“Think of your children.” I thought I heard my mother say.
Had I heard I right? Perhaps, the igbati from the previous night had obstructed my hearing.
My husband is good at those, you might even say they are his specialty. It had become a routine: eat, get beaten, sleep, repeat. He hits me at the slightest provocation, his anger is seemingly boundless. Everything annoyed him, and this vicious slap I received, the igbati, reminds me of my turmoil.
God knows I had endured turmoil. Every time he hit me and I considered leaving, I would be reminded that I had children who needed a father in their lives.
“Children from broken homes never end up well.” They told me.
“So I should stay till I die?”
“God forbid!” My mother, his mother would exclaim.
God forbid? I would sit there, bandages wrapped around my head, soaked in blood with bruises on my knees and elbows, two black eyes and all I got was God forbid?
They would sit there and blackmail me emotionally with my children, drone on about how they endured the trials of their own marriages and were now reaping the fruits of their labour. In my own case, that would be bruises.
I always stared into nothing while they gave me their speeches. When they realized the futility of using my children as a weapon, they would preach forgiveness.
“We’re christians, we should forgive.”
“If I get hurt in the process?” I’d ask them.
They’d chorus, “GOD FORBID.”
The cycle repeated itself again. There I was, picking up my bag and leaving the meeting; my mother-in-law had called to plead with me not to leave her son because of her grandchildren. I hated my mother for being at each of those meetings and never for once opposing his mother. She didn’t want to have a daughter who had left her husband’s house. I mean, what will people think, right? The mother of a woman who couldn’t keep her marriage. God forbid!
She would call me at midnight and pray for hours, then tell me all would be well soon. How soon was soon? I was starting to lose myself; mad at myself for listening to their advice. I saw the toxicity everyday, I lived with it, I experienced it, I saw my children shudder in fear at the sight of their father who didn’t seem to care how they felt. Yet I stayed, I didn’t do anything to help myself. I didn’t stand up and insist that I was done because every time I considered doing that, the thought of raising children alone terrified me. I knew that if I left, he would move on to another woman in the blink of an eye and the fury of society will be targeted at me. Worse still, my family would never hear of it because God forbid it be their portion.
* * *
“Are you mad?” He bellowed at her.
I felt my little girl shudder and clutch my legs in fear. I pushed her slightly behind me. I could take anything from him but definitely not him being violent towards my children.
He reached for her from behind me and tried to pull her from my protection. I knew what he was going to do to her if I let him get hold of her. So I slapped his hand hard with my free hand but he didn’t let go. She was already screaming in pain from his pull and mine so I did the next thing that came to my head. I bit his hand till he yelped and let her go. I immediately realized what I had done. I pushed my child towards the stairs.
“Go to your room.” I instructed.
She looked at me with doubt and refused to move.
“Now!” I screamed.
I watched her run up the stairs reluctantly and then I turned back to face him, ready to fight. I knew he was going to hit me but I didn’t expect him to be so fast considering the pain from the bite. In a flash, he hit me hard across my face.
I staggered backwards and before I could regain balance, he pounced on me again, this time pushing me to the hard floor. Strike after strike hit my face, I saw his eyes burn in anger, worse than I had ever seen before. He seemed to take no breaths and the strength I thought I had didn’t come. I thought he was going to stop after hearing me wail but he didn’t, he wouldn’t. He kept screaming at me but I couldn’t make out what he was saying.
The hard slaps became punches and I couldn’t take it any longer. I used all the strength I had left to push him off my body. He fell backwards as I quickly stood up and moved quickly to the kitchen. I knew I had only temporarily slowed him down, because how could I dare to stop him from beating me? I looked around in one quick glance and saw the wooden spatula. I grabbed it immediately as weapon, prepared for when he came after me again.
As if he read my mind, he appeared in the kitchen and was about to hit me again when I smashed my spatula across his head. He held his head and looked at me in shock, this would be the first time I would attack him with a weapon. I hit him again with it on the other side of his head. The plan was to hit him till he was weak enough to stop hitting me.
A few more hits and a few winces of pain finally did the trick. He was already bleeding from his head and I had finally won, for the first time.
“The next time you touch any of my children, I will kill you.” I yelled at him as he tried to rest on the table top.
The adrenaline had blinded me to how much of a beating pain I had taken, each step a painful reminder as I staggered out of the kitchen. My head was spinning and my vision was blurry. I was almost outside the kitchen cum battlefield when I heard a loud thud. I had been hit again. Another heavy hit to my head and the next thing I remember was opening my eyes in what looked like a hospital.
“We’ll tell them she fell from the stairs.” My mother-in-law was telling my husband and mother as they nodded vigorously in agreement.
“I pray she wakes up.” My mother sobbed.
I slowly closed my eyes and I felt like my brain was sinking in a pool of my own blood. They had finally won, I was dying.
I guess it’s better for my children to have a dead mother than an absent father.