The ride back home was quiet. Words were too heavy to spill and all Nike wanted to do was slide under the blanket and never get out of bed again.
She missed Lagos and her law firm. She wished she was back at the office poring over law journals and brainstorming with her colleagues on ways to deal with bad cases that had a high chance of being struck out in court. . Never in her life had she encountered this kind of drama, not even when her mother was chased out of her father’s house.
She sighed and turned towards her husband. His eyes stayed focused on the road even though she knew his mind was torn in different directions. She wanted him to scream at her, to tell her what terrible wife she was. Maybe that would make her feel better. But he would not look her way, not even a quick glance.
Nike threw her head back on the car seat, angry at God for making life horrible for them. Did her friend, Gloria, experience things like this? She made a mental note to call her friend. Maybe she didn’t know how to do this right. Maybe she needed a lecture on how to be an effective Pastor’s wife. She closed her eyes and tried to steady her breath.
The car came to a halt in front of the lodge. When David turned off the engine, he reached for his shirt from the back seat and stepped out of the car. Nike remained where she was.
I’m a horrible Pastor’s Wife, she muttered silently.
The sun had begun to rise behind the horizon and somewhere a cock crew. David opened the passenger door and stared at his wife.
‘Let’s go in.’
Nike shook her head. ‘I just want to be here. I’ll join you later.’
David closed the door and walked back to the driver’s side. He got into the car and closed the door. He faced his wife.
‘Sweetheart, we’ll get through this.’
‘It was my fault. If I had not-‘ she swallowed hard and shook her head. ‘If I had just focused on my job as a Pastor’s wife, this wouldn’t have happened.’
‘What exactly do you think is the job of a Pastor’s wife?’
‘Support her husband. Teach the women the bible. Evangelise. Get the women to love me. Be more focused with church work.’
He held her hand and rubbed his cheeks against hers ‘Nike.’
She loved when he did that. The way he rubbed his cheeks against hers always eased her tension. She stifled a sob and leaned towards him. ‘I’m so sorry honey. I promise I’ll never let my profession get in the way again. Maybe I should just go and burn all my certificates.’
He smiled. ‘You are not serious.’ He cupped her chin with his hands. ‘We trust God to help us walk through this okay? Let’s go in.’
As they stepped out of the car, Nike sighted a group of people walking towards them. They were members of the church led by Pastor Joshua and his wife. Nike wondered why they were just coming out of their homes after the building had gone down. Just a handful of them had been at the church. David waited for them to reach the house before walking towards them.
‘Pastor, we are very sorry about this unfortunate incident..’ Pastor Joshua started. The others who followed him also expressed their regrets.
‘I’m still asking the question, what led to the fire?’ David’s attention was now focused on Pastor Joshua.
Pastor Joshua cleared his throat. ‘We are still conducting our investigations sir.’
A red jalopy sped into the open space and roared, emitting smoke before jerking to a stop behind David’s car. Pastor Aderinto jumped out of the car and rushed towards the small crowd. He stopped in front of David.
“When Pastor Joshua told me about the fire. The way I jumped out of the house and rushed here ehn, you would thing my wife was having labour pain. I’m so sorry about this.”
Pastor Aderinto’s wife slowly got down from the car. Immediately the women who were sympathising with Nike saw her, they left Nike’s side and ran to Pastor Aderinto’s wife. They hugged her and laughed as she touched a cheek here and tickled another there. They said they missed her. They had not had an interesting time since she left. They talked as if Nike wasn’t there. They pleaded her to show up at least on a sunday.
A pang of jealousy rose in Nike’s heart. The women had never warmed up to her like that before. Whenever she called for a women’s meeting, they appeared with their unsmiling faces and stiff countenance. Apart from the time when Iya Ronke came with food, none of the women had ever visited. When she paid them a visit, they acted very formal around her. Was she so unapproachable?
The two Pastors and their wives went into the house while Pastor Joshua led the crowd away from the lodge.
Pastor Aderinto’s wife introduced herself to the couple as Lolade. She apologised for not showing up when they had first arrived. David said they understood and her husband had explained to them why she had to be away.
When the Pastors left for the church, Lolade faced Nike.
‘You have to be careful here ma. Overlook whatever you see and just play your role. The women here do not like to be told what to do. If you just love them as they are, you will have no problem. You shouldn’t cross your boundary.’
Nike frowned. ‘Did anyone tell you I was crossing my boundary?’
Lolade nodded. ‘Yes. To be sincere with you. Some of the women have complained how difficult you are. They don’t like you.
Nike felt her heart sink to the floor. She wanted this woman to leave. What she needed was comfort and not an addition to her pain.
‘And iya Abeke could be of great support to you if you just stop antagonising her.’
At the mention of Iya Abeke, a nut went loose in Nike’s head. ‘Was that what she told you? That I antagonised her?’
‘Didn’t you?’ Resentment filled her heart for this woman she had just met few minutes ago.
‘I know you have a reputation for being a good lawyer and we are not as educated as you are, but you’ll have to leave that in Lagos and focus on your purpose here.’
Nike could feel jealousy spread through the woman’s face. She had seen similar expressions from some of the ladies in her church back in Lagos when she had driven her new red KIA into the church.
They had told her no one would marry her and she had smiled at their ignorance of the man they were all going to meet hitting the dance floor with her six months later. David not only married her, he moved over to her church.
Lolade continued to talk but Nike wasn’t listening anymore.
When she said, ‘I’m praying God gives you children.’ Nike raised her head and all she could hear was ‘at least I am better than you.’
She was grateful when Pastor Aderinto returned some minutes later and they left the house.
By evening, Nike had talked herself into rising above the challenges and looking at the bright future. When her mother couldn’t pay the school fees, she had taken charge and learnt different vocational skills that could fetch her money. She had learnt never to allow life press her down. Crying over spilled milk was a waste of time and she had no intention of wasting her precious time.
She called her bank in Lagos to know how much she had left in her account. With that, the reconstruction process could begin. She would sell her jeep and her furniture in Lagos and if it meant selling their almost completed house in Mowe, she would do so. No way was defeat going to conquer her.
Her husband was kneeling by the bed, preparing his sermon when she got dressed for the market. He had decided to go on with the Sunday service the next day. When she got back from the market, they would go round the town informing the members that service would hold the next day.
Nothing must stop the work of God, David had said.
Her phone rang as she stepped out of the room. It was Eunice,
‘Nike, how are you feeling now?’
‘Eunice! I’m good. I’m sorry I couldn’t see when you came to my house. Thank you for rescuing Ronke. I should come see you next week.’
‘That’ll be great. The men we found in your bedroom confessed that Iya Abeke and Ronke’s step-father were behind the attack on you and Ronke.’
‘I’m not even surprised.’ Nike smiled. ‘I hope they’ve been arrested.’
‘They were arrested this morning. In fact I’m still at the police station at Ipetumodu. Iya Abeke was released this afternoon.’
‘The men denied mentioning her name. I still don’t understand. When I asked to see the statements they had made, It only carried Ronke’s step father. I felt like a fool arguing that I heard one of the guys mention Iya Abeke’s name. Anyway, at least we have Ronke’s step-father. We’ll be filing a case in court this week.’
‘Do you need my help with this?.’ Nike had uttered that statement before she remembered her promise to stay away from law practice.
‘No. We can handle this. Just take your rest and eat well.’
‘Thank you so much Eunice. I don’t know how to repay you for this.’
‘This is my life’s calling remember. See this as my way of saying thank you for standing by me when everybody thought I was wasting my time helping abused women and girls get a life. You remember when Dad got a job for me in a corporate law firm?’
Nike chuckled. ‘Yes and you told him you don’t want to sit in an office full of boring files. ‘Your mother almost wept when she heard you had started your NGO’
Eunice laughed. “I’m not making a lot of money but I am fulfilled. The North is the next place I want to storm. Child marriage must stop. I am already solidifying my plans.’
‘I’m really proud of you.’
‘ Thank you so much. You’ve been a great encouragement to me. Nike, I have a session with some of my girls. I’ll talk to you later.’
As Nike drew close to the market, the fish seller she usually patronised ran to her.
‘Don’t enter the market. Give me the list of things you want to buy and I’ll go get them for you.’
Nike stared at the woman, puzzled. From a distance, she could hear some women calling out to the fish seller to attend to a buyer who was standing in front of her store. The woman turned to see why she was being called and immediately directed her attention back to Nike.
‘Iyawo Pastor, give me the money and the list.’
‘Iya Ope, what’s going on?’
‘It’s Iya Abeke. She is-‘ the woman paused. ‘I’ll explain later. Just give me the list.’
Nike brought out 700 naira and gave it to her. ‘That’s for the fish. You know what I like. I’m going into the market.’
‘Iyawo Pastor!’ Iya Ope tried to hold her hand but she wrenched it free and walked into the market.
Nike was approaching the gari sellers when she saw Iya Abeke standing with another woman. they were backing her and talking to some excited women who were clapping and dancing. When some of the market people saw her, they began to whisper to each other. One of the gari sellers got up from her seat and playfully tried to push Nike toward a tree. Nike frowned and pulled her hand away.
‘Yetunde, what’s going on there? Who is the woman Iya Abeke is standing with?
Yetunde retied her wrapper and folded her hands. ‘Do you know Christ Redemption Church?’
‘Yes I do. The newly opened church two streets away from mine .’
She nodded. ‘That’s the Pastor’s wife. Iya Abeke is trying to persuade the women from your church to convince their husbands to move over to her church. You see why I cannot be a christian. Ifa is enough for me.’
Just then, Iya Abeke’s voice rang loud and clear. ‘We need peace in this community and it is clear Christian Faith Assembly cannot give that to us. We can see what happened last night. God is fighting for us. But I know my dear friend.’ she tapped the woman beside her. ‘We will enjoy God in her church. She will show us the way of the Lord. Can you imagine, that useless woman from Lagos called her boys to arrest me. Is that the kind of Iyawo Pastor we want?’
Some of the women who were members of Nike’s church quietly sneaked back to their spots when they caught Nike’s hateful glare but majority remained enthralled by Iya Abeke’s speech.
Nike’s face grew pale. She clenched her teeth. ‘How dare she steal what belongs to me!’
The woman beside Iya Abeke stepped forward, waving at the women. ‘When you come this Sunday with your family, there will be lots of free food and drinks!’
The women clapped. Nike smiled at the onlookers and walked out of the market amidst staring glances.
She couldn’t take her eyes off the newly painted building of Christ Redemption church as they drove by, that Sunday morning. Even though it was not 8a.m yet, the place was already bustling with activities.
Nike had not told her husband what transpired at the market the previous day and she had remained mute when her husband wondered at the cold response some of the members gave them as they went round town, reminding them of the Sunday service.
‘What if nobody shows up for today’s service.’.
David sighed ‘Then we will have a beautiful time with the Lord. Just you and I.’
The car pulled in front of a church that was, and Nike shivered again at the heap that sat at the center of the floor that once held the church. Tears welled up in her eyes again.
David opened the boot and brought out two mats. Nike helped him with one as they walked to a small building at the back. They were lucky to have part of children’s church still standing.
‘Where are the chairs here?’ Nike asked, looking around at the empty church.
David laid the mats on the floor. ‘Have you forgotten we had a family meeting at the main church on Friday?’
Nike remembered. David had organized a family meeting for prayers and the study of the word. All the children had joined the adults in the main church where they had been prayed for.
David pulled off his dark suit and straightened his tie before sitting crossed legged on the mat. His wife pulled off her heels and adjusted her hat as she sat beside her husband.
Immediately she landed on the mat, she covered her face with her hands and began to cry. She raised her head to find her husband crying too. That broke her heart.
She moved close to him and instead of burying her teary face into his chest, he did into hers. It was the first time he had cried since the fire incident. A cry born out of frustration and despair.
She wrapped her hands around his shoulders as he continued to weep. She knew how badly he wanted to succeed in his ministerial work but she had ruined it for him. She had dashed all his hopes. She has brought him to ground zero.
Read Episode 9