MONDAY CHOCOLATE MELTDOWN – #BASISFORLOVE

The much-anticipated Sunday came, and Aaron attended my church. He enjoyed the service, though we worshipped in the same denomination, but different parishes.

Pastor was happy to meet him. He talked about the procedure for getting married in the church, and when he asked for our proposed wedding date, Aaron told him the Saturday after counselling ended.

I couldn’t stop laughing even after we left.

“We have three months to train our emotions,” I said. “Testing testing.”

“You know something, Shirley? The more you focus on it, the more you get drawn into the fear. That’s how it works.”

“I’m not just going to let down my guard.”

“Cool.”

He didn’t want to face the reality, but I knew. Perhaps all men were like that. Refusing to face the fact about their weaknesses. The look on his face hinted on a storm ahead.

I cheered up, and changed the subject. “Where are we going?”

“Huh, I thought we’d go to this new place in my neighborhood. The food is a la carte, and you get to cook yourself if you wish.”

“Hmm, that should be fun. Is it crowded?” He shot me a frown, and I laughed. “Just joking. But we’re not going to your house afterward.”

It happened to be a very private and nice place. Aaron wanted us to cook together, and for almost an hour, we were totally alone. By the time our food was done, I didn’t feel like eating.

“Should we just pack the food, I’m not hungry.”

Aaron closed up on me. “You want me?”

I shut my eyes, unable to look at him. My palms were damp. All the intimacy in the small cooking space made me want to be alone with him. I could feel my arousal all the way from my throat to the tips of my toes.

“Just take me home.”

“Touch my face,” he said.

I frowned. “Why?”

“I feel just the way you do. But we didn’t do anything, did we?”

I rolled my eyes. “Oh Aaron. Just…”

“No, I’m serious. Did we?”

“Well, maybe we both know this is a public place.” I shrugged. “Anyone could bump into us.”

“That’s not it, and you know. We controlled it. I did. I know.”

I did too. Several times I wanted to walk into his arms, but instead walked the opposite direction. It took every iota of my physical ability.

“Three months is not all we have, darling.” He pulled me into his arms. “I reconnected with you over a year ago, and every single day of that time, I wanted you.”

“What are you saying?”

“I can control it. My need. And I know you can too. We just have to pay attention.”

He bent his head and kissed my mouth. The shock of his action hurled me over. Never again would I condemn anyone who “committed” before marriage. The divide was just a thin line.

I pulled back like a lode was on my back. “Pay attention, love.”

He soughed. “Just wanted to know if you can.”

 

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1 FREELY 2 – INTENTIONAL

There is royalty in the body of Christ, and my family was just about to find out.

Sitting in the congregation, among the throng of people, my siblings and I watched our parents on this large podium. I was particularly nervous because Mum could be so fidgety, and she never did well with people she wasn’t familiar with. And not looking so shabby compared to the wife of the late archbishop. Forgive me, but my parents looked it. Shabby. Dressed in our “Sunday Bests” of lace gowns and Daddy and the boys wore their best suits. We all did.

I confirmed so when Edidiong murmured, from the end of our sitting row, across Freke, Idara, Aunt Chioma, and Ima to me, “They look like farmers up there.”

He chuckled and Aunt Chioma cautioned him. But two other members who sat on the row before ours turned and laughed. Confirmation.

I noted in my heart that we’d all need a change of wardrobe.

My parents did well with the message though. Dad was full of the anointing. He didn’t speak with the nasal tang I noticed everyone else on the altar had, or some foreign kind of accent. He was just a simple Akwa-Ibom man who’d spent the last twenty-five years serving the down-trodden of Nigerian.

After service, we stood listless in a bunch as members chatted around and socialized. Back home in Aba, Dad called it “fellowship after fellowship.”

Edidiong was being stupid with his comments, though true, on how so odd we were. “Let Daddy just collect some millions and leave this place.” He laughed. “He can’t even speak their accent.”

I swallowed. “Shut up. Someone is coming towards us.”

A man and a lady, both dressed in expensive looking dark suits walked straight to us. The man looked at Aunt Chioma. “New pastor’s family?”

She nodded, and curtseyed. “Yes sir.”

