BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED Episode 11 by Ife Grace.
Tomi didn’t leave the hotel room all day. She turned off her phone and stayed under the blanket, her bible opened beside her. She prayed for her father and for the restoration of her parent’s marriage. She prayed for the grace to forgive her mum. She prayed for Femi and the future before them.
It was almost 8p.m when she finally turned on her phone. Femi’s call came in immediately.
‘I’ve been trying to reach you all day.’ Femi said.
‘I sent a text to you before I went to bed last night. I just realized that it didn’t deliver. I wanted to let you know that I’ll not be available for a couple of hours. I’m so sorry.’
‘It’s okay. Hope you enjoyed your day?’
Tomi smiled. ‘Actually, I did. There is something sweet about shutting yourself away from the noise and getting into fellowship with God. I feel so much at peace.’
Femi chuckled. ‘I like the tone of that.’
‘Femi, I perceive God wants me to see my dad’s spiritual parents. They were part of our lives until that adultery took place. Dad cut off communication with them. I feel I should let them know what’s going on.’
‘Where do they reside?’
‘Lagos. Will you go with me?’
Femi squealed in excitement. ‘My baby wants to come to Lagos. I’m thrilled already. So when should I be expecting you?’
Tomi hesitated. She had three Ankara gowns to deliver by Thursday evening. ‘Friday. I’ll pass the night at a friend’s place and go see them on Saturday.’
‘Saturday is perfect. We’ll have enough time to talk before you return to Ado. You’ll have to stay over till Sunday so you can meet my Pastor.’
‘Alright.’ Tomi paused. ‘By the way, Peju will be back this Friday. I’ll be moving to her place until I get my own apartment. ’
Tomi thought she heard cars honking ‘Where are you?’
‘I’m on my way home. I’m close to the house though but this traffic is unbelievably crazy. I’ve been at this spot for almost twenty minutes.’
‘That’s serious. I hope you’ve had dinner?’
‘I just did.’ Femi paused. ‘I was thinking we could pray together for a couple of minutes. With what I’m seeing, I might probably be on the road for another one hour.’
Tomi reached for the remote of the television and turned the TV off. She sat up and propped up a pillow against her back.
‘Don’t close your eyes while praying. Please o.’
Femi laughed. ‘Of course, I won’t.’
A prayer that was set for a couple of minutes went on for over an hour. They were still praying after Femi drove into his compound. He turned off the engine and relaxed against the head rest, listening to Tomi share a scripture she had read that morning. When she finished, he shared his thoughts on the verse which led to another prayer session. Afterwards, they play, laughed and talked about other things.
It was almost 11p.m before Tomi finally ended the call. Her heart was bubbling with joy and she was finding it difficult to stay still.
‘Oh God, I love Femi so much.’ Tomi whispered and pulled the blanket over her head. She pulled the blanket down and began to laugh again. She raised her legs and kicked them into the air.
Does love made a person act like a child?
Tomi reached for her phone and went through her picture gallery, searching for Femi’s pictures. She found one and her eyes lightened up. Femi was standing in front of his house, in a white sleeveless t-shirt and knickers. He wore sunglasses and with his hands in his pocket, smiled at the camera. Tomi thought he was the most handsome man on earth. She stared long at the picture. This was her man. Her lover. The man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with.
Tomi turned off the light. It was time to sleep. She had to be at her fashion studio very early in the morning. There was work to be done. She felt refreshed enough to commence work again.
As she faced the wall, Femi’s thoughts crossed her heart. She closed her eyes and imagined she was married to Femi and they were holding hands as they walkED down the street of Lagos on a windy evening.
**** ***************** ******************
Paul buried himself in his work. The week after he left Folake, he landed two building contracts. He drove his men hard and a job that would have taken six months was completed in three. Each time he returned to the bungalow, one of the houses he built across town, he became sad. He missed his children. He’d been haunted by the tears in Ayo’s eyes and the shock on Tomi’s face the night he left. What kind of father would Seyi think of him. He knew his wife would concoct lies in an attempt to prove that he was a terrible father.
Folake was wicked, Paul thought. She was the most heartless woman he’d met. How could he live with such a woman?
One morning, Paul returned from inspecting one of the building sites to find his partner, Damola, perched on the edge of his table.
‘Paul, what’s going on?’ Damola asked, as soon as he entered the office.
Paul didn’t respond immediately. He reached for a bottle of water from the fridge and poured it down his throat. He threw the empty bottle into the waste bin and turned to his friend.
‘I don’t understand what you mean.’
‘You’ve been acting like a wounded lion for the past few weeks.’ Damola pointed out. ‘What’s eating you up? If you need a break, say so. Stop treating our staff like animals.’
