The sun was high up in the sky, making the environment around us slightly warm. It was 10:00 am on Sunday, Noah and I with Zozo in the backseat drove into the street leading to my church. The church had three services every Sunday; one at 7 am, the next at 10 am and the third at 1 pm. Zozo and I usually went for the 7 am service because it was preferable for us but when Noah said he wanted to come along I decided to change it to the next service so that he didn't have to wake up so early in the morning.
Cars were packed on both sides of the road leading to the church building indicating that the church's parking lot must be filled up with cars. Noah stopped the car in front of the church's main gate for us to get down before moving forward to look for a free parking spot ahead.
I smoothened out the creases on my gown before grabbing Zozo's hand and walked into the church premises. The church is a massive building, painted in cream thick coats that indicated that it had been painted numerous times. The church sometimes gave the feel of a convent because of the covered passage with arches. We were quite early as the recessional hymn for the previous service was still being played by the church organist and there were a few people huddled up in groups greeting each other; women standing at the corner catching up with their friends and family, some people gathered around the church dues payment point which was at the corner of the gallery where pregnant and nursing mothers stayed during the service and the rest leaving the church for home.
I held Zozo's hand firmly as we weaved through the crowd of people so that she didn't get lost. The children's section of the church was located on the first floor on the left side of the building.
I picked her up as we reached the flight of stairs leading to the children's section. The door of the children's section was wide open upon our arrival and I could see some of the aunties who taught the children sweeping hastily. The ground was filled with cabin biscuit nylons and orange-flavored Caprisone drink that they must have shared for the children from the previous service.
I walked over to aunty Grace, the woman in charge of the entire children section and handed Zozo over to her. She is a short and plump woman with a protruding belly that made her look like she was expecting when she wasn't. Although she is a mother of three so I guessed that was the three pregnancies must have enlarged her stomach. She is another person I know who always had a smile on her face which made children comfortable around her.
There were a few children seated at the corner of the room that had already been swept, aunty Grace walked Zozo to the group of children and I noticed Zozo's body language change a little when she didn't recognize any of children around her. It was expected since all of her friends went for the first service. She took a seat beside one of the girls but her eyes kept darting to where I was as if pleading with me to take her with me.
I took that as my cue to leave because I knew that the longer I stayed there the stronger that idea in her head would be and before I know she would start crying to go with me. I wasn't worried about leaving her there because I knew that in no time, she would warm up to the kids there. It was a trait I used to have when I was younger until I got pregnant and all that gory stuff happened then I became more reserved.
On reaching the bottom of the stairs, I saw Noah walk into the church premises. He looked nicely dresses in his light pink colored trousers and jacket with a plain inner shirt that was lighter in color. The color pink did look good on him; in fact, everything he put on looked good on him.
￼"Did you finally find where to park?" I asked as soon as I reached him.
"Yeah. I had to wait for a family who was leaving to drive out and then park in their space" he replied.
On cue, the tune of the processional hymn filled the space indicating that the second service had just begun. We walked hand in hand into the main church building and an usher standing by the door handed us the Sunday bulletin which contained the 'ORDER OF SERVICE' and other information like events that were coming up the following week and so on.
The cold air blasting from the air conditioners hit us first as we entered the church. I led Noah to my usual spot in the church; it was in the middle row towards the left side of the hall and the music band and singers were positioned in front of the row of chairs.
The spot was perfect for me because I could see everything that was going on at the altar and didn't have to feel like the vicar was staring me right in the eyeballs as he preached.
The congregation began to disperse as soon as the final 'AMEN' was said. Once we stepped out of the main building, the humid warm air embraced us which made feel like turning around and heading back to the air-conditioned church.
Noah and I headed over to the children's section to pick Zozo up and like I had predicted, she had gotten along with some of the children there. We watched her wave her new friends goodbye before running towards us.
Noah picked her up before we began to go down the flight of stairs and then past the gallery leading to the gate. We were about stepping out of the church gate when I heard a voice call my name.
I immediately recognized the voice to be that of Favour or 'sister Favour' which she preferred to be called. She is the leader of the Young Ladies Fellowship (YLF) held by the church for young, unmarried ladies.
I turned around to find her amid two other young ladies; she held out a hand that signified I should hold on for her. I inwardly groaned at the same time plastering a smile on my face and nodding my head 'okay'.
