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Excerpt for Her Worst Enemy by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

HER

WORST ENEMY


Olufisayo Alabi








Her Worst Enemy, a novel.



First edition. Copyright © 2011 by Olufisayo Alabi.



Smashwords Edition





All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means – electronic, mechanical, photocopying, or recording – without express written permission of the author. The only exception is brief quotations in printed or broadcasted critical articles and reviews. Your support and respect for the property of this author is appreciated.



This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, organizations, places, locales or to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and beyond the intent of either the author or publisher.





















DEDICATION


To Lenora Nazworth, my fairy godmother in writing business.












































ACKNOWLEGEMENT


With a heart filled with gratitude, I thank my Source, Arugbo Ojo, the Ancient of days, first and greatest author in heaven and on earth, for making this book, Her Worst Enemy a reality.


I also thank my ‘adopted’ mom, Lenora Nazworth, for her encouragement and huge support for this book. Ever heard of a grown woman like me adopting a mother? That I did with Lenora. She is my mentor in Christian fiction. She literally took me by the hands to write and rewrite this book. Thanks Mom!


I must thank my husband, Joseph, and my sons, Testimony and Teniola for their understanding and support. I love you all, greatly.


I thank you too, dear reader, for taking time to read this book. Thank you.

































TABLE OF CONTENT

Dedication

Acknowledgement


Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9


About the Author

Other books by the Author































CHAPTER ONE


Subuola Martins threw the handset onto the bed and screamed at it, her fury aimed at her pastor. Why was Pastor Ade Gboye always playing at matchmaking anyway? Was it a crime to be sworn off men, to be single at twenty-nine? So what if she still lived with her mother? At least Mum knew not to speak about men.

Really, she had managed well on her own. She knew how to cut a man to his size without uttering a word, a mere look would do it. She felt justified for chasing men folk away from her threshold. That must be expected after what she had passed through. Subuola sighed and stood up from her bed.

If she had known that pastor Ade Gboye wanted her to join the team of the America-based evangelist Roland Davids, she would not have picked his call. But she did not know. Pastor Gboye was her spiritual rock. An understanding father who had always being there for her. He had played several roles in her life. He had been her father, her brother, her friend, confidant and counselor. But recently, he had chosen to be her matchmaker.

She looked at her phone on which she had transferred all her aggression, the humble thing was trying to hide after being violently thrown between her two pillows. She took it up and dialed her pastor’s number. She needed to make this call.

‘Hello Sir’.

‘Subu? Hope no problem?’

‘Actually sir, there is’.

‘Really?’

‘Please sir, I don’t want to be part of that team. I don’t want to work with the evangelist.’

There was a pause at the other end. Subuola knew the pastor would be smiling. He was always in control. ‘Why?’

She was not prepared to give her reasons. It was her turn to pause. She quickly thought of what to say.

‘I’m busy’.

‘I thought you said your annual leave starts tomorrow and I know that you are on holiday from school’.

Subu sighed. This was why one should not be too open to her pastor. She wondered how to escape from this trap without telling a lie.

‘Ehm…. Yes. But, I do have things to do.’

‘Things you would rather I know not about?’

‘Daddy, no. Okay, the truth is, I don’t want to get close to that evangelist. You know me now, you know I’m scared of strangers…’

‘Truth at last. “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free”, her pastor finished as he burst into laughter. Subu tried to relax but could not. She did not know what pastor Gboye would say next. He could be very persuasive.

‘No problem. But I’m sure you know that Bro Peter would be part of that team, you won’t be alone with the evangelist. You have always wanted an opportunity to work for God. Will you be willing to do God this favour?’

How could someone say No to this now? Subu knew pastor Gboye had her cornered. She decided to prove to him she could do this. She could stay for a month, working side by side with a certain handsome and friendly evangelist from North America. And nothing personal would happen. When she thought of the reason for the evangelist’s visit to Nigeria, which was a crusade against cultism in higher Institutions, she knew she should be available for God to use.

There was only one problem, namely, the evangelist himself. If he had been short and stocky, old and ugly with marks on his face, she would have been okay. But No, this evangelist was tall and handsome, to worsen it all, he was very friendly. He was so friendly to the protocol team earlier when they took him to his hotel, where he would stay for the period of his visit to Nigeria. Subu knew that she had to draw the battle line between God and cultism on one side and between her and evangelist Roland Davids on the other side. But how do you fight someone you are to work with?

‘Are you still there, Subu?’

‘Yes sir. No problem, I will work for God on the team’.

‘The meeting is 6pm at our house. My wife will prepare dinner’.

Subu laughed. Pastor Ade Gboye could be so funny. He knew Subu loved helping his wife to prepare local dishes. How could she reject it another opportunity to prepare Nigerian food? She sat down on the bed to ruminate on the situation.

She was the church’s secretary, and was fully involved in processing Evangelist Roland’s visit to Nigeria. She understood that his ministry was involved in anti-cultism campaign worldwide. She wondered if they had taken care of cults in America before coming to Nigeria. At least, such a ministry would have prevented what happened to her eight years ago. She again asked God to help her let go of the trauma of her past. Was eight years not long enough to suffer and be ashamed? Should she not be able to go on with her life in spite of the pain and shame she felt each and every day of her life? She prayed that this missionary work would help her overcome all her fears and stigma and that the Holy Spirit would flood her heart with love, for lost soul and other brethren, especially men in general.

‘I need this, Lord. And … my little boy needs this. Show me how to love Him, Lord’.

