Sometimes, Loveth was afraid of her calm. Keeping cool in situations that would normally get a rise out of others was something she was always praised for. And to a large degree, she prided in it. Yet it often scared her how cold and detached she could be when she should have an emotional reaction to distress.
But tonight, she was out of her element. She had just learned from Leye that he had suffered from and treated himself of testicular cancer, which was now in remission. This happened during her pregnancy. He had even undergone surgery to take out the lump during one of his mission trips outside the country. He explained to Love that he discovered it a day after they found out that they were expecting their second child. He didn’t think it was the best time to tell her about it until he was sure what it was. He went to see a doctor, who ran tests and informed him that he had testicular cancer. Love’s pregnancy progressed but it didn’t turn out like the first, making things difficult for her from the start. Telling her about his health situation at that time would have been insensitive.
So, he made the visits to the doctors, ran tests, and underwent treatment and surgery on his own. Looking back, Love recalled the paleness she had noticed on his skin and the weight loss he attributed to more gym hours after work. There were times he didn’t eat and looked tired; other times, he had a burst of energy and wanted to take on more than his strength could carry.
Their sex life didn’t exist during her pregnancy, not because of him but because she couldn’t stand being touched. Everything about sex irritated her. If Leye had been unable to be sexual with her due to his health, she wouldn’t have known.
But she judged herself for not noticing that the closest person to her was going through hell. She was also mad at him for not sharing it with her. Did he think her so weak that she could break at the thought of losing him? What was marriage without honesty and openness?
She didn’t share these thoughts with him, though, as she couldn’t find the appropriate words to articulate them. So, she sat in silence and watched him while he spoke. When he was done, she left the bedroom and checked on their sleeping son. Leye went after her and found her gazing at the boy, a lone tear on her cheek.
“Sweetness?” he called.
“What if you had died?”
“Hey…” He tried to touch her but she flinched.
“Don’t do that,” she said. “I’m not a baby. Don’t use that tone on me.”
She kept her eyes on the colorful painting of a zoo on the wall facing her. Her vision soon became blurry with tears. She wanted to scream at Leye, but the words were stuck in her head, looking for justification, finding logic to his actions.
She felt the warmth of his hand on her back. She badly longed to lean into his touch.
“I’m so sorry.”
She shimmied away. “What if you had died?”
“Love, I caught it on time. The surgery was almost painless. What has stressed me out the most are the tests. They want to be sure that it doesn’t return. I am fine, trust me.”
“Trust?” Her head turned but her body did not. She didn’t want to look at him.
“Yes. Trust that I am well. I’m healthy.”
She turned around, looked into his eyes, and walked out. She didn’t return to their bedroom. Rather, she hurried out the backdoor and to the gate. She waited for the guards to let her through.
“Ma, do you want me to walk with you?” one of them asked.
Love didn’t hear him. The wind howled as it blustered through the trees that marked off the entrance of the compound. Wrapping her arms around her to keep her kimono in place, she headed for Papa and Alice’s home. She got there in five minutes and the guards let her in. By the time her finger stabbed the doorbell, her face was covered in tears.
The housekeeper answered the door and let her in. Love walked past her, up the stairs, and stopped outside the master bedroom. She knocked on the door, feeling strength drain from her.
Alice came to the door with a frown that turned to a look of worry when she saw it was Love.
Papa looked up from the book he was reading. “Come in.”
Love walked in and sat beside him.
“What has he done now?”
Love tried to respond but broke down. Alice put her arms around her; and as she cried, she told them about Leye’s health. They listened in silence, shocked by the news.
“I am scared to death of losing him,” Love confessed. “I’ve lost enough men in my life, watched them all die. I can’t do it again. I can’t.”
Papa placed a hand on her back. “Nothing will happen to your husband. I believe he’s been through the worst and I need you to believe that as well.”
“You will not lose Leye. God has not said it is his time.”
Love wanted to believe Papa, but she was shaken. She could feel her resolve falling to pieces. Asides being traumatized, she was mad at Leye. If he could keep something as huge as cancer from her, what else was he hiding?
“Would you like a cup of tea?” Papa asked. Love nodded. “Come on.”
He got off the bed and helped her up. They went to the kitchen where the housekeeper was already making a cup of Papa’s nightly tea. He let her off for the night and took over.
“Omoleye reminds me of his mother a lot,” he said. “She hid that she had cancer from me until it was too late because I was always on the road…” He paused. “You already know how much of a terrible husband I was. But I was so angry with her, even though I knew I had no right to, considering my infidelity. I felt betrayed because it was my job to take care of her, to make sure she was okay. I felt helpless, despite my efforts to ensure that she got the best health care.”
