Everything was still.
Suddenly, there were lots of people.
He couldn’t count them. They might have been fifty or more. Loud voices. Dark faces. Shuffling of feet. Hands all over him. Tugging. Pulling. Claws closing on him, coming for his neck, coming to choke him.
Then, just like that, they started to disappear, one after the other, as if they were balloons and someone was popping them with a needle.
Everything was quiet again.
A man emerged who seemed to be a doctor or at least acted like he knew something other people didn’t know.
Asher looked at him, blinking, trying to steady his sight, as the man’s face moved out of focus.
“You’re finally awake. Can you hear me? Blink if you can.”
Asher blinked. Not in response to the man’s instruction. His eyelids just couldn’t keep still.
“That’s good. I will run a few checks while asking you some questions, okay? It’s just routine. You look good, by the way, and the worst is over. Hopefully, you’ll be out of here in no time, then you can give me that autograph I so badly want.”
He chuckled, triggering in Asher a faint memory of a scene like this one. Same words, same chuckle.
“I was listening to ‘Slow Down’ this morning in the theater. I had it on repeat. Bruh! That song is fire! It’s my song of the year—”
Asher’s voice sounded strange to him, as though it belonged to someone else a hundred meters away from them.
“What did you say?” the doctor asked.
Asher tried to lift his head but a sharp pain from the back of his neck stopped him. He also felt something clamping around his neck, like the hands of fifty or more people merged into one, closing in on him.
“You may want to keep your head steady. You have a neck brace.”
“Kenny,” Asher repeated, louder now.
But the crowd of noisy people suddenly returned. They were shouting this time, running toward him from the distance. He looked up and he was no longer with the doctor. There were stars above him, surrounding a moon that was a cookie-bite shy of its fullness.
When he looked down again, there was a haze of smoke in front of him through which he saw the people getting nearer. Only their legs, though.
The air smelled of fumes, but he could also pick out that distinct metallic stench of blood.
He had just realized that he was lying on his side, partly on his left arm, which looked like a thing that used to belong to his body but was now tired of being a member.
Then, he saw it. Kenny’s gray jacket lying on the tarmac. It reminded him of a parcel he once saw that had fallen off an overloaded delivery truck. The gray of the jacket matched the worn-out tarmac. But there was a pool of deep red fluid, spreading across the chips of asphalt.
Kenny’s face lay in that pool. A strange gurgling noise like the last bit of water draining a sink came out of him.
The people arrived on the scene with their many legs and screams of terror. Asher tried to look up at the sky again but his sight went dark as if someone had thrown a blanket over him.
Asher opened his eyes. The first thing he saw was the ceiling. Next was Nnani’s face. Once he saw it, he shut his eyes again. He knew she’d ask him about his recurrent nightmare. Then, she’d tell him that the dreams were troubling her as much as they did him and he needed to do something about them. Maybe finally see a therapist? Or talk to one of the pastors in his family? Her suggestions would lead them into an argument about how she was making a big deal out of a trivial situation and pushing too hard. He would insist that he was fine and could handle himself.
“You had that dream again?” Nnani asked. Asher turned his head toward hers. There was worry on her face.
“No,” he lied. He tried to get off the bed, but she drew him back in and sat on him.
“Let’s not go out today,” she said, packing her braids with a band. “We can just stay in…”
“And do what?”
“More videos? Any chance I don’t get to star in them?”
Nnani giggled. “You’ll forever be the star of my life.”
“That’s so corny. Count me out of your shit, Nnani.”
She whined but kissed him.
“This is a new year.” Asher touched her lips. “I think it’s time you showed your followers that you can do this influencing thing on your own, without me.”
Nnani pulled her weight up, revealing a pout.
“Baby, you can do it.”
“Do what exactly?”
“Um… Play the piano on your own for starters. The guitar too—”
“You’re good, Nnani. And you can sing if you just believe in yourself.”
“If I can sing, why am I not one of your backup singers?”
“You need a little fine-tuning.”
“But Melody doesn’t, right? You hired her without thinking twice.”