That was when she realized the reason for her fury. It was not even her pastor. It was that evangelist. He had reminded her of all she had lost. He was white, an American. He had reminded her of Brian, her fiancée of three years, who had deserted her when the going got tough. And she had loved Brian, oh, wholeheartedly. They had attended class together, sat side by side, studied together, compared notes, argued on cases together and they had had lots of fun. Only Brian had moved on when her life shattered to pieces at that tender age. Not that she blamed him too much, who wants to be associated with an assaulted girl? A mad girl for that matter. She, who had refused to even kiss Brian for the fear of defilement. A hot drop of tear found its way to her cheek, followed by another. A heavy sound in her head confirmed the now-familiar ache on her forehead. She shook her head and determinedly broke the cycle. She did not want to stage any pity party today, not when a meeting had to be attended. If she allowed that headache to spread across her head, the pain would not stop there. It might lead to her taking prescription drugs to avoid emotional breakdown. Worse still, she may end up in the hospital, again. She shook her to emphasize her being in control. No way would she allow a certain fine-looking man from America to destabilize her carefully built emotion. No way.

She got into the bathroom and splashed water on her face. Grabbing a brush, she pushed it through her black glossy hair. Then she stared at her brown eyes noticing the fatigue of another sleepless night. Time to take something sweet in. She called on her mother as she went into the kitchen. Opening the fridge, she chose a bottle of fanta and drank straight from the bottle. She heard footsteps as her mother came in with Lofunmi in tow. Subuola curtseyed as she greeted her mother. She had acclimatized herself to the mode of greeting in Nigeria. Her mother smiled as she lifted her up and hugged her. Lofunmi ran to hug her too, she turned away and patted the boy on the head. Her mother signaled to her to hug him close. She shook her head and moved to the stove. Her mother surely understood because she drew the boy to herself and gave him the hug previously denied. Subu did not want to dwell on the awkward moment at all. She used her available tool, change of topic.

‘Mom, what are we cooking for dinner?’

‘Me I want yam and fried egg’. Lofunmi jumped up and down in answer .

‘When did you become Mom?’ She gave him a stern look. ‘I was talking to her’.

‘Please leave my son alone’. Her mother drew Lofunmi to herself and hugged him to her bosom again. She sent a ‘careful’ message to Subu before answering her. Subu wondered how her mother could even hold and love this boy, aftermath of sorrow, pain and shame.

‘I would have loved to eat Amala with Ewedu soup. But if my husband Lofunmi, wants yam….’

‘Ah ah, grandma ! Am I your husband now? It is only when you want something from me that you call me your husband’. The boy looked shocked and betrayed. They all burst into laughter. Subuola cut her laugh short and looked at Lofunmi and her mother. The latter bent low and was whispering into the boy’s ear. He giggled with joy and fascination. Subu still wondered as always, since Lofunmi’s birth, on how her mother could accept and love this fatherless boy, borne out of shame and violence, treating him as a normal child. To her, he was not normal. He was born out of wedlock, out of joy, out of honour. Her anger was rising again, so she drove herself back into the present and swallowed more of her drink.

‘So, husband and wife, have you decided what to eat? I want to prepare it for you before leaving’.

‘Are you going out?’ Her mother was surprised.

‘Pastor just called me that we have a meeting.” She knew she must not mention that the meeting would involve the evangelist or Peter. Her mother’s hope would rise unnecessarily. Better leave it safe.

‘Will you eat with us?’ Lofunmi asked Subu looking at her expectantly. She controlled her words. She would have told the boy to remember to always keep quiet when adults are talking. Instead, she turned to humour. She did not want another dagger look from her mother

‘No, and what about it? I don’t want to disturb you and your wife. Just leave me out of it.’

‘She is my grandma o. She’s not my wife.’ Lofunmi wriggled out of his grandmother’s hold and stood aside, declaring his innocence.

‘Ah! Lofunmi, you are denying me like that? Then we will eat Amala and Ewedu, we will not eat yam and egg.’

The boy was evidently confused. Subuola decided to leave the two of them alone so she could freshen up for the meeting. Sincerely, she was glad her mother and her son were so close. But that left her in the middle, always wondering why her heart couldn’t open to her child. Naturally, she wanted to love her son, but she can’t because he reminded her of that awful time, her night of assault. She shrugged her pretty shoulders as she retreated to her room, trying so hard not to think of the doom to come from the meeting.



Roland knew he could depend on Pastor Ade Gboye. He had shown interest in helping with the crusade. Wondering what would be discussed in the meeting slated for six in the evening, Roland began to unpack. He knew that leaving the comforts of Chicago to Nigeria was one of the prices he had to pay for the furtherance of the gospel. He thanked God again, for translating him from the world of darkness, into his marvelous light.

Just then, the light in his hotel room went off and Roland was not surprised. He had read some things about Nigeria before coming, he knew they had sporadic power supply. It must not be assumed that there would be light, it could go off at any time, just like it did now. He checked the shirt he had chosen to wear, it was okay. He sat on the upholstery chair and wondered what would happen next, he was already sweating. He decided to shower though it was just four O’clock. A sudden noise from the back of the hotel roused him and a minute later, light came on, the air condition picked up from where it stopped and he felt better . He understood that the noise must be from the generator. He needed to familiarize himself with the surrounding so that he would be at ease and stop feeling like a fish out of water.

So this is Nigeria, he thought as he strolled out of Lafia Hotel. The hotel was located at the center of the town. It overlooked a busy road leading to Apata on the right side and the left road later divided to lead to Dugbe and Challenge. Roland studied the map on the sign post in front of the hotel. He paid more attention to the Apata side of the map. The road later divided to two, the straight one led to Abeokuta, the diverted one led to the market, he knew that they passed through the market before getting to the church in the morning.

