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
"Don't wanna be a player no more... I think I found someone I can live my life for..." Ifeanyi was singing and dancing to the tune of RnB singer, Joe's song, "Don't wanna be a player". He was still on high from his date with Mary last Saturday. It was absolutely perfect. He had outdone himself in creating the most romantic night of their lives.
Mary and Ifeanyi had enjoyed a roof-top meal at the Four Points Hotel by Sheraton, in Victoria Island. Though there were other diners present, they were secluded in a private corner, with an amazing view of the city of Lagos, and it felt like they were the only ones in the restaurant. Their section was specially decorated with lights, scented candles and flowers, and they had a dedicated waiter, who brought them their special order fresh from the grill.
"This is too much," Mary had half-heartedly protested. She wondered how much it had cost Ifeanyi to put it all together. Was this how he treated all his ladies?
"Nothing is too much for you, babe," Ifeanyi had responded, as he slid his hand across the table to hold hers. "I think you are really something special."
Mary had blushed, despite herself. She was supposed to keep it cool. She couldn't forget his reputation. But she could already feel her heart warming towards him. He was unbelievably cute. And not at all what she had expected.
They had laughed and reminisced about their encounter in Iseyin, and talked about their new placements. Ifeanyi was working at an Accounting Firm, and had dreams of owning his own bank one day. Mary didn't know what her dream was. "I just want to be happy," she had told him, with a strange sadness.
She didn't reveal a lot about her past, but he knew she worked at the Church, and was very passionate about her faith. He had confessed that he had never given much thought to religion. To him, it was a bit restricting... the status quo, and he had always been a bit of a rebel. But he was open to learning about her faith, and this made her happy.
Ifeanyi smiled as he remembered when he had dropped her off at home. It took everything in him not to lean in for a kiss. Instead he had given her hand a squeeze, after sharing an affectionate hug. He was now thinking of their next date... He couldn't wait a whole week, so he had invited her to watch a movie with him this Thursday. It was now Tuesday, and he had only called her once. He didn't want to come off too strong. He would call her again tonight...
As he got himself ready for work, he caught a glimpse of himself in the mirror and smiled. He wondered, is this what it feels like to be in love...?
Suddenly, his phone rang.
It was Keisha, his ex-girlfriend from London. He debated whether to answer her call, but knowing her, she wouldn't relent, so he picked up on the fourth ring.
"Hey, Keisha, long time," he said jovially.
"Hey boo," she replied.
Keisha and Ifeanyi had dated for three years, while they were in university together. He knew she had expected a proposal, when he took her to dinner before he left for Lagos. However, she was stunned when he suggested that they have an open relationship, because he didn't want to hold her back from meeting her true love! Even though he had cheated on her repeatedly, Keisha had always forgiven him because he always came back to her...and she thought that meant he loved her. For this hold she had on him, she wasn't giving up easy.
"Hey..." Ifeanyi said cautiously. "What's up?"
"I thought you might want to know that I'll be coming around in the Summer," Keisha answered, in a practiced sexy voice. "My friend's getting married. Maybe we can hook up?"
"Ummm..." Ifeanyi paused. He didn't know whether to mention Mary. "I'm not sure I'll be around," he said instead.
"Why, where you're going? It's not everyday you get to see me. Don't you miss me?" she pushed.
"Well... I'm kinda seeing somebody," he finally volunteered.
"So??? When has that ever stopped you?" she hissed sarcastically.
"Things are different now, Keisha. I'm sorry I hurt you."
His confession and apology struck a nerve with her. She was not appeased. Because apparently, whateverhernameis had succeeded in changing him in just a few months, when she had laboured tirelessly for three good years of her life! "What, do you love her?" she asked in contempt, holding back the tears.
"I don't know. We just started dating," Ifeanyi responded.
"What's her name?" Keisha asked. She would find that tramp and make sure she regrets the day she was born!
"Don't worry about that, Keisha. Look, I gotta go. I have to get to work," he said impatiently.
"No probs. I'll be seeing you in the Summer. If I know you at all, this chick will be crying tomorrow," Keisha said as cut the call.
Ifeanyi looked at his phone, shaking his head. He certainly hoped she wasn't right. He didn't want to hurt Mary, but he was beginning to realise that he didn't know himself all that well...
It was the eve of their second date. Mary sat in her room, contemplating whether to call it off. She couldn't handle the emotions seeing him again would stir up in her. She didn't have anything to offer him, and was certain that he would dump her in a heartbeat, if he found out her secret. Better to stop it now, she thought, as tears rolled down her cheeks.
"Why are you crying?" Daniel asked, startling his sister. Mary hadn't noticed him at the door.
"Go away, Daniel. Go and eat your food," she said to him.
"Samson, Sister Mary is crying again," Daniel grumbled as he left her doorway.
Before long, Samson was at the door. Mary quickly wiped her tears, and stood up from the bed. "Are you okay, Sister?" Samson asked, concerned. The children had noticed that their sister was unhappy, but lately, she had been crying more, and they didn't know how to help her. They knew she was trying her best to provide for them, and wondered if they were the reason for her unhappiness.
"I'm fine. It's just work. Have you eaten?" she asked him to turn the light off her emotional state.
"Yes. We left some for you in the pot," Samson replied.
"Don't worry about me. I'm going out," Mary said, surprising herself with her decision. She would be going out afterall. "You and Sunday should look after your brother for me. Don't go outside oh!"
