Hi family, it has been a while…I know.  Life, hustle and everything in between but I am back or let me say we are back so you are in for a ride.

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I stared at the box. The return address read Crawford Town, Ondo State. I could not believe because I was dead sure that Crawford Town did not exist. It was a fictional town. It was the setting of one of my favourite African mystery novel series. 

“Aunty Jojo, open it,”  Tara said, her 10-year-old frame hovering all over the box. 

In the world we live in, I didn’t think it was safe to open packages that you had no idea where they were from. I did not order anything. Crawford Town is a fictional place. How could this be possible? I love a good mystery so let me figure this out. 

Everyone who knows me is aware of how much I love books and how much I rave about the Crawford Estate series. The package is definitely from someone familiar.

“Here.” Tara excitedly hands me a pair of scissors. 

“What did you order?” my sister walks in and notices the box. 

“Nothing. I do not know who sent this.”

“What? And you want to open it?” she grabs my hand and that of her daughter, pulling us away from the box.  “How did it get in here? Her eyes are as wide as saucers?”

“Calm down Lilian. I don’t know.” 

She inches closer to take a look at the return address. “ Crawford Town? Is it not from those books you always talk about?”

See, I told you.

“ Yes. But it is not real. “ I replied with certainty.

“Jojo, did you send yourself this package?” she lets go of my hand and releases her grip on her daughter.

“No. I did not.”

She grabs the scissors and cuts the box open.

“Mommy, let Aunty Jojo open her package herself.” I smile at my niece.

I allow my sister to open the lid. She pulls out the styrofoam and an envelope. I gently open the seal. 

‘It is with immense pleasure that we bring to you this invitation. Your honest values and moral conduct are enviable, and your warm hearted contributions to our community cannot be quantified. You truly are an upstanding citizen. We would request your presence at the Last Quarter Dinner of the Nathaniel’s..”

The letter included the venue, the dress code, and the date.

This is in three days. And the venue is at the event centre in town. I take a seat and stare at the carefully crafted invitation in my hand. The Nathaniel’s were an elite fictional family in the Crawford Estate series. They hosted a quarterly dinner in the estate of which the last quarter was the most elaborate. 

I was sure someone was messing with me. But who? 

“Wow. Jojo, are you sure you didn’t send this to yourself?” Lilian holds out a beautiful tiara in her hand. “This is so beautiful.” 

“That was in the box?” I exclaim. This tiara was literally sparkling. Was I dreaming? Tara handed me a beautiful silver purse and a pearl bracelet. The Nathaniel’s were known for their silver purses. I don’t like necklaces and the sender knew.

“Lilian, did my friends do this?” I didn’t think Daniella and Kike, my two best friends would go to all this trouble. What was happening in three days? There was no birthday or special holiday. My boyfriend patiently listened to all my ramblings about books, but he wasn’t one to be this elaborate. I dialled Daniella’s number. 

“ What do you know about the Nathaniel’s?”

“Nathaniel’s? Jojo, what are you talking about?”

“The Nathaniel’s. And the dinner in three days. That will be Saturday. Were you invited?”

“ Jojo. What dinner? I don’t know any Nathaniel. Except for the disciple in the Bible and the family from that book you always talk about.”

Confusion gradually began to settle. Something was going on.

I called my boyfriend. “Timothy, are you coming to the Nathaniel’s dinner? Thank you for the tiara.”

“What dinner? What tiara?”

“Please tell me you’re joking. I just got a package from a fictional town and I know that is not possible.”

I explained the content of the box to him. 

“Are you sure you didn’t send that package to yourself, Jojo?” 

“Why would I do that?” Would I really send myself something and not know?

“I don’t know. Ask your sister to go with you and see what it’s about. I’ll be back in town on Sunday.”

“You want me to go?” 

“Yeah, I guess. Be careful. It’s obviously someone who knows you very well.”

Lilian was just as skeptical as I was. What kind of dinner was going to take place? I got ready anyway. By Saturday, I concluded that either my friends were really good at keeping a secret, or I had at one point created all this unconsciously.

The dinner was for six. Lilian, Tara, and I made our way down to the Cultural Events Centre. I had my purse and bracelet. My tiara sat beautifully on my head. The place is usually busy on the weekend, so nothing was suspicious. We made our way to the Conference room at the back of the hall. It was for more intimate gatherings and special meetings.

‘I think we should ask someone if there is an event going on here” I told my sister.

We saw a security guard

“Yes, there is a dinner event there for tonight.

“Do you know by whom?”

“There are a lot of events here every day. I don’t know.”

My sister and I walk to the entrance. We could hear faint sounds of music. She opened the door. The room was well lighted but empty. There was a huge screen at the front of the room.  There were a few round tables and chairs. Music filled the room. There were two swords crossed on the wall which was a typical symbol of the Nathaniel’s. 

“There is no one here,” Tara said grabbing her mom’s hands. 

Suddenly, my picture pops up on the screen. I grab my sister’s hand. 

“You’re welcome, Josephine. Take a seat.” A voice echoes from one of the speakers.

I notice the card on one of the tables. It has my name. There is another envelope beside it.  I turn to look at my sister. She shrugs.

I take a seat, open the envelope. It is a letter. Written in beautiful calligraphy. 

“Please read it aloud,” A voice says.

Who is that?

I begin to read

I glance at my sister and niece and they are smiling.

Then it hits me. 

I realize it’s from Timothy. My boyfriend. The letter is special, so I won’t tell you what it says. But as I finish reading, I see him step out behind a curtain. By now, I can’t really see him because of the tears. He knows me so well. He goes on one knee.

And the curtain raises as I see my family and friends.

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Written by: Praise Ajewole…kindly follow her on instagram @praisewrites.

P.S: An exciting series is coming too. 

And kindly follow me @opydorcas