FESTIVE SERIES: Forever Christmas by Karo Oforofuo #holidayromance #freereads @Pelleura

Welcome to the Love Africa Book Club Festive series. From now until the end of the year we will be sharing our specially selected stories celebrating love during African festivities. These stories are about hope and joy and goodwill. Of course, they are all love stories and include happy endings.


Next up is Forever Christmas by Karo Oforofuo. This story is wonderfully nostalgic and took me to a happy place. It reminded me of my teenage years. The excitement of visiting the hometown during festivities and spending time with people I don’t see the rest of the year. Ese and Alfred are much older than I was in those days, but their love story is certainly relatable. I hope you enjoy this.


Read, comment, like and share.


Love, Kiru xx




***

Copyright © Karo Oforofuo, Love Africa Press, 2020 All rights reserved.

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored or transmitted in any form by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in reviews.

This is a work of fiction. Names, places, events, and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.



BLURB

Ese is heartbroken after a breakup with Alfred, the man she loved most in the world, and totally disconnects from him.

One year later, she makes it home to be with her family for Christmas and join in the yearly neighbourhood celebrations. She knows Alfred will be home too but she doesn't want to see him.

Her sister, Grace, thinks otherwise. She takes it upon herself to plan a setup for her sister's best Christmas gift ever.


Ese Efeti read the text message for the umpteenth time that evening, and still, she didn’t know what to make of it.

Oneyear since she ended her relationship with Alfred Obaro.

She had refused to pick his calls or reply to his text messages and even went as far as blocking him on all her social media accounts.

For a year, she had heard nothing from him, and she was ok with it. She didn’t want him convincing her to go back to his cheating backside.

Life had been generous to her, and she was doing well for herself. Her day-care centre registered over a hundred more children during the year, and she hired 10 extra hands to provide adequate care to the kids.

Thank God for busy Abuja parents. She prayed for their businesses and jobs to grow and keep them gainfully occupied every day so she could continue to cater to the kids.

She started the day-care centre about the same time she broke off with Alfred. She had planned to push it forward before, but since she didn’t want to feel terrible and all alone, she kicked off immediately. Not only did it help her overcome her heartbreak faster, but it also helped her finances pick up, and she felt fulfilled.

When Ese had been with Alfred, he took care of her financial needs, which had made her uncomfortable.

But with her day-care centre flourishing, she felt like she had all the powers in the world; self-confident, self-made.

She had tried another relationship during the year. It lasted only a month because she got fed up with the emotional blackmail.

It made her miss Alfred every day; the way he kissed her, cuddled her, cracked jokes with her and mostly made her feel like a queen being worshipped. Mostly, he could just look at her and know what she was thinking.

There were days she wished he hadn’t done what he’d done. They would have been together, maybe even married now. She loved his wit, his features, his intelligence, his care, and advice. His lovemaking had been the bomb. She especially loved how he buried his head between her legs, making her weak with excitement.

Ese was sure no man on earth could satisfy her as he had done.

Why did he have to be an ass?

She looked at the text message again.


Hi love, my phone got stolen, and I lost your contact, that’s why you haven’t heard from me. I just recently got it again. I heard from Grace you’ll be home for Christmas. I hope to be too. Can we see and talk? Please? I miss you. I miss us.


Alfred


Ese sighed and placed her phone on the bedside drawer. She pulled her blanket over her head to reduce the effects of the harmattan cold and drown out the Christmas carol blasting from across the street. Still, the message continued to ring in her head.

Alfred was one of the best boyfriends she ever dated. Sure, he had his flaws, but he loved her. He did everything for her, and she reciprocated his love in a lot of ways.

She remembered the last time they made love. They were both watching a late-night movie. She laid beside him on the tiled floor and rested her head directly on his groin with her hand, stroking his cap through his boxers. That must have turned him on because she felt his hand slide down over her backside. His fingers teased her inner thighs, and she had separated her legs some more, allowing his finger to find her clit.

Things moved quickly from there. She was soon arced over, moaning in ecstasy as Alfred pounded into her steadily from behind.

Their lovemaking was sometimes crazy, gentle, or just outright adventurous. She had made him promise, several times, that she’d be the only one he made love to.

