BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED Episode 10 by Ife Grace.
Femi held Tomi’s gaze. ‘Can I see you after church tomorrow, please.’
Sunday seemed a long time even though it was just the next day. Tomi wished they could go somewhere quiet to talk. She wanted to know what he’d been up to since he left Ado for Lagos. She wanted to sit beside him and stare into his face all day.
‘That’s fine.’ Tomi said, finally.
Femi turned to Segun ‘It’s great seeing you again. We should hang out sometime when I come around.’
‘Sure.’ Segun smiled. The smile disappeared when he got into the car and Tomi climbed in beside him. Her attention was still fixed on Femi who was now sauntering towards his car.
Money sure does wonders, Tomi thought. Femi looked really good. His skin glowed and his hair was darker. He must have been visiting the gym, she concluded. His chest was broader and his muscles well-toned.
He even has a car, Tomi muttered silently. Femi waved at her as Segun sped out of the eatery. She waved back. When she glanced at Segun, she noticed he was pensive.
‘Segun, can you stop at that filling station?’ Tomi said, pointing at a filling station ahead. ‘I’d like to have a word with you.’
A frown creased Segun’s forehead. He turned into the filling station and parked at the far end of the station, beside a wrecked fourteen seater bus. He turned off the engine and stared at the steering wheels.
‘I don’t even know where to begin.’ Tomi said.
Segun turned his head slowly and looked at her. ‘It’s clear, isn’t it? You are in love with Femi. You chose him over me.’
Tomi exhaled slowly. Her friend’s eyes were full of pain and it troubled her. She’d thought it was over with Femi and had been ready to give Segun a chance but now she knew where her heart belonged.
‘Before you came to Ado, Femi and I were engaged.’
Segun raised his brows. ‘Really? So what happened?’
‘He called it quits. I was mad at him and wanted to forget about him completely.’ When Segun didn’t say anything, Tomi continued. ‘While we were still together, I told my parents about the relationship, and they kicked strongly against it. Even the Pastor’s wife tried to convince me to end it, but I was sure this was who God wanted me to be with. But then Femi broke up with me. I felt hurt and decided to move on with my life. My discussion with Stella opened my eyes to see why he did that.’
Segun relaxed. ‘He must have found out about your mum’s involvement and couldn’t handle it.’
‘My thoughts exactly. Now the thing is, Femi has been trying to get us back together but I have been pushing him away.’
‘It’s obvious you love him very much.’
Tomi nodded. ‘Yes, I do.’
Segun shrugged and started the engine. ‘It’s okay.’
Tomi touched his hand. ‘If you don’t want us to be friends anymore, I-‘
‘Haba. It’s not that bad. You know, recently God has been asking me to rest in him and to stop trying to figure things out. I feel that’s the phase I’m in right now. I just want to go deeper with God. I believe whatever is happening right now is for good. We are still friends.’
Tomi smiled. ‘Thank you for understanding.’ She glanced at the back seat. ‘You didn’t get the food again?
Segun laughed dryly. ‘I was so distracted by the mushy-mushy between you and Femi. In my mind I was like, how can Tomi explain to me that she is not in love with this brother.’
Tomi smiled. She hadn’t realize how much she loved Femi until she stood few feet away from him. She felt like she had been holding her breath since he left and their meeting again brought a rush of release of air into her lungs.
*** *********** *************************
Folake sprung to her feet as soon as Tomi walked through the door.
‘As long as you are under my roof, I want to know your movements. How can you just travel without informing me?’
Tomi dropped her handbag on the dining table. ‘I thought dad informed you. Besides, I sent a text to you.’
‘Where did you even travel to?’
Tomi hesitated for a moment. When she left Ibadan, her heart had boiled with anger but that anger had been quenched by Femi’s presence. Should she confront her mother with the information she got from Stella?
‘Segun wanted to make some findings at the University of Ibadan. I went with him.’ Tomi responded
Her mother’s face broke into a wide smile. She embraced Tomi.
‘Welcome, my dear daughter, How was your trip?’
Tomi didn’t answer. She turned towards Ayo who had just come out of the kitchen with a plate containing bean cakes.
‘You followed Segun to Ibadan and you still want us to believe there is nothing intimate between you and that fine bobo. Who are you deceiving?’ Ayo said, biting into one of the balls of akara.
Folake chuckled and turned to her younger daughter. ‘We have to start preparing ahead. Tomi can just wake up one morning to say the wedding is in a week.’
