Chichi and I are off to see her dentist. She needs her hand held during a procedure to whiten her teeth. I had to take half the day off to be with her. While we wait in the lobby, I browse through twitter to find the trending topic of the day. Chichi and Moses are chatting on phone. She said he couldn’t make it because he had to rehearse a song with a guest artist coming to Shepherd Centre on Sunday.
“Hi, aren’t you Didi? We met at New Converts class.” I look up to see who is interrupting my solitude. It is Preye.
We shake hands and then I introduce her to Chichi who waves and goes back to her chat. I notice she is wearing a white coat like a doctor.
“Do you work here or something?” I ask.
“Yes, I am a dentist. I started working here 6 months ago. Actually I bought out Dr. Okoye’s former partner.”
“Wow! Good for you,” I say and give her a hi-five.
“How’s your boyfriend?”
“Stan? He is fine, thanks for asking.”
“I didn’t get your number that day. Could I have it now?” She brings out her phone from her pocket.
I take it from her and punch in my number before handing it back.
“Let me run along. Chichi have a good one.”
Chichi makes a face and Preye laughs. “It’s not that bad. I promise you won’t feel a thing.”
“Yeah…” I rise and walk to her office with her. She has her name on the door.
“Lagos is one amazing city. You might see someone casually dressed on the streets and not realize she is a C.E.O. What a rush!”
“It must be awesome having a boyfriend who is born again,” she says wistfully as she unlocks her door.
I open my mouth to say ‘Yes’ but memory of the ‘revival’ in the car after the class flashes across my mind and I bite my tongue.
“I envy you dear. You guys are ‘couples goals’. Remember to invite me to the wedding.”
“That’s for sure. Let’s get him to propose first.” I roll my eyes.
“I know right?” She laughs and gives me a hug before we part.
It is Chichi’s wedding day. The makeup artist to the stars is working on her face while I busy myself taking pictures. Chichi has an army of bridesmaids and they all slept in the hotel we booked. 6 girls are wearing pink, while another 6 wear gold. My dress is cream and stunning as it should be considering the hefty price I paid for it and the rude attitude of the designer I had to put up with. She is very composed, drinking champagne from a straw. I know she woke up very early to smoke weed and then spray some perfume to get rid of the smell. I didn’t join her. Stan doesn’t like drugs. He says they alter my behavior and he wants me to be present when I am with him and not in a daze. I guess Jesus has a lot to thank him for; he got me into bible study and now I have even lost my craving for recreational drugs.
Moses and I have a surprise for Chichi at the service so I am smiling like a Cheshire cat, almost bursting with excitement. Finally, we are ready and pictures are taken and Chichi’s uncle is here. I pick up her train carefully. It is long and has real petals sewn into the hem. We get into her white limo and the driver speeds off. Pastor Dawodu is known as a stickler for time and Moses has been calling all morning to warn us to be punctual. Chichi is not known for her punctuality but when he threatened he would come to her room and carry her to the church himself if he got there first, she accepted the challenge.
We pull in 5 minutes early and I heave a sigh of relief. I see Preye getting out of a Toyata Prado and smile. I invited her to the wedding. We have been chatting quite a bit since we met at the clinic and she has turned out to have a great sense of humor. She sees our car and comes over to ay hello.
“Congratulations Chichi! You look stunning. Moses is a lucky man.”
“Thank you, doctor,” Chichi grins.
“Hi, babe,” I smile.
“You look good as well. I hope I don’t look like I came to pick up the notes guests are going to spray on you?” she jokes.
Chichi and I laugh.
“That’s not possible,” I reply. “You look like the boss lady you are.”
Someone motions for us to get out of the car so she waves and hurries off. I open the door, get out and then walk to the other side to assist Chichi. I have heard weddings are emotional but for some reason I feel the same way I feel when I go to the mall with her. There is no magic in the air, no excitement, no anticipation. I even feel bored and have to hold back a yawn. Maybe it is because the bridesmaids left us alone for a bit and reality dawned on me. Chichi feels nothing whatsoever for Moses and she has no remorse about marrying him and going back to exactly who she has always been whether or not he finds out.
Nedu is a groomsman. He looks resplendent in his white jacket and dark pants. Kevin, the best man is helping Moses adjust his bow tie while the cameras click as fast as lightening. Nedu suddenly feels light headed and realizes he skipped dinner and breakfast.
“I hope I can sneak out during the service without anyone noticing.”
The music starts and they march in. They stand in their seats as Chichi marches in, looking exquisite in a ball gown with long fluffy sleeves. However, he can’t take his eyes off Didi who is a vision in cream.
“I never noticed this girl before now Lord. She is drop dead gorgeous. What do you think?”
“What do I think? I created her. You know what I think.”
“Ah! You do great work. I usually feel attracted to light-skinned girls on the curvy side of life but if you give me the go ahead, this one is a winner.”
“Wait for my go ahead then.”
“Are you saying she might be the one?”
“I never whisper uncertainties. When you need a wife, we’ll talk. Now, concentrate. You are staring.”
“I’m sorry Lord. But go ahead and consider my request…when you are less busy.” Nedu chuckled.
“Guy, why you dey laugh?” One of the groomsmen asked him.
“Don’t mind me. I got distracted.”
“Aren’t you taking the special song?”
“No, Moses has a special surprise for his bride.”
“Cool…a solo performance on his guitar I guess.”
“I guess so.”
As if he heard his thoughts, the announcer said it was time for the special song. There was a hush as the lights were dimmed and Moses rose. Chichi looked at him in surprise and then smiled when it dawned on her what he was doing. He got on the stage and took a seat on a stool. Someone passed him his guitar. He adjusted the microphone to be able to speak in it.
“Hi everyone. I have a special song for my wife and I want you to welcome her friend Didi to the stage. It’s Didi’s first time on any stage so make her feel loved.”
The hall erupted in a cheer. Chichi screamed in surprise as Didi rose and blew her a kiss. Walking to the stage, she took the microphone Moses handed her and sat on a stool that seemed to appear out of thin air. No one was as surprised as Nedu. He had been completely kept in the dark about this and started fretting that Didi would be an average singer and endure ridicule.
Then she opened her mouth and he had to hold his breath. Her voice was sonorous, her tone was rich and fluid; she held her notes easily and brought emotions to the song. When she held a particular note for more than 1 minute the congregation began applauding her and didn’t stop till she ended the song. Even Chichi was on her feet. Moses had played well but Didi was the star of the show.
“Father, we need to talk. She even sings! What do I need to do to get this girl? Where has she been all my life?”
“Hold your horses, Nedu. Today is Moses’ wedding. Tomorrow we can discuss yours.”
Apologies for the delay and thanks for reading. Please like, comment, share and retweet via @nenabekee.
Nedu regretted ending the call abruptly but he was more disappointed that he had not discerned there was a battle over Didi’s soul. He began to think of the next step to take. Of all the new converts of that Sunday, she was the only one who blatantly showed no interest in learning more. Two would be unavoidably absent from the class but they apologized and promised to attend the next one. From Didi’s tone, Nedu knew she would never attend any class and as soon as she could do so without a twinge in her conscience, she would be back to whatever she had left behind when she stepped forward that day.
He decided to call his closest friends and prayer partners to share his prayer burden with them. They were a group of young men who held each other up in prayers, met once a month to share and held each other accountable. In the group were Bola, the music director, who was married with 2 kids; Veno who played keyboard and was engaged, Kevin the assistant follow-up director, Chuks the head of ushering who was Moses’ accountability partner and Moses.
