From Enemy to Friend

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good – Romans 12:20, 21

laughter

I’m looking at a photo of Jenn which was taken last summer.  It’s hard to believe that we were once enemies.  We used to work together but for some reason, she didn’t like me.  I didn’t do anything for her to take such a disliking to me and it bothered me because I’m a Christian and the Bible says that we should try to get along with people as much as possible.  I try to get along with everybody but for some reason I couldn’t with Jenn.  She wouldn’t talk to me.  And when she did it was in a condescending manner.

She made snide remarks about my hair which was natural and cut short.  I got tired of putting chemicals in it so I decided to cut it off.  Everyone else said it suited me but she seemed to have a problem with it.  She criticized my clothes, the way I talked, my food and even my laugh.  She was always finding fault and I was getting tired of it.  She never did these things when other people were around.

She saw me reading my Bible one day in the cafeteria during my afternoon break.  “I suppose you think you’re better than the rest of us because you’re a Christian,” she remarked.  “You’re all a bunch of hypocrites.  You don’t practice what you preach.”

I calmly met her stare and replied, “You’re right.  Not everyone who says they are a Christian are.  Reading the Bible or going to church doesn’t make a person a Christian.”

She looked surprised by my answer.  For a few minutes she stared at me and then, she walked away.  I continued my reading until my break was over.  Several times after that, she came over to me while I was taking my break and made nasty remarks about my religion.  Sometimes, I ignored her and she went away and other times, I answered her in a calm manner and that seemed to get her more riled up and she would stomp off.

I prayed to God about the situation because it was unpleasant.  I thought of transferring to another department but decided not to.  I shouldn’t run away from my problem but try to deal with it with God’s help.  I told my husband, Matt about it and he said that I should settle the matter once and for all with Jenn.  I told him that if I talked to her about it, things might get ugly and the last thing I wanted was a confrontation.

Then, one afternoon I was on my way home when I saw Jenn standing at the bus-stop.   It was a very cold day and it would soon get dark.  I pulled up to the curb and got out of the car.  I hurried over to her.  She looked startled and not at all pleased to see me.  “Can I give you a ride home?”

She looked like she was about to refuse when the man in the shelter said, “If you’re waiting for the No. 23, you just missed it.  The next one won’t be here until a quarter to.”

“It’s cold and I have heat in my car,” I told her.  “And it’s no bother for me.”  I knew that it was only through the working of the Holy Spirit that I was able to show kindness to a woman who never had anything good to say to or about me.

Grudgingly, she accepted my offer and walked over to my car.  After she got in, I pulled away from the curb.  She told me where she lived which was about a half-hour drive if you take the expressway which I did.  “My car is in the shop,” she explained.

“When will you get it back?”

“On Friday.”

“I can give you a lift to work until then, if you like.”

She glanced at me.  For a brief moment I could see that she was taken aback by my offer.  “Why are you doing this?” she asked.

“I used to take the bus before I bought a car so I know what it’s like to stand in the cold bus shed and wait.  Besides, it’s no trouble for me to pick you up in the morning.”

“Sure.  If you want to.”

“I do,” I said.

She didn’t answer.  For the rest of the trip, there was silence, except for the radio.  When we got to her apartment, she turned to me.  “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome.  So, would you like me to pick you up tomorrow morning?”

“Sure.”

“All right.  I’ll be here at eight.”

She thrust open the door and climbed out.  She walked up to the entrance and disappeared through the revolving doors.

I pulled out of the parking lot and drove home.  When I told Matt what happened, he said quoted Paul’s words in the Bible about doing good to your enemy and in doing so, you make him ashamed.  “Well, we’ll see if anything changes,” I said.

The next morning I arrived at Jenn’s condo building and she was waiting in the lobby.  She came outside as soon as she saw me.  After we said good morning to each other, the rest of the ride to work was in silence.  It was like that one the way home that afternoon and the next day but on Friday, when I dropped her off at the shop to pick up her car, she said to me, “You’ve been so nice to me when I have been nothing but mean to you.  And I was wrong about Christians.  You’re one of the good ones.  You showed kindness to me when you didn’t have to.  Thank you.”

I smiled.  “You’re welcome.  I was happy to be of help.  Any time you need anything, please don’t hesitate to ask.”

For the first time since I’ve worked with her, she smiled at me.  “The same goes for you, Jazma.”

“Thanks.  Have a good weekend.”

“You too.”

The following Monday, she joined me in the cafeteria when I was on my break and she asked me questions about the Bible.  From that moment, we became friends.  And, she’s the godmother of Matt’s and my first child.  We’re expecting our second in August.  Great things happen when we apply God’s Word to our lives.

Doubt

“Occupy your mind with My love, leaving no room for worry and doubt.”

doubt

Doubt is like a bad penny.  It always keeps turning up.  It seems that no matter how many times we see the hand of God working in our lives, there is always room for doubt.  Even when we have a close relationship with Him, there are times when we still have doubts.  The disciples, who spent so much time with Jesus, still had doubts.  When Jesus told them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” they thought He was referring to food.

Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he said, “You have so little faith!  Why are you worried about having no food?  Won’t you ever understand?  Don’t you remember the five thousand I fed with five loaves, and the baskets of food that were left over?  Don’t you remember the four thousand I fed with seven loaves, with baskets of food left over?  How could you even think I was talking about food? So again I say, `Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6-13) He was reminding them that each time they needed food, He was able to provide.  Then it dawned on them that He wasn’t speaking about yeast or bread but the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.

The disciples had seen Him perform miracles before and they had forgotten how He had fed thousands of people with what seemed like very little food.  He had made a little go a long way.  Like the disciples, we too doubt the power of God and He has to remind us.

The disciples doubted the resurrection.  The Bible says, it was early on Sunday morning when Jesus rose from the dead, and the first person who saw him was Mary Magdalene, the woman from whom he had cast out seven demons.  She went and found the disciples, who were grieving and weeping.  But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.  Jesus also appeared to two other people.

At first they didn’t recognize Him because He had changed His appearance but once they realized that it was Him, they rushed back to tell the others but they didn’t believe them.   When Jesus appeared to the eleven, He rebuked them for their unbelief” (Mark 16:9-14).  In the Gospel of Matthew, it says, that when they saw Him, they worshipped Him: but some doubted (Matthew 28:17).

Mary had taken good news to the disciples but they allowed doubts to spoil what should have been a joyful moment.  Sometimes we allow doubts to get the better of us and we miss out.  Doubts could prevent us from seeing God’s blessings.  The religious leaders in Jesus’ time had the Light but their doubts kept them in darkness.  Doubts can hinder us from doing the Lord’s work.  Doubts can rob us of great opportunities.

Jesus does not want us to worry or have doubts.  He wants us to focus instead of Him and what He can do for us.  The next time you start to doubt Him, remember these words, “Only believe, only believe; All things are possible, only believe”.

Never doubt, only trust and believe.  Remember all the times Jesus came through for you.   Fill your mind with His love and promises.  Don’t clutter your mind with doubts.  As Paul advised us, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” (Philippians 4:8).  Searching the scriptures will also help.  Diffuse the doubts with God’s Word.  Whenever you have a task to do and you start to have doubts about it, say to yourself “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

The Preacher’s Son

63bd04344f09d5e8bd3b06820c0af8c2The first time I saw her, I knew that I was in very serious trouble.  We met at my sister’s wedding.  She’s my brother-in-law Jack’s secretary.  She went with a male co-worker and I went with Rachel, a woman I have been dating for a while.  Both our families have this expectation that we are next in line to get married.  I’m not sure why they think that.  Granted, Rachel is a terrific person, very beautiful and I enjoy her company but there was something missing.  I couldn’t quite put my finger on it.

It wasn’t until I met Leila that I realized what was missing for me in my relationship with Rachel–sexual desire.  I never felt it for her but the moment I laid eyes on Leila, I wanted her.  After we met, I could hardly take my eyes off her and the first opportunity I got, I asked her to have dinner with me even though I was still dating Rachel.  Leila accepted.  I took her to a restaurant which had gotten rave reviews and we had a great time.  I asked her out after that and we started dating.  Things were going well.  I made sure that I never went to her place or she came to mine because I was afraid of what would happen.  It was hard being with her and not want to touch her. When I was with Rachel I thought about her and wondered if she was thinking about me.  For a long while, I was dating both women unbeknown to them.  Not the sort of thing you would expect from a preacher’s son, is it?

At nights when I was alone, I thought about Leila and what it would be like to make love to her.  Then, I recalled the scriptures in the Bible which spoke against pre-marital sex.  What was I going to do?  I wanted Leila but I couldn’t have her because of my religious convictions.  Should I break up with her and marry Rachel?  How could I marry Rachel when I didn’t love her?  I ended up breaking up with her much to our families’ chagrin.  It didn’t matter when I tried to explain to them that she would be better off with a man who would love her in return.  They made me feel like I had committed the unpardonable sin.  I knew that I had done the right and honorable thing.  If only I knew what to do about Leila.

