Many thanks to everyone who voted. I’m so delighted, and I’m dancing right now.
This win is dedicated to God, for the ideas and ability, my family for their support, my friends, and most of all, to all my readers who continue to encourage me. I write because you read. You all rock!
Here’s a little teaser from one of the stories, Unexpected Love by Amaka Azie. Enjoy.
Be My Valentine
He chuckled. Although amused, his interest piqued. He’d wondered that himself. “And why are you? Still single, I mean. You are beautiful and intelligent. Some man should have snagged you up by now.”
Silence. Her face fell, and she appeared disconcerted. He immediately remembered her botched marriage proposal at Enugu and felt like a heel.
“I am sorry—”
“Never mind. It’s been like ages ago …” she muttered, gulping her drink as though trying to flush down her mortification with alcohol.
“Do you still love him?” he asked, holding his breath.
Even though unsure why he’d enquired about her ex, he was now anxious for her response, desperately hoping to hear her say no.
Yemi hesitated, swirling the drink in her glass with concentration. It appeared she wasn’t going to answer, and his stomach tumbled. Worried he had offended her by asking such a personal question, he parted his lips to apologise again when he heard her husky voice.
“No,” she said. “Not anymore.”
A deep feeling of relief surged through his chest, so intense that he almost felt faint with it.
“I probably never really did,” she continued, her tone quiet and reflective. “I think I hung onto the idea of forever with him because he is the only man that ever paid any attention to me … I guess I wanted to have somebody to love so badly that I ignored all the warning signs that flashed in front of me while we dated.”
She chewed her lower lip, bringing his attention to the full lusciousness of her mouth. An almost overwhelming need to kiss her gripped him. He had to squeeze the stem of his glass tightly to keep himself from reaching for her and drawing her to him.
Her next words cut through his sensual thoughts.
“I mean, he never introduced me to his family, his friends. The relationship seemed all one-sided. And everyone could see it but me. I feel so foolish …”
Overwhelmed with the need to touch her, he gave in to the desire and reached for her hand. He squeezed her delicate soft palms in his large hands.
Her gaze jumped to his. They reflected surprise. But something else … a connection. She could feel what he felt, too. That strong pull. The chemistry.
Without a doubt, Vincent knew he wanted this woman to be his. Not in the casual way he usually related with women. He wanted her as his girlfriend.
A few more days to the release of Be My Valentine by Love Africa Press. It’s an anthology of African love stories I co-authored with other amazing romance writers. So excited!
In the meantime, here’s another instalment of the segment, Breakup to Makeup from Starting Over Again, the last of the trilogy of The Obi family Series.
In this snippet, Nnamdi had to explain himself and beg Onome for forgiveness for being a jealous ass. Enjoy.
Starting Over Again
Her phone buzzed, splintering her thoughts. She looked at the screen. It was a text message from Nnamdi.
I am at your front door.
Onome’s heart flipped. She expected him to come after her. But not tonight. She didn’t even know he was back from Enugu. He had not communicated with her for three days. Three whole days. Who does that? She wanted to ignore the text message. She really did. But she knew it wasn’t the mature thing to do.
Sighing, she dried her tears and walked over to the front door. Inhaling deeply, she opened it.
He stood there, handsome, perfect, staring at her like she meant the world to him. Her chest constricted.
“Onome,” he began.
“Fejiro is asleep, let’s go to my room,” she interjected.
He followed her silently. As soon as they entered her room and she shut the door, he pulled her into his arms.
“Let go of me!” Onome snapped. He did instantaneously.
“Onome, I am sorry,” he murmured, his voice hoarse.
She moved away from him, needing the distance. God, she loved this man so much. How had things gotten to this point?
“Nnamdi, look, let’s cut our losses and move on. I still want us to be friends, though. For the girls’ sake. They really like each other.”
“Listen, I can’t be with a man who doesn’t trust me.”
“Not only did you follow me around taking pictures of me, you had the audacity to pay off Efe to stay away from me.” Onome moved to the window, increasing the distance between them. “Is that what you Obi men do? Play chess with people’s lives? Because you have money?” Her tone was louder, her anger resurfacing. “First your brother arrogantly tries to buy me off. Then you arrogantly buy Efe off.”
“Onome, it’s not like—”
“Don’t try to deny it. I saw the pictures in your office and Efe confessed it himself.”
“So, that fool still went behind my back to talk to you? After I warned him not to?” Nnamdi snarled.
