‘That joke is too expensive. Stop it.’
‘David I am serious. I’m pregnant.’
David picked up his blue tie from the bed and without taking his gaze away from his wife, wrapped the tie around his neck and began to knot it. ‘That’s not possible. I thought-’
‘I removed it.’
He stopped knotting the tie and stared at Nike, mouth opened. ‘why didn’t you tell me? What if-’
She silenced his words with a kiss as her hand went around his waist. ‘Don’t you want a child?’
He pulled her slightly away enough to look into her eyes. ‘I don’t want to lose you.’
‘Feranmi said as long as I go for my regular check-ups, I’ll be fine. Let’s trust God enough to see us through this.’
He nodded and shifted his gaze to her stomach. He touched it. ‘I’ll be a fool not to trust God with the things I have seen him do through you.’ He kissed her forehead. ‘We are running late for church.’
He finished knotting his tie and grabbed his bible and notepad from the table. When he left the room, Nike stood in front of the mirror, adjusting the black hat on her head. Then she remembered her missing debit card. She needed to stop at the ATM after church to withdraw some money for the architect who was to handle the design for the building of the vocation center. Where on earth could the card be? She raised the mattress for the umpteenth time hoping to find it. With a torch light, she searched under the bed but there was no trace of her card. She stood up, her eyes scanning the room, as she played back the last time she had seen the card.
The door opened ‘Sweetheart, let’s go!’
‘Honey, did you see my ATM card?’ Nike asked, as soon as she was settled in beside her husband. He nodded as he sped out of the compound.
‘We need to complete the building of the church. I asked Segun yesterday how much it would cost and he said 500, 000 naira. I’ll settle that with him after the service today.
Nike stared at her husband, shocked. She turned her face away as anger boiled within her. How could he take her card with the thought of emptying her account. Who does that? This was her money not his.
When she had deposited the seven hundred thousand into her account, David had withdrawn 250,000 naira and afterwards told her he used the money to repair the car and pay the labourers working on the church building. Now he wanted to use the remaining five hundred thousand naira to complete the church building. Why was he so inconsiderate? She had plans for her money. There was her Vocation Center to be constructed and her personal needs to be met. Just last week, she had gone with her friends to see the architect who was to design the building for the vocation center. She had promised to drop some money with him the following day and here was her husband planning to whisk off a whooping five hundred thousand naira.
This is my money, she almost screamed aloud.
Her husband was selfish, that was the only explanation she could give for what he had done. He had never bothered to know how her Vocation Centre was doing, he had stopped coming for the exhibitions and all he could think about was himself and his church. She was not going to let that happen. The money was given to her not her husband.
‘Why are you quiet? Is something wrong?’
She didn’t say anything as he stopped in front of the church. She opened the door and was about to climb down when she turned to him.
‘I have plans for my money. Please don’t give it to Segun.’ She got down and walked into the church leaving her husband staring after her.
When David returned from church that evening after a tiring counselling session, Nike was serving dinner. She greeted him without making any move towards him. David mumbled a response and entered the room.
He dropped the card on the bed before heading for the bathroom. When Nike came into the room, she stopped when she saw the card. She didn’t pick it up. Instead, she sat on the bed and waited until he came out of the bathroom.
‘Dinner is ready.’
‘I’m not hungry.’ He lied even though his stomach rumbled.
‘Can we talk about this?’
‘There is nothing to talk about. There is your card. Go spend your money.’
Nike swallowed hard. ‘I’m sorry I spoke to you in that manner. It’s our money, but-’
He raised his hand. ‘You don’t have to explain. I’m sorry I took it in the first place.’ He turned his back towards her and began to search the wardrobe for his pyjamas. Nike left the room and took the tray of food to the kitchen. She grabbed a brush and went to the toilet and began to scrub the toilet floor even though she had done so the previous day. When she was done, she packed all the clothes from the laundry basket and took them outside. She sat on a stool and began to wash.
‘Lord, please help me.’ Nike prayed aloud. ‘I’m so angry right now and what I want to do is pack my things and go somewhere for a week or two. I have spent so much for my husband and I thought he would at least appreciate my effort. When we first got here, I withdrew every dime I had in my account to give him a comfortable life. When he was sick and referred to the teaching hospital, the last money in my account was what I used. Lord, don’t I deserve something good for myself?’ She stopped washing and placed her hand on her chin.
