Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth…
-Song of Solomon 1
The time was 7am. The day was Sunday. The venue was Alice’s home. And the topic of discussion was Alice’s relationship with Papa.
In attendance were Wemimo, Tara, Alice herself and Pastor Adindu, who was not a stranger to the ladies.
Alice had called for the meeting about an hour ago while she sat in her car outside the Omotosho residence. Her friends, who had been worried, promptly responded to her request. Tara had spent the night at her grandmother’s and was the first to arrive home, just as Alice was driving in. While they waited for Wemimo and Adindu, Tara tried to get a word out of Alice but failed. Hence, she sat in their art-inspired living room that had a base color of watermelon pink set against lilac, watching Alice pace around in an agitated manner.
Wemimo barged in carrying a flask, an overnight bag and a full mass of gold hair held in giant rollers. She eased the load off her hands onto a small wrought-iron dining table. Heaving like she had just run a hundred miles, she demanded of Alice why she had to be awoken so early to respond to her cry for help. Alice seemed not to hear her as she continued pacing around. Adindu came in next, with less drama. He gave them each a glance and then proceeded to ask Alice what the problem was.
She stopped. “Good morning, Adi. Please, sit.”
Adindu remained standing. Wemimo walked to where he stood and together they fixed curious eyes on Alice.
“You sounded like you were crying on the phone, Alice,” Adindu stated.
“I was not.”
“Anyway, I’m here. Speak.”
Alice sat on the center table, thighs clutched together and her hands in-between them.
“Okay, please don’t judge me. I did something stupid. Something very stupid and I’m in deep shit for it.”
“She said ‘shit’,” Wemimo commented, taking the settee facing Alice. “This should be interesting.”
“Okay, so, you all know that Wemi told me Papa mentioned he had feelings for me.”
“Adi doesn’t know,” Wemimo replied.
Wemimo turned her head from left to right, staring at both of them inquiringly.
“I called him on Monday morning and told him everything you told me because Papa invited me to Abuja and I was confused on what to do…”
“And I remember advising you not to act on what Wemi told you,” Adindu added. “I also advised you to make the trip to Abuja with Papa because it was your duty to do so.”
“And I did…”
“So what is this stupid thing you have done?”
“Not just a thing. Things.”
“Alice?” Tara sighed in worry.
“First of all, on our trip to Abuja on Thursday, I confronted Papa about what you told me, Wemi.”
Adindu and Tara were aghast. Wemimo displayed an impish grin.
“Alice, why?” Tara demanded.
“I don’t know. It was like this huge mountain between us. I just had to get it out of the way.”
“Interesting.” Wemimo’s grin widened. “First of all, did you guys fly in his private jet?”
Alice made a frustrated face. “What does that matter?”
“I just need to visualize the whole thing. The picture is clearer now. So, continue. What did he say when you confronted him?”
“He said you were right but it wasn’t something he wanted me breaking my head over, that he was never going to act on it because I was like a daughter to him. He insisted I was safe around him and I should keep trusting him to treat me appropriately.”
“I told you!” Adindu said. “I told you that Papa was not that type of man and that you should get your mind off that nonsense. You shouldn’t even have given it thought, especially seeing that it was coming from Wemimo, who sometimes makes me wonder if she’s a true Christian.”
“You’re always so judgmental,” Wemimo spat back.
“What was your aim telling her those things about Papa? Don’t you fear God?”
“God has nothing to do with this.”
“Can you two stop, please?” Tara begged. “Alice continue, abeg.”
“Well, the whole Abuja trip was hell for me. First of all, Leye’s wife didn’t like me. Even after Leye introduced me as family, she kept giving me this odd stare.”
“How’s she like?” Wemimo questioned. “Is she fine? Is she stylish? Does she have Diane’s British accent?”
“She is nothing like Diane.”
“Mommy Dee,” Tara corrected in exasperation. “God bless her soul.”
“She is nothing like Mommy Dee and I don’t think she can fit into the Omotosho family,” Alice answered. “But apparently, Big Mommy loves her…”
Cutting Alice off, Adindu said, “Alice, Pastor Leye has made his choice. We should all respect him for it.”