She shook her head, fresh rage building up inside her. “Yes, he did! Yes, he did! And what can you do about it?” Onome goaded. Nnamdi’s nostrils flared.
“You are mine!” he declared possessively, his eyes fierce with passion. “Efe can continue with his games but I want you to know this, you belong to me! No other man!”
Onome burst into a sardonic laugh that lasted a few seconds. When she stopped laughing, she strolled forward calmly and stood directly in front of Nnamdi, both hands on her hips.
“Nnamdi, I don’t belong to any man. I don’t belong to my father, to Efe, and I certainly don’t belong to you.” Her tone was surprisingly controlled, considering her intense anger. “If you must know, I can make my own decisions, you don’t need to pay anyone to stay away from me.” Dragging a hand from her hip, she flicked a finger towards her chest. “I decided to marry Efe, despite my father’s disapproval. I decided not to crawl back to Efe after our divorce despite the temptation to do so.” She continued to point to her chest as she spoke. “I decided to reject Efe when he asked me to marry him again.”
Nnamdi’s mouth popped open.
“Yes, if only you had asked me instead of stalking me and jumping to conclusions, you would have found out that the only reason why I met up with Efe was for Fejiro. Only for Fejiro.” She lowered her voice when she made her last statement, still pointing to her chest. “And that is how I have decided to walk away from us, because if there is no trust between us, there is nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
“Onome, I am so sorry. My brain shut down when I saw those pictures of you with Efe. All I could think of was that he would take you away from me, that I would lose you. Although deep inside me, I know you would never hurt me that way, I couldn’t see past my jealousy.”
“That means you don’t trust me. How can you even believe I could ever go back to Efe? How? After what he put me through? After what you and I have shared together?” She shook her head. “I love you, but I can’t be with a man who doesn’t trust me. We have to end this now. We have to walk away before we hurt each other more.”
“No!” Nnamdi took her in his arms. He was trembling. “You can’t walk away from us, Onome. You can’t. We belong together.”
She held onto Nnamdi, tears streaming down her face.
“We have to end this relationship, Nnamdi. We both have children who are our first priorities. We both have to be absolutely sure about us, because any decision we make affects them.”
“I am sure about you, Onome,” Nnamdi rasped, holding tightly onto her.
“You may be,” Onome whispered. “But I am not sure about you.”
It’s always heartbreaking to witness a marriage proposal being rejected. I always wonder what happens to the relationship after that. Can the relationship be salvaged?
In the only one I’ve ever witnessed, the couple went their separate ways.
In Thorns and Roses, Ifeoma turned Chuma down in what I thought was a sweet marriage proposal.
Here is another instalment of my teaser series— Breakup to Make up. Enjoy.
Thorns and Roses
A few minutes after they left the restaurant, they arrived at their destination. Chuma led her out of the jeep towards a building. Ifeoma followed closely beside him, holding his hand.
She stopped when she saw the sign that said Eastern Delight hoisted on the ground floor of a three-storey complex building. Appearing puzzled, she turned towards him.
“What’s going on?”
“Just follow me,” Chuma said, leading her into the building.
“Follow me to the kitchen,” he said.
Ifeoma froze as soon as she stepped inside. It was a beautiful modern restaurant with mahogany tables and chairs neatly arranged, silk table clothes spread across the tables and lovely floral arrangements on the centre of each table.
Before she could respond to his prompting, he took her hand and led her to an even more fascinating kitchen where three yam pounders, multiple fancy kitchen equipments, including two large cookers, were strategically placed.
“I bought what I think you need but we can add anything else that you want,” Chuma was saying, but Ifeoma hardly heard a thing. Her mind was reeling from shock.
“Ifeoma Okafor, this is all yours,” he said, holding out a bunch of keys towards her. “All paid for in your name.”
Ifeoma was still speechless, her eyes widened in astonishment, her heart fluttering.
“Ify, I was there this afternoon. I know about Mr Peters. Trust me, he will never bother you again. I will never let anyone hurt you again.” Getting down on a knee, Chuma brought out a box from his shirt pocket. He opened it and Ifeoma gasped. A huge diamond ring dazzled her vision.
Will you marry me, Ify?” he asked simply because he was a simple man. Always direct, he did not know how to use any other approach.
She stared blankly at him for a few seconds, then turned and fled.
