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.
Moses was battling a suspicion he had had for long. It started as a hair-raising sensation whenever he got home before Chichi unexpectedly and she would be at the backyard with the back door locked. The house was designed such that he could not access the back from the front without alerting whoever was there. The last time this happened it took her almost 20 minutes to unlock the back door and when she did her eyes were dilated, glazed, unfocused. He actually panicked thinking she was ill but she smiled, squealed and flew into his arms for a hug and a deep kiss that forced him to abandon his suspicions.
Another day, he smelled what he suspected to be weed in the bathroom. He thought it was a leak from somewhere and shouted for their help to clean it thoroughly. Chichi was not at home that day. The girl said she had cleaned it that morning but proceeded to do it again. After that, the odor disappeared. Moses heaved a sigh of relief.
Today, he saw what looked like a stub from a roll of weed at the backyard when he went to practice his guitar in solitude. He did not want to ask Chichi about it because he felt she would take it badly. It was inconceivable to him that his domestic assistant used drugs because he had never had reason to suspect her. They did not have a gateman because the house was in an estate with a central gate. No other person had access to their backyard but the three of them. He decided to call Didi for help on a whim. He could not live without knowing the truth.
“Hello Didi, good afternoon,” he greeted when she answered at the fourth ring.
“Is this a good time or you’re swamped with work?”
“I am actually at a lunch date with Annette and Preye. We are having a shourt-course mentoring so we work around our busy schedules.”
“That’s so nice. When you go for all these programs you don’t invite your friend; why is that?” he accused.
“I do; it’s just that she has been busy. I assumed you are one of the reasons she no longer has time for me.” Didi laughed shortly.
“Could you find a private spot? I want to ask you something confidential,” Moses requested.
He heard her tell her companions she had to take the call privately and then he heard the scraping of chairs as she changed locations.
“Alright, shoot; what’s going on?”
Moses heaved a sigh before asking the question that kept him awake the night before.
“Didi, does Chichi smoke weed?”
Didi was shocked. She stood there, silent, heart pounding for minutes.
“I…Didi…are you there?”
“Have you ever seen Chichi using weed?’
“Moses, I am surprised you are asking this type of question! How can you accuse your wife of smoking weed and then come to me to confirm it?”
“I am sorry to put you on the spot. I just felt you would know because of how close you both are…”
“I have never seen Chichi doing drugs!”
“You haven’t? Not even when you both were in school.”
“I never did. If she did, it was not in my presence and I never had reason to suspect her. Go home, love your wife and enjoy your marriage.”
“Okay, Didi, I am sorry I put you on the spot.”
“Thank you. I’ll talk to you later.”
Didi ended the call unceremoniously and dialed Chichi’s number furiously. She did not want to be drawn into their issues but she had to warn her that her husband was on to her before her addictions led to the breakup of the marriage.
Nedu was interviewing a new entrant into the follow-up department Isio. She was a fair and heavily-endowed woman, a teacher who had known the Lord for over 20 years and had recently joined their church after relocating from Ibafo. Kevin his assistant who was also part of the interview panel had stepped out to take a call.
“What do you believe about demonic possession? Can a believer be possessed?” he asked.
“No,” she said. “I think a believer who doesn’t know his rights may be oppressed but never possessed. He is already possessed by the spirit of God and there cannot be two captains on one boat,” she replied.
“Good. What do you believe about salvation? How can we lose our salvation?”
“I don’t think anyone can lose his salvation. The gifts and calling of God are irreversible. Maybe the person would have to recant as in, say I don’t want you to be my Lord anymore Jesus or something. But I don’t think there is any sin we can commit that God cannot forgive. Paul wrote that neither death nor life angels nor powers can separate us from the love of God.”
“You are well-versed in scripture,” Nedu complimented her.
“Thank you but I don’t think that should be a rarity. We are called to be priests and kings so each of us should know the word for him or herself,” she smiled.
