Stan and I have a lunch date. He is to pick me up from work so I wore something I know he will like. Unfortunately, it is also Ese’s favourite colour and the way he is standing by my desk and gloating, I fear he has mis-read the situation.
“You look lovely today, babe,” he purrs.
“I am not your ‘babe’ Ese.” I am short with him because he has wandering hands. His pea-sized brain has convinced him that relentless pursuit will get him into the bed of any woman he desires, no matter how many times she says no. I just happen to be his subordinate and I need him to sign off on my appraisals. That is the only reason I have not yet kicked him in the shin.
He sits on my desk, unbuttoning his jacket.
“Can you get off my desk? This is an office!”
He smirks. “You keep promising me a visit. When are you going to let me show you how I feel about you?”
“Your wife is the only person you should be showing how you feel about her,” I retort.
“Forget that fat bird! We are separated. I intend to divorce her as soon as you give me your consent.”
“I am so sorry to hear you are having issues in your marriage but I have a boyfriend. He will be here shortly and I don’t want him to get any ideas about us.”
“Does he know what you did to get to this position?” He raises an eyebrow in derision.
I raise my voice not minding who can hear us. “I fully deserve to be where I am today and you cannot blackmail me into admitting otherwise. Now get off my desk!” My right palm lands hard on my desk.
He rises, startled. “Hey, don’t shout. I was just joking. Send the revised schedule to my email.”
I scowl at his back as he leaves then rub my temples hard. He knows I had an affair with one of our directors when I needed a promotion. The two of them are friends who pass women they sleep with to each other. I refused to be passed though he has thrown every barb in his book at me. The worst they can do is to fire me and I have decided that losing my job is not the end of the world. Thank God I have Stan. He has given me the courage to stand up for my rights.
My phone rings. It is Chichi. They just returned from their 2 week honeymoon in Dubai.
“Hi! The latest missus in town,” I hail her.
“I’m fine. Never mind that opportunist, Ese. He tried to spoil my day but I put him in his place.” I lean back in my chair and sigh.
“I have told you to be careful with that guy. Do you want to lose your job?”
“I can’t give in to him, Chichi. One has to have limits. His friend is better than him. Ese is the type that will keep coming back for more. See how he leers at me like a fool. I can’t stand him. Besides, Stan and I have something good going.”
“You are right about Stan. He is a nice guy but you need your own income. Don’t plan to become a housewife please. I don’t want to hear sob stories.”
“That is not even possible. So, how is Moses? I hope he is a good husband?”
“He is doing alright, as expected. I still have a few weeks off so I am using the time to sell the stuff I bought from Dubai.”
“Business is moving! I am happy for you dear.”
“Thank you. Hopefully, Stan proposes soon so we can start planning your wedding.”
“Yes! I can’t wait!” I squeal.
Chichi laughs. “I’ll talk to you later.”
Annette was asked to mentor Preye, Didi and two young men at the next new converts class Didi attended. Stan had completed the classes in her absence. She had missed a few due to the preparations for Chichi’s wedding and was now trying to catch up. Preye had also missed a few because she was busy at work. They were having a break-out session in a seminar room in church.
“During the classes you missed, we learned about the Holy Spirit and the role he plays in our lives as believers. He is the one who delivers the anointing, the power essential to enable us live in the supernatural. Without him, we live like we are not born-again; doing whatever we feel like or what others are doing or what we have always done. The Holy Spirit is essential for a productive Christian life.”
Didi listened to her with rapt attention. She often wondered whether there was more to it all than just attending the Sunday morning services and praying for 2 minutes every morning. Would she ever be able to control her impulses? Would she ever do more than go to work, hang out with friends and watch TV? She wished she could change her life, change her behavior and become the kind of girl who had nothing to be ashamed of. Her past was terrible and even worse was that daily; she made decisions that did nothing to prove that her past was actually past. It felt like drowning in mire.
“Nedu asked that I take you all to the power plant. Didi, you are an engineer so you understand what power is to our lives. If you all don’t mind coming with me, the plant that supplies the church and its environs with electricity is a stone-throw away.”
The group rose and made it to the power plant where they were addressed by the technician in charge, Rob. He explained the capacity of each transformer and how much fuel was required to power it and how long it stayed on. They paid attention for the sake of it, not really understanding what it all had to do with being a Christian.
“Thank you for your time Rob. I have a final question. When this plant is turned off, is it possible to identify this building as a church?”
“It would be an empty shell of a place. The lights, air conditioning systems, microphones and other equipment that enable us to have a smooth service would go off. This place would be no different from the empty houses down the road that Bro. Jide the real estate guy is trying to sell off.”
She thanked him and ushered them back to the seminar room. When they were seated, she resumed her teaching.
“The Holy Spirit is like Rob, our prayers are the fuel, your spirit man is the plant and the electricity is the power you generate when you pray in other tongues. Praying in tongues delivered me from my addiction to cigarettes.”
At this, the eyes of all her listeners popped open.
“I had tried everything and gone for deliverance so many times but once I heard this message, I started praying in tongues once the craving hit. I have not smoked in 15 years. What’s more, I lost 50kg. I used to eat like a glutton. At one time I was weighing 120kg. That was after I lost my husband to my children’s nanny who was 10 years my junior. I turned for comfort to junk food. I started praying in the spirit each time I hit an emotional low and I found that I did not need to binge on burgers and soda. Praying in tongues is the way to bypass the intellect and plug into the frequency of the Holy Ghost.”
She was cut off by one of the young men who suddenly burst out praying loudly in a language the others could not understand.
“I see the Holy Spirit has taken over. Let’s bow our heads and welcome him. I am going to lay hands on you all and ask him to fill you. If you are not comfortable with being prayed for, just slip our quietly. The rest of you, bow your heads.”
Annette stood and began to pray. Did saw that the other brother had slipped out. She bowed her head and prayed following directions but did not feel any different. Soon, Preye was praying loudly as well. Didi began to cry so Annette took her aside.
“What is the matter?” she whispered.
“I know God is angry with me. It is because I am a sinner. I don’t deserve his mercy,” she wept.
“Once you give your life to Christ, all your sins are forgiven.”
“What of the ones I committed afterwards and keep committing?”
“If you confess them he will forgive you as well.”
“But I keep going back. Won’t he get tired of me?”
“You need the Holy Spirit to stay focused. The bible says one of the fruit of the spirit is faithfulness. Don’t deny yourself the helper you need.” Annette was rubbing her back as she spoke.
Didi looked up and nodded. “I want Him. Show me how.”
Annette motioned to the rest. They surrounded Didi and laid hands on her, praying loudly in their new languages. Didi was howling, kneeling down and bent over. They did not stop praying for her even when she emptied the contents of her stomach on that floor. Preye held her while the only brother present went for a mop bucket and wiped up the mess.
They raised a song of praise. Annette was singing in tongues. Suddenly, Didi heard herself speaking in a new language and marveled. The group thrilled. A spontaneous applause went up as they all collapsed on the floor, praying loudly with no concern for time, propriety or who heard them.
Thanks for reading.