Papa pushed a teacup toward Love.
“I understand how you feel right now. You’re a fixer. You fix things and take care of people, but you should know something about the man you married. As the firstborn son, he manned up quite early. It was always important to hide his problems and take care of others.”
“But Daddy, it’s cancer o. Not malaria.”
Papa placed his hand on Love’s. “Don’t overthink it, Loveth. Your husband needs you right now. Please, forgive him. Okay?”
Papa poured steaming water into Love’s teacup and dunked in a teabag. He handed her a honey jar.
She mixed in some honey and had a sip. “Mmm… What tea is this?”
“Fenugreek, infused in clove. Fenugreek is good for…”
“Breastmilk.” Love smiled. Papa was always thoughtful. “Thanks.”
They were quiet for a bit, then Love said, “I’m an awful wife. No, a bad wife. How didn’t I see that he was ill?”
Papa smiled at her. “You’re the best thing that ever happened to my son. His late wife didn’t come close, trust me.”
Papa’s phone rang. He glanced at his screen. “Your husband.”
“I don’t want to talk to him.”
Papa picked the call. “She’s fine,” he said to Leye in Yoruba. “Come for her in the morning.”
Love took a long sip of her tea and allowed it soothe her.
“What we’re going to do is pray for him,” Papa told her. “Pray away that cancer, so that it goes away completely.”
“He said it’s gone.”
“We will still pray.”
“I can’t believe I just said ‘he said’. I sound like one of those clueless wives out there who know nothing about their husbands’ business. How did we get to this point?”
“You’re still overthinking.”
Love breathed out. She was ready to pray and fast for the rest of her life and do anything, if it would mean that Leye would be free from the trap of death.
Five minutes away from her, Leye was chatting with Obinna. He had just told him that Love was finally aware of his health situation. Obinna asked if he had been completely honest with her.
Leye’s phone rang, startling Abitoluwa who lay on his chest. He picked Obinna’s call.
“You have to tell her. Don’t do this, Leye.”
“I’ll tell her. I just need to know what the doctors saw.”
“They’re saying it’s not gone?”
“Sort of. I may need surgery again. Hopefully, not.”
“Everything is going to be fine, but you don’t want to play this game with Loveth. It was what destroyed what Blessing and I had, and nothing could fix us. No secrets…”
“I need to turn in. Let me pray for you.”
Leye stretched out his legs and rubbed his son’s back as his friend prayed. His faith was interesting these days. It had been on rough grounds for more than a year, even before he was diagnosed with cancer. It started with a brief mission trip that showed him the ugly aftermath of war, which left him with nightmares for weeks. Age-old questions about the essence of life and the struggles of survival plagued him. He felt guilty for being privileged while many out there suffered for no fault of theirs. He began to lose enthusiasm over the things that brought him joy—his ministry, especially. It felt like he was merely performing a role he had done countless times.
But it scared him to reason in this manner, to question his calling and God’s blessings in his life. So, he prayed and asked that his reservations be taken away. He talked to Obinna about it, who told him that he was going through midlife crisis. He believed him for some time, anything to anchor his worries on. But the disquiet remained, drawing him into depression.
Leye signed up for therapy with a psychiatrist, with the intention to get pills; as he was desperate to get back on his gear. At this time, Love was swamped with work, making trips to their other branches across Nigeria, to establish the working model that had helped the BCC headquarters grow exponentially. She had also been invited to work with other churches, within and outside the country. Hence, they spent more time away from each other than they did together. On a certain weekend, Leye planned a getaway for them. He had intended to open up to her about his struggles, but Dabira had fallen ill and had them spending the weekend in a hospital. A few days later, Love told him she was pregnant. Shortly after, he discovered the lump in his testicle.
Strangely, he hadn’t been shaken by the diagnosis. Having cancer made him feel human. It gave him a renewed drive and a cross to carry, like the common populace. But it wasn’t something he wanted to share with anyone. Obinna found out only because he had needed someone to be with him during his surgery in Texas, where they had attended an international pastors’ conference. Upon his return to Nigeria, he commenced plans with Ebenezer Nosakhare to become a partner at Crafter.
Again, Obinna blamed his business decision on midlife crisis.
“People buy cars and get into affairs, but you went and purchased half of an entire company. What do they call that?”
