My heart beats faster at the sound of the approaching footsteps. I take a look at my reflection in the mirror again. My hair is neatly packed into a ponytail, no loose strands. My green dress sits nicely on my curvy frame, hugging my thighs slightly.
The footsteps stop and I hear his voice. He is answering a phone call.
I take another glance at the living room. It is very tidy. I had vacuumed twice already and a diffuser was plugged to give the house a fresh fragrance. All the throw pillows were carefully placed on the sofas. The coffee table and TV stand were shinning, there was no dust in sight.
I hear the end of his phone call “Bye Efe, see you later in the evening.”
My heart beats even faster. The bell rings.
I swallow deeply and walk towards the door.
“Hi Honey, welcome back.” I say as sweetly as possible.
“Excuse me!” He roars back and pushes me aside before entering the house. I stagger and almost lose my balance.
“Why is that throw pillow not in the middle?” He points to a throw pillow at the edge of a three seater sofa.
“No- nothing.” I stammer.
“You are just useless Sade. Home keeping skills zero, baby zero. The only thing you do is seat around here and get fatter.”
I offer no response. The last thing I want is to aggravate him.
“Hope you cooked something reasonable?” He asks.
“Yes, I did. I made your favourite. Pounded yam and seafood okra.” I reply and bend to pick up his briefcase which he dropped at the door.
“And where is it?” He glances at the dinning table.
“Its its still in the kitchen. I thought you would want to shower-”
“Oh, so I’m that predictable abi?” He responds and takes three steps towards me. I quickly move back so there is a sofa between us.
“I’m sorry Kayode. I’ll serve it straightaway.”
“You this woman, you better don’t provoke me!” He shouts and takes another step towards me. “I’m ministering in church today so don’t provoke me.”
I hold my breath and instinctively use my arms to shield my face. I wait for the slap or blow.
Instead he storms out of the living room.
I drop his briefcase on the coffee table to go serve his food but then pick it up because he doesn’t like things out of place.
I reheat the soup and unwrap the pounded yam from the layers of kitchen napkins I used to keep it warm. I dish the hot soup into a white rectangular ceramic bowl and place it in a tray beside the pounded yam.
I hear his footsteps descending the stairs and carry the tray into the living room. I place the tray on the dinning table and stand back while he pulls out a seat. He washes his hand and dips a finger into the bowl of soup.
I hold my breath.
“The soup is alright.” He says. I spent hours cooking the soup because he likes his okra chopped a certain way and insists I pound the yam in a mortar.
He moulds a morsel of pounded yam. “This pounded yam is too much. Do you expect me to fall asleep in church?” He says without glancing at my face.
“I’m sorry Kayode but the last time I made pounded yam, you said it was too small. Jor ma Binu.”I plead, rubbing my palms against each other.
“Why are you so daft Sade? Please leave this place!”
My shoulders slump as I walk away. Kayode cuts off what’s left of my self esteem daily.
Kayode paces the altar as he preaches. Moving about with confidence as his audience pay rapt attention. Even on a weekday, the auditorium is full.
I’m seated in front where ministers seat and the empty seat beside me belongs to Kayode.
I’m the perfect picture of a pastor’s wife. They call me mummy even though I’m only 32 years old. I wear fashionable modest dresses, minimal makeup and carry myself with grace like they say. Today, I’m wearing an Ankara dress from a top Nigerian designer, paired with orange court shoes.
I look at my husband and smile. I wonder how he does it. Being the charming pastor everyone likes and the beast of a husband.
“Lets all stand up and ask God for grace. Brothers and Sisters, His grace is sufficient for us.”Kayode says as he brings his sermon to an end.
I stand up and wince from the pain on my right shoulder. Kayode pulled me by my arm from the kitchen two nights ago to the living room just because his food was not hot enough.
Kayode leads the congregation in prayers for a few minutes and steps off the pulpit. He immediately kneels down beside me and bows his head to pray. A sister collects the offering and the service ends.
After the sermon, we exchange pleasantries with the other pastors and speak to some members of the church who come up to speak to us.
“Pastor we are very excited about getting married and we can wait!”We are speaking to a young couple who are getting married in two weeks time. They both look happy and very much in love.
“We are praying for you two.” Kayode reaches for my hands and I play along smiling beside him.
“We admire your marriage Pastor and Mummy. Just the way you two look at each other.” The lady continued.
I guess people only see what they want to believe.
“Yes pastor, you can’t complete a sentence without talking about your wife.”
We both laugh. “When you have a virtuous woman like mine, you can’t help it.” Kayode responded.
“We thank God.” I say.
Can’t anyone see the sadness in my eyes? The say being at the top is lonely and I agree. I have people around me who attend to me because I’m Pastor Kayode’s wife but I don’t have friends. Bisi and her family won the visa lottery two years ago and moved to the US. My parents and brother live far away in Kaduna.
As we drive home in silence, I remember how we both met. I saw the red flags but choose to ignore it.
I was invited to Grace Christian Centre by my friend Bisi. I had just moved to Lagos from Kaduna after I got a job in a Bank in Lagos. Bisi and I met at University of Abuja and she had always spoken about her church back at home and I decided to try it once I moved to Lagos.
I attended their second service on a Sunday morning and loved it immediately. It was very similar to my church back in Kaduna and I felt at home immediately. But I’ll say what got my attention the most was the handsome young pastor who preached.
I still remember the army green suit he had on that day. He looked like a model from a GQ magazine. He spoke with eloquence and the way he quoted Bible verses throughout his sermon left me in awe. Right there, I decided Grace Christian Centre was going to be my church
I joined the ushering team after going through their three months workers training school. Working in a small bank branch gave me the opportunity to close work early, so I was regular at mid week services.
Nine months in and I was waxing strong. The church had their annual worker’s dinner and to my uttermost surprise, I was awarded the Best Usher award. I believe Kayode noticed me as he presented the award to me.
After the event, I sat down waiting for a lift home with Bisi who was one of the organisers. I was chatting on my Blackberry phone, waiting for Bisi.
“Hello, our best usher.”
I looked up and saw Pastor Kayode standing in front of me.
“Good…Good evening Pastor.” Before then, I couldn’t remember having a one on one conversation with him.
“Yes pastor.” I got up and dropped my phone on the table.
“I must say I’m impressed. We all know being a worker in this church requires a high level of commitment. With our three services every Sunday.”
“Its God’s grace and I honestly enjoy it.”
“Thats good to know.” He reached for his wallet and pulled out his complimentary card. “Call me.” He said and handed the card to me.
“Okay pastor.” I replied.
He smiled and walked away.
That was how it all started. I told Bisi about my conversation with him and she encouraged me to call him.
Pastor Kayode was every woman’s dream. His slender frame, striking features and charisma made him the prayer point of sisters in the church. He had a very successful chain of businesses and drove the best cars. Rumor had it that at 35 he had never been in a relationship and was waiting for the right person.
I was 28 at the time and single. I had been praying to God for the bone of my bones and my family was beginning to put pressure on me. My mother didn’t understand why a beautiful and well behaved lady like me was still single at my age considering she got married at 23.
Not wanting to appear desperate, I called him 4 days later. He invited me out on a lunch date which I accepted and asked his driver to come pick me up.
I had made more effort with my appearance that day. Wore my favourite black dress and used make up which I rarely used. Kayode chose the restaurant and was already there when his driver dropped me off. The date went well. He asked me a lot of questions about myself, my family and my dreams. I told him, I was the first of two children and my family lived in Kaduna.
He told me he was an only child and grew up with his mother in Jos. I mean what were the odds, both of us were Yorubas who grew up in the north. We could speak Hausa fluently. He didn’t mention his dad and I didn’t want to probe.
Kayode proposed marriage three months after. We had seen each other every weekend even with his very busy schedule. He took me to fancy places I had never been to. He bought me expensive gifts, wristwatches, perfumes, bags. I began to fall in love with him. When he asked me to marry him, I said I needed more time to get to know him better and he said he just wanted to make his intentions known since he didn’t believe in dating, just courtship.
I was too excited at the prospect of being his wife and to be honest, I didn’t see any reason to refuse his proposal. He was God fearing, good looking, very successful and loved me.
I informed Bisi of Kayode’s proposal, her words to me were “Sade pray seriously about it. Marriage is for life.” I thought she was jealous because she got married to her childhood sweetheart who was a vice principal in a secondary school ans they had a combined modest income.
As Kayode’s wife, I would have the finest things of life. My parents were not poor but we couldn’t afford luxuries while I was growing up. My mum was a petty trader and my dad was a teacher in a government secondary school.
I said yes to Kayode and our courtship began. I was practically walking on cloud nine for the first few months till I began to notice certain things. The first happened when we were both invited for a wedding by a church member. By this time, the church was aware of our intending union and I was the envy of many sisters.
Kayode came to pick me up for the wedding and I was running late. I went to the salon earlier to straighten my hair and it took longer than I expected. He refused to come in and waited in his car. I dashed out of the house with my shoes in one hand and purse in another.
“Kay, I’m so sorry.” I pleaded and tried to peck him when I got into the car.
“You are very very stupid Sade! How could you have gone to the salon first when you knew we had a wedding for 10 am?”
My eyes flew open and I looked at the face of the man who was speaking.
“Did you just call me stupid Kayode?
“Yes I did. That was very stupid of you!” he shouted.
“So is that why you had to call me-” I saw his hand move quickly and it landed on my face.