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Cheers, Dr. N
Chichi and I are off to see her dentist. She needs her hand held during a procedure to whiten her teeth. I had to take half the day off to be with her. While we wait in the lobby, I browse through twitter to find the trending topic of the day. Chichi and Moses are chatting on phone. She said he couldn’t make it because he had to rehearse a song with a guest artist coming to Shepherd Centre on Sunday.
“Hi, aren’t you Didi? We met at New Converts class.” I look up to see who is interrupting my solitude. It is Preye.
We shake hands and then I introduce her to Chichi who waves and goes back to her chat. I notice she is wearing a white coat like a doctor.
“Do you work here or something?” I ask.
“Yes, I am a dentist. I started working here 6 months ago. Actually I bought out Dr. Okoye’s former partner.”
“Wow! Good for you,” I say and give her a hi-five.
“How’s your boyfriend?”
“Stan? He is fine, thanks for asking.”
“I didn’t get your number that day. Could I have it now?” She brings out her phone from her pocket.
I take it from her and punch in my number before handing it back.
“Let me run along. Chichi have a good one.”
Chichi makes a face and Preye laughs. “It’s not that bad. I promise you won’t feel a thing.”
“Yeah…” I rise and walk to her office with her. She has her name on the door.
“Lagos is one amazing city. You might see someone casually dressed on the streets and not realize she is a C.E.O. What a rush!”
“It must be awesome having a boyfriend who is born again,” she says wistfully as she unlocks her door.
I open my mouth to say ‘Yes’ but memory of the ‘revival’ in the car after the class flashes across my mind and I bite my tongue.
“I envy you dear. You guys are ‘couples goals’. Remember to invite me to the wedding.”
“That’s for sure. Let’s get him to propose first.” I roll my eyes.
“I know right?” She laughs and gives me a hug before we part.
It is Chichi’s wedding day. The makeup artist to the stars is working on her face while I busy myself taking pictures. Chichi has an army of bridesmaids and they all slept in the hotel we booked. 6 girls are wearing pink, while another 6 wear gold. My dress is cream and stunning as it should be considering the hefty price I paid for it and the rude attitude of the designer I had to put up with. She is very composed, drinking champagne from a straw. I know she woke up very early to smoke weed and then spray some perfume to get rid of the smell. I didn’t join her. Stan doesn’t like drugs. He says they alter my behavior and he wants me to be present when I am with him and not in a daze. I guess Jesus has a lot to thank him for; he got me into bible study and now I have even lost my craving for recreational drugs.
Moses and I have a surprise for Chichi at the service so I am smiling like a Cheshire cat, almost bursting with excitement. Finally, we are ready and pictures are taken and Chichi’s uncle is here. I pick up her train carefully. It is long and has real petals sewn into the hem. We get into her white limo and the driver speeds off. Pastor Dawodu is known as a stickler for time and Moses has been calling all morning to warn us to be punctual. Chichi is not known for her punctuality but when he threatened he would come to her room and carry her to the church himself if he got there first, she accepted the challenge.
We pull in 5 minutes early and I heave a sigh of relief. I see Preye getting out of a Toyata Prado and smile. I invited her to the wedding. We have been chatting quite a bit since we met at the clinic and she has turned out to have a great sense of humor. She sees our car and comes over to ay hello.
“Congratulations Chichi! You look stunning. Moses is a lucky man.”
“Thank you, doctor,” Chichi grins.
“Hi, babe,” I smile.
“You look good as well. I hope I don’t look like I came to pick up the notes guests are going to spray on you?” she jokes.
Chichi and I laugh.
“That’s not possible,” I reply. “You look like the boss lady you are.”
Someone motions for us to get out of the car so she waves and hurries off. I open the door, get out and then walk to the other side to assist Chichi. I have heard weddings are emotional but for some reason I feel the same way I feel when I go to the mall with her. There is no magic in the air, no excitement, no anticipation. I even feel bored and have to hold back a yawn. Maybe it is because the bridesmaids left us alone for a bit and reality dawned on me. Chichi feels nothing whatsoever for Moses and she has no remorse about marrying him and going back to exactly who she has always been whether or not he finds out.
Nedu is a groomsman. He looks resplendent in his white jacket and dark pants. Kevin, the best man is helping Moses adjust his bow tie while the cameras click as fast as lightening. Nedu suddenly feels light headed and realizes he skipped dinner and breakfast.
“I hope I can sneak out during the service without anyone noticing.”
The music starts and they march in. They stand in their seats as Chichi marches in, looking exquisite in a ball gown with long fluffy sleeves. However, he can’t take his eyes off Didi who is a vision in cream.
“I never noticed this girl before now Lord. She is drop dead gorgeous. What do you think?”
“What do I think? I created her. You know what I think.”
“Ah! You do great work. I usually feel attracted to light-skinned girls on the curvy side of life but if you give me the go ahead, this one is a winner.”
“Wait for my go ahead then.”
“Are you saying she might be the one?”
“I never whisper uncertainties. When you need a wife, we’ll talk. Now, concentrate. You are staring.”
“I’m sorry Lord. But go ahead and consider my request…when you are less busy.” Nedu chuckled.
“Guy, why you dey laugh?” One of the groomsmen asked him.
“Don’t mind me. I got distracted.”
“Aren’t you taking the special song?”
“No, Moses has a special surprise for his bride.”
“Cool…a solo performance on his guitar I guess.”
“I guess so.”
As if he heard his thoughts, the announcer said it was time for the special song. There was a hush as the lights were dimmed and Moses rose. Chichi looked at him in surprise and then smiled when it dawned on her what he was doing. He got on the stage and took a seat on a stool. Someone passed him his guitar. He adjusted the microphone to be able to speak in it.
“Hi everyone. I have a special song for my wife and I want you to welcome her friend Didi to the stage. It’s Didi’s first time on any stage so make her feel loved.”
The hall erupted in a cheer. Chichi screamed in surprise as Didi rose and blew her a kiss. Walking to the stage, she took the microphone Moses handed her and sat on a stool that seemed to appear out of thin air. No one was as surprised as Nedu. He had been completely kept in the dark about this and started fretting that Didi would be an average singer and endure ridicule.
Then she opened her mouth and he had to hold his breath. Her voice was sonorous, her tone was rich and fluid; she held her notes easily and brought emotions to the song. When she held a particular note for more than 1 minute the congregation began applauding her and didn’t stop till she ended the song. Even Chichi was on her feet. Moses had played well but Didi was the star of the show.
“Father, we need to talk. She even sings! What do I need to do to get this girl? Where has she been all my life?”
“Hold your horses, Nedu. Today is Moses’ wedding. Tomorrow we can discuss yours.”
Apologies for the delay and thanks for reading. Please like, comment, share and retweet via @nenabekee.
“Didi let’s go to the bible class together on Saturday. They keep bugging my phone and I just want to go so I can get them off my back.”
I stare into my phone aghast. The caller id is Stan; I remember we took this picture at the beach one month into our relationship. Yes, he responded to the altar call last Sunday while I was working off shore and I was excited that we are both “born again and heaven-bound” but I am surprised he wants to attend the class.
“Why?” I ask.
“I don’t think it will be any harm. Don’t you want to formally join the church and get your name into the register?”
“Is that what it takes?”
“I think so. Come on; it will be fun. Shall I pick you up at 4.30pm?”
“I have a bridal shower next Saturday,” I argue.
“Won’t it be in the morning?”
“Even if it is, I don’t want to go for the class. Go and then you can tell me all about it afterwards.”
“No way: It was you who first invited me to church. How can you abandon the soul you won?” he teases.
“Ha!” I scoff.
“I’ll buy you suya afterwards.”
Stan knows I am a fan of suya and he even introduced me to the hottest suya spot in town. I thought I knew Lagos until I went there with him and met highly influential people from all walks of life eating suya in the wooden shade. One of them was an ex of mine who is a colonel in the army. He barely acknowledged me when he saw me. I didn’t say anything to Stan; after all it is none of his business.
“Let me think about it,” I say finally.
“Great; I’ll pick you up then. Love you.” He ends the call after blowing me kisses.
That is a habit Stan has that irks me. He dismisses my need for space and to have control without even batting an eyelid. My wanting to think about his offer means acquiescence in his books. After years of going along with whatever Chichi says I have about had it. In every other respect he is wonderful. He is attentive, kind, romantic and generous. Despite my sufficient income, he has been sending me hundreds of thousands of naira monthly, buys me gifts randomly and sends messages every morning. He made my picture his display picture on social media and has introduced me to all his friends. My mother is already in love with him though they have never net because he has won her over by spoiling her with gifts. I know it would be ungrateful to complain but I just wish he would not go ahead with whatever he originally planned even after I have voiced dissent. After a while one begins to feel invisible, irrelevant…taken for granted and it was so from day 1.
Nedu was thinking of an innovative way to take the bible class for that Saturday. He was checking the websites of some of the churches he felt were leading in soul-winning hoping to scrounge an idea or two when it hit him that he hadn’t prayed about it. He dropped to his knees and began to pray placing his hands on his abdomen as he did whenever he wanted to hear from God.
“Dear Holy Spirit, you are my mentor and counselor. Give me innovation and inspiration. I want my classes to be dynamic and life-giving. Touch my mind and fill it with pictures from your word that grip the minds and hearts of my listeners and set them on fire in Jesus name.”
After a few minutes, he picked up his phone and began to play some worship music while still sitting still. It was a Thursday. He was on his desk in his office preparing the outline for the class he was to teach. Just then, he happened to look up and spotted a hawker walk past his shop with a tray of leafy vegetables on her head.
“That’s it! Thank you Father. I love the way you come through for me.”
Rubbing his hands in excitement, he began to plan the class. He decided to call his younger brother who owned a farm located 20 minutes away from the church to discuss his ideas with him and to solicit his help. After that he called his assistant follow-up director Kevin and told him what he wanted to do. They shared a laugh over the possible reactions to their approach but they were confident they were on the right track. When he ended the call, his sales assistant came in to ask for permission to take half the day off to run some personal errands.
“You owe me extra time, Bosco. I am not paying you to take off and do what you like during working hours,” he warned.
“Thank you sir. I appreciate it,” the young man said bowing.
He waved him away and pulled out his laptop. He had accounts that needed balancing and time was precious.
Stan and I got to church at 5.pm for the new converts class. He helps me get out of the car and smiles when I turn to check myself out in the car window closest to me.
“You look gorgeous honey.”
I make a face at him and he laughs.
“I’ll have you know I asked you out because I want beautiful kids. When you doubt how exquisite you are, I wonder whether I am mad or you are blind,” he teases.
“Flatterer!” I scoff though I am tickled.
He takes my hand and pulls me close for a hug before locking the car.
“Lead the way,” he says.
We make it to the room being used as a venue for the class just as it began. Kevin is standing at the front speaking.
“Good evening everyone and thanks for being punctual. Please introduce yourselves to one another and then pick up a name tag and put it on. My name is Kevin Odion and I am the assistant to Nedu who is our coordinator. Annette is the communications director for the unit. Thank you all for receiving her calls and keeping your promises to attend.”
There is a pause and then a buzz as conversation ensues as people get to know one another and also rise to find their name tags. In all there are about 30 people in attendance and more than half are female. I get my tag and adjust my jeans before sitting beside Stan wondering why I had been so nervous about attending. Chichi has been through the class but could not tell me what exactly it is about. Moses was no help either as he had done his in another church. I sneak a glance at Stan, sitting beside me, looking good enough to be eaten in his black T-shirt and blue jeans. Thank God he came along. My nerves are quite settled and I even feel serene.
I look around for Bro. Nedu but he is nowhere to be found. Maybe he had somewhere to be. He will find out that I made it and forgive me for being rather distant on phone for the 3 months he has made it a duty to call me once a week to invite me. As admirable as his persistence was, I had no reason to budge. Whatever they are teaching that did not change Moses, that did not screen out my friend Chichi and that accommodates the numerous members I see living a life more sinful than mine; is probably a waste of time.
Being here Stan makes it worthwhile as we have almost become inseparable. The only reason I have not moved into his house is that I feel he is a keeper and I don’t have the liberty of time. He has to propose in a few months or I will move on. When I was in my twenties, I could live with men because it didn’t matter if they married me or not. I hoped they would but if they didn’t, it wasn’t the end of the world. Now, I feel that I need to get married as soon as possible. My mom keeps reminding me that menopause is the destiny of every woman (as if I need reminding).
“Now that we have done the introductions, we have some news for you. The venue of the class is actually a secret location to which we will be conveyed by some buses parked outside. Please rise and make your way to the car park,” Kevin announces.
My stomach tightens in alarm. “Where are we going?” I whisper to Stan.
“It can’t be anywhere far. Maybe the room is too small and they rented an event centre.”
I relax, thinking he is probably right. He picks up my red bag and hands it to me. Stan is one of those men who is secure he could walk down the street carrying my bag but since we are in church I know he is being discreet. That is another thing I love about him. He is demonstrative but he knows when it would make me uncomfortable and holds back.
A few people are gathered around Kevin trying to get him to tell them where we are going but he just smiles and asks them to trust him. We file out making quiet conversation and soon arrive at the bus and take seats. The lady seated beside me smiles and taps her tag.
“My name is Preye. I love your top.”
“Thank you. I picked it up in Zurich when I went for a conference last year.”
“It’s lovely. Yellow is your colour.”
“Thanks. I’m Ndidi. Do call me Didi.” I extend my hand for a shake. Stan who is seated to my right also says hello and shakes her hand.
“Where do you think we are going?” I ask her.
“Maybe we are going to the pastor’s house. I heard he has a huge house not far from here,” she says.
Stan rolls his eyes, unseen by her. “That’s not likely.”
“He thinks we are going to an event centre,” I tell her.
“That sounds plausible but the church has a room that can seat 100 people apart from the one we were in and it is not in use.”
I am interrupted by the driver hooting his horn at the gate of a farm. A sign in front reads “Maduabuchi Farms”. The gates open and we drive in to park a short distance away. I clutch my bag wondering why we are at a farm as we descend from the bus.
Standing before us is Nedu. I am surprised to see him.
“What is going on here?”
If he heard the murmuring he doesn’t let on. He just stands there, legs apart, hands behind his back smiling in his overalls. I wonder why he is wearing overalls.
