Sunday service began at 10.15 am. The old building vibrated with energy. She was seated at her usual place on the stage shielded by the podium in the section reserved for the choir. She was doubly thankful for her seat today as wisps of biblical words shot like stars across her mind, pointing at her, calling her a fornicator.
Fifteen minutes later she took the microphone from its handle and breathed into it.
Because a saint is just a sinner
Who fell down
And got up
They were carried away by the gift that was her voice; it was probably why they could not see the huge stain spreading between her legs, upwards, corrupting her Spirit. The choir raised their voices to meet hers and she watched as the congregation raised their hands and swayed, moved by a force greater than wind. From the stage it was as though they were one immense body.
She tried to ignore the memory of two bodies moving equally in sync. One naked beast with two heads powered for a short while by a mutual forgetting and a lust that felt like it would last forever, until it was over.
After the praise and worship songs, the church sat down and Pastor Dave, the senior pastor walked to the podium.
“For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honour, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter…”
She slid into her seat, clutching her bible, hoping that no-one would notice how red she had become. With her luck, there would probably be a glowing arrow pointing at her. She didn’t hear the rest of the sermon. Her thoughts flitted back and forth between flashes of heat, words that made her smile, acts that made her cringe and the hypocrisy that had her seated, elevated before others who would assume she was without fault as she had once assumed she was.
Her body came back to life as the choir stood to end the service with another song. Her hands were cold and sweaty; she wiped them on her skirt and was careful to keep her voice steady. Thankfully, Louise had the solo this time and her friend’s personality shone through and had the whole building trembling with applause and stamping feet as though they wanted to bring down the walls of Jericho.
It was 12:30 and there were approximately 1,000 people between herself and the exit. If she reached it in the next ten minutes, she could just about make the 148 bus home. She picked up her handbag, rolled her shoulders back and took a step off the stage.
“Your performance was a little over the top don’t you think,” she turned to face her perpetrator.
“Hello to you too Ama.”
“Oh don’t act all funny, you know I’m your biggest fan, which is why I can tell you when you’re being showy. I would have done…”
“…a better job? I know. Look I’m kind of in a rush,” Ama glanced at her phone.
“The bus doesn’t leave for another 30 minutes.”
“I know. I’m not taking the church bus today.”
“Why?” before she could reply she was ambushed and folded into a hug- Louise, her brain told her, and it was confirmed when she was released and could see who the hugger was.
“Hey you were amazing today. Wow.”
“Don’t you think she overdid it a little?” Louise raised her eyebrows.
“Er I think she overdid it a lot and killed it! How do you sing like that? And are you willing to give lessons?”
“Louise I’ve got to go.”
“Why? The church bus isn’t leaving for a while.”
“She’s not taking the church bus.”
“Are you going somewhere?”
“Just home,” Louise shrugged.
“Well, see you next week. Oh by the way I called you yesterday…”
“I was asleep. I wasn’t feeling well.”
Liar…she fought to block the image of legs entwined and hips ramming into one another.
“You do look rather pale.”
“And sickly,” added Ama.
“Pastor Seyi! Come lay your hands and do some healing.”
“Louise I’ve got to go…” she kissed both cheeks of her friend, waved at Ama who scowled back, and ran down the steps.
“I’m sorry,” she tried to sidestep the stranger but he blocked her.
“You sang beautifully.”
“Thank you,” she glanced at his usher badge “Chris.”
“I’m new,” he held out his hand and she was obliged to take it. “Perhaps you’d like to have coffee when you’re done here?” her eyes widened, took him in. He was cute and his pale brown eyes suggested a gentle, kind soul but her mind was filled with another type of man; a 6 ft 3, sharp-edged man who had made her sing out her gratification. “I don’t really know anyone here.”
“Raincheck? I have a bus to catch.”
“You take the church bus? I’m thinking about giving them my details. It’s free right?”
“Yes, it’s free. It was nice meeting you. I hope you enjoy it here,” she hurried past him; the exit was drawing nearer. The room was abuzz with people hugging, laughing and talking. She walked quickly past them and around them with her eyes tracing the circles on the carpet. She didn’t want to see anyone she knew and be pulled into conversation. She caught floating words, sentences here and there. They discussed difficult weeks, the sermon, funny incidences. It was an environment she was usually loath to leave. Now she was at odds with it or it was at odds with her. The room closed in on her like the bars of a prison cell.
“You can run from the church, but God is everywhere,” she didn’t look up.
“I’m late for my bus.”
“The 148? You would have missed it and there won’t be another for an hour. Take the church bus,” she licked her lips.
“The church bus,” she mumbled.
“Or you could wait for me and I could drop you home,” she stepped away from him to avoid breathing in his fumes.
“No,” then she regretted the harshness of her words, “thank you.”
“Your singing today was ethereal. I saw a woman crying. Did you listen?”
“To the song, did you listen to the song?”
“I was singing it.”
“The song gave a lot of people hope. I hope you took a little for yourself.”
“Hope,” she repeated to herself.
“And forgiveness,” he touched her shoulder briefly and she looked into his eyes, “forgive me.”
“It wasn’t your fault, Seyi,” but he was gone.