UNDER THE CANOPY
Mrs. Linda Nsia-Marfo fidgeted with a tie back holding one of the living room curtains as she listened dejectedly to her mother at the other end of the line. Her mother rarely called her in the morning so when her phone rang she least expected it to be her. After uncomfortable pleasantries she moved to the point with Linda listening dejectedly.
“Mama, not to sound rude but you know Philip is always welcome to my home if he’s willing to cut those things on his head, remove his ear-studs and tone down the crazy dressing.” She sat in the single-seater sofa and sighed.
“No no mama. If you say I’m judgmental, I won’t take it lightly. That bo…” She stopped mid-sentence, listening to her mother with her lips contorted in disdain.
“I’ve heard you. If he doesn’t alter his appearance before coming, I won’t entertain his presence here.”
“That is what you always say. My husband knows my history but still loves me.”
“He knows what he’s supposed to know. Mama sometimes I wonder if you’re truly my mother.”
“Ok. Goodbye. ”
Within her, she knew her mother had not waited for her goodbye before hanging up. She threw the phone into the next couch furiously and settled her chin in her left palm, stretching her legs. If there was anything she could do to stop him from visiting she would. But her hands had been tied by her mother’s overtly pushy behaviour. Every opportunity she got, her mother rubbed her colourful past in her face. Her machismo never went unnoticed by the woman who knew her daughter better than anyone. She hated her mother but summoned all will to cover it. She prayed she will die sooner than later but her mother was stronger than a rock. Never had she seen her visit the hospital all the years she’d known her. If only she could die with her secret, it would be convenient for her. Linda sat there as if in a trance figuring out how she could wriggle her way out of the situation. This was abruptly cut by the presence of a string of cobweb passing her face. She jumped and wiped her face with the edge of her cloth, screaming curses at the unseen spider.
“In the name of Jesus! I cut all ties with the evil one. No weapon fashioned against me shall prosper.” She poured two drops of olive oil into her palm and applied it on her face. The day had started on a bad note and she blamed her mother for it. Even though it had just sprouted, she felt it was just going to bloom eviller and that was a feeling she couldn’t shake off.
Partially praying, she walked gloomily to the bedroom. Her husband was sprawled on the bed with his right leg bent oddly snoring softly. She lifted her hand to tap him but changed her mind and allowed him to sleep in because he had spent almost the whole night praying and reading and slept just some minutes to 5am. He looked peaceful when he slept and the way his belly moved up and down made her giggle. His face smoothed out and relaxed would have passed for that of a teenager had it not been for his grizzly greying beard. Linda counted herself fortunate for having him as husband. He was already an established pastor when they met twenty-nine years ago but that had not deterred him from getting close to her: a barmaid. She had played hard to get at first not because she didn’t want him but felt he was too good for her; but his relentlessness won her over. He went to the bar she worked at and sat in a corner till she closed so he could walk her home. This drew attention to them but he didn’t mind and when she complained that people were talking, claiming he was there to drink under the guise of waiting for her, he ignored it. It was at her insistence that he stopped going there and she also followed suit. They got married six months later to the surprise of those who knew them and to the chagrin of his congregation, with some leaving the fold. The marriage changed her attitude towards life and this made her love him more, devoting her life to and doting on him. The only downside to it was her frustration with the myriad of fasting and prayers he subjected himself and her to. She felt he took the clause “Pray without ceasing” to the stratosphere.
Linda tapped him softly making him open his eyes and smiling sleepily. “Blessed morning my love,” he said sleepily caressing her left hand which lay on the bed.
“It’s time to get up and get on your chariot!” She responded heartily.
“You and your Biblical allusions.” Laughing, he got off the bed and walked to the bathroom whistling a hymn.
“Honey, my mother called to inform me that Philip will be visiting us next week. She asked of you too.” She lied about the asking of him part to make the air less heavy. Her husband knew how much she disliked having her brother around and always advised her to be less judgmental of him but she will have none of that.