“Hi everyone. Welcome to the first class of the 4 we organize for new converts. Today we decided to switch it up by coming to a farm. Jesus often taught his disciples using the things in their environment to explain what he was saying. I realize this generation has a number of people who think chickens grow in the supermarket…”
Nedu is cut off by laughter. I find myself laughing as well.
“Let’s welcome Omoye. She will give us instructions and some protective gear to put on before we go in. Give her a round of applause.”
We clap as a petite lady fully kitted in overalls, boots and so on steps forward. She explains that the farm produces vegetables and poultry products. They also manufacture their own feed and have a hatchery for rabbits, a fish farm and a nursery for flowers. After her talk, we on put some of the gear and head for the poultry. Nedu begins to explain to us what it means to be born again.
“Man is a spirit. In our spirit lies our intuition, our conscience and our ability to connect with God. Do you ever sense things before they happen?” he asks.
I nod. Many times I have felt like I knew something was going to happen before it did.
“That is the part of you God is after. We are born sleeping giants because by virtue of events in the Garden of Eden our spirits are cut off from fellowshipping with God. Spirits speak and their words cause ripples in the physical. You may turn your bibles or flip your phones to Genesis chapter 1.”
There is laughter at his phone reference.
“When you open your mouth and say “Be my lord and savior Jesus”, you have set in motion a sequence of events in the spirit realm. You have signed the release form for your spirit from the control of Satan who operates the kingdom that is responsible for all the evil on earth. Your spirit becomes reconciled with God and you can establish the dominion of his kingdom on earth. His kingdom is responsible for everything right with this world.”
A man raises his hand.
“Yes?” Nedu says.
“Can one get born again without saying the prayer?”
“You must say it whether privately or publicly or in your heart or under your breath. As long you, satan and God heard it, you are born again.”
Nedu looks around for more questions before continuing. “Your soul houses your will which controls your decisions, your emotions which control your feelings and your mind which controls intellect and reasoning. When your spirit comes under the control of God you have to train your mind to think like him. Isaiah chapter 55 verse 8 says our thoughts are different from God’s. This class is to teach you how to cultivate God’s thoughts by studying his word. Now you see why we are in a farm. The final part of man is the body and it is controlled by the 5 senses.”
I look round and see that people are taking notes as we had been informed there would be a test at the end of all the classes. I had chosen to record his talk on my phone. Stan and I were separated by two of our classmates so we could not make eye contact. I shifted on my feet and focused on Nedu.
“What God wants from you is transformation. You will see in this poultry that the egg becomes a chick which grows into a chicken but no chicken ever turns into an egg. They may lay eggs but they do not decide to return to eggs or chicks. Please take a walk around and take pictures. I want anyone who sees a chicken becoming an egg to raise an alarm so we can also behold it.”
I join the class in laughing. There is no way any chicken is going to turn to an egg. Even Darwin’s theory of evolution has not been in manifestation for us to witness; how much more devolution. I hear a chuckle beside me and turn to see that it is Preye. She smiles at me and I smile back. It appears I have made a new friend.
Hi, Muses, I apologize for the delays. Getting this out took a while so I wrapped 2 episodes in 1. Hope you enjoy and share, like and retweet on my handle @nenabekee.
Shoot me an email if you have questions firstname.lastname@example.org
Nedu regretted ending the call abruptly but he was more disappointed that he had not discerned there was a battle over Didi’s soul. He began to think of the next step to take. Of all the new converts of that Sunday, she was the only one who blatantly showed no interest in learning more. Two would be unavoidably absent from the class but they apologized and promised to attend the next one. From Didi’s tone, Nedu knew she would never attend any class and as soon as she could do so without a twinge in her conscience, she would be back to whatever she had left behind when she stepped forward that day.
He decided to call his closest friends and prayer partners to share his prayer burden with them. They were a group of young men who held each other up in prayers, met once a month to share and held each other accountable. In the group were Bola, the music director, who was married with 2 kids; Veno who played keyboard and was engaged, Kevin the assistant follow-up director, Chuks the head of ushering who was Moses’ accountability partner and Moses.
It was a group call.
“Guys, are we up for it? Midnight as Veno suggested,” Bola said.
“Midnight is great. Are we doing a fast?” Moses asked.
“We do a 3-day fast from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. and pray together at midnight, Kevin replied.
“Thanks guys; I really appreciate this,” Nedu said.
“No need to thank us. I remember when we prayed together about those 2 brothers in ushering who were giving me sleepless nights. Do you know they are now 2 of the most dedicated members? Last month 1 of them won ‘Best dressed usher’ and the other won ‘Most Punctual usher’. I am so glad we prayed,” Chuks said.
“I like your idea of internal awards. Bro. Bola, shouldn’t we copy this in the choir?” asked Veno.
“You just want Nedu to win all the awards, don’t you?” Bola replied.
Everyone laughed for Nedu was indeed very dedicated.
“He won’t win best-dressed though; no offence meant,” Moses chipped in.
“It’s not my fault we don’t wear suits to alaba market,” Nedu retorted.
“You can still wear a suit. In fact your customers may even prefer it.”
“What customers want is quality products, excellent service and discounts.”
“Amen somebody!” Bola hailed.
The group of friends laughed again.
“How are wedding plans coming up, Moses?” Veno asked.
“These things ain’t cheap, man! When next I see a newly-married man I will be sure to give him a handshake.”
“You know we will be there for you. When you set up your marriage-planning committee, let us know,” Kevin said.
“Of course I am counting on you all. Thanks guys.”
After a few more deliberations, Nedu ended the call. He spent a few more minutes praying for Moses; asking God to bless his marriage and bless his fiancé as well.
It was the week before Chichi’s traditional wedding. She and Moses had decided to terminate the pregnancy because he couldn’t bear the thought that his pastors and friends would find out that he was sleeping with her. He knew that Nedu would not betray him; besides he had nothing to gain from it. Their group had wrestled in prayer for Didi but she remained nonchalant. She showed up in church every Sunday, arm-in-arm with her boyfriend who Chichi told her she had practically moved in with. Nedu had done everything he could to get her to attend just one class but she would not. He called, sent messages, and even tried connecting her with two women in their 40s who were mature in their Christian walk; all to no avail.
Moses did not blame her. He had met Stan and found him to be an intelligent, generous and demonstrative man. It was obvious he was in love with Didi from the way he fixed his gaze on her whenever they were together, holding onto her hand and rubbing it and talking to her like she was the only one in the room. He had yet to meet any other man who did not seem attracted to Chichi and that was a huge tick in his books. As far as he was concerned, Didi was a lucky girl. Add to all that, the fact that Stan was very good-looking and had the kind of money he had been sowing seed for all his life.
“Father, when will my own turn come? I have been paying my tithe since I learned about tithing and I always sow towards all the projects in church. Don’t you think it is time to change my level too? I also want to share testimony. I want to spoil Chichi. I want to bless my parents. Remember me for good in Jesus name,” he prayed under his breath.
He was waiting at a café for Chichi who had gone to see a vendor to finalize plans for her bridal bouquet. She insisted all the flowers at the white wedding must be imported white roses. They would be flown in from South Africa the day before. He thanked God for all her savings over the years and the huge donation her boss at work gave them for the wedding. How else would they have pulled off such an expensive wedding?
“That is why it is good to be diligent at work.”
