Moji and Idara were in the backseat of the former’s car, heading to an event centre for a photo shoot. The topic of discussion was their friend Toyosi.
“She spent the whole day trying to catch the man’s eye. He just ignored her. My sister, I pitied her,” Idara said, shaking her head for emphasis.
“I think it was the presence of other church staff and the children that spooked him. She told me he has been warming up to her,” Moji replied.
“Don’t mind that liar. She has been making up stories. Their relationship only exists in her imagination.” Idara snorted.
“Hian! Do you mean he has no interest in her whatsoever?”
“Wow! I was under the impression that an engagement was imminent.”
“She spent the whole day watching him, trying to find a reason to join the group he was sitting with. In fact, I heard him tell her to sit with the kids so she could get used to them. Finally, she collected his secretary’s number, hoping to get her to oil her way. I had to hold back a laugh.”
“The woman will con her like Ovie did. Do know how much money she has spent on Ovie, buying him perfumes, watches, shirts and so on. He promised to use his influence but I doubt he has ever spoken a word in her favour.” Idara laughed loud and long.
Moji was quiet, tapping her finger on her bag in her lap. Idara suddenly stopped laughing and looked at her.
“What?” she asked.
“The last time Toyosi got her heart broken, she nearly went into depression. I know what I passed through trying to pull her out of the dumps and I do not look forward to doing it again.”Moji sighed.
“How do you propose we convince her to retrace her steps?” Idara asked.
“We have to stage an intervention.”
“She won’t like it…”
“It is better than her setting herself up for hurt.”
Idara nodded, her mind racing at the thought of Toyosi’s reaction to a confrontation. She was used to having her way and would prefer that she had come to the realization herself rather than being told by her friends that the good pastor was not interested in her. It was not something she looked forward to; though she knew Moji would not let her dodge the intervention. She could be caring at times but mostly, Moji was a bully. Idara sighed, resigning herself to fate.
“Guess who?” Zina’s voice rang.
She giggled as the occupant of the chair brought his hands to hers and took them away from his eyes gently. He turned his head and they locked gazes.
“Nda Bari! Pastor!” she gasped. “Sorry Sir! I am very sorry.”
She was curtseying as she apologized, flushed with embarrassment. PA smiled at her. He was still holding her hands. He rubbed her palms slowly, distracted.
“You have very soft hands.”
Zina was torn between wishing the ground would open up to swallow her and praying her knees would support her weight.
Why did no one mention how good looking this man is? Gosh, his eyes! And why is he holding my hands? But he is handsome, though. Why are his lips so red, so soft? And why is he holding my hands?
“Pastor, I’m sorry. I thought it was Ovie,” she mumbled.
“My name is Allen.”
“Sir?” She was bewildered. He surely didn’t expect her to call him by his first name.
“Ovie is sleeping. Do you want me to show you around the house?” he offered.
“I just came to install something in his laptop. Maybe I should call his number. I wouldn’t like to bother you, Pastor,” she said, trying to take her hands out of his unsuccessfully.
“Please, sit.” He pulled her into the chair beside his. “You haven’t told me your name.”
“Yes. I know you have a name.” He let go of her hands and crossed his legs.
Zina was able to get a good look at him now that she was sitting to his right. He was wearing a pair of jean shorts and a white T shirt. He had removed the ear phones in his ears and placed them on the bible on a small table before him. Obviously, he had been singing or praying when she entered and did not hear her. She had never seen him or any other pastor for that matter so casually dressed. It was getting difficult to associate him with the 3-piece suit wearing preacher image she had assigned all pastors.
“I won’t call down fire and brimstone on you,” he smiled again, trying to put her at ease.
She is so lovely. What a face! And that nose has to have been crafted during a worship session. And she is so reserved. I didn’t know there are girls who are still nervous around Pastors, in this day and age, what with all the forward girls I have been meeting.
“Please tell your name.”
“My name is Zinabari.”
“Is it an English name? What does it mean?”
“It means star of God. It is an Ogoni name. I am from Rivers state.” She had managed to regain her composure by reminding herself that he was just a man after all and she dealt with men every day. In fact, she had even had some of the more difficult ones for lunch.
“It’s very nice to meet you and I hope I did not embarrass you by holding your hands?” He chuckled, cocking his head to one side.
“You were embarrassed but would rather not hurt my feelings by saying so?” he read her thoughts.
She gasped, her hand going to cover her mouth and then laughed. He joined her and the tension seeped out of the atmosphere.
“I’m sorry I acted like a dork,” she wiped her eyes.
“No you didn’t. You were cool, calm and collected,” he said, straight-faced.
“Are you always this funny?”
“No. People complain that I hardly say anything. You seem to have loosened my tongue,” he sounded amazed at the realization. “I like your name.”
“Thank you.” She crossed her legs elegantly, tugging at the hem of the simple blue dress she was wearing. It would not do to show more leg than was decent in the presence of a pastor.
He rose to his feet and extended a hand to help her up.
“Let me show you around the house while you tell me all about yourself. We’ll go inside and find Ovie.”
She accepted his help rising but carefully removed her hand from his grasp afterwards. He let her precede him till they got to a wider footpath that allowed them to walk side by side. She could see a pool and a small garden in the distance.
“So, what do you do?” he asked.
To her surprise, she found herself opening up, telling him all about her childhood without a father and how her mother remarried 3 times. She had 6 siblings in all and her relationship with them was not always cordial. She told him about serving as a cook to an expatriate as a teenager to make enough money to go to the university. She told him about her rise in the corporate world and how she was now financially responsible for her family. She even told him of how she had planned a wedding with a man who was married unknown to her and only found out when his wife crashed her bridal shower.
He listened quietly, laughing at the antics of her mom to get more money off her and empathetic about her challenges in the corporate world. They had walked around the house three times before she realized they had not gone inside.
“We have not gone in…” she said, startled.
“I didn’t want to interrupt you.”
“Oh,” she said, suddenly flustered. “I have to give Ovie his software and get out of your hair. How could I have taken so much of your time?”
He stopped before her. “I have never met anyone as interesting as you. Do you mind if I…”
They were interrupted by Ovie. He came out of the backdoor and ran into them, surprised.
“Zina, I’m sorry. Were you looking for me?”
“Hi, Ovie,” she greeted, relieved.
“You didn’t tell me how beautiful Zina is,” PA said.
Ovie gaped at him, mouth open.
“I’ll let you conclude your business. Very nice meeting you, Zina,” he said as he nodded at her and left.
Both of them watched him till he opened the backdoor, went in and closed it behind him. The thoughts running through their minds were different yet similar. Ovie had never seen PA chatting with a woman, unchaperoned, in his backyard for that matter. And he had known him for over 10 years. It was proof that you could never claim to know anyone so well that you could predict his actions. And he used to boast that he knew PA in and out.
I wonder what they were talking about.