So, the day she caught an almost naked fair-skinned model on him in his office, grinding away on his shaft, she wasn’t sure if to scream and throw insults. Well, she wasn’t the vulgar type, so she yelled instead. But she was more shocked at his nonchalant attitude despite being caught pants down.

She stormed out of the office, and he didn’t go after her, perhaps he was more interested in satisfying himself and his model friend.

It was four hours after she had soaked her pillow with tears, that he called her, not to apologise, but to ask her to dinner.

Her tongue was let loose then, and she rained insults on him before asking him to go back to his model friend. She cut the call and blacklisted his number. One year later, lying on her bed, she wished she had let him explain himself before blacklisting him.

If there was anything she hated, though, it was cheating. And she had told him. Why, then did he do it? Was she not good enough for him, or what?

Ese sighed and rolled on her side. Knowing that she was no longer with Alfred, her sister, Grace, would have a lot of explaining to do when she gets home. She had put her luggage together in preparation for her trip to Benin City first thing in the morning. Christmas was only three days away, and it had always been a tradition to celebrate together as a family, and with the neighbours.

***

The trip to Benin City was all shades of fun and hell; fun because the passengers all shared funny and scary Christmas stories, and torture because the bus was sluggish. But Ese was grateful to arrive in one piece. She took a cab straight to her father’s house in Trade Fair.

It was 7:56 pm when she got to her neighbourhood. The streets were decorated with Christmas lights, Christmas songs emanated from different houses, knockouts and bangers rocked the night air, and the harmattan cold was double.

Home sweet home. Ese thought. But when the cab drove past Alfred’s family house, she was no longer sure home would be lovely this Christmas. Not only did she spot Alfred standing in front of the compound, but there was also a woman with him who looked very much like the model she caught with him in his office.

Christmas period at the hometown was always fun. In the past years, her neighbours never missed the opportunity to return for the celebration.

She looked forward to a great Christmas too, but the sight she saw a few seconds back killed her morale. Since Alfred brought the model home, he had introduced her to his family. Perhaps, wedding bells were on the way.

So why did he want to talk to her? What was he going to say? That he didn’t know he loved another woman?

When she left Abuja, she wasn’t sure she wanted to talk to him. Now that she was home, she was very sure she wouldn’t even set eyes on him. There was just no point opening old wounds. Already she was starting to feel terrible, and she needed it to stop.

The cab driver pulled to a halt five minutes later, in front of a massive black gate. Ese paid his fee, stepped out of the cab with her belongings, and knocked on the gate as the cab drove off.

A minute went by before she heard approaching steps from within the compound. She listened to the bolt pull back, and the gate flew open.

“Hey!” Grace yelled in excitement and pulled her into a tight embrace. “Why didn’t you call to tell me you were close by? I’d have unlocked the gate and waited right here,” she said, helping with the luggage.

“This area has always been safe, I have nothing to fear,” Ese grinned. “You got in early. How’s Lagos?”

“Lagos is great. If not for the fact that mom and dad love for us to spend Christmas as a family, I’d have preferred to be in Lagos right now, making a hell of a Christmas sales.”

“I know. Businesswoman,” Ese teased.

She laughed. “You know me. So, I’m guessing you’ve closed the day-care for the year.

“Yes. I have. Besides, the kids are with their family this period, so there’s nothing to do.”

“True. Perhaps you can start a side business next year, something to fetch you extra cash whenever your kids are back with their parents. With that, you still have money rolling in, regardless,” Grace suggested.

“Businesswoman. Business advisor,” Ese said, chuckling. Grace joined her.

They got into the sitting room where her parents were watching the evening news.

“Daddy, digwor sir. Mummy, digwor, ma,” Ese curtsied.

“Vrendo!” Her parents answered randomly.

“Welcome home. See how chubby my daughter has become,” Mr Efeti said as he stood to hug his daughter.

“I don’t see anything chubby here,” her mother countered, looking her over before pulling her into a hug.

Ese laughed.

Her parents had not stopped countering each other. It seemed to be their best choice of fun.

“Well, I added a little tiny weight,” she said.

“There’s nothing little or tiny about it,” her father said, grinning, “Abuja is certainly good for you.”

“Ah, ah, daddy!”

“Stop letting your father deceive you, my dear. You added nothing,” her mother said.

“But why, mom?”

“Am I not seeing you with my eyes? Besides, you know our young men these days love lots of flesh,” she winked.

“Ah! Mummy, please don’t start, I’m just coming from a long journey.”

“Of course, my baby. Just know we’ll have that discussion after you’ve taken your rest.”

“Nooooooooooo,” Ese giggled. “I came for Christmas celebration, and that’s what we’re going to be talking about.”

While Grace helped take her bags to the bedroom, Ese dropped on one of the sitting room couches, catching up with her parents and answering their questions.

It was about an hour later she left to freshen up and take dinner before retiring for the night in Grace’s room. As the only siblings, they made it a habit to spend nights in each other’s rooms whenever they were home. It gave them time to talk about a lot of things, and that night wasn’t different.

It was past midnight, and they had already said their goodnights when a message dropped in Ese’s phone. She swiped up on the phone screen and the message displayed in full.

Hi dear, hope you’re doing great? I didn’t get a reply from you yesterday. How have you been? Will you still be able to make it for Christmas? I do miss you. I miss our discussions, our friendship, our jokes, your kisses, and lovemaking. I love you so much. Please don’t leave me hanging. Please.


Alfred.


Ese swallowed. Her heart raced because of the words, ‘love-making’. She suddenly wanted to feel him again, but she quickly shook off the images already forming in her head.

She turned to Grace, who was already backing her. “Grace, why in the world did you give my number to Alfred?”

Grace turned over. “And what’s wrong with that?” She asked, looking perplexed.

“You know I broke up with him and you know why I did that…”

“The guy just wants to talk to you, sis. I believe there’s a lot of misunderstanding to clear-up. I can’t tell you. He has to do that, it’s why I gave him your number.”

“I hate you right now!

“I love you, sis,” Grace replied, blowing her a kiss. “Don’t worry, I have a good feeling you would thank me later.”

“I will not! And please don’t give anyone my number again. Also, don’t you dare tell him I’m around. I will fight you.”

“And I’ll hug you, sis. You deserve the best,” Grace giggled and turned back on her side.

Ese felt terrible. Grace always had a way of making her feel stupid by laughing off her threats and going on to do what she says she would.

“Whatever happens, please, I beg you not to tell Alfred I’m around. That’s all I ask,” she pleaded.

“No problem, sis. I won’t.”

“Thank you,” Ese said, resting her head peacefully on the pillow. It wasn’t long afterwards she slept off.

***

It was daybreak when she woke up with a start. Her heart pounded against her fragile chest as she swallowed and looked over at Grace’s side. Empty.

She sighed. Her mind couldn’t erase the pictures from her dream. It was crazy, but she was with Alfred, making passionate love. It reminded her of his kisses, his caresses, and everything else about his lovemaking.

She swallowed again. It was a regular occurrence to dream about whatever she pondered on before bedtime. Still, she didn’t ponder on Adams, at least not in that way. Why then was she with him in her dreams, moaning and lifting her hips towards his thrusts?

Could it be because I thought about it earlier?

“Hey, you’re up!” Grace said, coming into the bedroom.

Ese looked in her direction. It was only then she realised the door was ajar.

“Yes, I’m up. Good morning.”

“Good morning, sis. You slept well?” She asked, grinning from ear to ear.

“Yeah, I did. Thanks. What’s with the wide grin? What prizes did you win today?” Ese asked with a playful frown.

“Well, I went out to check what our neighbourhood committee put in place for the celebrations. Wow! It’s going to be mad fun!”

“What exactly did they put in place this time?”

“I can’t tell you. You have to see it. Meanwhile, we need to get to the market. I asked Fegor to go to the market yesterday, she bought a lot of things we need for cooking, but we need to get some catfishes since we’re presenting pepper soup.”

“Since Fegor went yesterday, she can also go today, yes?”

Grace chuckled. “Since when did you become a big baby? Fegor is helping with the chicken and turkey already. We can’t leave everything to her. Mom has taken dad out for the day. You know how they do.”

Ese smiled. Her parents had made it a habit to take each other out every festive season. Her mom always chose to take her dad out starting from Christmas eve, and her dad took mom out starting from new year eve.

Love. Something she wished was easy to come by.

Ese flung the blanket off and walked into the bathroom lazily. She was glad to be temporarily distracted from her dreams even though deep down, she wished it was real.

The next 45 minutes saw her outside, where she met Grace sitting in the car with one leg out.

“You ready?” She asked.

“Yes.”

Taking the wheel, Grace drove out of the compound while Ese locked the gate and joined her outside. She gasped in pleasant surprise at the decorated field opposite the house. Round tables with 4 chairs each, dotted the arena. The stage for the music band was set aside as a team of young girls worked on the decorations.

“I have a feeling Christmas is going to be fun for this neighbourhood,” she said as soon as she stepped into the car.

Grace nodded in agreement. “Yes, and much more. I have a feeling our boys’ quarters will be useful tonight. I asked Fegor to clean it up.”

Ese shot up her brows. “And why’s that?

“Well, just preparations,” she said with a mischievous grin.

Ese shook her head. Grace was up to whatever plans she had for the night.

The short ride to Yanga Market gave Ese a glimpse of the Christmas decorations along the Ekenwan road axis; eateries, banks and even small businesses were not left out. But the road remained as dusty and dry as ever, thanks to the harmattan breeze.

The market was no different, with so many people rushing to get their last-minute shopping done. The ladies bought a half-basin of catfishes and a small pail of shrimps, before driving off to a supermarket for a few personal items.

Back home, they spent the afternoon putting up a few Christmas lights around the compound and in the sitting room. And by evening, they helped Fegor in the kitchen to prepare dinner, while she focused on the pepper soup.

At 8:10 pm, music emanated from the speakers and voices could be heard from the field across their home.

“Our neighbours are gathering,” their mum said as she walked into the kitchen, looking gorgeous in a full-neck sweater and jeans pants.

“Is that why you’re looking gorgeous tonight?” Ese winked.

“Exactly. And I intend to have a lot of fun tonight. Your daddy is dragging his feet. Well, I’m dragging him out with me. You girls finish up with the soup in time.”

“Yes, ma,” they replied randomly.

“How many people are we expecting?” Ese asked after their mum and dad had left to join the party.

“I don’t know. Some people from other streets will attend, and those around will invite their friends. So, I’m just going to work with 100 mouths. And then I’ll keep a back-up. In case,” Grace said.

Ese sighed. “I love that we celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas itself with the neighbours every year, but it is beginning to get stressful.”

“Nothing stressful about it, jor. It’s fun. We’re only taking pepper soup. Others are bringing rice, small chops, drinks, swallow, you name it. Don’t forget it’s dusk till dawn. Plenty of fun!”

“I would prefer to curl up in bed and just sleep.”

“Hmmm… we do this to celebrate Christ and each other. You will agree this tradition has brought us more unity and peace in this neighbourhood. And it has helped us meet a lot of wonderful people.”

“Yeah, I know. One of the parents who referred other parents to my day-care came around last Christmas to spend time with his brother who lives in the area. It so happened he joined the neighbourhood celebrations, and that’s how he knew me. I didn’t realise I was so noticeable.”

“You are, sis. Don’t forget how you met Alfred,” Grace teased.

“Can we leave Alfred out of our conversations?”

“Nope! He loves you.”

“You can marry him for yourself.”

“I would if he loved me.”

“You’re supposed to be on your sister’s side, but of course, it seems someone has been bought,” Ese accused, rolling her eyes. She wished it was true that Alfred still loved her. Deep down, she loved him, but she couldn’t overlook his cheating.

They wrapped up cooking at 9:00 pm and started to prepare for the night party. Before rushing into the bathroom, Ese offered Fegor one of her lovely thick blouses and jeans for the night, while Grace helped style her hair.

Ese was just wrapping up her bath when she heard Grace call out to her

“Hurry up, sis, we’re waiting for you,”.

“Yes, ma,” she replied.

The next thirty minutes saw her dressed casually in blue jeans and a brown V-neck long-sleeve blouse. She threw a thick sweater around her shoulders, packed her braided hair into a ponytail, and applied light make-up before putting on a flat cover shoe.

“Grace,” she called as she walked into the sitting room. She paused. Her heart skipped, and she frowned. “What are you doing here?

Alfred got to his feet, smiling. “Hi. Happy Christmas.”

“That does not answer my question.”

He swallowed. “Ok. It’s great to see you again, though. Grace was going out, she told me you were in, and she let me sit here to wait for you. I wanted to be the one to escort you out for the celebrations.”

Ese