****** Hi, everyone. I apologize for the delay. Hope the extra-long post makes up for it. Cheers and do leave a comment.
Ekene was on a date with Fred. They were at the beach on a Saturday. He was wearing board shorts and a white T shirt. She was wearing white capri pants and a green print blouse. Her braids were flying loose in the wind.
“Sit down. Let me put your hair in a bun for you”, Fred offered.
“Do they teach hair styling in medical school too?”, she teased.
“I would have you know growing up among 3 sisters was enough to equip me to set up a hair salon”, he smiled.
“You have such a lovely laugh, Kene”, he held her gaze soberly.
She averted hers and started walking away. He put his hands on her shoulders from behind.
“Is that a No?”, he asked.
She nodded. He spun her around and hugged her.
“I don’t mean to frighten you. It’s been a lonely 8 years for me. I threw myself into work to bury the despair. Now that God has brought you to me, I forget that it’s only been 2 months. Please, don’t be put off”, he pleaded.
“Said the man hugging me so closely, I can barely breath”, she muttered.
He released her but held on to her hand. “I’m sorry”
“I am not angry. We have all the time in the world. You have to let me know you for who you are, without trying to confuse me with your touch”
“It’s too much, right? ”
“Okay. 1 more thing to pray about”, he sighed.
She patted his shoulder and laughed.
“Race you to the suya stand?”, she teased.
“Please, I don’t want to lose. Win or lose, I will end up being declared the loser”
“Never win a competition against a woman”
“Chauvinist!” she punched his arm.
He held her head in the crook of his arm till she pleaded for mercy. When he released her, she came up for air, laughing.
“What did we just discuss about touching? ”
“I haven’t prayed yet. When I get home and pray, then we wait for God to answer”, he joked.
She threw a punch and set off in a sprint. He ran after her, laughing hard.
Miriam was in Pastor Shedrack’s office. He was a middle aged man, with a spattering of grey hair that gave him a distinguished look. A natural introvert, he only came alive while preaching. In informal settings, he said little and listened attentively.
“Good morning, Pastor”, she greeted as she took her seat.
He was sipping from a cup of coffee. It was a rainy Monday morning.
“Hello, Miriam”, he smiled. “Glad you could make it. How’s work? ”
“So, how are you?”
“Very well, Sir”
“Coffee? Tea?”, he offered.
“Tea is fine”
He placed a call to his secretary and they made small talk while waiting for the tea. When it was brought in, she thanked him and accepted a cup. She was stirring it thoughtfully, wondering how to tell him her mind.
“Sir, I have a challenge in my relationship”, she began.
“I didn’t know you were in a relationship. Who’s the lucky brother?”
She was silent for a while.
“He is not a member of Gateway”, she said.
“Okay, so which church does he attend?”
“He is not really a church person but, he loves the lord” she explained.
“Is he born again?”
“He fears God”
“Even the devil does!”
“Sister Miriam! You have been in Gateway for how long?”
“You are an usher, so you are always in church, hearing the word. Weren’t you the assistant to the Co-ordinator of the Singles’ fellowship till last year?” he asked gently.
“Alright. Just tell me the story. Where did you meet him and how far have you gone?”
“Sir, we met at a mixer. I represented my bank at a cocktail for stakeholders in finance. He introduced himself and asked for my card. At first, it was just business but later, we fell in love”, she narrated.
“He promised to marry me. We spent all our spare time together. He is so caring, generous, and kind. I have never met any man like him”
“This year, he started asking me to set a date for our marriage. I hesitated because, I was unsure of how my parents would take it”
“He is Lebanese. They would worry about the differences in our culture and all that”
“But, I love him. I really love him”
“I don’t see what the problem is”
“Emmmm. I let down my guard because of how I felt about him. Now he says I should abort my baby”
“What! You are pregnant? “, he exclaimed in surprise.
She nodded. He twiddled his thumbs thoughtfully, choosing not to say any more. After 15 minutes, he spoke kindly but firmly.
“How long have you been born again?”
“Since my 3rd year in the university, Sir”
“You came out publicly to give your life to Christ?”
“Yes, Sir” “Are you filled with the Holy Spirit? ”
“When last did you pray in tongues?”
“Do you think it’s right to be physically intimate with a man you are not married to?”
“He promised to marry me. We were in love”
“Mary was engaged to Joseph, yet, they waited till Jesus was born”
He fixed his gaze on her, waiting for her defence.
“I am sorry, Sir. The temptation was too great for me…….”
“Who did you ask for help?”
She was silent.
“How old is this pregnancy?”
“So, it’s very safe to abort it? Why don’t you want to?”
“You must have considered it. Besides, why doesn’t he want the child?”
“I don’t know. He is just being selfish”
“Is he married?”
Miriam was silent, trapped. She had hoped to keep this last bit secret. If for nothing, to retain some of his respect. He noticed her biting her lower lip nervously and shook his head.
“Does his wife live in Nigeria?”
She shook her head.
“You are going to have the baby. Raise him alone and teach him the ways of the Lord. I will assign Sis. Monica of the counseling department to you. She will hold your hand through this journey” he decided.
Miriam nodded soberly, relieved.
“First, what the Lord requires of you is repentance. You are his temple and you have defiled his place of worship. Can you do that?” He stretched out his hand for hers.
She burst into tears, as she began to pray softly, asking for mercy. After some time, she calmed. He took out his bible.
“Jude verse 18 ‘In the last days, there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions’. Miriam, you were a scoffer. For whatever reason, you decided that you could serve God following your own rules. You either serve God or mammon. No one can be under 2 masters. In the course of our discussion, I noticed how hard your heart was. Though you tried to pretend, you were not sorry. As far as you are concerned, life has been unfair to you and it’s time you took the reins of your life in hand. True?”
She nodded, making no effort to wipe the tear that ran down her cheek.
“What did Jesus do to you?”
She burst into fresh tears. He let her cry for a while, then encouraged her to be open.
“Pastor, my heart has been broken by so many men. They keep promising me all sorts and leaving me. When I got to this age, they stopped coming. I feel so cheated. In the university, I was the toast of the school. That I am still unmarried, is very surprising to many”
“How is it God’s fault? ”
“Is He not supposed to take care of me, give me my heart’s desire?”
“Are you not supposed to do His will, whether convenient or not? ”
Miriam bit her lip, battling with her emotions. Pastor Shedrack let her think on those words. He could see that she would require extensive counseling. He made a mental note to follow her progress.
“I wonder how the other singles are coping”, he thought. “If this one who should be an example is even pregnant, what are others doing? ”
Ijeoma was at a retirement party for 1 of their staff. She had offered to leave the kids with Ndidi so Magnus could attend but, he declined. They were in a strange place in their relationship. Few words were exchanged that didn’t pertain to the kids or household requirements. It seemed as if no one wanted to say anything that would lead to disquiet.
She was wearing an emerald green dress that highlighted her best features. As she strode into the venue, she smiled at the thought of what Chike would say when he saw her. Quelling the guilt she felt for looking forward to seeing him, she lifted her head and flicked her hair away from her face. He was standing by the table, helping himself to the finger food. By his side was a pretty girl, almost as tall as him, clinging to his arm and laughing.
Ijeoma was seized by a paroxysm of jealousy. The main reason she had come, despite Magnus declining, was to enjoy Chike’s company. As much as it was borderline improper, she felt alive in his presence. He made her tingle with excitement when he rolled his lovely eyes at her as she walked away from their encounters at the car park. The names he called her excited her. His flirting did more for her ego than anything Magnus had ever or would ever be willing to do.
Was it wrong to want to be wanted?
Must she stiffle her feelings forever?
Didn’t she deserve to be pampered too?
Ijeoma turned away sadly, and joined some colleagues who were being served drinks.
“Hey, there! You look good”, one of them greeted.
“Thanks”, she smiled
“Mrs. Ozo, meet Deola. He is the celebrant’s son”, another made introductions.
“Good evening. Great to meet you” she shook hands. “I haven’t said hello to your dad. We all enjoyed working with him and will miss him”
“He’s around somewhere. Did he say Mrs?” Deola enquired
“Wow! You don’t in any way look it. What a lucky husband you’ve got there”
She thought to herself”Does he know it?” To Deola, she smiled and muttered something appropriate.
The rest of the evening, she chatted gaily with other guests, had some fruity cocktails, and food but, she was unhappy. Chike had not as much as said hello to her and she would not swallow her pride to break the ice. Who was the girl he came with, anyway? She clung to him like moss to stone, scarcely letting him out of her sight.
Ijeoma was irritated. When she could no longer pretend to be enjoying himself, she made her excuses and left. As she stood at the doorway, rumaging in her purse for her car keys, she heard his voice behind her.
“Ij, why are you leaving so early?”, Chike asked.
“Any business of yours?” she replied tersely, without turning.
He hugged her from behind, pulling her into the shadows.
TO BE CONTINUED.