To Sugar, From Paul_A Love Story
“You’re proud, Sugar,” Paul said in a non-confrontational manner. That was his style.
“Paul Virtue, I am a loud and proud woman,” Sugar said, lifting her shoulders in an exaggerated boast.
Paul scoffed good-naturedly.
There were no two more opposite than Sugar and Paul Virtue. She was in her own words, loud and proud. She was rambunctious, foul mouthed and loose. But Paul on the other hand was reticent. He was a man of faith. Paul often told her that his faith was his life. He hardly spoke but was always loquacious when it had to do with Jesus Christ.
They had first met when Paul moved into Sugar’s cramped neighborhood.
She had seen him on his first day. She watched when he walked into his apartment with a single bag. She sneered. She didn’t like the company of men who were as poor as she.
Minutes after Paul’s arrival, Sugar had been harassed by a neighborhood trouble maker, one of the people whose advances she had shunned. And true to form as she would later find out, Paul stepped in and put an end to it. He didn’t bark or raise his voice, but the neighborhood idiot that had come to pester her got the message from Paul’s dead serious look. He didn’t come back.
“Thanks,” Sugar said.
Paul merely nodded before attempting to retreat to his new home. Sugar intercepted him. “My name’s Sugar. What’s yours?”
Paul looked at her intently like he was attempting to read her mind. Sugar felt a bit unnerved by it, but refused to back down.
There was nothing obviously likeable about Paul. He was in her own opinion, ugly. He was barely tall, and had skin that had been darkened more by the sun than by nature.
“My name is Paul,” he finally said. It was almost a whisper. Sugar would soon find out that that was how he spoke.
They became friends after that. Paul would buy her fruits every now and then, and tell her to eat healthy.
Sugar knew he didn’t approve of the kind of company she kept or what she did for a living, but she was fond of teasing him about it. She would openly speak of her sexual encounters and proceed to tell Paul every gross detail – and of gross details, she had many. Paul would patiently listen some times, and at other times, he would beg her to stop. But she would respond by calling him a prude.
One day, Paul found Sugar with an open wound on her face, and bruises all over. He didn’t ask her anything. He simply brought his first aid kit and treated her.
“Why are you so nice to me?” Sugar asked him. Paul didn’t respond. He only focused on cleaning her wound. Sugar tried to kiss him, but he stopped her with a finger to her lips.
What felt like a whole minute of silence passed between them.
“Did you know I grew up in an orphanage?” Paul asked.
Sugar shook her head. “You didn’t tell me!” She sounded surprised.
“I didn’t have a name when I was left at the orphanage door step. It would seem that I wasn’t born in a hospital either. The orphanage gave me my name. It was the Director who chose it. She called me Paul Virtue. She told me later that she knew that I would be a man of God.” Paul smiled at the memory.
Sugar nodded. It wasn’t in her character to listen, but she did, then.
“I did give my life to Jesus at an early age. I was a child, but I knew I was a sinner and in need of a saviour. Only God can save us, and He did.”
“Mhm,” Sugar said. “You know I don’t like all this religious talk.”
Paul laughed. She hardly heard him laugh. “It’s not about religious rituals, but about the truth. I pray very often for you to understand.”
Sugar took the opportunity to tease him. “Paul, you must be madly in love with me to pray often for me.”
Paul didn’t smile. “I love you, Sugar.”
Sugar didn’t know what came over her when he said that, but she sobbed bitterly at his statement.
“One day, you’ll understand,” Paul said before he left.
A few days after, Paul saw Sugar run into her apartment. She came out with her bags which she had hastily packed.
“What’s going on?” he asked, but Sugar was agitated. Something had her in a frenzy.
“They’re coming after me, Paul. They’re after me!”
No sooner had she spoken than a group of three men blocked the major exit of the building.
“They’re going to kill me, Paul,” Sugar repeated frantically.
Paul looked at Sugar intently and smiled. “You’re always getting into trouble.”
He looked back into the distance at the men who had brought out what looked like objects of torture and death. He turned back to Sugar. “What’s your real name?”
“What?” Sugar said.
“What’s your real name?”
She would have screamed at him for asking her such a question at a time like that, but she didn’t. “My name is Obioma,” Sugar practically shouted, partly out of disbelief, and partly out of the adrenaline pumping through her system.
He looked at her intently. “Obioma,” he said as if testing the name. “Obioma, you can’t continue like this.”
At that he stood in front of her, blocking her from the men. “Run.” It was almost a whisper, but Paul left no room for questioning.
Sugar ran like her life depended on it because it did. She heard Paul scream in pain, but was deathly afraid to turn back.
It was the sound of his screams that played in her head as the background music when she walked down the aisle. “Sugar, I love you. One day you’ll understand.”
And she did. She understood. When she knelt down at the altar and stared at the empty cross in front. She understood what love was.