“Do you remember the promises you made to me before we got married?” Jenny asked not taking her eyes off Michael. Michael could not understand her anymore. He was sure she ought to be furious at him but she was calm all through, which scared the hell out of him, praying within himself that she had not lost her mind. “Michael I am talking to you. Look at me,” she said, making a failed attempt to raise her voice due to the pains resulting from the swelling at the right corner of her mouth. She adjusted her frail body from resting on the wall into a better sitting position on the cold tiles obviously ready to unburden her heart to him no matter how difficult it would be. She was fed up with bottling her misery and pains since her return from the hospital two days ago. Michael wondered how he suddenly became the cause of her anguish. He could not look her in the eyes knowing fully that the pain in there would consume him. “Well, since you have forgotten so soon, I’ll help jog your memory,” she continued.

“This marriage will not pull through and that’s final,” exploded Deaconess Comfort Obiora, Michael’s mother, storming out of the dining hall without batting an eyelid about Jennifer’s feelings. She had made it clear to Michael on several occasions that he the scion and sole heir of the Obiora dynasty cannot marry a girl whose family was way out of their league. And to make matters worse, Jennifer’s father was just a trader that owned a stationery shop. Mrs. Comfort regarded her as a gold digger and an opportunist after guys from stinking rich families with the sole aim of enriching her family. In as much as she was not the type to match make her son with the daughter of a friend or business partner, she was not willing to accept a pauper as her son’s wife.

Jennifer’s feet suddenly became heavy as getting to her feet became a herculean task. Her eyes could not contain the tears anymore as it flowed on its own accord. Michael could not bear to see the harbinger of his joy in an emotional turmoil. He cupped her face with his hands and reassured her of the magnitude of his love for her, making her realize that his mother’s opinion and threats had no bearing to their future together.

“Michael, I can’t do this,” she said as she suddenly pulled away from him.

“What are talking about?” he asked with a look of surprise. He quickly foreshadowed her response and shuddered at the possibility of losing her. 

“Michael I can’t marry into a family where I am not welcome. Can’t you see that if we proceed with the marriage your mum will never see me as a member of the family? Mike, let’s just forget about the wedding plans,” Jennifer said with pain in her eyes.

“Look into my eyes and tell me that you’ve been lying to me all this while that we have been together. When did my mother’s opinion suddenly become God’s opinion? Saying I love you is an understatement Jenny, I adore you. I’ll treasure you today, tomorrow and even when we become stricken with age. I promise to be your friend, lover, companion and protector at all times on the condition that you promise to walk with me through life by my side. My love, will you still marry me?” he asked searching her eyes for a favourable answer.

Without uttering a word, Jennifer nodded and slipped into his loving arms.

Despite the overwhelming resistance from Michael’s mother, the wedding still took place four months later amidst cheers from friends and family members. Being married to Michael Obiora, the love of her life was Jennifer’s dream come true. He showered her with unconditional love and affection and was always there to shield her from his mother’s torments. As far as Michael was concerned, Jenny’s love tank would never run dry of genuine love and care. However, several months into the marriage, Jennifer’s world began to fall apart as she got to discover another aspect of Michael’s life that became her worst nightmare – his fierce temper. At the onset, she attributed it to work-related issues and hoped that he would change but not until he started hitting her at the slightest provocation, which eventually resulted in a miscarriage. 

The loss of her first pregnancy took its toll on Jennifer. She became apprehensive and distant to her husband who outdid himself in trying to get her to forgive him. She equally withdrew herself from her family and friends, not even sparing Sarima and Melody, her closest friends, for fear of laying bare her husband’s archilles’ heel. She decided to mask her pain and fears from them, all because she knew that opening up to them would make them lose the respect they reposed in her husband. Michael on his part repented of his actions and fought hard to win back Jennifer’s love and trust. That was more than a year ago, the beginning of the battery.
“Michael, is this the love and protection you promised me?” she asked fighting back the tears that threatened to rain down.

“Baby I’m truly sorry. Please forgive me. Just give me another chance. I… I… I promise to be a better man,” he stuttered as he pleaded on his knees in a broken voice.

“Please spare me all that. Your apology now sounds like a broken record. What should I forgive you for? For pounding me whenever you couldn’t keep your anger in check or for beating out the precious seeds God blessed us with? Three miscarriages in two years Michael! Not one, not two but three babies have gone down the drain, all thanks to you. You know what? I think you deserve a medal for being an outstanding infant murderer,” she said and laughed him to scorn. 

Michael was dumbstruck as Jennifer laughed as though entertained by a seasoned comedian. The laughter continued and gradually turned into a heart wrenching cry. He couldn’t take it anymore. He had seen her in pains before but not in this state. He took her in his arms and began to smooch her, wiping the tears that ran down her cheeks while trying hard to conceal his turmoil.

The office was spacious in every sense of the word and furnished with an exquisite taste befitting of the pastor of a large flock. The clergy’s office housed two compartments – the normal office section and the mini conference area. At the far right end of the wall stood the bookshelf that contained a good number of Christian literature and other philosophical books.  A silver metal hanger fixed to the wall just before the bookshelf bore the pastor’s navy blue jacket. The light blue curtain, off white paint on the wall alongside the white tiles further accentuated the beauty of the office. Michael knew he wouldn’t be here if he had a choice but he was sure his marriage was on the verge of collapsing and he needed to salvage it. Jennifer had threatened to file for a divorce if he refuses to book an appointment with Pastor Damian for counseling.

He was still explaining himself to pastor Damian who was listening with rapt attention while Jennifer kept mum, staring into space. She was all ears from the beginning of the session but slid into oblivion when Michael’s utterances began to baffle her. She was totally unaware that Pastor Damian was trying to get her attention until she was jolted out of her wandering state by Michael’s touch. 

“Sister Jennifer, are you sure you really want to do this?” Pastor Damian inquired all smiles.

“Yes sir,” Jennifer replied, adjusting her seat, clearly ready to be drilled.

“Do you still love Michael after all you’ve both been through?” he further probed. 

“I still do with the whole of my heart but I doubt he feels the same way. I think you should direct this same question at him,” she stated matter-of-factly.

Jennifer’s response shocked Michael who stared at her bewilderingly.

“I never thought it necessary since he made mention of the fact that he loves you dearly or is there something you feel I should know about?” he asked looking from Jennifer to Michael and back to Jennifer.

“Pastor, I heard him say it is normal for couples to have issues but left out the part of him constantly venting his anger on me with his fists,” Jennifer said near tears.

The clergy couldn’t hide his surprise and turned to Michael for answers. “Michael is this true?” Pastor Damian probed.

“Pastor how can I do that? I mean I love my wife so much,” Michael replied, placing his hands on her thighs as a way of pleading with her in order to save his face.

“Love?” she asked contorting her face as if the word tasted sour on her tongue. She looked him in the face and screamed, “Liar! Pastor he is lying. He beats me at the slightest provocation. In fact, I’ve had three miscarriages as a result of that. He has hurt me physically, emotionally and psychologically. I now live in constant fear of him not knowing what the next minute holds in store for me,” she said amidst sobs. 

Pastor Damian was speechless as he stared endlessly at Michael who bowed his head. He was at loss of what to say. He had handled several cases among couples from the pew but nothing of this sort before. He was aware that domestic violence was a serious problem that rocked some Christian homes and was not to be treated with kid gloves. He looked at Jennifer with pity and silently asked God for wisdom in handling their case. Having exhausted his options, he decided to try something out of the ordinary.

“Sister Jennifer, please pull yourself together. I honestly think we should reschedule this meeting because we are not making headway. I would not want to apportion blames on anyone just yet. I need both of you to go home and have a rethink about this whole thing. This counseling cannot yield positive results if you employ deceit and place a barricade around your ego,” he stated looking in Michael’s direction. With that he stood to his feet, an indication that the meeting was over. 

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