Service over, Imade remained seated, unwilling to leave before speaking to Dapo. Intent on dropping the burden on her heart.
Through the service, her eyes had wandered to Dapo once, twice. A little awestruck, she decided, at what he had become. Who he had become.
Who would have thought that the petite mischief-maker would evolve into this confident, charismatic Christian man? She hadn’t even known he could carry a tune in such a beautiful manner, causing goose bumps to cover her. She watched now, as he spoke to a small group, men and women alike, gesturing, throwing out little laughs occasionally. She wondered where his wife was. Who had he ended up with?
Just then, his little group dispersed and she knew this was her cue. Grabbing her handbag, she hurried towards him.
“Hey Pastor,” she greeted with a small wave.
He looked up at her, eyes wide, a tiny crease on his forehead.
“Imade,” he said, reaching out to shake her hands. “Is it safe to approach?”
She chuckled. “Yes. Service was great, by the way. I enjoyed listening to Pastor Eric.” And you, she added in her head.
“Good, good. I’m glad you were blessed. So, what brings you to…our humble abode?”
“Um, actually… I wanted to apologise.”
“I shouldn’t have…um…reacted the way I did the other day. At least not to you. I’m sorry.”
“Hmm. This is unfair, though,” he said.
“You apologizing to me in church so I will have no choice but to accept the apology. It’s really not fair.”
Imade trilled with laughter. “Okay, what would you prefer?”
“Mmmm, Lunch is a good start.”
“Lunch and then apology accepted?”
“Depends on how much you’re willing to spend,” he winked.
“Oh, anything for the man of God. As long as your wife doesn’t mind.”
“Well, we’ll find out,” he smiled again, with mirth. “I have to go now though; I have a team meeting.”
“Okay Pastor. So, I’ll call you about the apology lunch?”
“I’ll be expectant. And thanks for worshipping with us today.”
They parted, and as she walked towards the exit, she realized there was a lingering smile on her ips.
There was something comfortable about their exchange that warmed her. There were no airs like she had been expecting especially since she was in his territory, rather he had spoken to her like an old friend. Like a normal person.
Imade thought Joy was beautiful in an understated way, what shone was her personality – bubbly, happy and sweet. The moment she stepped into the orphanage, there was a shift in the atmosphere. Amidst the scurries and shouts of the children who hovered around Joy, there was a palpable energy that made Joy instantly likeable. She clutched her cane in her hand, handling it like a part of her body. Hugs travelled around, from one child to the other, all of them clamouring to be part of Joy’s glow.
“That’s my Joy,” Mrs Osakwe said, pride tinting her voice. “She’s loved by everyone. She’s my miracle.”
“Introduce me?” Imade asked.
“Come,” Mrs Osakwe took her hand. “Children, children, let Aunty Joy rest a bit, okay? Go and finish your homework…Aunty Anita, please can you and Aunty Queen get them to settle down and finish their homework, please?”
The nannies who had previously stood aside, hurried forward calling the children away one by one. Imade liked how the children listened, and how they obeyed.
“Mummy, you know I don’t mind having them around,” Joy said, with a smile, stroking the head of her cane.
“Well, I wanted to have you around.”
“Who is with you?” Joy asked, cocking her head. “There’s someone else here. Wait, let me guess. Is it Aunty Imade?”
Imade gasped, throwing a look at Mrs Osakwe.
“Don’t be shocked. My mum already told me about you. She said you are a nice woman.” Joy stretched her hand out for a handshake. Imade shook her hand even though what she really wanted to do was hug her. She understood now, how Mrs Osakwe felt about Joy. She was the kind of person you fell in love with the moment you met her.
“I’m pleased to finally meet you, Joy. Your mum has told me a lot about you.”
“All good things, I hope?” Joy chuckled; her grip firm.
“Very good things.”
“Let’s go to my office, darling.” Mrs Osakwe said, holding hands with her daughter.
It was Friday evening when Imade and Dapo’s schedule finally synced for their apology lunch. Imade had let him choose a venue because he was more familiar with Benin.
She had arrived early, only to find him sitting in a booth in a corner of the restaurant. He waved her over.
And now here they were.
“So, you lead a busy life,” Imade said.
He shrugged, “I have work, plus the responsibilities I handle in church. Sometimes its tough juggling it all.”
“I was going to ask about that. How did you…end up…you know?”
“What? As a pastor?”
“Yes. I’m curious.”
“Well, a lot happened to me during my university days and after. But then, I found Jesus during my service year.”
“So, why Pastor?”
“So, Pastor is more of an office than a title, you know. I am part of the pastoral team at Heritage. We handle the soul-winning and outreach department. That’s where the ‘pastor’ comes from. It’s not that deep.”
“Hmm. I see. I’m actually impressed.” Imade said, taking a scoop of icecream.
“Now you know what I’ve been up to. Tell me, what have you been up to all these years, Imade?”
“Okay, in summary. Went to school, got out, went back to school, got out, got a job, worked the job, left the job, and…here I am.” Saying it out loud, Imade felt her heart sink. She was forty, what really, had she done with her life?
‘Hey, you okay? You looked sad for a moment. Or, should I not ask? I mean, we don’t want a repeat of last time.”
She gave a small smile, “no, it’s okay. I just realized, saying that out loud, that I really haven’t done much with my life. It feels like I’ve been living one big loop, doing the same things. It…it almost feels like I have not been living my purpose.”
“Hmm,” Dapo sighed. “So, what do you think your purpose is?”
“I know what the purpose of every man is, according to the Bible. We were created for the pleasure of God, right? But maybe what I’m concerned about is the assignment. I feel like I haven’t done enough of that.”
“I think…I think you’re belittling what you do. You know not everybody’s assignment is on the pulpit or in church like some of us. Your assignment could have been in the corporate world, in the legal system.”
“I get that, Dapo, but maybe I am feeling like a failure because I didn’t actively perform my assignment. I think I lost sight of it somewhere along the way. Perhaps that’s why I felt led to resign.”
“Or maybe God wants to expand your horizons. He wants you to do things differently?”
“Maybe. Gosh, how did we get to such a heavy discussion? This was supposed to be an apology date…er…I mean…lunch.” Imade buried her face in her icecream to hide her embarrassment.
“Okay, should I just pretend I didn’t hear that?” Dapo was laughing.
“You know, for a pastor, you’re pretty mean,” Imade complained.
“And for a lawyer, you’re pretty shy. I mean, I don’t see what’s wrong if you thought this was a date.”
“I did not think it was a date, Dapo! You know what, let’s change the subject.”
“What if I don’t want to?” he was still chuckling.
“You’re infuriating. Is this how you are with your wife?”
“I wouldn’t know,” he shrugged. “Since she isn’t here yet.”