SMEARED: Forgive Me In Advance (Episode 4)

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Service ended at 8:00pm. Members dispersed. Pastor Vincent leaned against his car. He was wearing a blue short sleeved shirt, and chinos black trousers, held in place by a black belt complementing his shoes. His wife and two children were seated already. She showed them something from her phone while they giggled. Standing with Pastor Vincent was a member of the Ushering Department, Nkoyo. Cecilia and Thomas walked up to join them. Aniebiet saw their backs but couldn’t tell who they were. Recently, he’d noticed new faces in Church since the month began. Cecilia and Thomas left, leaving Nkoyo and Pastor to proceed with their conversation.

Desperately famished, Aniebiet braced himself, taking steps towards them. The half-moon and the security lights lit his steps. “Good evening, Pastor Sir”. His lips stretched into a smile as he bowed his tall frame. “I’m really sorry to interrupt your conversation. It’s urgent and I’ll be leaving soon to catch up with something.” His stomach growled. . Turning to Nkoyo, he greeted with a smile.

“Nkoyo smiled and returned the greeting.

Pastor Vincent told him he was glad he made it to the service. He said his presence was encouraging. “I love to see young men serve God.”

Aniebiet smiled again. “It’s the Lord’s doing, Sir”. I wouldn’t forgive myself if I’d missed tonight’s service. The word came fresh and timely. In fact, it’s the reason I’m here. But it’s private.”

Nkoyo strode a distance away from them and rested her back against the wall few meters away from the entrance. When her phone rang, she attended to it.

“I’ve been promoted to the post of the Assistant General Manager.”

Excited by the news, Pastor Vincent threw his long arms around Aniebiet. “It pays to serve Jesus Christ. Congratulations, Brother A.”

Aniebiet liked the hug. Within seconds, his mind shifted to Mfon. The gnawing ache in his soul returned. Drawing himself away from him, Pastor Vincent asked if that was all.

“No Sir, the Lord instructed me to give something, to you.” He put his hand into the inner part of his suit; it came out with a crisp, white envelope. Giving it to the Pastor, he begged to take his leave.

“Not so fast.” Tearing the seal, Pastor Vincent pulled a cheque of three hundred thousand naira, written in his name. He lifted his happy eyes. “Earlier this afternoon, I asked the Lord for a financial miracle. The Church needs a new set of microphones and drums. Our annual Thanksgiving Service is fast approaching, as well. This is a proof God still answer prayers speedily.” Aniebiet could tell he hadn’t expected God to show up soon. Since God said He would take revenge on his behalf, Johnson had been having a swell time. When on earth would God ever come early?

Aniebiet handed him another cheque of a hundred thousand naira. “This is yours, Sir. He who labours in the Word is worthy of double honour.”

Joyfully, Pastor Vincent asked him to drop to his knees. “Before I pray for you, I hear the Lord say you should forgive someone.”

Aniebiet felt his heart tighten. He bit his lips.

Pastor Vincent touched his shoulders. “Scripture enjoins us to watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble us. So, let no poisonous root of bitterness grow up to trouble you. If you really need to forgive someone, do so for the Lord’s sake and your emotional health.”

When Pastor Vincent was done praying for Aniebiet, he pulled Aniebiet to his feet and motioned Nkoyo to come over. He told her to see him the following day before noon. Driving out of the premises to the end of the street, he turned left.

Aniebiet walked to the parking lot. A few cars were parked. Perhaps they were staying behind for a vigil. Nkoyo walked beside him. He pulled out his vibrating phone. Mfon!

What did she want with him? He’d expected her to delete his contacts. Hadn’t she blocked him on WhatsApp and Facebook? Why keep his number? Johnson should have been more than enough for her. But importantly, he had him this time in a tight corner. In spite of whatever Pastor Wisdom had said, he knew he wasn’t going to let him go free. The phone rang thrice but he didn’t respond.

He didn’t deny he was still enamoured by her looks, and her voice would make his heart yearn with longing. Another thought of Johnson trailing a kiss on her long neck broke his heart. Dear Lord, can I ever forgive her? He snapped the door open and shut.

His phone made a pop up sound. “Hi, I need 50k. I’ll pay back soon.” Reading the message, he sighed.

Soon wasn’t specific. What show of guts! What did she take him for? An ATM machine? Was Johnson not buoyant enough to meet her financial needs? She hadn’t called to apologize for her treachery and betrayal. And now she was bold as a lion to demand for money she felt entitled to, because he had a past with her.
He shoved the phone in his pocket. Raising his head, he saw Nkoyo leaning on the passenger side. When the door banged, he ignited the engine and sped to the main road. The silence between them was threatening. “Is all well?”

A tear trickled down her face.

Aniebiet gulped. “What’s the matter, Sis?”

Nkoyo drew a long breath and wiped her face with her hands. “Johnson left me for another woman.”

“Which Johnson?” Aniebiet slammed on the brakes at the junction leading to Nkoyo’s residence.

“Not to worry. Even if I tell you, you wouldn’t know him.” She stopped the tear with her palm.

Aniebiet let out a short laugh. “Try me. Does he work in a bank?”

“Yes! Fortune Bank.” She sniffed.