Why was her husband not concerned about her Vocation Center. Why did it have to always be about him. Her mind went back to a time her exhibition date had clashed with a three day program in church. She had told him about the exhibition two weeks before the program. He had agreed and said she could go ahead. Yet he went ahead to fix a date the day the exhibition was to begin and asked her to postpone the exhibition. Her husband was a selfish man and wanted to please himself.
The anger rose to her throat.
Jesus, help me.
Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Nike sighed as the scripture flashed across her mind. She stood up and kicked the remaining clothes aside before rinsing the ones she had washed. When she was done spreading the washed clothes on the line, she returned to the house. She stopped in the front of the room but changed her mind and settled for the sofa. She closed her eyes and prayed silently as peace gradually returned to her heart. She slept off.
David couldn’t sleep. He turned restlessly on the bed. He knew what he had done was wrong. She had been by his side, supporting and encouraging him although lately he had been angry at the way she poured her attention on the women and forgot his needs. But that wasn’t enough reason to act the way he did. For more than a year, she had been talking about the construction of the Vocation Center and he knew she’d want to use the money. This wasn’t what God wanted him to do.
Love your wife as Christ loves the church was what Christ said, and what he had done was far from what Christ would have done.
God, teach me this kind of love. Help me to love Nike just as you love the church, David prayed.
He climbed down from the bed and went in search of his wife. He found her sleeping on the sofa, earpiece stuck to her ears. For a moment, he watched her sleep peacefully.
‘Nike, I love you so much.’
He bent down and pulled her up gently. She opened her eyes and quickly sat up.
‘Let’s go inside.’
She relaxed again as he held her waist and led her into the room. He helped her get into the bed and lay beside her. He drew her close, caressing her hair.
She opened her eyes briefly and closed them again before allowing her head to rest on his bare chest.
‘Can we talk now?’ Nike was leaning on the bathroom door the next morning while her husband brushed his teeth. He spat out the foam into the sink
‘Do we have to go back to that?’
Nike nodded. She knew how much her husband hated confrontation. He hated revisiting issues but that never helped in the past. Instead it had drawn them farther away from each other as they swept serious issues underneath the carpet. The only way they had been able to grow intimately in the last few years was their openness and communication and she wanted that to continue. As long as they were ready to listen to each other, they could handle any misunderstanding.
When he finished brushing his teeth, Nike was already sitting on the bed waiting for him. A meeting with the volunteers for Odeomu women outreach had been fixed for that morning but that could wait. Her home came first.
David was uncomfortable as he sat beside his wife, his gaze fixed on the table. Nike touched his thighs, knowing it would calm him. He smiled and reached for her hand.
‘I’m sorry I spoke to you that way. I had spoken to an architect and He asked for some money which I was supposed to drop with him this week. When you said you wanted to use the money to complete the church, I just went beserk.’
‘That was selfish of me Nike. I had taken some money from you already and I should have at least asked you first. I’m sorry.’
Nike sighed. ‘Sweetheart, can I ask you a question?’
David raised his head ‘Yes. Ask me anything.’
‘Don’t you like what I do? The skill acquisition training, the way I’m helping the women and my desire to start a vocation Center. You are not comfortable with my plans?’
David didn’t answer immediately. She knew he was pondering over the question. She waited. She had learnt to wait rather than push for a response. Her husband didn’t like being forced to respond to issues. Days when he had done so, he moved farther away from her.
‘What did you notice?’ David said, after a long silence.
‘I can’t remember exactly when you began to lose interest in the things that matter to me but I noticed that at the last exhibition, you didn’t sound excited. Even the meetings I held at the different towns, you never asked me how It went until I volunteered the information. I remembered how you would pray for me and get so excited when I return with testimonies. But you’ve changed. You almost don’t want to hear anything I have to say about it.’ David sighed, unable to bring himself to look at her.
‘I’m really sorry about that.’
‘You know sorry will not solve this. What is it I’m doing that you don’t like. I am your wife. I want to know how I can help you better.’
He cleared his throat. ‘Sometimes I feel abandoned. It’s like reaching out to those women means so much to you than our intimacy. You devote all of your strength to that Center and It makes me wonder if I’m still important to you. I just miss the days we stayed on the bed on Saturday mornings and talked.’
Nike stood up and moved towards the window. She rested her back on the wall. She returned to her seat beside him.
