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What God Hath Joined Together | Terna Douglas Abu | Short Story

..a story that explores the intricacies of marriages, and the unprecedented challenges therein! What God Hath Joined Together | Terna Douglas Abu.

...a story that explores the intricacies of marriages, and the unprecedented challenges therein!

Couples holding hands




WHAT GOD HATH JOINED TOGETHER


The drive home is tense. From the passenger’s seat, I cast an anxious look at my husband every now and then. His stone-faced expression as he cut dangerously through traffic terrify me. I know I had somehow annoyed him at the banquet party, but I can’t figure out where or how exactly. I want to discuss the issue, but I dare not. My attempts to calm him during his fits of rage over the last few months had always escalated the problem instead.

 I exhale deeply in relief as the car pull up safely before our apartment. I had been almost certain on three different occasions that we would crash into another car. I quickly enter the apartment and heads for the bathroom for a shower. Under such circumstances, it’s always better to avoid him. I consider it safer to go straight to bed afterwards. Maybe Andrew will be calmer by morning, then I will know what’s eating him up.
 
 “What’re these files doing on the dining chair!” Andrew’s voice bellows from the living room. 

 The files had been lying on the chair for the past week. Andrew had actually asked me to move them there so that he would not forget to take them along when leaving the house. However, I can’t remind him of all that. I know that the files are a pretense to unleash the anger that had been eating him up since the banquet party. However, I also know that I have to say something. 

 “Relax, I will move them after my shower,” I say.

 “Relax! I should relax!” Andrew cries, walking towards the bathroom. “You leave things scattered in the house because you are too busy flirting with men. Then you tell me to relax, right?” He already has a foot in the bathroom, his eyes glare angrily at me.

 “Flirt with men?” I ask, confuse. “What are you talking about?”

 “You think I’m stupid?” Andrew cries. “You think I didn’t see how you were flirting with George and Luper at the party?”

 “Jesus! Andrew, they are your friends. I was just being friendly.”

 “By embarrassing me before my colleagues with your bitchy actions?” Andrew has me by the hair and is pulling.

 “Stop!” I cry. “You are hurting me!”

 Andrew continues pulling my hair, dragging me out of the bathroom. He yells, “Hurting you? So you know what hurt means, yet you go about misbehaving. You think I don’t get hurt?”

 I’m thinking, he is going to pull my hair off my head. I decide to make use of my best weapon — my teeth. I aim a bite at his neck, but he pulls back just in time to avoid any serious damage. Andrew's counter punch, on the other hand, doesn’t miss my face. It lands on my left eye and send me crashing on the floor. He launches forward to continue the assault, but I quickly scramble to my feet and dash out of the bedroom. I enter the guest room and lock myself inside.

 We spend the night in different rooms. By morning, Andrew is a different person. I heard noises in the living room as early as 5:00 a.m. and I know it’s him, but I remain inside the guest room until forty-five minutes later. I have a black eye, and I’m still shaken from events of the previous night. Andrew sits quietly on the settee, calm and evidently remorseful of his actions the previous night.   

“Good morning,” he says as I walk through the living room. “Look, I’m sorry about yesterday.”

 I do not answer. We both prepare for work like two opposing spies trapped in a room. An hour later, I leave for work. I have on dark glasses that covers my black eye. I adjust the glasses to properly cover my eyes before stepping into the office. Most of my colleagues do not take more than a casual look at me. From Ngufan, my closest office friend, however, I receive more than a casual look. 

 I’m not exactly the type that like conspicuous dressing and Ngunan knows it. The dark glasses, on a not so bright morning, makes her take a closer look at me. Her plying eyes picks the bruises by the corner of my left eye. 

 “He has been hitting you again, right?” There is deep concern in Ngunan’s eyes.

 I bow my head, quickly raise my hand and wipe the tear that threatens to roll down my cheek.

 “We need to have a serious talk during lunchtime,” Ngunan says.

 I say nothing. I try to bury myself in work, but it’s not easy. Memories of events of the previous evening and preceding months keeps flashing through my mind. Ngunan is the only person that knows the true condition of my marriage. Talking to her in the past has not help the situation. All the same, I’m still willing to talk to her. Sharing my pains makes me feel a little better.

 Ngunan is already seated in the staff canteen when I walk in. I pull a chair and sit facing her. Without enquiring about the cause of the fight as she usually did, Ngunan goes straight to how she feels:
 “You need to leave that man.” 

 I grimace. “You know I can’t do that. He is my husband.”

 Ngunan stretches her hand and touch mine. “Will it be the first time a married couple go their separate ways?” she asks.

 “Our union is different.” I say the words slowly, almost as if measuring them. I guess it has to do with the doubts that have imperceptibly started creeping into my mind. “We are married, in church. What God hath joined together…remember?”

 Ngunan sighs. “What if your interpretation of ‘what God has joined together’ is wrong?” 

 I look at her strangely. She knows I don’t understand what she means, so she adds:
 “What if ‘what God hath joined together’ doesn’t refer to the wedding ceremony, but the love that exists between a couple?” 

 “I don’t know what you are talking about. What I know is that I can’t leave the union that had been made by God.”

 “Look at it this way,” Ngunan says, adjusting her seat to face me squarely. “Can God, who is love, join two people in a loveless union?”

 “Andrew wasn’t like this,” I say. “He will change.”

 Ngunan laughs. “We both know you didn’t know who you married. But if you believe he will change, then may it be.”

 Hours after lunch, I could not concentrate on my task in the office. I want to believe that Andrew will change, but I know that Ngunan is right — although we had dated for almost a year, I never really knew Andrew before getting married to him. I force the tears back when I remember the Andrew I dated and the one I'm now living with. I wondered what will become of me if the version of him I’m now seeing is who he really is.

***

The home is peaceful and welcoming when I return from work. Joe’s ‘I wanna know’ is playing softly on the stereo as I walk into the living room. The music brings back memories of the good old times when Andrew and I were still dating. It was our favorite song and we always play it when I’d fly the almost one thousand kilometer distance from Jos to spend a weekend with him in Lagos. A weekend, once in a month, was all that our respective jobs would permit us to share. There were times that our work schedule was so tight, we could manage only a weekend together in two months.

 The little times together were always super exciting. The exciting times continued even after we got married. It wasn’t until a couple of months after securing a transfer to Lagos that I started noticing the monster in my husband. 

 “Welcome,” Andrew says, displaying one of his most charming dispositions. “Hope you had a nice day at work.”

 The enticing aroma of dinner fill the room. He had apparently left the office early to prepare dinner. It’s his usual style whenever we fight. I had always been overwhelmed by his show of remorse. I always fly back into his arms. After a year of moving in with him as a married couple and over ten fights between us, I’m beginning to wonder whether he will ever be the nice man I had thought he is.

 “Thanks,” I say. Without meeting his eyes, I walk to the bedroom.

 Tension remains in the house for the next week. However, like ice blocks gradually melting over time, conversation between us increase from the curt, short greetings to touching and eventually to everything normal couples do. However, the passion, the surge of adrenaline when we get intimate is beginning to wane.

***

I’m on the staff bus on my way to work. The news on the radio shocks me to the bones: A woman connives with her boyfriend to kill her husband. The news presenter is reporting that the incident happened three days after the couple married. 

 I’m stunned. I turn to the lady sitting next to me. “What kind of a woman start cheating on her husband within three days of marriage?”

 The lady laughs. “Who says she just started cheating. She clearly had been cheating even before they married and didn’t stop.”

 Other colleagues joined in the discussion. Everyone airs their view. By the time the bus gets to its destination, the staff had reached a unanimous conclusion — the marriage was a ploy to kill the man so that the woman and her boyfriend will claim his estate.

 The analysis brings back memories of my discussion with Ngunan on God and love. It’s becoming more difficult for me to understand the marriage institution. “Why would God join a man to a woman whose only aim is to kill him.” After hours of racking my brain over the question, I conclude that the union between the woman in question and her late husband wasn’t made before God. I exhale deeply. Finally, I understand — there are all kinds of marriages. I remember cases where a girl elopes with a man and becomes his wife without any further ceremony. 

***

It has been six weeks since the last fight between me and my husband. A semblance of peace has returned to the house. I’m looking forward to an enjoyable evening at home after an especially hectic day at work. Andrew isn’t home when I return, but it’s not unusual. Most days, I get home first. Two hours later, I’m surprise that he is still not home and haven’t called. Since he had not said anything about being late, I decide to call.

 “I’m having a drink with friends,” Andrew says on the phone.

 “Make sure you don’t get drunk,” I say. “You know how you misbehave when you are drunk.”

 I hear a sudden background noise — like a burst of laughter before the line goes dead. While waiting for Andrew to return, I decide to watch the TV. The program catches my attention immediately. It’s an update of the case of the woman that connived with her boyfriend to kill her husband. I think I heard the news presenter mention a wedding in a church. I can’t believe that it’s the wedding of the husband-killer he is talking about. I decide to search the story on the internet.

