Christmas With The Enemy

Merry Christmas, everyone! We shall be publishing our last entry in the “31 days of Christmas” series. This particular short story was written by the highly revered author, Kiru Taye. I had hoped we would be able to go all the way to the 31 days of December, but unfortunately, we have to draw the curtain at this juncture. Let me use this opportunity to appreciate every one who sent in their entries. You made my Christmas. Also, a big thank you to subscribers and readers of HaroldWrites. You are the reason I am here. Thank you for an amazing 2016. Here is cheers to a much more amazing 2017! Can’t wait to see

Once again, have a Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year. Don’t forget to thank God for His mercies and grace which brought you this far in 2016. If you are a Christian, I would implore you to not fail to go to church today. A Christmas miracle awaits you!

31-days-ofchristmas

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the Commissioner for Health, James Ebie to the Godson’s Christmas Ball!

The announcer’s voice is loud and eloquent, his words travelling across the grand hall above the guests murmurings. Two of them echo in my head, the reverberations of my world crumbling like shattered glass.

My past is here to haunt me.

James Ebie. My enemy.

Thick bile clogs my throat. Loathing coats my tongue with bitterness. Instinct tells me to walk back to the kitchen. My empty tray needs refilling with drinks and hors d’oeuvres.

Still, I twist my neck to get a better view. The ballroom is full, every dignitary of note in Delta State present. The ladies’ glittering jewels compete with their glitzy evening dresses, their tresses of Brazilian hair extensions coifed to perfection, their hands and feet manicured to reflect every colour of the rainbow.

My clothes are much humbler. A white short-sleeved blouse and navy-blue fitted skirt, one size too big. A standard issue for domestic staff in the Inemi-Spiff household. My hair is a wash, twist and go style. Low maintenance. I can’t afford the cost of a weekly stylist or the chemicals to get it looking sleek. The payments for my lecturers’ handouts are higher on my list of needs.

As luck will have it, a gap appears providing a direct vista to my quarry, for at the moment he is the prey and I’m the hunter. The notion bolsters my courage, giving purpose to my actions.

I suck in a deep breath to quell the excited churning of my stomach, the scent of spiced apples and mulled wine mixed with more local spices fills my lungs. The hosts have spared no expense creating a traditional Christmas feast in this old British Consulate building.

Except, there are no log fires or snow. This is Africa after all, and though it hasn’t rained for a few weeks, outside, the air is humidly warm. The quiet hum of the hidden air-conditioners fills the space with cool air.

A rich sound of laughter draws me deeper into the room. There is something about it so vibrant and compelling that has me taking steps I know I shouldn’t. It’s as if the owner of the voice has corded my body with ropes and is pulling me closer to him. He calls to me in a way nothing else ever has.

Standing before Mr and Mrs Inemi-Spiff is a tall man in a black slim-fitting tuxedo. I don’t need to see his face to know that he is the new state commissioner for Health.

My breath snags in my throat as something unnameable unfurls in the depths of my belly.

Even from behind he is breathtaking—shoulder-length black locks brushed back and held together with a black band, square broad shoulders and torso that taper at the hips. The way his silk trousers cling to his backside makes me imagine tight, sinewy muscles beneath the fabric.

Despite the warmth, my body trembles. Lifting my empty hand, I rub my left upper arm covered in goose bumps.

Something makes him turn and he stares straight at me.

I swallow. Hard. The most captivating black eyes I’ve ever seen keep me enthralled, swirling in an abyss of black and gold desire. His gaze is intense as if he sees me, reads me. Knows me.

Never! Shaking my head, I lower my stare, although my cheeks heat with the fury of a gas burner.

I’m not the innocent little girl who adored him once. A long time ago. That was before everything changed. Before his family tore mine to shreds.

Angry, I swivel and walk back to the kitchen, where I should’ve been in the first place. I won’t think of him again.

For the rest of the event, I avoid any table or corner with James in it. The live band plays a mixture of jazz and highlife. The crystal chandeliers glitter immaculately, adding more sparkle to the atmosphere.

A lady in a glamorous black dress totters backwards in stilettos, crashing into me. My tray slips, sending glasses of champagne crashing onto the polished marble floor. For a moment all I can hear is the deafening crack of crystal against stone.