Tomi was getting irritated with the discussion. She took her bag from the table. ‘I hope there is food for me.’
‘I think there is still akara and ogi in the kitchen.’ Ayo said.
‘You think? Are you not just coming out from the kitchen’ Tomi asked, ‘Don’t do rough play with my stomach Ayo. I am hungry.’
Folake moved closer to her daughters. ‘That reminds me, your brother’s visiting day is next week Saturday. If there is anything you want to send to him, get them ready as quickly as possible.’
Tomi missed her brother. She remembered the day she moved back home from Lagos. Seyi had rushed out of the house to meet her. When she thought they’d spend some time together, he’d returned to school the following week. He didn’t come home for Christmas and wouldn’t be home until he completed his SSCE exams. She wished she could go with her mother to see him. She had a deadline to meet. A wedding dress that must be ready the following week.
‘I’m going to my room.’ Tomi said and reached for two slices of bread on the dining table. She was at the foot of the stairs when her father walked in.
Tomi’s heart pounded. She wondered how her father would feel when she finally broke the news to him.
‘Dad!’ Tomi said and hugged him as he approached the staircase. ‘I have missed you. Did you miss me?’
Paul didn’t smile. ‘What did she say? I mean Stella.’
The scowl on her father’s face scared Tomi. Paul relaxed when he saw the horrified look on his daughter’s face. ‘What did she say?’
‘We’ll talk later dad. I just got back.’
Behind her father, Folake stared at her daughter with curious eyes. Tomi quickly went up the stairs, her thoughts torn in different directions.
Tomi’s heart skipped when she stepped out of the bathroom and saw her mother sitting on the bed, waiting for her.
Jesus, what does this woman want? Folake thought as she cleaned her body.
‘What was it your father was saying to you?’ Folake asked. She had this no-nonsense look on her face that Tomi was familiar with. It was the same look her mother had, when as an adolescent, she’d stolen money from her mother’s purse.
Tomi frowned. She’d have to wriggle her way of this. ‘What do you mean? Was dad supposed to tell me something?’
Folake lowered her head. ‘Tomi, your father has been unusually quiet. I know you are his favorite daughter. I just wanted to know if there is something bothering him so I can help him feel better.’
Lies, Tomi thought. How could this woman feign ignorance of the pain she was causing her husband?
Folake stood up. ‘I love your father very much. I’ll do whatever it takes to make him happy. If there is anything I need to know, please don’t hesitate to tell me.’
Tomi stared at her mother in disbelief. When Folake left the room, she leaned against the wall, feeling like the grass between two elephants. She wished she had not agreed to her father’s plea to see Stella. But then if she had not gone, she wouldn’t have understood the reason Femi broke up with her.
She could sense her parents’ marriage hanging in the balance. The last thing she wanted to do was rip it apart.
Paul rapped on his daughter’s bedroom door that night. When she appeared at the door, he asked her to join him in the living room. Tomi knew she couldn’t hide the truth anymore.
‘Tomi, I want the truth. Trust me, I won’t do anything stupid no matter how it turns out. Was your mother involved in Stella’s abortion?’
Tomi stared at her father sitting on a recliner he had just ordered few weeks ago
‘Yes, she was involved in the abortion. Mama Bimbo didn’t have anything to do with it.’
Paul laughed dryly. Tomi shifted uncomfortably on the sofa.
‘Thank you so much. I knew I could count on you.’ Paul stood up and left the living room.
Tomi paced around, scared that she had blown out the dim light left of her parents’ marriage.
Femi looked around the park where he had planned to meet Tomi. He checked his wristwatch. 3.24p.m. They’d agreed to meet at 3. Had she changed her mind?
He was about dialing her number when Tomi tip-toed behind him and snatched the phone away from his hand. Femi spun around, saw Tomi smiling broadly and pulled her into his arms.
‘How are you?’ Femi asked in a boisterous voice. He held her hand and led her to one of the slabs.
‘I’m good. How was church?’
‘Splendid.’ Femi responded.
‘Sorry I’m late. Mum insisted I prepare lunch before leaving the house.’
They sat down. Femi took a long look at the woman he loved. Tomi kept her eyes fastened on him.
Femi cleared his throat. ‘Tomi, I shouldn’t have allowed my emotions control me. I-’
‘Is this about Stella and my mum’s involvement in the abortion?’ Tomi asked, interrupting him.
Femi stared at Tomi, shocked. ‘You know about it?’
