IS GOD SOVEREIGN OVER LOVE STORIES?
Amara Ikezie is a new grad nurse who is thrilled to start her dream job in Atlanta’s biggest children’s hospital. But when her best friend gets engaged, Amara is faced with the looming pressure from her mom to find her own man. Determined to escape the pressure to marry, Amara takes on a task to find the ‘perfect’ man who ticks all the boxes on her list.
Raymond Aderinto is a pediatric cardiologist with a wall of accolades and a string of failed relationships. After his fourth girlfriend dumps him, Raymond vows to get confirmation from God first before entering into his next relationship—even though he’d love to find his bride before turning thirty.
When Raymond spills coffee on Amara’s scrubs, he becomes certain she’s the woman God wants to be his wife. But unfortunately for him, Raymond doesn’t tick Amara’s boxes, and worst of all, Amara is sure her Igbo mom would never approve of a marriage to a man from the Yoruba tribe.
Despite Amara’s efforts to stay away from Raymond and convince herself he is not the one for her, her growing attraction for his character, values, and vision gives her more reasons to wonder if she was wrong about her prejudices toward him. When another doctor walks into Amara’s life who ticks all her boxes and shows interest in her, she is caught between running into his ‘perfect’ arms, or going with Raymond who is turning out to be more perfect than she thought.
The One Who Loves Me, book two in the Sovereign Love series, is a beautiful standalone novel about surrender and learning to take comfort in the sovereign goodness of a loving God who writes the best love stories.
Chapter 1: Amara
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: my best friend is getting engaged today and she has no idea. Let me say that again so you understand why I can’t keep calm. Teeyana, my girl, my person, is about to be taken off the market and she’s sitting next to me right now without the slightest clue.
It was only yesterday when Teeyana and I were fighting off bullies in high school and today she’s getting engaged? Sometimes life feels so surreal that I live each day waiting for someone to pinch me back into reality. But no, this is not a dream. My girl is really getting engaged. Eeeek!!!!
Myself and Jayden, Teeyana’s soon-to-be-fiancé, brainstormed and planned the whole engagement behind her back. I’m so proud of myself for keeping it a secret for three whole months, but boy, I’m tired of hiding things from Teeyana. She thinks this is just her college graduation party, but Jayden is going to pop the question any minute now.
Teeyana’s family and closest friends are sitting on tables of five spread out across Teeyana’s grandpa’s backyard here in Atlanta. With a temperature of eighty degrees Fahrenheit, this sunny April afternoon will be perfect for taking photos—engagement photos, of course.
Clusters of purple balloons are floating on the side of each table with the words, ‘Congratulations Teeyana’ plastered on them. Teeyana’s cake is a four tier mound of sugary goodness, much taller than the one I ordered for her eighteenth birthday, and a porcelain figurine of a smiling Teeyana is sitting on the top tier on a bed of purple roses.
Everyone is chattering and sipping on their drinks as soft music plays in the background. Nobody knows what’s coming except me, Jayden, and Teeyana’s parents. I ain’t gonna lie though, I can’t sit still. Excitement is welling up in my chest, butterflies are flying around in my belly, I’m pretty sure my heart is pounding at two hundred beats per minute, and—
Wait a minute. Am I sweating? Oh, come on, girl. I pick up a folded sheet of paper and fan under my arms. I’m wearing an off-shoulder turquoise dress, so I don’t want to get a sweat patch in the engagement photos. That would absolutely not look cute.
“Amara, are you okay?” Teeyana’s voice draws me back to earth, and I turn to look at her as she tucks a curly strand of her weave behind her ear. She’s wearing a white one-shoulder dress which I helped her pick out and she looks lit in it.
“Girl, I’m fine.” I nod and lean back in my seat. Jayden, who is sitting on the other side of Teeyana, gives me a knowing look and I smile. He nods and turns his head away before fixing the collars of his grey suit and white shirt.
I ball my hands into tight fists and place them under my thighs to curb my fidgets. Girl, you’ve come so far. You can’t ruin the surprise now. I rock back and forth in my chair as Teeyana’s dad, Trevor Sparks, clinks his glass to get everyone’s attention. Yaas, it’s about to go down.
