On a not so fine day, a day that the sun refused to show its happy face on time. The birds chorused a song in an uncoordinated manner but they did sing passionately; a song of sorrow as the convoy carrying the body of a great man passed by. The air was cold and the leaves let go of their grips to tree branches dropping on the floor with the same sadness that filled every household.
The walk ways were empty and the community playground was barren. The wind whistled like a lonely snake and the cloud darkened as the minutes went by. It was a sad day, a day of great mourning filled with shock and despair; Mali drive had lost a great spiritual leader, the General Overseer of ‘THE ASSEMBLY OF CHRISTIAN PEOPLE MINISTRIES’ Bishop Nnaemeka Edison Chukwudozie AKA Bishop Chukwu.
“Daddy! Daddy! Look at what I found” Elizabeth stretched a closed fist towards her father and opened it gently “Jesus Christ!! Where did you pick this from?” Elizabeth laughed at the fear on Bishop Chukwu’s face as he collected the dead cockroach from her to quickly dispose of.
“Daddy, you are scared of a little cockroach” the sound of her giggle made Bishop Chukwu smile Every day
“Let’s go and wash your hands. He picked her up and took her to the kitchen sink. Bishop Chukwu and his wife Rita had been married for 10 years. In those ten years, they waited for seven years before Elizabeth was born. Elizabeth was born at the last moment when Rita was about to give up her last hope of ever having a child. There was a great celebration both in church and in the entire community the day she was born. Her naming ceremony was like that of a Governor; it was attended by the elite and high echelon of the society whether Christians or not. Rita was greatly relieved that she finally bore a child for Bishop Chukwu and she strongly believed that things were going to change from then on.
“This is for all the young people… get up and praise the lord” the choir leader announced to the crowd before the choir led the congregation in an energy filled praise and worship session.
The music was loud, the choir was at its best and everyone in church was up and moving, there was no soul sitting down. Isaac Ortega was the best choir leader in the entire Port Harcourt and one of the best in the country. His voice was like that of an Angel and his charisma was one that he could use to get people to do anything he wanted.
People did not understand how he did it but they loved him. He was handsome too which filled his Christian life with a lot of temptation. It was a usual Sunday morning service. Bishop Chukwu and his wife Rita sat on two special chairs right by the stage while the assistant Pastor, Pastor Abel Egwurube and his wife Ene sat on the front row on the left side of the stage. The Elders of the church sat beside and behind them.
The Assembly of Christian People was the biggest church in Port Harcourt and one of the most popular in Nigeria making Bishop an influential person in the country and thereby giving him a lot of power. Power to demand and control, power to accept and refuse, power to build and destroy.
When the service was over, Bishop and his Rita socialized with the echelon of church members till it was time for him to do his counseling session which he usually did for two hours after the service. Then he would meet with the assistant pastor, church secretary, and church elders.
“Good afternoon sir” a young lady was already waiting for him in his office when he got there. She stood up to greet him.
“No no… sit sit” he waved his hand at the chair behind her and sat down. When he sat down, he took off his glasses and looked at her intently; then a smile slowly appeared on their faces … a very knowing smile
“I have only ten minutes before our usher’s meeting starts,” she said as she seductively walked towards him
“All I need is five” his tongue was down her throat before he finished his sentence, within seconds all the buttons on her blouse where undone and his belt was unbuckled.
“Why are you wearing a condom? You don’t need one baby” she whispered through her heavy breath but he ignored her, his hands caressing her breasts and pulling up her skirt like there was no tomorrow.
Her name was Nkechi. She was the head usher in the church, a very beautiful intelligent woman but unable to exercise logic when it came to Bishop Chukwu.
“I am already in love with him, it is too late” she exclaimed to her friend Joy the day that she confronted her about their relationship
“When I have a son for him, he will leave his wife” she always thought and as the months went by, she got really upset every time she got her period. She punctured all the condoms in his office with a tiny needle, so she wondered why she was not pregnant yet.
As they enjoyed each other’s bodies in Bishop Chukwu’s massive office, the door unexpectedly flung open. It was Rita.
“Oh… sorry, sorry, sorry” She shut the door quickly and went away.
“Here is an invite for you and your husband from The President of Nigeria” Madam Lucy Adewale, the church secretary handed Rita an envelope.
Madam Lucy was one of the very first members of the church and had become a friend of the family as the years went by. She and Rita had struck up a friendship with loyalty as they confided in each other greatly.
As they discussed Rita and Bishop Chukwu’s itinerary for the new month, Rita’s thoughts drifted away.
“He is still sleeping with that girl… this man is never going to change” She blurted
Madam Lucy listened to her friend vent, after about five minutes of talking and expressing herself to her friend Rita asked: “aren’t you going to say anything?”
