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Tony drove inside the Idile’s compound as if being pursued.
We alighted from the car and ran straight to the front door.
My heart was beating so loudly that it didn’t need a microphone before it would be amplified!
What would greet my eyes when I enter?
We pressed the ring and waited shortly before it was opened to us.
“Good afternoon” Abigail greeted us, a faint smile on her lips.
She could still smile?
Even though the smile was faint, I was not expecting that kind of expression from her.
I had expected that she would be wailing or sad or shocked especially from her reaction on the phone the other time.
I checked Tony’s face too and read the same confusion.
We stepped into the sitting room and I saw a big bowl of half-eaten popcorn and a medium bowl of ice-cream on the glassy stool with the cool 3D images from the television- Barbie Series.
So, Abigail could still watch cartoon as she munched popcorn and scooped ice-cream?
What then was wrong?
“Where is mummy?” Tony asked and I jolted back to reality and nodded
“She is in the second sitting room. She is with daddy.” She explained, coyly
She saw the question in my face and smiled
“Daddy came in the same minute I called you. It was a coincidence” she explained
“But you said he wasn’t around” I retorted
“That was what mummy and I thought” she said, fumbling with her hands
How could even mummy think that her husband was away while he was around?
Were they that distant from each other?
Why was Abigail shy?
This was a girl that spoke with me with open mind and all…
why is she being coy and shy and irritatingly slow this afternoon?
I looked at Tony and realized that he was sweating under his nose.
Was he feeling uncomfortable?
Was there something that I didn’t know?
Leaving all that aside, I cleared my throat and faced Tony
“Can we go inside now?” I asked, twisting my mouth to a side.
Whatever it was that was causing the atmosphere to be this way, I didn’t know but I obviously was not comfortable with it.
Abigail widened her nose
“I think mummy would want only Bro. Tony inside.” She said and I paused to look at Tony’s face.
What was all this about?
“I think I would want her inside with me ma!” Tony said, stressing the ‘ma’ with his eyes widened.
Abigail looked somber
What was happening between these two?
Tony held my right hand with a sense of authority and ownership and calmly but strongly pulled me with him as we left the sitting room for the other one.
I was more than dazed!
What was he doing?
Why was he behaving like that?
It felt like I was in between two lovers
Were they in a relationship and then a problem came along the way and he wanted to make her jealous by pulling me?
I started burning in my heart so greatly.
If that was the case, there was hope of reconciliation nah!
If they reconcile, what would be my own hope and portion dear Emmanuel?
As I moaned from inside, the heat in my heart like volcano erupted and burst into my face as my face became bombarded with small balls of sweat.
I snatched my hands from his in anger.
“What is the meaning of all this? Exactly what? Am I meant to be a football passed from one player to the other? Do you even know that I am a grown woman at all? Why are you doing all these?…” I blurted out suddenly
Did I sound jealous?
Did I sound anxious?
Were those questions enough or should I add more?
Why were they toiling with my emotions?
Why, why, why???
I was furious and mad, closing my eyes as I spoke bitterly.
Then he smiled
“Are you kinda jealous?” he asked with his nose raised, his face clouded in a funny look.
Blood rushed into my face.
“What!” I exclaimed in a husky voice.
“Don’t worry. I don’t like Abigail like that” he said, smiling.
My heart dropped
I wanted to scream loudly and clearly into his face that “Who cares?”
But I do!
I really did care!
While I was still trying to put words together, he opened the door leading inside and stepped in.
He looked back and saw me still staring into space.
He smiled and pulled me by my right hand.
I slapped his hand off and hissed silently
Pastor was seated on the settee when we entered and on a closer look, mummy pastor was asleep on his laps.
She was sleeping peacefully, both of her hands held his knees as if her life depended on that.
I was touched!
In that instant, I forgave the pastor all of the ills I had against him.
He kept on brushing her low cut hair with his hands. He did it with love and care and my heart lept for joy.
This is how it was meant to be!
“Good evening sir” Tony greeted
“Good evening Bro Tony” he replied, smiling broadly
“Good evening sir” I greeted too, genuflecting respectfully
“Hmmm, our bride-to-be!” he exclaimed laughing heartily. I smiled too
I didn’t understand what he meant at all.
I didn’t know if it was just a cliché that adults use or if he meant that my hands have been searched for in my marriage by some men.
I didn’t want my case to be like a young pregnant woman who was being greeted by lots of married woman as being ‘Iya Ibeji’ and because she felt that the people saying it must have meant it from experience and that it must be twins for real, went to the market and bought her things in twos until people told her that it was a costly assumption as it was a norm for most Africans to hype people that way.
