Preye was seeing her last patient when a commotion outside got her attention. She asked him to excuse her and ran out to the gate to find that a crowd had gathered around a man who had hit a motorcycle rider. He was explaining that he was not at fault and that the rider had run a red light but the other commercial riders were not having any of it. She saw he was in danger of getting lynched and inserted herself in the fray.
“Can someone help me carry him into the hospital?” she shouted as she knelt to take his pulse.
He was a young man; lying on the road groaning in pain. She saw that he had a cut on his arm and a few bruises and concluded his injuries were mild. One of her nurses saw what she was doing and went back for a stretcher. Two of the onlookers assisted her staff to carry him inside. The car owner followed them, sweating visibly.
When the crowd saw that the fun was over, they dispersed. The bike of the patient was in bad shape so the gate man wheeled it to the front of the reception before locking the gate. By this time, Preye had donned her gloves and begun to examine the victim who had been laid on her couch. Her dental patient had also risen to watch the unfolding drama. She gave him an injection to relieve his pains and began to clean his cuts. Luckily none of them required stitches so she dressed them and asked her nurse to get him a change of clothes. All the while the driver of the car involved stood by watching her without saying a word.
He followed her to her office when she finished.
“How can I thank you?” he asked.
“I didn’t want them to set your car ablaze or worse beat you up. Those guys are aggressive,” she said.
He sank into a chair, his face in his hands.
Preye felt grief in her spirit. “There is something more. You lost a loved one this morning. Did you lose your mother?” she asked.
He looked up, surprised. “How did you know? She died yesterday after battling with Diabetic complications for months. I prayed, I pleaded, I begged God to heal her. Why didn’t he answer me? I have been serving him all my life.”
“The Spirit of God would have you know that He loves you and would never hurt you. Your mother told God she was ready to go.”
“Why must he take her? I needed her here.”
“What do you need that the Holy Spirit cannot do for you? He is reaching for you. Lay your head on his shoulder and allow him to comfort you.”
The man nodded still overcome with emotion.
“Let me give you space to talk with God. I think you both have a lot to discuss.” Preye rose and left her office to him.
“Moses, do you mean you have lost all the money you borrowed to start business?” Nedu asked, incredulous.
“Every dime is gone!”
“Were you duped or what? I don’t understand it.”
“Someone Chibaby introduced me to gave me a contact in China who was supposed to ship in the equipment. He has turned off his phone now. I can’t reach him at his address. They said he moved out.”
“Chichi should be able to tell you where to find him. She knows him, right?”
“She said I should have done my due diligence; that she only introduced him to me and didn’t vouch for his integrity. Now everyone is blaming me. How do I face my investors, Nedu? I am done for!” Moses was panting as he spoke, his hands on his head.
They were in Nedu’s house. It was 5am. Nedu had been surprised when Moses knocked at his door that early on a Wednesday without calling first but had received him without hesitation. Now, he wondered if the case was not beyond him.
“What kind of equipment were you importing exactly? And I wonder why you never involved me? I would have told you how to go about it.”
“Chichi said I should keep it to myself because of haters.”
“She said I needed to prove to you and all my friends that I am my own man and I can stand on my own. She said my friends see me as a weakling who is being fed by his wife and I need to challenge that impression.” Moses was sobbing by now.
Nedu shook his head sadly. “I wonder what gave her that impression. I have known you for far longer than her and I have never been a hater.”
“From the day she connected me to the man who invested the money she became ungovernable. She does whatever she likes and I am afraid to correct her. I thought when the deal pulls through I will become rich and finally have a voice in my own home but alas!”
“That means she simply set you up. I refuse to believe otherwise.”
“Nedu do you know she is a drug addict?”
“Isi gini? (what did you say?) Drug addict?” Nedu shrank back.
“She was doing drugs in secret but now she is so brazen. Even though she is pregnant, she still uses Indian hemp and cocaine.”
“Did you say she is pregnant?”
“She is a few weeks pregnant. What do I do? I am tired of this life. I feel like taking my own life.”
“Let’s start with the money. How much is it?”
“It is a total of N25 million.”
“Okay; you will get a lawyer and do an agreement with the investors as to a time frame within which to repay them.”
“Repay them? I cannot earn that kind of money from guitar lessons even in 50 years. I will have to sell 1 kidney to get the money.”
“It is just to get them off your back while we put the EFCC on the guy who stole the money. I have a contact there. We went to school together and he helped out my brother Obinna when he lost some money to a business partner.”
“Thank you so much! You don’t know what you have done for me. You are a friend indeed!” Moses clasped his hand in gratitude.