‘I’m sorry I got caught up in the women ministry There was always one issue or the other with the women and helping them gives me joy but I know it is no excuse to spend less time with you. You are my priority. I’m so sorry.’
‘I love you Nike.’ He raised her chin and stared into her eyes. ‘I don’t know what my life would have become without you. To answer your first question. I love what you do. I see how your eyes glow when you talk about those women. I’m proud of you.’
He pulled her waist and pushed her to the bed. She squealed in delight as he tickled her. They lay on the bed and talked for hours and It was then Nike realized how much of the church administrative challenges she had been unaware of.
‘On a serious note, you should use the money to begin the reconstruction of the vocation center.’
‘No way. The church needs the money too’
‘I’m serious. The roofing of the church can wait.’
Nike shook her head. ‘We can still manage Mary’s house for now until we complete the renovation. Let’s finish with the church building.’
‘You still have to pay the architect. Let’s share the money fifty-fifty.’
But the next morning, Nike went straight to Segun’s house and dropped the five hundred thousand naira with him and quietly sneaked back into the house. David was preparing for a meeting with Pastor Aderinto, the branch Pastor of Ife, when Nike entered the room.
‘Where have you been? I have been shouting ‘sweetheart’ ‘sweetheart’ since morning.’ David asked as he picked his wristwatch from the table.
‘I went to attend to an important assignment.’ He was about to ask what assignment it was when his phone rang. Nike hurried out of the room. From the kitchen, she could hear her husband talking to Segun.
‘She brought the money this morning? Oh my God! She didn’t tell me. I’ll be in the office in 20 minutes.’
She hid behind the kitchen door when she heard his footsteps.
He entered the kitchen ‘Come out of your hiding place.’
She moved her head slowly from behind the door and smiled at her husband. He was trying not to smile but he couldn’t help it.
‘This was not what we agreed yesterday. You were supposed to give part of the money for the church project.’
She came out fully and stood in front of him. She ran her fingers over his chest. ‘It was an instruction from God to give it all to the church project. I’m just obeying God.’
He pulled her into his embrace. ‘Thank you.’
She pretended to wipe dust from his shirt. ‘You are welcome Pastor. Let’s go build the house of the Lord.’
Swinging their hands, they walked to the car. He planted a kiss on her cheeks, thanked her again and drove away. She stood there calculating the amount left in her account. Five thousand naira. Fear nudged at her heart.
Lord, you said you would take care of us. I trust you Lord.
She pushed aside the worry and returned to the house to get ready for work.
It never would have occurred to Nike that the following week, two million naira would be sitting in her account. That Sunday, as she stood on the altar leading the congregation in intercessory prayers, her eyes caught an old client sitting three rows from the back.
What for goodness sake was she doing here?
This was a woman she had stood doggedly with when her colleagues thought she was wasting precious time defending her.
Her husband had died abruptly, leaving her many properties but his brothers had quickly taken charge of the properties leaving her with nothing. When she tried to push, they threatened and exploited her naivety claiming she never bore a son for their late brother and therefore had no right to the properties. Nike had taken charge of the case and fought hard even though Chinelo couldn’t afford her fee. She had scrutinized every document and found so many loopholes that helped her case.
Judgment had been given in her favour and Nike had ensured that every property was to Chinelo. She could still remember the hateful countenance on the faces of Chinelo’s in-laws. Nike had been hopeful that she would manage the properties on Chinelo’s behalf. She had gone ahead to calculate her profit but when she tried calling her, she couldn’t reach her. All her lines were switched off. Her colleagues had been angry, reminding her how they had warned her to drop the case. Nike wasn’t moved. Her dream had been to put her uncles behind bars for what they did to her mother but her mother had pleaded with her to leave them alone. Chinelo’s case proved a perfect opportunity to revenge.
‘Madam Chinelo, what a surprise. What are you doing here?’ Nike approached her as soon as the service ended.
‘I’m sorry I disappeared the way I did. My daughter needed a kidney transplant shortly after that judgement was given. In fact, getting back those properties was the only way I would have gotten money to pay for her transplant. I had to fly her out of the country for treatment and shortly after we returned, my mother had a stroke. She died eventually. I didn’t mean to go off like that.
Nike hugged her. ‘I’m so happy to see you. Come meet my husband.’
She led the fair skinned woman to the altar where David sat praying for a couple. After the prayers, Nike introduced Chinelo to the Pastor.
‘ You remember Chinelo?’
