Please note that this series contains some sexually explicit content, violence and offensive language. It is not appropriate for children nor an immature and sensitive audience.
A SMALL WORLD - SEASON THREE
Copyright © Ufuomaee
The meeting room was filled with couples, who were seated facing each other in a big oval shape. At first sight, Temi counted ten couples, but on a recount, she found that there were actually twelve, not including her and her friends. They all seemed reasonably happy. There were two couples that looked like this was their first week in marriage. She sighed and took a vacant seat.
Lola sat next to her, and Bolu sat on the other side of Lola. Tolu sat between her brother and her husband. Oyinda took the vacant seat by Temi. The facilitator was still setting up for their session. When he was done, he faced the group.
“Hi everyone! Thanks for coming for the Refresh Couples Retreat. My name is Tunde Oderinde and this is my wife, Bolanle,” he said, extending his hand to hold his wife’s. “We are certified Marriage Counsellors.”
“Hi,” the audience of couples chorused.
Bolanle waved her greeting. “We are the coordinators of this retreat, alongside Pastor Emmanuel Okeke and his wife, who most of you should know. They will be joining us soon,” Tunde continued. “This is something we have been doing for five years now, and we’ve found it very effective for the couples who have taken part. We hope you will find it beneficial for your marriage too.”
“We’d like to ask you all to submit your phones now. You can switch them off first, or just lock them. We’ve had to insist on this, because the world has gotten to the point that we can be together but not together, if you know what I mean...” Tunde said, looking pointedly at Oyinda, who was still messaging away on his phone. “And we only have a short time to communicate to you what we believe will help your marriages.”
Bolanle went around with a pack of labels and a bag to collect the phones from the participants. “If you have more than one phone or mobile device, please submit them all. They will all be kept secure for you. But you can keep your cameras if you brought any,” she said.
“Thank you for your compliance,” Tunde said, when Bolanle had returned to his side with the bag of phones.
“Okay, now that we have your full attention, we’d like to remind you that this programme is for couples who are both trying to work on growing love in their marriage and realise that they need help or counsel. If you feel that is not you right now, we hope and expect that you will have a change of mind and heart from what you learn here. If you are a Christian, we believe you should be ready to do all you can to preserve your union,” Bolanle said, looking about the room. “However, as much as we believe the teaching and counsel you receive here can help even the worst of marriages, we would just like to be clear that there may be exceptions. If your marriage is characterised by constant violence, fear and intimidation, infidelity and/or abuse, then the advice given here may be unsuitable to address your issues. We are happy to meet with anyone who believes that this is the case in their marriage, and refer them to where they can get the help they need.”
There was a brief pause to allow the couples to think about what had been said. When no one responded, Bolanle continued, “We’d like to get to know you and for you to know each other. Through our bonding here, we can help one another to appreciate the different experiences in and of marriage, and also see that we are not alone in our struggles. We can all learn from and encourage each other to persevere and grow in our calling.”
“Can we start with you, sir?” Tunde asked, looking at Oyinda, who looked thoroughly bored.
He straightened in his seat and looked about the room filled with expectant faces. “I am Oyinda.”
“Welcome, Oyinda. Where are you coming from? What do you do? How long have you been married?” Tunde prompted.
“I live in VGC, Lekki, with my wife, Temi. I’m into oil and gas. Production and supply.”
“Okay, nice to meet you, Oyinda. And are you Temi?” Bolanle asked.
Temi nodded. “Yes, I am Temi, and I’ve been married for three and a half years. We have twin boys.”
“What do you do, Temi?”
“I’m a credit analyst.”
Tunde turned his gaze to Lola. She smiled at the room as she introduced herself. “Hi, I’m Lola. I’m married to Bolu,” she pointed to her right. “We’ve been married for four years and have a baby girl called Tinuke. I’m a freelance interior designer.”
Bolanle smiled and looked at Bolu, hoping he would take the cue to continue the introductions. “Hi, everyone. I’m Bolu. I’m an attorney, and live in Lekki.”
“Hi, my name is Tolu. I’m newly married to Danny. We don’t have kids yet. I’m a fashion designer.”
“Hi, I’m Danny. I’m a speaker, minister, writer and business consultant. We live at Oniru.”
“Great, thanks guys… We can just keep the ball rolling,” Tunde said.
The other couples continued the momentum and soon, they had all introduced themselves. At this point, the pastor and his wife joined the gathering. They also introduced themselves to the group. They sat among the couples, so that Tunde and his wife continued to facilitate the meeting.
“Okay, great! We have a diverse group here. I see we have some newlyweds among us, and some not so newlyweds, and some old-timers too. You are all welcome,” Tunde said.
“Can we go around again and find out why each of you decided to come for this retreat and what you hope to gain?” Bolanle asked.
Tunde nodded. “Yes, that would be good.”
This time, he decided to start from the last person that introduced herself, and was seated next to Oyinda. “Chinelo, can you start?”
“Greg and I have been coming to this retreat every year since we got married, and we’ve found it extremely helpful in keeping the love and romance alive in our home. It’s why we came,” Chinelo said.
Temi looked and saw that they were one of the couples she had mistaken for newlyweds. She had to prompt herself to close her mouth, which had dropped in awe. Bolanle and Tunde smiled at the happy couple.
“This is our first time here. Pastor Okeke recommended for us to come. Adaobi and I have been having challenges in our marriage,” the man, who had introduced himself as Seyi, said.
“I feel neglected in my marriage,” Dumebi said.
“I feel like nothing I do is ever good enough. I’m hoping that this retreat will help us to understand ourselves better,” her husband, Douglas, shared.
Bolanle and Tunde nodded. Lola looked at Dumebi, who appeared withdrawn and unhappy. She remembered how she’d felt in the early years of her marriage, before Danny came along to shake things up for them last year.
“Tobi and I heard about the retreat and thought it would be a good idea. My friend and her husband came last year, and it really helped to restore love in their marriage. So we thought, why not?” Sade said.
“This is the last option for us. We’ve tried everything else, and…” Niyi was emotional.
“Funke, do you have something to say?” Bolanle asked Niyi’s wife.
Funke shook her head.
“There is no love in my marriage. I feel alone and forsaken,” Ebiere said.
“I feel the same. She doesn’t trust me, and I don’t know what to do about it,” William, Ebiere’s husband said.
“Kesiena and I are newlyweds. We just thought it would be a good idea to come along and learn from other couples,” Phillip said, holding his wife’s hand.
Daniel smiled at Phillip, and he smiled back. Kesie smiled at Tolu, who returned the warmth.
“Okay, so there are a number of reasons we’ve all come together, but I hope we will all leave with a renewed vision for our marriages, which is our primary ministry,” Tunde said.
“There are still a few couples that haven’t shared,” Bolanle said.
More reasons were cited for coming. Some couples were happy, but thought they could be happier. Some wanted to grow in love and understanding of themselves and marriage. Others were going through major challenges like infidelity, financial problems, infertility and other pressures of life. They were indeed a diverse group.
“Okay, for tomorrow’s sessions, we are going to split you into three groups, and we’d like you to choose the group you believe suits you best. Husband and wife need to agree and be in the same group, however. The group you choose will determine what you are able to take away from this retreat and the intensity of the counselling sessions,” Bolanle added.
“There’s the Honeymooners group, Mountain Climbers group, and the Voyagers group. You need to be honest about where you are and what the problem is, before you will be able to move beyond it. Tonight, you can each think about or discuss the group that would best meet your needs,” Tunde said.
“Excuse me?” Lola asked. “What’s the difference between the Mountain Climbers and Voyagers?”
“Thanks for asking. The Mountain Climbers represent couples who are growing in their marriage, facing obstacles and challenges and learning to work together to overcome them. They have a relatively pleasant or happy marriage. The Voyagers are experiencing a very turbulent time in their marriage, and are at great risk of shipwreck, if they don’t get immediate assistance to get them back on pleasant seas. They are usually very unhappy couples on the verge of divorce.”
There was some muttering about the room. “Thanks,” Lola said.
“Okay, we’ve kept two journals in each cabin, one for each spouse. We want you to use the journals to write about your thoughts and feelings throughout your stay here. As often as you feel a burden to write, please do. But minimally, you should write in it every morning and night, starting tonight. We’ve given you some headings in the journals to serve as a guide. They are; How Do I Feel Today? What Do I Hope To Achieve Today? What Did I Learn Today? And How Do I Feel About My Marriage Right Now? Try to be as honest as possible, and we will reflect back on your submissions on our last meeting on Sunday,” Bolanle said.
The couples all nodded. Temi sighed. She was tired and ready to go to bed. This meeting was a bit long, she thought.
“Okay, that will be it for tonight. Help yourselves to anything in the restaurant. All your meals have already been paid for. We’ll meet tomorrow morning at 8 am. Have a good night.”
Temi was among the first to leave the meeting room. She didn’t feel like she belonged there. It seemed everyone else was ready to work on their marriage, but she was itching to leave hers. She didn’t want to be convinced to stay. And she got the impression that Oyinda had no clue what he was doing there either.
Lola followed Temi out and got in step with her. “Hey, babe. You okay?”
Temi simply nodded.
“I know you’re not.” Lola stopped and turned to face her friend. “You know you can tell me anything, right?”
Temi looked at and through her friend. She wouldn’t understand, she thought. She swallowed. “It’s been a long day… Just really need to rest.”
Bolu caught up with his wife and her best friend. “I’m thinking we should have drinks and small chops by the pool. You guys game?”
“You guys go on…” Temi said. She hugged Lola and stepped away towards her cabin.
Oyinda watched as Temi walked away from the group. He had been waiting for Danny, but he was taking too long talking to Pastor Okeke and meeting some of the other couples. He finally stepped out to find out what Temi was up to when he saw her hugging Lola and walking away.
He sighed. Did she have to make it so obvious that they were miserable? Well, she was miserable. He was okay. Things were just getting out of hand, and he just needed to regain control and balance again.
He walked over to Bolu and Lola. “Hey, what’s up?”
“We were just talking about chilling by the pool with drinks and small chops,” Bolu said.
“Sounds great! Have you placed the order yet?”
“Not yet… I wanted to ask Danny and Tolu too.”
“It’s cool… You guys go ahead, I’ll tell Danny and place the order.”
“Great, thanks!” Bolu smiled.
Lola managed a small smile. She turned just in time to see Temi enter her cabin. Her friend was so sad. And she knew it had something to do with Oyinda’s affairs. She could barely look at him these days, not to mention being around him. She was happy when he walked away towards the restaurant.
“Is something wrong?” Bolu asked his wife.
“Why? Why would you ask?”
“Well first, Temi stalks off… And now, you’re giving Oyinda the cold shoulder.”
“I was not!”
“What is it, Lola?”
“We think he’s having an affair…” Lola blurted out. She’d wanted to confide in Bolu since Danny’s wedding, when she’d caught Oyinda coming out of the toilets after that trampy girl. However, things had been weird between them since, and she’d just never found the right occasion to bring something like that up.
“No way! But… Oyinda’s crazy about Temi…”
“That’s the impression he gives everyone, but it’s not a true picture. I just hope this retreat helps them to figure a way forward.”
“Yeah, me too,” Bolu said, solemnly.
He put his arm around Lola as they walked towards the pool. He still couldn’t imagine Oyinda being unfaithful to Temi. She was so beautiful and smart, and they had two lovely boys. What would make him do something so wicked?
To be continued...
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