(Read the first part here)
Ifechi lay on Kazeem’s heaving chest, the covers spread over their entwined naked bodies when a rasp knock on the door startled them both out of their quiescence. Ifechi looked questioningly into Kazeem’s face, and after the second knock, he asked out loud, “who’s there?” There was no response, only persistent knocking that shattered the silence of the aisle.
Kazeem quickly put on his briefs and hurried to the door. With guilt written all over him, he stammered, “wh-what are you doing here, Zainab?” One of the two women, clad in pink chador, and barely in her twenties snorted, and ignoring his question pushed the door open and went in. The other woman followed suit, and Ifechi gasped. Zainab glared at Ifechi who now sat on the bed paralyzed. The whole episode had the semblance of a nollywood flick, and it was at this point she was supposed to say, “It’s not what you think” or “I can explain”. No, not to Zainab, but to Bidemi, the secretary of the christian women’s group in church to which she belonged. For a fleeting second, she thought, “how did Bidemi know Zainab?”, and somewhere in her subconscious, Maduka’s voice taunted, “you should have known, small world it is.”
“Of all things, it had to be with this heathen,” Zainab barked, “I have always known. But at least you should have given yourself some dignity and married her.”
“Insha Allah,” she said, wagging her fore finger, “you alone shall reap the fruits of all your evil.” She reached into her bag for her camera and took shots of Kazeem and Ifechi in their compromising states. “Walahi, Alhaja must see this,” she threatened, and stormed out. Bidemi who had all the while stood akimbo, shaking her head from side to side ran after her.
Kazeem sat on the opposite end of the bed embarrassed, Ifechi clasped her hands over her head, and dead silence hung over them.
Early that Sunday morning while the choir sang, Ifechi sat by the window in church and observed the rain drops, the puddles they formed, the children that waded happily in them and the Okada men that washed their bikes from the over-flowing gutters.
“Good morning, sister Ifechi,” Mrs. Esosa greeted, brandishing all her teeth. She smiled briefly and nodded in response. “How’s the family?” Esosa continued unperturbed, but Ifechi was certain she meant,”see guts sha. So you fit come church. Nawa ooo.”
“Fine,” she replied without smiling and looked into her hymn book. Esosa too settled in and began singing aloud joyfully, albeit in an off-key tune.
Detached from all that was going on around her, Ifechi planned to go and resign her position as part of the Christian women’s group after service. That was the singular reason she was in church. Every pair of eyes that looked at her, she thought, condemned her. She could not stand the whispers behind her back.
“Pastor would like to see you in his office now,” an usher said to Ifechi when the service had ended.
Ifechi was taken aback at what she met- elders, assistant pastors and women leaders seated and talking amongst themselves. She spotted Bidemi seated triumphantly to the Pastor’s left, a camera placed before her. Ifechi’s head hung low as she stood in their midst.
“We can’t have this kind of behaviour. You of all women should know better. And you claim to be a leader in the church.”
“You have disgraced not just your name and family, but have dragged the name of this reputable church into the mud.”
“Or perhaps, this has an explanation. Maybe it’s not you. The picture could have been photo-shopped. Maybe you want to defend yourself.”
Ifechi was mute.
“You can’t remain a leader here. You have to be disciplined. Every evil in the house of our God must be punished, lest we make mockery of our salvation. The bible says that judgment must first begin in the house of the Lord, for our God is a consuming fire,” one of the elders spoke in his King James voice.
“So you were deceiving us all along, ehn? God, nawa ooo. This must really be the end times.”
“Ahhhhhhh! End times niyen ooo. False prophets. The bible said it. We were warned,” the fat woman with the yoruba accent proclaimed in righteous indignation. “Pastooooor, say something nao.”
The room became silent as all heads turned towards the pastor. His reticence lingered a while, and then the silence was broken by hushed protests.
Pastor Azuka’s voice betrayed no sentiments, “Let him mete out justice to Ifechi that is perfect, that is without blemish, that has never sinned… that will never sin.”
The fat woman shifted uncomfortably in her seat. If she was certain nobody would ever find out about Ajoke, the child she had before her marriage to Deacon Olusanya, whom she tells everyone is her niece by her late sister, she would take upon herself the responsibility of meting out due justice to Ifechi.
Elder Nosa bowed his head slightly. If only Elder Okafor had not known of the days when he downed 4 bottles of small stout before prayer meetings, and still came out to give prophecy, he would surely have given Ifechi just the right punishment she deserved.
Assistant pastor Calistus looked surreptitiously across the room. Pornography is not really bad if you do it with your spouse, right? If he was positively sure of the answer, walahi, he would get this Ifechi job done with.
Deacon Adeniji fiddled with his pen. Why had he signed that false contract only two days ago, that would entitle him to about N13 million? That was the only spot on his conscience now, otherwise…
“Pastor, so this is how you want to handle the matter, shebi?” the fat woman took her large bible and left. Calistus stood up after her. Okafor nudged Nosa, and they both left. Soon, every other person stood and in an orderly file, departed.
Pastor Azuka looked deep into Ifechi’s eyes. She looked away, and with tears streaming down her face, crumbled to the floor. “I’m sorry,” she said through her sobs.
Pastor Azuka stood from his seat, and restraining himself from offering his shoulders, handed her a clean handkerchief.
“But why, pastor? Why would you not say anything against me?”
“If Christ hasn’t condemned you, nobody can.”
There is a witness… John 8:3-11