Nike stared at the journal in her hand and a wave of fear hit her. She knew whatever was contained in the book would bring an end to her struggles. She also knew she wouldn’t like what she found in there.
From the day David had announced his taking up the pastoral work at Ipetumodu, her heart had been drawn to that journal. She had searched the house and scattered the wardrobe but couldn’t find it. She had forgotten about it until that morning when she had the dream.
Now she was holding it and opening it seem the most difficult thing to do.
She sighed and flipped to the first page.
My Reflections. 2004.
8 years ago. How time flies, Nike thought. She glanced down to the bottom of the first page.
The things of God are received by the Spirit. Lord show me what my future will be like.
She kept flipping through the pages of the book, as if searching for something specific. Her eyes caught an entry and she fixed her gaze on it. Her heart stopped as she slowly read the words.
January 15, 2004.
This morning, as if in a trance, I entered a room full of sick women. Some were bandaged, others were crying and there were those who stared blankly into space. The moment I entered, they seemed very excited and tried to reach out to me even in their pain. I don’t understand this. But I noticed I felt content being with them. I was happy and didn’t want to leave.
She closed the book and stood still for a minute, her hands trembling. David rubbed her shoulders before sliding his hands around her waist. When her legs couldn’t hold her anymore, she staggered towards the bed and sat down. David settled beside her and they remained silent for a long time.
‘I want to resign.’
David held her hands. ‘Are you sure you want to do this?’
Nike let out a soft breath. ‘Yeah. I’m done struggling. Can we go see the Pastor?’
David was stunned beyond words. He had prepared to wait for a long time. Could this be true? He met her gaze hoping to find doubt or despair but all he saw was surrender.
When Nike entered Linus & Akintola (Solicitors, Advocates), her resignation letter in her hand, her heart was suddenly drawn to her new mission. She could hear voices calling her. Excitement flooded her heart as she walked into the boss’ office. She was going to give them a month’s notice, tidy up unfinished work and sign out.
Linus was on the phone when Nike entered his office. He motioned for her to sit. She sat and waited. When he ended the call, he smiled and leaned forward. ‘I was going to send for you. I am promoting you to head Litigation.’
Nike frowned. ‘What? That’s impossible. What about Francis?’
Linus gave a side grin. ‘We are making him partner.’
Nike’s eyes lit up. ‘Wow! That’s great. I’m so glad to hear this. He deserves it.’
He tilted his head, grinning. ‘One day, you can be a partner too. You are a brilliant young woman with so much prospects. So, I’ll speak with the HR. They’ll prepare your promotion letter and all the packages that come with it.’
Nike cleared her throat. ‘Sir, there is something I want to talk to you about.’
Linus reclined on his chair and waited. Nike lost courage to start. She sighed.
‘I am submitting my resignation letter to the HR after now.’ Linus sat up, shocked. ‘At the end of the month, I’m leaving.’
Linus’ frown turned to anger. ‘What are they offering you?’
Nike looked at him puzzled. ‘Who?’
‘Don’t play games with me Nike. I have seen the glances Charles and that greedy Afolabi give you in court. They obviously want you. Is that not the truth? Are they offering you twice what I pay you here?’
‘Don’t sir me. I picked you up Nike and I trained you. When you first came here, you had nothing. I brought you to the point you are. How could you do this to me?’
‘Sir, I worked hard to get to where I am. I didn’t-’
‘How much are they offering you. I’ll double that.’
Nike shook her head. ‘This isn’t about that sir.’ She let out a deep breath. ‘I’m leaving with my husband to Ipetumodu. He has been given a pastoral work there.’
Linus relaxed, looking her over. Then he laughed so hard that Nike felt ashamed. ‘You are leaving this place to become a Pastor’s Wife?’
Nike nodded. .
‘Nike, take a day off. You must really be stressed out. Because what you have just told me is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. What’s wrong with you religious people. What happened to your brains? Leave my office and get your head reset.’
As she stepped into her office, a flicker of doubt nudged at her heart and the fear returned. Was she making a mistake? What was life going to be like in Ipetumodu? What was she going to meet? Dami burst into her office, holding a file. She met a sad Nike, battling raging emotions. When Nike shared her fears, Dami shook her head.
‘Nike, If God is leading you to do this, trust that he will never leave or forsake you.’
