Thunder struck and the sound deafened her for a moment, and in that instant she could not hear them again .Nevertheless, she knew, Mary knew all would not be well. She had seen times like that, and she knew how it ended. She did not know how to help the situation. She pondered for a while but could not find any reasonable way out. Even if she did, it was too late to do anything, and besides, while trying to help, she might get her own fingers burnt. She was fed up.
It was something that happened often, but even then, nobody wanted it to, and when it did happen, nobody was able to help, nobody dared. Mary remembered when she first joined the family, they were so happy together that she even wished to marry someone like her boss, but not again did she wish that. As time passed, they began to grow sad.
And as they grew sad, so did she. Like the other house helps, Mary could have decided to care less about them, it would not be a headache, but her mistress treated her like a relative and not the house help she was. The sound from the other side of the door brought her back from reminiscence; she knew what it was. At a snail’s pace, she moved away from behind the closed door she had stood fidgeting and eavesdropping.
Still trying to be stoical, she held her hand to her face; she gave it a gentle rub. She had not thought that he would be that incensed; and it was then she knew that she was going to see another night of doom.
“You idiot,” he raged as he moved closer to her.
With a snivel, she tried to clarify herself “I...I...did not...” before she could finish her sentence, he shut her up with another slap heavier than the first. She fell.
He did not fail to notice the change in her, but he did not mention it either. He undid his belt. His trousers fell. “Pull your skirt.” It was an order, a cold but temperate one.
She was staring right at his shaft, almost erect. The sight of it brought her déjà vu. Before she knew it, he had swooped on her. “Not again,” she whimpered. She remembered the last time she experienced such; she was indoors for days, writhing, in pain. She begged him not to, because she did not want him to, and because she feared her body would not be able to hold it afterwards.
He did not pay attention to her plea. He traced the curve of her thighs with his hands, against her resistance; he forced it open and plunged into her.
She gave a soft moan of pain cum pleasure. “Please,” she moaned. She could not push him away even if she wanted to; he was heavy and fully inside her now.
He could not decipher if her “Please” meant for him to stop or continue. He thrust harder and it was as if the pleasure he was getting brought back his missing senses. “I’m sorry I hit you.” He could barely get the words out; he was lost in passion. “I love you, my Lily, “he moaned.
Quivering with sensation under him, she whispered for his ears alone. “I love you, too.” She did not know why she could not live up to her thought. She had always imagined herself facing him outright. Now, even after slapping her without mercy, she was still melting under his touch.
Maybe she would never be able to do it, she thought. The tingling sensation overcame her increasingly. “I love you.” The words slipped out of her mouth as she forgot her pains and gave herself to the ardour surrounding her for that moment.
Now, they made love, forgetting that one had just beaten the other. Like a thirsty man, he sank into her. He gave; she received.
She gave; he received.
She woke up the next morning with her head throbbing. A headache raging as her strength waned. She tried to rise from bed, but found it very excruciating. Weakness was one of the things she hated. She rested for few minutes and tried to rise again. Just then, as if Mary knew she wanted to be called upon, she came in.
“Good morning, Aunty,” Mary greeted. For a while, she stood just a little afar off to watch her mistress. She looked so pale and she felt pity for her.
She gave her a beckon to come closer. From the look on her face, she herself could deduce that she was in a bad state, maybe like the usual, she thought. “Morning,” she managed. “Where is my husband?” she slurred.
“He has left for work, Ma.” She moved closer to her. Mary felt her pulse and grimaced; she sat by her side on the bed and held her hand.
She did not fail to notice the face Mary made; she only ignored. “What is the time?”
“Fifteen minutes past ten.”
“Jeez!” she exclaimed slowly. She tried to rise again with more effort.
Mary saw the pain in her eyes. “Aunty, please rest. You can’t get out of bed now.” She paused for a while. “Oga said I should not allow you to go out. Even if he had not said so, I would not.” She stated with antipathy. Mary tried to hold her back.
Tears slipped from her eyes. “Thank you; you have been a sister to me.” She would have loved to hug her so she would know how much she really appreciated her, but she could not, her body would not allow.
“You are welcome, Aunty. You have treated me with a difference. ”Mary smiled at her and wiped her tears with the back of her own hand. “You just lie down; I will get you breakfast and some drugs.” She rose from the edge of the bed where she had been sitting; she looked at her with sympathy. “I hate him.” Mary mouthed and left.
Even with her still squelchy face, she laughed quietly at Mary’s statement.
Mary went straight to the kitchen to get her Mistress breakfast. As she was making the meal, she heard voices of people gossiping at the back of the kitchen window. She peeped and saw the other house help and the gateman; quietly she opened the window wider for the words to have more clarity.
“You don’t mean it.” He dropped the water-can he was holding and stretched forth his head as if he was asking to be slapped; he placed his hands akimbo.
“Can’t you see she is not out of the house yet?” The gateman’s counterpart replied. She hissed as she gave a deprecating shrug. “Or haven’t you noticed that anytime she comes out late, she is always having a patch on her face.” She stated as if she was always there whenever it happened. “Or an injury at least somewhere on her body,” she added as she continued sweeping. “But why does he beat her?” she suddenly asked Arms akimbo. She stopped what she was doing and faced her gossip mate squarely as if he knew the answer to the question she just asked him.
He gave her a look that asked if she was daft. Quickly she gave reasons for her question without been asked. “You are a man, you should know.”
