The sermon notes he was preparing for the following morning were scattered on his table. He picked up a note and read it. He sighed deeply, pushed aside the papers, stood up and paced his study. It had been four days since he spoke with Susan. What was going on in her life, in her marriage? Had Bassey changed his ways or was he still treating her bad? This silence was almost driving him crazy. A thought scurried through his mind and he stopped pacing. Had Susan found a man? Had she found somebody who would treat her with the respect that she deserved? A frown creased his forehead. From somewhere within him anger rose up slowly like steam rising from a pot of hot okra soup as he contemplated the possibility that Susan could betray him in that manner. He sat down heavily on the orthopaedic chair he had bought to help with his lower back pain. It didn’t seem to be working. The pain shot through his back and he stood up again. Surely Susan couldn’t have met another man and abandoned him after all the work he had done for her? She should understand that he was important to her happiness. She should recognise that he was a man who has feelings for her. He had gone beyond the boundaries of counselling her and now took her life as a project. No, it felt more like a calling to make her happy, to put a smile on her face and deliver her from the misery that Bassey inflicted on her daily. That man was nothing but an animal.
The pain in his back was slowly increasing in its intensity, making him lose focus on his current line of thought. He opened a drawer on his table, reached inside and found a bottle. He tapped some pills in his hand, threw them in his mouth and swallowed them. He left the bottle on the table, changed his mind and threw it into the drawer. It would be awkward for his flock to enter his office and find a bottle of pills on his table. In fact it would come as a shock to many of them. Perception is everything. With the way he preached in church many of his clueless flock imagined him to be super human. He laughed at the fickleness of people. If they knew what he did in the time he spent out of the church building many of them would stop coming to church. In fact some of them may even sue him and demand for a refund of all the money they have given to the church. It was best to be perceived as being impervious to the problems they encountered in their lives than to think of him as a pill-popping, drug dependent, weak man, who was battling with migraine headaches. Different situations caused his migraine to surface from time to time, but his present predicament was caused by his desire to possess Susan. Some of his colleagues may call it an unholy desire but he felt entitled to his desire the way many of them felt entitled to owning luxury properties on the best side of town. What began as a playful thought in his mind some weeks ago had become a wild animal, with a mind of its own, growling with hunger, demanding to be fed daily and its food was thought. Dark thoughts; thoughts that were taboo to a man of the cloth, thoughts that brought out the unregenerated side of his soul.
Ogedengbe eased himself on the swivel chair. To say the truth, the desire to have Susan had taken over most of his thinking moments. It ate into his mind like a corrosive liquid on plastic, modifying his thinking, turning him into another man. This morning as he shaved he looked into his eyes and what stared back at him was lust. Not the temporary kind of lust that comes and goes. It was the kind of lust that attaches itself to a man’s soul, claiming ownership in his life, taking captive his thoughts and seducing him into contemplations of the dark kind. He shook his head vigorously in an attempt to clear his mind but it didn’t work.
He couldn’t stand it any longer. He reached for his phone and called Susan.
The caller tune that answered him was Rihanna’s music. How typical of Susan to use such a rebellious tune to introduce herself to the world. He hated the song. As soon as they became serious and formalised their relationship, discreetly of course, he would ask her to delete this demonic song from her phone.
‘Hello?’ Susan said on the other end of the line.
Her voice was like light breaking over the darkness of his mind. It was comforting like being wrapped in sheets of Egyptian cotton. He allowed his mind to luxuriate in the ambience of her voice.
‘Hello?’Susan said again bringing him out of the fantasy he was being sucked into.
He wanted to say something that placed him in a position of more than her pastor, more than a friend, like an intimate friend or lover. He finally settled for intimate friend. ‘Hello…dear,’ the moment the words left his mouth he regretted his choice of words.
‘Hi,’ Susan said. Apparently she didn’t mind his choice of words.
He spoke quickly trying to repair the mistake he had made.
‘I haven’t heard from you in a while. Is everything okay?’
‘I am fine. I can’t talk now. I will call you later…’
‘Who is that?’ a man interrupted her in the background.
Susan seemed to take the phone away from her mouth. Her voice became distant. ‘It is pastor Ogedengbe,’ she said.
‘Why is he calling you?’he heard Bassey ask in a confrontational tone.
‘He wants to know how I am doing,’Susan answered him.
