The Visitor

327d50c8aed2c9fbb1c46606cee51177It was Sunday and the church was quickly filling up.  He stood there, smiling and watched as Zendaya walked in and found a seat in the third pew.

“Father O’Reilly,” a voice said behind him and he turned around.  A tall, slender and attractive young woman was smiling at him.  “Don’t you recognize me?  It’s Aileen McCarthy.”

A big smile broke out on his face.  “Oh, yes, now I remember who you are.  The last time I saw you you were this high.  How are you?  How is your family?  What are you doing here in Cape Town?”

“I’m fine, thank you.  I recently moved to Dublin because of a new and exciting job opportunity and I love it.  Dad, Mom, Sinead and Liam are all doing very well.  They all send their regards.”

“The service is about to start.  Afterwards, we will go to my office and catch up some more, all right?”

She nodded.  “Yes, Father O’Reilly.”

They parted company.  He went up on the podium while she found a seat.

Zendaya had watched them talking and was filled with jealousy.  They seemed to know each other.  Who was she?  What was she doing here?  After the service, she wanted to go over to her and introduce herself but she left the sanctuary through a side door and went for a walk instead.  When she returned a half-hour later, she went to his office to see him but the door was closed.  She raised her hand to knock when she heard a woman’s laugh.  She froze.  He wasn’t alone.  She was in there with him.  Bristling, she turned and strode away.  She went straight up to her room and slammed the door shut.

“I hope you don’t mind having sandwiches and coffee for lunch.”

“Not at all, Father.”

“Good.  I thought it would be a good idea for us to have lunch while we chatted.”

“I guess it’s safe for me to tell you that I had a major crush on you and that’s why I used to come to church every Sunday.”

He laughed.  “Whatever works, I guess.  So, is there a young man in your life?”

She leaned forward in the chair.  “As a matter of fact, there is.  Do you remember Rory O’Connor?”

“You mean the last High King of Ireland?”

young-professional-corporate-headshot-of-a-business-woman-She laughed.  “I see you haven’t lost your sense of humour, Father.”

He chuckled.  “I believe good, clean humour benefits the soul.  Yes, I remember Rory and as I recall, he was a fine lad.”

“We started dating from university and last week he asked me to marry him.  I said yes.  I was hoping that you would marry us.  The wedding is next year May.”

“Congratulations.  I will make sure that I clear my calendar.”

“Thank you, Father.”

They chatted for another hour and a half and then it was time for her to leave.  He walked with her to the back entrance of the church where the parking lot was.  They shook hands warmly.  “It was really good seeing you, young lady.  And I hope that the next time you’re in Capetown, you will stop by the church again to see me.”

She smiled.  “I will,” she promised.  “And I hope to see you in May.”

“You will hear from me regarding that.  Please give my regards to your parents, your siblings and Rory.  Goodbye, Aileen.”

“Goodbye, Father O’Reilly.”

He watched as she walked to her car and drove away before he went back inside the church and locked the door.  He went to the rectory to change into his regular black cassock before leaving for his usual rounds of visiting the shut in members of the church and the sick.  By the time he returned to the parish, it was time for supper.

Zendaya was in her room, trying to read a book of Devotions which Sister Roberts had lent her but she couldn’t concentrate.  She kept thinking about Father O’Reilly and the young woman.  She wondered how long they were together in his office.  She knew that he wasn’t there right now.  Every Sunday afternoon until evening, he would be out making his rounds, visiting church members at their homes or in the nursing homes.  She would have to wait until later that night to see him.

The way she reacted when she saw him with the pretty stranger made her realize that her feelings for him were more than just physical attraction.  She had never been jealous in her life–not even over Anesu, not that he ever gave her reason to be but she knew that if she were to see him talking and looking very cozy with another woman, it wouldn’t make her react the same way.  She couldn’t remember a word of Father O’Reilly’s sermon.  And when she went up to receive her communion, she avoided looking at him.  And when she saw him give it to the young woman and the smiles they exchanged, she seethed with jealousy.

Frustrated, she closed the book and got up from the chair.  She walked over to the window and looked out at the courtyard below.  The sun was still high in the sky.  She wondered if he and the young woman would see each other again.  She tried not to think about them but it was impossible.  She paced the room.  She thought of going into town for a while but where would she go?  Stellenbosch!  She always wanted to go there and now was as good a time as any.  She called for a taxi, said goodbye to Sister Hughes and left. It wasn’t until she was on her way that she realized that she hadn’t told Sister Hughes where she was going.

It took her 45 minutes to get there.  She walked around like a tourist, drinking in the natural beauty and oak-lined avenues and the Cape Dutch architecture.  She had lunch at the De Warenmarkt before visiting the Village Museum.  By the time she left Stellenbosch, it was nine-thirty.  It felt good to be somewhere she had never been before.  By the time she got back to the parish, it was after ten and dinner was past.  Fortunately, she had grabbed something to eat and had it on the drive over.  

She had just entered her room and was about to change when Father O’Reilly walked in.  He closed the door quietly behind him before he went over to her.  He looked very serious.  “I saw the taxi driving away as I came up the path.  That means you just got back.”

614full-kai-newmanShe leaned against the wall, her heart pounding as her eyes met his in a steady gaze.  “Yes.”

He glanced at his watch.  “It’s after ten.  According to Sister Hughes, you went out since 2 this afternoon.  So, you were gone for almost eight hours.”

“Yes.”

“Where did you go?”