A rush of heat scalds my neck and face with embarrassment. Kneeling down, I pick broken shards onto the aluminium tray. The hem of my skirt is soaked with champagne but I don’t care. My job is on the line and I can’t afford to lose it.

Anyway, if I don’t look up, I won’t see the contemptuous expressions on the faces of the guests.

“Evelyn, are you okay?”

The kind female voice has me looking up. Christy, the new mistress of Godson Villa and my boss, leans over me in her sleeveless fitted ball gown—a green silk Basque top and ruffled Ankara skirt. Her beautiful heart-shaped face is very expressive. She is truly concerned.

“I’m sorry, madam.”

She dismisses my apologetic murmur with a wave.

“Colin, bring a mop and bucket,” she says to another servant before turning back to me. “You need to be careful so you don’t cut yourself.”

“Christy, there you are. Joshua sent me to find you. It’s time for your dance.”

That voice again!

“Hi, James. I’m just trying to sort out this spill so it doesn’t cause any further accidents.”

Colin arrives and starts cleaning up.

“I’m so glad you and Joshua worked things out,” James whispers.

But my ears are attuned to his voice and I strain to capture every word even though I’m eavesdropping.

“So am I.” Christy laughed. “I’m having the best Christmas ever. Now it’s your turn to find the woman of your dreams.”

James’s deep chuckle vibrates through me. At the same time he lowers his gaze to meet mine.

I’m caught again. James’ intense expression alarms me. It is as if he’s found the woman of his dreams.

And it’s me!

Agitated, I grip the wrong end of glass. Drops of crimson coat the tray as pain shoots up my arm.

A warm hand wraps my shoulder. Another reaches for my bloody fingers.

“Let me see that.”

James stoops beside me, his scent—a mixture of cologne and male spice—rumbas around me provocatively.

“Oh no! I told you to be careful.” Christy arms enfold me as she helps me stand.

“Go and dance with your husband before he comes looking for you,” James says, his words oozing with charm. “I’ll take care of her. I’m a doctor.”

He winks at me and grabs a clean napkin to bind the cut.

“Okay. Evelyn, take the rest of the day off.”

“Madam, I can’t. I need the job,” I protest.

“Don’t worry. You’ll get paid. Come and see me tomorrow and I’ll see about assigning you something less strenuous.”

Relieved, I nod and she walks away.

I tug out of James’ hold. “Thank you, but I can take care of this.”

Somehow, walking away from him requires a lot more will power than staying. Halfway to the exit, he catches up with me and blocks my path.

“I wasn’t joking. I’m a qualified surgeon and that cut looks bad. If you don’t treat it properly, you could lose your finger.”

Blood drains from my face, my jaw slackens.

The nightmare of trying to write or type without an index finger flashes through my mind. What will become of my degree programme? I couldn’t drop out so close to the finish line.

He notices my skin’s pallor and smiles with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.

“Maybe you won’t lose your finger.” He shrugs. “But it could get infected and God knows what will happen.”

“Okay. You win,” I snap. My hand throbs with acute pain. “You can treat it.”

It’ll be silly to refuse free treatment. If I went to hospital, I will have to pay even before a doctor sees me and I can’t afford such luxury.

Anyway, the cut is James’s fault. His attendance at the ball instigated my injury.

He leads me outside into the warm sunshine. The sweet scent of purple hibiscus mixes with the briny sea breeze. Pink bougainvillea hangs down white walls and trellises.

Anxious knots tighten in my stomach as we arrive at one of the holiday villas tucked in a secluded corner behind hibiscus hedges. I shouldn’t be alone with this man who elicits such jumbled emotions with his mere presence.

Inside is an open plan living area with kitchen units and a breakfast bar in the corner. The walls are off-white, the furniture brown earth tones. In another corner stands a decorated Christmas tree, tinsel and baubles glittering gold with boxes of presents underneath.

“Please, take a seat.” James waves in the direction of the sofas. “I’ll bring out the emergency kit.”

