(Note: I wrote this piece three years ago, on 31st March 2017. But like last month’s bonus story, I wrote it as a short story, not as a novella. I have therefore modified the storyline a little to open it up so that I can expand it into this month’s bonus novella)
Celestine feels numb. The coffee in the mug has now grown cold, yet it has hardly been tasted. Her hands are trembling, so she pulls the shawl around herself. She is still wearing the black chiffon dress she had worn to the airport. She puts the mug of coffee on the glass table and stretches herself on the sofa. It is getting dark but she does not have the energy to switch on the lights. Things were not meant to turn out like this.
She is 28. A Bachelor of Commerce degree graduate with a promising career at an investment firm. She is married to Moses, the youth pastor who swept her off her feet four years ago. He was not the first man she dated though. First, there was Benedict.
She met Benedict at the University, when they were both first years. Having been brought up in a strict Christian family, Celestine was just discovering the new freedoms in a public university, away from the stern eyes of her father and the sharp tongue of her mother. So she had set herself loose and started experimenting with alcohol and sex. She slept with a few of her classmates before Benedict happened.
He came crashing into her life like a tornado. Sweeping out everything in her life, including and especially common sense. He was not particularly good looking. Some might even argue he was ugly, but as they say, beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Neither did he have a chiseled body. He leaned towards the heavier side of the weight scale. But he was a devil. In fact, he may have been the main devil himself. He did not care what anybody thought about him. What he wanted, he got. He did not even attempt to dress well. He had a pair of ancient jeans that he perennially wore, plus a faded blue T-shirt and ageing sandals. Not from lack though. He came from a wealthy family, and even had a white saloon car given to him by his mother for his twenty first birthday. But he did not feel the need to impress anybody. And Celestine adored him for it.
It is while dating Benedict that she started drinking heavily and started chain smoking. She even tried marijuana, which was Benedict’s staple food, but did not like it. They lived for the party. But, perhaps as a sign of their brilliance, they still passed their exams.
It all ended one early morning. They had been partying at a club all night when, at about 3am, Benedict decided they should go back to the campus. Celestine suggested they take a taxi, because they were both very drunk. But Benedict would hear none of it and insisted that he would drive. Their friends refused to get on board, opting to take a taxi instead. But Celestine was a loyal girlfriend, so she hopped onto the front passenger seat. Benedict started the car and clumsily reversed it. Then he guided it out of the parking lot and sped into the highway. Being drunk, Celestine dozed off. Suddenly there was a loud bang. Then darkness.
When she came to, Celestine was in a hospital bed with a broken leg, a dislocated shoulder and a bruised face. And a dead boyfriend. Her friends told her later that their car had had a head on collision with another car. Benedict had died on the spot. How she survived was a miracle. Her parents were horrified not only because of the accident, but also because the accident made them learn about their daughter’s lifestyle away from home. Where had they gone wrong while bringing her up? But someone else was even more shocked than they were. Shaken to the core actually. Celestine herself.
During her month long stay at the hospital, she decided to be more responsible with her life. To be more mature. Nothing radical, just growing up. But two months after leaving the hospital, she got saved and her life radically changed. This was during the second semester of her third year. The rest of her campus life revolved around the Christian Union and her studies. And the one area of her life that changed radically was her dating life. She took a chastity vow. No more casual flings. No more dating non-believers. So she did not date anyone again for the rest of her school life.
She met Moses one year after her graduation.
Moses is a charismatic youth pastor. He is witty and so his sermons are a joy to listen to. And boy, he can sing! His deep baritone fills the sanctuary with awe whenever he picks up his guitar at the middle of a sermon. And he is a prayerful man. The congregants often hear him on Sunday mornings praying in the Power House before service begins, confounding demons with tongues that neither the demons, nor the sons of men can comprehend. But when he is not in a prayer mode, he has a lovely, dimpled smile. The dream man for every Christian girl.
Celestine had a crush on him right after she joined the church. But it was a celebrity crush. Almost every single girl in the church also had a crush on Pastor Mose, as they called him. Perhaps even some of the younger married women regretted rushing to tie the knot. Being a celebrity crush, Celestine knew that her feelings for the pastor were nothing more than fantasy. Especially because she was not active in the youth group. Although she by then was a devoted Christian, she shied away from any front line service in the church. She wasn’t part of the worship team, intercessory team, ushering team or hospitality team. She was just a girl who loved God from the back bench. And though she was committed to the home cell Bible study, her Bible study group was different from the pastor’s. So there was no way Pastor Moses would notice her.