“Didn’t Sister Hughes tell you?”

“She told me that you went out but she didn’t know where because you didn’t tell her.  Where did you go, Zendaya?”

“If you must know, I went to Stellenbosch.”

“Why?”

Her chin lifted just a fraction.  “I wanted to get away from the parish for a while.”

“Why go there?  Why not go for a walk around here?”

“I’m tired of going for walks around here.  Besides, I’ve always wanted to visit Stellenbosch.”

“Were you there alone?” he demanded.  “Or were you there with him?”

“What does it matter if I was there alone or with Anesu?” She moved away from the wall and was about to walk past him.

His expression darkened and he caught her by the shoulders.  Jealousy and anger flashed in his eyes.  “It matters to me,” he muttered between clenched teeth.

She tried to pull away from him but he was too strong.  “I was there ALONE.  And for your information I haven’t seen Anesu since I came to Cape Town.” She struggled against him again and this time he released her.

“I’m sorry,” he said.  “I acted the way I did just now because I was jealous.”

She walked over to the window and stood looking out with her back to him for several minutes.  Then, turning around she said to him, “This morning before Mass, I saw you talking to a young woman I’ve never seen before.  Who was she?”

“That was Aileen.  She’s visiting from Ireland.”

“How well do you know her?”

“I’ve known her since she was a little girl.”

“Well, she’s not a little girl anymore, is she?  I came by your office to see you but she was in there with you.”

“Yes, we were catching up because we haven’t seen each other for years.”

“She’s very pretty.”

“Yes, she is.”

“So, are you planning to see her again?”

“Yes, as a matter of fact, I will be seeing her in May.”

“Are you attracted to her?”

He went over to her, his eyes searching her face.  “Is this why you’re acting like this?” he asked.  “You think I’m attracted to Aileen?”

Zendaya didn’t answer and she lowered her eyes so that he wouldn’t see what was in them.

“Zendaya, there’s nothing between Aileen and me.  She’s just a girl I knew from my village.   She’s here in Cape Town on holiday and came by the parish to see me, that’s all.”

“You said that you’re going to see her in May.”

“Yes, because that’s when she’s getting married.  She wants me to officiate.”

“She’s engaged?” She raised her eyes to look at him then.

“Yes and to a very nice young man.”

“Oh.”

He cupped her face between his hands, his eyes darkening on her upturned face.  “Zendaya, you have no reason to be jealous of her or anyone else,” he told her huskily.  “I don’t want anyone but you.”  He lowered his head and kissed her fiercely, groaning when she responded.

They exchanged wild kisses for several minutes and then separated long enough to remove their clothes.  Then, they were back in each other’s arms, kissing feverishly until he scooped her up and carried her over to the bed.

 

Next is, Zendaya Leaves.

Sources:  Come to Capetown; Love Capetown; Tripadvisor

We Are All Slaves

“We are all slaves,” Todd declared and Marsha stared at him.

black girl in white blouse“What do you mean by that?”  she wondered.

“It’s what my pastor said last week.”

“Where did he get that information from?”

“The Bible, of course.  It’s in chapter six of Romans, verses twenty to twenty-two.  We are either slaves of sin or slaves of God.  We serve one or other other.  We serve sin when we allow it to control our bodies, making us commit immoral acts.”

What sort of immoral acts?”

“Adultery, fornication, incest, homosexuality, lesbianism and fornication.”

“What’s fornication?”

“It’s sex outside of marriage.  It can be between two people who aren’t married to each other or between two unmarried people.”

“Oh.”  She turned away so that he wouldn’t see the expression on her face.

“But, sin isn’t just about sexual immorality.  There’s spiritual immorality as well.”

“What happens to a person who is a slave to sin?”

“Romans 6:16 says that obeying sin leads to death.  Doesn’t your church teach you these things?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“Why don’t you leave that church and come to mine?”

She turned to face him.  “Leave the Catholic Church?” she exclaimed.  “How could I?  I was born and raised a Catholic.  Why should I leave the church just because Father Montgomery hasn’t taught us what’s in Romans 6?  He might one of these days, you know.”

“I used to be a Catholic but I left because I realized that they were teaching what wasn’t in the Bible and the sex scandals–”

Marsha glared at him.  “I’m sick and tired of people attacking the church.”

“Why are you getting so upset?” Todd asked.  “I’m not attacking the church.  All I’m saying is that it needs to address the and rid itself of the sex scandals.  I’m sure that if you or someone you knew were a victim, you would feel differently.  You would want justice.  The church is supposed to be a place where people should feel safe.”

“I have to go,” she muttered.  “I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”  She turned and walked away before he could say anything.

As he headed home, he felt impressed to pray for her.

padre2

Father Montgomery finished saying his prayer in the chapel, blessed himself and rose to his feet.  Next he went to the confessional to listen to three people make confessions.  By the time he left the parish, it was almost six o’clock.  He let himself into the abandoned mansion.   When he first visited it, he ventured down into the secret room, called a “priest hole” where Catholic clergy hid from their Protestant hunters.  Anti-Catholicism was rampant when Queen Elizabeth I ascended to the throne in 1558.  He tried to imagine what it would have been like to spend any amount of time there.  It made him think of the Jews who were hidden by well meaning citizens so that they could escape the concentration camps and ultimately, death.

It was in the Master’s bedroom where Marsha waited for him.  It was still furnished.  The furniture was old but still in good condition, natural light streamed through the large windows and the bed was still functional.  She was sitting at the edge of the bed, hands on lap when he walked in.  He knew right away that something was wrong.  “What’s the matter?” he asked as he sat down beside her.

