Happy pre-weekend, everyone!
I’m back here, and in my way of saying I love you, you’ll be getting a marathon of Love, Your Enemy, starting today and ending on Sunday.
And then I’ll disappear again 😀
So enjoy this, and expect more. Bless you!
Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before; and God will call the past to account.
“Omoleye, I hope I didn’t wake you up. This is quite late but I’m sorry, it can’t wait.”
Leye muffled a yawn. Love’s arm resting across his chest prevented him from rising up. He put the phone away from his ear to peer at the time. It was nearly midnight.
“Can I call you back in a bit?”
He hung up. Love clutched him still. He quietly extracted himself from her hold, and when she shifted to a more comfortable position, he put his feet down. He left the bedroom and headed downstairs. The maid was watching a late night movie in the living room.
“Switch off that TV and go to bed,” he instructed. “Tomorrow is church.”
Not caring to see if his order was obeyed, he entered the kitchen and turned on the lights. After filling a glass cup with cold water and dropping a slice of lemon in it, he returned the call that had stirred him from his night’s rest.
“Imaan, good evening,” he greeted, pulling a chair to sit before the kitchen table.
“My son, how are you?”
“Great.” He yawned now, mouth wide open.
“You must have had a long day, this one you’re yawning like this. I’m sorry for waking you up.”
“It’s no problem, ma.”
“I’m sure you already know why I’m calling.”
He took a sip of his water. Of course he knew why she had called. What he didn’t know was why she always repeated that line to him every time he picked her calls.
She was a dear old woman, though. The only one who had earned the right to be called his mother after Moji passed away. From the moment he spotted her waiting outside the front doors of her orphanage twenty-three years ago with an open smile, he knew she was going to mean something to him.
He remembered the way she had taken his brother from him, who had begun to cry, and rocked him back to sleep.
“Moji did not try at all to keep you children away from me,” she had said to Leye while she rocked the baby. “You’re so grown and handsome now. If you must know, I pulled you out from between your mother’s legs. You and your sisters.”
He had stared at her in silence, wondering where she was from. She was Nigerian, no doubt, but there was some white blood in her, evident in her complexion and hair. Moji had always talked about her, the humanitarian work she did and her profession as a doctor.
“I’m half-Arab, half-Nigerian,” she had said to him when she caught him staring curiously. “My name is Imaan. And that’s what you’ll call me. No Aunty anything. No Mommy any other thing. Just Imaan.”
Adonijah had laughed.
“Is something funny, young man?” Imaan asked. The ‘young’ had sounded to Leye like she had said ‘short’. And Adonijah didn’t like to be called short, especially by women who were taller than he was.
“Nothing is funny, ma,” Adonijah had responded in embarrassment. “Nothing.”
Leye had smiled, instantly falling in love with Imaan. That day, he spent the bulk of his time with her, being fascinated by her persona. She was different from the average Nigerian mother, and it would break his heart a few years later to learn that she had never had children of her own. However, she was a mother to many, whom she would allow to address her only on a first name basis.
After that initial encounter, they kept the line open. He visited the orphanage often to check on his brother, and she kept him entertained with tales about the kids and anything else that interested her, which was quite a lot. She taught him how to change diapers, handle naughty children, and also showed him the many ways to engage them. She took it upon herself to counsel and steer him back on the right path. When Moji passed away, the orphanage became like a second home to him, and out of the generosity of his heart, he renovated and expanded it.
During the time, he ensured that he stayed away from his brother, although he always kept an eye on him. He gave him the best education, beginning from high-class primary and secondary schools, and finally an institution of higher education in the United States. The boy was the only one in the orphanage with such privileges. Leye had made sure to spoil him, even against Imaan’s advice. He couldn’t help himself. Asher was multi-talented and intelligent. It was hard not to get carried away by him. Leye kept tabs on him and followed his progress as an aspiring musician. It was no surprise that the boy had taken after his mother in the talent department. But Leye had insisted on him acquiring a degree first; and this he did with ease, graduating as one of the best in his class.
Leye had hoped he would remain in the US to further his dreams of being a musician but from the words Imaan was now telling him, the boy had other plans.
“Asher wants to know who this benefactor is that has been kind to him through the years,” she said. “He’s been pushing me to speak, son. He’s agitated.”
Leye focused his stare on the lemon slice in his glass of water. “You know we can’t tell him yet.”
“He won’t move on with his life until I tell him who you are. The whole narrative of him being blessed by an anonymous person is not going down well with him. He deeply believes he’s the love child of someone rich and influential.”
“Asher…” Leye sighed. “He’s sometimes too smart for his own good.”