Paul exhaled. ‘That’s a harsh judgement to make. How am I treating them? Did they-’ Paul stopped. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘You and Folake, are you good?’
Paul wondered if he should tell his partner about his plan. ‘I’m getting a divorce.’
Damola grinned. ‘Finally! This is good news. For eleven years, you took nonsense from that woman. You deserve a good life Paul. Women are useless. Remember all I did for Felicia, she still left me for that imbecile.’
Paul looked down. ‘I miss my kids.’
The secretary knocked and peered into the office. She turned her attention towards Paul. ‘A man is here to see you sir.’
Damola moved away from the table. ‘Another client, I suppose. Can you see how business is booming for us? I have a feeling this company is about to step into a new level of glory. Kick that woman out jare. We have a business to build.’
‘Send the man in.’ Paul said to the secretary as Damola left the office.
A handsome man with full grey hair appeared at the entrance. Paul’s eyes widened when he saw who it was. He prostrated flat on the floor. The old man tapped him gently and pulled him up.
Paul couldn’t believe he was standing before the man who had become part of his life at the early years of his marriage.
He had attended a crusade where Pastor Adepoju had ministered. Paul had felt a strong connection with the man. When Pastor Adepoju moved to Ado few months later, he had submitted to discipleship. It was from the Pastor he had learnt to walk with God. But barely two years later, he had gone on a two year missionary trip to Sierra Leone before relocating to Lagos. They had maintained communication until the affair with Bimbo.
How many years had passed since they last spoke. Paul felt tears well up his eyes. He’d missed his spiritual father.
‘How are you?’ Pastor Adepoju asked, as he settled into a comfortable chair. His wrinkled face bore compassion.
Paul sat beside him and the moment he opened his mouth, he spilled all that had happened between him and Folake. How his business crashed and they were faced with financial difficulties that brought a strain on their relationship. His affair with Bimbo. His confession of his adulterous act. Folake’s anger and the way their relationship had deteriorated. His discovery of her involvement in Stella’s abortion. His decision to file for a divorce.
Paul sighed and waited for his spiritual mentor to speak. The old man didn’t say anything for a while.
‘We’ve not stopped praying for you Paul. I know you want me to say something about this. But God has instructed me to keep quiet. He’s been saying something to you for some time but you’ve not been listening. When I leave, listen. Do exactly what he is instructing you to do.’
Long after his spiritual father left, Paul bowed his head, confused. Just when he thought his spiritual father would give him the answers he needed, he blurted a few words and he was gone.
‘God, I’m so hurt. I can’t even think.’
This is real love-not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
Paul stopped. What did he just hear? He understood that Christ’s love was unconditional. He knew that while he was still wallowing in sin, Christ died for him. But how did that relate to his present predicament?
Love as I have loved you.
Paul stood up and rested his hand on the wall. ‘God, she doesn’t deserve this love. I stayed with her for years even when she kept taunting me of a sin you have forgiven me of. How do I go back to a stubborn and unforgiving woman like that? She always wanted her own way.’
Love as I have loved you.
‘This is difficult. God, I’m tired. I’m not going back there.’
Paul rubbed his hand on his head. ‘God, please help me. I don’t want to go back to her.’
‘Are you sure you don’t want to take the day off?’
Paul raised his head and saw Damola standing at the door. Paul grabbed his jacket hanging on his chair and stepped past his business partner. He had to sort out this restlessness. One thing he knows, he was never going back to Folake.
Tomi was on her knees praying. Several months had passed since her father left the house. Everything was on a standstill.
Was God really listening to their prayers? Every weekend when Femi returned from Lagos, they met at Rotimi’s church for prayers. They’d spent hours praying for the restoration of her parents’ marriage but there had been no changes. Just the previous week, Ayo informed her that a divorce petition had been filed. Her mother had spoken little since her father left and had resorted to depending on pills.
Was there really hope? Tears trickled down her face. She looked at Femi, praying beside her. Her love for him had grown stronger as they got closer. This was the man she wanted to be with forever but how long before he got tired of waiting for her parents’ consent and settle for another lady.
Femi stopped praying and looked at her. ‘Don’t ever think I’m going to leave you. I’m not going anywhere. We are in this together.’
Tomi looked at him, puzzled. How could he tell what she was thinking? She smiled, rubbing the engagement ring he had given her some months ago with the back of her thumb. The smile disappeared and was replaced by fear. What if things turned sour. Would they have to wait forever?
Femi squeezed her hand. ‘We have not been given spirit of fear but of power and of love and of a sound mind.’
Tomi pulled her hand away, laughing. ‘When did you become a mind reader?’
Femi chuckled. He turned his attention fully towards her. ‘Where is dad residing now?’