It was a group call.
“Guys, are we up for it? Midnight as Veno suggested,” Bola said.
“Midnight is great. Are we doing a fast?” Moses asked.
“We do a 3-day fast from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and pray together at midnight, Kevin replied.
“Thanks guys; I really appreciate this,” Nedu said.
“No need to thank us. I remember when we prayed together about those 2 brothers in ushering who were giving me sleepless nights. Do you know they are now 2 of the most dedicated members? Last month 1 of them won ‘Best dressed usher’ and the other won ‘Most Punctual usher’. I am so glad we prayed,” Chuks said.
“I like your idea of internal awards. Bro. Bola, shouldn’t we copy this in the choir?” asked Veno.
“You just want Nedu to win all the awards, don’t you?” Bola replied.
Everyone laughed for Nedu was indeed very dedicated.
“He won’t win best-dressed though; no offence meant,” Moses chipped in.
“It’s not my fault we don’t wear suits to alaba market,” Nedu retorted.
“You can still wear a suit. In fact your customers may even prefer it.”
“What customers want is quality products, excellent service and discounts.”
“Amen somebody!” Bola hailed.
The group of friends laughed again.
“How are wedding plans coming up, Moses?” Veno asked.
“These things ain’t cheap, man! When next I see a newly-married man I will be sure to give him a handshake.”
“You know we will be there for you. When you set up your marriage-planning committee, let us know,” Kevin said.
“Of course I am counting on you all. Thanks guys.”
After a few more deliberations, Nedu ended the call. He spent a few more minutes praying for Moses; asking God to bless his marriage and bless his fiancé as well.
It was the week before Chichi’s traditional wedding. She and Moses had decided to terminate the pregnancy because he couldn’t bear the thought that his pastors and friends would find out that he was sleeping with her. He knew that Nedu would not betray him; besides he had nothing to gain from it. Their group had wrestled in prayer for Didi but she remained nonchalant. She showed up in church every Sunday, arm-in-arm with her boyfriend who Chichi told her she had practically moved in with. Nedu had done everything he could to get her to attend just one class but she would not. He called, sent messages, and even tried connecting her with two women in their 40s who were mature in their Christian walk; all to no avail.
Moses did not blame her. He had met Stan and found him to be an intelligent, generous and demonstrative man. It was obvious he was in love with Didi from the way he fixed his gaze on her whenever they were together, holding onto her hand and rubbing it and talking to her like she was the only one in the room. He had yet to meet any other man who did not seem attracted to Chichi and that was a huge tick in his books. As far as he was concerned, Didi was a lucky girl. Add to all that, the fact that Stan was very good-looking and had the kind of money he had been sowing seed for all his life.
“Father, when will my own turn come? I have been paying my tithe since I learned about tithing and I always sow towards all the projects in church. Don’t you think it is time to change my level too? I also want to share testimony. I want to spoil Chichi. I want to bless my parents. Remember me for good in Jesus name,” he prayed under his breath.
He was waiting at a café for Chichi who had gone to see a vendor to finalize plans for her bridal bouquet. She insisted all the flowers at the white wedding must be imported white roses. They would be flown in from South Africa the day before. He thanked God for all her savings over the years and the huge donation her boss at work gave them for the wedding. How else would they have pulled off such an expensive wedding?
“That is why it is good to be diligent at work.”
He felt a hand on his arm and snapped out of his thoughts. It belonged to a young lady he did not know. She was staring at him.
“Are you the guy who plays the guitar at Shepherd centre?” she asked.
He smiled at her, flattered. “Yes ma, I am.”
She squealed in excitement and clapped her hands, almost dropping the phone she was holding. “I loved your solo on Sunday. You play so magically!”
“Thank you ma. We thank God for his grace.”
“All my friends love you. Oh my gosh…we actually wanted to come over and say hello on Sunday but you seemed to vanish after the service. Fancy meeting you here?”
By this time she had taken a seat next to him and was snuggling up to him in a rather suggestive manner. Moses was uncomfortable particularly because the cropped top and skinny jeans she was wearing were leaving nothing to his imagination but he felt she was just being over-expressive and sat there wondering how to discharge her.
“Let’s take a picture. Better still, let me do a video for snapchat or my girls will call me a liar.”
She lifted her phone to the right angle and began to video the two of them while instructing him on how to pose and smile and so on. At the point that Chichi walked in, it actually looked like she was smooching Moses, though she was only putting her arms around him and resting her cheeks on his.
Chichi made it to the table before Moses could tear himself away and tapped her on her shoulder.
“Who are you? Nnunu (bird) what are you doing?” she asked.
“Excuse me!” that one tried to wave her away.
“I si gini (what did you say?)”
Before Moses could intervene Chichi pulled off the girl’s wig, threw it to the floor and pulled her off the chair. There was pandemonium. A few patrons of the café had surrounded them trying to pull Chichi off the girl but her grip was too strong. Meanwhile the poor girl was yelling like a banshee. Moses was behind Chichi begging her.
“Stop it Chibaby. I don’t know her. Nothing was going on!” he pleaded.
“Hapu m ka m ta this girl aru! ( let me bite her)”
“I’m begging you.” Moses had his hands around her waist trying to pull her away.
“Aunty leave her. She won’t do it again.” A patron lent his voice.
“Let them fight!” One prankster called from the back of the crowd.
The whole incident lasted about 10 minutes though to Moses it had lasted forever. He stood there mortified as Chichi finally released the girl and ordered her to run away and never look in his direction again. She picked her wig and bag from the floor and left in tears. The crowd began to disperse as the manager of the establishment stepped forward and asked them to leave. Chichi grabbed Moses’ hand and dragged him away.
“Who even wanted to taste your expired products?” She made a loud hissing sound as she stomped out.
Outside, Moses stood leaning with his back to his car arms crossed over his chest, tapping his foor furiously. Chichi went over to the passenger door and tried to open it. It was locked.
“Unlock the door,” she requested.
“If I don’t will you also fight me, Chichi? What was that all about?” he spat.
“Are you angry with me?”
“Shouldn’t I be? What were you thinking causing a scene like that?” Moses was pounding one fist into his open palm angrily.
“Please open the door. The heat is too much. I want to sit down.” Her tone was unperturbed, conversational.
He released a sigh and unlocked the car door for her. She thanked him and got in; putting her purchases in the backseat. He got in and started the car.
“Chichi, I am not happy with you. Your behavior was embarrassing and…”
She reached over, fixing her earnest eyes on him and took his hands in hers cutting off his words with her soft touch.
‘Gbahara m ezigbo di m (forgive me dear husband). You are right and I was wrong. It will not happen again. I just couldn’t stand the thought of another woman touching you,” she cooed.
“I can’t have that. You should have listened to me,” he insisted shaking his head.
“Let’s forget it happened, please.” She tugged at his earlobe gently leaning forward in a manner that caused his anger to evaporate like water left for too long in a boiling kettle.
“It’s okay. It’s just that I never saw this side of you. Are you sure you didn’t watch too much wrestling on T.V. as a child,” he joked.
She laughed before changing the topic as he put on his seatbelt and sped off. Later when she told Didi about the incident Didi pitied Moses who had been shielded from his fiance’s true nature. Unlike Didi, what Chichi did was not out of jealousy or anger. On the contrary she was just marking her territory. It was her way of manipulating him into staying faithful. It was probable that her heart rate did not increase by even a beat throughout the incident but the memory of the embarrassment would serve to restrain him from cheating and if he did, at least he would not be brazen about it.