“Don’t thank me yet, Moses. You need to come clean. What is the true state of your relationship with God? Is He your ATM machine or your Father? You need to declare your stand so I can define my relationship with you. Sometimes I don’t know if I am dealing with a stark unbeliever or a baby Christian or a scoffer. You have been born again for over 10 years yet you still struggle to obey God. What gives?”
Moses looked at him ruefully. “I haven’t been serious with my Christian life, have I?”
“No you haven’t. Younger Christians than you are bearing the fruits of the spirit, manifesting the gifts of the Holy Spirit and taking territories. I think it is time for you to come up higher?”
“How do I do that?”
“You start by telling yourself the truth. Stop pretending to be so smart and tell yourself the truth. Next, open up to God on how you got to where you are and be ready to give up anything he asks you to.”
“Help me my brother,” Moses sank to his knees in anguish.
“Let me call my boys to man the shop. I sense we will have to spend the morning praying. As for Chichi, does her friend know she is pregnant?”
“I am not sure she knows. She has withdrawn from her over the past few months. I heard she quit her job and moved to a new apartment. She and that girl who is a dentist are living together.”
“That’s good. I believe God wants to use her to talk Chichi out of her drug habit; if for no other reason, for the health of your child.”
Moses burst into tears at this point so Nedu knelt beside him and began to pray in other tongues.
Nedu and Moses went the next day to Preye and Didi’s house to talk to her. She had decided to share the rent with Preye instead of looking for another house and was now running a consultancy business from her living room. It had been 1 year since she broke up with Stan.
They had called to say they wanted to come over for a chat so the ladies were expecting them. Nedu had avoided direct contact with Didi as much as he could even though they saw each other in church often. It had almost cost him his sanity but he had concluded it was a test God was putting him through before introducing him to whoever would eventually become his wife.
As they talked with her while Preye made dinner, he tried to keep his eyes on the wall behind her but it was next to impossible. He thought she was really beautiful and it was punishment to hear how much she had progressed in her walk with God. It was evident she had changed the course of her life in obedience to God and even given Chichi space when she tried to drag her back into the life she fled. She broke down when she heard that Chichi was using hard drugs while pregnant.
“No, she can’t continue to do that!”
They waited in silence while she cried. Moses held her hand but Nedu was afraid that if he touched her his body would betray him so he crossed his arms and legs and sat as far from her as he could. When she dried her tears, she asked them if they would be willing to pray with her before she went to speak with Chichi.
“The bible says this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting. If you would be willing, I want us to declare a 3-day fast for me so that when I talk to her I will be like the oracle of God. I want her to agree to go in for rehabilitation, detoxification, counseling, deliverance…whatever it takes!” she cried.
“Of course we will,” Moses agreed.
Nedu nodded, almost choking with his emotions. As they rose to go to the table he pursed his lips.
The man who will marry this girl is very lucky.
Do you want to marry her?
Don’t torture me. I can’t bear it. You know what it cost me to let her go.
It’s time Nedu. Ask her to go to lunch with you next Sunday
For real? A date? I can ask her out?
She will be your wife.
Noooooo! You’re playing
I don’t joke with destinies
Thank you so much! Whoop! I love you so much Holy Spirit.
I love you too!
Dear Holy Spirit, I wrote this story as a love letter to you. I fell in love with you when we met while I was in secondary school and you showed me how to avoid getting into trouble with the senior students. I am amazed by your compassion, your brilliance and your generosity. The reason I wrote this is I want everyone I meet to know you, to know you are the wind in my sails, the spring in my step, the reason for my sunny disposition. Thank you for keeping me. That I passed through the waters and did not drown, passed through fire and did not get singed, climbed mountains and did not gasp for breath is because your voice has always been in ear saying “This is the way. Go this way.” I love you.
Nedu and Kevin were at a double date with Kevin’s wife Tamara and Isio. The venue was an ice cream shop a stone throw from church. The outing was planned over the course of two weeks after Nedu and Isio got talking and became fast friends. It would be their first date. Nedu could feel the nerves particularly because he had been unable to hear God’s opinion on him asking Isio out. She was witty and friendly and it was easy to talk to her. He almost began to forget about Didi.
You don’t want me to ask Didi out yet I chose to befriend someone else and you are not giving me your approval either. Is there no winning with you?
I gave you a direct instruction and you flouted it.
But I am tired of being alone. I want to marry. Besides, Isio is everything I everything dreamed of.
You are mine. As a soldier in my army, you obey your commander without complaining.