Cursing, Chuma got to his feet speedily and pursued her. He caught her in his arms before she could get far. They were in the middle of the empty restaurant.
“Let go of me!” she screeched.
Chuma dropped his hands. Ifeoma escaped his embrace and began to pace the room.“
“You were there this afternoon? How do you know about Mr Peters?” Ifeoma asked, panting heavily, eyes wide in shock.
“I found out about him, about what he did to you, I’m sorry for what he did. He will never bother you again.” Chuma’s tone was calm, even though he felt the direct opposite.
Ifeoma paused her pacing as if suddenly having an epiphany.
“Mr Peters … his face … did you … did you do it?” she asked, eyeing him sceptically.
“Not personally, but I was there when it happened.” Chuma did not bother to conceal that truth. “I wanted them to do worse, to break his neck.”
“Did you tell him to… to—”
“Yes! Ifeoma, yes!” Chuma answered indignantly. “I told him to stay away from you.” He noticed the repulsion on Ifeoma’s face, and then added. “I don’t regret it, I don’t apologise. I will do anything to protect you.”
“Protect me!” she cried in disbelief. “You think losing the restaurant I worked so hard for is protecting me?” Ifeoma shook with the rage that swept through her entire body. Chuma said nothing.
“You are a controlling, manipulative asshole, and I will never marry you!” Ifeoma pointed angrily at him as she spoke.
Flinching inwardly at her words, Chuma remained still. A deep-seated fear that he was losing her made his insides burn. Many women had called him an asshole. It was nothing new. Until now, he had actually thought nothing of being called that because he knew it was the truth. Even his family frequently called him an asshole. But hearing it coming from Ifeoma’s mouth was like a knife to his heart.
“I did all of this for you! Ify, can’t you see that?”
Chuma drew closer to Ifeoma, desperate to make her see how much she meant to him. He couldn’t lose her. She backed away.
“No, you did it for yourself. To control me. I will not allow you to control me!” she snarled, her nostrils flaring. Just then, the front door to the restaurant burst open.
The loud sound of cheering from the door interrupted them. Ifeoma and Chuma glanced simultaneously at the entrance.
Nnamdi, Adaora, Chioma, and Ngozi walked in cheering loudly with flowers and champagne bottles in their hands. Adaora held a big banner with congratulations on your engagement written boldly across it. They seemed to halt in unison as soon as they properly observed the expressions on Ifeoma and Chuma’s faces.
“You got my sisters involved?” Ifeoma turned towards him, her voice saturated with fury.
“I wanted to make this a wonderful night for you, believe me, Ify, I did this all for you,” he replied, running his palm over his shaved head. The vein at the side of his head became more prominent.
“Should we leave?” Adaora asked hesitantly.
The atmosphere was awkward and full of tension.
“No, I’ll leave,” Ifeoma said, her tone low, her eyes not straying from his face.
“Stay away from me,” she said to him as she took off her shoes and ran out into the night, leaving him staring after her.
Whenever I’ve enjoyed a novel, I always ask myself why. The honest answer is that for a romance novel to be interesting to me, there must be a few tension soaked dramatic quarrels between the couple in the book.
The kinds that make me feel like I’m a reluctant eavesdropper in the room 🤦🏾♀️
I write what I love to read. So in the next few weeks I’ll be releasing a series of couple quarrels in my novels. Because what’s more sexy than breaking up to make up?
Here’s the first instalment from Melodies of Love. Enjoy
The drive to Adaora’s apartment felt like the longest drive he had ever had to endure. His mind was all over the place.
Why does Adaora still not trust me? He asked himself over and over again. Granted, the images on the blog appeared so convincing, but she knew him. How could she believe it? Without even asking him?
“I’m sorry, you can’t go in, Oga Aristar!” The gateman to Adaora’s apartment complex stopped him, placing his hand on Ikenna’s arm.
“Get your hands off me,” Ikenna growled, shaking the man’s hand off. “Call Ada now and tell her I am waiting here for her.”
The gateman seeing the depth of irritation in Ikenna’s eyes, did as he was told. He was not paid well enough to be in the middle of this situation.
“Madam, Oga Aristar is waiting here for you,” he announced through the intercom. There was a brief pause.
“Send him up,” Ikenna heard Adaora’s shaky voice respond. Climbing two steps at a time, Ikenna hurried up to her apartment. The front door was open. Adaora was standing by the window. She turned to face him when he came in.
“I would like to say this to your face, Ikenna. I don’t want to ever see you again.” Her voice was calm, different from her dishevelled appearance. Ikenna’s hungry gaze perused her body. He had missed her so much. Her face was puffy and her eyes were red; she looked as if she had been crying.
“Ada, please believe me. Everything you read from the gossip blog is a lie.”
“Do you think that I’m a fool?” Her eyes flashed with anger.
“No, I don’t. But it’s not what it seems—”
“Was that woman in the club with you?”
“Was she naked in your hotel bedroom?”
“Yes, but I—”
“Get out of my home! Get out of my life!” Adaora cried, picking up the couch pillow and throwing it at him. It hit him in the chest.
“No!” Ikenna refused, closing the distance between them, grabbing her and pulling her into his arms. She fought him hard, hitting him on his shoulders.
“I missed you, Ada, I love you. How can you believe I could even look at another woman?”
His mouth descended on hers. With a desperate need, Ikenna kissed her. Adaora sucked his tongue greedily into her mouth, kissing him back urgently. She pressed her body into his as their kiss deepened. She felt his hands kneading her bottom and moisture pooled between her legs. Moaning with need, she ran her fingers through his thick hair as their mouths fused hungrily. Then with a sudden shriek, she slapped him.
“Get out of my life!” She screamed. The suddenness of the slap weakened Ikenna’s grip on her, making it easier for Adaora to move away from his embrace.
“Ada, listen to me—” Ikenna began, his voice hoarse as he palmed the area of his face where she had slapped him.
“No, you listen to me. My brothers were right. You are beneath me.”
Adaora could not believe what was coming out of her mouth. She could not believe that she was actually saying these hurtful words because they were untrue. But in her blinding fury, she could not seem to stop herself.
“I deserve so much better than you. You are nothing but a classless musician. You are just a thug and all your money can’t change that. Get out of my life!”
Ikenna flinched at that comment. Adaora had finally said the only thing that had the power to hurt him. Something he had battled with himself over ever since he met her. The real reason he had left her twelve years ago. Ikenna had never felt good enough for her. Right from the start, he’d always felt Adaora deserved a better man than him. Someone with a distinguished family background. Someone with class. His father’s hurtful words came back to haunt him. A girl like her can never end up with someone like you.
And just like that, with a wounded look in his eyes, Ikenna turned around and walked out of her apartment. He couldn’t believe he was losing her again.
After a very public and humiliating break-up, Yemi Okeke quits her job and accepts the position of Chief Surgeon at St. Andrews Hospital in Lagos. It’s an amazing opportunity to start afresh and get away from all the embarrassment … except, her gorgeous new employer, Vincent Mba, knows all about the incident she ran away from.
Vincent is intrigued by Yemi. She is smart, beautiful, and just the kind of woman he wants to get to know better. But they started off on the wrong foot, and recently heartbroken, she is wary about trusting him.
Society says she is past her prime, and that is just one obstacle thrown along their path. He must find a way to overcome all of that, but perhaps the most difficult task of all? He has to win Yemi’s trust and convince her to give their love a chance this Valentine season.
About Amaka Azie
Amaka Azie writes romance fiction set in tropical West Africa. She explores the beauty and intricacies of the continent in her sweet and sensual love stories.
Born and raised in Nigeria, West Africa, she developed a passion for reading at the age of twelve. Her interest in writing began in secondary school when she joined the press club, and her active imagination has captured the interests of many.
Apart from getting lost in creating fascinating fictional characters, Amaka enjoys reading, painting and travelling with her family.
She lives in the United Kingdom with her husband and daughters and where she also practices as a part-time family doctor.
Amaka was named one of the Most Influential Authors Under Forty by the Nigerian Writers Awards (NWA) for the years 2017 and 2018.
When Dr Aliya O’Henry meets Professor Jack Larrimore, there is an inextricable bond. Baby Star’s arrival brings them together in facing their inhibitions which have been an obstacle in moving forward and finding love. Aliya’s loss and Professor Larrimore’s abandonment, are issues they must resolve before they succumb to the inevitable attraction.
Bitter Sweet Symphony is a sweet romance filled with angst and compassion, the endearment of parenthood and it resonates on the lyrical innocence of love found within the four-part harmony of music. Dr Aliya and Professor Larrimore learn the lesson of never overlapping the past with the future, when the future is a beautiful gift.
