His lips were on her neck, when she came to her senses. It was his wedding ring that chased her out of her daze-like state. It dug into the skin of her exposed belly and reminded her of his wife.
It reminded her of the nightmare she had about his son. It reminded her that his daughters would suffer, if she favoured one night with him over them. She felt his weight as soon as he moved on top of her on the sofa. His other hand tugged at the hem of her leggings.
“Please stop. Your daughters are next door.” She writhed out from underneath him as soon as he raised his head from her neck.
“What are you playing at? Why did you kiss me?” She asked, having sandwiched herself into the corner of the sofa. One hand yanking her dressy top down as if that would take back the last few minutes.
“You kissed me back, sweetheart. Don’t act as if you don’t want this too.”
He mentally trimmed his words and smoothed them like creased shirts in his head. Unwilling to say something wrong. “We both know what we have is special. Why are we throwing it away? We can be together.” His hands moved towards her.
Desola jumped off the sofa. “Stay where you are. Don’t come close.” She went to stand by the window. That was the problem. Every time, he touched her, her brain became as useful as the soaked garri her brother heaped on his palms to pelt at her and Fausat when they were children. In Richard’s hands, she became the winding doll she controlled with the grey knob on its back as a child.
She looked so upset he wanted to hug her. He walked towards her and stopped inches away. Her eyes gave clear warnings he couldn’t ignore.
“I made a mistake asking Agnes to marry me. I can’t picture myself with her. It ain’t gonna work. Me and her are done.”
“Does she know that you and her are done?”
“I will tell her. Tonight. Trust me.”
Desola shook her head. “That will finish you in church. People don’t want a pastor that has a messy personal life. What about Sister Agnes? She is going to be heartbroken. I can’t be your other woman again. Sorry…I just can’t….”
He reached for her and hugged her before she could finish her sentence. He held her, whispering in her ears, ‘It’s you I want,’ over and over. But her body did not relax in his. He let her go when they heard the door. Richard knew it was Junior even before he walked into the lounge.
The boy surveyed the scene. “Dad, you’re in the wrong flat. We’re supposed to be dining upstairs at Jame’s flat, init? I went upstairs but you weren’t there.”
Richard straightened his shirt, hoping her lipstick hadn’t imprinted itself on his face. “I came to get the girls but they were asleep. So, I decided to wait here for you.” He hoped he had misread the guarded look on Junior’s face.
Junior sat on the armchair. “Jame’s mum doesn’t want me and James cramping your style dad. She told us to make ourselves scarce.”
“Ok, stay here son.” He turned to Desola. “Please, can he stay here? I will be upstairs for a few minutes. Then, I will come and get him. Can my daughters can stay here tonight?” She nodded. His voice reduced to a whisper, “I will fix things. I promise.”
As soon as Richard left, Junior turned his attention to Desola.
“Hey Dee, did I interrupt something? You and dad looked so cosy just now. Am I missing something? I am, init?”
Desola smiled and made her way into the kitchen. “Would you like some baked beans or fried plantain with rice Junior?” She asked, igniting the first hob to warm the stew.
“All of the above Dee. By the way, from what I know of my culture, you should start calling me Uncle Junior from now on. If you are going to be my dad’s Mrs, You need to show me some respect. I didn’t write the rules.” He said, laughing.
She laughed too. Wondering if she could tempt fate and tell her heart to stop thumping furiously. Wondering if she could start to imagine herself in Richard’s life.
Junior joined her in the kitchen. “Dee, I need a new pair of Timbaland trainers, monthly allowance of around four hundred pounds and twenty driving lessons, all paid for. Those are my terms if you want to be my dad’s girlfriend. Get my old man to cough up and Jame’s mum can piss off.” He smirked, laughing lightly. She stared at him until he stopped laughing.
As her knife sliced the plantain, her eyes fixed themselves on the small cuts that were filling the plate. She knew she couldn’t allow herself to smile just yet.
He was surprised to find that Agnes had lit a few scented candles and placed them round her lounge. She wore a red fitted gown that emphasized her thin frame. Without curves to complement her skinniness though, she looked scrawny rather than elegant. An orange lipstick had been rammed on her lips and black eyeliner pencilled into her brows, yet her face did not seem easy on his eyes. The table mats on the dining table were the types that he had seen in the kitchen department of Selfridges.
As usual, Agnes was chatting over him as he tried to offer his apologies for arriving late. He sat on the leather sofa in the lounge.
“Junior came looking for you earlier. He said you might be at Grace’s flat. I thought that was strange because Grace is at work.” Agnes told him.
Richard put the drink she offered him on the table. “I went to see Desola. The girls are with her.”
Agnes planted a smile that stretched from ear to ear on her face. A smile he knew probably hid something else. She sat on the other end of the sofa. “We need to set a date soon for our weeding. I was thinking May or June.”
“About that……” Richard started to say.
“I know it’s only two months away but the sooner the better. I can quit work and look after your beautiful twins. We shouldn’t be letting Desola spend too much time with them. I don’t know if you know that she went out with a thug last year. Mrs Bradshaw saw them kissing in Seven Sisters ….”
He wondered if it was too early to announce his departure. He decided to stay long enough to break the news.
“Agnes, listen please. It is about the wedding. I think it is too early. We haven’t even announced it at the church.”
“Don’t worry about all that needs to be done. I know Sister Grace is very envious of me at the moment, but she can help with the preparation that needs to be done. Mrs Bradshaw’s jobless son is in rehab, so I can rope her in too.” She squealed.
“I am not sure my children are ready. Things are moving too fast.” He wished she would stop dropping hints about the things going on his congregation’s lives.
The new Bond film, Skyfall – his favourite of the series- came on. Agnes grabbed the remote control and switched off the TV.
“I have told James not to put certain channels on. The devil resides in that boy.” She hissed. “Well, as soon as we are married, you can put your foot down. I can’t wait to be your wife. My Pastor’s wife!” A girlish giggle rang in his ears.
He could not imagine himself hearing that squeaky giggle for the rest of his life. It would send him crazy. “I am sorry Sister Agnes. I can’t marry you.” He waited for the news to take effect. For the jolt to take residence on her face.
The beam on her face refused to budge.
She checked the plain silver watch on her wrist. “It’s getting late. I will serve our dinner. We can talk about our big day whilst we eat.” Agnes walked to the kitchen. She opened the cover of the pot on the cooker and a strong smell wafted in his direction.
He got up and walked to the kitchen.“Did you hear me Agnes? I said, I can’t marry you.” Agnes turned to him, putting the lid back in its place. “I am so sorry Agnes. But, we won’t work. We are too different. Please forgive me.”
Her smile remained intact. “It makes sense for us to get married. I know everything about you Pastor Richard. How many more women do you want to tell your secrets, when I can keep them without you asking.”
Richard’s hands dropped to his sides. “What secrets are you talking about?”
“I work with your aunt at the school. I see her every working day. Sometimes, we like to gossip in the morning before the children arrive.”
“What secrets are you talking about?” He growled.
“I know Junior is not your son.”
Richard gripped the edge of the kitchen surface with both hands. What came next did nothing to soothe him.
“Don’t worry, I will keep your secrets. We are going to be husband and wife. Of course, I will keep your secrets my darling Pastor.
Richard did not go back to the first floor. He sent his son a text message instead and waited for the lad downstairs. The next morning, he arrived in church with his son just after Alex and Lanre had set up. Greetings of ‘Goodmorning Pastor’, ‘Goodmorning sir’ filled the air as people trooped in. He started the bible service shortly before ten to make sure, he was busy when Desola arrived with his daughters. As usual, she gathered the younger children with her as if they were her own children and led them into the adjoining room for the children’s bible service.
At the end of the service, Richard was pleased that he was loosing the pair of eyes (Agnes’) that had done nothing but follow him through the service. The deputy Pastor, his father-in-law had called a committee meeting. He found the men and Mrs Bradshaw waiting for him as soon as the church had emptied itself of its congregation.
“This is an unexpected meeting. Shall we make it quick, my children are waiting in the car.” Richard told them.
“Please sit down Senior Pastor, sir.” Alex said pulling out a chair for him.
Something he heard in Alex’s voice made him wonder if the real meeting had already taken place, without him. His eyes moved from one committee member to the other. Lanre’s eyes were rooted to the floor.
Elder Iwoye, his father-in-law cleared his throat.
“There is no easy way of saying this, but we the church committee of Our Angels church have decided to place you on suspension Pastor because of an alleged affair with a church member.” Richard rubbed his face with both of his palms.
“I didn’t know ore. I found out today.” Lanre’s voice crept over Elder Iwoye’s one.
“I will be leading the service with Brother Alex and Brother Emeka whilst we investigate these claims. You are suspended from performing your duties. Please hand over your keys to Brother Emeka.”
Richard rose and took his church keys out of his bag. As he handed the bunch to Emeka, the man apologised to him. He couldn’t care less. He had helped everyone seated around the table at one point or the other. The man he was then seemed like an alien to him now. He picked up his bag and headed outside to his car where his children were waiting.
Richard woke up the next morning after less than four hours sleep. He could tell from the pounding in his head and how dark the room was that it wasn’t five yet. His phone’s ring tone had woken him up. He picked up his phone from Eniola’s side of the bed. He had already guessed that the caller was Gbenga- whose calls had become a headache he didn’t need, cohabiting with everything else in his head. A text message came in from him. Richard opened the message, worried that his week was just about to get worse. Gbenga had never sent him a text before now.
‘Keep avoiding my calls fool.You can’t avoid me for long. I have secured my visa to Britain. I will soon be there to take my son away from you.’