She pushed the file across the table to Nike. ‘That’s from Francis. He is so angry. That Chinelo woman’s case, the one judgement was given in her favour? You won’t believe she has suddenly disappeared into thin air. After we helped her secure all those properties, She couldn’t even come back with a thank you package.’
Nike hissed. ‘What’s Francis upset about. He didn’t raise a finger to help all through the years we fought that case in court. I should be the one upset because I took it as pro bono. Why is he interested now that the woman is the owner of properties worth millions. We are not owing the firm any money, are we?’
Dami crossed her leg and chuckled. ‘Has she called you?’
‘No she hasn’t. I’m glad she got justice. Whatever she wants to do with her money, that’s her business.’ Nike placed the file on top of a heap of files stack at a corner.
Dami stood up.’You remind me of the day we had a meeting with Linus and he turned to us and said, ‘Do you know one thing I hate about Nike. Her large heart. People with large heart bring bad business.’
Nike laughed. I’m going to miss that man.’
Dami squeezed her hand. ‘I’ll see you at lunch. I need to rush to CAC this morning.’
When she left, Nike stared out her window praying silently. She knew exactly what she was going to do. God’s Will.
The journey to Ipetumodu was a smooth one and Nike had slept all through. They had been up all night putting finishing touches to what was left of the arrangements for the safekeep of their properties.
When the car pulled into the town, Nike was surprised to discover it was a developed town with modern houses and well-built schools. She almost screamed out when they passed a law firm on their way to the church. She had expected to see huts and women in threadbare wrappers tied around their waist, juggling through the forest.
She stared ahead wondering what to expect when they finally arrive at the church. Would she be accepted? Would the women be warm towards her?
David noticed she was tensed. He ran his fingers through hers. She smiled, swallowing hard.
‘Here we are.’ Gbenga, the Senior Pastor’s driver pulled in front of a building, neatly plastered.
The passage that led to the entrance of the church had colorful flowers on both sides. A door with a large cross engraved on it opened to a small crowd laughing and exchanging pleasantries.
David and his wife got down from the car, hands locked. Some of the members stopped to stare at the visitors but quickly stepped aside for a short baldheaded man who was hurrying to meet the couple. He was closely followed by another man with very attractive features holding a big bible. .
Oh my God, this man is fine, Nike muttered beneath her breath, staring from the man’s wavy hair to his broad chest. What could this kind of man be doing in a place like this. The Ladies in her office would kill for a night with him.
She kicked the thought aside but found herself stealing glances at the man.
The short man introduced himself as Pastor Aderinto, the acting Pastor for Ipetumodu and resident Pastor of ile-Ife branch. As he led them to the church’s office, chattering non-stop, someone called Nike’s name. She turned and her eyes widened when a woman with a baby strapped to her back ran towards her.
The woman threw her hands around Nike before she could have a chance to look at her face. When she pulled away, recognition hit her.
They laughed, hugged and laughed again. Mary had been her roommate in 200 level. She was quiet and never looked for trouble. The way she handled conflicts in her dealings with the other roommates amazed Nike. Whenever there was an issue in the room, they waited for Mary’s opinion and all the time, it was followed.
The two had become close friends by the time the session ended.
When a new session commenced the following year, Mary was unable to secure a place in the school hostel and Nike had accommodated her. As she stared at her friend, she noticed Mary was lean. She had always been robust with plenty of flesh. What could have happened to her? Why did she look so famished?
‘What are you doing here, Mary?’ Nike asked as they hurried to join the others who were already in the Pastor’s Office. Mary introduced the man Nike had seen earlier as her husband.
You mean this fine man is your husband? Nike almost blurted out.
The man smiled warmly and shook Nike’s hands. She noticed he lingered during the handshake and that made her uncomfortable. As their eyes met, she felt uneasy, as if sensing that something wasn’t right about him. She pushed the thought away and focused on what the Pastor was saying.
He was introducing Mary’s husband as Pastor Joshua, the Assistant Pastor who he described as ‘indispensable’.
He was sorry his wife wasn’t there with him to welcome them. She had returned to ile-ife to attend to one of their sick children. The Pastor’s residence had been fumigated and the visitors won’t be able to stay there for the night. He wanted to know if they could both pass the night at the office.
