‘Step Back, Dad!’ (20)
“Chinwe! Are you still sleeping?” Dad shouted and banged hard on the door. “I don’t want to believe you are as it is time for church and I will not condone late-coming from you.”
I burrowed deeper into the bed and thought of many excuses I could give to miss church – a sore throat, tiredness or even a forced cold, but I knew my father. He would never ‘understand’. He had always prided himself on raising godly children and always made sure we never missed church, even when we were sick. One day, one of my brothers had an asthma attack and instead of taking him to the hospital, dad had insisted we took him to church service for healing. It was a miracle he didn’t die.
“Is this how Bro Tunde allows his co-workers come late to church?” Dad was not ready to give up. “Open up now!” His hand worked on the door knob.
Ouch! Just the name I did not want to hear; the ‘reason’ I wanted to avoid church.
“I’m preparing.” I shouted back. This is one of the times I wished I had an apartment of my own.
“Preparing? You should be prepared by now. If I preach to others not to be late to church, I do not expect my own flesh and blood to be. You have just 20 minutes to prepare and be at church. Don’t be late.”
I heard his heavy footsteps fade away and heaved a sigh of relief. Reluctantly, I sat up and wished that time could fast forward. It would not be easy to face the Managing Director of The SPECS Group, aka Bro. Tunde, before whom I had made a complete fool of myself earlier this week. To think this same man had been wooing me and I had been doing shakara. He had not reached me at all after the interview, not even with his usual text messages, and though I pretended not to be bothered, deep down, I felt somewhat sad. It was a strange reaction and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like it at all.
My phone beeped and the speed with which I picked surprised me. It must be a message from him. Even a simple ‘hello’ would be enough to make me feel better. I was disappointed. I really hate all these networks and their annoying promos. Just then, my phone rang and my heart skipped a bit. It was a familiar number, but I could not put a face to it.
I picked quietly… “Hello.”
“Hi. Good morning.” Who was this? A familiar voice.
“How are you? Been a while.”
Segun. I could recall his unmistakable deep bass. I had deleted his number from my phone. Yes, I needed to do away with him completely.
“I’m fine and you?”
“I’m fine too.”
There was an uncomfortable silence before he spoke.
“Just calling to check on you.”
I chuckled. “On a Sunday morning? We would still see in church as usual. You could have waited.”
He cleared his throat. “Actually, I am calling to fix an appointment after church. There is something important I would like to discuss with you.”
“Really?” Why did that sound like something I did not want to hear?
“Yes, very important. Please, can you give me some minutes after church?”
I thought for a second. What was now ‘important’ that wasn’t before? “Okay, no problem. But I hope it is not going to take a long time as I have other things to do.” Yes, other ‘more important’ things like fleeing immediately after the last amen.
“No, not at all. It will be a brief meeting.”
“Okay, see you then.” I dropped the call and nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw the time. I sure would receive another ‘sermon on the mount’ when dad returned from church.
Since I was already late, I took my time to prepare. I needed to look my best since today would be another embarrassing episode for me, so I picked my blue suit gown. Blue was my favourite colour and I needed to make myself feel good at all cost. At least, before I met him.
An hour later, I sneaked into the children’s department and Bro Tunde was on the podium, leading the children in the Praise and Worship session. He had such a nice voice and knew just how to make the children sing along.
“Sis Chinwe… late comer.” Sis Ngozi, a married children’s worker teased me. She gave me a friendly blow on the back. “Bro Tunde is not happy with you o! It seems your dad had a strict chat with him about late coming and here you are, coming after Sunday school.”
“Oh, really?” Another pot of pepper soup. “I had a little delay.” Well, the phone call was a delay.
“Well, you will have to explain yourself to Bro Tunde.” She walked away to assist a child who was finding it difficult to tie her shoe lace.
This was not going to be easy at all. I would try to avoid the children’s pastor at all cost if I were to enjoy today’s service.
I was not successful. Halfway into the meeting, I got a note from him requesting me to see him urgently after church. To think I had anticipated a quick service earlier. Now, I wanted it to go as long as it could. I had two meetings I was not looking forward to.