Leila knew that I was a Christian but she didn’t know that my father was a preacher.  I wasn’t sure that I wanted to tell her that.  Would she treat me differently?  I thought of talking to my father about my relationship with her but I knew that he wouldn’t approve.  I can just hear him say, “You need to end your relationship with this woman because you aren’t like her.  She doesn’t believe in the things you do.  The two of you don’t belong together.  It’s like light and darkness which cannot be together.”

Last night when Leila and I were together, she said to me, “I’ve dated Christian men in the past but I never once thought that I would be attracted to one who’s younger and white until I met you.  You’re different.  I think about you constantly and I can’t help wondering what it would be like to sleep with you.”

I stiffened although my body was reacting to the idea of sleeping with her.  “Leila, I don’t think we should be talking about this…”

“I know that you’re a Christian and you don’t want to have sex before you get married, but there isn’t any harm in us kissing, is there?”  Before I could answer, she was kissing me.  Her hands were pressing down on my thighs as she leaned over.  We were in my car, parked outside of her building.  We had been to a Mozart concert.  The windows were rolled up and it was dark where we were so no one could see us.  I lost my head and kissed her back.

For several minutes, we exchanged passionate kisses and I was tempted–really, really tempted to go up to her flat with her but I had to be strong even if it killed me.  I groaned against her lips before I pulled away.  “I’m sorry, I can’t do this.”

She sat back in the seat.  “I’m the one who should be sorry,” she said.  “I shouldn’t have kissed you.”

“Leila, maybe we should stop seeing each other for a while,” I said.

“If that’s what you really want.”

“Leila…”

“Goodbye, Leif.” She got out of the car before I could say anything else and ran up the steps leading to the front entrance of her building.  I watched her go, my heart breaking.

Prodigal

The next several weeks were torture for me.  I thought about her every minute and missed her so very much.  I wanted to call her and tell her that I had made a mistake.  I wanted to drive over to her place and take her in my arms.  I was a wreck.  I couldn’t eat or sleep or think straight.  I went to church but I found no joy in it.  I went through the motions and I felt guilty.  I asked God to forgive me for allowing my feelings for Leila to replace my adoration for Him.

I decided to go away on a mission trip to Peru just to get my mind off my own problems and to focus on helping others and sharing the Gospel with them.  Unfortunately, being miles away in a foreign country and on another continent didn’t dampen my feelings for Leila.  I still wanted her.  I still ached for her.

It was harder at nights when I was alone.  During those times, I wished that she was lying next to me.  One night, I opened my Bible to 1 Corinthians 7 and the words, But if they cannot control their bodies, then they should marry. It is better to marry than to burn with lust” jumped out at me and I asked myself, Why don’t I marry Leila?  It made perfect sense to me.  I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life without her.  But then, at the more I thought about it the more I realized that it would be wrong to marry her just to satisfy my lust.  How could I be so selfish?  No, the best thing for me to do was to move on.

That was easier said than done.  I tried to move on with my life–forget about Leila by busying myself at work and church but nothing worked.  And now, several weeks since my return from Peru,  I’m standing in her flat, hands in pockets, facing her.

“So, how was your trip to Peru?” she asked.

“It was rewarding.”

“I see.”

“I miss you.  I think about you all the time.”

“I miss you too.”

“Leila, during these past several weeks, I have realized something really important.”

“What’s that?”

“I can’t live without you.  I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”

“What are you saying, Leif?”

“I’m saying that I want to marry you, Leila.”

“You’re a preacher’s son, Leif.  I wouldn’t be a suitable wife for you.”

I stared at her.  “You know that my father’s a preacher?”

“Yes.”

“How long have you known?”

“Since we met.  Jack told me.”

“And it didn’t bother you?”

“No.  Why should it?”

“I was worried that it might, especially after you told me that church wasn’t for you.”

“I used to go to church you know but after a while I hated going because the single and married women didn’t like me.  The married women thought that I was after their husbands and the single women resented me because most of the single men were interested in me.  The guy I ended up dating dumped me after he became a deacon.  He said that I wouldn’t be suitable as his wife because I wasn’t a virgin.  I was good enough to sleep with but not to marry.  I left the church right after that.  I wasn’t right for him and I wouldn’t be right for you for the same reason.  How would it look a preacher’s son getting hitched to a sinner like me–a wanton woman–a woman of ill repute–a pariah?”

“You’re none of those things.  You’re a very beautiful and desirable woman.  It isn’t your fault that men want you.  And being a preacher’s son didn’t prevent me from going to wild parties and hanging out with the wrong crowd.  I’m not a virgin.  I had several girlfriends but what got me back on the right track was a pregnancy scare.  It turned out that my girlfriend’s period was late.  We were both relieved that she wasn’t pregnant. I cleaned up my act them.  I stopped partying, hanging out with the wrong people and decided that I would wait until I’m married to have sex again.  I became a born again Christian and you can do the same.  Nothing is impossible with God.”