“I ran into Todd on my way home from church this morning.”

He frowned.  “Who’s Todd?”

“He’s a boy from school.”

“Tell me what happened when you ran into him this morning.”

“He told me that we are all slaves.  Slaves to sin or slaves to God.  His pastor read this in chapter six of Romans.  I don’t want to be a slave to sin because it leads to death.”

“Marsha, you aren’t a slave of sin.  Such talk is foolishness.”

“But what about us?  Aren’t we sinning against God?”

He put his arm around her shoulders.  “It isn’t sin when two people love each other.  I love you and you love me, don’t you?”

“Yes, but–”

“Then, we aren’t sinning.  We are in a monogamous relationship.  We aren’t unequally yoked.  We share the same faith and believe in the same God.”

“Todd said that the church teaches things that aren’t in the Bible.”

“Do you trust me, Marsha?”

“Yes.”

“I would never mislead you or the rest of the flock.  What I teach is sound doctrine approved by God Himself.  Now, let’s not worry any more about what Todd or anyone else who has misguided views about our Church and its teachings.”  He gently pushed her back on to the bed and began to kiss her passionately.

Even as she surrendered to him, at the back of her mind, a small still voice was telling her that this was wrong but, as usual, she let her heart rule her head.

It was love for Eve which made Adam sin against God.  Don’t let love blind you to God’s truth.  It is by the constant obeying of His Word that we are delivered from sin.  Don’t be a slave to sin which leads to death but a slave to God which leads to eternal life.

Sources:  Atlas Obscura; Flickr

Being True to Yourself

7653_t_1e9aa193-50be-4e07-8006-a69bcab56527“Lyndon, a group of us are going out for drinks after work.  Would you like to join us?” Jane asked him as he stopped by her desk to give her a brown envelope he wanted her to give to the mailman when he made his afternoon rounds.

“No thanks.  I already have plans for this evening.”

“Oh, yes, The Nutcracker Suite.”

Leela walked up just then.  “The Nutcracker Suite.  Is that the name of one of those fancy hotel rooms?  Is she anyone we know?”

Jane tried hard to keep a straight face while Lyndon’s face turned beet red.  He gave Leela as withering look as he muttered, “It’s the name of a ballet.”  Then he did an about turn and strode off, his back straight as s rod.

As soon as he was out of earshot, Jane doubled over with laughter.  “Why do you let him think that you’re ignorant when it comes to the Arts and the finer things in life?” She asked when she stopped laughing.

Leela shrugged.  “I enjoy getting a rise out of him.”

“You like him, don’t you?”

“A lot of good it does me.  It’s obvious that he can’t stand me.”

“Well, what do you expect?  You’re always teasing him.  If you want him to like you have to try a different approach.  You know what some of his interests are, talk to him about them.”

“All right.  I’ll do that.  I’ll pass on going for drinks.  I think I will stay here at the office and do a little extra work.”

Jane gave her a knowing look.  “Good for you.”

Leela smiled and went back to her cubicle.  As soon as five o’clock arrived and everyone had left, she got up from her desk.  She headed straight for Lyndon’s office.  His door was opened so after a knock on the door to let him know that she was there, she walked over to his desk.  He looked up from what he was doing and she could tell from the expression on his face that he wasn’t at all pleased to see her.

“I would like to finish this report before I leave,” he said.

“I won’t take up much of your time,” she said as she sat down opposite him.  “I came to apologize.”

His eyebrows rose.  “Apologize?”

“Yes, for my remark about The Nutcracker Suite.  I was just pulling your leg.  I know that it’s a ballet.  I’ve seen it twice.  It’s one of my favorite ballets.  My other two favorites are Giselle and Swan LakeSwan Lake was Tchaikovsky’s first ballet.”

She had his attention now.  “You know your ballet,” he remarked.

“I’m not only a big fan of ballet but opera as well.  I love La Traviata,La Bohème, Rigoletto, Tosca and The Marriage of Figaro.”

“That’s a very impressive list.  What about Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute and the Barber of Seville?”

“I’ve always wanted to see those as well as Aida but never got the chance.”

“I hope you get the opportunity to see them.  They are masterpieces.  Tell me, what else do you enjoy?”

“Well, I enjoy good books such as Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein, To Kill A Mockingbird, Lolita, Anna Karenina and Beloved by Toni Morrison.  And as far as plays go, I love anything by Henrik Ibsen.  I think he was a male feminist.”

Lydon smiled.  “I suppose you’re right about that.  In A Doll’s House, he was basically saying that Nora didn’t have to remain as her husband’s “doll,” but that she can be independent.  What about other works from other playwrights like Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill?”

She shrugged.  “I have read all of their plays but I’m more partial to William Shakespeare, Ibsen and Chekhov.”

“Are you familiar with August Strindberg?”

She shook her head.  “No.  Is he a playwright?”

“Yes.  He has written several plays.  I have a volume with five of his plays in it–The Father, Miss Julie, The Dance of Death, A Dream Play and The Ghost Sonata.  I could lend the volume to you if you like.”

Leela smiled.  “I would like that very much.  Thanks, Lyndon.”