‘Where are you going to stay?’ David asked the Pastor.
He laughed. ‘I am a missionary. I can stay on the roof.’
‘They can pass the night with us. ’ Mary suggested, winking at her friend who tickled her playfully.
Her husband nodded his head in agreement. ‘And my beautiful wife will prepare a delicious meal for you. She is a great cook.’
‘The women have already done justice to that. They have pounded yam in preparation for your arrival.’ The Pastor noted, dancing from side to side, his feet moving restlessly. One minute he was thrusting his hands into his pocket and the next minute he was folding them. Nike wondered how he ended up a Pastor. She saw him a better fit for a comedian.
David suggested Nike spend the night with Mary while he and Pastor stayed back at the Office to tidy up things.
When the two ladies stepped out, a group of women approached them, dancing and singing. Nike didn’t know what to do. She just stood there and smiled.
‘Eka bo ma.’ The woman who had led the dance said. The others chorused. The dance leader led the dance again, shaking her waist to the beats from talking drums. Mary moved closer to her friend.
‘That’s Iya Abeke..Be careful of her. She is dangerous.’ Mary whispered, her eyes fixed on the dance leader.
A little girl pursued by another smaller boy rushed to Mary screaming ‘Mummy!’ and wrapped her hands around her waist. Mary pulled her away gently and held her hand. The girl stuck her tongue at the boy and called out to her mother again when he began to approach her. The boy withdrew.
‘When did you come here?’ Nike asked, as she threw a lump of pounded yam wrapped in efo into her mouth. They were now in Mary’s living room.
‘After my father’s death. This is the house he built. My own part of his inheritance. Joshua and I decided to move here three years ago.’
‘Are you working here?’
‘Yes, I teach in a secondary school.’
‘What about your husband?’
The door opened and Joshua entered, beaming with smiles. Mary straightened and stood up.
‘You are welcome to our humble abode.’ Joshua said, bowing slightly.
Nike smiled. ‘Thanks for having me here.’
He frowned at his wife. ‘Why is she eating here? You should have served her food on the dining table.’
Nike rose to her friend’s defence. ‘I chose to eat here. I’m fine. We are catching up on old times.’
He smiled. ‘I can’t wait to hear the full gist of how you two met.’
Mary moved towards the kitchen. ‘Let me serve your food.’
‘Don’t worry. I’ll serve myself. Enjoy yourself. I’ll just go in and shower.’
Joshua walked into the bedroom and shut the door slightly before planting his ear at the door.
Mary tried to act normal but Nike noticed she was fidgeting. That made her worried.
‘When you are done with the food, I’ll show you to your room.’ As Mary shifted in her seat, Nike noticed a dark scar on her nape. She touched it. Mary pushed her hand away. Nike pulled her blouse slightly down and noticed more bruises.
‘What happened to you?’ Nike has seen too many cases to know what this meant. She had worked as a volunteer in an NGO for domestic violence and scars like that were not uncommon.
Her eyes widened as understanding hit her.
‘Your husband did this to you?’
Mary stood up and quickly began to clear the dishes.
2a.m that night, Nike was awaken by a tap on her shoulder. It was dark except for the light from a lantern. She sat up and saw Mary perched on the edge of the bed
‘I want to talk to you.’ . Nike sat up quickly when she noticed tears running down her friend’s face.
‘Nike, I’m tired. I’m just tired.’ She stopped and wiped the tears with the back of her hand ‘I-I don’t know. I-‘
The door opened. Mary jumped to her feet. Nike quickly grabbed her wrapper and covered her chest with it. Joshua stood at the entrance, glaring at them. Mary suddenly began to laugh.
‘You are very funny Nike. Let me allow you sleep. There is so much to talk about. I’ve missed those school days o. Sleep well dear.’
‘I’m sorry for badging in like that ma. We need to rest well for the Sunday Service later today.’ Joshua said, as his wife moved towards the door.
Nike just stared after them,dumbfounded. Was this a dream? She pinched herself to be sure. This was real.
‘I’m going to get to the root of this.’ Nike muttered and lay back on the bed but couldn’t sleep. The scars she had seen, the fear in her friend’s eyes gave her the answer she needed.
‘Mary, we are fighting this out together. I promise.’ She muttered again and faced the wall.
Next Episode 6.