He felt a hand on his arm and snapped out of his thoughts. It belonged to a young lady he did not know. She was staring at him.
“Are you the guy who plays the guitar at Shepherd centre?” she asked.
He smiled at her, flattered. “Yes ma, I am.”
She squealed in excitement and clapped her hands, almost dropping the phone she was holding. “I loved your solo on Sunday. You play so magically!”
“Thank you ma. We thank God for his grace.”
“All my friends love you. Oh my gosh…we actually wanted to come over and say hello on Sunday but you seemed to vanish after the service. Fancy meeting you here?”
By this time she had taken a seat next to him and was snuggling up to him in a rather suggestive manner. Moses was uncomfortable particularly because the cropped top and skinny jeans she was wearing were leaving nothing to his imagination but he felt she was just being over-expressive and sat there wondering how to discharge her.
“Let’s take a picture. Better still, let me do a video for snapchat or my girls will call me a liar.”
She lifted her phone to the right angle and began to video the two of them while instructing him on how to pose and smile and so on. At the point that Chichi walked in, it actually looked like she was smooching Moses, though she was only putting her arms around him and resting her cheeks on his.
Chichi made it to the table before Moses could tear himself away and tapped her on her shoulder.
“Who are you? Nnunu (bird) what are you doing?” she asked.
“Excuse me!” that one tried to wave her away.
“I si gini (what did you say?)”
Before Moses could intervene Chichi pulled off the girl’s wig, threw it to the floor and pulled her off the chair. There was pandemonium. A few patrons of the café had surrounded them trying to pull Chichi off the girl but her grip was too strong. Meanwhile the poor girl was yelling like a banshee. Moses was behind Chichi begging her.
“Stop it Chibaby. I don’t know her. Nothing was going on!” he pleaded.
“Hapu m ka m ta this girl aru! ( let me bite her)”
“I’m begging you.” Moses had his hands around her waist trying to pull her away.
“Aunty leave her. She won’t do it again.” A patron lent his voice.
“Let them fight!” One prankster called from the back of the crowd.
The whole incident lasted about 10 minutes though to Moses it had lasted forever. He stood there mortified as Chichi finally released the girl and ordered her to run away and never look in his direction again. She picked her wig and bag from the floor and left in tears. The crowd began to disperse as the manager of the establishment stepped forward and asked them to leave. Chichi grabbed Moses’ hand and dragged him away.
“Who even wanted to taste your expired products?” She made a loud hissing sound as she stomped out.
Outside, Moses stood leaning with his back to his car arms crossed over his chest, tapping his foor furiously. Chichi went over to the passenger door and tried to open it. It was locked.
“Unlock the door,” she requested.
“If I don’t will you also fight me, Chichi? What was that all about?” he spat.
“Are you angry with me?”
“Shouldn’t I be? What were you thinking causing a scene like that?” Moses was pounding one fist into his open palm angrily.
“Please open the door. The heat is too much. I want to sit down.” Her tone was unperturbed, conversational.
He released a sigh and unlocked the car door for her. She thanked him and got in; putting her purchases in the backseat. He got in and started the car.
“Chichi, I am not happy with you. Your behavior was embarrassing and…”
She reached over, fixing her earnest eyes on him and took his hands in hers cutting off his words with her soft touch.
‘Gbahara m ezigbo di m (forgive me dear husband). You are right and I was wrong. It will not happen again. I just couldn’t stand the thought of another woman touching you,” she cooed.
“I can’t have that. You should have listened to me,” he insisted shaking his head.
“Let’s forget it happened, please.” She tugged at his earlobe gently leaning forward in a manner that caused his anger to evaporate like water left for too long in a boiling kettle.
“It’s okay. It’s just that I never saw this side of you. Are you sure you didn’t watch too much wrestling on T.V. as a child,” he joked.
She laughed before changing the topic as he put on his seatbelt and sped off. Later when she told Didi about the incident Didi pitied Moses who had been shielded from his fiance’s true nature. Unlike Didi, what Chichi did was not out of jealousy or anger. On the contrary she was just marking her territory. It was her way of manipulating him into staying faithful. It was probable that her heart rate did not increase by even a beat throughout the incident but the memory of the embarrassment would serve to restrain him from cheating and if he did, at least he would not be brazen about it.
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Who is your favourite character so far?
What do you think about Moses’ decision to get rid of Chichi’s pregnancy?
Are bridal showers and weddings getting too flamboyant?
“Didi, I am pregnant,” Chichi said.
I almost fall out of my chair in shock. She is the most careful woman I know and her cycle is as predictable as the clock which is why she has had only 1 abortion that I know of. I remember her telling me that she and Moses had to be careful not only to avoid getting caught but also not to get pregnant. The church would not wed them if she was pregnant. They would have to do a “marriage blessing”; probably in some“ office in Shepherd centre without the normal fanfare of church weddings or wed in another church.
“How did it happen?” I ask.
“O buro Moses (Is it not Moses)? He claims he reacts to condoms and I told him it wasn’t my safe period but he said he would be careful. Lee nu ya (Look at the result),” she said folding her arms.
I was at hers because a tailor was to come there and take our measurements for the clothes for her wedding. She was running late.
“Ke ihe I ga-eme (What are you going to do?)”
“I don’t know. Moses says we can’t keep it. He can’t lose the job in church.”
“Will they fire him because you got pregnant?”
“You don’t know these people. They can be petty. Even if they don’t fire him, he won’t be seen in the same light ever again.”
“Well…I don’t know how that is a loss. Maybe they need to see him for the hypocrite he really is!”
“Didi!” she gasps.
“What did I say that is not true? He has everyone fooled that he is on a high spiritual plane or something yet, he is asking you to get rid of his baby.” I spit in disgust and cross my arms before the thought hits me. “Wait, is it his child?”
“How should I know?” she replies non-pulsed. “The child belongs to whoever I decide to keep it for.”
“O gini (What is it)?” She rises from her couch to pick the remote from the centre table and proceeds to flick through channels casually as if she just announced that it rains in Nigeria.
I gape at her, mouth open as she stands with one knee on the table and her left hand on her waist. She has crossed many lines in the past but now I feel like I can see into her soul and what I see is frightening. I feel like in place of her soul she has a yawning hole; deep and dark and menacing, filled with the souls of all the men she has been with. I shiver with repulsion.
“How did I ever admire her so much that I wanted to be like her?”
She takes her seat before speaking again. “Why is that tailor taking so long?”
“Chichi why did you continue sleeping with your boss when you knew you were engaged to Moses?”
“Who will pay for me to maintain my lifestyle? Is it Moses who can hardly fend for himself? I had to give him money to secure a venue for our traditional wedding. His rent just expired and his car is on its last legs. Why doesn’t he ask where I get all the money from?”
“He is afraid to ask…” I realize.
“Does such a man deserve…never mind.”
She picks up her phone, dials a number. I overhear her scolding the tailor for being so late and urging her to hurry.
I find myself wondering whether Stan would ask me to abort his baby if he found I was pregnant. Then I find myself wondering what Nedu thinks about abortion.
“Why am I thinking about Bro. Nedu?”
“That woman is testing my patience. I will change tailors if she doesn’t show up. The last time she kept me waiting like this it turned out she was lying and had never left her shop. Ndi mmadu di nno unreliable (people are just unreliable).”