‘Hello, Susan. Hello…’ Ogedengbe said but Susan was engaged in another conversation with her husband and she had forgotten to terminate the call. Ogedengbe couldn’t believe his luck. The pastor side of him moved to cut the call and keep her conversation with her spouse private but the other side of him resisted that thought as he would an evil spirit manifesting during the church service. He smiled, eased back in his chair and listened to their conversation.
Susan’s phone rang. She looked at the caller, waited a moment, then answered it. Bassey gave her a side glance.
‘Hello, I can’t talk right now…’ Susan said.
‘Who is that?’ Bassey interrupted her.
‘It is pastor Ogedengbe,’
‘Why is he calling you?’
‘He wants to know how I am doing…’
‘And he is calling you at this time of the day? What exactly have you been telling that pastor of yours?’ Bassey asked, his voice taking on a hard edge.
Susan placed the phone on her lap, forgetting to turn it off. ‘I don’t like your tone. I am talking to my pastor, not just any man.’
‘Your pastor?’ he asked.
‘Yes, my pastor. I have been trying to get us some help for our marriage.’
‘Help? Is that what you call the brain washing sessions you attend every week at his church? I don’t need any help from those hypocrites!’ he snapped, his hands gripped the steering wheel tightly.
They drove on in silence, Susan gathering her thoughts. ‘Why do you hate the church so much?’ she asked her husband. He didn’t answer her. She looked out at the passing cars. ‘I want us to have peace in our home. We ought to sit with the pastor and resolve our issues.’
‘You want me to go to that deceiver? That will never happen. You have to stop attending that church! He is the cause of all our marital problems,’ Bassey said. ‘I don’t want you to see that pastor again. He is poisoning your mind against me, slowly destroying our marriage.’
‘Our marriage was in shambles before I went to him for help,’ Susan retorted.
‘That man is a deceiver. He tells you lies in the name of religion. He wants you to break your marital vows and abandon our marriage.’
‘Do you want to know the truth?’ she turned to him as he drove. ‘It is because of that pastor that I can still tolerate you. It is because of him that I return to that house everyday to see you. I hate coming to that house. I hate everything about you. You spend your time hanging out with your drinking buddies and come back home in the early hours of the morning.’ She caught her breath. ‘Tell me, what do you and your friends do all night?’
‘Are you accusing me of something because if you are let me know what it is,’ Bassey said.
‘Do you and your drinking buddies also spend time with whores?’ she hit the dashboard of the car. ‘I met that skinny girl you are chasing all over town. What do you see in her? Is she better than me? What has she got that you are ready to throw away our marriage away for?’
Bassey said nothing. His eyes were glued on the road.
‘Answer me!’ she raised her voice.
‘Are you saying you and your pastor are better than me because I hang out with my friends? Is that what he tells you in his church?’ He laughed bitterly. ‘I knew it was a mistake to allow you go to that church. Now you think you are better than me. You all are hypocrites, especially that pastor of yours.’
‘How dare you insult that good man? His only sin has been to pray for me and counsel me to remain with you!’ Susan shouted at him.
‘Well, if you think he is that good why don’t you move out of my house and move in with him?’ the car swerved to the right. Horns blared.
‘Is that what you want?’ she asked. ‘Have you found a whore to satisfy your desires?’ she accused him.
He said nothing. They drove on in silence.
Susan turned to her husband. ‘Bassey, do you love me? Was there a time in our relationship that you cared about me as a human being and not as something to use to satisfy your lust?’
Akpabio glanced at his wife and turned his eyes back on the road.
Susan continued. ‘I want to know if you feel anything for me. Do you?’ she asked him in a shaky voice. Her husband kept driving.
She wiped tears off her cheeks. ‘So you cannot tell me if you feel anything for me?’ She turned away from him and started crying softly.
The hand that held the phone shook slightly as he turned it off. He had heard enough. He shut his eyes for a moment thinking about the conversation he heard between Bassey and Susan. If Bassey didn’t feel anything for Susan, he knew what he felt for her. It was an emotion stronger than anything he had ever felt before for a woman. Although he enjoyed the feeling the emotion brought but it was getting out of control. He once thought he was in control of the emotion but he was shocked to discover the emotion rearing up its head even during sacred moments of prayer in church. It suddenly dawned on him that the emotion he felt for Susan had become an obsession, an animal that needed to be fed constantly and was making him it’s slave.
For the first time pastor Ogedengbe realised he was dealing with a dangerous emotion and he wasn’t quite sure how to handle it.
To be continued…