Tara nodded in agreement.
“I have also heard unfavorable reports about Pastor Love but she is our mother in the Lord now…”
“Wait, her name is Love?” Wemimo asked.
“Who names their child Love?”
“Are you guys going to listen to why I called for this meeting or not?!”
“We’re sorry,” Tara apologized. “Continue.”
“As I was saying, the whole Abuja thing put me off but Papa did everything to make it fun for me. On Friday, he took me to a few spots in Abuja, and then we saw a movie…”
“Oooooh, romantic,” Wemimo gushed.
“He had invited his grandkids but they were too occupied to join us.”
“Or maybe he knew they wouldn’t join you,” Wemimo winked. “Just saying.”
“Well, the outing put me in this place where I started feeling something more than what was between us.”
“Haba, Alice.” Adindu sighed.
“I couldn’t help it. Papa was being somehow…”
“Was he any different from the man you knew here in Lagos?”
“So it was all in your head nau.”
“Yes, I know. And then when we came back yesterday, I stupidly acted on it.”
“What did you do?” Tara asked.
Adindu crossed his arms with a dark frown on his face, reproving Alice with his eyes.
“I ki-kissed Papa,” she confessed, eyes full of tears.
“Jesus! Alice, why?!” Tara cried.
“I don’t know! God, I don’t know. It just happened. Everyone had gone to bed and I was in the kitchen with him. He was about to take his pills while I was clearing the dishes I had just had dinner with. He was standing beside me and we were talking about Abuja and how things had gone and…”
“And you just kissed him?!” Tara was also in tears. “Who does that?!”
Wemimo, bearing a pleased smile on her face, replied, “Normal people, Tara. Normal people kiss each other.”
“Not Papa nau. Not him! Oh God! Alice, why?”
“I didn’t actually kiss his lips at first,” Alice explained. “He paid me a compliment and in response, I held his face and kissed his cheek. He then turned and…”
“This is ridiculous.” Adindu shook his head. “I’m so disappointed, Alice.”
“Our lips touched accidentally and we kissed. It just happened. And while it was happening…Leye walked in on us.”
Tara’s mouth fell open.
Wemimo laughed. “This just gets better.”
“It’s not funny, Wemi! Leye is angry. He’s mad at Papa. He thinks he took advantage of me. I was trying to explain to him but Papa wouldn’t let me. They got into this verbal fight and after that, Leye came and told me I was relieved of my duties in the Happiness Department.”
“I think I’ve heard enough,” Adindu said. “My head can’t process more. I’m ministering today. I need to go and prepare.”
Ignoring Alice, Adindu left the house.
“Abeg, let him go.” Wemimo hissed.
“But why, Alice?” Tara sniffled.
“Why are you crying, madam?” Wemimo questioned. “Two grown folks kissed and you’re crying? Will you ever have sense in your life?”
“You’re very stupid, Wemi!”
Alice went quiet. She sat with her head bowed, tearful eyes lowered on her hands, as her friends went at each other. Tara had the commonsense to break out of the fight and sit with her.
“You know what hurts, Tara?”
“What?” Tara took Alice’s hand.
“Leye knew what I’ve felt for him all these years. He mentioned it, after banning me from coming near Papa. He said he knew I was in a vulnerable place because of him and that he was sorry for it but that I shouldn’t let Papa take advantage of me.”
“He said that?” Wemimo inclined forward. Alice nodded. “I told you that guy is an ass!”
“Wemimo!” Tara reprimanded.
“I’m not going for the wedding,” Alice announced. “I just can’t. It was torture staying in the house after everything happened but Papa wouldn’t let me leave. I don’t want to see any of their faces. I…just can’t go.”
“You’re talking rubbish, Alice,” Wemimo stood, hissing. “You will go for that wedding and smile and dance and act like nothing happened. In fact, you will dress like you are the bride and steal the show.”
“Ignore Wemi. If you don’t want to go–”
“Tara!” Wemimo yelled. “If you ever do that again, I’ll do something to you that you’ll live to regret!”