“How far gone are you?”
“Is there any one apart from your boss?”
She nods. “There’s Chief Braithwaite and Felix.”
“But…but…Felix is married, newly married. I thought you guys broke up?”
“Is it my fault his wife doesn’t know her duty? He said she is frigid. All these “sisters” who don’t want you to test before marriage: She was hiding her issues. The guy came to me in tears. I had to put him out of his misery.”
She reaches for her glass and takes a gulp. With her it is never anything light. It’s go hard or go home. Even when she used to smoke she was smoking Cuban cigars. She gave them up last year when she felt she was losing control. I hug myself. There is a chill in the air.
Maybe it comes from us coldly discussing the future of a child who did not ask to be conceived by a mother who exists solely for the next thrill.
Maybe it is because of all the alcohol we have consumed.
Maybe it is about to rain.
I feel sad but I can’t explain why. Though I am the less adventurous of the two of us, I always defended her actions. Now I find myself wondering if there will ever be an end to the excuses.
“Where does it all end really?”
I realize I have spoken out my thoughts. “What will happen after the wedding when Moses finds out he has been fooled?”
“Like the good Christian that he is, he will accept his lot and make the best of it. Come to think of it, he is getting me.” She points at herself. “All this gorgeousness for one man?”
I laugh despite myself. She has a point; a woman as highly coveted as she is only comes at a price and Moses will pay it whether or not he realizes it.
My phone jars me out of my reverie at work the next day. It is Nedu. I realize I didn’t call him.
“Hi. Bro. Nedu good evening.”
“When did it become “Bro. Nedu?” he asks.
I almost blush and I wonder why. “Why am I so nervous around him? I feel like a bumbling fool, barely able to string two words together. Even pastors don’t make me this nervous.”
“I am sorry: Nedu. I should have called to tell you I will be unavoidably absent but if there is another class next Saturday, I will be there.”
“Will he let you come next Saturday?”
“I beg your pardon?” A cold feeling of dread descends slowly down my spine.
“I know you heard me. I had a dream last night and I saw you had a star on your head. Most people who are born to be stars find their destinies derailed early in life. It is never easy getting them to commit.”
“I don’t know who you think you are but…” My legendary temper has unleashed itself like a rottweiler that smells blood.
“Ndo Nne. Enjoy your weekend and come to class next week. I pray the angels of God protect you till you are ready to take the leap. Jesus loves you.”
“He ended the call! What is it that gives this man airs, biko nu?” I fume when he cuts off. “Who told me to attend that church and even come forward and write down my name? I should never have.”
If I had been tempted to cancel on Stan, the thought perished when he sent me flowers in the morning with a handwritten poem telling me how much he looked forward to our outing. By the time I got off the phone thanking him for the flowers, a package arrived for me. It contained the most decadent lingerie, my favourite perfume, chocolates and red wine. I had had great boyfriends but this one surpassed them all.
Which girl in her right mind would ever give up all that for a bible study class? Am I the first girl to get born again? I know a number of born again folk who live double lives; they have the right lingo, attend church regularly and go through the motions but when it is time to party, they take no prisoners. That is more my style. Not for me the life of the miserable minority who actually give up their former lives when they get born again.
“That just sounds so unnecessary.”
Stan and I are planning a romantic weekend together. Finally, I am going to give him a taste of what he has been missing all his life. He and I have been making out since we met but I held out on going all the way because I like him and I am hoping he is “the one”. If he is, I will have to make him work for it so that he will never be able to boast that I came on to him. Yes, I made the first move but that is because this is the 21st century and not bible-days.
Thinking of bible-days, the folk from Shepherd centre have been on my neck; calling and sending messages every day. One of them even works in a company on the same street as mine so she popped in on Wednesday to invite me to evening service. I declined because the whole thing was getting too much. I don’t want to start hearing voices or something; these fanatics can’t confuse me. The decision I made was to clear my conscience. At least if the world were to end suddenly I will be on the safe side. I never planned to change my lifestyle or habits or start going to church every day or let go of my toys.
“It’s never happening!” I say out loud, forgetting that I am at work and a few heads turn in my direction. I stare them down and they avert their gazes.
“People can never mind their business!” That thought did not refer to my colleagues alone but also to the members of Shepherd Centre.
When I close from work, I stop by a suya joint to buy suya. While the guy re-heats it, I notice my phone is ringing. I pick it without checking the Id because I am expecting a call from Stan.
“Good evening Ndidi,” I hear.
I realize it is not Stan but it would be childish to end the call without speaking though I suspect it is from Shepherd centre.
“Good evening,” I reply in my most disinterested voice.
“How was your day?”
“Invite me to church already so I can say no.” I am rolling my eyes so hard that if my eyes could speak they would ask me to stop.
“Sir, I had a good day. Could I call you back?”
“Do you intend to call me back or is this a way of getting rid of me? I told you I would be on your case. My name is Nedu by the way.”
“He laughs! He has the temerity to laugh? What nerve!”
“My full name is Chinedu. I have been called Nedu for as long as I remember. What do you prefer to be called?”
I ignore him hoping he will get the message.
“Ndi? Ndi? Are you there?”
No one has called me Ndi since I was a child. I recoil in horror at the name. “Didi…everyone calls me Didi,” I almost gasp out.
“I’m so sorry; Didi, forgive me. I have been praying so much for you that I feel like I know you already.”
“Praying for me?” I gulp.
“Yes, I always pray for the new believers by name.”
“New believers: Is that what it is called?”
“Yes. When you give your life to Christ, you become a child of God. You will find that God sends his spirit into your heart and the first sign of his presence is joy. Did you feel excited when you prayed this morning?”
“Pray? I was too busy dreaming about my weekend getaway.” But no one needs to know that. Aloud I say, “I did not pray. I don’t know how to pray.”
“That is why you need to attend this class on Saturday. You will learn about the new life that is yours in Christ and even learn how to pray. Sister Annette said you told her you would not be able to attend but I called to urge you to shelve all other plans and put Jesus first, please.”
There is a pause but it is not an awkward one. Something must be wrong somewhere. I find myself actually considering cancelling my plans with a 6 foot tall hunk of creamy goodness who earns in 6 figures and who has leased a boat to take us to a private island for a weekend to remember. How absurd!
“Let me think about it and let you know tomorrow.” I finally say.
“Is it okay if I call you, in case you don’t call me?”
“Yes, you may.”
“Thank you Didi. May the peace of God envelop you tonight and may angels thrill your sleep with pleasant dreams in Jesus name.”
“Amen. Thank you.”
It is Sunday. I am driving Chichi to church so that she doesn’t have to go in her pretend car. Stan has promised to meet us in church so along with Moses we are going out for lunch afterwards. We do not sit together because she has been asked to shadow the ushers in order to learn the ropes. For the occasion she chose an ankara iro and buba: Her mother would be proud of her, I am sure. I sit close to the front because we are early. The worship is loud and enthusiastic and just like the previous Sunday, I find myself unable to stay aloof.
A middle-aged lady steps forward to sing a special song. The words are displayed on the monitors.
Who can stand against the king?
