Mother’s death haunts me. I can still see my heartless father beat up mother in my nightmares. I still cringe in fear now the same way I did when I was five. People say ‘time heals all wounds’ but not this time. My mother moved from having a few bruises to broken bones till her death was inevitable. I stood there helpless and cried while this man beat her mercilessly with his leather belt, then a pestle, for a sin she didn’t commit. She had been ill during this time and was very weak. She never told her husband that she had been on medication. She tried to explain that she wasn’t feeling well, but he wouldn’t listen. At first, she would scream out in pain but later she learned to endure the torture. She endured till her early death that October evening.
Mrs. Ajayi had got so worried when her younger son brought home his beautiful fiancée. They had already fixed a date for the wedding. She was also worried because all her daughter’s friends from the university were all married and had children pulling at their aprons. Even the unserious and promiscuous Ada had sent her an invitation to her wedding.
Mobola had become unhappy from her mother’s unceasing nagging. She had suffered several disappointments from men. Tunde, who had come with his family members for an introduction, had suddenly called off their engagement and hooked up with Nkechi.
‘‘Mobola,’ Mobola’, ‘Mobola’, how many times did I call you? Go and get married. You are not getting younger. Your younger brother has fixed a date for his wedding. Don’t let the world hear it that your younger one got married before you. What are you waiting for or do you want to become a nun?
‘Mama, why are you saying this eh, you know about all my predicaments yet you keep tormenting me day and night. Mama, I would soon bar you from coming to my house.’
‘You have not tried enough. If you hook one of them with pregnancy he will stay in one place. And if its charm you need to keep him, my friend is ready to take you to that Baba Aladura at Iketi. That is what I have been preaching to you for the past two years and you wouldn’t listen. You were busy waiting for God’s time. Heaven only helps those who help themselves. Or can’t you hear your biological clock ticking loudly. If you are not deaf you would hear it. You would soon be 29, at that age I was done with child bearing.’
‘Mama, I know that you have good intentions I have heard you.
‘You can imagine that Sade called me yesterday, after we had exchanged pleasantries, she asked why I hadn’t invited her to my wedding. Apparently, Ada told her I had gotten married to one American guy as a joke. What sought of joke is that eh? Anyway I don’t blame them. Right now I am ready to do anything to get married’
‘That’s my daughter, now you are talking. Just go and look for one rich fine boy and leave the rest up to me.’
Less than one year afterwards, Mobola got pregnant and dragged home the victim of her evil scheme, who was younger than she was. Her mother succeeded in convincing Dele’s family that he had to marry her daughter at all cost. He did not agree at first. He wanted a paternity test conducted to make sure the baby was his. After nine months she gave birth to a baby boy. She named her son Mayowa- for he had brought her joy.
Dele felt trapped at 26. The paternity test result came out positive. He was indeed the father of the child. A low key wedding was performed immediately with close friends in attendance. Dele was supposed to have travelled for his masters abroad, Mobola had disrupted his plan. Dele was visibly drunk throughout the ceremony. Her friends gossiped and visitors whispered among themselves .She was embarrassed, but the show had to continue.
She pretended to be happy after all she was now a married woman. The charm had worked. Mission accomplished. Tongues wagged for a while about Dele’s age. Mobola simply ignored all the talk and focused to her new state as a married woman.
What Mobola did not know was that she was now married to a monster who vowed to make her life miserable and the marriage a living hell. She had signed her death warrant unknowingly.
When the farce of a wedding was over, Dele called his wife to a corner and explained to her that he was not interested in the marriage and that he had only agreed to go ahead with the ceremony to please his mother and save his family the shame. He then proceeded to state his terms of living in the two- room apartment with her.
She couldn’t hold back the tears any more she felt like someone had pierced her heart with a spear. She had hoped she would be able to make him fall in love with her. Baba’s charm could only be effective if she slept with him again. She never knew he had other plans.
She tried to seduce him that night but he didn’t fall for it. He instead threatened her into signing an agreement that stated that at the dissolution of the marriage she and her child were not entitled to anything from him and she was to remain a house wife. She wept till she had no more tears left. It was her wedding night but it was a night of tears.