Tomi nodded. ‘Yes. Yesterday when we met at the eatery, Segun and I were just returning from Ibadan. We went to see Stella. She confirmed your mother wasn’t involved. Femi, I’m so sorry.’
Femi touched her shoulder. ‘It’s not your fault.’
‘But my mum was involved.’
‘We can’t let the past take hold of our future. We leave it where it belongs.’
Tomi let out a soft breath. ‘It was Dad who insisted I get the truth from Stella after the incident that happened in the church.’
Femi frowned. ‘What incident?’
‘Bukola came to the church and was shouting at the top of her lungs. She said my mum was the one who set your mum up. She had to be carried out of the auditorium.
Femi opened his mouth in surprise. ‘Oh my God!’
‘Last night when I returned, dad asked for the truth and I told him what Stella said. I’m just scared he might take it out on mum. She’s already hurt him with guilt of the adulterous affair he had with your mum.’
Femi exhaled. Why should life be this complicated. ‘Tomi, my parents’ marriage didn’t end well. We can’t have our kids grow up to discover that none of their grandparents had a marriage that worked. We must pray for God’s intervention.’ he stopped and rubbed his head. ‘Look at me talking about kids. I haven’t even asked if you want me back into your life.’
Tomi rested her head on his shoulder. ‘I love you Femi.’
Femi felt a tide of emotions burst through his heart. He drew back slightly, enough to wrap his hand around her waist.
‘I loved you too Tomi.’
They sat there, catching up on what they’d missed since their separation and talking deeply about their future. They left the park and drove round town. They stopped at a barbeque spot and ate dinner in Femi’s car.
‘It’s getting late.’ Femi said, looking at his wristwatch.
Tomi grumbled. She didn’t want to leave. ‘Can’t we stay for a few more minutes? You’ll be travelling back to Lagos tomorrow morning.’
Femi sat there, staring at her face through the dim light in the car. One touch and he knew, his resolve would weaken.
Tomi’s arm brushed his and his body felt ready to explode. He closed his eyes and held his breath before releasing it slowly. They were parked in a quiet spot and it was dark. They could have sex right in the back seat and nobody would know.
Femi shook his head. What kind of stupid thoughts were flying in and out of his head, He sighed and started the engine.
‘Tomi, let’s get out of here before I do something I’ll regret. I’m vulnerable right now.’
Tomi sighed. ‘When am I seeing you again?’
Femi glanced at her briefly. ‘Saturday. I’ll come home every weekend.’
When he pulled up in front of her gate, Tomi sat back in the car, reluctant to get down. When she looked at him, Femi pulled her into his arms. She held on to him tightly. His heart beat faster and a strong urge to kiss her consumed him.
But he wanted to wait till the wedding night. He didn’t just want sex abstinence, he wanted kiss abstinence too. It looked impossible as their eyes lock and they couldn’t tear away from each other’s arms.
Femi lowered his head to touch Tomi’s forehead. ‘God knows I want you so much. I want to kiss you badly.’
‘You know we can’t do that now.’
Femi let out a deep breath. ‘Yes I know. We receive grace to wait.’
Tomi chuckled and pulled away from him. Even when her feet hit the ground, their fingers were still locked together. Reluctantly, Tomi stepped out of the car.
‘Goodnight.’ Femi said as Tomi shut the door.
‘Make sure you go straight to bed immediately you get home. If you have to be out by 5, you must sleep early.’
‘Yes ma’am.’ Femi responded. She stood at the gate until the car disappeared out of sight.
Shrieking in excitement, Tomi entered the house. She stopped when she saw Ayo leaning on the wall, a troubled look on her face. Her mother was sitting on the sofa in the living room, one leg crossed over another, staring blankly.
‘What’s going on here?’ Tomi asked her sister. Ayo pointed at two boxes standing by the freezer.
Tomi heard footsteps and raised her head. Her father was descending the stairs with a brown leather box. Tomi ran to him.
‘Dad, what are you doing?’
Her father didn’t respond. He kept walking. Tomi blocked his path at the foot of the staircase
‘I’m sick and tired of your mother, okay? I can’t live anymore with that hypocrite. For ten years she tortured me over an affair that happened once! Yet she is a murderer, a liar and a conniving fool. She disgusts me.’
Tomi went on her knees, tears welling up her eyes. She couldn’t believe what was happening to her parents. There had to be a way.
‘Dad, please, you and mum can talk things over. You can’t just throw away twenty-eight years of marriage.’
