‘You have to stop counselling that woman,’ Ngozi said.
‘Why do you say that?’ He feigned surprise knowing what his wife meant.
‘I don’t feel comfortable with her. I don’t like the way she hangs around you. I just don’t like her.’
‘Ngozi please don’t say that,’ Ogedengbe said. ‘She has been a faithful member of the church and a generous giver. She desperately needs our help at this moment and we cannot afford to let her down,’ he implored his wife.
‘But I can’t shake the feeling that she may be up to no good.’ She said.
Ogedengbe knew what was going on in her mind. In fact it was because Susan was a generous giver that Ngozi didn’t want her talking with her husband every Tuesday afternoon at 2:00pm. The envelope which started the conversation lay on the table between them. Susan had managed to give her way to become the assistant leader of the women’s fellowship. When Ngozi questioned him about it he pointed at the fact that she was more financially committed than any other woman in the church, therefore he had to encourage her by giving her such a visible position. He knew he was right about that. If she wasn’t given a notable position she may decide to leave the church. And there were many churches willing to welcome someone like Susan Akpabio as a member of their congregation.
‘Are there no other pastors in the church capable of counselling that woman? Why don’t you hand over her counselling to your associate pastor? He is quite capable of handling such matters.’
Ogedengbe flinched at the thought of Joseph Odewunmi his associate pastor rubbing shoulders with the financial pillars of the church. Before he knew it some of them will invite him over for dinner and he will begin to nurse grandiose ideas about having a calling and launching his own ministry. He had studied pastor Odewunmi and saw the fiery ambition in his eyes, cloaked as godly zeal and spirituality. But he would not be fooled by that. He had seen that look before in the eyes of men who tried to take over his church barely one year after he started it. Only the grace of God saved him from their bid to usurp his authority and install another pastor. They accused him of having an unhealthy relationship with a female member of the church. They couldn’t prove anything and the woman involved refused to join their witch hunt against him.
No matter what his wife says he would never trust Odewunmi with a rich member of his flock. Never! It would be like handing over your ATM card and passsword to a known thief to help you withdraw some money. Technically that would be entrapment because the thief would eventually fall for the temptation. You had to be careful with ambitious men who were looking for any opportunity they could find to position themselves with the rich in the congregation. And he could begin to nurse ideas for Susan. No, it was definitely a bad idea to allow another pastor take over the counselling of Susan Akpabio. But he had to find something to tell his wife. She wouldn’t let this go until he gave in to her demand.
The envelope Susan gave him lay on the table in front of him. It had been a mistake to tell his wife about it. When he opened the envelope he found a cheque written in his name. He shouldn’t have told her about this gift from Susan. The moment he told Ngozi about the financial gift from Susan, she turned against her.
‘Do you like Susan Akpabio?’ Ngozi broke into his thoughts like a bugler from the Bronx.
His chest tightened and his breathing became laboured. He prayed Ngozi didn’t notice the sweat building up on his forehead. Ngozi was stepping on dangerous grounds with this line of questioning. He had to be careful with his answers. He liked Susan. He preferred her to his skinny wife who sat opposite him at the dinner table nibbling on a piece of carrot like a starving rabbit.
‘I like her as a committed member of the church, if that’s what you mean,’ he said.
Ngozi regarded her husband with suspicion. His face was an expressionless mask which betrayed no emotions. ‘No, that’s not what I meant. Do you like Susan, do you like her as a woman?’ she asked again. She looked him in the eyes. Ogedengbe evaded the question. ‘The only thing I feel for that woman is compassion,’ he said. ‘Her marriage to that man has been nothing but torture. My prayer is that the Lord would deliver her in his infinite mercy.’ Although he felt compassion for Susan, that wasn’t exactly the only thing he felt. If Ngozi suspected what was going on in his mind she would impale his bald head on the table using the thin carrots on the plate before her as murder weapons.
‘Why don’t you ask her husband to come in for counselling? That should be a better way to resolve this matter,’ Ngozi said.
‘I invited him twice but he failed to turn up for our appointment. I will try to get him to change his mind.’
‘I know you mean well,’ she said and her features softened. ‘But we have to be careful with a woman who throws her weight around the church. I will feel better if you handed her case over to someone else,’ she rose up from the table and walked into the bedroom.
Ogedengbe waited for a few minutes until he was sure that she had settled down then he entered his study and locked the door. He dialled a number on his phone.
‘Why are you calling me?’ a female voice said on the other end of the line. ‘I told you that I could handle this. Give me some time.’
Ogedengbe touched his temple. ‘I paid you a lot of money to do a job for me. I need you to give me good results. You promised that you could get this done. Things are getting out of hand.’
‘Is that the reason why you are calling me at this time of the night? Where is your wife?” she asked.
‘My wife is none of your business.’
‘On the contrary, she is my business. For your plan to succeed she has to go along with it. So, she is very important to me.’ said the voice on the phone.
Ogedengbe wanted to say something but kept quiet.
There was a knock on the door. He ended the call abruptly and put away his phone.
The knock came again. He took his time and opened the door. His wife stood before him in a red night dress. She looked like a piece of thin brown wood tied with a red ribbon.
‘Why did you lock the door?’ she asked.
‘Ngozi, you know that when I am praying I lock the door so that I can have some privacy.’
She leaned against the door like a coquette and twisted a strand of her hair. He regarded the Brazilian hair on her head. He hated it. He liked it when a woman carried her hair natural the way God made it. But his wife preferred to wear expensive human hair which belonged to God knows who. He regarded the contraption she put on her head. How could she carry that thing around with her all day not knowing to whom it formerly belonged? Was it hair cut from the head of a mad woman, which probably still carried with it the spirits which caused the woman’s insanity? Was it hair which belonged to a demon worshipper or a prostitute? Had the hair been dedicated to a demon deity at some pagan temple before it was exported with its attendant demons to women who were not content to live with the natural beauty the Lord gave them? How many women suffered from unknown ailments, mysterious problems which defied all rational solutions because their vanity made them wear human hair? He shuddered at the thought of lying in the same bed with hair belonging to a devil worshipper from Brazil. The day will come when he would burn every strand of Brazilian hair and every other kind of hair he found in his home. He would not make his house a warehouse for demons. He had enough problems already without inviting sophisticated fashion demons from half –way across the world to add to it.
‘Why are you starring at my hair like that?’ Ngozi asked.
‘Nothing,’ he said.
‘Oluwayemi, please come to bed.’ He liked the way she called his name. It rolled off her tongue like oil, soothing like a hot cocoa drink on a cold night. He felt a flicker of arousal in his loins. She had a way with words, that was one of the reasons he married her. She turned around and walked towards the bedroom.
He remembered the night of their honeymoon, how hot she looked in her night wear which clung to her curves. A lot had changed since then. She had become a scarecrow in his home. After one child she said she had become ‘too big’. She worked out at the gym like a North Korean gymnast preparing for the Olympics. Her rigorous exercise regiment had eaten away the succulence of her beauty and left her with…almost nothing. He sighed bitterly.
‘Baby, I am waiting,’ she called out in a sultry tone.
He swallowed hard and entered the bedroom.