“I still believe in Him even though I don’t go to church anymore.”

“I want you to know that He loves you, Leila.  He never stopped.  All He wants is to have a relationship with you if you will give your heart and your life to Him.  It isn’t too late to do so.”

“You sound like a preacher’s son,” she said, smiling.  Her eyes were moist as they met mine.  “Maybe that’s your calling–to follow in your father’s footsteps.”

“No, my calling is to remind people that God loves them like I’m doing right now.  And I believe that it was He who brought us together.”

“Do you really believe that?”

“Yes!  And I’m so thankful to Him because I love you, Leila.”  It was true.  I realized it last night.  I was in love with her.  I wasn’t marrying her to satisfy my lust.

“I love you too.  I didn’t want to fall in love with you because of our differences but I couldn’t help myself.”

“Sometimes the differences between two people can enrich their relationship because each person brings something to the other.”

“I’m not like you when it comes to spiritual things but I have a lot to offer you.”

“I know you do and that’s why I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”  I reached for her and pulled her into my arms.  “So, how do you feel about marrying a preacher’s son?” I asked.

She put her arms around my neck.  “I feel blessed and humbled,” she said simply.

I smiled and kissed her.  I too felt blessed and thankful because she was the woman I was meant to be with.

Source:  Lang-8

Farida’s Story

In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; he saved me from all my troubles – Psalm 34:6, NKJV

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I was 13 when my parents married me off to a 36 year old rich Arab man.  He was the second man who wanted me to be his wife.  The other man was a neighbor and he knew me since I was a baby.  He was in his 60s.  He offered 40 cows but the Arab offered money.  My parents accepted the money.

I had no choice.  I left my village and went with him.  Before we got married, I had to spend 15 days with his family.  I hated it there.  They didn’t like me because I was African and dark-skinned.  It didn’t matter that I was a Muslim like them and that I spoke Arabic.  They would have preferred if he had married an Arab woman.  I think they had a problem with my age.  I overheard his mother ask him why did he agreed to marry someone so young?  His response was that I was very pretty and he wanted me.  I think it was because he was controlling and believed that a younger wife would be more obedient.

My life before marriage was a nightmare.  At night he would ravage me and the following morning at 7am, his mother woke me up to pray and do housework.  I felt like a slave.  I felt so alone and helpless.  Things continued and got progressively worse after we got married.  We moved into his home.  I continued to do the housework, cook and pamper him.  I was forced to have sex every night even when he knew that I was very upset or tired, he didn’t care.  He went ahead and had his pleasure and fell asleep afterwards while I lay there beside him in the bed, in the dark, crying.

My marriage wasn’t anything like my parents’.  I never saw my father mistreat my mother and she seemed to enjoy taking care of him.  It wasn’t like that for me.  I didn’t want to be married.  I wanted to be in school, getting an education.  I was hoping to be a doctor but that dream was squashed by a marriage forced on me by my parents.  My mother even said to me, “This marriage proposal is a gift from Allah, his way of keeping you out of trouble. If you say no, you will be showing your lack of faith in him, and you will be punished.  This man’s rich and he will provide well for you.  All you have to do is be a good wife to him.”

How could she expect a teenage girl to be a wife?  She didn’t even get married until she had finished school.  And she married for love.  Why couldn’t I marry for love too and when I was ready?  It seemed so unfair.  I came to the conclusion that my parents didn’t love me.  If they did, they wouldn’t have married me off to a man almost three times my age.  I didn’t know what to expect.  I imagined that my husband being so much older than me would take care of me.  He would be like a father to me.

arab-arab-culture-arab-man-arabart-757307I soon learned that a husband is never a father.  He expected me to be a wife, despite my age.  I was more like a slave.  He took great pleasure in telling me that he used to have hired help but dismissed them after he married me.  He expected me to keep a house which was very big with a lot of rooms.  I was exhausted by the time I finished cleaning it.  Then, I had to do the cooking, laundry and ironing.  I was exhausted by the end of the day but I still had to satisfy him in the bedroom.

I hated my marriage, I hated him and I hated my life.  I wished that I could run away but I knew that it would be pointless.  He told me once that if I did, he would find me because he had people watching the house when he wasn’t there.  And that life would be a thousand times worse for me.  I believed him.

