Written by Abasiama Obi-Chinedu
Dara couldn’t wait to get to the airport. She had looked forward to this trip for so long and now, the day had finally arrived. The Lagos traffic wasn’t helping her case at all, but she had set out four hours early so there would be no sad tales to tell. Kiishi and Zuwairah had been pinging her all day. They had checked in already. “Oga you go take another road oh, make I no miss my flight”. This cabbie was story for another day. All she could do was sit it out. And curse the demon that normally brought on the kind of traffic nobody prayed to encounter when they had a flight to catch.
“O’baby!” That was her cue to start screaming as well. One of their classmates had taken to calling her O’baby right from her jambite days because she was always so well dressed and looked nothing like the other freshers, and the name just stuck to her like white on rice. Her friends were waiting for her at the entrance of the arrival lounge. Relief washed over her…seeing familiar faces when one is that frazzled is always such a blessing. She had missed her friends and was so happy they were finally going to spend time alone eight months after she last saw them at her wedding. They’d all met at the university and had remained close friends even after school. “Pastor Mrs!! Thou art glowing. Marriage becometh thee”. Zuwy couldn’t get over her marrying a pastor and never missed an opportunity to tease her. And as usual, Dara never missed her own opportunity to go King James on her friend. “Member Mrs! Behold the handmaiden of The Lord”. They had all looked forward to being together again. “This girl, you have started doing the sweet thing abi, see how you are glowing. Pastor must come and pay more dowry oh, haba! Meanwhile this your bag, I have been trying to afford it, i claim it in Jesus name”. Kiishi was just a catalyst, she stoked the fire for a living. All Dara could see was the long check-in queue. ” Abeg let me check in first before socials. Thank God I have just my hand luggage. As for this bag, you will buy yours at Michael Kors shop, OLE”.
Checking in had been a breeze, thanks to some divine intervention. There was so much to catch up on and so much had already been shared on the boarding queue. Their laughter was infectious and other passengers couldn’t help but notice them. Few bold ones dared to talk to them.. “Oh, pay us no mind, we’re just happy to be reuniting after eight months”. Few of the other ladies couldn’t help but look at them funny, not that that they cared anyways. When these three got together, hardly anyone or anything else mattered. This was going to be a very long six hours and they intended to use it well. Five days in Dubai would not be enough to play catch up so maximize six hours in-flight, they would.
Kiishi had no filters. No subject was off-limit. “Oya, start talking..how is married life?” The silly look on her face was an obvious pointer to the fact that all she really wanted to know was how good sex was for her newly married friend. “I will answer when you ask me exactly what you want to know. Amebo” Zuwy could never get over Kiishi’s brazenness, this girl was constantly on a roll. It shocked her the things Kiishi said most times, and just when she thought she had gotten used to this zany female, she always managed to shock her some more. ” IteOluwakiishi Otegbola, kai! You are wasting your father’s money studying Law, you should be a gossip columnist. That’s how you were harassing me when I got married too. Do and marry oh so that you will give us a blow by blow account of your doings. Wallahi, you need Jesus in large doses!”. There was no stopping her though, she would get the information one way or the other. Not that Dara minded anyways, she enjoyed talking about her husband. Chimdi was the love of her life. He made her feel all warm and mushy inside. She never believed she would come to love him this much or even marry him, but she thanked God everyday that she had. Everyday before he started getting on her nerves, that is. She had needed someone to talk to for so long and she was glad she had her friends here and she could finally let it all out.
The tiredness kicked in slowly and finally, they all began to slip into their private worlds one after the other. Dara was happy to be left alone with her thoughts for a while. Chimdi…she missed him so much already but she was still so mad at him. The first day she invited her friends to church, he was outside talking to some people while they waited for the first service to end so they could attend the second. He was the kind of man you would never fail to notice. She never stopped wondering how a man so tall, not-so-dark, and drop-dead-handsome could be a pastor. He was neat, always very well put together, friendly for the most part, and just starring at him would give any female life. “Who’s that fine specimen of protoplasm? Some people can be fine oh”. Kiishi was the first to say anything about him. Dara went on to tell them he was the pastor in charge of the Singles Fellowship, could sing and preach up a storm at the drop of a hat, most of the ladies in church were falling over themselves to get his attention but up until then, he was still very single and if Kiishi was interested she could pick a number and join the queue. She herself had had a crush on him the first moment she set her eyes on him, but the crush lasted for all of twenty seconds. Dara was like that, she didn’t dwell on such things for long. Besides, there was a long line of church workers and other “spiritual sisters” she was sure would make the cut, so that had been that about that. “But this pastor makes sense oh, God created this type on the eighth day, I could just stare at him for days”. Dara couldn’t believe Zuwy too would notice him, she was usually reserved and unaffected by “fine boys”. “Oya oh, you too pick a number and join the queue”.
Chimdi just happened to be at the bank on the same day Dara had gone there to transact. He noticed her first and walked up to her. When she looked up to see who had tapped her shoulder, the only thought that crossed her mind was “Fine boy pastor”. He had noticed her at church a couple of times, and was wondering if she was new in town. He was so pleasant and easy on the eye..the kind of man Dara liked. He was going to wait for her to cash her cheque and would drop her off wherever she was going. They became fast friends. He was more like a big brother, always making sure she was okay and had no issues in school or at her off-campus residence. If she needed a ride back from church, he volunteered to give her one. When he couldn’t drop her off, he always got someone to do that. He would show up in her school for the flimsiest of reasons. “I just came to drop your lunch”, “I just came to take you home”, “it was raining and I thought it would be nice to come take you to school”. They had agreed they just wanted to be friends so Dara never understood why her friends kept telling her that Pastor Fine Boy was loving up on her. “Gosh, you girls amaze me, WE ARE JUST FRIENDS!”. She said that so often, she actually started to believe it.
Of course, some people in church had taken notice as well. Who was this mere mortal that suddenly had this man’s attention? She wasn’t even a worker or one you would consider “spiritual”. Some of his co-pastors would openly make statements to that effect and one day, when Dara had had enough of it, she had to vent. “I am so tired of getting nasty stares or openly rude remarks whenever I am around you. You need to cut me some slack going forward. I will take a cab to and from church, and you don’t need to come to my school either. We are just friends but obviously, your fellow pastors and some workers have an issue with that so please, leave me alone. Even the few people that I talk to in church have suddenly started acting nasty towards me because of you, as though i am snatching their boyfriend. I want to be left alone”. Chimdi could not believe his ears. He had constantly brushed the comments off, hoping that Dee would not notice. He really liked her, cared for her in a special way, enjoyed her company and her Calabar recipes, and was happy to finally have a friend that wasn’t just raving about his looks, but truly cared to relate with the person he was. They spent quite a lot of time together and few of his single friends who liked Dee would always ask him to hook them up with her. They would laugh about it and he told her he would introduce one when a serious one showed up. Life was just easier and sweeter with Dee in it. He missed her sorely whenever her school vacated and she had to go be with her family in Lagos. And of course he always found a reason to be in Lagos during the holidays. Now she wanted to be left alone. Nothing he said could persuade her to just let it go. He decided he would give her some space and time if that was what she needed. He wasn’t going to let his friend go just because some people didn’t think she was “ministry material”.
Zuwy and Kiishi had lots of comforting to do because Dara was inconsolable. And angry. Inconsolable because she missed Chimdi more than words could express, and angry because human beings had a way of minding other people’s business. Church folk…they were the worst kind. Why did she have to be like everyone else to be considered spiritual? She loved the Lord, she lived for him, valued her growing relationship with him, she thought that was nearly enough. She hadn’t joined the Work Force because she had too many commitments in school and didn’t think it was right to always give excuses as to why she couldn’t always be available. She loved her dresses and her jeans, it was hard having to live by a colour code every Sunday. She wore a toe ring because she loved her beautiful toes and thought the ring made them prettier. Chimdi told her he was in love with her bow legs and full ankles so he bought her an anklet and begged her to wear it. He’d noticed she and stopped wearing one few weeks after she joined the church. She later explained that she had worn one all her adult life but she didn’t like the looks church folk gave her so she stopped. He said there was nothing wrong with wearing one, as long as the Holy Spirit did not convict her otherwise. He had plans to buy his wife a belly chain and that to Dara, was then definition of a deviant pastor. Everything was going well till church folk started talking. Now she missed Chimdi sorely and staying away from church was supposed to help her get him out of her life, but it only fueled the loneliness she felt. “This girl is in luuuuuurve! I thought you guys were just friends oh, according to you”. Kiishi got “The Look ” from Zuwy and that was enough to silence her for the rest of the day.
The separation did not last long. Chimdi was tired of missing her and off to her house he went. She was not there. So he waited. She never took his calls or replied his text messages anymore. She even took him off her BlackBerry. He wanted to slap himself for not having any of her friends’ phone numbers but that wouldn’t solve this, would it? He’d waited for a bit when thankfully, his Dee walked through the gates. He knew she was going to try and act all cool and unaffected by his presence and he was just going to hug her and tell her how much he missed her, and that he didn’t care what anyone thought, he just wanted to be with her, if she would let him. He went home that night wishing they would quarrel more often just so that they would make up and it would be this sweet all over again. He was going to do all he could to protect her from side talks, he was a full grown man and had made his choice, he would marry his Dee and they would be happy forever. Dee was the kind of woman he wanted; smart, focused, neat, warm hearted, family oriented, friendly, God-loving and all. It didn’t hurt that she was quite the looker too and most importantly, she didn’t drool over his looks, as a matter of fact, he had laughed his head off the day she told him she preferred to date and marry a guy people would refer to as ugly because she didn’t have time for “fine boys and their unending drama”. She was just easy to be with, easy to love, she was every woman in one. He was taken aback by the fact that she was attending a Bible School when he met her, she didn’t look the type. She “just wanted to know more about God so she joined the Bible School”. And those church folk, they would never know that about her, would they? She just wasn’t spiritual enough in their eyes.
Two years flew past and they got married in the most intimate ceremony ever. The joy was palpable, one could actually breathe it in. Their love was beautiful, the type most people only dreamt about. They had their ups and downs but that made it more beautiful. Dara had no doubts she would have a happy marriage, but she also knew there would be down times and she was glad she had a God who would walk her through those times, and she was confident they would come out of every down time better than they had gone in. Married life was blissful. Chimdi was a man and a half. She felt like God’s last child, nothing could be sweeter. Out of the blue, Chimdi was told he had to go start a new branch if the church in Asaba. He didn’t know how to take that piece of news. He had just gotten married, he was trying to settle in, his wife was about to start a new job and they had to leave all of that behind and just up and leave Abuja for Asaba! Dee..she was speechless for days. “How on earth do you expect me to leave everything and move to Asaba? Was this our plan? What about my career, my business, everything..we just got married, Chimdi, and why Asaba of all places. I don’t even know where that is on the map. I am not going!” He knew better than to make an issue out of it, if the Lord was sending him there, He would make Dee come around. It was important to him that she supported the move, much as he wasn’t too pleased about moving from Abuja to a seemingly obscure corner of the earth. He knew she wanted to pursue her career as a diplomat and her chances were slim in Asaba, still he trusted God enough to know that He had better plans than he or Dee could ever have for their lives.
She was tired of agonizing over the impending move. She had learnt to trust God even when she didn’t understand where He was taking her through. If God wanted them in Asaba, He would make all things work together for their good.
Chimdi had assured her everything would fall into place. She believed him, just as she believed every other thing he had told her and things always panned out the way he had said they would. She hadn’t seen her friends after the wedding as Zuwy lived in Calabar with her medical doctor husband while Kiishi was away in the UK for her Masters. Her parents had come to say their goodbyes and assured her everything would go well in Asaba.
Asaba turned out to be a sedate town, unlike Abuja in many ways. She was glad Chimdi was Igbo , so that barrier had been broken to an extent. “Maybe I will finally get to learn Igbo now that I’m in Asaba” , but she knew it would take a miracle. English, French and German were work enough, adding Igbo to it would be an overkill, still she would try, for Chimdi’s sake. Planting a church was no picnic. She found renewed respect for church overseers who were able to plant several branches of their ministries around the country. She would do her best to support Chimdi and she prayed everyday that the city would accept him and his ministry. Some days she was on a high, on other days, all she wanted to do was run away to Abuja, where she had some friends, knew familiar faces, could start her career, had a church of at least familiar faces….
Weeks turned into months and things began to look up. She was happy. She even started to laugh whenever people referred to her as “Mama”, something she really hated and found absolutely unnecessary. Chimdi told her they would go on their honeymoon as soon as church was settled and she looked forward to that. She had taught it would be as automatic as building a structure on which the church would run, having people in place who would fill in the gaps when they were away and all would be dandy. Chimdi always told her that spiritual things could not always be calculated the same way physical things, but she was sure things would go her way. She hoped they would, for both their sakes.
Everyday brought on new challenges. It was difficult making new friends in church because most of the ladies were older than her and she imagined they wouldn’t take it kindly that such a young girl was the pastor’s wife. Few people had an issue with the fact that she was a fashionista. They would never know that Dara always wanted to study Fashion Designing until her father said “not in this house”, after which she decided to pursue her plan B: a diplomatic career. Her mother was quite a fashionista too; this apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. When few people began to seek her advise on things she considered were not her business to know, she became scared. “Chimdi…what am I to say to these people? What do I know about a cheating spouse or a twisted sexuality? How do I counsel someone struggling with their sexuality? This is way beyond me, I just want to run away. Why did you bring me here?”. Chimdi let her cry her heart out and he just held her close and let her know it was going to be alright, she would have to rely on the Holy Spirit to help her and she would have to learn to pace herself. If she really wanted to work, he would help her look for a job and she didn’t have to kill herself if she couldn’t get a job, she could start her fashion business which she had always dreamt of having. That sounded comforting a bit but she couldn’t help saying to him: “One day you will just wake up and discover that I have run away to Abuja and you will be in this town all by yourself doing ministry”. He couldn’t help but smile very widely, he knew his Dee was going nowhere, she loved him enough to stay by his side through all of this, and that was one of the few things that made sense to him at that point in his life.
If Chimdi had learnt anything in these few months of planting a church, it was that working with people with all kinds of mindset was one of the hardest hurdles to get through. He was constantly dealing with one issue after the other and Dee always told him he could only do his best and to always remember that this was the Church of Jesus Christ and He would take care of it. That was a hard pill to swallow, but he would try. Trying wasn’t good enough, for he began to get so engrossed in the work of the ministry and he and Dee began to drift apart. All he wanted to talk about was church: the choir, workers’ meeting, auditions, out reaches, church and some more church. He spent more and more time studying and doing the work of ministry, he didn’t even notice his Dee begin to slip away. He would always think “my baby is still angry we are in Asaba…she’ll get over it”. Things began to pick up in the ministry, he was a happy man, he just didn’t notice that Dee had stopped being excited about the growth and all the wonderful things that were beginning to happen. If her marriage was the price she had to pay for the growth and influence the ministry was currently experiencing, then God was a wicked God, period!
