BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED Episode 6 by Ife Grace.
19th March, 2015.
I have done some terrible things in my life, yes. But pushing Stella to carry out that abortion, I had no part in it.
I still remember the morning before I was excommunicated from Garden Assembly. I woke up feeling empty. I wanted to start a new life with God and I wondered if he’d forgive me for all my sinful acts. In a way, I felt connected to Mary Madgalene, the woman in the bible possessed by demons. I figured if Jesus could reach out to her, there might still be hope for me. Maybe the demons driving me to my ruin will finally leave me alone.
It was with this hope that I went to church that morning. I’d decided to see my Pastor after the service to seek for help. I got to church only for the Pastor to call my name and demand that I stand before the congregation. Scared to my wits, I looked above their heads, my heart pounding loudly. I didn’t know what was going on. My thoughts flew in all directions.
Then the Pastor called me a wicked woman. He said I had been sent from the pit of hell to destroy the church. He read a scripture and said Like Paul commanded that the yeast be cast out, he would have to follow the bible and send me out lest I destroy what he had suffered to build.
The part that weakened me was when he said I had taken Stella for an abortion and she was in a critical condition at the hospital. It would take a miracle for her to survive. It was at that point I started crying. That would be the fourth time I’d been accused falsely without any opportunity to defend myself. The head of the security department was standing at the door, ready to lead me out. I was told never to return to the church again.
Femi stopped reading and bowed his head. Tears filled his eyes as the memory of that day came rushing into his head.
When he got home that day, he’d been so angry and had lost his temper. He told his mother what a disgrace she had been and how she had subjected him to a life of shame. His mother had stood before him, tears running down her face. She had told him she didn’t take Stella for an abortion. She didn’t do some of the things the church had accused her of. He’d not believed her.
Femi went to the window and drew back the curtain. It was dark outside and the air was still. Everywhere was silent except for the turmoil going on in his heart.
Femi, I didn’t do it. I didn’t take Stella for that abortion.
His mother’s words rang loudly in his ears. Why hadn’t he believe her?
He returned to the bed and picked up the diary. Bukola left the entrance and sat beside him as they look down at the open book on Femi’s lap.
After I was sent out of the church, I wanted to commit suicide. I was just tired of my life. But each time I thought of it, Femi showed up in my room and I felt a flicker of hope. Why that boy loves me so much, I can’t understand. He had a right to stay away completely. Of course, I haven’t been an example of a good mother. But he stayed. My daughter was there too. The love I saw in their hearts weakened my resolve to end my life. They were with me even when cancer began to eat into my bones.
Before my sickness became full blown, Stella came to see me at the school where I worked. She was in tears. She said her mother and Sister Folake had helped her with the abortion and she had been restless since she heard I had been falsely accused. She ran away before I could say a word. I’m in tears right now. Sis Folake finally got her pound of flesh. Did she have to hurt me this way for what I did with her husband? I have to stop here. My hands are shaking.
Femi turned to the next page. Blank. He flipped back to the last entry and looked at the date. She had written it shortly before she was rushed to the hospital where she had died.
‘I miss mum.’ Bukola said, wrapping her arm around her brother’s shoulder. ‘I really miss her.’
Femi couldn’t hold back the tears. Bukola was crying aloud, her body trembling. He wanted to comfort her but he couldn’t even pull himself together. He sat there with her and wept.
Femi pulled away slowly and turn to his sister. ‘Bukky, can I be alone please?’
Bukola nodded quietly and left the room. Femi reached for his phone and dialed Tomi’s number. She answered on the first ring.
‘Sweetheart, I was almost falling asleep. I thought you won’t call again.’
Femi exhaled, rising to his feet. ‘Tomi, I can’t do this.’
‘What are you talking about?’
He leaned against the wall. ‘I want us to end this relationship. Let’s go our separate ways please.’
Tomi hesitated. ‘Femi why? At least I deserve to know the reason.’
There were so many reasons, some he couldn’t understand himself. How could he live with himself knowing what his future mother-in-law had done to his mother. He wanted to cut ties with Garden Assembly. It was time to leave his past behind and get on a new start.