“The ATM custodian.”

Nkoyo glanced at him, her face rounded by a surprise. “He is the one.”

“What happened?”

“I’ll tell you some other time, please.”

“Okay. But were you able to speak with Pastor about this?”

She shook her head. “I’ll see him tomorrow”.

“Wait a minute, was he aware both of you were dating?”

“No. I saw no reason to tell him until I was sure we were getting married. And two weeks ago, he proposed. When I announced we should meet Pastor, he started giving excuses. I found out it was about another woman.” She broke into another round of tears.

Aniebiet knew her pain. And he felt worse. Lord, how can a man go around town hurting people and You say he should be forgiven? Someone has got to teach him a lesson. I obeyed Your instruction about seed sowing. But this, no Lord. Forgive me in advance. I could tell her, the lady in question is my ex-girlfriend. When he heard her drew in her nose, he decided to spare her the details. She would find out herself.

It took three minutes to get to Nkoyo’s residence. Before she stepped down, they exchanged numbers.

***

Aniebiet stopped at his favourite eatery. This time the feeling he had was a blend of hate, bitterness and revenge for Johnson. How could one man be so insensitive to people’s feelings? Why engage a woman if he knew deep down he wouldn’t proceed with the marriage plans? Someone had to teach him a lesson for life. Hearing his stomach growl, he dug his spoon into his plate of white rice and goat meat pepper soup passionately. The worms in his stomach were clearly irritated by the hunger strike.

When he was replete, he handed a thousand and five hundred naira crisp notes to the cashier. “Keep the change”. Aniebiet didn’t wait to hear her thank him before passing through the already open door. Flossing his teeth with a toothpick, he got into his car and took the path leading home.

***

Calls flew between Nkoyo and Aniebiet daily. But due to commitments at his work place, they didn’t schedule a time to meet in an open space. He caught himself thinking about her even when his table clustered with work.

Nkoyo went with Atim who knew the part of town Aniebiet’s residence was located. It was well past dawn when they stepped into his sitting room. They made themselves comfortable.

Opening his refrigerator, he announced he had soft drinks and asked for their choices. Nkoyo remained speechless, her face swollen from crying. She looked like she had seen a ghost. Atim said whatever was available was fine. Aniebiet settled two bottles of carbonated drinks before them.

He had not prepared breakfast. In fact, since Mfon left him, his routine of eating out increased. Purchasing cartons of noodles now seemed like a chore.

“This is enough”. Atim poured Nkoyo a glass and handed it over to her. Her eyes were beginning to fill with tears again. Putting her arm around Nkoyo’s back, she rocked her like a baby. “You are here now. Stop crying. Take”.

Aniebiet came closer. Hunkering down, he looked into Nkoyo’s face. His heart ripped with pain. Her body trembled as she fondled her engagement ring. Her glass was still filled. He looked on her with pity. She was wounded by love as he had been. But unlike him, he was too strong to cry. If she was sensitive, she would know he was beginning to feel something for her. “You’ll be fine, Nkoyo. Stop weeping.”

“Thank you. I’ve rehearsed those lines throughout the night but she doesn’t listen. Crying will not bring the dude back.”

“Don’t say that”. Nkoyo lashed in a tear stricken voice. Johnson really loves me.”

“He cheated on you”.

“But someone else loves you, now.” Aniebiet grinned. He pushed to his feet when his phone rang. “Hello Mum. Good afternoon”.

“How’s Abuja treating you?”

“Very well, Ma’am.”

“There’s something I need to talk to you about. My son, your biological clock is ticking. “When do you intend settling down?”

“Soon, in God’s time”.

“God’s time? When is God’s time? Is it when my limbs are weak you’ll invite me for omugho? Mama Stephen’s two sons got married last month. And they are not better than you”.

Aniebiet swallowed hard at his mother’s rising voice. “Please, bear with me.”
“If there are no responsible ladies over there, let me know. I’ll send one from over here.”

Aniebiet chuckled. “Mama, you really don’t need to do that. By the way, I am attending to visitors in my house at the moment.”

“Are they ladies?”

“Yes, two ladies.” He looked back at Nkoyo who had stopped crying. Atim held her cup in hand. “I’ll call you later.”

“Bye, son.”

“Bye, Mum.”

Aniebiet apologized for taking so much time.

“I believe Johnson still loves me. Can you do me a favour? Speak to him on my behalf. I can’t afford to lose him.”

“You’ve gone mad.” Atim gave a long hiss and began punching her phone.

“I can’t guarantee that, Nkoyo. I can only give you, my heart. I love you, Nkoyo. I don’t mind starting a relationship with you.” He moved closer to her.
“But I am engaged.”

“Does it matter?” He lifted her chin and locked his eyeballs with hers. “You may need Johnson but have you inquired to know if he needs you? He cheated on you. Begging him to stay is selfish. Nkoyo, please be mine. I promise never to hurt you”.

Atim pretended not to see or hear them. Aniebiet held Nkoyo’s hand, keeping his enchanting gaze on her.

Nkoyo buried her head on Aniebiet’s shoulder. “Give me some time please. Something tells me Johnson would return.”

“I’ll be waiting.”

Episode 5 comes up next Wednesday.

CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 3

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