He noticed she had dimples and smiled back. Kevin came in at that time and apologized.
“That’s fine. I think we are done here. Your training will commence tomorrow. I’ll send you a text.” Nedu rose and shook her hand. Her grip was firm but soft and her eyes were kind.
“Thank you Bro Nedu,” she said.
“My parents did not name me Bro. The name is Chinedu, Nedu for short.” His eyes twinkled with mischief.
“Well, I prefer to be called Madam Isio,” she joked.
“Me too, I want to be called Sir. Kevin. After all my father was a knight of St. Mulumba,” Kevin added.
The group burst into laughter.
“It was nice meeting you Isio. Welcome to our department.”
“Thank you so much. I’ll take my leave.”
The men watched her leave.
“Nedu, na your wife be this! I know she is your spec; fair, shapely, not too tall and she is grounded in scripture,” Kevin said when she was out of earshot.
Nedu was silent. Kevin was right. Before he fell in love with Didi, he dreamed of marrying a girl who looked like Isio and his friends knew. He began to wonder if there was anything wrong with him getting to know her better.
Father, since you won’t let me go for Didi, should I ask Isio out? She’s beautiful, full of the word and she’s a teacher. There’s a good chance Didi will not want to marry a trader in Alaba market. Am I putting all my eggs in one basket?
You are silent Lord? Why?
“Guy, collect her number and follow her up very well. The girl is hot and if anyone else notices her you may not have a chance,” Kevin was saying.
“How do you know she isn’t already in a relationship?”
“I heard her fiancé died a few months to their wedding years ago and since then she has kind of kept to herself.”
“How did you get all this information, Kevin?” Nedu stared at his friend with his mouth hanging open.
“My wife has a friend who went to school with her. Apparently the guy had sickle cell and was battling one crisis after the other.”
“Yeah, pity; so are you going for her or what?”
“I’ll give her a call and see how she responds. If she gives me the green light I’ll know it’s a sign from God,” Nedu decided.
Kevin raised his hand and thumped him on the shoulder. “That’s what I’m talking about!” he exclaimed. “You need a good woman to put your life in order.”
“Are you trying to insinuate my life is out of order?” Nedu pushed him in jest.
“Guy, you won’t know what you’re missing until you taste it. Thank me later.”
Thanks for reading, for leaving a comment and liking and sharing.
“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.”
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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I hope to post 2 drafts every week.
I have been learning about emotional intelligence for some months now. At an event recently, I saw 1st hand just how important it is in our daily lives. Emotional intelligence has many definitions but one of my favorites is this “It is the ability to recognize and manage emotions in yourself and others”. There is a gift called empathy. When you step into the shoes others or try to see things through their eyes, you not only win them over, they will even defend you.
I was invited to give a health talk to a group of professionals as a panelist along with 3 other health care professionals. Before we were called up, a lady spoke on etiquette. I missed the beginning of her speech but I just got funny vibes from her. She probably did not mean to but she came across as combative and judgmental rather than engaging. I put it down to her personality type but what happened next was shocking. Questions were requested from the audience and a lady came forward and took the microphone to speak.
“Please Ma, you said that we do our jobs ‘anyhow’ because we know that we will be paid whether or not we come to work. That is not true because some of us love our jobs and do it with all our hearts,” she said.
The lady who was giving the speech looked shocked. I could not believe my ears as well but there was more to come. The MC asked politely, “What is your question?”
“Ma, you mentioned magic words. Could you use your magic word and say ‘I’m sorry’ to us?”
By this time my mouth was hanging open. A couple of audience members were shouting that the speaker had not generalized but said “some people do their jobs anyhow” while others were demanding the apology. It was brutal. The speaker explained that her statement was misquoted but went ahead to apologize (which I praise her for). The audience then applauded.
This lady had given a well-researched and delivered speech but a lack of empathy ruined it for her at the end. I bet so many will remember her for the gaff rather than the pearls of wisdom she dropped earlier.
