by Mobayode Akinsolu
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She fell flat with her face to the ground for the umpteenth time. It all became dark and blur; she could barely see as she struggled to get back on her feet. During the early hours of the day, she had unconsciously left her gold watch on the stool stationed in front of the dressing mirror in her husband’s room whilst she tidied it up. The illumination of the room was dim and the only lights on, were the two bedside lamps. As she supported her fallen body by pressing hard with her right hand on the neatly carved wooden stool, the expensive gold watch fell face down to the polished hard marble floor. It rendered a shattering sound. Her husband became more infuriated when he heard the cacophonous sound the breaking of the watch gave in the cool of the night. With much fury and ferocity, he pounced on her all the more. “Michael please, Michael please; let go of me for Christ’s sake”, were Mary’s inaudible words as her husband left her defeated and battered. Mary Jane only longed for her husband’s touch and affection as every woman does. Instead of the expected warm soothing embrace any good spouse would offer, Mary was physically and emotionally abused by the love of her life.
She was christened ‘Mary Jane’; the name of the first catholic missionary to visit her tropical state of domicile in the heart of West Africa. Born and raised a Christian, Mary upheld the doctrines of the church in high esteem. She was a chorister in a local assembly and she was actively involved in many humanitarian services that fostered the propagation of the true gospel. She had been married to a wealthy lawyer who was highly placed and ranked in the affairs of their state of domicile. And for their ten years of marriage, they have not one child to show for it. Their childlessness not only drove Michael mad, it also filled him with resentfulness. And any time he had the chance, he transferred his aggression towards the woman he vowed to spend the rest of his life with. Michael was not such a bad man but his present predicament got the best part of him. And many a time when a man cannot solve his problems, he foolishly blames them on others. Oh! Their childlessness pushed him beyond the fringes of human feelings and compassion. Oh heck! Poor Mary Jane became like the biblical Jesus who was to be crucified for his apparent sin of not being able to father a child.
She eventually was able to get back on her feet after much struggle lasting through the brawl in the poorly lit room. She headed out straight into one of the many rooms that was found in their big estate and she cried a river, as she rolled from end of the mahogany bed to another in restlessness. She expended the night with two swollen red eyes and a broken troubled heart. Her soul found no expression all through the night and she felt lonesome like an abandoned child who had lost her way. The howling ceiling fan, the whistling crickets and the croaking toads all sounded in concert tonight unnoticed by Mary Jane. The lights of the stars and moon lent no credence to the essence of this night in Mary’s diary. But through it all, she was not alone in her emotional dilemma. Michael was perturbed too as he couldn’t sleep a wink. He held on tight to one of the pillows that were littered across his fluffy mattress. More than anything else, he ruminated the good times that he had spent with his wife on the same bed, between the same four walls and under the same ceiling. And like a child, he wept for what seemed lost and he craved for what seemed beyond reach. Heaven knows! His marriage and home were tearing apart.
For the past few months, every night had been the same for Michael. He returned home intoxicated with alcohol and as one would logically guess, he acted brashly under the influence of his drunken stupor. Tonight, he knew something obviously had gone wrong if not, his wife would be by his side. He felt helpless and devastated as he sobbed muttering his wife’s name in his drunkenness. Michael was a high-flier and a great achiever by every standard. He had not only followed in his father’s footsteps, he had successfully carved a niche and made a name for himself as a legal luminary in the urban state where he worked and lived. Though he came from a very affluent background, Micheal’s discipline and humility were exemplary and worthy of emulation. He was young and ambitious; he loved God and was a chorister in the choir of a local assembly where he met Mary Jane. When they met Mary was a nurse and midwife at the church clinic before she decided to join the choir after much pressure from Michael who convinced her that she had a good voice. And indeed Michael was more than right; Mary was an amazing nightingale. They have always admired each other and what started out as a platonic friendship culminated into a courtship and finally a holy matrimony. Their wedding was colorful; friends, family and many well-wishers were around to grace the momentous occasion.
The days after the wedding turned into months and the months into years. Faithfully and diligently, Michael and Mary longed for a child but they couldn’t have one. They went for all sorts of medical tests and examinations one could tell and imagine. And for every test and examination, the result was the same; they were both fertile and medically fit to have a child. So the question was what could possibly be wrong? Michael and Mary kept trying and it’s been ten years since they’ve been living together without a child. Michael was fed up and he started caring less about everything that mattered to him, including his wife and his career. To make things worse, he no longer saw a need to serve in the church choir and he sort refuge and solace in pubs; he embraced alcoholism as an escape hatch from his looming and escalating problems. However, none of these measures altered the fact that he was yet to have a child.
Sooner than one could have anticipated, the morning dawned unannounced. Mary Jane was up and early. Though she swallowed a pill of aspirin before she went to bed, she felt severe pains all over her body as she managed to get up out of bed. She hurriedly made breakfast for Michael and she had the dining table set in good time. She did a little cleaning and got dressed. And she bade Michael goodbye as she headed out of their big home. She had a veil covering her swollen face but immediately she stepped into the church, she removed it. She walked past the aisle reaching towards the altar from the door with many a doubt. As she knelt tearfully to pray, she felt a gentle warm hand rest on her left shoulder. It was the old padre, Father Pierre. The priest knew Mary’s plight and he understood clearly well what she was going through. It wasn’t Mary’s first time in church and it wasn’t her first time of kneeling before the altar on a cold morning. It had been her daily routine since her husband turned abusive and resolved to alcoholism. Father Pierre gave her a gentle pat and she placed her tearfully wet right hand on the priest’s wrinkled skin as his hand remained on her shoulder.
“Have you made up your mind, Mary?” The priest asked Mary Jane. “…about what?” Mary Jane replied in pretense, but she knew exactly what the padre meant. “The divorce proceedings of course; the last time you were here you said you were going to divorce your husband.” The priest said almost immediately to accommodate the envisaged silence on Mary’s part. Mary was devastated and confused. She had spoken brashly about her husband to the priest a fortnight ago. She had wanted to opt for a divorce terribly but, she realized that she loved Michael so much than to let him go. She knew they could pull through their struggles together if only they had the same base of trust as they’ve had until a few months ago. Mary understood and knew the new man in her house wasn’t the man she married. She married a loving man who cared a lot about her; a man who revered and worshiped God. But it’s strange how all of a sudden he’s changed and turned into an abusive brute.
“It’s the devil father and I’m going to kick him out of my home before things go awry and get any worse”. May said to the father believing and trusting in the good Lord she served. “You are right child. He’s come to steal, to kill and to destroy. And that’s what he is trying to do to your marriage and your home. You’ve got to fight back and look on the bright side. Michael is a good man. C’est dommage que…the devil is manipulating him. And much more than anything else, we must pray that he be delivered from the devil's snare.” Without a doubt in her heart, Mary prayed with the priest and she returned home filled with joy and high hopes. On the night of this occasion, Michael had another nightmare as he’s been having for the last few days. But this time around, he screamed out so loud that Mary was taken aback. She made for his room and there he was like a child, fearful and scared. He looked mild as he sat terrified holding tight to the pillow in his hand. Michael sobbed as he told Mary about the dream he had.
“It’s okay sweetheart. We are going to pray about it and everything would be alright.” Mary held her husband’s hand and prayed in the most definitive away. Her words struck the right chords; a soothing aura filled the atmosphere such that when she was done and wanted to head back to her room, Michael urged her to stay. Mary passed the night in the warm embrace of her husband; together they cuddled and kissed and Michael went into her after such a long time of separation. When the morning dawned on them again, Mary was not there by Micheal’s side for fear that he might hurt her. Michael knew and understood this but he kept it all to himself.
The days passed by easily and gradually. Michael retraced his steps as his nightmares ceased. He became more disciplined and gave no more room for rum. Once again, he was attending the church meetings but he was no longer actively involved in the choir. He became sober and each day he was in church to worship, he felt all the eyes looking in his direction were judgmental and hated him for how he had treated his wife in the last few months. Little did he know that it was only the priest who knew of his escapades with his wife. Michael was deeply sorry and he couldn’t utterly forgive himself. Though he lived under the same roof with Mary Jane, they had lost what used to be a fulfilling marriage and a happy home. He was more than willingly to give up on everything to have it all back but he felt it was too late. He felt Mary Jane was going to divorce him and he kept all these notions to himself.
After the church service on a sultry Sunday morning, Michael walked up to the priest seeking an audience. Needless to say, Father Pierre was more than happy to welcome and receive Michael. Michael spoke incongruously as he narrated how his marriage and home had been for the last few months. He expressed his fear that his wife may divorce him any time soon. “I can’t even look straight into her eyes father. And even when I do, I find it hard to believe that I maltreated her for no just cause. Though I’ve repented of my ways for three months now, I doubt if I can ever get Mary to forgive me. If she’d be leaving me I’d understand but, I need her forgiveness Father Pierre.” Michael said remorsefully. The priest looked at him and smiled as he beckoned on Mary from behind the curtains in the vestry where she had been all along. “I’m three months pregnant Michael and I forgave you a long time ago; even before God answered my prayers.” Mary said to her husband who in return reached for her and gave her a kiss on the forehead.
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