Why have I been away for so long? I can’t even answer the question myself. Well, I am back and No, there was no tragedy. Thank you for all the prayers and emails. God bless you all.
Zina and Imaobong were shopping at a mall. It was a Saturday so they had decided to make it a ladies’ day out. They were both comfortably dressed in jeans and tees with flat shoes. Imaobong had prevailed on Zina to wear makeup. Left to her, she would have gone without any since they were not expecting company.
“Expecting company?” Imaobong had asked her, incredulous. “The world is your market, my dear. No one knoweth the day nor the hour.”
Zina had given in with only a grunt. She was quickly learning that in matters of fashion, her friend would have her way, so agreeing quickly was in her best interest.
They were filling their cart with apples when a hand tapped Zina’s shoulder.
She turned to see Ovie, grinning at her.
“Hello yourself,” she replied as they shook hands. “What brings you here?”
“Hi, Ima,” he said, extending a hand to her as well. “Same as you ladies, I guess.”
“Hi, Ovie,” Imaobong replied.
“So, is it okay if I tag along?” He raised a brow.
“The more the merrier!” Imaobong laughed, winking at Zina behind his back.
“What have you ladies been up to?” he asked, steering his cart as they moved along.
“So, so…I just thought of something. Ovie, you guys have not patronized my kitchen O! How do I get a leg in?” Imaobong asked him.
“Well, we have an official caterer, Mrs. Sotade. She handles the daily catering as well as special events.”
“How about PA? Who cooks his meals?”
“He has a private chef though he himself is a fairly good cook. Sometimes, the groups in church hire their own caterer if they are hosting an event. I think you should let the events co-coordinator know what you offer and list you in her directory.”
“Very good idea, Ovie. Thanks.”
“You’re welcome.” Turning to Zina who had been silent during the exchange, he smiled. “I hope we are not boring you?”
“I am her silent partner,” Zina quipped.
“Financial partner or prayer partner?” he asked.
Both ladies burst into laughter. Zina pounded on his shoulder.
“You are really a clown!” she exclaimed.
“Ovie!” Imaobong was struggling to contain her mirth.
“Did I say something wrong?” He had an innocent look on his face.
“You should be in stand-up comedy,” Zina panted.
“That means people should pay me to make them laugh and that also means you both owe me.”
“Huh?” Imaobong grunted.
“I am following you ladies home for a nice home-cooked meal,” he announced.
“Nice try,” Zina scoffed. “We are heading to Victoria Island for a birthday party.”
Ouch! Missed shot!
“Sorry, Ovie,” Imaobong gave her friend a bad look. “Don’t mind Zina. You have a standing invitation. Just give me a call when you want to come and eat.”
“That will do; thanks. I have to run along now. There is a match in thirty minutes.”
“I thought you were going to follow us…” Zina teased.
“I would have watched it at yours; come on.”
“Thanks for your company, Ovie. It was good to see you,” Imaobong said.
“The pleasure was mine. Zina you look lovely as always. I’ll call you later. Is that alright?”
“If I answer the call, you’ll know it’s alright.”
Imaobong shoved her elbow into her friend’s ribs.
“Ouch!” Zina yelped. “What was that for?”
Imaobong smiled and extended a hand to Ovie. “Bye, Ovie. She’ll be expecting your call.”
He shook her hand and wisely left without further comment. Women are funny creatures; often blowing hot one minute and cold the next. One has to be careful when dealing with them. Sometimes, persistence is seen as a virtue; at other times it was a turn-off. It takes a pro to know which is which.
Toyosi was at a meeting with PA, going over the modalities of her new teenage group. She had received far more attention than he had ever given her since they met. It was obvious how passionate he was about children.
Poor kids! Most of those girls probably have a crush on him. But, what wouldn’t I give to run my fingers through that hair.
He gave her a look that made her snap out of her reverie. “Are you okay? Do you need anything?” he asked.
Yes! I need you to grab my face in your hands and kiss me till I’m breathless.
“Sister Toyosi!” he called.
“Hmm? Sorry! I guess I got distracted. Maybe I am coming down with something?” She scooted closer to him on the couch they were occupying, putting a hand to the side of her neck as though to feel her temperature.
“I hope you haven’t been working too hard. It is well with you.”
She reached for his hand. “Do you think…”
He whipped his hand out of hers so fast that she cried out in surprise.
“I apologize.” He stood and stepped away from her. “I have nothing but respect for you but you must realize that my calling puts constraints on me that other men do not have. Every action or inaction of mine will be carefully scrutinized and used against the kingdom of God. Please don’t assume that I am overly sensitive or reading meanings into everything. I have had to put up layers of protection over the years so I can’t help it at times.