Mary who had been watching and listening to them talk for close to three minutes, and not wanting to hear more replied. “Why don’t you ask him when he comes back, busy bodies.” Immediately they heard Mary, they went about their chores. “Inveterate Gossips even you that you are a man.” She hissed and went back to what she was doing. She could not understand why they could not do without gossip.
The question the other house help asked kept ringing in her head. Why does he beat her? She knew she did not have the answer but she tried to find it, she still could not arrive at a very substantial reason. She began to ponder in her heart if all men were like her Oga.
She carried the meal and the drugs she had prepared into her Madam’s room. “Aunty?” she called as she sat by her quietly on the bed, placing the tray on her laps.
At this point, she was so weak that she could not speak but wink and wince. She managed to sit up with the help of Mary who had gathered pillows behind her for support. “Thank you,” she mumbled.
She sat on the edge of the bed with the tray on her laps. “I brought you oath. I would have brought you something solid, but chewing will be very difficult for you, am sure.” Mary asserted like a nursing mother would have told her child who was suffering from a tooth ache.
She nodded in concord. She had wanted to tell Mary she wanted something light, but she knew her too well and did not bother. Now she was not disappointed. Mary knew she would not eat it if she was left alone so she tried to feed her; she took a spoonful of oath, blew air with her mouth to cool it and lowered it to her madam’s mouth.
“Aunty, please take this,” she urged. She took the first spoon reluctantly, the second unenthusiastically and was about to take the third when her phone rang. “Just take this and I will get the phone.” She took it. Mary got up and went to where the phone was, still on the spot where her madam was beaten. She picked up the phone, saw who was calling and gave an apprehensive sigh.
“Who?” She asked feebly. She knew who it would be; she just wanted to ask.
She answered with revulsion “Oga.” Oga like they all call him. “Do you want to speak with him?” she asked with such disparagement to the not present Oga. She knew what she could have done or said if her Madam was a friend or in her peer group.
After what seemed like a momentary reflection, she nodded. “Yes.” She had to, to evade any more tiff, at least for that night. Just before Mary could hand her the phone, the call ended. “He will call back,” she said in utmost assurance. Just then, the call came in again. She handed over the phone.
“Hello” she answered very feebly.
“How are you doing?” he asked from the other end.
“Am fine...” She lied, Mary muttered under her breath. However, she knew she could not deceive him, at least not with the way she was talking.
Mary intercepted. “You are not fine and you should tell him.”
As if Mary was her instructor. “I am not feeling too good,” She confessed. She knew she was probably suffering from a fever she could not name yet, malaria or typhoid. She had been complaining of been feverish but still she could manage her body. Now the fever must have come out fully with the beating.
“I’m sorry, my Lily. Have you taken anything?” he asked her gently as if he did not even have the heart of a fighter.
Still with the same tone, she replied him. “Yes.” She thought there was no need to tell him it was not the beating really, but the fever.
“That is good. I will come home early, okay? I love you, very much.
She just held the phone to her ear; she did not know what to say. Even if she did, she did not want to say much, she needed her strength.
“Lilly, are you still there?”
“Yes,” she said with a smile evident to only Mary.
“I love you,” he affirmed again.
“I do, too.” She dare not say the love word with Mary’s cold stare at her; she ended the call and gave the phone back to Mary. She managed to eat half of her meal.
Mary gave her some aspirin to ease the pain. “Is there anything you want,” she asked as she stood up with the tray in her hand.
“Nothing, I will just rest.”
“Okay, I will come to check you, often.” She gave her a reassuring smile before she left the room.
Now alone in the very big room, fear gripped her as the scene from the previous evening flashed through her mind. She thought of how it started. She had tried calling him to tell him she would be going to the salon to make her hair; but his phone was not reachable. She instead told the house helps she was going to the salon and will not take long. However, the story was a bit different when she got there; there was a long queue and
she met an old friend with whom she got talking. By the time she got home, her husband had come.
She knew she would have some explanations to make, hardly did she know it was going to cost her a day or two indoors with splodges on her face. He did not even ask her anything, all he did was drag her inside the bedroom. He probably noticed the change in her but he was already boiling with anger and he will not allow her look to stop him.
She had managed to tell him that she had tried his mobile phone to no avail and that she left a message with the house helps before she left. Before she knew what was happening, he had slapped her and called her a whore. He accused her of visiting other men. She didn’t know if he was jealous or if he had gone crazy.
She regretted on having failed again. At first, she wanted her freedom, but now, she needed it. Every time she decided to face him and defend herself, she found out that she was always reneging. She could not even decipher if it was love, fear, or sheer idiocy.
She began to brood over on how he beats her and still claims to love her. Was she going to continue like that for the rest of her marital life? That was a question she asked herself often. However, as often as she did, she did not know what the answer was.
Now she knew the pain in her head would not subside if she continued to stress it. Maybe if he had not even made love to her, her pains would not have been that much. She closed her eyelids, took in air and exhaled noisily; it was like a celestial physiotherapy because she felt the surge of relief walk through her body even though it was just for a split second.
She knew she should not be thinking, at least not now that her body system needed rest. She was beginning to drift into sleep when someone opened the door. She kept her eyes closed. She did not know what time it was and could not figure if it was her husband or Mary.
“My Lilly,” he called as he came in and closed the door behind him. She was lying on her side and backing the entrance to the room, so he thought she had slept, since she did not budge at the click and clack of the door.
It crossed her mind that she must have been thinking for quite a long time, because she knew he could not leave office until after Two O clock. She kept her eyes closed and tried to deafen her ears to whatever he was saying. She told herself she needed sleep. In her head, she repeated the word sleep for several times, and perfunctorily she drifted into the world of the unconscious.