FESTIVE SERIES: His Christmas Promise by Stanley Umezulike #holidayromance #freereads @Stanumezulike
Welcome to the Love Africa Book Club Festive series. 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 His Christmas Promise by Stanley Umezulike. This story delivered everything I wanted in a Christmas story. Firstly, the emotional conflict was spot-on. Amara’s plight—not knowing what had happened to her military husband and if he was going to come home—had my stomach in knots. The issue of frontline personnel in the Nigerian Armed Forces who fight to protect the country under challenging conditions and limited resources brought a dose of reality. Then there was the cuteness factor of a precocious child. To top it off, Stanley brought the heat in the sensual reunion.
As I said, this story ticked all the boxes for me—heart-warming, feel-good, sensual, the festive backdrop and a happy ending I can believe in—and as such wins the Editor’s Choice for the 2020 LABC Festive series. Congrats to Stanley.
I hope you enjoy this.
Read, comment, like and share.
Love, Kiru xx
Copyright © Stanley Umezulike, 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.
Amara Anozie heard the sound of a car and peeped through the half-open window, but it was not him. As she looked away, a deep pain washed over her, and she blinked back tears. The early Saturday morning sun slithered through the door and blocked her vision. She looked away and turned around to enter the living room. Her heart raced when she saw her four years old daughter, Chinaza, staring at her with curious eyes.
“Chinaza, I didn’t hear when you entered the living room. I thought you were in your room.”
The young girl shook her head. Unshed tears reached Amara’s eyes. Her daughter had been watching her all the while she’d been staring through the window.
“Mum, why do you always stand by the window every morning?”
Amara raised her brow, and her face grew hot with embarrassment. She’d been caught.
Not surprising, though. Her daughter reminded her of Ikenna with his keen observations and quick wit.
“Mum, will dad come home this Christmas?”
The question snatched her away from her deep thoughts, and she stiffened. She didn’t dare to look into her daughter’s eyes and tell her the truth.
But what was the truth?
Today was the twenty-first day of December. Ikenna had not returned home yet, and he’d promised he would be back in the last letter he sent in August.
This was how he’d been promising he’d be back for the past four years, wasn’t it?
She met her daughter’s gaze and a sharp pain cut through her chest. She wanted to say “No, he won’t come back” but instead said, “Come here, my Naza.”
Her daughter approached. She hugged her tight, staying in the warm embrace for a minute longer.
A well of emotions surged through Amara, and she allowed the tears to fall.
“He will. I’m sure, he will,” she whispered into her daughter’s ears.
Amara stared at the wall clock and gasped. It was already ten in the morning. “Let me prepare breakfast for us. Your favourite.”
Her daughter’s face brightened into a smile. With the renewed lightness of heart that Naza’s smiles always brought, Amara left her in the living room and went to the kitchen. She needed to get herself busy and stop thinking about him. And stop waiting forever.
But as she scrambled the eggs, tears dropped from her eyes and splashed across her cheeks.
Something must have gone wrong, and the Nigerian military was deceiving her.
She’d been married to Colonel Ikenna Anozie for the past five years. Ikenna was a soldier in the Nigerian Army. They’d met at her friend, Sarah’s wedding. Then Amara was working as an editor at a publishing firm in Lagos. Sarah worked at the same office with her and had invited her to the wedding. Ikenna was one of the men in suit and Amara was one of the bridesmaids. They met and clicked right away. They started a relationship that led to marriage one year later.
She loved Ikenna with her whole heart. He was her life, her oxygen. If anything happened to him, her world would fall apart, and their daughter would never get to know what a lovely man he was.
The last time Ikenna came home was during Christmas season four years ago. Ikenna had been working at the military base in the 81st Division, Lagos Island, at the time. She’d just given birth to their daughter, Chinaza and was on maternity leave. With three months vacation, he’d stayed with her and the baby throughout the holidays until the following February. It had been a fantastic bonding period for the young family. The memories were forever etched in her mind.
But their happiness had been cut short on February 15th. Ikenna had been informed by his superiors that he’d been deployed to North-Eastern Nigeria to fight the Boko Haram insurgency.
She still remembered the taste of his goodbye kiss on her lips. Since then, she’d not seen him.