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Who is your favourite character so far?
What do you think about Moses’ decision to get rid of Chichi’s pregnancy?
Are bridal showers and weddings getting too flamboyant?
“Didi, I am pregnant,” Chichi said.
I almost fall out of my chair in shock. She is the most careful woman I know and her cycle is as predictable as the clock which is why she has had only 1 abortion that I know of. I remember her telling me that she and Moses had to be careful not only to avoid getting caught but also not to get pregnant. The church would not wed them if she was pregnant. They would have to do a “marriage blessing”; probably in some“ office in Shepherd centre without the normal fanfare of church weddings or wed in another church.
“How did it happen?” I ask.
“O buro Moses (Is it not Moses)? He claims he reacts to condoms and I told him it wasn’t my safe period but he said he would be careful. Lee nu ya (Look at the result),” she said folding her arms.
I was at hers because a tailor was to come there and take our measurements for the clothes for her wedding. She was running late.
“Ke ihe I ga-eme (What are you going to do?)”
“I don’t know. Moses says we can’t keep it. He can’t lose the job in church.”
“Will they fire him because you got pregnant?”
“You don’t know these people. They can be petty. Even if they don’t fire him, he won’t be seen in the same light ever again.”
“Well…I don’t know how that is a loss. Maybe they need to see him for the hypocrite he really is!”
“Didi!” she gasps.
“What did I say that is not true? He has everyone fooled that he is on a high spiritual plane or something yet, he is asking you to get rid of his baby.” I spit in disgust and cross my arms before the thought hits me. “Wait, is it his child?”
“How should I know?” she replies non-pulsed. “The child belongs to whoever I decide to keep it for.”
“O gini (What is it)?” She rises from her couch to pick the remote from the centre table and proceeds to flick through channels casually as if she just announced that it rains in Nigeria.
I gape at her, mouth open as she stands with one knee on the table and her left hand on her waist. She has crossed many lines in the past but now I feel like I can see into her soul and what I see is frightening. I feel like in place of her soul she has a yawning hole; deep and dark and menacing, filled with the souls of all the men she has been with. I shiver with repulsion.
“How did I ever admire her so much that I wanted to be like her?”
She takes her seat before speaking again. “Why is that tailor taking so long?”
“Chichi why did you continue sleeping with your boss when you knew you were engaged to Moses?”
“Who will pay for me to maintain my lifestyle? Is it Moses who can hardly fend for himself? I had to give him money to secure a venue for our traditional wedding. His rent just expired and his car is on its last legs. Why doesn’t he ask where I get all the money from?”
“He is afraid to ask…” I realize.
“Does such a man deserve…never mind.”
She picks up her phone, dials a number. I overhear her scolding the tailor for being so late and urging her to hurry.
I find myself wondering whether Stan would ask me to abort his baby if he found I was pregnant. Then I find myself wondering what Nedu thinks about abortion.
“Why am I thinking about Bro. Nedu?”
“That woman is testing my patience. I will change tailors if she doesn’t show up. The last time she kept me waiting like this it turned out she was lying and had never left her shop. Ndi mmadu di nno unreliable (people are just unreliable).”
“How far gone are you?”
“Is there any one apart from your boss?”
She nods. “There’s Chief Braithwaite and Felix.”
“But…but…Felix is married, newly married. I thought you guys broke up?”
“Is it my fault his wife doesn’t know her duty? He said she is frigid. All these “sisters” who don’t want you to test before marriage: She was hiding her issues. The guy came to me in tears. I had to put him out of his misery.”
She reaches for her glass and takes a gulp. With her it is never anything light. It’s go hard or go home. Even when she used to smoke she was smoking Cuban cigars. She gave them up last year when she felt she was losing control. I hug myself. There is a chill in the air.
Maybe it comes from us coldly discussing the future of a child who did not ask to be conceived by a mother who exists solely for the next thrill.
Maybe it is because of all the alcohol we have consumed.
Maybe it is about to rain.
I feel sad but I can’t explain why. Though I am the less adventurous of the two of us, I always defended her actions. Now I find myself wondering if there will ever be an end to the excuses.
“Where does it all end really?”
I realize I have spoken out my thoughts. “What will happen after the wedding when Moses finds out he has been fooled?”
“Like the good Christian that he is, he will accept his lot and make the best of it. Come to think of it, he is getting me.” She points at herself. “All this gorgeousness for one man?”
I laugh despite myself. She has a point; a woman as highly coveted as she is only comes at a price and Moses will pay it whether or not he realizes it.
My phone jars me out of my reverie at work the next day. It is Nedu. I realize I didn’t call him.
“Hi. Bro. Nedu good evening.”
“When did it become “Bro. Nedu?” he asks.
I almost blush and I wonder why. “Why am I so nervous around him? I feel like a bumbling fool, barely able to string two words together. Even pastors don’t make me this nervous.”
“I am sorry: Nedu. I should have called to tell you I will be unavoidably absent but if there is another class next Saturday, I will be there.”
“Will he let you come next Saturday?”
“I beg your pardon?” A cold feeling of dread descends slowly down my spine.
“I know you heard me. I had a dream last night and I saw you had a star on your head. Most people who are born to be stars find their destinies derailed early in life. It is never easy getting them to commit.”
“I don’t know who you think you are but…” My legendary temper has unleashed itself like a rottweiler that smells blood.
“Ndo Nne. Enjoy your weekend and come to class next week. I pray the angels of God protect you till you are ready to take the leap. Jesus loves you.”
“He ended the call! What is it that gives this man airs, biko nu?” I fume when he cuts off. “Who told me to attend that church and even come forward and write down my name? I should never have.”
If I had been tempted to cancel on Stan, the thought perished when he sent me flowers in the morning with a handwritten poem telling me how much he looked forward to our outing. By the time I got off the phone thanking him for the flowers, a package arrived for me. It contained the most decadent lingerie, my favourite perfume, chocolates and red wine. I had had great boyfriends but this one surpassed them all.
Which girl in her right mind would ever give up all that for a bible study class? Am I the first girl to get born again? I know a number of born again folk who live double lives; they have the right lingo, attend church regularly and go through the motions but when it is time to party, they take no prisoners. That is more my style. Not for me the life of the miserable minority who actually give up their former lives when they get born again.
“That just sounds so unnecessary.”
It is Sunday. I am driving Chichi to church so that she doesn’t have to go in her pretend car. Stan has promised to meet us in church so along with Moses we are going out for lunch afterwards. We do not sit together because she has been asked to shadow the ushers in order to learn the ropes. For the occasion she chose an ankara iro and buba: Her mother would be proud of her, I am sure. I sit close to the front because we are early. The worship is loud and enthusiastic and just like the previous Sunday, I find myself unable to stay aloof.
A middle-aged lady steps forward to sing a special song. The words are displayed on the monitors.
Who can stand against the king?
No one can
No one will
Oh Oh Oh
Victory belongs to Jesus
Victory belongs to him.
She pauses the song to speak. “Years ago, I was in a female cult in the university. I had just joined because someone snatched my boyfriend and I wanted to have the power to prevent it from ever happening again. One night, we were recruited to lure a politician’s son to where he would be waylaid and kidnapped. Everything was going according to plan till the kidnappers showed up and there was a shootout between them and his armed escort. I was hit by a stray bullet and abandoned to die in the bushes.”
I am so engrossed in the story that when she begins to cry I find myself crying also.