David nodded his head. He remembered she had come to their house back in Lagos crying and complaining about the ill treatment by her in-laws. Now She looked robust and her skin glowed.
Money sure does wonders, David thought.
Nike turned to Chinelo. ‘What do you say to lunch at my place and then you can tell me how you’ve been able to manage those properties.’
Chinelo smiled. ‘ I’ll say Yes.’
They had lunch again the following day at the hotel where she was lodged. Chinelo shared how her faith in Christ had been restored after her husband’s death. Her only regret was that her husband had died a sinner.
When it was time for Chinelo to return to Lagos, she made a few calls and in an hour, two million naira was sitting in Nike’s account.
‘Please start off the construction of the Vocation Center and let’s use the best material available. I’m ready to send more money to you.’
Nike was speechless. She was further astounded when a month later, a new grey Toyota Camry was driven into the Pastor’s lodge the morning of their 7th wedding anniversary. Another of the many presents from Chinelo.
Nike’s day of delivery was drawing close. David kept a schedule of her check-ups and antenatal appointments and ensured she stuck with it. He took over the house chores and made Nike almost useless at home and no matter how hard Nike tried to stop him, he refused.
‘You have to hand over the reins of the Center to Tolani. I don’t want you standing for hours there. It’s becoming too stressful for you.’ David pointed out one morning as Nike got ready to go to the clinic.
Activities had been moved from the Pastor’s Lodge to Mary’s former residence. Since Nike feel ill, she has not been to the Center and now that she was excited to return, her husband came with another order.
Nike made a face as if to cry. ‘No way. You can’t stop me from going to the vocation center.’
‘But you need to rest.’
‘I have taken the rest I need. Sweetheart, Please don’t stop me from going to work. After all, Dr Afolabi said I should keep myself busy.’
He turned off the gas cooker. Three times a week, that’s final.’ He kissed her. ‘You know I love you right.’
She smiled as she left the kitchen. Her husband had been tensed for some few weeks now. Nothing she did had been able to put his heart at ease. She had caught him standing over her in the middle of the night, like a guardian angel watching over a child. He was worried and that bothered her. When she complained of any pain no matter how little, he rushed her down to the clinic. Every morning he wakes up, he would place his hand on Nike’s tummy, praying for their child and the safety of her delivery.
Bose was waiting outside in her husband’s car when Nike dragged herself out of the house. Her husband stood at the entrance waving at Bose. She got down to properly greet the Pastor before opening the door for Nike. As Nike stared at her reflection from the car window, she noticed her lips were still swollen and there were bags under her eyes.
Do pregnant women have to look this horrible? She frowned and gently climbed into the car.
Bose glance at her friend from the rearview mirror. ‘Nike, the construction work is going on so fast. They have finished with the renovation of Mary’s house and now work has started on the two-storey building in front of the bungalow.’
‘Can we stop on our way to the clinic?’
‘Sure.’ Bose responded.
When they got to the construction site, a heap of sand and blocks covered the front of the house. Men were going in and out of an uncompleted building carrying blocks and others mixed the sand with water using shovels. Nike’s heart bubbled with joy as she stood in front of the proposed Center.
She walked past the construction workers to the back where the bungalow stood. It didn’t look anything like where Mary lived. It had been repainted and tiles covered the floor. . The building bustled with activity. In the kitchen, some women were mixing dough and at another end, one of the trainers was teaching the some teenagers how to cover a cake with fondant icing.. She left the kitchen for the room where fashion designers worked. She noticed how choky the room was considering there were about 12 ladies in the small room. Once the two storey building was completed, there would be enough space for everyone.
Tolani was attending to some ladies in the administrative office, the same room where Joshua had died when Nike entered. Now that the school where she lectured was on strike, she spent part of her day at the Center. She stood up and rushed to hug her friend but only a side hug was achievable. They talked and left for the living room that had been converted to bag making department.
‘Remember the last time we were here, Mary hurl that stool at me.’ Tolani said.
Nike smiled. ‘Can we ever forget?’
Mary. Nike wondered how such a sweet woman would have gone through so much and come out strong. When Nike had gone to ile-ife to see Mary, she had told her that late husband had been a very gentle man dedicated to the things of God until a year after their wedding when his thirst for money consumed him. He became so desperate, that it was all he could about.
