For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
Pizza and peppered gizzard had not turned as Alice expected. She had hoped that during dinner she and Wemimo would speak to Tara about her present relationship choices, and offer some good counsel. However, her efforts were met with anger from Tara and a tirade that left her and Wemimo stunned.
“I’ve made my decision and it’s final! I’m done with Moore!”
Alice shivered as the front door slammed at Tara’s exit.
“Na wa o,” Wemimo muttered. She was picking out two pieces of gizzard from a bowl on the center table. Resting in front of her was a pizza pack.
“Did Tara just shout on us?”
“Ta-ta is now a big girl o. Abeg, leave her.”
“No, did she just raise her voice at me?”
“You’ll get over it, Allie. Ignore that one. It’s the men chasing her up and down in church that are making her head swell.”
“So, wait…because Moore said he wasn’t going to stop being a Catholic and that he must build his house before they get married, she dumped him?”
Wemimo wasn’t bothered to respond. She was going for her third pizza slice. She had the appetite of an active male, unlike Alice who had difficulty with meals and ate as though food was often forced on her. Wemimo, however, had good reasons for her appetite. She was a fitness addict and a boxer in training.
“I don’t understand,” Alice continued. “I thought she loved him.”
“She does, obviously, that’s why the whole thing is vexing her. I won’t sha blame her. I blame that wicked Bishop Adonijah. That was how last year, the man came and was telling me that the Lord said this and that. I just told him to hold it there, that my own ears weren’t blocked. If the Lord wants to tell me anything about me, he knows where to find me. From then, the man started packing face for me. Whenever he’s preaching and he sights me, he will just start subbing me. Jobless human being, with that his ugly wife that has iron sponge as hair.”
“But wait, is it wrong for a man to want to establish himself first before he gets married?”
“Let me just be honest, Allie, Moore is taking too long. They’ve been together for three years. What is he waiting for?”
“To be well established nau.”
“Establishment kor, institution ni. He will be there and Tara will get married to another guy under his nose. All those overactive rich brothers in the church that marriage is shacking anyhow.”
“Tara will never do that.”
“They love each other, Wemi.”
“Has love ever been enough?”
“Don’t talk like that.”
“Shey if it’s only love, I for don marry my own guy. But is it me that will be drinking garri in the house with him? Babe, abeg leave that thing. Moore is comfortable enough. And for the whole Catholic thing, he could have just agreed with her small and when they marry, return to his church. It’s not hard nau.”
“Are you supporting her?”
“No o. Just saying. Me, I feel that with all his issues, Moore is the best guy for her. Lord knows what that Bishop A will go and dash her now in the name of husband after seeing another vision. Eish! Irritating soul!”
Wemimo dove for her fourth slice of pizza. Alice had lost her desire to eat. She put aside a small dish of gizzard resting on her laps and gulped down a glass of water. “So she wants to throw away three years of an awesome relationship because of Bishop A. Me, I won’t let that happen o.”
“You better leave her.”
“I hooked her and Moore up. How do you think it makes me feel? And Moore is such a good guy. He’s never asked for sex, he’s never cheated, and he’s been taking care of her as much as she allows. Haba nau! Why is Tara doing like this?”
“It will shock you soon that the same Tara that is refusing to open leg for Moore will get disvirgined by one good-for-nothing guy in the church.”
“Wemi, you’re off-point. Just keep quiet, abeg. Always speaking negatively.”
Wemimo continued, in a nonchalant manner. “I’ve seen the vision. You won’t listen to me now because I’m not a pastor. Did you see how she was looking at us like shit when we were talking to her? Somebody is already twisting her nipples somewhere, that’s why she’s feeling like she has liver to be doing anyhow.”
Alice was forced into mirth. She threw her head backwards and held her side as she laughed.
“Be laughing. She will soon come crying to you to tell you that she’s pregnant. Shebi you’re the pastor for single mothers.”
“You’re not well, Wemi,”
“I don talk my own. But wait o, why is there pineapple in this pizza. Shey these people have started getting mad ni? They would have just added pawpaw and watermelon let me know that I’m eating fruit salad pizza.”
