Interlude…Who Are You?

“Who are you?” he had screamed, eyes bulging and face filled with rage.

Onye ka I bu? How dare you look at me like that?” The questions came fast and furious, each one designed to rip away her self-assurance layer by layer. What little she had left. The questions always came first. Then the taunting would start.

“You are even lucky I came to your father’s house and took you off his hands!”

“Who do you think would have married akpa awo like you if not for me?” Insults about her gently rounded figure were a regular whip. Cruel words designed to wound. And wound they did.

He liked to wound her. He liked to hurt her. The words were for the invisible places where no one could see. No one but her. The words were to make her believe that she was whoever and whatever he called her. The invisible wounds they created dragged down her spirit and made her shoulders droop a little more each day.

The cuts and bruises were for him. Inflicting them gave him pleasure. Seeing them gave him power. She was his wife. He could do whatever he wanted with her. No one would question him. Who would dare?

The bruise over her left eye stung as she cleaned it with Dettol. Another cut, another accident with the door, or falling down the stairs. She tried to remember which story she had told the last time. She didn’t want to repeat the same one twice. Then, everyone would know she was lying and start asking more searching questions…and that wouldn’t do. That wouldn’t do at all.

She peered at her face in the mirror and could hardly recognize the person staring back at her. The heart-shaped face was familiar. So were the full, curvy lips and narrow pointed nose…which, now pointed askew as if someone had moved it and forgot to put it back in exactly the same position. The features in the mirror were familiar, but a stranger stood opposite her. The woman in the mirror looked defeated, cowed. Who are you? Who are you?

It hadn’t always been like that. Not in the beginning. He had been so different then. Charming, kind, attentive – he had been her knight in shining armor and had treated her like a queen. The courtship had been a whirlwind and she had barely been able to catch her breath. Her parents had been excited – and so had she.  A big, successful businessman had come all the way from Lagos to marry her? Excitement was called for. No other girl in the village could boast of a beau like him. He was tall, handsome, and rich…very rich. He had promised to build her parents a house as soon as they gave their consent and the house stood in the village now, majestically dwarfing all the other houses in the area. She had been excited, but sometimes in the middle of the night when silence reigned, she had wondered. Why me? Why did this man choose me out of every other girl in this village? Why had he sought her out? She had asked her mother, only to be shushed. “Why question your good fortune? God has smiled on you, my daughter and you need to be grateful”. Only later, on her wedding day had whispers come to her ears.

“Eh heh! Na now Oga don marry who go born pikin for am.”

The story had come out in bits and pieces. He had been married before. For ten years, they said. His first wife had died childless and he needed an heir. He decided to seek out a wife untouched by city life and attitudes. A village pastor’s daughter was his choice. She was a virgin, untouched by any man. Innocent, she would bear him children.

The insults had started after the first year. The beatings had started in the second year. He had married her for only one reason and she had failed in that. She was of no use to him anymore except as a punching bag.

Ashamed, she bore her pain in silence. Only once had she dared to open up. She still remembered her last trip home to visit her parents. Her mother had listened in silence as she spilled her story. Listened in silence and advised her not to provoke her husband. The gleam in the mother’s eyes as she spoke of all he had done for them told the daughter all she needed to know. Her mother would not help her. And if her own mother would not help her, then what hope had she? As she fingered the cut over her eye, she remembered her mother’s words to her in those early days. “God has smiled on you”. She wondered if He was still smiling.

Onyih Odunze

This piece is an interlude between series and may appear as a scene in my still-untitled WIP (Work in Progress).

Please come back next Sunday, July 22nd for our new series! Thanks for reading!!

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