I am sorry Lord. What do I do now? The girl is already expecting that I will ask her to be my girlfriend. How do I dig myself out? I did not mean to disobey you. Forgive me.
Tell her you want to match make Obinna and her.
My younger brother Obinna? That is not a bad idea. Thank you so much. I will wait for whoever you appoint me to love and cherish. But…Holy Spirit…mee ngwa ngwa…I will be 38 soon. Let people not wonder if there is something wrong with me.
Nwoke m call Obinna and tell him you have found a great girl for him. See your mouth like mee ngwa ngwa. He that believeth shall not make haste. Don’t you know a day is like a thousand years in my sight?
Meaning I will have to wait 1000 years…na wa Oh!
Keep complaining and your wait will be elongated.
Na joke I joke Oh! Sorry sir!
“Stan, hi; I wasn’t to see expecting you in church.”
“Are you kidding me? I couldn’t miss hearing you sing,” Stan says reaching for a hug.
I hug him discretely, slipping out of his grasp almost immediately. Chichi is coming over to say hello. We usually catch up while Moses is helping his mates pack up the equipment. Sometimes we get lunch. On other days we part at the parking lot and I go to find Preye who is always ready to hang out. I have avoided Stan as much as possible and luckily he has been busy with work. It appears my luck has run out.
“It was just back-up,” I deflect his praise.
“Nonsense; I heard you distinctly and you out-sang the others.”
“Well, thank you but remember it is not a competition.”
He takes my hand and intertwines our fingers. “Of course it is not a competition. How can a cheetah race rabbits?”
Chichi is at his side so he turns and hugs her without letting me go. “Hello, Chi; you look nice.”
“Thank you. You have been away for too long. Did you want my friend to go nuts?” Chichi asks, throwing me a conspiratorial wink.
If only she knew what I have gone through in his absence; buying books on sexual purity, praying and fasting, plotting what to do in every scenario: everything but break up with him.
“I missed her as well. You know how I feel about her.” He draws me close and pecks my cheek.
I cringe but he doesn’t notice.
“Aww! You guys are just cute together,” Chichi beams. “Are we getting lunch?”
“No! I want her all to myself. By the time I finish with her, her legs will be shaking!” Stan announces.
“Ewo!” Chichi exclaims. “Take it easy on my friend please. You haven’t paid her bride price.”
“How much is it? I will pay double,” he scoffs.
Mentally, I am fishing for excuses. “How do I extricate myself from this mess? Father help me. I want to serve you in spirit and truth. I can’t keep going round in circles.”
Chichi is laughing and saying something I can’t hear because I am scouting the room for Preye or Annette. I reach into my bag to get my phone and call them for help.
“Baby, shall we?” Stan doesn’t give me time to think but ushers me towards the door.
I wave at Chichi who makes a face at me and turns away. Preye and Annette are not in sight. I can’t make the call without being heard. We get to his car and he opens the door to let me in.
“Let me drive behind you,” I suggest. I am hoping he says yes so I can run away to fight another day.
“We can come back and pick your car in the evening. I have missed you so much. I want you now.”
He is in the driver’s seat, staring into my eyes intensely, breathing into my face. I nod like an agama lizard and he kisses me.
“I love you,” he says.
“I love you too.”
How about me, Didi? Do you love me?
Who are you Lord?
I am your Lord. Do you love me?
I love you Lord.
Why then do you not obey me?
“Didi, I got you your favourite perfume.”
“No way! It has been out of stock in Nigeria for a while. Where did you find it?”
“I wrote to the designer and told him I offended my girlfriend and the only way I could apologize was with a bottle of his perfume. He had his team send me 2 bottles. 1 is complementary.”
“That is unbelievable! You mean I have 2 bottles to myself?” I reach over for a hug but he turns it into something else until I come up for air.
“Keep my reward till we get home. I don’t want these sanctimonious folk to kick you out of the choir.” He smirks and fastens his seatbelt before speeding off.
His statement reminds me of my conversation with the Holy Spirit. In the past I would have chuckled at his criticism of church folk and thrown a few barbs of my own. Now I am one of them and it has just brought me back to reality.
I am saved.
I am filled with the Holy Ghost.
I have been baptized in water.
I know the truth.
I serve in the choir.
“How can I continue serving two masters?”
He doesn’t notice that I am more quiet than usual while he carries on telling me about his trip and all the deals he closed. I am biting my lip because I don’t know how to tell him the relationship is over. I can’t continue to live a lie. Like Sis. Annette said, I have to be single for a while and learn how to serve God with my single status before I commit to serving God as a married woman. Even if he proposes today, I cannot marry him because I can sense that he will end the pretence and forbid me to go to church or sing in the choir. I know he has humored me thus far so as not to scare me.