Let me narrate a 2nd story. A number of friends of mine were complaining about their husbands’ lack of attentiveness to them. They felt their husbands were not spending as much time as they would have liked listening to them or talking with them. Rather they brought work home or watched TV. I decided to get my husband’s perspective. He said my friends were right about needing attention but were going about it the wrong way. In his opinion their husbands were under pressure trying to meet up with societal and family obligations and the more my friends demanded attention the more they alienated their men. He said their husbands would feel they were under attack and also lash out. If they attempted to be supportive, their partners would see them as confidantes i.e. part of the solution not part of the problem. This ensures that you have a partner who rushes home to tell you all about his/her day because you will listen first and empathize.
Even with friends of the same sex, no one likes a griper. I am sorry to say there are people whose calls I avoid because 15 minutes with them will rob me of my peace of mind.
Today, give someone the benefit of the doubt, a long rope, a break, name it
See through the eyes of others.
Be the 1st to forgive.
Listen without making assumptions.
I have learned that only God promised to always be there for you even until the end of time. Others can be busy or unavailable. Next time you can’t find anyone to unburden yourself to, look up and say “Hi, Jesus! Are you up for a chat?”
And do write me to share what He tells you.
His phone rang before he could say anything.
“Idoko, what’s up? Okay, just ask them for the VIP section. Come right in,” he said into the phone.
Toyosi sipped her coffee as he ended the call, wondering what was going on. She was not left in the dark much longer. A tall, dark, muscular man wearing dreadlocks and denim appeared to be heading their way. She groaned internally at the intrusion but kept her expression neutral. PA stood up with a huge smile to welcome the stranger.
“Idoko!, Idoko! The man who finished a pot of beans without even belching,” PA shouted, reaching to hug the man.
The man let out a guffaw before enveloping PA in his bear-like embrace. PA was tall but the man had the added advantage of being muscular and that made PA look like his son.
Toyosi stared. She had never seen PA in such a jovial mood, not even with Ovie or his pastors. It occurred to her that he had brought in his best friend to get his opinion of her. This was something she knew men did all the time. Without their best friend’s approval, they usually developed cold feet, no matter how attracted they had been to a lady in the first place. She put on her warmest smile. It was now ‘operation win PA’s mystery friend over’ and she was very much up to it. If that was how he wanted to play it, he had better be ready for a show.
Ovie and Ama came in as PA was introducing Idoko to Toyosi. He included them in the introductions and waved the waiter over as they all took their seats.
“How are you, my man? It’s so good to see you again,” PA said.
“Yeah, I’m fine. I can see this pastoring thing is favoring you,” Idoko teased.
Toyosi could see Ama and Ovie exchanging surprised glances and relaxed, taking comfort in the fact that she wasn’t the only one who was ambushed. She kept a pleasant expression on her face, just in case either of the two friends looked at her but neither paid her any mind.
“Please order breakfast or something. Let me catch up with this man. We’ve come a long way,” PA apologized.
Everyone murmured their consent while the waiter hovered over them, writing furiously. PA drew his chair close to Idoko and soon they were deep in conversation. Toyosi had no choice but to order some fruit salad so as not to look odd. Ovie had ordered a full continental breakfast. Ama’s order was similar. She, on the other hand was careful not to eat too much, knowing that her abdomen under the tight dress would disgrace her.
“How are you feeling now, Ovie?” PA asked suddenly.
Ovie was stumped. He had forgotten he had lied about having indigestion. Ama kicked him under the table.
“Ouch!” he yelled.
“What is wrong? Do you need to go to the hospital?” PA asked.
“No, sir. I am fine.” He glared at Ama.
“Okay. I need you to call Saviour. Let him prepare the guest room for Idoko. He cannot stay in a hotel while he is in my town.”
“Guest room?” Ovie repeated, obtuse.
“Yes.” PA affirmed.
He rose and excused himself.