Night after night, I prayed to God to help me.   I knew that what my husband was doing to me was against our religion. Islam prohibits all forms of oppression and injustice yet he felt that it was his right to beat me if I were disobedient to him such as refusing to have sex with him when he wanted it.  The Qur’an clearly teaches the sexual relationship between a husband and wife should be mutually satisfying but it was never like that for us.  As his wife, he demanded sex from me and whenever I refused him I was beaten and then raped.  He told me that God got angry with disobedient wives but I remember a friend once told me that when obeying a husband involves behavior that is hurtful or destructive to oneself or others, a Muslim wife must remember that her primary obedience is to God.

I wanted God to help me.  I wanted out of this nightmare.  I couldn’t continue living like this.  I felt like I was caught in a trap and nothing or no one could get me out of it except God.  For 25 years I was trapped in an abusive marriage and then my husband died.  He left nothing in my name and his family denied me everything, including the dowry I was entitled to.  He and I didn’t have any children together and that was why they were able to rob me of my inheritance.  I had wasted 25 years of my life.

I’m 38 now and a part of the ActionAid supported women’s group working to advocate against FGM and child marriage.  I don’t want anyone to go through what I did.  A girl should have the right to decide when and whom she wants to marry.  Education should come first.  Marriage should be a healthy, happy and safe choice for us.  Islam teaches that each person has been given freedom of choice and is accountable for his/her own life.  Today, I am pushing for girls to be independent and to choose their own future.

I don’t know if I would ever get married again.  I had such a horrible experience.  I’m just thankful to God that I’m no longer living in an abusive marriage and that I can focus on empowering girls to understand and live out their rights, including saying no to child marriage.

This story is fiction but child marriage is a disturbing reality.  I was inspired to write this story after reading Aleyna’s* story in an email sent to me by Equality Now.  She was 13 year old Lebanese girl and forced to marry a 36 year old man who abused her for 40 years before he died, leaving her nothing.  Equality Now’s partner in Lebanon, LECORVAW (The Lebanese Council to Resist Violence Against Women) is working with women like Aleyna who need legal support to access the justice they deserve.  Aleya says that, “I have a lawyer who works for LECORVAW, she is defending me in court and that is very important. LECORVAW is giving me psychological and legal support. I feel so much better thanks to them as before I was struggling to cope.”

Child marriage is an evil practice which has to be eradicated from society.  Girls should be allowed to finish their education and to decide when they want to get married.  Marriage is for adult men and women NOT adult men and children/girls.  We need laws to protect girls from child marriage.  Let’s raise awareness and support the organizations which are working to end child marriage.

 

Sources:  Religion Unplugged; Faith Trust Institution; ActionAid

 

Sven and Nadira

WillH007-600x750“So, you’re serious about this?” Stijn asked his younger brother, Sven while they were standing on Stijn’s balcony which overlooked the Hudson River.

“Yes, I am.  I’m madly in love with Nadira and I’m going to ask her to marry me.”

“But what about Femke?”

“I don’t love her, Stijn.”

“Does she know that?”

Of course, she does.  Long before I met Nadira, Femke suspected that I didn’t feel the same way about her.  And when I broke up with her, she was very upset but not surprised.”

“What about Mom and Dad?  You know that they’re going to have a major problem with this.”

“Stijn, as much as I love our parents, I’m not going to let them interfere in my life.  I’ve made up my mind and there’s nothing they nor you or anyone else can do to change it.”

Stijn patted him on the back.  “I envy you,” he said.  “You were always very strong-minded.  You always went after what you wanted and never let anything or anyone stop you.  If marrying Nadira is truly what you want, then go for it.  I wish you the best.”

Sven smiled.  “Thank you.  I hope that you will come to the wedding.  It would mean a lot to me.”

Stijn looked him in the eyes.  “If it means that much to you, I will be there.”

Sven hugged him.  “I’d better go.”

Stijn followed him into the foyer.  “Take care, little brother,” he said as he opened the front door.

“You too.”

Stijn watched him walk away before he closed the door.  Sven had guts.  He admired him for that.  He was thankful, though, that, unlike Sven, he had fallen in love with a Dutch woman.

Nadira was lying on the floor, staring up at the ceiling, daydreaming about Sven thumb_98525_420_630_0_0_portraitwhen the doorbell rang.  Scrambling to her feet, she went to answer the door.  She smiled broadly when she saw who it was and eagerly unlocked the door.  “Hello,” she said as she put her arms around his neck.

Sven held her against him, his eyes intent on her upturned face.   “Hello,” he murmured before he lowered his head and kissed her.

They kissed for several minutes before she drew back.  “We’d better go inside.”

