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Agatha had never disagreed with Jesus before, but this morning she was bold enough to tell him that knowing the truth wasn’t freedom. It was rather a cage that was closing in on her.
When she felt it tighten around her fourth finger, she took off her wedding band and kept it on her nightstand. Then, when her son poked his head into her bedroom to greet her, she saw it in his grin, which was exactly like his father’s. It struck her that she was trapped in a marriage to a man whom she had just discovered cheated and lied to her about Chioma.
Agatha wished she hadn’t asked to have lunch with Chioma’s benefactor the previous day to plead on Nathan’s behalf. The woman was patient with her, bearing a calm manner as she listened to her passionate defense of Nathan’s character. She spoke only after Agatha was done, asking but a few questions, yet penetrating her heart.
“How well do you know your husband?” she queried. “Is lying next to him for fourteen years and bearing his son really enough for you to come all the way here and vouch for him?”
“I know my husband, Kyenpia. He is not a rapist.”
“Are you sure?”
“Are you sure your own husband is not a rapist?” Agatha fired back and immediately felt foolish for towing that line of defense.
“I can only be as sure as I know. As for what I don’t know, I can’t be certain.”
“That’s where trust comes in.”
“And you trust Nathan. I understand. I trust my husband too. That’s one of the things that makes great relationships.”
Agatha tried to speak, but Kyenpia placed her hand on hers. Glowing diamond knuckle rings distracted Agatha for a second.
“But what if that trust is broken by the other party?” Kyenpia asked. “What if there’s proof out there that they are lying to you? Wouldn’t you want to find out?”
Agatha was silent.
“Agatha, rape is a serious accusation, not one of those things we do as wives when we look away from our husbands’ indiscretions and seek our happiness. It’s something you should look into, if not for yourself, for your husband. Prove Chioma wrong and show the world that Nathan is not a rapist. Then, I will withdraw my support from her.”
Agatha grabbed her handbag and stood. “You talk big on women supporting women, but all you support are home wreckers and women who are out there to ruin good men. I’m not surprised because you are one of them. You tried to ruin Ishi, but God was bigger than you!”
Looking back, Agatha was ashamed for the words she told Kyenpia. She had uttered them to drown out her conscience, but she had failed. Struggling to sleep later at night, she took Nathan’s phone while he snored beside her and went digging. Shockingly, she found his chats with Chioma on WhatsApp, and they revealed more than he and Chioma were letting on. Agatha was wrecked by what she saw. She left the bedroom to the living room where she broke into tears. She cried until daylight crept in. Then, she returned to the bedroom and tried to sleep.
At exactly 6:30 a.m., Nathan left the house for a jog. Agatha texted Ishi and pleaded with him to speak to Chioma on her behalf. She didn’t let him in on the details of what she had seen on Nathan’s phone.
Please, talk to her. There’s something she’s not saying
Nathan was home now, taking a shower while Agatha scolded herself for listening to Kyenpia in the first place. She wished she had ignored her and not sought out the truth. She would have been oblivious of her husband’s dark side and gone on believing that he was the best thing that happened to her since Jesus.
“Your eyes are puffy, Aggie. Did you sleep at all last night?”
Agatha looked at Nathan who had just stepped out of the bathroom.
“I tried to, but—”
“I’ve told you to stop breaking your head over Chioma. Nobody is even talking about it online anymore. They’re all consumed with that BCC scandal. What we should worry about is how to get back on our Madam GO’s good side and get your job back. You shouldn’t have to suffer on my behalf.”
“I can’t just act like everything is okay, Nate.”
“You can, and you will, because everything will be okay. I’ll pop into the kitchen and whip up something for us to eat. After that, you’ll shut your eyes and sleep until I say you can wake up. Okay, baby?”
Agatha nodded and allowed him pull the duvet over her.
Ishi hated virtual meetings. He hated meetings entirely and would do anything to mangle his way out of one. But this afternoon, he was ambushed by his business partner and forced to attend a virtual meeting in which he barely participated. While it went on, his mind got occupied by several things. One was the décor in his office that needed changing from its artistic theme to something more masculine. Next, he thought about his move to BCC. He was yet to hear anything contrary from God—not that he wanted to, as his mind was already made up. Then, he also nursed thoughts about how he wanted the Christmas holiday to go. Eliana’s mom, Kyenpia, had already sought his permission to take Eliana along for a family vacation in Malta. She also asked if Sochi could come along and Ishi told her that he would speak to Oby about it. Knowing Oby, he knew she would only be too glad to have the girls out of her hair for Christmas. It would be best for them, so that he could have her all to himself for the holiday—that was if she hadn’t planned to minister in some Christmas concert already.