“Ama, I know you have so much on your plate but from now, you will handle all enquiries Toyosi has about her teenage group. You have been involved in ours almost from inception and I don’t think there is anything she will need that you cannot provide. I have far too many things planned this month and I think I need to be prudent. Is that okay?”
Toyosi glanced at Ama, willing her to say No but knowing it would be too obvious. She cleared her throat noisily.
“Of course, PA; whatever, you need,” Ama replied without looking at Toyosi.
“So, Idoko, I particularly wanted you to meet Toyosi because she works for a magazine and I know you need publicity for your new film school. Hopefully, she can guide you on how to secure the best interviews with the media and get the exposure you need. As a “Jonny-just-come”, you don’t expect things to work here the way they do in South Africa.”
Idoko gazed at Toyosi keenly. “Hello again, Ma’m.”
“Hi, yourself,” she said dryly.
“So, I’ll give you both time to discuss and maybe set up another appointment. I have to dash off. Ovie will stay and bring you over to the house when you are good to go.” PA rose to his feet.
“That’s very gracious of you, man. I appreciate it.” Idoko rose to greet him with a handshake.
“It’s the least I could do.”
Ovie had returned.
“Aha! There you are. Stay with Idoko and help him find his way around town. I will go with the car. Pastor Mofe is expecting me. When he is tired of exploring Lagos, bring him to the house,” PA instructed.
“Yes, Sir.” Ovie nodded, bowing slightly.
“Toyosi, it was great seeing you. God bless you. Ama, see me in the office when you round up your meeting.”
He waved to everyone as he left. Idoko drew his seat close to Toyosi, intending to make good on the offer of her help with media exposure. Ama and Ovie exchanged glances over Idoko’s head, knowing that Toyosi was probably fuming on the inside but unable to do anything about it. PA was introverted but he was a very perceptive man. Ama sensed that they had crossed the line that day and that was why he handed the mentoring of Toyosi’s teenage group over to her. She didn’t blame him. The girl looked like Jacob’s pottage in her red outfit and she could see he was not willing to sell his birthright like Esau; not just yet and maybe not for Toyosi.
PA was taking a walk the next morning with Idoko. It was about 6.30am. He had already prayed and studied his bible for two hours as was his custom before his guest woke up. They were in their jogging suits, walking back home slowly, having done a power walk around the estate PA lived in.
“What did you think about the girl,” PA asked his companion.
“Toyosi?” Idoko asked in turn.
“She’s a looker.”
He didn’t say more so, PA waited. Idoko caught his eye and grinned.
“Do you like her?” PA asked.
“I didn’t know you were into match-making.” Idoko raised a brow.
“Ever since that girl broke your heart, you have not given anyone else a chance.”
“A chance to finish up from where she left off, right?” Idoko shook his head slowly.
“You need to move on.”
“Yeah and what’s your excuse?”
“I made the choice when I became born again to remain single. I have not regretted it but it was not made due to heart break,” PA replied.
“Why exactly did you make such a foolish decision?”
“I have never told anyone. I don’t think I can,” PA murmured thoughtfully.
Idoko nodded, understanding. Some things were meant to be left alone, even among friends. PA did not speak for a while. His friend walked beside him, lips pursed.
“Toyosi is in love with you,” he declared finally.
PA was stunned. He stopped in his tracks. “What makes you think so?”
“I know women. And this one is dangerous. She will not take no for an answer. If you are not interested, cut off totally,” his friend advised.
“Dangerous?” PA was blinking in unbelief.
“Take my word for it.”
They walked along in silence for a long while. Idoko took a gulp of water from the bottle he had brought along and stopped by a grassy patch. He turned aside and began to do some stretching exercises. PA sat on a log a few feet away, his head in his hands.
