Ijeoma was in Pastor Shedrack’s office. Magnus had left for work after they exchanged bitter words that made Kevin and Jonah burst into tears. Even then, they did not stop but, shooed them into their room so they wouldn’t hear them. They huddled together in Jonah’s bed, holding their hands over their ears.
“Good morning, Mrs. Ozo”, Pastor Shedrack greeted as he entered.
She rose and stretched out her hand to shake his. “Good morning Pastor”
“God bless you. Please sit down”, he motioned to a seat and sat in his. “Coffee? Tea? Juice?”
“No, thanks, Sir”, she declined.
“Right. So what were you telling me about yesterday?”, he adjusted in his seat.
Ijeoma cleared her throat.
“Sir, my husband and I have been having problems for a while. It’s either he is refusing to give me money for housekeeping, or he squanders what he has on his autistic brother. When I complain, he accuses me of nagging”, she narrated.
He nodded, signalling that she should go on.
“For a while now, he has been keeping late nights, even sleeping outside. I confronted him but he denied cheating on me. It’s been months since we knew peace in that house”, she paused for breath.
He leaned forward, giving her his full attention.
“2 nights ago, he fell ill. I rushed him to the general hospital with all the cash I had. When I returned in the afternoon, he was no where to be found. I was told he was transferred to a private hospital. The moment I got there and saw Regina, I knew she was the one”
There was a pregnant pause.
“Sister Regina the Assistant Ushers’ director?”, he asked finally.
“Yes, sir”, she crossed her arms defiantly.
“My dear, that can’t be. You are jumping to conclusions”
“No, sir. I am not”
“Did you catch them in a compromising position? ”
“Do you have evidence of texts or calls suggestive of what you said?”
“No but, they did not deny it”, she insisted.
“Did she admit it?”
“You don’t expect her to! “, she snapped
“So you just went to throw a tantrum on circumstantial evidence? Did it occur to you, she may have been there as a concerned sister in Christ? “, he queried.
“No, because, they became close just after we started having problems. I thought it was all innocent. Now I realise I was blind”, she shook her head.
“He saved her name as ANIGER. When I wondered who had such a name that he was always chatting with, he said it was an Indian guy he was doing some business with. That name never had a picture attached. See the lengths he went to”, she put her head in her hands.
Pastor Shedrack drummed his fingers on the table as he thought.
“Let me call Sister Regina. Then I’ll talk to your husband. Give me his number. Also, I don’t want you to discuss this with anyone else. Bear in mind that they have nothing positive to contribute”, he concluded.
“Yes, Sir”, she nodded.
“Halleluyah! Let’s pray”, he held out a hand for her, as they both bowed their heads.
Ekene and Fred on their way to his church for a concert. 2 of her favourite gospel artistes were performing that day. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon and her mood was as bright as the weather.
“So, has your pastor spoken to Regina?”, Fred asked.
“She has been dodging his calls, pretending to be busy. He sent her a text summoning her to his office tomorrow. After that meeting, we will know what next”
“Hmm. It is well with her. Hope she listens to wise counsel”, Fred shook his head thoughtfully.
“She had better. I have been praying that God will remove the wool over her eyes. The same God who transformed Miriam, is well able”, shee asserted.
“Miriam is totally different. I mean, even I who hasn’t known her for long, can tell”
“It’s the Lord’s doing”
“You are really a great friend. Thank God I found a ‘good’ thing like you”, he rejoiced.
“Finder!”, she teased.
“Yeah, hon. I’m gonna make you my wife”
“Some people are dreamers”
“What! Do you mean if I propose now, you will say No?”, he turned to look at her.
“Bros, face your front! Is this a practise session? When you gather liver, you will get your reply”, she brought out her make up bag and began to touch up her face.
Fred bit his lip. They were at the venue and he could see that people were already trooping in. He parked and rushed over to her side to open the door for her. She stepped out and started to straighten her dress, when she noticed he was standing and gazing at her.
“What?”, she raised an eyebrow.
He silently let his eyes do the talking, slowly moving his gaze from her nude heels, to her pink dress, to her exquisitely made up face, to her braided hair in an up do. She blushed.
“What?”, she repeated self-consciously.
He reached for her hand and drew her closer.
“I maka, Nne m. Kene, you are so beautiful, it hurts the eyes”, he breathed.
She smiled. They stood in silence for a few seconds, till his phone buzzed. He looked at the message and put it away.
“Let’s get going”, he let her preceed him as he put on the blazer he had taken off while driving and locked the door.
“Not bad”, she looked at him in appreciation.
“Trying to keep up with you, dear. Make dem no tink say I be your houseboy” he joked.
She slapped his arm playfully as they made for the church entrance. They were guided to the front. She guessed he had reserved the seat as they were not that early. The band was already leading in worship. Ekene closed her eyes and got into the flow. Fred asked her to excuse him as he had to use the restroom.
The main act of the evening took the stage 30minutes later. Mc for Christ was a gospel rap artist who Ekene adored. She sang along as she knew all the lyrics to his songs by heart. Fred was dancing by her side. Suddenly, the lights dimmed and the spotlight was on Ekene. She was puzzled to see that her image was on all the monitors.
Mc for Christ invited her to the stage. “Ms. Ekene please come up to the stage”
She was shocked. Fred was urging her on, smiling slyly. Her heart pounded as she wondered what was going on. She made her way to the stage, smiling nervously.
“So, I heard you know all my songs by heart”, he asked and extended the microphone to her.
“Yes!”, she squealed.
“So you get to do this song with me. Let’s do ‘Every moment counts'”, he motioned for her to be given a microphone.
She took it as the crowd applauded. The lyrics were displayed on the monitors.
“The days I feel on top
Nights I can’t lift my head up
It all goes to show
Whether I’m high or low
Every moment counts (4x)
Teach me to pray
My burdens lay
To smile and dream
Then sing a hymn
Every moment counts(4x)
Ekene was lost in the moment, singing along with the super star. Suddenly, she felt him tap her and turned to see Fred kneeling before her. He had a ring box in one open palm and a bouquet of red roses in the other. She clamped a hand over hergasp of surprise. Mc for Christ gave Fred a microphone.
“Ekene, I had given up on love 8 years ago. You gave me reason to believe again. Marry me. I promise to make every moment count, my love”, he solemnly said.
She knelt before him and nodded as he drew her into an embrace. By this time, the crowd had gone wild. Whoops and yells rent the air. People were coming closer to take pictures, quickly uploading them on line. Sisters were nudging their ‘significant others’, as if to say, “this how to do it”. Mc for Christ managed to calm the atmosphere after several attempts and congratulated them again. They returned to their seat while he did another song.
As they took their seat, Aunty Nwando, Miriam, and Regina appeared from nowhere. They hugged the excited couple and congratulated them again.
“Where were you hiding? I thought you couldn’t make it?”, Ekene accused them in jest.
“You’ll find out later. See you after the concert”, Miriam brushed off her questions.
At the end of the concert, Fred led her to his car. She was still walking on air, wondering how she went from chubby Ekene who needed to lose weight before a man could notice her, to a celebrity. People were smiling at her as she passed, waving shyly, or reaching for a handshake. She had taken photographs with the artists also. Ekene was holding back tears of joy. Fred drove off without answering questions about their destination.
They arrived at a floating restaurant. It was a boat. When she saw Regina, Aunty Nwando and her 2 sons, Fred’s youngest sister, two of his friends, and Miriam, she burst into tears. After lots of hugs and sniffing, they made their way to a large table in a private dining room. A lady sat at a grand piano playing Ekene’s favourite songs. She seemed to have dubbed Ekene’s play list orsomething. The order was no different from what was on her ipod.
They settled to a lovely thai dinner, trading banters and laughing. It was 11pm before they reluctantly gathered their things to leave. Everyone wished the night wouldn’t end.
In the car, as he drove her home, she turned to him and sighed, “Love is indeed a beautiful thing”. Understanding, Fred nodded and smiled.
TO BE CONTINUED.