(Continued from Rachel)
Rachel breaks free and pushes George away. She is embarrassed even before she knows who has entered.
“Rachel?” a female voice calls out.
Rachel looks up and comes face to face with Carol. Carol is the one person she considers her best friend. But Carol also happens to be hopelessly in love with George, and she has told Rachel this many times. Rachel has in the past tried to dissuade her from George because “he will break your heart, sweetheart”. Now Carol has found her kissing the same George. Rachel is sure that Carol will think that she didn’t want her (Carol) to date George because she (Rachel) wanted him for herself.
“Carol, believe me it is not what you think,”
“You, Rachel? I would never imagine that you would betray me like this,”
“What do you mean by betray?” George asks.
“Shut up George. Carol loves you and you are too stupid to see,” Rachel replies, trying to do damage control.
“Oh you are here,” Pastor Calistus interrupts them as he enters the room.
“Yes pastor, we are,” George replies, solemnly. He is the best actor Rachel has ever seen, smooth as a snake. Now he is acting like a saint, as if he has not been kissing the youth secretary seconds ago.
“Hello Carol and George. I would like to steal Rachel for a minute, if that is okay with you,”
They nod and Rachel leaves. She is a leader in the church, so there is nothing unusual with the pastor looking for her.
“Sister Rachel,” Pastor Calistus says once they are in the privacy of his office. “I do not know how to go about this so I will go straight to the point. I am in love with you, and I would like us to get to know each other more…personally. I do not expect you to say anything about your feelings for me today, because I know this is probably surprising to you, all I am asking is that you think about it.”
Rachel is stunned. What? Pastor Calistus? She would never have seen that coming. Pastor Calistus has always seemed so disinterested in women…all women. He is good looking, true. And Rachel has fleetingly thought about him once or twice. But not anything serious, just those thoughts about the impossible that linger for a minute then disappear.
But the pastor’s timing is awful. Right now the only thing Rachel is thinking about is George’s kisses. As much as she wants to forget him for the sake of Carol, she cannot forget that feeling when he was holding her and kissing her. She wants to be held again, kissed again. She knows she shouldn’t be feeling that way, but she cannot help it. All she wants is George. She feels bad about betraying Carol, but what is she supposed to do about this longing, this ache she has for George? Besides, is it her fault that George wants her and not Carol?
“That is truly surprising, Pastor. I don’t know what to say. I have never thought about you that way. How do you suggest we get to know each other?”
“Perhaps we could start with you being my Valentine tomorrow,”
Tomorrow she wants to be at George’s side. Then perhaps after the event they can…you know. Wait, no. She cannot be entertaining such thoughts. What has become of her? Has George bewitched her?
“I am sorry Pastor, but I have a date tomorrow,” she hears herself say, still thinking about George.
“It is okay Rachel, I understand. But I want you to promise me that if you change your mind, you will let me know. So that I don’t have to call you again to go through this uncomfortable conversation,”
“Okay, Pastor,” Rachel says. This has to be the most awkward conversation she has had in the recent past. But she is glad that he has rolled the ball into her court because she has no intention of calling him about this matter ever again. “I have to get back to the hall and see what is going on.”
“Okay, all the best,” Calistus replies.
After she leaves, Calistus leans back on his seat and sighs deeply. All along he had not factored in the fact that she could be having a boyfriend. He has never seen her with anybody. But who says she has to get a boyfriend from church? Maybe she is dating a colleague at work. Or a childhood friend. Or a former college mate. He should have known. A beautiful and sober girl like Rachel cannot remain single for too long.
There is an ache in his heart that he cannot explain. He can no longer concentrate on his Sunday sermon preparation, so he decides to go home. He will worry about the sermon tomorrow.
“Wait, Carol,” George says, holding Carol by the sleeve as she turns to storm out of the boardroom.
“What do you want with me George? You already have Rachel,”
“I have always loved you Carol, but you hardly give me a chance to even talk to you. I thought you hated me. I have always told Rachel how much I love you, but she told me I don’t stand a chance. She says I disgust you,” George says smoothly.
“You told Rachel that you loved me?” Carol asked, perplexed.
