Agatha and Nathan had a big ask for Ishi. They wanted his support in public and the church. The couple was banking on his massive influence to sway the hearts of those who had chosen to believe Chioma’s allegations against Nathan.
One of such people was Pastor Meredith, wife of the general overseer of First Glory, the church where Ishi and Agatha worked as ministers. Agatha had never gotten along with Meredith behind the scenes, as Meredith had always questioned Agatha’s spirituality, alleging that the only reason she climbed the ranks was because she was a relative of Meredith’s husband. The general overseer himself hadn’t hidden his favoritism toward Agatha, shielding her from Meredith’s projectiles at every turn. Now that he was out of the way temporarily and Meredith was in charge, she swung her axe at Agatha in full rancor. Nathan’s scandal couldn’t have come at the worst time.
“She suspended me for no reason, Ishi,” Agatha said in tears. Nathan’s arm was on her shoulder to comfort her. They were seated in Ishi’s most comfortable sofa, the one he and Oby loved to cuddle on during cold nights. It was the only piece of furniture he took from his bachelor life when he abandoned it six years ago. It had history that even Oby herself was oblivious of, and he hated how Nathan had tugged at a thread and loosened a seam.
“Did she ask you to see her or you went there yourself?” Ishi asked Agatha, concerning Meredith.
“She asked to see me as early as 6am. I knew it was about Nathan, and I won’t lie, I was nervous. I prayed all the way to the church. I got there and…” Agatha sighed.
“Aggie, I’m sorry, but this is a bit unlike Pastor Meredith.”
“She never liked Aggie,” Nathan reminded him.
“I know, but… It’s still not like her. Did you…?” Ishi adjusted his glasses. “Did you get into any argument with her?”
Agatha’s eyes shifted. “Yes, it got heated, but it’s not the first time nau, Ishi.”
“What did you say to her?”
Agatha sighed again.
“It doesn’t matter what she said, Ishi.” Nathan leaned forward. “She had no right to suspend her for no reason. I’m the one who is giving the church a bad name, abi? Then, suspend me alone. Why extend it to my wife? Agatha has done nothing but serve First Glory with all her heart. This is unacceptable!”
Agatha rested a hand on Nathan’s knee. “Just talk to her for me, Ishi. Please. Suspending me would send a wrong message. It makes Nate look guilty. Secondly, please… Please, stand by us publicly. A tweet, a post on Facebook, anything.”
It was Ishi’s turn to sigh, but he held back. Meredith was to Ishi a mentor and friend. Everyone knew that she doted on him like she would a younger sibling, but at the moment, their relationship was strained because of his decision to leave First Glory. He had tried to explain to her without success that it had nothing to do with her or even her husband who was presently under investigation by the EFCC for money laundering and fraud. She was on a short fuse, burning everything in her path that looked like an enemy, and Agatha topped that list.
Hence, Ishi wasn’t sure that he could help them with Meredith. He wasn’t sure of the second request either.
“There’s one more thing,” Nathan said, shifting forward even more. “I got word that the reason Chioma is this brazen is because she has someone strong backing her.”
“Who?” Ishi asked.
“My ex,” Ishi repeated. It wasn’t a question. He knew who Nathan was talking about.
“We’re not asking you to do anything,” Agatha said with a bit of a smile. “Just letting you know. She’s someone we…I respect. I don’t want to cross hairs with her. It’s just that her voice is formidable and there’s no rape case she’s gotten involved in that she has lost.”
“Plus,” Nathan added, “she has a notoriety for pushing hard to discredit any man that is accused, wrongfully or not. She will push to tarnish my name online and dig up anything she and her followers consider dirty linen. She is the judge, jury and executioner in the court of public opinion.”
“Oh God,” Agatha murmured, as if just realizing the gravity of Nathan’s situation. Ishi felt sorry for her.
“But as Aggie said, we’re not asking you to do anything—yet. Just letting you know.”
Agatha’s eyes were with tears again. “But you know he didn’t do it, right? Nate didn’t touch Chioma.”
“Aggie… Stay strong. This will pass.”
Ishi didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t even want to think about it. Nathan was a decent man, a devout Christian. He headed the media department at First Glory, and his daytime job was a movie director. He wasn’t one of the best, but he was well-known and respected. Associating his name with rape wasn’t something Ishi saw himself doing.
“Thank you, Ishi. We have to go.”
Ishi gave Agatha a hug and promised to get in touch with her once he spoke to Meredith on his behalf.