‘Tomi, marriage can’t work for us. That’s all I have to say. I’m really sorry.’
‘Alright.’ Tomi said quietly and hung up.
Femi felt his heart shattering to pieces. He returned to bed but couldn’t sleep. He buried his head in his pillow and still didn’t get the comfort he craved. He pushed the pillow aside and went to the living room. As he took the remote and pointed it at the TV, the light went out.
He hissed and went back to bed. He lay there, staring at the ceiling, and into the darkness.
Tomi put the phone down and sat with her back against the wall. Few minutes ago, her relationship with Femi was perfectly fine and the next minute, the relationship was over. She closed her eyes and let out a breath slowly as though she’d been holding it for weeks.
‘Are you okay?’ Ayo asked, looking up from the novel she was reading. Tomi forced a smile. She took her cellphone from the bed and went to bathroom.
Sitting on the sparkling floor of the bathroom, she bent her head as tears slipped down her cheeks.
‘God, can you show me what’s going on? Did I miss it somewhere? Oh God, I need you.’
She lay on the floor. She tapped her music player and allowed songs play randomly on her phone.
Tomi suddenly felt her body go hot. She turned to lie on her back, holding her chest as she felt heaviness descend on her heart. Then in a flash, she saw Femi hunkered down under a tree. He looked troubled as he held his head. Tomi opened her eyes and sat up.
Had she just seen a vision of the man she loved? What was going on with Femi? He looked like he was in a lot of pain. Should she call him? What was Femi not telling her? Why this strong burden?
She knelt and prayed for him as if her life depended on it. Her chest tightened with each incoherent word that left her lips. Tomi stayed there until she felt light and the burden lifted. A wave of peace settled in her heart and with it came a deep love for Femi.
Relieved, she left the bathroom. Ayo was still lying on the bed, engrossed in the novel. She raised her head and looked at her sister
‘Tomi, you were in the bathroom a long time. Are you sure you are okay?’
Tomi smiled. Her heart was filled with an unspeakable joy. ‘Yes, I’m fine.’
‘I don’t understand us these days.’ Ayo said, frowning. ‘We don’t keep secrets from each other. But now it seems you don’t tell me things again.’
Tomi didn’t know what to say. Since her sister’s disapproval of Femi, their flow in communication had experienced several bumps.
‘Ayo I’m sorry you feel this way. I guess we’ve both become really busy with work. We should hang out sometime, don’t you think?’
Ayo didn’t respond. She turned her attention back to her novel.
‘Goodnight sis.’ Tomi said, rubbing her sister’s leg affectionately.
‘Good night.’ Ayo mumbled.
Tomi’s heart pounded as she approached Becky’s house. A month had passed since she’d spoken to Femi. Did he finally get the job in Lagos or was he still working for Becky’s father?
She rubbed her palm as she stepped past the security guard who had opened the gate for her. Her eyes swept the garage for any sign of Femi. Disappointed, she headed towards the main building and it was then she saw a dog running towards her.
Tomi screamed and ran out of the compound.
‘Tomi, come in, he doesn’t bite.’ A man said, from inside the house. She recognized the voice. It was Becky’s father.
The security man stood at the gate, laughing. He motioned for Tomi to come in. He was obviously enjoying the fear in her eyes.
‘Oh you think this is funny.’ Tomi shouted at him.
He laughed again, harder this time. ‘Aunty, enter. The dog no be African dog. He no get teeth.’
Tomi tip-toed into the house. At a corner, Becky’s father rubbed his hands over the dog’s fur. How can a dog this big not bite?
The dog sighted Tomi and slowly began to move towards her. Tomi drew back. Becky’s father called the dog’s name. It wagged his tail and followed his master to the back of the building. Tomi ran into the house and up the stairs that led to Becky’s room.
‘Becky, why didn’t you tell me you now have a dog?’ Tomi said, panting as she approached Becky’s bed. She sat slowly on the bed when she noticed Becky’s tear-smeared face.
