Uploaded by Jibril Lawal on August 26, 2013
The young woman’s eyes fill and a smile quivers on her lips. Her husband, seated beside her on the chintz sofa, is in better control of his emotions but no less grateful. Two weeks ago they were tossing accusations and insults back and forth. A sheltered virgin in contrast to his bedrooms of experience, the adjustment was difficult. It is by no means over, but they are trying.
“Thank you so much, Pastor.”
Across the leather-topped table with its glass dish of mints, Pastors Dan and Jemima Ehizogie look at the younger couple kindly.
Dan’s voice is reassuring. “It’s all right, Mr. Okoli. What keeps a marriage going is compromise and understanding. You both must always strive to strike a balance.” In his navy blue suit, reading glasses just so and the gray-sprinkled hair fuller than is fashionable, he brings to mind one of her university professors, Jemima suddenly realizes as he continues.
“Sex is a beautiful thing, designed by God. When you and your spouse do it in love, it is the highest form of worship as He intended it to be. Each of you just has to be sensitive to the other’s needs and it will strengthen your relationship. This will enable you to keep the Bible’s command that the marriage bed should be undefiled.”
Sinking her toes into the plush carpet, Jemima adds, “Marriages like ours have lasted twenty-four years because of these same principles. And you must keep putting in the effort.” The older couple exchanges a loving smile which endears them to the Okolis. Later they will agree effusively that the Ehizogies are a true, shining example of what a Christian marriage should be.
The counseling session eventually ends. After the Okolis leave, iPad, laptop, phones and briefcase are gathered up by Afam, the diminutive PA, who will later clear up the tea tray and lock up. Jemima wishes him a good night before sliding into the back of the air-conditioned interior of the Grand Cherokee, Dan close behind her. The journey to the brick-coloured house surrounded by springy carpet grass and shaded by mango trees takes about twenty minutes. The smell of curry and garlic greets them as they enter. Marvellous, the house girl, appears flustered when she emerges, sweating, from the kitchen, tugging her blouse down over her hips.
“Welcome, sah. Welcome, ma.”
Dan grunts a reply as he makes straight for his study. Jemima places her laptop on the centre table, intending to do some work later on her forthcoming book, 21 Ways to Know Mr. Right. Number Seven: Be sure you both are compatible… or have compatible interests? Or…
“Sorry, ma,” Marvellous is saying, “the food will soon ready.”
Jemima focuses on the girl, eyes narrowing slightly on her exaggerated curves. “Did you remember to make the fruit salad?”
She is pensive as she makes her way to their bedroom. She takes off her jacket, leaving on the butter-coloured dress, and is easing off her shoes when her husband comes in. She watches him remove his suit jacket, cufflinks, and empty his pockets. He is perching on the edge of the bed in his boxers when he notices her stillness and raises his head to look at her.
“She’s pregnant, isn’t she.” It isn’t a question.
He winces at the look in her eye. “Jemmy-” But she steamrolls his words and grits, “Mr. Prolific, what is it with you?”
His expression contrite, he moves to stand before her, clasping her shoulders. “I’ll take care of it.”
She looks into the earnest eyes of this man who can’t control his lust for the forbidden. Not to mention his proclivity for the unusual, or the young. She once surprised him in a contorted sexual position with their neighbour’s seventeen-year-old daughter who kept gasping, “You’re the Lord’s anointed”- as per his instructions, she found out later. It was only by the grace of God- and a heavy financial settlement- that they had escaped that one without a scandal.
Over the years her feelings for him have run the gamut from love to disgust to hatred to bemusement, until all that’s left is a numbness, like ash after a fire. She has produced three children. One is in a Christian university down south and the younger two in boarding school in Abuja. Her duty done in that department, they have a ministry to run. The money they make doesn’t do any harm, either. Somehow she has joined the ranks of the Hilary’s, the Silda’s and the Gayle’s who have philandering husbands, but she’ll be damned if that becomes public knowledge.
Of course he’ll take care of it. He always does.
Her concern is why he is lax about using condoms.
She nods resignedly. “I’ll call Mama Keji for a replacement.”
Hannah Onoguwe lives and works in Jos, Nigeria. Her short stories have been published by Adanna Literary Journal, Litro, and The Missing Slate. When she’s not reading or writing, she loves to watch soppy movies and try her hand at new recipes. You can follow her on Twitter here: @HannahOnoguwe