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Mrs. Ifeoma Umeh, Jennifer’s mother, was trying her best to keep her cool. She was fuming and tapping her right foot repeatedly on the floor as a way of suppressing her anger towards their visitors. She could not understand why James her husband could not drop his calm demeanor for once and take actions especially in a situation as sensitive as this involving his only daughter. She was not interested in Michael’s cock and bull story and was just bidding her time to unleash her fury at him.

“I know what my daughter has been through in your hands ever since your marriage to her and I don’t intend pushing her against her will. My daughter said she is no longer interested and I respect her decision,” James replied visibly angry while still trying to be civil.

“Please let me see her and explain my own side of the story. I believe…” Michael was still speaking when Ifeoma cut him midway.

“It seems you still haven’t gotten a clear picture of what my husband has been saying all this while. In case you didn’t understand, he said Jennifer is no longer interested in the wrestling arena you call marriage. In fact we look forward to returning her bride price,” Ifeoma charged at him.

“Woman please take it easy,” James pleaded with his wife.

“Take what easy? Answer me. Do you expect me to stay calm until this ruffian kills my daughter? Michael, that you are still seated here is as a result of the respect I have for your mother…”

Jennifer’s entrance into the living room made her pause her sentence.

“It’s okay mum. I’ll take it up from here. Michael I am not cut out for your pathetic explanations. There’s nothing left of this marriage and I have made up my mind to move on. So please leave me alone so that I can pick up the pieces of my life and it’s not as if I am leaving a vacuum in your life. It’s over Mike,” Jennifer said looking him in the eyes.

Michael tried to say something to her but she would hear none of it and started back to her room when Mrs. Obiora’s plea made her halt her steps. “I regret not loving you when I should and I am really sorry for all I put you through. You made the right decision and I have no grievance about it. Please my child don’t put an end to the bond we now share because of my son’s stupidity,” she pleaded and held her locked in an embrace fighting back the tears as she left the building surprising Michael who thought she would plead on his behalf.

Michael sat in the restaurant alternating his eyes between the door and his wrist watch. They were way behind time but he had no other choice than to wait, after all he was in need of their help. It took a lot of plea from him to get them to consent to this meeting. They walked into the restaurant together looking indifferent and certain about what the conversation would be all about.

“Good afternoon ladies. Please take your seats,” he greeted as they took their seats replying his greeting in unison. “Thanks for honouring my invitation. This means a whole lot to me,” he further said.

“Of course it means a whole to you so that you can finally finish her off,” Melody thought within herself, staring hard at him.

“Why did you bring us here?” Sarima asked as though she was oblivious as to why he arranged the meeting.

“I know I have hurt your friend so much but it was not intentional. I have been searching for her everywhere without success. I tried calling her several times but she never takes my call and that was before her line became unavailable. I know you both know where she is and I need you to help me get to her,” he pleaded with a solemn look.

“Why do you think we know where she is? I mean, have you checked with your mum and her parents?” Sarima asked Michael.

“Yes I have. My mum doesn’t even want to see me and her parents would not disclose her whereabouts. Please you girls have to help me,” he said pleading with them.

“I wish I could help you. I honestly do but what you are asking of us is totally impossible. Even if it were possible for me to be of help to you, tell me why I should do it,” Sarima said with a stern look.

“Ima, please do me this favour. Believe me it wasn’t intentional. Mabel took advantage of Jennifer’s absence and our sexual asceticism to seduce me. It was a onetime mistake that has turned into my worst nightmare,” he explained close to tears.

“Michael, like I said earlier on, we can’t help you in anyway. I wish it were possible,” Sarima calmly explained.

“Please cut the chase Ima. Don’t tell me you are now softening up to him because of his public display of remorse. You should know him too well to believe this charade. Michael, do I know where she is? Yes I know where she is and I would not give you an opportunity to further rip her apart. Haven’t you caused enough damage to her life already? The best I can do for you is to tell her to speed up the divorce process so that you can have your desired freedom and be with the woman you now fancy,” Melody replied with so much spite refusing to be fooled by his terrible and somber look.

Michael went on his knees not minding that he was in a public place pleading with Melody to have pity on him and take him to Jennifer but his plea was like water poured on a duck.

“Ima, I think we are done here or do you have any other reason to stay behind?” Melody asked Sarima, prompting her to stand to her feet. “It was nice seeing you Michael. Do have a nice day. Don’t worry your head okay, I don’t forget to keep whatever promise I make to people unlike you,” she said leading the way with Sarima at her heels.

The strong breeze at the beach worked its way through her hair and loose cotton knee length gown that did little to conceal her protruded stomach. She stood with her legs dug in the sand enjoying the sight of the waves when he wrapped his hand around her waist and whispered into her ears causing her to smile. She didn’t see him come, typical of him to always surprise her. Jennifer never knew she would wind up in a blissful marriage and wished she would never wake up if this fairy-tale life was all but a dream. It’s been more than two years since she and Michael went their separate ways with God turning her battered life into something beautiful with Ethan by her side. She spent the first year after the divorce healing and rediscovering herself with no plans of settling down anytime soon, seeing a potential threat in every man that came her way. Her family was mad at her for turning down the alimony all in the name of clemency because they obviously wanted a pound of flesh for what Michael made her go through. That was the most difficult phase of her life that she would never wish for anyone and she was pretty sure that it would have been awful if not for the succor Melody and Sarima offered her. She recalled how she made an innocent man pay for the sins he never committed. She had cried herself to stupor after the divorce and lost the will power to move on when Ethan showed up offering to kiss her pains away but she built a barricade around her heart unable to bring herself to commit to another man. But no matter how much she pushed him away, he showed so much resilience standing by her with so much patience which eventually paid off after a whole year.

 Michael had fought tooth and nail to win her back even after the divorce had taken place. He went as far as embarrassing himself at Sarima’s wedding where she played the maid of honour all in a bid to get her to talk to him. But unfortunately for him, Ethan whisked her away politely but not before telling Michael that she was already taken. Melody was on hand to make his misery worse by catching up with them and describing them as a match made in heaven and winked at Michael. The last she heard about Michael from his mother was that he bluntly refused to settle down with Mabel who almost lost her life to the pregnancy because it was an ectopic one and she really felt pity for both of them. She had decided to let go of the hurt refusing to allow them steal her joy and allowed God to be the arbitrator. Ethan once told her that although she was battered and traumatized, she was not crushed or deflated. His peck interrupted her thoughts making her realize she didn’t hear most of the things he said.

“Was she thinking about me again? Why don’t you just say you love me other than fantasizing about me?” he said playfully as he drew her gently to himself.

“You wish. You are such a dreamer,” she said laughing as she poked his side.

“Now let’s go get that barbecue that has been on your mind my lady,” he said taking a mock bow. With that they walked away chatting and laughing without a care in the world.

* Thanks Eunice for this beautiful story on domestic violence and thanks to everyone who followed with comments and shares. Together we #kickagainstdomesticviolence

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