“Alone in that bush, I cried out to God and begged him to save me. There were no mobile phones, remember. I promised him that I would serve him all my days if he delivered me. I spent the night there bleeding, cold and afraid of wild animals but God saved me. The next morning, a car broke down by the road side. You may call it a co-incidence but I call it a miracle!”
A thunderous shout goes up from the congregation. I find myself shouting as well.
“The driver heard me calling and carried me out. He bandaged my wound with his shirt, changed his flat tire and took me to a hospital. It’s been 20 years but God has kept me. He is a faithful God. I am going to sing one more time and then I want to give a call for everyone who knows they cannot remain in charge of their destiny. If you know you need to be delivered from the dominion of darkness; you need Jesus to invade your heart and take over, run to the altar and give your life to him!”
I don’t know how it is possible but I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around but no one is looking at me or touching me. I look at the singer. She is singing. Again, I feel the tap on my shoulder and an inexplicable warmth in my abdomen. Rising to my feet like a robot, I run to the altar and collapse there with the crowd of men and women kneeling there and crying. This must be what it feels like to catch religion. I don’t understand everything she is saying but I hear myself repeating her words.
After the prayers we are asked to go to a room at the back of the church where our names and numbers are taken down and we are invited to bible class. In their words “To learn more about the new life you just received.” Just as I rise from my chair, I lock gazes with a man. I remember he is Moses’ friend who he introduced to us. He didn’t attend Chichi’s birthday where they got engaged so I hadn’t seen him for a while. He is staring at me so unashamedly; I begin to wonder if he is seeing through me.
“Maybe he knows how many men I have slept with. He is probably wondering why I feel I deserve God’s mercy when I did not show mercy to the babies I aborted. Perhaps he has seen me in a club before, drinking and getting high.”
Someone takes my hand shakes it and gives me a hug. “Welcome to the family, Sister,” she says.
I nod without looking at her. Then I push away the chair before me so I can leave the room.
“Don’t I know you?” It is Moses’ friend, whatever his name is. I didn’t see him approaching.
“Hi.” My tone is testy.
“Hi indeed. Where did we meet?”
“I am Chichi’s friend. Moses introduced us the last time I was here.”
“That’s true! Moses’ Chichi!”
“Moses’ Chichi indeed! A greater irony does not exist.” My smile bellies my thoughts as I return the pen I used to the lady who gave it to me.
“I am so happy you answered the call today. Congratulations!”
“I want you to know that I am going to be on your case. I will be handling the class for new believers so expect calls, messages and emails. We will be all over you like a rash.”
“Rash?” I lift an eyebrow.
“Maybe rash is not the best word but you get the picture.” He smiles.
“Thank you. It’s all new to me but I’ll be happy to find out more.”
“Splendid! That’s what I love to hear. Our first class is on Saturday at 4pm; don’t miss it.”
“Great…I’ll see you around. God bless you.”
Nedu was in a trance. He was sitting in his room at home, going over the song selection for the choir on his computer when he felt as if he was in a concert hall. He saw himself on stage singing a fast tempo song. There was a large crowd. Everyone was singing along and dancing. Then he spotted someone in the front seat who was dancing like he was deaf. His dance steps were not in tune with the song. Nedu saw himself stop the song and ask the security team to walk the fellow out. Suddenly, the trance ended.
‘What does this mean Lord?” he asked aloud, placing his hand on his abdomen as was his custom. “I don’t understand. Why would I interrupt praise only to embarrass someone who does not know how to dance?”
He cocked his ear, hoping for clarity but he did not hear anything. Dropping to his knees, he began to pray in the spirit, groaning loudly without knowing why. He could sense he was interceding for someone but he did not know who.
“Perhaps Harvey is in trouble.”
Harvey was his cousin and childhood best friend whose salvation had been a long-standing prayer point. They had both been members of an R and B singing duo until Nedu got saved and joined the choir. Harvey had gone on to release a few singles but did not become a huge success. He wrote songs for more successful artists to make ends meet but his dream was to become famous. Nedu’s dream was for him to be saved and filled with the Holy Ghost. The thought made Harvey laugh.
“You mean I should leave all the honeys out there, all the shisha, all the Hennessy? I should live this kind of life you are living?” he would say and cackle making a rude sign to say that Nedu had lost his mind.
“Concentrate on what you will be gaining and not on what you will be giving up.”
“Which is what exactly? What would I be gaining?”
“Deliverance from addictions for starters; you can’t even sleep without getting high. Look at you; Harvey you need help.’
“I am just fine, thank you. I don’t want any part of your ‘born againism’. Spare me the lecture.”
Nedu began to cry as he remembered his cousin. “Deliver him Lord. Do not allow him to die without accepting the gift of salvation. Place a hedge around him till his heart is soft enough to hear you. I know it is because he is running from you that his life has been spiraling out of control. Take away the veil blinding his mind and show him the light.”
Chichi came to tell me all about their visit to Uncle Tari. We are sitting outside my house nursing drinks. She likes gin but I am a red wine girl.
“Is Moses still insisting on meeting someone from your father’s side?” I ask.
“Insist?” she scoffed. “O di egwu! (How likely)”
We both burst into laughter. The thought of his making such a demand was absurd. He was behaving exactly as she had predicted years ago when I asked her who would marry two party-girls who had a body count longer than the voters’ register at the last elections.
She had said, “When the time comes, I will marry a man who will be so crazy about me that he will be afraid to ask questions lest he lose me; a man who will not dare to order me about or raise his hand to me like my father did my mom.”
When the mirth ceases, we lean back in our chairs watching the antics of her puppy Manuel. He is playing with a bone-shaped toy Chichi got him on her last trip to Antigua.
“What do you think about Stan?” I ask.
She is silent, thoughtful. “Do you like him?”
“I kind of like him,” I admit. “He is very persistent. My phone battery will soon wear out from constant chats and calls. Besides, he is quite a looker.”
“Well, you have always dreamed of someone from fairy tale land. I don’t think he is husband-material. He will want to be in charge and know everything you do. We have only met once but he appears to have a strong personality. Can you handle it?”
I purse my lips. Chichi has issues with control because of her childhood but I grew up in a relatively happy home. My parents may be divorced now but they hid the cracks in their marriage till we grew up. My two older brothers and I were never exposed to their altercations or anything else which would make me balk at the thought that a husband would want to know where I am or who I am with. I nod.
“I think I will give him a chance. He has not gone to first second base yet and I can tell how impatient he is.”
“Is there any man who does not want to go there? Even Bro. Moses who was telling me how we would have to wait till our wedding night because he does not want to disappoint his pastor; the day I spent the night for us to pray for discernment whether God approves of us or not, he was the one who made the first move.” Chichi clucked her tongue.
I let out a guffaw, bending over to hold my sides. Chichi sits there, straight-faced. She has a great sense of humor. She is able to make you laugh without even smiling. She only calls Moses ‘Bro’ when she wants to make fun of him.
“Did I say anything bad?” she asks.
“No, you did not…” I am still panting.
“I have joined the ushers in Shepherd Centre since they said they will not wed us if I am not a church volunteer,” she announces.
“When was this?”
“I filled the forms last Sunday. The training is for two weeks, starting on Monday. You do know this means you are automatically a member of my church now, right?”
“Me? How does this concern me?” I make a face at her.
“You have to join the church please. I need you in my corner.” She takes my hand and tugs at it.
“Hmmm. Let me think about it.”