“You’re complaining after you’ve taken five slices.”
“I’ll finish the whole pack sef.”
Alice pushed a second pack to her, knowing she was capable of consuming both. “Enjoy.”
Alice picked a piece of gizzard without interest. Tara was on her mind. Tara, and then, Papa. She hadn’t spoken to him all day. She missed him.
Hours later, when her worry over Tara had departed and she had spent quality time with Wemimo, she lay on the living room floor and sent a message to Papa. She was surprised to find that he was awake.
“I can’t sleep. A few things on my mind,” he said when he called her.
“You want to talk about it?”
He told her he would rather tell her how gorgeous she was, and how he missed looking into her fascinating eyes.
“You always have the right adjectives, George,” she replied in a sigh. After fighting to be loved her whole life, Papa was dishing out affection and attention to her like the air she breathed.
These days, it was easy for her to call him by his first name. It had been hard the first few times but he made it easy. He was a simple man behind closed doors. Informal and unfussy. Vulnerable with her.
They spoke a little longer before she called it a night, after promising to pay him a visit by noon the next day. When she hung up, she found Wemimo standing over her head.
“George? George Omotosho? Papa?”
Having been caught with no defense, Alice smiled in guilt. An excited Wemimo sat on the floor beside her and begged for details of the relationship. Alice gave the little she was comfortable letting out. She was a secretive person. Her intimate moments with Papa was not something she wanted to share with Wemimo. They were special to her.
“Are you going to say yes to him if he proposes?”
Wemimo, in character, gave a one-sided frown. “Are you alright? You think he’s with you to be doing boyfriend and girlfriend?”
Alice knew where the thing with Papa was headed. She had thought and fantasized about it a lot, but it had always left her scared.
“He’s old, Wemi.”
“He’s sixty-seven. He’s had heart issues. What if I marry him tomorrow and he dies…?”
“It’s not about God forbid, Wemi. Papa is old.”
“Who is this person talking here? You suddenly don’t know how to be with an old man again?”
“Wemi, that was my past. I was a misguided youth…”
“No. It’s more like serial sugar baby.”
“Old things have passed away.”
“Old things had to exist for this moment.”
“Yes. God works in mysterious ways. Your experience in the past was all for this moment.”
“Seriously, Wemi? You want to compare then to now? I was with older men for the money. Now, it’s serious. I’ll be getting married to Papa. I’m worried that…” She heaved. “Will he be able to…?” Alice couldn’t continue with the question.
“Well, the only way is to try it once…”
Alice shut her ears. “Get thee behind me, devil.”
Wemimo cackled. “But seriously, test to see if the thing is working.”
“That is totally out of the question, Wemimo.”
“Okay, forget sex. Just touch it and see how…”
Alice raised her hand. “It’s enough, Wemi.”
“No harm in trying.”
“What of other stuff?”
“Like what?” Wemimo picked a couple of throw pillows from a couch behind her and dumped them beneath her legs.
“Stuff like just doing things young couples do?”
“Will you people be going to clubs or chasing each other on the streets?”
“Be serious jor. You know what I mean.”
“Alice, Papa looks way younger than his age. He is fit. He is stylish. He is sexy. He is fun to be with. He is rich. His friends are bougie. So, please tell me what you’re looking for in a man again.”
“He’s actually everything I want in a man. I just wish he was younger.”
“Or you wish he was his son.”
Alice gave her a grimace.
“Pastor Love will tear you to pieces.”
“I’m over Leye.”
“Stick to his father, abeg. Forget the age. Papa is goals for many men out there. Besides, once you start having kids, your mind will be occupied with them. Look, Alice, you can make this work. Just set your mind on him and forget everything else.”
Wemimo’s counsel was well-received. Alice’s relationship with Papa was by far the most stable relationship she had ever been in. Papa treated her with dignity. He adored her. What else was she searching for?
She went to sleep, her heart sold on him, set to let herself fall and give it all she had. If he popped the question anytime soon, she was saying yes.
He was set for his morning run. He was alone in the room. Love, as usual, was already awake. She always had her morning devotion before he stirred. She was a woman who was efficient with her time. She planned every moment of her day. He already had learned a thing or two from her about time management. But he also enjoyed messing her schedule just to let her enjoy lazy, unplanned moments with him.