Two months after they started living together, Mobola tried her luck. She knew she was passing her boundaries but she had to do something. She prepared pounded yam and egusi soup and then dressed seductively. Her plan was to lure him to her bed after he finished eating. Her mother had told her it would endear her to him once he saw that she was a good cook. She set the dinning in anticipation for his arrival. He usually closed from work around 5 p.m. By the time it was 9:30 p.m. she became worried something might have happened to him. She would have called but she did not have his mobile number or his office land line number. He made sure that she could not get in touch with him not even in case of emergency. She had tried to steal his number from his phone except that his phone was always locked. It was getting close to mid night and he still wasn’t home. She grew weary of waiting and kept the food in a warmer. What good was her cooking skill if he wasn’t around to eat her meal? She fell asleep on the couch drenched in her tears and didn’t even know when he got home later that night.
She was in a deep and troubled sleep when she felt someone slap her cheek; she opened her sleepy eyes to see Dele standing in front of her with fury in his eyes
‘Welcome…’ was all she could stammer before he started raining abuses on her for turning the sitting room into her bedroom and abandoning her bastard child , who had been crying and disturbing his sleep for close to thirty minutes. At that she bolted to the room where her baby was and saw that he was still crying. She had being so carried away by trying to woo her errant husband that she forgot about her baby. She checked the time and discovered it was 3:35a.m., she hadn’t realized that it was that late already.
After so many failed attempts at getting Dele to eat her food, Mobola decided to try one last time. She prepared amala and ewedu soup; she knew he would like it since he was from Oyo state. She had given up hope of getting him into her bed after six unsuccessful attempts. She placed the meal on a tray beside a bowl of water to wash his hands with and then knocked on his room door. He answered the door after keeping her waiting for about 10 minutes. She thought she had heard a female voice in the room, but she convinced herself it was her imagination. She couldn’t imagine Dele bringing his girl friend into their home. When he opened the door he was wearing only a pair of boxers; it was the first time in a long time that she saw him in his boxers. She held the tray towards him in a gesture that showed that she prepared the meal for him. A female voice came from his room asking him who it was at the door. Now the voice was audible, Mobola’s hands shook as it clenched to the now heavy tray. ‘It’s the maid’, was his response as he banged the door on Mobola’s face. She was shocked. She knew he womanized but she never expected him to bring his women to their matrimonial home. She was more hurt that he dare refer to her as the maid.
She cried for so many weeks afterwards. She was depressed and lonely. She couldn’t continue keeping up a happy face in front of her friends and family anymore. She had forsaken a lucrative career in banking to be a mere house wife to a man who was unappreciative. ‘She was better of single than married’, she thought. Her blood pressure had risen and she was on medication. The doctor had warned her to avoid the source of her stress, but could she avoid something she was living with. Her only consolation was her son who brought so much her joy.
Two years into her bitter marriage Dele started beating her at any slightest provocation. He didn’t care who was there when he slapped her and hurled insults on her. One time when one of his friends, David had come to visit them, while discussing with Dele, Mobola sat down listening attentively to David’s humorous banter about love and age. He said something about feeling deep respect for his wife who was older, that he called her aunty jokingly. She passed a comment on what he had said and laughed. Immediately Dele ordered her to shut up that no one asked her for her opinion. David was stunned but was not surprised as he had heard from one other friend about how disrespectful Dele was to his wife. Someone else even said Dele had slapped her in front of him once not minding he was just a guest in the home. This made Dele’s friends stay away from his home. Mobola left the sitting room and ran into her room crying feeling embarrassed. She had endured the abuse and insults for two years already thou it felt like she had been married to Dele for a decade. She couldn’t tell her mother or friends what she was truly facing in her home. When they asked how she was, she would give a fake smile and say she couldn’t have married a better man. She was too ashamed to share her pain.
One fateful day she mistakenly left what she was cooking on fire to look after her child who was ill. She didn’t know that the rice she was cooking was burning and that the whole kitchen was filled with smoke. Dele had arrived at the house at that time and saw that the entire kitchen had been set ablaze. As he tried to put off the fire, Mobola arrived totally oblivious of the damage she had caused. After successfully putting out the flame, Dele descended heavily on her. He beat her till she fainted that night. Neighbors had to force the door of the house open in order to come to her rescue. She was rushed to a nearby clinic and was treated for a fractured arm, swollen eye and dislocated knee. She felt like a trailer had run over her has the pain was unbearable. Her heart was torn in bits. She cried uncontrollably. The doctor had to sedate her to keep her calm. After spending two weeks at the clinic, she was discharged. Her mother drove her home and pleaded with Dele to settle any grievances he had with his wife amicably. She left after Dele assured her that such would never occur again. It did happen; again and again she endured the beating.
