“Can I love again?”

Joycelyn asked herself. She was then married to the love of her life but he’d burnt out all the love she had for him. They’d gotten married when she was 22 and he’d abused her for so long that she looked like a 45-year-old when she was now 29. His latest paramour nearly twice her age looked younger and fresher because she wasn’t struggling as his wife.

He was emotionally abusive but expected her to develop a thick skin and not have it hurt her.

Yet, if she became immune to him, he abused her more for it because he expected her to react.

He made demands.

She had no right to complain about anything because she was his wife.

She wasn’t supposed to fall sick and refuse to cook. She wasn’t supposed to give birth and ask for weeks off before making love to him.

She had no right to wake up late if she was tired.

She had to prepare 3 square meals with any amount he gave her

She had to see to the kids, go to work, come back home, see to the kids and “serve him in bed” without any exhaustion.

She was supposed to look the other way when he cheated on her.

She had to do what he told her to do, had no right to question his actions and had no right to defend herself even when wrongly accused.

She just had to be his wife and not expect any favors.

Then one day, she got an answer to this question she’d been asking herself for years. Her answer was “yes. Just like you found love with him, you can find love with another.”

Her seeking for divorce became a drawn-out and the lengthy battle for her freedom. Her husband was so used to her taking care of him and their kids that he got angry that she was going to leave him to fend for himself. He got bitter and refused to be empathetic, threw her out of the house, and kept their kids. He used her lack of a stable job and accommodation against her and warned her she’ll never see the kids again.

She became depressed and suicidal. She felt that life had ended because she had nothing to live for. She called him and begged to her back but he’d moved his girlfriend into the house and wouldn’t hear of it.

One night after he’d insulted her and warned her to never call him again, she went to a canal in her area, contemplating drowning. She’d had enough and felt it was time to end it all. Then she heard her kids calling her. She turned around but couldn’t see anyone. Anytime she looked towards the canal, she heard her kids clearly calling her “mummy, mummy.”

She took it as a sign not to kill herself and quickly went back home. She cried herself to sleep, woke up in the middle of the night, and cried till dawn. In the morning, she wore her favorite dress and went to sit on her porch. She didn’t have any reason for doing that except that she wanted to dress and feel good. Feel good she did. That feeling stayed with her when she decided to get a job and change her status.

Friends who promised to link her failed her while others wanted sex before helping her. She refused to give in and thankfully got linked by a former classmate to work as front desk personnel. Her hard work and friendliness earned her admiration from both staff and clients. She was an employee of the month 7 months in a role that made her supervisor decide to assist her to enroll in some professional courses. He paid for her and had it deducted monthly from her salary.

She was given accommodation and a car loan. She used part of her monthly salary to purchase land and started building. Thankfully, she was working for a real estate agency so she got building materials at a far cheaper rate than what was on the market.

2 years after her separation from her husband, she took him to court to fight for custody of their kids. It was after the court summoned him that he called her to demand she withdraws the case. She refused to. He threatened to draw it out for years so that wherever she got the money to do that will dry out. To him, if this was her way of revenge, it wouldn’t work. She told him to just ensure he met her in court.

They met in court 2 weeks later and he couldn’t stop looking at her. He’d been standing with his lawyer at the car park when she drove to park 3 cars away. She was glowing, looking younger and confident. She’d greeted them and passed to wait for her lawyer at the court. When her ex-husband entered, he asked her how she’d been. His bravado of two weeks earlier had been replaced with one of surprise and respect. He differed to her on some of the questions they were asked and readily told the judge that he was amenable to shared custody which even surprised his lawyer.

That evening, he sent her Whatsapp messages and kept complimenting her on how beautiful she’d looked in the morning. She thanked him and thought that was it but he kept on messaging her. He even wanted a come-back even though she was with someone, her supervisor. He went to her family to beg them to plead with her on his behalf. He regretted everything he’d done years ago and wanted the chance to make things right.

She said one thing to him, “when you saw me at the courthouse, I’m sure you remembered how I looked like before I became your wife. You remembered how I could take care of myself in the right conditions. What you refused to remember was that you didn’t give me the right conditions to continue glowing for you. I’ve also learned that marriage should be 50/50 and not one where the other takes and refuses to give.”

On her wedding day, he wept but, it was too late.

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