He hopped down the stairs, fixing his earphones in place. On a whim, he stopped to check on Love in her office. He walked in stealthily and found her seated on the couch, her back to the door, her laptop before her. There was a video playing. The light from the laptop screen illuminated the darkness in the office.
Leye watched the video for some seconds before he snuck up behind his wife and laid a hand on her shoulder. She shuddered and shut the laptop.
“Did I startle you?”
“No.” She pushed the laptop away, her face still hidden from him.
“Are you okay?”
Her shoulder was stiff under his touch.
Leye pressed a button on his phone and it brought light to the office. When he directed it at Love’s face, he saw that she was crying.
“Hey…” he stooped down before her. “What’s going on?”
“Love, I saw that video.” He turned on his phone’s flashlight and put it away from her face. “You were with a baby. Who was that?”
“Sit down.” She gave some room on the couch to let him sit beside her. She wiped her tears with both hands. “That was my son.”
“Son?” Leye asked. “You have a baby?”
“Had. He died. Shortly after that video.”
“What happened to him? When was this?”
“With my first husband. I was pregnant before we got married. When I gave birth to him, I named him Christian. I wanted him to be a good boy, to be nothing like me or his father…” She shook her head as her eyes moistened up again. “I didn’t know he wasn’t even going to stay.”
“I’m so sorry, Loveth.” Leye placed his hand on hers.
“I went out one morning to make my hair. I left him with his father. When I got back in the evening, I found him vomiting and crying. He had a fever. His father didn’t care. He just sat there, watching something on TV. I gave him some drugs but the vomiting won’t stop. He had diarrhea too. I took him to the hospital. They said he ingested something. Food poisoning. They did all they could… he died the next morning.”
Leye put his arm around her and she rested her head on his shoulder.
“Today is his birthday. I came here to pray but I just couldn’t stop thinking about him. He was everything to me, Leye. Everything.”
Leye held her as she cried.
“I don’t know how to get over it. The memory is still real. How do I forget?”
She felt weak in his hold, and so he let her lie on his laps.
“I realize I’ve been selfish, asking you to wait a whole year to have a baby,” he said, fingers running through her hair. “Maybe you should stop taking those pills and let’s get pregnant.”
“Are you ready?”
He wasn’t ready. He had his own story of loss when it came to children. Diane, by some miracle, had gotten pregnant after four years of trying. They had kept the pregnancy a secret from everyone, afraid to jinx it. The period had been a time of feverish excitement for them. He treated her as one would a golden egg, pampering her with an obsession, waiting on her like she was a goddess. The pregnancy tightened their bond and healed the wounds of their past. They began to build their dreams again and plan their future with the baby in the picture. But it took only a night and sheets stained with Diane’s blood to shatter everything. Diane never recovered. Neither did he. Diane became more desperate than she was in the past, and he became a tool in her hands. It drained him emotionally. He lost desire to have another child. All he wanted was Diane.
Same way he was content with Love alone. The process of childbearing conjured unpleasant memories. He wasn’t crazy about towing the line again. But for Love’s sake, he was willing to start a new journey.
“I’m ready,” he whispered. He turned off his flashlight and stayed with her until daylight came.
“I may be able to squeeze out thirty minutes on my jog time if I leave now,” he said to her.
“I’d rather we talked about us. You were pretty angry last night. You didn’t have dinner.”
Leye tended forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
“You seemed angry at me.”
“I wasn’t, iyawo mi. The meeting left me all sorts of pissed. And then hearing you tell me that my dad supports the idea of me being G.O…”
“Is it such a bad thing?”
“No. It’ll be an honor, actually, but I haven’t heard from God on the matter. I can’t just take the position because everyone else feels it’s for me. I must have a personal conviction. My dad knows this but he’ll do anything in his power to manipulate his way into my life.”
“He only means well.”
Leye let out a low chuckle. “You have no idea whom you’re talking about.”
“Will you, at least, pray about it?”
Leye regarded his wife with a smile. “We will pray about it. How’s that?”
“And promise me you won’t push?”
“Or put out any more articles online?”
Love gave a clueless expression.
“I know what you can do, sweetness. And you’re good with it. Just turn it down a notch.”
“Yes, sir.” She leaned towards him and brushed his cheek with her lips. “I need to make breakfast.”
He took her hand as she made to stand, and pulled her onto his laps. She straddled him in a kneeling position.
“In all my anger last night, all I could keep thinking about was your ass.” He squeezed her bum, pulling her to him.
“Maybe I need to teach you a thing or two about angry sex.”
“Maybe,” she answered, smiling. Her eyes gleamed as he worshipped her with his gaze. It took away the pain she often hid that he alone could see. It made her open. It left her flushed. She wasn’t the most beautiful woman he had been with. She wasn’t half as gorgeous as Diane had been. But there was something comforting and earthy about Love. He felt safe around her. She was to him, his guardian angel. Intelligent, wise, ingenuous and cunning, she had always been what he wanted.
And then one couldn’t talk about her without mentioning her body. As the Pastor’s wife she was, she hid her figure in modest clothes. He alone had the privilege of knowing what lay beneath. She was scarred from past abuse, but soft to the touch like a newborn. On their first night together he had spent a good deal of time just touching her, familiarizing himself with the contours of her form. The feeling could only be compared to the sensations a blind man would have during his first encounter with a woman.
Love was addictive; Leye was possessed by her. He valued her in a manner he couldn’t understand.
And so this morning, just like the others, he showed her how deeply he was still falling for her. In the quietness of her office, afraid to stir the other occupants in the house, they shared knowledge with each other in biblical terms. He missed his morning run but she kept her appointment with his father afterwards. When she was gone, he remained in their bedroom to plan his Sunday sermon.
Phoebe checked her reflection in the mirror for what seemed like the hundredth time and decided against what she was wearing.
She grumbled in frustration. Her room was in a state of disorder. She had turned it upside-down in search of what to wear for her salon appointment.
Nothing made sense. The clothes she had tried and discarded made her look every bit the forty-seven year old she was. And she didn’t want that. The idea was to come off as younger and sexy, although she didn’t remember when last she felt that way. Her years had been filled with gloominess and endless church activities.
Every bit of her life, including the house she lived in, was a reflection of the woman she was never going to be. In her bedroom, for instance, when clothes were not making a mess of it, one could catch glimpses of a girl once happy and in love. A girl who believed the world was at her feet and she could tread on it with abandon. The flightiness of youth and beauty could be found in the yellow, pink and lemony setting that displayed sunny artworks and feminine furniture. Nothing showed the grief she bore inside or the greyness that was eating her youth. Well-hidden was the lunacy that marked her nights.
The world was carried away by her jolly exterior. She was the personification of spinsterhood, encased in happiness and contentment. No one wore the term ‘married to Jesus’ like she did. In fact, some even referred to her as the female Apostle Paul.
But they had no idea how much she bruised whenever she heard those words She was not the woman they thought she was. That version of her died to the world with her past. Yet it remained with her like the undead, warring constantly with her reality. Today, she was going to let it win. She would channel the Phoebe of old because God had sent her on a life-changing missive. She had failed the last two times. This time, it was imperative that she succeeded. On the previous occasions, she had given the wrong impression of herself, presenting an old, bitter spinster who was bored and full of mischief. On this occasion, she would appear to have everything going for her. There would be no more mistaken identities.
She delved into the mess of clothes and after searching, picked a pair of jeans. It seemed like a millennium since she last wore any type of jeans. As a leader in her church, she was expected to dress in uninspiring garb that covered her womanly curves. If any of the church members caught her outside, she would become the latest gossip topic. But she was unbothered. She picked her handbag and left her house for her mission.
Her journey took her almost an hour but she soon found herself outside Studio B, an upscale beauty salon with clear glass windows that gave a glimpse of a classy interior.
Phoebe came off the bus that had brought her to her destination. She inhaled and sauntered towards the establishment with a straight posture, ignoring a niggling ache on her lower back.