“Tell me something.  Why do you give the impression that you’re not cultured?  Why do you come across as if you don’t know the difference between Art and the Arts.”

qLBb61ET_t“I’ve discovered that although men may like the idea of dating a smart woman, they don’t actually want to date one.  I’ve been dumped by several men because I was too smart.  I like to have intellectual and philosophical discussions but that was a big turn off for them.  They wanted to talk about sports, music, money, fitness, television and movies, clothes, work, food, travel, cars and guy things.  I don’t have a problem talking about these things but not all the time.  The minute I bring up something that interests me, they either change the subject or signal for the check.  And I don’t hear from them again.  One guy even said to me that he wants to wake up in the morning next to beauty not brains.  So, my solution to my dating problem was to pretend that I wasn’t all that smart and it worked.  I had no trouble getting and keeping dates.  Then, one night when I was lying in bed, I remembered what Polonius said to his son, Laertes before he left for Paris.”

“This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

“Yes.  That was very good advice and I decided to take it.  So, at the moment, I’m not dating anyone.”

“Not all men are intimidated by smart women.  I’m not.  And I think it’s important that we don’t diminish ourselves to please others.  Besides, it was God who blessed you with an intelligent mind.”

“Yes, He did.  Lyndon, I should leave now.  I don’t want to keep you from your date.”

“Actually, it isn’t a date.  I’m taking my niece.  It’s her birthday and she has always wanted to see The Nutcracker.”

“Oh.  You’re taking your niece.”  Leela was relieved.  “What a great birthday present.  She must be so excited.  She will love the ballet and so will you.”

“Yes, I’m sure we will.”

Leela stood up.  “Have a good evening and weekend.  I’ll see you on Monday.”

He stood up too.  “Leela, are you busy tomorrow evening?”

She shook her head.  “No.”

“How-how would you like to have dinner with me at the Les Enfants de Boheme?”

“I’d like that very much.”

He smiled.  “Good.  I’ll pick you up at your place at seven.”

She wrote down her address and phone number on the notepad on his desk.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“See you tomorrow.”  He watched as she walked out of his office before he went behind the desk again and sat down.  He was looking forward to their date.  Finally, he had found a woman right up his alley.

“I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence.”– Frederick Douglass

Sources:  Literary Devices; Huffington Post; ListVerse; Udiscover Music; The Talko; Develop Good Habits

Toshiro Goes to Bunga

large-1553102039-540d93f2f5c1e1b733fcad18fe580f0bThe taxi pulled up in front of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Bunga and Toshiro got out.  Last night, he decided that he would pay a visit to Ife’s church.  He wanted to surprise her.  His heart pounded as he stared at the building.  He was nervous.  After the taxi drove off, he walked slowly towards the first set of doors which were wide open.  People were filing in.  There were two men standing there talking.  As he passed them, they warmly greeted him and he smiled.

There were a few people in the foyer, talking.  One of the women standing there, greeted him and handed him a bulletin.  He thanked her and went inside the sanctuary.  He glanced around at the pews, searching for an empty seat when he spotted a Japanese woman who was sitting beside the aisle.  There was an empty seat beside her.  He made his way over to her.  She glanced up when he said “Good morning” in Japanese and smiled.

“Good morning,” she replied

“May I sit beside you?”

“Of course.”

“Thank you.” He bowed before he gingerly squeezed past her and sat down.

“You are a visitor,” she said as he sat down.

He nodded.  “Yes.”

“I’m Ichika Sato.  What’s your name?”

“Toshiro Kobayashi.”

“Did you come far?”

“I came from the Kampala Serena Hotel.”

“Oh.  My neighbor, Mrs. Basemara works at that hotel.  She isn’t here today but that’s her daughter, Miremba over there.  I will introduce you after the service.”

Toshiro followed her gaze and saw Miremba talking to a mature couple.  She was quite tall for her age and very pretty.  He turned his attention back to Mrs. Sato.  “How long have you been living in Kampala.”

“For about fifteen years.  My husband and I moved here after we retired.”

“He’s not here with you today?”

“No.  He died five years ago.  I flew back to Japan with the body for the funeral.  He wanted to be buried there.”

“I’m sorry about your husband.  Do you have any children?”

“Yes.  Three.  Two sons and a daughter and eight grandchildren.  My youngest grandson is currently here in Kampala.  He goes back to Kyoto at the end of the month.  What about you?  Are you from Tokyo?”

“No.  I was born and raised in Yokohama but moved to Tokyo after I graduated from Tsurumi University.  My sister moved to Tokyo last year but our parents are still living in Yokohama.  When I’m not abroad on business, I visit them every other weekend.”

“I have a niece who lives in Yokohama.  It’s a beautiful port city and is extremely close to Tokyo but you don’t get a lot of tourists.”

Toshiro smiled.  “I think that’s why my parents prefer Yokohama to Tokyo–less tourists.”

“The service is about to start.  I really would like to continue our conversation.  If you’re not in a hurry to get back to Kampala, I was wondering if you would have lunch with me.  I don’t live far from here.  I will invite Mrs. Basemara and Miremba to join us.”

“I would like that very much, Mrs. Sato.  Thank you.”  The music began and the congregation stood.  Mrs. Sato sang from a hymnal while he followed along on the screen in front.

It was a very good service.  He especially enjoyed children’s story and the special music.   The sermon, What’s So Amazing About Grace was powerful.  The two statements which impacted him were:  “Grace is anything that I need, but don’t deserve that I could never repay, but God gives to me anyway.   Grace is the face that God puts on when He looks at my failures, my faults and my flaws.”  

