Joyce lay on her bed, staring into space. She had decided to pick up the pieces of her life again. She told herself to snap out of the mood she had been in, since Ladi’s sentence. She knew that she was the one who practically threw herself at him; Ladi had only responded. Life hadn’t been the same, she missed him. She could only go to visit him twice after the incident and once after the sentence. She couldn’t bring herself to see him like a common criminal. It broke her heart seeing him in prison uniform. She noticed Ladi had also become withdrawn; the look on his face had been that of a broken man. She hoped he would get out of prison and get the necessary help. It was only six months sentence and she hoped he had learned his lesson.
She sat up abruptly, “I must get over him” she mused. “I cannot go on wallowing in self-pity. I will move on with my life”. She got up from the bed, paced her room for a while and went into the bathroom to take a shower. It was Saturday afterall, she decided to go to the nearby mall and see a movie. She had seen the trailer of a particular one and decided to go see it. She wore a pair of jean and a yellow floral blouse, matching it with a yellow sandal. She knew the color flattered her complexion; she was set to have a great outing, even if it’s alone.
The mall was so full; she had to squeeze her way through. There were lots of teenage boys and girls on dates. She giggled at the sight, shaking her head because she knew they were only relieving some storybook fantasies. She had never been a fan of teenage relationships; she just felt they were too young to understand the matters of the heart. Going past two teenage couples, she found her way to the cinema ticket stand and bought one. She got popcorn, hot dogs and a drink; she loved to munch while watching movies and she had better be prepared. Half way into the movie, a comic scene occurred and it had the whole hall erupt in laughter. She laughed so hard she choked and it became somewhat uncontrollable and as she struggled to catch her breath, she felt a firm hand tap her back so hard and a piece of popcorn, trapped in her oesophagus came out. She quickly wiped tears from her eyes and thanked the kind hearted individual who had rescued her, he replied her saying “it was my pleasure”, he had the best baritone she had ever heard and it was a sweet sound. It was dark so she couldn’t see the facial features clearly and she couldn’t wait till they were out in the open.
The movie ended and people chatted about it as they filed out of the cinema hall. Her rescuer was behind her and she made a mental note to thank him properly as soon as they stepped out, at least to be able to recognize him if ever she saw him afterwards. And she couldn’t hide the shock when she turned to face him. He was tall, broad shouldered, clean shaven, caramel skin color, pink lips and had the biggest eyeballs she had ever seen. He also had a deep scar than ran from his left ear to his cheek and made him look grotesque. In summary, he didn’t look quite like his voice.
He noticed her shocked expression and smiled, he had gotten used to people being shocked when they beheld his face. He stretched his hand to her “My name is Tomiwa Ajayi, Tom for short and I am an engineer”.
“My manners” she blushed. “My name is Joyce Oteka and I am a youth corper serving with Lily Oil and Gas”. Tom was really impressed and congratulated her for getting a good place for her NYSC unlike her many counterparts posted to public primary schools to teach. He told her to ensure she got retained as staff, to which she replied in the affirmative. They strolled to the car park as they talked and both enjoyed each other’s company. They exchanged addresses and got in their respective cars and drove home. Tom thought about her all the way home; it had been long he had a meaningful discussion with a lady. All they ever talked about had been clothes, latest fashion trends or trending reality foreign season films. Joyce had been like a breath of fresh air. He hoped to see more of her.
Ladi woke up with a scream, sweating profusely, his prison flatbed drenched in sweat. He was glad it had all been a dream, he wasn’t sure he ever wanted to see George again. He had been in jail for two months and each night had been a nightmare. Staying in a room with someone else had reminded him of George. He is the past he wished he had never experienced.
Ladi’s mum had always wanted the best for her son. She made sure he had the best care any child would crave for. His father had passed on when he was only a little boy and he grew up without a father figure, save for his uncles who came visiting once in a while. And when either of his uncles arrived, his mum was sure to recount to them all his “sins’ and makes sure he gets punished, even if it had been done months back. His mum saying “I will tell your uncle when he comes” had been enough to make him straighten up when being mischievous.
Mum had so much business to attend to and hence couldn’t afford him to attend day school, so she had shipped him off to boarding school so he could bond well with his mates and grow up as a man. He had been so excited to attend boarding school; he loved the fact that he will take some decisions about his life himself and not run to mummy every time. Thank God mum had taught him how to lay his bed, wash his clothes and some little house chores, he was so sure he wouldn’t have any problems.
He was put in a room with two other boys. George was in year five and the Ike in year two. They welcomed him and gave him a hint of the various school rules. He settled in nicely and seemed to be enjoying his new environment. Nothing could be better.
Whack!! Whack!! Whack!! Screaming from his sleep, Ladi woke up to whips on his buttocks. “Shhh!!” whispered George. He suddenly looked different from George of daytime. There was ruthlessness about him. Standing behind him was Ike and another student Ladi couldn’t recognize.
Crying, Ladi asked why he was being beaten. “What did I do?” he moaned from pain. “This is a special treatment to new students here. I had a taste of it and so did everyone here; and you cannot tell anyone, else the head find you and deals with you.”
“We will do this every night for four weeks and then you become a “MAN”; no one must find out, else there will be dire consequences” warned George. Ladi nodded in fear and crept back into bed. The third guy sneaked out back into the darkness, to his own dormitory. The beatings went on for days. Sometimes, he would be pummeled with punches and gets occasional black eye and he covers up with lies to his classmates. He wasn’t sure who to talk to, because George made him believe they had male teachers in the know of all that happened and they were in support. He woke up most night drenched in sweat from fear of being tortured again. It was supposed to last for four weeks but George occasionally comes around to give him the “special treatment” till he graduated from school.
Ladi hated George but he hated the fact that he couldn’t confide in anyone else. Even when he went home for holidays, he would not be able to tell his mum. He had begged her once to change his school but because he couldn’t give a good reason, she had not seen the need to. He felt enraged and needed to vent his anger and one day had beaten his neighbour’s daughter to stupor. His mum had been so disappointed and was shocked at his behaviour and that had been his way of life. He gets beaten in school and comes back home during his vacation to vent his anger, and most times on girls, the seemingly helpless.
Ladi got up from his jail bed and knelt down, he felt drained. He had never linked his current tendencies to his boarding school days. He became filled with so much emotion he broke down and wept like a baby. “Oh God help me, save me from this beast I have become” cried Ladi.
“Tell me Tom, how you came about this scar on your face, an accident?” asked Joyce as she lay her head on his chest on chilling afternoon. They had been going steady in their friendship and Joyce had never known a man so caring and selfless. Tomiwa smiled and looked down at her face “ I was trying to separate a fighting couple, my former neighbours actually, when the bottle the man held to stab the wife landed by mistake on my face. When the husband saw what had happened, he ran away and that ended the squabble. I had to be rushed to the hospital for treatment.”
Joyce further learnt that that last fight had been the end of the marriage of those neighbours of his. To think that she almost didn’t want to be his friends because of the same scar; her respect for him grew daily and she began to feel affection towards him. Something she couldn’t actually define.
She told him about Ladi and how he had landed in jail for his uncontrollable temper and Tom only felt pity for him. He told her to continue praying for Ladi as God can turn his heart towards Him.
They talked some more about other issues and both drifted off to sleep with the rain drops on the window pane, the only sound that was heard.
Ladi would be released in two days and he was so anxious to get out. He had learnt so much behind prison bars to set him straight for a lifetime. He had seen people who got imprisoned because they had no lawyer to represent them, people imprisoned for other peoples crimes, and the real hardened criminals. He also gave his life to Crist during one of the prison devotion time, organized by the prison chapel. He promised himself to live more responsibly. He knew no job was waiting for him upon his return and not sure anyone would want to employ a convict.
He had sent a text to Joyce with the warden’s phone that he would be released In two days and would love her to be around. On the said day, only his mum had showed up and he couldn’t hide his disappointment, he wept like a baby and his mother tried to console him. All kinds of thought ran through his mind, he only hoped his friends had not deserted him too.
Ladi knew that he had to adjust to being a free man, after four months in jail. He was grateful to be out and in two days had started searching for a job to do. He sent applications to various companies hoping that at least one would click.
Two weeks after his release, he called Joyce and asked to have a meeting with her, at least to know how things were with them. Michael had visited him a week after he was released and he was so pleased to see him. Ladi told him how he had written an apology letter to the woman he had assaulted and also to Lily oil and gas. He told Michael that the lady had even called him saying how sorry she was that he eventually landed in jail, that she had wanted to call off the case but her husband had persuaded her to allow the law take its course. Michael was happy to learn that Ladi had started his therapy sessions, while in prison to work on his anger and abusive tendencies. He hoped the therapy would work because he had never heard of anyone who got cured or healed from such…
Ladi and Joyce met at a popular restaurant. He didn’t know he missed her this much; he couldn’t hold himself and held her in a very tight embrace. He released her when she squirmed, he must have held on too tight. They sat down and ordered drinks, and started talking about the events of the past months.
“Why didn’t you come to see me often Joyce, did I repulse you that much?” asked Ladi, holding her hands. Joyce didn’t know how to answer the question.
“I am sorry Ladi, I guess I just couldn’t bear to see you in a place like that. I know what happened was an accident and that you were not a criminal that should be kept in jail” responded Joyce.
“I know being in jail isn’t anyone’s prayer, but I must say that the experience gave me a paradigm shift. I had time to reflect over my life and what’s important. I think I am not the same man who went into jail, I am reformed” responded Ladi, with a smile across his lips. He couldn’t describe the peace he felt as he said those words and Joyce could swear she saw a glow on his face.
They ordered food and ate it quietly. When Ladi finished his, he laid his hands on hers and looking into her eyes, asked Joyce if they could go back to how they were. He vowed that he had become a changed man who would never hurt a fly. Joyce wanted to believe him but just couldn’t, not after what she experienced with him and what he did at the office. She had to tell him she had started seeing Tomiwa and hoped he would find someone else as well. She told him how much of a gentle dove Tomiwa was. She told him to move on as well as she had put their relationship behind her. Ladi’s heart felt like it had been hit by a rock and smashed into pieces, but he acted calmly and wished her all the very best. He hoped they could still remain as friends though and Joyce replied “of course Ladi, you will always be my friend”.
Ladi’s mum spoke to friends and family and even her church members and finally Ladi was able to secure another well-paying job at real estate firm. He was happy to secure another employment that he gave it his very best. He worked so hard and got his confirmation just after three months instead of the stipulated six months by the company policy. His bosses liked him and after eight months, he got a promotion as assistant head of his unit. He rented another apartment in a posh area of Lagos as he had gotten uncomfortable living at his old apartment because of his past. All seemed to be going well for him, except for the snag of not having a woman in his life.
He knew he was ready to get married but how does one get married when there was no fiancée. He couldn’t bring himself to look at another woman; Joyce filled his thoughts constantly. He told himself he had to snap out of the situation as Joyce herself had moved on. He hadn’t even been able to convince himself that he had totally gotten control of his emotions and would not be battering a woman or anyone else for that matter anytime soon. He felt he needed Joyce in the equation, date her again and when provoked, if he would handle himself like a gentleman; but Joyce had moved on.
“How will I even know that the therapy session and prayers worked, if I have no one to use as my guinea pig” he mused. A certain lady in church had caught his fancy, very beautiful and well behaved, her name was Ruth Kadiri. He liked the fact that she served the Lord but he couldn’t go any further; as much as he felt he had been delivered from abusive tendencies, he was too scared to find out through another relationship.
He finally summoned courage to get close to Ruth. He was surprised that beneath the church sister look laid a charming witty nature. She was fun to be with and Ladi hoped they could take the friendship a notch higher. He had told the pastor about his intentions towards Ruth and that he intended to ask her to be his wife. Afterall, he had a good job and a posh apartment, an important criterion before contemplating bringing in a wife.
After four months of friendship, Ladi made up his mind it was Ruth he wanted to spend the rest of his life with. He realized that being with her had reduced every thought of Joyce that still lingered. He had taken her on a dinner date and there proposed marriage to her, and Ruth gladly accepted. A week after the proposal, Ladi had taken Ruth to meet his mother. His mother was overjoyed when he took Ruth home to meet her. After some minutes, she excused Ladi into her room and asked him if he was sure he had overcome his abusive tendencies. He told her he was sure because he had not exhibited such anger and that he believed God had healed him completely. Ladi’s mum held him tight in her arms and prayed for him, a heartfelt prayer of thanksgiving to God.
Ruth took Ladi home to her parents and they warmed up to him easily, his charming nature won them over. The wedding was set for another three months. They completed the compulsory intending couple’s classes. After the last class, which was a month to the wedding, Ruth had asked Ladi to drop her off at her cousins’ to give them the wedding invitation. When they turned into the street, Ladi silently prayed that he wouldn’t see Joyce anywhere as it was the same street she lived. A few minutes later, he knew there was no hiding place, as Ruth led him straight into Joyce’s parents’ apartment. It was a Saturday and almost everyone was home. Joyce opened the door at the sound of the doorbell and was shocked to find Ladi behind her little cousin.
She stepped back into the house and Ladi followed Ruth reluctantly, his feet felt like it had shackles on them as he couldn’t walk properly again. He stood as Ruth exchanged pleasantries with Joyce, Joyce’s’ parents came out into the living area when they heard voices.
“Oh, it’s you Ruth. Welcome, why is your fiancé not sitting down?” they asked. “You are welcome my son, we didn’t have much time to talk during the family introduction”.
“I am fine thank you” replied Ladi as he sat down. He had never met Joyce’s parents so they couldn’t have recognized him during the introduction of Ruth’s family to his, and Joyce had not been present then too. Ruth was chatting away with the rest of the family and was totally oblivious to the plight Ladi was in. Ladi tried to catch Joyce’s attention with his eye but she intentionally made sure they didn’t have eye contact up to two seconds. An hour later, it was time to go and Ruth and Ladi bid their farewells and left the premises. Ladi was quiet throughout the journey back to Ruth’s house; he wasn’t sure what Joyce would do. And he felt the best thing was to tell Ruth about his past. He told her he had a very important thing to tell her and it would be better if they went someplace quiet. They went to a park and sat under a tree.
Forty fives minute later, after Ladi had told her everything and not holding anything back, Ruth stared back at him, mouth opened. She couldn’t believe she was about walking down the aisle with a man who had a past she would never have known about if not for meeting Joyce earlier. “How could you have kept such information away from me Ladi, how?” asked Ruth, she couldn’t wrap her head around the deception.
“But I am a changed man now Ruth, I swear, I am not the man in the story I just told you” responded Ladi. He couldn’t bear it if Ruth doesn’t forgive him. “Please forgive me Ruth, I know I should have told you this story before we got serious but I was scared I would lose you if I did. Please Ruth, please forgive me” a sober Ladi begged.
“I need time to think about this Ladi, I have seen battered women in abusive relationships. Sis Joko and Sis Tolu in church were victims of such marriages. I saw what it did to them; I am not ready to mortgage my happiness on a gamble. I need time to think deeply Ladi” responded Ruth.
“I understand Ruth, but please don’t think for long, our wedding is just a month away. Please I assure you I am a changed man” Ladi replied. She got up to leave and he followed her to the car, they drove in silence till he got to her gate and the only word she said to him was “Don’t call me, I will get in touch” and she walked into her home.
Ladi had cried before, examination failure and even in prison but this separation from Ruth broke his heart. He could feel his heart torn into shreds. He had never needed anything so badly like he needed Ruth’s forgiveness and understanding. He cried till his eyes were sore and no strength left in him. He called his mother at 2am when he couldn’t sleep and explained what had happened. His mum pacified him and told him to try and get some sleep and would speak to Ruth in the morning on his behalf.
Ruth woke up the next morning to a call from Joyce that she would like to see her immediately after service and they agreed to meet at Shoprite. Ladi had not been able to go to church, his head hurt so much from crying and his heart still ached. Ruth made excuses for him in church when people asked.
After service, she met with Joyce as scheduled and Joyce stated the reason for the meeting and told her about herself and Ladi. Ruth told her she already knew and Joyce was shocked at her calmness.
“Don’t tell me you will go ahead with this wedding o, we do not want to come and carry your dead body from his house oo” said Joyce.
“I have not made up my mind cousin, but something tells me that Ladi has truly changed” responded Ruth.
“Over my dead body Ruth, I will not allow you ruin your life, I know Ladi and what he is capable of doing. I have heard of so many women killed innocently because they chose love over commonsense, I will tell our parents and make sure they talk some sense into your head” retorted Joyce.
Before they parted, Joyce told her she would also be getting married to Tomiwa in the next five months. She told her she hoped Ruth would find a better man soon that will make her a happy woman and to let go of Ladi and his charm.
The next few days were the hardest for Ruth as she was bombarded from her family with calls, texts and visitations on not going ahead with the wedding. On the other hand, Ladi’s mum begged her to give her son a chance, and that if anything were to ever go wrong, she would personally hand over Ladi to the authorities; but that she was sure that her son had truly changed for better. Ruth had begged her to allow her do the thinking and take her decision by herself. She had been praying to God ever since Ladi told her about his past; the many women her had hurt and tortured, how he didn’t even know what he was doing until after the act. Her heart was deeply troubled but two weeks before the wedding, she knew what she must do. She had to let everyone know what she had decided. She knew she would hurt hearts in the process but it was her life afterall.
One evening she told her dad she wanted to speak with him in private and they went outside in the compound to have a little chit chat. She knelt down and told her dad that she was willing to go ahead with the marriage; she told him how people change and how he had taught her not to write anyone off as no one was irredeemable. She didn’t know how it happened of what she said right, but she heard her dad say “Yes” to her request. I t had taken less than an hour to convince him and he told her he would convince her mother.
“But dear, don’t run coming back to this house if anything goes wrong” he told her and quietly got up and went inside the house.
The turnout for the wedding was very impressive, Micheal had been his best man and Joyce refused to be the best lady, so Ruth had asked a colleague to stand in. The weather had been very favorable as well. They had their honey moon at Dubai and Spain.
It’s been three years after the wedding. Ruth got a call from Joyce, she wanted them to meet someplace for a discussion. She had not visited them since the wedding because she had not approved.
Over drinks and snacks, the discussion drifted into marriage and in-law issues.
“Are you sure he had never laid his hands on you?” quizzed Joyce as she pulled her chair close to her cousins’.
“I am sure cousin, I do not think it’s the same Ladi you had dated because this man I am married to; is the world’s best husband. He cares for me so much and above all, he is as gentle as a dove”. Replied Ruth, as she rubbed her hands on her protruding belly.
“I know I took a gamble when I agreed to marry Ladi; I was scared to tell the truth, but I had peace of mind concerning him. The first few months of our marriage, I was always waiting for him to pounce on me and show me the beast in him, but I have been waiting ever since and till date, I am yet to see that side of him” Ruth said smiling. “Let’s just say that no one is truly irredeemable, my husband is a testament to that fact”.
Joyce cold not hide her surprise, she was happy Ruth had followed her heart and not listened to outside influence.
Disclaimer: This is purely a work of fiction and the writer does not encourage anyone to get married to an abusive partner.