We pull into the driveway before his house after his gateman opens the gate for us. It is an imposing 5 bedroom house with a pool, pent house, gym and field at the back for his dogs to run in. he has a gardener who comes in 3x a week, a live-in steward and a cook who comes in whenever he is around.
“I asked Kweku to make lunch and leave because I didn’t want any interruptions. I hope you don’t mind dishing the food?” he asks as we step into the house.
“I don’t mind.”
In the foyer, he takes my bag and flings it on the floor. Then he picks me up, kisses me and carries me up the stairs to his room. I find myself placed gently on the bed before I can protest.
“Do you know you are the most beautiful woman in the world?”
“Umm,” I mutter. I feel as though a stone were in my throat.
If you don’t rescue me, I will be here all night and this cycle will never end. Give me a way out Lord. I meant it when I said I am tired. Help me. I feel so weak. I don’t know what to do.
Huh? How am I going to do that? All 85kg of him is lying on top of me.
Ask him to go and take a shower.
“Hmm?” He raises his head from where he was trailing kisses down my neck.
“Could you go and take a shower?”
“Now?” He gives me a quizzical glance.
“’l’ll join you. Let me just get a drink from the kitchen.” I smile hoping he doesn’t read my thoughts.
He makes a face and grunts. “Oh well…what the lady wants, the lady gets.” He rises to pull off his clothes slowly, teasing me till I blush. Then he blows me a kiss and heads for the shower.
When the door closes behind him, I rush downstairs and pick up my bag from where he threw it. Opening the door as quietly as I can manage, I make my way outside.
“Oti, come and open the gate for me,” I call to the gateman.
“Madam, any problem?” he asks as he unlocks it.
“I want to collect something from someone. I will soon be back.” I am almost shaking. I cannot bear the thought of him noticing I left and calling to his gateman to stop me.
Once I am outside, I remember I don’t have my car.
What do I do now? If I call a taxi, he may come outside and see me waiting for it. I don’t want him to talk me into going back.
Call Preye and tell her where you are. Then turn off your phone.
I check to make sure Oti is not watching and then run to a small kiosk down the street. Taking cover behind the owner’s desk, I explain to her that I don’t want my ex-boyfriend to see me. She smiles in understanding and goes to sit outside in order to deflect all intruders. I pull out my phone and call Preye.
“Hi Didi; I didn’t see you after service.”
“Where are you?”
“I am in a friend’s house. She is supposed to give me some fabric for…”
“What street is it? I need you to come and pick me?”
“It is Duromi street. Is there any problem?”
“That is not far from here. I’ll send my address. I am hiding from Stan in a small kiosk called Madam Ice. She is outside. Just tell her you came to pick me. I have to turn off my phone.”
“Are you in any danger?”
“No, I am fine. I will tell you everything when you get here. Please hurry.”
“Okay, I’ll be there shortly.”
“Didi, what is going on? Stan has been calling me. He said you blocked his number and you are not in your house. What is the matter? Did he hit you?” Chichi asked on phone.
“I sent him a message telling him it is over between us. Why won’t he accept that?”
“What did he do? Did he cheat on you?”
“I want more than he can offer.”
“What more do you want, Didi? The guy is sweet, romantic, stinking rich and caring. I don’t think he deserves this.”
“Chichi, you remember the day I called you to tell you Moses asked me if you smoke weed?”
“Yes, I do.”
“I lied to him and I felt very bad; I felt as if I stabbed a child.”
“It’s not that deep, Didi. You know I would do the same for you.”
“That’s the thing. I don’t want to live that life anymore. I want God to be proud of me. Jesus did not die for us to live this kind of kalo kalo life we have been living.” I am almost in tears at this point.
“I don’t understand.”
“Come clean to Moses. He will forgive you. Wipe the slate clean and make your marriage work.”
“If you want to insult me let me know. What is this about wiping the slate,” Chichi sneers. “Kpachakwara onwe gi anya (Mind your business).”
“Chichi, Moses told me you secured him an investment to import sound equipment. He even asked me to thank you for him.”
“Yes, I did.”
“Does he know you are having an affair with that man?”
“I am doing it for Moses!” Chichi snarls, defensive.
“If you wanted to help him why didn’t you tell him to ask Nedu his friend for the money or the contacts? Nedu is doing something similar, I recall.”