“Sorry,” Tara replied in a mousy manner. “Alice, do as you wish.” She pushed her feet into bathroom slippers and rose up. “Na una sabi.”
She disappeared into her room.
“I don’t want to go,” Alice insisted.
“Rubbish.” Wemimo took Tara’s space. “Leye just made things easier for you by fighting his father over you. Papa’s feelings will increase now. And as much as I’d like you to play the victim here, I don’t think it’ll help. You need to make a statement – to Leye, especially. He knew he led you on and yet felt comfortable breaking your heart. You must get back at him.”
“And then Papa…he needs to know that you’re not some small girl. You have to show him you’re a woman who is ready to play in the big league.”
“What big league?”
“Pastor Alice, you know what I’m talking about. Remove spirituality out of this for once and see what this is all about. Everyone that has made it to the top in Bethel Covenant Center did so with the arm of flesh. Forget spiritual matter. Papa has tasted your lips and like the typical man he is, he’ll want more.”
“Please, don’t tell me you’re talking about sex.”
“No, I mean, he’ll want more of you. All of you. And you’re not going to give him less. Papa must get married to you.”
Alice shifted away from her friend. “Are you out of your mind?!”
“I know this is a lot for you to process, and that is why I don’t want you to do any thinking. Leave all the brain work for me. Just follow my lead and enjoy yourself.”
“I am not going for the wedding.”
Standing up, Wemimo dragged Alice to her feet. “Let’s go get you glammed up, my friend.”
Alice gave up. “You didn’t ask me if I enjoyed the kiss or not.”
“I know you did. You didn’t ask me if I actually saw Papa’s junk or not.”
Alice stopped. Wemimo looked at her slyly. “I never did. That part of the gist was to make you thirst. And his exact words about you were, ‘If there’s anyone who would get my attention, it would be Alice, based solely on the work she does here.’ ”
“Wait… he never mentioned anything about feelings?”
“No. I tweaked that part.”
“He didn’t need to mention feelings for me to know what he felt for you. His eyes shone every time he mentioned your name.”
“So, I basically disgraced myself with him?”
“How can you say no?!”
“Did he correct you when you mentioned him having feelings for you? Did he say ‘I’m sorry, Pastor Alice, but your friend is lying about the things I said’?”
“Instead, he admitted to my lie; meaning, I was not off the mark. So, am I not on track here?”
“You’re evil, Wemi. Adi is right about you not being a Christian. I recommend a spiritual cleanse. And please, stay away from me.”
Alice entered her room and shut the door in Wemimo’s face.
“I’m going to get the dress sha! Just take your bath and wait for me!”
Love was awoken by his lips. Soft, wet, insistent. They wouldn’t leave her until she responded to him. She moaned as his mouth fed from the sweetness of her tongue which held tinges of the Godiva chocolate she had consumed some minutes ago.
Love responded with a lazy sigh.
“You really need to get up and get dressed for your wedding.”
Love caressed the nape of Leye’s neck, scratching his scalp gently with her nails.
“Aren’t you an amazing man to get married to three times in a row?”
“It seems I am.”
His lips came down on hers again and she got lost, forgetting the nap she thought she needed badly, forgetting to worry about what the day held for her, and certainly forgetting the meeting both of them had had with Papa earlier that left her feeling unwelcome in her own home.
She breathed in her husband’s scent as their lips and tongues continued to dance with each other. She wasn’t sure she would ever get tired of the way he smelled. It was a blend of fabric softener and his perfume which gave off a combination of mint, wood and smoky leather at the same time. It was both butch and sensual, and sometimes gentle, because of mild fruity notes that came and went. It said much about his nature. He was fluid and stable all at once. She loved a man that was flexible.
His lips finally separated from hers, leaving her desirous of more. She could spend an entire day doing nothing but enjoying the long, delicious kisses his mouth had to offer.
“I’m sorry about my dad’s unnecessary speech earlier. I don’t know why he had to wake us up so early to reiterate why he doesn’t like you.”
Love drew a line from the spot between Leye’s eyes, down his nose and stopped on his chin to tug on his beard.
“Don’t apologize. Papa is only protecting his own.”