No one can
No one will
Oh Oh Oh
Victory belongs to Jesus
Victory belongs to him.
She pauses the song to speak. “Years ago, I was in a female cult in the university. I had just joined because someone snatched my boyfriend and I wanted to have the power to prevent it from ever happening again. One night, we were recruited to lure a politician’s son to where he would be waylaid and kidnapped. Everything was going according to plan till the kidnappers showed up and there was a shootout between them and his armed escort. I was hit by a stray bullet and abandoned to die in the bushes.”
I am so engrossed in the story that when she begins to cry I find myself crying also.
“Alone in that bush, I cried out to God and begged him to save me. There were no mobile phones, remember. I promised him that I would serve him all my days if he delivered me. I spent the night there bleeding, cold and afraid of wild animals but God saved me. The next morning, a car broke down by the road side. You may call it a co-incidence but I call it a miracle!”
A thunderous shout goes up from the congregation. I find myself shouting as well.
“The driver heard me calling and carried me out. He bandaged my wound with his shirt, changed his flat tire and took me to a hospital. It’s been 20 years but God has kept me. He is a faithful God. I am going to sing one more time and then I want to give a call for everyone who knows they cannot remain in charge of their destiny. If you know you need to be delivered from the dominion of darkness; you need Jesus to invade your heart and take over, run to the altar and give your life to him!”
I don’t know how it is possible but I feel a tap on my shoulder. I turn around but no one is looking at me or touching me. I look at the singer. She is singing. Again, I feel the tap on my shoulder and an inexplicable warmth in my abdomen. Rising to my feet like a robot, I run to the altar and collapse there with the crowd of men and women kneeling there and crying. This must be what it feels like to catch religion. I don’t understand everything she is saying but I hear myself repeating her words.
After the prayers we are asked to go to a room at the back of the church where our names and numbers are taken down and we are invited to bible class. In their words “To learn more about the new life you just received.” Just as I rise from my chair, I lock gazes with a man. I remember he is Moses’ friend who he introduced to us. He didn’t attend Chichi’s birthday where they got engaged so I hadn’t seen him for a while. He is staring at me so unashamedly; I begin to wonder if he is seeing through me.
“Maybe he knows how many men I have slept with. He is probably wondering why I feel I deserve God’s mercy when I did not show mercy to the babies I aborted. Perhaps he has seen me in a club before, drinking and getting high.”
Someone takes my hand shakes it and gives me a hug. “Welcome to the family, Sister,” she says.
I nod without looking at her. Then I push away the chair before me so I can leave the room.
“Don’t I know you?” It is Moses’ friend, whatever his name is. I didn’t see him approaching.
“Hi.” My tone is testy.
“Hi indeed. Where did we meet?”
“I am Chichi’s friend. Moses introduced us the last time I was here.”
“That’s true! Moses’ Chichi!”
“Moses’ Chichi indeed! A greater irony does not exist.” My smile bellies my thoughts as I return the pen I used to the lady who gave it to me.
“I am so happy you answered the call today. Congratulations!”
“I want you to know that I am going to be on your case. I will be handling the class for new believers so expect calls, messages and emails. We will be all over you like a rash.”
“Rash?” I lift an eyebrow.
“Maybe rash is not the best word but you get the picture.” He smiles.
“Thank you. It’s all new to me but I’ll be happy to find out more.”
“Splendid! That’s what I love to hear. Our first class is on Saturday at 4pm; don’t miss it.”
“Great…I’ll see you around. God bless you.”
Nedu was in a trance. He was sitting in his room at home, going over the song selection for the choir on his computer when he felt as if he was in a concert hall. He saw himself on stage singing a fast tempo song. There was a large crowd. Everyone was singing along and dancing. Then he spotted someone in the front seat who was dancing like he was deaf. His dance steps were not in tune with the song. Nedu saw himself stop the song and ask the security team to walk the fellow out. Suddenly, the trance ended.
‘What does this mean Lord?” he asked aloud, placing his hand on his abdomen as was his custom. “I don’t understand. Why would I interrupt praise only to embarrass someone who does not know how to dance?”
He cocked his ear, hoping for clarity but he did not hear anything. Dropping to his knees, he began to pray in the spirit, groaning loudly without knowing why. He could sense he was interceding for someone but he did not know who.
“Perhaps Harvey is in trouble.”
Harvey was his cousin and childhood best friend whose salvation had been a long-standing prayer point. They had both been members of an R and B singing duo until Nedu got saved and joined the choir. Harvey had gone on to release a few singles but did not become a huge success. He wrote songs for more successful artists to make ends meet but his dream was to become famous. Nedu’s dream was for him to be saved and filled with the Holy Ghost. The thought made Harvey laugh.
“You mean I should leave all the honeys out there, all the shisha, all the Hennessy? I should live this kind of life you are living?” he would say and cackle making a rude sign to say that Nedu had lost his mind.
“Concentrate on what you will be gaining and not on what you will be giving up.”
“Which is what exactly? What would I be gaining?”
“Deliverance from addictions for starters; you can’t even sleep without getting high. Look at you; Harvey you need help.’
“I am just fine, thank you. I don’t want any part of your ‘born againism’. Spare me the lecture.”
Nedu began to cry as he remembered his cousin. “Deliver him Lord. Do not allow him to die without accepting the gift of salvation. Place a hedge around him till his heart is soft enough to hear you. I know it is because he is running from you that his life has been spiraling out of control. Take away the veil blinding his mind and show him the light.”
Chichi came to tell me all about their visit to Uncle Tari. We are sitting outside my house nursing drinks. She likes gin but I am a red wine girl.
“Is Moses still insisting on meeting someone from your father’s side?” I ask.
“Insist?” she scoffed. “O di egwu! (How likely)”
We both burst into laughter. The thought of his making such a demand was absurd. He was behaving exactly as she had predicted years ago when I asked her who would marry two party-girls who had a body count longer than the voters’ register at the last elections.
She had said, “When the time comes, I will marry a man who will be so crazy about me that he will be afraid to ask questions lest he lose me; a man who will not dare to order me about or raise his hand to me like my father did my mom.”
When the mirth ceases, we lean back in our chairs watching the antics of her puppy Manuel. He is playing with a bone-shaped toy Chichi got him on her last trip to Antigua.
“What do you think about Stan?” I ask.
She is silent, thoughtful. “Do you like him?”
“I kind of like him,” I admit. “He is very persistent. My phone battery will soon wear out from constant chats and calls. Besides, he is quite a looker.”
“Well, you have always dreamed of someone from fairy tale land. I don’t think he is husband-material. He will want to be in charge and know everything you do. We have only met once but he appears to have a strong personality. Can you handle it?”
I purse my lips. Chichi has issues with control because of her childhood but I grew up in a relatively happy home. My parents may be divorced now but they hid the cracks in their marriage till we grew up. My two older brothers and I were never exposed to their altercations or anything else which would make me balk at the thought that a husband would want to know where I am or who I am with. I nod.
“I think I will give him a chance. He has not gone to first second base yet and I can tell how impatient he is.”
“Is there any man who does not want to go there? Even Bro. Moses who was telling me how we would have to wait till our wedding night because he does not want to disappoint his pastor; the day I spent the night for us to pray for discernment whether God approves of us or not, he was the one who made the first move.” Chichi clucked her tongue.