After giving birth to Chinaza, she’d started working part time at her publishing firm to enable her raise their daughter. He’d missed out on seeing their baby grow into an intelligent young girl with deep piercing eyes and a sharp mind just like his.
He’d been sending letters telling her of how he was deployed from one assignment to another. In his letters, he spoke highly of the Federal Government’s commitment to winning the war against the terrorists. That was her husband. He loved his country so much and had given her everything he had.
His last letter brought news of his promotion to the colonel rank and a promise of his return home during the Christmas season.
Oh, God, she missed him so much. She missed seeing his warm smile, the taste of his lips on hers and his gentle touch.
She wanted to rest her head on his broad chest. Needed him to sink himself inside her and make her feel like a woman again.
“Ikenna, where are you?” she muttered into the empty kitchen. Her face tightened into a frown.
Ikenna had always sent a letter every month. He’d never failed.
Why hadn’t she received any letters from him since August?
At first, she thought the military made a mistake in their postal address. Did they send the letter to the wrong place? She’d left her publishing firm at Lekki and had gone to the Barracks at Ikeja to lay a complaint. But they’d told her that the records were correct. They promised to forward letters from her husband once they received them.
Why had Ikenna stopped communicating to her? Didn’t he want to know about his wife and daughter?
No, her Ikenna would never do that.
As conflicting thoughts swirled through her mind and almost drove her crazy, two questions kept plaguing her. What happened to Ikenna? What was the military hiding from her?
Throughout the year, she’d watched as three wives of soldiers who lived nearby received the dreaded letters that notified them their husbands died in the line of duty.
She had comforted her neighbour, Temitope, when she received news that her husband was killed in an ambush laid by Boko Haram terrorists. Temitope had been inconsolable and refused to eat for three days. As Amara had watched her get thinner while dark patches covered the corners of her eyes, she hoped she would never go through such pain.
Hence the reason Amara had spent every morning, in the past week, peeping through the window and listening for sounds of cars, hoping for Ikenna’s arrival. But it would turn out to be another soldier coming home to meet his family.
Shoving the unsettling thoughts aside, she finished preparing bread with scrambled eggs, joined her daughter in the living room, and they ate in silence.
The next morning, as they prepared to attend a church service, she heard a heavy knock at the door, and her heart flew from her chest. Her daughter rushed over and held her tight.
She crept into the living room and inched closer to the door. “Who’s there?”
“Please open the door. We have been here for the past twenty minutes,” a baritone voice said from outside the door.
Amara felt the familiar panic snake up her spine. She took a deep breath, unlocked the door and opened it. She gasped in shock the moment her eyes settled on three soldiers wearing the complete military uniform. One of them, a dark-skinned man in the middle of the pack, held a manila folder. Her heart raced, and all her nightmares returned.
The soldier looked in his manila folder and asked, “Madam, are you Amara Anozie?”
Oh, my God. Was this how this would end? So this was it; the dreaded letter explaining why Ikenna would never come back home because he died on the battlefield. She’d been living in a dreamland. Her dream of how Ikenna would return to her was all a fantasy.
The pain broke her heart. How would she and Chinaza survive without him? For the past four years, she’d told Chinaza great stories about her father. Now, her daughter would never get to see him again.
“Yes, I’m Amara Anozie. Why is Ikenna not here with you? What happened…to…my husband?” she stuttered.
The soldier ignored her question, brought out a brown envelope from the manila folder and handed it to her. “This letter is from Lieutenant Colonel Chidi Eze. He pleaded that you should please deliver the letter to his wife, Ijeoma. Chidi will not come back home this Christmas. He has been deployed to Chad and will return when the mission is over. He explained everything in the letter. He said you should explain this to his wife, who has been threatening to leave their marriage, and help her understand.”
The moment he finished speaking, Amara let out a deep sigh of relief.
Ijeoma and her husband lived in the same street as hers. They were family friends. Just like Ikenna, Chidi was always away from home. The couple did not have a child yet. Ijeoma had lost her patience and had threatened several times to end the marriage. Trying to convince her to stay was mission impossible. Amara hoped she would get the job done.
She accepted the letter and promised to do as she was told.
“What about Ikenna?” she asked as they prepared to leave.
The soldier turned back. “Madam, once we get any information concerning your husband, you will be the first to know.”
And they left.