Chichi picks up her phone and begins to type in it. I rise to use the bathroom. My laundry man has just dropped off my laundry so the fragrance of newly-washed clothes fills the corridor. I inhale deeply and smile. It’s not just the laundry though. Stan sent me flowers, so I have another source of pleasant scents. After using the bathroom, I linger by the vase, cradling the roses to my chest and breathing in their perfume. Flowers always make me smile.
“Didi!” I hear Chichi call so I head for the porch.
“I invited Stan to church and he said he will be there. He can’t come with us though cause he will be late. He has a client to meet with at 9.30.”
“You invited who? When did we agree to do that?” I am already bristling.
She waves a hand to dismiss my concerns. “Calm down. I did not steal his number from your phone. He is following me on twitter. I simply sent him a message.”
Her excuse seems plausible but it takes a while for my breathing to return to normal. I am known for my quick temper and I do not trust her. She has seduced a number of my boyfriends in the past and each time I confronted her she would claim they were not worth my while since they fell for her so easily. On each occasion we fought for a few weeks but we always made up because our bond was strong. I was not so deluded as to write off her behavior but I really did not care for any of those men so it was difficult to remain angry at her betrayal.
I remember that Stan did not ogle her when I introduced her to him and I let out my breath. He had later told me that he preferred dark-skinned women and that he loved my slim frame. I smile again at the memory.
“Is that a yes?” Chichi asks.
I roll my eyes and let out an expletive.
“Don’t call me such names. I am a child of God,” she feigns horror.
“Child of God indeed! You think God doesn’t know his children?”
“Pass me the bottle, please. You are becoming boring. I don’t know what is wrong with you.”
I make a hissing sound and pass her the gin. “You need Jesus!”
“Hallelujah!” She raises a hand and closes her eyes as she responds.
I shake my head and take out my phone to chat with Stan. I want to gauge his mood so I can find out if she has come between us. She also takes out her phone to chat. The rest of the evening passes with little or no conversation till she passes out drunk.
Thanks for reading and for all the kind comments.
If you are not following me on twitter @nenabekee or sharing this story…wyd? Lol.
I believe I have made up for all the delay and if you are still angry with me, come closer let me tug at your ear. Hahaha
Cheers, Dr. N
Chichi and Moses were on their way to meet her parents. It was a week after Moses had proposed to her. She was an orphan but he was getting introduced to her uncle and aunt who had raised her after her mother died. Her father Hyginus was a trader who married her mother Ibinabo when she was about 17. At the time they met, he was a truck driver who always stopped at a restaurant where she waited tables. He married her because she got pregnant and he hoped she would have the son his wife had been unable to give him after 10 years of marriage. When she had Chizitere, he was disappointed but initially he tried to hide it.
Comfort, his first wife was not ready to hide her own feelings, however. She mocked and taunted and jeered till Ibinabo was miserable. Even worse was that she suffered a miscarriage each time she got pregnant subsequently. By this time, Hyginus had started trading in spirits. He consumed his goods heavily and it soon fell on Ibinabo to keep the business afloat. She applied all she had learned from her aunt’s restaurant and soon she was making a tidy profit.
“Witch, you have stolen my luck!” he would rail when he got home drunk as usual. “It was since I married you that things stopped moving. You are barren! Take that empty womb out of here!”
Sometimes he threw chairs at her. At other times he collapsed outside the two-bedroom apartment they shared with Comfort and her three daughters and she would carry him in. Chichi never saw her try to defend herself or argue with him but she saw her mother become a bitter woman. When they were alone, she would counsel her never to put herself in a position where she was beholden to or subservient to any man.
“They are all the same, Chichi. Find one you can control and marry but don’t let any man do to you what your father does to me,” she would say, lying on her back on the only bed in the room they shared, staring up at the wall, her right arm under her head, her face lined by the pain of suppressed emotions.
She was pretty but Chichi got her looks from her grandmother who was said to have been the most beautiful girl in her village when she was young. Men had fought over her but her father gave her in marriage to the son of his best friend who unfortunately died at a young age and left her with two children; Ibinabo and her brother Tari.
As they pulled up to the house of her Uncle Tari, Chichi saw a boy kneeling down in front of the house of one of her uncle’s neighbours. He was probably being punished for some misdemeanor. Her mind flashed back to the day she returned from school when she was about 12 years old.
Adanna, her step-sister who was the only friend she had in the family, pulled her aside to stop her from going into her room.
“What is it?” Chichi asked her, trying to get out of her grasp.
“Let us go and play outside.”
“I need to go and greet Mama first. Why are you holding me?”
“Just give me your school bag. You can greet her later.”
Chichi was puzzled. Before she could say more, Comfort summoned her daughter by yelling her name loudly. She gave Chichi a sad look before leaving reluctantly. Chichi shrugged the encounter off as she headed for their room. The door was open.
“Mama, why were you not at the shop? I came home to make sure you are okay…”
The words died on Chichi’s lips as she saw her mother, kneeling in the middle of their room, her arms stretched upwards, tears pouring down her silent cheeks.
“Mama, what is it? Why are you kneeling down?” she asked, flinging her bag to the floor to hug her.
“Your father said I should not stand up from here till he returns.”
“What! Papa has gone too far! I am going to confront him!”
“Come and sit down, Chichi.”
Her mother’s calm tone chilled her to the bones. “What did you say?” Chichi asked.
“Tell me about your day.”
“What are you saying Mama? I am tired of letting Papa treat you like a slave. If you won’t let me shout at him, let us run away. At least we have money.”
“Hush, be quiet. Don’t let anyone hear that we have money.”
It was true they had money. Her mother had met a man who became her lover. He opened a bank account for her to save her profit and taught her how to do simple math. She had enough money saved up for them to be able to rent an apartment should they leave but she was concerned that they would lose the income from the spirit business. That would mean Chichi would have to drop out and that was the last thing Ibinabo would allow. Education was the path she believed would lead her daughter out of the reach of penury.
Chichi had to sit by her mother and tell her all about her day in school as if she was not kneeling down and raising her arms like an errant child. That day, something inside her died as she droned on in a wooden voice, staring straight ahead, her arms clasped in her lap to hold down the scream she felt in her throat. Her father had to be reminded by Adanna at about 9pm to give Ibinabo permission to get up. She had knelt for a total of 9 hours, without food or a bathroom break. When she died a few years later trying to have a second baby, Chichi ran off to live with Uncle Tari and never came back, not even to attend her father’s burial.
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Chichi was dressing up in her boss’ office. He was answering a call on the sofa. She had rewarded him for blocking her transfer to their Port Harcourt branch in the only way she knew how. Besides that, he had promised to fly 10 of her friends to Ibiza for her bridal shower once Moses proposed. She had already contacted a planner and a travel agent. Her birthday was in a few days and she knew Moses would be planning a surprise. Of course she would pretend to be shocked but there was no way she would be caught without well-manicured nails, a spanking new hairdo and a designer outfit. Whoever expected less did not know her.
She was turning 37 but only her mother knew her real age. Moses thought she was 34, while Didi thought she was 35. Her boss believed her to be 32. She felt as young as 30 and as far as she was concerned one was only as young as she felt.
Didi already knew what kind of ring to advise Moses to buy should he call her and he knew her favourite restaurant. Chichi felt confident she had a well-trained boyfriend who would not embarrass her in front of her friends or social media followers. She blew her boss a kiss as she tucked in her shirt and exited his office. It was 1pm and she had to send some emails to clients.
