The traffic that afternoon gnawed at my insides and caused my tired facial muscles to tense even more. Or maybe my impatience to meet Alan Benedict made the slow ride and the honking of several cars unbearable. Fortunately, it reminded me that I had not called Mama.
For the past couple of months, our conversations had been dull. Mama sulked over something I didn’t want to discuss.
I dialed her number and waited, rehearsing my answer to her inquiries.
She picked the call. “Betty, how are you?” Same brooding voice.
“I’m fine, Mama. Did you see the money I sent to you?”
“I saw it. When is your birthday?”
Should I answer? She was my mother, she knew my birthday. “Next month.”
“So it’s already 11 months you told me you would think about returning to Belle-Ville.”
Last birthday, Mama asked that I leave Beaumont back to Belle-Ville. She claimed that the city was not a husband-fertile ground, that city guys looked for frivolous qualities such as physical beauty, an impressive curriculum vitae, and comfortable paycheck because they wanted women that could enhance their persona. In Belle-Ville, worthy men considered your Christian life, your relationship with your parents, and your ability to make a home.
I didn’t blame the city men. The cost of living in big cities like Beaumont is so high only the wealthy or financially rigorous can afford underemployed or non-working wives.
“Mama, I’m in a bus right now. When I reach home, I’ll call you.”
I dropped the call just in time for an incoming call to jump in. Felicity Balak, fondly called Mummy Felicity. I smiled. Like everyone else, my pastor’s wife wasn’t perfect, but there was something she possessed in abundance—a godly jealousy over the flock she helped her husband to shepherd. Though fourteen years separated our ages, she was my second mother; I loved her.
I swiped the phone’s screen. “Good afternoon, Mummy.”
“Bless you, Betty. If you have time, come to the house right now.” Mummy dropped the call.
That was Felicity Balak, straight shooter when she was the one footing the call’s bill.
What could be so urgent that it couldn’t wait till the midweek service on Wednesday?
It is inevitable not to think in a certain direction when an intense desire consumes you. Because Mummy Felicity was one of those fretting over my lack of marriage, I immediately pictured a well-groomed tall Christian man in the manse, waiting to be introduced to me.
The benevolent God grants his children’s desires, so I visualized this light-complexioned man, shaved hair, and a groomed black beard to spice up the already too handsome physique. We dated for a few months and got wedded by Pastor Carl Balak at the end of the year.
Watching other vehicles, people, and buildings through the bus’s window, I fastened a smile to my face. Something told me that Mummy’s call was the beginning of the fulfillment of last night’s dream. After a new woman seized me from my groom–possibly Ithiel—I’d gotten another man under the watchful eyes of Felicity Balak.
Yes, today was that day to finally meet Mr. Right. I paid the driver and dropped to board another bus or taxi to Green Way. Alan Benedict would have to wait longer.
Mummy sat on the lawn, her back to the driveway, drying her shoulder-length yellowing hair under the weak afternoon sun. She hated the electric dryer, often accused it of weakening her hairs into their present brittle state.
Her last child, a little girl of four, ate rice under the spacious pillared porch of the yellow green building that served as the pastor’s house and offices. The large church hall stood several meters to the left of the manse.
My steps slowed as my mind feared I’d visualized mere fantasies. If Mummy was out on the lawn air-drying her hair, it was unlikely there was a potential Mr. Right waiting for me inside. My high hopes plummeted.
Mummy saw my reflection on the window glass and turned, smiling. The fingertip-sized black mole beside her left nostril stood conspicuous against the backdrop of her light skin.
“Welcome. I wasn’t sure you’d come today.”
All right, I get it. There’s no tall fair Christian man inside. I stepped on the lawn. “You called when I was on a bus going towards Cadex. I decided to come here instead.”
“Good. The matter at hand is very urgent.”
I inspected Mama’s face. Nothing there to fear. Maybe the summons had to do with my solo singing aspirations or choir duties.
Mummy felt her hair, glanced at her wet fingers, and hissed. She pointed to the house. “Go in. Find something to eat, and then grab a chair. We can talk here.”
So finally, there is no Mr. Right.
Not hungry, I entered the house and snatched a four-legged plastic chair from the stack that usually stayed near the door, ready for use when there was an overflow in church attendance. I sat a few feet away from Mummy.
“How are you?” she asked.
“I’m fine. Work is fine.”
“How far with the online dating? Any better contacts?”
