Painting a Perfect Picture

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This story was inspired by real life events – A story of a young woman who found herself in an abusive relationship and finally broke free. In sharing her story, she wanted people to know it’s fine to speak up and not ok to stay in an abusive relationship once you see the signs. Silence kills, choose to speak up no matter how feeble it may be.

Paow!”

It sent Yaaba sprawling to the ground as Ron just walked off. People were staring but she didn’t care. She just sat there on the ground her jeans now a dirty brown and sobbed some more smothering her right cheek. She was in love and angry at herself. Maybe just maybe if she hadn’t offended Ron he wouldn’t have walked out on her. She could have avoided this scene; crying and pleading with him not to leave by just doing his wishes. That was the first time he had laid his hands on her; in their third year of dating. And she thought it was all her fault and it wasn’t going to happen again. Apparently she was wrong…..
***

That night, she was moved to pray; something she hadn’t done in a while. The wake up call that night was unexplainable looking back at all the events that had happened. She spoke in an unknown tongue till her voice got croaky and the words couldn’t come out. Yaaba wept till any more refused to form and felt a strong urge to seek counsel. On Sunday morning, there were several counter attacks; the devil was at work. Her skirt got ripped coupled with the annoyance of dumsor in 2015. With chuckles and “insults” to ECG, she searched frantically for a dress that had been saved from visible creases. She settled for a pair of jeans and an African print top.

Interestingly the fears and issues she was battling with were the exact things God had laid on Rev. Osei’s heart to preach that morning. Yaaba could not stop fidgeting in her chair until her eyes met that of Aunt Mary’s reproachful look. It felt like Rev. Osei was bearing out her soul and speaking right to her when she hadn’t even confided in anyone yet.

“ You need to break free of certain relationships that do not add value to your life. Don’t allow him or her to talk or treat you anyhow. Once he starts, he is not going to stop. Flee before it’s too late.”

The more she pondered on these words, the more the tears tried to sting her face and ruin her mascara. She began to feel uncomfortable and wanted the sermon to end so she could leave before Aunt Mary got hold of her. The disciplinarian who the youth never wanted to cross. She would “dress” you with her eyes if your hemline was just some inches above your knee and she will call a guy  out if she saw your pants sagging. Her god parents Deacon and Mrs Adams saved her with another rebuke at least she could live with that. Not a scape goat for Aunt Mary which would make you want to hide.

“ Oh Yaaba so you wanted to dodge again as you have been doing for the past two weeks right?” 

The guilt on her face gave her away even before she could say anything. As she walked behind them towards their hall, she decided not to paint Ron black. After all, they both liked him.

Deacon Adams spoke first with a teasing grin, “ So what have you been up to since you don’t look for us?”
“ Oh daddy, work has been very hectic these past two weeks ooo . Our systems malfunctioned and left us with a backlog of client requests and complaints so we had to resolve them”, Yaaba replied shyly.
“ So what happened to  whatsapp?” Mrs. Adams interjected with an elaborate pout.

Then the dreaded question; it hit her unexpectedly and for about thirty seconds, she went mute and wasn’t sure who had asked. She knew it was time to either face her fears or continue to chop beatings at night and smile in a groupie with her friends the next morning. It flashed before her eyes like it had happened a day ago.

“ Yaaba how is Ron?” Her godfather repeated.
“ Umm he’s fine”  she replied with an expressionless face.
Her godmother’s eyebrows arched up in concern “ Are you sure?”
This time the weeping ruined her mascara as she blurted out before she could stop herself forming long black lines over her neatly done make up. Yaaba cried until she could speak up…….
***

The words gently came out of her mouth “ Ron has been beating me up.”

After six years, she felt a burden being lifted off her chest. Mrs. Adams horror stricken face and clasped hands over her head was not far fetched. By this time, Deacon Adams was standing and the anguish in his posture and eyes like a father could not be missed. He clenched his fists and released them almost immediately when it dawned on him that he was no ordinary man, but a man of God.

“ Yaaba how did this happen? When?” Her godmother gesturing with her hands for answers to the shocking revelation she had just thrown at them.

“ We have been dating for six years. It started in the third year.The nightmares; they were back. My ribs were writhing in pain from the punches and I felt my left eye had began to swell up. Another black eye……..With all the squirms, I wanted to lie on the blare floor but not this night. The rains had left the floor icy cold; I had felt it when he shoved me to the floor . His snores were heavy and he was sprawled over the bed leaving me pushed to the wall. I watched him. Anger rising above the subdued tears but this night I couldn’t. I could barely lift my arms. Endure just for a little while, I thought. Next time I had the chance, I was going to end it all kill Ron and take my life. I remember before this night, I actually woke up one night and held a pillow over him, ready to kill him. Ron had left me tired and depressed. At least ending it all was going to bring relief.

I was supposed to go back to school that morning and prepare for my mid semester exams but I couldn’t. Not in the state I was in. Ron beat me almost to a pulp. So I decided to go home and nurse my wounds with some packs of ice and ointment till the swellings reduced.

And so typical of Ron, he always acted nice after he beat me up. So the next morning I was still in pain lying on the bed and my nose was filled with a sweet, savoury smell of eggs and hit with a punge of a hot, spicy mixture. It could only mean one thing… I woke up to see a bowl of waakye adorned with just the right accompaniments I liked: gari, macaroni, eggs and meat. From where the bowl sat on the tray with a paper carton of Ceres on the side, the plantain was just how I always wanted it, not too soft neither too hard.

He always had some sort of bait to “ soften me”: shoes (which I really love), trips, cupcakes, dinner dates. He was always full of ideas when it came to that and I was always falling for them. Although I was very hungry, I decided to let it pass. No. After the beatings from that night, I wasn’t going to allow him to worm his way up to me with just a bowl of waakye worth 10 cedis; not this time. I knew my bride price was worth way more than that and I was going to put up a strong defiance this time. I was really bent on going home and managed to pack up my stuff. Not long after, he came out of the shower with his six pack dotted out with water. He kissed me on the cheek and asked me in the nicest way ever why I hadn’t eaten yet. At that point I was so confused; not knowing if answering with sarcasm was going to fetch another round of punches. I told him I wanted to shower first.

Why was he acting all nice? Well it wasn’t the first time though but he was being extra nice. Had he gotten another deal or what? I didn’t want to be fooled this time. I just wanted to go home and hide under my sheets. Mummy wasn’t around she didn’t need to know he had beaten me again. She had never known; I always told her the good things. My heart was pumping so much blood through my body when he inched closer. I thought he was going to strangle me but he didn’t. Instead, he told me he was really sorry and he will never hit me again. He told me he was so overpowered by anger as he had told me his stance on me chatting with my male friends. Telling me that I could have avoided it. Then………he kissed me and I felt my body and decision betraying me. ”

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Yaaba said looking down at her perfectly manicured nails screaming a bright red. At this point, all her make up had been smudged with tears and more did flow.

Her godmother smothered her while Deacon Adams brought some tea from the kitchen. The tea smelt like lots of flowers and peppermint and Yaaba drained down 2 cups within minutes.

“Yaaba. This is really shocking. So you have been dealing with this for the past 3 years and you came off as the perfect couple? Why didn’t you leave?” Deacon Adams looked at her intently.
“ At a point, I realised I had to leave but I didn’t know how because he “brainwashed” me into thinking he was doing it because he was scared of losing me and I was all he had.”
“Did he keep to his word not to hit you again?” Her godmother stared at her with pitiful eyes.
Yaaba shook her head vehemently and scoffed .
“ It only lasted for a few months. He slapped me severally because of my male friends who would call me anytime I was with him. I was filled with so much paranoia every time I was with him and my phone rang. But I was always willing to do all his biddings to please and keep him. My close friends were organising a girls date night which I was so bent on attending. He locked me in his room, tied me up and beat me till I was able to escape. None of my close friends back in school knew this was going on. Never. It is the darkest secret I have kept to myself all these years. Guarding it with my life and keeping it sealed. They always saw me to be the hard one, the mother hen and everyone’s support system. They always came to me with their problems but mine never slipped from my mouth.
Two days ago, I felt a strong urge to pray and it helped me to reflect on a lot of things. In as much as he’s helped me in a lot of ways, I have equally done same but I feel drained. I feel lost and I don’t know if he will eventually change when we settle down. And I have heard so many cheating rumours from my friends about him but he’s denied them all and even beat me because I had the guts to talk about it and almost burned me with an iron.”