Madam Lucy sighed “you know that I won’t say anything different from what I have always said, you have always deserved better and you still do”
“But I can’t leave him; do you know the issue it would cause? Who will know me?… I would suddenly become a nobody in Port Harcourt, who will acknowledge me or my presence? Nobody will have respect for me anymore”
“But you are an intelligent woman, you went to school and you can still make a name for yourself on your own”
“How? At this age? Please be realistic Lucy”.
This was not the first time that they were having this conversation. It was the umpteenth time and it always went like this. In fact, Madam Lucy felt as if they had that conversation every day.
“Daddy! Mummy, daddy is home” three-year-old Elizabeth jumped on her father like she always did and he threw her up to the ceiling then caught her on her way down, as usual, it always made her giggle very hard.
“Go play with aunty Blessing, I want to talk to your mother”, he called Rita into their bedroom.
“What were you doing in my office this afternoon?” he started looking like a real-life monster.
“I wanted to tell you about….” He ended her answer with a very painful slap.
“Please… please… please Chukwu I didn’t mean any trouble and I don’t want any trouble” she begged, her eyes looking at the ground.
“So, I am the one who wants trouble, yes?” he went closer to her as she backed away.
“I did not say…” he ended her answer again with another slap this time bringing her to the ground.
Before she could run for safety his strong arms pulled her to the ground, kicking and blowing her continuously.
“Who do you discuss me with in that church!?” he screamed as he kicked her stomach continuously “who do discuss me with?! Answer me before I pull your teeth out!”
“No one!!!” she yelled out then he left her on the floor bleeding.
All the times he beat up Rita, he never touched her face on purpose, he did not want to leave bruises on her face that people would notice and ask questions. He just hit her in places that she could cover up. There was a day he beat her into a coma and all he did was announce to the church that she wasn’t feeling well. Elizabeth at that age did not understand what was going on and she never saw her mother cry.
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Rita was always coordinated around people even when she was in excruciating pain. She smiled and behaved in a very graceful manner. Sometimes Madam Lucy was in awe of how she got the strength to behave so perfectly and sometimes she was in total irritation at how her friend was too weak to leave such an abusive marriage.
The next day, even though Rita felt a lot of pain and weakness; she pulled herself up to honor the president’s invitation with her husband. It was a nice dinner field with a good and enlightening conversation, but Rita kept going to the bathroom to take a break because of the pains she was having and this did not go down well with Bishop Chukwu.
At the end of the dinner, the press was invited for some pictures and short interviews. They finished with the press, thanked the President and First Lady and went home.
“Why did you talk to the press? Have I not warned you never to talk to the press?” Bishop Chukwu was at it again. He had this constant fear that Rita would someday rat him out. If it was possible to lock her in a cage permanently and keep her from the world he would have done that.
They hadn’t even passed the front door completely before he started dishing her kicks and blows once again. She tried to protect herself this time but she was too weak to stop him. Hitting her gave him some sort of satisfaction and he never stopped till he saw blood come out of any part of her body. This time he did not have to beat for long before blood gushed out of her mouth and she lost consciousness.
“Madam Lucy! Come quick… come, come now… I need you” it was Rita on the phone. She sounded desperate.
“Who was that?” Jumbo her husband asked from his sleep
“Rita, she said I should come” .
“By this time of the night?” Jumbo sat up.
It was 2 o’clock in the morning. “She sounded desperate on the phone… it’s just 10 minutes away, I should go”.
“Should I come with you?” Jumbo offered but she declined.
“I will call you when I need you” she quickly put on her clothes.
“Love you” he said as he went back to bed.
“Love you too” she disappeared.
As she drove to Rita’s house, She wondered what it could be since she hadn’t seen her friend all day. She prayed nothing was wrong but who was she kidding. She could feel it in her bones that Bishop Chukwu was beating her friend again that night.
When she got to Rita’s house before she even knocked Rita opened the door and startled her. “I saw you through the window. Who knows you were coming here?”
“My husband… why… what’s the matter Rita you are scaring me”
“Come come” Rita held her hand and led her to the kitchen. When they got to the Kitchen door, Rita stopped abruptly and beckoned at Madam Lucy to go on in by herself. Madam Lucy looked at Rita and the kitchen wondering what was going on. She walked into the kitchen slowly and noticed traces of blood on the floor. When she was close enough, behold it was the lifeless body of Bishop Chukwu lying in his own blood; his eyes were open and his tongue was out.
Before Madam Lucy could scream out of horror Rita held her mouth as tight as she could and pulled her into the bathroom. Madam Lucy looked at her friend terrified as hell.
“Is he dead?” Madam Lucy asked praying for good answer. Rita looked at her, her face very peaceful
“Yes, he is”.