“But are you really leaving us?” Agatha asked. Ishi nodded. “And Pastor Oby?”
“She goes where I go.”
“As it should be,” Nathan commented.
“We’ll miss you. I’ll miss you.”
They were friends, had been so for twelve years. He felt a little guilty that he had not reached out first to ask how she and Nathan were doing since Chioma’s article hit the web four days ago.
He walked them to the door and returned to the living room after they left. His hand ran over the loose sim of his favorite sofa as he walked toward his study.
His ex. It had been her favorite sofa too.
To call her or not to call her on this Chioma issue? He entered his study and shut the world out.
Ishi glanced at his beeping phone. He wasn’t ready to leave his workspace, but he had daddy duties, which included bathing his younger daughter and putting her and elder her sister to bed.
He looked out the window of his study, his eyes to the sky. It would rain again tonight. He wondered if it was too late to revisit his plans to take Oby and his daughters to some faraway country to spend Christmas.
He reached for his tea flask and stood, as his eight-year-old daughter barged into his office. She brought along her art tablet and a face bathed with tears. The soles of her crocs were covered in mud, yet she smelled of bubblegum.
“What’s wrong?” he asked. She thrust the tablet at him. He didn’t need to look at the device to know that something was wrong with it. He took it from her and inspected it.
“Sochi threw it down the stairs.”
Ishi sighed and took off his glasses. His four-year-old daughter was a nonstop wrecking ball.
“Where were you when she threw it down the stairs? I thought I always told you to never let it leave your sight.”
“I went outside to…” She stopped, eyes in guilt.
“To do what, Eliana?”
He stared at her mud-stained crocs.
“You were in your mom’s garden again?”
Eliana lowered her head. “I only wanted to look at the sunflowers. There was a bee in one of them and I wanted to catch it.”
“Bees sting, Ellie.”
“Daddy, that’s not the point here! Sochi spoilt my tab and she has to be punished!”
“Do you know why she did that?”
“She likes to throw things all the time!” Eliana answered in frustration.
Ishi put the tablet away. Eliana moved closer.
“Are you going to spank her, Daddy? You must. She always gets me very angry.”
Spanking was not on the schedule for the evening, neither was any form of discipline, but Sochi would be punished. “I will handle her.” Ishi lowered his body and wiped Eliana’s tears. “Then, I’ll get you another one.”
“Or just call Mommy to bring the one I have in her house.”
Ishi smiled. He wasn’t going to do that. The last thing he wanted was informing her mother about the damaged tab and her stepfather finding out. The man would replace the device in a wink with a more expensive one. He was always trying to outdo Ishi in the daddy department.
“I’ll get you another one. Just chill, okay?”
“But I need to finish my Christmas art project and submit it on Saturday. Please, Daddy.” Eliana held Ishi’s hand. “Please?”
“Okay, I’ll get it tomorrow.”
She grinned and hugged him. “Thank you, Daddy. You’re the best. Let’s go and punish Sochikaima for being a bad girl.”
Eliana dragged Ishi out of the office.
Two hours later, both children were in bed, and Ishi was in the living room, watching a live football game. His housekeeper walked in with a potato salad and asked if he needed anything else.
“Nothing, thank you.”
He had his dinner and watched the game till the end. Then, he made his way to his bedroom upstairs. He turned off the air conditioner, threw the windows open, and sat to read a book.
Resigning from his job as a senior pastor at First Glory and taking on the role that BCC offered had to be the scariest move he would make carrier-wise. His decision was already met with mixed reactions from his colleagues. Some of them believed that it was right for him to leave while others held that it would be a move he would regret. Agatha was of the former. Always a fan of his work, she had been the first to tell him to leave.
Ishi didn’t have doubts over his next steps, save for the fact that he was the Omotoshos’ prime candidate for general overseer.
He wasn’t so sure he was ready for the drama that awaited him.
The bedroom door creaked and he turned. Oby walked in. She leaned against the door, letting out the stress of the day in a long moan.
“A warm shower would bang right now,” she said.
Ishi smiled. One of the best parts of each day was seeing her after hours of being away from each other. No matter what state their relationship was in, she always uplifted his mood. Presently, things were not so good between them, because of the Omotoshos. Oby believed that God wanted them to be missionaries, visiting the poorest regions of the world to spread the gospel via charitable works.
Ishi was not sold on that. They had a growing family and were already involved in humanitarian work via a philanthropic organization, which he oversaw as a parttime job. He was convinced that God wanted him in a stable environment, and Oby was to support that calling.
