Sticks & Stones || Chapter Two
The first thing I did was to make sure none of his friends in that neighbourhood were at home. I took some of Mama’s clothing and some pegs to spread on the line outside, this was just a disguise as they weren’t wet at all. The first person I met was the wife of Papa Nk, Mama Nk. She was spreading some clothes too, she was the first to speak up.
“Ah! Emi!”, she exclaimed as she saw me. ‘Your face don scarce for this compound o. Wetin happen na? We no just dey see you like that again.”
I smiled at her as I hung the little knickers I took from the bucket of clothes I left the house with, “Mama Nk, it’s not like that nau. It’s just that I’ve been very busy with…” l didn’t even finish before she cut me off. “ I know jare…” Stressing the “e” like a song, “you have to settle your hussy,”she raised her eyebrows continuously as she giggled like a child. One thing I had learned was to never share my business with just anybody, so I smiled at her, commanding the 26 muscles in my face not to make it look fake.
Only if she knew the last time I was happy to lay with my husband was the time we had conceived Mama. Things had gone south afterwards, he lost his job, and we had to move out of the house we had only began living in. Collins made some poor decisions, both in his life and mine, he had told me to stop working because he could take care of us and I obeyed him. I wanted to be a loving wife, I couldn’t bare to see him sad and so, I signed my resignation letter to my boss and left the office. My certificates had been lying under the bed since then.
Collins wasn’t always like that, even after he lost his job. He still went on searching for new jobs but it was either he was not experienced enough or he was too experienced. This is Nigeria. Depression hit him hard and the only way he could handle it was to drown his sorrows in alcohol and transfer his pain to me, physically. Anytime I tried to be of help, to help with some therapy, I got paid with black eyes or swollen lips. In all honesty, I still loved him or rather, I loved the man I married, and he was buried somewhere, deep down in that body and what’s worse was, I thought he might have died. I told myself I could love him from afar and that is what I was going to do. I couldn’t bring myself or my daughter to suffer in the hands of a beast, we weren’t Belles and certainly weren’t ready to grow into one.
Carrying the bucket I brought along, I went back into the house just as Mama Nk had gone into hers as well. There were only 2 boxes in the bedroom, mine and Collins’. I dusted mine with a wet rag, preparing to start packing. I had fed Mama a while back, and so she was fast asleep. With the little strength I had, I lifted up the mattress and there in a file, my certificates lied. That was the first thing in the box, I put my clothes in next and Mama’s clothes too. Next up were Mama’s baby items. This was a little weird, but I put a pot and a frying pan in a bag and put it in too, only God knew how we were going to survive out in the streets for a while, I had to be prepared.
After packing up the necessities, I woke Mama up to feed her again, we had a long way to go. I went outside to pick up Mama’s clothes from the line, the compound seemed empty. Very good, I thought. I added the clothes I had packed to the ones in a box, I also left a note on the bed for Collins, “We’re safe. Be safe too.” I hoped he would not be too drunk to read the note, that was the closest way I could tell him I still cared. Even though I would be far away, I was scared of the repercussions I would endure if I talked too much.
I had a little amount of money I had saved in the past months from all the menial jobs I had done just to provide for my family, about 15,000 naira in total. My box was tiny, and I was grateful for that, so I could easily lie if asked where I was going by any familiar face. Mama, on the other hand, was fast asleep on my back.
“I’m going to see my parents for a week…”
“I’ll be back soon, don’t miss us too much o…”
“Yes na! He knows, we even spoke this morning before he left the house…”
These were all the lies I had to keep telling people who could not just mind their business. Finally, I saw a call center close-by, I was going to call my mother. As the phone rang, thoughts from the past ran through my mind.
“My dear, just manage. It’s only for a while, you’ll be fine, he can’t kill you. He’s a man. You should know that’s how men are.”
Those were her words every time I had called her to tell her my problems, she always supported him, while I was dying silently. All in the name of being a man. She didn’t pick at the first ring, and I was happy she didn’t. I called my best friend instead, she picked at the second ring.
“Hello. Who’s this?”
“Nelo, it’s- it’s me.” I had started crying.
“Oh my God! Emike, what’s up? Tell me, why are you crying?”
“I-“ I stuttered, wiping the tears from my eyes, making my sight clear enough to see Collins staggering on the road, towards me. “Jesus Christ!” I exclaimed.
I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please comment below what you think, do you think Emike made a good choice trying to escape? Do you think she would be able to avoid Collins? Tell me what how you think this story would unfold. I’ll be waiting for your responses in the comment box.