© Serah Iyare 2017
She woke up tired and terribly worn out. It had been a very crazy weekend for her. She got out of bed, strode to the kitchen, made herself toast and beverage, went to the sitting room, sat in front of her 50’ plasma television and ate while she watched the soap opera on the Telemundo channel. Instinctively, she glanced at the wall clock. It was past six in the evening. She could spend the rest of the day indoors, or take a stroll. She liked walking round the Estate. It helped her to clear her mind and distract her from her depressing thoughts. She finished the meal, switched off the T.V set, walked to the kitchen, dropped the plate and the mug in the sink and returned to her bedroom. She opened the wardrobe and changed into a cream short-sleeve blouse, blue jeans and a pair of white and black Adidas snickers. She brushed her shoulder length feathers styled braid, applied a light make up and headed out. She locked the front door, walked to the gate, opened it, stepped out and locked it.
Dolphin Estate was pretty large, but she had been to every single street. She took a right turn, with slow calculative steps, she walked on. The church at the junction had its lights on. It was a Monday and they rarely had services on such days. She reasoned that it was probably a special programme. The music coming from the place soothed her disrupted mind. Unable to stop herself, she walked into Jesus’ Lovers Ministry International. The hall was parked. It was her first time in the church auditorium. She had passed by the building several times, but, never ventured in.
She took a seat at the back row and refused to follow the Usher who wanted to take her to a seat in the middle row. She saw a group of people on the altar, about thirty, in red and gold robes, probably the choir, singing as if their lives depended on it. She had heard the song they were singing on One Cube channel. It was one of Michael W. Smith’s songs, ‘Healing Rain’. She liked the song. She saw a man in a black jacket, white shirt and black tie walking towards the altar. He was carrying a big sized book, definitely a bible. He was dark, tall and on the slim side. He took over the service, said a prayer, while the choir went back to their seats.
The man spoke about living in the grace of God through faith. He emphasized that with man’s physical strength, it was impossible and difficult, but, if one lean on God completely, in total trust, His strength is made perfect in a believer’s weaknesses.
Thirty minutes later, the service came to an end. The offering was collected, more music which she enjoyed, then a woman read the announcements and the congregation said the closing prayer together.
‘The grace of our lord Jesus Christ, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with us now and forever more, amen.’
She smiled. She still remembered the prayer. She made a mental note to frequent the church. On her way out of the auditorium, one of the Ushers stopped her and informed her that the Senior Pastor would like to see her. She almost laughed out loud. She didn’t know the man and had never met him before. The hall was big and spacious. How did he spot her from the crowd? She noticed that she wasn’t the only fair skinned person in the building. She decided to see the man and find out what he wanted. She followed the pretty brown skinned, average height lady out of the hall, down a corridor and into a room. There was a card on the door that read ‘Pastor’s Office’.
The dark six feet lanky man got up immediately when he saw her, “Evening my sister,” he stretched out his right hand.
She stepped forward and shook his hand, “Evening sir.”
The lady left them.
“Please sit down,” the man settled back on the black leather chair.
She took one of the seats at the desk.
“I believe that this is your first time here.”
She looked straight at him, “It is.”
“You are welcome,” he smiled broadly.
“I asked the Usher to bring you to me because, while I was preaching, God pointed you out among the congregation and instructed me to help you.”
She blinked and stared back at the man, “God?”
“Yes, God,” he nodded with confidence.
She started to laugh. She didn’t believe that God told him anything. She was very skeptic when it came to people who claimed to hear from God. The last time she attended church religiously was when her late father was alive. Where was God all those years she cried out to him to save her from the men her mother sold her to? He didn’t bother to rescue her. He definitely didn’t care about her. While he sat in the heavens and ruled, she lived on earth, finally in control of her own life.
“I know it sounds bizarre, but, I am telling you the truth,” his kind eyes remained on her doubtful face.
“I don’t believe you,” she eyed him.
“God told me some things about you,” he held her sarcastic gaze.
She raised an eyebrow.
“You were defiled at nine years.”
Her light brown eyes widened in shock. No one else except her mother knew that. Maybe it was a good guess. She folded her arms across her chest.
“You hate your mother because she gave you out to strange men in exchange for money.”
She swallowed hard and locked gazes with him. These weren’t wild guesses. She began to wonder if God truly spoke to him. Maybe, God did care about her after all.
He could discern that he had gotten her attention. He thanked God for the things he revealed to him. “How is Alhaji Bature?”