I called Tolu to cancel our date. He was shocked because I had been hounding him for a night out for a while. The anxiety in his voice made me laugh. Perhaps I had been too easy. He felt he could cheat on me, ignore me, forget my birthdays and our anniversaries and I would never get angry. In truth, the reason I didn’t mind was that I was busy getting taken care of by other men. Unfortunately, none of them was boyfriend-material; I couldn’t even be seen in public with them but they were generous and made no demands on my commitment. Tolu had them to thank for my legendary, Job-like patience.
Stan deserves a chance. If he turns out to be a waste of time, I will head over to Tolu’s no matter how late it is. He seems to be a great guy though. I have searched him out on social media and he doesn’t appear to have any negative vibe. He puts up way more pictures on Instagram than the average guy but I am willing to overlook a little vanity. Maybe he has reason to be haughty. His Linkedin profile describes him as a realtor and the CEO of Ambience Homes. It appears he deals in high-end apartment complexes and property that are the exclusive preserve of the filthy rich.
I don’t mind at all. Money has never been a turn-off in any relationship. I could probably date a man who I would have to support financially but to have a boyfriend whose income put mine to shame was the goal. No one is going to hear me complaining.
My phone rings; it is Stan. I rush into the bathroom to make sure I look okay. Luckily, I had worn a black dress to work because of the date with Tolu. I simply exchange my work pumps for a pair of silver sandals I had in my bag and spray some perfume. Popping a breath mint into my mouth, I pick up my bag and head for the elevator.
His Range rover is a unique sky blue so it is easy to find. I spot him standing by his car looking into his phone. He is wearing blue jeans that are so tight; I mentally make the sign of the cross. His white shirt is crisp and his shoes are blue suede. I am not warning myself not to drool.
“Hi!” I call to make him look up.
He smiles and I forget my resolve not to drool.
To Be Continued
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Hello Muses, forgive me for my absence. It was due to unforeseen circumstances. I’ll try to make up for it.
Two days later, I get a call from the Range rover guy. He introduces himself as Stanley and I immediately christen him Stan. Chichi says this is the best way to get intimate with a guy within minutes. He addresses me by name before I tell him my name and I laugh because I know he used a phone app to discover it. His voice is so incredibly husky, it gives me the shivers.
“I am sorry I didn’t call earlier,” he apologizes.
“That’s fine,” I lie.
It is not fine. I had spent those 2 days regretting making the 1st move. I had only tried it twice before. The first time, he turned out to be married and I have a principle of avoiding married men. The 2nd time, the guy was such a cheapskate; he tried to make me pay for our first date by pretending he forgot his wallet in the car. I offered to go and get it for him but he smiled and said “Or you could just help me out.” I asked for the ladies room and made my way home from there. I had already blocked his number in the taxi.
Chichi laughed at me and insisted that I not give up. As far as she was concerned, the more times I tried, the better I would get at it. I was not so sure.
“How does lunch today sound?” he asks.
I glance at my watch. The time is 3pm. “Lunch? It’s 3!”
“Really, I didn’t know. I have been so busy. How about a late lunch then? I really want to see you.”
“Suddenly someone is in a hurry after I nearly developed stomach ulcers from worrying.”
“Tomorrow is fine. How does 12 noon sound?”
“What is the matter?”
“That felt like ‘rejection’. Ouch!” he makes an exaggerated sound.
I can’t help laughing.
“Let me buy you dinner. I promise to be good,” he begs.
“I already made plans…”
“I’ll do a video call on my knees if that is what it takes.”
“You know what, I’ll see you at 5pm for drinks but I have to leave at 7pm. I have a work dinner.”
“Awesome. You made my day. That wasn’t so hard, was it?”
I make a face but refrain from replying. I don’t really like being pushed and I do have a date at 7 with Tolu (even if I plan to dump him once I verify that Stan is a worthy replacement). Tolu has been the one I use to escape my mom’s sharp tongue. Each time she calls to ask me when I am going to fix a date for my wedding, I wonder what I would have done if I had no boyfriend. No matter what anyone says, I am not letting him go till I get into another relationship.
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t have a man. God created too many fine men for me to be walking around morose, mourning any relationship. The minute I sense a man growing cold on me, I put myself out there so that someone awesome (in this case Stan) appears like a knight in shining armor and rescues the princess (my humble self). My mantra has been “Fly like a butterfly; sting like a bee”. And it has worked for me for years. I am not about to change strategy; not at 33 years.
Stan and I exchange a few more pleasantries and end the call. I begin to strategize on how to get out of my date with Tolu. Tolu and I met online. He helped me find my present job and also bought me my first car. Thereafter I have taken care of myself most of the time. It is only when I need something extravagant that I get someone to pay for me. That someone should have been Tolu but he is as slippery as an eel; here today, gone tomorrow. Not long ago, a girl called me to warn me off him. I laughed at her. She actually thinks she owns him. Chichi simply arranged for some rough-looking fellows to show up in her parents’ home and threaten her. I am sure her parents will keep her off Tolu; if for no other reason, for their own safety.
“Moses, how long has your girlfriend been saved?” Nedu asked.
He frowned, joined his fingers behind his head and leaned back in his chair. “I am not sure. She said she has always gone to church and you can see she loves the Lord,” he replied.
“How am I supposed to see that?”
“She left her Anglican church to start attending ours and she is even willing to go through our bible class to register as a member. I think that shows commitment.”
“Is she filled with the Holy Spirit?”
“I am not sure…”
“Does she pray; scratch that, do you both pray together?”
“We have actually been spending a lot of time getting to know each other, trying to confirm if we are compatible.’
“That’s good. How do you confirm compatibility?”
“You know…” He squirmed. “As a couple, you need to be compatible…”
“Okay, I see you don’t want to talk about it. Has your prayer partner met her?”
“Chuks? That one wanted to snatch my girl. He was misbehaving around her. I don’t want to ever have two of them in the same room again.” Moses gesticulated angrily.
“Misbehaving? Did he come on to her?”
“He was smiling like a foolish puppy, moping at her with his tongue nearly hanging out…what’s the word? Drooling, yeah…drooling!” Moses made a hissing sound.
“That is serious. Did you confront him?”
“No, he will only deny it. I know she’s a great catch but she is my catch not his.” Moses took a gulp from the glass of juice in front of him.
They were in Nedu’s house having a chat after rehearsing a song Nedu was to sing in church the next Sunday. Nedu could not explain the disquiet he always felt when Chichi’s name came up. He had devoted a few days to praying for clarity but all he heard was “There is a way that seems right to a man.” He did not know what to do with it. As was the case whenever he was nervous, he began to tap his right foot on the floor.
“Is anything wrong?” Moses asked.
“I don’t want you to take this the wrong way but I feel you should postpone the proposal and fast about this decision. Marriage is a big commitment and you need to hear from God.”
“Are you not the one who said that God will not come down and choose for us? Didn’t the bible say “he that finds”? You need to loosen up, man!”He threw a playful punch at his shoulder.
Nedu rubbed at his shoulder, absent-minded. “Hmm…”
“I have not heard anything that convinces me that this lady has any spiritual heritage worth mentioning. Besides, you both have been using your time together to explore yourselves sexually,” Nedu said.
“How did you know?” Moses was genuinely shocked.
“The Spirit of God told me; and He said that your sense of judgment is getting more clouded each time you compromise like that. Have you forgotten our purity pledge? You should have let Chuks know you were under pressure. Instead you accused him of having an interest in your girlfriend. That is the devil’s tool-isolation.”
