Jide cleared his throat and looked around, focusing on the council members as if canvassing for support.
He said, “For some time now, Martha has been running after me, telling me she loves me. At first, I thought it was teenage crush, but I became alarmed when she begged me to sleep with her. She promised to give me utmost satisfaction, because she’s experienced.”
“What? No! Prof Aboderin shouted. “This show of shame is too much, I can’t bear it, I’m out of here.”
“Prof. please don’t leave,” the Pastor begged.
“I shouldn’t leave?” Professor Aboderin asked. “With all I’ve heard? I can’t believe my daughter is the one he’s talking about. Young man, are you being truthful to us?”
“Of course,” Jide replied confidently. “I warned her off sternly, with a threat to report to her mum, if she doesn’t desist from pestering me.”
“He’s lying,” Martha said, pointing at him. “He’s a liar, and he knows.”
“Shut up,” Mrs. Williams shouted from the back.
“He’s lying,” Martha insisted. “We dated for close to a year. I made a crucial decision at the last revival, that warranted me quitting the relationship. I intimated him and he begged that I meet him at home to have further discussions, that his parents were not around. I went to him, and he raped me. I was a vrgin until he raped me.”
Martha’s deep sobbing touched the heart of few of the council members, who thought there must be some truths to her narration. But Jide insisted on his story.
Turning to Martha, the Pastor said, “You said you were with him on…”
“ August 25,” Martha insisted.
“Can you say the actual time you were together?”
“Are you sure?” the Pastor asked.
Martha thought hard before replying, “I think 3pm.”
“Jide, where were you by 3pm, on that day?” the Pastor inquired.
Jide smiled before replying. “Sir, I was with you at the pastorium at that time, on the said day. You can testify to it sir. After our meeting, I stayed back to do some practice on the keyboard. I never left the church, until the choir rehearsal began and ended. The sexton saw me when I was practising, and I even sent him to get kosai and dankali for me.”
“ Martha,” the Pastor called. ” Jide was actually with me at the said time, on the said day. Although, I can’t vouch for his movement beyond 3:30.”
“Maybe I missed the time, I’m somewhat confused,” Martha cried.
“ Do you have a witness, someone that saw you going to him, or someone you told before going.”
The whole council held their breath as Martha hesitated, “I did not tell anyone,” she responded. “The relationship was a closely guided secret.”
“You mean no one saw you?”
“Except who?” the Pastor asked wearily.
“ As I tried opening the gate into his residence, it was pushed from within and Kike Johnson stepped out.”
“My daughter?” Mrs. Johnson exclaimed, “ you can’t be serious. She was at a coaching center at the said day and time.”
“Deaconess please, calm down, let her talk,” the Pastor pleaded.
“We were both surprised to see each other,” Martha continued. She claimed her mum sent her to drop a parcel for Deaconess Williams, but met her abscence. I in turn told her I wanted to collect the Sunday school manual from Jide. She said she was rushing to the coaching center for JAMB lesson.”
The Pastor sent for Kike, who denied vehemently that she was no where near the Williams’ residence, on the said day. Facing Martha, she said, “ You want to drag me into your problem. Haven’t I warned you to stop sleeping around. Why do you want to implicate me?”
“But we greeted on that day. You were in a blue gown with yellow patterns,” Martha said.
“ That you saw when we met at the church. My mum can testify that the driver dropped me at the coaching center, and picked me to church after lesson hours. I can call the driver as a witness. We had biology on the said day. I can call my mates to vouch that I was at the coaching center throughout. I never left for a single minute.”
“That’s okay Kike,” the Pastor said.
“ There might be no need for further witnesses as we have seen where the matter is heading to. But, I want us to give time to pray, and ask the Holy spirit for guidance. There are dark clouds around this issue, and we can’t be too sure of what to hold as the truth.”
Majority of the council members objected to the Pastor’s suggestion, emphasizing that the truth had been revealed. To them, Martha was trying to implicate the others, especially with the inconsistency in her story. Furthermore, they threatened to boycott any other meeting if the right thing is not done, because it looked as if the Pastor was trying to cover and acquit Martha. They said the Holy spirit had revealed all that needed to be revealed in the meeting, and nothing contrary, coming from the pastor, would be accepted.
The announcement was swift and precise. Because Martha had gone against the will of God by engaging in premarital sx that resulted in an unwanted pregnancy, she was suspended from being a church worker. She would have a special seat at the front of the congregation, where she must always sit during services.
Martha couldn’t raise her head, to behold the people who had always listened to her songs, and and hear her teach. She was dressed in a black garb, like someone in mourning. Her 5 feet plus frame looked diminished, and right there at the front of the church, she looked very vulnerable, with no support system at all.
The Pastor signed as he continued with the pronouncement, calling on Prof. & Mrs. Aboderin to be on their feet.
It was only the wife that was present, because Martha’s father had refused be a party to the show of shame. Traveling back to his station the day after the council meeting, he told his family not to expect him in a very long time.
“Haven deliberated on what your daughter did,” the Pastor said to Mrs. Aboderin. “And your complicity in not exposing her in good time, the church council has decided to remove you from all leadership positions for a period of one year. We pray God will grant you the grace to make amendements where neccesary.”
After this, the Pastor turned to the congregation and said, “ we want to put a mechanism in place to check mate our young men and women from engaging in premarital sx. I humbly call on Deaconess Johnson to come forward.”
Mrs. Johnson moved to the front with head held high.
“You are going to help our boys and girls to maintain a firm stand against f©rnication.”
“You will checkmate, teach and monitor their activities, with the Church giving you the necessary support and encouragement.”
“Thank you sir.”
“And now,” the Pastor continued. “I stand as a minister of God to ask all our young people that are vrgins, to come to the altar.”
There was slight hesitation from the audience, then as if on cue, the young people began trooping to the front, especially the ladies. Tall, short, dark, fair, slim and plump. Almost all the unmarried ladies stood up.
Mrs Johnson scanned to see if Kike was among them, and signed with relief on sighting her, whispering, I trust my daughter.
The Pastor looked all that came out, an d gave a deep sign.
“Well…” he said hesitatingly, “ If you all say you are vrgins, then we will take you as virgins. I hand you over to God and Deaconess Johnson. She’s a tested and trusted mother, and will help in guiding you to the right path. Remember, you are virgin wives of Jesus, and musn’t defile yourselves.”
The Church applauded as the service came to a close, with the declaration of grace by the Pastor.
The homeward journey for the Johnsons was quiet, with everyone engrossed in different thoughts.
Mrs. Johnson was the only one that tried engaging the others in conversation, because she was in a good mood, basking in the euphoria of the honour received at the church.
Her husband concentrated on driving, while the children looked as if they were terrified. Mrs. Johnson had expected them to gist all the way home,especially on the trending topic of Martha’s punishment. But here they are, behaving as if they were mourning some one dear to them.
Kike looked pale, with beads of sweat breaking out on her forehead. She refused to look at anyone, but insisted she wanted fresh air and placed herself close to the window.
It was in the process of opening the door to the house, that a wave of dizzy spell overtook her, and she went down.
© Bosede Fagbemi