* * *
The next day, December 23rd, a cold harmattan wind blew, sending dusty particles smashing against their windows. Amara and her daughter stayed indoors.
To occupy her mind, she scrubbed the house. Afterwards, she started reading His Inherited Princess by Empi Baryeh, a paperback novel she bought at the bookstore.
In the evening, she met with Ijeoma and delivered the letter. The heartbroken woman kept shaking her head and accused her husband of conniving with colleagues to deceive her.
“I’m leaving Chidi. I can’t do this anymore,” Ijeoma said in tears.
“Please be patient. He might yet surprise you.” Amara could understand her friend’s frustration but didn’t know what else to do. Being the spouse of frontline military personnel was not easy.
After an hour of trying to boost Ijeoma’s spirits, Amara left, feeling like she’d failed in her mission. At home, she spent the evening watching a movie with Chinaza before going to bed.
The next day, she attended the women’s meeting at the church. She left two hours later when she lost interest in their unending politics and spent the rest of the day editing a writer’s manuscript. For the next two days, she watched the news on TV, hoping to get information about the soldiers fighting the Boko Haram terrorists.
Christmas day arrived like the past few years. Dry and without cheer.
Amara attended the church service with Naza. None of the Christmas songs excited her.
It would be another lonely holiday season. She hoped it would go quickly so they would enter the New Year and get on with their lives.
Five minutes after they came back from the church, Amara heard a gentle knock on the door. She frowned. Who would be disturbing her on Christmas day? She lifted her head and saw that her daughter was closer to the door. “Naza, open the door.”
Her daughter nodded and did as she was told.
“Daddy!” She heard her daughter say.
Who is your daddy? She wanted to ask.
Amara narrowed her eyes as the shadow of the figure entering the house loomed large. She observed as a man bent down and hugged their daughter. “No. Stop it! Who are you?” she said as she approached the stranger.
The man turned and fixed his gaze at her. Their eyes met, her mouth hung open and she stopped in her tracks.
“Honey, I’m back.” His familiar voice caressed her ears.
Her pulse raced.
He entered the room and approached her. His thick military boots thudded at the floor, his six-foot frame seemingly filling up the space.
“It’s me, Nkem.”
Emotions filled her heart the moment she heard the endearment. It’d been a long time since she heard anyone call her by that romantic name. Only one person did.
His face had hardened, the creases on his forehead, making him look older than forty-five. Still, there was the familiar fierce determination in his eyes.
It was him.
She rushed and engulfed him in a tight hug. Tears flooded her eyes as she lifted her face close to his.
“We’ve waited so long for you,” her voice quivered.
“Honey, I know.”
Amara looked at Chinaza, and the young girl rushed and joined in the embrace. “This is our daughter.”
“I know. I’m glad she recognized me,” he said and held them tight.
Amara nodded. She had shown Chinaza many pictures of her father. “I’ve missed you so much. We’ve missed you.”
“I’ve missed you too, honey. It’s been so hard without you both by my side.”
They stared at each other. The electricity between them sparkled, and their need for each other burned bright in their eyes.
He broke away from the embrace and went outside to bring in his two Echolac bags. He opened one of them and brought out a smaller bag. He approached their daughter and bent until he reached her eye level.
She hugged him tightly. “I’ve missed you, dad.”
Amara watched as a drop of tear fell from his eyes.
“Your mum has told me so much about you. I’ve missed you so much, dear.” He broke from the embrace. “Look at you, you are growing up so fast.”
Chinaza chuckled, revealing sparkling white teeth.
“I’ve got something for you,” he said.
Her face brightened. He handed her the bag.
She opened it and brought out a teddy bear dressed as a nurse.
“I love it!”
As Chinaza began to examine the gifts, they left her and took his bags to their room. The moment they dropped the luggage in their room, Ikenna pulled her close and captured her lips with his. He let out a groan as he deepened the kiss, setting her body on fire. Amara broke away after a minute, panting hard.
Ikenna furrowed his brow. “Why?”
“We can’t leave Naza alone.”
“Oh.” Ikenna nodded.
They reluctantly returned to their daughter and spent the next two hours exchanging hot looks. When Chinaza fell asleep at three in the afternoon, they took her to her room and put her to bed.
After they left her room, Ikenna fixed his gaze at her, desire for her burning bright in his eyes. He scooped her into his arms and carried her to their bedroom. He bolted the door and wasted no time in tearing her clothes apart.
