PA and Ama were at a retreat for leaders in church. All his pastors, their wives, as well as the heads of the various departments in church were present. Ovie was absent because he was down with a cold. The venue was the conference room of a hotel owned by one of the church members. They usually started with prayers; after which Pastor Odion would share the agenda. After everyone had contributed to the issues raised, PA would share a word and end the meeting. Breakfast and lunch were provided by the hotel.
Ama was worried about this meeting. She had heard from reliable sources that Sis. Nkiru who was the secretary of the music department had fought with Sis. Becky, deputy director of the music department. The object of contention was Nnamdi, a new entrant into the choir. He was a handsome man in his twenties who was discovered by Sis. Becky during the campus outreaches. While in school, he survived by singing in clubs and at parties. During an evangelistic programme hosted by their church, he gave his life to Christ. This was during his extra year in school. The school fellowship assisted him by raising money for his fees. He still sang in clubs however, to make money for his upkeep.
Sis. Becky was shocked to hear this and swung into action to help him get Christian gigs where he would earn a living. He soon graduated and she approached the church to put him on their payroll. It was his job to man the bookshop on weekdays but on Sundays, he sang in the choir. Also, he helped to organize the campus outreaches as the head of logistics. Occasionally, members paid him to sing at weddings, funerals, birthdays and other events. In two years he had been able to buy a car, rent a small apartment (which he shared with two friends) and so he became the toast of the single ladies.
What few people knew was that Nnamdi, Becky and Nkiru were in a love triangle. Nkiru was unmarried at 45, an average-looking owner of a medium-sized business. She had given up on men after being dumped at the altar at 32. Her reputation for being hard, quick-tongued and difficult to get along with, contrasted sharply with her generosity. Almost every member of the choir had at one time or the other, received a gift from her. She had paid half of the cost of Nnamdi’s car. The day he bought it, he drove it to her house to thank her. They ended up in bed.
His affair with Becky started from him nursing her during her crises. She had suffered asthma for years. A widow at 41 with a son, she often depended on him for comfort when she found herself incapacitated. Perhaps she increased the frequency of her complaints in order to gain his sympathy, but no one will ever know. Neither woman knew about the other, till Nnamdi fell in love with Tamara, a pretty girl who had just joined the choir.
She rebuffed his advances because she sensed something was off. It was only later that she found out how right she was. Becky was the first to approach her and warn her to stay away from “her man”. She was still reeling in shock when Nkiru sent her a ‘stinker’ to watch her back. Apparently, Nnamdi had tried to break it off with them hoping that the move would sway Tamara. He blurted out, in anger, that neither woman had any hold over him. The two became bitter enemies.
It got to the point that choir rehearsals became fraught with tension; both women throwing barbs at each other. They even created factions of those who supported them. Tamara tried to stay away from it all but Nnamdi confided in Ovie and that was how Ama got her information.
Becky was leading the worship session. Ama noticed that Nkiru was sitting with her head bowed so no one would see that she was not singing along. She wondered where the worship Becky was leading was going; affair aside, her malice with Nkiru was no formula for reaching the throne room.
PA was dressed in jeans and a blue T-shirt. He was standing to the left of the room, eyes closed, hands raised, singing along, oblivious of the tension in the atmosphere. Ama suspected that a few other leaders knew of the love triangle but she was not sure who knew what. She mouthed the words of the song, her mind busy working out how to let PA in on things without actually “gossiping”.
Pastor Odion took over and led a series of discussions on the various issues that concerned the church. Ama’s heart kept pounding because she had a premonition that something would go wrong. She could not put her finger on it but, there was a foul spirit in the air. They were served breakfast at 8.00am. She positioned herself behind Nkiru at the buffet table. Both of them reached for plates simultaneously and their eyes met.
“Hi, Sis.” Ama’s voice was cheerful. “Nice blouse.” Out of the corner of her eye she could see Becky glaring at her.
So it has got to this point? If I speak to either lady, I am automatically taking sides? PA’s ears will tingle.
“Thank you, love. I bought it from Dami who owns that boutique in Surulere. If you like it I will get one for you. You are a size 14, I guess?” Nkiru turned to her and smiled as she spoke.
“Yes, I wear 14. That is so kind of you.” Ama served herself coffee.
“Kind? It only cost N45000. That is far less than you deserve.”