Her brows creased in a frown.
“Do you need me to go on?”
“I can if you want me to. God said quite a lot about you.”
She leaned against the chair and watched him. It amazed her that God went out of his way to speak about her to a total stranger.
“God wants me to guide you out of the soothing darkness, where there is no pain, to a life full of light, love, joy, peace and purpose.”
She gasped, blinked and exhaled loudly. The soothing darkness was a mental state she usually escaped to, whenever she was in the company of the strange men her mother sold her to.
“You can give it all up and start afresh.”
Her eyes widened. Was that even possible? Give it all up. Start afresh. Start from where? Several thoughts ran through her mind. The pastor had no idea what he was encouraging her to do. It was easier said than done. “You can start by rededicating your life to God.”
She lifted her sad eyes and captured his assuring ones.
“Several thoughts ran through her mind. The pastor had no idea what he was encouraging her to do. It was easier said than done.
“You gave your life to Jesus at eight. When you drifted away and got older, he didn’t stop loving you. He didn’t stop caring. He never stopped watching over you.”
She shook her head in disbelief. “Where was he? Where was he when my innocence was snatched from me?” she whispered, voice choked with unshed tears.
The pain in her eyes made his chest to tighten, “He has always been there, every single time you were thrust into the arms of those terrible men.”
“Yes, and making sure that you came out of that darkness, alive and sane.”
She broke down. The tears came in torrents. Her body shook as she held her head in her hands.
“God please heal her completely, spirit, soul and body,” he raised his head and whispered a prayer. “He… he loves you more than you can ever imagine,” he dropped his gaze, focused on her weeping frame, “He… he is not ready to give up on you or let you go, ever!”
She closed her eyes as his words washed over her with a soothing comfort.
“His arms are wide open, ready to take you back, even now, this very moment.”
She opened her eyes. Was she truly ready? Was she ready to let go of everything she had acquired over the years, the wild lifestyle, the men, the business arrangements, the contracts, everything? How was she going to start afresh? She knew nothing else except the dark life her mother introduced her to at an early age. How was she going to survive? Fear gripped her.
“He is waiting…”
She swallowed hard and raised her wet face, “I… I am ready.”
His face brightened with joy, “Halleluiah!” he sighed with relief.
He thanked God for using him to reach out to her. He couldn’t imagine what you must have gone through all those years. What kind of mother does that to her child, her own flesh and blood? It wasn’t in his place to judge.
“It is time,” he bowed his head.
She bowed hers and listened as he prayed. Suddenly, she felt something on the inside. She felt pure and light. It was as if she was being scrubbed and washed. She felt enveloped with peace and joy began to bubble within her.
“Welcome back to God’s kingdom,” he looked up, grinning from ear to ear.
“Thank you pastor,” she smiled back at him.
“What’s the name?”
“Beauty,” she spoke before thinking.
“Beauty?” he raised an eyebrow.
She scratched a spot on her head, “Em… my name is Edua, Edua Imasogie.”
“Good, good. I am Pastor Victory Majekodunmi. Do you stay around?”
“Yes, I live in the estate.”
“Good, that means that you will be able to worship with us constantly.”
“Yes, yes. Definitely.”
“Good, good. Let me have your number. I will call you from time to time, to check up on you and see how you are doing.”
“Okay,” she pulled out her phone from her pocket.
They exchanged numbers.
“You can come to see me in church whenever you need to talk, okay?”
“I live in the bungalow behind the church building.”
He got up, “Have a restful night Edua.”
She got to her feet, “And you too sir. Thank you.”
He saw her off to the door. Edua walked out of the church building and headed home feeling a sense of freedom. A few blocks away from her house, she saw Alhaji Bature’s car parked at the gate. She groaned inwardly. What does he want now? She approached the vehicle and saw him climb out. He had also seen her.
“Where have you been?” he spoke sternly.
“Good evening to you too,” she stood by the car.
He relaxed, “Sorry, I have been sitting out here for over two hours waiting for you. Where did you go? I couldn’t even reach you on phone? You didn’t bother to pick my calls.”
She sized him up. He looked tired. “I am sorry; I was in church.”
“Church?” he stared at her, a puzzled expression was written on his face. “What were you doing in church?”
She shrugged, “What do people do in church?” she averted his curious dark eyes.