“Come with us.”

I made a note in my mind to remind her not to curtsey next time. The lady with the man had wrinkled her nose when she did.

We were taken all the way through the large hall, back to the place we entered from, the offices and large waiting areas, and led to an office. It looked more like a reception because it was big and beautifully furnished. The furniture was black leather, and the floor looked like marble. A lot like the house we came from. I could almost say the same person did all the interior.

A lady sat behind a big desk, and smiled when we walked in. Shortly afterward, the two ushers who’d brought us, I assumed they were, came back in with two large trays with drinks and assorted snacks.

“Help yourselves,” the lady said.

We chorused our gratitude and before Edidiong could say something nasty, Aunt Chioma slapped his thigh, the nearest part of his anatomy to her. Everyone laughed.

I’d never tasted meat pie so good. There was cake so fluffy, and doughnuts so succulent, and chicken so tasty. The assortment of chilled drinks included juice, soft drinks and malt.

My “hungered” siblings and I went for anything except Coke and Fanta. When we were fully stuffed, we relaxed and watched a large screen showing a preacher, I later realized was the late archbishop.

Our parents didn’t show up until almost four hours later. We were tired, and had taken another round of snacks and drinks from the trays.

The ushers came to take us with them again, and this time, we were back at the parking lot, and Mum and Dad joined us shortly.

We crowded Mum, needing information.

She didn’t have a smile on her face, which was a bad sign. “They’re taking us back to Banana Island to pack up. We’re moving here.”

Her last statement sounded almost like she would cry.

I rubbed her back. “You’re strong, Mama!”

She smiled sadly. “Eno my darling. Always trying to make everyone happy.”

I whispered in her ears. “You’ll gist me everything, right?”

She laughed. “Eno, the amebo journalist.”

The house we were given on the Revive Resort was a palace. Best part was that we all had a room each to ourselves.

The sprawling duplex had twelve bedrooms, four on the ground floor and eight on the first floor. Mum was just about complaining of who would maintain the place, when a rotund woman ran out to meet us. She was introduced as Mama Pepper. Her story will come up another day. But she was our housekeeper, and we had a house full of servants. Four cleaners, two cooks, two gardeners, two drivers, four security guards, and two helpers.

“What are helpers for, again?” Of course, my nosy brother was the one who asked.

“To send on errands,” Mama Pepper said, though Edidiong had whispered the question.

He looked ashamed, and rightfully.

Finally, alone upstairs, with bedrooms allocated, we gathered in the living room, there were three others, two guest parlours, and a smaller private sitting room.

We’d had a heavy dinner, served and plates cleared. Relaxed, about to start living like royalty, Mum said, “We can’t live like this. Nobody will do house work?”

We all groaned and shouted.

Dad silenced us. “Do you people not know what is happening? This is not funny anymore. We must adapt and re-adapt. So tomorrow, Mummy is going to work with Mama Pepper. You all are going to have duties.”

I nodded. “It’s true. We can’t live like this.”

Edidiong snickered at my comment, rolled his eyes and mumbled. “Traitor.”

I was used to his antagonism. Someone had to be a voice of reason. Instead of making a comment, I turned to Dad. “Sorry to change the subject. Daddy, that song you took in the church, nobody knew it.” I gave a tentative shrug. “People around where we sat were even laughing at you.”

Edidiong smiled. “Farmers.”

Mum pressed her lips and slanted her mouth downward.

Dad smiled. “It was intentional. We all have to adapt and re-adapt.”

 

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MONDAY CHOCOLATE MELTDOWN – #BASISFORLOVE

I called Aaron in the night because after church on Sunday, Salome and I worked till late. He sounded groggy. It was exactly a week since we had our first lovers’ fight and I missed having him on good terms. The quarrel though brought out some attitude I never knew we both could exhibit.

“How’s my darling?” I murmured.

“Hmm, hello.” I heard him yawn. “Sweetheart.”

“You can keep malice o! I’ve never seen a man like you before.” I giggled. “I’m missing you.”

“You needed your space.”

“Give me a break, jor. Am I not the one calling now. Okay, bye. Sorry I called.”