After the service, Mrs. Sato and he chatted for a while and then after the church sanctuary was almost empty, she signalled to Miremba to join them.  She immediately went over, a bright smile on her face.

“Hello, Mrs. Sato,” Miremba greeted her with a hug and kiss.  When she straightened, her eyes shifted to Toshiro.  “Are you a relative?”

Toshiro shook his head.  “No.  I only had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Sato today.”

“Miremba, Mr. Kobayashi is here on business and he’s staying at the hotel where your mother works.”

Miremba’s face brightened and she held out her hand.  “It’s nice to meet you, Mr. Kobyashi.”

He smiled and shook her hand.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Miremba.”

“Mom isn’t here, unfortunately.”

“I have invited Mr. Kobayashi to have lunch with me.  I would like your mother and you to join us.”

“Sure.  I’ll tell Mom.  Are you ready to leave now?”

“Mrs. Sato nodded.”

Merimba looked at Toshiro.  “Do you mind walking?” she asked.  “Mrs. Sato lives in the same apartment as Mom and me.  It’s about ten minutes from here.”

Toshiro shook his head.  “No, I don’t mind at all.  It’s a beautiful day.”

“Let’s go, then,” Mrs. Sato said and stood up.  She preceded Miremba and Toshiro out of the sanctuary.  At the entrance, she introduced Toshiro to the pastor.  He was very pleased when Toshiro told him how much he enjoyed the church service and he invited him to visit again soon.

They left and walked to the apartment building.  When they got there, Miremba left them and went to get her mother.  Ife was in the kitchen filling a vase of flowers with water.  She turned off the tap and carefully arranged the flowers she had bought in the vase.  “You’re home early,” she said.  “Usually, you would stay for a while longer.”

“Mom, Mrs. Sato has invited us to have lunch with her.”

“That’s very nice of her.”  Ife finished arranging the flowers.

“Guess who else is going to be there?”

“Her grandson, Kento?”  Ife took up the vase to take it to the sitting area.  With a smile, she walked past Miremba who followed her.

“No.  It’s isn’t Kento.  It’s Mr. Kobayashi.”

Ife almost dropped the vase.  She swung around and stared at her daughter.  “Mr. Kobayashi is at Mrs. Sato?” she exclaimed.  “But what is he doing there?”

“Well, he was at church and–”

“He was at church?”

“Yes.  He’s very handsome.”

“Why didn’t he tell me that he was going to be there?”

“Maybe he wanted to surprise you.  Mom, let’s go.  We don’t want to keep Mrs. Sato and him waiting.”

Ife turned and carried the vase over to the table.  After she set it down, she rushed past Miremba.  “I have to change,” she said.  Hereith bw

Several minutes later, they were in Mrs. Sato’s apartment.  Ife’s eyes immediately sought Toshiro who was staring at her.  She walked over to him.  “Mr. Kobayashi, I didn’t expect to see you here,” she said, feeling a bit flustered.  He looked so handsome in his suit.  And the way he was looking at her made her heart flutter.  “Miremba told me that you were in church.”

He smiled.  His fingers itched to touch her lovely face.  “Since I’ve been in Kampala, I haven’t been to church.  After you were kind enough to tell me about yours, I decided that I would come today.  I hope you don’t mind, Mrs. Basemara.”

“No, no.  I don’t mind at all.  I’m sorry I wasn’t there.  How-how did you find it?”

“I like your church.  I may visit it again.”

Mrs. Sato observed them with a smile.  It was obvious that there was something between them although they tried their best to make it appear otherwise.  “Let’s have a word of prayer and then eat,” she said.  She asked Miremba to pray and then they tucked into the tasty meal she had prepared the day before.  They talked and Mrs. Sato shared stories of her mission trips with her husband.  Soon it was time for Toshiro to head back the hotel.

He bowed to Mrs. Sato as was customary in the Japanese culture.  It was a sign of respect and expression of thanks.  “Thank you for inviting me to your home and for your hospitality.”

Mrs. Sato smiled.  “It was a pleasure having you.  I’m sure I will see you again.”

Toshiro smiled.  Then, he turned to Miremba and held out his hand.  “It was a pleasure to meet you,” he said as they shook hands.

Miremba smiled.  “Anata ni mo aete yokatta.”

Toshiro’s eyebrows rose.  “You speak Japanese?” he asked, sounding impressed.

Miremba looked pleased.  “Mrs. Sato and her grandson, Kento have been teaching me.”

Mzuri,” he replied and she laughed.

He turned to Ife who said to him, “I’ll come down to the lobby with you.”

He said his goodbyes to Mrs. Sato and Miremba before he followed Ife out of the apartment.  They didn’t say anything to each other as they walked to the elevator.  As they waited for it to arrive, he turned to Ife.  “Miremba is a lovely girl.  You must be very proud of her.”

“I am.”  The elevator came and the doors opened.  They stepped inside and she pressed the button for the ground floor.  “What did she say to you in Japanese?

“She told me that it was a pleasure meeting me too.”  He turned towards her and his eyes darkened as they searched her face.  Groaning, he reached for her and pulled her against him.  His lips found hers and plundered them.  They kissed for several minutes before he raised his head to gaze down into her upturned face.  “I’ve been dying to kiss you all afternoon,” he muttered thickly.  “I can’t wait to see you later.”

“I’ll be there at the usual time,” she promised, trying to catch her breath.  The elevator stopped and he released her.  They exited and she waited with him outside of the building until his taxi came.

Next up is Ife’s Loss.