Not long after I sit down, he returns with a physician’s bag and bowl. He proceeds to clean and bandage the wound. His actions are clinical, his kindness evident from his gaze. I know then he’s an excellent doctor.

What I would’ve given to have someone like him treat my mother when she was ill? Tears prickle the back of my eyes and I shut them tight, drawing in a slow, calming breath.

“Here, have these.”

I lift my lashes and behold a welcome sachet of painkillers. Popping two in my mouth, I accept the glass of water he holds out.

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

He clears up and returns to sit beside me on the sofa. I shift as far away as I can.

“So what do you do?” he asks, his hands braced against his knees, his gaze fixed on me.

“I’m a final year law student.” Though there’s space between us, his warmth wraps me in an encompassing cocoon. I shrug off the intoxicating effect and stand. “Thank you for your help but I have to go.”

“Stay…please.”

The tendril of his gentle plea reaches within me, turning my hard resolve to liquid compliance.

“There’s something about you that reminds me of a girl I used to know long ago.”

My heart stops…and thuds away with the ferocity of jungle drums. I stare at him, mesmerised, the urge to leave dissipating. He isn’t looking at me, but someplace beyond the large windows.

“Your beautiful, intelligent, brown eyes remind me of someone whose mother used to take care of my family home. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s just my imagination.”

His shoulders lift and the sigh that leaves his lips is one of resignation.

“You can go. You don’t have to listen to me live through my past.”

Something dark and tortured floats in his eyes. Instantly, I recognise the lost soul within, as tormented as mine.

Without thinking, I reach for him. “Tell me about this girl.”

His black gaze searches my face.

“Her name was Evelyn Dokubo. Her parents used to work for us, her dad as our gateman, her mother as the housekeeper. She was a lot younger than I was, much closer to my sister’s age. They played together sometimes.”

Memories flood back, overwhelming me with powerful emotions. Playing with Jemima, and helping my mother run errands in the large Ebie mansion. Good times, lost forever. I suck in a shuddering breath.

“Something terrible happened. There was a robbery at our house resulting in my sister getting shot.”

I squeeze my eyes shut as I know he’ll see my anguish otherwise. But I can still hear agony in his voice as he continues.

“Her father was implicated as an inside man and sent to jail. The rest of her family were sent away and I never heard from them again.”

He lets out a ragged sigh.

“Now my father is a sick man filled with regrets. He admits he was too harsh for letting a little girl and her mother pay for her father’s crimes. Now he wants to find her and pay restitution. I too have regrets for not changing my father’s mind before it was too late. Now I’ve lost the only woman I ever loved and I’m left half the man I could be. I just wish that wherever she is, she can forgive my family.”

Just hearing him speak the words of remorse is like someone turning on the faucet. I let go of all my bottled-up emotions. Tears flow unrestrained.

“My mother died not long after that. I guess the shame of what my father did and the destitution we faced broke her.” I force the words through a clogged throat.

He stands rock still, staring at me with expectation.

“I don’t want your father’s money but I’ll take your love.”

Kneeling before me, he palms my face. In his eyes, his love and desire burn bright. The young man I loved once stares at me. The man I love now.

“Joshua knew I was searching for you. So when he told me you worked for him, I had to come here.” His Adam’s apple bobs as he paused. “I need you.”

He seals our lips together. Passion erupts. Clothes fly. We’re flesh to flesh in his bed. Our loving is fervent, just the way I always imagined it.

Later, he recovers a box from beneath the tree, and kisses the back of my hand, sending tingles down my spine. “Marry me, my love. Make me whole again.”

“Yes,” I squeal with delight, even more awed as I stare at the sapphire engagement ring.

As we make love again ‘Locked Out Of Paradise’ by Bruno Mars plays on the radio.

Serendipity is an awesome thing. My past will frame my future.

My enemy is now my lover.

 

Copyright Kiru Taye 2012

***

Christmas with the Enemy is a short story spin off from Bound to Passion (Bound series #3) by Kiru Taye.

About Kiru Taye

Kiru Taye is the award-winning author of His Treasure and the 2015 Romance Writer of the Year at the Nigerian Writers Awards. She is a founding member of Romance Writers of West Africa and has written 20 romance books so far. Her stories are sensual and steamy. Born in Nigeria, she currently lives in the UK with husband and three children.

