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Her mother-in-law stared at her for what seemed like an eternity from her position on the dining table. Jennifer was sure she came prepared for what she does best – taunting her. She had become accustomed to her schemes but didn’t trust herself to condone her hassle this time. As if on cue, Mrs. Obiora looked at her son and demanded to know if they would ever give her a grandchild. Michael, sensing what was coming, informed her that they were doing something about it. If Michael thought his response would deter his mother from prying further, he was mistaken. Turning to Jennifer, she continued, “My daughter did the abortionist do a perfect job when you went in for the procedure? Your constant miscarriage is a pointer to the fact that your womb has been tampered with or am I wrong?” Mrs. Obiora asked Jennifer with a smile.

Jennifer could not stomach it anymore and for the first time, she walked out on her straight to the separate room she now occupied after the incident. Michael was hysterical and fought pretty hard so as not to sound disrespectful to his mum. 

“Mum I’ll appreciate it if you keep your distance from my marriage. I know you care about us having kids but right now Jennifer and I are going through a difficult phase and I would not want you to mess things up,” he warned as he stormed out of the dining, praying his mother had not put more strain on their relationship. He stood at the door of her room indecisive on the next move to make. Banishing his fear of being rejected, he allowed himself into the room and sat on the edge of her bed and was about to say something when Jennifer put up her right hand in the air signaling him not to go ahead with whatever he had in mind.

“Please don’t. If you don’t mind, I’ll like to be alone,” she said without even looking him in the eyes.

Michael could hardly find his feet. He looked at the woman he married who was now a shadow of herself and realized that he deserved whatever treatment she meted out to him. 

Sitting across Sarima and Melody in their favourite booth in Spicy Treat restaurant, Jennifer was hesitant in divulging more information to them. She wished she could boycott the question but was sure her buddies would eventually make her spill it all out. The three friends go way back to their undergraduate days in Unilag where they were labeled “the three Musketeers” because they were an inseparable pair and upon graduation strengthened their bond all the more. Hence, they could read themselves like a book, seeing right through the façade to the pains.  They both knew Jennifer well enough to know it was worse than they expected but waited patiently for her to spew everything. Her withdrawal from them spoke volumes making them realize that something was amiss but always met a brick wall whenever they tried to be her confidants. 

Sarima observed that she was fidgeting with her hands and wrapped her hands around her for moral support.

“It’s okay dear. You know you can always confide in us. How long has this been going on?” Sarima asked after reassuring her.

“It’s been going on for more than a year,” Jennifer replied with her head bowed. 

“And you kept it all to yourself? When last did you take a good look at your reflection in the mirror? You have bags under your eyes and you look way older than your actual age. I am highly disappointed in Michael. Tony is not perfect but he has never lifted his hand on me ever since we exchanged vows. No genuine Christian lifts his hands on his wife,” Melody exploded unable to contain her rage. 

“Melody, please get a hold of your emotions. How can we be of help to her if you carry on like this?” cautioned Sarima. Turning to Jennifer, she probed further. “Has his mother any knowledge about all of this?”

For fear of letting her emotions loose, she shook her head in the negative. Sarima took hold of her hands and squeezed them as a way of giving her solace.

“What has his attitude been like after the incident?” she further questioned. 

“Well he’s been feeling dejected and frightened of loosing me. Right now he’s just more of a vulnerable child that can be waylaid at any minute.  To be candid I have never seen him like this,” Jennifer replied.

Melody cleared her throat, drawing the attention of the other ladies refusing to allow Jennifer’s heart soften so much.

“Babe, do you remember Belema Davies who got married during our third year? Well she died some months back as a result of domestic violence,” Melody said looking in Jennifer’s direction.

“What! How did that happen?” Jennifer asked in shock. “I heard her husband pushed her down the stairs and she forcefully landed with her head during one of their fisticuffs. My dear I know you are at crossroads right now but before making any decision, you need to realize that your life is of equal importance too,” Melody advised.

“Sweetheart you know that by being Berean you cannot divorce your husband except on the grounds of infidelity. I’ll advice that you attend the counseling sessions with an open mind believing that God will step in. We will be praying for you and always remember that your happiness lies only in God and not in your husband,” Sarima said.

Michael could tell that there was something different about his wife of late. Gone were her monosyllabic responses and withdrawal. She had suddenly become receptive and full of life once more, obliterating every trace of the pains and sorrow of the past weeks. He was sure something had occurred in her life but could not place his fingers on it.  Pastor Damian said a short prayer asking for God’s direction and took a brief exhortation from Ephesians 5: 22 – 29 admonishing them to let God’s kind of love be at the center of their marriage. He studied them for a while and could not help but notice the joy that radiated through Jennifer and the sober look on Michael’s face causing him to praise God silently. The clergy then gave them room to bare their hearts out to one another before proceeding with the counseling. Michael quickly went on his knees with tears in his eyes seeking her forgiveness for his violent and hideous attitude towards her.

“I know I have hurt you beyond measure. I’m not even deserving of your forgiveness and love. Your being cold and withdrawn these past weeks really got to me and have given me a glimpse of what I put you through all this while. I’m truly sorry my love. Tell me what you want me to do and I’ll do it but please don’t cast me away,” Michael appealed to her.

Jennifer, who had been quiet all through, helped him up to his feet before addressing him. “Where is the Godly man that chided me when I told half truths? The spirit filled man that saw sin for what it truly is and eschewed lies and deceit, the man that loved me to a fault and would never afford to see me sad. I want him back baby. That is the man I crave for,” Jennifer responded holding his hands in hers.

“By God’s grace I’ll be that again. Don’t give up on me I beg you,” Michael pleaded.

“It’s okay baby,” she replied, all smiles, giving him a hug.

“You’ve been unusually happy in spite of everything. What is going on?” Michael asked.

“In my quest to make our marriage work, I sought to please you in every possible way because I thought my joy comes from you thereby making God come second in my life. But I recently discovered that my joy and peace does not come from you or any other man but from God. Therefore I can’t displease God in order to please you. Please don’t misunderstand me baby. I love you so much but henceforth God comes first in my life, I mean our lives.”

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