8 FREELY 2 – BENEFICIAL

While I worked with the new senior pastor of the trendy Revive the World Church, who happened to be my father, and the secret first son of the founder, Pastor Annie, his wife got a visit from an unexpected leader of the church.

No other than Pastor Sade, the property manager of the resort. She’s the same woman Brother Julius called on to help accommodate us on our first day.

My mum wasn’t the very outgoing type, though ironically, she could be loud and playful at home, and with people she found common ground. Since Sunday, just days earlier when we were introduced in the church, she had been morose. Beside the bad dream she continued to have, none of the many visitors from different departments of the church made any impression on her. Dad had complained she was refusing to adapt but I could only imagine the internal feelings she battled with daily.

Pastor Sade was asked to sit in the guest parlour downstairs while Mama Pepper went to fetch Mum.

Annie frowned. “What does she want?”

Mama Pepper shrugged. “Ah, Mammy, I don’t know. She’s one of the rich women in the church.”

I forgot to mention Mama Pepper was one of the nosiest people on earth, and I loved her to bits. Already. She wasn’t educated in any formal way, but she knew her job, and did it well. In addition, she made good observations and was never afraid to tell.

“Well, tell her I’m coming.”

It took Mum over an hour to get to the visitor. Pastor Sade stood when she entered, and curtseyed.

“Good morning, Pastor Annie.”

As formal as can be, and my mother did not take the cue. She looked at the silver-plated wall clock. “Oh, it’s still morning. Good morning. You’re welcome.”

She noticed the drink and snacks earlier served and nodded subconsciously before she took a seat right across the room from her guest.

Sade sat. “I hope I didn’t wake you up.”

Annie arched her eyebrow. “At almost twelve?” She pressed her lips together. “No, I was wide awake.”

Sade clasped her hands. “I wanted to come earlier, but a lot has been going on, many people moving here and there.” She paused. “I hope you like the house.”

My mother wanted to snap, tell her if she didn’t like the house, what would have happened. Instead, she sucked in her breath.

“It’s a beautiful house, thank you.”

“I personally supervised the re-decoration.” Sade looked around. “I wasn’t sure about the colours you liked but from our meeting last time, you struck me as a very conservative person.”

Annie also looked around. She didn’t think the décor or colours were conservative but she nodded. “They are beautiful.”

Sade stood. “I want to walk you round the house. There are parts we didn’t quite finish. I left them on purpose because I wanted to put just what you want.”

Annie remained seated. “Pastor Sade, please sit down.”

The other woman hesitated but obliged.

“This whole house,” Annie spread her hands as wide out as possible, “is too big for my family. We are more than happy with what you have done here.”

“But really, some rooms upstairs were left unpainted. The walls were just screeded and—”

“Please ma, we’re very okay.”

Sade stared with her mouth open for some seconds, then sighed. “I also brought a collection of artworks. I didn’t want to hang them up until you arrive and we can do it together.”

“Artwork.”

“Yes,” Sade nodded. “Paintings. They are really beautiful and—”

“You bought them?”

“It was part of the budget for the interior designs. I just didn’t want to hang them up till you arrived.”

Annie scoffed. “How much did you buy them?”

“They were just a part of a whole lot of purchases—”

“Did you not get a receipt?”

“Well, yes. There are different types. We got one for every room in the house, different shapes and concepts.”

“So, the most expensive is how much?”

Sade smiled. “Well, I’ll say the cheapest was about sixty-five thousand and some change.”

“And the highest price?”

“Half a million.”

Annie jumped to her feet. “Thank you, Pastor Sade. You have been very good. My family loves God, and we are very modest. Besides, the church has benefitted us more than you can imagine. Thank you but you can go with the artwork or any other money you want to spend on the house.” She tented her hands and pressed her lips together. “Bye.”

Sade shook her head once to probably shake off the heat on her face, and the extent of her embarrassment. After a moment, thick silence hung in the air like a smoke, she stood, and curtseyed.

“Thank you, ma. Bye.”

Her stilted heels rang through the house and in Annie’s brain long after she was gone.

When my mother related the story, a different kind of heat engulfed me. I didn’t think Mum handled the woman well.

 

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MONDAY CHOCOLATE MELTDOWN – #BASISFORLOVE

We had four assignments in all. The third was a Bible passage to read, discuss and summarize. We also had to choose a day of the week to pray and fast together.

The counselling and assignments helped us to go through the weeks and understand ourselves better. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses, and my partner’s. Without it, Aaron and I would have slept together, no doubt. It went to say in the multitude of counsel, there indeed was safety.

Before we knew it, our wedding was less than two weeks away, and our final assignment was in our possession. I couldn’t wait to see what it was and as we hurried out of the church office, I read it to Aaron.

“Share your deepest fears. And your darkest secret.” I stopped walking. “Are they trying to break us up?”

Aaron chuckled. “How?”

I shrugged. “I don’t want to know your secret.”

“I want to know yours.” He took my hand. “Come. I know the perfect place to share fears and secrets. The beach.”

My fiancé was one of a kind. I wasn’t dressed for the beach, and neither was he, but we stopped at a restaurant, bought some food and drinks, and headed there.

Being a Sunday, it was full, but we found a clean, clear area, rented a huge umbrella, a table and two chairs, and got down to our task.

I took out the food from the bags. “Who’ll go first?”

“Ladies first, of course.”

“I don’t have any secret.”

The fried rice and roasted spicy chicken smelt good, and I busied myself with it to hide my insecurity. Aaron was an accomplished man. I’d met his parents. They’d been married for over forty years, and made hundreds of millions of naira from their shipping, and oil and gas businesses. With their three sons, Aaron being the second, and a daughter, who was older than the boys, anyone would want to be a part of this family.

My greatest fear was they would never accept me. Though they seemed nice, and didn’t talk about my non-existent family, I was afraid.

“Yes?” Aaron stopped my hand on its way to my mouth with a bite of chicken. “What’s your greatest fear?”

“That I will die and not make heaven.”

He laughed. “Be serious.”

It was just too sensitive. These were issues Aaron and I should have discussed long before now but our relationship had been a bit queer. Me from down the ladder, and him not a talking person…amidst battling a sexual urge that seemed never to go away.

I exhaled. “I have many fears, unfortunately.” I pressed my lips together. “I don’t want to die like my mother.”

Aaron squeezed my hand. “You won’t. You don’t live like her.”

I cackled. “I do sincerely hope not. Her two husbands left her.”

“That must be hard on you. I know I won’t leave you anyway.”

I sneered. “Amen.”

“What kind of “amen” is that?”

I breathed in. “I fear you will.”

“God forbid. I love you. And I know I want to be with you. No matter what we go through together, I am loyal.”

I wanted desperately to believe all of it. “Amen,” I whispered.

“And I say amen too. Now, tell me your secret.”

“I don’t have any.” I shuddered. “Well, only one. Maybe not a secret, but something I’d wanted to tell you for a long time.”

I stole a glance at him. His brows were relaxed, like he didn’t feel the tension. I took his second hand, food ignored.

“You remember the night we met? I told you my mother was sick, and I needed money for her medical bill?” He nodded. I held his gaze. “She wasn’t sick.” I swallowed. “She was dying. The hospital sent her back home to die.”

It was one of the most difficult things I had to accept. I fought tears but they dropped all the same. Aaron held on to my hands, and I couldn’t hide my shame.

“We couldn’t afford any treatment. She had a leg wound which she’d tried to treat at home for months. The antibiotics prescribed by the time we took her to the hospital were too expensive. She died of tetanus.”

I tried a smile but the deep furrow on Aaron’s face did not change. “I came to the hotel that night just to get some money to give her a few last good days. She was a hairdresser, and she and Salome had not worked for months. I was in school.” My lips trembled. “I know I was a horrible person. To go out like that just for money to buy milk for a dying woman. And a nice dress.” I sobbed.

Aaron pulled me over to sit on his laps. “Ssh. You are not a horrible person, my love.”

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7 FREELY 2 – QUIZZICAL

With Madam Funke’s purse buried in Edidiong’s wardrobe, I decided to wear my journalistic cap, and follow my father to his office. Who knows what I will find there. Edidiong reminded me we were sworn to an oath.

I hissed. “What nonsense oath?”

He looked around and gave me his tongue.

Mum thought it was not good to follow Dad to the office. “What’s she going to be doing there?”

“You’ll be amazed,” Dad said. “There is so much work to do. I looked through the office yesterday and there are so many files I want to sort out. I need to get acquainted with all of them.”

Mum’s shoulder slouched. “You got back around 10pm yesterday. Now you’re going again with my daughter. Will you be gone for half of the night?”

Dad smiled. “She’ll be fine.”

My mother couldn’t be convinced. “You have a secretary that speaks through her nose. Is that not enough?”

Dad ushered me out of the house with a light shrug. “If she doesn’t like it, I’ll have the driver drop her back.”

Pastor Kent’s office was not on the floor we entered the church through last Sunday. I had noticed the ceiling in the worship auditorium was high, but didn’t think there were other floors on the administrative side. I was so wrong. Three floors catered to the offices. My father’s floor was the last.

The office was twice the size of the sitting room at home, and was fully furnished to be a sitting, conference, and office area.

I gasped and Dad laughed. “My reaction too the first time I entered.”

Mr. Festus carried Dad’s bag into the office right behind us, and excused himself. I looked around and touched surfaces.

“This is fantastic.” I looked at my dad. “Was this the office the former archbishop used?”

“I believe so, though it was cleaned out when I came. Even the furniture was changed.”

“Wow. All these are new? That must cost a fortune.”

Kentoroabasi, the missionary, smiled sadly. “You can’t even begin to imagine the waste I’ve seen. What happened to the old furniture? You can’t guess.”

I sat in one of four lush visitors’ seats facing my father’s leather swivel chair across a huge mahogany desk. “The staff shared it amongst themselves.”

“I wish. They are locked up in one room in Archbishop’s house. The wife wants to keep as memorabilia.”

My eyes widened. “I couldn’t have guessed.”

“Anyway,” Dad took his seat. “Let’s pray. I have several meetings today. So while I am attending them, you can continue with what we started at home, and sort out the branches for me.”

“Yes, sir.”

Dad prayed a simple prayer, and showed me all the folders on his laptop. “I had them sent to me from the server so I can look through without having to log in.”

“As in?”

My father laughed. “These were terms we heard in American and British detective or high-class business movies. This church is a million years ahead of what I ever knew.”

“You’ve learned fast, Daddy.”

“I have to.”

He excused me shortly afterward, and I looked at all the files on the computer. With what Madam Secretary taught us, I could open the files but do little else, so I started to write the stuff out in the book Dad gave me previously.

Until someone I least expected walked in about an hour later. Juwon. He was the young security man who pitied us and rescued our family the night we first arrived, and there was no hotel booking. On the day we went sight-seeing at the airstrip, we’d met his uncle, Bro. Julius working there.

“Hello. Huh, Daddy’s secretary said I could just walk in.”

And that was what he did, after a brisk knock. Well, I wasn’t doing anything funny, but what if I was? My father’s secretary had been as cold as I first knew her to be, and she made no mention of her purse so I had a story to think over there. If she’d asked, I would know she didn’t think she had anything to hide.

“Oh, good morning, sir.”

He laughed. “No, please. I am Juwon. Don’t call me sir.”

“Okay.” At least he spoke normally, not through his nose. “You’re welcome. My dad went for a meeting.”

“I know. He asked me to come over and put you through the computer.”

“Ah, very necessary. Thank you very much.” I turned the laptop toward him. “I’ve just been struggling.”

He took the seat beside me. “It’s not so difficult.”

For the next few hours, Juwon taught me how to navigate the computer, and he was quite good. At about noon, a woman came into the office to take our order for lunch. Apparently, there was a restaurant in the church premises, which made sense. We both ordered fried rice and chicken.

Over lunch, we made small talk.

“Are you on night duty today?”

“No. I left the job.”

“Oh, why?”

“I was just doing it to keep body and soul. I’m done with university and looking for work.”

That surprised me. He looked very young. About my age. “I thought you just finished secondary school.”

He chuckled. “That’s what many people say. In fact, my uncle says so too. I got in early though.” He shrugged. “I applied to the church university for masters’ degree but it’s so expensive.”

“This our church?”

“Yeah.”

“How much?”

“Almost a million naira per semester, and I have three semesters for the course I want to study.”

My mouth dropped open.

He smiled. “The school is really good, though. I mean, everyone says so.”

I didn’t need to find out he didn’t attend the church university for first degree.

“Must be.”

I kept thinking about Juwon even after I got back home at about 7pm with Dad. There was evening service at the church but Dad didn’t want us to attend…long story for another day. As for Juwon, why couldn’t the church do something for him? I planned to ask my father in the office the following day.

 

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6 FREELY 2 – EMOTIONAL

The discovery left us all drained. Dad was the late archbishop’s son?! No one knew. Dad definitely didn’t.

Edidiong frowned. “This has to be kept a secret. You understand?” He looked at me pointedly, knowing full well I might not be able to keep it.

I defended myself. “It’s Freke you should tell that to, not me.”

“Tell what?” Ima walked in. “What?”

“Dad is the dead archbishop’s son.” Freke hardly opened her mouth as she spoke.

I threw my hands up in the air. “You see!”

“Freke is harmless.” Edidiong snapped. “She won’t tell the people who matter.”

Ima had beautiful big eyes and she widened them. “Oh, so I don’t matter.”

My brother hissed. “You know what I mean.” He picked up all the stuff in the purse, and put them back.

My head rang in all different kinds of directions. Remembering this story was really not about me but my father, I cannot but imagine what he was faced with. The owner of this purse was his confidential secretary. What kind of relationship did she have with the late church leader that he would confide such a blatant scandal to her. And she carried it around in her possession.

It piqued my interest. What kind of relationship did she have with Pastor Kent Etim? Was she stiff and official, or flirty? Why would she have such a piece of explosive information I am sure the late first lady didn’t have, otherwise Dad may be dead, or never contacted?

“What are you thinking?”

I blinked, and stared at my siblings. “Why would she have this information?”

Edidiong chuckled. “Maybe she’s his very first daughter.”

I couldn’t be amused. We were in the middle of something so delicate, and scary, my journalistic mind was light years gone ahead. This could, and probably would blow up in our faces.

“I think Daddy should be told. This woman works for him directly. She could be sent to poison him. We don’t even know who has this information and who doesn’t. They may all know. See how cold the pastors were.”

I spoke rapidly to stop anyone interrupting. Still, my brother succeeded in cutting in.

“Then we just need to find a way to find out.”

“How?” I cried. “We don’t understand these people. We are new to everything here. We don’t have any friends.” I sighed. “At least, let Daddy and Mummy know.”

Edidiong clutched the purse to his chest. “I knew I shouldn’t have told you.”

“I think Eno is right.” Freke sat up. “We should let them know. As it is, we are probably the only people who don’t know this.”

He threw up his hands in the air. “And we are probably the only people who know. Then what will happen? If this is a big secret the dead archbishop had, and only told his good old kind secretary—”

“He was sleeping with!”

All of us turned to Ima. She had such a foul tongue. Edidiong slapped her before anyone could do anything, and she screamed.

“What’s your problem? What did I do?”

“You are such a fool, Ima.” He turned away from her. “As I was saying. If no one knows, telling Daddy and Mummy will blow everything out of proportion, and you people know your mother. She will shout, scream, tear the whole church down.” He swallowed. “Then what happens to us? We will go back to the village where we came from. We will do housework, and go to a smelly school.”

He opened his wardrobe. “I am not ready to go back to that life. So, in the meantime, I did not find any purse, or see any information. He threw the purse amongst his rumpled mixture of clean and dirty clothes. “If you don’t mind, ladies, I want to watch my TV.”

Freke giggled. My brother jumped on his bed beside her and fiddled with the remote control. Ima, threw herself on to Freke’s side.

I stood for long moments, working up my throat to say something. I couldn’t find words. For fear of touching Edidiong’s dirty underwear, I decided not to go after the purse. He was right too. What if this was some big secret and telling my parents would blow it up.

I straightened. “Well, let’s see if the woman will come after her purse. You are right, Edidiong. No one else may know the secret.”

He growled. “I am always right.

I could slap the smirk off his face. Instead, I marched out and went to vent my raw emotions in the privacy of my bathroom.

 

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MONDAY CHOCOLATE MELTDOWN – #BASISFORLOVE

“If you enter a room full of guests, where will you turn first?”

Aaron shook his head. “I don’t know. It depends. Do I know the people in the room? Is it my party? Are you in the room?”

I laughed. “There are a hundred questions. How does Pastor expect us to answer these? Oh my!”

“We have a week to submit.”

He took his glass of orange juice, and placed it on the stool beside him. It was three weeks after the first assignment before we got this. We opted to do it in my house after the shop closed, and we could hear Salome move inside the room since she excused herself to give us some privacy. It was late but Aaron wanted us to finish the assignment.

“I think I’ll scan and send to you. We have to answer separately.”

He shook his head. “Instruction is to answer together. That’s why there are two answer boxes. His and hers.”

I rolled my eyes. “Okay. Let’s start. If we can’t finish tonight—”

“I’ll sleep over.”

We looked at each other. He definitely couldn’t mean that. The very thought was insane. I didn’t think I could spend the night with Aaron so close by.

I heaved a sigh. “Let’s start.”

The easy ones went by fast. Size of shoes. Favourite things. Mother’s age. Some made us laugh hard like native name. Some got us thinking, like where to be in the next twenty years. Some were tricky and got us to reflect on our choices, like the one I read out loud earlier.

“Size of under—” My eyes widened. “Who set these questions?”

“Size of what? Underwear?” Aaron arched an eyebrow. “I wear large.”

I covered my face and laughed. “Don’t even imagine I will tell you that.” I looked at the sheet of paper. “I’m sure my pastor didn’t see this.”

“Your pastor is very realistic and I love him.” He took the paper from me, and dropped it. “I can’t think straight when you laugh like that. What is it about you? What do you do to me?”

I was going to ask him the same question. Did married people feel this way? Always in need, wanting to touch, kiss?

He traced his finger over my face. “I feel so carnal. So immoral. I’ve never been like this with any of my old girlfriends.”

His words got me thinking. “Maybe because you never had to exercise any self-control with them.”

His voice was hoarse, and low. “Maybe.”

I picked the paper. “If your partner got upset, what does he/she do first?”

“I think I should go,” he said but didn’t stand.

His hand dropped to my neck, and he massaged it. I struggled to breathe.

I gasped. “Salome is in. We can’t do anything anyway.” I took his hand away, and stared blankly at the assignment.

And with great restrain, and several stops to breathe, we went through a hundred questions, some making us more aroused than not.

I knew these were also tests of a kind. Several questions impressed on our ability at self-restraint. Close to midnight, we finished up, and Aaron pulled me into a hug. I buried my head in his chest, and wanted to cry. It felt so good to be in his arms.

He drew up my chin and looked into my eyes. “I love you, so much, Shirley.”

“I love you more.”

He kissed my mouth gently. “I have to go.”

I nodded. He walked briskly out the door and I hugged myself. Victory over temptations was as sweet as it was bitter.

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5 FREELY 2 – CONFIDENTIAL

Church people visited the house from our first day to welcome us. My mum was particularly wary. We’d been in this situation before on several occasions, but with a different kind of people of course, villagers bearing fruits from their farms. This time, we had governors presenting luxury cars. That’s an exaggeration though.

However, none of the leaders of the church, or their family members came. Not even Pastor Favour’s wife who’d been instrumental to our earlier stay. I knew the class thing would come into play here, but still, I was disappointed. I wanted to meet people, make friends, start living again. It wasn’t happening fast enough.

Since we had free wi-fi, and a computer in the living room for general use, we succumbed to learning, three days after we’d been looking at it like it was rocket science. None of us knew how to use one. Mum had worked in an office in Uyo briefly, and knew how to power it and move around a little, but nothing much else.

“I really wish someone could come around the house, and teach us how to use the computer,” I mumbled over dinner.

Dad answered, “I will ask my secretary to come to the house.”

Mum arched her eyebrows. “With all the people coming already? Please, no.”

“If any of them can help,” Dad shrugged. “Why not?”

“Hmm.” Mum chuckled. “You talk as if you don’t know your people. Is it with the local accent we speak and their Americana they will teach these children?”

An impatience edge crept into Dad’s voice. “Do you want to adjust or not?”

“Adjust! Is it that easy to adjust!”

No one said anymore after that. It was the beginning of many dramas in our family. Stories from here onward becomes quite depressing at times, as my parents struggle to find their place in this new life thrust on them.

Remember both Pastors Kent and Annie had wondered for long why they were chosen to take over leadership of Revive the World Ministries, a church with over five hundred branches worldwide, and as I discovered with billions of Nigerian naira to their credit. Up until then, my parents didn’t even have a chequing account to their names.

Well, we had just been introduced to the church three days earlier, and Dad had been in his new office for two days. None of the pastors had walked in to welcome him unless summoned. It was a departure from what he was used to, where the locals would troop in and out to make sure he was settling well.

To say the least, this was different, and we all soon found out how seriously.

The following day, despite Mum’s angry outburst, Dad’s secretary, a beautiful, middle-aged woman called Funke, came to the house during work hours. Mum refused to see her, but then, it seemed she wasn’t interested in anything but to show us how to use the computer.

Edidiong, myself, and Chioma sat around her and took notes as she clicked away. She had bluntly sent the others away with the excuse that they were too young, and we could teach them whatever we learnt from her.

On her way out, she told us she could send someone over the following day because she didn’t have time or patience to continue, and we were slow learners. She wasn’t in the least bit nice. We couldn’t imagine why she was so cold.

But that wasn’t the story in her visit.

Mrs. Funke forgot her purse. It was a cute, red, leather article that had seen better days, yet was strong and clean. I imagined it would be expensive. If I’d been the one who found it, this chapter would have ended here.

Freke found it and took it to Edidiong, who fancied he was being mean to Daddy’s secretary by looking through her purse. Just to pay her back for her sauciness, and nasal accent, as he put it.

“Eno!”

I sat at the computer, trying to make a head of all the commands “Aunty” Funke left behind, and jumped at Edidiong’s sharp call.

I shouted back. “What?”

“Come! Come. I can’t believe this.”

My brother was many things including, annoying, rude, intolerant, dirty, but one thing I loved about him was his quest for adventure. Where I wasn’t bold enough to venture, he would, and because I loved to document experiences, he would sell them to me, or at times, just give me straight up.

I groaned. “What is it?” But I walked to his room just across the hall.

His eyes glowed, but his voice was low. “The woman dropped her purse. Freke found it on the grass close to the parking lot.”

The content of the purse was scattered on Edidiong’s rumpled bed. Hundred dollar bills, ATM cards, passport photos, and many small pieces of paper.

I gasped. “Ah, how could you…”

“Read this letter. The archbishop told her about our daddy!”

My eyes popped. I snatched the piece of paper from his hand. It had been folded so small for so long, the fold lines looked fragile but the paper was embossed so it withstood the time.

“Dated February…” I looked at Freke who was propped against the pillow on her brother’s bed, a knowing smug look on her face. This looked big.

“Read.” Edidiong pointed at the letter. “The archbishop died in April.”

I returned to the letter, my palms sweaty in anticipation.

I am going to put my son in charge. My very first son! Don’t be surprised when my successor is announced.”

 

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4 FREELY 2 – DETRIMENTAL

As I will later discover, we had a monitoring spirit, a most unlikely person. But if I reveal this person at this point, the story will be forced to come to an unceremonious end.

We’d gone around the resort, seen the school, the new auditorium under construction, the airstrip yet to be put to full use, and the housing complex. Dad wanted information on the houses and the finances of the church. He was eager to sit on his new job with his shirt sleeves rolled up.

Sometimes I worked as his secretary, and when we got back home, after a sumptuous dinner of fried plantain and egg sauce, he asked me to join him in his study. He had asked the church administrator to send some files to him, and the man had.

He opened his new laptop, it came with the job, and pulled the files out. “I want you to sort these churches according to the amount of money they make.”

I wasn’t used to any computer. I’d never operated one before and when I stared at Dad, puzzled, he laughed.

“You only need to write down the name of the churches, and the amount you see here.” He pointed at a column on the screen. “Here.” He gave me a notebook. “Use this.”

I looked at the first church. “Is this in kobo?”

The joke would last for as long as I lived.

Dad laughed. “That’s two hundred and twenty-three million naira. You can cut out the last three zeros.”

These churches had money, I couldn’t comprehend it. If churches had so much money, why was there so much hunger in the body of Christ? And this was a monthly income of only one church out of five hundred.

“Where do they get their money from?”

Dad did not laugh this time. “Tithes and offering, and donations, dear.”

I thought of our Sunday offering, which I assisted in counting in Aba. Sometimes my father would just tell the chief usher to give to a couple of brethren for their transportation back home. That bad. A lot of times, my family’s offering was the only one in the tray, and it wasn’t much.

“I—it is well.”

When we were done sorting out the churches, and their finances, I went to bed. My head hurt. To be sincere, I didn’t see how my father would run such a big church. He was too myopic. I knew he would make mistakes in his decisions, and he did. Eventually.

Mum called another meeting early the following morning. “Today, the duties start in full, and I will be inspecting.”

We chorused an answer. “Yes Mummy.”

Someone like Edidiong accompanied his with a roll of his eyes.

We had a short prayer, and Dad left for his office. My mother looked worried, I could tell. After breakfast, and there was nothing to do but watch movies or play games, I went to her room.

She was folding clothes, and hanging some in the wardrobe, finishing up her unpacking.

I knocked once, though the door was ajar, and entered.

“What are you doing?”

She looked at me. “Hmm. Thinking about my life.”

Mum and I were the best of friends and she confided in me. Many times, I didn’t know what to tell her, or what to do, but having a listening ear made her happy.

I sat on the edge of the bed. “It looks bright to me.”

“Can you believe the archbishop’s wife refused to hold my eye contact. Short of going to touch her, and say, Mummy, I am looking at you, she avoided me.”

“Did she talk to you?”

“Not a word.”

“Ah.”

“That’s why I was so depressed when we came out of the meeting with them.”

“How did she behave with Daddy?”

“Normal. I didn’t notice anything.”

I’d learnt early not to dismiss my mother’s concerns. “Did you tell Daddy?”

“He said I was paranoid.”

“Hmm, mistake. You are not the paranoid type.”

“Thank you, my daughter.” Mum dropped the dress in her hand, and sat. “Your father doesn’t want to realize we are in the lion’s den. I’m warning him, but he won’t listen.”

“What are you worried about?”

“These people don’t want us. I don’t know how to say it. Even the smiling ones…it doesn’t reach their eyes.” Mum sighed. “And I had the dream. Again.”

“What dream?”

“Oh, I didn’t tell you? I was back in my mother’s village, fetching water from the stream.”

I waited for her to say more. “Is that all?”

“Yes. Fetching water from the stream. In the village. It is a bad sign. I’ve been praying though. Cancelling everything negative.”

“But what can anyone do? The option is to go back to our life of poverty.”

“And I don’t prefer it. I just wish your daddy will be a little more sensitive, and slow down. All the changes he’s planning.”

I took her hand. It was damp, cold. “Mummy, everything will be fine, just calm down.”

“These things backfire. When you get to a place, you want to know everything. You start asking all the questions in one day. You don’t even look at the faces of the people around you.”

“You mean, Daddy?”

“Yes, Daddy. Those people will start blocking. They start using sign language, body language, and he doesn’t want to hear.” Mum frowned. “He has to relax. Get in well before he does all this.”

“Well, we’ll just have to be praying. All will be well. Don’t worry, Mummy.”

“Did I tell you I was fetching water with a basket in that dream? In the village stream, with a basket.” She burst into tears. “This is the third time of having the dream, Eno!”

 

Photo credit: https://pixabay.com/en/ready-vicar-church-religion-faith-1153149/