This is a guest post from a StoryCrafting Alumni, Rachael Onuigbo.
I run through the hospital. Everything is moving too slow and too fast at once. I run, the room numbers blurring. 201…202…203…204 and then finally, 205. Doctors are outside the room. A doctor moves out of the group when he sees me running towards them. He is saying something but I can’t hear him. I shrug out of his grip and push through to get in but I don’t have to.
Nurses roll out a stretcher. A body lies unmoving on it, completely covered. I refuse to believe till I see it. I struggle against the hands that hold me and pull the covering back then I see the evidence I need. The world becomes a roar. My husband is dead. The face that had smiled at me, the mouth that had kissed me goodbye this morning. Gone.
I start screaming and crying, begging the doctors to do something. To save the man that meant everything to me. My pleas and screams fall on deaf ears as someone pulls me away so the nurses can roll out the stretcher.
I feel like I’m in a haze, going through the motions but not really going through them. The accident is on the news and the phone rings non-stop but I don’t pick it. Pictures of both of us together are everywhere. Our wedding, our honeymoon in Paris, the impulsive vacation to Hawaii. Memories move as if in a slideshow and I know that I can’t survive without him. I can’t find the will to. Visitors come pouring in, offering their condolences and asking me if I’m okay. What can I tell them? I will never be okay. I am told that I have to eat. My husband will never eat again so why should I? Nobody understands how I feel and I doubt anyone ever will.
I stand in front of the mirror and cannot recognise the woman staring back. I have lost weight and my clothes hang off me in unflattering angles. My face is pale, my hair a messy bun. Before, I wouldn’t be caught dead with messy hair. Everything is now categorized as ‘before’ and ‘after’. Before my husband died. After my husband died. I can’t do this, I whisper to my reflection. I can’t do this. I give in and cry.
Today is the burial. I tune out what the priest is saying and look at the closed coffin at the altar. Everybody tells me that God knows best and He has a reason. To me, that means that God likes to see people suffer because why would he take away what was most important to me? The burial ends and we drive to the cemetery. I am quiet throughout. After the priest blesses the coffin, the pallbearers lower it to the ground. I feel like someone is cutting off my oxygen supply as I watch. Tears fill my eyes as I realise, yet again, how much I’ve lost. People come over and in a robotic voice, I thank them for coming. They offer words of encouragement that do nothing to help me and tell me I’ll be okay but I don’t believe them.
By now, I’m numb. I have locked my grief deep inside me because I’ve realised that sometimes, it is easier to bear your pain alone. People ask me if I’m okay. I nod and give a fake smile, knowing that they wouldn’t want to hear how I reach out on the bed for someone that isn’t there. Or how I wake up every morning thinking it is all a bad dream and break apart again when I realize that it isn’t. I cry myself to sleep every night, holding on to his things and inhaling his scent. I rage at God and ask questions that are never answered. My life is a big question mark and I wonder if the hole in my heart will ever fill.
I haven’t dreamt of him since he died and I am yet to decide if that is a good or bad thing. I push myself out of the bed and in front of the mirror and cringe at what I see. There are shadows in my eyes and hollows under them. I look like I have aged thirty years and I feel that way too. I put my hand on my chest. I can feel my heart’s steady beat. Even though my world has been torn apart and has lost its axis, I’m still alive. I decide to stay that way for him. I have to put all his things in a box and take them out. Oh God, I can’t do this. I want to crawl back into bed again but something in me refuses to keep drowning in the pain. I’ve been drowning for so long, maybe it’s time I learnt how to swim and for the first time in a long while, I have hope.
I’m at the cemetery, in front of my husband’s grave with a bouquet of white roses in my hand. I can’t believe a year has passed. I’m not the woman I was before or the woman I have become. I am something else entirely and I am trying to make that something good. My heart hurts in a million places as I drop the bouquet and kiss the headstone. I wonder if he is watching me, if he knows how much I miss him, if he knows that I will love him forever and will keep him safe in my heart so that death does not become what defines our time together. As I leave, I accept that maybe God had his reasons. It is time for me to live again. I cry a little in my car as I feel my heart go lighter and maybe I’m being paranoid but I feel someone-maybe God or my husband-smile at me from above.