“How was your day?” she asked, taking off her denim jacket.
“I’m sorry I’m late.”
“Yeah,” Ishi murmured.
“I really am.”
She kicked out of her shoes, then, took off her earrings and walked to the dressing mirror.
“You’re mad at me,” she said, looking at him through the mirror.
“Sochi asked if you had traveled again.” Ishi picked a speck of tissue paper from the floor. “I told her you’d wake her up in the morning and take them to school. I hope you remember that they’re closing on Friday, right?”
Oby stepped out of her jeans.
Ishi looked at her as she walked to the closet.
She turned. “Honey, you know I can’t take them to school. I have to be out of here before five, so that I don’t get caught in traffic. I told you I’d be busy for two weeks.”
“Well, two weeks is too long.”
“Since when? We already talked about this, Dozie—”
“And I don’t recall agreeing to it. You have two young children who need you, Oby. You don’t have to be early for those prayers tomorrow.”
“But I made a commitment to those women.”
“How about to your children?”
Ishi picked her clothes off the floor and walked past her to the bathroom, just as it began to rain. He took off his clothes and dumped them and hers into the laundry basket.
When he got into the shower cubicle, he scolded himself for resurrecting an issue they had already fought over and squashed. He felt like an ass for changing his mind about being fine with her administrating a two-week fasting and prayer retreat for women from different denominations. But she had broken her promise to him too. She was supposed to come home after every three days. Returning late an extra day later and not seeing the children, only to leave before they got up the following morning was not acceptable to him.
One of the things Ishi had loved about Oby when they first met was her absolute devotion to God. He had not seen anyone so passionate about their calling and ministry as she had been. He was certain then that it was the major confirmation from God that she was to be his wife. It hadn’t been love at first sight or the consecutive times they spent knowing each other. Love took its time—and when it finally came, Ishi was drawn in so deeply, he became lost.
Now, he wasn’t so sure if her piety was still an object of desirability to him. Oby was already making plans to go on an extended music tour with a couple of fellow gospel musicians. Ishi didn’t like the idea, but music ministry was her first calling and he was all for her doing what she loved. However, she had already spent most of the year outside their home, doing the Lord’s work.
Was there such a thing as loving God too much?
She was standing by the bathroom door in the nude. Ishi ignored her and turned on the shower. The first spurt of water was chilly, but he remained underneath it until he adjusted the temperature.
He felt Oby’s lithe body against his from behind. She kissed his back and put her arms around him.
“I’ll leave at seven in the morning. Is that okay?”
Ishi was silent. She disengaged from him and made a half-circle to stand in front of him. The pouring shower separated them for a second. Then, she crossed the barrier and attached her body to his, seeking his lips.
Her touch was soothing, and he stepped away from the water, pulling her to him. He was not a big fan of bathroom sex because of the likely risks that came with slippery tiles. But Oby had a talent for making him do things that were against his nature. She was madly erotic as she was spiritual.
They had sex a second time on their bed, fiercer than the first in the bathroom. Oby was on top, of course, riding him in that manner she always did like he had paid her to fulfil his wildest fantasies. The bedroom lights were off, and the occasional flash of lightning from the rainstorm illuminated her feral form as it bounced up-and-down his body.
She lay wasted, afterwards, with her legs spread apart. Ishi lay on his side, making circles around her nipples. Her breasts had not been this intriguing to him in the early days of their marriage. In fact, on their first night together, he had been disappointed by her nudity, which was nothing compared to the sheer exoticness he had enjoyed from Eliana’s biological mother. That night, he asked God to help keep his mind on Oby and to deliver him from any thought that might resurrect memories of his past. But he soon discovered, from the moment his body touched hers, that God had already answered him before he asked.
Even before he went into her, he sensed that Oby would become a lifelong addiction. She had come to him with blessings from her past, employing on him, her knowledge with men and sex. And this was a good thing to Ishi who had never been infatuated with the idea of a pristine woman. He liked them wild.
“So, we’re not going to talk about the elephant in the room?” Oby asked.
“What elephant in what room?”
“And the fact that they covered up a murder.”
“Obialunanma, we already talked about this,” Ishi answered, referring to their phone chats over the past few days, concerning the Obinna incident and how the Omotoshos handled it.