Mobola had told her mother that Dele was not eating her food but she never once mentioned how he verbally and physically abused her. She was too ashamed to let her mum know that it was not the first time he was beating her. She knew her marriage was a mistake but it was too late to turn back the hands of time. She regretted following her mother’s advice to jump into marriage, if only she was patient then, she sighed. She had to keep enduring her marriage now till one day when Dele would realize his mistakes and come to his senses. She just had to be patient.
On their son’s fifth birthday, Dele told his wife he wanted to throw a party. Mobola was surprised but she agreed. Dele printed the invitations and brought the cake for the celebration. Mobola handled catering for all the invited guests. Every one present praised her cooking. One of Dele’s friends even told Dele that his wife needed to open an eatery. Dele simply smiled. May be out of curiosity but Dele tasted her cooking for the first time since they got married five years ago. Mobola was more than delighted to see Dele finish three wraps of pounded yam with efo riro. Her prayer was finally being answered she thought.
For two weeks afterwards Dele kept eating at home. Mobola couldn’t contain herself. Her joy knew no bounds. For the first time in five years of marriage she went to bed smiling.
Her son started primary one six months after his fifth birthday and so he was gone for longer hours than usual. She had home schooled him till he was four to keep herself busy, but now he had to learn to mix up with his peers. She was now becoming bored with the routine of cleaning the house, doing the laundry, ironing and cooking and wanted to start work. She was tired of been a slave in her own house. One night after she had treated Dele to a delicious meal of banga soup and starch, she put forward a proposition to Dele to start her own eatery. Dele flared up.
‘I don’t have money to waste on such venture’.
‘Don’t worry about the money’ she pleaded, ’just give me the go ahead and the rest is settled’
He frowned. And abruptly said, pushing away the food,
‘Is it because I manage to eat your food that you now have the effrontery to demand to work eh?’ ‘Oh, because you have me eating from your plate you feel you can manipulate me that easily eh? It won’t work at all. You hear me.’
He stormed out of the dining room and slammed the door of his room behind him. He stopped eating her food for two weeks after then. Mobola cried and blamed herself for even asking. Her blood pressure shot up immediately afterwards.
Mayowa was the restless type. Full of life and very smart, he was also very curious too. One evening, after a busy day at work, Dele dropped some important documents that he needed for a presentation the next morning on the centre table. He remembered it only after he had taken his bath and was now in bed. He was too tired to get up and hoped that Mobola would see it and keep it somewhere safe for him. Meanwhile Mobola had been too depressed and was tried to even play with her son.
‘Go and play or draw or watch cartoon, just get out of my sight ‘she snapped.
‘But mummy come play with me now’. He kept dragging at his mother’s apron persistently has she did the dishes and pored away another meal she had prepared for Dele.
‘Please leave me in peace, let me be please’ she said firmly.
He left the kitchen reluctantly and went to watch cartoon in the sitting room. While watching he had the inspiration to draw some cartoon character. He found a pen and some paper on the centre table. The document his father was to present the next day at a meeting soon became a comic book. He even got some crayon and started coloring his work of art. Mobola didn’t pay attention to the mischief her son was up to. She simply drove him to bed and kept his ‘drawing sheet’ on her reading table beside the bed. After putting him to sleep she hoped that she would continue the novel she was reading but she was feeling sleepy. Soon she was already fast asleep beside her son. She hadn’t had time to check what he had drawn.
The next morning at about 5 a.m. she heard a loud knock on her door.
What would Dele want from her so early in the morning, she thought? When she opened the door she saw a furious Dele at the door, ‘hope nothing is wrong ‘she asked.
‘Did you see the document I kept on the center table? Dele demanded.
‘No I didn’t see anything, besides I didn’t know that you kept any document there. ’Mobola answered as she tried to make Dele lower his voice.
‘Are you sure you didn’t pick any document from that table?’ Dele continued ignoring her plea to lower his voice.
‘No, I didn’t. The only thing I picked was the papers our son was drawing on’, Mobola went to bring the nicely colored drawings and handed it to Dele, who examined the paper in disbelief. ‘You see what you caused he is awake already’. Dele could not believe his eye as he examined his ruined document and screamed.
‘YOU AND YOUR SON HAVE KILLED ME’
‘SO THIS IS YOUR PLAN TO RUIN ME ABI?’
‘YOU BOTH HAVE FAILED’
Mobola was totally shocked and confused.
‘What is the matter?’ She requested totally dumbfounded.
‘ARE YOU SO DAFT THAT YOU CAN’T READ’ He flung the papers at her and stormed out of the house.