Then one day she went to Mrs. Mativo’s home for Bible Study as was her norm, and found him there. Mrs. Mativo is a widow with grown children who are all studying or working abroad, and so lives alone. She has hosted the Bible Study for eight years now. Celestine would go early on the day of the Bible study to help her cook. Mrs. Mativo always insisted on feeding her small congregation. When Celestine went to Mrs. Mativo’s home that day, she was surprised to find Pastor Moses there. Apparently the Senior Pastor had asked him to oversee all the Bible Study groups in the church, so every now and then he would visit a Bible study group at random. That day he had decided to visit theirs.
After greeting him, Celestine went to the kitchen to help Mrs. Mativo. But the older lady shooed her away and told her to keep the pastor company. And so Celestine and the pastor got talking. By the end of the evening, he had her number.
He called her the following day, and asked her out on a date the following week. Before long, they were going on regular dates. The members of the church started whispering, so he asked her to be his girlfriend to make their relationship official. It was like a dream for Celestine. God had answered the prayers she had been too afraid to make. The impossible had become possible. They got married in a colorful wedding ceremony after one year of dating.
Celestine’s eyes fill with tears as these memories play in her mind. Her eyes are red and sore. The cup of coffee she had prepared to calm her nerves is now forgotten. She has cried until she can cry no more. Why Lord, why?
Today she was scheduled to leave for Zanzibar for an office retreat. But she missed her 10 am flight. Her boss managed to get her on another flight, but it was scheduled for 6pm. So she returned to the house to wait for evening. She was not surprised when she saw her husband’s car parked outside. Being a pastor, his hours are flexible, and he sometimes passes by the house while heading to a meeting away from the church.
She entered the house with a smile. Moses is still as witty as he ever was, and she expected he would say something silly when he saw her in the house, instead of being in the sky on her way to Zanzibar. He was not in the living room or the kitchen, so she assumed he was in the bedroom, resting. She found him there alright, but he was not resting.
Celestine found her husband with another woman on their matrimonial bed, and they were not doing an exposition of second Chronicles or singing classical hymns. She recognized the woman as Mercy, the worship leader at their church. Impulsively, she screamed, catching them by surprise. Deeply engaged in the throes of their steamy, carnal form of worship, they had not heard her enter the room. Mercy quickly covered herself with a bed sheet and scampered behind Moses, who turned to face his wife.
“Aren’t you supposed to be in Zanzibar?” Moses asked calmly, after recovering from the initial surprise.
Celestine was too dazed to talk. Moses calmly picked his clothes from the floor and dressed. Mercy hurriedly threw her dress over her body. Then they left in Moses’ car, leaving Celestine in an empty house.
It is now way past 6 pm, but she doesn’t care about flights or retreats anymore. Her husband is yet to come back, and for all she knows, they went to finish their activity at Mercy’s house. What is she supposed to do?
And there is more. This morning she discovered that she is pregnant, but decided that she wouldn’t tell him while in a hurry. She would tell him when she came back from Zanzibar. One part of her mind is telling her to disappear from his life, leave the heart break alone and go start all over again. That he doesn’t even deserve to know that she is carrying his child.
But another part of her mind is telling her that she should go ahead and tell him. That perhaps the responsibility of being a father would make him more devoted to her. For some reason she still yearns for his love, approval and affection. So she picks her phone and calls him.
She is surprised when he picks. Part of her had thought that he would ignore her calls.
“Hi babe, when are you coming home?”
He does not respond immediately, and she imagines that perhaps he has not heard.
“We need to talk, Celestine,”
“Yea, we do. There is something I need to tell you,”
“What is that?”
“I am pregnant,”
“That is strange,”
“Strange? That is all you have to say?”
“Mercy is carrying my baby too. That is what I wanted to tell you.”
Celestine suddenly feels hot knives slicing her intestines. Her world collapses around her ears.
(CONTINUED HERE. )
To purchase a copy of this month’s novella Vanuatu, you can follow either one of two ways:
- Digital Method. Log in to the bookstore- register if you are new-(https://www.maroncha.com/book-store). Select the book (Vanuatu). Add to cart, check out then pay. You will be able to download instantly from the bookstore. A copy will also be automatically sent to your email.
- Manual Method. Pay Kshs. 100 to Buy Goods Till Number 297264. Send us an email at email@example.com us your M-PESA name and the book you wish to purchase (Vanuatu). It might take us some time to process your order, but we will email your copy once we have verified your payment. If you are using the manual system and wish to buy my previous books, just log in to the bookstore (https://www.maroncha.com/book-store) and you will see all the previous titles. You can then pay for any of them.
Remember you can always inbox Sanctuaryside on Facebook or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have a query or feedback.
See you all on Tuesday.