"Okay, Sister," Samson said, as he sat down to continue watching TV with Sunday in their small living area.
Mary looked at the time, it was 5 O'Clock. Today had been her Community Development Day, and she always made it home by 4 O'Clock. Ifeanyi would soon arrive to pick her up to catch the 6 O'Clock movie at Ikeja City Mall, and she was a mess. She hurried up to shower and put on her most comfortable jeans and one of her nicer blouses. Bolaji always bought her clothes from his frequent travels overseas, so that she always looked good for him when she attended Church. The girls in the neighbourhood liked her, because she was regularly giving away her old clothes.
Just as she concluded on her make-up, which she always applied modestly, Ifeanyi called to inform her that he was outside. He had not been inside her home before. She hadn't even told him which of the rooms in the rundown complex was hers. She came out to find him leaning on his white Toyota Camry with flowers.
The sight made her smile. She soon forgot all the reasons she shouldn't let herself fall in love with him.
"Thank you," she said, as she took them.
"Let's put them in water," he said, implying that she should let him into her home.
"We'll be late for the movie," she said, hoping he would accept that excuse.
"We have time. Plus I have gifts for your brothers."
"You do???" Mary replied, shocked. Then she wondered if they were pity gifts. "What did you get them?"
"I'll show you inside!" he insisted, with a grin.
Reluctantly, she showed him her humble abode. He didn't show any sign of shock or disgust. Her room and parlour was actually in a much better state than the other properties in the "face-me-I-face-you" living complex.
The boys slowly stood up to recognise the presence of their guest. They greeted in unison "good evening, Sir".
"Good evening, Daniel, Samson and Sunday," he said, intentionally recollecting their names, as told to him by Mary during their last date. Mary was impressed, he remembered, though he mixed up Samson and Sunday. "I thought you might like these," Ifeanyi said, as he presented his gifts of football jerseys.
The boys were elated! They ran to collect the Arsenal jerseys from his hands, jumping and screaming with excitement. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!" they sang in chorus.
Mary laughed as she watched her brothers, who were the happiest she had ever seen them. Even happier than when she had told them they would be going to private schools! "So that's why you were asking which team they supported?" Mary said to Ifeanyi, recalling their conversation on Whatsapp earlier in the week.
Ifeanyi giggled. "Alright, boys, we'll see you later", he said, as he stole their sister away.
Mary hardly paid attention to the movie. She kept thinking about what Ifeanyi had done for her brothers. She passed repeated glances at him, and knew that she didn't stand a chance anymore. She was in love!
Three months flew by in a haze. Mary and Ifeanyi met as often as their jobs would permit, and grew ever closer together. Mary still had her commitment to her Church, and Ifeanyi never questioned her about the amount of time she devoted to Church activities. He actually started attending his neighbourhood Church, Guiding Light Assembly at Parkview Estate, in Ikoyi. He used to drive by the Church, but never entered in, until he started dating Mary. However, he found the Church to be warm and welcoming, and even started attending their Bible Study classes on Sunday mornings.
At times, on Saturdays, when he visited Mary at her home, they would discuss some of the things that Ifeanyi was learning at his Church. Mary was quite insightful and very knowledgeable of the Scriptures, and to his surprise, Ifeanyi always enjoyed their discussions. However, he still hadn't made the decision to give his life to Christ. Mary was sure that he would, and prayed for him everyday. Sometimes, they prayed together.
Ifeanyi remained a perfect gentleman with Mary, and never once pressured her to do anything she didn't want to do. Their connection was on a level neither of them understood, but they always wanted to be together. They both knew that they had fallen in love...months before they said the words "I love you" to each other. Every time Ifeanyi told Mary he loved her, her heart hurt, as she thought of the secret she was hiding from him.
Mary was nervous. Today, she would be meeting Ifeanyi's parents for the first time. The times she had visited Ifeanyi at home, his parents were not around. She had already met his elder sister and younger brother, and they both liked her.
"Don't worry, they will love you," Ifeanyi whispered in Mary's ear, before opening the car door for her to enter. When he got to the driver's side, he looked her over and said "You are stunning!"
Mary returned his smile, and straightened her dress. It was a new one from Bolaji. It was the only one that fit her well, as her other dresses were clinging too tightly to her body.
Ifeanyi's parents were happy to meet his new girlfriend. Anybody who was able to straighten him out, and stop him gallivanting all over Lagos, was a keeper in their books! After exchanging greetings, Mary quickly excused herself to the bathroom, as she felt nauseated by Ifeanyi's mother's perfume. She apologised for her abruptness, when she returned.
"It's okay, dear," said Mrs Chukweke, looking at her oddly.
They sat at the table and engaged in chit chat until the food came. It was prawn fried rice, Mary's favourite. However, Mary covered her mouth and excused herself again. The smell was offensive. Mr and Mrs Chukweke looked at each other and then at their son. "Is there something the matter? I thought she was a Christian girl?"
"What are you talking about Mommy?" Ifeanyi asked, oblivious.
Mary walked back into the room, as Mrs Chukweke blurted out "She's clearly pregnant, dear!"
Ifeanyi laughed, "It's impossible, Mom. We haven't slept together."
Mary stood in the middle of the room frozen. Ifeanyi turned and looked at her. She looked as if she had seen a ghost. "Are you ok, babe?" he asked, more concerned for her health than about his mother's accusation.
Before their eyes, Mary slumped to the ground and fainted.
To be continued....
Photo credit: www.stanfellerman.com