You connect with Kiru on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+ or Pinterest

Sign up to receive Kiru’s newsletter and be among the first to find out about new releases and sneak previews via her website: http://www.kirutaye.com

If you’re in Africa, you can buy Kiru’s eBooks from okadabooks.com. Download the okadabooks app on your phone/tablet and search for ‘Kiru Taye’.

 

 

 

 

Joy In Broken Places*

31-days-ofchristmas 

As a college student I spent a year in Senegal, West Africa teaching English as a second language. After two months I was sure the worst of my homesickness had dissipated. But as the holidays drew near and I contemplated celebrating Christmas — Jesus’ birthday — in a Muslim country, the heaviness in the pit of my stomach returned. It was to be my first Christmas away from home.

My solitary celebration had a rocky start. Outside my window, a sad little string of white lights hung in a baobab. In the attic of the teacher’s quarters, I found a tired old plastic tree. It had a depressing layer of dust, which I cleaned off by putting the whole thing in the bathtub and stomping the branches like grapes in a wine vat. Someone had dropped the bag of ornaments and shattered them, so I strung up some popcorn and paper chains.

Once the tree was up, I went to the Supermarche to pick up ingredients for cookie baking: Someone had hung a plastic Father Christmas by the neck over the store’s entrance. Fa-la-la-la-la.

Wandering the aisles, I tried not to think about the holiday feast my mother was preparing. What am I going to make for Christmas this year? I spotted large sacks of oranges in one corner of the store, and grabbed one, not quite knowing what I was going to do with it. Christmas tree ornaments, maybe?

On the steps outside the store I found “Smiley Joe” one of the beggars I regularly encountered. Leprosy had deprived him of his feet and most of his fingers, but his smile radiated genuine warmth. We always greeted one another, though we were unable to communicate further. I had only recently started French lessons, and he spoke no English at all.

“Cadeau, Madame?” Joe’s greeting was always the same. (“Got a gift for me, lady?”)

As I reached into my handbag for some change, I noticed his gaze wander to the oranges, then back at me. “Would you like an orange, Joe” I asked him. Handing him a whole orange wouldn’t work — without fingers, he couldn’t peel the fruit. So I sat next to him on the steps, intending to peel the fruit and hand him segments one at a time.

Joe had other ideas. He pulled his arms up inside his sleeves, then pointed his chin at me. Me first.

“Okay.” I put a bit of orange in my mouth, smiled, and then handed him a piece. His eyes closed blissfully as the fruit hit his tongue. “Mmmmm.”

I was so focused with what I was doing that I hadn’t noticed the swarm of children gathering around us. On Saturdays the streets of Dakar are full of school-age children waiting for cars to stop at the lights to beg for small coins. Now a dozen street urchins had gathered around Joe and me, watching intently as each segment disappeared into Joe’s mouth.

Finally, one small boy worked up his nerve to approach me directly. “Cadeau, Madame?” he wheedled coaxingly, pointing to the oranges. “Cadeau por moi?” I reached inside the bag and handed the boy an orange.

Bingo. The other children pounced. “Cadeau?” “Cadeau?” “Cadeau?” Each child grabbed an orange out of my hand then ran up the street to yell about his good fortune, sending still more kids scurrying toward us for their own prize. In minutes the entire bag of oranges was gone, and a sea of little hands continued to reach toward me. “Cadeau? Cadeau?”

There were no more oranges, and I was a bit nervous that a riot might break out, so I pushed my way to the car, putting small coins in a few hands as I pulled out onto the street.

All the way home, I couldn’t get the image of Joe and the children out of my head. I had been feeling sorry for myself. Not anymore. Back at school, I got out a sheet of air mail stationary and wrote a Christmas letter home.

This Christmas has been nothing like Christmases past. No tinsel or lights on the tree. Mom’s gingerbread will have to wait ’til next year (they don’t sell shortening here). You can go for miles without hearing a single rendition of “Jingle Bells” or “Silent Night.”

