Read Episode 6 here
Two days later, Matthew picked Ife up from her house and they drove to the church for their premarital class. The class held once a week for intending couples and it was coordinated by the Pastor in charge of the parish. They had learnt a lot of tips and useful lessons from the class and they were regular students.
The topic for that day was openness. The Pastor emphasized on the importance of being open in a marriage relationship.
“You should never hide anything from your spouse,” he said.
“Whether good or bad, you should trust your spouse enough to open up to him or her. He or she should be your safe haven, your resting place. Do you know why?”
There were a few mumbles.
“In case you don’t know,” he continued. “One of the weapons of the enemy in attacking marriages today, especially Christian marriages, is the weapon of secrecy. When you start doing things in secret, you are giving your spouse a reason to doubt you. Secrecy kills trust and commitment.”
“You see, the world in its wisdom will say “what you don’t know cannot harm you”. That is the most untrue statement I have ever heard. In marriage, that ungodly statement does not hold any water. The Bible advocates for nakedness in all aspects. Make a commitment today to be one hundred percent open and transparent with your spouse. Openness cuts across every area of life.”
Matthew shifted uncomfortably on his seat. A participant raised his hand.
“Yes, Chidi. You can ask your question.”
“Thank you, sir, for this interesting topic,” Chidi started. “I have a question as regards the predicament of a good friend of mine. My friend has been battling with erectile dysfunction for some time now. The medical condition has cost him two thriving relationships, because the moment he opened up to the ladies in question, the relationship ended.”
There were whispers among the participants.
“My friend is an amazing Christian and a good guy. Since the condition started, he has subjected himself to various treatments and so far, there has been progress. He is in his third relationship now but he doesn’t want to open up to his fiancée because he is afraid that she would leave him like the others. He loves this lady so much, and I don’t think he can handle another heartbreak. What will you advise him to do Sir?”
Participants mumbled to one another. The Pastor cleared his throat.
“Let me throw that question open. Do you think he should tell his fiancé?”
A dark-skinned lady at the back raised her hand.
“Yes, go ahead Linda.”
“Pastor, if I marry a man with such condition and he hid it from me during our courtship, the day I find out is the day the marriage ends. I mean, how can we build a strong marriage on the altar of deceit?”
There were a few exclamations.
“If he tells you during courtship, will you still marry him?” Someone said loudly.
Linda, having no immediate response, ignored the question. Ife bent her head towards Matthew and whispered.
“If you had such condition, will you hide it from me?”
Matthew hesitated. If he didn’t have a secret hiding in the deep recess of his heart, he would have replied with an outright no. However, in that short moment, he realized that what he was hiding from her was enough to rock the boat of their relationship and so he was in the same dilemma with Chidi’s friend.
Ife noticed his hesitation and narrowed her eyes. Was he hiding something from her? She expected him to say a “no” or “of course not” but his hesitation made her disturbed.
“Thank you for your honest response, Linda.” The Pastor said. He looked at the ten participants in the room one after the other.
“Never build the foundation of your marriage on the basis of deceit, lies or manipulation. Whoever God has ordained for you, God will give him or her sufficient grace to deal with your baggage or excesses. If the person decides to leave because you opened up, be encouraged. The right person will stay with you and help you scale through.”
Everyone was quiet.
“Chidi,” the Pastor continued. “Tell your friend to open up to his fiancé. It is too weighty a matter to be swept under the carpet. If she is the bone of his bones, she’ll stay.”
A few of the participants nodded in agreement.
“That goes for everyone here as well. Did you have a child outside wedlock? Open up to your intended spouse. Did you have an abortion? Open up. Is there a negative trend in your family? Open up. Are you a kleptomaniac? Open up. Opening up may be hard, but at the end of it all, you will be glad that you did and you will know who truly loves you for who you are.”
Matthew became pressed with urine all of a sudden. He took permission and hurried off to the restroom. After relieving himself, he stood by the door and rubbed his face. Today’s class was just what the trigger he needed to tell Ife the truth. His palms were sweaty and he rubbed them against his jeans.
“Holy Spirt help me,” he muttered as he walked back to the hall.