“Melody has had years of experience, singing in the choir. I hired her because I was looking for someone to replace Mercy who bailed on me last minute. Nnani, you know how it all happened. Let’s not start fighting over something we fought over and squashed. Melody is good at what she does. End of.”
Annoyed, Nnani got off his body and stomped out of the bedroom. Asher didn’t have the strength to go after her. He reached for a pill container on the floor and took out three painkillers. He downed them with a bottle of water on the nightstand, shut his eyes, and waited for the pain at the back of his neck to ease up. Afterward, he reached for a half-smoked blunt on the nightstand and lit it.
Falling backwards on the bed, his head got flooded with memories of his late friend, Kenny, who would have been celebrating his 28th birthday today. It had been twenty-two months since the crash, and Asher was yet to find a way to erase that night from his memory. His mind was bent on punishing him for killing his best friend.
Asher looked at Nnani, who was standing by the bathroom door. Her nude body— supple, chubby, and curvy—called out to him. She had a bad habit of hashing out their disagreements with sex, knowing how much she was his greatest weakness.
When he met her, she had barely three thousand followers on online. But the morning after their first night together, she posted a photo of his back while he lay in bed, showing the famed tattoo on his accident scar in honor of Kenny—and she became insta-famous. Since then, she had used his star power, via videos of them as a couple, to grow her following. Presently, she boasted of over four hundred thousand followers on TikTok and Instagram. She also made a pretty sum from running ads and campaigns. But Asher was worried that she lacked the self-confidence needed for her to be her true self and stay relevant to her brand.
“What if we get you a voice coach?” he asked her.
“Why do I need a voice coach when I have you?”
“Nnani, you know I don’t have time. Once I sign this deal with Ijo Records, my life is going to change drastically. I need you to be known for more than just influencing and being my girlfriend.”
“What next after I train my voice?”
Asher sat up, an idea coming to him. “If you become good enough for me to want to add you as a backup singer, then I’ll feature you in one of my songs.”
Nnani didn’t believe him. “You’re capping joor!”
“No cap. Deal?”
He gestured her over and she hurried to the bed. She picked what was left of his blunt in an ashtray and lit it. Inhaling the smoke, Nnani fixed her eyes on Asher. He slipped his hand between her thighs and watched her as she smoked, enjoying the way her eyes went from clear and wide to murky and tinted. He could spend the whole day watching her. His phone gallery was filled with pictures and videos he had taken of her without her knowledge. She also didn’t know that she was a source of inspiration for songs he had written and was yet to produce.
Nnani, like Asher’s music, was his pain medication. She was also a thing of shame and guilt to him. Firstly, for the obvious reason that he was a worship leader at church but he was living in sin with her. The second reason was more dishonorable, as it involved his late friend, Kenny, who had been on a couple of dates with Nnani before his death, with the intention of going into something serious with her. At that time, Nnani was a budding instrumentalist who had just begun working at Asher’s studio, run by Kenny and his twin, Taiye.
At first sight, Asher had fallen for her, but he kept his distance because of Kenny’s intentions toward her. However, after Kenny’s passing, Nnani became a constant in his life. Asides family, she was the only person that was there with him in the hospital. At some point, she took over his care from his mom until he got his bearing back. Everyone that mattered to him adored her; everyone except Taiye. He had forgiven Asher for being responsible for his brother’s death, but he despised him for dating her.
“Are you still going to Uncle Leye’s house today?” Nnani asked as she tugged down Asher’s sweatpants.
“Don’t remind me.”
She gazed thirstily at his penis and smiled at him before letting her head down. Asher shut his eyes in anticipation for what was to come but the bedroom door burst open and his mom walked in.
“Mom!” Asher slammed a pillow on his crotch as Nnani struggled to cover herself with a duvet.
“Seriously?” his mom exclaimed. “On a Sunday while people are worshipping God?”
“We’re sorry,” Nnani muttered.
Asher reached for his sweatpants while holding on to the pillow. “Please, knock next time.”
“Meet me downstairs for a serious talk. You too, Nnani.”
Once she was gone, Nnani breathed out. “We’re so in trouble. I didn’t even hear her car drive in.”