He released her and removed his leather jacket as she locked the door.  “I have something very important to ask you,” he informed her.

“What is it?”

He responded by getting down on one knee and taking her hand.  “Will you marry me?”

Nadira smiled through the tears.  “Yes,” was her choked reply.

After he slipped the ring on her finger, he got to his feet and cupping her face between his hands, he kissed every inch of her face before kissing her on the lips.  “I love you,” he murmured.

She put her arms around his waist and pressed against him.  “I love you too.”

As they exchanged kisses, he felt as if his heart would burst from the love he had for her.  How could his family begrudge him of something that felt so right and so beautiful?  And he knew without any shred of doubt that it was God who had brought them together.

If God is in it, go for it.

Toshiro Returns to Tokyo

Z8VeQHoI_oToshiro was back in Tokyo.  He returned two weeks ago.  It was hard being away from Kampala.  All he could think about was Ife and how much he missed being with her.  All along he knew that what he had been doing was wrong but he couldn’t help himself.  He wanted Ife so much.  She filled him with a desire that was so potent and raw that it scared him.

He could tell from the way she responded when they made love that she wanted him too.  And that realization was what he used to rationalize his actions.  But his conscience continued to trouble him.

And he felt badly about Asuka.  They had been going steady for some time now and still he hadn’t broached the subject of marriage with her.  His family expected him to pop the question soon and he imagined that her family might expect the same thing.  He knew that Asuka was in love with him but he realized that he didn’t feel the same way and that was before he met Ife.

Speaking of Asuka, he was supposed to meet her for a coffee at the cafe where they usually went.  It was within walking distance from his apartment.  No doubt she was already there waiting for him.  She was always very punctual.

They hadn’t seen each other for months and when he was in Tokyo, he made sure that they spent time together.  This year, however, it was different for him.  He didn’t look forward to coming home anymore.  For him, Kampala was home.  It was where Ife was.  He closed his eyes briefly.  Oh, Ife, I wish I could be with you right now.  Was she thinking about him?  Did she miss him?  She’s probably glad to be rid of you for a while because of what you’re doing to her, an accusing voice retorted and he flinched.

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As soon as he walked into the cafe, he spotted Asuka.  He went over to her and she stood up, her expression one of delight.  She was obviously very happy to see him.  She put her arms around his neck and kissed him on the lips.  Then, she sat down.  “I ordered you Hot Tea.”  She put it in front of him.

“You’re welcome,” she said.  “You must be happy to be able to speak Japanese again.  How are things in Kampala?”He attempted a smile.  “Thank you.”

“The usual,” he said.  “Well, while I was there, journalists were protesting alleged abuse by the police.  They saw what was happening as an attack on press freedom in Uganda.   Then, there’s growing concern among some Ugandans about Chinese funding because of the debts they see other countries struggling with.  And then there’s the charcoal trade which is decimating forests.”

“Last week Tuesday was World Toilet Day so I was reading up about it online and came across an article which said that there’s a toilet crisis in Kampala.  It said that there aren’t public toilets for about 1,200 people, I think and that mud tinged with feces washes into homes during heavy rains.  How disgusting!”  She made a face and shuddered.  “How could people live like that and why isn’t the government doing something about it?”

“Yes, the sanitation crisis is growing worse.  It’s not only happening in Kampala but in South Africa, India and other places.”

“We’re so lucky, Toshiro.  We have access to clean toilets at home and in public.  I think that sometimes we take these things for granted.  I wanted to help so I sent a donation to one of the charities which is helping to provide clean toilets for the people in Africa.  Using public toilets isn’t safe for the women.  They could catch diseases or even get raped.  Can you imagine that?  And children aren’t safe either.  I read about four children who drown in pit toilets.  I still get choked up just thinking about them, especially, the three year old. ”

“Let’s not talk about this anymore because it’s upsetting you.”  He couldn’t bear to hear it anymore.  It made him think of Ife and how she could have lost her job if it had been discovered that she had used the toilet in his suite that day when he caught her.  He wondered if she was one of those people who didn’t have toilets in their homes.

“You’re right.  Let’s talk about something else.  The hotel where you stay, is it nice?”

“Yes, it is.  It’s a 5 star hotel.”

“What do you do when you’re not on business?”

“I go sightseeing or I stay in my room and catch up on the News.”  That wasn’t true.  He hardly went sightseeing and in the evenings, he was in his suite with Ife.

“Maybe one of these days, I will visit you there.   I read that it’s a relatively safe place for tourists.  Besides, I won’t be alone.  You will be there to protect me.”  She reached over and squeezed his hand.  “It’s so good to see you.  I always miss you so much every time you go away and I count the days when you’ll be back.  When do you go again?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe next month.”