I let out a guffaw, bending over to hold my sides. Chichi sits there, straight-faced. She has a great sense of humor. She is able to make you laugh without even smiling. She only calls Moses ‘Bro’ when she wants to make fun of him.
“Did I say anything bad?” she asks.
“No, you did not…” I am still panting.
“I have joined the ushers in Shepherd Centre since they said they will not wed us if I am not a church volunteer,” she announces.
“When was this?”
“I filled the forms last Sunday. The training is for two weeks, starting on Monday. You do know this means you are automatically a member of my church now, right?”
“Me? How does this concern me?” I make a face at her.
“You have to join the church please. I need you in my corner.” She takes my hand and tugs at it.
“Hmmm. Let me think about it.”
Chichi picks up her phone and begins to type in it. I rise to use the bathroom. My laundry man has just dropped off my laundry so the fragrance of newly-washed clothes fills the corridor. I inhale deeply and smile. It’s not just the laundry though. Stan sent me flowers, so I have another source of pleasant scents. After using the bathroom, I linger by the vase, cradling the roses to my chest and breathing in their perfume. Flowers always make me smile.
“Didi!” I hear Chichi call so I head for the porch.
“I invited Stan to church and he said he will be there. He can’t come with us though cause he will be late. He has a client to meet with at 9.30.”
“You invited who? When did we agree to do that?” I am already bristling.
She waves a hand to dismiss my concerns. “Calm down. I did not steal his number from your phone. He is following me on twitter. I simply sent him a message.”
Her excuse seems plausible but it takes a while for my breathing to return to normal. I am known for my quick temper and I do not trust her. She has seduced a number of my boyfriends in the past and each time I confronted her she would claim they were not worth my while since they fell for her so easily. On each occasion we fought for a few weeks but we always made up because our bond was strong. I was not so deluded as to write off her behavior but I really did not care for any of those men so it was difficult to remain angry at her betrayal.
I remember that Stan did not ogle her when I introduced her to him and I let out my breath. He had later told me that he preferred dark-skinned women and that he loved my slim frame. I smile again at the memory.
“Is that a yes?” Chichi asks.
I roll my eyes and let out an expletive.
“Don’t call me such names. I am a child of God,” she feigns horror.
“Child of God indeed! You think God doesn’t know his children?”
“Pass me the bottle, please. You are becoming boring. I don’t know what is wrong with you.”
I make a hissing sound and pass her the gin. “You need Jesus!”
“Hallelujah!” She raises a hand and closes her eyes as she responds.
I shake my head and take out my phone to chat with Stan. I want to gauge his mood so I can find out if she has come between us. She also takes out her phone to chat. The rest of the evening passes with little or no conversation till she passes out drunk.
Thanks for reading and for all the kind comments.
If you are not following me on twitter @nenabekee or sharing this story…wyd? Lol.
I believe I have made up for all the delay and if you are still angry with me, come closer let me tug at your ear. Hahaha
Cheers, Dr. N
Chichi and Moses were on their way to meet her parents. It was a week after Moses had proposed to her. She was an orphan but he was getting introduced to her uncle and aunt who had raised her after her mother died. Her father Hyginus was a trader who married her mother Ibinabo when she was about 17. At the time they met, he was a truck driver who always stopped at a restaurant where she waited tables. He married her because she got pregnant and he hoped she would have the son his wife had been unable to give him after 10 years of marriage. When she had Chizitere, he was disappointed but initially he tried to hide it.
Comfort, his first wife was not ready to hide her own feelings, however. She mocked and taunted and jeered till Ibinabo was miserable. Even worse was that she suffered a miscarriage each time she got pregnant subsequently. By this time, Hyginus had started trading in spirits. He consumed his goods heavily and it soon fell on Ibinabo to keep the business afloat. She applied all she had learned from her aunt’s restaurant and soon she was making a tidy profit.
“Witch, you have stolen my luck!” he would rail when he got home drunk as usual. “It was since I married you that things stopped moving. You are barren! Take that empty womb out of here!”
Sometimes he threw chairs at her. At other times he collapsed outside the two-bedroom apartment they shared with Comfort and her three daughters and she would carry him in. Chichi never saw her try to defend herself or argue with him but she saw her mother become a bitter woman. When they were alone, she would counsel her never to put herself in a position where she was beholden to or subservient to any man.
“They are all the same, Chichi. Find one you can control and marry but don’t let any man do to you what your father does to me,” she would say, lying on her back on the only bed in the room they shared, staring up at the wall, her right arm under her head, her face lined by the pain of suppressed emotions.
She was pretty but Chichi got her looks from her grandmother who was said to have been the most beautiful girl in her village when she was young. Men had fought over her but her father gave her in marriage to the son of his best friend who unfortunately died at a young age and left her with two children; Ibinabo and her brother Tari.
As they pulled up to the house of her Uncle Tari, Chichi saw a boy kneeling down in front of the house of one of her uncle’s neighbours. He was probably being punished for some misdemeanor. Her mind flashed back to the day she returned from school when she was about 12 years old.
Adanna, her step-sister who was the only friend she had in the family, pulled her aside to stop her from going into her room.
“What is it?” Chichi asked her, trying to get out of her grasp.
“Let us go and play outside.”
“I need to go and greet Mama first. Why are you holding me?”
“Just give me your school bag. You can greet her later.”
Chichi was puzzled. Before she could say more, Comfort summoned her daughter by yelling her name loudly. She gave Chichi a sad look before leaving reluctantly. Chichi shrugged the encounter off as she headed for their room. The door was open.
“Mama, why were you not at the shop? I came home to make sure you are okay…”
The words died on Chichi’s lips as she saw her mother, kneeling in the middle of their room, her arms stretched upwards, tears pouring down her silent cheeks.
“Mama, what is it? Why are you kneeling down?” she asked, flinging her bag to the floor to hug her.
“Your father said I should not stand up from here till he returns.”
“What! Papa has gone too far! I am going to confront him!”
“Come and sit down, Chichi.”
Her mother’s calm tone chilled her to the bones. “What did you say?” Chichi asked.
“Tell me about your day.”
“What are you saying Mama? I am tired of letting Papa treat you like a slave. If you won’t let me shout at him, let us run away. At least we have money.”
“Hush, be quiet. Don’t let anyone hear that we have money.”
It was true they had money. Her mother had met a man who became her lover. He opened a bank account for her to save her profit and taught her how to do simple math. She had enough money saved up for them to be able to rent an apartment should they leave but she was concerned that they would lose the income from the spirit business. That would mean Chichi would have to drop out and that was the last thing Ibinabo would allow. Education was the path she believed would lead her daughter out of the reach of penury.
Chichi had to sit by her mother and tell her all about her day in school as if she was not kneeling down and raising her arms like an errant child. That day, something inside her died as she droned on in a wooden voice, staring straight ahead, her arms clasped in her lap to hold down the scream she felt in her throat. Her father had to be reminded by Adanna at about 9pm to give Ibinabo permission to get up. She had knelt for a total of 9 hours, without food or a bathroom break. When she died a few years later trying to have a second baby, Chichi ran off to live with Uncle Tari and never came back, not even to attend her father’s burial.
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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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