She sits at the front pew in church, often smiling, uncomfortably pulling her dress down struggling to keep her thighs together. Her father is extremely proud of her. He sings her praises more than he sings the Lord’s and on Waridi Saturdays, he’s always in church, parading his perfectly beautiful daughter to her fellow young women.
Sharlene is hard not to notice, she’s all over the place if not everywhere. Her recent noticeable act is the way she puts her hands around a man’s waist when she walks to the pulpit to whisper something in their ears. The whispers are uncanny announcements to remind women to go out with their crying children so they don’t disrupt the sermon. She’s done this over four times now and last Sunday, Mama Peter was very displeased that she pulled her to the side for a talk.
The fight ended in our home, with my husband trying so hard to calm down her infuriated father who believes that Baba Peter must have tried seducing his daughter. My husband takes Sharlene’s side always because her father is being groomed for the reverend role when he will be ordained bishop. It’s been particularly tough because Peter’s family are one of the biggest givers in the church, and therefore an understanding had to be made.
“Sharlene what happened exactly?” my husband, pastor Tom asks.
“Pastor! You surprise me,” Mama Peter says while adjusting herself on our now worn-out sofas. We have been trying to get the congregants to see that our home needs an upgrade but our attempts haven’t pushed through yet.
“This girl has grown too comfortable around people’s husbands. I’m not the only one complaining, many women in the church are complaining. We are fed up with her! Next time, we’ll give her a beating she will never forget!” She speaks.
“Aa! Mama Peter! Don’t threaten to beat people up in church, I will not allow it!” My husband warns. Sharlene is seated between him and her father, her mouth curved into a disrespectful sneer and in my mind, I want to take off my slippers and aim for her mouth. The pastor is holding her hands, making excuses for her as her father nods with approval. They have categorically stated that Sharlene is a target because she’s a PK, Pastors Kid. Mama Peter sneers with disapproval as her husband quietly observes. He seems rather disturbed like he wants to speak up but words fail him.
“Pastor…” I begin to speak when the room goes silent. I refer to him as pastor in the presence of our congregants.
“I don’t think you should ignore the concerns of Mama Peter.” I pause, afraid of finishing my sentence, but Mama Peter’s “eehee!” pushes me.
“I’m also concerned about how Sharlene is conducting herself around people,” I said people because I don’t want my husband to think I was joining the rage, but my next statement was a direct attack on him.
“Do you remember, when you went for the pastor’s retreat last month and I found Sharlene’s scarf in your luggage?” I knew this would open a can of worms but it was safer to ask in the presence of our congregants, there’s only so much he can do in their presence.
“Yes. I told you she forgot it on the seat and someone brought it to me to deliver it to her! Or you don’t remember that?” he asked.
“I do, but don’t you think she might have done that intentionally?” I add.
“What do you mean intentionally?” His gaze fixated on me, waiting for a reply.
“I’m sorry pastor.” As silence envelopes the room, I regret why I didn’t mention that the scarf was wrapped with her undies, wet undies. I wanted to also share that pastor and Sharlene have similar bags that they used while on the trip. They are a popular bag brand in the nation, and their travel bags are pretty popular. They also, have the bags in the same colour, so my imagination had speculations about this coincidence and the fact that the pastor’s bag smelt of Sharlene’s perfume.
“Pastor, I’m sorry but I think you are lying.” Baba Peter says after loudly clearing his throat.
“What?” My husband looks up, confused.
“I happened to see you both alighting a matatu, just the stage before home. You took different buses back here so that people wouldn’t know you travelled together.”
“What do you mean? That I can’t travel in the same matatu as my congregants?” he asked, furious.
“No. But I think I’m just a scapegoat in this instance, someone needs to look into how you conducted yourself while on that retreat,” Baba Peter added.
“He’s lying!” Sharlene hissed.
I watched as my husband fidgeted in his seat and as Sharlene desperately tried to discredit Baba Peter.
“How can you? A man with multiple wives who keep coming and leaving pointing at the man of God and accusing him of infidelity? Have you forgotten that pastor saved you from being ex-communicated from the church? How ungrateful can you get?” she yelled.
Our living room had been converted into a courthouse, with everyone on the defensive, trying to vindicate themselves. I was silent because the truth of my husband’s admiration for Sharlene had just dawned on me.
The morning I unpacked pastor’s luggage and found Sharlene’s scarf and undies, curiosity got the better part of me and I rummaged through the back to find something, which I did. A receipt of the lodge my husband was spending the night in. All the pastors were spending the night in a different hotel than the youth leaders, (Sharlene in this case) but according to the calls I curiously made to the organizer of the event, neither my husband nor Sharlene had spent the week in their assigned rooms.
“Sharlene, where were you sleeping while on the retreat?” I asked.
“My hotel room in a separate hotel from where the pastors were lodged,” she answered defensively. It was the first lie.
“And you pastor?” I turned to my husband.
“What questions are these? Of course, I slept in my hotel room. Where are you going with all of this?” I stood up and reached for the receipt under my Bible by the TV stand.
“So, did ghosts sleep here? Because I called the hotel and they gave all your details after I lied that you both have been missing since you left the hotel last month. Do you care to explain how and why you were sleeping in the same room?” I asked, my eyes watery, anger surging through my veins.
“You are a liar!” Pastor shouted at me.
“No! No! No! Pastor! Explain this!” Sharlene’s father shouted while raising to his feet.
“Sharlene is this true?” He demanded.
“He forced me, Dad! He forced me!” Sharlene said moving away from my husband trying to get her father’s mercy.
“Who forced you? Aren’t you the one that started seducing me?”
In that instant, I felt like I could throw up and Mama Peter held on to me, shaking her head in this belief.
“I knew something was amiss with the pastor. I knew it!” She spoke.
“Leave my house, all of you. I need to speak to my wife. Leave!”
Baba Peter tried to calm down Sharlene’s father and walk him out of the house with little success. Sharlene seemed disturbed, but she still rubbed my husband’s hand as she walked out and he seemed to like it while it angered me. They were barely out of the door when he turned to me and said, “I can explain!”
“What can you explain Andrew? What? That we have six children together and you decided to sleep with a woman as old as our eldest daughter? That you are sleeping with our congregants? What is here to be explained, Andrew?”
“Please stop. We stand to lose everything we have built if this goes out. You have to take back what you said, Becca. Please…” he begged.
“Are you insane? You want to stand at the altar and lie. Pretend that you haven’t been living a lie. I can’t do that!”
“The church is the source of all our finances. If I’m ex-communicated we risk losing our only source of income.”
“If you knew that, why were you sleeping with her?”
“It was the devil! I swear Becca.”
“Then you better go to war with the devil Andrew, because I won’t!”
“Think about the children. Please?”
“Did you think about them, Andrew? Huh!”
We went back and forth that evening, but the news had spread around rather too quickly. The bishop came in the following Sunday, and it still brings tears to my eyes how humiliating it was for my husband to ask for forgiveness from the congregants but he went ahead to announce that he’d be marrying Sharlene.
In what world, does a cheating pastor marry the woman he’s been sleeping with because they love each other? His profession of love for Sharlene choked me. How he went about saying that God had directed his decision to get a new wife. It bothered me that the church watched in silence, probably in disbelief, as Andrew humiliated me. I thought that being stripped of his pastoral duties would humble him, but I was wrong.
Andrew left me with our five daughters and one son, barely two years old and started a whole other family with Sharlene. The church cut its financial support to my family because the money is being directed to the current pastor. He’s never gone back from his decision. He’s a matatu driver now, working to support his new family while the one we built together is tumbling down. Three of our teenage daughters found solace in the arms of other men and married young. I am angry because my children and I are the ones who had to deal with the consequences of his actions.
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