Mobola, still recovering from the shock, examined the papers Dele had thrown at her and looked at her son who was on the bed battling for sleep and asked rhetorically,
‘What trouble have you gotten me in to now?’
Throughout the day Mobola was not at peace, no matter how she tried to forget what had happened, it kept popping up in her mind. She scolded her son when he came back from school that afternoon. She took her medication and went to prepare Dele’s dinner.
At some minutes to four that evening, Dele drove in. He was home earlier than usual. Before he had stepped out of his car, she went to open the front door and pretended to be cooking in the kitchen. She was scared and didn’t know what to expect. Immediately Dele stepped into the house she smelt alcohol and knew that he was drunk. Her heart was pounding with every footstep of his that she heard.
Mobola was still silently praying that he would just go to his room and sleep and just forget about the whole issue, when Dele stormed the Kitchen unannounced. Before she could open her mouth to say anything, he dragged her out of the kitchen by her braided hair. He didn’t even wait to hear her plea before he landed a slap on her then he began blowing her. His blows were direct and in full force and she tried to avoid them, but he held her down between his legs. She had thought her body would be used to them by now but this pain was a different kind of pain. It was more agonizing than the once she knew. She cried and pleaded with Dele but it all fell on deaf ears. He kept punching her stomach, her chest, her back and warned her not to shout. That he would kill her if she uttered any sound. She tried to endure the punches but she couldn’t anymore, she managed to force her way out of his grip and ran into the kitchen. She grabbed a knife to defend herself and kept crying and shaking. Dele held a pestle.
That was when I got to the scene. I had fallen asleep on the chair in the sitting room when father arrived. The noise from the dinning attracted my attention. When I got there he was still punching her. They were both oblivious of my presence. It was not the first time I had seen them fight, just that this time the cause of the fight was my fault.
‘If you come near me I will stab you’, mother threatened boldly. I was not sure she meant it but, she was holding a sharp knife. The one she used to cut tough meat. It was the first time I saw her stood up to him.
Father laughed. His laugher was like a lion’s roar and echoed throughout the house and scared me. I peed in my pants.
‘You this small ant you want to kill me’
‘You and your bastard son ruined the deal that took me six months to prepare for. That document would have fetched me two million dollars today. You embarrassed me in front of my foreign partners; before you kill me I will teach you a lesson.’
He struggled with mother for a while before he could get the knife out of her hands. When he had succeeded he kicked the weapon to a corner and removed his belt with which he used to beat her. He wouldn’t stop even when she was bleeding all over. The sound the belt made as it landed on my mother’s body caused me to shiver and I peed on myself. I was too scared to get close to where they were; I cried and peed on myself again. Then my cry got louder. Father turned around and saw me shivering and crying.
‘Come on shut up’ he ordered as he slapped me. I stopped for fear of getting another slap.
Mother managed to get to her feet and was trying to open the front door in other to escape when he pushed her back. She landed heavily on the concrete wall. She was covered in blood, tears and sweat. Her head had hit the wall so hard that she was bleeding by the side of her head. Her pink blouse had been dyed red. She had no fight left in her and she kept pleading with my father to let her go. He wouldn’t hear. He continued flogging her all over her body he didn’t mind where the belt touched. She kept pleading and held his feet. He kicked her hands off and spat on her.
I cried for her. I cried for the pain she felt. I cried because I couldn’t help her, I was scared. Her tears brought tears to my eyes. She was really bleeding and the floor of the sitting room where they were was drenched in blood, tears and sweat. Father kept on beating her till she didn’t cry anymore. She made no sound and she was motionless.
He shouted, before leaving her in the pool of her blood and tears. He staggered to his room; he was clearly drunk and didn’t notice that his wife had stopped breathing. He banged the door behind him and didn’t look back. Mother didn’t get up from the floor. She laid there drenched in her own blood and did not move even when I shook her.
Father met us on the spot where he had left his wife the previous night when he woke up. I had cried myself to sleep beside her and was equally drenched in her blood and tears. He shook her but she didn’t get up. He checked her pulse panicky and carried me away from her side immediately. As he dialed 911 he trembled on the realization of the consequences of his action. When the ambulance took her dead body to the mortuary, he drove behind them with tears in his eyes. His hands shook while he dialed her mother’s number. His voice trembled on the phone as he spoke.
I was too young to fully comprehend what had happened then but now after ten years of my mother’s death I finally understand. My mother had married a jerk and was too scared to admit she needed help.
Every year at her anniversary, I go to lay flowers on her grave. I always renew my commitment to become a better man.