Onuigbo Rachael is a writer, natural skin-care enthusiast and fitness coach. She won the 2015/2016 My Rainbow Books writing competition and is currently writing a book based on her life experiences. She is an ardent reader and loves romance, young adult fiction and thrillers and is usually found with her head in a book- or her phone- depending on where she’s reading from. When she isn’t writing or reading, she can be found at the gym, sweating it out and coaching other people wanting to loose weight too or making tutorial videos to show how you can use natural products to treat a lot of skin issues
She uses social media to share her works and you can connect with her on Instagram or on Twitter @_lilaurora or Facebook.
Weeks passed and Oyinade continued to live as a slave in Ajao’s house. She learnt quickly how to cook, grind beans and pepper, farm, wash, weave hair and fetch water without slipping into the stream from the muddy banks. But most importantly, she learnt how to keep her head down.
The one thing that she found difficult to adapt to was Ajao’s abuse of her. She wished desperately to be ugly and took extra care to look unattractive. She rolled her hair up into tight knots so as not to show the length off in any way. She wore the oldest clothes she could find and paid little attention to grooming herself. Still, Ajao would call for her often. It became apparent to the other slaves that she was favored by him and soon even his wives noticed it too. Continue reading “Oyinade Episode 2.3: “This world is not for women””
A new season of the series begins today. I hope you enjoy it! Please don’t forget to share this link and leavve a comment! Thanks!
It had been raining steadily for the past few hours, yet, Ajao had not commanded them to stop. The slaves trudged on, weak, cold, starving and exhausted from the five day journey. Oyinade’s mind was numb, her feet were sore with blisters, her clothes drenched, dirty and clinging to her slim frame. She asked herself yet again how it had happened that her father’s kingdom was taken over so swiftly. Who had King Adegbite offended? Ahead of her, Olabisi was prodded on by a young warrior. Continue reading “Oyinade Episode 2.1: “A Nobody…””
This story for every woman who is struggling for her children, help is coming.
When Veronica woke up on cold, cloudy, morning, she had no idea how she would feed her children. It had been months since her husband, Ben, had left her and their three children without warning. She sat up on the soft mattress where her children also lay and stared at the empty pots that she’d piled up in a corner of the room where they all lived. She hadn’t cooked throughout the weekend. All they’d had to eat was garri. It was all that she had left, and as she felt her first child stir beside her, she wondered how she would explain to her children that she couldn’t afford to give them any food to eat at school. Continue reading “Showers of Blessing”
Dear reader, welcome to a new week. I do hope you had a restful weekend.
Like I said last week, the series will be available for sale this week. So, this is the last episode I’ll be sharing here. The concluding part and the entire story will be available for sale on Friday.
In the meantime however, a new series will start tomorrow, it is a FREE story. I hope I’ll see you here. Have a wonderful day and please don’t forget to share this link and leave a comment!
Bimbo is sitting by me, folding her hands pensively.
“So he just resigned?”
I want to tell her that it’s none of her business but I already made it so when I got into a shouting match with Dayo and walked into her feel. I feel so ashamed of myself, by now I’m sure that the entire compound knows we were fighting. How am I going to raise my head in this compound again? And what was I thinking coming into this house where Sola is? It’s almost eight, I’ll have to go back into my own house, after I’ve come here to tell my curious neighbours what is going on in my marriage. I feel so stupid and embarrassed, Bimbo is watching me and I know I must tell her something.
“Yes,” I reply in a small voice.
“Wow, but had you guys talked about it before?”
“Hmm, na wa o! So how are you going to cope? I mean I know you guys were barely getting by, how are you going to manage this?”
I’m more than embarrassed now, I’m stunned. How dare she?
“I don’t know.” I reply simply, there’s no use getting into another fight with her in her own house.
“These men are just something. How could he have resigned, just like that, and without telling you first?”
Is that a rhetorical question? I’m not sure it is but I stay quiet. Sola comes in, I’m not looking at him but I can smell him. He smells so good, he’s probably just had his bath.
“Is everything all right?” he asks in that mesmerizing voice of his.
“She and her husband had a fight,” Bimbo answers for me.
“Did he beat you?” he asks me directly with a veil of anger on his face.
“No,” I reply not looking at him.
“I mean it’s just sad. Can you imagine that he quit his job without telling her?”
“Wow!” I hear a slight amusement in his voice. “You guys should just be patient with each other.”
Why exactly did I come here? “I should go,” I say.
“Where?” Bimbo asks. “Why don’t you stay here for a little while longer? Let me get you something to eat.”
Before I can even protest, she’s gone. I stare at my hands, feeling Sola’s eyes on me.