“Ishi, are you there?” his friend and business partner asked and Ishi went back to the meeting. He responded to a question one of their potential clients asked and his mind wandered off again; but only for a few seconds, as Kyenpia burst into his office unannounced.
“Ishi, I need you to stay out of my business.”
“I’m in a meeting, Kyenpia.” He checked to see that he was muted before turning his laptop away. Then, he smiled at Kyenpia because it was something he loved doing whenever she was mad at him. It always got her more incensed and he liked it for no reason.
“Nice outfit. I didn’t know that turtle neck tops were in season.”
“Ishi, we’re not talking about my outfit here. It’s about you and Chioma.” Kyenpia rested her hands on his desk, facing him. “Stay away.”
Following Agatha’s request, Ishi came to work early and stopped at Chioma’s apartment. Kyenpia had given her a place to stay on the last floor of the building that housed some of the homeless people their charity organization helped. It was a temporary home before they moved them to better lodgings. Kyenpia had also given Chioma a job.
“I’m serious, Ishi. Stay away. She’s already telling me that she wants to drop the rape charges, just as we’re about to get Nathan arrested. What did you say to her?”
Ishi crossed his arms. “Nothing. I just listened.”
“Ishi, he raped her.”
“I know.” Ishi freed his arms. “Sit.”
As Kyenpia pulled a chair to sit, Ishi returned to his meeting and explained that he had a pressing matter to which he must attend. He shut his laptop and faced Kyenpia.
“Do you want me to share what she told me?”
“First, she wanted to clarify the inconsistency in her story. In what she shared online, she said that Nathan didn’t force her, but she had told Agatha that he ripped her buttons. Now, she fears that Agatha would go public with the version she told her and everyone will call her a liar.”
“I told her that it doesn’t change the fact that he raped her.”
“But it matters a lot to her because she had not been entirely forthcoming with you.”
“She’s hiding something?”
“She and Nathan had been flirting with each other on WhatsApp before the incident happened.”
Kyenpia’s brows crinkled. “Flirting? How?”
“Some months ago, Agatha sent her to change four hundred dollars to naira. First, she had to deposit some other cash for her at the bank. There, she met an alhaji who saw the dollars and told her that he had higher rates than others. She gave him the money but soon had a change of heart because he seemed fishy. Unfortunately, the Alhaji exchanged the dollars with counterfeit ones without her knowledge and handed them back to her. It was after she went to those guys at Eko Hotel that she found out that they were fake. Scared over what Agatha could do to her, she told Nathan about it and he promised to handle the situation. He wired the exact sum in naira to her and she gave it to Agatha. But from then on, Nathan became a nuisance to her on WhatsApp, chatting her at odd hours, asking how she was doing and stuff. When she tried to tell him to stop, he promised that nothing would happen between them. He only wanted to use her to escape his dull marriage and she wasn’t to take him seriously. So, she played along, and she soon discovered that he was sweet to converse with. No sexting, no amorous messages. Just discussions about life. A couple of times, he even bailed her out of financial issues.”
“She didn’t tell me this.”
“Because she didn’t want you to judge her. She strongly believes that she is to blame for what happened. Anyway, as you already suspect, Nathan was buttering her up for the day he would make his move. And when he eventually did and she rejected him, he got violent and raped her. She swears that he didn’t mean to, that he was a sweet and kind man and the devil got into him.”
“Of course, the benevolent rapist. It was all over her tone when she told me what happened.”
“There’s more—and you’re not going to like it.”
“She feels like you pushed her into sharing her story online.”
Ishi watched Kyenpia’s gorgeous face crumble in disappointment, but he could tell that she knew this was coming.
“Kay, you know how these things go. People have gotten to her. The hate messages, the subtle threats from church leaders she respects. She’s scared.”
Ishi felt sympathy for Kyenpia. She had a heart much like his when it came to defending people who couldn’t fight their own battles. It was her major reason for being one of the longest-standing staff at The Refuge where they both worked. She was passionate about women’s causes and had used her status as a person of influence to defend their rights. Standing on the side of justice hadn’t been an easy feat for her, as she had had to go against powerful men along the years. But she was a powerful woman herself, backed by a husband who was known for crushing his enemies without mercy. Hence, the widely-spread rumor that she never lost whenever she carried someone’s matter on her head. But Ishi had watched her fail many times, especially when it came to rape cases. She had a solid team of lawyers and investigators, but she had found that it was easier convicting someone of murder than it was of rape because the burden was always on the victim to prove that they were raped and not on the rapist to prove that they didn’t commit the act.
“You’re Agatha’s friend,” Kyenpia said. “Why hasn’t she said anything publicly yet? Isn’t it because she knows that Chioma is telling the truth?”
“Kyenpia, not everyone wants to go public with parts of their lives that would bring them shame. Not Chioma, not Agatha. They want it to just go away.”
“But victims have to speak out because this wicked culture of silence is enabling rapists.”
“I know, but you have to understand Chioma too. She doesn’t want to do this, Kyenpia. At least, not now. Can you let her finish therapy first? Or at least, let her be strong enough on her own before she pursues this case?”
Kyenpia rested her elbows on the desk, defeat filling her face.
“I need you to remember that rape is about the victim too, not just about the fight to stop rapists.” Ishi removed his glasses and focused his eyes on Kyenpia. “Kay, talk to Chioma. Not as an activist, fighting for justice. We can’t always wear our hero capes.”
“I’ve heard.” Kyenpia stood. “And thank you for letting me know all of this, but I won’t give up on her. Nathan has to answer for what he’s done.”
“I support you on that one.”
“I love you, Ishi, but this would be the last time you’ll talk to any of these women about rape. You don’t understand. You can never understand.”
Ishi raised his hands in capitulation. Kyenpia left in the same manner she entered. Ishi felt a little guilty for the role he played. All he had offered was a listening ear.
His phone vibrated and he picked it.
“Good afternoon, Mama.”
“So, you decided to finally answer my call, Ishi?” Meredith’s voice was croaky and he guessed it was from all the shouting she had done over the week.
“I’ve not been avoiding your calls.”
“You have. Later, you’ll say we’re friends.”
Ishi smiled. He and Meredith were indeed friends, although she was sixty-three, old enough to be his mother.
“But that’s not my problem right now. Have you seen what your girl has done online?”
“Agatha. My PA just directed me to her latest Instagram video. Go there and see it. She posted it like ten minutes ago.”
Ishi reached for a tab on his desk.
“That girl is mad. She has the guts to drag me into her husband’s indiscretions, as if it’s my fault that he can’t keep his penis to himself!”
Ishi visited Instagram to confirm Meredith’s assertions.
“Saying that because of Chioma, the church suspended her and Nathan. Why bring me into it?”
“She mentioned your name?”
“No, not really. But that is a sub, isn’t it? Or what do they call it? Abi it’s a shade? Does she think that First Glory revolves around her family issues?”
“But to be fair, you sort of suspended her because of what happened, and we know she didn’t deserve it.”
“That’s not my problem, Ishi. At least, it won’t be soon. The church can reinstate her, after I am gone.”
“You’re serious about leaving.”
“And have you told—?”
“Yes, I have. I went to see him the other night.” Meredith’s tone went low. “He seems to be doing well in holding, if you ask me. They like him there.”
“So, they’ll release him soon?”
“Ishi… They have a strong case against him. Yes, he’ll buy his way out, but it will cost us a lot. And I can’t…” She released a long sigh. “I can’t do this anymore. You know I’ve tried.”
Meredith’s marriage to the general overseer of First Glory hadn’t been the glowing example of a Christian marriage they had portrayed to the church. Their love had grown cold a long time ago and it had taken Meredith everything to keep the wheel in motion. This was her chance to be rid of her husband and to serve God the way she always desired. She had a dream to run a non-denominational ministry for youths, and Ishi was the prime candidate for the job.
“He’s not only going to lose me… Everything is falling apart. You know we’ve been a mess for some time now.”
Ishi agreed with her. First Glory was badly managed, broken into unstable factions, and was seeing a steady decline in membership and funds.
“Mama, I’m sorry.”
“I’m not taking your apology. Come with me, let’s build something great. You are the future, Ishi.”
“Promise me you’ll consider my plea—through prayer, of course. As for your friend, Agatha…”
“Please, be patient with her. Nathan’s actions are not a reflection of who she is—”
“Go and watch the video, Ishi. She stands by her man and has called her assistant a liar and a home wrecker. Such housewife language!”
“I’m guessing the church isn’t backing her?”
“No. We’ll maintain our silence. We have too much to worry about right now.”
“I have to go, Ishi. Get back to me on your decision, okay?”
Meredith hung up. Ishi drew his tab closer to watch Agatha’s video. The instant he heard Agatha’s opening lines, he knew he had been wrong about her not wanting to make her situation public. The glint in her eyes showed that she was out for Chioma’s blood.
His phone buzzed as a text came in. It was from Oby and he read it.
On my way to get the girls.
Ishi was curious to know why she would leave her retreat to pick the girls from school. He dialed her number and waited for the line to ring.
Oby answered Ishi’s call, just as her car made a turn into the street where their daughters’ school was located.
“Why are you picking them up?” he asked.
“Nothing. I just decided to take a break from the retreat. I miss my girls.”
“Okay?” Ishi murmured. Oby knew he didn’t believe her. “But are you staying for lunch?”
“See you at home.”
Oby hung up and moved the car forward. There was a long line of vehicles in front of her, heading toward the school, that it took some time to get to the gate. She showed her pass to the guards and waited for a routine vehicular search before she was let in. She drove to the parking lot, parked her car, and went into the school to get her daughters. Ten minutes later, they were headed home. In the backseat, Sochi sang along to a song on the radio, even though she didn’t know the lyrics. Oby and Ishi had discovered quite early that music was the girl’s biggest distraction. Besides, she had impressive vocals for a four-year-old. Oby felt guilty that she had hired a voice coach for her and not trained her herself.
“Mommy, can Sochi come with us to Malta?” Eliana, seated beside her, asked.
“Have you forgotten? I’m going with the twins and my mommy and my daddy.”
“No, no. I haven’t forgotten.”
The twins were Kyenpia’s sons with her husband. They were six years old.
“So, can she come?”
“Can who come?” Sochi asked, poking her head between the front seats.
“Mommy’s ray of light,” Oby called Sochi.
“Yes, sweet Mommy,” Sochi answered.
“Do you want to go to Malta?”
“I told you,” Eliana replied. “It’s a country.”
“Where they make malt?”
Oby laughed. Eliana rolled her eyes.
“No. Just a country. I’m going there for Christmas with Reggie and Kane.”
“I want to go! I want to go! Mommy, can I go?”
“I’ll bring you two malts.”
Oby laughed harder.
“Okay, three, three!”
“I want ten.”
“Ten? Em…” Sochi looked at her hands. “I can’t carry all of them. Oh! I’ll put them in my schoolbag.”
“So, she’s going?”
“I didn’t say—”
Eliana threw her hands in the air. “Yes!”
“Yay! I’m going to Malt!” Sochi danced. “Malt! Malt!”
An argument ensued between the girls and Oby switched the song playing to Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas. It ended the noise as they jumped right into the melody. Oby joined them, laughing at how they tried to outdo each other with their voices. As usual, they made her play the song on repeat until they got home.
Once they were out of the car, the girls ran off to play while Oby went in. She tried to get some rest but Sochi barged in and drew her out to play with them.
“Come and see our faraway kingdom.”
Oby knew she was referring to the back of the house that was off limits to them, now overgrown with weeds and shrubs. She had plans for the place, but she hadn’t gotten down to doing anything with it yet.
“Open the gate!” Sochi ordered her once they got there. It was shielded with an iron rail fence and high gate that held a bolt, which they girls could not reach.
Oby indulged them and opened the gate. They ran through and went searching for an old swing that the last occupants of the house had installed for their children. The house had cost a fortune and caused a huge fight between Ishi and Oby because she had insisted on getting it while Ishi wanted something smaller and less showy. It was a shame that Ishi spent more time at home than she did. She feared that she was missing a huge part of her life here.
Oby followed the girls in and watched over them as they played until she got bored. To distract them, she called them over for photos. The sun had begun to set when they were done.
“Let’s go back in,” she pleaded. Weirdly, they didn’t object. When they returned to the compound, they saw Ishi’s SUV driving in.
“Daddy is home!” Sochi ran to Ishi. He had scarcely stepped down before she hopped on him. He carried her and she planted kisses on his face. The scene made Oby smile, dredging up memories of her late younger sister who had a close relationship with their father, also departed. She had lost her entire family in a car crash decades ago during the Christmas period. They had been on their way to their hometown to spend the holiday, as they did each year. Oby alone survived the crash and was raised by her grandfather. She had stopped celebrating Christmas until she met Ishi and started a family with him. Now, she looked forward to the season, grateful for the gift of family, even though she couldn’t banish the memories from her past.
“Daddy, I’m going to Malt for Christmas!” Sochi announced as Ishi approached Oby and Eliana.
“Malta!” Eliana corrected and looked at Ishi. “Mommy said Sochi could go.”
“I was going to talk to you about that.” Ishi looked at Oby. “The decision lies with you.”