“Every time we meet, I beg her to speak to you on my behalf. I ask her to convince you that I am not as bad as people say I am,”
“Then what were you doing kissing her?”
“She kissed me and I became weak. I am so sorry Carol. But I did not even know you love me. I thought I had lost you forever,” George says, cupping her face into his hands. “Please forgive me baby.”
He is on the verge of tears. Carol desperately wants to believe him even though she knows he is a certified liar. She cannot believe that Rachel would betray her like that, but what George is saying makes perfect sense. Rachel wanted George for herself, so she told him that she, Carol, hated him. Then on the other hand told her (Carol) that George is not good enough for her. Having sowed seeds of discord, Rachel moves and kisses George to confuse him and claim him as hers. Such a wicked plan from someone who likes to play saint. She, Carol, will never speak to that witch again.
As tears start rolling down Carol’s face, George pulls her closer to himself and plants a kiss on her lips.
Rachel walks towards the boardroom briskly. She hopes to find George still there. She hates the fact that this man is now becoming an obsession, but she cannot help it. That kiss has inflamed her emotions. It has awoken feelings in her that she never knew existed.
She opens the door of the boardroom in anticipation. George is there alright, but he is holding Carol in his arms. When they turn to look at her, the venom in Carol’s eyes is unmistakable. Rachel wants to say something but she cannot find the right words. Then Carol turns suddenly and kisses George deeply on the lips. George hesitates and seems to struggle a bit, then relents and returns the kiss with passion.
Rachel is sure she can hear the sound of her heart breaking. She walks quickly to Jubilee Hall, picks her handbag and leaves. Nancy calls after her but she ignores her. She cannot dare talk to anyone because she will break down and cry. But as she is walking past the parking lot towards the main gate, Pastor Calistus stops her.
“Are you leaving already? Is everything set for tomorrow?”
Rachel nods. She does not dare to open her mouth. She wants to continue walking, but Calistus is standing on her path.
“What is it Rachel? You do not look okay,” Calistus says.
Rachel bursts out crying. Without thinking, Calistus takes her in his arms and hugs her, forgetting his personal code about men not touching women they are not married to. There is nothing romantic about the hug, and no hormones are involved. Calistus is simply touched by her tears and wants to comfort her. When she stops crying, he offers her a ride home.
She sits at the front passenger seat of his car, breaking another of his cardinal rules.
Asenath, Associate Pastor Leonard’s wife, watches with glee from her office window as Calistus hugs Rachel. This is the moment she has been waiting for. She is even more pleased to notice that she is not the only witness: there are a few congregants tending to their cars in the parking lot, and who have stopped to watch the spectacle of their conservative pastor hugging a woman. She takes out her phone and takes photographs. As Rachel enters Calistus’ car, Asenath is busy taking photographs. When they are gone, Asenath calls her lover Nixon, the chairman of the church’s board of deacons. She informs him that she has a plan to bring down Calistus.
Nixon is a wealthy businessman, but he loves money more than anything else in the world. He hates the fact that Kingdom Oasis Chapel spends millions of its earnings on mission work. The church has attracted wealthy congregants over the years, and so collects millions annually. But Calistus earns a modest salary and insists that the bulk of the church’s collections be spent on missions. Deacons do not even earn sitting allowances. Only pastors and full time employees of the church get paid.
Kingdom Oasis Chapel has planted two churches in Turkana, and each church has a health center and a school, fully funded by Kingdom Oasis Chapel. Pupils and patients do not pay even a cent to access the services. Kingdom Oasis Chapel also pays the pastors and staff of the two churches, so that the impoverished members are not burdened with tithes and offerings. They are only expected to give what they can, if they can, and their offerings are channeled back to the needy in the community. Pastor Calistus is very strict about this. The two schools have feeding programs. Children are served porridge when they report to school at seven in the morning, they get lunch at twelve and supper when classes end at five.
Nixon has always wanted to control this money but he knows that to do that, he would have to get rid of Calistus. That is how he and Asenath got together in the first place. They both agree that Leonard is a weakling, and with him at the top, they can do whatever they want with the church’s finances.