The day after the dinner, news hit the internet that Blessing Kanayo had been murdered by her sister, Glory; and her husband, Obinna, in a bit to protect his wife and himself, took Glory’s life. It was still the trending gist across social media, with people having mixed reactions to the story. The press dug up a past scandal in which Obinna had admitted to erroneously sleeping with Glory, which led to Glory blackmailing the Kanayos and taking over Blessing position as Obinna’s wife for some time. Obinna, himself, had exposed her to the public after she made him resign from BCC to join her with another defector who was then starting a new ministry.
Armed with that information from the past, the public ran with the narrative that Glory’s death might not have been a manslaughter. A notorious blogger even went ahead to paint a version in which they suspected that the Kanayos invited Glory over to end her life. Blessing was to do the killing and blame it on a fight between both sisters. But Glory fought back and Obinna had to step in to finish her off himself. They had not envisioned that Blessing would die as well.
“Dozie, they have not made any mention of that security cam that Pastor Love asked Pastor Obinna about.”
Ishi sighed. “The Omotoshos had to do what they had to do.”
“By covering a murder and making us accomplices to it?”
Ishi didn’t respond.
“Pastor Love called me today,” she said. Ishi waited for a series of thunder to roll by before he responded.
“What did she want?”
“Just to say hi.”
“Is that all?”
“And to apologize over Sunday’s incident. She also wanted to remind me that she would be grateful if I didn’t breathe a word of what happened to anybody.”
“Okay? That’s all you’re going to say? She was basically calling me to threaten me—”
“Oby, that’s a stretch.”
“A stretch? That woman is cold. Did you see how unmoved she was when Pastor Obinna came in and told us that he killed his wife’s sister? So unbothered. Just kept on eating!”
“She’s pregnant, Oby.”
“And Pastor Blessing was supposed to be her friend. She showed no sign of grief.”
“People grieve differently, Oby. And Pastor Love was probably just thinking about clearing Obinna’s name. You know she basically runs BCC. She is the chief operating officer.”
“She was also born to a militant father. A man who killed people like flies. Everyone knows about Spiff Ebifa from Nembe.”
Ishi hung his head, tired of the conversation.
“By the way, if she runs the church, what’s the job of the general overseer?”
“A spiritual leader. She handles management and money. They have a very organized system at BCC because of her. Oby, cut her some slack.”
“I know I should, but…” Oby sighed, pulling her body into a sitting position. “Dozie, that video they’re hiding is wrong.”
“They’re not covering up a murder—”
“But that is what it is.” Oby sprang up on her knees. “I have kept calm for three days because of my retreat and because of you. But I can’t do this, Ishi. I can’t be a part of this.”
“So, you want Pastor Obinna to go to prison for defending himself and his wife?”
“And you’re supporting them for covering up a murder? Well, I’m not surprised. You’re from a mafia family.”
“Ouch,” Ishi responded, unbothered. But he had nothing further to say. He got off the bed, shut the windows, and turned on the air conditioners.
“I don’t want you to have anything to do with them,” Obialunanma said.
“Wow, sweetheart.” Ishi faced her. “Why don’t you write a constitution while you’re at it, so that I know that I’m living under your rule.”
“I didn’t mean—”
“Good night, darling.”
Ishi lay on his side of the bed, backing her.
Hours later, she woke up before him. He heard her praying and opened his eyes. She was seated on a couch by one of the windows, knees drawn up and her head bowed over them. He went back to sleep, opening his eyes again at daylight.
Oby was downstairs, dressed to leave for her retreat but fixing a loose plait in Eliana’s hair. Sochi, ever energetic, was doing jumps from one furniture piece to another. The loose seam on Ishi’s favorite sofa was wider now, revealing the cushion underneath.
The children’s chauffeur walked into the living room and greeted both adults.
“Time for school!” Sochi yelled. She abandoned her jumps and dashed out of the house. “First to enter the car!”
Obialunanma stood and planted a couple of kisses on Eliana’s forehead. “I’ll see you in church on Sunday, okay?”
Eliana nodded and they hugged.
“No hug for me?”
Eliana giggled and hurried out. Ishi looked at his wife who came to him without her usual smile.
“I’m sorry about last night. The mafia thing…”
“Do something for me.”
“Still pray about it.”
She didn’t allow him respond to her request. She kissed him and left the house. He looked at the time. It was almost seven-thirty and he needed to be on his way to work. First, he had to pray. He never joked with his morning devotions. Healthy or sick, in the mood or not, he always started his day with God.
Ishi entered his office, shut the door, and went on his knees.
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages