Happy weekend! For last episode, please click here. Enjoy!
SUNDAY, 6TH JULY 2014
Bola hated Sundays. She often wondered what made it so special that people would make a lot of fuss trying to look their best as they walked to their churches. On other days, they would dress like the average people they were, but on Sundays, it was as if these church people would try to out-dress one another. She could not remember the last time she wore good clothes, not to talk of wearing one to church. But what irked her most about Sunday was it appeared to be the only day of the week that people remembered there was a God that could judge them for the sins they committed the previous week. These were the people who would cuss one another on the streets, lie, steal and cheat their neighbours every other day of the week, but when Sunday arrived, these sinners became ‘righteous’ and walked to church as if they could not hurt a fly. What a bunch of hypocrites! That was why she would never step into a church. Instead she preferred to spend her Sunday morning watching the local boys play football in the middle of the street. It was on one of those mornings she had met Bosco, a young man of twenty five who looked older than his age and who had indicated romantic interest in her. ‘Bosco’ was not his original name, but no one cared to know what it was. Everyone, young and old, called him ‘Bosco’ and that seemed to go down well with him, especially as it gave him a kind of popularity in the neighbourhood and among his area boys. At first, Bola had treated his proposal with disdain, but lately, she had begun to give it a second thought, considering the wads of notes he had been showing off these days. His appearance also seemed to have drastically changed and he wore expensive clothes that often contrasted his poor surroundings. His sudden wealth had raised many eyebrows in the community and some had even said he was involved in armed robbery and blood money, but no one had enough evidence to pin that on him. And neither did it stop them from grinning ear to ear and flattering him in anticipation for some kudi anytime he came close.
Now as she watched him from the small crowd who had gathered to watch the morning match, she saw the way his peers surrounded him, hailing him as if he was a king and the look of pride on his face showed he enjoyed the attention he was receiving. This was what money brought an individual – respect, honour and recognition. Those who once looked down on you would begin to lick your feet, even if they were dirty and full of bacteria and everyone who once snubbed you would struggle to be associated with you. Bola sighed with anticipation. If she accepted his proposal, then she and her brother would not have to go hungry ever again. Bosco would take care of them, right? The little food she brought home yesterday would soon be exhausted and the fear of what next to eat was gradually overcoming her. Perhaps, saying ‘yes’ to Bosco might not be a bad idea, after all. It was not like she would be tied to him forever. It was only for a while, until she got her feet. When she was tired of the relationship and had saved enough to start a petty business, she would leave. All she needed was to play her cards well.
A set of people were going round the crowd distributing some flyers and Bola rolled her eyes in disgust. These Jesus hypocrites are here again. Can’t they just leave us in peace? When one of them got to her, she shook her head and turned her face to the other side. What she needed was not a piece of paper preaching rubbish, what she needed was wads of notes that would put food on her table every time she needed it.
“It is just a little pamphlet, sister.” The woman who had come to hand her the tract pleaded. “Just take one, please. You can read it anytime you are ready.”
Bola cast her an irritated look. “Do I look like someone who needs your stupid paper? Go and give it to the fools who need it.”
The woman looked pained, but instead of retorting like Bola expected, she walked away to another person. Bola felt a bit guilty she had shouted on the woman and at the same time, was relieved she had been left alone. Her kind of people had nothing to offer Bola.
A young boy of about five came over to Bola and tugged at her shirt. When Bola looked down, he pointed at someone in the distance, who needed her attention. When Bola saw it was Bosco, her heart quickened with excitement. Bosco had called for her. Maybe he was her salvation. She walked hastily to where he was and as she approached him, the young men around him made way for her, sizing her up as if she was a piece of meat about to be eaten.
“Omo tó san! Baby tó make sense!” Bosco greeted her amidst whistles from his friends. “My one and only Caro. Doro beautiful.” His smile revealed a set of blackened teeth. He wore a big gold chain around his neck and he smelt heavily of cheap perfume. His oversized shirt hung loosely on his thin frame, swallowing him up and making him appear bigger than he really was.
Bola felt uncomfortably uneasy as all the males stared at her as if trying to confirm Bosco’s compliments.
“You see as all my guys just dey size you up. Ko le ye won!” Bosco continued, his eyes never leaving her body and staying a bit longer on her chest. Then he smiled sheepishly when his eyes met hers. “I always go for the best.” His English was marked with thick Yoruba accent. He turned to his friends “Eyin boys, e joooor o, leave me and my kokolet alone. We get yarn.”
His remark was rewarded with some snickers from his friends as they moved away reluctantly, some casting funny glances at Bola.
Bola was very embarrassed and once they were alone, she did not hesitate to express her feelings. “What was that for? You did not have to say all that in front of your friends. Some of them are my neighbours.”
“Say what? Call you my babe? You no be my babe? Abeg, bone dat side! Do you know how much my boys will respect you now?”
Though it was silly to believe, Bola knew he was right. The fact that he had publicly called her his girlfriend would make her the envy of many people in the society, especially the ladies. “So why did you call for me?”
“You know why, Bola.” Bosco stood up and motioned to her to take a walk with him. Then he spoke in the native dialect. “I have offered you a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be my African Queen, a chance to rise above everyone in this place, to leave this rat-hole and spend a better life with me, but you have been falling my hand, telling me you needed more time to think. Do you know how many of these kokolets here would jump at me if I asked any of them?”
Bola had often seen how ladies flocked around him like ants after sugar, some of them willing to do anything for him at the slightest request. Wouldn’t she be spending most of her time with him fighting off these girls? “I am still thinking about it.”
Bosco stopped abruptly, speaking in fluent Yoruba. “Thinking? But it has been three weeks since I asked you. How many weeks more do you need again? See if it is about money, I have it and will not hesitate to spend every kobo on you. I know how hard things are for you. I know you need money badly like everyone else in this place and I have got it in abundance and cannot wait to spend it on you. Omo, shine your eyes o! You better jasi before I change my mind.”
“Where… where do you get this money from?” Bola stammered. This was one of the things bothering her, the main reason she was yet to give him a definite answer.
Bosco stared at her with suspicion. “You also believe all the rubbish people have been saying about me?” He sounded angry. “I don’t do blood money, God forbid. I have business investments here and there and they are paying off for me. Why do people always think someone can hammer only from blood money in this Naija?”
“It’s not what you think.” Bola cut in. “I mean that is just rumour anyway. People will always talk. So, what would you want in return from me?” Another question that worried her.
Bosco laughed loudly as if she just asked the most foolish question. “Sometimes, the way you talk makes me think you act below your age. Are you telling me you don’t know what to give me in return, eh baby?” He winked seductively and inched closer to her. “Abi you want me to show you small?”
Not that Bola did not know what to expect. In this kind of relationship, she knew the barter that needed to take place. She would have to sleep with him every time he wanted it in exchange of what she needed. Did that not turn her into a full-time prostitute like her mother? And what if she got pregnant? The shame would be too much to bear. Her father would not hesitate to send her out of the house back to the streets, where she came from. Then, the cycle would begin again. She was born through prostitution. Her child would be born through prostitution, and without a father. There were many of such children in the neighbourhood. Children without fathers and without any possible future, making a living out of the streets. She was sure Bosco would not want to have anything to do with her if she made the mistake of getting pregnant.
“Not now.” She stepped back instinctively and quickly blocked him from planting a kiss on her cheek. “People are watching us.” Then she added shyly. “How often would you want us to… em… ?”
He licked his lips in anticipation. “Ha! Any time I want it, but I must warn you. I can go two, three, sometimes four times a day. You cannot blame me. My konji is always on fire.” He smiled mischievously. “But I assure you, no dulling at all with me.”
Bola swallowed hard. Four times a day? Wasn’t that too much? “I… I don’t know.” She stammered. “I don’t know if I want to do it four times a day.”
Though she was not new to sex, the thought of laying under Bosco scared her. Her first experience two years ago had been very unpleasant and left her shattered for many weeks. It had been in the toilet at school when she did the ‘experiment’ with one of her classmates, after everyone else had left for home. The inexperienced boy had got it all wrong, treating her like an animal he could not wait to tear apart and when he eventually tore through her, she had screamed her heart out and he had to cover her mouth, so they would not get caught. The next day, she had arrived school late but could not have imagined the disgrace that awaited her. The silly boy had gone round, telling everyone who cared to listen of how he masterfully ‘conquered’ her in the school’s lavatory and how she had been begging for more. That was the most embarrassing day of her life. That was also the last day she stepped into school. When she told her father of her decision to stop school that night, he did not even bother to ask her why, neither did he take note of her swollen, red eyes. He had taken a big gulp of the cheap beer in his hand, waved his other hand and told her to get lost. She was fifteen and in the middle senior class. After that experience, she vowed never to let any man get that close to her again, but she had broken that vow seven months ago for a just cause. She trembled slightly as she remembered the terrible experience behind the closed door and how that man had handled her like a slut. She had cried bitterly after that and promised herself it would never happen again. Now, it appeared she would have to break that promise again.
“Maybe you didn’t enjoy it with other guys, but not with me.” Bosco boasted. “With me, you will get to the third heavens. By the time I start with you, you will be the one begging me not to stop.” He laughed hard and dipped his hands into his pocket, bringing out some crisp fresh notes. “Take this. Maybe this will allow you make up your mind on time.”
Bola grabbed the money from his hands with unsteady fingers. Here was the thing she needed most all her life, the answer to all her prayers. And everything depended on a one-word answer from her. She cleared her throat. “I umm… I think…”
“Aunty Bola! Aunty Bola!” Tomiwa ran towards them as if something was chasing him.
“What is it, Tomiwa?” Bola ran to meet him midway. She didn’t like the troubled look on his face.
He ran into her arms. “It is Baba. He has found where we hid the food and he is very angry that we hid it from him. He has threatened to throw you out of the house.” His eyes were filled with unshed tears. “Do you think he will? Who will take care of me if he does? I don’t want to live alone with him.”
Bola tightened her arms on him. “You worry your head too much, little boy. Baba cannot send me away from the house. We will tell him we hid it away from rats and were going to eat it together today anyway.”
Tomiwa raised surprised eyes at his sister. “But that’s a lie.”
Bola’s heart burned at his statement. In their world, lying was normal and a needed tool to survive. She could not keep count of the number of lies she had made just to get them to where they were today. “Well, do you have another option, Tomiwa?”
The poor boy shook his head. “Okay. I hope Baba believes us.”
A loud cough drew their attention. Bosco didn’t like the interruption and he frowned at the little boy. “Are you done with your sister?”
Tomiwa shrank away from him and hid behind his sister.
“He is just a little boy.” Bola defended. “I am sorry I have to leave. It is urgent.”
Bosco’s face contorted into a deeper frown. “And how long will you keep me waiting this time?”
“I… I will call you tonight.” She added when she saw the skepticism on his face. “I promise.”
Bosco brought out more money and handed them over to her. “Remember there is more where this came from.”
Bola, much overwhelmed at his generosity, collected the money, and muttered an incoherent ‘thank you.’
Bosco dipped his head and walked away with a secret smile of victory on his lips. He already knew he had won her over. Girls in the kind of neigbourhood would do anything to get money.
“I don’t like that man.” Tomiwa tugged at his sister’s dress.
“That man just gave us money for food that will last us for some days. We should be grateful to him.” She pocketed all the cash.
“I don’t like him still.”
Bola pulled her brother towards the direction of the house. “You should try to like him because in the coming days, you may be seeing more of him.”
As they walked towards their house and saw Baba standing outside with anger written all over him, Bola knew just the right thing to tell him. All she needed was to show him the wads of notes in her pocket and that would silence him. It was all about the money and it did not matter where it came from. All that mattered was there was money.
“And where have you been?” Baba yelled at Bola even before she came close to him, drawing some public attention to them. “I have been shouting your name all over the place.” He lifted the nylon half-filled with goodies. “And where did you get this from?”
“A friend bought it for me.” Bola replied calmly, trying not to sound disrespectful.
“A friend? One of your boyfriends? I see you have been sleeping all over the place, just like your harlot-mother.” Baba accused blatantly as he stretched the package at her. “And you had the guts to hide this away from me? Do I look like I am a beggar? What an ingrate you are! I saved you from a life on the street and this is what I get for it? Hiding food away from me?”
“It is not what you think, Baba. I only hid it away from the rats, not from you. And see” She brought out the money she got from Bosco. “I also got these.”
Baba stared at the money as if he had just seen a miracle. With his left hand, he snatched the money from her hands. “I will hold on to this too, so the rats will not get to it. Now get inside and clean up the room.” He ordered. “And you too!” He pointed an accusing finger at Tomiwa. “Awon oloshi!”
Tomiwa held his sister’s hands as they hurried into their one-room apartment. “You gave him all the money. You know he will not share it with us. He will spend everything drinking.”
“Don’t worry.” She dipped her hands into a second pocket and brought out a large amount. “I only gave him a little portion. I got us covered. This should be enough for us for at least three days.”
“And after that?” Tomiwa asked the inevitable question.
Bola sighed deeply. “From tonight, I do not think we shall have to worry about hunger anymore.”
“You mean we will have food all the time?” Tomiwa was excited. “You have finally got a work that will give us money?”
Bola drew him close and kissed his forehead. Being the girlfriend of one of the ‘area boys’ did not really sound like a job to her. “Let’s just say it is something that will put food in our mouth for a long while.”
“Yay!!” He jumped in the air happily. Then he stopped suddenly like he remembered something and rushed to the corner where the plates were arranged. Behind the little pile, he brought out a bar of chocolate. “I was keeping this for today. It was the remaining one left in the nylon.”
“Oh! You should have eaten it, Tomiwa.”
“No, I wanted us to eat it on your birthday. Today is your birthday, isn’t it? Or have you forgotten?”
Bola’s legs nearly gave way. Her birthday was today. How could she have forgotten? It took a prompting from her little brother to remind her about the most important day of her life, the day when she always wished for a new beginning. Tears filled her eyes as she drew him into a tight hug. “You remembered. Thank you, Tomiwa.”
He held her even tighter. “Happy birthday, Aunty Bola.”
The tears spilled down Bola’s face. Today she was eighteen. Seventeen years of hunger and shame had passed. How time flew! She remembered all the suffering and pain she had gone through to be where she was today. It was time she started taking life more aggressively, time she became a real woman, even if she had to do that by lying underneath a man she barely loved . That was the only salvation life offered her. If she wanted a fresh start, she had got it in a man named Bosco. It was time to make that phone call. ‘Tonight’ was just too far away.
Pauline watched as her husband danced to the praise and worship session and grimaced when he lifted his hands in the air, singing heartily as if all was well. To everyone around, they were the perfect couple, the role models for younger couples to look up to. No one knew that beyond their matching outfit and outward display of love was a fire that was burning their home and tearing them apart. Only yesterday, her mother-in-law had added more gas to the flame, making it more uncomfortable for her. To make matters worse, George had also been privy to the plan. Not that she was surprised. He had always threatened her that day would come when she would have to accept her fate. Another ‘wife’ had come in to take her place and while the woman was to act as a ‘maid’, she would be playing the wifely role Pauline should be doing. Pauline had wept bitterly all through the night. She wished she could just pack her possession and leave, but she had nowhere to go to. She dared not go back to her parent’s house in Abeokuta, who would not even want to hear about all she had been going through. After all, they had warned her she was too hasty in marrying her husband, but she had convinced them she was making the right decision. Now, she knew she was wrong and they were right.
