Ruth followed her husband, Gabriel, out of their local Baptist Church that Sunday. From the outside looking in, they had the perfect marriage. They were a humble, quiet couple who kept themselves to themselves and led a quiet life. But Ruth was keeping a secret. A secret nobody could even comprehend based on how they perceived Ruth and Gabriel.
What was their marriage like? Well, their marriage was relatively young and so were they. Ruth got married at the age of 21, straight out of University having studied Social Work, whilst her husband was 26 at the time he had been called to the Bar and was looking to start his career in the law. They had been married for four years but had no children. She was a beautiful woman and other people thought so too. She was a woman of small stature, hardworking and always kept herself busy. She was very caring for her husband and insisted on doing all the housework, needing no house-help.
Her husband, Gabriel Mulenga, now thirty-one years of age, worked as a lawyer at one of the most prestigious law firms in Chipata, Mwenya & Mwenya Associates. A firm that had been built by a well known woman in Chipata. He had been working there since it's inception.
Women, both young and old, envied their marriage and the younger women at their church often asked for advice before they decided they wanted to get married.
Ruth kept her head down as they made their walk to the carpark of the church. No matter how powerful the message seemed to be, Ruth had lost faith. She had lost faith in God. She had lost faith in her husband. She had lost faith in their marriage. She had lost faith in herself.
"Gabriel!" Ruth and her husband heard somebody call for them. Gabriel, Ruth thought, a name fit for an angel. But he was no angel.
"Minister Kasonde" Gabriel smiled, a dimple forming on his cheeks, "How can I help?"
Gabriel was well known and admired by the women around Chipata. He was handsome, tall, light in complexion and incredibly smart.
Mr Kasonde was one of the Ministers at their Church. In fact, he was the one who had given them their marital counselling before they got married in Chipata five years ago.
"You don't need to help me at all. Ruth, how are you? It's been a while?" he leans in to give Ruth a hug and Ruth stepped back, glancing at Gabriel. He would be furious.
"I'm fine, thank you." Ruth plasters on a smile. Her face was still in pain after this morning's argument.
She turns to her husband, who glares at her, "Ahem. Sweetheart, may I have the keys to the car? I can wait for you there"
He fumbles around with his pockets, looking at Minister Kasonde.
"No, I needed to talk to both of you actually. We have a Charity Brai in order to raise awareness for Gender Based Violence next week, Sunday 4th. We wanted to have a few words from you, Ruth, since you work with women and of course men who suffer from GBV, your experience and what your work entails. It's great awareness and Gabriel, your work in Human Rights would also be helpful because people need to be aware of the laws surrounding GBV"
Ruth is horrified. Her face is suddenly filled with shame, "Oh, I'm honoured but I can't"
Minister Kasonde's smile becomes a frown, "Why not?"
She glances at her husband, who avoids her eyes.
"Gabriel?" Minister Kasonde nudges him
"I wouldn't mind doing that" he mumbles
Ruth on the other hand is weary, "I mean it's such short notice. You can't find somebody else?"
He sighs, "I thought you two were the perfect people for this talk. Every week we have women come into our offices admitting to their husbands being violent."
Ruth looks away then forces herself to catch his eye, "I'll think about it."
He smiles, "That's all I'm asking for. Please do let me know by tomorrow and I can make the necessary arrangements."
Ruth nods but says nothing.
"Have a great week"
She watches the Minister walk off, catching another conversation with one of the congregants.
She looks at Gabriel, who is staring at her, it seems.
"What is it?" she asks, concerned.
"Are you going to do the talk?"
She shrugged, "You are talking about it so why can't I?"
He hesitates for a moment then asks, quietly, almost sounding vulnerable, "You won't leave me, will you?"
She keeps quiet. She never responded to that question anymore and it would make him even more furious. He would ask her that after hitting her and apologising profusely.
"Let's go" he commands.
She didn't know if she could take this anymore. She had been through the worst and it seemed like nobody could see through him. Her parents thought he was an angel, her friends loved him, her entire family did not see the violence. When was the last time she even saw her family?
He kept her isolated. He would promise that they would go and see her family in Lusaka but work kept him busy. If she wanted to go on her own, he insisted that she stay for fear of her leaving him. She had suffered three miscarriages in the space of 4 years. She had caught him in numerous affairs. Throughout all this, people thought she was happy. She was tired of living this facade.
She didn't know how much more she could take.