Ife noticed that Matthew was unusually quiet as they drove out of the church premises. It was unlike him to be quiet after an amazing premarital session.
“What’s the problem Matt?” She started.
“Problem? What problem?”
She noticed that his grip on the steering wheel was tighter.
“Is there something you need to tell me?”
He didn’t respond and she studied him carefully. He was blinking more often than necessary, as if a stray object was lodged in his eye. She also noticed a streak of sweat on his temple, despite the fact that the air conditioner was on.
“Matthew, talk to me. What is the matter? You’re acting weird.”
He swerved into the parking lot by the side and turned off the car engine. She unbuckled her seat belt and faced him.
“I’m sorry Ife. I should have told you a long time ago but I was scared.”
Her heart beat furiously against her rib cage. What did he want to tell her? Did he have a son or daughter growing up somewhere? Was he impotent too? Did he have a terminal disease? Her heart raced.
“Tell me what?”
Matthew cracked his knuckles and gripped the steering wheel again.
“Ife, promise me that you won’t leave me.” He looked at her then, and she saw a mix of emotion, fear being predominant, in his eyes.
“Matthew please talk to me. My heart is running wild.” She folded her arms and unfolded them.
He closed his eyes and exhaled.
“I had a girlfriend in my third year in school. Olanna was her name.” he stared ahead as he narrated his story.
“I was her first boyfriend. And probably her last.” The pain resurfaced in his heart and he struggled to keep his voice steady. “She became pregnant in our fourth month together, and because I was not ready to be a father, I took her to a clinic and had the pregnancy terminated.”
Ife gasped. He was tempted to look at her, but he didn’t know what he would see in her eyes, so he continued his story.
“In my final year, she got pregnant again. I was furious. Why would she allow herself get pregnant again? I told her to terminate the pregnancy as I wasn’t ready to be a father. She refused. She said she would rather have a child outside wedlock than kill another innocent baby. I was livid. I threatened her, begged her, pushed her, yet she stood her ground. On one of my angry days, I visited her and threatened to deal with her severely if she didn’t terminate the pregnancy. We had a huge fight that day and I walked out in rage. The love I thought I had for her had turned into hatred overnight.”
At that moment, his phone rang and he checked the caller ID. It was his colleague from work. He cut off the call and switched off his phone. He would deal with whatever it was later.
“The very next day,” he continued. “I got a call that she had been rushed to the hospital, bleeding profusely. At first, I thought she attempted an abortion which went wrong. I hurried to the hospital and I was told she had been wheeled into the theatre. I met her parents at the waiting room and thankfully, they did not know of our illicit relationship so I introduced myself as a friend.”
“Minutes later, a doctor came out with the news that she was dead. She had an ectopic pregnancy and her Fallopian tube had ruptured before she was brought in. There was little they could do to save her.” Matthew took a deep sigh as Ife mouthed the words ‘Jesus Christ’. He could tell that the revelation had shocked her.
“I can never forget the look of pain I saw in her mother’s face immediately she heard the news. They didn’t even know that their precious daughter was pregnant. I was devastated. I didn’t want Olanna to die.”
He looked at Ife then and saw that she had closed her eyes, while she rested her head on the headrest.
“Ife, I carried this guilt for a long time. I saw myself as a cold-blooded murderer. After all, it was my seed that caused her death. I had terrible nightmares. Sleep became a luxury for me. until I met Christ in Jos, during my service year. Even after that, it still took a while for me to accept the forgiveness of God and let go.”
Ife sighed and opened her eyes.
“Did her parents ever find out that you were responsible?”
She didn’t say anything for a few minutes.
“You opened up to me because of today’s class, isn’t it?”
“Sincerely Ife mi, I have been meaning to. I just didn’t have the courage to do so.”
“Really?” He could detect the grievance in her voice. “So, if the Pastor never brought up this topic, you would have taken me to the altar without spilling this important detail?”
He looked at her with pleading eyes. “Believe me Ife, I would never do that.”
She gave him a long hard stare and then fastened her seat belt.
“Please take me home. My head is full.”
They drove to Ikoyi in silence. At her gate, she alighted without saying a word. He knew she needed time to digest what he just told her, so he let her be.
Thank you for reading. Episode 8 comes up next!