He was excited the date for her trip with her friends was fast approaching. Surely, some fresh air, sun and the girls would do her good. Oh, and shopping. Dee loved to shop. The fashionista in her was evident in everything she did and he was always so proud whenever they went places and heads turned to look at his wife. She was stylish beyond her years. The very thought of that made him not mind the hole this trip would bore in his pocket. He just wanted her to have a break. He was tired of hearing her whine about the fact that their honeymoon was nowhere in sight and he needed a break before the stress of ministry rendered her a widow before her time. “Baby, you really need to take a break oh, don’t render me husbandless before my time. Anyway, na you go lose because one sharp man will come and marry me”. He loved to hear her pidgin, it reminded him of how she always said she was his “Sofisticat” outside and his “Mgbeke” indoors. “Babe, leave that thing abeg, Jesus boy no dey die. Who go fit marry this my calabar princess”. That brought a smile to his lips. He loved his Mgbeke so much…much more than words could ever express.
“If you girls don’t wake up now I promise you I will eat your food”. That was vintage Kiishi. Everyone was jealous of how she seemed to eat just about anything she wanted to and miraculously remained skinny. She loved to eat, but hated to cook. “Foodie of life, no try yourself oh, I am wide awake”. She hadn’t slept a wink. She’d been to lost on memory lane and didn’t even notice she had started crying. She was sure that by then, Chimdi would have seen the stinker she left him on his pillow. She had been so upset that he was insisting she stayed in Dubai for twelve days when she and the girls had planned to stay for just five days. Clearly he needed her out of his way so he could do more ministry work and counsel all those girls with their never-ending issues that they refused to talk to her about, but had no issues talking to her Chimdi about. HER CHIMDI..she wasn’t going to share him with all those church girls, those sharp Igbo and Delta babes that thought she was a “Calabar girl” in name only.
The first few days in Dubai passed quickly. The girls couldn’t help but notice just how distant and uninterested she was in all the activities they had pre-planned. Zuwy knew they had to stage an intervention but knowing Dara, she would become defensive and the goal would be defeated. Left to Kiishi, she would have just asked Dara point blank what the problem was but Zuwy was having none of that. “Marriage is not this one you are always doing fire brand oh, you will approach the matter carefully and with a lot of wisdom”. To this Kiishi rolled her eyes and silently thanked God that she was not yet married and didn’t have to deal with all these married women issues. They had to leave for the Gold Souk any moment though, so Dara had to be woken up. This was their last day together and they had to make the most of it.
Dara was spent. She had cried so much her head hurt. When Kiishi jumped on her bed in her usual wake up call, the reaction she got made her do a double take. “What the hell is wrong with you? Jumping on my bed like an insane person. Are you out of your mind? Get the hell off my bed before I do something very nasty to you”. Zuwy could only stare in shock. They knew she was dealing with stuff but this outburst was just off the chain. “I want to be left alone, please, just go away”. The girls weren’t having any of that . “Lai lai! You have been on your own since we arrived here. You were the one looking forward to this trip, you took the effort to plan it and now we are here, all you have done is shut us out as though we are the enemy. Whatever it is, we will resolve it now. You will not go back to Naija a sober mess. Oya, start talking. You don’t have to tell us the details but at least tell us what the problem is”. Kiishi had had enough of the long faces and stated in clear terms that this was the moment where they would have to talk and cry together before things got out of hand. Dara felt powerless to fight two caring women, she knew the time had come to let it all out. She just pulled the duvet over her head and cried forever. Her friends got on her bed and held her and just let her cry till she was spent and she slept off.
When she woke up, her girls were still there. “What time is it?”, she asked no one in particular. “Time to rise and shine. Go shower, you stink! And your boo has been calling you all day”. Chimdi! She hadn’t even called him since she arrived. Her phone had been on silent mode and that was on purpose. She couldn’t get over the fact that her friends had been so busy pinging all day, everyday, since they arrived. “Lucky them…Chimdi probably doesn’t even care that I haven’t called him”. Oh well, she would just go shower and go out with the girls. She had seven more days to stay here alone so she would not pressure herself to shop today. The shower did her good, she felt brand new and was quite surprised that none of the girls had started shouting for her to come out already. “Let me have mercy on them and come out now oh”. She toweled her body leisurely and for once, she actually started to look forward to going to the Gold Souk. She was going to buy a new belly chain today “that’s if Chimdi will even notice”.
