had to be
the gatekeeper. He’d obviously caught a
glimpse of my feet from underneath the
gate. Curse my life.
The gatekeeper opened the gate with a
smile. “Good afternoon.”
I faked a smile. “Good afternoon.”
Rooted to the spot, I could only stare at the
house before me. In the past, I’d walked in
and out like it were my own house. But
today, I felt this privilege creeping away.
“They’re inside,” the gatekeeper said,
apparently misjudging my tentativeness.
“Okay, thanks.” I pushed forward on
tentative legs. After forever, I arrived at the
entrance door and rapped my fingers on it.
Once, twice. And once again.
“Coming,” Farah screamed to my hearing.
I told myself it would be alright. But would
it? Amidst the tightness in my chest, I s—-d
in a deep breath, bracing myself for what
Farah opened the door. Her face lit up at
the sight of me. “Victoria! Thank goodness
you’re here. I was seriously going to die of
My face held no promise of a smile. She
caught a whiff of the air of distress around
me. “Okay, spill. What’s wrong?”
“I need to talk to Raheem,” I said.
“He’s not home,” she said.
“Tell me this is you kidding,” I said. “I really
need to see him. I know he probably doesn’t
even want to see my face right now, but I
have to at least try.”
Farah’s face fell. “What is going on?”
“Raheem didn’t tell you anything?” I asked.
She shook her head. “He spoke to no one.
He just parked his bike and drove off in his
car. I called him, but he ignored me, and I
knew someone had offended him. I could
never have thought it was you. I mean…oh
my gosh! Wait. Did you guys break up?”
“Yes,” I said.
“What? I don’t understand. Why would he do
a thing like that?”
“Did what?” Mrs. Kadir asked, walking to
meet us. She smiled at me. She sure hadn’t
heard the most recent development. “Vicky
dear, how are you?”
“I’m fine,” I said.
“No she’s not,” Farah said. “Raheem broke
up with her.”
“He did what?” Mrs. Kadir asked. “I don’t
understand. He’s been so happy these past
“Exactly my point,” Farah said.
“When did this happen?” Mrs. Kadir asked.
“This afternoon,” I said.
“This afternoon,” she echoed, as though the
time made any difference. Or did it?
Her temper escalated with each passing
moment. “I don’t understand. I just can’t
believe he’d left you now, now of all times
when you need him the most.”
“I’m the one at fault,” I said. “I stopped
being the me he used to know.”
“What does that even mean?” Farah asked.
A car honked from behind the gate, making
my words die on my lips. Simultaneously, we
turned to watch the gatekeeper open the
gate for Raheem to drive in.
“He has got some major explanations to
give,” Farah said, folding her arms.
Raheem braked his car and stepped out.
Feigning oblivion to us, he moved to open
the back door. Who had he brought with
him? Although it was impossible to see
through the dim glass, I narrowed my eyes
Had he replaced me in the blink of an eye?
If it wasn’t a girl, then who was it he
opened the door for? Red with a yet
unjustifiable envy, I could only watch as he
gave the unseen person the same treatment
he’d reserved only for me.
“Who has your brother brought home?” Mrs.
Kadir asked Farah. Farah shrugged. They
were just as clueless.
The unseen guest placed his left foot on the
ground. I strained my neck to see the
person’s shoes. Finding a man’s shoes, I let
out the breath I’d been holding.
But who was he?
He placed his other foot on the ground and
stood tall for all to see. I gasped at the
striking resemblance he shared with
Raheem. I’d seen his photos, but that didn’t
compare to seeing him in person.
He threw his arms open. “Surprise!”
“Daddy!” Farah screamed, darting to meet
“Hakeem!” Mrs. Kadir’s voice rang in my
ears. All smiles, she sprinted to her
Winning the race, Farah threw herself in her
father’s arms. “Daddy.”
“My little fairy,” Mr. Kadir said, flashing a
smile that showed off his perfect teeth.
He plucked a chuckling Farah from the floor
and spun her around as though she weighed
no more than a leaf. Setting her down, he
threw open his arms, inviting Mrs. Kadir for
an embrace. She lost herself in his arms.
Where Mr. Kadir stood, I saw my father. And
in his arms, my stepmother, Cynthia and I.
He’d just returned from a business trip to
Lagos. Just like Mr. Kadir, he’d chosen to
surprise us with his presence.
“You should have told us you were coming,”
Mrs. Kadir said. “I would have prepared your
My eyes burned with tears I fought to hide. I
s—-d in a deep breath to keep my emotions
in check. I would not let my miserable life
ruin their moment.
They had everything. Happiness. Family.
Love. They had each other. And I, I had
nothing but every bit of misfortune the world
had to offer. I’d give anything for just a thin
slice of happiness. I’d give anything for a
little drop of love. But did I even deserve it?