“I understand. Still, it was uncalled for.”
“Well, he finally welcomed me into the family. That’s all that matters.”
Leye pulled away from Love. “He’ll be leaving once we return from our honeymoon. He has another house in this estate. It’s just down the street.”
Love was against the idea of Papa moving out. She needed him around to win his heart over. If she got him on her side, she would have little opposition in the church.
But she said nothing about her objection to Leye’s plans. “Let’s not think about anything else, Leye. Today, we say our vows to each other.”
Her husband’s stare fell on her breasts hidden behind a nightshirt. He lingered. She pushed him away.
“You have four hours to get dressed,” he informed her, heading for the door. “We’ll have all the time after the service to rest before the party.”
He left the room. Love forced herself out of the warmth of the bed and opened the windows to let in sunshine and a cool breeze. She had a cool shower and returned to see Mina waiting with her daily cup of coffee.
“Good morning, mama.” The girl curtsied.
“Good morning, Mina. Did you sleep well?”
Mina nodded. “But because the house is full, I had to share my room with some of daddy’s cousins. Nice girls, though.”
“I’m glad you’re getting acquainted.”
“What should I get you for breakfast? There’s yam and scrambled eggs, fried rice, cereal and toast, and amala and ewedu, made by Big Mommy. Daddy and Papa are having the amala.”
“Just get me cereal and toast. No butter, no jam.”
Love took the first sip of her coffee as Mina made her exit. She went for a file in a briefcase by the bed. Within were confidential documents Leye had given her, containing details of how the church was organized, who was paid what, and the entire organogram of Bethel Covenant Center. Papa had created a consolidated structure in which there were too many leaders who were responsible for major decisions in the church. They were called the Congress, and just like it was in political circles, this board of men and women constituted nuisance to Leye who was totally against the idea of them having that much clout in the affairs of the church. Love’s first point of call was to weaken their powers and turn the entire structure from a spiritual one to something more corporate. The idea was to leave her man and a select few with more authority. She wanted Leye to become the new G.O, ending Papa’s reign entirely.
She knew there would be war, but was not stupid to throw in a wrench to already established affairs at a go. Her plan was to solidify the relationship with Leye’s faithful allies first, buy over those on the fence and then knock off anyone that stood in their way.
She took out a pen and for the next hour, in-between having breakfast and wearing her underwear, she worked on the documents in her hands. The day before, she had asked Leye’s assistant for a list of names of the leaders who were loyal to Leye. The lady had emailed her an entire list, with the names Adindu and Alice at the top. Adindu was a serious-minded guy who had a huge following amongst the youth. Trusted by Leye, he alone, apart from Papa, had known about their relationship through its entire length.
Alice, on the other hand, was not someone Love felt she could trust. From the day she arrived with Papa at the family home in Abuja, Love could tell that there was some sort of friction between her and Leye. And it was mostly from Alice’s side; Leye seemed oblivious of it, or rather, pretended he didn’t notice it. Love made plans to strike her off the list. She saw her as someone who would be on Papa’s side, and until the old man was won over, he would remain on the other flank of the divide.
Curious, however, was the manner in which he treated Alice. Love had noted how he had paid more attention to her than his daughters and grandchildren, although he was always quick to remind everyone that she was a daughter to him. Love was going to keep a nosy interest in their affair. She was convinced that something would come out of it soon.
“Mama, I can’t reach the makeup artist up till now o.”
Taking her eyes off her phone, Love looked up at Mina who had just barged into the bedroom. The girl walked over with long braids flinging all ways, which Love hadn’t taken note of earlier. Save for the outfit she would use to church, Mina seemed set for the wedding, unlike Love who was still in a bathrobe.
“I remember daddy saying there’s a lady in the church that does professional makeup. Should I get her number from him?”
Mina’s eyes left Love and rested on the dazzling wedding dress that hung in a corner of the room. “I can’t wait to see you in your dress, mama. Daddy would love it. He won’t take his eyes off you, just like he kept staring at you on Thursday and on Friday. Even Big Mommy noticed.”
“Make sure the photographer gets breakfast.”