“He said he is already so indebted to him and he wants to surprise them; to prove he is a man. What should I have done? I had to support my husband.”
“You are on a slippery slope, Chichi and I would be a bad friend if I didn’t tell you. End all those relationships and face your marriage.”
Chichi is silent for a while.
“Where are you?” she asks finally.
“I moved in with a friend of mine.”
“Did you quit your job? Stan said you haven’t been at work for a few days.”
“I had to quit. I got that job the wrong way and they will keep using it against me.”
“What are you going to do now?”
“I have some savings. I might go into consultancy as a project manager or look for another job. Right now I am waiting on God to lead me. I don’t want to preempt him. Who knows he might even want me to become a professional gospel musician.”
Chichi laughs. “Musician? That will be the day.”
“You never know.” I laugh as well.
“Chichi, do you promise to think about what I said?”
“I will think about it. It’s scary though, to open up that can of worms. I don’t think Moses can handle it.”
“We can pray for wisdom. I want to introduce you to my best friend, the Holy Spirit. There is no mess he can’t get you out of. Nothing fazes him; he can’t be embarrassed and he is always compassionate. He won’t mock you or use your mistakes against you.”
“Jiri nwayo! One thing at a time. It seems you have become a pastor. Meanwhile, what do I tell Stan?”
“Tell him it’s over. I am with someone else and he has to move on.”
“Is this like self-mutilation or what? Are you punishing yourself for your past?”
“On the contrary, Jesus was punished for our sins. What I am doing is called dying to self. I made the decision to fall on my own sword and I’m loving my new life in Christ. If you decide to do same I will hold your hands and support you.”
“Fall gini? Biko kwa. Take care of yourself.”
“Bye, Chi. I am praying for you.”
“Thank you. I mela. Let me call Stan. I hope he won’t kill himself.”
“He won’t, Chichi. Bye now.”
Thanks for reading everyone. The Final episode comes up next week after which I will go on a break. I really appreciate all the comments, likes and shares. God bless you real good.
I am @nenabekee or firstname.lastname@example.org in case you have questions.
I returned to my seat after calling Chichi and telling her what had just transpired. Annette and Preye observe my somber mood and ask what happened. I deflect but it affects our mood. It is obvious I am holding back and our meetings have always been raw and honest.
For instance, Preye has confessed to Annette her struggle with greed and stealing. A number of times in the past she has cheated her partner out of earnings by falsifying documents, diverting patients and out-rightly taking money from the till with the collusion of the accountant. Annette asked her to own up and return all she took. She nearly died of shame when her partner told her he had become suspicious and was already planning to set up CCTV secretly in order to gather evidence.
“Thank God I confessed,” she had said. “Can you imagine how shameful it would have been if that man had confronted me? He could have written to have my license withdrawn or worse.”
Annette added, “He could have leaked the story to the papers or the blogs.”
“That would have been terrible!” I exclaim.
“I can’t thank God enough for the ‘liver’ to walk into that man’s office that day. Now I know that God is really looking out for me. How would I have faced my parents if such a thing were made public?”
“Like I told you, Jesus has broken the hold of sin in our lives. It is now up to us to resist temptation by identifying the pathways through which it creeps in on us. For you it was your desire to own luxurious stuff but now you have learned that godliness with contentment is godliness. We all have our struggles but when we identify the root we can ask the Holy Spirit for help,” Annette theorizes.
“That is what I do. Every day I ask Him for help in the area of greed and also when I feel tempted to dream about what I cannot afford I turn it into a conversation with the Holy Spirit. I tell Him how much I love designer stuff and to please provide them for me but in the time being to help me to enjoy the non-designer stuff I can afford,” Preye says.
“That’s so deep,” I mutter.
“Praise God for you my dear. Your God is with you,” Annette says.
I breathe in deeply and release the breath. “I have something I have been meaning to share.”
“Yeah?” Annette raises an eyebrow.
I lean forward on my elbows and put my chin my palms. “I have been unable to convince my boyfriend that we should wait until we are married. Each time we have sex I feel so guilty that I can’t pray or read my bible for days. It is because of this our meeting I studied the portion of the bible we discussed. The guilt is killing me.”
Annette and Preye scoot closer and hold my hands.
“I have tried everything; from avoiding him, to lying about my periods, to keeping malice with him. I even cried but he threatened to break up with me. He said he once had a girlfriend who denied him sex because she claimed to be a virgin only for him to catch her in bed with her ex one day.”
“That’s awful!” Preye cries.
“I really love him and I don’t want to lose him.”