Is this what you have been trying to warn me about, Lord? Why then does everyone approve of her: Onyema, Ovie, Odion, Ama and even Onyema’s wife? Your word says that in a multitude of counsel, there is safety. Although I have tried to get your opinion, I cannot really say I feel physically attracted to her. I thought you were guarding me from temptation by giving me the grace to keep my feelings in check. Should I take this disquiet as your way of telling me to back off?
“Ima, you would not believe what happened to me today?” Zina clapped her hands as she spoke, seated on a kitchen stool in front of Imaobong who was kneading dough.
“What happened? Did you get lost?” Ima did not look at her but spoke with her eyes on the bowl she was working on.
“No, the house was easy to find.”
“Wasn’t Ovie there?”
“He was O!”
Imaobong stopped what she was doing and looked up with a frown. “Did he try anything funny?”
Zina laughed. “No.”
“So what is it?”
“I met PA.”
“For real? I don’t think I have really had a close encounter with him despite years of being a member of the church. He is very quiet.”
Imaobong narrowed her gaze when she saw that her friend had more to spill. However,she didn’t have to beg Zina to indulge her.
“He was sitting in front of the house. I thought it was Ovie and covered his eyes.”
“Abasi mbok!” Imaobong screamed. “You covered whose eyes?”
“I nearly fainted when he turned. Kai! My sister, foolishness is not good.”
Imaobong had her hand over her mouth, her eyes wide in astonishment.
“Wait till you hear the rest.”
“There is more? You mean he did not bind you and cast you out into the abyss? I heard he doesn’t play.”
“He plays O. I had to pry my hands out of his grasp,” Zina said, straight-faced.
“He held your hands? How?”
“He said I have very soft hands, that I am lovely and interesting.”
“It’s a lie! Zina, you are lying!” By this time, Imaobong was hitting her friends laps in disbelief.
“Ima, I cannot make up such a story.”
“Hmm…I was struggling not to bite my mouth. But Ima, that guy is fiiiiiine! Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you? Haven’t you been seeing him in church?”
“This ‘seeing’ was different. He was casually dressed and down to earth and he is a very good listener.” Her voice was becoming dreamy.
“Zina! You are in line to become the 1st lady O! I can’t believe it. My friend as PA’s wife?” Imaobong began to pace the kitchen, one hand on her hip, the other tugging at her chin.
“Hahaha! That is not likely to happen. He was just carried away.”
Imaobong stopped and faced her. “What do you mean? Now that I thought of it, you are a perfect fit. You are confident, out-spoken, used to being in leadership, well-versed in scripture, spirit-filled and stunning to boot. What’s to stop you from filling the vacancy?”
“I didn’t know there was a vancancy.”
“I didn’t either. He has been single for long and he promotes singleness. There was a time women were out to snare him but I think he wore them out. Besides, he has impregnable security. How did you even get so close to him?”
“I went to see Ovie. In fact I forgot he lives with PA. The man was just sitting there casually and he was hidden by some plants.”
“This has to be divine.”
“Na! I think God just wanted to teach me to see Pastors as human beings. I am in no way Pastor-wife material,” Zina shook her head sadly.
“Do you have anything against marrying a pastor?”
“No. I never thought about it but, I think it’s a call for those who have spotless records. I can’t even deceive myself on that one.”
“Who is spotless? Only the lamb is pure, my dear. Even PA is no angel.”
Zina frowned. “Does he have scandals trailing him?”
“No but, he always says salvation is a gift. We do nothing to earn it and we have no right to determine who is qualified before God and who is not. All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”
A call on Imaobong’s phone interrupted their conversation, leaving Zina to her thoughts.
All have sinned indeed but some sins leave scars and they are visible for the world to judge you. There are sins God may forgive but man may never forgive. I will live with the consequences of my decisions but which Pastor will join himself to a woman with my kind of baggage? No, it will never happen.