I didn’t want any costly assumption and I therefore kept mute.
I was happy that they were looking just cool together.
“Daddy, I feel like taking a shot of both of you together. You look so lovingly godly together”
I didn’t even care if my adjective order was correct. All I wanted was a way of conveying my utmost gratitude for such romantic representation of a beautiful godly home.
Oh how handsome he looked
“Of course you can my dear daughter” he said and I smiled as I quickly brought out my digital camera.
This was just good for Facebook.
I racked my brain for the umpteenth time for the best title or post that could match the pictures.
After getting some really good shots, I smiled to myself and gave a thumbs up to daddy who laughed out in response.
Tony wore a small smile as he watched on in silence.
“This must be the first time you are visiting our house” the pastor said and I shook my head
It must have skipped mummy’s mind to tell him.
Didn’t he see that the mouse hole of a bedroom was now sparkling clean?
“This is the second time sir. The first time, mummy wasn’t feeling to well, so I came around to do some things for her” I went on and after I stopped, I wondered who asked me for the long tale
“Oh, I See! My wife doesn’t rest o. she doesn’t at all. All was as a result of stress. She is better now. You can see her sweating profusely. All fever is gone” he said and I smiled broadly.
So it was even fever!
Wow! That fever must have been really severe o.
I looked at Tony and his face was glued to the television as if he was in another world.
“But daddy, mummy had been looking really pale for some time now. It isn’t good for her present state of health” I said and he looked at me, shocked
“What state?” he asked
So he didn’t know?
He didn’t know that his wife was pregnant?
My doubts started resurfacing
“Isn’t mummy pregnant?” I asked and he laughed really hard
“Pregnant at what age? Pregnant at 55? Oh no!” he laughed again
So, what was the protruding tummy for?
He touched her stomach gently and mummy pastor flinched
“Mummy started some sit-up exercises and she stopped all of a sudden. This is the aftermath.” He explained and I nodded
I became confused instead of being convinced
I was not new to exercises and sit-ups had been my best for flat tummy.
Even though I stopped for a while and my tummy became enlarged, mummy pastor’s own looked extra-blown that it felt like there was a whole baby in there
It is well o
“Ok sir” I replied when I realized that I had not given an answer all this while.
He smiled again
“Please pray well o. I want you to bring your sweetheart to me soon o” he said and I smiled
“Ok sir. God will help me o” I said and he smiled
“Ogagun” he called out to Tony and he looked back, smiling sweetly
“Yes daddy” he replied, calmly.
“I am awaiting your MMR soon o” he said again and Tony laughed as if it was more than what the pastor said
This guy sef!
The pastor laughed too
“I am serious o. I am telling you now. Better be prayerful and bring her sharp sharp” he said further, still smiling
My head opened all of a sudden and I remembered what I heard in the dream.
What Tony called me!
What does that mean?
I cleared my throat
“Daddy, what does MMR means?” I asked and the men both laughed
“Bush sister!” Tony said and I gave him a stern knowing look.
“If I don’t know something, I can’t ask again? Huh?” I was almost getting angry
I guess this guy doesn’t really know who I am and what I have been able to achieve in life.
If he does, he wouldn’t talk anyhow to me.
“Bro Tony, stop persecuting my daughter o.” Pastor said and Tony became serious as he looked at me
“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt you. I am so sorry” he said again and he meant it.
I shrugged my shoulders
As I looked into his face, I read it, well spelt out “Your shakara sef too much!”
“MD reigned in many marriages as the ‘My Dear’ thing became rampant. Now, it’s the era of My Missing Rib…MMR” the pastor explained and I smiled
“I didn’t know that that was it. I am already conversant with the missing rib thing. Nice one. God’s will shall be done o” I said just so normally that when the men’s resounding amen rang in my ears, I was startled and they made jest of me.
The pastor’s phone rang and I went across the room to pick the phone.
The pastor placed his wife gently on the settee as he scurried after me.
He got the phone from me, whispered a ‘thank you’ hurriedly and left the room.
I went back into the sitting room and sat directly opposite Tony.
We said nothing to each other.
I looked over to mummy’s side and saw her face clearly.
That bitter smile!
I went towards her and sat on the settee beside her
She looked really helpless.
I held her close to myself and she clung to me.
Her teeth were beating against one another and I felt really odd- as if something was wrong.
Her eyes were still shut tightly.
Pastor came in and cleared his throat.
“I am so happy that you guys are here.” He said and smiled. Mummy became hot in my hands and I looked into her face.