Mina dashed out, slamming the door without meaning to. The door had a habit of hitting hard for no reason. Love planned on telling Leye to have it changed in the coming week.
A knock sounded and the door opened again. Mina peeked in.
“Mama, our people from ABK are here,” she announced in excitement. “Daddy won’t let them see you sha. He asked Brother Gideon to take them to a hotel nearby so they can wait there until service starts.”
“Who is Brother Gideon?”
“He heads protocol at the church. The one that was there at the airport to welcome us. The one with glasses and the Hausa accent.”
Mina was adapting to the new environment faster than Love was. Part of Love was still in Abeokuta. A feeling of homesickness left her longing for the comfort of her little space back at her former home. She had been alone for so long that the thought of sharing her life with someone else was beginning to suffocate her. She had held out on intimacy with Leye since their court wedding on Thursday, refusing to sleep in the same room with him until the white wedding was over. Save for the kisses they often shared, she was unfamiliar with other parts of his body. The feeling of excitement within her was equal to the nervousness building. She had almost forgotten what it felt like to be loved by a man. She feared that she would be potty in Leye’s arms. In a weird way, he made her shy, stripping away her hard edges. No other man had been able to achieve that, and he did so without even trying. She didn’t feel for him as much as he did for her but she was beginning to realize that it wasn’t hard to fall for him.
The door swung in once more. Leye, his phone to his ear, leaned on the doorpost looking in her direction. She listened to him give out instructions to someone in Yoruba in a conversation while throwing her a wink or smile every now and then. Eventually, he stepped in and shut the door.
“Iyawo, can I shower in your bathroom? The whole house is occupied. Besides, I have all my stuff here.”
“It’s your room.”
“Our room. And please don’t tell me you’re working, Loveth.”
Love stared at the papers in front of her. “The whole thing is in my head. I had to get it sorted out. I’m sorry.”
Leye marched to her and rescued the file from her hands. “After the honeymoon,” he said.
“After the honeymoon.” She put out a pout which he kissed. When he disappeared into the bathroom and Love decided to busy herself with moisturizing her skin, her mind traveled back to the meeting they had had with Papa earlier.
“There’s already an established order of things around here, and in the ministry, Loveth,” he had told her. “See to it that you play your role as a dutiful wife to my son. It will do you no good meddling into the affairs of things that shouldn’t concern you. If you ignore my instructions on this, you’ll have me to face, and I promise you, you’ll wish you never came into this family. Your focus should be on giving your husband a child. He is forty-three and yet to be a father. I can’t tell you how much of a humiliation that is for our family. And might I remind you that since he is my only son, an heir from him will make me happy. So, my dear, take good care of your husband and your home, and all will be well between us. I formally give you my blessing and welcome you into the family.”
Love smiled at the memory of the moment, even though she knew Papa wasn’t bluffing with his threat. She would keep to his wish and get knocked up immediately, but will also follow through with the plans she had. Seeing Leye on top was her goal. Not even his father could stop her.
“Reverend Omoleye Jeremiah Omotosho, you may now kiss your bride.”
Alice slammed her laptop shut. She had seen enough of the Omotosho wedding. She couldn’t believe she had witnessed Leye getting married to Love three times. Her heart was way stronger than she gave it credit for.
She left her bed, the soles of her feet taking in the freezing weather of her bedroom. She was cold but she was nude, and had been that way since she stepped out of the bathroom a couple of hours ago and changed her mind about attending the wedding.
Wemimo was mad at her, of course. She seemed to be more invested in Alice attending the wedding than Alice herself. The gown she had picked was going to make Alice stand out and ‘steal the show’.
“I’m not interested in any of that, Wemi. It’s selfish and petty.”
Wemi hissed. “I shouldn’t have wasted my time on you! I give up!”
She dumped the gown on the bed and made a show of stomping out of Alice’s bedroom. Alice hadn’t been perturbed by her behavior or anything else. She snuggled beneath her blanket, read her bible and spent time expending her emotions before God. Presently, she felt weightless. She was already on a journey of cleansing herself of negative thoughts and unhallowed desires. Her calling as a pastor was more important than any type of worldly pursuit.