When she walked into Studio B, five ladies turned their heads in her direction. Of the five, only one was a customer. The others either worked in the salon or owned it. She didn’t care for their presence. She was only interested in the one that was occupied with the activity of straightening out a customer’s hair. She was formed like a model and had dark skin that seemed like it was daily pampered with milk and honey. Her face, free of makeup, was striking at just first glance. She had a stubborn look to her, but soft, mesmerizing eyes gave her an approachable façade.
Phoebe took all this in. It was the first time she was up close with her. The other times, she had watched her from afar.
“Good morning, madam,” the lady greeted with a kindly grin. “How may we help you?”
It was only after she had welcomed Phoebe that the others found their manners and threw out greetings to her. Before then, they had been giving her a rather queer look, as if she did not belong in their space.
“I’m here to wash and set my hair.”
“Okay, ma,” the lady replied. “My friend will do it for you.” She turned in the direction of another tall lady who was leaning on a pedicure table, ear to her phone. “Wemi?”
The one called Wemi pointed to someone else – a smallish girl with humble airs.
“Wash her hair.”
“No,” Phoebe replied.
“No, I want Alice to do it.”
Pausing from her work, Alice looked at Phoebe with a bit of surprise. “We’ve met?”
Phoebe swung her head from left to right.
“Someone gave me this address and your name. She said Alice should do my hair. I’m guessing you’re Alice?”
Alice gave a nod.
“Good. I’ll wait.”
“But my friend Wemi is even better than I am.”
“I want you alone.”
Still on the phone, Wemi showed a look of contempt and turned her face away. Phoebe was offered a comfy sofa to sit on. Beside it was a rack of magazines. She picked a Vogue and proceeded to peruse it.
However, her eyes wouldn’t let Alice be. She stole peeps at her as her head became worked up with numerous questions about her.
Time dragged by until finally Alice stood before her with the same sweet grin she had presented earlier. She reached over and dug her fingers into Phoebe’s hair.
“You need to retouch. This is a mess.”
Phoebe thought she smelled like lust. It was the type of thing men did not resist. It was a feminine and alluring fragrance.
“Did you come with your relaxer?”
“What kit do you use?”
Phoebe couldn’t remember the last time she used anything in a kit; extravagance was something of her past. She was saving her money for her son. He needed to have a better future than the life she was living.
“I used to use Dark & Lovely but I’m ready for a change.”
“Perfect.” Alice’s soft fingers were still in her hair. They were massaging her scalp. “You have medium texture hair but a soft scalp. I have just the thing for you.”
Withdrawing her hand, she called one of the apprentices to get a fresh towel for Phoebe and a cold drink of her choice.
“This way, ma.”
Phoebe was led to a chair before a long mirror that stretched to both ends of the wall on which it rested. She watched as Alice mixed hair products with a spatula in a small, black bowl. Full breasts sheathed in a t-shirt jiggled vivaciously with every fierce movement of her hands.
In no time, Phoebe’s hair was being cared for. Alice was fast and efficient. An hour after, Phoebe was smiling at her reflection in the mirror.
“You love it?” Alice asked. Phoebe felt feminine and young with the hairstyle. Her mane had been parted in two, giving her a side bob that fell across her face and ended in an inward curve just below her chin. She patted her hair as Alice turned her chair to the left and right to let her get a complete view.
“I want to have a word with you, Alice,” she said to her, not breaking her act of self-admiration. The words slipped out of her mouth like she had not uttered them.
“Yes. In private.”
Her request drew the attention of the others in the salon.
“Do you have an office we can talk?”
“Yes. But what is it about, ma?”
“I can’t speak in the open.”
Alice looked around. Phoebe saw her catching her colleague’s stare. Some form of communication passed between them before Alice led her to a smaller space that was part office, part storage room. She was given a chair to sit while Alice stood.
“You don’t know me, Alice. And I don’t know you either. But from the day I saw you in the backseat of George Omotosho’s car and he was holding your hand and he kissed you, I became part of your world. And I feel I must protect you from destroying your life…”
“Wait! You were that creepy woman who was staring into the car when we were parked under the traffic light at Ademola Adetokunboh?”
“Yes. Last week Thursday.”