“He’s been quite annoying since he returned.”
“If I send him a huge sum of money, something that’ll make him build his life, some sort of inheritance…will he stop?”
“Not this time, Omoleye. He’s dead serious and is beginning to threaten to get an investigator. And you know Lagos. The truth will come out somehow.”
“I know. I know. But Imaan, please, do everything you can to stall him.”
“Why don’t you just let your father know about his existence and remove this burden from your shoulders?”
“Imaan, this is beyond the Omotosho family. This is about the church. Asher is a scandal waiting to happen.”
“But you can’t hide the truth forever.”
“Not forever, I know. Just a little longer until I come up with a plan.”
Imaan didn’t disagree. She didn’t speak either. It wasn’t until Leye was about to say something that she spoke.
“You know why I never let anyone call me ‘mommy’?”
“It makes you feel old?”
Normally she would laugh at his wit but she didn’t.
“It’s because it’s never the same as when your own child calls you that.”
“Leye, no matter how much money you give him or how much love and care he gets from me, it’s never the same as when he gets it all from his family. It’s always my joy to see my children in good homes. But it’s unparalleled when their real family somehow, by some miracle comes for them.”
Imaan immediately changed the subject of discussion and asked why Leye hadn’t brought Love to see her.
“Soon,” he replied.
She wished him a good night’s rest; he did the same and hung up. When he looked up from his glass of water, he saw Love standing by the kitchen door. Her arms were crossed beneath her breasts, lifting his oversize Harvard t-shirt which she was wearing.
“I was worried when you left the room.”
He smiled. He understood her concern. She didn’t like to show it but Akonte’s death had left her a little insecure.
“Just returning a phone call. I didn’t want to wake you up.”
“Okay. Are you coming back to bed?”
Rubbing her eyes, she headed out.
She turned around.
“Em…I need to tell you something.”
“There’s this em…this huge secret that has being weighing me down for years.”
He saw apprehension pass over her face. He laughed. “No, I’m not gay. Come here.”
She entered the kitchen. He pulled out a chair for her.
“Since you’re an Omotosho now, there are things you need to know about this family. And another reason I’m about to open up to you is because I can’t handle the storm that’s about to come. I need your help.”
Love picked his glass of water and chugged it down. “I’m all ears.”
The best part of Sunday mornings for Adonijah was getting into his car and driving off to church, leaving his family behind after numerous threats to leave them behind. They were an annoying lot, his wife being the head of all things annoying. She enjoyed being slow, stretching around the house like a piece of chewing gum in the hands of a little boy. It always left him irritated how she went about in the name of ensuring that everyone was getting ready for church but never getting ready on time herself. And when she eventually did, she’d appear in the same sort of garb she wore every Sunday – something long, dark and shapeless.
But she hadn’t always been uninspiring with her fashion taste. Her madness began when she discovered he had built a house for his parents and had done nothing for her family. She then went into what she called mourning, and promised to remain that way until he showed the same kindness he bestowed on his family on hers.
It was now five years and counting and she was now used to her drab clothes and an unkempt mass of hair. It was a good thing she constantly kept it under some scarf or undertaker hat when going to church, but whenever she was home and she went au natural, Adonijah was always tempted to dunk her head into a drum of relaxer. It wasn’t her natural locks that infuriated him, though; it was her stinginess to its care.
“You make me look poor! Like I can’t afford to take care of you!” he would scream at her on most Sundays before he left for church.
“Taking care of me is taking care of my parents first,” she would reply, looking at him with defiance. “I’ll fix my appearance the day you lay the foundation for a seven-bedroom duplex in their name and stop dashing church people all our money.”
This Sunday, he didn’t have the strength for an argument because his mind was on other things, or just on one thing in particular.
She had called him three times already with a threat to turn a plan he had carefully worked on for years on its head.
“I simply can’t hurt the man I once loved,” she had said the last time she called. “I don’t have the energy to do this, Pastor.”
Adonijah had felt like smashing his phone to the floor, but he remained calm as he had done during the previous calls. He also explained to her why it was important to stick to his plan.
And what was this grand plan?
He alone knew. But one could say it took root on the day that Papa had his first heart attack and was rushed to the hospital for treatment. On getting the news, Adonijah had abandoned what he was doing and headed to see him. Papa was a friend and a mentor. If anything had happened to him, it would have affected Adonijah deeply, although he would have been prepared to bounce back and take over from the old man.
Those were his thoughts as he paced about the waiting room in restlessness. After a long wait, Leye came out to and informed him that Papa requested of his presence. Adonijah followed Leye in. When he entered the room and saw Papa in poor condition, relying on the help of medical gadgets to stay stable, he concluded the man didn’t have long to live.
Against the doctor’s counsel, Papa had an extensive discussion with Leye and Adonijah over the state of things in the church and who was to be in charge of what. The conversation left Adonijah angry, although he showed nothing of that anger, nodding to everything Papa said, sometimes with a smile. When he got home that night, he expended his anger via food, eating three times what he would normally have, and then throwing up in the bathroom afterwards.
“What is wrong with you?” his wife asked. “Who is going to clean that up now?”
He ignored her and stomped into their bedroom.
“He put Omoleye in charge! Can you imagine! He put that small boy above me!”
“Pastor Leye is hardly a small boy, but seriously, who will clean that mess up you left in the bathtub?”
“Are you even listening to me at all?! Your husband, who has worked hard and the longest in BCC is going to end up taking orders from a small boy!”
“Aloy, it’s only temporary,” his wife said with a sigh. “Papa will be back and everything will return to normal. Relax.”
She was standing by the bathroom door and staring at the tub while speaking to him.
“What if he dies?” Adonijah retorted. “He had all these machines and wires hooked to his body! You don’t know what it means to have a heart problem. What if he dies? Ehn? Ehn? What happens then? Ehn?”
“God forbid that anything should happen to Papa. Aloy, stop it.”
“If he dies, it means I have nothing!” he yelled, kicking out of his pants. “No-thing! After all I have done for the ministry, it ends up in the hands of a family member!”
His wife entered the bathroom.
“Are you hearing me at all, Maggie?!”
“Yes, I am. But please, stop talking about him dying. He won’t. God forbid.”
“What about me?! Ehn? Mm? You’re saying God forbid for him! What about me?!”
His question was left unanswered. The sound of running water was heard; it was Maggie telling him she was done with the conversation. Still nursing his anger, he left to the living room where his children were entertaining themselves with some show. He sent them off to bed and switched the channel to something less engaging.
He began to ponder on the many sacrifices he had made for Papa and Bethel Christian Center. He counted the years he had served as a minister in the church. And although he was not a bishop, the congregation had dubbed him so, just because they felt he deserved the title. At least, that was how he saw it. He also saw that he was irreplaceable. Without him, the ministry would not have gotten to the lengths it did, standing tall and competing with other churches that had been there for more than a few decades.
“I am a pillar in BCC. The cornerstone. Without me, nothing stands. Nothing. Nothing.”
He continued to speak to himself, his eyes fixed on blurry images of skinny girls in bikinis walking down a runway. Even when Maggie came to drag him off to bed, he kept on soliloquizing. He shut his mouth only when her lips fell on his and her hand made a journey over his pot belly to his bushy nether region. But he didn’t stop thinking about the events of the day and where it would lead him to. His light bulb moment came at the peak of his orgasm, upon which he clutched his wife to his chest and whispered into her ear.
“I’m going to be the next general overseer.”
She had pulled back in vexation, watching him spasm beneath her with a look of sinister pleasure on his face.
He slept well that night and the following morning, paid Priscilla a visit.
“You want to see Phoebe?” Priscilla, still a housewife after twenty-something years, was cleaning her living room when he presented his strange request. “What for?” she asked.
“Because I want to see her.”
Priscilla stopped moving and rested her chin on her broomstick, padded by her hands. “Is Papa dying and asking to see her?”
“No, no, no. It’s just me. I want to see her. Just to know how she is doing.”
“She is doing well,” Priscilla replied, continuing her chore. “You know she’s one of the women leaders in her church.”
“We hardly speak sha. Ever since…” Priscilla stopped and stared at the space before her in gloominess. “Ever since she woke up the day after that night and I lied to her that her baby died, she’s not been the same. She believes I lied to her. She knows the child is somewhere.”
“You didn’t tell her anything?”
“Good. Good. That’s fine. Good.”
“There’s nothing good about it. I’ve lost my sister. She is miserable. And I strongly believe it has affected her mentally. She acts up sometimes. But would you blame her? She still loves him, that’s why she has turned down all the men that have come to ask her hand in marriage.”
“I didn’t come here for any of that. I just need her number and her address. I want to check up on her.”
“No, Bishop A. Please, let her be. Don’t resurrect the past…”
“I feel a strong urge in my spirit to see her.”
Priscilla gave in with a heave. She put her broom aside and picked her phone which was on a couch nearby. As she tried to retrieve Phoebe’s details, Adonijah looked around the house, taking note of the quality of the furniture and expensive electronics. The man of the house hadn’t held a job in a while. It was Priscilla who fed the family and saw to the children’s education. Adonijah suddenly felt the urge to monitor her financial activities.
“Yes, sir? I have the number–”
“Auditors will be coming soon,” he interrupted. “If you have anything to clean, do so immediately.”
She looked at him with an indecipherable smile as she passed her phone to him.
“Do you have anything to clean? I should be told so I can fix it.”
“I have nothing to clean, sir, except my house.”
“Hmm… Good. Good. Just be careful and clean the house well.”
“Here’s her number.”
Priscilla picked her broom up again and returned to her housecleaning chore.
By noon, Adonijah was knocking on Phoebe’s door, with a sense of satisfaction over the fact that he had sent Priscilla headlong into a trap. He predicted that in panic, she would rush to fill up holes in her job, leaving a scent that would lead him back to her fraudulent activities through the years.
The door before him opened and Phoebe stood in front of him. For a second, he was sure he had traveled back in time. She looked only a little older than her younger self. It was her colorless outfit which was much like his wife’s that put age on her features. An observer might not have seen what he saw, though, as she would come off plain and older. To him, she was still the young girl who had been used and dumped by Papa.
“Pastor Adonijah?” she called in surprise. There was also an unfriendly look on her face.
“It’s Bishop Adonijah. Or rather Bishop A.”
“Okay. Good afternoon, sir.”
The greeting sounded more like a question; he could tell she wanted to know why he was standing at her doorstep on a random day after so many years.
“Won’t you, at least, invite me in?”
She took a peep into her home as if expecting someone to disappear from sight, but she moved away from the door and let him in.
Adonijah entered in an uncharacteristic manner. His steps were calculated. He wanted to take in as much of the apartment as he could.
But there wasn’t much to see. Phoebe kept her space simple and feminine, with bright colors and décor that were a contrast to her current person. When he faced her, he caught the wrinkles around her eyes and more telltale signs of ageing. Still, he saw the girl from her past.
“I haven’t seen you in a very, very, very long time, Sister Phoebe,” he said, inviting himself to sit. “And we’re in this same Lagos. Na wa o.”
“Can I offer you a drink of water?”
“No. Thank you. Thank you. But you can sit, let’s talk.”
Phoebe sat, squeezing a napkin she was holding in both hands. A long gypsy skirt she had on fell on both sides of her floor. Brown-painted toenails peeked out from beneath the skirt.
“I just stopped by to generally check on you and see how you’re managing.”
“I’m fine, sir.”
“Good. We thank God.”
“That’s good. Good. Great. Good to hear.”
Phoebe grinned. There was edgy silence, and then Adonijah spoke again. His words were chosen and came in a long speech. He seemed concerned, he said. He seemed to care. He told Phoebe that he wanted the best for her. He would support her in every way, if only she would return to Bethany Christian Center.
“What?!” Phoebe sprang up.
“All that long talk was to get me to go back to BCC? For what?”
“Because BCC is home. That is where you belong. Imagine if you hadn’t left, you’d have been heading the choir by now. You’d have been on an enviable paycheck, a good car and maybe even a house of your own and not this shack you live in. And who knows, you might even be an Omotosho.”
She tried to interject but he stopped her.
“I know you left because of the circumstances then but that’s all in the past. You need to come home and reap the rewards of all your hard work as a pioneer member of BCC.”
“Sir, there are no rewards to reap. I did a terrible thing with George…I mean Papa…”
“You still love him.”
“You still love George. That is why you have remained single and you don’t care for how you look. No man has been able to take his place. Am I lying?”
She looked at him in puzzlement. It was nothing new to him. People always had that reaction towards him because he came at them from nowhere. With a face never giving anything away and a body form that belonged to a typical jovial middle-aged man who loved to drink a lot of beer and chase little girls around, he enjoyed shocking people by being quite the opposite. One could only know about his intentions when he decided to let them out; and even then, he was often not taken seriously until he struck. And strike he would, under the radar. In this manner, he had accomplished a whole lot at BCC, from the embezzlement of funds to successfully controlling the different departments in the church. His motive operando had also served Papa well. Adonijah delivered with such efficiency and speed that Papa was often known to say he could go to sleep without a care whenever Adonijah was in charge.
Unfortunately, this absolute trust Papa had in him was soon going to be used against him.
“Whether you agree with what I’m saying or not, I know you love the man. And I’m here to assure you that I can have him back in your hands again.”
Phoebe was speechless.
“Yes, you heard right. Papa is lonely and sick. He needs someone to care for and love him. He needs you…”
“Okay, sir. I can’t stay here listening to this. Please, I respectfully ask you to leave.”
“I gave his wife my word that I would never go near him again.”
“I gave my word. I swore with my life!”
“Her death frees you from that oath.”
“It doesn’t!” Phoebe was beginning to tear up. “Please sir, just go.”
“Please. I’m begging you. Please…”
“Okay.” Adonijah rubbed his palms together. He stood and stared at her until she began to beg him again to leave.
“How about your son?”
“Hmm?” she stammered. “My-my-my-my son?”
“You know he’s alive. They hid him from you. Papa, your sister…they hid him and told you that he’s dead.”
“He is dead.”
“I don’t think he is,” Adonijah said and then lifted his hands in innocence. “I don’t know anything about him but I know they lied to you. Don’t you want to be told where he is?”
“NO!” Phoebe screeched, startling him. “No! Go away! Go! Get out!”
Adonijah saw a little of the mental problem Priscilla had spoken about earlier as he watched Phoebe in her hysterics.
He walked to the door but stopped beside it to peer at his face in a small oval mirror hanging off the wall. Shaggy brows knotted and unknotted as he squeezed a meaty nose before stepping out.
He felt sore for his efforts. A grumpy mood took over as he drove to the office. If he were a patient man, he would have had the fortitude to bear up with Phoebe’s inflexibility for three more years. Unfortunately, he had to struggle with the difficult mission of breaking her will, and in the end, abandoned it for lack of a good outcome. While this happened, he watched Leye take Papa’s place of leadership with ease, making better what his father had toiled over.
Leye’s popularity grew as with the love the public had for him. Behind the scenes, his allies increased too. And soon, Papa’s faithfuls split, with a faction decamping to Leye’s side. In a little while he became a stench in Adonijah’s nose, who felt helpless to halt his success because his plans could only take him as far as Papa could allow. And Papa had lost his ambition and drive, seeking rather to pursue a love interest.
Adonijah smiled as he thought about her. She hadn’t been woven into the plot but had jumped right in and began to rewrite the chapters. She was desirous to be a key player. He saw it in her eyes always. She was hungry for power as he was. He understood her but she would not let him get close no matter how much he tried. He had attempted using her friend, Wemimo, but it proved futile as well. Tara, however, came as a more agreeable option. She was deep in the religion sauce. A sheep out of many, from a conservative background that had been devoted to BCC since its inception. Her dear old grandmother was a dedicated church worker but had struggled with her finances for years. The moment Adonijah picked interest in the family, he made a staggering donation into the old woman’s purse to help solve her many financial troubles.
With that one act, he caught Tara’s attention; and when he was sure he had her, he pushed her into breaking off her engagement with Morris. He hadn’t had any reason for doing so. He was merely reveling in his ability to control another human being, a hobby he so liked. On the occasion, he enjoyed randomly picking a member of the congregation whose head he could toy with. It gave him power whenever he felt he was losing control.
Hence, Tara became his latest plaything, maybe out of frustration for not getting his real target. But he justified his act by the fact that it would have been a bad thing if she married a Catholic and left the church.
Everything he planned, although still sketchy, seemed to be going well for Adonijah. All except for Phoebe. She had begun to lose her mind again.
Driving to church this morning, after leaving his wife at home, he dialed her number to launch into their fourth conversation in an hour.
“Still having cold feet?”
“I’m shaking here, sir.”
“It’s going to be fine, Phoebe.”
“Sir, I don’t know…”
“You’ve had rehearsals with the choir for two weeks. Was it all a waste of time?”
She was silent. He was exhausted. He wished she was as easy as Tara to handle. He had thought that since it was she who contacted him after three years, the process would have been easier. But she had proven difficult, claiming she wanted nothing from Papa except to know where her son was.
“Look, Phoebe…you can get your stolen years and your glory back. It’s right at your doorstep. Alice has ended their relationship because of the things you told her about his past. It is now left for you to swoop in.”
“I only want my son.”
Adonijah gave his horn an angry jab. The woman was stretching his patience. He had no designs on letting her see her son until she was working in tandem with him.
“You will reunite with your son but is that all you want? Don’t you want your man back?”
She went silent again.
“I do, sir.”
“Ehen! And you can now have him without guilt. No more sneaking around. It will be you, him and your son. The perfect picture you always wanted to be part of.”
“But I don’t want to blackmail him.”
“Phoebe, it’s the only way. And don’t see it as blackmail. See it as demanding what is justly yours. You know how stubborn he can be. If you don’t box him in a corner, he won’t budge. Threaten him with exposure and watch him slip a ring on your finger.”
Adonijah let Phoebe another moment of silence.
“Are you okay?”
“I expect to see you in church.”
He rang off and groaned in frustration just as he steered his car into the church premises, being directed by an armed mobile policeman.