To this, Leye had laughed. He was still struggling with his faith and mental health. Reducing his pastoral activities, becoming a partner at Crafter, and falling ill hadn’t fixed the problem. Even now that his doctors told him that they had found traces of cancerous cells in his lymph nodes, he doubted that things would be as they were before. He felt remorseful for lying to Love, but he needed to know where he stood health-wise before fully opening up to her. She believed she was strong, but nobody knew her like he did. Sometimes, he knew her better than she knew herself because she was always in denial of her vulnerability. Love had suffered too much death and loss and was still traumatized by her past. If his only job as her husband was to protect her from trauma, he would do it with his dying breath.
“I don’t think she’ll come.”
Kyenpia got off her chair and did a little thing of walking around Oby’s artsy living room.
“She’ll be here, Kyenpia,” Oby said.
“She’s kept us waiting for an hour, and I have things to do.”
“Sit down, Kay. Let’s keep gisting.”
“We’ve gisted about everything, really.” Kyenpia sat but held on to the edge of her seat with both hands. “I’m curious, though. Do you think we could ever become best of friends?”
The question left Oby a little puzzled. “Why…? Are you fighting with Amaka?”
Kyenpia laughed. “No.”
“So, why are you asking?”
“I mean… Considering my history with Ishi—”
“Oh!” Oby giggled, pushing her braids away from her face.
“I feel like there’s a certain line we’d never be able to cross. Secondly, I know you have questions for me about what Ishi and I had.”
“Okay. Wow. It seems I do.” Oby brushed off imaginary particles from her shorts.
Kyenpia relaxed into the couch, smiling. “Shoot.”
“But what does it matter to you? Do you really want to be close to me?”
Kyenpia gave a nod.
“Because you don’t want to feel guilty for being closer to my husband than you are to me? Or is it because you still have feelings for him?”
“There!” Kyenpia sat up, chuckling. “She finally let it out!”
Oby laughed back. “Okay, this is officially weird. And I think we’re both insane to be laughing about it.”
“Hey…” Kyenpia lowered her voice. “Trust me, I have no issues with you. I really want us to connect. That’s why I invited you into my clan. But you’ve been stonewalling me.”
“Kyenpia, the truth is I’ve had these questions on my mind, knowing it could cause a huge fight between me and Ishi if I voiced them out, also knowing I couldn’t just ask you about them without him getting to know about it. Then, there’s Leo in the mix too. I didn’t want to drag him into the whole thing.”
“So, let’s handle it woman-to-woman. Ask me anything.”
“Was the sex good?”
“No, don’t get jealous. He was fucking me like God had given him a onetime free pass to be sinful and he had to max it out. Sometimes, I think back and feel used, you know? But I know I used him as well to heal from my grief. Yes, there were feelings involved, but not in the way he loves you or how my husband loves me. It felt more like a taboo moment that we both knew wouldn’t last. I couldn’t compete with his devotion to God. That’s the real person you should be jealous of.”
Oby shook her head in a smile. Kyenpia was insane.
“But what’s the truth about you two?” Oby asked.
“The truth?” Kyenpia relaxed into the sofa. Her fingers found a loose thread and tugged at it. Oby saw that as a sign of unease. “Ishi is my friend.”
“We all know that.”
“And that’s all there is.”
“So, you’re saying that if Leo and I somehow disappeared from this life, you’d still be just friends?”
Kyenpia tried to answer but ended up smiling. “If Ishi disappeared from your life, would you move on?”
“Same answer. Look, I may not have your morals or faith, but there are things I can’t do. Hurting you is one of them. Breaking trust with my husband is another. In the end, it would hurt our kids. I respect your marriage and you. Ishi respects my marriage and Leonel. You have nothing to fear.”
Oby trusted Ishi, but this conversation with Kyenpia had taken six whole years to happen because she had held back on her. She was glad to finally close the chapter.
“One last question.”
“Is your husband jealous of Ishi?”
Someone knocked on the door.
“She’s here,” Oby said, standing up, happy to be done with the conversation. “Nice top, by the way.”
As she walked to the door, she felt like a load had been lifted off her shoulders, although she felt she owed Kyenpia an apology. Kyenpia had gone out of her way more than a few times to connect with her, but she had been distant toward her. She hoped she could make it up to her in some way.
She opened the front door. Agatha was outside, a look of disinterest on her face. “If you have any idea how badly I’m suffering from this pregnancy, you wouldn’t have stressed me.”
“Good morning, Pastor Aggie.”
Papa had a rough afternoon with Roli. She was in one of her moods, which was triggered by his refusal to let her play outside. She threw a tantrum by going into a wailing fit while Papa made lunch for her. He didn’t stop her from crying; instead, he upped the volume of his favorite playlist until she got tired and lay on the floor, whimpering. Only then did he pick her up and allow her snooze on his chest as he rocked her to the rhythm of a song by Years & Years.
Alice entered the kitchen, just returning from the office. She complained about having to deal with a certain church member who was obsessed with her.
“She keeps coming up with spiritual problems that make no sense, just so that she can enter my office and see my face. Today, she showed up with the exact type of wig I wore to church on Sunday. Last week, it was my dress. Let’s not talk about how very out of place it was on a hot Tuesday afternoon.”
“You are the standard for classiness. I keep telling you that.”
“Thank you, sugar daddy.”
“What you should do is to pass her over to Pastor Oby or Lucy.”
“Speaking of Lucy…”
Papa shut his eyes. “Don’t remind me.”
“What does she want?”
“I have no idea.” Papa continued rocking Roli.
“We’re in trouble this night be that.”
Papa smiled. Alice filled a glass with orange juice, and after a sip, she reminded Papa of the first time they danced.
“It was to this song.”
“I remember,” he said.
“Imagine my shock when I Googled the band and discovered that they were a queer band.”
He chuckled silently.
“I questioned a lot about you. At a point, I didn’t think you were even born again.”
The door leading into the kitchen from the dining room opened and the housekeeper walked in. “Papa, Pastor Lucy is here.”
“Tell her I’ll see her in a minute.”
Alice took Roli from Papa and exited the house through the backdoor. She loved the idea of having a staircase at the back that led upstairs to their bedroom through the balcony, even though Papa thought it was a security risk. On days like this, it was a good way to escape unwelcome guests.
Papa abandoned his lunch and went out to the living room. Lucy was on her phone. She didn’t notice him walking in, which gave him the chance to study her a little. It was open knowledge that she and Jibola were unhappy with his decision to bring Ishi to BCC and make Reverend Malachi the temporary general overseer. However, they were yet to express it to him in person. He wondered if that was the purpose of her visit and why Jibola hadn’t come with her.
Lucy was a beautiful woman, curved like a figure in a man’s fantasy of what the quintessential African woman should look like. Papa had always thought that she was too good for the simple-minded Jibola—and even now that her dark side was beginning to make an appearance, he still thought her way above her husband’s league.
He sat and waited for her to be done with her call. When she turned around and saw him, she was startled. She got off her seat and genuflected to greet him.
“How are you, Lucy?”
“I’m fine, Papa. How are Pastor Alice and Urowoli?”
“They are well. Would you like something to drink? Cranberry juice, perhaps? Or tigernut and ginger?”
“Thank you, Papa, but I’m good,” she responded with a smile. There was a time she and Papa were close, following a tumultuous stage in her marriage that almost had her walking away from Jibola. Papa had held the thread that kept the couple together via series of counseling sessions, mostly with Lucy.
“Great. So, what wind blows you here, my dear Lucy? Please, don’t tell me it has to do with Pastors Ishi and Obialunanma’s coming to BCC. I have already gotten intel that a bunch of you are still upset about it, even after the meetings we’ve had.”
He noticed how his words unnerved her.
“Papa…you’re right about some of us not being happy about the new developments. Especially those of us that have been in this ministry from the start.”
“You weren’t here from the start, Lucy.”
“For three decades, at least. We have played a major role in the growth of the ministry and have worked tirelessly, giving up a lot to see BCC where it is today. That is why we feel sidelined by these decisions you unilaterally made. It was the same way we felt when Pastor Love came in and you gave her all that power, which puts the rest of us under her. Jibola and I feel like we’re losing out around here. We need assurance that we would not be swept off by the winds of change. Something tangible to hold on to.”
She lit up. “Yes!”
He crossed a leg over the other and leaned rearward. “You know that these things are not in my hands, right? I particularly put Love as an administrator, to handle the management of the church. Right now, we have Pastor Malachi to head the spiritual facet. Two of them would have to sit, discuss, and pray before anybody would be accorded a posting. Of course, it has to pass through the leadership too.”
“The same way Pastor’s Ishi’s posting did?”
Papa smiled at Lucy’s audacity. “I went over all your heads because God asked me to, because despite my best efforts, there are certain members of that leadership team that have lorded it against others and formed a cabal that wants to dictate whom should take what seat and how it should be done. For Ishi, the posting was directly from the Lord. If you have any issues, take it out with your heavenly father.”
“We want Abuja,” Lucy demanded.
“Abuja district. That’s what we want. We no longer feel welcome here.”
“Okay. Your request has been made known. Kindly, tender a letter for your transfer request to the appropriate authorities—”
“We’re not requesting a transfer, Papa. We want to take over from Pastor Caleb in Abuja. He can be brought to Lagos to handle the Ikeja branch, pending Pastor Obinna’s issues with the law.”
“On whose authority are you asking these things?”
Lucy reached for her phone. “Please, listen to this.” She played a recording and Obinna’s angry voice came on.
“Glory, if you ever step foot into my house, I promise that I’ll use these bare hands to kill you myself! Stay away from Blessing and my kids! Don’t try me, Glory! I will end your desperate and miserable existence! You don’t want to know what I’m capable of!”
The recording ended and Lucy dared to look Papa in the eyes. He could see that she trembled underneath her façade, the same way her fingers had been restless from the moment they began their conversation.
“Have you ever done this sort of thing before, Lucy?”
“Have you ever blackmailed anyone before?”
“It’s not… I’m not blackmailing you, Papa.”
“You’re so pathetic at it. Let me guess. This was Adonijah’s idea.”
She didn’t respond. But Papa was patient, waiting to hear her defense.
“Okay,” she gave in, “he told me he would use this against Obinna, and I begged him not to, that Obinna is like a son to him. You know Bishop A’s real beef is with you, not Obinna. But he wants to use him to get to you, and I can stop him. I can get through to him and save BCC. All I want is a pat on the back from you. Not just for averting trouble but for all the work I’ve done over the years.”
“You’re a fool, Lucy. You know why? You’re married to a good man. He’s as dumb as a doorknob and is not even spiritually sound, but Jibola is a good man. Unfortunately, you’re going to destroy him and destroy what you’ve both built over the decades.” Papa picked up a remote and switched on the television. “Because my children and grandchildren have their blood mixed with yours, I will forgive this silly behavior of yours this afternoon, dear Lucy. I will give you and that cowardly Jibola another chance to fix up. Thirdly, I would need you to tell that serpent you’re slithering with to watch his back. He knows better than to work his poison into my fold.”
Papa clicked a button on the remote control and a video feed popped up on the screen. The recording was of Lucy and Adonijah leaving a movie theater at night, laughing warmly at each other. Adonijah reached over and adjusted her sweater which was falling off her shoulder on which it hung.
Lucy was shocked at the surveillance feed.
“Trust me, I wasn’t tailing you,” Papa told her. “Ever since Adonijah began to poke his nose into Obinna’s case, I got on his tail. Tell him to leave Obinna alone or I will dig up his past sins and that nasty little thing you two have going on—”
“We have nothing—”
“Do you want me to show you more videos?”
Lucy was silent.
“Tell him that when I start with him, not even God will be able to rescue him from my hands.”
“Have a blessed day, Lucy.”
Lucy was speechless. Her eyes were still fixed on the screen, which now showed her and Adonijah entering Adonijah’s car.
“Nothing happened between us,” she whispered.
Papa switched off the television and got up.
He walked out of the living room, not feeling like one who had just won but like one whose eyes had been opened to the enemies surrounding him. He put a call through to Obinna, but it rang unanswered. He called Love and asked her to send Najib to him.
“Is everything okay?”
“No. Adonijah has something in his possession that would mess Obinna’s case up, and he’s going to use it on him and on us. I need Najib to come up with a plan or we’re in deep trouble.”
He further explained how he had come across this evidence, detailing Lucy’s visit.
“I’ll get Najib on it immediately,” Love said.
“Please, do. I’m not bothered about us but about Obinna. He can’t go to jail. For his kids’ sake, for Leye’s sake. We need him out of jail.”
“How are you holding up?” He softened his tone. “Have you guys spoken?”
“No. But we will. I just need time to process everything.”
“Sometimes, a hug is enough, Loveth. But take your time.”
He hung up and went upstairs. The beautiful image of his wife and daughter asleep on the bed clinging to each other was all he needed to get his mind off Lucy’s disrespectful visit and the apparent doom hanging over Obinna.
He took a picture of Alice and Roli and withdrew to his study to pray.
Ishi was restless. Having just left Obinna’s house, following a three-hour visit, had him feeling a little out of his skin. It wasn’t the story of Obinna’s past with his wife and her sister that had shaken him. It was something else he couldn’t decipher.