Pastor Leonard is a very unhappy man. He is tired of being insulted and criticized by his wife. Asenath keeps accusing him of being weak for playing second fiddle to Calistus, even though this church was founded by Calistus. Leonard and Calistus have been friends for many years. They were Christian Union leaders at Jamhuri High School. Calistus was the chairman, Leonard was the vice chairman.
Driven by their zeal to serve God, they joined Africa for Christ Mission, a missionary group founded by an Australian pastor, as volunteers. Reverend Lawson, the Australian, noticed their zeal and invited them to a theology school in his native Australia.
Calistus found Samantha when they were in Australia. She was a Kenyan student at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. They dated for about a year then got married at Rev. Lawson’s church which was also located in Sydney, Australia. Calistus and Leonard were serving at Lawson’s church as they attended Bible School. After graduation, they came back to Africa for Christ Mission as paid staff. They were both based in Kapenguria. But a couple of years later they sought Rev. Lawson’s blessings to leave and plant churches. Rev. Lawson released them with an open heart.
By then, Leonard had found a beautiful girl in Kapenguria by the name Asenath and married her. She was a graduate, but had failed to secure a job in Nairobi and so had been forced to go back home. When Leonard married her, she was a shopkeeper in Kapenguria town. She did not particularly like Leonard, and she didn’t care much about religion. She married him because she saw him as her ticket out of poverty. She longed for the high life in Nairobi and she could not see any other way out of “backward Kapenguria” as she called her hometown. She knew that the two foreign-educated pastors serving as missionaries would not stay there forever. They would ultimately go back to Nairobi. She would have preferred Calistus because she thought he was more good-looking, more ambitious and more self-driven. But Calistus was already married and very much in love with his wife Samantha. So she settled for Leonard.
Asenath is very competitive. Planting a church was actually her idea. When Leonard came home one day and told her that Calistus was leaving Kapenguria to go and open a church, she asked him why he didn’t think of doing the same. Leonard said he was comfortable serving as a missionary. He will never forget the look of disdain she shot at him.
Over the next couple of weeks she pressured him to tender his resignation until he relented. Calistus and Samantha had already agreed that they would found a church in Juja. Leonard did not have a plan. He would have preferred to found a rural church, so that he could do work similar to what he was doing in Kapenguria, but Asenath wanted a church in Nairobi. Leonard suggested Donholm, but Asenath wanted “upmarket” and they settled on Westlands as their church base.
Leonard managed to get two Asian converts to support the young church financially. He and Asenath rented a house in Kileleshwa and the young church grew steadily at first. Asenath was very sweet those first few months. But as the church started growing, her arrogance started showing. By the second year, many of the new members left. The Asians fled and joined other churches in the third year, leaving Leonard and Asenath in the red. They were struggling, but they were too proud to admit it and lived on debt.
Eventually, their landlord in Kileleshwa got tired of them and kicked them out. They resulted to living in their former church, but two months later they were kicked out as well. That is when Leonard called Calistus seeking help. By then Kingdom Oasis Chapel had fifteen hundred regular congregants, a majority of them middle class. Calistus hired Leonard as his Associate Pastor without hesitating.
But recently Asenath has started “wondering” why her husband is not the senior pastor. Leonard no longer looks forward to going home because all Asenath talks about is how weak he is.
He is desperately trying to find something to do that will keep him in the office longer when the door bursts open and Asenath enters.
“Are you ready to be the senior pastor?” she asks her husband, her eyes twinkling.
“What are you talking about?”
She opens her phone’s gallery and shows him the photos. Leonard’s mouth drops. For a moment he imagines that Asenath has photoshopped the photos. But the photos look too real.
“By tomorrow these photos will be on social media,” Asenath is saying. “Every single congregant will see them. Bloggers will give juicy details of the affair between pastor and Rachel. I will even hire Photoshop gurus to give us a few nudes just to make sure that Calistus and Rachel trend tomorrow. A board meeting will be called and Calistus will be fired.”
“Why would you do that Asenath? Calistus has been good to us,”
“Listen to me Leonard. I will handle all this myself. All I need you to do is to accept when the Board of Deacons installs you as the new lead pastor. Don’t you dare let me down with your misplaced loyalty to Calistus,” she warns him sternly.
Leonard sighs sadly. He knows he will do as she says, even though reluctantly. He wishes he had never met this woman.
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