“But not during Christmas and New Year’s I hope.”

“I don’t know.”

“Why do you go there so often?”

“Business.”  That wasn’t true anymore.  Ife was his reason for going to Kampala now.

“Well, I hope you plan to spend Christmas here.”

He didn’t answer.  Instead, he sipped his tea.  I wonder what Christmas is like in Kampala. 

“My parents are wondering what your intentions are.”

He stared at her blankly.  “What do you mean?”

“Well…we’ve been dating for five years now and they are wondering if we are going to settle down anytime soon.  We’re both in our thirties now.”

Toshiro sighed.  “Asuka, I have something to tell you.”

She looked wary now.  And she set the cup of coffee down on the table.  “What is it?” she asked.

“I haven’t been completely honest with you.  You asked why I go to Kampala so often and I told that it had to do with business.  Well, it doesn’t–not entirely.  This year I have been involved with a woman I met there.”

Asuka stared at him.  “What do you mean by involved?”

Toshiro could feel his face getting warm.  “I’m in a relationship with her.”

“But you’re in a relationship with me.”

“I know–”

“Does she know about me?”

“No.”

“Are you sleeping with her?”

“Yes.”

Asuka’s face was pale now.  Hurt and pain etched her features.  “Are you in love with her?”

“Yes.”

“I don’t believe this.  I have kept myself pure for you because I believed that we were going to get married.”

“You told me that you couldn’t sleep with me because you’re a Christian.”

“Is that why you’re sleeping with her?”

No.”

“Well, I guess this is it for us.”  She got up and pulled on her coat and scarf.   Grabbing her handbag, she muttered, “Goodbye, Toshiro” before she turned and walked away.

He sat there for a long time, feeling terrible.  The last thing he wanted to do was to hurt Asuka.  If he hadn’t met and fallen in love with Ife, he would have married her.  In time, he would have grown to love her the way she loved him.

He finished his tea which had gotten lukewarm and then got up and left the cafe.  He didn’t go straight home.  Instead, he walked for a while, thinking.  He had to sort out what he was going to do about Ife.  He hadn’t banked on falling in love with her.  Initially, it had been an extremely strong sexual attraction which he thought that he would get over after a while.

He knew what he ought to do but he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.  This whole thing had turned into a great mess.  He needed to talk to someone.  Miko.  He called her immediately on his cell.  Her voice mail came on.  He left a message asking her to call him.

She returned his call a couple of hours later.  He asked her if he could stop by her place the following day because he really needed to talk to her.

Next up is Toshiro’s Exploitation.

Source:  AP News

Henrik and Lauryn

atong arjok sundan 1It was during the Intermission that he spotted Lauryn.  He was waiting for Kellie who had gone to the bathroom while she had just come out of it.  Not wanting  her to leave before he got a chance to talk to her, he squeezed his way through the crowd and went over where she was.  He caught her by the arm and she turned.

She looked lovely in the black cocktail dress which flattered her body.  Her skin looked so smooth and flawless, he had to fight the temptation to lower his head and kiss her on the shoulder.  What he felt must have been evident in his eyes because he saw her expression change.  “Hello,” she said, sounding a little breathless.

“Hello,” he replied.  He was still holding her arm.  It felt so soft against his fingers.  Unable to resist, he rubbed his thumb against the skin.  “I didn’t expect to see you here this evening.”

“I didn’t expect to see you either.”

“Are you here with someone?”

“Yes.  What about you?”

He opened his mouth to ask whom she was with when Kellie joined them.  His hand fell to his side.  “This is Kellie,” he said.

She looked at Kellie and then, forcing a smile, she said, “Hi.”

Kellie’s green eyes traveled over her.  “Hi,” she replied curtly before turning to him and saying, “We’d better go back to our seats.”  She made a point of clutching his arm.

“Enjoy the rest of the show,” he said quietly before they walked away.

When they were seated, Kellie asked, “Who was that woman you were talking to?”

“You didn’t give me a chance to introduce her to you,” he said, evasively.

“I wasn’t interested in meeting her,” Kellie informed him.  “And to be quite frank, I didn’t like the way she was looking at you before I came over.  It was painfully obvious that she’s attracted to you.  I detest a woman who fawns over another woman’s boyfriend when she has her own.”

He looked at her then.  “What do you mean?”

“She’s with her boyfriend.  There they are.”

brook-taverner-dinner-jacket-1He followed her gaze and saw Lauryn walk into the auditorium with a tall, black man.  He watched as they sat down just as the lights dimmed.  Red, hot jealousy coursed through him and his fingers gripped the arms of his seat.  Who was he?  What was Lauryn doing with him?  Was she seeing him too?