He walked around the hotel. There was a pool side, where people were swimming. The sun was up and he felt hot too but all the people there were black skinned and he felt odd. He moved away from the inviting water and sat on the chair in theshaded part of the poolside. He signaled to a waitress. She hurried down to him and asked for his order, batting her eyelids, he smiled and ordered a bottle of coca-cola.

That took his mind to what happened at the airport when he was waiting for Pastor Gboye yesterday. His plane had arrived an hour earlier and he had sat down, watching and marveling at his first view of Nigeria. A woman with a daughter and a son was looking uncomfortable. The older daughter, about seven had asked her for water, the woman told her to be patient. The girl had complied but when the younger son demanded for water, he started wailing and the woman, not wanting to move away from the waiting section, lest her husband’s plane land and they missed him, did her best to soothe the child.

The weather was hot and the boy could not be blamed. He was even the one who pointed at the automated drink selling machine at the exit. They all marched to the machine and read the instruction. Roland saw the woman opened her bag, she brought out a two hundred naira note and shook her head. The boy started crying again. His mother tried to explain that the machine would only take one hundred naira note for a plastic bottle of water. The daughter suggested they could buy two. He saw the mother reluctantly insert the note in the machine and pressed the button for two bottles of water. Ro had looked away, scanning the nametags held by people who came to pick up new arrivals, when he heard the little boy crying again.

He turned towards the mother and her children and saw that the machine had refused to release any bottle of water and it had swallowed the money. The mother was angry, the children were disappointed. She shooed the children away from the machine, the boy just could not understand. Moved to action, Ro had opened his bag and offered the mother his unopened bottle of water, served on the plane. He was dazed when the mother reminded the children to say thank you and the girl knelt down on both knees while the boy laid down flat on the floor. The mother had smiled her own thank you and explained to Roland that that was the cultural way of greeting in Nigeria. He had smiled then and was smiling now as the waitress brought his drink, the girl still lurked around smiling at him. He looked away as he took a long drink.

The only flower tree in the hotel was the Pride of Barbados, very huge, casting a big shade at the poolside. A giant fir tree adorned the eastern part of the hotel, which hinted at Christmas decoration and celebration in the place. A coconut tree stood defiantly at the opposite side of the fir tree, daring the former with its succulent fruits. All of these put a peaceful touch of nature in the environment. Some chairs were arranged under the trees, in twos. That must be for lovers. He saw a movement beside him and discovered that the waitress had decided to leave, seeing he had no interest in her.

Come to think of it, he thought as he took his phone and dialed Lilian’s number. The answering machine picked it. May be she had gone to church. He had tried to call her earlier but could not get across to her. His Lilian. He wondered why she had seemed distant recently. He had even invited her to come to Nigeria with him, the look of fear and confusion on her face had stopped him from pressing the topic. He muttered a prayer for her as he finished his drink. He stood up, dropped the plastic bottle on the tray and went back into his room to await the pastor. He prayed that the meeting would turn out well.

Roland Davids was ready an hour before Pastor Gboye’s arrival at his hotel. He had changed into a short sleeved lilac shirt, which he wore over a black tailored trouser. The trouser was actually that of the three- piece suit he wore to church in the morning. He had worn a white shirt then with a multicolored tie. The service had been wonderful. What with that American looking sister who had led praises like Don Moen. She really brought down God’s presence into the church. He wondered how she came to be living in Nigeria, such a beautiful sister. He cautioned himself and focused on his dressing. He remembered her long ponytail, coming out from under her big hat. It was black and shiny. Her eyes wavered between brown and black. Her deep tan almost made her skin turn chocolate but, a looker knows she must be White.

Then he remembered his meeting with the protocol team, led by the same sister. Subu had

been the one who checked him in along with the two brothers who carried his things to his room. She ordered his meal after consulting him. After ensuring that Evangelist Roland was comfortable, the protocol team bid him goodbye. He shook their hands one by one and asked of their names.

‘I am Christopher sir.’

‘Brother Christopher, God bless you.’

‘I’m Peter sir.’

‘Oh, Bro Peter, stay blessed.’ She was the last person.

‘My name is Subuola sir.’

‘Sister Subuola, you are blessed. What is the meaning of your name?’

‘Ehm, it means Child-falls-into-wealth, Omo-subu-sinu-ola.’

‘Waoh, that’s a nice name.’ He had said, loving the name. She had looked away then, abashed.

‘You look foreign, like me?’ They all laughed.

‘Yes sir, I grew up in Chicago, I really am a half-caste. My dad was a Nigerian but my Mum is an America’.

‘Good to know. I’m happier because your presence makes Nigeria feels like home now’. They all laughed again. He wondered what happened to her father. He saw her shift her eyes and tried to withdraw her hand. That jolted him. He released her hand.

‘God bless you all. Have a nice day.’ He had watched them as they filed out of his room, he noticed that Subuola ensured she was the first to leave. He smiled as he remembered her flushed face. Roland knew his hobby was meeting people and hearing their stories. He decided he would like to know the lady’s story. Perhaps he would even ask the pastor. As if conjured up, a knock on the door revealed that Pastor Ade Gboye was around.










































CHAPTER TWO


Subu arrived about thirty minutes earlier than the time scheduled for the meeting . She went straight to the kitchen to help Folake, the Pastor’s wife. Folake had been like a big sister to her, she had been so understanding during Subu’s crisis and had been the one who processed her admission to study at The Polytechnic Ibadan. She was the one who helped her secured the appointment at the institution’s cybercafé. She made Subuola realized the need to pick up the pieces of her life and remold them into a finer vessel. Folake understood Subu’s mood. She studied psychology and was a natural in relating with people. She was the one who taught Subuola and her Mom Nigerian cultures, she had introduced Subu to her tailor, had taken her to market to buy foodstuff, she was the one who turned Subu into a Nigerian.