‘Our marriage ended long ago.’ Paul stepped around Tomi and rolled his box to the car. He returned to take the rest of the boxes. His daughters stood on the veranda, watching their father throw the last box into the trunk. He got into the car and drove away.
Ayo shot her sister an angry glance. ‘Mum said you had an hand in this. Right now, I wish you had just stayed back in Lagos.’ She hissed and walked back into the house.
Tomi stood on the veranda, tears streaming down her face. Her sister was right. She was the cause of her parents’ failed marriage. Didn’t Segun say that some secrets were better left buried?
‘Leave my house now.’
Tomi turned. Her mother stood behind her, a stony glare on her face. Did her mother just ask her to leave?’
‘Are you satisfied now that our marriage is over?’
Tomi stared at Folake in horror. Her own mother was sending her out? This had to be a joke. ‘Where do you expect me to go tonight? It’s late already.’
‘I don’t care! I just don’t want to see you here. Get out now!’
Angry words filled Tomi’s heart but she restrained herself from spilling them out. Blinded by tears, she went into her room and pulled down one of her boxes stacked on top of her wardrobe.
Ayo stopped ironing.‘Where are you going to?’
Tomi didn’t respond. She continued to throw in her clothes until the box was full. She zipped it. ‘I’ll come for the other things later.’
Ayo looked at her alarmed. She turned off the iron. ‘What nonsense are you talking about?’
‘Go and ask your mother.’
Ayo stormed out of the room. The door to her parents’ room was slightly opened. Tomi could hear Ayo exchanging words with her mother as she pulled the box out of the house.
She stepped out of the gate and looked down the street. Everywhere was dark. Tomi shook with anger. She was never going to have anything to do with her mother, ever again.
She pulled out her phone from her bag. Four missed calls and a text message. Femi must have called when she was pleading with her father to change his mind. She dialed his number. It didn’t go through. She tried it again. Same response.
Who else could she call? Peju had travelled to Abuja for a conference. She couldn’t call Becky. Her parents would ask questions. They’d want to know what happened. Segun was her last bet.
She dialed his number. She’d only stay the night. By morning, she’d find somewhere else to go. If only she had not emptied her account to settle a loan, she’d have had enough cash to book for a week at a cheap hotel.
Segun answered. ‘Hey.’
Tomi voice trembled The more she fought the tears, the faster they poured down her face. She held her hands to her mouth and tried to steady herself.
‘Tomi, you are crying.’
‘Segun, please come and pick me. I’m in front of my house.’
‘I’m coming right away.’
Few minutes after he ended the call, Ayo appeared at the gate. ‘What are you going to do now?’
Tomi folded her hands and stared into the darkness. Ayo stood in front of her.
‘I can call my friend to come pick you to a hotel.’ She held out some crispy one thousand naira notes. ‘Take it.’
Tomi shook her head. ‘I don’t want it.’
There were tears in Ayo’s eyes. ‘I’m sorry I spoke to you that way. I was wrong. It’s not your fault that this is happening to our parents.’ Ayo paused. ‘Tomi, you can’t stand here all night.’
‘A friend is coming to pick me up. I’ll be fine.’
Ayo stood for a while and returned to the house. Segun arrived. He jumped out of the car and went to Tomi.
‘You were kicked out of the house?’ He said, looking at the box beside Tomi. Seeing the tears running down her face, he grabbed the box and put it in the back seat before opening the door for her. She cried all the day to Segun’s flat.
Segun’s living room was inviting. The walls were newly painted. Bright yellow walls that matched brown leather settee. The marbled floor was sparking clean.
Tomi settled into one of the armchairs. Segun entered the kitchen and returned with a mug of hot coffee. He placed the mug on a stool in front of her.
Segun sat beside her, unsure of what to say or do. Tomi looked devastated. He wished he knew how to reach out into her heart.
Fresh batch of tears filled Tomi’s eyes. Segun moved closer and squeezed her hand.
‘It was my fault. I shouldn’t have gone to see Stella. Now, I’ve spoilt everything.’
Segun patted her back gently. ‘Stop talking like that. It’s not your fault.’
She leaned into him and he locked his hand firmly around her waist. Tomi felt his chest heave up and down in quick beats and an alarm went off in her head. She sat up quickly.
Segun stood up. ‘Let me show you to the guest room.’
There was something about Segun that frightened her. He looked restless as he led her to the guest room.
