“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit” (Psalm 34:18).
That night, I dreamt I returned home to Ope, and had prepared a speech to tell him how sorry I was for breaking his heart. But when I arrived at our home, another woman opened the door, and called to Ope, “Darling, there’s a woman here to see you.”
When Ope came to the door, he seemed amused to see me, and I lost the nerve. I ran away, while he looked on at me.
I woke up with tears in my eyes. Who was I to expect that he would wait for me to get my act together? It was a fool’s dream, and a confirmation that I just had to move on and leave Ope in the past.
The next night, I had another dream about Ope. This time, he opened the door to me, and there was no woman in his house. I said my speech in full, and he dutifully forgave me.
But he had changed. His love for me had waned. He didn’t appear attracted to me anymore, and made no attempt to touch me. I was miserable.
Then one day, there was a knock on the door. A woman with child stood at the entrance with her bag, and Ope invited her in. He introduced her as his second wife, and she would be staying with us. He kissed her loving, and all I could do was cry.
I woke up in sobs and could hardly go back to sleep. The message was loud and clear. Going back to Ope expecting him to love me like I never tore his heart in pieces would be stupid. What if I couldn’t give him the baby he always desired, because of my decision to abort my first child? What if he already found someone else to love, and only takes me back out of duty?
The fear of his rejection consumed me, and I grew more determined to stay away from him, and start a new life in Ibadan. It was all I could expect. All I could hope for.
“Promise, there’s someone here to see you,” Mama stuck her head in the doorway and opened it wider so that my guest could enter the room.
I looked up from where I was laying, on Toyin’s former bed, and sat up straight when I saw who it was. At first, I couldn’t believe my eyes. My guest had the resemblance of Jesus Christ, based on how He is popularly portrayed in art. I robbed my eyes to make sure I was seeing clearly, my heart pounding in my chest. Was I dreaming again?
I sat frozen while He came to kneel before me and took my hands in His. “My love, why are you running from me?” His voice was Ope’s, and I blinked and saw that it was Ope that knelt before me. “Why won’t you let me love you?”
“I don’t have anything to offer you, Ope. You deserve so much better than me,” I cried.
“But I chose you. I choose you. Just as you are, Promise. I want you, and if you would give me you…that would be enough.”
“What if I hurt you again? I’m so afraid that I will keep disappointing you, and never live up to your expectation…”
“You’ve done your worst, Promise, and I am right here. You ran from me, but I’ve come to tell you that no matter how far you run, I will always love you. There’s nothing you can do to make me stop loving you…because I never loved you because you were perfect. But it hurts me that you keep running from me, when all I want to do is be a husband to you…”
“How can you still love me after everything I’ve done to you? How is it possible?” I cried. “Please, don’t give me false hope. I appreciate your gesture…but you don’t know how damaged I am. It would not be fair to you…”
“I know more than you know…” Then he touched my abdomen, and I felt power course through my whole body. It was the strangest and most amazing feeling I have ever experienced. His touch healed me. “The love I have for you is the most powerful thing in this world. It gives life to what was once dead. It quickens and restores, and it will never fail. Trust me.”
The tears streamed down my face. This has to be a dream! How could his touch have such power over my body? Even if it was a dream, it was the best dream ever, and I never wanted to wake from it. I nodded my acceptance.
“Will you come home with me, my love? Will you let me love you and promise never to run away again?”
“Yes, I promise. Thank you for not giving up on me.”
Ope stood to his feet and pulled me into his arms. He smelt heavenly, and I didn’t want to be released from his hold. I was home, and I was free, and all my fear was gone.
That morning, I said goodbye again to my mother and my sister. Both looked with awe at my husband, who had shown such great love for me, by coming for me after all I had put him through.
“You must keep in touch, and visit us soon, okay? Don’t stay away again!” Mama cried, as she held me in an embrace.
“I won’t, Mama. Thank you.”
“You’re so lucky, Sis! I can only pray for a husband like yours…” Kemi said, as we hugged goodbye. “Let me know when I can come and visit, okay?”
“Sure!” I kissed her cheek. I was going to miss her. I was going to miss them both.
Ope hugged both Mama and Kemi. They exchanged looks of amazement when they withdrew from his arms, and smiled and waved wildly at us as we left the compound, as though we were newly weds leaving for our honeymoon.
The ride to Lagos was surreal. I rested in Ope’s bosom the whole way home, listening to his heartbeat and falling in and out of sleep. I kept wondering if I would wake up and realise that it was all a dream; my mind playing tricks on me. But there was a certain peace I felt, and I knew that something magical had happened. I was finally doing what my heart and soul longed for, which was letting myself be loved by my husband.
It was strange to be back at our home, and I was immediately hit with the memory of what I had done to Ope, the last time I was there. I looked around, and there was no evidence of our marriage to be found. I had erased us, when I had packed out of the home. I cried again, and Ope held me in his arms and comforted me. I wondered if I would ever feel deserving of his love.
“Take a nice hot bath and relax. There’s some food in the fridge too. I’ll be back soon.”
“Won’t you stay home with me, and join me in the bath?” I appealed to him. Now I was home, I didn’t want to be away from him.
“No, my love. I must go. I love you.”
“Okay, dear. I love you too,” I said. He kissed me on the cheek, and left. I watched after him with longing.
I went to the bathroom and switched on the heater, in preparation for my bath. I remembered how Ope had washed me the night before I had pulled my horrible stunt on him. Forgiving myself would be hard. I realised that I hadn’t yet said sorry to him either. I would have to let him know that I am deeply sorry tonight, when he returns home.
Ope arrived home at about 7pm that evening. The house smelt of the one dish I knew how to do well, and which he always loved – assorted jollof rice with dodo, shrimp and capsicum peppers, with grilled chicken. I had also put up a banner by the entrance saying “I’m Sorry”.
I stood in the hallway when Ope used his keys to let himself in. His suitcase came crashing to the ground when he saw me. He was much more surprised than I had expected. His mouth dropped in awe as he took in the whole scene.
I went to him and knelt before him. “I never said I was sorry. I want you to know that I am deeply sorry from the bottom of my heart for everything I did to you…and our marriage. I know that words will never be enough, so I will spend the rest of my life showing you how grateful I am that you choose me to be your wife…and for loving me, despite myself. I love you, Ope. I love you so much.”
Ope picked up his suitcase and closed the door behind him. “Promise… You don’t know how long I have waited for you to say those words…and mean it. Promise… You are home. Praise God!!!” He pulled me into his arms and kissed me passionately on my lips. I melted in his arms. I was home.
After our meal, during which neither of us could keep our eyes from each other, as though we were both afraid we were dreaming, we made our way to our bedroom. He touched me, and my body, which had been dead, responded to his touch, as a fire burned in my abdomen. As he touched and kissed my body, I cried. His every touch was sensational.
Ope stopped and looked at me. He wiped the tears from my eyes. “Promise, I’ve missed you… You can’t even understand how much I long for you. But maybe we should take it slow. I want you to be ready. I am willing to wait for you to want me, the way I want you…sexually.”
I opened my eyes and looked at him. I thought he knew what his touch was doing to me. How could he not know that I wanted him too? “I’m ready, now. I want you. You’re the only one I want,” I assured him.
Ope kissed me again. He took off my clothes, and stroked my naked body with his fingers, sending shivers up and down my spine. His fingers lingered at various parts of my body that had bruises from the abuse I had suffered in Tony’s apartment. As he studied them, his expression changed to one of concern.
“What happened to you, Promise? Who did this to you?” he asked. His touch lingered on an old cigarette burn.
I pulled the covers to cover my nakedness, ashamed of the evidence of the horrors done to me. I didn’t know how to tell my husband. Would he be disgusted? Would he pity me? I didn’t want either.
“Did Tony do this to you?” his expression had turned to anger.
I nodded. “It wasn’t just Tony.” Ope shifted, and for a moment, I thought he was repulsed. He drew me back into his arms. “Tony held me as a captive in his house for almost four months. He used me as a sex slave, and collected money from men who…raped and assaulted me,” my voice broke.
“Oh God! Why didn’t I listen? I should have come for you… I should have come for you… I’m so sorry, darling. How did you get away?”
I told him about the trick I had pulled off, and how I had managed to escape to Ibadan. He told me how he had gone to Tony’s place last week, and he had cleared out of his apartment. We figured Tony must have ran in fear that I would report him.
Ope kissed every part of my body that had been bruised. “Don’t ever leave me again, Promise. I will never let anyone harm you, as long as I live. You’re so so precious to me…” He kissed my lips with renewed passion.
Every touch by Ope revived my body, and stimulated me in ways I never knew I could be stimulated. His love was powerful, and I was a bundle of nerves when he finally took possession of my body. His eyes bore into my soul as he made love to me, and brought my body to a sensuous climax.
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