“Thank you,” Ama repeated, not wanting to counter her on how deserving she was of a blouse of that cost.
“How are your boys?”
“They are doing great. How’s the business doing?”
“God is faithful. He has exceeded my expectations. In spite of the forex issues, we have stayed afloat. I thank God he has not allowed my enemies to laugh at me.”
Ama saw her throw a murderous glance in Becky’s general direction as she made that statement and bit her lip. She prayed silently that the two women would not have a full blown fight there and then. It was obvious that each woman believed herself to be in the right and the other, wrong. A glance at PA revealed that he was busy chatting with two of the leaders, at a corner of the room, a cup of coffee in hand.
They had got their food, so she and Nkiru parted. Ama made her way to Becky’s chair where she was alone for the moment. The other members of her table were still getting their food. She was scrolling through some messages on her phone. Ama dropped her plate on the table and took a sip from her cup.
“Hi, Sis!” she greeted.
“Who is your sister?” Becky snarled without looking up.
“Are we having a quarrel I didn’t know about?” Ama joked.
“When you make friends with people who join a unit that is all about sonorous voices when they know fully that they can’t sing, have you not chosen sides?”
Ama started. “Is something wrong?”
“Have you not heard that Nkiru is planning to ask PA to fire me because I have been the deputy music director for too long? She wants a taste of the pie. She wan trend, idiot!”
It was then that Ama knew that her foreboding had not been in vain. She shuddered to think what PA would have said about all this. It was in moments like this that she acutely wished that he was married. She would have found it easier to tell his wife that the two women’s feud was not at all about heading the choir. On the contrary, they had tasted the forbidden fruit and now wanted the entire tree, each to her. The option of discussing the matter with Pastor Odion’s wife did not appeal to her. She was a fine example of a pastor’s wife but she did not have the authority that was needed to call them to order.
This Toyosi, how come she has not been able to convince PA to fall in love with her?
With all her good looks, British accent, foreign mannerisms and all, PA was non-committal when asked if he saw a future with her. In fact, he looked Ama in the eye and asked her if after knowing him for years she did not feel she would be in a position to tell if he had feelings for anyone. That was the last time she asked. She could see that Toyosi was in love with him and silently hoped that he would be won over. Together, they would have figured out a way to table the matter of the love triangle to PA. He would of course, require hard evidence before calling in two long-standing church members and a young protégée to question them on allegations of fornication. And that would be a hard one.
PA was angrier than he had been in a long time. He allowed Becky and Nkiru to precede him into his office and then closed the door behind them. Ama waited ten seconds before planting herself behind the door. There was no way she was going to miss the drama.
“Have a seat.” He gestured to both of them to take the sofa while he perched on the edge of his table. “What was that all about?”
Neither woman spoke but the way they glared at each other spoke volumes.
“You mean you have nothing to say? Where do you get off abusing each other at a leaders’ meeting? That means you have been fighting during rehearsals. I am so ashamed of you. You have both served for too long not to know how I feel about this sort of behavior.”
“PA, she started it.” Nkiru spat, her eyes shooting daggers at her rival.
“None of you is leaving till you tell me what the quarrel is about.”
There was silence for a long time but PA was legendary for silence. He simply folded his arms and fixed his gaze on them.
“Sir, it is not as if it is anything serious,” Becky finally admitted. “We took it too far and we are sorry.”
“Who is ‘we’? Speak for yourself,” Nkiru snapped.
“That’s not good enough. I am not interested in an apology. What I want is a resolution and there can be none without thrashing the cause of the disagreement.”
There was silence again.
“I see you want to test the spirit of God. Let me take out a few minutes to pray and ask God to reveal the truth to me.” With that, he slid off the table and picked up his bible as though he was leaving the room.
“No, PA, it has not got to that. I will tell you what happened.” Becky stopped him.
He looked at her. Nkiru was biting her artificial nails, avoiding his gaze. PA got back on his seat.
“I’m listening.” He crossed his legs and placed his chin in his palm.
Becky cleared her throat and gave Nkiru a furtive glance.
“Nnamdi and I have been in love for some months now. We were planning to approach you for your blessing few weeks ago. I just found out that Nkiru has been enticing him, seducing him, offering him money, even reminding him that she is Igbo and I am not,” she began.
Nkiru laughed a loud mocking laugh. Becky ignored her and went on quickly before she could contradict her.