As she made her way back into the room, she was already teasing her friends “shoppers, no vex oh, I really needed that bath”. Her friends were nowhere in sight. In place of two girls, she saw that fine, six feet three inch specimen of protoplasm, the one that made her heart skip several beats once upon a time. “Baby…I’ve been calling you for days. I’ve missed you so much”. He wasn’t sure how she would react to his presence and reading the stinker she left him had scared the living daylights out of him. She had said she wanted to go back to Abuja when she arrived, she wanted a divorce and he could marry the church, since that was all he had come to care about. What she didn’t know was that he wanted her to stay an extra week in Dubai so he could surprise her by coming over and whisking her away to their honey moon suite. She was weak from all the crying, too weak to be angry, but not too weak for the tears to come rushing down all over again. He didn’t need to be told that she needed him to hold her and tell her everything would be alright from here on. In one single step, they were on each others’ arms and the tears flowed freely…
“So you want to leave me abi? Who do you want to marry your own husband? You want me to die an unhappy man…I though we said we’d be together forever no matter the weather, what changed?” Asaba. That’s what happened. He didn’t need a prophet to tell him that much. “Babes, I’ve told you, you need to stop obsessing, just pace yourself and flow. I’m not pressuring you to be a Pastor’s wife. Can you just take the labels and tags off and just be Chimdi’s wife? Stop obsessing about the pastor’s wife mould that people have created. Be you. I married you for you, I didn’t marry a pastor’s wife. If you hate Asaba so much, maybe we should relocate cos I can’t be doing ministry when my marriage is not working. And I know I’ve been too engrossed in all of that and that’s why I asked you to stay here so I could surprise you with our honeymoon but you have been so angry with me, you didn’t even read my text messages.” Whenever she got that angry, he always had a way of taking her back into a good mood. She felt so small…his love had a way of making her see how irrational she could be. ” I’m sorry” she could barely talk as the tears choked her. “No, I am the one who’s sorry, I should have paid more attention. Forgive me babes”.
He couldn’t stand her crying so much but he knew he had to let her get it all out. He was even more scared she had thought about divorce, especially as he was of the opinion they both agreed their marriage was a house without doors for exit, only windows for ventilation. “Baby..would you really ever just walk out on us if things got really bad? Divorce…that’s such a strong word, how do you just bandy such a word that easily though?” She knew he would not fail to bring that up. “I’m sorry, I was just trying to get your attention. I really am that overwhelmed by all this ministry thing going on all at once, and those girls always wanting to see you with their tall tales they can tell only you and never me. Especially that Amaka..I swear that girl has got the hots for you”. He couldn’t believe his ears and couldn’t help but laugh his head off. “Daramfon Archibong Chimdi-Uma, shame on you! Amaka of all people? Abeg now, gimme some credit here. Amaka? By how? Kai this woman you are a riot!”. Now she felt really foolish. But you know, with these men, you never know. This she quickly amended to “this is My Chimdi, not these men”. She would have to just try and get past this but his riotous laughter wasn’t helping her in any way. “Let me get dressed so we go look for the girls, yeah? What’s the plan…what are we doing today? I’m hungry” The girls were the last thing on Pastor Fine Boy’s mind. “Err..the girls…i paid them off to go shopping for the next three hours…we’ll all do the dinner cruise tonight so I can hear all the things you told them about me, tomorrow we leave for our honeymoon suite and we’ll take it from there. I know buying you a belly chain is in the works somewhere, but for now, no need to get dressed, you look yummy in your skin and i’m hungry too”. She knew that tone, something delicious was about to go down. “This boy! You’re such a baaaad boy!” His deepest baritone crept up on him, “You know this, babes, you know this..come here…”
Written by Abasiama Obi-Chinedu
Abasiama is a graduate of Foreign Languages and Literatures from the University of Port Harcourt. She’s a bilingual translator/interpreter by profession and runs a fashion retail and merchandising business. She’s married and co-pastors a thriving church with her husband.