“I thought he is a believer: You guys attended the discipleship class together?” Preye asks.
“I was excited as well when he seemed to have a hunger for God. When I bring it up these days, he laughs and asks me if Jesus himself doesn’t know that it is unnatural for a man to be without a woman for more than 1 month.”
“That’s ungodly of him!” Annette shakes her head sadly.
“Why doesn’t he just propose?” Preye asks.
“Even if he does, I don’t think the fundamental issue has been addressed,” Annette cut in. “He doesn’t have the mind of Christ. I think he is a scoffer.”
“It pains me to admit that but…I must.” I wince.
“What does the Holy Spirit have to say about it?” Preye fixes her gaze on me.
“He obviously wants me to end the relationship. There was even a prophecy the day I attended rehearsal in church for the first time.”
“Wow! You mean you have expressly heard God and you are still negotiating?” Annette shakes my shoulder. “That is dangerous! Do you know what happened to Jonah when he dodged his assignment? My sister, it is obvious you have the call of God upon your life. Take up your cross and follow him.”
“What does that mean?”
“It means give up whatever is standing in the way of total surrender to Christ.”
“I love Stan.” I am now sulking.
“Then the love of the Father is not in you. You can continue your relationship with Stan but do not lie that you love Jesus. He does not share.”
Annette is so brutal that I secretly wander if she is jealous of my boyfriend. I know she is a widower but she is young enough to still want a man of her own.
“Let me tell you what happened to Pastor Dawodu when he ignored God’s call into ministry. He was a pampered young man born to succeed his father who was the principal partner of one of the top 3 law firms in Nigeria,” Annette narrated. “He got born again in the university and felt God was calling him to be a pastor after his NYSC. When he told his mother, she advised him to perish the thought because his father would not abide it. She gave him an inkling of what was to come by seizing his car and stopping his allowance. Subsequently, his fiancé broke up with him and friends stayed away because the cash was not flowing as before. He held out for a few months before calling his mom to tell her he had changed his mind. He decided he could serve God as a leader maybe of a service unit or something so he could keep on enjoying the privileges of his birth.”
“Wow, I never knew this. Go on…” Preye says.
“He joined the law firm but it was one disaster after the other. It was either he lost a case or he offended a client or staff were quitting because he treaded on their toes. One day, a client accused him of sleeping with his wife for whom he was trying to secure a divorce in court.”
“Chei! Chi m Oh!” I exclaim.
“The scandal was monumental. He has not even lived it down. The worst thing was that when the man offered his wife more money than she had asked for she agreed to lie that they had had an affair.”
“I don’t mean to rain on your parade but…how are you sure he was innocent? People make mistakes all the time and I am sure we all have heard of pastors who took of the forbidden fruit.”
“I’ll tell you how I know but first let me finish the story. He quit the firm and left the country while his father begged the man to allow the matter to die. While abroad, he joined a church and opened up to the pastor about the call he had rejected. The man told him to accept his call to pastoring and his life would be back on track. He went to Bible College and became the pastor’s assistant for 5 years before returning to start Shepherd center.”
“That’s a very interesting story,” I admit.
“It’s really interesting. You haven’t told us why you are so sure he was falsely accused of adultery,” Preye asks.
“When he wanted to get married, his wife-to-be was concerned about the scandal as were his parents. He prayed about it and contacted the woman he was accused of sleeping with. She agreed to confess in person to them as long as it wasn’t recorded or ever repeated before her husband. The meeting was arranged at a venue chosen by the woman and only his fiancé and her parents attended. She confessed that she lied because that was the condition her husband gave her for their reconciliation and that he would kill her if he found out that she told anyone the truth.”
Both Preye and I are speechless. We sit there mouths hanging open, arms crossed over our breasts, staring at Annette.
“I only know this because his wife is my cousin and she confided in me. A few people know the truth but the story in the public space is that he is a repented adulterer.”
I clap my hands slowly, the way my mother used to do when amazed by the gossip my aunt brought back from the market.
“Wonders shall never end!” I sigh.
“Anyway, the point is you need to end this relationship and learn how to be single. Commit to 6 months or 1 year without dates and nurture your individuality. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace; how to talk with and walk with the Holy Spirit. Make him a daily part of your life. You know praying in tongues is just the beginning; you need to enter the conversation level to enjoy Christianity.”
“Does that mean I will never get married?” I ask exasperated.
“Let me tell you what used to happen during the days when African Americans lived as slaves. They needed the consent of their masters to marry and sometimes he took liberties with the lady of their choice before the marriage was allowed. Now, that is disgusting and I am in no way saying God is like that. However, we call Him Lord just as slaves do but He has no say in our lives. We do what we want and go where we like; how is Jesus Lord of your life if you cannot trust his choice of a life partner for you?”