Without saying another word, my hands shaking, I opened the door and stepped out of the car.
“Come back here! Sade!” I heard him call back.
I went into my house and locked the door behind me. My hands were shaking. Did the man I was about to get married to just hit me? I desperately wanted to speak to someone about what had just happened. I picked up my phone to call Bisi but decided against it. How could I tell her Pastor Kayode hit me?
I didn’t speak to Kayode for a week after that. He called me several times, showed up at my office and at my house but I ignored him. During service the following Sunday, he sent a message pleading with me to wait after church and I accepted because I had missed him too.
He drove to our favourite restaurant where he had made a reservation for private dining.
“Baby, I’m so sorry for hitting you. I don’t know what came over me.” He pleaded.
“I didn’t tell you but I used to deal with anger issues in the past before I gave my life to Christ.” He continued. I thought I had overcome it till last Saturday. I’m so sorry.”
“Kayode, how could you?”
“I’m so sorry.” His eyes welled up with tears. “Please forgive me.”
“Kayode, if this EVER happens again, I’ll call off the wedding.”
“I promise, It won’t.”
Our relationship continued and it was as if that incident never happened. Kayode was more loving, patient and he went the extra mile. We travelled to Kaduna where he met my parents and they loved him. We set a wedding date and started planning our wedding.
Then it happened again.
A month to our wedding, we were in his office discussing final wedding arrangements.
“Kay, I want a different cake.”
“You must be joking.” He said. “This is the third time you are changing your mind.”
I pouted.”Its my wedding and I have the right to change my mind. Besides, it’s not like the cake has been baked already.”
“Okay fine.” He said.
“I want one more bridesmaid.”
“Okay? Suit yourself Sade!”
“Meaning, you have to get one more groomsman.”
“You must be joking. We already have 8 groomsmen.”
“I want one-”
The slap on my face sent me reeling backwards.
“Kayode, you…you slapped me?” I held my palm to my cheek.
“And I’ll do it again! You bitch.” His eyes were filled with so much rage, I didn’t recognise him.
I picked up my bag and got up. “I’m so done.”
I was almost at the door when he grabbed my hand. “Sade please I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.”
“Kayode leave me alone!” I tried to move my hand from his grasp.
“I’m so sorry.” He held on to my hand and went on his knees. “I don’t know what came over me. Baby I’m so sorry.” He was crying.
I fell to my knees in front of him. “Kayode why? How do I know this won’t happen again?”
“Baby, I promise it won’t.” He wiped the tears flowing down my cheeks and pulled me into an embrace. We remained that way for a while and I decided to forgive him.
Kayode needs my help to overcome his anger issues, I thought.
“Aren’t you getting off or do you want to sleep in the car?”
“Oh.” I didn’t realise we had gotten home.
Kayode slams the door. I take off my seatbelt and open the car door.
What is it going to be tonight? What fault is he going to find? Kayode’s outbursts of anger only got worse after we got married. At first it was just shouting and then he stared hitting me. In the three years we’ve been married it’s been hell.
I wanted to speak to someone about it but I remembered the advice my mum gave me on our wedding day. She said, “do not discuss any problem between you and your husband. If anything is wrong, talk to God about it.” People see us as the perfect couple. We switch into our roles perfectly when we are in public.
I open the front door and he’s sitting on the sofa with a glass in his hand. He drinks brandy almost every night.
“Sade, I’ll be up in five minutes, so be ready for me.”
My heart sinks. Right now sex is just a routine. Kayode forces himself on me. Last time I protested, he beat me up so badly.
“Okay.” I mumble.
As I walk up the stairs, I look at out wedding pictures lined up on the wall. I looked so happy. We had a society wedding. We used the best vendors in the wedding industry as Kayode spared no expense and our wedding was even featured on Bella Naija.
How could I have known the misery I was signing myself up to?
Kayode’s mum has been on my neck because we haven’t given her grandchildren yet. How do I tell her I’m on the pills to prevent pregnancy.
Who would want to raise up children in this type of environment?
I begin to undress quickly and pack my hair into a ponytail. My husband’s rage has left marks all over my body.
I lie under the duvet to wait for him. The door opens and he comes in. I turn my face in the opposite direction as he undresses.
He gets on the bed and I close my eyes tightly. The only way I get through this is to get my mind far away. Far away from my reality.
I remember the young lady I was who once believed in happily ever afters. Who wanted to get married to a man like her daddy because he was the sweetest man she knew. Who was not willing to settle but wait for God’s best.
I know this is a rather sad story but this story was prompted by a post on Instagram about domestic violence.
The signs are always there, please do not ignore them. Don’t be fooled by all the supposedly good qualities he has. You are not his saviour, let him get help if he needs it.
For anyone in an abusive marriage please speak up and do not endanger your life.
Thanks for reading.
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