Click to read Episode 6
This is the diary of a Nigerian Christian Girl- Season 1 Episode 7
I walked into Telilah Resorts in my smashing tomato red dress. It was the first Sunday service at Pure Heaven Assembly.
One of Wale’s mentee was arranging the chairs in the hotel’s conference room when I got there. Remember the lady I said rolled her eyes at me one time I followed Wale for a ministration? The one I perceived was having a crush on my man? Oh yes, she was the first person to show up at the service. She looked unhappy to see me and mumbled a greeting before pulling out some chairs stacked against the wall. When I reached for a chair, she stopped me.
‘You don’t have to do anything. Just sit somewhere at the back. I got this.’
I ignored her and joined in the arrangement of the chairs. I was not going to let anybody upset me, definitely not a girl who, if given the chance would ruin Wale’s ministry. Of course, she has nothing to offer my man. I would be a fool to feel threatened. She was just one cheap conceited lady looking for a well-made man to jump on. She’d better get it into her thick skull that I belong to Wale.
I imagined her eyes welling up in tears, mad with jealousy when the Pastor pronounces us husband and wife. Once I get married to Wale, I’ll put her in her place. No lady dare disrespect me.
‘Rubbish.’ I didn’t realize I had spoken out aloud. She glanced at me and continued with her work.
‘What’s that your name?’ I said, looking at her disgustedly. ‘Elizabeth, can I get a rag to clean this place?’ I said, pointing at a table close to the entrance. She reached into a white nylon bag and passed an old towel to me.
We worked in silence. When we were done, I stood aside and glanced around the conference room of the hotel. How much had Wale paid for the hall?
Two air-conditioners hung towards the front of the hall. There was another one behind. A podium had been mounted with brown rug covering the entire stage. My eyes went to the front row where four luxurious leather chairs were arranged. They were different from the other chairs in the hall. I smiled. Soon, I’ll be sitting right beside my husband in one of those chairs.
Wale arrived few minutes into the service time in a well-ironed navy blue suit followed by another man who carried his bible. I sat behind Wale smiling, my heart full of joy. Ten people showed up. Two of them were newcomers. At the end of the service, Wale was furious.
‘Who were you expecting to fill up the empty spaces? Angels? This is not good enough. Only ten persons were in attendance today. Do you know how heavily we paid for this place?
Wale faced a man wearing round spectacles. He had a laptop in front of him. ‘Bro Yemi, what happened? It was your duty to create awareness for this service. Today’s attendance is nothing to write home about.’
Yemi cleared his throat. ‘We tried our best sir. We’ve been sharing the church flyers around since Monday. I even sponsored an ad for our services on instagram.’
Wale settled into a chair in front of us. ‘This can’t happen next week. We must engage in massive publicity. Every evening this week, we’ll be going out to talk to people. If we want this church to grow, it will require our commitment and sacrifice.’
Elizabeth and I counted the offering. Three thousand naira. Wale demanded for the money and when I gave it to him, his countenance fell.
‘Yemisi you know we can’t give to this work the same way our members do. We must surpass them. We are the leadership of this church, we must task ourselves more.’
Wale said he’d drop me at home. He was quiet behind the wheels and it made me uncomfortable. I touched his shoulders.
‘Wale, what’s wrong? I know you expected more from today’s service but remember that seeds grow. Deeper life, Winners, Redeemed Christian Church of God, all these great ministries started small. Their numerical strength didn’t happen in one Sunday.’
He glanced briefly at me. ‘That’s not what is bothering me. We need funds. Can I get some money from you? I’m expecting some money soon. I’ll return it once the cash comes in.’
‘How much are we talking about?’ I asked.
‘One hundred and fifty thousand naira.’
What! That was all of my salary. If I emptied my account, how would I survive for the month? ‘I don’t have that kind of money Wale.’
‘What about hundred thousand naira. Listen, I promise I’ll pay you back.’
I sighed. ‘That’s fine. Do you want me to send it to your account?’
I typed in the code for the transfer. I remembered I had saved Wale’s account number when he pleaded I send him some money while I was still at Cornerstone.
‘Yes.’ Wale answered. I sent the hundred thousand naira to him. My heart cut when I saw that I just had fifty thousand naira left. I comforted myself with the fact that my office still owed me forty thousand naira for commission on the sales I’d pitched
Wale’s phone beeped. He smiled as he stared at the credit alert on his phone. He parked by the side of the road and hugged me tight.
‘Thank you Yemisi. God bless you. I feel so relieved.’ Wale said, laughing. I was glad to see that he was happy. Whatever it would cost me, I’d see that his ministry progresses.