Alice threw on a t-shirt and went to the kitchen to fix herself a meal of fried sweet potato and peppered sauce. After breakfast, she did some laundry, prepared the first draft of a sermon for a youth meeting later in the week, and finally returned beneath her blanket for a nap.
Her vibrating phone stirred her up a short while later. Without checking to see who was on the line, she attended to the call.
“Papa?” She shot up.
“Were you asleep?”
She rubbed her eyes and a yawn came on.
“So I wasn’t imagining that you were absent at church today.”
“No, you weren’t.”
“You’re still mad at my son.”
“Actually, I am not, Papa.” She took the phone off her ear to check the time. It was already past seven. “Good evening, sir.”
There was something like laughter on his end. “Lovely evening, Alice. I would like to have a word with you, if it wouldn’t be a bother.”
“Right away. My chauffeur is waiting outside your house.”
Alice jumped off her bed and ran to her window to peek out. A Cadillac was waiting outside.
“There’s an after party at the house that started a short while ago. The chauffeur will bring you over.”
“Of course, sir.”
“I’ll be waiting.”
He rang off. Alice opened her wardrobe to pick an outfit but on a second thought, went for the gown Wemimo had earlier chosen for her. She was subtle on her makeup. For someone with marked cheekbones, it was easy for her face to come alive with just a touch of blush. She was always careful not to overdo it. Her life as a leader meant there was always someone looking up to her. It was important to be a reflection of inner beauty, and of a gentle and quiet spirit.
But the gown…it was far from reflecting restraint. Although it covered her modestly, it was all pizzazz and appeal. It seemed to say ‘I’m here. Come, get me.’
She gave it brief contemplation but stuck to her choice, slipping into comfortable shoes.
Leye was probably the first to see Alice enter the compound. He was standing at his balcony, looking out, when Papa’s car which had just driven in, stopped and she stepped out of it. He thought she looked ravishing. The blatant display of bling on her gown gave her a regal appearance. He was certain that the collection of guests partying outside would be temporarily distracted by her presence as he was.
He moved away from the balcony and retreated to the bedroom where he found Love packing a few of his things for an overnight stay in a hotel.
“You shouldn’t, sweetness.”
“Sweetness? Is that the pet name you’ve settled with?”
“I was thinking scrumptious but that’s a mouthful. I also thought of man killer.”
Love turned and gave him a playful frown. He laughed.
“But seriously, don’t worry about packing for me. I’ll handle my stuff myself.”
“I want to pack for you.”
Her back was to him. She was still in her wedding gown, which was a simple work of elegance and class, highlighting her curves. He pulled up behind her to wrap his arms around her.
“I hope you’re not a submissive wife?” His breath blew hot air on her shoulder. “I find that boring.”
Love laughed. “It’s not such a bad thing if I do it willingly, is it?”
“Still, don’t. I’m bossy. Everyone agrees to what I say. Don’t be one of them. Around here, you’re the boss of me, ma’am. I take your instructions.”
“Good. First instruction: stop poking me with your dick.”
He held her tighter and tickled her ear with feathery kisses, enjoying the childlike giggles that came out of her. It gave him immense pleasure to know that he alone could strip off her icy exterior. But more than that, Leye was in a place of contentment. He couldn’t express his joy enough. This had always been his dream. Nobody could understand the burden he had borne, loving her and not being able to have her. He had reserved a special place for her in his heart that even his late wife hadn’t been able to reach. It was a place his conscience had overlooked. He had been happy to sinfully nurse desires for Love without remorse. Now that she belonged to him, he retained that part of him, because he had kept it for so long that he didn’t know what else to do with it. She would continue to be his fantasy, even as she was now his reality.
He managed to pull away from her. “I’ll dash downstairs and when I return we’ll disappear from here.”
He ran his hand over her bum as he headed out. The door slammed behind him. Subtle soul music and the sound of human voices filled his ears as he made his way downstairs. He couldn’t wait to have his house to himself and his wife. He was already exhausted from a long week of parties.
“Congratulations, daddy!” a lady greeted, coming to him with a sunny smile. She was plus size, with a comely face. She was the resident pastor’s wife. A major gossip and a pest.