“If you hang up on me, Shirley. I’ll drive over, and you won’t get away so easily this time.”

I stifled a giggle. “Naughty man.”

He groaned. “So is it safe to ask you out tomorrow. Or alone time is still banned?”

“I fixed an appointment to see my Pastor with you.”

“Okay. When?”

“Next Sunday after church.” I liked the way he accepted without hesitation. “Marriage counseling is for three months.”

“So, you’re not afraid I’ll hit the streets if you fall sick or I travel.”

“I’m still afraid. But we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.”

He hissed. “Abegi. Dinner tomorrow after work?”

“In a crowded restaurant only, please.”

He chuckled. “I blame you? I go wait na. After marriage, weda you go dey do dis yanga.”

“You don’t speak that thing well, Aaron. Stick to the language you know.”

We both laughed. I told him about the previous week, all the details of my life he’d missed and he told me his.

“What happened to the soup I was cooking in your house?”

“What soup?”

I gasped. “Aaron? I left everything. The soup was half-done.”

He snickered. “I only turned off the cooker. I’ve not entered that kitchen since.”

“Oh my world. They would be bad by now.”

“My housekeeper came every day till yesterday.”

I sighed. “Ah, thank God for that. I’m sure she’d finish cooking and—so you’ve not eaten at home?”

“I’ve been eating out.” He paused. “Don’t hurt me like that again, Shirley.”

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Freely

Did you miss the first part of this “sweet” story?

Well, the second part is about to start but you can catch up on the first, right here!

Go ahead, click on the link here and catch up on the story before the second part starts.

Enjoy!

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And if you finished the story, you can check out my other stories and books you probably didn’t know about here!

Thank you.

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FREELY 2 – INTRO

This is the story of a rural pastor thrown into an international conspiracy.

Pastor Kentoroabasi Etim fondly called Pastor Kent, has been in ministry for twenty-five years, when he receives a visit that changes his life forever. The renowned Arch Bishop Nelson had died and left the leadership of the church in brutal confusion. His last testament stated Pastor Kent was to take over as head of the church with over five hundred branches in fifty-two countries.

Kent had never even travelled out of Nigeria. And he had never done ministry on the large, exotic scale it was being done in his new assignment. Neither had he worked with pastors who owned private jets, and homes all over the world, and expected him to align to statusquo.

His challenge in taking Archbishop Nelson’s pulpit just started.

The story continues here…soon. Watch this space.

 

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MONDAY CHOCOLATE MELTDOWN – #BASISFORLOVE

Throughout the weekend, my malice-keeping boyfriend did not call or send a message. I kept wondering what to do. Our emotions were so volatile, and I had no experience at all with this kind of person, or any relationship. In church, our singles’ fellowship avoided the topic of sex like the ebola virus.

After service on Sunday, I made bold and asked to see my pastor’s wife. I knew she would be too embarrassed to ask intimate questions because she was not the outspoken type. I only hoped she’d be able to advise on how to handle Aaron.

Asking was awkward but I had to. “Ma, please what’s a Christian relationship supposed to be like?”

She was a middle-aged woman, and had been married for more than twenty years. I knew her advice would be invaluable.

“I assume you’re in a relationship?”

“Well, yes ma. He proposed but I’ve not directly replied. But we are dating.”

“Hmm, this dating thing.”

“Is it wrong, ma?”

“Depends on what you mean by dating. What do you do together?”

Thursday night dropped on my face and I looked at my fingers. The guilt of it could not be hidden.

“You slept together?”

I shook my head. “No, ma. I’m sorry. We—we kissed.” I scratched my neck. “For a long time.”

She sighed. “You feel guilty about it, don’t you?”

I nodded. “He doesn’t think much of it.”

“I want to believe you share the same faith?”

“We do.” I shrugged. “He just waived it off somehow. I’m scared we’d do more next time we are alone.”

“That is what you should fear and avoid.” Pastor’s wife held my hand. “Imagine this, what does the Bible mean when it says flee every appearance of evil? You feel ashamed now, don’t you?”

I nodded again.

“Then you shouldn’t allow it to happen again.” She sat forward. “Is he working?”

“Yes, ma.”