‘In a three bedroom flat he just completed.’
‘I want to see him.’ Femi said quietly.
Tomi stared at him. Why would he want to see her father. ‘What for?’
‘I don’t know. While we were praying, I felt a strong leading to see him. I think you should go see mum too.’
Tomi considered the matter and thought it a good idea. Maybe this was direction the Holy Spirit wanted them to take. Would her mother still be mad at her?
****** *********** *********
‘Mum, you’ve not touched your food.’ Ayo said, pointing at the rice and vegetable stew on the dining table.
Folake turned her face away. ‘I’m not hungry.’ She stood up and went to the chair beside the window. The drapes had been pulled aside. Since Paul walked out of her life, a recliner had been placed permanently by the window. She’d sit there and stare out the window every evening until bedtime.
The bell rang. Ayo went to the door. She shouted when she saw Tomi standing on the veranda.
‘Is mum in?’ Tomi asked, and stepped into the house.
Folake turned slowly towards the door when she heard Tomi’s voice. Tomi stopped when she saw her mother sitting by the window. Folake turned her face back to the window. She stood there, wondering whether to proceed or not. Her mother had lost weight and her eyes were shrunken. Ayo held Tomi’s hands and together they walked to Folake.
‘Mum.’ Tomi said, in a low tone.
Folake kept her gaze fixed on the window. Tomi hugged her from behind.
‘I miss you mum. I’m so sorry.’
Folake reached for her daughter hand and held on to it tightly. She blinked back tears. The ladies sat side by side their mother. When Tomi looked out, she noticed the window was facing the gate.
‘You know why I sit down here everyday?’ Folake asked, looking from Ayo to Tomi.
Her daughters shook their head. Folake smiled and slowly returned her gaze to the window.
‘Your father is coming back home to me. This is where he belongs. Not out there in the cold. You’ll see, he will come back.’
Ayo placed her head on her mother’s shoulders while Tomi held her hands. Now that Tomi was around, Ayo felt it was a good opportunity to plead with her mother to eat something. As she stood up, the gate opened. A red jeep drove into the house. Tomi glanced at her sister in surprise. Ayo jumped to her feet and ran out. Tomi followed behind.
‘Could this be true?’ Ayo shouted as she pushed the front door open.
‘Let’s find out.’ Tomi said, and rushed out with her sister. A man in a blue t-shirt that hardly hid his pot belly came down.
The girls ran to hug their father. Tomi couldn’t believe this what she was seeing. How long had she prayed for this day to come? What did Femi say to her father that made him change his mind. Was it possible he had come to get the rest of his things from the house? Tomi kicked the fear nudging at her heart.
‘Is your mother in?’
They led their father into the house. Folake was now standing at the entrance. Paul stood and stared at her, his eyes full of compassion. There was worried concerns on his face.
Folake hissed. ‘What do you want? You think you can just come in here anytime you like?’
Ayo and Tomi stared at their mother, with their mouths opened. What kind of woman was this?
‘You heard me, Paul. Leave my house! You want a divorce right, run and get it. I can live without you! I don’t need you.’
Paul didn’t budge. All he saw was a woman screaming to get into his arms. Since Damola convinced him to file a divorce petition, he had lost his peace. When Femi showed up few days ago, they had talked at length. Everything Femi said had been a confirmation of the instructions he’d been running from. How a young man could be full of so much wisdom still baffled him. Femi had quoted the scripture God gave him the day Pastor Adepoju visited him at the office.
Paul turned to his daughters. ‘Can you excuse us please?’
Tomi and her sister went to their room. When they shut the door behind them, Tomi turned to her sister.
‘Is mum okay at all?’
Ayo sighed and sat down. ‘I don’t understand her too. I hope she is not losing her mind. Dad may leave again and I’m sure he won’t return.’
Tomi paced the room, praying under her breath. God had to do a miracle. All their prayers could not end in vain. She sat down.
‘What about Garden Assembly?’ Tomi asked.
‘Mum didn’t want to have anything to do with them. They were here a couple of times but they stopped coming.’
Curious, Tomi went to the door and opened it slowly. She tip-toed towards the staircase and sat down. Ayo joined her. They sat listening to their parents’ conversation.
Paul held his wife’s shoulders. ‘I missed you.’
‘Paul, you hurt me. You just left me like that after everything I did for you. I was there for you when you messed up.’
God help me, this woman had not changed, Paul thought. She was still as self-centered as at the day he left her. Was this what he was coming back to?
Love as I have loved you.
Paul touched his wife’s chin. ‘I never loved Bimbo. Lust drove me to do what I did. It is you I love. I’m sorry for everything.’
