You didn’t return until Sunday evening…three long days after you left…three long days after you attacked me…the three longest days of my life at that point.
That Thursday night, I had lain on the floor, struggling to come to terms with what had happened…struggling to come to terms with the fact that you had assaulted me. You used to call me your angel…your egg. I thought you were supposed to treat your egg with care…
I couldn’t shake off the look in your eyes as your hands…those beautiful delicate hands that had given me so much joy before…tried to squeeze out all the breath I had in my body. I couldn’t get over the look of hatred I saw there. Ter…when did you start hating me so?
By morning, when it was clear that you weren’t going to return home in tears, sorry for what you had done to me, I had no choice but to pick myself up and tend to my wounds myself. Every muscle in my body ached, and my skin was lacerated all over. But I managed to mask what you had done somehow. I managed to scrape all the change I had at home to go to the market to buy foodstuff. You see, even in my state, even in the horrible condition you had put me in, all I wanted to do was please you. All I wanted was to make sure there was a cooked meal waiting for you when you returned.
As the minutes turned into hours that Friday night, I sat on the dining table beside the bowls I’d set for you, slowly coming to terms with the fact that you weren’t returning that night.
When you didn’t return on Saturday either, I was in full on panic mode, worrying that you had finally had enough of me…worrying that you had left me for Philo…or any of the others…because I knew she wasn’t the only one.
When I heard the door open on Sunday evening, the overwhelming relief I felt left no room for anger over the way you had assaulted me, or hurt over the fact you had been away from home for days. I was so happy to have you home that all those things didn’t matter.
But you had changed.
You became more brazen with your infidelity. You no longer bothered to hide your phone calls, and chatted away with women, not caring if I was within earshot or not. And then the condoms…the condoms…
They were everywhere. In the bathroom we shared…on your bedside table…in your briefcase…in your car. You seemed to have them everywhere. And I watched, heartbroken, as their supply would diminish…following which they would be replenished again. But I couldn’t say a word…I just couldn’t say a word.
I couldn’t because, as your boldness increased, so too did your new found way of expressing yourself to me…with your fists. You, my protector, had now become my predator. You hit me at the slightest provocation; when I spoke, when I didn’t speak, when I asked for money, and also when I didn’t. You were angered when I reminded you about my house keeping allowance, talk less of anything for my own upkeep, and even more angered when I didn’t ask for money and tried to scrape things around from the little I had to cook a modest meal for you. You called me a liability because I was dependent on you, but literally hit the roof when you found out I was job hunting. The day you found a copy of my CV on the dining table, you flew into a rage, shouting obscenities about how the only job I needed to focus on was how to give you a child. After that, even though you no longer gave me a regular allowance, and even though I couldn’t ask my family for money, I didn’t dare look for a job again. I didn’t dare.
By the following year, 2005, I had become a shadow of myself. I had withdrawn from everyone…my family and friends inclusive. I couldn’t answer the questions about the consistent bruising I had, so I kept all my friends at bay. I stopped answering their calls, and before long, they all let me be. I also no longer answered or returned my brothers’ phone calls, and I kept my calls with my parents short…not trusting myself not to break down and tell them what I was going through.
“Cheta, is it because of this childlessness that you have changed like this?!” my frustrated mother had complained. “My daughter, it isn’t the end of the world! Don’t let it suck out your life like this. You told me yourself that Tersur isn’t even worried, so why are you doing this to yourself?!”
I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the Tersur who ‘wasn’t even worried’ had been replaced by a Tersur who derived joy from bullying me about my infertility. How could I, when you were still everyone’s golden boy?! As I was retreating from my family, you were getting even closer to them, constantly chatting with my parents and brothers like nothing was wrong.
I think this was what screwed with my mind all the more, because I somehow convinced myself that, since you were still caring and attentive with my family, you still loved me. I convinced myself that I was the cause of your change in behavior. In my mind, all I needed to do was give you a baby, and everything would return to the way it used to be.
In September 2005, your younger brother Tor got married. The wedding was in Abuja, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to avoid seeing my parents again. I also hadn’t seen your own family in a while, as I wasn’t sure if they too would be resentful of me for my failure…for my inability to give you a child.
You had insisted that we arrive Abuja on Saturday, the day of the wedding, and it had been fine with me. The less interaction I had with everyone, the better for me. My mother had almost popped a vessel when I told her I wouldn’t be in town earlier than that, to help out as was expected of me as a daughter-in-law, but you hadn’t seen the need for that…and neither had I.