There was a deafening silence. Her godfather shook his head profusely for a few minutes. Her godmother just gasped.

This is unacceptable! Yaaba he could have killed you!”

Deacon Adams was torn between his flesh (godfather) and his spirit (man of God) In as much as his flesh wanted to take action into his own hands, his spirit man cautioned him to watch his words and actions carefully.

“ My daughter, although you kept this from us for so long, we are glad you finally spoke to us about it. I know you are still in love with him because you have been together for a while and he is your first boyfriend. I understand that. I have counselled a couple of ladies who have had issues breaking off certain relationships. I want you to do this : Fast and pray for two weeks. In your prayer requests, ask God to break off any chains or bondages you are dealing with. Also ask for the grace of discernment. We will support you and let’s see what God will do.”

“ Thank you so much. I am really grateful.”

Yaaba left relieved. She had been painting a supposed perfect picture for six years and no one knew she had suffered scars that run deep. The long dresses she wore to cover up wounds that became stubborn and rebellious to heal quickly.
Yaaba made some mental notes “ But Deacon Adams. I thought being your god daughter came with some privileges. Couldn’t you intercede on my behalf? Fasting and prayers for two weeks? That was going to be hard and that is when the temptation for food will be high!”

Was she willing to sacrifice the cravings of her stomach for her freedom or spend the rest of her life in boot camp as a punching bag.
***
Yaaba was falling in love all over again with her beau. It seemed like the  “ak)mkyere” had worked some wanders in Ron. He was sending her breakfast in the morning and fresh flowers and cute little notes at lunch. He had been doing that for over a week and hadn’t made any request. They were even planning a weekend out of town at a coded location.
“Yaaba!” Eli exclaimed in her high pitched voice.
“ Eli, we spoke not too long ago. You didn’t finish with the gist?”
There was never a dull moment in Eli’s life. She was a happy go lucky type but she didn’t sound happy.
“ You won’t believe this but I just saw Ron with Eunice and it seems like they are having fun. I told you I have trust issues with that girl. Just like I don’t trust people who eat jollof and stew”.
She was confused. She had just been chatting with Ron on whatsapp. He said he was tired and was going to bed early. Yaaba didn’t know who to believe- her boyfriend or her close friend.
She needed to satisfy her curiosity. “ Where did you see them?”
“ Meet me at the T junction leading to the market. I will take you there.”

But why would Ron have anything to do with Eunice?
Her fears were not dispelled – she found them; her boyfriend and her friend. Though it was a perfect way out of the relationship , it was not easy for her to do. A lot of investment had gone into the relationship; physically, emotionally, spiritually and financially. Breaking off was very difficult for her as her hopes were tied loosely to the edges of a tearing hammock. Truth is she was still in love even though she had found him in a compromising situation. But Yaaba stood her ground even when Ron kept pestering her with apologies amidst promises of marrying her. She realised that she had the right to be happy and to be treated right. It was time to move on……. to restore herself and sanity.

The End
*To that young woman who shared her story with me and asked me to write about it, ( it’s been over a month now) your strength, resilience and maturity shown through this period baffles me sometimes. You are still headstrong and chasing your dreams. You insisted I write about it so it helps someone. God isn’t done with you yet.

Nana Akua Frimpomaa Amofa (c) 2017

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