I shook my head, let my eyes travel from Mummy’s face down to the lawn.
After the breakup with Ithiel, while still nursing hopes for reconciliation, I’d gone online to spread my eggs into several baskets. I created accounts on two dating sites, a Christian and a secular site.
On the secular site, confined to Tellasborg, I emphasized through my profile title that, “Christian men only.” Yet I received contacts from men who longed for a one-night stand or asked for my nudes.
The International Christian site yielded some meaningful chats. With no commitments. I learned that even online, patience was key. And I doubted that I had enough reserves to last long.
“Well,” Mummy said, picking up her phone from the grass. “We have other options.” She tapped the screen and gave it to me. “That’s Rhoda. She was my small in boarding school. She’s just two years younger than me.”
I examined the dark face, noting her curly synthetic fiber and studded gold earrings. Okay, so how does this concern my desire for marriage?
“She called me last night with the best news ever. She’s finally getting married for the first time. At 40.”
Hmm. I looked at the face more carefully. Two years seemed too short a distance between this face and Mummy’s brow that now welcomed fine wrinkly lines. Effects of childbirth and ministry strain?
But how did the marriage concern me? “Do you want me to join her train or sing during the wedding?”
“Well, you can sing there, but that’s not why I called you.” Mummy stopped touching her hair and pulled her chair closer. “Why did she have to wait till 40 to get married? The why is why I’ve called you here.”
Oh, no, Mama, I can’t and won’t wait till 40. Don’t tell me to just love Jesus and forget about marriage. No, it won’t happen!
“Rhoda called me last night with a chilling story. You know, when she used to call me about her desire for marriage and how the wait was agonizing, I would tell her to be patient, that God’s timing was the best.”
Yeah, that’s exactly what I don’t want you to tell me. God’s timing is NOW.
“A few months back, she got troubled. Why would God make her wait for so long? She was faithful, abstinent, loving God as much as she could. You see from the picture that she’s not an ugly woman.
“So she decided to fast and pray. On the fifth day of her fast, God opened her eyes to this huge demonic opposition against her. The plan was to delay marriage until she would become discouraged and walk away from God.
“She nearly slept with a married man to have a child. Everything was in place, she was on her fertile period, they were in a hotel room far away from prying eyes.
“But bless God, before she could finish undressing, the Holy Spirit reminded her of her first love. And bless God, she obeyed and ran out of that hotel room.”
My mental eyes followed a whimpering Rhoda scurry down the stairs of the hotel building to the pavement and into a car. The miserable single woman, seeking to wake up from the nightmare, shut the door, reversed the car, and then scampered away from the scene of temptation.
“Thank God for intervention,” I said, lost for words.
“Two weeks after her fast, Rhoda met Mr. Right. They’re getting married next month.”
“Wow. That’s beautiful.”
“When she told me the story last night, I immediately thought of you, Anita, Kebul, and Grace. All of you girls in this church that are above 28 and still single.”
“I’m not saying you girls are facing the same challenge, but one never knows. If Rhoda had known what was hindering her from getting married, she would have dealt with it long ago instead of just waiting.”
I nodded, though disturbed to think demonic hindrance was the reason for my protracted singleness. How? My innocence had been stolen—ah, not really stolen for I’d consented to the act—by a neighbor’s son when I was 13 during our mockups of parental life in the forest behind our house in Belle-Ville. Since then, I’d not slept with a man. I got born-again at 17 and had served the Lord faithfully for that length of time.
“Betty, we shall leave no stone unturned,” Mummy said, reading into my face. “I’m not accusing you of anything, but you’re not getting younger.”
I shrugged my shoulders. With unsuccessful online and offline connections, was it not time to embrace other options? No harm could come out from such ventures even if there was no demonic hindrance in my case.
Mummy picked up her phone and dialed a number. She waited for the ring, but instead the call stopped.
“When I talk with Kebul and the rest, and also look at my itinerary, I’ll send the full details to you. But be prepared for at least 3 days of complete fasting when the time comes.”
I submitted to the plan, then informed Mummy about the possible record deal with Brightstone Music.
She shook her head, her lips outturned such that the left corner of her upper lip touched the black mole by her nose. “Betty, put that on hold. This is not time for any recording thing. If you never become a recording artist, that would still be okay, you’re a wonderful chorister. But I can’t continue to see you stay single. This year or next year, we must celebrate your marriage.”