Thank you for being here.
This is the beginning of a mini-series I’ve titled Run!. It’s the story of two women trapped in abusive relationships and their plan for freedom.
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His breath smells of garlic. It chokes me but I smile and close the door.
“Bring my food.” He says.
I go to the corner that serves as my kitchen and begin to dish the food.
He takes the first spoonful and I hold my breath, watching his face. His muscles relax, he approves. He takes a few more while I sit on the bed and try not to stare at him. My eyes stray to the fading calendar on the wall and I realize that we’ve been married for five months.
“Bring the opener.” He says.
I reach over to the rudely carved stool where he keeps his cigarette, keys, condoms and other little things. The opener is not there.
“It’s not here.” I say surprised.
“Check very well.” He replies without turning his back to me.
“It’s not here.” I say again, nervously this time around.
He raises himself up from his meal and stretches lazily like a cat. “Caroline,” he sniffs from the heat of the food. “Where did you put my opener? I want to drink my beer now.”
“Ah… I don’t know where it is. Maybe, maybe you gave it to somebody…?”
He suddenly flings the bottle at me, it hits me on the chest and I grab it hastily. Things will get worse if it falls to the ground, I’m not concerned about the pain in my chest.
“Go and open it!” He orders in a voice heavy with anger.
I hook the crown of the bottle on the edge of the stool and hit it till it opens, then I take it to him. He takes a long swig from the bottle while I fiddle with my hands, the silence is palpable.
It’s the market day and as I walk past the grain sellers I hear someone calling my name.
I turn to see someone who looks familiar.
“It’s me Eno! Eno from St Mary’s Grammar School.”
“Eno?” I can hardly believe it, she’s thrice her former size and heavily pregnant.
“I know, I’ve gained weight.” She says laughing.
I haven’t seen Eno since she got married four years ago, her father had insisted that she discontinue her education and marry his friend’s son who had come visiting from another village. We hug each other right there in the middle of the road and round up our shopping, then head over to her house. It is big and surrounded by mango trees, there are rotten fruits scattered all over the ground.
Inside the house, Eno introduces me to her three children, all girls.
“They’re beautiful.” I say to her as they run out to play.
Eno smiles sadly and rubs her large stomach. “They’re girls.”
“They’re children.” I reply pointedly.
“Did you just move here?” she asks, changing the subject.
“Yes, about a month ago. My husband’s friend said business is better here so we moved.”
“Yes, five months ago.”
“I’m happy to see you. I don’t know many people who’ve come from our own village here.”
“I’m happy to see you too.” I reply, fiddling with my fingers. “I’ve been lonely.”
Eno smiles. “Me too, my husband is not really…”
“Don’t worry about it. We’re just seeing each other after all these years. I don’t want to spoil this moment with my sad tales.”
I smile too. “You’re not the only one who has sad stories to tell.”
We stare at each other for a few seconds and then look away. It is as if we’ve both concluded that we should hold on to our sorrows for the present. My eyes stray towards her bulging stomach and I’m reminded of my desire for my own children.
“You’re lucky.” I say.
She’s seen me staring at her. “I’ll get lucky when I give my husband a son, then he’ll be considered for the chieftaincy title that he’s been coveting for so long.”
“But you have children.”
““Of what essence is a child who doesn’t bring one honor? A man is weak until he has a son.” That’s what my husband says to me.”
I purse my lips in sympathy. “Don’t worry, this one will be a boy.”
“I hope so.”
She exhales sharply and rises to her feet. “I should go and start preparing dinner. My husband will be angry if his food is not ready when he gets back.”
“Will he beat you in your present condition?” I asked surprised.
“Beat me? No, he doesn’t beat me. But he talks to me and I feel like he has just dragged me in the mud.”
I smile, Eno doesn’t know how lucky she is. “He doesn’t beat you. You should be thankful.”
Gathering my things, I rise up and bid her farewell.
I have just placed a dish of stewed beef in front of Peter. He always asks for a second helping of meat, I’ve never served enough.
“This meat is tough.” He says, smacking his lips and wiping his forehead with his stubby hands.
“Didn’t you hear me the first time? I swear, pregnancy makes you deaf.”
I purse my lips to prevent myself from talking back at him. “I’m sorry.”
“You’re always sorry. The stew too isn’t as tasty as the one I ate this morning.”
My lips remain sealed, I don’t bother telling him that it’s the same stew he had this morning. Nor do I bother reminding him of the fact that he had licked the plate clean. I’ve come to accept the fact that my husband must humiliate me to delight himself.
Later in the night as he turns in bed I decide to remind him of the money I need for the baby’s things.
“Eno you better make sure that you’re giving me a boy this time around. I can’t continue spending so much money on girls who will one day go to their husbands’ houses.”