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Outside, the sun was beginning to give way for dark clouds to hover under it. A gush of air beat against the glass windows, and roof. Trees flaunted their leaves joyfully. Hordes of people scampered for shelter.
Johnson lifted his eyes to the wall as the clock chimed 3pm. He looked disappointed. Three hours or more, he’d be out of this mess. Actually, he meant to say, out of the office, not minding if he got drenched. Since he read the query silently, his heart had been in his mouth. His tongue tasted sour. Another grave incident would rip his heart to pieces.
His head throbbed with pain as he put his fingers to the computer keys, and began to type. He paused after a few tip-taps. The opening sentence sounded bland. The succeeding phrase didn’t gel. He knew one wrong word could cost more than he had bargained. He didn’t see this coming; else he would have insisted on seeing Uwem after the incident, the other day.
He had known Uwem twelve years ago. They met in a General English Class compulsory for one hundred level students. He was elated when he realised they were hostel mates. Their rooms stood on the same block. Uwem had brains for arithmetic which Johnson envied. He thought to humble himself to learn from him during tutorials. Umem volunteered to help during leisure. But Johnson had mapped his scale of preference. Drinks and women in clubs tipped his sweet spot. Whenever Umem tried talking to him, he called him a “Jew-man.”
The door flung open, bringing Johnson into the present. “I’m sorry, man about this.” Donatus said, as he sat facing him.
Johnson released a long breath. “This would have been avoided if you were within reach.”
“That’s why I’m here. We can fix this thing, you know?”
“How? You didn’t erase the file. We’d now be sure no one had seen it.” Johnson let his hands fall on his laps before rising to his feet. He paced right. He paced left. “You don’t know that Assistant Manager of ours. I bet you this is no show.”
Donatus rose to his feet facing Johnson with large intense eyes that one would suggest could make the earth stop spinning. By this time, Johnson had pinned himself to the chair, behind his table, head bowed. “You don’t have to worry. This will get fixed.”
Johnson raised his head up. “How can you be so sure? Who makes the rules as regards issues like this? The last time I checked, the HR did, and not some smart guy from the security department.”
Donatus opened his mouth to talk. None came. Johnson wasn’t done questioning, and his recess time had ended by two minutes.
“What if I’m sacked?”
“Be optimistic for once, Johnson.” He opened the door, and turned to Johnson. “Be optimistic.”
The door closed. Johnson fell in his seat as he meditated on Donatus’ last words. Why was he so sure no ill would come to him?” He wished they could switch places. He desired Donatus’ faith, heart, money, looks, and girls. But the one thing he detested about him came alive- his height. Donatus wasn’t blessed with a towering frame.
Johnson sighed and fixed his gaze at the monitor. He was expected to submit his reply in an hour time. Pushing his wishes away, he typed freely. He read the document thrice. Finding a few errors, he edited them before letting his eyes fall on the next paragraph after his reply.
His heart thumped in his chest as he read the sanctions. What if I lose my job? The fear of being sacked raided his emotions. His savings for the past three months were gone. Then he recalled Tricia was handy. His thoughts drifted to Nkoyo. He tried to think how she would feel when she got the news. He imagined her throwing her hands in the air giving praises to God for such a payback. It wasn’t that he didn’t love her. But keeping a lady because of love wasn’t his thing. He dismissed the thought of calling her as quickly as it came. What was love without money? A lady with a hour glass, endowed backside, a perfect C size boobs that would fit his hands like ripe oranges, and a green bank account triggered his intellect, his attention, and his massive cock.
Donatus had advised him to get a wife. “Keep some soft wares for rainy days like when she gets pregnant.” But he was caught up with his looks and sugar coated tongue. He knew how to spoon a woman, leaving her with his name on her lips when he ran a finger along her inner thighs. He had mastered the art before he turned fourteen. His thoughts flung to Mfon. He felt she drained him. She always wanted more, and more. But she left him with deep satisfaction like no other.
When Aniebiet read his reply from his office, he smiled and leaned against the chair carrying his weight. Things were working according to plan. His lips stretched further when he read sanctions would be taken against Johnson. Picking up the receiver, he dialled Customer care.
“Hello Benedict. Inform Mr Uwem to report to the bank tomorrow by 10:00am.”
Benedict recorded the other instructions on his sticky note before the line went dead.
Nkoyo prepared to see Pastor Vincent as soon as he returned from a trip to Benin for a four day programme. Her friend, Atim had encouraged her to tell him everything about her relationship with Johnson, and Aniebiet’s sudden interest in her. “But do you like Aniebiet?” She inquired looking into Nkoyo’s eyes through her glasses.
“Of course I do, but no strings attached. You don’t expect me to give my heart to another just like that, na.” She folded her wrapper neatly and placed it on another dress in the wardrobe.
Atim tucked the pillow. “You’ll like him someday. Accept that hell of a boyfriend you’ve got is gone out of your life for good. I even heard another prey is trapped in his sexy den. You know ba, I dey wonder wetin you see for that guy body”.
Nkoyo’s eyes widened. “You don’t mean it. Tell me it’s a lie”. Her muscles tensed.
“Why should I play pranks on you? Have you forgotten my boyfriend is his colleague? Benedict said something about him involved in a fraudulent activity at the bank. I don’t have all the details.”
“Hmmnn. Johnson! Johnson!” Nkoyo dumped some clothes in the laundry basket. 4:00pm was two hours away.
When Nkoyo got to church, Pastor Vincent’s Personal Assistant, Wisdom announced Pastor Vincent was on seat. She knew having seen his black Honda Corolla Sport at the car park. It sparkled in the drizzle.
“Do you have an appointment?”
“Yes, I do. I was supposed to be here a week ago, but Pastor went out of town. You can check your records to confirm.”
Wisdom ran his finger through his records from top to the end of the page. When he flipped the next page, he told Nkoyo her name wasn’t on the list for the day. “I’m afraid you’ll have to wait for him to be done with the couple in his office.” He smiled, closed the book and put it back in its place.
Relieved, Nkoyo found a chair and sank into it. She needed to see Pastor Vincent. She didn’t understand herself anymore. During the day, she spent time praying for Johnson to return to her. At night, she dreamt about him apologising, and promised to return. He just needed time and understanding. The other night; she dreamt he pushed a silver ring through her finger. Subsequent nights, they exchanged vows in the presence of friends and family. How she wished that dream came through. She decided to apply the old fashioned rule-wait. Wait for Johnson to return to you.
The door to Pastor Vincent’s office burst open and shut. Cool air followed after Mr and Mrs Imoh. The man’s face was stiff as always. She wondered how Sandra coped with a man who barely smiled. She rose to her feet before greeting them. Mr Imoh answered bluntly, then sauntered forward. Sandra hugged her. Nkoyo noticed a little black patch under her right eye. Her makeup failed to hide the details of her misery. But she looked really good in her yellow gown, and black slippers. From the texture of the material, Nkoyo knew it was darn expensive.
Wrapping her arms around her, Nkoyo noticed Sandra had lost some weight. It wasn’t that Sandra was ever plus sized. She had flesh underneath her skin before she settled for this rich man two years ago, who was twice her age. How marriage changes people. They spoke a while.
Wisdom made his way into Pastor Vincent’s office to inform him of Nkoyo’s arrival. By the time he returned, The Imohs had gone. Nkoyo was seated fiddling her phone. She wondered what kind of fraud Johnson had gotten involved in. She called Aniebiet twice until it disconnected. Telling him she would be seeing Pastor Vincent in a couple of minutes would rid her of the nervous feeling beginning to overwhelm her. She resorted to sending a message on WhatsApp.
Wisdom told her it was time to see Pastor Vincent. She thanked him, and shut the door behind her. She took few steps forward before finding her voice. “Good evening Pastor Sir.”
“Make yourself comfortable, my Dear. Good evening.”
A large Bible sat on the table that separated them, and a note beside it. Both books weren’t open. Pastor Vincent opened and closed his drawer. “How are you doing, Nkoyo?”
“Fine, Pastor Sir.” She bowed.
“I have been in the office since 9am attending to visitors. Some came for counselling. Some came for prayers. And here you are for…” he smiled. “I’m teasing. When God calls a man, He releases the grace needed to undertake the task, right?”
“I’m famished. I asked Wisdom to get food from town for both of us. Hope you don’t mind.” He saw nervousness written all over her. He didn’t want to make her uncomfortable.
“Since you’ve placed the order, Sir, it’s fine by me.”
“So how’s your friend doing?”
“Atim is doing very well. She sends her greetings.”
They were interrupted when a phone rang. Wisdom appeared on the screen of Pastor Vincent’s phone. “Sir, would you rather like your drink cold, or hot?”
“The weather is cold already. Something at room temperature would do. Is that all?”
Wisdom affirmed. He hung up after saying thank you.
“Your office looks good.”
“Really? Thank you, Nkoyo.”
“You’re welcome, Pastor Sir.”
“How about a word of prayer before we get into what brought you here”. They bowed their heads as Pastor Vincent said a short prayer.
“What was it you were telling me the other day about your boyfriend?”
Nkoyo’s chest rose. “He said he wasn’t interested in the relationship anymore.” Her eyes moistened as emotions welled inside her.
“Who’s he? Do I know him? Is he a member of church?”
“Which church does he attend?”
Nkoyo wanted to lie. But her tongue cleaved to the roof of her mouth. Why lie to her spiritual father? She told him she had not heard him say anything about attending church before.
“Were you dating an unbeliever?” Pastor Vincent sounded shocked.
“No, Sir. I’m sorry Sir. Nkoyo could not lift her head. She blinked back tears.
“Okay, but why didn’t you bring him to me?”
“I’m sorry, Sir.”
“No, Nkoyo, this is not about being sorry. You can’t be in a relationship without my knowledge. You need counsel. Just because you are above twenty five doesn’t mean you have all the answers to questions that plaque relationships. You are just here because he has dumped you.”
His burning eyes ruffled her. Nkoyo shut her eyes at every rebuke. She didn’t mean it that way. She found a man she loved, and wanted to spare him the details until she was sure she would become Mrs Johnson. She was so certain. Johnson really fitted the part. From his tone, she sensed Pastor Vincent was disappointed in her. She lost her voice.
“Nkoyo, you need to understand me, clearly. I am not against you dating. I’m just saying let the church authority be aware before you say yes to anything that comes around you with a head, hands and third leg. The heart of man is desperately wicked. Time after time, I’ve taught these things in church, but youths of this generation won’t listen to what the elderly has to say. You feel you know it all. And when tragedy strikes, you run to us for help.”
Nkoyo neither protested nor apologised. She let his words wash over her like a fountain. When he was done, he asked her if there was anything else.
“I’ve been having dreams lately.” Her voice was low.
“Relax Nkoyo. If you want the AC turned off, I’ll do so. Feel free to talk to me.”
He could see she had gotten uncomfortable. She folded her arms across her chest, struggling to maintain eye contact. He realised if he spoke harshly to her, she may conceal a vital part of their conversation. He rose to his feet and switched off the AC. “Wisdom has returned. Should I tell him to bring in the food?”
“No, Sir, I am fine. But if you are hungry, I’ll excuse you.”
“No, it’s fine. So tell me about your dreams.” He sat in his chair.
Nkoyo swallowed the lump gaining grounds in her gorge. “I dreamt I and Johnson were married. Aniebiet was his best man. Atim was my chief bridesmaid.”
“So, what do you make of it?”
“I don’t know, Sir. That’s why I came. It’s been reoccurring.”
“Nkoyo, I am a man. Once I want something, I go for it. Once, I don’t need it, I relinquish it. Since your boyfriend has practically ended the relationship with you, you need to let go, except you want to settle for less.”
“But I love him. And I think God is revealing something to me through these dreams. Something told me to wait.”
Pastor Vincent saw hope flash in her eyes. Her facial muscles relaxed in expectation. “You still aren’t listening. Your dreams are sponsored by your lust. Let that man go. If you trust God, another will come.”
Pastor Vincent’s curiosity was piqued. “Who?”
“Aniebiet, the banker.”
“Has he said anything?”
“Yes. But I told him to give me some time.”
“Aniebiet isn’t a bad idea. He looks pretty cool to me. He attends church regularly, pays his tithes, and gives offering. “Nkoyo noticed the sparkle in his eyes as the words left his tongue.
“Once you make up your mind, let me know.”
“I will, Pastor Sir.”
Nkoyo sat in the taxi pondering over all the Pastor had said. She wondered if she did the right thing talking to him. She wished she had spoken to his wife. A woman could connect to a woman. A tear streamed down her face but she caught it quickly. Sniffling, she looked out into the blue sheet spread across the firmament. The rains had stayed.
When Nkoyo entered the house, Atim laid on the bed, phone in hand, chatting on WhatsApp. Nkoyo dumped the food, drink and water on the table close to the wall.
Atim turned to her. “What did you bring?”
“See for yourself?” Nkoyo sat at the edge of the bed, and palmed her face.
“Atim arose and cuddled her. You don’t have to cry. All will be fine.”
Later that night, Aniebiet called.
Episode 7 comes up next Wednesday.