Somehow, you had found it wise not to book us on the very first flight out on Saturday morning, and we hadn’t arrived Abuja till well past 1pm. By the time we made it to the reception, it was almost 3pm. I stuck to you like glue, as you made up some cock-and-bull stories excusing our late arrival. But that had been the least of my problems.
“Cheta, you don’t look yourself!” had been my mother’s worried remark. “My daughter, please take it easy! Don’t let this child thing turn you into something else. You look terrible!”
And I knew she was right. I did look terrible. With food my only trustworthy companion, coupled with the effects of my PCOS, my weight was spiraling out of control. Also, my non-existent allowance meant I couldn’t afford to get my hair done, leaving me with nappy hair I’d struggled to gather in an unfortunate ponytail, and clothes that had seen better days.
Yes, I knew I looked a mess…but I didn’t need any reminder of this glorious fact. Luckily for me, you had stepped in to talk to my parents, charming them in your usual way, and I had found somewhere quiet to sit.
And then there he was…Atoo.
I looked across the room, and there he was, standing tall in his black tuxedo looking like a ray of sunshine. And just as my hand raised in a wave, I caught sight of the woman by his side, holding on to him as possessively as if she was guarding a prized jewel….and my hand dropped.
But even with my own terminated wave, Atoo’s hand was raised in a definite wave, and he…and his female appendage…started making their way to me.
“I was wondering when you’d show up!” Atoo remarked, kissing me warmly on both cheeks. “I’ve been asking Ter about you since I arrived, but he kept telling me you’re busy!”
I managed a smile. “It’s great to see you, Atoo.”
He smiled warmly. “The pleasure is all mine! I haven’t seen you since your wedding. Four years, right?”
I nodded. Yep, four years. If only he knew how gravely things had changed in four years.
“This is my girlfriend, Kashimana,” he said, introducing me to the woman on his arm. To say she was beautiful would be an understatement. She was perfect. Her ebony skin glowed like luxurious cocoa, and her aquiline features were so pristine and delicate, she looked almost like a painting…a piece of art.
“Oh lovely! Nice to meet you, Kashimana.” I said, with as much enthusiasm as I could force, trying to pretend that I didn’t feel like a frumpy, wretched mess next to her.
Atoo had walked away to get us drinks, leaving Kashimana, Kashi for short, and I standing alone. I smiled awkwardly, trying to think of what I could say to make conversation. But I needn’t have bothered, as Kashi apparently had her own discussion points.
“So, you’re the famous Cheta! Atoo talks about you a whole lot…his brother’s wife he used to have a crush on.” she had said, smiling and looking me from head to toe. “Somehow…I expected more.”
The smile on my face froze. Of course she would have expected more. In fact, there was hardly anyone who wouldn’t have expected more than the fat, frumpy sorry excuse of a woman I had become.
Slipping away, I found another quiet spot to sit, hopeful that it would keep me away from the other prying eyes. But not Atoo’s, apparently.
“You seem to make a habit of running away!” he had said, handing me a glass of Bailey’s.
“Tired of explaining why I look so bad!” I blurted, before I could stop myself.
Atoo had smiled and taken a seat next to me. “People giving you a hard time because you’ve put on a few pounds?”
“That…and that fact that my hair looks like a bird’s nest!” I chipped, actually finding it in me to laugh.
“You still look beautiful!” Atoo had said. “It would take more than a little extra weight or a bad hair day to make you look bad.”
I was so grateful at his attempt to cheer me up that I found myself close to tears.
“Thanks…” I managed to say, knowing he didn’t have the faintest idea what his words had done for me.
He had looked at me intently. “Cheta, I don’t mean to pry…but are you happy? Is Ter being good to you?”
I had looked at him, and I had wanted to just open my mouth to tell him about everything I was going through with you. To tell him about the beast you had become. But instead, I found myself saying, “Of course he is. I couldn’t be happier.”
Atoo had nodded slowly, before rising to his feet. “If you say so. I better get back to Kashi. She really doesn’t know anyone here…”
I had nodded and smiled, as he walked away. Watching him take his seat next to his beautiful girlfriend, I found myself overwhelmed with envy. I found myself longing for the days when I too had been the apple of my man’s eye.
But as I made eye contact with you, my man, my heart crashed as I recognized the rage in your eyes. It dawned on me that you had probably seen Atoo and I talking…
From your clenched fists, I knew I was done for that night.
You can catch up on Cheta’s story here:
- You Used To Love Me 1: How Did We Get Here?
- You Used To Love Me 2: You Weren’t My First Choice
- You Used To Love Me 3: The Chosen One
- You Used To Love Me 4: You Were My Rock
- You Used To Love Me 5: Raging Fury
- You Used To Love Me 6: You Could Have Done Better