It was as if something was let loose in Folake’s head. She began to sob so hard Paul had to hold her tightly. He was confused.
‘I waited eleven years to hear you say those words. I thought you didn’t love me anymore. You just kept mute after it happened. That was why I wanted Bimbo out of the way so I could be the first in your heart again. I just wanted to hear you say those words.’
‘Folake I was angry that after I confessed to you, you could immediately run to the Pastor to report me. I felt you had gotten your pound of flesh. I felt there was no point apologizing when you’ve embarrassed me before the church. I was wrong and I’m sorry.’
Paul led her back to the sofa and wrapped his hand around her. Folake nudged closer to him.
‘I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating you. Can you forgive me please?’
Paul kissed her. ‘I have.’ He kissed her again.
Folake closed her eyes. God, I have been so carnal and wicked. Will you make me a woman after your own heart. Please God.
Paul wiped the tears pouring down her face. ‘You didn’t tell Seyi about our separation?’
Folake shook her head. ‘How did you know?’
‘He called me a few weeks ago asking when I’ll be coming home. He told me you said I had to gone on a trip.’
Folake heard the gate open and stood up. She went to the window and motioned to her husband.
‘Your son is back.’ Paul joined his wife at the window and weaved his hand into hers. He felt a fresh love for Folake and knew it could only be God. Almost a year ago, he had sworn never to have anything to do with her but here he was, an overwhelming sense of peace flooding his heart. They watched their son bounce towards the house. Seyi stopped to stare at the jeep. He ran into the house.
‘Dad!’ Seyi shouted. Paul met him at the door and hugged his son. Tomi and her sister descended the stairs, a broad smile on their lips. Tomi couldn’t wait to call Femi to share the good news.
Paul winked at his children ‘Get my boxes from the trunk.’
When Paul’s children disappeared out of the house, Paul cupped Folake’s chin in his hands. ‘I booked two nights at Orange Brew Hotel before coming.’
Folake smiled. ‘What if I had thrown you out?’
‘God already told me you won’t.’
Paul pulled her into his arms. ‘By next year, we’d been celebrating a milestone in this marriage. I can’t believe I almost threw all that away.’
Folake gazed into his face. ‘There are things I need to set right. Since I disgraced Bimbo openly, I want her vindicated openly. I’m ready to stand before the church to let them know what I did. I want her children to be there when I say it.’
Paul pulled his wife closer. The storms had pushed them apart but God had in his mercy united their hearts again.
Segun lifted his laptop and hit it against the wall. He took his phone and did the same. The phone smashed against the wall and the screen shattered to pieces. Segun sat on the floor, frustrated.
‘Do I have to struggle with this forever? I hate myself. I’m tired!’
Every time he vowed to stop visiting porn sites, he found himself going back there. He was possessed, Segun concluded.
One of the nude women must have jumped out of the screen and planted a demon in his body. This demon was determined to send him to hell.
He’d left Port-Harcourt in shame when he raped a teenager in his church. Before the rape, he’d watch the girl swing her enormous hips in church. He’d returned home fantasying over her body and craving to touch her. When he became the assistant teen co-ordinator, it had been easy to draw her close. He’d invited her to his house and had raped her. He could still hear her screams.
He’d been arrested and nearly beaten to death but the girl’s parents had refused to push for prosecution. He ran from Port-Harcourt, hoping to get a fresh start in Ekiti after his father, a registrar in the university, helped him with a lecturing job. But he had almost raped Tomi. It would have happened if not for the knock that brought him back to his senses. When he had fled the room, he’d gone outside and found no one at the door.h
Segun hated the man he had become. What woman would want to live with a man like him. There was no hope for him. No matter the resolutions he made, the demons would always follow him. He hated church. All they screamed about was, Hell and how hot the place was. Like he didn’t know already. Pastor Akintola had mentioned his demon at the Sunday service the previous week.
‘Some of you are consumed by lust. You watch pornography and masturbate in the secret. If you don’t ask for mercy, you’ll be destroyed!’
How many times had he cried to God for mercy and yet he went through the same circle. How much crying was he supposed to do? He had gone without food for several days hoping God would see that and rescue him. He was doomed. Doomed for hell.
Segun pulled his knee up and bowed his head, fighting back tears.
Someone rapped on his door. Segun raised his head, annoyed. He didn’t want to talk to anyone. When the person got tired, he’d leave. He bowed his head again. The knock came a second time and a third time. Reluctantly, Segun stood up and went to the door. He panicked when he saw who it was.
This had to be about Tomi. Maybe Femi had come to tell him he was going to prosecute. He deserved to be locked up. He would rot in jail this time.
Femi smiled and stretched out his hand. ‘Hello Segun.’
BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED Episode
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