And they warned me oh! My sister warned me. Tega, my best friend, warned me. Kafayat or Kaffy as she prefers to be called, warned me too. But I just did not see their point. It is all about the heart, I argued and he sure has a good heart. Barely months into the marriage and I have begun to question the wisdom in my actions. But I can’t let them know they were right. I have to be strong. Who knows what other people go through in their marriages too and yet, they give off a happy exterior? I have to be strong, I repeat it out loud this time as I layer on the MAC Studio Tech foundation trying to cover the bruises Robert inflicted on me last night. I look at the clock through the mirror. It is 5:46pm. ‘I just can’t go out’,I  think to myself. But not showing up is going to heighten their already aroused suspicions as I know a few of them already suspect that I am not happy in my marriage to Robert. Oh Lord, help me!

I hate telling stories but this one, I just have to share. I hope you pick out something from it and apply it to your own life. Don’t just say ‘Oh poor Bioye’. Remember, it could be you…

***

I remember that cold Sunday morning like it was yesterday. I usually would do the 15 minute quick walk to Church but not that day. I had woken up extra late and therefore was left with no choice but to call a cab to pick me up. As an usher, I should have been in Church latest 10:20 am in time for the Sunday School but I kissed the chances of that happening goodbye. At exactly 10:45 am, I walked into Church, trying my best to avoid Sister Felicia, the head usher’s eyes. The week before, she had warned us about late coming. But really, it was not my fault. I was working on my essay late into the night and slept through my alarm in the morning. ‘Bioye, stand at the church entrance please. Lade, you stand  near the ministers’ corner…’, Sister Felicia issued orders. I walked briskly to my post trying to make up for my lateness. As I stood there, I watched several people throng into church. I had a permanent smile on my face and I nodded my head at the appropriate times chanting, ‘Welcome to church this morning’ and handing out the church bulletin.

Ten minutes into my duty, I noticed a face I had never seen before walk towards me. Trust me, I would have remembered if I had seen it before. My smile widened, my back straightened, my voice increased by a decibel and a semitone and I didn’t know when I muttered ‘Good morning, Welcome to Harvest Ministries, God bless you’ in perfect janded accent as I handed him the bulletin. The jara effort I put seemed to have paid off as the face offered me a broad smile revealing perfect teeth, not quite white but close enough.

As he walked on into the auditorium, my eyes followed him of their own accord. He was tall. That is the first thing I notice in guys. He was well dressed. He must have spent at least twenty minutes ironing that shirt alone to get the collar and the hands looking so perfect. He was slim too. I smiled to myself thinking, ‘How great is our God! What a beautiful man that is!’ Sighing, I greeted the next person, ‘Welcome to Church this morning’.

At the end of the service, new comers were asked to stand up and we led them away. I watched as he and eight other newbies went with Lade, my co-usher, to the room where Pastor Kunle would meet with them. A few minutes after we shared the ‘Grace in Fellowship’, I picked up my bag to head home. A part of me wanted badly to linger and ‘form activity’ in order to be able to speak with Mr. Sparkles, as I named him, when they were done with Pastor Kunle. Another part of me screamed, ‘Bioye, where is your pride?! You better rush home and carry on with your Financial Economics essay’. I heeded the latter voice, said my goodbyes and walked briskly home.

***

Two days later, in the evening, I rushed to Sainsburys near Pool Meadow as I had run out of toiletries. I was trying hard to get there before 8:30 pm when they close. As I brushed past people, almost running into the store, I spotted Mr. Sparkles walking out of the store. I offered a shy smile. He recognised me and said, ‘Hi, how are you?’.

‘I’m great, thanks’, thankful that I was now inside the store. He walked in with me. ‘I’m  Robert’ he said. ‘Abioye’, I responded. We chatted as I picked up my body cream and soap. I was too shy to pick up my sanitary pad though I really needed it. From the conversation we had, I discovered that he recently finished his MSc from Bristol University and got a job in a manufacturing company in Coventry 6 weeks ago. We exchanged numbers right there but exchanged BB pins and added each other on Facebook a few days after.

***

Robert and I got closer. But everyone around me frowned at our friendship. It turned out that he was not that much of a church goer which explains why he was only just attending church after 6 weeks of being in the city. He was a party lover, never missing out on the raves in Birmingham, Coventry, Manchester, London and even all the way in Newcastle. I saw from his pictures on Facebook that he loved women too. He always had one beauty or the other hanging on to his arm. I, on the other hand, was a God lover. I was growing in the Lord and I had stopped listening to worldly songs since 2007.  However, friendship with Robert slowly began to make it hard to steer clear of them seeing that those were the only songs he listened to in his car and home.

I knew what my Pastor’s response was going to be so when Robert asked me out, I did not even bother speaking to him. I told Jola, my only sister, who warned me against it. She never liked Robert. Oh, did I mention that he smokes? Yes, he was and still is a smoker and that was one of the many things Jola had against him. He drank too. Though he handled the alcohol quite well. He was everything I had been warned against yet all I ever wanted. He had fun stories to tell me of all his escapades at Obafemi Awolowo University during his Undergraduate days. I had lived a shielded life so I found those tales so amusing and fascinating. I enjoyed being with him. He was not like the boring and swagless guys that came my way asking me out. He was a cool guy and a cool guy is who I wished for as my husband. So I took him to God in prayer, telling God all the reasons why Robert was the man for me.

Whenever Pastor asked us to raise a prayer request, my only request was that Robert would come to the knowledge of God, that he would become genuinely born again, quit womanising, smoking, drinking and start really taking the things of God seriously. I even went on a 3 day dry fast, no food no water! All through, my only request was for Robert’s salvation. He actually began to improve. I clung to to the thread of hope I had and immediately said ‘yes’ to him. I did not let anyone know, however. How can it be said that Bioye Aderemi is dating Robert, the badoski. I just couldn’t let people in on my secret. However, those who knew, knew.

Within a few months of dating, I could not hide it anymore. Our pictures were constantly tagged together on Facebook. I was always seen coming out of his car and a few people had seen me on Bus 18 which I had no business being in if not because I had to go to his house which was in a remote part of Coventry. Things got really serious really quickly. Robert met my parents when they came visiting and I met his dad too when he came over. Our relationship was endorsed by our parents. My mom advised me to take things slow but I told her no, citing not wanting Robert to leave me for a more serious girl as my reason. Robert could do absolutely no wrong in my eyes. Even when I saw his errors, I made excuses for him. At some point, I was actually considering leaving my Church due to all the gossip. A few bold people walked up to me and told me to pray about my relationship with Robert. But I just thought that, at best they were being overly protective (those married or in a relationship) and at worst, plain jealous and envious (the single ones).

To make concise the very long tale, after a year and a half of dating Robert, we got married in my parents’ church in Onikan, Lagos and then flew back to England to do the Thanksgiving Service. I noticed a few glances of pity on me as we danced to the front. Knowing looks. But I did not care. I absolutely loved everything about Robert. I knew it was risky marrying someone who did not share my views and my morals, but it was a risk I was willing to take. I kept bragging to people that Robert was a great guy because he never pressured me into sleeping with him during our courtship. That was always my response to the doubting Thomases.

***

Nothing could have prepared me for the way things took a downturn in our home shortly after our wedding. Robert became dismissive of me and very impatient with me, raising his voice regularly. He reduced his church going from 3 times a month to once (Thanksgiving Sunday). He carried on partying with his single friends and a few other irresponsible married ones. I wanted by all means to make my marriage work so I accompanied him to a few of his parties where he would smoke and drink to stupor. I would then have to drive us home and then be subjected to rough-handling upon getting to the house. This happened at least four times.

7 months into marriage, I was banned from attending midweek service. I was only allowed to go to Church on Sundays and the earliest I could get to church was 11. This meant that I had to give up being a worker in Church. Robert beat me to a pulp one evening because I went to church after he had instructed me not to. He waited for me to get back. I walked in and then he stood up and greeted me. He locked the door behind me and beat me non stop for at least 5 minutes. I tried hard to use my elbows to shield my face but that did not stop me from getting a black eye, a burst lip and bruises all over my face and body. Upon seeing the damage he had done, he knelt down, crying, begging me to forgive him. I just lay there, limp, shattered, broken. The next morning, he ordered me to call in sick at my office and called in sick at his too so that he could make sure I did not leave the house all day in order to avoid suspicion. Little did I know that was merely the beginning. Slapping me became his regular response to anything I did which he deemed ‘not quite right’. The abuse ranged from slaps to punches to actual beatings that would last minutes.

Last night, it happened again. This time, the beating was because I forgot to record his Arsenal game highlights on BBC’s Match of the Day and had instead watched Oprah. I was laughing at a joke Oprah had told when he walked in from work.  Despite the unhappiness in my heart, I walked up to him to hug him and take off his jacket. He brushed me aside and bellowed,

‘Why are you not recording the highlights?!’

Remembering his instructions in the morning, I put my two hands on my lips in sadness at my forgetfulness.

‘Oh my days, baby, I totally forg..”

Before I could complete the words, a resounding, ear deafening slap was delivered to my left cheek. I heard the sound before I felt the sting. As I nursed my left cheek, Robert used the back of his hand to hit my right cheek screaming, ‘you are useless!’

‘But I forgot!’, I pleaded

‘Shut up, stupid woman, fool!, he retorted, hitting me on my face and body.

I had mastered the art of shielding my face with my arms when he reigned the punches on me. I usually ‘guided’ my teeth because I just could not bear to lose them. But this time, all I held on to was my belly. I was going to protect my belly with my life because in it lives our unborn child.

***

A few of you reading this might be like I was-in love with a dream killer, a wife beater, a destiny destroyer. However, you might be feeling so ‘in love’ that you begin to justify and rationalise what you clearly know to be a no go area, a disaster zone. Please be wise. I am in this marriage and all I can do is to pray and fast that Robert meets with God and changes his ways. There is absolutely no joy in being with a man who has no value or regard for you. This basic principle, I was totally oblivious to. Don’t be like me.

No amount of love a man has for you can ever stop him from cheating on and mistreating you. Only the degree of love he has for GOD can stop him from hurting you. He treats you well as a sign of his reverence and commitment to God. You are simply a beneficiary of his unflinching obedience to the Word of God which says, husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church. Therefore, you should focus on the degree of love that man has for God, not for you.

I thought Robert loved me because of all the money he spent on me and the attention he showered on me. Now, I’m wiser. Unfortunately, my newly acquired wisdom is of no use to me. They say experience is the best teacher. It certainly has taught me well. You, on the other hand, could also learn from experience…but not yours. Learn from mine. Don’t try and patch a broken person. You are worth a great man/woman. Don’t look for a person to fix that would need constant prayers and fasting. Marriage has too many issues in and of itself to add to it the problem of a cheating partner. Once you see evil traits, ‘shine your eyes’…wide. Don’t sweep signs of potential future trauma under the carpet. It will come back to bite you. Most importantly, commit your ways to God’s hand and FOLLOW His leading. I dictated to God. I chose my man and practically commanded God to place His stamp of approval on my choice. Look at me now.

***

It is now 6:26pm and I need to get to the restaurant where I am to meet up with Kaffy and the girls before 7:00pm. Hurriedly, I tweeze my lashes, apply my eye shadow and lipgloss and stare at the finished look in the mirror. I have managed to cover up the bruises with my heavy makeup. But in my eyes I see pain, sorrow and regret which no amount of Studio Tech foundation, iridescent powder or blush can mask.

Unfortunately, there is no one to run to. There is no escaping this mess in which I have placed myself. I regret the day I met Robert. Maybe I should not have gone out of my house that Sunday morning. I just pray that God in His infinite mercy will look upon my tears and change Robert. He does not even have to love me. All I ask is that he stops beating me, if only for the sake of  this 2 month old pregnancy. I will keep being a submissive and praying wife. I will do my best to make this work. I cannot let the world laugh at me. I know they are all waiting to, especially those who warned me. As I leave the room, I think to myself, ‘had I known!’

He who hath ears, let him hear. A word is indeed enough for the wise.

That’s all folks (for now)

Temiville.xoxo

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