Sources:  Japan Guide; Bunga SDA Central Church; EdarabiaSermon Search

Run to God

The name of the Lord is a strong tower;  the righteous run into it and are safe – Proverbs 18:10, MEV

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When my son was a toddler and he got scared, he used to run to me.  I would pick him up in my arms and hold him, saying soothing words to him, until he was no longer afraid.  God wants us to run to Him whenever we are afraid of, or fearful or troubled by something.  He will speak to our fears and worries until they go away.

What is troubling you today?  Why don’t you run to God?  Let Him hold you in His everlasting arms until you are no longer troubled.

The Arrangement

He stood there on the grassy mound, looking down at the river as it surged towards the old bridge.  The sun felt warm on his face and a gentle breeze caressed his hair.  It was a glorious day and this was his favorite place to come every morning.  It was where he felt closest to God and to nature.  It was quiet, except for the sounds of the water and the birds.  It reminded him of his home in Inistioge, a small village in County Kilkenny, Ireland.  He used to love sit on the hill and watch the River Nore as it swept under the 18th-century stone bridge.  There and this place were a far cry from Johannesburg where he met Zendaya.

She had left Zimbabwe after losing her job at a supermarket and taken the long and difficult journey to Johannesburg, to escape homelessness and hunger in her country.   She walked into a church in downtown Johannesburg and joined a long line of people waiting for shelter and food.  He was visiting Father Botha at the time and when he saw her, he felt impressed to help her.  He arranged to provide her with room and board at the parish in exchange for doing the housekeeping and cooking at the clergy house where he lived.  It was an arrangement which seemed to be working out very nicely.

Life here in Cape Town was very tranquil. Never before in all of his forty-six years had he ever felt such peace and contentment as he did at that moment.  In the distance, he heard the peal of the church bell. It was time to head back.

Zendaya stood at the bedroom window which faced the road.  She saw him leave.  He was going to the river.  She knew that was where he went every morning because she followed him there once.  He didn’t see her.  She kept at a safe distance and watched him as he stood close to the edge, his back to her, looking down.  It was so peaceful up there.  Not a sound except the breeze rustling the leaves and the rushing water below. And then there were the birds always whistling and chirping as if they were sharing news with one another.

Yes, up there it was paradise.  Up there one felt close to God and could forget about their troubles.  If only she could forget…She started when she heard the church bell.  She hadn’t realized that she had been standing there that long.  He would be on his way back now.  Moving away from the window, she finished cleaning.

2a080176204afb47b35de94846cb5dcd--guildIt was after the midday Mass and he was on his way to the rectory to change into his black cassock when he heard Sister Hughes call out to him.  He stopped and turned as she quickly approached him.

“Father O’Reilly, there’s a young man here to see you.”

An inquiring look came over his face.  “Sister Hughes, did this young man tell you the reason for his visit?”

“He said he wanted to talk to you about Zendaya.”

“Zendaya?”

“Yes”

“I wonder what business he has with her.”

“He’s waiting in reception.  Shall I send him to your office?”

“Oh, yes, yes, Sister Hughes.  Please send him into my office in about five minutes.”

He excused himself and walked briskly to his office.  He went over to the desk and sat down, his brow furrowed.  What did this man want with Zendaya?

Five minutes later Sister Hughes appeared again but this time, with a tall, lanky African man in his mid-twenties.  “Come in,” he invited, standing up.  “Sister Hughes, please see that we are not disturbed.”

“Yes, Father O’Reilly.”  She left and closed the door behind her.

“Please have a seat,” Father O’Reilly told the young man in English.  “What is your name?” he asked after they both sat down.

“Anesu Munashe,” he replied.

The name sounded familiar to him.  He knew he had heard it before but where?  “Sister Hughes mentioned that you wanted to talk to me about Zendaya.  Are you any relation to her?”

Anesu shook his head.  “No.  We are not related.”

“Then, what is your business with her?”

“We are engaged to be married.”

Father O’Reilly’s eyebrows arched.  “Engaged?  She never mentioned that.”

“We got engaged last year.”

“How did you know that she was here in Cape Town?”

“Father Botha told me.  I rented a car and drove here.”

“It’s a very long drive from Johannesburg to Cape Town.”

“Yes, it is but after being separated from Zendaya for months, the hours seemed like minutes in comparison.  I came to take her with me.”

“Where do you plan on taking her?”

“To my uncle’s house in Cape St. Francis where we will stay until we get married.”

Father O’Reilly took a deep breath and said with a heavy sigh, “I’m afraid I have bad news for you.”

“What?” Anesu asked, looking alarmed.

“Your fiancée left here a few days ago and we have no idea where she is—”

“Left?” he exclaimed.  “But that doesn’t make any sense.  Why would she leave?”

“I don’t know.  When she didn’t show up for breakfast on Tuesday morning, one of the Sisters went to her room and found it empty.  She was gone.  We notified the police immediately but so far, we haven’t heard anything.  You can’t imagine how distressed we all are.  We have all been praying that she will come back.”

Anesu stood up.  “Maybe she went back to Johannesburg,” he said. “I will go there.”

Father O’Reilly stood up, his expression one of deep regret.  “I’m so sorry,” he said.  “I feel as though this were my fault, after all she was my responsibility…”

“It’s not your fault, Father.  Thank you for your time.”

Father O’Reilly shook his hand.  “God be with you.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Father O’Reilly opened the door and watched him as he walked away.  Then, he returned to his desk to finish his work.