“Thank you, everyone, for coming to celebrate with my beautiful daughter, Teeyana.” Mr. Sparks begins. “I can’t believe I now have a daughter who is a college graduate. I’m getting old.” The crowd bursts into laughter before Mr. Sparks continues. “It’s time for the speeches, and I’d like to invite my father-in-law to do the honors and start us off.” Mr. Sparks gestures to the table across from ours.
Everyone cheers and claps as Grandpa Thompson pushes himself up from his seat. He balances on his walking stick as Teeyana’s mom, Jamila Sparks, helps her dad walk across the lawn to the central open space where Mr. Sparks is waiting.
Grandpa Thompson clears his throat, and the crowd quiets down. He adjusts his glasses and turns to focus on Teeyana. “I remember the day my daughter, Jamila, phoned myself and my wife to tell us we had become grandparents. It was the best news I received that day, and holding her in my arms for the first time was nothing short of a miracle.
“Teeyana, it has been a joyful experience watching you grow over the past twenty-two years and I believe that this is only the beginning of greater things for you. I want you to always remember that I love you so much, and…” his voice breaks and his bottom lip quivers. “I know your grandma would have been so proud of you too.” He takes off his glasses and wipes the tears away from his eyes.
Teeyana walks up to Grandpa Thompson and wraps him up in a hug as everyone cheers again. After Grandpa Thompson returns to his seat, Mr. and Mrs. Sparks give their speeches, followed by Teeyana’s aunt—Bella, who is Mrs. Sparks’ younger sister. She’s here with her husband and their two-year-old daughter, Letoya.
Letoya and Teeyana’s younger brother, Danny, come in to give their own speeches. Danny is wearing a white shirt over black trousers with a black bow tie, while Letoya is wearing a burgundy puffy dress. They both hold on to the microphone and lean in. “Congratulations, Teeyana. We love you.” They say in unison before giving Teeyana a hug and running back to their seats.
Mr. Sparks clears his throat again and says, “And now, for the moment we’ve all been waiting for, Teeyana, honey, we have a surprise for you.”
I suppress a squeal and lean forward as Jayden rises from his seat and walks up to Teeyana. After loosening the blue tie around his neck, he takes her hand and clears his throat. “Tee, I love you.” Jayden starts. “I’m so proud of everything God has helped you accomplish, and I love the woman you are becoming. I want to keep walking this purpose God has given us with you by my side, and I want to keep loving you every single day for the rest of my life. So...” Jayden reaches into his pocket and takes out a small black box before going down on one knee.
Teeyana’s hands fly up to her chest as Jayden reveals the silver amethyst three-stone ring. The center stone is a deep purple color and judging from the tears running down Teeyana’s cheeks now, I can tell the ring is still as beautiful as it was the day I helped Jayden pick it out.
“Teeyana Joy Sparks,” Jayden continues. “Will you make me the happiest man on earth by agreeing to be my wife?”
“Yes!!!” Teeyana bends over and plants many kisses on his lips. Everyone in the crowd stands, clapping and cheering as Jayden slides the ring on Teeyana’s finger. She turns around to look at me, and since I’m now unable to contain my excitement, I run up to her and wrap my arms around her in a tight hug.
“Bet you never thought your graduation party was going to be your engagement party, huh?” I wink at her and she pushes me with her hips.
“Amara, I can’t believe you and Jay hid this away from me.“ She sniffles and dabs the tears sliding down her cheeks with a handkerchief.
I lean back and cross my arms against my chest. “The same way you hid the fact that you were transitioning to your natural hair?” I laugh as the soft music starts playing again in the background.
“Ugh, you’re so annoying.” Teeyana pokes my shoulder.
“Ouch, I’m kidding, girl.” I say before turning to Jayden. “Well done, lover boy. We did it.” I give him a high five.
“Thanks, Amara. I would’ve never done this without your help.” Jayden smiles before wrapping his arm around Teeyana’s waist. “Amara was the brain behind this operation. I just followed her lead.”
“Well, thank you. Thank you. I’ll be here all week.” I flip my braids to the side and pat my shoulders and we all laugh. “Seriously though, I’d do anything for this girl right here. She’s my person.” I grin at the couple, but only Teeyana gives me a knowing smile as I use the famous phrase from Grey’s Anatomy—the medical drama I’ve been trying to convince her to watch for years.
An auburn-haired, green-eyed girl, wearing a black jumpsuit touches Teeyana’s shoulder from behind, and she turns around. “Heather.” Teeyana gasps and pulls the girl in for a hug. “I’m so glad you could make it.”
Heather Osborne was Teeyana’s dorm room mate in freshman year at St. John’s university. Heather gave Teeyana a hard time at first, and they hated each other for most of the year. But since Teeyana shared the gospel with her, Heather has changed and I heard she even started going to anger management therapy. I ain’t gonna lie, the girl still scares me a little.
“Hey, Amara. Hey, Jayden.” Heather flashes a smile at me.
“Hi, Heather.” I send her a small wave. “I’m so glad you’re here with us.” She flew in all the way from New York to be here. That was very nice of her.
“Thank you. Please excuse me while I get a drink. It’s very warm today.” Heather says before fanning herself.
“Alright, I’ll catch up with you soon.” Teeyana says and Heather turns around and walks toward the house.
“Oh, before I forget,” I say when Teeyana turns to face me again. “I have one last surprise for you.”
Teeyana frowns. “Seriously? What else have you been hiding?” Her gaze switches from me to Jayden.
I bite my bottom lip to build the suspense, but in the end, it all comes pouring out of me. “I passed my N-Clex exam yesterday. I’m officially a registered nurse.”
“Oh my gosh, you did?” Teeyana squeals and pulls me in for another hug. “Congratulations. Jesus did it.” She says, holding me at arm’s length.
“Yaas, Jesus.” I wave one arm above my head before doing a short praise break dance.
We laugh and Jayden gives me a side hug. “Congrats, Amara. I never doubted you. You always work so hard.”
“What about jobs?” Teeyana asks. “Have you applied for any yet?”
I nod. “Yeah, I started applying last month. I’m praying I get a NICU one though.”
“Oh, I’m sure you will.” Teeyana squeezes my hand.
Jayden leans in and scratches his head. “Errrm... what’s a NICU again?”
“Neonatal intensive care unit, babe.” Teeyana responds on my behalf.
“Yeah, it’s where they look after all the cute newborn babies who are premature or critically ill.”
“I see.” Jayden says before wrapping his arm around Teeyana and pulling her close.
“Okay, enough about me. You two go on and celebrate your engagement.” I push them toward the crowd of people behind them. “I’ll just wait here until it’s time to take photos.”
As I take a step back to study the newly engaged couple, I can’t help but notice their broad smiles, the way Jayden holds Teeyana protectively, and the way Teeyana leans in to him—confirming that she feels safe in his arms.
It’s hard to believe that I watched this romance blossom from friends to lovers. I was right there encouraging Teeyana when they faced their challenges, and I was also there to celebrate their victories with them. It’s like watching two of my children grow into adults.
I swallow to fight off the surprising tears of joy leaking out of my eyes, but my desperate attempt is fruitless as the tears trickle down my cheeks, ruining the makeup I worked so hard to perfect this morning.
“Darn it, girl.” I sniffle and take a tissue out of my bag before dabbing under my eyelids. And then it hits me—a feeling I’ve never felt before.
I want to share a love like this with a special someone too. I want someone to love me like Jayden loves Teeyana. There’s only one problem though; there’s no man, and there never has been one.
All I’ve had since high school are countless crushes; boys who never seem to notice me and who I’ve always admired from afar. But things are changing now. I’m no longer in high school or college. Soon, Mom will start asking whether there’s a man in my life—especially when she finds out Teeyana is engaged.
“Don’t worry, Adamma.” Mom said to me last Christmas as she used her famous nickname for me. “Your husband will come as soon as you finish nursing school and get a good job." I don’t know why she ever got the impression I was worried. I certainly never told her that.
Mom owns her own catering business, so she has catered to the weddings of the daughters of her friends in the Boston Igbo women's society. She used to drag me to a lot of these weddings, but she never mentioned marriage until last Christmas. Even then, I never thought twice about marriage until today—until now.
I love Teeyana and I’m happy she has found her dream man, but honestly, this engagement has only made me realize how behind I am in life. Ever since Teeyana and Jayden started dating in freshman year of college, they’ve worked perfectly well together; going on mission trips and helping others.
I wish I had the confidence to do things like that without letting all the mean words of my high school bullies hold me back. For something that happened years ago, I thought I would have gotten over it by now. But the truth is, those words still greet me every morning, they still make me question every decision I make, and they still have the same dreadful impact they had on me the first time they were screamed in my face in high school. Amara, you’ll never be good enough.