“She can go.”
He pecked Oby on the cheek. “You’re all blushing this hot afternoon. Anything you’re not telling me?”
Oby shrugged as they made their way into the house.
“Is your retreat over or something?”
“No. One more week, but I thought I’d pop in and say hi.”
“I don’t do quickies.”
“What’s a quickie?” Eliana asked. Her parents ignored her.
Inside the house, Oby struggled with getting Sochi to change into clean clothes. She got tired and left the job with Eliana who succeeded in doing it in two minutes. There was a bond the sisters shared that nobody understood. It always reminded Oby of her sisters.
They had a late lunch in the dining room. Afterward, the girls went out to play while Oby and Ishi ended up in their bedroom.
“So…” Oby said, taking off her dress, “I have good news.”
“Good news?” Ishi was unbuttoning his shirt but he stopped and gazed at her. “Why are you not smiling? What’s that look on your face?”
“You’re pregnant? How?”
Oby laughed. “How do wives get pregnant for their husbands?”
“You were on contraception.”
“Five months ago, I took my IUD out, due to that unexplained bleeding that started from nowhere and refused to end.”
“Dozie, you forgot?”
“No, no, I remember. I just thought you put it back…”
He looked embarrassed and Oby smiled kindly at him. “It’s fine. You had a lot to deal with then.”
“It’s no excuse. We’re in this together and I should have kept up.” He moved toward her. “So… We have another on the way.”
“Looks like it. I know we didn’t plan for this—”
“No, no. It’s fine. Actually, this is great news. I’ll be screaming in the next ten minutes or so, let it just sink in first.” He held her waist. “We planned for two of ours, didn’t we?”
“Initially, but Sochi came in and she was a crowd.”
They laughed together. Oby drew closer and rested her head on his chest. “I’m not ready, Ishi. I’m so not ready.”
“Me neither, but we have nine months…”
“Already? Wow. How didn’t I notice that you missed your period? What sort of husband am I?”
“The best.” She lifted her head and looked at him. “And the bestest daddy in the whole widest world.”
Ishi laughed. She had just quoted Sochi’s popular words of endearment whenever she wanted to beg Ishi for something.
“We can do this, Pastor Oby,” he said.
Oby didn’t think she could and she expressed this through tears that clouded up her eyes. She wasn’t ready for another child. Not now, not ever. She had been done from the moment she birthed Sochi, following a grueling two days of labor. The post-natal period hadn’t been roses either, even though Kyenpia had brought her into her circle of friends that consisted of mothers who eased her struggles. Motherhood left her drained and longing for the days that she was free to pursue her dreams of ministry. Her present life consisted of sharing half her time with her daughters, as if being a wife wasn’t distraction enough. Adding a baby to the mix was going to take more than she was willing to give of her time. Why was God trying to slow her down?
“Hey…” Ishi held her face. “It’s going to be fine.”
“You don’t know that.”
“I know. It will be fine, I promise.”
She held on to Ishi tightly. In a few hours, she would be leading the evening prayers at the retreat, and she needed all the strength she could get. She also needed to exorcise the negative thoughts that were welling up in her mind. This baby was godsend, no matter what, and she would love it from this moment.
“Do you want to stay home tonight?” Ishi asked.
Oby hugged him tighter and burst into a sob. He rubbed her back. “It’s okay, sweetheart. I’m here.”
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages
Oby will be fine.
Merry Christmas Sally.
Merry Christmas Sally..
I hope Agatha will do the right thing by not covering up for her dirty husband. Everything will be fine Oby
Hang in there.
Merry Christmas Sally! The characters in your stories always seem like my long lost relatives. Lol!
Hmmm, I can never enough. Thank you Sally.
Hmmm, I can never have enough. Thank you Sally.
Compliments of the season Sally!
Why do women insist on defending wayward men. Feeling for Oby cos postnatal recovery can be difficult, I hope it gets better for them.
You’ll be fine Sisi.
Happy new year Sally
Oby will definitely be fine. Thanks Sally
So, after crying Agatha still went to post that rubbish.
The latter part of this episode reminds me of sometime in 2019 when we started the ‘9-month course’ for the second time. Didn’t look like the next thing as there were still huge remnants of previous challenges. Today makes it exactly 3 years my daughter arrived.
That process of pregnancy and the months after delivery are as challenging and interesting, especially for folks with difficult/long labour.
Great work Sally (not like I expected less though). Thanks for blessing us with your gift.
Babies are blessings! 🤗🤗🤗🤗🤗
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