“Both of you should come and see Pastor. You need to start with the marriage counseling. It takes three months.” She held my gaze. “Or you don’t want to marry him?”

“I want to.”

“Good. Fix an appointment at the office. You need to work on your ability to control your emotions. And you have at least three months to do it.”

Three months! It looked like forever.

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20 FREELY – Spiritual!

When they stepped on to the altar though, no one could have suspected the tension amongst the ministers.

After the praise and worship session, Pastor Favour stood at the podium and gave a moving story about how he met Pastor Kent. He formed something about the plans of the enemy to disturb the will of God, but God’s mighty power prevailed. He gave a glowing appraisal of the person of Pastor Kentoroabasi Etim, and his lovely family. He then spoke at length about the Archibishop Nelson, and his beautiful wife, and invited Mama Jumi Nelson to bring the new overseer to the pulpit.

Mama Jumi spoke with a clean foreign accent, and had the love and attention of the congregation. She praised her deceased husband for always being in the spirit, and doing only whatever God asked of him. On that note, she welcomed the man from a small village on the outskirts of Aba, and invited him to the stand previously mounted by some of the biggest and most influential televangelists in the world.

The first song Kent took was one they sang on their crusade preparation prayer where he came from, and one his family laughed over for years. But he insisted nothing else came to his mind.

It was clearly a set-up. The 10,000-seater auditorium was packed full, Kent had never addressed more than a hundred people in his life. The hall was dead still, all waited for their new leader. They wanted to hear his voice, feel his words, his spirit.

Kent raised his hands and his voice, and sang. “I want to be, I want to be, your servant Lord. I want to be, I want to be your servant, Lord. I don’t want to, I don’t want to be unfaithful, I don’t want to, I don’t want to be unfaithful.

No one sang with him. Probably no one knew the song, or couldn’t believe that would come out.

Annie walked to a back-up microphone, and sang along.

I will obey, I will obey you my dear Lord…

And so, the couple sang for almost ten minutes. Songs many in their congregation did not know. But who cared, before they knew it, some people got caught in the spirit of the song and the meeting ended up being an impartation service. People wept with revival power.

An hour afterward, some finally could sit. Many lay at the altar, slain in the spirit.

Kent’s first words to his new church would forever be remembered. “God will do a new thing.”

***

My name is Eno Etim. Not Joe the tailor. Though I maintain I am you. I collected every piece of the drama that unfolded in my life from the year I turned seventeen.

I know more than my mother knows. That’s why the second part of our story is even more dramatic.

Thanks for staying tuned.

The end.

 

 

MONDAY CHOCOLATE MELTDOWN – #BASISFORLOVE

 Guilt.

I discovered brutally it does nothing to take away the sin that brought it in the first place, because when Aaron showed up to pick me the following day, my hunger for him rose like a fiery dragon. He had never looked so handsome to me in blue striped shirt and black chinos trousers.

He smiled when I got into his car, and I nearly died of want. Me, who once swore never to look at a man with desire for relationship!

“If you send me that kind of message again, I’ll take you into the bush and rape you.” He started the ignition. “How was your day?”

I frowned. “What message?”

“Marry me or I die?” He moaned. “Are you really out to kill me or what?”

“Oh that.” I swallowed. “You too must never touch me like that again.”

“Before marriage, you mean?”

“Before marriage.”

He joined the traffic before he spoke. “Then don’t look like that.”

I gasped. “Like how? My dress was decent.”

He chuckled. “I mean the way you look all the time. Beautiful. Tempting.”

We had to talk about this. It’s good to be appealing to the man you’ll marry, but this wasn’t healthy at all.

“We need to talk, Aaron. What happened last night—”

“I agree. Let’s go to my house.”

I screeched. “I’m not joking! Is this play?”

He exclaimed. “I’m not joking either.”

“I can’t be alone with you till we get married. And even then, what if I fall sick. Or you must travel. Your desires will push you back on the streets.”

He paused for a long time, I looked at him. The smile on his face was gone, replaced by a jaw-twitch.

I heaved. “It’s a fact we must face.”

“What fact? That I can’t control my emotions? That I’ll go back to pick prostitutes by the roadside?”

“What I’m saying is that we need to address our emotions.”

“What if I accuse you that if we go broke at some point in our married lives you’ll go back to stand by the road?”

“How can you say that?”

He hit the steering. “Then what fact are you talking about?”

I glared at him. “What we did last night? Are you not worried about it?”

His face was twisted in such a frown I thought he was going to park the car and attack me.

“No.” He snapped. “I’m not worried. My emotions are in perfect shape. I will not go looking for a whore if you fall sick or I travel.”

“Aaron, you don’t have to be upset about this.”

“What I’m worried about is you. Will you hit the streets the moment I can’t pay children’s fees or something?”

It was no use talking when he was in this provocative mood, and I was getting upset too.

“Just take me to my house.”

He did. And sped off before I’d hardly stepped out of his jeep.

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19 FREELY – Displaying!

 

The following Sunday, Pastor Lara sent her driver to take the family to church. The driver probably knew what was going on because he drove to the back of the altar, and carried Kent’s Bible in.

The building was massive to say the least. A huge waiting area, furnished with leather visitor chairs was surrounded by offices. The family sat for a moment.

Kent spoke softly. “The service should start soon. If no one comes out, we will join the congregation.”

“Daddy,” Edidiong said. “I think we should go. I mean, we won’t sit on the altar with you before.”

Kent agreed and the children went out the door with Chioma. They missed all the action, and Annie had to later recant.

A few people milled about, and some took other seats in the waiting area. Lara walked in from the entrance and went straight to kneel before Kent.

“Daddy, good morning. Please bless me.”

Kent had never been accorded such respect. He would pray for anyone who came to him, and sometimes he’d be the one to ask them to kneel.

After a short prayer, Lara, still on her knees, clasped his hands. “They want to send me away. They want Favour to divorce me.”

Kent exclaimed. “No such thing will happen in Jesus’ name!”

“My husband hasn’t slept in the house since Wednesday you saw him. He reported me to Mama Jumi…”

Annie cut in before she could stop herself. “The Archbishop’s wife?”

“Yes. She’s like his biological mother besides me being one of her personal assistants.” Lara sobbed and her mascara seemed to run. “He does everything she says, and she doesn’t mind telling him to send me away.”

“You have no proof, Pastor Lara.” Kent cleared his throat. “And we must believe the best.”

Lara’s eyes widened. “In this church, you don’t believe the best. You watch your back.”

Kent sighed. “Okay, please stand, and go in to the service. We’ll be right behind you.” Kent pulled her up.

Lara lowered her voice. “They said if you come near the altar, they will disgrace you.” She shook her head. “No. Let me wait with you.”

“We’ll be fine…” Kent started to protest but one of the doors opened, and about eight men wearing dark suits, fast-walked out.

Lara straightened and the Etims knew why when Mama Jumi exited the room at a much slower pace, flanked by her eldest son and Favour. The trio stared at their trio but continued to walk toward what Kent believed to be the door to the main church.

“Let’s follow them,” Lara whispered.

Kent thought all of this was juvenile and Annie cringed but they stepped behind the train.

At the suspected door, Mama Jumi turned. Everyone stopped and did likewise.

“We will announce the new leader of the church today.” She fixed her gaze on Lara. “So you can stop all your drama, and behave like someone led of the Spirit of God, hmm? Lara, are you okay with that?”

She curtseyed. “Yes, Mummy.”

The former first lady’s eyes rested on Annie. “All those itching to take over what they believe is a gold mine can then step in and start to enjoy the treasures in the secret places.” She smiled but it didn’t reach her eyes. Favour and her son chuckled. And a few of the men around her snickered.

Kent noticed more people had fallen into step behind them. Several ladies moved with the group, carrying her handbag and shawl and items of clothing accessories.

“And my dear son can be a normal one again.” She continued. “And church headache will no longer be his problem.” She smiled at him. “You can now sleep well, and let someone else take your headache.”

Kent hoped the sarcastic speech will end. It didn’t.

“Can the new leader preach, and will he be able to take a message today? Or he needs to be given ample notice?”

Mama Jumi directed the question at Favour, who shrugged. “I have no idea, Mama. We found him in a village in the East.”