“Let me make you happy,” he says.
“You’re going to say that to me here? While your wife is getting me something to eat? What kind of man are you?”
“Just the kind who is interested in seeing you happy.”
“’You want to make me happy while Bimbo is unhappy?”
“You’ve never even asked if I’m happy? Why should I continue to suffer in silence just because I want to look good?” he leans forward. “Look, you and I are one of a kind, we belong together.”
Before I can respond, we hear the kitchen door open, he readjusts and I pretend to watch TV.
“All right, I’m going to bed,” Sola says to Bimbo, I hear them kiss each other and then he says to me. “Good night madam, take it easy.”
“Thank you sir,” I reply as expressionlessly as possible.
Bimbo set a tray of chin chin and a jug of juice before me. “Don’t allow your husband to walk all over you Remi, I keep telling you that you must stand up for yourself. Don’t allow him to force you to be the breadwinner, do whatever you have to do. Whatever!” she moves closer to me and says conspiratorially, “Sola tried something similar, he wanted to make me some kind of submissive woman, but I let him know straight up, that I wouldn’t take it!”
“Really?” I say but she misses my sarcasm.
“Yes! Now he knows his boundaries. He respects me completely! You better stand your ground and don’t take on a role that is not yours. Don’t be weak!”
“Wow Bimbo, you’re stronger than me.”
“Na God o my sister.” She clasps her hands.
I feel so sorry for her but I eat my snacks and allow her to think that she’s indeed stronger than me.
When I return home the boys are asleep, I can see from the plates in the sink that they had dinner. Dayo is asleep in the room as well, he has a book laid out on his chest. He looks so tired and as I stare at him I realize that I still love this man in spite of everything. I sit on the bed and ask myself how we got to this point. When did he stop being enough for me?
I made an oath to be with him for better or worse… I made a commitment to him… I choose to love him… stay with Dayo… Take his small dream and make it bigger, you have the power to do that!
Am I really being unreasonable? What if I support this man and it doesn’t work out? Dayo is not exactly one who can delay gratification and sacrifice, how is this business plan going to work?
I made a commitment to him… I choose to love him… stay with Dayo…
I lie on the bed and debate whether I should give this man a chance or not.
The next night, as he changes into his night clothes I sit up and tell him my decision.
“I’m with you, I’ll support your business idea and help you as much as I can.”
He turns to look at me, he looks like he’s trying to determine how serious I am.
“Wow, I feel honored.” He eventually says.
I roll my eyes, he wants an apology.
“And I’m sorry about yesterday night.”
“What exactly are you sorry about? The way you insulted me in front of our boys, the way you yelled my qualifications to the hearing of our neighbours, or the fact that you meant every word you said?”
I exhale and consider my response. “I’m sorry about everything Dayo, I just was in a bad place.”
He snickers. “You were in a bad place! I’m not perfect Remi, I know this but I would never speak to you the way you spoke to me last night. As a matter of fact, I don’t know how you can still be in this marriage when you feel the way you do about me!”
“Dayo, this is not the way forward. It’s true, I’m not satisfied with the way things are, but arguing about what happened last night is not the way forward for us. I am truly sorry about the things I said last night, I truly truly am and it will probably be one of my greatest regrets because I did it in front of the children but I want a solution. I want to move forward, I want to make things work.”
“What if I don’t want to?”
This is not something I overthought I’d hear. “What are you saying?”
“I’m saying maybe we should ask ourselves if this is worth it. It’s obvious how you feel about me and I don’t think I want to be married to someone who thinks so little of me and my plans.”
“Are you asking…?” I’m even afraid to say it.
“It’s really up to you Remi, I can’t continue to put up with your cranky attitude, I just can’t seem to do anything right and I won’t live like that anymore. I am who I am, I’m not going to change. So if it’s not good enough for you, you can leave, because I won’t have you disrespecting me in front of my children.”
I’m stunned. “You want me to leave? You want to throw away all the years we’ve been together because we had a fight?”
“Like I said, it’s up to you.” he replies, turning off the light and getting into bed.
The next week, I’m in Uju’s house again. This time, I’m alone and I can take in the recent work in the house. She’s so lucky that Kevin’s father gave them this nice house in Ikoyi. With her job at the reputable architectural firm and his as a general manager in an international bank, it’s understandable that she’s almost double her former size. She has a somber look on her round face as we sit opposite one another at her dining table.
“He told me what happened.” She says.
“I’m sure he did. But look, Dayo has said hurtful things to me too, but I would never tell him to take a walk if he wants to. I mean, how do I function in this marriage? This is more than I can bear Uju.”
She clasps her hands and rests her forehead on her fingertips. “This is something.”
I’m glad she now gets it. “This is really more than I can bear Uju.”
“What do you want to do?”
“I’m going to leave him.”
She sighs. “After all these years?”
“He is willing to throw it all away, why should I care?”
“What about Dotun and Tomiwa?”
“I’ll take them with me, I have a better job now and I can afford to give them a good life.”
“Is Dayo going to let you just take them?”
“I don’t care. They’re mine and I’m taking them with me.”
“So you’re ready for a lengthy divorce process and custody battle?”
I hesitate for the fraction of a second. “I’ll be ready.”
“How are you going to explain it to the boys?”
“I’ll tell them it didn’t work out between their Dad and I.”
“And you think they’ll believe you?”
“When they saw you humiliate their father?”
“I doubt that they will believe you. As it is, it’s going to take them a while to get over seeing you guys fight and forget all that you said. It’s not in your favor Remi.”
I stare at her with indignation. “So you expect me to stay?”
She hesitates as if she’s thinking about her answer. “I think you shouldn’t give up just yet.”
I laugh humorlessly. “What else do you expect me to do Uju? I’ve tried my best!”
“I know, but it’s been more difficult for you to try because of a certain someone.”
I exhale sharply and shake my head in disbelief. “This has nothing to do with Sola!”
“So now I know his name.”
“This has nothing to do with him!” I say again.
“I never even asked you about this man, the children distracted us the other day. How did you meet him?”
My anger dissipates immediately and I look away.
“Remi? Where did you meet him?”
“Let’s not talk about him. He’s not important.”
“Oh he is, and we both know it. Where’d you meet him?”
“Why can’t you just tell me?”
“Because you’ll just judge me! I know you.”
She stares at me for a while. “I’m sorry if I’ve come across as judgemental Remi, but I’m just being your friend.”
I’m now staring at my hands.
“Where did you meet him?”
I scratch the back of my ears. “It’s not as simple as it sounds…”
I can feel her confusion. “Do I know this person?”
“I don’t even know how it all started.”
“Remi…? Just say it now! Is it your husband’s brother?”
“What? No! God forbid!”
“Then who is it?”
In a small voice, I answer her. “My neighbour…”
From the corner of my eyes, I can see that she’s moved closer to me. “Remi, which neighbour?” She asks in a quavering voice.
“The ones who just moved in…”
“Wait, opposite… next to… your next door neighbour?”
She slaps her palms on the table and I jump startled. “Remi!” She whispers harshly. “Have you lost your mind?”
I rub my eyes, afraid to see the look in her eyes. I hear her stand up and pace the floor.
“Okay, I’m not going to judge, I’m not going to judge. No judgement, no judgement… Remi, what were you thinking? I mean your next door neighbour? What if Dayo finds out? What kind of foolish game are you playing?”
Her reaction is just as I expected so I sit still and listen to her rail on. Suddenly she sits and stares at me.
“Are you done?” I ask her.
“This is messed up Remi…”
“I know.” I stare back at her.
“Yelling at you won’t solve the problem…”
“Finally, we agree on something.”
“And you being cheeky is not the way either.” She points at me in reprimand and sighs. We sit in silence for a while.
“Answer this question in all honesty.”
“Would you be thinking about leaving Dayo if this man wasn’t in the picture?”
“I was already dissatisfied before him Uju…”
“Yes, but would you have thought of leaving him? Answer honestly.”
I don’t respond, because I know the answer is no. She knows it too.
“Don’t give up yet.” She says earnestly.
“What about him? He’s given up Uju, why should I hold on?”
“Maybe he’s given up because he thinks you already have. See a counsellor, I can refer you to someone?”
“He won’t go.”
“He’ll go, Kevin will make sure he does.”
“Okay Uju, I’ll give it a shot. But this is taking a lot from me.”
“I know Remi and I appreciate you, but you are stronger than you think!”
I wipe the tears that have pooled in my eyes and exhale slowly.
The events of the past weeks fade from my mind when I see my boys. I can’t believe how much I’ve missed them, they don’t look like they’ve lost any weight. They cling to me, trying to tell me all that has happened while I was gone. I gather that they’ve been walking on eggshells around their father. He’s been carrying out his anger towards me on them.