I drop my phone in shock after the search. The husband-killer did not only marry in church, she married at the headquarters of our church — I and Andrew married at a branch of the same church. Three hours later, I’m still up, wondering how such a union can be made in heaven. As I’m about to turn off the TV and call it a night, Andrew returns. He is as drunk as a fiddler. 

 “You!” Andrew says, pointing a finger at me as he staggers into the living room. “How dare you make me an object of laughter…” He belches loudly “…before my friends.” 

 I decide that it’s better to avoid him. Four of our previous fights started when he was drunk. I stand and heads to the bedroom.

 “Come back here, bitch! I’m talking to you!”

 I continue going. All of a sudden, I feel a pull on my hair. I try to turn but can’t. Andrew has my hair in his grip and is dragging me backwards. 

“Don’t ever again call me a misbehaving drunk before my friends. You understand?” 

 “You are hurting me,” I say. 

 “Yes, that’s how you will know not to disrespect me another time.” Andrew continue pulling my hair. In a desperate move, I swing my arm around. My elbow hit him on the face. A wild scuffle follows. Within seconds, the furniture in the living room is scattered. Punches are landing on my face, unbelievably hard punches, considering Andrew's drunken state. I’m aiming to grab his balls and squeeze them until he begs me to stop. 

I don’t know exactly how it happened, but before I could have a proper grip of his balls, I find myself flying over the settee. At the spot where my face is heading is the center table. I barely have time to think before I momentarily feel the impact of my head hitting the table — then a total blackout.

***

I squint my eyes a couple of times before I could see clearly. I’m on a hospital bed. I turn around. Andrew is in a chair beside me. Our eyes meet. The expression on his face is a combination of joy and relief. 

“Oh, baby. Thank God you are back,” Andrew says. He reaches for my hand. Memories of the events before I lost consciousness floods my head. I flinch and pull my hand away.

“Go away,” I say.

“Baby, I’m sorry. Please…” 

“I say go away!” I’m becoming hysterical. 

A nurse rushes to the bedside and order Andrew to leave. A few minutes later, the doctor walks in. He says I had been in a coma for three days but assures me that I will be fine. I don’t believe him. There is a strange expression on his face that says otherwise. I try to get more information about my condition, but he doesn’t disclose more. 

“Please, rest. That’s what you need most at the moment,” the doctor says. 

Within the next couple of hours or so, the nurse coaxes me into drinking some cereal and then drugs. I slept off afterwards. It’s getting dark when I wake up. My abdominal region down to my groin feel strange. A doctor, different from the earlier one, walks in. After asking me a few questions, he also assures me I’m doing fine and will be okay. His face then takes on a sympathetic expression. “But there was nothing we could do about the baby,” he adds.

I had suspected it, but had been afraid to ask. Tears roll down my cheeks. The doctor and nurse’s consoling words doesn’t help. I’m still in tears when I feel a hand on my shoulder. It’s Ngunan.

“I lost my three months’ baby,” I say. The words seem to drive out the tears in droves.

Ngunan sits on the bed and wraps her arms around me. “Please, take it easy. Everything will be alright.” 

“I know you will say you warned me,” I say.

“No, my friend. Why would I say that?” Ngunan says. “I’m here to support you, not to ridicule you.”

“In any case, you have been right all along. ‘What God hath joined together’ is far more than the church ceremony,” I say.

Ngunan sits upright and look at me with the sincerest understanding. 

“I’m glad you have recognized that,” Ngunan says. “What are you going to do?”

“I can’t go back to that house. I now understand what you mean when you say ‘God who is love cannot join two people in a loveless union. Andrew doesn’t have any respect for me. He therefore can never truly love me,” I say. 

Ngunan nodded. “You can stay with me till you sort out your accommodation.”

“Thank you.” For the first time in over nine months, I feel at ease. 
   



———————————————————————————––—


Terna Douglas Abu (Pen Name:Terna Abu) is a self-taught, award winning author. His first novel, Eagle Drive, won the 2020 Association of Nigerian Authors, ANA, Prose prize. He has recently completed work on his second novel, The Seeker. His work has appeared or forthcoming on Karahari Review, Sisi Africa, Botsotso, among others. He resides in Makurdi, Nigeria, on the sunny south bank of the River Benue. Twitter: @TernaAbu 

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Pawners Paper: What God Hath Joined Together | Terna Douglas Abu | Short Story
What God Hath Joined Together | Terna Douglas Abu | Short Story
..a story that explores the intricacies of marriages, and the unprecedented challenges therein! What God Hath Joined Together | Terna Douglas Abu.
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