Through an old classmate, he met some rich young men who agreed to show him how to make quick money. He had gone somewhere with them one night and returned home a changed man. That was the beginning of her troubles. Cash began to pour in. They moved to a bigger house, got cars they didn’t use and lived ostentatiously. But even with the things of life available at Mary’s disposal, she was not happy.
One evening, in a room she dared not go into, through a window left opened, she saw two young ladies tied with ropes at one corner. Some men in black were hitting a man who had kicked one of the men in his groins. Her husband was standing at the center of the room. He was dressed in a red overall. Immediately he blew something powdery at the man, he slumped.
One of the girls screamed, ‘Daddy!’ and began to cry. Through the back door, he was dragged out of the house. Mary moved away from the window but it was too late. Her husband had seen her. He gave her the beating of her life, threatening to kill her if she spilled a word. Few months after that incident, he had been wanted for the embezzlement of millions of naira at his workplace. They had taken a night bus and left Kaduna for Ipetumodu.
Nike’s phone rang as she returned to the car with Bose. It was her husband. She didn’t want to pick his call knowing how upset he would be when he discovered she had not gone straight to the clinic.
‘Your husband called me few minutes ago. He wanted to know if you were here.’ Doctor Afolabi said, as she stepped aside for Nike to climb down from the examining table. Nike returned to her seat in front of the doctor.
‘He is so scared he would lose me. I haven’t exactly had a good history with child bearing.’
The Doctor smiled. ‘By God’s grace you and the baby will be fine. I’ve been praying for you.’
Nike jerked her head backward, shocked. ‘You pray for me?’
Dr Afolabi nodded. Nike leaned forward. ‘Can I ever know you?’
Dr Afolabi’s smile disappeared. ‘What do you mean by that?’
‘The only information I know about you is that your first name is Cynthia and you are a doctor running a very well-organized clinic. I had to figure out some other important details by observing and guessing. I supposed you are married and you have two sons. Your husband does not live with you. It’s either you are separated or he works somewhere faraway from this place. As your Pastor’s wife, I just think I should know more about a dedicated and active member of my church.’
Dr Afolabi was silent. ‘I’ll be admitting you here next week Saturday. I want to keep you under close monitoring until your delivery date.’
Nike took that to mean the discussion was over.
Lord, why is she pushing everyone out? I love her so much but I can’t reach her.
Nike sighed and stood up. ‘Thank you so much.’
As she got to the door, Dr Afolabi cleared her throat. ‘I am a single mother.’
Nike released her hand from the door handle and turned towards Dr Afolabi.
‘It’s complicated. I got pregnant for a married man in my church. I was that teen co-ordinator who was accorded so much respect. When I stand to teach those teens, I always got their attention. Proposals from suitors came in left and right, I was given assignments and tasks from the headquarters church, most of which I handled effectively. I had a good job in one of the best hospitals in town and there was a time I was made the National Teens co-ordinator until a meeting was called at the headquarters where some of the elders felt I was too young to handle the position. When the murmurings became so much, I stepped down voluntarily but that didn’t stop the assignments from pouring in.
When I told the Pastor and my best friend what I had done, the news spread faster than I realized. I was called names. The wife of the father of my children didn’t even rant as much my friends did. They were happy that it had happened. My new name became ‘the mighty has fallen’. Those I wouldn’t even come close to building friendship with were the ones that stood by me and encouraged me. My best friend was at the forefront of the disgrace parade. Sister Nike, it shook me. I ran to Ife to my grandmother’s place and stayed there until my twin babies were born. At that time, my grandmother’s best friend who was a retired matron asked me to come to Ipetumodu and start off my practice here. She had already built this place and was considering opening a clinic. She left me this place when she passed away some years ago.’
She stopped talking. Nike didn’t know what to say.
‘So you don’t trust anyone?’
Dr Afolabi chuckled. ‘No, I don’t.’
‘I’ve always wanted to be your friend. You can trust me.’
She smiled. ‘Maybe.’
The interruption from a nurse brought the conversation to an end. Nike couldn’t stop thinking about what the doctor had told her. Whatever it would take, she was going to prove to her that good friends still exist.
The following day, around 3a.m, Nike tapped her husband. She held her stomach as she groaned in pain. David jumped to his feet and gently led her out of the room to the car. Nike bit her lips, panting heavily. David drove like a mad man to the clinic.
‘We are almost at the hospital dear.’ It was only then the Pastor realized the only thing he had on him was a pair of boxers. He stared at his bare chest and shook his head.
The final episode comes up next week.