It was later in the day when Sister Hughes popped into his office.  “Was the young man able to see Zendaya?”

He shook his head.  “He was called away on urgent business, I’m afraid.  I told him that he was welcome to come and visit her at any time.”

“Who was he?”

“A family friend.”

“How did he find out that she was here?”

“Father Botha told him.”

“Shall I tell Zendaya that her friend was here?”

“No, Sister Hughes.  I will tell her myself.”

“Very well, Father O’Reilly.”  She withdrew.

Hours, later after he had dinner, he walked over to the nondescript building which was the convent.  It was after nine and the place was quiet.  She was sitting by the window when he let himself in.  After closing the door, he strode across the room and stood beside the chair but she didn’t look up.

“You had a visitor,” he informed her tersely.

She looked up then.  “Who?”614full-kai-newman2

“Your fiancé.  Why didn’t you tell me that you were engaged?”

“Anesu was here?” she asked and saw his eyes narrow.

“Yes.  He found out where you were and came to see you.”

“What did you say to him?” she asked warily, rising to her feet.

“I told him that you left.  He said that he was going to find you.”

“What if he comes back here?”

“He won’t.  I made sure of that.”

“I wish he hadn’t come here.”

“Are you still going to marry him?”

“I don’t know.”

“You can’t marry him, Zendaya.  You don’t love him.”

“How do you know that?” she demanded, agitated because he was right.

“You wouldn’t be with me if you did.”  His eyes fell on the book of African poetry lying on the chair she had just vacated and picked it up.  “Now I remember why his name was so familiar to me,” he said as he flipped through the pages.  “He gave you this.”

“Yes.  It was his first book of poetry and he dedicated it to me.”

He turned to the front of the book where the autograph was and read it aloud, To my dear Zendaya, you were my inspiration for these poems so I dedicate this book to you.  Many of the words written are tokens of my deep love and appreciation for you, my beautiful, Nubian princess.  Eternally yours, Anesu.  He wanted to rip it up into pieces but instead he closed it.  “I’ll hang on to this,” he said, slipping it into the pocket of his cassock.

“Why?” she asked.  “You know that you’re not going to read it.”

“I want to remove every trace of him from your room and your life.  I don’t want anything around here that would remind you of him.  You belong to me, Zendaya.  I won’t share you with him or anyone else.” He moved closer to her, his eyes intent on her bent head.  When she raised it to look up at him, he saw the expression on her face.  “I know you resent me but you can’t deny that you want me as much as I want you.”  He couldn’t hide his desire for her which was like an unquenchable fire.  It was written all over his flushed face.

She closed her eyes in despair as she felt her body respond to him.  He was right.  He filled her with a longing she couldn’t fight and even now as he pulled her towards him, she didn’t resist.  She couldn’t resist, although her mind screamed at her that this was wrong.  He was a man of the cloth.  She knew she ought to stop what was about to happen but when she felt his lips on hers, it was her undoing.  Blindly, she reached up and clutched his head, her nails digging into his scalp as she kissed him back.

Anesu never made her feel this way.  She knew that in the morning she was going to hate herself for what she was doing to him.  What she had been doing to him ever since she met Father O’Reilly and the first night he came to her room.  Now as he disrobed them both and then carried her over to the bed, all thoughts of Anesu fled from her mind.

Meanwhile, Anesu drove back into town, his mind in turmoil.  Something wasn’t right.  He knew Zendaya as well as he knew himself and it didn’t make sense that she would just disappear like that.   He decided that he would go to the police station in the morning and make some inquiries before driving all the way back to Johannesburg.

Next is The Visitor.

Source:  Skyscanner

Naomi’s Story

246f1a5e7c97bb2aac484e131cb6103cMy name is Naomi.  Like my namesake, I have been tempted to change my name to Mara which means “bitterness”.  I have a lot to be bitter about.  All of my life I have been bullied and mistreated due to the color of my skin.  I have black skin.  I’m the darkest in my family.  Even they have a big problem with my complexion.  I was the black sheep of the family.  I never felt loved or accepted by them.

I once overheard one of my aunts, ask my mother, “Are you sure she’s yours?  She’s so black.  We don’t have anyone in our entire family that is black like that.”

And my mother’s response still hurts me to this day.  “If I had known that she would be so black I wouldn’t have named her Naomi, which means ‘my delight’ and if I weren’t a Christian I would have aborted her.  I couldn’t give her up for adoption.  Who would want her?”

None of them believed that any man would want to marry me.  All of my sisters, including the youngest one got married.  I was in my thirties and still single.  I didn’t have any boyfriends.  The boys at school shunned me.  None of the girls didn’t want to be friends with me.  The girl I thought was my friend only acknowledged me when we were outside of school.  After a while I stopped being friends with her.  I would rather be friendless than to have a fake friend like her.  It hurt, though.  And being friendless meant that I was lonely.

I was very smart, though and did exceptionally well in school.  Some of my teachers were kind to me and encouraged me but there were some who weren’t.  And I got bullied a lot at school by the other kids.  They called me “tar baby” and told me that I looked dirty.  Some of them rubbed my arms to see if the “dirt” would come off.  Many times, I ran off to a quiet place where I broke down and cried.  I got no comfort at home.  I hated my life and I began to wish that I had never been born.