Toyosi thought fast. Dropping to her knees in the respectful manner common to ladies of some Nigerian tribes, she adopted a contrite mien.
“Pastor, I have been too forward. Forgive me.”
He turned to see her kneeling and quickly gave her a hand up. “It has not got to that. Please, sit down. I am not angry with you.”
“Are you sure? If I have crossed the line I will abandon this project and ask pastor to assign it to someone better than me.”
“You are the right person. God has given you compassion for teenagers and you have all it takes to lead them. Let’s get on with the outline we were working on, shall we?”
Toyosi nodded humbly but fumed internally when he did not come to sit by her but drew a chair so that he was a short distance away. She had invested time and effort into winning him over and was beginning to wonder if she should accept defeat.
Zina and Ovie were on a date, sort of. He had convinced her to meet him at a technology fair. She had planned to send a subordinate but Imaobong talked her into attending. It wasn’t a romantic date, she reasoned; and it would be on her turf. That did not stop Imaobong from forcing her into a yellow jumpsuit that fit to perfection. She proceeded to put so much make up on her that Zina felt like the red Indian warriors that the Americans had had to battle for their land.
“Ima, this one is war paint!” she had remarked.
“Life is war, babe! Do you think Ruth went to Boaz’s farm without getting dolled up? You need to step up.”
Zina shook her head and waved goodbye to her meddlesome friend. This was the cost of opening up. She could have remained in her shell and they would barely be neighbours on speaking terms but God had impressed it on her to let others into her space. Imaobong still did not know her secret. She wondered if she would grow cold like other Christian folk did when they found out. Maybe she would suddenly be too busy to hang out with her or lose her number. She hoped the day would never come.
Ovie had found a table for them at a booth that was not too busy. They had toured the grounds chatting about everything from politics to social media. Zina was naturally out-spoken and bothered on opinionated but Ovie had not navigated the world of women for this long to be put off easily. He masterfully skirted arguments such that they were able to disagree without fighting.
“Tell me about your job. What is it like working so closely with a pastor? Do you have to fast and pray all the time? What is PA like?”
Ovie felt dread creep into his heart. He feared she was one of those women with a crush on PA who only saw him as a ladder to crawl into the man’s arms. All things being equal, he could probably hold his own but how do you compete with “anointing”, that intangible thing that men of God had which lay men could never acquire? He knew that If PA looked any woman in the eye and said to her, “You are the one God has chosen to be my wife. Let’s get married this Saturday”, you could bet she would swoon at his feet.
He chuckled at the thought of what would happen if he tried that move on Zina.
I’ll probably end up in the hospital with a concussion.
“What’s funny?” Zina asked, sipping from her fruity cocktail.
“O, nothing. It’s just that I get that a lot. PA is an enigma and ladies want to know a bunch of stuff about him?”
“Really? What’s the weirdest question you have been asked about him?”
“Someone asked me whether he wears boxers or briefs.”
“Shut up!” Zina punched his arm, her eyes wide open in disbelief.
“What can I say?” Ovie shrugged. “The pulpit has this appeal…it’s sexual for some.”
“Yuck!” Zina spat.
Ovie raised a brow. “Tell me you don’t think PA is good looking.”
“He is certainly blessed in the looks department but I would find it difficult attaching such feelings to a man of God. I mean, aren’t they supposed to be like oracles or something? Who falls in love with an oracle?” With that she burst into laughter, slapping her thigh in mirth.
Her companion joined her, relieved. She was very beautiful when she threw back her head and laughed without caring who was watching. Her tiny white teeth and that perfect gap in front arrested his attention. The yellow was amazing on her dark skin. He could see she was wearing more make up than usual and wondered if that meant that she liked him.
Well, at least she is not infatuated with PA.
“So let’s talk about you. What was it like growing up? Do you have siblings? Why did you choose information technology and not fashion or catering?” He leaned forward and held her gaze. This was his arresting gaze, the one that reeled in his catch like a fish on a hook. When he lowered his lashes and fixed his eyes on any woman, assuring her without words, that he was enthralled with her, he had always sensed their response. It had never failed him.
“Are you trying to change the topic?” Zina laughed, ruining the moment. “I’ll let you off. Come let’s get some ice cream. This sun is blazing hot today.”
She rose and motioned with her finger for him to follow her and in that moment, Ovie knew it. He had been friend-zoned****************************************************************************************