Kemi dodged the blow and hid in a corner. She knew she couldn’t keep playing this game with him. He was stronger than her, and she lived among his people.
She knew that if she complained too much he would call his brothers to hold her while he beat her. And the women around would not offer any condolences.
Going to her family was out of the question, not after the bride price used to buy her. She was her husband’s property now. Her family would not refund that hefty bride price, not after building a house in the village or sending two of her brothers to school.
Even if they could return the money, would they also return the animals? Would her family spit out the palm wine they drank? Would she dare ask her mother to un-sew the Aso Ebi that she collected? No, Kemi had to stay home and accept the beatings.
It wasn’t that Ebuka was a violent man, he was actually far from that. Ebuka was sweet and kind and gentle when they first met. He wooed her with money, gifts and extravagant romantic methods.
Even after they married, he continued with his affection, which was not common among Nigerian men. Ebuka was good a man and even though he beat her, Kemi would never change him.
Besides, Ebuka only beat her once in a while, and there was a rational reason behind them. Recently, the beatings had increased, which was not surprising considering that work was hard.
The economy was hard, and that meant work was hard. Bosses were not increasing salaries but everything was becoming expensive. To add to all that, Ebuka’s side business was not doing so well, containers raided and the items that came through faced heavy taxes.
It wasn’t Ebuka’s fault he was beating her, it was just a reaction to the circumstances. She knew that she was okay with that.
As a wife, her job was to make things easier for her husband, and she had been failing. What kind of wife does not have food prepared for her husband when he comes home?
She had failed him many times, whether it was not cooking, or not washing the clothes every night, or forgetting to put enough meat or alcohol in the meal.
Kemi had failed as a wife, the result of bad behavior was beatings. Kemi told herself that if she was a good wife, she would be treated like a wife, not a child. She had friends who had never received a beating, they were obviously doing something right.
That night, as Kemi went to sleep, she vowed to be a better wife. She would show her husband so much love, and he wouldn’t beat her again. She was going to surprise him. She would let him know that the bride price he paid was not in vain.
Her determination to make Ebuka happy woke her up before the crack of dawn. She cleaned the house, ironed all his clothes, made breakfast, then she took a quick shower and woke him up.
Ebuka was either blind or he just refused to give her credit for everything she had done. He didn’t acknowledge that she woke up by 4 am, or that all his clothes had been ironed. He didn’t see that his food was piping hot or that the house was sparkling.
He just grunted through breakfast, told her that some friends were coming over later that day and went to work.
As Kemi got ready to get to her shop, she realized that he had forgotten his lunch and some of his papers. She had to open shop, women who opened shop late lost customers and if she lost customers Ebuka would beat her.
But if she didn’t give Ebuka his things she was sure to get another beating. Kemi was perplexed. Whatever she decided would earn a beating. She decided to take Ebuka’s things to his workplace.
She might lose customers, but she would rather lose customers than let Ebuka go hungry, or go into a meeting unprepared.
With that at the back of her mind, Kemi made her way to Ebuka’s office. She was nervous, she hardly visited his office, and she had a million thoughts swirling in her brain.
Would she be interrupting a meeting? Would he be angry that she hadn’t opened shop? She didn’t want to embarrass her husband, but here she was bringing him food like he was a small boy.
At the same time, Kemi knew that if he came back hungry, he would transfer all of his anger onto her.
She walked apprehensively into the building, and then over to the receptionist’s desk. The receptionist was a tiny woman who moved faster than lightening.
One second she was there, next she was answering a phone or filing some papers. She suddenly stopped and barked to Kemi “What do you want here ma?” Still in a daze from seeing her, she didn’t reply on time, which annoyed the receptionist. She hissed and shouted “Etí ẹ di ni? What do you want here ma? ”
Kemi snapped out of it and let out a rushed “I yam ere to see my usband Ebuka.” The receptionist eyed her, “Husband? Ebuka? Okay oh. Oya follow me.”
They climbed up the stairs in silence while the receptionist muttered things under her breath. After what seemed like ages, they got to the top, “last room on the left” the receptionist muttered and walked away.
Kemi tiptoed with the items in her hand to Ebuka’s door. She didn’t know whether to knock or just enter, she wished the receptionist had entered first.
Taking a gulp, she knocked once, twice, thrice, no response. She assumed Ebuka must be with his boss. She would drop the things and avoid Ebuka’s wrath.
So she opened the door, and walked in on Ebuka. Life must have moved in slow motion during that period.
His trousers were down, and there was a woman kneeling in between his legs, doing that thing that he told her was a sin. His eyes were rolled back, and his mouth was open.
“AH! EGBAMI OH! EBUKA.” Ebuka pushed the woman away and turned towards Kemi, his eyes were full of anger, not shock. The other woman ran out of the room and closed the door behind her.
He got up and arranged himself and walked towards Kemi while she was still shaking. He grabbed her by the hair and pushed her to the wall. “What the hell are you doing here woman?” he growled while punching her in the stomach.
He smelled of alcohol and the other woman. “What?” a kick, “Ebuka my love, I came to drop your food, ahhh!” another kick “and your papers”.
Kemi bowled over from the pain and whispered“Ebuka my love, please don’t be offended.” Ebuka kept saying “DID I TELL YOU I WAS HUNGRY!!” or “Who asked you to bring the papers.” Each sentence was accompanied by a blow or kick. Kemi stood no chance.
Everyone in the office heard her screams, but in Nigeria, everyone had learnt to mind their business.
If you interfered you might find yourself being the victim, and maybe you’d end up in jail. So everyone in the office just pretended to be deaf.
Kemi kept begging “Ebuka my love, Ebuka my love!” But Ebuka didn’t stop, not until after she stopped begging, stopped talking, stopped breathing.