Chapter 1 – My life is a mess
As a young successful entrepreneur, I had the life most girls only had the luxury to dream of. I was traveling the world from my own bank account, I was married to a young lawyer, Jide, who had just gotten a promotion at his law firm to partner.
My mother-in-law was the epitome of beauty. She could still pass off as the woman she was in her prime if the wrinkles and blemishes of old age could be wiped off. She was the boss lady. When she spoke, the way the words came out of her mouth, it gave the impression she had been trained since birth to control people. And oh, her smile, that smile…
Jide’s mom had hosted the grandest of parties to mark her only son’s birthday. The queen mother in all her glory, doing what she did best. I was the envy of my friends. If only they knew what went on behind closed doors.
I wondered how no one noticed the evil stares she threw at me. That glare that weakened my bones and yet was mild when compared to that of my husband, whose ear she was now whispering in as she stared at me with a half grin. He had perfect cheek bones and a sophisticated look but the inside was flawed. Manipulated. Controlled. I looked at him and I could no longer see the man I married. He looked right back at me and had already given me a clear signal that I was in trouble that night, so I decided to get drunk in preparation.
As if the stare didn’t deliver her message, Jide’s mom walked up to me and hugged me
‘You better don’t create a scene with your excessive drinking.’ She said it out of a smile but I could hear the spite clearly. I couldn’t care less what she thought in that very moment as I drank on making sure I was drunk enough to brace myself for the inevitable. The party came to an end and people were bidding each other good night while I just sat in the corner and wished it could go on all night.
The drive home was quiet. The only form of words was floating from the speakers as the stereo was on. The moment my feet crossed the door into the house and it was shut close, I received the first blow just above my right eye followed by two resounding slaps. My eyes watered immediately. I could never be drunk enough for this even after one year of taking such beating for doing the most outrageous of things like not putting off the TV, wearing a so-called indecent dress to his friend’s party, spilling water or even looking my own husband in the eye. At this point, I was totally spaced out on my offense so I just watched him pace in front of me.
I was ready for what followed but still, the third blow hit me unprepared and everything I had in my hand fell to the ground.
“You were flirting with Kunle, ehn”, he screamed at the top of his voice.
I knew best not to answer but he never asked, always jumped to a conclusion. All I did was shake my head signaling a no. But the next slap hit my neck and he swept me off the floor and onto the sofa.
I had spilled my drink on Kunle and he probably saw me trying to wipe it off with Kunle making fun of how clumsy I was. To my husband, the whole idea of talking to another man was a sin. In fact, over the month, I had received slaps severally for just being nice to men.
I felt my dress rip and heard the sound of his belt buckle as I tried to prepare myself for the lash but it was of no use. The fine leather hit my soft skin sharp and fast. Jide made sure never to hit my face for too long so the outside world never found out what happened but my back and butt were deformed with marks of different shapes and sizes. I got three more lashes at a stretch. The screams didn’t even come out anymore and my will power to fight left my body months before. The next stroke hit my thighs just above my burn scars, the one his mother gave me. Why? She imprinted a pressing iron on my skin because I slept off and let the rain fall on her clothes I had washed and spread outside. I recall being on the verge of running mad that afternoon. She wasn’t even concerned she had done harm to me but only bothered about her wet ‘Holland wrapper’. I remember driving myself in the rain that day to get to the emergency ward on time, peeling half the skin off before getting there. Jide, together his mom, had a new reason to mete out punishment to me when they felt like it. I got beat for not doing what I was told to do, going out on my skimpy shorts and not making dinner. I had turned into a rag. Worthless.
The caning went on for another 6 minutes and I swear I felt the swellings on my skin. Only gasps were able to escape my mouth with tears running down my cheeks but I never screamed. Luckily for me, he had mastered the art of flogging without drawing blood. He stopped and for a minute, I thought the nightmare was over. Trying to stand up, he pushed me down and I hit my head on the side table.
I really wished I had blacked out. At least he would have left me alone for the night, speaking from past experiences.
“I don’t remember asking you to leave, Abike. Go freshen up and come up to my room in your short lace night-dress, the one I love. Wait for me on the bed,” he said, squatting beside me and checking my face for any marks before he headed for the stairs.
I quickly picked myself up and hurriedly started gathering things I dropped when he stopped half way up and ordered calmly
“Make sure you’re neat down there. You know how I like it”
“Yes, baby.” I replied, trying to hide the fear in my voice.
The last thing on my mind was sex but if I dared to say no, he wouldn’t hesitate to beat me all over again and then forcefully take what he wanted. I raced to my room and for the first time that night, I cried with actual sound coming out of my mouth.
I couldn’t tell anyone. I couldn’t leave. Running wasn’t an option. My parents were no more, I had been an orphan since I was 18 and basically paved my path with what my parents left for me. My uncles didn’t have my time. I couldn’t ask for a divorce too because he made it perfectly clear he would let the whole world know I’m an infidel. A lie, but knowing him, he could make it happen. I had resigned myself to my fate. There was no running from this anyhow. If only I knew what happened to the man I fell in love with. The worst part of everything that was unfolding before my eyes was the fact I still loved him even as the monster he became. And in all honesty, I didn’t want to leave. Jide was my first love, my one and only.
I pulled out the night-dress I was asked to wear. I was going to fulfill my obligation as a wife. My mind drifted to my mother-in-law and her role in all this; she was the polluted voice in Jide’s head. She treated me badly because I didn’t have a child yet. Unknown to her, all the tests we had taken showed that I was perfectly capable of having children but her son, on the other hand, had low sperm count. Still, all the blame was on me. Even if I had told her, she wouldn’t have believed me.
I headed for the shower and prayed it wouldn’t hurt so much when it met my skin.
I turned on the tap and stared into thin air. The pain became my muse. I could hear him in the corridor probably going to get a drink downstairs. Out of nowhere, something hit me.
“Abike, what are you doing to yourself? You can still get out of this now”
And in that instant, without even waiting for a second to think, I grabbed my towel and ran as fast as my legs could carry me. I was out on the street about to be hit by my neighbour’s car. He stopped the car few inches away from me and I dropped to the floor. He rushed ou, pulled me up noticing my scars and giving me a confused look, he asked, “What is wrong? What are these scars?”
The only words I could mutter were, “Help, my life is a mess”.
Image Art by Dempsey Osahon Eguae
I learn to live my life as everyday comes but still controlling the elements around me. I’m not perfect but the more I strive towards perfection the more things fall in place