He took a swig from the cold can of cola I had lovingly placed beside the bowl of nuts, a mixture of roasted groundnuts and cashew nuts. I had been careful to select each nut carefully, checking to see that each was uniformly golden, with no burnt bits. He was very particular about his likes and dislikes, and I did not want to displease him. The cola had been chilled, but it was a hot day, the air conditioner had broken down, and condensation now ran down its metal sides in rivulets. He leant back into the warm embrace of his favourite sofa, belched, and further elaborated upon his theme.
He loved the sound of his own voice, and I had loved it too, once upon a very distant time. I heard it from a distance as he explained that he could have had his pick of anyone to be the bearer of his name, but he had chosen me for that special honour. My friends had been concerned when we started dating, but they had soon learnt to keep their opinions to themselves, after he had confronted a couple of them about being jealous of our ‘special relationship’ as he called it. He had done it when there were no witnesses around, and it was their word against that of the charismatic fellowship leader.
He had been charming during our courtship, although sometimes in unguarded moments I had seen a darkness in his eyes that went beyond words. When we’d had a difference of opinions over the most mundane matters, I’d seen him clench his teeth together so hard his jaws seemed to be etched from stone, and then he’d laugh and say ‘you this girl sha, one day…’
My parents had never warmed to him even though they had always been courteous to him, especially after we had gotten married. They had expressed their reservations to me throughout our courtship, but had accepted in the end that it was my decision to make, my life to live. My inability to conceive was the main prayer point of the women’s group I headed in the church where he was now the pastor, I never let on to anyone that after he had beaten the third pregnancy out of me, I had vowed never to bring a child into his world and had taken steps to ensure this. When they prayed, I yelled ‘amen’ along with them.
I saw the pitying expressions in the eyes of the wives of our associate pastors, but we all pretended nothing was wrong. There was a period when I had to wear scarves to cover the choke marks on my neck, instead of asking why I was doing that in our hot climate, my church ladies had rushed out to buy similar scarves. And so we sat, and sweated, as we praised. When wives came to me seeking counsel about the abuse they suffered at the hands of their husbands, I listened sympathetically, and then told them to return home and pray until something happened. How could I fix them, when I too was broken?
I was a pharmacist. Or should I say I had been a pharmacist? He had made me stop work, saying that the Lord’s work was more important than the dispensing of any medication. My parents had tried to remonstrate with me, but all their words had fallen on deaf ears. I was determined to submit. To be the godly wife I knew I could be if I tried hard enough. The wife he deserved to have.
I came to as I realised he had stopped talking, and was crunching away noisily as he threw handfuls of nuts into his mouth. I wished he would choke to death. I wished he had beaten me hard enough to kill me. But not once did I ask myself #whyIstayed.
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