I had to leave. I didn’t belong here, but in
my own world, where an evil stepmother
awaited me at home. I belonged in a world
where happiness was a taboo, and
depression, the order of the day.
The Kadirs, so lost in the moment had
become oblivious of my presence. Neither
Farah nor Mrs. Kadir even remembered I
existed. Typical. Raheem hadn’t glanced in
my direction since he arrived. Not even by
Mr. Kadir held his entire family in a hungry
embrace. Taking this as my time to leave, I
headed for the gate.
“Wait,” Mr. Kadir said. Not to his family. But
I turned around to meet his gaze. He
chuckled as though I had something funny
on my face. Did I?
“Wait, don’t tell me you thought you were
invisible,” he said.
He could see me? For a moment back there,
I actually thought I was invisible.
Mr. Kadir glanced at Raheem, then back at
me. Realization dawned on him. I could tell
from the way he wagged his left pointer.
“Aren’t you the girl my son’s so crazy
For the first time, Raheem looked in my
direction. His gaze pierced through me,
setting my heart ablaze. A flower of hope
sprouted somewhere within me.
A smile had already begun to stretch my lips
when he spoke. “She was, dad.”
With the speed of wind, I blurred past
buildings and the dangers of the night.
Beads of sweat streaked down my forehead
and into my eyes. My legs burned from the
one hour race, but I kept my pace.
Mum had disappeared, leaving a letter
underneath my pillow. In the letter, she’d
written: ‘I’d rather die by my husband’s side,
than keep ruining the life of the one I love
Only when I arrived at the graveyard did I
take a moment to catch my breath. My legs
trembled underneath me, and although I
longed to sit down for a moment or two, I
pushed forward. Mum was my priority. My
thoughtless outburst had forced her to
contemplate suicide once again. I’d never
forgive myself if anything happened to her.
Beside a distant grave, something moved. I
advanced in that direction, my eyes fixed on
the grave. “Mum?”
A figure darted behind the tombstone.
Aware of a presence, it crawled to hide
behind another tombstone. Undesirable
thoughts crowded my mind. How could I
have come to a graveyard all by myself at
3a.m in the morning? I’d heard stories of
ghosts lurking around graveyards during the
dark. And although I’d never believed in
ghosts, I felt myself sinking into fear.
The figure sprang out of hiding. It lunched
itself at me, its momentum sending us
crashing into the ground. A scream fought
to escape me, but I shoved it down my
throat. I wouldn’t want to attract the wrong
Clawed fingers swiped across my neck and
chest. I kicked and scratched, but the furry
beast had a firm hold on me. Screeching
like a banshee, it sank its razor-sharp teeth
into my hand.
“Get off me, you furry b—–d!” I seized the
creature’s limbs and shoved it off. It
meowed, more like a growl. While I
scrambled to my feet, the cat launched at
me with a death screech. I swatted it away,
sending it crashing into a tombstone.
“I have nothing to live for,” a voice said.
Though a distance away, I could recognize
that voice even in a dream. Mum.
“If you’re going to kill me, do it now, before
you change your mind.” Her voice, my light
in a dark tunnel, led me to her.
“Mum!” I screamed.
Mum turned to look at me. And so did the
two men who threatened her with their
“Vicky, no!” she cried. “Get out of here!”
The men exploded in savage laughter. The
one nearest to her grabbed her arm and
pulled her to himself. “Mother and
My face wrinkled with disgust. How dare he
touch my mum?
“I do not fear death,” mum said.
“Ah, but you’ll certainly fear the things we’ll
do to your precious little daug—”
Mum spat on him, cutting him off. Grunting,
the man raised his clenched fist at her.
I pulled out father’s gun and trained it on
him. “Don’t you dare.”
Blood drained from his face at the sight of
the gun. His raised hand froze in midair, and
then he let out a deep, taunting laugh. “Do
it. You can’t.”
Adrenaline surging through me, I bit down
the urge to empty the gun in his skull. “Let
“Or what?” the second man taunted.
My hand squeezed the trigger. A bullet
sailed through air and buried itself in his
kneecap. He yelped in pain and hit the
ground, cursing under his breath.
I redirected my aim to the first man. “Still
want to find out what her precious little
daughter can do if you don’t let her go?”
The man let go of mum and took a tentative
step back. Even as mum walked over to
meet me, my eyes didn’t stray off target.
The man looked past me, at something
I felt a presence behind me. The warm
fingers of my hero wrapped around the
trembling hand with which I held the gun.
Although we hadn’t spoken for a week since
our breakup, I’d informed him just before
leaving the house.
“I’ll take it from here, babe,” he said.