‘Segun, I’m sorry I bumped into you at this time of the night. I promise I’ll find another place by morning.’
He smiled as they entered the guest room. ‘You can stay here as long as you want.’ He dropped her box beside a large mattress on the floor. ‘I’m sorry I’ve not made a bed stand yet.’
‘This is fine. Thank you so much.’
As she bent to remove her sandals, Segun grabbed her from behind and turned her to face him. He planted a kiss on her lips and began to run his hands roughly over her body.
Fear gripped Tomi. ‘Segun, what are you doing?’
Segun didn’t stop. His eyes burnt with lust. He pushed her towards the wall. Tomi struggled to get away from him but his hands were strong.
‘Tomi, please, stop fighting me.’ Segun pleaded as he unbuckled his trouser. ‘Give me this chance. Every night I imagined your body entangled in mine. Listen, I know you are a virgin. I’ll be gentle with you. I’ll teach you amazing styles. I was watching a video when your call came in. I swear, it’s the best position ever.’
She stare into his eyes and saw a monster. His trouser had slipped to the floor. She was going to be raped tonight. The devil had finally gotten a way to break her spirit.
‘Segun, please don’t do this. I’m begging you.’
Segun was not listening anymore. He tore her shirt opened and pushed her to the mattress.
‘God, please. Don’t let him do this to me.’ Tomi cried, waiting for the worse moment to pass.
Someone knocked on the door. Segun stopped. Tomi began to scream for help. Segun slowly stood up from the bed and stared at Tomi, shame filling his eyes.
‘Oh my God, I almost raped you.’ Segun said and fled out of the room.
Tomi’s phone rang. It was Femi.
‘Femi, help me!’
‘Where are you?’
She grabbed her box and ran out of the room. Segun was not in the living room. He was not outside either.
‘I’m in Segun’s house.’
Femi hesitated. ‘What are you doing there?’
‘Just come. I’ll explain.’
‘What’s the address?’
‘I don’t know. I think it’s around Ekiti State University. Help me please.’
‘Sweetheart, calm down. Where is Segun?’
‘I don’t know and I don’t want to know.’
Tomi saw a lady coming out of another flat. She ran to the woman and gave her the phone.
‘Someone wants to talk to you.’
The woman spoke to Femi and gave him directions to the house. She returned the phone to Tomi.
‘I’m on my way now.’ Femi said and hung up.
Femi glanced at his fiancé as he pulled into the street that led to Bethany Hotel. He had been fast asleep when he’d felt someone tap his shoulder. He opened his eyes, looked around and didn’t see anyone. As he returned to sleep, he felt a strong urge to pray for Tomi. The sleep disappeared from his eyes and he stood up and began to pray. The burden got stronger.
What was happening?
Call Tomi now.
A still small voice whispered. Quickly, he turned on the phone and called her only to discover she was in trouble.
What had she gone to do in Segun’s house? What had Segun done to her? He’d find out the details later but first, he had to ensure she was okay. Femi pulled into the car park of the hotel.
Tomi shivered. ‘He almost raped me.’
Femi eyes widened. ‘What?’
‘When mum told me to leave, I tried your lines but they weren’t going through. Peju was out of town and I didn’t want Becky’s parents to ask me questions. I should have just taken the money Ayo offered me but I was so angry with her for taking sides with mum. I-’
Femi held her hands. ‘It’s okay dear. Let’s get you settled in first.’
He climbed down from the car and went around to open the door for her. They walked into the hotel lobby and stopped at a pretty fair skinned lady behind a counter.
Femi paid for seven nights. The receptionist handed Tomi a key to her room. Together they went up the elevation and stopped in front of the room.
‘You want us to talk?’ Femi said, holding her shoulders tenderly.
Tomi shook her head. ‘No. I want to be alone. You need to rest. If I keep you here, I won’t let you drive to Lagos in the morning.’
He hugged her. ‘I love you so much.’
Tomi smiled. ‘Thank you Femi. I love you too.’
When Tomi entered the well-furnished room, her phone beeped. It was a text message from Segun.
Tomi, I’m so ashamed of myself. I can’t believe I almost raped you. I know you’ll never forgive me and that’s okay. I just want to say I’m sorry. I ran away from Port-Harcourt because of this. I thought coming here would be a fresh start for me. But I was wrong. Lust follows me everywhere. I’m so sorry Tomi.
Tomi sat on the bed, the incident at Segun’s house playing back in her mind. Had Segun really tried to rape her?
BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED Episode
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