Ama was at lunch with Sis. Becky. The latter had invited her out, presumably to hang out but, she knew the real intention behind the date. She went reluctantly, knowing a refusal would earn her a bad reputation. No one could compel her, however, to accept whatever Becky had to say. With that thought to boost her morale, she wolfed down the sumptuous lunch in a high brow restaurant, secretly thankful that she would not have to make dinner that night as she felt too full.
Becky made short work of her food and pushed her plate aside. She then began to pick her teeth with a toothpick, a habit Ama found distasteful. Ama took a sip of water and thanked her for the meal. She lowered the toothpick to wave her gratitude away before continuing to pick her teeth.
“So, how have you been?” Ama asked, ignoring the urge to snatch the toothpick from her hand and fling it away.
“Not bad,” she replied, now using her tongue to poke at the remaining fragments of whatever vegetable was stuck between her teeth.
“I can’t stay too long. My sons are home on holiday so I need to be with them.”
Becky finally gave her her full attention. “I’ll get right to the point.” She took a sip of her glass of juice. “I need you to tell me how to get PA on my side. Everyone knows you have his ear. How do I get him to re-instate me as a leader?”
How about actually showing some remorse rather than devising means of getting off the hook?
Aloud Ama sighed. “I am as pained by your suspension as you. What of Pastor Odion? Has he not recommended you for re-instatement?”
Becky snorted. “His wife hates me. I am sure she is the one poisoning his mind about me.”
“Forget that former runs girl. She knows I know her secret. My younger sister and she were classmates. I have ‘data’ on her. That man does not know the devil he married.” She made a hissing sound after her proclamation.
Ama was shocked. She crossed her arms over her breasts. “Are you sure of this?”
“Ha! She was a home wrecker. I heard she was the mistress of some powerful men in Lagos. The wife of one of them even sent thugs to beat her up once.” Becky gesticulated as she spoke, her face contorting into as many expressions as it took to show just how disgusted she was about it all.
“One would think she was born in church,” Ama murmured, shaking her head.
Becky laughed. “I wonder if she has stopped drinking or if she now drinks in secret.”
“Hey! Don’t say that!” Ama clapped her hands in disbelief. “Does she drink?”
“Leave that gist. What I want to know is what it will take me to get this yoke off my neck. And Nnamdi has been avoiding me. Can you imagine that I had called my people to inform them I was bringing someone home to introduce as my husband?”
Ama choked despite all her efforts not to laugh. While Becky pounded on her back and offered her water, repeating the words “Take it easy”, she mentally reviewed images of Becky’s mother’s possible reaction to a suitor far younger than her daughter.
PA would have a fit if he realizes that this cougar is still eyeing his protégé. Why can’t she just move on?
Finally, Ama calmed and took a sip of water. Her mind was working furiously, trying to come up with an answer for the woman before her. Ovie had managed to get away with actually doing anything to jeopardize his relationship with PA by lying to both women that he was waiting for an opportune moment to present their cases. She was uncomfortable with that fib but could not see any way out.
“Let me think about it. You know this is the first time you are approaching me with this request. Give me a week or so to come up with a plan.”
Becky eyed her warily. “Why is everyone so afraid of approaching PA? Is he God? I don’t know why he is being judgemental.” She snorted.
“You would have done the same if not worse,” Ama scolded lightly.
“I can never be afraid of a human being.” Becky shrugged.
Yet, here you are, going behind PA’s back to plead your case. Why not confront him if you are so sure of your righteousness?
“I have told you what I can do. If that is not good enough for you, my hands are tied.” Her straight-face belied her inner disquiet.
Becky thought for a while, as if she really had any choice in the matter. “Well, I will have to accept that. I’ll expect to hear from you as soon as you speak to him.”
“You certainly will.”
Zina was working on some reports just before lunch that beautiful Tuesday morning when her secretary buzzed the intercom. She paused her work long enough to press the receive button.
“Someone is here to see you, Ma.”
“Who would that be? I’m not expecting anyone.”
“He says he is Allen.”
“I don’t know any one by that name.”
There was a pause as she appeared to be conferring with the guest.
“Perhaps you know him as PA?” her secretary said shortly after.
Zina gasped. “Are you sure?”
She affirmed that she was.
“Please let him in.”
She rose in a fluster and straightened her navy blue shift dress. Her hair would have to do as there was no time to rush to the bathroom and run a comb thru it. As for her make-up, what was left of the little she had worn that morning she could not even confirm.
PA entered, smiling, looking dapper in a dark blazer, a white shirt and khaki pants. She met him halfway into the room, extending her hand to welcome him.
“Good afternoon, sir. This is quite a surprise,” she managed.
He shook her hand and then reached behind her for a hug.