Dad preached on showing love to our neighbours and at some point, he digressed to late coming to church. I nearly goofed loudly. Dad never failed to disappoint me.
At the final amen, I almost ran to the door, but Bro Tunde stood there like a guard. Did he know what I had in mind?
When the children had dispersed, I kept pretending to look for a piece of paper in the cupboard to make myself appear busy, while peeping to see if he was ready to see me. He was deep in conversation with Sis Ngozi and didn’t seem to recognize my presence.
When I could not pretend any longer, I quickly picked my bag and as I rushed to the door in a hurry, my possessions fell on the floor. Clumsy me! How embarrassing! I bent to pick them up and another person joined to assist.
“Sorry about that. Sometimes, things like this happen. We only have to pick up the pieces, pretend they never happen and carry on with life.”
I froze. “Good morning.” I sounded like a cow. “Sir.” I quickly added.
He flashed a brilliant smile and handed me my handkerchief. “Late comer”
Here we go.
“I’m sorry I came late. I didn’t…”
“It’s okay.” He interrupted. “I’m sure you have got your reason, but don’t come late next time, okay?”
“Okay, sir.” Was that it? Just like that? Easier than I thought! I was forced to ask. “Can I go now?”
“Are you not going to ask about your performance at the interview?” He raised an eyebrow.
Hot shame covered me. “Ermm… I know I didn’t perform well. I was not too prepared.” I fixed my eyes on the floor. I could not bear to look into his eyes. I imagined what he could be thinking. So she isn’t smart after all?
“Well, you tried your best, but you know what amazes me? How the world is a small place. Who would have thought you would come looking for work at my place?”
Someone, please tell the ground to swallow me now. “Well, such is life.” I forced a smile.
“God works in amazing ways just to prove the path He wants us to take. It is left for us to decide whether we want to walk the road or not.”
I took a quick glance at him. His face was serious and searching mine intently. His eyes held mine and I felt a pull; the same magnetism I had with him at dad’s office. I quickly averted my eyes. The air was becoming too hot for me.
He continued. “Truth be told, if I wanted you under my radar, that would have been the best opportunity for me. But I resisted and oh, it was hard to. But I was not ready to force myself on you or manipulate my way into your life. That is the last thing I would do. I have decided to step back a little and give you some breathing space. You would have noticed I have stopped the communication and I am sure you were relieved.”
Relieved? That was the opposite of how I felt. It was my turn to speak. “I …um… I know I have been unresponsive, no, more like stubborn, but I am just being more careful after my last relationship, which you are aware of, in fact, the whole church is aware of..”
“I understand; which is why I decided to let you be and let God have His way. I know a lot of brothers will also by vying for your hand and I would not want to make it more difficult for you. But if I can just say this, don’t let the past be your stumbling block to a happy future. God has a beautiful plan for you. So, hold on. Don’t let go.”
“Sorry, what did you say? I mean your last words.”
“I said you should hold on and do not let go of God’s plan for you.”
OMG! It came like a trance. The exact words used by the man who lifted me out of the pit in my dreams weeks ago. My breathing became heavy. I needed to leave the room. This was so unbelievable!
I managed to speak. “I won’t let go. I have to leave now.”
“Sure.” He smiled. “I have taken your time long enough. By the way, you look beautiful in blue. Has anyone told you that?”
“Yes. Yes. It’s my favourite colour.”
“Wow! So we have something in common. That’s great.”
That was it. I could not take this anymore. I muttered a quick ‘goodbye’ and hurried out of the church. The man in my dream had worn a blue shirt. These were coincidences too many. I needed time to sort my head. I had never been more confused in my life.
As I stepped out of the gate, I rammed into Segun.
“Hey, Chinwe. Been looking for you. Are you okay? You look funny. Got some time now?”
I stared at his face and it looked different. I could only see one face and the owner was who I just left behind.
“No, Segun. I don’t have time. I’m sorry.” I dashed past him without waiting for his response.
My body shook uncontrollably as I walked fast to put some distance between Bro Tunde and I. I had never felt this way before. Please what was happening to me?