Even so, I am thankful. I had anticipated that this year was going to be about my working with kids and sharing music with other people. But I am taking away much more than I could possibly have given. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for your love and support. This year I have been given the greatest gift imaginable — the chance to learn what’s really important.

I wish I could say that with each passing year, my African Christmas gave me an unshakable sense of gratitude for all the people in my life. Sadly, that wouldn’t be true. There are always one or two I find difficult to love (I have no doubt the feeling is mutual), people that quite frankly I’d be only too happy to send on a one-way trip to Senegal. It certainly would make my Christmas a whole lot brighter.

And yet, that encounter with Smiley Joe taught me that the secret to a happy life is in the ability to find joy, even despite our immediate circumstances, despite the individuals who seem determined to make us miserable. However, no one — no matter how difficult, rude, or broken — can steal our joy without our permission.

***

“Joy In Broken Places” was written by Heidi Hess Saxton.

Credit: The Ann Arbor News

 ***

Would you like to feature your Christmas-themed short story on this blog? Kindly send a mail, attaching your short story to haroldwrites.official @ gmail.com . Each day of December, I shall publish a Christmas-themed short-story. You can write on any genre.

 

The Parable of the Person Who Couldn’t Find God*

31-days-ofchristmas

Once upon a time a certain East African country had many mountains and valleys, rivers and plains. All the people lived in one big valley. The large extended families included grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins and many children. These East African people were ordinary human beings with both good and bad qualities. They followed all the seasons of human life:

A time for giving birth … a time for dying.

A time for planting … a time for uprooting.

A time for knocking down … a time for building.

A time for tears … a time for laughter.

A time for mourning … a time for dancing.

A time for loving … a time for hating.

A time for war … a time for peace.

A man named John Shayo lived in this large valley. He was a faithful Christian who prayed every Sunday and regularly participated in his Amani Small Christian Community. He helped the poor and needy especially the lepers who lived on one slope. John tried to fulfill all his Christian responsibilities. From time to time he failed, but in general he was a very good Christian.

In this large valley there was jealousy, fighting, drunkenness and all kinds of discord. Thieves and tricksters walked about openly and regularly stole cows, goats and sheep. Families and villages lacked peace and harmony. Witchcraft and superstition were part of daily life. After patiently enduring this bad situation for a long time John Shayo decided to move somewhere else. He said, “Certainly God isn’t present here. He is the “All Peaceful One” who doesn’t like fighting and discord. He wants peace and harmonious relationships in his human family.”

John Shayo saw a very high mountain far in the distance. It rose majestically in the clear tropical air. John said, “Certainly God our “Great Ancestor” lives in peace and quiet on the top of that East African mountain. I will go there to find God who “Dwells on High With the Spirits of the Great.” So John set off on his long safari. At the end of the first day he reached the foot of this high mountain. The burning equatorial sun had drained his energy. He rested. Very early the next morning he started out again. After three hours of difficult climbing he was tired and sat by the side of the rough footpath.

After a few minutes John was startled to see a bearded man about 30-years-old making his way down the mountain. They greeted each other. “Jambo (‘Hello’). What is the news?” John told the traveler that he was climbing to the top of the mountain to find God our “Creator and Source.” The traveler said that his name was Emmanuel and that he was climbing down the mountain to live with the people in the large valley. After talking together for a few minutes they said good-bye to each other in the traditional African farewell: “Good-bye until we meet again.” As John continued his safari up the steep mountain he said to himself: “That man is a fine person. He is very intelligent and speaks well. I wonder why he wants to go down to my former valley?”

Soon John Shayo was engrossed in his arduous climb. The air grew thinner. He climbed more slowly. By late afternoon he reached the top of the mountain and said to himself: “There is peace and quiet here. Now I will surely find God.” He looked everywhere. No one was around. John was very disappointed and asked out loud, “Where is God?”

Suddenly a gaunt old man appeared and greeted John. “Welcome. Relax after your long, hard safari.” Shayo began to describe the arduous trip and his desire to meet God the “All Peaceful One.” The old man said, “I’m sorry, but God isn’t here on the top of this high mountain. I live alone here. Surely you met God on the mountain path. He was going down to the big valley to live with the people there and to help them with their problems and difficulties.” John was astonished and exclaimed out loud, “You mean the traveler I met on the path was God. I didn’t recognize him. I thought that I would find him here on the top of the mountain.”

The old man said, “I’m sorry. You see God doesn’t want to live here all by himself. He wants to join with the human beings he created. That’s the meaning of his name “Emmanuel. God is with us.” John Shayo exclaimed: “But in the valley there are arguments and fighting. Many of the people are thieves, tricksters, troublemakers and drunkards. Why does God want to live with them?”

Quietly the old man answered, “God knows the lives of his people and their problems and weaknesses. There is a myth about an East African hunter who disobeyed God’s command and shot an arrow into the clouds. The sky bled and God withdrew into the high heavens to get away from human beings. But God the “Great Elder” loved his human family and wanted to show his tender care. So God our “Great Chief” sent his Son to pitch his tent among us, to live with us, to share our joys and sorrows, our successes and failures, our strengths and weaknesses in order to save us. We celebrate this mystery of salvation on the feast of Christmas — the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ our “Eldest Brother.” For this is how God loved the world: He gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”

John Shayo was deeply moved by these words and listened intently as the old man continued. “Jesus Christ — Emmanuel” was born and lived among us human beings as an ordinary person. He surrounded himself with simple, needy people just like the farmers and herders in the villages of your valley. He helped the people with their daily problems. This is the meaning and mystery of Christmas — we learn to live like Jesus, Emmanuel our God and a person for others.

“John, from time to time you can come to this mountain top to rest and pray, but know, my friend, that the heart of Christmas is to live with the people in the valley and share their daily problems and difficulties.”

John suddenly felt that he had learned much wisdom on this East African mountaintop. Deeply touched he said, “I’ve changed my mind. I’ve decided to go back to the large valley and live with the people as Jesus Christ Himself does.” The wise old man put his hands on John’s head and gave him a blessing.

John Shayo turned slowly. Seeing the large valley stretched out below him, John began to walk down the mountain.”

***

*”The Parable of the Person Who Couldn’t Find God” is a story by Rev. Joseph Healey, M.M., from Nairobi, Kenya.

Credit: Afriprov.org

***

Would you like to feature your Christmas-themed short story on this blog? Kindly send a mail, attaching your short story to haroldwrites.official @ gmail.com . Each day of December, I shall publish a Christmas-themed short-story. You can write on any genre.

The Night Before Christmas*

 

31-days-ofchristmas

It was the night before Christmas in Ghana and I was very sad because my family life had been severely disrupted and I was sure that Christmas would never come. There was none of the usual joy and anticipation that I always felt during the Christmas season. I was eight years old, but in the past few months I had grown a great deal.

Before this year I thought Christmas in my Ghanaian village came with many things. Christmas had always been for me one of the joyous religious festivals. It was the time for beautiful Christmas music on the streets, on radio, on television and everywhere. Christmas had always been a religious celebration and the church started preparing way back in November. We really felt that we were preparing for the birth of the baby Jesus. Christmas was the time when relatives and friends visited each other so there were always people travelling and visiting with great joy from all the different ethnic groups. I always thought that was what Christmas was all about. Oh, how I wished I had some of the traditional food consumed at the Christmas Eve dinner and the Christmas Day dinner. I remembered the taste of rice, chicken, goat, lamb, and fruits of various kinds. The houses were always decorated with beautiful paper ornaments. The children and all the young people loved to make and decorate their homes and schools with colourful crepe paper.

All of us looked forward to the Christmas Eve Service at our church. After the service there would be a joyous procession through the streets. Everyone would be in a gala mood with local musicians in a Mardi Gras mood. Then on Christmas Day we all went back to church to read the scriptures and sing carols to remind us of the meaning of the blessed birth of the baby Jesus. We always thought that these were the things that meant Christmas. After the Christmas service young people received gifts of special chocolate, special cookies and special crackers. Young people were told that the gifts come from Father Christmas, and this always meant Christmas for us. They also received new clothes and perhaps new pairs of shoes. Meanwhile throughout the celebration everyone was greeted with the special greeting, “Afishapa,” the Akan word meaning “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.” Oh how I wish that those memories were real tonight in order to bring us Christmas.