Tears ran down her face
I was shocked because she was obviously still sleeping
“I just got a call now that I am needed urgently at our church branch in South Africa. I would have to go now. I would put a call through to my wife from there since she still appears to be sleeping.” He said on and mummy’s hands around me tightened.
Was she scared of him going?
Was she trying to say he should not go?
Pastor knotted his tie as he bent down to pick his briefcase.
He came beside us on the settee, and I was thankful that he would perhaps see her tears
He pecked her forehead and brought out his handkerchief.
He wiped her face
“She is sweating. You probably increase the air-conditioner” he said and I was shocked
Was it not obvious that it was tears and not sweat?
Is this insensitivity or sheer wickedness?
What surname do I give this oh Lord!
“This is my credit card if she probably needs anything. I will be back soon. I am counting on you all. I love you” he said
He didn’t even wait to get the response before he jumped out of the room.
Tony’s face and mine met and we coincidentally shook our heads
“What’s this? I feel weird” I said as I hugged mummy pastor close
“Prayer. That’s the major thing needed now. we need to pray more for them.” He said too
Mummy pastor sneezed and then coughed and tried to sit up.
Tony jumped over to our side and helped her up.
“Sorry ma” he said as he supported her head with the pillow.
Mummy pastor smiled as tears ran down her face.
My heart broke
“Mummy, I asked you the other time. What is happening to you? What is it that even daddy doesn’t know about? Exactly what mum?” I asked in a very shaky voice.
I was becoming sick and tired of everything and I just wanted to put an end to all that she was going through.
Tears ran down her face the more.
“Please Precious. Let’s give her a breathing space” Tony said, trying to pacify me in his own ways but I wouldn’t bulge
“Please leave me. You already know what the problem is but I don’t. do you know how I have stayed in perpetual suspense and anxiety for days? Do you?” I was almost crying
I wasn’t a timid lady
Why was everyone trying to marginalize me?
I didn’t find it funny anymore and I felt like bursting and pulling everything down.
I looked at mummy pastor and she smiled at me largely, tears still on her face.
“Daughter, I promised to tell you all. Just ask me” she said and she closed her eyes bitterly.
I didn’t care anymore
This was an open cheque and I had to make use of it wisely now, else, that would be all
“Mummy, what is in your tummy? Is it really sit-up effect or pregnancy?” I asked and she smiled
“Precious, please can you…” Tony was saying when mummy pastor pulled him beside her. She held us together- Tony on the right and I on the left.
“It’s fibroid tumor” she blurted out and my head banged severally
My mind never even went to that aspect at all!
I had only thought that it was either pregnancy or pregnancy!
Mummy smiled bitterly.
My heart broke the more!
“Mummy, are you really that sick? Is fibroid the only thing? Is there anything I should know that I don’t? Is there?” I cried, tears rolling down my face.
“That’s not all my daughter” she said again.
Her voice was so sure
My eyes widened
Tony wasn’t even saying anything
His head was bowed down
I stood up all of a suddenly, banged my back to the floor and there cried bitterly.
“Oh God! This cannot be! You said in your word that whatever God reveals to us is for our children and ourselves. The dream you showed to me cannot come to pass. It cannot come to pass at all oh God! Arise Jesus!”
I prayed so hard, smashing myself to the ground and crying so bitterly.
Thank God I was still wearing my sporting trousers if not; I would have been in a total mess.
“Oh God! Why? Why Father? Father, why? Jesus!” I cried the more
“Precious!” Mummy Pastor called out and I looked out. My eyes were obviously bloodshot because though there were no tears on Tony’s face, his eyes were drunk-red!
“Mummy…oh mummy” I cried out the more
“Daughter, I am just a woman of a bitter life. I had tried to live like that Shunnamite woman who kept on saying ‘It is Well’ but it has not worked for me. Not at all!” she lamented
“Why mum? Why?” I cried too
“Probably because I failed in my duties as a good home keeper” she said and I looked up at her.
“Failed? How?” I asked further
She wheezed and Tony stood up suddenly.
He came in with a bottle of water and she swallowed with great difficulty.
I pitied her greatly.
There I was eating whatever I liked and still complaining of the sweetness or this or that!
Oh what ingrate I had been!
“Of course I have failed. Once your husband can no longer sit in the house with you for long; pray with you as usual, eat the food you prepared, sleep in the same bed with you, live in the same house with you, haven’t you failed?” she asked again, looking intently into my face.
That could never be true!
She was only citing examples.
Daddy and mummy still came to church together on Sunday wearing the same attire, looking gorgeous as ever and radiating God’s glory.