Moji, Idara and Toyosi were coming from the house of a musician they had gone to interview for their magazine. They were in Moji’s car, a roomy SUV with state of the arts fittings. Idara was fiddling with her camera in her lap. She was wearing a tank top on blue jeans, her standard work gear except they were attending a formal event. Moji was dressed in a black caftan, her expensive weave cascading down her shoulders in attempt to soften her hard frame. Toyosi was wearing a floral top on white capris. She looked lovely with her hair in a bun and minimal accessories.
“So how is your relationship with that Pastor? Have you guys fixed a date for the wedding?” Moji asked, tongue-in-cheek.
Idara rolled her eyes, wordlessly.
“What do you mean by ‘have we fixed a date’? Are you mocking me?” Toyosi was incensed.
“No, my dear,” Moji smirked.
“Anyway, he called me yesterday to invite me on a date.”
“Na lie!” Idara scoffed.
“I have a text to prove it. Do you want to see?” She handed her phone over to Moji as she spoke.
Moji and Idara read the message aloud, incredulous.
“10 am on Thursday at Brioche café is fine. Regards, PA.”
“Who is laughing, now?” Toyosi sang. “Behold, as long as the earth remains, seed-time and harvest-time will not cease.”
Her two friends glanced at each other and swallowed every thought of the intervention they had planned. She was obviously succeeding in her schemes. PA had never had a meeting with her in private and most of the meetings were instigated by her. That he was willing to be seen with her in a café was almost a public declaration of his interest in her.
Idara was almost seized by apoplexy over fears of being thrown out and more. Moji on the other hand saw the positive side of it. If her friend who was no better than her could land such a great guy, perhaps there was hope for her despite her age and the fact that she had an adopted child. She began to think that she might have been wrong to write off all men as evil. There could be someone out there who would love her for who she was and even be willing to marry her.
Toyosi eyed her friends, guessing their thoughts and laughed to herself. She knew what they thought of her brazen attempts to woo PA but she took comfort in the story of Ruth. Besides, she had no evil intentions for the man. All she wanted was to guard herself from the heartbreak that appeared to be all that the men she had been meeting had to offer. Was that too much to ask for? A man whose Yes was his Yes and whose No was his No. One who would not cheat on her, beat her or leave her. How could that be too much to ask.
“Ama, I think it is time for me to find a wife,” Pastor Allen announced solemnly.
His secretary of six years stared at him, mouth open. She hadn’t seen this coming. Although he encouraged marriage, wedded others, and counseled those in troubled marriages, he publicly proclaimed that he had the gift of singleness. In the first few years of their knowing each other, she had badgered him about finding love. She tried to match-make him with ladies who were “pastor’s wife material” in her estimation: Women, who were modest yet gorgeous, ambitious yet submissive, out- spoken yet demure, bold but not forward, and most importantly, able to preach a storm. He laughed off her suggestions. How could he change direction just when she had reconciled herself to him remaining unmarried for life?
He did not offer more, in his characteristic reticence. She was quite used to this and took his cue. They were seated on the armchairs in his office, quite alone. He had just had a meeting with the two associate pastors who worked under him. They had left shortly before she entered to offer him lunch. She was not surprised when he declined and asked her to take a seat. All day, he had been rather morose. In public, he was warm if not out-going but in private, his shy, introspective nature came to the fore. Ama had learned to let him open up when he chose to, if he chose to. This was the secret of their closeness.
Allen lowered his head into his hands. “What do I do?”
His voice was torn. Ama could hear his self-doubt, his uncertainty, his fear of the unknown. She had never ceased to marvel that he was that unconscious of his good looks, his accomplishments as the senior pastor of a two thousand member church with branches in two university campuses and six secondary school outreaches and of the adulation of teeming fans across the world. The media department ensured that his popularity on social media did not wane. Every Sunday, they posted his ‘outfit of the day’ on instagram with a portion of his sermon. His quotes were projected on twitter and facebook on an hourly basis. The blogs and magazines were inundated with his opinion pieces. He was known to take on controversial topics and thrash them without minding whose ox was gored.
