Romance

Rachel III-Edward Maroncha

(Continued from Rachel II)

Silas is standing alone outside the main church sanctuary. He stepped out of Jubilee Hall and had been going to the boardroom, where he knew Rachel was alone, but George beat him to it. So he went past the boardroom and pretended that he had been going to the main sanctuary. He met Pastor Calistus on the way and they chatted briefly before the pastor headed towards the hall. Apparently he was also looking for Rachel.

Silas thinks about Rachel often. She is the woman he is madly in love with, but she also made it quite obvious that she only considers him to be a friend. Due to the nature of their close friendship, many people used to ask whether they are a couple, but Rachel would laugh it off, as if that is a very ridiculous idea.

Although he usually played along, it hurt Silas every time she dismissed the idea. Isn’t he good enough for her? What is it that he lacks? But that was before he started dating Martha. Now nobody questions his friendship to Rachel and he has to fight harder to bottle up his feelings for her. He suspects that she likes George, even though she vehemently denies it. She obviously enjoys his attention. And that makes Silas very jealous.

Of course he shouldn’t feel jealous because he has his own girlfriend, but in the past he has questioned his feelings towards Martha. Does he love her enough to live with her for the rest of his life? Pastor Calistus says that love is not just a feeling, it is also a choice. That we choose to love someone even with their shortcomings.

The truth is, Martha’s drama is starting to wear him down, and he is no longer so sure whether he can survive a lifetime with her. If he were to be honest with himself, then he would admit to himself that he asked Martha out in a failed attempt to make himself forget Rachel. And probably to make Rachel jealous. The forgetting part didn’t work. He thinks about her more and more every day. But he suspects that the jealousy part is working.

In a ridiculous twist of events, he has noticed that Rachel has been looking at him in some sort of way ever since he started dating Martha. Almost as if she loves him and regrets pushing him away. He has been telling her about his woes with Martha to gauge her reaction, but as usual Rachel is unreadable. She maintains a calm, indifferent approach to his relationship woes, even as she offers advice that he certainly doesn’t need. Recently he told her that he intends to marry Martha, and he thought he noticed hurt in her eyes and facial expression. But it was so subtle that he is no longer so sure whether it was there or he imagined it.

That puts him in a very difficult position. He knows he doesn’t want to spend the rest of his life with Martha, but he also knows he has raised her expectations. Martha is dramatic, possessive, insecure and even a bit self-centered, but deep down she is a good person. Silas suspects that she truly loves him, even though she has strange ways of showing it.

He feels bad because he isn’t able to love her the way he loves Rachel. Leaving her will be difficult. There will be bucket loads of tears. She will threaten and blackmail him. He doesn’t feel ready for all that, and that would explain why he has not gathered the courage to pull the plug on this relationship that is clearly toxic. He doesn’t think Martha is necessarily a toxic person, but the relationship certainly is. They are never happy together. They are always fighting over this and that.

If he was sure that Rachel loves him, then leaving Martha would be easier. His happiness would outweigh the headache that would follow his break up with Martha. But wait, what if Rachel doesn’t love him, does that mean he should condemn himself to a lifetime of fighting with Martha?

He rises and starts walking across the compound. Did he give up too easily on Rachel? Maybe she was just playing hard to get? He should be a man and face the consequences of his decisions. He is the one who asked Martha out, so now that the relationship is not working, he should be courageous enough and tell her it is over. Both of them will be better of that way. But he cannot dump her today. Martha is dramatic enough to cause a scene at tomorrow’s dinner. He will be her date tomorrow, then he will dump her when it is over. Cruel, but it has to be done.

Once he dumps Martha then he will start wooing Rachel. He will not stop until she either gives in or she looks him in the eye and expressly tells him that she doesn’t love him. Having made up his mind, Silas walks back to Jubilee Hall with a new spring in his step. He will use every romantic tactic he has ever heard of to win over Rachel.Silas is helping Nancy and the décor team when Rachel storms in, takes her handbag and leaves. He wants to follow her and find out what is going on, but then Martha enters the hall. He realizes that there is no need to invite drama and so he stays in the hall. Tomorrow evening, his association with Martha will come to an end, and he will be free to pursue Rachel.