“Why are you not singing? Don’t you know people are watching you?” George barked quietly at her. His eyes told her he was not pleased with her at all. While everyone was standing, she was sitting and not joining in the singing.
“I am tired.” Pauline told him. “I should not have come at all.”
“Whose fault is that?” His cold eyes did not leave hers. “I don’t want people thinking something else. So I suggest you pretend you are well and do as everyone.”
Reluctantly, Pauline stood up to join the standing congregation. The singing, the dancing, the drums, everything was noise to her. She wished she could just disappear away from there into a quiet place where she could cry her heart out. Her husband was clapping and singing as if he did not just chastise her. If he could pretend all was well between them, she could not. In fact, she was tired of him, his charade, his verbal abuse, everything about him and she could not stand it anymore. She excused herself and walked out of the row and out of the auditorium. She half-expected her husband to follow her, but when she turned and saw he was not, she was glad he did not. If he did, she would have made an embarrassing spectacle of them. She tried to hold back the tears as she hurried to the nearest rest room. Once inside one of the toilets, she spilled out the content in her eyes, breathing heavily as if she had just completed a marathon. I can’t do this anymore! I cannot take this anymore! I just want to die… God, just take me away from this place. She cried bitterly into her hands, trying hard not to scream her heart out and get unwanted attention to herself. By the time she was spent, she had no idea how long she had spent in the restroom. She needed to freshen up before returning to the auditorium. She cleaned her eyes and stepped out of the toilet, just to see Ezinne standing just outside the door. When she glanced around and saw they were the only ones in the restroom, she relaxed and walked to the other sink to wash her face.
Ezinne noticed her friend’s puffed eyes and her heart yearned to bear some of the burden. When she saw the look on Pauline’s face as Pauline walked out of the auditorium, she knew things were not alright. Pauline had looked like she was about to throw up and when Ezinne had waited for a minute without seeing her friend return to rejoin the service, she had walked out of the auditorium and headed straight to where she thought Pauline could be and she had guessed right. The little sobs coming from one of the toilets had proven that. Not that she could not have knocked on the door and comforted her friend, but she knew that this was a time Pauline needed to be alone and fight her battle by herself. She pitied Pauline. Really pitied her. No woman should go through what her friend was going through. This was one of the reasons she was yet to marry herself and every day, she wondered if she ever would. Was it not better to remain single than to be married and miserable all the days of your life?
She watched as Pauline dabbed her face with water and cleaned up with one of the towels lined up on rail.
“How long was I there?” Pauline asked.
Ezinne shrugged. “Long enough to start getting me impatient. It doesn’t matter, Pauline.”
“I am surprised my husband has not come banging on the door. I must confess I am surprised he is not the one standing outside the door.”
“You cannot keep suffering forever.” Ezinne told her the obvious truth. “You can kill yourself if you go on like this.”
“You won’t even believe what happened yesterday.” Pauline lowered her voice. “He brought another woman home.”
“What!” Ezinne looked stunned. “You are joking, right?”
“Do I look like a joker to you? His mother brought in a girl from the village yesterday and told me to my face that I would soon pack out of the house.”
“How could she do that? She has no right to interfere in your home.”
“Well, she and her son think otherwise.”
“I cannot believe this.” Ezinne paced around angrily. “And where is this girl?”
“At home. I am to continue being the good wife outside while she is the wife inside. They sleep together now.”
“My God! I am sorry you are going through this hell, Pauline. I wish I could help. In fact, I will like to help. Let me go now and scatter this girl for you. By the time I am through with her, she will regret ever coming to Lagos.”
Pauline rested on one of the sinks. “You don’t understand, Ezinne. The problem is not with my husband, his mother or even the girl. The problem is with me. ME! If I were not barren, all these would not have happened.”
“Don’t you ever confess negatively! You are not barren. God did not create you that way. Because something bad happened in your past does not mean it has power over your future.” Ezinne grabbed her friend’s shoulders. “Listen to me. You are God’s child and He created you fearfully and wonderfully. You will have children. This is just the devil’s plan against you, but you have to keep your head straight. The devil must not win this battle. You need to trust in God more than ever.”