‘Mama’. Subu hugged her as she got into the kitchen. As expected, Folake was busy. She was sweating over a mortar and pestle as she pounded cooked yam. This was the most delicious Nigerian food Subu had known. But it was also the most difficult to prepare. The yam tuber would be peeled, washed and cooked without salt. Sufficient water must be put there to ensure its softness. When it was done, it would be picked one piece at a time and placed into the mortar to be pounded with the pestle until it is soft and fluffy. Other pieces would be added, hot water would then be added to ensure its softness. It was this stage of pounding that Subu feared most and that was the stage she met Folake.

‘Here, let me help with that.’ Subuola had to put her fears aside and offered to help. She felt she could at least manage until Folake cleaned the sweat on her face.

‘Thank you dear, are you sure?’

‘Of course, my hands are not made of twigs’. She threw a smile across as she collected the pestle. She pounded with all her might and prayed that the pounded yam would turn out fine. At times one may not pound the yam pieces well enough and there would be little mounds in it hindering its smooth passage into the esophagus. Subu increased the pounding as she remembered that the evangelist would eat from this food. If he would not like Nigerian foods, it must not be because of me, she thought as she pounded faster.

‘Whoa there! The mortar can protest at this speed you are pounding it’. Folake held the pestle as she spoke. She washed her hand and took a small portion of the paste. She nodded her head and Subu released the sigh she was carrying.

‘Someone is ready to graduate into a wife soon. Any Nigerian girl who can pound yam this smooth is ready to marry’. She laughed and expected Subu to join in. When she did not, Folake looked up at her. She saw her worried sweating face. She fixed Subu with her searching eyes.

‘Is this what this is all about? You and Pastor want to marry me off again?’ Subu knew her eyes were piercing into Folake‘s. She needed to pour this frustration on someone.

‘I don’t think I understand you’. Folake looked away from Subu. She sat on the low stool known as ‘apoti’. Subu watched as she scraped the pounded yam from the pestle. She then started wrapping portions into transparent nylons which she later put in a warmer. Subu chose to use another approach.

‘Which soup are we eating this with?’

‘It’s vegetable soup cooked with melon, ‘efo elegusi’. I bet you are salivating already. You have to be patient because food would not be served until after the meeting.’ She winked at Subu and pointed at the pot soup. Subu moved to the gas cooker and opened the lid of the pot. She breathed in the sweet aroma and looked at the soup. Moulds of melon and vegetable mixed with dried crayfish and shrimps, they all applauded smoked fish and boiled meat. The soup was simmering on the cooker. Subu noted that she would try and cook a similar soup. She saw that the pastor’s wife had wrapped all the pounded yam and was about washing the mortar and pestle. Subu went and took the sponge from her. She decided to broach the issue again.

‘Mummy, I feel by now Daddy should know I am not the one for matchmaking. Remember the previous ones’. They both burst into laughter as they remembered. Subu washed the mortar as she reminiscence on the first matchmaking attempt of the Pastor. They had a wedding in church and Subuola had been the chief bridesmaid. A brother from another church that had been searching for a wife went to the Pastor after the wedding and declared that he wanted to marry the chief bridesmaid. The Pastor had informed Subuola and wanted to arrange a meeting with the brother but she refused blatantly.

She rinsed the mortar and moved it to Folake’s side as she remembered the second attempt. It was a young widower who had been directed to the church by his own Pastor. They knew there were God fearing sisters in The First Church of Apata. The man worshipped with them one Sunday and saw Subuola Ministering in songs. After the service he told the Pastor he had received Subuola as his wife to be.

As if Folake knew what was on Subu’s mind, she spoke on the issue. ‘I actually would have loved you to marry brother Adewuwo. He is a God-fearing brother, very gentle, humble and financially stable. He really loved you’.

‘Did I tell you about our first date? He met me at a restaurant, he wanted to spoil me but I only ordered for a bottle of water, although I was very hungry. He was dazed’.

‘Really?’

‘I forced myself to spend the one hour with him. At the end of the hour, I couldn’t stand his sight any longer. He was an okay guy but I just couldn’t like him. Know what? I left him at that restaurant that day’. She shrugged. ‘I thought he told you.’

‘You don’t mean that? He was a gentleman. He just told me that he understood you weren’t interested in him.”

‘In him and in any other man. I hope you and Daddy are not trying anything funny with this American?’ She lowered her voice as she finished her statement, having heard the front door of the house opened. The Pastor’s wife looked at her and shook her head in disagreement. She moved closer and drew Subuola into a hearty embrace. She pulled back about five seconds later and smiled into her face.

‘This way girl’. She drew her to the door that connected to the passage, which led to the visitor’s room.

‘Go in there and freshen up. “Whatever you do in words or in deed, do it as unto the Lord, and not unto men’’. Go girl!’

‘Okay Mama’, Subu whispered into her ears ‘but I am not interested in your American.’ The Pastor‘s wife tugged Subu’s hand and drew her from her flight, she also whispered into Subuola’s ear, ‘We shall have to wait and see, but “God makes all things beautiful in His own time”.