About Fiona Khan
Fiona Khan has been lauded with many awards and accolades as an author, poet, environmentalist and in spreading Language, Literacy and Literature. Her short stories, poems and articles have been published in many literary magazines around the world. She has 20 titles to her name and has won many awards over the past 27 years for her leadership and penship. Fiona has written the first HIV/Aids book with emotional intelligence for children, a book that is fully illustrated.
Fiona is the founder of the Global Forum 4 Literacy specialising in free digital and mobile downloads of literature and literacy in many languages, globally. The Global Forum 4 Literacy has now become a brand to be reckoned with as the forum was presented at the UNESCO conference for 2018 as part of the Creative Cities Network and has now collaborated with StoryWeaver in translating books into different languages on a digital platform.
Sena Ewuram’s upcoming travels will take her far away from the man her father saved from his abusive uncle. The same one who sees her as surrogate sister category rather than a love interest. The opportunity to leave Ghana to further her education should help cure her of those unrequited feelings.
Jewellery designer, Yiko Ayoma, would never betray the man who helped him survive. Falling in love with his mentor’s daughter is something he can’t help but is doing his best to resist acting on. When tragedy strikes on Valentine’s Day, both are tested and must each decide which is more important, their friendship or taking the risk to be more.
About Nana Prah
Nana Prah first discovered romance in a book from her eight-grade summer reading list and has been obsessed with it ever since. Her fascination with love inspired her to write in her favourite genre where happily-ever-after is the rule.
She is a published author of contemporary, multicultural romances. Her books are sweet with a touch of spice. When she’s not writing she’s, over-indulging in chocolate, enjoying life with friends and family, and tormenting nursing students into being the best nurses the world has ever seen.
She’s a big-bodied beauty with weight issues. He’s a dreamy hunk with an unsavoury agenda.
For the first twelve years of her life, Amaka Dilibe lived in an orphanage, abandoned by her mother. Now she has finally achieved success with her home décor business.
Life should be great. Only, it isn’t.
Full-figured Amaka has been the butt of jokes for a long time. Dumped and humiliated by her ex-boyfriend because of her weight, she’s eager for a change.
She enrols in a weight-loss boot-camp owned by Tiago Omole, a coffee-skinned, bearded hottie with a penchant for wearing t-shirts with funny slogans.
Amaka is blown away the first time she sees Tiago. Dreamy. Yummy. Yes, please.
Facing the loss of the business he’s worked hard for, Tiago is desperate too. And when someone presents him with a way out: seduce Amaka and get her to give you money, he is sorely tempted.
Should he do it? After all, it’s just sex, isn’t it?
What could go wrong?
About Sable Rose
Hi, my name is Sable Rose and I revel in being different. I’m a romance writer and the author of erotic M/F contemporary and paranormal romances and action adventures.
My books feature outspoken, independent and intelligent women who know what they want (and what they don’t want), and who are not afraid to make the first move to get their man, if they have to. Their men are always swoon-worthy hunks, each a blend of naughty and nice that women find so irresistible.
My passion is writing and I write only what my characters tell me to write. I write morning, afternoon, night. Who needs sleep? Yes, I’m a writing addict.
In between writing-phew-I also read-a lot. And watches lots of TV and movies. I love dancing, listening to great music and I dream of one day being able to find time to learn both pole-dancing and belly dancing.
I adore traveling, and have visited over 15 countries and have formed friendships with people of varying cultures. I use these experiences to craft my stories.
I live in Lagos, Nigeria. No dogs yet. Definitely, no cats…
Ama Sarfoa believes in love, though she hasn’t been lucky at it. She returns to college for a master’s degree after being on the work force for five years. Three chance encounters in one day with a handsome stranger has her entertaining thoughts of him being Mr. Right.
Until he turns out to be one of her professors.
Adinkra Kusi-Andoh has been burned by love before, but his student, Ama, stirs desires in him he’d long given up on feeling again. However, she’s his student and their relationship skirts the fringes of professional ethics. Yet as Valentine’s Day approaches, he can’t help but as her out on a date.
When their budding relationship threatens his career, Adinkra has to choose between saving his career and the woman he loves. Will he give up on love or risk it all for the woman his heart desires?