Moses bowed his head and heaved a sigh. “Bro, I won’t lie; I have been trying to control myself around her but bodi no be firewood. She’s the kind of girl I always dreamed about but never thought I would marry. I can’t even keep it together when I’m with her. I have tried binding, loosing, communion, feet-washing, all sorts of things; but the moment we are alone…”
“You are binding what you are carrying around?” Nedu asked in humor.
Moses looked up and laughed.
“What is her stance on chastity? Is she up for it?”
“She is. In fact she said had abstained for 3 years before we met. One unfortunate guy broke her heart and made her swear off guys till we met. That is why I feel like I have been a huge disappointment to God and to her. I am supposed to be the man. I am supposed to keep it together. I should be the one protecting her innocence. Instead, I have been the problem.” Moses bit his lip in regret.
“Let’s pray together. I believe all is not lost. God will always show us the way out if we ask.”
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Didi and Chichi were chatting with Moses when Nedu approached. He barely noticed Didi as Moses, beaming with smiles gave him a hug and introduced Chichi. She gave him her best smile (the one that said I know I am all that and you wish I was with you but it’s never going to happen). He shook her hand and smiled back for he couldn’t help himself. She was gorgeous.
“Father, remember me too. How did this bro who can barely muster the courage to ask a woman out win this stunner? Wonders shall never end!”
“Meet my best friend Didi,” Chichi was saying. “She is a project manager for Scholl Oil.”
“Hello. I hope you enjoyed the service,” he said to Didi as they shook hands.
“I did. You sing very well.”
“That’s right. You led the singing. I really enjoyed it,” Chichi added. She had the habit of cutting in when Didi was speaking but Didi was used to it. It made people assume she was quiet but it was just easier to give in to Chichi who hugged all the attention like a plant hugs the sun on a chilly day.
“Thank you. I won’t hold you up. It was nice meeting you,” he patted Moses on the shoulder. “Have a good one.”
I watched Nedu as he left, my eyes following his tall, dark and slim frame for as long as I could do so discreetly. He is handsome and his face is given to smiling. I can tell from the laugh lines around his mouth and his bright eyes. However, I know he will not be mine because he is already enamored with Chichi and no man I have ever dated has fallen for her. Besides, I can tell he will not be as easy to fool as Moses was. I heard him lead the worship and I can sense he is different from Moses; probably older and wiser.
“Let’s take my car,” Moses suggests. “Didi can drive yours.”
Of course Chichi agrees. I don’t feel upset because I would rather be the 3rd wheel than be all alone this Sunday. Tolu the boyfriend is out of town, I have no plans for the day and I want the opportunity to watch Chichi work her magic on Moses.
“I’ll drive on the condition that you play the guitar for us,” I say.
“Of course I will,” he agrees.
Chichi makes a face at me but I smile at her. I know she is worried that I have learned so much from her that I am becoming a threat; so I grin. She can’t get rid of me at this point because Moses will wonder why. He lifts his guitar case with his left hand and takes her hand in his right. We turn and head to the parking lot where she hands me her keys and struts off with him.
I drop my bag on the passenger seat and pull off my shoes after getting in. The car is a 6-year old Toyota Camry. My car is the Lexus SUV of last year. I have not bought myself a husband-hunting car because I want to see if Chichi’s approach will work. She assured me years ago that she knew exactly how to get any man to propose to her and that our lifestyle would not hinder her from getting a husband. It is not that she lacked offers for marriage but she wanted one in which she would be in control. Many men have promised her heaven and earth if she would marry them; young, old, married, widowed, divorced, engaged, all manner of men. And the majority of them were rich and influential.
“Nne, a cho gi m onye ga-aku m ihe biko (I don’t want a wife-beater please),” she would say.
My Igbo was not as fluent so I usually replied her in English.
“I won’t present a false image of myself just to get married,” I argued.
“Noro there (Keep waiting)! These men are all the same. They want an accomplished wife but when they marry her they want to turn her to an accomplished housekeeper. Ara gbachi kwa ha nti! (May madness strike them)”
“Not my own husband, please.”
“They cannot all be the same. My dad was a pretty decent man.”
“Yes, he was. Still, in old age, he moved out and remarried.”
“Well, you can’t blame him. My mother was the one who had an affair.”
“Do you know what she was enduring? If he was the one who cheated, wouldn’t she have been expected to forgive and forget? Gini ka I na-ako ihe a? (What do you mean?). I hate double standards.”
“I am not saying he was perfect. I am only pointing out that he was faithful throughout the time they lived together.”
“Hapu ihe a (Forget it). Men are scum!”
I thought about our argument while driving to the restaurant where we were having lunch. The Camry made a squeaking noise each time I tried to negotiate a bend and the steering wheel was stiffer than that of my car. Otherwise, the journey was smooth. I could see Moses pulling into the lot in his old Honda CRV. It was so old that I couldn’t even tell what year it was made and that was unusual for a car freak like me. One of my hobbies was guessing the year a car was made. This one was falling apart but it was a blessing as far as Chichi was concerned.
You see, the Honda was the reason they met. It had broken down in front of her office when Moses stopped to use the ATM on that street. He played the guitar professionally and was on his way to someone’s home to coach them. She spotted him from her Range Rover but parked inside and walked out to offer him assistance. Before he knew what he was in for, she had called him a mechanic, exchanged numbers with him and dug her well-manicured claws into his consciousness. The rest, as they say, was a piece of cake.
Nedu sensed disquiet as he left Moses and Chichi. Moses had already confided in him that he was planning to propose to her that month. He had told him that she was beautiful but when he met her he realized Moses’ vocabulary was seriously wanting. This was the kind of girl he suspected would be high maintenance and he wondered how Moses would cope with his earnings from playing the guitar. Also, Moses was unable to answer any question about Chichi’s spiritual heritage; he just went on and on about how caring she was and how understanding she was. Nedu smelled a rat.
The issue was that Moses had been turned down by at least 3 of the girls he had asked out in church. As far as Nedu was concerned, it wasn’t that he was a bad catch; he just went for the wrong girls. First, Moses tried to befriend the pastor’s daughter. At almost 40, they had an 18 year age gap. The girl was a graduate of an Ivy League school who had lived in the US for most of her life. She had a job in an architectural firm and was also running the church’s school for the less privileged. Who in his right senses would expect her to get excited about his offer?
He tried to introduce Moses to more level-headed sisters in church but no; he wanted very young, flighty and immature girls. Chichi was no spring chicken but Nedu had 2 sisters and he could tell that her handbag alone could replace Moses’ jalopy of a car. If she loved him genuinely, there was a chance of them being happy together but he just couldn’t put his finger on what he sensed.
As was his custom, Nedu sat in his car and prayed. He always put both hands on his upper abdomen when he needed to hear from God. It reminded him of the scripture “Out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”. That was his way of focusing; tuning out the distraction of church-goers filing out of the premises and all the thoughts besieging his mind in order to pray.
He prayed in his heavenly language, moving his lips slightly but keeping his eyes open so those passing would not know what he was doing. A few had already accused him of being ‘too spiritual’. He didn’t want to spook them any further. Hopefully, it wouldn’t be to his disadvantage the day he decided it was time to marry. Right now, he wasn’t in a relationship. He had only been in one since he got born again at the age of 18 and she broke up with him because her parents wanted her to marry someone from her own tribe. From that day, he resolved not to get into any other relationship except God revealed to him that that was the lady he would marry.