His hand shook slightly as he dragged his fingers through his hair.  The show had begun but he couldn’t focus on it.  He kept looking over at where Lauryn and her date were.  He had to find out who the man was.

Lauryn sat there watching the drama unfold on the stage but her mind was elsewhere.  From where she sat, she could see the box where Henrik was.  Who was the woman?  Was she his girlfriend?  She looked stunning in the pastel blue pant suit which flattered her olive complexion.  She looked like she came from a well to do family as he did.  They were a perfect match.   How long had he been dating her?  Was he going to marry her one day?  Lauryn closed her eyes.  I was a fool to think that I could have any kind of future with him. 

When the show was over, she couldn’t wait to get out of there and was thankful when she was in the car on her way home.  When they were outside of her building, Donald asked her, “Are you all right?  You haven’t said much since we left the theatre.”

“I’m just a little tired,” she said.  “Thanks for inviting me to come tonight with you, Don.  Give my love to Gwen.”

“I will,” he promised before he got out of the car and walked around to open her door.  When she stepped out, they hugged.  “Goodnight.”

“Goodnight.”  She waited until he had climbed back into the car and driven off before she went up the steps leading to the entrance of her condo building.  She waved at the security guard as she passed him.  In the elevator, she leaned against the wall.  Where was Henrik now?  Was he taking his date home or was he taking her to his place.  The doors opened and Lauryn stepped out into the corridor.  She hurried to her unit, anxious to get out of the dress and into something more comfortable.  As she fumbled inside her handbag for her key, she wished she hadn’t gone to the theatre.

“What’s the matter with you?” Kellie demanded.  “You’ve been acting strange ever since you run into that woman.  Who is she, Henrik?”

“I met her in the library.  We were sitting at the same table.”

“Is there something going on between you?”

He might as well come clean.  “Yes.”

There was a pregnant pause and then:  “For how long?”

“We met in December–”

Seven months?  You’ve been seeing this woman for seven months?”

“Yes.”

“Do you have feelings for her, Henrik?”  Kellie’s voice trembled.

“Kellie…”

Do you have feelings for her?”

“Yes.”

“Where does that leave us?”

“We can’t continue to see each other.”

“I’m sorry, Kellie.”

Sorry?  Is that all you could say?  You’re sorry?

He didn’t answer.

Kellie grabbed her handbag and opened the door.  “Well, you’re not as sorry as I am.  Goodbye!” She scrambled out and slammed the door shut.  She hurried up the steps leading to the entrance of her building and disappeared through the revolving doors.

Henrik sat in his car for several minutes.  He hated hurting her like that.  She had every reason to hate him.  He sighed heavily.  He wished he hadn’t gone to the theatre.  Who was the man he saw Lauryn with?  Was he the new man in her life?  He closed his eyes as the jealousy ripped through him.  He had to see her and find out.  He turned on the ignition and drove out of the lot.

Lauryn stepped out of the shower and pulled on a pair of cotton pajamas.  She went into the living-room and turned on the television.  In a couple of hours, she would welcome in the New Year–alone.  She wished she hadn’t seen Henrik with another woman.  It hurt.  She closed her eyes in despair.  They soon opened again when the doorbell rang.

She hurried to see who was stopping by and her heart leapt in her chest when she saw who it was.  She opened the door, her eyes wide as they met his.  “Hi,” she said as she stepped aside for him to go in.  After closing and locking the door, she turned to face him.  “I didn’t expect to see you.”

“Who was the guy I saw you with tonight, Lauryn?” he demanded thickly, his eyes dark and restless on her face.

“My brother, Don.  His wife, Gwen’s getting over a cold so he asked me to go in her place rather than let the tickets go to waste.”

Henrik released a shaky breath.  “I thought he was someone you were seeing.”

“No.  I’m not seeing anyone.  What about you?  Who was the woman you were with?”

“I was in a relationship with her before I met you.  Tonight, I ended it.”

“Why did you end your relationship with her?”  She was happy he did but she needed to know the reason.

In a flash, he was standing inches from her, his heated gaze on her upturned face.  “Isn’t it obvious?” he asked.  Then, he reached down and pulled her into his arms.  “I’m in love with you, Lauryn.”

Her heart melted and she put her arms around his neck.  “I’m in love with you too, Henrik.”

He was about to lower his head and kiss her when the clock struck twelve.  “Happy New Year,” he murmured huskily.

“Happy New Year.”

They kissed.

Source:  The Telegraph