Firstly, he had been curious as to why Obinna asked to see him and no one else. They didn’t know each other, and he certainly hadn’t shown interest in the case, enough for Obinna to want to open up to him. Yet, he sat with him and listened to everything he had to say without interruption. He had questions, of course, and Obinna answered them unreservedly.
“Why me?” Ishi asked before leaving.
“Because I didn’t want someone to judge me, and word around town is that you’re very understanding. Plus, I needed you in particular to pray for me. I have watched God move through you, and I know he will listen to you present my case before him.”
“Would you like to pray right now?”
“No. But when you sleep tonight, ask him to have mercy on my soul.”
“His mercy is already upon you, Obi.”
“I know, but ask him to have mercy on my soul.”
“I will. Anything else?”
Obinna looked him dead in the eye. “Let the wife of your youth satisfy you, Ishi. Never look outside, no matter who she is or in what form she comes.”
“Thank you, Obi.”
“You know, some of us have grace while others don’t. Take Papa, for instance. He carried on affairs with women in the church and even fathered a son out of wedlock, but look where he still stands today. But me… I make a stupid mistake and I pay dearly for it. I’d like to say that life is unfair, but Jacob I loved and Esau I hated. Some of us were predestined for wrath.”
“It’s getting late, Ishi. You don’t want to be caught in traffic.”
“Thank you so much for coming.” He shook Ishi’s hand and held on to it. “Extend my regards to your wife and daughters. May God use you both mightily to do his will.” Placing the other hand on his shoulder, he added. “You were made for great exploits. Receive it, brother.”
He escorted Ishi out to his car. Once he left the compound, Ishi parked under a tree nearby and mulled over the visit. He couldn’t shake off the feeling of restlessness that was fighting to consume him.
Almost two hours later, he pulled up in his garage to excited shrieks from Sochi. Being her father was a blessing. She always made him feel like he was the world’s biggest superhero each time he returned home.
“Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!”
He lifted her off the floor once he got down from the car. She pressed her little lips on his cheek with a loud ‘muah’. He laughed and pecked her back.
“How was school?”
“What new song did your teacher teach you?”
“Today’s not music day.”
“Mnh-mnh. We did ballet and pottery.”
“Pottery? How did you learn to say that word so well and in that foreign accent?”
The question was not to her but to Oby who was waiting for him.
“Don’t blame me o.” She raised her hands in innocence.
“I don’t like that school,” he whispered as he walked toward her. “They’re forcing them to speak like the Kardashians.”
Oby scolded him with a smile. They had a longstanding disagreement on the choice of school for the girls. Ishi thought it was too Americanized. He wanted his children to be as Nigerian as they could be. He had even hired an Igbo tutor to teach them and Kyenpia’s sons the language.
“Hey, you.” Oby greeted him with a kiss.
“You smell nice. No work today?”
“That’s good, except for this one.” He pointed at Sochi who was playing with his beard. “Why isn’t she with her sister?” he asked in Igbo.
“She wanted to be here.”
“Don’t you want to go to our other house?”
“Nope,” she answered, still playing with his beard.
She put her arms around his neck. “Reggie is mean! He likes drawing ugly pictures of me.”
“It’s okay. You’ll stay here. But tomorrow, you’ll follow Eliana home, okay?”
“Okay, Daddy. Are you mad at me?”
“No, darling.” Ishi followed Oby in. “How can I be mad at you for wanting to be with us?”
“But I won’t be your baby again.”
Ishi looked at Oby. Sochi seemed to have taken the news of the pregnancy well two days ago. He could sense trouble on the way
“You’ll always be my baby,” he assured her.
“Daddy, Daddy! Sing that song!”
Sochi snapped her fingers in rhythm as she began to sing. “Do do doop bum!”
“Bum?” Ishi laughed and looked at Oby who also burst into laughter. “Did Mariah Carey say ‘bum’?”
“Yeah, she most certainly did,” Oby answered.
“Daddy, sing the song for your baby nau,” Oby pleaded.
“Alright!” Ishi took Sochi’s hand and got her into a dance while his other hand held her. “You’ll always be a part of me. I’m part of you indefinitely. Girl don’t you know you can’t escape me. Ooh, darling ‘cause you’ll always be my baby.”
“And we’ll linger on,” Oby sang. “Time can’t erase you’re feeling this strong. No way you’re never gonna shake me…”
“Ooh darling ‘cause you’ll always be my baby,” Sochi screamed out, causing her parents to laugh.
Later, after dinner, they put her to bed together and listened to her pray. There was a long list of people to bless, including people they walked past on the street. After she was done, Ishi and Oby remained in the room until she shut her eyes. Once they stepped out, Ishi grabbed Oby by the waist and kissed her, gently backing her up against the wall.
“Somebody’s hungry for something.”
“Yes, but…” He pulled away, recalling his visit to Obinna’s. “It can wait. Let’s talk.”
In their bedroom, while Oby stitched Eliana’s favorite stuffed animal, Ishi went back in time to tell her about Obinna’s past with his wife and her sister.
“The sisters had never gotten along,” Ishi said.
“But they looked like twins. Are you sure they weren’t?”
“Glory was older than Blessing by a year. They had never liked each other, right from childhood. Glory was always the aggressor, and she came into Blessing’s life a few years ago for revenge.”
“According to gist, Blessing had stolen her boyfriend in the past. Glory had tried to kill her then, but she didn’t succeed. When she returned years later, she came under the guise of reconciliation, but she started out by wrecking Blessing’s marriage after she fooled Obinna into sleeping with her.”
“It had happened at night. He thought he was sleeping with Blessing until Blessing herself walked in on them.”
“When they tried to send Glory away, she almost killed herself.”
“Na wa o.”
“Here’s what was creepy about that incident. Glory, in her suicide attempt, gave herself the same cut she gave her sister years ago when she attempted to kill her. So, they bore the same scar.”
Oby was dumbfounded. “Wait… She wanted Blessing’s life?”
“Who knows? Envy, I guess.”
“Was she a mental case or what?”
“Obinna says she was a psychopath. Anyways, soon afterwards, he traveled for his annual missionary outreach program. By the time he returned, he met Blessing in a mentally incapacitated state and Glory had taken over her place.”
“What?” Oby went up on her knees, her eyes widening with shock. “How did that happen?”
“Remember when Glory tried to kill herself? She was taken to the hospital and a psychiatrist attended to her.”
“A file was opened, documenting her mental issues. Blessing, always the good sister, had agreed to take her back in, despite what she had done to her. She also didn’t want a scandal, if word ever got out. Anyways, in Obinna’s absence, Glory called the doctor to send some of his staff to get her sister, as she had gone out of hand. The men came and took whom they thought was Glory—”
“But it was Blessing!”
“Exactly. The more Blessing tried to clear her name and explain things to them, the harder it was for her to appear sane. So, they took her away and had her locked up.”
“Oh my God.”
“When Obi returned and tried to make things right, Glory threatened to let the world know what he had done. At that time, she was pregnant for him and had even brought her sister back and kept her constantly sedated. It was so bad that Blessing actually lost control of her mental faculties. She was catatonic.”
Oby stopped stitching the stuffed animal and sat in silence.
“Glory pushed Obinna into leaving BCC and starting a new ministry with Bishop Adonijah who had issues with Papa.”
“I read all about that. I even watched Obinna’s video, where he confessed his sins, but I didn’t get the full gist.”
“That video was taken on the inaugural service at Adonijah’s church. That confession freed him from Glory. Blessing got proper medical care and became better as the years went by until Glory showed up again. Out of the goodness of her heart, despite Obinna’s objections, Blessing forgave her and that sad Sunday evening happened.”
“I feel so ashamed of myself, Dozie,” Oby muttered. “I judged the Omotoshos. They were only trying to protect their own.”
“And you were trying to do the same with me and our family, Obialunanma. Don’t be hard on yourself.”
“Dozie, we have to pray for Obinna.”
“We do, but…” Ishi heaved a sigh.
“What is it?”
“I just have this heavy feeling in me. I don’t know why he chose to speak to me and tell me these things. Leye is his closest friend. Why didn’t he call him? Why me?”
“Because Leye already knows the story and he was looking for someone who would not lie to him. Someone unbiased to tell him the truth.”
“There was no truth to tell, baby. He already knew where he was wrong and he confessed it all to me. I feel like he has made his peace with God. I just…” Ishi heaved a second sigh. “I don’t know. Something feels off.”
“That’s why we should pray. Maybe God is trying to communicate something to you. Prayers will make it all clear.”
“I think you’re right. I must be overthinking things.”
Minutes later, after Oby was done stitching the stuffed animal, they held their hands together and committed Obinna and his children to God. Afterward, Ishi spooned Oby as she drifted in sleep. He was awake for a bit before his eyes shut down.
At exactly five in the morning, he jerked up, waking from a dream. It was about Obinna whom he had seen walking on a lonely road, looking lost and alone. Nothing about the dream spelt doom, but it had been disturbing enough to end his sleep.