Is it bad that I want to come to church, worship God, and go back home without being ambushed by anybody?
Noah decided to go ahead with Zozo to the car and bring it around to pick me up, hopefully, I would've been done with the conversation.
Five minutes later, she waved the ladies goodbye and walked over to where I had moved to sit waiting for her.
"Sorry for keeping you" she said when she got to me.
"No problem" I assured her. "Any issues?"
"No oo. I just wanted to invite you to the YLF meetings we have Wednesdays" she said. "I noticed that you don't come for it"
"I work from Monday- Friday, so I wouldn't be able to make it" I explained.
"Sister, just try and come, you won't regret it. It starts at 4 pm and ends by 5 pm, so it's only for an hour" she persisted
I was about to give her another excuse but I decided against it knowing it would be futile, judging by how determined she looked.
"I'll try, but I'm not making any promises"
She clapped her hand as if stamping on my word. "As long as you'll try, God will make it possible for you"
"Amen. Thank you"
"Let me have your number so that I can add you to the group chat and also call to remind you" she said reaching into her handbag for her phone.
Oh God. I inwardly groaned
I reluctantly called out my number to her and I watched with profound amazement at how fast she was able to save the number. I didn't even have to call the digits twice.
Just in time, Noah arrived in the car with Zozo in the backseat and I couldn't be happier to escape before she could ask me for any other thing but my joy was short-lived when she made her next statement.
"Aah, you people have a car. Let me follow you now" she announced.
Jesus Christ. I said mentally
We finally got to my apartment after dropping off Sister Favour at the junction leading to her street which was the closest we could take her.
"I would invite you in for Sunday rice and stew but my cooking is terrible so I wouldn't want to put you through the horror" I said truthfully
"I find that hard to believe" he countered
"I'm serious" I said. "This is not me trying to be modest"
He made a face that said he didn't believe me one bit.
"You know what. Come on in" I decided he would have to learn the hard way.
We moved into my apartment and I took Zozo into the room, so we could change out of our church dresses. After that, I left Zozo with Noah and headed into the kitchen to warm up the leftover white rice and stew (tomato soup) that I made the day before.
Fifteen minutes later, a tray with a plate of rice and a soup bowl of stew was placed in front of Noah and I had a plastic plate of rice mixed with stew for Zozo. I placed a couple of serviettes on beside the tray for him and a bottle of water.
"Okay, time to eat" Noah said rubbing his palms against each other.
I watched him with a suppressed smile as he picked his spoon and took a spoonful of rice mixed with stew. He tried to stop his face from contorting in disgust but failed miserably before quickly grabbing a couple of serviettes and spitting into it.
I laughed heartily. "I don't even feel bad for you. I warned you"
"I don't understand. You bake so well" he said bewildered
"I don't know too myself. I've tried learning by watching YouTube videos but I still find it hard" I said
"Man" he exclaimed as he gulped the bottled water.
"Is that a deal-breaker for you?" I asked slightly dreading the answer
"What?" he said with furrowed eyebrows
"Me not being able to cook" I clarified
"Why would that be a deal-breaker for me?"
"Well, most Nigerian men prefer women who can cook" I said
"I think I've already proved to you that I'm not like most men" he said and I let out a breath of relief.
"I don't care if you can cook or not, I love you because you're you and not because of what you can do and not do" he said making my heart skip a few beats. "Besides, I love cooking and I wouldn't mind cooking for both of you"
"Wait, you can cook?" I asked
He dusted off imaginary dirt from his shoulder blade. "If I wasn't a doctor, I could comfortably be a chef. That's how good I am"
"Please. You're so full of yourself" I rolled my eyes playfully
"I take that as an invitation to cook for you" he stated firmly.
"Whatever you want" I shrugged my shoulder before pulling Zozo closer to me and giving her a spoon of the food.
Noah's mouth hung open as he watched Zozo slowly chew the rice and swallow before opening up for another spoon of rice.
"What the –"Noah said flabbergasted. "How is she eating it?"
"Well, she loves her mummy so much –"I started with a smile "—and also because this is the only cooking she knows."
"Oh my God" Noah placed a hand on her head. "Poor baby"
"Tah. Get out" I said playfully swatting his hand away.
Zozo chuckled out even though she had no idea what we were talking about making us laugh along with her.
How was the chapter, guys?
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