She grinned as Subuola escaped into the passage.



Roland Davids followed Pastor Gboye into the house. It was a beautiful bungalow tastefully furnished. The sitting room was divided into two, the first part consisting of upholstery chairs and electronics. A curtain made with beads ended this portion of the room and connected with the dining section in which about six chairs graced a center table. There was a water dispenser on the right side of the dining, boasting of its ability to supply both hot and cold water. Photographs of the Pastor’s family were proudly displayed on the walls and a vase of peacock feathers partnered with the electronics shelf.

Ro sat on the nearest chair to him and sighed as the cushion adjusted itself round his bottom as if welcoming him home. It seemed funny to him and he smiled. He guessed the door beside the water dispenser must lead to the kitchen as he could perceive palatable aroma that he could not decipher. This place looked homely and he felt at ease. He rested his back on the chair and stretched his leg before him, then he extended his hand to the arm of the other chair. He quickly brought it back. His roving hand had just connected with a black tote bag which must have been thrown there in haste. He wondered whose bag it was. He did not have the luxury of time to wonder as the owner of the bag emerged. She must have been in the house before, for the entrance door did not open, rather it was a door from within that closed before this damsel appeared. Ro looked at the simply clad figure of Subuola and thanked God again for the work of creation. He must have worked overtime on this one. Just then, the specimen blinked and Ro realized he had been staring. He attempted a smile. She did not smile back. She curtseyed and moved to sit. And like a thunderclap, Ro heard the words in his ears.

That is your wife’.

The attempted smile froze on his lips. It had not been successfully delivered before anyway but it just turned to a smirk. Roland looked around to see the person who spoke those words, just to prove he had not imagined that the words were divinely spoken. There was no one else in the room, save the discomfited lady who had picked up her bag and was doing her best to put sufficient space between them. She skipped about three chairs and chose to sit at the far end of the double seater, very close to the dining section.

There was high tension in the room. Roland trembled internally on the words he just heard from on high. This must be a divine joke. Sure he knew it was the Lord that spoke to him. This was the third time he had such experience, the first time had been at his conversion when He had asked him, “When will you submit to me?”. The second time he heard it was three years ago when the Lord called him to “be my mouthpiece to the heathen”. And now, Ro was confused. But does the Lord not know about Lillian? The two of them were as good as engaged. They were prayer partners, they were involved in the ministry. Lillian was also an evangelist, zealous for God’s work. What could this mean Lord?

He saw the sister took the remote control from the small table in the center of the sitting room and switched on the television. That eased the tension in the room as a gospel music filled the air. Roland heaved a deep sigh and plugged his eyes to the television.

I’m trading my sorrows

I’m trading my shame

I‘m laying them down, for the joy of the Lord.

I’m trading my sickness

I’m trading my pains

I’m laying them down, for the joy of the Lord.

Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes, Lord

Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes , yes, Lord

Yes Lord, yes Lord, yes, yes, Lord, Amen.


Subuola wanted to jump and dance like the Women of Faith choir singing in their album, Extravagant Grace, but she did not want to put up any show for this man. This particular song happened to be her favorite song of all time because of the lyrics. Like other times, it succeeded in lightening her heart and the joy of the Lord flooded into her heart. No more pain, no more shame or sorrow, at least for now. Subuola sang along with the lead vocal and tapped her fingers to the beat. Pastor Ade Gboye walked in and apologized for keeping them waiting. He sat on the chair beside the evangelist and Subu had to move closer. She sat beside the Pastor.

‘Shall we have a word of prayer’ began the pastor as he bent his head. Subu and Roland did the same and Pastor Gboye prayed. After the prayers, he turned to Subu, then the evangelist.

‘I guessed you have both met, but for protocol purposes, evangelist,’ the Pastor turned to Roland, ‘this is Sister Subuola Martins, my precious daughter-in-Christ. And, Subu’, he turned towards her, ‘meet Evangelist Roland Davids.’

She extended her hands to him in a hand shake and smiled. She was becoming self- conscious again. Her palm had become moist from sweat. That alarm inside her wanted to blow ‘run, run’. She already found it a bit stuffy all of a sudden. Those are danger signals. She saw the evangelist hesitated for two seconds and just as she wanted to withdraw her hand, he quickly grabbed it and shook it warmly. Sparks of liquids fire flowed from his hand to hers and she quickly withdrew it. It was as if the world stood still and only the two of them existed. She did not want that kind of feeling, so she looked for how to break the silence.

‘Welcome to Nigeria Sir. It is nice knowing you’.

‘The pleasure is all mine ‘. The evangelist said and he winked at her.

Subuola asserted her eyes as he discovered that the evangelist too must have felt the electrifying effect of their touch. That must be why he winked at her. She felt like running away to a far place where she would never see this prince charming-like evangelist again. This battle will be serious. Lord, I need all the strength and self control available now, she prayed silently. To her amazement, Pastor Gboye had started talking.

‘…that he won’t be able to join us for this meeting. He, however, has made arrangement to be available for the one month programme.’

Oh that must be Brother Peter, Subu thought. She knew it would sound strange to ask of whom the Pastor was talking. Better to pay attention now. She would think of Peter later.

‘I am making the official BMW available for your team for this one month period. That is part of the church’s contribution. Bro Peter is very good on wheel and he is familiar with our routes. Perhaps Roland will share his plans with us now? Or you will prefer to discuss with your personal assistant first?’