What the world did not know was that he kept himself away from the madness by filtering what he responded to through his personal assistant, Ovie. He genuinely cared little about what people thought about him. Ovie was the one who bought all his clothes, shoes and perfumes. It was he who made him look good. Allen loved to read. He would rather curl up on a couch with a book than attend a member’s event. Sometimes, they ( Ama and Ovie) were able to convince him to attend a social event, especially if hosted by a cherished brother or sister but, it was a rarity.
“Is there someone you have in mind?” Ama knew there was no one even as she asked. He would have told her or she would have noticed. At the very least, Ovie would have spilled the beans.
He looked up but did not reply. She nodded.
“What do you have in mind?”
“I never used to feel lonely, Ama. Suddenly, my house is too big, empty, cold…”
“I don’t know.”
“If I had a daughter, you would not need to say more and you know it.”
“Sure,” he scoffed. “You would have begged her to marry me.”
“This man just doesn’t know how many girls are dreaming of walking down the aisle with him!”
His phone rang but he made no move to pick it up. She let it ring out before rising to pick it from the coffee table. It began to ring again so she checked the caller ID.
“It’s Pastor Jenkins,” she said.
He shook his head so she turned off the ringer and dropped it on the table. Adjusting the hem of her black skirt, she took her seat.
“I don’t even know where to start from. I have no girlfriends, no prospects, nothing. Who will even want me?” Allen bit his lip as he spoke.
Hi, everyone. Thanks for all the messages in my absence. I was busy hunting for inspiration. Now that I finally found some, do read and tell me what you think.
And yay! I published a book and I am going to be posting an excerpt very soon. Watch this space. Cheers, Dr. N
If it seems too good to be true it probably is. You were such a blessing to us that after 3 months, we engaged a private tutor to teach you to read and write. Even spelling your name was a chore. I could not understand how a 21 year old could not read and write. You were so dilligent that you rarely needed tobe told what to do. In fact, I often had to scold you to stop cleaning and eat something. And the kids loved you.
Our bone of contention was the 1 weekend you had off every month. You claimed you spent it with a sister of yours in another state but I suspected this was not true. Someone called you each time you returned and you blushed and gushed over “him”, using endearments I had to memorize and ask someone who spoke your language to translate. Eventually, you opened up to me about him. It was the day he seized your purse and prevented you from returning on the right day. You told me you loved and wanted to marry him. Moreso, as you were told women are like flowers that bloom in the morning and wilt at night. Someone sold the lie to you that if you did not marry him, you would be left on the shelf.
I reasoned with you, I begged, I pleaded. I wanted you to spend 2 years with us because if you learned to read and write you could take O’levels as a private candidate and then update your employability. You see, Nanny, I did not want you to remain a Nanny for life. I dreamed of you owning a cleaning services company, or heading a franchise, for you are a good leader. My heart was broken when you left a few months ago to marry him. Notice he refused to meet us as requested. Did you say he promised to hire a tutor for you? What a laugh! People will say anything to fool you.
I ignored you for a while, answering coldly when you called to ask about the kids. Even when you called on E-boy’s birthday, I was surprised you remembered but I didn’t ask if you needed help. I heard it in your voice, I sensed your regret, I felt your pain but, it was not my business, I decided. You laid your bed and you would lie in it.
Today, you are back, cleaning my house every day and returning to him at night. What difference has he made in your life? He snatched you out , for what? You have no skills, no training, no education. He did not start a business for you. I heard you live in a wooden house in the slum. I dare not ask for I know you will say all is well.
Well, I hope he is worth it. I hope he still professes the love for that is all he has to give. Please, Nanny, look out for yourself. It’s a cold cruel world out there. Even in marriage, there is often extreme loneliness, sometimes leading to depression and suicidal thoughts. I know how many young mothers who have told me they felt like taking their lives because their husbands appeared so fulfilled in their careers while they felt stuck with the kids.
Look out for yourself, darling. It’s a cold, cold, world.
Cheers, Dr. N