I’m glad to be back here. I’ve cleared all the cobwebs and sprayed air freshener, so that we can all CHILL.
I don’t have much to say about this story, but just read it and drop your comments. I think it’s clear now that I love religious-themed stories. I don’t know why, though. This one has some of your favorites returning, due to semi-popular demand.
Every story, they say, has two sides. But Agatha had chosen the side that made sense to her, even before she heard the other. A sort of hill she wanted to die on. It hadn’t been a difficult decision to make, and she had stuck with it because it was what good wives did—they supported their husbands, no matter what.
Agatha was in her car, head bowed over her phone, as rain trembled down the windows. If her eyes weren’t stuck on a line from a gossip article that was trending online, she would have wondered why it was raining heavily in December.
He sexually assaulted me.
It was hard to read the line, but Agatha couldn’t stop. The words were from an ungrateful woman who was a scorned former employee. She was doing this because Agatha’s husband had rejected her sexual advances in the past.
Chioma had been nothing when Agatha picked her from a women’s shelter and gave her a better life. Before Chioma came to the shelter, she had worked as a server and cleaner in a cheap nightclub somewhere in town. Agatha, in the company of women that volunteered at the women’s shelter, had gone out for their monthly outreach program on the streets when she spotted Chioma cleaning the entrance of the nightclub, following a busy night. She approached her with a flyer, inviting her for a meet-and-greet with the general overseer’s wife of their church.
Chioma was reluctant to give Agatha a positive response until she promised her that there would be cash and other gifts.
Agatha wished right now that she could go back and undo that day. Some things were better left on the streets.
Someone knocked on her car window and she jumped, her phone falling to the floor. She looked at the window and saw her assistant, Lisa, holding an umbrella and smiling at her.
Agatha picked up her phone and tossed it into her handbag. She stepped out of the car and Lisa took the handbag from her.
“Good evening, Mama,” Lisa greeted.
“What’s so funny about the evening that you’re smiling anyhow?”
“I’m not smiling, ma. I’m—”
Agatha grabbed the umbrella and walked ahead, making her way through a small gate beside a massive cathedral.
“They’re already waiting, Mama,” Lisa said, trying to catch up with her. Lisa was slim and rather frail-looking. Sometimes, Agatha believed that she hadn’t fully developed into adulthood. But she was twenty-four, hardworking, smart, and more effective than Chioma had been when she was doing her job.
“I know I’m late, Lisa. You don’t have to remind me every time I am, for God’s sake.”
Agatha entered a building that was connected to the cathedral, leaving the umbrella outside. She shivered when she got in because the central cooling system was on full blast. A lady in front of a desk looked up at her with a grin.
“Good evening, Pastor Agatha.”
“Hi, Funmi,” she responded, hurrying past. A group of women from the Women of Virtue ministry, which she headed, was waiting for her in a conference room. She had chosen them, specifically for their money, as they were all married to wealthy men. She had learned that they were easiest to work with because they were majorly bored housewives who liked to compete amongst themselves over who could spend more money.
She burst into the conference room, halting an ongoing discussion of which she suspected she was the subject.
“Good evening, sisters,” she greeted. They regarded her with exaggerated smiles as they adjusted their seats to face the long table in the middle of the room. “I’m sorry I’m late. I can’t use the rain as an excuse, since it just started. I was held back by…”
She stopped. She had been held back by her husband, Nathan, whose phone call had alerted her of Chioma’s betrayal, which had gone viral on the web. She had then parked her car by the sidewalk of a busy street and listened to the worry in his voice as he spoke. She had never heard him sound so broken.
“You don’t have to explain to us, Pastor,” said Mrs. Alakija, the wealthiest of the women. When Agatha first met her and visited her home, she had thought that their family was related to the famous Folorunsho Alakija of oil wealth. She would later learn that they were of new wealth gotten from tech.
“We would understand if you are not even up to this meeting this evening,” Feyi Alakija continued. “Your pain is our pain. We all love your husband, and it is painful to see that that Jezebel you picked from the trash is trying to ruin his good name. She has been sent by the devil to destroy him, and her plans will not work!”
“Amen!” the other women chorused.
“Through prayers and aggressive defense of his character online, we will overcome, because the bible says that the kingdom of God suffereth violence and the violent taketh it by force!”
“So, rest your mind, Pastor Agatha. God will clear your dear husband’s name, and the devil will be put to shame!”
Agatha smiled in gratitude. She needed this reassurance, as she still couldn’t get over Chioma’s betrayal. The words in the article were returning to her, as if she had written them herself.
He didn’t force himself on me, but he made it happen in a way that I couldn’t say no to him. He said he could do anything to me and nobody will believe me. And he did.
Agatha was huge on forgiveness, but with Chioma, she would hold a grudge until she retracted her lies. It was the only way to deal with the women who wanted to take advantage of Nathan’s soft heartedness.
“Pastor Agatha, we would understand if you are not up to carrying on with our prayers right now.”
Agatha cast her eyes on Sister Grace, the oldest and gentlest amongst the Women of Virtue. Agatha smiled at her and stared at the window, as it rattled in response to the storm outside.
Agatha looked at her a second time. “I must do the will of he who sent me.”
“Yes, Mama!” someone exclaimed.