“That’s good to know. It’s been ages we heard from him.”
Linda left him whistling in the shower to prepare breakfast.
Sunday church service at Word of Faith Chapel was sublime and well-attended. The thousand-five hundred capacity arch shaped church auditorium was filled with booming glorious music from the choir. The congregation danced elatedly to the tunes as they lined up to give their first offertory. Linda moved her body coyly to the music as she watched them. She marvelled at how the church had grown, praising God in her head. The church had seen continuous decline after her marriage to her husband and most people blamed her, stating God was angry with her husband for marrying her. She had almost left him but for his support, she stayed and endured their taunts, standing by her him. The band’s abrupt stop startled her making her realise she was still standing when almost everyone was seated. She sat down embarrassingly looking about her.
“Let’s applaud the band for that wonderful performance that has moved us to a different realm.” The M.C quipped, making the best out of an awkward situation.
“It’s time to listen to a sermon from our papa of the house, Evangelist Dr. James Nsia-Marfo. Let’s give him a standing ovation as he comes”
The congregation clapped excitedly as he approached the podium. The evangelist was simply but elaborately dressed in a stripped blue and white African-styled short sleeved shirt and trousers. His black shoes, gold Hublot watch and neck chain shimmered sensationally. After praying and singing, he started his sermon on the need to look beyond the surface and have Godly insight in one’s dealings in life.
“When I met my wife,” he smiled, winked at Linda and continued. “People said I married her because of her big buttocks and smooth skin.” This drew laughter and murmurings from the audience. “It’s partially true because my wife is beautiful. But I was drawn to her great personality. Before I knew her, God had directed me to her and shown me the future I had with her and His work. I trusted in God and followed His way and he has never disappointed me.”
This was met with a resounding applause from the congregation.
The evangelist continued the sermon, occasionally looking directly at his audience for affirmation. He spiced it up with jokes that made the audience laugh and far from bored. He ended the sermon, entreating the congregation to follow Christ’s ways, to a resounding applause from the audience.
“Hasn’t our papa done well? Let’s clap so our clap shakes heaven!” The M.C encouraged them. They heeded by clapping amidst shouts of praise-the-lord and shrieks. He called the Acting secretary , Grace Nsia-Marfo, the evangelist’s first child to give announcements.
Grace walked up to the podium calculatingly, hugging a brown leather back notepad to her chest. The hem of her skirt swung side to side with each step. She looked astonishing in a yellow lace skater dress that went a little past her knee. The dress complimented her golden brown skin, mildly accentuating her curvy figure. She was not one to dabble in accessories with the exception of a gold necklace her father gave her on her twenty-fifth birthday; but on this day, she had around her long neck a blue pearl necklace which relaxed on the round neckline of the cold shoulder dress. She completed her look with a blue belt that coiled around her quite slender waist.
Grace half smiled, half winced and greeted the congregation. She knew most of them were forming their own impressions of her clothing ensemble. It worked her up when she received screenshots of a group conversation of an unofficial WhatsApp group which most of the youth in the church were in. They had made fun of the way she dressed , mocking her fashion sense. She acted unperturbed by these, but they affected her and made her more cautious in the clothes she wore to church gatherings.
She delivered the announcements as they simultaneously run on the projector behind her. She prided herself on being an articulate reader who never made blunders when reading, so she was surprised by the bewildered look on the congregation’s face and a shout of “eeei”as she read.
She wondered why everyone was looking at her with horror, disdain and shock as she read. She started sweating, wondering why everyone seated below had that look. She thought of possible misdoings in her past and present life that could elicit those looks. She stood there shivering within her wondering if they knew. What if all her sins were coming back to haunt her? What if her lies had caught up with her? Suddenly, a glimmer of hope flickered in her as she realised their gaze was not directed at her but at the projector behind her. Her legs failed her as she saw what had caused the congregation to act that way. She gave a loud cry, went back a few steps and collapsed into the arms of one of the associate pastors.