Tolani’s eyes were puffy, piles of mucus-filled tissue on her bedside table. This was not the first time Wale was doing this to her. It wasn’t even the third. She had lost count, yet she always went back begging.

Wale was Tolani’s fiancé. Can we call him that? Let’s just say he was the man in her life, occupying space and causing pain. His father was the owner of a multi-national company. He was the managing director of one of the branches located in the heart of Lagos. What he lost in height, he gained in charisma and wealth. There was hardly anyone he could not speak rashly to and Tolani, who was his ‘supposed girl’ was not an exception. She was the worst hit of his verbal punches. Anytime the anger was at it’s peak, he went physical on her. The marks of the previous day could be seen all over her body.

Tolani heard a knock on her door. “Come in,” she said turning her back towards the door. She sniffed and patted away the tears that escaped from her eyes.

Funmi stood transfixed. She wondered what could have gone wrong with Tolani that warranted the used tissue papers in that quantity.

“Aunty, what’s going on?” She asked moving closer to Tolani’s bed at the corner of the room. A small bookshelf, a black swivel chair and a table stood at the other side.  She dropped her bag and sat on the unlaid bed. “Face me joor. Didn’t I tell you I was coming over for the weekend? Why are you now turning your back on me? Besides, are you having catarrh? Why the toilet rolls?” She tickled her.

Tolani shrugged her hands off, and buried her face in her pillow. Funmi walked over to the other side of the bed to see Tolani’s face. In their five years together as friends, Tolani had never treated her like that.

“Girlfriend, what happened to you? Your eyes are blood red.” Funmi pulled her head up and placed it on her legs. “You know you can talk to me, right?” She cut out some toilet rolls and dabbed Tolani’s eyes. “What’s going on?” Her voice was tender.

Tolani sniffed. “Babe, I’m fine. It’s just some… I’ll be fine.”

“You’re not fine and I know it.” Funmi pulled her to a sitting position. “Talk to me. What is it?”

Tolani burst into fresh tears. “Funmi, I’m tired. I’m tired of Wale treating me like trash. I’m tired of the way he talks to me and hits me at the slightest provocation. I’m fed up, yet I can’t get myself to leave him.” She pressed her face into her pillow.

“For how long has this been?” Funmi asked in a grim voice.

“Over a year now. We’ve been together for almost two years, but he wasn’t like this when we started out. He was really loving and sweet. I don’t know what came over him. Probably, he has been under much stress since he took over as the MD. I want to leave but I can’t.”

“Why can’t you leave?” Funmi’ shot her a glare.

“I love him. Funmi, I really love him. I know he loves me too. No one has ever loved me like he did. On the day he his calm and in a right frame of mind, he is the most loving person you can meet. I’ve never loved a guy like I love him and no guy has loved me like he loves me.”

Funmi gave her a hard, long stare and pulled her into a warm embrace. They remained like that for a spell of time.

“Can you hear yourself, Tolani? You’re not being fair to yourself. I understand what goes on between mum and dad. I understand they don’t give you and your siblings the attention, love and care you deserve. I understand that you’ve been jilted by a number of guys, but must you settle for less? Must you settle for a counterfeit love? Girlfriend, you may not feel all the love you think you want now but you’re not love starved.”

Tolani pulled away from Funmi’s embrace and looked at her, perplexed. “How do you mean? I know love when I see love, and that is exactly what I get from Wale…” she bit her lips and paused, “…he’s only different when he’s angry.”

Funmi buried her face in her cupped palms and let out a sharp breath. She looked at Tolani and shook her head.  “What you call love is nothing close to love. You’re very far from experiencing love. If you come in contact with pure love, you’ll wish you never met Wale in your life.” Funmi ran her hands on Tolani’s bare arms. “Is this what you call love?”

Tolani pushes Funmi’s hand and cover her arm with her blue wrapper. “Just leave me alone. You don’t understand Wale and—“

“Before you were formed, He loved you. He has always loved you from the beginning and you know it. You’ve not just come to accept it. Much more than you love yourself, He loves you and looks out for you. He loves you more than anyone can love you, and it’s only a person who loves Him that can love you the way you’re supposed to be loved. Jesus loves you more than Wale or your parents or your siblings or friends. And even the love you want from a man, which is natural, He’s ready to give you one who can love you and treat you the way you should be treated.”

Tolani placed her head on Funmi’s shoulder. “Thank you,” she sniffed.

“You also love yourself or should I say you’re to love yourself enough not to settle for men who do not see your value. You should love yourself enough to let them know that if they don’t know your worth there are people who know your worth. When they tell you that no one can love you like they do, tell them there’s someone who loves you more than they do and you’re not starved of love so you can’t beg for it. Love up on yourself, girl. Please, do.” Funmi placed her hands on her head, stroking her hair.

Tolani wiped the tears on her face and a faint smile broke out from her lips. “I’m grateful I have you in my life. Thanks for loving up on me. I love you.” She smothered Tolani in a bear hug.

“I love you too, babe. But, please don’t choke me. My bobo still needs me alive, please.” They burst into laughter, moving on into other discussions.

******

I might not know your current situation. I might not know your back story. I might not know anything about you, but one thing I know is that Jesus loves you and you’re not love starved. Life is too short to stay with someone who doesn’t know your worth or value you.

Jesus at the center makes the home godly and happy.

XOXO

Kemi.