“I am sorry for barging in. I didn’t have your number and I just happened to remember where you work,” he explained.
“That’s alright. You are welcome. Do take a seat.”
She gave him a seat and took hers behind the desk. “I am so honored. Would you like something to drink?”
“No, thanks.” He leaned back in his chair, unbuttoning his jacket. “How are you? How has your day been?”
“Great, thanks. It’s been busy but I can’t complain.” She crossed her legs, trying in vain to look relaxed despite the turmoil in her mind.
What is this man doing here? Don’t tell me he visits all his church members like this? No, I’m not buying that. But, what could he want? I wish Imaobong was here.
“Have you had lunch?” he asked.
“No. I would have gone for lunch in a few minutes but you have all my attention, not to worry,” she replied.
He chuckled. “I certainly hope I have all your attention because Ovie seems to be my main rival.”
“Ovie is what?” She stared at him, incredulous, her mouth hanging open.
He leaned forward before he spoke. “I would like to take you to lunch, Zina, if that is okay with you; and even more than that, I would like a chance to get to know you better.”
They locked gazes. His expression was calm, serious but pleasant. Hers was one of disbelief and wonder.
“I think the coffee I had this morning was imported from the wrong country,” she thought aloud.
He didn’t speak while he waited. In fact, he didn’t flinch despite her piercing gaze.
“Are you asking me out?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Why? Why me?”
“I think you are beautiful, smart and just godly enough not to be spooky,” he replied, smiling. “And I think if you gave me a chance, you would find that I do not go around taking out pretty girls from my congregation.”
“Umm,” she floundered. “It’s rather sudden. Would you like to give me time to think about this?”
“Is there someone else?”
She burst into laughter. “Who would have thought that I, Zina, would be sitting opposite a pastor, discussing my love life on a Tuesday morning?” She wondered aloud.
“I love being a pastor Zina but there is so much more to me.”
“I have a master’s degree in architecture so I run an architectural design firm in partnership with two friends. I play the keyboard, saxophone and drums and I have a championship in international chess.”
“Wow! I am impressed,” she said despite herself.
“Does that qualify me for a date?” he raised an eyebrow.
She hesitated, biting her lip.
“Ovie?” he enquired.
“Not in the picture.” She shook her head.
“I’ll tell you what. Give me your number and we’ll reschedule.” She offered.
He sighed, disappointed.
“I am sorry but, this was too big a surprise.”
“I guess I will have to do it your way.” He reached into his jacket for his phone. Silently, they exchanged numbers before he rose. “I won’t take up more of your time.”
“Thanks for coming, PA.” She rose as well.
“Is it too much to ask for you to call me Allen?” His puppy-faced look would have melted a frostier heart.
“Please, permit me to call you PA. I beg of you,” she whispered.
“Okay.” He sighed.
She followed him to the door. They shook hands before she opened the door for him.
“Zina…” he said.
“Thanks for coming, PA. I’ll call you.”
He stood at the open door, wrestling with whatever he wanted to say but the moment was wrong. There were too many people moving about in the outer office and he could tell she was distracted.
“God bless you.” He said and left.
Zina shut the door behind him and leaned on it, her hands on her head. She could not believe the encounter she had just had. In her wildest dreams, she never envisioned herself being asked out by a pastor. She had hoped for a God-fearing man, even though her past only qualified her for wife-beaters and adulterers but this was stretching it.
Lord, are you mocking me? You know my story. If I begin to hope that a man as wonderful as this could love me, how will I ever recover from the heartbreak? The day he finds out who I really am and all I have done, it will be all over. I don’t think I can recover as swiftly as I did from Obas. Obas showed me just how worthless I am; yet, I moved on because I knew I didn’t deserve better. What are you doing to me, Lord? This one will cut deep. It will draw my blood, father. Let this cup pass me by.
Her intercom buzzed, interrupting her thoughts. She answered and then decided to skip lunch. It had occurred to her that she needed to fast and pray for clarity. And there was no better time to start than the present
PA was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the firm where Zina worked. He had driven himself there, leaving his protocol behind, to prevent gossip. Now, he felt dejected. He laid his head on the steering, struggling to keep tears in. He wondered if she was repulsed by him or she felt he did not meet up with her standards. It had taken him a week of fasting and prayer to work up the courage to approach her for a relationship. He even felt he had God’s approval.
What went wrong, then? The look on her face! I felt like scurrying out of her office. Man, she must have thought I was crazy. But, Lord, how do I get her out of my mind? I can’t even talk to anybody about her. Ovie would have been my confidant but he is interested in her. I can’t trust my friends since she hasn’t even given me the go ahead and my pastor colleagues favor Toyosi. What do I do?