Becky blew her nose into a white handkerchief. ‘I should have told you this.’ She paused. ‘The wedding has been cancelled. My relationship is over.’
Tomi’s eyes widened. What was it with all these break up stories? She felt her heart weaken at the news. She had come to receive encouraging words from her friend only to be hit with this sad news.
‘Becky, we are preparing for your wedding.’ Tomi’s eyes went to the wedding gown still hanging on the wall. Becky followed the direction of her eyes and returned her gaze to her friend.
‘What happened?’ Tomi asked.
‘I called it off. I told him I couldn’t go on with it.’
‘Becky, how could you do such a thing?’
‘Fear is a terrible thing Tomi. I’m glad I did. It hurts with the investment I have put in it but I know I did the right thing. So many things were fundamentally wrong with the relationship. I kept convincing myself that I was more spiritual and I’d change him but I felt drained every time. Yesterday, I heard he has moved on with another lady and I was wondering, so fast?’
Tomi wrapped her arms around her friend. She wondered if she should tell about Femi. ‘Everything will be fine.’
When she pulled away, Becky looked at her. ‘How’s Femi?’
Tomi played with her fingers. ‘Femi broke up with me .’
Becky stared at her friend, astounded. ‘We need to pray. All these break up stories, no be am o. What’s going on? But this is rather shocking. I didn’t expect this from Femi. ’
Tomi stared at the empty chocolate box at the foot of the bed. ‘I didn’t expect it too. Becky-’
The door opened and Peju walked in. Tomi stopped talking. Peju noticed the halt in conversation and wondered why they stopped when she entered.
Peju looked at Becky, then at Tomi. ‘What were you Ladies talking about?’
Tomi shrugged. ‘Nothing really. We were just talking about break-ups. ’
Relaxed, Peju rushed to Becky’s side. ‘I’m so sorry Becky. When I saw your message yesterday, I felt really bad.’
Becky looked at her friends. ‘I should have carried you ladies along when it happened. I just wasn’t ready to talk about it then. When I heard he had moved on, I just lost it.’ She glanced at Tomi. ‘You have to tell her about your relationship. You can’t keep hiding it from her.’
Peju shot Tomi a disappointing look. When Tomi turned her face away. Peju rose and stood in front of the mirror. She felt hurt that her best friend could confide in Becky and keep secrets away from her. She reached for a hair brush from the table and turned slightly in Tomi’s direction. ‘You don’t have to tell me anything. Your secret is your business.’
Becky laughed. ‘What is wrong with you?’
Peju was clearly upset. ‘It’s the truth. If she doesn’t want me to know what’s going on in her life, that’s fine.’
Tomi went to her and hugged her from behind. ‘You know I love you right?’
Peju stared at her friend from the mirror. Tomi’s eyes were teary. Peju turned to face her. Her eyes were filled with compassion for her friend. Whatever this was had to be serious.
Tomi smiled sadly. ‘Femi and I got into a relationship when you were away in Ghana.’ Tomi watched for any sign of disapproval from Peju’s face. ‘I didn’t know how to tell you because of the way you reacted when you saw me talking with him.’
Peju sighed deeply. She remembered the day they had walked into Becky’s house and her friend had seen Femi cleaning Becky Father’s car. Tomi had screamed in excitement and gone over to meet him. Peju had been irritated. She had immediately expressed her disappointment when Tomi came into Becky’s room.
Peju pulled her into her arms. ‘I’m so sorry. I don’t know what got over me that day. When I got home, the Holy Spirit corrected me.’
Tomi returned to the bed. ‘Newsflash. He broke up with me.’
Peju looked confused. She sat on the bed beside Tomi. ‘Babe, It’s simple. Go back to God and listen for the next step. Find out his mind concerning the situation.’
Tomi’s phone buzzed. She reached into her bag and pulled out the phone. It was a message from her mother.
We are at your shop. Where are you?
Tomi read the message again. We? Who had her mum brought to her fashion studio?
She held her handbag. ‘Ladies, I have to leave for my studio now. Mum is waiting for me.’ She squeezed Becky’s hands. ‘We’ll all be fine.’