“I blame myself for giving her my key and access to every aspect of my life.”
Nnani slipped into Asher’s t-shirt. “Wait. Do you think she knows about the record label thing?”
“I don’t know.”
Asher left the bedroom first. He found his mom in the dining room, laying out the table for lunch. She was in a mood. He could tell by the way her brows creased and straightened and creased again. If he weren’t here, she’d be grumbling to herself or slamming things on the table.
He discreetly set his phone camera on her and started a video recording. Just like he did with Nnani, he kept a folder dedicated to all things Phoebe. On his Instagram, she was a star. The talented music minister and poet whom he was lucky to call his mother. In her past life, she had been known as the scorned mistress to George Omotosho who had a son for him and tried to ruin his reputation.
“Turn off that camera, Asher.”
Asher stopped the recording. “What’s up?”
“If you and Nnani can’t keep your hands off each other, then she would have to move in with me. Neither your father nor I condone premarital sex, which two of you seem to be doing a lot. The last thing I want is for Nnani to get pregnant.” Phoebe shifted her eyes to Nnani who had just walked in. “I love you darling, but the utter disrespect for morals has to end.”
“Mom, please…” Asher pulled out a chair and sat. “Address me alone. Leave her out of it.”
“No, Asher. Two of you are misbehaving—”
“It’s my house and she’s my girlfriend.”
“Asher, you’re a music minister—”
He shut his eyes. “I am not a minister. I lead worship in church. That’s all.”
“And what do you think that means, huh? You think it’s just about singing songs and putting up an act?”
“Well, that’s what I’ve been doing all these years. Putting up an act. I don’t believe half of what I do up there. It’s been all about pleasing you and Dad.”
Phoebe looked like she had just been smacked on the face. This was a difficult topic for Asher to discuss, and he wasn’t going to say anything more to upset her or himself.
“Can we not talk about this?”
“Speak sense into him. You know what you’re both doing is wrong. Talk to him.”
“Oya, you people should eat. I brought lunch.”
Lunch was pounded yam and egusi soup. There was pineapple juice and palm wine on the side. It was funny to Asher that for two weeks, he had lodged in some of the world’s most expensive hotels without eating a proper meal. It was always a burger or a salad because he was constantly occupied. Concerts, interviews, press tours, and parties kept him on his feet in the UK. His voice had taken a beating and he almost collapsed on stage during his last show. He still couldn’t recall how he got on a plane back to Nigeria. The last thing he remembered was taking a drink from his manager once they got to the hotel after the show. He awoke the following morning with Nnani peering into his face and asking how he was doing.
His doctor was present too. He topped his pain medication and ordered him back to bed. Then came an entire week of lazy sex with Nnani and long sleep hours that brought on welcome nightmares.
“It’s time to fire your manager,” Phoebe said when Asher was done with his meal. Nnani passed him a look.
“Just like that?” He spied a piece of meat in his soup dish he had abandoned. He tossed it into his mouth.
“I don’t want to be having this conversation with you again, Ash. That man will be the death of you.”
Asher would normally respond by reminding her that his manager was one of the best on the continent, but he was tired of talking about him. He had no intention to fire the man, especially not now when his career was about to take a crazy turn.
“All he sees, when he looks at you, is money. He doesn’t care about your health or even respect the music at all. I’ll always be of the opinion that an A&R talent manager should be someone who once had a career as a singer or producer or something. Not these greedy guys that want to scam people like you with real talent. Let him go, Asher.”
Asher knew that beneath her motherly concern, Phoebe wanted to replace the manager. Her music career as a gospel artiste had barely taken off four years ago and crashed immediately. She blamed everyone for her failure but herself. She even blamed his father, alleging that he sabotaged the success of her debut album by asking his friends in high places not to invite her to their churches to perform her songs. She held an unending grudge for George for dumping her twenty-eight years ago after an adulterous affair that left her pregnant and heartbroken. To Asher, she was a great mother. But as an artiste or manager, she sucked—and this upset him, as he wanted her to be more than just a mother in his life. Nonetheless, he was grateful for her active social life. She had a few friends and was presently dating someone. At fifty-two, she was doing great and looked fabulous. Even now, dressed in a t-shirt and pair of denim pants, with a hairdo that was reminiscent of Anita Baker’s famous cut, she could pass for a thirty-year-old.