Oby stirred and asked him in Igbo if everything was okay.
“I’m fine, just my internal alarm waking me up. Go back to sleep, honey. I need to pray.”
Ishi left the bedroom to his study downstairs where the urge grew stronger and pushed him on his knees. He didn’t know what to say, so he stayed there, asking the Holy Spirit to help him. When the words finally came through, all he could mutter was Obinna’s name on repeat, asking God to have mercy on his soul. When he was done, he streamed his favorite worship playlist and read his bible until the sun came up. Within the house, he heard movement from his domestic staff. Oby walked in, dressed for work. She had to dash to the hospital for an emergency.
“Are you okay?” she asked Ishi.
“I don’t think Sochi had a good night’s rest. She woke up cranky.”
“I’ll check on her.” Ishi got up and gave Oby a hug.
“See you later, pastor.”
As she left, he went upstairs to Sochi’s bedroom. Her nanny was trying to get her to undress for a shower.
“I’ll take over from here,” Ishi said. “Get her breakfast ready.”
He shut the door after the nanny was gone and stared at his daughter who was seated on the floor, staring at a Paw Patrol toy car that was in pieces.
She didn’t respond. Ishi lowered to the floor and sat with her.
She looked at him.
“Who did this?”
“The car is a bad car.”
“What did it do?”
“It was trying to hit Spiderman.”
Ishi’s eyes shifted to the Spiderman figure toy, lying behind her. She seemed to have kept it there to protect it from the car.
“How did you know it was trying to do that?”
“It was coming from there!” She pointed toward the door. “And Spiderman was coming from here.”
Knowing her, that was the end of her tale. Ishi had to connect the dots. “So, you saved Spiderman?”
Ishi smiled, suddenly realizing that what she was describing had happened in a dream. She was at that age where she found it difficult distinguishing between dreams and reality.
“That’s very brave of you, Sochi. But…” Ishi began picking the pieces of the broken car. “You didn’t have to hurt the car too.”
“It’s a bad car! It wants to hit everybody. I don’t want it again.”
“I know, but no more breaking things, okay? If any of your toys misbehaves, report it to me or your mom.”
“Okay,” she answered quietly and tugged out the Spiderman figure from behind her. “Take.”
“No, that’s yours. You saved him, you keep him.”
“Take.” She got on her feet and made to turn away.
“Come back, let’s put these toys away. Get the box.”
Sochi went for her box of toys, which had been turned over. Ishi noticed that she hadn’t touched the other toys, save for the car and Spiderman figure. She returned the untouched ones to the box but wouldn’t pick the car. He didn’t force her to do it. He, Oby, and her second parents had learned quite early that she was eccentric and it was best to let her express herself as she willed without much interference in her process. She was a well-behaved kid, underneath it—more obedient than Eliana and the twins.
After they were done with the toys, Ishi bathed and dressed her and sent her downstairs for breakfast. It was only after he trashed the car and had a second look at it before a thought hit him that sent shivers down his spine.
He dashed up the stairs and into his bedroom, diving for his phone at the nightstand. He saw a missed call from Leye that set his heart racing faster than it already did. His hands began to shake as he returned the call. The line almost rang out before Leye picked.
“What happened?” he asked.
Leye didn’t respond immediately. He gave a long sigh.
“Obi is gone, Ishi. My friend is gone. He took his life. Walked right into a trailer near Chevron junction.”
Leye’s voice was so thin that it sounded like it was coming from a child. Ishi couldn’t believe what he had just heard.
“Yes. At past five. He drove his car out to the road, stepped out and waited for a trailer.
“Jesus,” Ishi whispered, slipping to the floor. His chest tightened so quickly that he found it hard breathing. “Jesus.”
“I’ll call you later.”
The line went dead. He was going to say he was sorry—not to sympathize with him, but to apologize for not praying harder to avert the tragedy, for not seeing the signs yesterday when Obinna spoke to him.
He sat on the floor, numb and blank. When his thoughts began to gather again, he remembered Sochi, the car and Spiderman. He got off the floor and went downstairs. He could hear Sochi’s laughter as she talked with her nanny. He stopped at the entrance of the kitchen where she was having her breakfast and watched her.
She’s just a child, Lord.
So were you.
Sochi turned. “Daddy, will you take me to school?”
Ishi gave her a half smile and kept his stare on her. She spat out her toast on her plate and was about to pick it up again but her nanny stopped her. She burst into a mischievous laugh.
Ishi turned away, heading back upstairs.
She’s just a kid. Take it away from her, leave it with me.
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages