Welcome to the short story series today we are featuring a New Writer By the pen name Bookey Davees
A RED ANNIVERSARY.
She sat on the dining table. Waiting. It had taken two full hours to make tonight’s meal. She prayed at the back of her mind that he’d like it. That he wouldn’t go on his usual rant about how tasteless or too spicy the food is. She had used aunt Bisi’s old recipe, carefully perfecting the method. Every stir. Every flick of the wrist. It all had to be precise.
She stared at her palms. Sweaty. She wiped them on her gown. A gown she had bought two weeks earlier with the intentions of wearing it for a special occasion. If today didn’t qualify to be a special occasion, she didn’t know what other day would. It was their second wedding anniversary.
“Wow!” she thought. How time flies. Two years had gone by within the blink of an eye. Marriage isn’t all that it’s said to be. At least for her it hasn’t being.
She was only eighteen when she met Tunde. She was fresh out of secondary school. The only child of her deceased parents. He’d offered to pay her way through the university where she could study to be a journalist as she’d always dreamed. He was twenty-seven at the time, a rich engineer, working for one of the largest oil companies in the country. He was her “get-away” plan from living a hard life and she couldn’t be happier.
They had met at a friend’s birthday party and instantly hit it off. The connection was somewhat too good to be true. Though it sounded cliché, their romance was the stuff of fairy tales. They’d talked all night long, never running out of interesting issues to dissect. She suddenly realized she was staring at The One. Or so she had thought at the time. That was why she didn’t object when he offered to take her back home. Why she didn’t play the hard-to-get card when he asked her out the following week. Why she didn’t even think to say “NO” when he asked her to marry him. She was his and he was hers.
The wedding took place few months after she graduated school. Despite Aunt Bisi, her mother’s only sibling whom she’d lived with after her parents’ death when she was fifteen, pressured her to wait a few more years with the argument that she was too young to settle down. She was giddy with happiness, so she hadn’t listened. She saw no reason to wait. She knew him in her own little way.
He had a good job and lived comfortably; he came from a good family, had great vision, never missed a Sunday service in church and was drop dead gorgeous. What more could a woman want in a man? What woman in her right senses would turn away from such a man? The sooner she married him, the easier it would be to keep all those “husband-snatching-Jezebels” away from him.
She’d prayed vehemently for a man like him and finally God had answered her prayers. She had never been surer of anything in the entirety of her years on earth as she was of this man. Men like this only come your way once in life and the moment you let them slip away, you’ll never get them back or worse you’ll never find another as good.
She was over the moon in love with him. He was the best man she’d ever known. Not that she’d known many men; in fact, Tunde was her first in everything. He treated her like she was all that mattered. Like the world, his world revolved around her. If true love could be determined and measured by the volume of expensive gifts a girl was showered by her partner, by the unfaltering attention he showed her and by numerous nameless romantic and loving gestures, she probably would have been presented with the award of “most loved lady”. They were so good together. They were so happy. At least she had been so happy, until that night.
That night he’d come home too late. It was barely two months after their wedding. She’d being worried sick. All thoughts of negativity jumping in and out of her mind as she pondered what must have kept him so. This was unlike him, and it wasn’t even a Friday night so he couldn’t have gone out to chill with the boys. The living room carpet moved in sync with her as she paced back and forth. It was already 12am. She decided to give him yet another call, prior to the gazillion missed calls she knew must be already showing on his mobile phone screen. She sat by the home telephone and dialled his number once more and heard it ring out loud.
Following the sound of the tone, there he stood by the door almost dripping of alcohol. She could smell the stench of it. She could almost taste it. She gagged her mouth with her hands as it was all she could do to keep from screaming. She was in shock. She’d never seen him like this.
He walked towards her with staggering steps. “Are you just going to stand there and stare at me? Is that how to welcome your husband?” he slurred.
“Tunde!” she screams and moved quickly to him. “What happened to you? Why are you so drunk?”
His reply sent her flying. Suddenly her body was being dragged to the floor as she hit the ground hard. That was the day she believed the story about people seeing stars when dazed. She saw red stars twirling in circles from way more pain than she’d ever felt before. Still on the floor, she held her face with both hands, too afraid to move.
“Get up, you little bitch. Get up!” Tunde screamed at her, spit spraying. “Who are you to question me in my house? I can go out and come back whenever I feel like.” He kept ranting on and on; calling her foul names no one had ever called her, as he made his way upstairs to their matrimonial room.
She couldn’t believe it. Who was this man before her? Surely it couldn’t be her Tunde. Her husband who loves her dearly and wouldn’t bear to see a scratch on her body. This must be a bad dream. The worst of all nightmares, where the devil’s incarnate had possessed her husband’s body. This monster couldn’t be Tunde she kept telling herself. She told herself that story for months after that night, using it as her only consolation.
Night after night, the hitting continued. His fist grew stronger, faster and fiercer. Some nights he was drunk, other nights sober. Some nights he would stay with her, snuggle her close and weep with her while she wept for the ache she felt from his abuse. He’d apologise to her and the next day he’d come bearing gifts. Other nights he would hit her and leave her all alone.
His fist and hands became entwined with her skin. Her body reacted with trepidation whenever she saw him. Months passed and she still kept singing to herself that he would change. That someday he would come back to his senses and realise all he had done wrong. A year went by and still he was the same. She became conversant with the tune and accepted it with no resolve. After all, she couldn’t tell anyone she concluded. The mortification from telling anyone the truth was too much to bear.
Even when Aunty Bisi asked why she had so many scars on her face and body, she brushed off the question with a laugh and blamed the scars on her clumsiness. Lying with perfect conviction about tripping while mopping or sweeping because of the slippery tiles or splashing oil on herself while cooking. She didn’t have many friends because Tunde banned her from working even with her degree. She couldn’t socialise without his permission. The only time she ever left the house was when they went out together. Even then there were limits and restrictions to the things she could do, say and even wear. She became a guest in her home. No, the word guest was trivializing the situation. She was a prisoner in a home that was meant to bring her new fortunes and happiness. Happy was far from what she was.
Night after night she soaked her pillow with tears and soon it seemed liked there was no more fluid left in her body. Her physical strength was weaned; her emotions were demeaned and debased. Still she couldn’t leave. She didn’t have the wits and she owed him, a part of her kept saying. Perhaps because he’d reminded her every night with his fist that he was all she had and there was nowhere for her to go.
So here she was again, sitting and waiting for him, as usual. She jumped at the sound of any honking car, dreading that it was him. She felt the thudding of her heart against her “special dress” and instantly knew it was him when she heard the sound of a key clicking and saw the door knob moving to its freedom. He was back. She adjusted herself and stood up.
He was different tonight. At least he looked different. The sleeves of his shirt weren’t folded as usual and he still had his suit jacket on. She moved towards him, legs in restraints, whilst a weak smile was planted on her face and kissed his left cheek.
“Welcome home baby,” she muttered. He gathered her in a long embrace that made her shiver and quiver with fear. When he released her she took his briefcase, freed him of his jacket and led him to the dining table.
They sat down, even held hands and said the grace. She fidgeted as she served him his favourite meal, White rice and chicken stew with chilled orange juice to go. They ate in silence, and for the first time in two years Tunde had no complaints. He even muttered about how tasty the food was between meals. She didn’t know how to react, whether to speak or just nod. So, she opted for the latter.
Dessert was left for exchanging anniversary gifts. She wanted to go first so she stood up, ran upstairs and got the carefully wrapped gift in his favourite black colour gift wrap. She went down stairs and handed it to him with the words “Happy Anniversary”.
He tore at the gift wrap anxiously like a little boy. Then he saw it. His face stiffened for the longest seconds. It was drained of any blood flow as he stood in anger.
“What is this?” He asked. He moved closer, she shrank back. “What is this?” he shouted a second time with a harsher tone that made her jump out of her skin.
Her eyes were searching for the fastest exit her legs could carry her through before he would get a chance to attack her. But then the fighter in her resurfaced and pinned her legs to the ground. The part of her that kept her strong after she lost both her parents at fifteen. The part of her that gave her the courage to have survived this long with him, while she’d carefully orchestrated her plans to leave him for good. The part of her that was somehow grateful that he’d beaten two pregnancies out of her, because she knew if she had a child it would be harder to leave him, fully aware that she had no money, no job and no one to turn to. That part of her opened her mouth and gave her the valour to reply him in an even harsher tone.
“They are divorce papers. I want a divorce Tunde, I want to leave this hell hole and lie I’ve been enduring.”
He was taken aback by her audacity, and for the first time since he entered the living room, he noticed the twin suitcases resting by the wall.
Suddenly he launched at her like a lion would his prey, he went for her throat, pinning her to the dining table and was slowly dragging the life out of her with his bare hands.
“You can’t leave me,” he muttered over and over, like a child in denial. “You won’t leave me.” “I won’t let you, not after all I’ve done for you.” “I own you.” “You belong to me and no one else”
At that moment, Yemi’s life didn’t just flash before her eyes. Should saw a replay of what would have been and what could be if things were different. She knew then what she had to do. She knew what her only choice was. It was like the preview of a movie. It was like the same words that she’d heard over and over from him in the last two years had just sunk in. She saw the way he used his fist on her and how helpless and weak she was.
She couldn’t tell from whence the strength came, she just knew that that was her only chance of escaping and if she didn’t take it, she’d be dead before she’d get another. She grabbed the fork closest to her hand and aimed for his jugular.
Fresh blood splattered on her face, and hands as her husband of two years fell to the ground clenching his neck and into a red pool that drowned the life out of his body. She stood over his body in quandary for minutes or hours. She wasn’t sure which. Raindrops fell from her eyes for the man she once loved. There was no need to run now was all she could think. She reached for her phone and dialled the number to the closest police station.
Author: Bookey Davees