As he pulled back into the road, he looked at me. ‘You left your Pastor thirsty today.’
At first I didn’t understand what he meant. Then it occurred to me what Wale was saying. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry.’
‘It’s fine. Mistakes happen sometimes. Anyway, every Sunday, make sure that there are two bottles of water for the Pastor and possibly snacks. You can get these small cupcakes they sell in eateries. Just something for the Pastor to nibble at.’
I nodded. ‘Noted sir.’
I was melancholic after Wale dropped me at home. I had been excited during the service but the excitement had disappeared and with it was replaced an unexplainable gloom. Again, I felt used. Why I was feeling that way, I couldn’t explain. If the man you are in a relationship with needs help, wasn’t it expected for his sweetheart to support him? Why was I feeling like the support I was rendering Wale was a burden.
I lay on my bed and the emptiness in my heart wouldn’t go away. I didn’t have the strength to cook so I took garri flakes topped with groundnut. That too didn’t go down my throat well. I was washing my cup under the kitchen sink when Yewande called me. I hissed and rejected the call.
Why was she calling me after she’d decided to stay away from me? The phone rang again. I still did not answer it. When it rang the third time, I sensed something was wrong.
‘Yes, what can I do for you?’
‘Yemisi, Dad has been rushed to the hospital. Mum said she tried reaching you earlier in the day.’
So now that money was involved, my sister knew how to contact me. ‘I was in the church. My phone was switched off.’
‘We have to send money to mummy urgently. Dad is in a coma.
I moved away from the kitchen to the living room. ‘Coma?’ Tears welled my eyes and I wished I’d not given Wale the hundred thousand naira.
‘How much does mum need?’
‘A hundred thousand naira will do for now. He may likely be transferred to a teaching hospital.’
I closed my eyes. ‘I don’t have that kind of money.’
‘Yemisi this is serious. You can’t be hoarding money at this time. This is our father we are talking about.’
I flared up. ‘I said I don’t have that amount of money!’ I ended the call and paced the house wondering what to do.
I imagined my father lying helplessly in the hospital and the nurses shouting at my mother to get the bills paid or they would throw him out. My phone started ringing again. This time it was my mother. I couldn’t answer it knowing I’d break down in tears. I had to figure out how to get the money.
I felt depressed when I checked the amount I had as my savings. I’d worked in Pavillion for three months and at least each month I went home with nothing less than two hundred thousand naira. I did not pay for rent. I didn’t buy designer shoes or clothes. It was true that in the first month, I’d sent fifty thousand naira home and thirty thousand at another time. How did money disappear from my hands?
That didn’t matter at the moment. It was how to raise a hundred thousand naira for my father’s treatment that was topmost. I emptied my account and savings and sent eighty thousand naira to my mother promising to send the balance. I was relieved when mum said Yewande’s husband had sent twenty thousand to her earlier that day.
The last one thousand naira I had got me to work the following day. I refused to pick Wale’s call. I just didn’t feel like talking to him. Taiwo noticed I was withdrawn and came to my table. He closed my laptop and pulled me to my feet.
‘Let’s go and have lunch.’ He said. I wanted to refuse but he wouldn’t hear it so I followed him to our regular lunch spot.
‘You’ve been quiet since morning.’ He said, after we placed our orders. ‘What’s wrong?’
I fought tears and tried to smile. ‘My father is in the hospital and I am broke.’
He looked at me with love in his eyes. I wondered when he’d get over the fact that we could never be together.
‘Why didn’t you tell me Yemisi? You shouldn’t be going through this alone.’ He reached into his wallet and pulled out his ATM. ‘How much do you need?’
I let out a deep breath. A part of me wanted to tell him not to bother but I was too broke to refuse. ‘Just enough to sustain me until we are paid our commission.’
‘I heard we’ll be paid next week.’ He held out the ATM to me. ‘When we leave here, you can stop to withdraw some money before going back to the office.’ he paused. ‘Don’t worry, dad will be fine.
‘Thank you.’ I nodded.
So you can imagine how upset I was when Wale called at the end of the following month to ask for fifty thousand naira. He had not returned the hundred thousand naira he borrowed yet he had the guts to ask me for another money. If indeed he wanted to live by faith in his ministry, was that faith connected with borrowing money everywhere? Was that how men of God built their ministries?
I wanted to tell Wale to go get a job and run the church alongside. I wondered how a person could sit at home all day and all he does is read his bible and pray.
‘Wale, I don’t have any money to give to you. I pay my tithe to your church. I contributed twenty thousand naira just last week. My father is still recuperating and I have to send him some money.”
‘Is that why you are raising your voice at me Yemisi?’ Wale said, coolly.
I felt a pang of guilt. ‘I’m sorry. I’m just overwhelmed by all the numerous needs before me. .’
Wale was clearly angry. ‘I’m asking you to support me while I solidify the foundation for our ministry. This is not going to continue forever. Do you think I’m comfortable asking you for money? You know what, you can keep your money. God will take care of his work.’
I was restless all night. I tried calling Wale in the morning to apologize but he didn’t answer my call. For several minutes, I sat on my bed, my head aching badly. Where was I getting things wrong? What exactly was wrong with me?
Abigail and I fixed Saturday morning to go shopping. Earlier in the week, Stephen, my boss had given me twenty thousand naira as commission for a deal we pulled off. I decided to spend the money wisely. On my long list, I had foodstuff, beverages and toiletries. I figured that if I had those items at home, even when I am down on cash, there’d be something to fall back on.
I got to the front door of Abigail’s house and heard Mama D’s voice.
I froze. I tip-toed away from the entrance.
There was no way I was going to walk in that door. The other option was to go through the back door of the kitchen but still my mentor would see me because I’d have to pass through the side of the sitting room to Abigail’s room. I leaned on the wall, thinking of what to do.
My forty days prayer had elapsed and I’d not kept to even a single day. The last time Mama called to ask why I had not sent any report to Papa, I immediately pretended like I couldn’t hear her and ended the call. I sent her a text that I could not hear her properly and that I’d call her when I had access to better signals. I felt really bad telling that lie and it dampened my mood throughout that day. If I went in now, she’d want a detailed report and I had none to give.
I called Abigail. ‘Babe, I’m waiting outside for you.’
‘You are waiting outside keh?’Abigail said. ‘Come inside the house jare. I’ve not taken my bath yet.’
I heard Mama D’s voice in the background and she was asking if I was the one on the other line. My heart almost fainted when Abigail told her I was.
‘Mama D is here. ‘Abigail said. ‘Come inside the house my friend. I don’t know why you are in such a hurry.’
I had no choice now that Mama knew I was around. Every step I took towards the front door made my heart thump fast. If Mama asks if I was still communicating with Wale, what would I say?
God, please don’t let Mama ask me any questions about Wale. Please Lord, I prayed quietly.
The door opened before I reached the veranda and Abigail leaned at the entrance in a camisole and knickers. Her hairnet hung loosely on her head.
‘Here she comes.’ She said and hugged me as I climbed the wide veranda. I pushed her away playfully.
‘Smelling somebody. Go and take your bath.’
Abigail pulled my hand into the living room. Her mother lay on one of the sofas with a pillow behind her head while my mentor sat with her legs on a stool, eating from a plate of fruit salad.
I went down on my knees and greeted them. ‘Ekaro ma.’
‘Ka ro o. Bawoni.’ Abigail’s mother asked how I was doing. I responded that I was fine and reached for an empty seat.
‘I’ll be with you shortly. Time for a hot shower.’ Abigail said as she moved away from me. I wish I could go with her.
She stopped and turned. ‘You want anything? There is moi-moi in the kitchen.’
I shook my head, ‘I’m fine. I ate before leaving the house.’
Abigail left me in the hands of the two women. I sat there, nervous. Mama D stared long at me and I knew I couldn’t run away from answering questions about Wale.
‘Why didn’t you want to come into the house?’ Abigail’s mother asked.
Before I could respond, my mentor cut in. ‘She is running away from me.’
I frowned. ‘No mama, how can you say that?’
Mama raised her nose. ‘You young people think you can be very smart. We may be getting old but it never affects our spiritual sight. Did you obey the instruction we gave to you?’
I didn’t answer. Mama waited for my response. When I looked at her and said nothing, she smiled sadly.
‘You didn’t end the relationship with him right?’
Mama D raised her hand. ‘You don’t have to tell me. The answer is clear enough. I hope you come to understand that all we are doing is for your good. We don’t have any ulterior motive. Have I ever tried to match make you with any brother?
I shook my head. ‘No ma.’
‘Is there any brother we are trying to push in your face?’
‘All we desire is that you birth the right conviction by bringing your emotions under control in the place of prayers. That’s all we seek. Well, we can’t force you to do what you don’t want to do.’
Abigail’s mother just lay there watching us. Finally she sat up and looked at me
‘I’ll be organizing a two-day retreat for single ladies in August. You are invited.’
My mentor clapped her hands excitedly and went to sit with her friend. ‘Bunmi this is interesting. So finally this meeting is going to take place. I’m so happy.’
Abigail’s mother chuckled. ‘Sometimes, I feel I should have done this long before now. I was busy pursuing a career in a bank. I have risen to the position of a branch manager but what significant impact have I made in people’s lives?’
I was glad that the conversation had shifted away from Wale. I stared admiringly at the beautiful woman who had mothered my friend. The woman had refused to marry after giving birth to Abigail out of wedlock. Rather she’d pursued her career and had become top in her field.
‘Don’t talk like that.’ My mentor said. ‘Your resources have gone to places you couldn’t reach. Besides, you’ve been a very active steward in the church for many years now. When I see you working so diligently in the ushering unit, I’m always impressed. Even with your tight schedule, you don’t joke with your spiritual commitments. If God is bringing this nudge to impact single ladies, it means you have stepped into another season of your life. It doesn’t change the fact that other seasons have been fruitful in their own ways.’
I looked in the direction of Abigail’s room, waiting impatiently for her to come out. The two women were engrossed in discussion of their past exploits, while I sat there forgotten. It was time to disappear before Mama raise questions I’ll not be able to answer.
As I stood up to go to Abigail’s room, my friend burst out of her room in a long gown over black leggings.
‘I’m ready. Let’s go.’ She took the car keys on the center table and planted a kiss on her mother’s cheek. ‘Don’t miss me too much mum.’
Abigail’s mother smiled and slapped her daughter playfully on her back. ‘Drive carefully. Don’t bash my car please.’
Mama D looked at me again. ‘Omo, I want to hear from you.’
I bowed slightly. ‘Yes ma.’
At the market we walked from one shop to shop ticking our list and dropping the items we had purchased into a big sac. When the sac got filled, we opened another and by the time we were done, we could hardly carry the heavy sacs.
On our way out of the market, I remembered I needed some under wears. Instead of going out of the gate, we crossed to the section of the market where underwear sellers had their wares displayed in small narrow shops. We stopped in the first shop. A fair skinned woman with thick ibo accent reached for transparent nylon bag containing different colours of brassiere. As I picked one that I liked, someone shouted my name.
Abigail and I turned towards the voice. From a distance I saw one of my students from Cornerstone College running towards me. She flew into my arms and we almost toppled to the floor had Abigail and the underwear seller not grabbed me from behind.
‘Phebe!’ I said, pulling away enough to look at her face and then drawing her into my arms again.
Tears trickled down Phebe’s face. ‘Miss Yemisi, we miss you. Please come back.’
My eyes were filled with tears too. Memories that I’d buried resurrected. Holding Phebe close took me back to Cornerstone College. I was back there laughing with my students and talking to them about life. With the beautiful memory came the pain of losing Dotun.
‘What are you doing here?’
She turned and pointed to a slender woman standing in front of a shop negotiating the price of stockings. ‘I came with my mother to the market.’
Phebe’s mother turned in our direction and waved at me. I waved back.
We’ve been trying to reach you. Can I have your new number?’
I punched my number into Phebe’s phone and took hers. I promised I’d give her a call before the end of the week.
I must confess, seeing Phebe again stirred up emotions I wanted buried. As much as I tried to act like everything was fine, Abigail could tell that something was wrong.
‘Something is bothering you.’ Abigail said, as we took my stuff to the kitchen.
I wrapped my fingers around a chilled bottle of pepsi on the kitchen table. ‘I think I’m confused about myself, work and relationship
Abigail squeezed my shoulders. ‘You can’t be confused Yemisi. You may not know what to do yet but there is light. There is clarity girl. We could pray together next weekend.’
I folded my hands. ‘I’d love that so much. I need the clarity badly.’ I wrapped my hand around Abigail’s waist. ‘You should get going now so you don’t get stuck in traffic.’
Abigail had barely driven away from the compound, when calls began to flood my phone. My SS 2A students.
‘Miss Yemisi, I can’t believe I’m speaking with you. Oh my God! I’ve missed you.’
‘Miss Yemisi, we need you. Nothing has been the same since you left. Please come back.’
‘At least come and say hi to us. Please Miss Yemisi.’
‘We’ve not had any class teacher like you. We want you back please.’
That night, I rolled restlessly on the bed. I miss them and it made my heart ache badly. Even if I decide to go back there, there was no way I’d be accepted, not with the way I had left abruptly. There was no going back. I’d have to look past the pain and face the future.
For a long time, I stayed awake.
Click here to read Episode 8