Preye and I look at each other and nod.
“That’s a good point,” Preye agrees.
“I met a widower 3 years ago and fell in love with him. God asked me to wait for 6 months before going on a date with him. The man kept putting me under pressure because according to him he needed a mother for his 3 children. After 3 months, I was telling someone about him when the person said his name sounded familiar and asked for his picture.”
“No…” I interrupt.
“You guessed right. He had a South African wife who was very much alive and the 3 children whose pictures I saw were only 3 out of his 7 children.”
“Ewo!” Preye exclaims.
“The thing is my libido is such that I would have probably jumped him after the first few dates.”
Preye and I gasp. “Sister Annette!”
“I know my limits please. I don’t go on solo dates and I don’t date for the sake of it. The next man I will go out with has to be my husband and he has to have serious self-control. Also, there will be no time for a long courtship.”
Preye and I burst into laughter. “Sister Annette!”
She rolls her eyes and reaches for her drink nonplussed. “The Holy Spirit and I know my weakness and we are open about it. You girls are the ones forming macho. She that is down needs fear no fall biko.”
Chichi and Moses are at dinner with a couple from work. The man is the VP Operations at her firm and his wife is a fashion designer.
“Chichi tells me you want to start importing sound equipment?” the man asked.
“Yes, sir. I have a business plan and I have already lined up some contacts in the event business,” Moses responded eagerly.
“Church is good business these days. The way they are springing up left and right; I might go into it for myself.” He let out a guffaw.
Moses chuckled in agreement though, stifling his discomfort.
“All these pastors are thieves,” his wife concurred, spearing her steak like a warrior. “I don’t know why people still go to church. The most stupid are those who allow themselves to be talked into parting with their hard-earned money.”
Her husband let out a bellow and banged on the table without a care. Chichi laughed politely. Moses was dumbfounded. These people were unbelievable. How come all his wife’s friends were stark unbelievers. He wished he could tell them that his salary was paid from the money people gave to the church but he didn’t want to offend them.
“Anyway,” the man continued after wiping his mouth. “We have N10m to invest and I know Chichi to be an astute manager. My wife and yours go way back; which is why I brought her into the firm in the first place.”
Chichi nodded humbly, never letting on that she had a very ‘personal’ relationship with him far removed from that which she had with his wife.
“Submit your business plan to me and we will work things out. I also know a few friends who can commit more money so you’ll have a tidy sum to start with.”
“Thank you sir. I’m grateful sir.” Moses had all but dropped to his knees as he thanked him profusely over and over.
“Don’t thank me my man. Thank your wife. She is the genius who talked me into all this because she knows I like to make money.” The man bursts into laughter again.
Moses laughs politely as well. “I assure you sir; you will make more money than you ever dreamed from this deal. Trust me when I say I am completely devoted to this. You have my guarantee.”
“Words are sweet my man but money is sweeter,” the man responds and again bends over with a loud guffaw.
Moses stares in fascination at his protruding abdomen as it heaves with laughter. The button at his navel is rotating in tune with his laugh as his abdomen strains against the shirt.
“Yes sir; money is sweeter,” Moses concurs.
Moses and Chichi were having an argument in the living room of the 4 bedroom duplex they had rented just before their wedding. Their domestic assistant was crouching behind the door, trying hard not to be noticed before she could hear what was the cause for this unusual quarrel. Her employers got along pretty well even if she felt Moses overlooked more things than he should.
“Where did you get the money to buy that car, Chichi?”
“It’s Chichi now and no more Chibaby, O kwaya?” Chichi raised an eyebrow in disdain.
“Nwoke m. A di na-aba mba there! (Don’t scold me)”
“How did you get the money to buy a car of over N15million naira? We just spent millions on the honeymoon and you did not win the lottery.”
“I have had this car for two years,” Chichi announced solemnly, taking a seat on their leather couch nonplussed.
Moses was speechless. He stood before her, mouth agape, hand extended but not reaching for anything like it got paralyzed mid-air. There was silence for what seemed like hours.
“What else did you hide from me?”
“I have some landed property you don’t know about. Also the rent for this house is actually N3million and not the N1.5million I told you.”
Moses gasped. He sank into the sofa beside her grasping his head with both hands. “Chineke mee!”
Chichi rolled her eyes and made a face. “O gini?”