Kent shifted his weight from one foot to another. After four days locked in the study, he had no doubt, God will move on his behalf if he is allowed to minister to the people. Especially now, if these were the people he was going to preside over, he understood why Lara insisted he “show power.”

These were lions, and their mouths needed to be shut.

“Your treacherous wife hid him, right?” Mama Jumi squinted at Lara. “You.”

The culprit fell on her knees and to the surprise of the Etims, burst into tears.

“I’m sorry, Mama. I don’t know what came over me. Please, Mama. Why? Me of all people. After all you had done for me. Please forgive me.”

For a moment, Annie thought she joked but real tears poured down her cheeks. Her husband hissed and some of the other people in the group too. Kent wished he had the chance to say something but he feared his words at this moment would only heat up an already tense atmosphere.

He looked at the most powerful woman in the church. There was no hint of love or compassion in the hard eyes he saw. The woman had also refused to make eye contact with him.

“What does one do with a useless child before?” She turned to Favour. “Worship has started.”

Unceremoniously, someone opened the door, and they walked on to the large, and beautifully furnished and decorated altar area.

 

18 FREELY – Demanding!

If she didn’t show up soon, Pastor Kent would have gone after her. The woman Pastor Favour treated as his wife. The woman he suspected directed him to Banana Island.

She came to the house the following day. “I’m sorry we disgraced ourselves like that.”

Pastor Kent and Annie sat with her in the parlour. They had many questions for her, and she seemed willing to answer them.

The first on Kent’s lips was, “Why?”

“I have a conscience. And though there have been many grey lines between right and wrong, I know what I’m doing now is right.”

Annie sat forward. “Please can you explain exactly what you’re doing?”

They later found out her name was Lara. She took a deep breath. “There is no other Pastor Kentoro anywhere. You are the one Archbishop named in his last testament. We did a thorough search before we found you.”

Kent frowned. “So what…why change? Why lie?”

Lara snickered. “You have no idea the immense wealth, and influence of the office they dumped on you.” She sighed. “The sons are fighting. Even the wife wanted it.” She held Kent’s gaze. “I’m not proud to say this but my husband as well. He hoped somehow, he will be given the post.”

Kent breathed. “By denying me, there hasn’t been any peace.”

“But at least you are no longer a contender.” She falls on her knees. “You need to fight them. Fight this evil. The archbishop chose you.”

“I’m confused, Pastor Lara.” Kent grimaced. “I don’t know where to start from. I don’t know who to lean on.”

“God. Trust God, and make a demand. You have my husband’s number, call him to order.” She looked at Annie. “Are you not a man of God? Call on fire. Show power.”

Annie giggled. “At show power. This is a demanding request. How do we show power?”

Lara pressed her lips together. “Then if you are not ready to throw your weight around, bully, and show power, you may as well want to return to your home. Because around here, might is right.”

She promised her support, and assured Kent the family could stay on in the house for as long as they wished.

“I will continue to stock the house with food. It’s not a problem for me at all.”

She left her direct number too, and asked Annie to feel free to be in touch in case they needed anything.

“If you want to go to the market or anywhere else, just call, and I will send a car and driver.”

They thanked her. At the door, Kent succumbed to his curiosity. “Do you and your husband own the whole complex here?”

Lara smiled. “This whole street is owned by our church and members. Archbishop and his family, some pastors and members. This complex has eight apartments like this. We own two. Other people own the rest.”

“Okay. Thanks for the information.”

She gripped his hand. “Daddy, please. Don’t give up on us.” She left after that.

Kent and Annie sat dumbfounded for several minutes after she was gone.

“What sort of a mess is this, Kentoro? What have we gotten ourselves into?” She exclaimed. “Show power? Just like that?”

“Well, we should thank God at least we have an idea of the people we are dealing with.” He stood. “God, will show power. For now, I need to start a retreat.”

She stood as well. “I will join you with a fast. This kind goes not out but by prayer and fasting.”

“Exactly. I noticed a study in the house. I will use it. Till I hear from God, I’m going to be locked in there.”

Annie pulled him into a hug. “I won’t lock myself up but be sure I’m with you in spirit.”