“What the hell are you doing here? You’re following me? You’re stalking me?!”
“My sister, calm down–”
“I’m not your sister! Who are you and what do you want from me?!”
Wemimo barged into the office. “What’s going on?”
“Sister Alice, calm down and please, listen to me,” Phoebe insisted.
“Allie, what’s going on?” Wemimo repeated.
“I don’t know who this woman is…”
“My name is Phoebe. Please, listen to me. You won’t regret it.”
“Mono, let her talk,” Wemimo said with calm. “There is sha a mop stick outside. If you talk rubbish, madam, I will just scatter this your side parting with it! Oya, talk.”
Phoebe looked from Wemimo to Alice. She was unruffled by the sudden air of hostility around her.
“Sister Alice,” she began, “what you’re about to hear about your darling George will make you cringe.” There was hardly any expression on Phoebe’s face. And then she smiled as uncertainty clouded Alice’s mien.
“Grandpa, where did you learn how to cook?”
Papa glanced away from the meal he was stirring on the cooker and looked at his fourteen year old grandson who stood in his kitchen, munching on banana and groundnuts.
“I learned on my own, partially taught by my grandmother.”
“That’s like my great-great-grandmother, right?”
“Yeah. I lived with her. I was a troubled teenager as you were, so my parents told me I had to leave Lagos to Abeokuta to stay with her. I still somehow managed to knock up a girl there and that was how Big Mommy came to be.”
The boy said nothing. He kept on with his midday snack. In many ways he reminded Papa of Leye. As a teen, and even up to his early adult years, Leye had been a source of headache to Papa and his late wife. If he wasn’t getting into some notorious gang, he was doing drugs or womanizing. Papa had never imagined that Leye would become the man he was today. They had had the most difficult relationship, with the rift getting worse when Leye found out about the affair he had. It was at that point that Leye’s delinquencies came on full force. He quit church entirely and left home to live a rogue life, returning only when his mother was diagnosed with cancer. Her death rehabilitated him. On the day she was buried, he walked into his father’s room to seek forgiveness for his past transgressions.
The memory was still strong in Papa’s head.
“Dad?” Leye had gone on his knees. “I’ve messed up really badly. I’ve done disgraceful things. I’ve rubbished the Omotosho name and lived a terrible life. Please, forgive me. I’m a changed man, and I want to undo all I did that caused you pain. I also want to accept the calling of God in my life. I’m tired of running. I want to work in God’s house.”
Papa recalled not being able to say anything for a while because he was overwhelmed. He had then taken his son’s hands, forgave him and prayed for him. They went ahead to share a most intense and amazing relationship as father and son for two years until the day Leye, just returning from a trip, walked in on him being pleasured by one of the ladies in church. Leye wouldn’t have known anything was going on had the lady not panicked when he barged into Papa’s office and risen up from the floor on which she was crouched.
That night, they had their worst fight. After which Leye went to visit the lady and forced out details of the relationship from her.
“You were sleeping with her while your wife was dying of cancer?!” Leye had bellowed, his voice almost bringing the house down.
And because Papa was a proud man, he showed no remorse for his actions.
“Whatever I did in my marriage, with whoever, is none of your business! You had no idea what was going on with your mom and I and you have no moral justification to open that insolent mouth of yours to speak to me that way!”
But Leye had only just begun. That night, they both uttered words neither of them could take back. A week later, Leye moved to his own apartment. As time elapsed, the distance between them widened. When he turned thirty-three, Leye got married to Diane against Papa’s wish, making the relationship suffer even more difficult times. Diane tried her best to bring father and son together but they were both headstrong.
Shortly after Diane passed, Papa had a heart attack. Without seeking his permission, Leye moved Papa’s belongings from their old family home to his house, putting him in the care of a nurse. But the leader of the Happiness Department in the church had added Alice to the old man’s detail to cater to his official pursuits as she was a pastor in training then. She was to ensure that Papa was well-cared for and his businesses handled. Being Alice’s friend, Leye had shown displeasure over the arrangement, asking that Alice be taken off Papa’s detail. But Papa had overridden his instructions, retaining Alice.