“Chichi, how could you hide so many things from me? Have I been a fool? What have I got myself into?” Moses’ voice was broken, tearful.
Chichi dropped to her knees and put her hands on his knees. “I’m sorry, my prince, my baby. I am so sorry I lied to you. I was afraid that you’ld be intimidated by the money and all that. So many men have used me and dumped me. Forgive me. I am only a child of my past,” her voice was contrite, pleading.
Moses, wiped his tears and looked up. “Are you sure there isn’t anything more I should know? I mean just the other day you brought pornographic videos for us to watch.”
“I just wanted us to spice up our sex life, my prince. It was Moni my friend from the office that recommended it. I never knew they are demonic till you told me.”
“Is there anything wrong with our sex life?”
“No…mba…I am more than content. Please don’t read more into it than me foolishly listening to a friend.”
Moses shook his head. “I don’t understand you anymore.”
“I am still the Chibaby you know. I love you and I can never hurt you. Please don’t sound like you are disgusted. I can’t bear it,” Chichi’s voice broke as she burst into tears.
Moses tried to ignore her but before long he moved closer and took her in his arms. “I’m sorry. It was just too much too quickly. You shouldn’t have hidden anything from me,” he soothed her as he spoke, smoothening her hair.
“I’m sorry too. I should have trusted you.” She sniffed.
He lifted her head by the chin and gazed into her eyes. “From today, no more secrets; is that a deal?”
“Okay, my love. I won’t ever hide anything from you. You are my prince, my head, my crown.”
Moses sighed and hugged his wife of three months to his chest as tightly as he could, as if by squeezing her closer, he could silence the voice of suspicion whispering in his ears that he was being fooled. He did not want it to be true. This was the woman he had dreamed about, hoped to meet and wished for all his life.
“Lord help me to be a good husband. I know I am the head of the home and this woman is the answer to all my prayers. Help me to be all that she wants me to be.”
“Nne eh! That man wanted to prove he is smart. You needed to see me crying like I lost my birkin bag,” Chichi was telling Didi.
They were hanging out at a restaurant close to Scholl Oil.
“Poor him indeed! Even though I told him I wasn’t complaining about anything he nearly gave himself a heart attack in bed last night, trying to prove to me that he is all that and a bag of chips.” She rolled her eyes and burst into laughter.
In the past, Didi would have laughed hard and then said something even more vulgar but she was not the Didi she used to be. She shifted uncomfortably and mopped her brow despite the cool air from the air conditioner.
“O gini? Is Stan acting up?”
“No, we are fine. He has been doing quite a bit of travelling but we are good.”
“Okay because for a minute there I thought I had lost you.”
“It is not as if I am the most holy but, Chichi one has to be careful the seeds one sows…”
“Ta! Don’t tell me about karma. My father that was as mean as they come died peacefully in his sleep. Look at Uju that aborted so many babies in school that the nurses at that clinic started calling her customer. She has 4 children while that girl who was a pastor died in childbirth last year. What’s that her name?”
“That’s the one! POG is what they used to call her. Do you know it was her first pregnancy after 3 failed IVFs? Nobody should tell me about karma. It doesn’t exist. All I do is to try not to hurt my fellow human being so that in case heaven is real my good acts will outweigh my mistakes.” Chichi sucked at her teeth, leaning back in her chair as she nursed her gin.
There was a quiet Interlude while Didi worked on her roast fish and chips, struggling with feelings of inadequacy conflicting with her burden to tell her friend the truth.
“You’re not drinking?” Chichi observed suddenly.
“A naghi m a nuzi mmanya (I don’t drink anymore),” Didi announced solemnly without making eye contact.
“Was it Stan’s idea? First he stopped you from taking weed. Then he didn’t want you clubbing without him. Now…” Chichi’s voice was rising.
“Don’t give me that…” Chichi fired off some choice expletives. “That guy is controlling and you know it.”
Didi heaved a sigh. “He is a bit controlling, I admit but it was not his idea that I stop drinking.”
Chichi dropped her cup, narrowing her gaze. “Whose was it, then? How are you going to put up with the…” She fired off a few more expletives. “As for the scummy men that our mothers’ generation raised and foisted on us, I need my Dutch courage just to go home and pretend to need Moses.”
“I have something better.”
“What’s that? Codeine? Tramadol? Cocaine? What is it?”
Didi held her gaze. “I have the Holy Ghost.”
Chichi was stumped. She stared at her friend; hand over her mouth like she was bursting with questions but afraid of the answers. For a long time neither friend spoke beause there was nothing to say. Their relationship would never be the same.
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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.”
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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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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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