About Empi Baryeh
Empi Baryeh is the award-winning author of Most Eligible Bachelor (Book of the year, 2017 Ufere Awards). She writes sweet and sensual African, multicultural and interracial romance, which happens to be her favourite genres of romance to read. Her interest in writing started around the age of thirteen after she stumbled upon a YA story her sister had started and abandoned. The story fascinated her so much that, when she discovered it was unfinished, she knew she had to complete it. Somehow the rest of the story began to take shape in her mind and she’s been writing ever since. She lives in Accra, Ghana, with her husband and their two lovely kids.
So, I was going through my old manuscript notes and came across a deleted scene from Starting Over again. I loved this flashback scene, but my beta readers and my editor felt it was unnecessary and the story could be better told not as a flashback but in conversation.
I struggled with letting go, but I eventually deleted this scene. This is the conversation between Efe and Onome when she discovered they both carried the sickle cell gene that they could pass on to their children if they had kids.
It’s not edited, so be gentle. Since I couldn’t share it in the novel, I’ll share it here. I hope you enjoy it.
Do you agree it should have been deleted?
Fejiro lay in the hospital bed grunting in pain. Two catheters, hanging on each side of the bed, transferred saline from drip bags into each of her arms. Onome glanced at her daughter helplessly and then turned to watch the nurse draw up a liquid medication slowly into a syringe. The nurse had a bland and bored facial expression.
“Ahhhh!” Fejiro groaned as another jolt of pain travelled through her bones.
“Nurse, please hurry up!” Onome cried, her own body quaking as if she was also experiencing the pain her daughter felt.
The nurse neither looked up nor hastened her movements. Onome sighed and held tightly onto Fejiro’s hand.
“Shhhh, darling, soon you’ll have your morphine…soon,” she crooned, tears clouding her vision. She had been through this with her daughter so many times. Bone-pain crises. Fejiro groaned again and Onome felt her stomach twist. She watched her daughter writhe in bed, her eyes slightly yellow and rolled to the back, her face contorted in pain.
“Nurse, please,” Onome pleaded.
“Madam, please… I don’t want to make a mistake,” the nurse admonished Onome, taking another smaller bottle from the top of a silver table beside the bed and drawing up clear fluid into another syringe as slowly as she did the first time.
Onome glanced at the overweight middle-aged nurse in a tight white uniform that threatened to burst with any sudden movement. The woman was so stoic and emotionless. As if a little girl was not in severe pain beside her. Onome hated this hospital. The consultant doctors were rarely present and only showed up in the mornings for short ward rounds with a few naive looking trainee doctors hovering around them as if they were gods. And the nurses were downright mean. Detached and sluggish. Like the one standing beside her now.
A few seconds later, the nurse held the syringe towards Fejiro. Onome watched as the nurse took Fejiro’s limp hand in hers. She opened the cannula at the end of the tube attached to Fejiro’s arm and pushed the drug into the cannula with the syringe. Picking up the other syringe containing clear fluid, she flushed the fluid through the tube before she shut the cannula. Onome sighed with relief; soon her daughter will be pain free and asleep. Even if it lasted for only two hours.
“I’ll come back to check on her in an hour,” the nurse said to Onome as she disposed of the contents of the table into a yellow bin with a tight white lid.
“Thanks,” Onome muttered, although she didn’t feel thankful. It had taken an hour for Fejiro to be admitted because of all the paperwork involved and they had wanted Onome to pay the deposit first before providing the bed for admission. All the while, Fejiro sat in the waiting room grunting in pain.
“No problem, it is well,” the nurse said as she waddled out of the room.
Onome drew the curtains to the cubicle to provide some privacy for her and Fejiro.
“It is well.” Onome loathed that phrase. Everybody used it these days. No, it was not well; her daughter was lying in bed riddled with pain. Tears burned the back of her eyes but she pushed them in. She wouldn’t cry. Fejiro needed to see her in control and not falling apart.
“Mummy, I’m sleepy,” Fejiro mumbled, her eyes glazed and unfocused.
“Yes, baby, that’s a good sign,” Onome responded, squeezing her hand. “It’s a good sign, my princess. No more pain.”
“No more pain,” Fejiro repeated slowly, and seconds later, she was fast asleep. Onome sat there by the bed, still holding Fejiro’s frail hand, watching the slow rise and fall of her chest as she slept.
This was Fejiro’s third bone pain crisis this year. Onome felt a sense of guilt. Just like she did every time Fejiro was in hospital attached to drips and groaning in pain. Pain from the blood in her veins crumpling and starving her bones of nourishment. This was no life for a seven-year-old, she should be out there playing with her friends, exploring the world, being a child.
Onome drew in a short breath and fought back tears. It was all her fault. She knew this was a possibility when she married Efe. But she was so in love, and so hopeful, and so blind. Everyone else saw this coming, but at the time, she couldn’t see past the love she had for Efe.
“No more pain,” Onome whispered, stroking Fejiro’s hand. “I’ll give up everything so you have no more pain.” Onome sighed and reclined into her seat, her mind drifting off to the time when she and Efe discovered that they both carried the sickle cell gene.
“What is it?” Onome asked, immediately concerned. Onome was watching TV in the sitting room of Efe’s rented two-bedroom apartment at Ring Road in Benin City, when he walked in with a bleak look on his face. They had been engaged for two weeks, and although Onome was elated at being engaged to Efe, she had kept the news from everyone in her family. She was afraid of how her father would react if she married someone who did not share his religious beliefs
“What is it?” Onome asked again, when Efe did not respond. The worried expression on his face caused Onome’s gut to tighten.
“We are both sickle cell carriers, Onome,” he muttered, handing her two pieces of paper.
Onome’s heart skipped a beat. She stared at the blood test results in shock. She and Efe had never talked about their genotypes before. It was a topic that never came up. They had only done the blood tests because it was a compulsory practice in the catholic church which Efe attended. It was to ensure the intending bride and groom were healthy and to check for their genotype. Since she had decided to marry in the Catholic Church so that Efe didn’t have to face her father’s religious bigotry, she had readily complied. Never in a million years had she anticipated this.
“There is a chance that we could have a very sick child, a child with sickle cell disease. We can’t get married, Onome.” Efe went on, obviously distraught.
“No,” Onome cried, fear gripping her insides. “Please don’t say that. Let’s think …please…”
“Onome, we can’t… we could have a sick child if we do…”
“That’s just a possibility… we could also have healthy children!”
She broke out into a cold sweat. “We can’t throw our love away just because of the possibility that we may have a sick child… I love you!”
“I’m sorry, I can’t… I have a cousin who is a sickler… I can’t put someone else through that.”
With that statement left hanging, Efe ran out as fast as he could, leaving Onome in his sitting room with tears in her eyes.
A week later, Efe visited Onome in her family home for the first time in the four years that they had been dating.
“I tried to keep away from you, Onome, but I can’t. I love you,” he said, as soon as she opened the door.
“Oh, Efe, I was so scared that I had lost you!” Onome cried, jumping into his arms. They kissed passionately by the front door.
When Onome finally broke the news to her family that she was engaged to Efe, all hell broke loose. Her father yelled and her mother pleaded with her to see reason.
“God himself doesn’t want you to be together! Not only is he not a member of the true faith, Cherubim and Seraphim, but you both also carry the sickle cell gene!” Onome’s father yelled. “I will not support this marriage! If you marry him, you are not my daughter anymore!”
“I don’t care,” Onome retorted.
“Please, Onome, listen to your father,” her mother pleaded, dropping to her knees and begging Onome. “You are my only daughter… please.” Onome looked away from her mother. She couldn’t afford to lose Efe. She just couldn’t.
“Shut up!” her father thundered, standing up from the sofa. “What do you know about love? Is that what I sent you to University to do? Parade yourself like a prostitute?” His eyes sparked and his nostrils flared. “If you marry that man, you are not my daughter!”
“I love Efe, I can’t live without him.”
“Well, I’m sorry to hear that… but I have made up my mind.”
Onome packed her belongings and moved into Efe’s small rented flat that night. Her mother and brother called her phone repeatedly that entire week, pleading with her to reconsider her decision. But Onome couldn’t see past her love for Efe. She had devoted five whole years to him. She couldn’t suddenly stop loving him just because they both carried a faulty sickle cell gene that they could or could not pass on to their children.
“Onome, please listen to dad and mum,” Tobore, her brother, said to her two weeks later. He had taken a night bus from his University at Port Harcourt to reason with her.
“Tobore, I love Efe. We love each other. I can’t live without him.”
“Even though you know you may have a sick child if you marry him?”
“We could both do IVF, or maybe not even have children.”
“Listen to what you are saying, Onome. This time, I agree with daddy. This is not about his usual religious bullshit. This is about a very important decision. You are making a decision that may affect an unborn child. A child that has no say in the matter. Born to be sick and suffer with pain, just because of decisions you have made.” Onome silently considered her brother’s statement.