“Are you even listening to me, Asher?”
“Or are you waiting to drop dead on stage out of sheer exhaustion before you agree that Clint is bad for you?”
Asher got up. “Let’s not do this today.”
“Let’s not talk about this! Let’s not do this today! Why don’t you want to talk about these important issues in your life?”
“Because you’re stressing, Mom. You’re being extra right now.”
“Fine.” Phoebe stood and picked her car key. “I’ll call you later tonight and we’ll have a chill talk.”
Later, he had a party to attend, but he said, “Sure.”
She left a peck on Nnani’s head. “Be good, baby girl.” She blew Asher a kiss as she started toward the door.
The couple was silent until she left the house.
“She didn’t talk about the record deal thing,” Nnani whispered.
“They didn’t tell her.” Asher poured himself some palm wine. “I wish they did.”
One of Love’s favorite things about being married to Leye was watching him cook with his father. They were great cooks, and Love believed that if God hadn’t called them to serve him, they would have done brilliantly in the food industry. They were best of friends in the kitchen, even though they always disagreed on what condiment needed to go into their meals. Papa loved his dishes hot and spicy; Leye had a sweet and sour tooth. This evening, though, Papa agreed on the meal going Leye’s way. But for the chicken pepper soup, Papa was in charge. He made it with Love in mind, as he explained, to help her produce ample breastmilk for her newborn, who was just two weeks old.
The Omotoshos had a family tradition of being involved in postpartum care for six months. Presently, Alice spent most of her nights at Leye and Love’s, even though the baby had a live-in nanny. Papa also helped whenever he could, by mostly stopping by to drop a meal he had made or a thoughtful gift he got for Baby Abitoluwa and Love. So far, Abitoluwa had gotten eight of those gifts. For Love, she received the eleventh one today—a pair of customized designer sneakers.
Papa and Alice were the parents Love wished she had had, and she adored them without reservation. During her pregnancy, she had fallen into a cute routine of walking down the street to their house for a sleepover each time she and Leye got into a fight. On such occasions, Leye never won, even when she was the offender. Alice would let her sleep in the room they reserved for her; and the following morning, they would call Leye over and scold him for upsetting her. Love was older than Alice, but she respected her as she would one an elder.
“Pepper soup’s all done,” Papa announced, pushing a basket toward Love. “This is for you to take home.”
“Thank you, Dad.”
“I know your husband doesn’t have time to cook for you again, now that he’s caught up in his tech business.”
Love stared at Leye who pretended not to have heard what Papa said. Keeping his concentration on the onion he was slicing, he changed the topic.
“I ran into Ishi today,” he said. “He was with his older daughter.”
Leye paused, face in thought. “You’re saying that he was actively a pastor when he decided to get her mom pregnant?”
“Babe, I’ve explained this to you nau,” Love answered. “They didn’t have sex. He donated sperm.”
Papa gave him a stare that had Love laughing. “You want your wife to break down to you how semen is autonomously produced, Son?”
“It’s just… He’s… I don’t know. Gutsy. Different.”
“And that’s why we’re happy to have him in BCC,” Love said.
“But he was dating her at some point nau. This was 2015, 16…?”
“Just rumors. Nobody had proof of anything going on.”
“She’s married to his cousin, right?”
“Wow. That family is—”
“No different from ours,” Love responded. She didn’t like talking about Ishi’s background and past. It had been hell explaining to the church leaders why someone from the notorious Igwe family would make a good fit for senior pastor. Convincing them had happened over three meetings, which Love attended only virtually. The third one stressed her so much because she had been in labor and was trying to stay sane. The following morning, she learned that Papa had called an emergency meeting to express his anger at the leaders for putting her through stress and to tell them that Ishi’s move to BCC wasn’t up for debate. In the meantime, a certain Reverend Malachi was going to be announced as the general overseer. It was Love’s idea to have someone occupy the seat until Ishi was ready to take over in a couple of years.
So far, everything was going smoothly—save for the Ayoolas. They were incensed that Jibola wasn’t made the general overseer.
“Love, darling!” Alice walked into the kitchen. “Your little prince is finally sleeping.”
“Thank God,” Love muttered. “Bless you, Monoyo.”
“My pleasure.” Alice walked to Papa and pecked him on the chin. “I’m hungry, Sugar Daddy.”
He put his arm around her waist. “Dinner is almost ready. But first, you need to take off this dress. It smells of baby stuff. Come on, let’s get you changed.”
Love kept her eyes on them until they left the kitchen.
“Do you think that was some coded language for—?”
“For heaven’s sake, Loveth.”
Love laughed. “Jeremiah, your father still has sex with his very young and sexy wife.”
“I don’t want to know…”
Love tried to speak but he stopped her.
“Even if Alice has told you things, keep them all to yourself.”
Leye wiped his hands on a napkin. “Dinner is ready, but I need it to simmer for a bit.”
While Papa helped Alice change into another dress, Love and Leye set the sitting room for dinner. Unlike the living room where Papa entertained his serious guests, this family space had a conversation pit—a 15-foor-square section, lined on all sides with couches. It was a picture of romanticism and intimacy.
“Your phone is ringing.” Coming out of the kitchen with a bottle of wine in ice, Leye handed Love her phone. Asher was on the line.
“Auntie Love, I’m almost there,” he said. “Sorry I’m late.”
“It’s fine. Just hurry.”
“But em, Asher… This thing you want to talk about, do you think that maybe you could share it with me first before you tell your dad and brother? Just in case you need someone to stand by you.”
Asher laughed. “I know you already know what it is, and it’s cute that you’re looking out for me, but I can do this on my own.”
“Thanks. See you in a bit.”
He hung up and Love thought about how Papa and Leye were going to take the news that Asher was about to break to them. In November, the year before, they had gotten him a recording deal with a Christian record label that had influence across the continent. This was followed by public announcements after a contract was signed. Asher was supposed to start working on an album at the turn of the new year, but he had called one of the CEOs of the company two nights ago and told him that he was pulling out of the deal. He further explained that gospel music wasn’t what he wanted to do. The CEO was BCC’s former choir director and a friend of Love’s, who didn’t hesitate to break the news to her. She had planned to relay the message to Leye and Papa, but Asher informed them both that he had something to share with them this evening.
Love was disappointed in him, but she had known from the start of his struggle to accept the position of worship leader at BCC. His vocal dexterity and performance skills hadn’t been in question. He was so good that all one needed to do was toss in the right instruments in the right ambiance and the church would be ‘slain’ in the spirit, under the influence of his voice. But Asher had not felt like he was where he was supposed to be as a singer. Love knew this, but she didn’t let him slip away—especially after he released a single that went viral across the country. This brought him popularity and invitations to various churches to perform. He was soon dubbed a music minister, not only because his father was George Omotosho, but also because they believed he had something new and refreshing to offer God’s people.
For fear that some other church would steal him away, Pastor Love asked the choir director to grant him a much-coveted spot in the BCC worship team. She then advised Asher to rededicate his life to God and submit himself to the leadership of the director. When he tried to tell her that he wasn’t the Christian everyone thought he was, she smiled and told him that he was not in the company of saints but of sinners.
“Many are beautiful on the outside like whitewashed tombs,” she added, “but they are full of bones of the dead. That is why we all need Jesus.”
Love wished that she hadn’t pushed him. Maybe Asher would have found his calling on his own and not felt like he needed to please his family and show the world that he was from the bloodline of ministers.
A message from Mina popped up on her screen.
You need to see this!!! 😮😥
“What now?” Love clicked on a link in the message and it led her to an Instagram account that had shared a screenshot from a popular blog. The gist was that an anonymous source claimed they had incriminating details that could nail Obinna for premeditated murder. This person also stated that the Omotoshos knew about it and were accomplices to the murder.
Love sighed. She had seen the news earlier and ignored it. Obinna was out on bail and the date for trial had been set for March. Blessing and Glory had already been buried; and for a second, everyone had forgotten about the Kanayos. Now, from nowhere, this latest gossip was trending and BCC was back in the news again, just as they were about to announce Ishi’s move to the church. Love wondered if they should postpone the announcement or do it while they were yet trending. Ishi was no stranger to scandals, but the moment word got out that he was moving to BCC while First Glory was going through a hard time, ferocious bloggers would dig up his past—especially his history with Kyenpia.
BCC didn’t need the bad press, but that didn’t bother Love as much as this anonymous person with their promise for a juicy twist to the Kanayo saga.
Love dialed Najib’s number and waited for him to pick her call.
“Good evening, Mama.”
“It’s time to put your eyes on the Bishop Adonijah,” she said. “He’s up to something.”
Papa and Alice were parents to a chubby two-year-old girl, Urowoli, fondly called Roli. Papa, who had sworn that he was done having children, fell deeply for Roli at her birth. The bond between them was so deep that it sometimes made Alice jealous.
Just before dinner began, Roli stirred from a three-hour nap and it was now a struggle to get her to go back to bed or sit anywhere else other than her father’s lap. Papa didn’t mind, though. He always had the patience to handle her restlessness.
“You’re spoiling this girl, George,” Alice stated.
“I know. But I may never get to walk her down the aisle, so that’s okay.”
The room went silent. Alice’s face slowly grew into a frown. Papa, unaware of the import of his joke, looked up from trying to keep Roli still and saw tears in his wife’s eyes.
“It was just a joke, duchess,” he said. “I’m sorry.”
Alice got off her couch. “Excuse me.”
“Are you serious? Alice?” Papa called as she hurried toward the kitchen.
“Dad, you just had a health scare last week,” Leye reminded him. “You literally stopped breathing in your sleep.”
“Sleep apnea, that’s all.”
“Well, she’s still shaken by it.”
“Everyone has health scares, Omoleye. Your brother almost fainted on stage the other day.”
“Can you stop freaking her out? You know she hates it.”
“I’ll stop.” He stood and placed his daughter on his couch, handing her a chicken wing. He then followed Alice to the kitchen.
Love chuckled. “They’re so adorable when they fight.”
“So, where’s the person that said he wants to speak to all of us?” Leye asked Love.
“I hope Nnani isn’t pregnant…”
“Well, will that surprise you? They’re practically living together.”
“And that makes us hypocrites because we let him climb up that stage and minister.” Leye picked a chicken piece off his little sister’s forehead. “Maybe we should suggest that they get married.”
“To legitimize their sin?”
Leye looked thoughtful. “Now, that you put it that way—”
“Let’s not push Asher into doing anything he doesn’t want to. We’ve done that enough already.”
“If I recall, you did. Not me. I told you he wasn’t ready, but you said he had the gift.”
“Are you bringing that up now?”
“I’m just saying that you like to push things.”
Love was silent for a bit. Her eyes were on a long flower vase that held beige reeds.
“Tek!” Roli thrust a piece of chicken at her. She took it with a smile.
“Sweetness…” Leye called. She looked at him, her smile vanishing.
“You can’t quit now,” she whispered.
“I know you want to step down as pastor to go and run your tech company. I’m not going to stop you, but please, not now.”
“I’m not quitting. I just…” Leye exhaled, bringing his thoughts together. “I just want to take a break for a bit and ask God to really show me where he’s taking me as a pastor. Something doesn’t just feel right in my life at this time, sweetness.”
“I know. You’ve said that and I’ve listened to you, but not now, Jeremiah.”
“And you say you’re not pushing.”
Love sighed. “You won’t understand…”
“Just tell me why.”
“You’ll know why soon.”
Just then, Asher walked in. At the same time, Papa and Alice emerged from the kitchen, hands in each other’s. Asher bowed his head to greet his father. He hugged Alice and Love, bumped fists with Leye, and sat.
“I’m sorry, I’m late. I got caught in traffic.”
“How’s that mother of yours? Still hating me?”
“Until she remembers something she needs to accuse me of. But let’s eat. I’m starving.”
“Please, before we start…” Asher shifted forward. “I… Can I say what I came here to say?”
Papa looked at him warily. “Have you gotten that girl pregnant?”
“Done some drunk-driving act again?”
“George?” Alice scolded.
They all went quiet. Even Roli seemed to stop chewing for a bit.
“I’m backing out of my deal with Portrait Music. Secondly, I…don’t want to be a worship leader anymore. I just want to come to church like every other person and worship and go home.”
The silence continued. Every eye was on Papa, who filled a glass with water. “You all heard the young man. He’s done with church.”
“I didn’t say that.”
“Funny. That’s what I heard.”
“Dad, I’m just not called to be a music minister.”
“Oh, but you are.”
“I am not.”
“You are, but you don’t know it. You think all that partying and booze and sex are strong enough to scare God away, to snatch you away from his hands, to recall his anointing on you? You’re a joker. But please, stray away like the prodigal son you so desperately want to be. We will be waiting for you here when you return.”
“Okay, sir. Thank you. Anybody else has something to say?”
“Don’t be disrespectful, Asher,” Leye chided him. “You’ve said your mind and we’ve heard you. I can’t speak for everyone else here, but all I’ll say is that you should be sure that this is what you want to do.”
“So, what’s next for you?” Alice asked.
“I’m…signing with Ijo Records.”
“I knew it,” Papa muttered. “You’re going full scale secular.”
“Yes, I am.” Asher’s tone was almost a whisper.
“You’re killing me here, Ash,” Love commented.
“Don’t let it bother you, Child.” Papa tapped her arm. “He’s a grown man. Twenty-seven years old. Let him do what he wants. Whatever happens is on him.”
“Why would you think anything bad would happen?”
“He didn’t say bad,” Alice commented.
“Asher Adewunmi Omotosho, the monkey will not be killed. It will die on its own accord,” Papa told him in Yoruba. “It’s all up to you.”
“Asher, please,” Alice pleaded. “Don’t do this. Whatever you’re struggling with spiritually, you have us. We will guide you when we feel you’re going off course. That’s what your elders are here for. We’ve all walked this path, struggled with our faith, and questioned the legitimacy of our calling—”
“Auntie Alice, I have to respectfully tell you that you have not walked my path.”
“Okay, that’s valid.”
“But I am fine.”
“You’re not,” Love remarked. “You’ve not been since the accident. I’m sorry that we overlooked—”
“I said I’m fine.”
“Sweetie, you’re not—”
“I’m don’t want to live a fake life, Auntie Love! I told you this four years ago but you didn’t listen! I’ve been stuck, playing a role that I discovered early enough was played better by others who have been in the game long before me. Auntie Love, wasn’t it you who told me that I was in the company of sinners and not saints?”
Leye looked at Love. She maintained a straight face.
“It didn’t take me long to see that. And when I did, I couldn’t unsee the façade, every Sunday, every other day. I’ve been playing a role, and you all know and approve of it. That’s why nobody talks about me and Nnani. Yet you want me to hold on to that lie, to that sin because it makes the family look good. The lovechild who turned out to be a shining light, despite his origins, despite his mother’s past.”
“For God’s sake,” Papa mumbled.
“I’m sorry but I can’t do this anymore. No more playing church.”
Papa looked at him. “So, you play with the devil.”
Asher was quiet.
“Don’t cast your pearl amongst swine or they will turn around and rend you.”
Asher looked at his father. “Just because they’re not in your church doesn’t make them swine.” He got up. “Good night.”
None of them called him when he walked away.
“That boy did not just speak to all of us like that,” Leye said, running a hand over his moustache.
“Well, he did,” Papa answered. “And we’ll forget that he did.”
Love’s eyes were fixed on the door, expecting Asher to return.
“Sweetness?” Leye put his arm around her as Alice commenced on blessing the dinner. “I’ll stay.”
She looked at him. “Hmm?”
“I won’t quit.”
©Sally Kenneth Dadzie @moskedapages