Pauline shook her head. Trust in God? When was the last time she did that? Where was God all these years? Why did He stand by and let her face such humiliation all these years? Where was He when she needed Him most? Right now, trusting God was not something she could afford. “We need to get back to the auditorium. My husband will be wondering what must have happened to me.” She walked towards the door.
“You will be fine, Pauline. I believe God. I have been praying for you and I know God will answer soon.”
“I have been praying eight years, Ezinne, and God has not answered. I doubt if He will ever remember me.”
“He will, my dear friend. He will.” Ezinne watched as her friend walked out of the restroom. Her heart ached terribly at what she just heard. How low could George go? Bringing another woman into his home, playing the adulterer and coming to church to pretend as if he was the holiest of all? A bitter venom filled her mouth and she stamped her foot. Men are the most dangerous creatures on earth! Her desire to get married just got another big blow.
Sunday was Lola’s favourite day of the week for many reasons. First, she had the opportunity to meet some of her friends she hardly saw during the week and for the few minutes they would spend together in church, they would try, as much as possible, to catch up on what they had missed. It gave her a sense of belonging and made up for the days of loneliness. Second, it afforded her the chance to spend some time with the kids in the children’s church and relieve the good, old days with her only child and son, Charles, who was based in the United Kingdom with his family. She only saw him on two occasions in the year – Christmas and Easter- when he would visit briefly with his family, as much as his busy work schedule allowed him. She barely had a fulfilling relationship with her two grandchildren and that hurt her a lot. With the lovely kids in church, she was able to feel like a mother again. There were times she wished she and Tobi had got a second child, preferably a girl, but that never happened, despite their effort. Charles, himself, had been a miracle from God, just when she thought she would never have a child. How much she wanted a girl! At this trying time in her life, she was sure a daughter would have come in handy. Her daughter would not desert her the way Charles had. Most important reason of all, being in Church made her feel close to God as if she could see Him face to face. There was something about the big Cross draped with red, satin cloth hanging on the wall behind the pulpit. Every time she saw the symbol, she could picture Jesus crucified to it with blood dripping from every part of His body. Sometimes, she would see herself kneeling beside the cross and washing off the blood off His feet. She wished she could do that over and over. He had done more than that for her.
“Deaconess Williams, the Pastor wants to see you urgently, please. He is in his office.” An immaculately-dressed male usher spoke gently to her.
Lola smiled at him. “Okay. Thank you. I will be with him shortly.”
The young man nodded and walked away to resume his duties. The service had ended and while everyone had stood up to leave or chat with their friends, Lola had remained on her seat. That was very strange, even to her, but today, there were many things on her mind. Things that weighed her down with anxiety. She glanced at the Cross again and wished the blood would appear and wash off every worry from her heart. She had woken up this morning, feeling some pains in her stomach and had immediately called her physician who had paid her a visit and given her some drugs to use, and when she confessed she visited the Mall yesterday, the doctor had chided her like a disobedient child. She was to stop all activities that would put the least risk to her health. As much as she did not want to admit, Lola knew her health was fast deteriorating and unless she heeded the doctor’s advice on time, she would pay a grave consequence, but going under the knife was something she dreaded to do.
Before she left for church, she had placed a call to her son, but it entered voicemail. She desperately wanted him to come home with his family. She longed to see them and tell them of how much she loved them… and how much she would miss them. Time was no longer on her side and she hoped Charles would realize that too before it was too late. She knew she could not keep this a secret for long and she desperately needed a shoulder to cry on. How she missed her late husband! He would have been very helpful at this time. Though she was surrounded by many people, especially in church, she still felt lonely, a void that could only be filled by someone very close to her and the person who could have been was thousands of kilometers away with his family. She sighed sadly. Lord, I need You badly at this difficult time of my life. I feel so alone as I walk through this valley. Replace my weakness with Your strength. Fill my mouth with laughter again. And the whole world will know of Your goodness towards me.