“So, let’s shut ourselves in for an hour and see how God wants us to change the lives of other deserving women out there this Christmas.”
Feyi Alakija gave a nod of approval as Agatha settled into her chair at the head of the table.
The rain was beginning to wane when Agatha stopped by the neighborhood store on her way home to get Nathan his favorite bottle of wine. It was the first serious downpour of the year, and it seemed to want to make a statement. The rain beat hard on Agatha’s back as she hurried to her car with the bottle of wine and other items she bought. Once she was inside, she realized that she had forgotten her purse at the store. Hissing in annoyance, she ran out again to get the purse. By the time she returned, she was soaked to her drawls.
She started the car and headed home. Cold, shivering, and angry at herself for forgetting her umbrella in her office, Agatha barged into the house. She found Nathan waiting with a towel and a warm smile. At the sight of him, Agatha’s eyes watered. The man was the sweetest person she had ever met.
He didn’t wait for her to come to him. He walked over to her and wrapped the towel around her, taking the items she bought to the kitchen. He returned and gave her a warm hug. He was a chubby man whose hugs had comforted her for fourteen years.
“Let’s get you in the shower.”
In their bedroom, he helped her out of her clothes. When she tried to say something about Chioma, he did not let her. But she saw the sadness in his big, brown eyes.
“Go and shower.”
Agatha got into the bathroom and allowed the steaming water from the shower soothe the parts of her that Nathan’s hug hadn’t. When she was through and she met him in the living room, he had chicken pepper soup and wine waiting.
“You made this?” she asked, after taking the first sip of the soup.
Nathan loved to cook, even though they had a cook who did most of the culinary duties. He also enjoyed spending time with their son. The boy had just turned thirteen.
“I didn’t do it,” Nathan said. Agatha paused from chewing a chunky chicken part.
“Baby, we’ve already been through this. I know.”
He threw his weight back on the sofa, resting the wine glass on his wobbly tummy. “I mean, look at you and look at Chioma. Even if I were cursed with lust, I would never go near that thing.”
Chioma was a good-looking woman in Agatha’s estimation, but Nathan was right about her not coming close to her in beauty. Many years ago, before Agatha found God and her calling, she had been in the beauty industry, modeling for skincare products and appearing in commercials. She was still beautiful, even though time had tried to chip off some of her firmness. Chioma was younger and in her prime. Still, Nathan would not go near her, as his devotion to his faith and personal standards wouldn’t let him stoop so low.
“Can we not talk about it?” Agatha said.
So, they sat in silence, listening to rain fighting to stay relevant, even though it was tired. Lazy thunders took over, making Agatha long for the warmth of her bed.
“Let’s go in,” Nathan suggested when he caught her yawning. He dragged her off the couch and led her to their bedroom. She didn’t realize that he was tired as well, until he began to snore beside her. She covered him with a duvet and lay on her side, eyes peering into the dark. She recalled the evening she had caught Chioma running toward the gates as she drove home. It had been a weird sight, because Chioma was wearing one of her dresses, and she looked to be in a state of hysteria. When Agatha slowed and tried to speak to her, she ran even faster. Agatha then looked in the direction of the house and saw Nathan standing outside the front door with a look of bewilderment.
She parked the car, got down, and asked him what had happened. Still looking confused, he explained that he was taking a nap in his studio when he woke up to find Chioma seated astride him, wearing the dress he had bought for Agatha last Christmas, the same dress Agatha had worn the night before for a neighbor’s birthday party.
“I dropped it in the laundry basket last night,” Agatha said.
“She must have picked it from there,” he responded. “Anyway, I thought it was you at first because I wasn’t wearing my glasses. But when I touched her face, I realized that it wasn’t you. I pushed her off and that was when things got crazy.”
He explained that Chioma wouldn’t leave when he instructed her to. He dashed out of the room and she went after him, threatening to tell Agatha that he had attempted to rape her if he didn’t sleep with her. He called her bluff and pushed her out of the house. Screaming obscenities at him, she promised to get back at him for rebuffing her advances.
Agatha recalled being so blinded by rage that she got back into her car, ignoring Nathan’s calls for her not to do something stupid. She sped out of the compound in search for Chioma. She found her out on the street, waiting for a cab. Agatha got down from the car and confronted her. Chioma claimed she had proof that Nathan had propositioned her for sex a few times before he got bold enough to attempt to rape her.
“Why are you wearing my dress?” Agatha screamed, loud enough to draw the attention of passers-by.
“He gave it to me after he ripped the buttons of my shirt. I swear, Mama, I’m not lying.” She thrust her phone at Agatha. “I have proof on my phone.”
Agatha took the phone but only to slam it on the ground and stomp on it several times with her foot. She didn’t stop until there was nothing left to destroy. Then, she fired Chioma and threatened to have her locked up if she saw her near the house or the church. After that, she got into her car and returned the way she came, eyes on the rearview mirror. The last image of Chioma in her head was of a seemingly broken woman, hunched over the ground, trying to gather the pieces of her phone.
The memory resurrected feelings of anger in Agatha. She regretted not locking the girl up that evening. It was not too late to act upon her wishes. But first, she would embark on a three-day fasting and prayer session to tackle the situation in the spiritual realm. Some of these girls were agents of darkness and needed to be dealt with using the right channel.
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages