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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