I was on my way home from Chichi’s house where I had parked when I saw him. He was tall, fair, drop- dead gorgeous and dressed to the nines. At the gate leading to Chichi’s estate, he sat in his very new Range rover, probably waiting for whoever he was visiting to sign him in. I hit reverse and pulled in beside him. It was time to pull out a card from the bag of tricks I had learned from Chichi.
I got down without turning off my engine to beat the security guard who was already approaching perhaps to let him in and walked over to him. Tapping on his window, I gave him my best smile. It’s not as good as Chichi’s but it’ll have to do. He winds down and looks askance at me. I lean forward, not too provocatively so as not to put him off but just enough to convey my message.
“Today is your lucky day. It’s ‘give-your-number-to-a-stranger’ day,” I say.
He smiles at me. Of course he can’t help himself and I know it. I stretch out my hand for his phone. He puts it in my hand. I type in my number and dial it.
“What’s the name?” he asks as he collects his phone.
“You’ll find out when you call,” I reply and turn to walk back to my car.
I can feel his eyes following me so I make sure that my walk will remain in his memory for a long time.
Chichi invited me to her church. I know she is supposed to meet up with her boyfriend Moses, who plays guitar in their church. Moses is “the one”. Of course he doesn’t know it yet but his life has been planned for him. He is not tall enough but he is handsome and kind and he doesn’t ask too many questions. What more does a girl need in a husband? Money? No, money is for the desperate, thirsty girls out there who want to eat their cake and have it. Chichi works in an investment firm and handles the portfolios of the richest men and women in Nigeria. She has a sugar daddy for career advancement, one for trips abroad and another for high-end expenses. Moses is the one who will marry her and give her the title “Mrs”. I envy him. He is getting a great girl.
Their church has a very fancy name; The Shepherd Centre. I like it. I have only been here twice but the music is always great and the guys drool-worthy. What our native wear does to men; only God will deliver young ladies!
She drove us there in her humble car, the car that she used when husband-hunting. Moses has never seen her G-wagon. He doesn’t know of her 2 houses and property in Port-Harcourt. As far as he is concerned, she is a secretary in her firm and earns N200, 000.
That is just her basic salary, however. Last night she spent double that amount on the champagne alone while we clubbed. It was the birthday of a mutual friend and we threw her a party complete with male strippers, sex toys, weed and a few other substances guaranteed to lift our spirits from the dreariness of the Lagos hustle.
“Didi help me put on my bracelet,” Chichi asked.
She has called me Didi rather than Ndidi from the first day we met. She wanted our names to rhyme. Fortunately, everyone already called her Chichi rather than Chizitere Onyema. We met during NYSC (I’m sure you have heard about the compulsory 1 year service to the nation that gives the Nigerian government the right to fling you to the far corners of the earth and pay you a pittance for teaching children who have no intention of learning anything). During the orientation in Nassarawa state, she was the toast of the camp with her fair oval face and brown eyes, her figure that was just at the edge of being voluptuous and her ‘come-hither’ voice. We became friends when she rescued me from a soldier who was harassing me for avoiding the parade. He was already raising his voice when she slid over (I was hiding in mammy market) and said in that her ‘come-hither’ voice “Officer, please excuse me!”
He turned to stare at her like he was on puppet-strings, mouth-agape. Since then I have seen her do this to many people of both sexes. Her voice is so soft and sweet that when she speaks you feel sorry for her. I have seen her end quarrels just by saying “Hello”. (Like I said earlier, Moses is a lucky man). Anyway, the soldier pointed at his chest like a child and said “Me?”
She nodded and made a sign for him to come to her. He smiled sheepishly and followed her. I didn’t wait to find out where they went but ran back to the parade ground. A few minutes later, I saw her join the parade. I later found her and said thanks. She waved away my gratitude, smiling.
“What did you tell him?” I asked.
“O, he’s a teddy bear. I told him I needed help learning to march. He assumed I was offering more,” she said and laughed. Even her laugh was alluring. The way she threw back her head and opened her mouth very slightly such that a gentle ringing sound came forth; I knew I had to enroll in her school of seduction.
8 years later, I think I have done well for myself. This morning I am wearing an Ankara print shift dress but it was made by one of the big names in Nigerian fashion so it is remarkable. My nude shoes are louboutins, my make-up is great (I paid a lot of money for professional tutoring after all), my purse is chanel and my fragrance is Versace. I may not be as pretty as Chichi but the package is alright. Maybe I will get noticed by one of the brothers in the choir as well. The current boyfriend Tolu , is not saying anything that sounds like “Marry me”. I am not going to keep waiting for him to choose me from his myriad of girls (Yes I know he is unfaithful but there is this saying about a bird in hand…).
I help Chichi put on her bracelet and we get down from her car. A quick check in the car mirror and we start walking into the church, bibles in hand. She is wearing a yellow dress that clings to her in ways help you appreciate her flat abdomen (if you can take your eyes off her figure). We were 15 minutes late. The ushers in black smile at us, shake our hands and guide us to seats on the 2nd row to the right. I drop my possessions on my seat and rise to join the singing. The songs are new to me (I grew up catholic but I have attended many Pentecostal churches these past 4 years in Lagos). I fix my gaze on the screens so I can learn the lyrics or at least mouth them so I don’t look disinterested. No brother in this church will give me a 2nd glance if I don’t look spiritual enough.
It is actually not hard to get caught up in the emotion of the music. I spot Moses on the stage, strumming his stuff but I can’t concentrate on him. After a while, I am in my own world, Chichi, Moses, the crowd fades away. I find myself raising my hands to worship, swaying to the music. One song in particular keeps ringing in my mind long after we sit down and the pastor begins to speak. I barely hear him. I find myself distracted, not by the fashion of other attendees as used to be the case but by thoughts I cannot explain their origin.
“Turn to Psalm 33 verse 11,” the pastor was saying. “The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. Nothing can thwart God’s plan for your life, not your mistakes, your stubbornness, your pride, nothing! He sacrificed his son on the cross of calvary. That gives him a right to your life. You think you own it but you are living on borrowed time.”
I felt a stab in my heart. A wave or tremor or something went through my stomach. I glanced at Chichi. She was chewing gum, her face impassive. No one else around me looked like they felt what I was feeling. I sat up and crossed my legs. Maybe it was the moi-moi I ate in the club that caused the rumble in my stomach. Flicking my hair over my shoulder, I took my gaze off the pastor. Suddenly, he was too intense for my comfort. I brought out my phone and began to check twitter. My timeline provided the much needed distraction. Soon, the disquiet eased and I relaxed.
“ Maybe I ought to find the restroom after the service.”
The service was over but the music director wanted to speak to Nedu.
“Good job bro!” he gave him a hi-5.
“Praise God! I thought my voice would be cracked after last night.”
“No, it was fine.”
“Why did you drag that song for so long though? It went on forever. I asked Veno to start a new song on the keyboard to give you a cue but you didn’t notice.”
“I did notice but I don’t know why God just wanted me to keep singing that song. Each time I tried to change it, I felt I should stick with it.”
“Okay, I won’t argue with that. Thankfully, it didn’t get boring.”
“I have to go. Moses wants to introduce me to someone.”
“He does? That spiritual brother? I didn’t know he has a girlfriend,” Teni laughed as he spoke.
“Neither did I!”
“I want the full gist…with pictures, my guy.” He extended a hand for a handshake as Nedu laughed and turned to leave.
To be continued
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