Someone waved at her and she waved back, quickly pasting a smile across her face. She suddenly remembered the pastor would be waiting for her and she jumped off the seat and walked, as fast as she could, to the office located towards the end of the corridor. As she walked down, many people stopped to greet her as they normally would. No one had any idea that underneath her cheery replies was a woman who was broken and yearning for a miracle. When she got to the door of the office, she found it half-open and she took a quick peep.
“Come in, Deaconess Williams.” Pastor Mark flashed a set of very white teeth which contrasted his very dark complexion. He was a middle-aged man whose knowledge of the Bible marveled Lola. The ways he broke down controversial doctrines made Christian living more realistic and relatable. The first time Lola was under his ministration, she knew she had found the right place of worship and at her second visit, she had dragged her husband along. He, too, became hooked and they both became dedicated members after that. That was seven years ago.
When she saw the smile on his face as she entered his office, Lola’s fears disappeared temporarily and she relaxed a bit. “You called for me, Pastor?” She asked as she sat on one of the leather seats opposite him.
“Yes, please.” Pastor Mark waited for her to be comfortably seated before continuing. “How are you today?”
“I am very well and much better after that sermon you gave. It was as if God was speaking through you to me directly.”
Pastor Mark smiled inwardly. If only she knew how terrible his preparation for the message had been, he thought. He had planned for an entirely different topic, but when he woke up this morning, he felt a strange urge within to speak on discouragement as a tool of the devil in waging war against God’s children. That minute, he had scribbled down some points that were pungent on his mind. As he climbed the podium some two hours later, half-prepared and without a defined sense of direction, he had given the control of his sermon to God. The way the message had gone had left him dumbstruck and when every one of his congregation had raised their hands when he had asked those who were battling discouragement to do so, he felt very humbled and was glad he had heeded the inclination of the Holy Spirit.
“I am glad you were blessed by the sermon.” He was happy the confirmation came from her, one of the aging people in the church. Sometimes, he feared his youthfulness might not appeal to the older generation, but so far, many of them had not left for another denomination. He must be doing something right. “I just wanted to check on how you are faring. It has been a while we sat face-to-face like this. I am sorry these past months have been extremely busy for me.”
Lola nodded in agreement. “I understand how busy your schedule has been. The work of God is increasing day by day and I must say I am most proud of you. I am doing well and adjusted to life without my husband. It isn’t easy though, but God’s grace has been sufficient for me.”
“That’s good to know. Thank God for His grace. You know you can always reach me if you need anything. I cannot stand in the place of your late husband and the age gap between us may be much, but I am your spiritual father and it is my responsibility to make sure you are okay every time.”
Lola’s heart became heavy again. Should she inform him of the doctor’s diagnosis? Or should she wait and perhaps go for another test at another hospital? Perhaps, Dr. Aluko, their family doctor for twelve years running, made the wrong conclusion. There was nothing wrong in checking with another medical personnel and until she got another confirmation, she would not tell anyone, not even Pastor Mark, about her greatest fear. But one thing she needed to do, whether the diagnosis was right or wrong, was to see her son because if Dr. Aluko was right, then she had just few months to live. “Thank you for your concern, Pastor. I believe I am fine, but if you insist, there is something bothering me seriously and if you can help me, I shall be most grateful.”
Pastor Mark sat straight, his face more serious. “What is it, Deaconess Williams?”
Lola swallowed deeply. “Can you get my son down to Nigeria as soon as possible?”
Pastor Mark was shocked at her request. He had only met her son once, when he had attended last Christmas celebration with his mother. The meeting had only lasted for some seconds as the man was in a haste to leave the church. It was apparent he had only attended at the insistence of his mother. “Your son?”
“Yes, Charles is his name. Not sure if you can remember him, but you have met him before. He is a medical doctor running his own practice in the UK. Always very busy and never having time for his old mother in Nigeria.”