At this point, he was a changed man, but Leye was not aware. On his road to recovery in the hospital, he had had a peculiar encounter with the supernatural. A sort of final warning from God to have his ways changed. He had been given more years to live, to complete his calling. A helper, he was told, would come his way, of which he had replied to God, “The only helper I need is you, Lord.”
And he had heard nothing after that. Over the next couple of days, his health improved and in a short while, he was taken home. It came as a surprise when he found himself in his son’s house.
“This is not permanent, dad,” Leye had said to him, staring into his eyes coldly. “When you get well, you’ll go back home.”
However, a year and two and three went by, and they remained what they were – just father and son. But Papa had fallen in love with Alice, warring within himself , fighting his desires and the need to keep things pure between them. He found her easy to manipulate because she was sold to his every word, like the thousands who without difficulty fell under his spell.
Thus, he did his best not to work her mind. Instead, he concentrated on building her spiritual life. He taught her tenets of Christian theology, took her on his official trips, elevated her to a status in the church that was respected by all. These he did while nursing strong feelings for her that grew by the day.
Leye’s nuptials to Love marked a milestone in his life as well. Feeling a strong conviction in his spirit, he knew it was time to let Alice know how he felt. But she had beat him to it with a kiss. One he wasn’t prepared for but savored with much pleasure. From then on, he took control of their relationship, steering it with caution and wisdom. He was aware that Alice wasn’t as convinced as he was about what they shared. He was also aware that her reasons for being with him might be hinged on what his status would do to hers. None of those bothered him. If she was there only for the money, he would love her still. Such was his deep affection for her. To him, he was paying penance for the hearts of the women he had broken, starting from Big Mommy’s mother to the last lady he used and dumped.
He would love Alice the way he was supposed to love his late wife. He would give her everything. Leye’s disapproval would do nothing to stop him. Alice was the helper sent to God for him, and he would do right by her.
Papa turned off the heat of the cooker. His grandson was done with his snack.
“Can I go upstairs now?”
“No, set the table.”
The boy made a face and uttered something in disrespect.
“Set the table for two. You’re skipping lunch.” The sternness in Papa’s tone forced the boy into movement. Papa picked up his phone and dialed his second daughter, Ayo. He stepped out of the kitchen to the backyard where the sun burned above without chill.
“Ayomide, send your driver over to pick your son. Nothing is wrong with him.”
“He’s just an overactive teenager prone to misdemeanors. Taking him out of school and bringing him here won’t change a thing. You and your husband should create time for him.”
“Daddy, where is the time nau? You know how busy we get…”
“Create it now or you’ll look for it when you have too much of it in the future and you won’t find it because the boy will outgrow you.”
“So you’re saying we should overlook the fact that he smokes and sneaks out of school to party?”
Papa remembered Leye and all his excesses as a teenager. “This is just a phase, Ayomi. He will get over it.”
His daughter seemed unsure. “Trust me,” he added.
“Okay, daddy. I’ll send the driver over. Thank you. I love you.”
Papa smiled. His daughters were the light of his life. “I love you.”
He had barely hung up when his grandson poked his head out to announce that he had a visitor.
“Pastor Alice. She came with some other old woman.”
Papa went back into the house. He washed hands that smelled of onions and seasoning before stepping out to the living room. He saw Alice first, and then his gaze moved in the direction of her companion. When the woman, seated comfortably on his settee, looked at him with a sinister smile, he gave nothing away.
She was standing, arms crossed, fire in her eyes.
“Good afternoon, Papa.”
He gave no response. It had been a while since she had addressed him that formally.
“This lady here has some interesting things to say about you, sir. You have any idea who she is?”
Papa was embarrassed. He also felt apprehensive. He knew his sins would catch up with him but not in this manner. He didn’t want to lose Alice. But the moment of reckoning was here and it had come to him packaged in a deranged, bitter, obsessed woman who was yet to heal from the pain he had put her through almost twenty-four years ago.
“Hello Phoebe,” he greeted with tight lips.
She smiled again. “Hello George.”
Papa stared at Alice. He saw the first sign of disappointment in her eyes. It crushed him.