Leye accepted a handshake from her.
“Where is mommy? Is she not coming out?”
“Of course. Just extend my greetings to her. I cannot wait to get to know her better.”
Leye nodded and attended to the next person who sought his attention. This continued for the next twenty minutes, until he made a clean break for his office, dragging his personal assistant along.
“Find me Pastor Alice,” he ordered. “And tell the driver to be on standby. I don’t want to be looking for him when I’m about to leave. And finally, go upstairs and inform my wife that we’ll be out of here in fifteen minutes.”
“Yes, sir,” the lady replied, hurrying to the door.
When she left, Leye poured himself a shot of Irish Cream and waited, leaning on his desk. He needed to burn the feeling of guilt that stung his throat as thoughts of Alice attacked him.
He heard her outside the door, speaking to someone. He heard her knock.
She stepped in.
“Please, shut the door, Alice.”
She obeyed and came towards his desk.
“Could you please, sit?”
The steely look in her eyes made him uncomfortable.
“About the things I said this morning…”
“You said a lot of things, Leye. No, actually, you yelled out a lot of things.”
“I’m sorry about the yelling part. I was upset. Not with you. With my dad. He was taking advan…”
“He wasn’t,” Alice countered. “I kissed him. I initiated that kiss.”
Leye hid his surprise. “Still, he was responsible. He could have stopped you.”
“What if we both liked it?”
“What does that mean?”
“Leye, we’re adults. Your dad and I are adults. I’m not a little girl…”
“He is your spiritual leader.”
Leye looked like he would give a rejoinder but he held his tongue.
“And about the other thing you said—about knowing I had feelings for you and me being heartbroken over your marriage to Pastor Love—you were wrong.” Alice held her chin up. “I have never had feelings for you. You’re like an elder brother to me and it will remain that way. I’m happy for you and if I haven’t congratulated you yet, I’m doing so now. I wish you a blissful, happy, loving marriage. And I pray that the Lord will bless you with a child this time, and keep you and your wife together. Death will not separate you and both of you will fulfill your calling in God’s kingdom.”
Alice’s face remained cold. “Are we done here?”
“Alice…” Leye put his drink away. “Are we going to lose what we have? Our friendship?”
“I have to give you some breadth now that you’re married, Leye. Your wife would never understand what we share.”
“You’re right. But it’s going to be really awkward not having someone to talk to anymore.”
He sought her eyes. She looked elsewhere.
“You’re supposed to be talking to your wife. Isn’t that how it works?”
“Not everything is black and white in marriage. What happens when the things I want to talk about would hurt my wife? Who do I go to, Alice?”
“There are other pastors…”
“Don’t take away your friendship. Please.”
“Restore me back to my position in Papa’s life.”
“I’ve been a Happiness Worker for three years. It’s what I’m called to do.”
“Anyone but my father, Alice…”
“Because I don’t want you ending up with him! I look at the bigger picture and that’s what I see happening! And you don’t deserve that. You deserve much more, Alice. Not an old man who is stuck in his ways!”
“Why do you hate your father so much?”
“I don’t…” Leye shook his head and sighed. He gulped down his drink in a go. “You won’t understand.”
“Talk to me.” Alice’s tone went soft.
“I can’t… Just know that my mom and I were close. I was protective of her.”
“Protective from what? From who? From Papa?”
Leye’s phone rang. He stared at it. “My wife is calling. I have to go.”
He walked over to Alice, and after a long stare into her eyes, he said, “Don’t let ambition lead you into the wrong arms, Alice. Pray. Seek God’s guidance.”
He gave her a hug and dashed out.
Alice couldn’t shake off the coldness Leye’s words had left on her. She stepped out of his office and stood outside the door as though she was keeping watch over it. She was yet to see Papa, having been informed by Leye’s assistant that he was in a meeting with someone. She was instructed to wait until he was done.
Feeling detached from the party, she remained by Leye’s office door until one of his nieces, Big Momy’s first daughter, came to her.
“Good evening, Aunty Alice.”
“Good evening, dear.”