However, this Christmas Eve things were different and I knew Christmas would never come. Every one was sad and desperate because of what happened last April when the so-called Army of Liberation attacked our village and took all the young boys and girls away. Families were separated and some were murdered. We were forced to march and walk for many miles without food. We were often hungry and we were given very little food. The soldiers burned everything in our village and during our forced march we lost all sense of time and place.

Miraculously we were able to get away from the soldiers during one rainy night. After several weeks in the tropical forest we made our way back to our burned out village. Most of us were sick, exhausted, and depressed. Most of the members of our families were nowhere to be found. We had no idea what day or time it was.

This was the situation until my sick grandmother noticed the reddish and yellow flower we call “Fire on the Mountain” blooming in the middle of the marketplace where the tree had stood for generations and had bloomed for generations at Christmas time. For some reason it had survived the fire that had engulfed the marketplace. I remembered how the nectar from this beautiful flower had always attracted insects making them drowsy enough to fall to the ground to become food for crows and lizards. We were surprised that the fire that the soldiers had started to burn the marketplace and the village did not destroy the “Fire on the Mountain” tree. What a miracle it was. Grandmother told us that it was almost Christmas because the flower was blooming. As far as she could remember this only occurred at Christmas time. My spirits were lifted perhaps for a few minutes as I saw the flower. Soon I became sad again. How could Christmas come without my parents and my village?

How could this be Christmas time when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace because since April we have not known any peace, only war and suffering. How could we celebrate as grandmother instructed us to do before she died? Those were the last words she spoke before she died last night. As I continued to think about past joyous Christmases and the present suffering, we heard the horn of a car and not just one horn but several cars approaching our village. At first we thought they were cars full of men with machine guns so we hid in the forest. To our surprise they were not soldiers and they did not have guns. They were just ordinary travellers. It seemed the bridge over the river near our village had been destroyed last April as the soldiers left our village. Since it was almost dusk and there were rumours that there were land mines on the roads, they did not want to take any chances. Their detour had led them straight to our village.

When they saw us they were shocked and horrified at the suffering and the devastation all around us. Many of these travellers began to cry. They confirmed that tonight was really Christmas Eve. All of them were on their way to their villages to celebrate Christmas with family and friends. Now circumstances had brought them to our village at this time on this night before Christmas. They shared the little food they had with us. They even helped us to build a fire in the center of the marketplace to keep us warm. In the middle of all this my oldest sister became ill and could not stand up. A short time after we returned to our village my grandmother told me that my oldest sister was expecting a baby. My sister had been in a state of shock and speechless since we all escaped from the soldiers.

I was so afraid for my sister because we did not have any medical supplies and we were not near a hospital. Some of the travellers and the villagers removed their shirts and clothes to make a bed for my sister to lie near the fire we had made. On that fateful night my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. This called for a celebration, war or no war. Africans have to dance and we celebrated until the rooster crowed at 6 a.m. We sang Christmas songs. Every one sang in his or her own language. For the first time all the pain and agony of the past few months went away. When morning finally came my sister was asked, “What are you going to name the baby?” Would you believe for the first time since our village was burned and all the young girls and boys were taken away, she spoke. She said, “His name is “Gye Nyame,” which means “Except God I fear none.””

And so we celebrated Christmas that night. Christmas really did come to our village that night, but it did not come in the cars or with the travellers. It came in the birth of my nephew in the midst of our suffering. We saw hope in what this little child could do. This birth turned out to be the universal story of how bad things turned into universal hope, the hope we found in the Baby Jesus. A miracle occurred that night before Christmas and all of a sudden I knew we were not alone any more. Now I knew there was hope and I had learned that Christmas comes in spite of all circumstances. Christmas is always within us all. Christmas came even to our Ghanaian village that night.

***

*”The Night Before Christmas” is a short story by Rev. Peter E. Adotey Addo.

Source:  Afriprov.Org

***

Would you like to feature your Christmas-themed short story on this blog? Kindly send a mail, attaching your short story to haroldwrites.official @ gmail.com . Each day of December, I shall publish a Christmas-themed short-story. You can write on any genre.