                                                                   *

Calistus and Rachel ride in silence. Calistus feels like he should say something, but he doesn’t know what. Being a pastor, words do not fail him often. But he has already admitted to Rachel that he loves her, and she has told him that there is someone else. So what should they talk about?

Wait, she said she has a date, not a boyfriend. A date could be a regular friend who will accompany her to the dinner tomorrow, without necessarily being a boyfriend. Maybe he still has a chance, if he looks beyond tomorrow’s dinner.

“Your date tomorrow, is he your boyfriend?” he ventures. It feels inappropriate to ask the question after he has asked it.

“He has cancelled on me. I no longer have a date,” she replies as a matter of fact. Calistus’ heart leaps with joy. So it was just a date after all.

“So can I be your date tomorrow?”

Rachel sighs. This has been a dramatic evening. Two hours ago, she was content with the knowledge that she would attend the dinner alone. Then George came and ripped her heart apart. And here now, is her senior pastor asking her out. What is she supposed to do?

“If you are uncomfortable with the idea, it is okay. I understand. I do not want to pressure you,” Calistus says.

“No, it is okay pastor. I will be your date tomorrow.”

There. It is done. What is the big deal anyway? She hasn’t agreed to be his girlfriend. She will just share a table with him tomorrow. They have two-chair tables at the hall, so everyone will sit in pairs during dinner. Those without dates will sit with members of the same gender, unless they are comfortable with any of the other members of the opposite gender who will also come single.

Rachel is convinced that by tomorrow her head will have cleared and she will be able to think more clearly about her situation with Pastor Calistus.

                                                          *

After Rachel agrees to be his date, their situation in the car becomes even more awkward. He has  dated only one woman in his life: his late wife Samantha. She was his first and only girlfriend. By the time she died, he understood her so well that he knew exactly what buttons to press to make her smile. Now he is faced with the prospect of dating not only another woman, but a woman fifteen years younger. What do twenty four year olds talk about with their boyfriends?

When he married Samantha, he was about Rachel’s age. He was not a pastor then. He was in Bible School in Australia. He clearly remembers how they met. She was a member of the choir in Rev. Lawson’s church. Both he and Leonard were intern pastors. One evening Pastor Lawson invited them to dinner at his home. Calistus found himself sitting next to the stunningly beautiful girl he had seen singing in the choir. He had initially thought she was Australian, but then when they got talking, he realized she was Kenyan. Their love story began that evening.

Being poor students, they did not have much money to spend on coffee dates. They would walk around parks and streets while innocently holding hands and laughing at each other’s jokes. Being an African man, Calistus wouldn’t have walked around holding her hand in Nairobi. But they were in Sydney, and handholding amongst the whites felt normal.

Then one day she hugged him and he has never felt so…special. Soon, hugging became a new normal between them. But holding her in his arms started affecting his hormones, and he found himself thinking about her lustfully every single day.  One day he kissed her, and that was certainly a mistake. Their hormones ran riot, and they found it difficult to keep their hands off each other.

They were both committed to abstaining till marriage. But they both knew that that would be difficult because they were facing two more years of study before they could come to Kenya and get married. They prayed about it and made a decision to get married in Australia. Their parents were not amused, but Pastor Lawson intervened and spoke to the parents on their behalf. The parents only seemed to be appeased when Calistus promised to pay dowry and do the traditional wedding after returning to Kenya, which he did.

They got married in a small ceremony at Pastor Lawson’s church in Australia. Calistus does not regret marrying Samantha. He enjoyed being her companion for the nine years they were married. She helped him grow Kingdom Oasis Chapel from a small congregation of fifteen to the two thousand five hundred regular congregants she left when she died in a grisly road accident four years ago.

Calistus is still very much pro-abstinence. As many churches become more and more relaxed with regard to premarital sex, Calistus has become more and more conservative. That is why he frowns on physical touch between unmarried people of the opposite sex.  And now, faced with the prospect of romance, he feels that he has a responsibility to set an example to the young people in his congregation.

He knows Rachel is not Samantha. Samantha was his age mate, while Rachel is fifteen years his junior. The dating rules have probably changed, and he will have to be willing to learn. What he is not willing to do is to relax his stand on sexual purity. He is determined to get it right with Rachel. Of course he has hugged her a few minutes ago, but that is a mistake he is determined not to repeat. Right now he intends to drop her outside her gate and leave. Even if she agrees to date him, he will never enter her house alone, neither will she come to his house alone. Until they get married.

These measures are not just because of his beliefs. It is also because he knows he cannot afford to fail. He is now the lead pastor of a relatively large church. And he knows that his thirty-eight year old assistant, Associate Pastor Leonard, is being pressured by his wife Asenath to vie for the leadership of the church. The church he, Calistus, founded. He has been aware of that fact for a while now.

Leonard is not a bad person per se. He is not even that ambitious. Calistus has known him since they were teenagers at Jamhuri High School. Calistus knows that Asenath, Leonard’s wife, is the one who is ruthless in her quest to get ahead in life. And in this case getting ahead means wrestling the leadership of Kingdom Oasis Chapel from him. It doesn’t matter to her that he, Calistus, took them in after the church Leonard founded collapsed and they were struggling to even find food to eat.

The only reason Asenath has not tried anything fishy is because he, Calistus, is very popular in the church. But Calistus knows that a sexual scandal will give Asenath the perfect excuse to destroy him faster than the devil himself would. So he has to get it right with Rachel. It would be unfortunate to have all the good work he has done over the years go up in the smoke of a sexual scandal.

                                                                     *

The Lord seems to hear his prayer. He is fuelling at Juja town when Deacon Simeon and his wife pull up. Simeon and his wife live in the Kenyatta Road neighborhood of Juja, where Rachel also lives. After pleasantries, the pastor asks Simeon whether they could drop Rachel home.

“She was in church preparing for the youth dinner. She wasn’t feeling too well and I offered to drop her home. But since you are going in that direction, could you kindly drop her at her house?” the pastor asks.

Simeon agrees and Rachel switches cars and joins Simeon and his wife in theirs. After fueling, Calistus makes a U-turn and drives to his house.

                                                                 *

The following morning, Rachel goes to the office as usual. She is looking forward to the dinner that will take place later in the evening. The church has hired women to cook the meals, and the other preparations were completed last night. Everything is set, so she doesn’t have to leave the office early.

But this morning she has noticed that her colleagues are looking at her in a funny way. Rachel is a Program Officer at Heartfelt Souls, a church based NGO based in Juja. At 10.30 am, her boss calls her to his office.

“Rachel, I will go straight to the point. In the prevailing circumstances, I think it is best you resign from your job,”

“Why, what circumstances?”

Her boss looks at her surprised. Then he takes out his phone, opens something and hands it to her. It is a story about her alleged affair with Pastor Calistus. It starts with photos that were taken when Calistus hugged her yesterday. Then there are nudes at the bottom of the story. Rachel knows it is Photoshop because she has never slept with Calistus or any other man. But it is a splendid job. Anybody would believe it.

“Believe me sir, this is not me. Yes, Pastor Calistus hugged me yesterday, in church. But I have never slept with him, or anybody,”

“I want to believe you Rachel, but our donors do not see it the same way. These photos are too convincing. You know, being a church based organization and all, we are under a lot of scrutiny,”

Rachel immediately calls Pastor Calistus. Maybe her boss will listen to him.

“I am also getting fired, Rachel,” Calistus says sadly.

“Fired? But you are the founder of the church,”

“Yea, I am. But there is a deacon’s board going on right now. My removal as the church’s lead pastor is their sole agenda. Deacon Simeon has just called me to inform me that Deacon Nixon and Asenath, Pastor Leonard’s wife, have spent the morning inflaming people against me. Deacon Simeon has tried to defend me, but has failed. They have already voted to relieve me of my pastoral duties.”

(Continued here).

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/mother-s-day-heart-always-i-love-5088705/                                                         

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