So, what’s all this?
“Mummy, dad doesn’t live at home?” I asked and Tony gave me an ‘Isn’t it enough?’ look but I shrugged.
I was as sorrowful as anyone else.
“I thought you were going to ask me that question when you cleared my room that day but you didn’t. Did you see anything that pertained to Men’s stuff in the room that day? He was long gone”
“Yes! We are as good as divorced” she blurted out.
It was hard to believe for me and I looked around in shock.
Tony’s head was bowed low still.
‘Divorce? How and why?’
I just didn’t understand.
Mummy Pastor smiled
‘If God had not stated expressly that he hates divorce, my husband would probably have filed for one’ she said still, sadly.
I was overwhelmed!
I sat on the floor and bit my lower lip in anguish.
It was as if I had never heard something like this before
‘But mum, you have been awarded couples of the year lots of time now. You and daddy do almost everything in common. So, mummy, I don’t seem to understand anymore’
She laughed so much that she fell into a fit of hard cough.
Tony gave her the bottle of water again and that was when I saw it on his face – his tears!
Men cry but when a real man like Tony who was also a medical doctor cried, it meant there was a big problem!
‘It was all camouflage my daughter! Pretense!’
She started her sad tales amidst her heart-rending coughs
How Pastor went to rent an apartment at the end of the street so he could have time alone with God and the ministry; how he no longer lived at home; how he refused to eat at home again; how he sent all the kids abroad so Mummy could have time for herself even against her own will
‘Oh how I miss my children!’ she cried, holding her chest in serious pain.
‘They are not doing any better. Not at all! They are worst than ever now. Doing different bad stuffs. He’s ashamed now to bring them back and I am not allowed to go because of his selfish ambition – his wife can’t leave him! Yet he doesn’t care. He doesn’t know anything about me. All is about the church!” she cried loudly and I sniffed
That’s the problem now.
The pastor has a mistress- his church!
Now I know!
I watched as she shook so vehemently.
She must be really lonely!
‘Mummy, this isn’t good for you. This is wrong. Please, let’s forget about it and keep on praying’ Tony said, holding her hands gently and looking into his face.
‘I have never done it! I have preached against it! Never allow the third party into your marriage- but I have broken it. I have allowed the third and the fourth the same night. I have failed! Frustration forced me! Sickness opened my mouth! Death threate…. ‘she paused to shed some tears again, she swallowed hard before continuing the sad tale.
‘ I love my husband and he loved me too. He is just too busy to a fault. He never realized that I was on low-cut till today and when he saw it, he didn’t bother asking why I did. He only said it fitted me. Oh mine! I never cut my hair. I never did… ‘ she wailed.
I looked aback and wanted to talk when Tony held me back from talking.
‘Leave her alone. Let me talk to her. God showed my secret to both of you different nights in different places! What’s there to hide again? What?’
She spoke hopelessly and I heaved a deep sigh.
This is a sad tale Oh God!
I couldn’t believe it!
So Tony also had a dream as pertaining to the pastor’s wife?
Hmmmmm… Holy Spirit the revealer of secrets!
‘My husband did not come around because I called him to tell him I was sick. He came because I threatened that if he didn’t come, I would send for you guys. I knew he would want a good image to be created before his church members and didn’t he succeed? He did! I succeeded too though it was short -lived as I got the opportunity to sleep on his laps with his hands over me once again.
I shook my head!
This was more serious than I ever imagined.
‘But mummy, why not have the fibroid removed… You were also saying something about your hair not being cut by yourself’ I reminded her.
I wanted a comprehensive understanding of it all so that I would be able know how to pray too.
She laughed dryly while Tony threw me a ‘why do you have to ask’ kind of look.
Is it bad to be inquisitive?
Not at all!
She cleared her throat and looked at me in the face.
‘The answer is clear. I can’t remove the fibroid because my body is not OK. My hair fell off themselves with Noone touching them because my body is not Ok. My body is not ok because it is infested with… ‘ she continued sadly when I stamped my foot on the floor.
Could I bear it?
Would the shock be too much to bear for me?
I needed a heart gird now so I wouldn’t pass out when I get the shock
That’s why I hate surprises!
They make my heart race so much that by the time I get the surprise, I start to vomit-the aftermath of the anxiety.
‘OK mummy.. I am ready’ I said again and she pulled me close and smiled.
She pulled one of ears and her hands were rough!
‘Leukemia!’ that was the only thing she said and my head scattered.
Oh my Savior!
As I looked into her face, all I saw was the cancer… It was red, then blue, then black, then white and I became really derilious.