Please note that this series contains some sexually explicit content, violence and offensive language. It is not appropriate for children nor an immature and sensitive audience.
THE CHURCH GIRL
Copyright © Ufuomaee
Ifeanyi dashed after Mary, and caught up with her at the end of the driveway. He pulled her to himself passionately. "Where are you going?" he asked, looking intently into her eyes.
"It's ok, Ifeanyi. I'm not mad at you," Mary said, looking away, to hide the tears that were clouding her vision.
"What do you have to be mad about? You cheated on me!"
"Yes, and you've had your own back. Let's just move on," Mary replied, struggling to be free of his grip.
"No, Mary. That's not what you think it is. I haven't been with anyone since we've been together," Ifeanyi said softly. "Look, just come inside, and we can talk."
Mary looked at him with hope. She didn't know whether to believe him, but then she remembered that things are not always as they seem. She stopped struggling and he released his grip. She followed him as he paced back into the house, shouting "Security!!!"
A security guard came quickly to his side, and he gestured for him to wait. "Keisha, please get out of my house now!" he barked up the stairs.
"You don't mean that," Keisha replied. "Come upstairs, and let's talk about it."
"There's nothing to talk about. If you don't get out of my house now, my security guards will drag you out!"
Keisha laughed."Yeah, right. How can you treat me like this? You wouldn't dare!" she glared at him, and stubbornly held her position, with her hands crossed on her chest.
"Little girl, if you do not leave this house, right this minute, I WILL throw you out myself!" the voice came from the upstairs hallway. Mr Chukweke stood fuming, looking at the scantily dressed woman in his house.
Keisha was mortified. She covered herself as best she could with her hands and ran to the room to change. Moments later, she walked out and gave a slight bow of respect and mumbled "sorry, Sir", as she climbed down the stairs, brushing past Ifeanyi on her way out.
"What kind of crazy women are you bringing to this house, Ifeanyi?" Mr Chukweke chastised his son. "And you are here shouting all over the place like a lunatic. Children of nowadays! Watch yourself oh!" With that final rebuke, he returned to his room, where he and his wife were watching a show on African Magic.
"Sorry about that," Ifeanyi said, looking at Mary, who now felt very uncomfortable. "I think it's best we go for a drive."
Mary nodded her approval of the idea.
Ifeanyi drove to the waterfront, in Ikoyi, where lovers usually went for boat rides in the river. He had taken Mary on the boat on a couple of occasions, and she had loved it. Today, they would just wind down the windows, pull back the sunroof and enjoy the evening breeze at the dock.
Their drive was much more relaxed than the last time Mary was in Ifeanyi's car. She sensed that his anger had dissipated, and hoped that he would be understanding of all she was about to tell him.
For a while, both of them were silent. Ifeanyi didn't know why he had suggested this outing, or even considered her request to talk. He was working through his emotions, and they were seriously clouding his judgment. Mary did that to him. He sighed deeply, breaking the silence. "So, you wanted to talk..."
"Yes," Mary found her voice. "Thanks for giving me an opportunity to explain myself."
"I just want to know why," Ifeanyi said, studying her as she fiddled with her hands. "I thought we were happy."
"Oh, I was ecstatic. I'm so in love with you, Ifeanyi," Mary said, looking up at him.
Ifeanyi swallowed and closed his eyes for a second. "So, what happened? Who is he?"
"Pastor Bolaji," Mary answered.
Ifeanyi sat up straight. "Say what? You're having an affair with the Pastor of your Church?" he asked, disgusted. "That's just sick!"
"It wasn't an affair," Mary corrected him. "It was a very, very, very stupid arrangement, that I accepted when I was 16 years old. I've been stuck in his grip ever since."
"What type of arrangement?"
"He said he would look after me and my brothers, and send us to school, if I would do anything he asked," she said. "Sexually."
Ifeanyi was silent.
"I wanted to break it off many times, but I was afraid. He was cruel, demeaning and controlling. He didn't let me work anywhere else..."
"Those are just excuses, Mary," Ifeanyi interrupted. "That was like six years ago? You stayed his whore for his money. I don't understand why you let it go on for so long if you genuinely wanted out."
Mary covered her mouth in shame. Had he just called her Bolaji's whore? "What choices did I have?" she asked, offended.
"I am not trying to judge you. Especially at sixteen, you wouldn't know the impact of your choices. But though the right choice may be hard, it is still a choice. You chose to have it easy."
"How dare you?!" Mary was emotional. "I hated every single time he touched me. If it was only for my education and well-being, I would have NEVER agreed to such a despicable arrangement. But I wanted a better life for my brothers. You don't know anything about hard choices. EVERYTHING has been easy for you."
"Maybe you're right, that I've had it easy all my life," Ifeanyi responded. "Yes, it has been easy for me to sleep with so many women, I stopped counting when I was 19! But I made a hard choice for you. I was celibate with you for three months and counting. That's no picnic for a guy like me!"
"That's hardly the same," Mary replied defensively.
"It's not about comparison, Mary. It's just about right and wrong. You have to accept some responsibility in all of this. Even if he was and is an awful child molesting bastard!"
Mary was silenced. She had never thought about it like that. "You are right," she finally said, too ashamed to look at him. "I'm sorry..."
Ifeanyi reached out and held her hand. "I forgive you," he replied. "But I hope you have stopped seeing that man," he said with piercing eyes.
"I haven't since I found out I was pregnant. Almost two weeks now," Mary said. "I don't know how to face him. I'm still afraid."
"How far along are you?" Ifeanyi asked.
"I thought you guys usually noticed these things. Didn't your periods stop?"
"I didn't notice anything, because I was too happy. My clothes fit tighter, but that was about it." Mary replied.
"So, we're keeping the baby?" Ifeanyi inquired.
"There's a we?" Mary smiled.
"I don't know, Mary. It's a lot to take in. I don't want to be your new Bolaji," Ifeanyi said.
Mary flinched. So he thinks I'm only after his money, she thought. "It's ok. I don't want another Bolaji. I understand that I come with a lot of baggage. The last thing I want is to spend my life with someone who pities me, or thinks that I only care about their money," she said, folding her arms. She was ready to go home.
"Mary, you know I love you. I also don't want to hurt you. I don't know if I'm ready to get married, let alone have a family and in-laws to look after," he said honestly. "You make me want to do things I have never done before. But before we rush into anything...I just want to be your boyfriend for now."
Mary swallowed the lump in her throat, feeling relief wash over her. She had thought he was trying to brush her off. "I'm happy just to have you in my life, Ifeanyi," she said, letting the tears flow.
Ifeanyi pulled Mary to himself and kissed her. All was right with the world again. Except for Bolaji, who didn't know what was about to hit him.
Ifeanyi and Mary attended Church together for the first time that Sunday. Ifeanyi invited Mary to join him at Guiding Light Assembly, and she made it there by 10am, when the Service started. It was a convicting sermon by Pastor Wale Adefarasin, the General Overseer, and Mary thought she saw Ifeanyi wipe away a tear from his cheek.
When the call for those who wanted to give their lives over to Christ came, Ifeanyi was among the first to go down to the front. Mary cried and thanked God for answering her prayer. She also went down to re-dedicate her life to Christ, and to trust Him to meet all her needs and protect her from every contrary power. She had been living in fear for far too long. She needed His strength to be courageous and to stand for the truth in every area of her life.
As a first time guest and as a new Believer, Mary and Ifeanyi were invited after Service for tea and biscuits, to get to know the ministers in the Church and consider making the Church their home. They both enrolled for the discipleship class, a decision that bound their hearts ever closer together.
After that, their fellowship deepened, and they prayed often together. In time, Ifeanyi would rise to the occasion, and show his godly potential as the spiritual leader in their relationship.
Mary called the Christian Counselor, Ms Seto Abiola, as directed by Kelechi, her boss. They arranged an appointment for Tuesday, and Kelechi had agreed to let her leave early to make it there by 4pm.
The first session was slow paced, as Ms Abiola sought to establish the reason for her referral. They talked about her childhood and family life, and explored patterns in her behaviour that she was still stuck in today. Mary had found the experience to be surprisingly enlightening. Ms Abiola explained that the aim of their time together would be to help her to be more conscious about the choices she makes, and to break bad habits that result in harmful choices.
Mary was pleased with the first session and scheduled two appointments a week with Ms Abiola. She made sure she thanked Kelechi when she got to the office on Wednesday, for pointing her in the right direction. She was now well on her way to recovery. The next step would be confronting Bolaji.
Mary invited Ifeanyi to join her to meet with Kelechi to discuss the case she would be bringing against Bolaji. They met that Wednesday afternoon in Kelechi's office. Mary confirmed that Bolaji was still in the dark about her pregnancy, because she had refused to communicate with him since she found out about it three weeks ago.
They then addressed the issue of financial dependency. Mary reported that Bolaji had already sent several hateful messages, threatening that he would not be paying for her brothers' new term in school. Kelechi advised her to save them for additional evidence of control.
Fortunately, the boys had already closed for the Summer, and Daniel had sat his Junior West African Examination Council (WAEC) exams without a hitch. Mary would be enrolling him in a public school for his Senior Secondary Education. The twins were to commence their final year in September, but she would be transferring them to a more affordable private school in Ajegunle. Kelechi would be paying Mary her monthly stipend, and promised to backdate it, which would help significantly in managing her new situation.
Kelechi also thought it would be important to secure a restraining order that would restrict Bolaji from coming within a certain distance of Mary. This was because it was likely that he would seek to harm Mary or her baby in order to bury the evidence and sabotage their case. Mary and Ifeanyi were very much in favour of that, but Ifeanyi was still concerned that it might not be enough of a restraint. The laws pertaining to this were very limited in Nigeria, and with the scourge of corruption in the country, he had reason to be concerned.
To be continued...
Photo credit: www.stanfellerman.com