His strong hands on her bare skin made Amara gasp. Each touch sent a bundle of sensation across her body. He trailed soft kisses from her face to her neck, making her core contract in anticipation. Next, he held her face and captured her lips with his mouth.
They deepened the kiss as they walked towards the bed. He carried her and laid her on the bed with military precision. He moved quickly. One moment, she felt his lips beside her ears, the next moment, she whimpered when his tongue lapped fast on her right nipple, making her body erupt in flames.
Tears rushed back to her eyes. “Darling, I’ve missed you so much.”
“Me too, honey. Every minute apart from you was like a night without end. Now, I want to hold you tight and touch every part of your body.”
She let out a sharp moan the instant he spread her legs and licked the inside of her thighs. Her pussy dripped with her wetness, and she guided his face to her core. He sucked the stiff nub and delved his tongue inside her pussy.
The pleasure engulfed her whole body. Her need for him became too much for her to bear. She couldn’t wait for a second longer. “Honey, I want you inside me.”
He stopped and raised his gaze to meet hers. “Wait, I have not finis—”
“No, right now.”
He groaned in anticipation. Then his hard dick entered inside her, stretching her virginal wall and filling every empty space. She widened her legs to give him more access.
He grunted and drove every inch of his dick inside her until he reached the hilt.
They both froze, absorbing the sensation of being joined like this after such a long time.
“My Goodness. I’ve missed you, missed this. The way you welcome me and the way you ripple around me.” The words were guttural and wild.
She clenched around him, writhing beneath him.
Grunting again, he began thrusting in and out, sending waves of pleasure all over her body.
She closed her eyes and held him tight as he increased his pace and maintained a steady rhythm. Her breathing became rapid, and when she raised her head to meet his, he captured her lips in a hungry kiss.
Her hand clipped the bedside lamp and sent it crashing to the ground.
“We will get a new one,” he said and covered her neck with soft kisses.
Desire sizzled in her veins, making her want to feel all of him. Smiling, she shifted. “Turn over.”
He obliged and rolled onto his back while she climbed on top of his body and straddled his hips. Slowly she slid his prick inside her wet depths while he watched.
“Hold me tight,” she said.
He nodded, gripping her hips.
She soon maintained a stable rhythm and gasped when he squeezed her breasts.
She rode him hard as her orgasm began to build fast.
“Ikennaaa.” Pleasure exploded through her, and she came undone in a satisfying climax.
He tightened his grip on her body as he released spurts of liquid pleasure inside her. She collapsed on top of him and stayed there for a few minutes while taking time to calm her breathing and get her strength back. She climbed down from his body, and he held her tight in his arms. They stayed there for a while feeling each other’s heartbeat.
“When I stopped seeing the letters, my heart broke,” Amara said.
“Nkem, I know.” He caressed her hair. “It was a difficult period for me. At that time, we were getting ready to launch a clandestine operation that would lead to the capture of the leader of Boko Haram. We got information he was hiding in a camp inside Sambisa Forest in North-Eastern Nigeria. It was a super-secret mission. The battle was tough and lasted for four months. We hit Boko Haram hard and recovered two local government territories from them.”
“What happened to their leader?”
“He fled after he got wounded in the gunfight and has been in hiding ever since. I came back to the barracks last week. I applied for a vacation, and it was granted. I know that this Christmas, there is no place I would rather be than at home with my wife and child.”
Tears glistened at Amara’s eyes as she listened to him. He’d sacrificed so much for his country. She mouthed a word of prayer and thanked God for bringing him back alive. They left the room ten minutes later and joined their daughter, who had woken up from sleep, in the living room.
Amara left father and daughter to bond after four years apart and went to the kitchen to get the food ready. An hour later, the young family sat in the dining table, eating yam porridge. As they ate their food, Amara couldn’t stop staring at her husband, who made jokes that made their daughter laugh every few minutes. Her daughter was so happy. It was in her face. They finished eating, and Amara rose to take the plates to the kitchen.
“No, wait,” Ikenna said.
He beckoned to his wife and daughter to come close to him. He pulled them into a tight embrace.
A smile lit up Amara’s face. She needed this. She needed his soothing arms. Her husband was back. He’d kept his Christmas promise, and her family was finally complete.
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