A Heart to Mend (Chapter 1, page 1 of 9)

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Chapter 1

About an hour after she disembarked from the bus, Gladys stopped to check if she was on the right path. She‘d trundled her box along the street engrossed by the spectacular architecture on all sides. Well designed residential houses and the more imposing offices sat way back from the road with painted aluminum roofs and high metal gates. She now stood before the enormous construction site of an almost complete church whose grandeur was not diminished by the swarming laborers or the wooden scaffolding. Stained glass windows depicting scenes from the bible reflected off the marble walls and a massive pillared gateway framed a paved court yard. The laughter and whistles of the laborers when they noticed her gawking reminded her of the otherwise deserted street.

Gladys walked a few more feet, took another peek at her journal and concluded she was truly lost. She held up the journal in confusion. She‘d sketched the directions at a mobile phone kiosk during an earlier conversation to inform Aunt Isioma of her arrival. Then, the route looked clear enough, but now she knew the hazy map wouldn‘t be much help in locating the right way. She looked back at the construction site. A couple of the bare-chested men drew away from the group and moved closer to her. One called out something, probably in Yoruba, which she didn‘t understand; the other winked with a suggestive leer and a complex hand gesture.

She ignored them and instead walked rapidly to put some distance between them, and then studied her map more closely. She looked up the street again, then down at the map repeatedly, her brows furrowing as she tried to identify a landmark. She could not identify the street she was on the map. Her heart began to race, her underarms broke out in sweat and she felt like crying. The luggage she was pulling felt like a burden. She was afraid they were going to rob her or worse

rape her. As the laborers gained on her, she recalled her mother‘s question before they said goodbye at the Trans-Ekulu Motor Park not too far from their home.

“Can you find the address on your own? Perhaps you should wait to be picked up…”

Gladys had shrugged. “That will take too long. I‘ll call Aunt Isioma to get the directions and I‘ll be fine. I‘m a big girl, Mama. I can get there without any problem.

She shook her head as she stared at the map again but was jerked out of her self-mockery when the gate of the house ahead of her opened with a loud clang. A black Mercedes S class model with tinted windows purred out. She stared at it in appreciation as it turned towards her, distracted from her quandary for the moment. She took a step back, startled, when the car stopped beside her. Her mouth almost gaped when the back passenger window rolled down. She couldn‘t help but note the looks of the man who stared back at her. He was very attractive, probably in his mid-thirties, with a certain stamp of authority all over him. His hair was bushier than she usually saw on men his age, but it was full and well-combed. The line between his deep set golden-brown eyes looked ingrained over the strong nose and pink lips accentuated by his dark skin.

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