The last porcelain plate filled with vegetables was placed on the dining table and she stepped back to survey her work, it looked good: it had to look good, she thought desperately. She poured all her soul into this dish. Her eyes strayed to the wall clock above the entrance door into the house and she thought she heard her heart beating nervously in its tight cage; her teeth sank into her bottom lip. Something she always did whenever she could not do anything else to settle her unease.
The door opened and Priscilla’s knees buckled. Tunde walked in as usual with a tight look on his face. He said nothing, he did not even glance at her but it seemed easier meditating on it that to try it in reality. She took a deep breath; she would be the bigger person even if it killed her.
There was no reply.
“Hi” Priscilla said again “How was your day?”
“Fine.” Tunde’s voice was curt; he did not want to have conversation
She expelled a deep breath “I cooked pounded yam and efo for you.” He looked at her, she could tell he was surprised “ummm…I thought you’d be hungry.”
Tunde dropped his briefcase on the nearby single chair and loosened his tie “You cooked that? We’re not having a party.”
“I…I know that” Priscilla stammered a reply “It’s nice to have a change, should I serve you?”
“I’ll wash up first”
Priscilla said nothing else. When she heard the sound of the door shut, she heaved out a sigh of relief. It was the longest conversation they had had as far as in months. She walked up to the bar and took out a bottle of scotch and a glass. She was beginning to drink a lot, Priscilla swore silently. She never used to drink but now it seemed her life was driving her to the brink of insanity. Her eyes caught a reflection poorly stamped on the dark TV screen; she was almost swimming in the oversized gown she wore, what man would find her attractive? 10 years ago, when she looked young and alive, indeed, those were her glory days. Now she could not care less what she wore, looking haggard and unhappy, she looked depressed: little wonders why Tunde sought another woman’s bed. There was no spark, no life in their marriage. It was just a paper: a certificate of bondage.
Tunde came out after having his bath dressed in his evening kaftans; His perfume hung heavily in the air, his eyes stayed briefly on the glass of scotch Priscilla held delicately between her hands. He sighed before speaking “I’m going out now” he brought out the car keys in his pocket “It’s an emergency.”
They knew he was lying and she wanted to writhe in humiliation, automatically the glass found its way to her lips. The burning sensation shocked her back into reality “Is it Karen?”
“Don’t start this”, Tunde walked to the door.
“Tunde!” she called out his name before he opened the door; he saw the silent plea in her eyes “Let’s fix this marriage Tunde, please” he stood unmoving like a rock “Tunde we can’t go on like this, can’t you see that I’m trying?”
“Are you suggesting a divorce?”
“Is that what you want?” she looked at him through glistened eyes.
“I think that answer is obvious enough, there’s nothing to discuss Priscilla. We both knew what we were getting into when we got to the registry.”.
“It doesn’t mean we can’t learn to respect each other… I am not ready to give you a divorce” she caught the cold glint in his eyes and winced at the clear hatred in his eyes feeling so small standing there, so minute as he pinned her to the spot with his hard stare.
“What else do you want? You have your precious money; you have my body…What else? Vows of love, gifts, sex?” he snarled. He looked so scary from where he stood Priscilla almost crumbled under his scrutiny, there was a snare. “Don’t be thick headed dear. You knew what you signed up for when your father duped us.”
“Don’t say that, Tunde!” she cried, “Why do you insist on hurting me this way? I treat you with respect; I don’t trouble you. Why do you hurt me?”
He shook his head as though weary of saying more and opened the door.
“Tunde”, she called out his name again helplessly.
“Don’t drink that anymore,” he pointed at the drink in her shaking hand “You’d turn into an alcoholic”. With that, he left the house. She did not know how long she stood there but all she could think of was the echo of his harsh words. What did she expect? Words of encouragement? Loving words? Kind words? Her throat had suddenly gone dry and the drink she stared at through blurry eyes had lost its appeal.
She walked up to the dinning tabled staring at the food she had poured had soul into lying untouched on the table a tear of disappointment escaped from the corner of her eye but she wiped it off determined not to cry. This was what she signed up for, he was right, and she would deal with it. Somehow a new strength flowed into Priscilla as she stood there staring at the food and remembering Mrs. Bridget’s story. Nothing was impossible, things could get difficult but they were still achievable. She would win her husband back until she got pregnant and then she would be free to live her life away from everything. It may not be the right thing but it was her only hope of survival.
…THE next four days Tunde left before she got up and Priscilla was not surprised, they both avoided each other after the scene the day before. He would leave for work extra early and come home very late whilst she had fallen asleep in the parlor waiting for him; she woke up in the middle of each night to find her food untouched and her husband sleeping peacefully on the bed. Priscilla would cry herself to sleep and wake up in the morning with a dull ache in her head but she was not ready to give up on him if this was what it took to win back her freedom from her mother.
Priscilla walked up the stairs in the church heading skeptically towards Mrs. Bridget’s office and hoped she was not around, she was not sure of what to say or what to start, how to start. The first uncertain knock landed on her door, a light tap: she bit her lip nervously and heard shuffling sounds from within the office, her insides quivered torn between fleeing away from the door as fast as her legs could carry her and standing there rooted to the spot. Her body chose the latter even though the mind was torn between the two.
“Ah…Priscilla dear!” Mrs. Bridget beamed as soon as she opened the door.
“Good afternoon ma” Priscilla mumbled.
“Come in, come in.”
She walked into the air-conditioned office. It was a moderate sized room filled on one side with shelved books.
“Forgive me, my office is a bit scattered” Bridget said smiling from ear to ear.
Priscilla looked back at the short and stout woman and could not help but smile back “its okay, it’s not too scattered though” she sat nestled between clusters of books on the settee.
“Do you want a drink? It’s rather hot outside.”
“I’m fine, thank you” she rubbed her suddenly moist palms on her skirt
Bridget got out a can of Coke nevertheless, placed it on the stool close to her guest, and dragged a chair to sit opposite Priscilla “I’m really happy you came, I was beginning to lose all hope.”
She smiled in response, unsure of how to start and the elderly woman understood her distress.
“Talk to me dear” she said gently, “Tell me what’s wrong.” She placed a hand on Priscilla’s shaking hands as tears racked violently through her slender body. It took a while before the crying subsided and she was able to regain control of herself, dabbing the offered tissue gently on her swollen eyes.
“I’m tired, I’m just tired. Nothing is working I have tried everything and nothing is working” she hung her head bitterly in sadness “My husband doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”
“Tell me about it dear.”
She looked at her new friend’s steady gaze “I don’t know where to start from, it’s just so difficult.”
“Tell me where you want to start from” Bridget replied gently
“It’s just that my marriage has fallen apart and there’s too much at stake, there’s too much depending on it.”
“Like what my dear?”
Priscilla used a hand to wipe her tear stained face “My mother” she said in a small sad note “My happiness.”
“What is your mother’s part in all this?”
“She was the one who brought up the idea of marriage in the first place”, the expression on Bridget’s face released a scornful laughter from her. “Can you believe it? My own mother…”
“I can imagine how betrayed you must have feel…”
“I think that’s an understatement, I feel like a pawn in a big chess game. You know what that feels like to depend on people to make your decisions for you. Everything even down to the clothes you wear.”
Bridget shook her head full of grief “It’s such a suffocating way to live.”
“I have tried all I know to make this marriage work but ever since I lost the baby it’s grown from tolerance to pure hatred” her voice shook in frustration “And now, Tunde is cheating on me.”
“Tunde is your husband?”
Priscilla nodded vigorously amid her tears sniffing into the role of tissue in her hand. “I’m tired, I’m so tired. I deal with insults from my mother, my husband and his family…it’s like I live in my shadow!” It took a while before she could comport herself amidst her loud sobbing. Bridget’s warm and strong hand clasped around hers had a way of comforting her. This was what she wanted, a shoulder to cry on, someone who would listen to her and make her feel like she counted for something.
At length Bridget finally asked, “What exactly do you want for yourself Priscilla?”
Priscilla stared back at her through blurry eyes “I just want to be happy”, she replied in a broken voice.
“Why can’t you be happy? What do you think is the reason for this sadness?”
She blinked, she had never thought of that.
Bridget asked again, more firmly this time “I guess you don’t know the answer to that, do you? Can I tell you something?”
“I just want to know how to save my marriage”
Bridget smiled and looked straight at her and said, “What is the problem with your marriage?”
“We are not happy, we…”, Priscilla’s wailing was cut short by her companion’s sharp tone.
”How can you cure a patient when you don’t know the ailment?”, Bridget asked rhetorically. “If you think there’s a problem what exactly is it?” she coughed and continued, clearing her throat “If you need my help then we have to know what it is we are solving. Has he ever beaten you? Aside from that I really want to know why you want this marriage saved if indeed you can’t stand each other”
Priscilla just stared at Bridget wondering why she hadn’t seen this side of things before “If we separate all profits of the firm revert back to his family except if I have a child of which the percentage of profits revert to the child but seeing I am not pregnant it’s impossible to leave him now”
Bridget shook her head sideways in clear disapproval “So this is why you’re with him?”
“My mother wouldn’t have it any other way except I’m pregnant.”
“What about you?” She asked full of concern “What about you? What do you want?”
“To be happy” Priscilla replied in a small voice “To feel the wind blowing in my hair, to feel free.”
“Then it begins with a choice my dear. You have to decide if you ever want to be happy and I tell you, the first choice starts with choosing God because I tell you without Him, there would always be this emptiness inside you, you’d feel like you are not fulfilled”
“That’s how I feel, like there’s nothing, like my heart just feels empty and heavy” she looked distantly at the ceiling “It’s because my marriage is failing right?”
“No. It is because you are filling up your mind with nothing. Things that hold no value compared to God” They sat quietly after what Bridget said; those words had touched her down to her soul. She felt weak and tired of fighting, tired of meditating over things that grew worse, she felt tired of being pushed around and tired of carrying the weight of depression.
She wasn’t as close to God as this woman but after what she heard, she felt like maybe God actually cared, maybe God actually mattered, maybe he cared enough to help her. A scripture drew itself up in her head: Jeremiah 29: 11, Priscilla recited the bible verse in her head and smiled. Yes, she felt comforted within her; she felt like she actually mattered, He cared. The organs began to sound from below but this time, this time it was just a violin; God give us Christian homes. This time a tear slid down from the side of her eye, this time she felt calm and renewed.
“They are playing it again”
“Yes” she replied with a soft smile “It’s a good hymn”
“Our resident pastor loves it, so do the organists”
Priscilla nodded and closed her eyes contented to just sit there and drown in the slow fluid tones. She expelled a breath a smiled this time to herself. Mrs. Bridget was right; she found herself thinking, remembering the time she gave her life to Christ when she was a teenager so full of hope and impatient to begin life as an adult. This indeed was the first choice.
“In marriage it doesn’t matter what your reasons are entering into it. It won’t save you because marriage is a different life all together, its either it works or it doesn’t and either way, the blame falls on both partners and not the reason for getting married. Tell you what dear,” Bridget said frankly “Go and figure out the problem and that’s where you’d save your marriage.”
Priscilla got up and smiled “Thank you very much” she said full of gratitude, “I’m so grateful”
Bridget got up too smiling as though they never had such discussion “Don’t worry dear, we thank God, oh my!” She exclaimed looking at the time “It’s already half past seven, I didn’t know so much time had gone.”
“Me neither”, Priscilla replied with a short laugh as she walked towards the door with Bridget behind her.
Bridget held her still for a moment and she turned around wondering what the matter was.
“Priscilla”, her tone was flat. “Whatever reason you have for wanting to save your marriage is between you, your conscience and God, make the right decision.”
Priscilla nodded slowly unable to break that awkward pinned gaze. To her amazement, Bridget laughed shattering the induced tension and she joined her laughing wondering what it was. The woman was a bountiful mixture of characters.
“Let us pray” Bridget said and she held her hand, still smiling.
Safe Haven Episode 10 continues HERE
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