“I’ve been looking all over for you.” The bright-eyed teenager said, panting. She was dressed in lacy buba and iro that was too heavy for her. Alice was sure it was her mother’s doing. The woman enjoyed showing off her wealth on her children. A set of heavy gold jewelry adorned the teenagers neck, ears and wrists.
“Mommy wants to see you. She’s in the guesthouse.”
She zoomed off before Alice could add any more words. She hiked up her gown a little to walk properly as she went through the kitchen and out the backdoor, finding her way to the guest house which was a short walk from the main building. The party that stretched out to this part of the compound was more Yoruba in nature. Loud Fuji music was playing and the crowd was mainly dressed in lacy blue aso-ebi, most of them related to the Omotoshos. Alice found it weird that the only family from Pastor Love’s side was her personal assistant and the Hausa guy that walked around with the single crutch. The others who had adorned themselves with the less expensive aso-ebi of an odd shade of pink were from Pastor Love’s church in Abeokuta.
“Is it that she’s an orphan?” Leye’s assistant, who had given Alice the information earlier, had asked. “I sha heard one of them talking about her late husband. I wonder what he died of. Probably her coldness.”
Alice hadn’t laughed at the joke. She had given her the reprimanding look pastors enjoyed giving their flock. The lady had smiled and trotted off, leaving Alice wondering why there was mystery surrounding Pastor Love. In Abuja she had tried getting info about her off the web but only came up with the church she pastored in Abuja, the clinic she founded with her late husband and the humanitarian work she was involved in with orphans. Nothing about the ‘darkness’ Papa spoke about came up. There was also nothing about her family. This had left Alice rather curious.
She opened the front door that led into the guesthouse and found more people in blue lace. She was familiar with only a few of them. After greeting them, she asked to know where Big Mommy was. A little boy pointed to a door on her right and she walked to it. She found it ajar. Nonetheless, she knocked.
“Come in!” a chorus of voices answered in Yoruba.
Alice entered the room and found herself in the presence of Papa’s three daughters. They were women she was familiar and cordial with, all of them like elder sisters to her. But for some reason, she became uncomfortable being in their presence.
Genuflecting, she greeted them in Yoruba, a language she knew so well. They responded and Big Mommy invited her in. She noticed that a chair was kept facing the bed where all three women were seated.
“Sit down, my dear,” Big Mommy instructed.
Alice took the chair and sat.
“First of all, your dress is lovely. Good gracious! Who designed it?”
It was the youngest of the sisters speaking. Aunty Shade.
“I don’t know, actually,” Alice responded. “My friend gave it to me.”
“Please, help me ask her who designed it. I need a new tailor in my life.”
“And a new hairdresser,” her elder sister, Aunty Ayo, commented. Alice didn’t want to look at the tangled mess of synthetic hair that lay on Aunty Shade’s head.
“Alice,” Big Mommy called, ignoring her younger sisters.
“We called you here for a serious discussion.”
Big Mommy, as her name went, was big. Like her father and brother, she was tall. But asides that, she had some flesh on her. Intimidating at first glance, Big Mommy was the protector of the family. One could not cross paths with the Omotoshos without facing her. She was a lawyer by profession; a notoriously troublesome one. However, she could be soft and sweet, as long as no one in her family was threatened.
Alice felt like she had done something that had put her in a bad light in Big Mommy’s eyes.
“We have noticed some unusual movement between you and our father.”
“Unusual?” Alice asked, feeling her annoying tummy wobble.
“You were shamelessly all over him in Abuja,” Aunty Ayo accused.
Alice clutched her purse.
“We know you’ve been assigned to him as regards your duties as a Happiness Worker,” Big Mommy continued, “but what we have seen between you two makes us wonder if there’s something more.”
Alice gulped down a glob of saliva.
“Big Mommy, you’re talking too much,” Aunty Ayo said gruffly. “Pastor Alice, have you been intimate with our father?”
Alice shivered. She swallowed again. Her tummy churned. She looked up from staring down at her purse and found unfriendly eyes staring back at her.
She cussed silently. Going to Abuja was a colossal mistake. How was she to get out of this mess?