It was her third day in her mother’s house. She adhered strictly to the doctor’s instruction, she was to rest, take her drugs and do nothing. She did exactly as she was told, and in the three days, her colour came back to normal. Her mother had really been there for her, she would not allow her do anything no matter how insignificant it seemed, even to take her meal plate to the kitchen. If Lillian would not have objected, Debra would be the one bathing and brushing her teeth.
Richard had been going every day to see Lillian in her mother’s house, but she would not see him. He understood and respected her wish. On the sixth day, he went again and brought gifts as usual. This time he brought her cake. And that was the first time he would be seeing her after she left the hospital.
Debra received him as usual and he was grateful to her. Although she barely talked to him but she was never harsh on him after the first day he visited.
The first day he visited, he knew what he would face and in fact he was ready to face it. He knew Lillian was angry but he had to see her anyways. Lillian had refused to see him and instead, he faced Debra’s wrath; a mother’s vehement exasperation.
His visits after then were not as the first except that his wife did not come out to see him. Now he was here again, this time he was lucky that his wife was in the living room and she did not run in at the hoot of his car or sight of him. After he sat down and she still didn’t leave, he felt a surge of relief. Looking at his wife, he didn’t even know what to say to her or how to start whatever he was going to say. “I got you this” he said quickly and placed it on the table before her. She had not said a word to him or try to look at him so he knew trying to give it to her would be a waste of time, because she would not accept it. He stood up from where he was sitting and sat down adjacent her so even if she did not want to turn to look at him, she would still see him. “It is cake, I know you like it”
As if she was struck with a stick, she held her forehead and exclaimed “God!” the memories of her dreams came rushing to her immediately she heard the word cake. She remembered one of the first dreams she heard. She was baking a cake, and Richard had taken it out half baked. The last one she had, after a long time of awaiting light, she finally got and Richard had suddenly put her in the dark again. All the dreams came in different forms but only directed at one thing, pain from Richard. He had caused her pain, he had taken out her undone cake, he had put her in the dark, and he had killed her baby.
“Are you all right” he was confused. When he came in, she was looking strong and ready for whatever he had to say. However, her sudden reaction and change of mood left him in the air, hanging.
“God is great” she snivelled as tears rolled down her eyes. She was sorry for treating her dreams so insignificantly. When she had them, she was disturbed but she never gave the dreams second thoughts after the first times. She knew she should not blame Richard, if she had been sensitive, first to her dreams and to her body, none of this would have happened. She wanted to scream, to cry her guts out, she would but not before him. “You may leave”
“Lilly?” he called. “I just got here”
“I know.” She stood up. “Take it with you” she eyed the cake and left him.
Whatever that just happened he did not know. He just could not explain her mood or moods, because she had more than one in the short time they had been together. He looked at it, the cake. Could it be the cake? He asked himself. He stood up, he thought of leaving the cake behind but she had instructed him before she left and he did not want to defy, so he took it along.
That was the first time he saw her after she packed her things, and he hoped that their next meeting would be longer.
It had taken her six years to conceive. Six years filled with sweet, bitter sweet and bitter moments. Through the years she had known what it meant to be assaulted and battered, even within the walls of her house, she had seen Lucifer in hell. He was not what her Sunday school teachers had painted him to be when she was a kid. Lucifer did not have horns like they had said, in fact, as far as she could tell, he possessed beauty that she had not seen in any other man. Lucifer was a good-looking fine man, except of course his characters, Lucifer was a man, and he was Richard.
Her doorknob turned, she knew only one person who could come in without knocking. Debra entered. “Do not tell me you are crying” she sat beside her and held her in her arms. “What happened, did he say anything to hurt you”
“No mum” she could not explain to her mother. “He left as soon as he came”
“Oh dear” she wiped her eyes “I know how you feel, it’s alright”
You do not, she thought, at least not until I tell you.
“Mother” Lillian started; she released herself from her mother’s hold. “I have been having dreams”. She paused. She knew she should have told her when the dreams were coming but she did not think it could have a meaning. She narrated her dreams as she remembered them, she did not want to cry, but tears flowed freely.
After listening to Lillian’s dreams, she sighed. If she was disappointed that the tale was coming late, she hid it well with a plain face.
“It was God probably” she started. “trying to warn you” she paused and quickly added “or tell you this was going to happen anyways” she patted Lillian on her shoulder” nothing that happened is your fault, we are to be blamed” she smiled at Lillian just to make her feel better.
She adjusted her sitting position, lifted Lillian’s face and held her firm on the hand. “Richard has a large contribution in this, but do not hate him for that, he is probably going through a lot too. I am not implying that what he did was right but he is still your husband” she added wryly. “It is well”. Even though she hated what he did to her Lillian, she still did not hate him for that, after all he was another woman’s son. And if her own son did that to his wife, she would not disown him.