Subu was happy. So he would have a personal assistant. She felt she would be dealing with the person directly. That would be okay. She hoped the P.A. would be a simple person. She saw Roland open his mouth to ask a question, she did not really hear the question and no longer cared, until she saw him fix her with his two blue eyes.

‘What?’ She heard herself ask as if from a distance. Pastor Gboye smiled at her. She knew that the smile, it was his disarming smile, one of his weapons of persuasion.

‘I just told Roland that I am lending you to him as his personal assistant for the next one month’.

‘B..but …’, she stammered, not knowing what to say. Subu stood up and went to the water dispenser. She took a big tumbler and filled it with cold water. She must cool down. Pastor Gboye would not make her to blow her top. She knew his plans and she would make sure they are shattered to pieces. Imagine, her own pastor force-matching her, this had even gone beyond matchmaking. He was forcing her. Subu wanted to shout it loud. She busied herself trying to force down the water into her dry throat, it seemed as if her throat had clamped shut in protest to the pastor. She needed to say something or do something at least to open her throat for the water to pass through. She coughed and that opened her throat but it also opened her mouth and nose and water rushed to all the outlets. She rushed through the adjoining door in to the kitchen and into the visitor’s room. There she coughed all she needed, releasing the water and her tension. She took tissue and cleaned her eyes, her nose, and her mouth.

Thanks to pastor Gboye she had already started making a fool of herself. She felt better as she thought that the evangelist Roland would not want to work with such a fool, who could not manage to drink water without accident. She even smiled. That would serve Pastor right. It would teach him to match make. She collected a bowl of water from the tap and washed her face, glad that she did not need makeup to stay alive. She toweled her face and returned to the sitting room. Time to gather the spoil. Only she was surprised to see the evangelist rise to his feet as she came in. He looked disturbed. The pastor was nowhere in sight.

‘Are you okay?’ He looked at her face as if to diagnose what was amiss with her. That touched her.

“I’m alright now’.

‘Are you sure?

‘Of course’, she laughed, ‘the water went the wrong way. I’m very okay now. Thanks’.

“You’re welcome. You had me scared back there’.

He sat down in his chair and Subuola moved to sit in hers, leaving pastor Gboye’s empty chair in the middle. She carried her bag and put it on her lap, clutching it with both hands to save herself from drowning in the blue gaze flooding her.

‘I will like to discuss the working conditions with you. That is, if you want to be my one month P.A.’ She had to look at him now as he expected an answer from her. She saw that his blue eyes changed shades depending on the emotion in them. Right now they were ocean blue as they searched the depth of her brown ones. How can one turn down such an offer? Did he just say working condition? Maybe this was not as bad as she thought. She nodded her head and realized that she needed to talk.

‘But of course. Pastor Gboye is my Daddy and I can’t say no to him. Moreso, it is God’s work and I am free for the next one month. It’s okay’.

‘Are you sure?’ Ro asked still searching her eyes.

This was a way of escape. She only needed to shake head and voice her two letter word No and she would be free from this everlasting temptation. But was it not said that ‘he who refuses to take a risk in life is himself at risk?’ Subuola smiled and nodded again wishing him to fast forward to the working conditions. She prayed it would involve money. It did.

‘You and Brother Peter will be paid one hundred dollars per week for the working period. All travelling expenses will be paid by the ministry. At the end of the month, both of you will be given certificate of service, this will be mailed to you after I get back there. We will work Monday to Friday and if need be, on Saturdays. Resumption time is eight in the morning at pastor’s office in church whenever we are here. The work will involve travels to at least three states in this southwest region. Are you sure you can cope?’

Subuola wondered for a second if Roland was putting up an act. Perhaps he did not want her as much as she did not want him. Maybe he was considering making Peter his P.A. But one hundred dollars a week? That would be fifteen thousand naira a week. At the end of the month, she would have about sixty thousand naira. That would go a long way to ease the family’s budget. She would be able to pay Lofunmi’s school fees and do her final project in school. They would eat better and she could buy one or two new dresses. She must not give this man any doubts of her abilities. He was still expecting her answer.

‘I will surely cope sir. Thank you.”

Better relate with him officially. That would help her to discharge her duties accurately. She opened her bag and brought out a notepad and a pen.

‘Anything to note against tomorrow’s meeting sir?’

She saw the blue in his eyes turned to navy as he frowned slightly. He shook his head and turned away from her. The entrance of pastor Gboye and Folake his wife put an end to the meeting.



Roland got back to his room in the hotel around nine in the night. He had enjoyed his first day in Nigeria. What with the wonderful service he had attended, the meeting that had tilled the ground for his one month labour and the sumptuous meal he had eaten? He had never eaten such food before. When he had got back to the hotel after service, he had eaten beef burger and sausage rolls. He had sent the food downward with hot tea. No wonder he had felt so hot. Even the waiter who took his order then had looked baffled when he demanded for hot tea. That was one thing he would have to reduce on this trip. No need to feel hot inside and outside, the weather sufficiently took care of that. He started undressing.

Pastor’s wife said the food they ate was called “iyan” in Yoruba language, pounded yam with vegetable soup. Roland had initially used cutleries to eat but when he saw that others were using hands, including the pastor’s children, he decided to try it too. He had washed his hand and rolled up his sleeves like the pastor did. He cut a piece of pounded yam and dipped it into the soup bowl, then he used his thumb to pack the soup on top of the bolus he held and transported the combination into his mouth. That was when he started enjoying it. He was able to locate the shrimps hiding in the soup with his hand and he savoured the taste of each before swallowing. He had really enjoyed the food. He knew that he achieved his style of eating the food by watching Subuola as she ate. She had seated across from him on the dining table and he was able to watch her eat without her knowing.

