The market was busy, bustling with customers buying their weekly grocery, it was after all, market day, the busiest day of the week for Maria.
She handed out a paper bag full of vegetables to her customer, with a smile on her face and thanked her. Her mother and her mother before hers were all market vendors, and they had realized on the easiest ways of keeping customers is to be alert, fast and very friendly.
She sighed and sat on her old chair, under the shade of her small umbrella. It was only mid day and she was tired. She wiped sweat from her forehead and adjusted her scarf.
Her neighbor, Munyiva, looked at her and smiled. “Aah Maria, on these days your child will graduate from University, and your hard work will finally pay off. Imagine that, a market vendor’s lineage bringing forth a teacher!”
“Yes,” joined in Mundia chuckling, “then she’ll become snotty, walking with her head high and speaking English only.”
“Now now Mundia, I’ve raised her better than that,” answered Maria sipping on her water. “She’ll do good, you wait and see.”
Their conversation was interrupted by Kamene, who had just arrived with her vegetables. She looked excited.
“Kamene, you are so late today,” asked Munyiva. “What happened today? You overslept?”
“No, not at all,” she said unpacking her vegetables. “As you can see from my vegetables, I got to Mariakani before all of you. I just made a detour on my way here. You see, a scandal has erupted.”
Mundia, who loved gossip, sat upright and leaned closer to Kamene. She did not want any detail to escape her ear.
As Kamene begun her tale, Maria got a customer who she attended to as she listened.
“The church I tell you…Pastor Oghene, of the Deliverance Church, that Nigerian has come here to use our church going women,” she said, pausing the gasps to die down. “Yes, he claimed to be a man of God, performing miracles. The blind could see, the lame could walk and for the women, the barren could conceive.”
Maria’s customer was in no rush now…she wanted to hear the gossip. She did, after all, go the man’s church. And so did Maria.
“A bitter woman called this radio show yesterday, the one that exposes cheats and adulterers. Apparently she had been with the pastor for a year, giving her tithe and praying dutifully each day for a child. Her husband wanted to leave her and marry a fertile woman. So when the pastor said that the first born should be dedicated to God, and by dedicated, I mean from the man of God, she did not refuse him. No one ever questions pastors, right?”
“Eh heh…go on,”said Mundia excitedly.
“After a year of being with him and no child, she got tired and wanted to know if it was the truth of if he was just using her. And the radio presenter found him out, he was lying to sleep with her!”
The women around could not believe it. Many gasped, others said no over and over again, while others sat dazed, staring at Kamene.
“That is not the scandal,” she went on, proud to be the bearer of news. “Today morning, while leaving Mariakani, I found a large group of women outside the church demanding to see the pastor.”
“Oh…no!” shrieked Munyiva. “How many?”
“I would say about fifty, if not more. They had all slept with him, without protection. Many were their to get a refund on their tithes for their miracles had not come through. Others had been kicked out of their homes by their husbands who had now found out the truth.”
“And the pastor? Did they get to see him?”
Kamene laughed. “You think these Nigerian men are not clever? Eh? After the radio show the man packed his things and left the town. Only his god knows where he is; the next town planning the next con or he’s back in Abuja. Rumor has it he has a wife there…”
Maria was no longer listening as the women chatted away…she was remembering her own story, about a year ago when the man they spoke of had healed her Tuberculosis, how he had prayed for her prosperity, for fees for her daughter, he had even blessed her home!
He had never asked anything of her; money, food nor her body. This could not be the same man they spoke of.
“Rubbish,” she uttered under her breathe as she carried on to serve her customer.
Little did she know, in a town far away from her, her daughter held a pregnancy test strip in her hand that came out positive.