‘Here she is.’ Tomi’s mother said as soon as Tomi got down from the taxi.
Tomi noticed there were two cars parked in front of her studio. A white Lexus and a Blue Camry. Standing beside her mother was a tall dark woman in her late fifties. Mama Dedun was her mother’s close friend and the former head of the women’s fellowship at Garden Assembly.
‘Good afternoon ma’am.’ Tomi greeted Mama Dedun
‘How are you my dear.’ She responded, pushing back her round glasses. The edges of her hair were all gone and it gave her head a funny look. Her buggy eyes danced behind the spectacles. ‘I was just telling your mother how impressed I am about your workspace. It’s so beautiful. In fact when I get home, I’m going to call all my friends and direct them here.’
Tomi kneeled slightly. ‘Thank you ma.’
Tomi’s mother opened the door of the white lexus. ‘Come and say hi to my daughter.’
A fine young man with a short goatee stepped out of the car. Tomi peered closely at him. She covered her mouth in surprise and ran to hug him.
The women stood aside, watching, a broad smile spread across their faces.
Tomi hit Segun’s shoulder playfully. ‘I shouldn’t even be talking to you. You just disappeared out of sight. It’s been how many years. No call. No text.’
Segun laughed. ‘I’m so sorry.’
Tomi couldn’t contain the joy she felt seeing her friend again. Segun was Mama Dedun’s first son. They’d been very close friends at Garden Assembly until he left for Kaduna to stay with his father.
‘Dedun and I will be going shopping for a couple of hours. You guys have a lot to catch up on.’
Tomi watched the two women enter the blue Toyota Camry and drive away. As she turned her attention back to Segun, the car stopped and her mother came out.
Tomi turned. Her mother gestured for her to come. She went to meet her.
‘Be nice to him. This is a responsible man. He’ll make your life beautiful. I don’t want you talking to him about Femi. Is that clear?’
Tomi folded her hands. ‘Are you arranging marriage for me? I thought we left that in the 17th century.’
‘I am your mother. I believe I know what’s best for you.’ She waved her daughter away. ‘Go have fun with your husband-to-be.’ She slide back into the car. The driver sped away.
When Tomi returned to meet Segun, she became uncomfortable. She liked Segun a lot but not once had she imagined taking the friendship to a deeper level. Even if Femi married someone else, she wasn’t sure she would settle for Segun.
‘Those women are trying to set us up.’ Segun said, looking into her eyes.
‘Exactly! I don’t even understand them.’
Segun glanced long at Tomi. ‘Maybe it’s a good thing. Marriage in the family is safe. We grew up in the same church, our mothers are bosom friends.’
Tomi’s heart raced. Segun couldn’t be thinking of marrying her. ‘Who says I have to marry someone who attends my church. That’s now how God works. There are people who marry from the same denomination and their marriages have crashed. The important thing is to seek God’s leading. He knows the end from the beginning.’
Segun laughed. ‘This defensive tone of yours. You are definitely in love with someone.’
Tomi tried to stay calm. Why couldn’t she get Femi out of her mind? Why couldn’t she just move on with her life? Segun might just be an alternative. The romantic feelings could come later. She imagined telling her parents of her decision to marry Segun. They’d be thrilled by the news.
Segun placed his hand on her shoulder. ‘There is someone right?’
Tomi wanted to say No. She wanted to push Femi out of her mind and believe something can work out with Segun. But Femi stayed on her heart and she found herself nodding at his question.
‘I was joking about the marriage in the family thing. I wanted to see your reaction.’
Tomi looked at him. ‘Are you seeing someone?’
Segun hooked his thump into his pocket. ‘Can I really saying I’m seeing someone? I have been chasing this babe for a year now. She’s just playing hard to get. I really love her.’
Tomi felt relieved. The tension she felt earlier was gone. Segun opened his phone and showed her a picture of a beautiful fair skinned lady standing by the beach.
‘I don’t know why she keeps saying No. I bought gifts, sent money to her several times, stayed with her in the hospital when she was admitted. I don’t even know how else to prove that I’m serious about her.’