She loved her mother for yet another thing; she was a fair judge, so unbiased. She apportioned due blames to whoever that was under her judgment. “Thanks mom”
“If calling me Debra would make you feel better, I do not mind” she teased.
“Mom” she said with a scowl as Debra raised a brow. “Thanks Debra” she said laughing. Her mother had made her feel better; at least she would not be carrying the guilt of negligence on her neck like a knotted tie.
Debra smiled heartily at her daughter’s instant happiness, she was happy to have made her laugh, it was the least she could do at that moment. Before she started again, she made sure that Lillian was at peace. she sighed heavily as if what she wanted to say would be better left unsaid, but she knew saying it would help her daughter. “You see Lillian” she started. “All marriages suffer hiccups at one time or the other. For some people, it could be very early in their marriage, while for some, it could be later. Some are able to withstand the storm, while some can’t probably because they lack patience or they suddenly grow out of love” she held Lillian’s hands. “My dear, in marriage, you fall in and out of love. But at the moment you fall out of love, the thought of when you were in love will see you through the hard times.”
“ fifteen years into my marriage, I had problems with your father” Debra told her what she did not know about her and her father.“ it was a woman” she started.“ you were just thirteen years then, i discovered your father had a mistress somewhere and when i asked him, he did not deny it”
“What” Lillian exclaimed.
Debra chortled. “He said I was getting too fat for him” she saw Lillian’s countenance and laughed. “As you are, I was surprised too”.
“I have never seen such guts in a man, at least not in my man”. She felt proud of her husband at that time being, he could beat her but he would not cheat on her that she knew for sure.
“Lillian?” she called as she held her face in her hands. “This is the trying moment in your marriage, the only thing I want you to remember” she paused so her words could sink into her memory. “Is the good times you have had together, the time you fell in love and the things you did in common”
At this point, Lillian who had been allowing her tears flow freely burst into a loud cry. Debra did not stop her from crying, she knew she would have to. She allowed her for some minutes to cry until she could pay attention to her again, all the while, she rubbed her back and was smiling at her, a comforting smile. Somehow, her mother’s smile reassured her that all was going to be well.
“It is all right dear, stop your tears and have a little rest. I would call you when dinner is set” she stood still smiling at her.“ but I want you to ponder on what I just told you now, and trust me, things will work out just fine”
She burst into fresh tears after her mother went out. She knew if she did what her mother told her to do; she could succeed with her marriage. First, she needed to cry out her eyes until she would not be able to cry again. She stood up and turned the key twice before she went on another circle of tears.
Mary and Femi came to pay her a visit. She was happy, Mary made her smile and Femi made her laugh. In a long time, she had not known true laughter; all she did was to smile weakly. Mary came to see her often and one of the times she came, she had brought her mother.
Mary’s mother was so sorry for Lillian, who would not be? She encouraged her to hold on, that she herself had gone through worse times. “Everybody go through one turbulence or the other” Mary’s mother had started.
She even told Lillian the story of a man and his son who were travelling in a car. “While on the journey, suddenly a storm started and the son wanted to pull over behind the many cars that had already done so” she saw the glower in her listeners’ faces, she smiled and continued. “But the old man insisted that he kept going. Even though the son complained of not seeing well through the windshield, the old man urged that he drive on, but calmly. After what seemed to be a long time, they drove out of the storm and the old man asked him to pull over. The son did, the old man asked him to look back, and he did. What did he see?” rhetorically, she asked her listeners who were engulfed in the story. They all looked confused and shrugged. ’He saw many cars still in the storm and the old man told him that if he had pulled over when he wanted to, they would have still been in the storm”.
Lillian had smiled sheepishly; the story touched her, to the marrow. She could make use of it, she thought, she just hoped she was strong enough not to pull over.
Now, Mary came with Femi. He always called her at least once in three days, and whenever he did, he did for more minutes than usual. Lillian was always comfortable with Femi, he was one of the men she did not have to fear, one of which made her at ease and be herself, another of such was her father.
Femi was coming for the first time, and like every other person, he brought her a gift. A different gift from what every other person had been bringing. He brought her a book. A book, which he knew she would have for a long time, a book he knew would help her shape her a life, a book titled A Woman’s Worth.
It was unusual of Femi to joke around, but he started with jokes. He knew better than to start saying words of encouragement or sympathy. Maybe because he hated it himself, he felt other people would too.
In the middle of a joke, Richard came inside. He saw her laughing; he saw the honesty in her face. He was happy that she could still smile. He loved her smiles but then his eyes got misty, as it struck him that another man was actually making his woman smile. He did not know who he was, he did not want to know, but he was jealous and he wondered if he had actually lost her.