Ijeoma was the last person to come down for the meeting when Thomas’ friend, Pastor Osita arrived in the house. She had been so reluctant to leave the comfort of the room after she had sent Apham ahead of her. When she entered the living room, she was surprised to see that Pastor Osita had not come alone. His sides were flagged by two young boys, no older than 20. While Pastor Osita was dressed in a white shirt tucked into his black trousers, they wore white on white. She relaxed when she saw the way Thomas conversed with him. His boisterous friendliness was entwined with respect. He sat on the couch that was facing the television, the longest couch in the room. Angela sat beside him. For the first time since she knew the woman, she was seeing her face void of expression. Her hands were folded under her chest and her legs crossed over each other. She was wearing a gown, covering every part of her body from her neck down to her legs. Ijeoma imagined that it was Thomas that had forced her into wearing the cloth.
She walked over to where Apham sat, the couch opposite where the pastor sat, wide enough for four people. “Daddy,” she said deferentially, then turned to the Pastor, saying in a similar manner, “Good afternoon pastor, welcome to our home.” She sat down, not waiting to get a response from them.
“This is my daughter-in-law, the one I was talking to you about.” Thomas gestured at her as he spoke to the Pastor.
Pastor Osita nodded. “I can see that. The presence of evil is clinging more to her than to her husband. It’s presence is stronger in her body than that of her husband.”
Ijeoma gasped. Apham put his hands around her and rubbed her hand. “Can you do anything about it?” Apham asked uneasily.
The pastor shook his head. “We will, if you all cooperate. If I had known that your problem is as serious as this, I would have told you earlier that we would start a three-days fasting exercise with intensive prayers.”
Angela spoke up, “Fasting? I’m not going to-”
“Shut up,” Thomas snapped. She kept quiet immediately, though her eyes flashed fiercely at him. “Sorry pastor, please go on.”
But it was Apham that talked, “How long are we supposed to fast? Ijeoma just came out from the hospital and her body cannot go long without sustenance.”
“I know. She can be excluded from the fasting or if she can fast for however long seems safe for her body.”
“I can go from 6 to 11,” Ijeoma said softly. “Maybe to 12.”
“Are you going to be okay?” Apham asked. He took her fingers and laced them in his own.
“Yes. If I get too hungry, I can have something to eat but I also want to participate fully in the prayers. It’s specially for the both of us.”
“Well then. I have no problems about it,” Apham told Pastor Osita.
“Thomas, you are joining the prayers too? And your wife?” He gave the nonchalant woman a skeptical look.
“Of course. I and my wife will be participating fully in the prayers, from the beginning to the end. Whatever evil in this house, we would cast it out together.” His eyes blazed at Angela. She shivered but nodded shakily at the pastor.
“Today, we will pray a general prayer to begin the fasting exercise. And tomorrow and the next two days we would begin intensive prayers after you break your fast in the evening till 1am. I don’t know if the prayer schedule is okay for you?” He turned to Thomas.
Thomas nodded grimly. “Yes. I have no problem. Apham, you don’t need to follow me to the office for the duration of the prayers. Just remain at home with your wife. Take this as a break. I will organize things in Lagos for you.”
“Thank you dad.”
“So it’s settled then.” Pastor Osita rubbed his hand in anticipation. “We’ll begin the prayers now. It won’t take too long, but it is very necessary to bless all the activities that we will be undertaking in the next three days.”
Ijeoma raised the shawl that was lying around her shoulders over her head. She watched as Angela brought out a small handkerchief from the pocket of her gown and put it over her head. The tenor voice of the pastor filled the house as he broke into a song. “We are saying thank you Jesus…”
An hour and half later, Ijeoma was taking a tray of empty glasses and empty plates from the parlor to the kitchen room. She placed them on the sink throwing the remnants of bone and an empty carton of juice in the dustbin. Apham and Thomas had gone to see Pastor Osita out. She reached for the sponge and switched on the tap. Humming one of the songs that the pastor had sung during the prayer session, she began to wash the plates.
A sound at the fridge pulled her attention from the plates she was washing. Angela was bringing out a bottle of water.
“Are you not going to end all these drama now? While you still have the chance to?” Ijeoma asked. Before, she wouldn’t dare to bring up the matter directly with Angela, but the prayers boosted the confidence she had while facing the woman. There was little or nothing the bitter woman could do to her again.
Angela frowned at her. “I don’t understand what you are saying.”
“Well, it was only a piece of advice. Don’t wait until the pastor reveals your true face before you confess. Either way you are still going to leave this house. Daddy would never remain married to someone who tried to ruin his son’s marriage.”
“Don’t get too complacent,” Angela warned.
“Oh?” Ijeoma placed her wet hands on her waist not minding that she was getting her cloth wet. “What will you do? Doom me to a life of accidents and miscarriages?” She barked out a laugh. “Sorry, you hear. Sorry. I really pity you. You are a beautiful woman but the inside of you is so rotten, so ugly that I pity the people that are deceived by your outward look. God forbid!” she spat.
Angela wanted to say something but the sound of the men coming towards the kitchen stopped her. She glared at Ijeoma then left the kitchen.
Ijeoma sneered at her retreating figure then went back to washing her plates.
Angela’s feet thumped hard on the floor as she walked to her room. The thin soles of her slippers did little to cushion her feet against the impact, but she did not notice it. How dare that thin brat talk against me? The sight of the door to her room was a welcome one. She opened the door and shut the door loudly behind her, turning the lock into place. The room belonged to her and Thomas, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t bear to spend one more minute in the man’s presence. He sickened her. He always did, but she had been willing to put aside that feeling for the sake of being his wife, enjoying his money. Now see where it led her to.
She worked fast, opening and shutting the wardrobe until she had brought out all her things. She eyed the clothes and bags that made a huge pile on the bed. How will I take all these things? She was sure that they wouldn’t let her leave the house until the so-called Intensive prayer was over. But she didn’t want to pray with them, why should she? In fact, she wondered what the fake pastor saw that even warranted the prayer. She had called off the curse she put on them. After the third accident, Thomas had questioned her if she knew anything about what was happening to his son and his wife. Of course, she had lied. The look on his face, however, showed that he was bent on chasing the matter to its root. She had to call Baba to destroy the charm. She paid a large sum for him to do it, but it was worth it. It was better than having to face their judgemental faces when the annoying, talkative pastor revealed that she was the one that did it.
Her hand paused on a bra with a frown. Then if the curse had been destroyed, what was the pastor talking about? She was curious. She was certain that it wasn’t Baba’s charm. Baba’s charm was potent and listened to the person that had placed it in the first place. It wasn’t like many other charms that worked against their owners. Precisely the reason that she had gone to him. She had needed something that could be controlled.
Better to be sure, she thought as she reached for her phone.
“Hello, Baba.” She greeted. “Did you call off the charm I told you to? About the pregnant woman?”
He growled. “Are you doubting me? I told you I have called it off. I won’t lie about something like that.”
She knew that. “Okay.”
“There also seems to be another curse on them. It was there when you brought the picture to me.”
“Eh?” The bra fell off Angela’s hand. She pulled out the chair in front of the dresser and sat down.
“Yes, they must have another enemy. It seems like a residue of another charm, coming to life when I placed my own on them. But it is powerful. The miscarriages are from my own charm, but the accidents…” his voice trailed off.
Like me. “Okay, Baba. Thank you.” She placed the phone on the dresser and sighed. “More drama.” Her curiosity heightened. She had hated the couple before, but like most of her emotions, it didn’t last. Luke had become something of the past as she had already found a replacement for him. She remained antagonistic to the couple out of spite, and it became like some sort of game to her. Just a few words and the couple were already raging over her.
She gave a short laugh looking at the clothes on the bed. “We are not going to just leave now, are we?” She picked up the bra that had fallen and threw it on the bed. “The movie only just started.”
Angela returned all the clothes into the wardrobe, singing as she did so. After the call with Baba, she had been filled with lightness. After the prayer was over, she would leave the house, divorce Thomas and start another life with her new lover. She was glad that she would be leaving with her dignity intact. During the prayer, she had been scared that the pastor would just open his eyes and say “You, you evil soul.” But it wasn’t going to be that way. She was more interested in what the pastor would find out. She always suspected that the family had a lot of secrets hiding under their carpet, had asked Thomas a number of times, but it was hard to find the truth. If they wanted her to bear the name of the bad guy before they found out what was causing the problem, she would gladly do so, only what she wanted in return was to know what was wrong with the family she married into.
She changed into a pair of shorts and a singlet top and put some make-up in her face. She and Thomas no longer had normal marital relations, but she still wanted to look her best. After all, it was the thing that had pulled him to her in the first place.
Coming out of the room, she continued singing her way to the stairs. At the bottom of the stairs, she saw Apham sitting down, his hands on his face.
She smiled. If it had been before her visit to Lagos three years ago, she would have felt her heartbeat increase and her body responding to his presence. But now, it was the plain reaction she had to his father. They were just men, men who had bedded her then hated her for it, hated her for their stupid actions.
“Are you okay?” She feigned a sweet voice. Inside she sneered, let’s see how you okay you will be when you find out what is really the problem.
His head whipped up immediately. She wondered if it hurt from the sudden movement. “What do you want?”
She shrugged. “You are blocking the way.”
It took a while for the words to enter his brain. What did you want to hear before? She eyed him. Probably waiting for an opportunity to reject me again. Yeye man.
He stood up and walked the remaining stairs, steering clear of her as she came down. She ignored him and continued into the kitchen, taking a can of Pringles from the cupboard and a bottle of coke. She went into the parlor and settled to watch her favorite TV series.