He sighed heavily. He was hungry. He needed good food and a cold bath. And of course, a marathon of love making before he retired for the night. “Let’s go in,” he reached out for her hand, but, she backed away.
“You cannot come in with me.”
“What is that supposed to mean?” his irritation multiplied.
She looked back at him. She had just rededicated her life to God. She was still coming to terms with what she had done. There was so many things she needed to give up, especially him.
“You… you need to go home to your wives.”
“What’s wrong with you?” his angry eyes darted about, “What… what did they tell you in that place? Have you allowed the pastor to screw with your mind?” he glared at her.
“I have… I have just made up with God. I am not going to allow anything on this planet earth to truncate my relationship with him ever again.”
He looked her up and down, wondering if she had lost her mind. “Beauty, please, let’s just go in. I am tired. We can talk inside,” his pleading tone was lost to her.
She brushed past him, “Alhaji please go home,” she went to the gate and unlocked it.
“Go home? I am the one who paid for this place.”
“So?” she glanced back at him.
“I bought everything in this house. I have all the receipts. No one, not even you can stop me from sleeping in my own house.”
“You lie!” she faced him akimbo.
“You are the joker here. What do you take me for? I am not going anywhere,” he snatched the keys from her hands, pushed the gate open and marched into the compound.
“Alhaji!” she ran after him.
“After all, you refused to marry me. Nonsense.”
“Alhaji!” she followed him into the three-bedroom bungalow.
He settled on the sofa in the sitting room and pulled off his shoes. “I am hungry. Get me something to eat.”
She stood at the center of the room, arms crossed against her chest. “Go home Alhaji. Your wives will take care of your every need.”
“Do not make me angry Beauty!” he warned her.
“Do I look like one of your wives?” she eyed him, “Am I your cook or your maid?”
He cursed out loud. He wished he had gone home. His wives would have competed amongst themselves, served him a good meal and debated on who would spend the night with him. But, how was he supposed to know that his lover would develop a brain malfunction that very night? He wasn’t a soothsayer or a magician.
“It is not that late. You can still head home,” she tried to encourage him.
“You are out of your mind!” his voice thundered.
She jumped back in fear. She had never seen him so angry.
“I own this house. I own everything in it, including you!” his red eyes bored into her agitated ones.
“You do not own me. I am not for sale!” she shouted back at him.
He got up abruptly, “Barawo! (Thief)”
“Back to sender!” she clapped her hands at him.
He stared at her closely, exhausted. She was different from the seductive temptress he knew. “What has gotten into you tonight?”
“I have given my life back to God.”
Hands on his hips, “What does that even mean?”
“Everything is going to change between us, henceforth.”
He realized that she wasn’t joking. Was she trying to dump him? “What are you talking about?”
“Alhaji, I am sorry, but, it is over between us,” she avoided his confused gaze.
“Over? How? Why?”
“Look, it is getting late. You cannot spend the night here.”
“Says who?” he eyed her. His mind couldn’t wrap around the fact that she was breaking up with him. He thought by the end of the year, he would have been able to convince her to marry him.
“I am not going anywhere! This is my house. I want you out of here tonight!”
“You heard me. When your brain starts functioning properly, I will give you back the keys to this house,” he settled back on the chair.
“You… you cannot do this.”
“You have till mid-night to move out. Or else, I will call some touts to come and throw your things into the street,” the seriousness in his voice alarmed her.
She panicked. What was she going to do? Where was she supposed to go that night? She wiped the beads of sweat that had gathered on her forehead with the back of her hand. What kind of trouble has she gotten herself into?
“The clock is ticking Beauty.”
She sighed heavily. She turned around and headed for the master bedroom. She brought out her travelling bags and opened the wardrobe. Her clothes stared back at her. She glanced at her wrist-watch. It was past ten. She had less than two hours to move out. God help me. I am in your hands now.
Alhaji Bature came into the room, walked up to her and wrapped his arms around her.
“Have you changed your mind?”
“Get your frail old rotten hands off me!” she screamed and peeled his hands away from her body.
He stepped away, shocked and hurt. “You… you have one hour to move out!”
She turned around and looked him up and down as if she was seeing him for the first time. “I will be out in less than forty-five minutes!” she boasted. Her lack of remorse astounded him.
“Fine! Get out of my house!”
She hissed and started to pull all her clothes out of the wardrobe while he watched. He hoped against hope that she would change her mind. He wanted things to go back to the way they were, but, it seemed his lover had changed into a totally different person.
To be continued