‘Maybe you need to relax.’
Segun folded his hands ‘That’s why I was happy when I got this job at Ekiti State University.’
They walked side by side, laughing as they entered her fashion studio. Tomi asked one of her apprentice to get a drink. Another lady pulled out a stool from behind one of the sewing machines.
Segun sat down. ‘How’s Peju, Becky and all those your friends? I missed Garden Assembly.’
‘Peju is fine. Becky too. Most of our friends no longer attend Garden Assembly. Some relocated from Ado and others joined other churches. There are more new faces now.’
Segun looked around. ‘This place is really cool. I’m glad you found your path. You make men’s wears too?’
Tomi pointed at some clothes hanging on the wall. ‘I just finished that for a client in Lagos.’
Segun looked closely at a blue atiku top embroidered with white designs. ‘This is really good.’
‘Thank you.’ Tomi said, smiling.
‘What of Femi? He has been on my heart since I returned.’
The question caught Tomi off guard. Why did Femi have to come into this conversation.
‘I heard he has relocated to Lagos.’ Tomi said.
Segun frowned. ‘And I was looking forward to seeing him again.’ He stood up. ‘I know you are very busy but it’ll be fun to go somewhere to talk. Take some hours off work jare. We can drive around and look for a nice place to sit and chat. ’
Tomi smiled. ‘Not a bad idea.’
She glanced at one of her apprentice sitting behind one of the sewing machines.
‘I’ll be back soon.’
They held hands and walked back to the white lexus.
Sunday morning. Pastor Akintola stood on the pulpit in a black suit and smiled warmly at the congregation gathered in the Garden Assembly auditorium.
‘Good morning church.’ He started in a loud voice. He got a mumbled response as members reached for their notebooks and bibles.
The Pastor flipped through his notes as he spoke ‘Turn to your neigbour and ask him, are you ready for the word?’
The back door opened. Bukola entered, dressed in a torn jean and white tank top. Her hair was dyed red and her makeup heavy. She walked straight to the altar but was stopped midway by an usher. Bukola glared at the lady who kept pointing her attention to empty seats at the back of the auditorium.
Pastor Akintola hesitated for a minute, his gaze resting on Bukola. Quickly, he shifted his attention to the other side of the hall. ‘Today we’ll be continuing with our series on Consecration. Will you please turn your bibles to Matthew chapter five verse forty-eight.’
Bukola laughed bleakly and looked around. Some of the members were staring at her.
‘I’ll be back.’ She whispered and retreated. As Bukola approached the exit, she stopped.
‘Is this not Mama Folake?’ She muttered under her breath, her eyes resting on a woman sitting towards the edge of the back row. In Garden Assembly, it was forbidden to refer a woman old enough to mother you as ‘sister.’ You either call her ‘mummy’ or you put ‘mama’ before her first name.
Mama Folake quickly bent over her bible, flipping through it as if confused where a book of the bible was located.
Bukola took the bible from her laps. She flung it across the hall and grabbed the hem of her purple buba lace.
‘You are a liar! You set my mother up. It was you who took Stella for that abortion! You are wicked! No wonder your husband ran into my mother’s arms.’
The words struck. A slap landed on Bukola’s face.
‘You slapped me?’ Bukola yelled at the woman but didn’t release her grip on her buba. Before she would retaliate, the head of the ushering department, a huge man with a stony face, lifted Bukola from the floor and threw her over his shoulder like she was a bag of cement. He walked out of the auditorium.
Bukola kept shouting. ‘My mother is innocent! This church will rot in hell!’
Some women hurried towards Tomi’s mother.
‘Sis Folake, are you alright.’
‘That family is really from the pit of hell.’
Another woman patted her gently on her shoulders. Mama Dedun rubbed her back. Mama Folake smiled and gently assured them she was fine.
Tomi was sitting two rows away and had watched the drama unfold between Bukola and her mother. As she turned her attention back to the Pastor, she couldn’t get Bukola’s words out of her mind.
Had her mother really been involved with the abortion?
BEFORE WE GOT MARRIED Episode
To be continued
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