“I’ll think about it,” she said, sorrow choking her throat.
She did. She really did. However, that night when Efe came home from work, she took one look at him and realised she didn’t want to spend her life without him next to her. Even if it meant not having a baby.
They eloped to get married two weeks later. It was a small court wedding with Voke as a witness. They also moved to Lagos a few weeks after that. True to her father’s words, he cut her off from his life and threatened to disown any of her siblings who kept in contact with her or Efe. He did not soften his stance even after Fejiro was born. Tobore, her only sibling bold enough to defy their father to keep in touch with her, told her that their father often referred to Fejiro as a cursed child.
Onome held Fejiro’s hand as she slept. She could not help but feel responsible for her child’s illness. She had researched frantically for a cure. Although she knew about bone marrow transplant and had gone as far as checking to see if she was a match for Fejiro, she worried about Fejiro going through such a dangerous medical treatment. That plan had abruptly come to an end. Apart from finding out that she was not a match, the procedure was also very expensive and Onome simply could not afford it. Nonetheless, she still hoped that sometime in the future, there would be a cure for the disease, something that did not involve having to transplant blood cells from a donor and medications for life to prevent the body rejecting those cells.
Onome was active on sickle cell websites and always keen on getting new information about the disease. One day, she vowed, Fejiro would be free of this disease. There was still hope.
“Mummy, I’m hungry.” Fejiro’s soft voice alerted Onome. She glanced at her daughter and saw her eyes had fluttered open.
“Oh, my baby. You are awake,” she muttered, squeezing Fejiro’s hand. “I’m glad you are hungry. It’s a good sign.”
Fejiro smiled weakly. “I want ice-cream.” Onome laughed. Fejiro always loved to have Strawberry ice-cream whenever she was ill.
“Okay, baby, I’ll get some from the shop opposite the hospital,” Onome said, standing up from the chair. She stretched, attempting to soothe the kinks in her muscles caused by sitting in one position for so long. She had been sitting by Fejiro’s bedside for three hours without rising to do anything.
“Thanks, mum.” Fejiro quipped, and Onome’s chest constricted. She was happy to hear the excitement in Fejiro’s voice.
“Will be back in less than thirty minutes.” Onome left the ward and headed towards the nurse’s station to inform them that she was leaving Fejiro for a few minutes. There was a young female nurse seated in the small cubicle, reading a romance novel with half-dressed models on the cover.
“I am headed to the shop to get something for my daughter Fejiro. She is in bed nine,” Onome informed the nurse, who acknowledged her statement with a barely audible mumble without looking up from her novel.
Swallowing back the irritated retort that threatened to burst from her throat, Onome added, “Please ring my mobile phone if she needs me before I’m back.”
“Okay, ma,” the nurse responded nonchalantly, still not bothering to look up from her book.
Onome shook her head as she walked out of the hospital. She really wanted to give the nurse a piece of her mind, force some compassion into her. However, she resisted that impulse. There was no point in antagonizing the staff, it would only make them much more difficult. And Onome didn’t want that for Fejiro.
As she walked into the sunshine, Onome inhaled deeply as she glanced at the InlandGovernmenthospital sign hoisted boldly on the top of the white three story-building complex. One day, she hoped, Fejiro wouldn’t have to be stuck in hospitals. One day, she wouldn’t have to deal with rude nurses. One day, there would be a cure for sickle cell disease.
It’s an honour to be nominated alongside other awesome authors. This is a dream come true. I started my journey after another wonderful author, Tolulope Popoola, encouraged me to dust off my manuscripts and go for it. Since then, I haven’t looked back.
Thanks for buying my books, reading them, talking about them and reviewing them. I’m grateful for all your support.
Now, I need your votes to get this award. Please click the link below to vote. Thanks.
I have been named one of the 100 Most Influential Nigerian Writers Under 40 by the Nigerian Writers Awards (NWA) 2018
It’s been an amazing journey and I feel grateful to everyone that has been a part of my writing journey including all my readers and people who contact me to encourage me to keep at it. To be on a list with writers whose books I have read and people I admire is humbling. Thanks to the Nigerian Writers Awards for taking out time to put up this list. Most of all I’m grateful to God who blessed me with a family that supports me through all this.
This has been an amazing year. And this is like icing on a cake to keep me encouraged.
Never give up!
Looking forward to seeing more readers and new African Romance writers next year.
Please click the link below to view the full list.