“I confronted her in private and asked her to back off because we are in love and he has even proposed to me…”
Nkiru laughed again and clapped her hands in derision.
“She then set about painting me black. That is why she is leading a campaign for my removal as deputy director of the choir.” She sat back, lips pursed, unable to meet PA’s gaze at the end of her tale.
“Is the music director aware of this?” PA asked. “Which Nnamdi are we talking about?”
“Nnamdi Esohe, the head of campus ministry logistics,” Becky replied.
“Okay.” PA reached for his phone and dialed a number. Both ladies watched him, confused about his reaction. “Hello,”he said when it rang. “Send Nnamdi who mans the bookshop to my office, Ama.”
He then went over to his DVD player and put on some gospel music. Soon the atmosphere was saturated with the husky voice of Frank Edwards. Both ladies sat as far away from each other as possible, arms crossed, gazing in opposite directions defiantly. PA ignored them and began to hum along with the CD. A few minutes later, Ama knocked on his door.
“Come in,” he called and turned down the music.
She opened the door to let Nnamdi in and shut it behind him. He looked bewildered to see both women there. Wiping his sweaty palms on his dark pants, he walked over to PA to greet him.
“Good morning Sir!” He bowed slightly.
PA extended a hand and shook him warmly. “Nnamdi, how are you?”
“Very well, Sir!”
PA held on to his hand, grasping his right shoulder with his left hand, his gaze direct.
“So you are the ‘happening’ guy around here?”
“Sir?” Nnamdi’s eyes were wide open, protesting his innocence.
“You are dating how many women at the same time, my guy?” PA tightened his hold so he could not turn to look behind.
“I asked if these two are the only women you are dating or you have more?”
Nnamdi swallowed but refrained from replying.
“How old are you?”
“I’m 27, Sir.”
“27? Which of these ladies did you propose to?” PA asked.
“None, Sir. I did not propose to anybody.” He shook his head as he spoke as if the very idea was repulsive to him.
Becky was about to protest but PA silenced her with a glance.
“Are you sexually involved with either of them?”
He averted his gaze then. Shoulders slumped and head hanging, he began to bite his inner lip.
“You should be proud of yourself. Keeping two women of this sophistication is no mean feat. You were able to convince each of them that their bodies, hitherto the temples of the Holy Spirit, should be leased to you, ‘Mr. Big Stuff’, for your regular use and entertainment.”
With that, PA let go of his hand and motioned for him to stand to his left.
“Nnamdi, I hold you responsible for breaking these women’s hearts. They nearly came to blows today, at my leaders’ meeting, because they have lost all inhibition. This is what the bible says about sexual sin. Those who indulge in it are not wise. Even if they were, they lose any wisdom they had.”
He motioned to him to face the two women. “Apologize to them for taking advantage of their vulnerability.”
Nnamdi sighed deeply and spoke without looking up. “I am sorry.”
“I didn’t hear you,” PA snapped.
Nnamdi raised his voice. “I am sorry for taking advantage of you.”
“Becky and Nkiru, do you accept his apology?” PA asked.
They nodded, sullen, confused.
“I am removing both of you from your positions as leaders, not because you had an affair but because you disrupted my meeting. Pastor Odion will make out time to talk to each of you individually and help you sort out this mess. For now, none of you is to call Nnamdi or speak of him as your ‘man’ again. He is now under my wings and if I find out you are trying to contact him, I will not be kind. Is that understood?”
“Yes, Pastor,” they both responded simultaneously.
“You may leave.”
They both rose and left. Outside, Ama took her seat before they could push open the door and schooled her face into a passive expression.
“Is the meeting over?” she asked them sweetly.
“Yes, I am leaving,” Nkiru replied, morose.
“Take care then. Becky, goodbye.”
Becky waved but did not say a word. Ama bit back a chuckle as they left.
PA needs to get a wife. That public outburst could have been prevented if I had an ally to relay the gist to him. We could have disinvited them or something. If this Toyosi does not tick all the boxes, I need to start lining up candidates. Maybe that is what I should do.
Her phone rang. It was Ovie. She knew he would call for all the juicy details. Ama smiled as she settled in her seat to regale him. PA would be busy chewing off Nnamdi’s ear. It was his principle that the man set the pace of a relationship so she suspected PA would not buy the story that he was lured into sleeping with two older women at the same time. She guessed the young man was in for a long lecture.