“If he is too busy to travel down, why don’t you travel there instead?”
Lola’s face twisted into a knot. “I don’t travel, Pastor. I hate flying. The last time I travelled, two years ago, I suffered a heart attack and have vowed never to board a plan again. I would rather trek to Birmingham than fly.”
Pastor Mark remembered that event and when she gave the testimony in church, everyone had given a standing ovation to God. He tried another option. “Why don’t you call him instead and let him know how you feel. I am sure he will find the time.”
“You think I have not tried calling? Any time I call, it enters voicemail and even when I drop a message, he hardly gets back to me. The few times I got through, someone else would pick and tell me he was busy in the operating room. I have tried all I can. Perhaps, if another person places a call to him, he will understand how important his visit is to me.”
There was nothing wrong in helping this poor mother with her simple request, but Pastor Mark was skeptical at placing this call to the same man who had snubbed him the only time they met. Charles had looked down his nose and muttered a stiff ‘hello’ that sounded like he forced himself to say and had turned his attention almost immediately back to his mother, as if Pastor Mark never existed. Pastor Mark sighed. He knew he had no choice. “Okay. I will place to call to him.”
Lola nearly jumped off her seat in excitement. “Really? Oh! Thank you, Pastor. You don’t know how much this means to me.” She brought out her phone from her bag and clicked some buttons. “Here is his number.” She could not believe her pastor would readily agree to this and hoped it would work out as she wanted. She could not wait to see her son again, even if it meant for the last time.
When Pastor Mark was done scribbling down the digits, he glanced at the woman and saw the light in her eyes. It was obvious she was desperate to see her son. Which mother wouldn’t? He wished his own mother were alive. Here was a woman who wanted her son’s attention very badly and here he was without a mother. Too bad people didn’t value what they had until they lost it. He only hoped he would be able to get through to Charles and that Charles would even listen to him at all.
“Thank you, Pastor.” Lola relaxed into her seat. “So how soon can you call him?”
“Before today ends and I will let you know once I get his response.”
Lola had never been more grateful to someone recently. If her son could not find time to pick her calls, perhaps, he will find time to pick another’s. She stood to leave. “I really appreciate your kind gesture, Pastor.”
“It’s my pleasure, ma’am.” Pastor Mark smiled at her. “Just let me know if you need any other thing at all. I will be glad to help.”
Lola suddenly remembered something. “Yes, one other thing please. Can you recommend a reputable hospital around? Not St. George, I’ve been there.”
Pastor Mark stared at her. Hospital? “Is everything okay?”
Lola waved a hand. “Yes, it is. I just want to do a quick check up, that’s all.”
“And St. George could not do it?”
Lola bit her lips. How could she maneuver her way around this without letting the cat out of the bag? “Well, you know there are times you just tired of the hospital you are used to and you need a fresh perspective.”
Pastor Mark wrote on a piece a piece of paper and handed it over to her. Her desperation to see her son and now, a desire to visit another hospital for ‘check up’? Deaconess Williams was hiding something.
When Lola read it, she beamed with appreciation. “The Trinity Hospital. I heard they are good too. Thank you.” She walked towards the door. “I will be expecting that call of yours tonight.”
“Yes, I will get back to you.” Pastor Mark studied her carefully as she opened the door. “Goodbye, Deaconess.”
“Bye, Pastor and thank you for your concern.” She closed the door gently.
Pastor Mark’s eyes flew to the small piece of paper in front of him and once again wondered why the deaconess would go to this extent of getting her son’s attention. He only hoped whatever it was that she needed medical checkup for was a minor reason. After she lost her husband, he knew picking the pieces of her life would be difficult. She needed her beloved son to be closer to her than ever. He picked up his phone and dialed the number on the paper. As if on cue, the call entered into voicemail. But Pastor Mark would not be deterred. If reaching Charles was the only thing he achieved for the rest of the day, then he would consider his day fruitful. He relaxed deeper into his seat and dialed again. He had made a promise and would not rest until he fulfilled it.