He put his clothes and shoes away and sat on the bed. He wondered again why the water accident happened. He had expected a similar occurrence while they ate but she ate peacefully. She had so much concentrated on the food that Roland had to conclude she did not want to talk to anyone. He had kept his distance. He smiled as he remembered the way she switched onto official tone and act. She must be a funny person and, very lovely. He caught himself on this thought. He did not want to think of her as lovely. That was why he did not pay attention to her simply sown linen dress elegantly worn as if she had no care in the world. He forced his thoughts away from her and took his phone to dial Lillian again. Then he remembered that voice he heard. Those shocking words. That is your wife.

How can? How can this scared girl who could not carry water in her mouth be his wife? Where would that put Lillian? Lillian, the woman after his own heart. He would have to find time to talk to God about that. It must be a big joke from above. Or what else could it be? He lay on the bed, lost in thought. His mobile phone started ringing and he wondered who it could be.

‘Hi Ro, how’s Nigeria?’

It was his Lillian. At long last he sighed. Now his problems would be solved as usual. He smiled into the phone as he answered.

‘Lily? I’m fine. I’ve been trying to catch you.’

‘I know – The machine faithfully delivered your messages. Are you enjoying Nigeria?’

‘Very much. Lily, I wish you were here. I ate a delicious meal at the pastor’s house tonight. The pastor’s wife cooked it, very delicious. I miss you baby’.

‘Did you say tonight? What time is it there? It’s 2:30 in the afternoon here’.

‘Really? It’s 9:30pm here. What a great difference. That means I woke up before you today’. He joked as they used to.

‘That was because the sun rose earlier at your part of the world. No need arguing that now. I have good news for you’.

‘Really? Are you coming to join me here?’

‘On the contrary. You will have to hurry up with whatever you are doing over there because in three months’ time, I am getting married!’ She joyfully delivered her news.

Only it was not joyfully received in the next continent. Roland was confused. He and Lillian had not reached the stage of picking a wedding date, they had not even started courting officially. Lillian was one of the youth’s executives of his church when he gave his life to Christ. When others were wary of him because of his past, Lillian chose to be his friend. He naturally assumed they meant more to each other than brethren in the Lord. Why, all Lillian’s family knew him well.

‘I don’t understand Lily’.

‘Come on. Raphael asked me to marry him yesterday and I agreed. We had lunch at his parent’s after service today and they are so eager to have me in the family. His mother chose the date so that it would be the same with their own wedding anniversary. Ro, you need to see the ring he gave me, so beautiful, a diamond ring. Oh God, I’m so happy’.

Roland could not believe his ears. His own Lillian, engaged to be married to his friend Raphael? But he thought himself and Lillian was a couple. How did he not know that those two had feelings for each other?

‘Are you still there, Ro?’ He heard Lillian’s voice in his ears. What would he say to her now?

‘Sure. Ehm.. congratulations Lillian. I am happy because you are happy’.

‘Thank you dearie. But you sound somehow just now’.

That’s what she always called him, dearie. He thought he meant something special to her. If she could still call him that, now that she was engaged, it meant she had never loved him.

‘Lillian?’

‘Yes Ro?’

‘I have to say this, not because I want you to have second thoughts or anything, okay?’

‘Second thoughts about what?’

How could he explain this to her now? He did not want her to feel bad and he was not even ready to ask for her hand in marriage.

‘Ro?’

‘Lillian, I thought you and I was a couple. I had thought that after fulfilling my mission in Nigeria, we could sit down and plan our lives together. I thought you loved me’. He could not help the heaviness in his voice.

‘But I do love you. Only as a friend and brother in Christ. You were my prayer partner. You knew almost everything about me’. Yes almost, but not everything, Roland thought. ‘You did not remember to mention you were in love with Raph’.

‘But he is your friend. If I had told you, you would relay it to him and he might not be ready. I did not want to influence him into loving me. It had to come naturally’. There was a pause at the other end. Roland nearly though that Lillian had gone away when she spoke again. ‘Your leaving sort of helped. Ralph drove me home from the airport after we saw you off. We got talking about you and Raph asked me why I did not follow you to Nigeria. I explained I did not feel led to. He then asked what would happen if you have to settle down in Nigeria. I told him it would in no way affect me. That was how he confessed his own assumption that you and I were engaged. Well, one question led to the other and he confessed his love. I uncorked my own feelings too and proposal followed naturally.’

‘Really?’

‘Yes Ro. Don’t worry, you are a good husband material, if not that I’m hopelessly in love with Raph, I could have waited for you to propose. But now, I pray that the good Lord will give you the bone of your bones and the flesh of your flesh. It is well with you. Ro, I love both of you, but I didn’t realize until you left and Ralph and I spend some time together that I love him in a different way. I hope you’ll understand. I had to make a choice, but it wasn’t easy. I will always love you as a brother. But I love Ralph as a husband’.

Ro looked at the phone and shook his head, he put it down gently on the bedside and went on his knees to talk to his heavenly Father, the Father of lights, in whom there is no shadow of turning, He alone who knows the intents of the heart. He knows the end of a thing from the beginning thereof. Roland wondered where he made the mistake. He thought Lillian was in love with him, as a woman would love a man she wants to marry. No wonder she did not mince words when she said she won’t follow him to Nigeria. He had thought she needed to sort herself out. He laughed at himself. A bitter laugh. He who thought he would be ready to propose marriage to Lillian after his trip and they would plan the rest of their lives together. He thought he was at the end of his bachelorhood not knowing he had just begun. Lillian! Engaged to Raphael. It still sounded so strange to his heart.