I was about to commit suicide when I was 16 but was stopped by a voice which told me, “Lay down the knife; don’t hurt yourself in any way.”  The voice frightened me but I obeyed it.  I never tried to kill myself again after that.  Instead, I continued to work hard in school and went to university.  Life on campus hadn’t changed.  I was still treated like an anomaly.  I tried to ignore the stares and the remarks.  I remember one guy asking his friend, “How could you tell under that blackness that she’s pretty?”

Graduation was fast approaching and I wondered what I was going to do after I left university.  I didn’t want to go back home and I was sure they didn’t want me to either.  One afternoon, when I was in my dorm flipping through a magazine to see if they had any jobs posted and I came across photos of various models.  One of them was as black as me.  I couldn’t believe it.  She was a model!  Someone had hired her.  I began to consider modeling.  I was tall and slender.

I looked for the contact information and I called them.  I was told go in which I did.  I wore my best dress and a little makeup.  The receptionist told me to have a seat.  About twenty minutes later, a man walked in and asked me to stand.  I did.  He told me to walk about for a bit which I did.  Then, he turned to the receptionist and instructed her to book me for a test and photo shoot.  He nodded in my direction and then quickly walked away.  The receptionist gave me a form to fill out which I did.  She told me when and where to go for the shoot.  I was very excited when I left the agency.

After I graduated, I became a model.  I got lots of jobs and I soon realized that in the modeling world, it doesn’t matter how pale or how dark you are and that you don’t even have to be beautiful or pretty as long as you photograph and model well.  My unconventional look got me noticed.  Pretty soon, I was getting a lot of jobs.  I loved modelling and working with different clients.  I met terrific people and traveled to so many places.  I especially enjoyed going to Paris.  It was there I met Dathan, the photographer I was going to work with.  His mother was German and his father was Nigerian.  We did a photo session together and it was a blast.  Afterwards, we went for lunch and right after that, we began dating.

male-model-lacy-testimonial-1I don’t exactly know when it happened but I fell in love with him and I thought he felt the same way.  Once while we were making love, he whispered, “I love you,” in my ear and I clung to him and whispered it back to him.  I always imagined that one of these days, we would end up getting married and raising a family.

Well, I got pregnant and when I told him, I didn’t get the reaction I had hoped for.  He became very reserved and when I mentioned marriage, he told me flatly that he couldn’t marry me.  I was stunned and hurt.  I was willing to give up modeling to be his wife and raise our child.  It didn’t matter where we ended up living.  I would have followed him to the ends of the earth if he asked me to.  “I thought you loved me,” I cried.

“I do, Naomi.  I love you so much…”

“Then, why won’t you marry me?” I demanded, frustrated and very close to tears.  “Is it your family?  Are you afraid that they wouldn’t accept me because of my dark skin?”

He closed his eyes and sighed heavily.  “I can’t marry you because I’m already married.”

I stared at him.  I couldn’t believe what he just said.  He was married?  All this time I have been involved with a married man?  I had to sit down or I could have collapsed.  I began to cry uncontrollably.

He rushed over and pulled me into his arms.  “I’m so sorry, Naomi.  I know that I should have told you that I was married but I was afraid to.  I wanted to be with you so badly.”

I let him hold me until the sobs subsided and then I pushed him away.  “Please leave me alone,” I said.

“Naomi…”

“Leave me alone!”

He stood up and quietly left the room.  After he was gone, I got up from the chair and went into the bedroom.  I lay down on the bed and stayed there for the rest of the afternoon.  The next day, I flew to New York where my next assignment was.  I somehow managed to get through that photo shoot and the others which followed.  I told the agency that I was pregnant but I didn’t tell them who the father was.  They weren’t upset or anything.  They let me continuing modeling until I began to show and then they had me do jobs which didn’t require any physical exertion.  I modeled until I couldn’t anymore.

I stopped modeling after I had Alia.  She was beautiful.  She had Dathan’s complexion.  I had enough money from my modeling to last us for a long time.  I doted on her.  She was a happy baby and filled me heart with so much joy.  Still, I couldn’t stop thinking about Dathan.  I was still very much in love with him.  I wanted to call him or send him photos of our daughter but I couldn’t.  I have to keep reminding myself that we have two separate lives.

I don’t feel any bitterness toward Dathan or my family or my classmates from school and university.  It has no place in my life now that I have started reading my Bible again.  I know now that it was God’s voice I heard that day when I tried to commit suicide.  He saved my life and I’m very thankful.  If He hadn’t, I wouldn’t have met Dathan or had Alia.  My only regret is that Alia isn’t going to be raised by both of her parents.  When she is older, I will tell her about her father and it’s up to her if she wants to get in touch with him or not.  Right now, I am raising her the best I can with God’s help.

I was inspired to write this fictional story because of Nyakim Gatwech, the South Sudanese descent African American model who is teaching people not to be afraid of the dark.   She has been dubbed the “Queen of darkness” and had an Uber driver suggest that she bleached her skin.  She’s proud of her black skin. “Black is bold, black is beautiful, black is gold… Don’t let American standards damage your African soul.” 11 year old Kheris Rogers started a clothing line, “Flexin’ In My Complexion” with her sister after she was bullied at school.  She recalled when the students had to draw themselves for an assignment, the teacher handed her a black crayon instead of a brown one.  All of her classmates were African American but she was the darkest.

Kudos to Nyakim for breaking down the barriers of conventional beauty and encouraging others to do the same.  And way to go, Kheris, for creating a fashion line in the hopes of instilling confidence in other young girls who face bullying because of their dark skin.  There are many shades of beauty and black is one of them.

Source:  Modeling Wisdom