Roland could not hold the tears as he poured out his heart in prayer. Lord, you are the most high, you know your plans, for my life. I submit to your will this day, in my marital relationship, let your will be done, anyone that you choose for me, let your love flow from inside our hearts to you and to each other. I pray for Lillian, that you will perfect her wedding arrangements and make her truly happy. Heal my heart of any wound her loss may cause me. Help me Lord, my father, help me.











CHAPTER THREE


Subuola chose to wear a black skirt with a pink camisole. She parted her hair in the middle and gathered it together at the back. She chose a bright pink hair slide and bound the hair leaving the end loose in a ponytail at the back. It rested on the small of her back. A black level-heeled shoe complimented her black tote bag of yesterday. She checked the mirror to confirm her readiness. She applied her powder and a rose scented lip gloss. She straightened her eyebrow with the tip of the comb. Better to stay simple and natural. She dabbed her roll-on under her armpits and off she went to the office. She had intimated her mother of her change in plans and as expected, she was happy about it. Subuola hurriedly hugged her mother and patted Lofunmi on the shoulder before rushing to the bus-stop.

Life in Nigeria did not permit the average man to own cars. They would have to save and save before getting money to buy a fairly used one imported from abroad. The burden of regular purchase of fuel and maintenance of the vehicle, which would be needed because of bad roads, would eventually take the vehicle off road. Hence, the sayings amidst the common men, if you do not have money to buy two vehicles, do not try to buy one. Ever since her coming to Nigeria, Subuola had known how to abase and when to abound. The car they had on their arrival could not survive pot holes in Nigeria. The hospital bills eventually came first on their scale of preference and they sold the car to make ends meet. Subuola and her mother had then gotten used to commercial buses, cars and motorbikes. The motorbikes, popularly called ‘okada’ could sit two passengers conveniently and could be ridden by only one passenger if he was willing to pay the price. Subuola usually preferred this type of arrangement because she would be saved from embarrassments and insults from other passengers. Insults were because Nigerians believe that any White person was rich. Thus, they did not expect her to ride anything commercial least of all, a motorbike. Embarrassment because she was slim, if the other passenger is fat, Subu may be squeezed in the middle between the okada rider and the other passenger. If she chose to seat at the back, she could be pushed to the edge, which would not be convenient. Any attempt on her part to complain or ask that the other person adjust might be met with hostility. At a point, she chose to have a regular rider whose number she had on her phone and would be willing to take her anywhere at a good price

Layi, her customer among the riders was out of town today and she had to join other people at the bus-stop, flagging down passing okadas. She looked at her black stripped wristwatch, it was a half past seven, the distance between the church and her house was about fifteen minutes on bike, and she prayed that she would get a bike soon so as not to be late on her first day at work.

‘Where?’ A rider had stopped in front of her and was waiting. Two passengers rushed to him and shouted their destination, he shook his head at them and kept waiting for her answer.

‘Apata. That church after the market.’

‘Okay’. Let’s go. Should I carry another person with you?’

‘No’. It‘ll be only me.’

‘Fine. I hope you know the price.’

She nodded her assent and the bike took off. She arrived at the church gate ten minutes before eight. She heaved a sigh of pleasure at beating the evangelist to it. She knew Peter would come late. He was working as a salesman with a consumer products company. He was always busy, a great wonder that he even agreed to be part of the team. She smiled as she greeted the sanctuary keeper who was sweeping the environment of the church and walked straight to the pastor’s office. The office was on the eastern part of the church, adjacent to the main entrance. She decided to try the knob before asking the keeper for the key, he might have cleaned the office first and left it open. She turned the knob on the door and it opened. Relieved at being saved from collecting the key to open it, she stepped into the office and nearly ran back as she met the searching eyes of the evangelist already seated on Pastor’s chair.

Subuola sucked in breath and bit her lower lip to trap the sound that wanted to escape. She closed the door gently, doing her best to keep calm at the sudden presence of her new boss. She remembered her manners and swallowed quickly to steady her voice and not betray the shaking that was going on in the inside of her.

‘Good morning sir’. She bent low on both knees as was customary in Nigeria. He did not answer and she had to look at his face to see what was wrong. He looked puzzled. Then she realized he was not a Nigerian and would not understand her kneeling down to greet him. She should extend her hand in handshake but her palms were already damp with perspiration, more so, she did not want to start work with that electrifying touch again. So she nodded her head and repeated the greetings.

‘Good morning Evangelist Roland Davids’.

She saw his puzzled features softened as he broke into a smile and extended his hand. She noticed his even white teeth and his lips. His well sculptured features combined to make him look powerful and yes, very handsome. She felt she was blushing at that thought, so she looked away.

‘You don’t like shaking hands?’ She caught herself and quickly touched his hand with hers. Served him right for forcing this. She had meant to brush his hand and quickly withdraw her hand but he held it.

‘And the name is Roland but my friends call me Ro. I will be more comfortable if you call me Ro’.

He had chosen that period to look directly into her eyes and she saw in it a depth of emotion she did not want to think about. Already she was feeling sparks of fire again and her nose was perceiving a masculine perfume mixed with aftershave. They emphasized his maleness and nearness.

‘Okay sir. Oh, sorry, okay Ro’. She reluctantly complied.

‘That’s better’. He let go of her hand and waved her to her seat. She sank into the white foamed plastic chair and bowed her head to pray.




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