Majestic and I ——– Engee Mbah
I have a best friend in this feline beauty. Her green eyes are so fascinating, I could stare into them all day. Sometimes, they don’t look green, but golden, sort of, I think. Maybe, her mood determined her eye colour. Her body covered with hair that were so soft I have no words to describe them, soothed my fears, each time I stroked her. She would listen to me when I talked about my pain, her head cocked to the side and her face expressing her pity. She would smile at my lame jokes. Her eyes would light up as she stared into my face. It wasn’t my imagination. I called her Majestic, for she was, her stance, her walk. I could understand where the term, ‘cat walk’, came from.
I was raised in an environment where the only thing that was expected of me was to never disappoint my parents. This of course is not as simple the sound of it. Not disappointing my parents meant living as they chose, letting them make certain decisions for me, marrying who they wanted me to marry.
So, I became a dress maker, despite the fact that I had wanted to be an artist.
“An artist? What nonsense!” My father had scolded in that deep baritone of his.
“Unladylike, whimsical.” He had called it.
“You will learn how to sew. You will go into tailoring.” He told me. That was the end of the discussion; though, there hadn’t been much of a discussion going on. It had just been him, laying down the law. My father was like that. He would lay down the law, and I would follow. I was weak like that, or meek, depending on how one chose to look at it.
I married the man my parents wanted, mostly because I didn’t really have a better option at the time. I was raised with the notion that a woman could marry anyone and make it work. It was dependent on the woman really. A good woman would make her home work. Men were just, you know men. They would misbehave because that’s just the way they were. They didn’t know any better.
Sometimes, though, you just get tired of trying to make it work, not because something different happened, but because the same thing had happened too many times; especially when there wasn’t anyone to talk to or anyone who was willing to listen. I had lived with no one to talk to for a while. I didn’t really feel the need to have someone like that or if I did, I didn’t acknowledge that need. That changed though.
The day it changed was a tuesday. Ikechi, my husband came home by eight p.m. He had worked late that day. I didn’t ask him why, though. He wasn’t much of a talker and for some reason, we didn’t have that kind of relationship. I was the only one required to explain my whereabouts in our relationship.
I ran him a bath and served him the eba and vegetable soup I made for dinner. That’s what he had said he wanted for dinner before heading out to work in the morning.
I watched him eat. I waited for him to finish so I could clear the table. My husband was the sort that ate very slowly. He would carefully mold the eba as if it was an art, then dip it in the soup, taking time to coat it on all sides as though his life depended on it, before dipping it into his mouth and swallowing. You would hear a sound, something like, ‘qrrrrm’, as the eba passed through his throat. This wasn’t surprising to me because he molded the eba into such big balls, balls the size of a tennis ball or slightly bigger. I would always wonder how his throat managed it.
It took him nearly twenty minutes to finish eating. I knew because I had been watching the wall clock on and off. I had brought some work home, some clothes I needed to work on tonight, using the spare sewing machine I had at home.
When he was done eating, I cleared the table and did the dishes, so that I wouldn’t have to do it before heading to the shop tomorrow morning. The less chores I have to do in the morning, the better. When I was done with it, I started working on the clothes I brought home. Three of them were due tomorrow. I had promised the owners that they would be ready tomorrow. So, I worked, though I was tired and my shoulder muscles ached. My thigh muscles were complaning too. I finished the ones that were due tomorrow and decided to go to bed.
I took a bath and wore a night dress, that was so long, it swished around my feet as I walked to the bed, situated right at the centre of the room. Ikechi was lying on the right side of the bed. He looked like he was asleep. I took the left side. I lay on my side and my lids started to droop almost immediately. I was that tired. I was just starting to drift when I felt the cool air from the air conditioner hit my lap.
Somewhere between dreamland and wakefulness, I wondered how that was possible. I thought I had worn the long gown. I felt a force trying to turn me on to my back. I felt the hand pulling on my shoulder. That was when my brain caught up.
‘Oooh, leave me, abeg. I am tired.’ I murmured. He kept nudging me.
‘Please I’m just too tired.’ I whispered, keeping my eyes firmly shut. I really didn’t want to do this. Not only was I too tired, sex just wasn’t something I liked doing with my husband.
I heard a hiss or I think I did. I’m not sure, though, considering I was half asleep. Then, I jerked awake as I was hurled onto my back and my dress was pulled over my waist. I wore no pant. He pulled my thighs apart and stuck his phallus in me in one swift motion. I was fully awake, by then. He did this alot, having sex with me even when I don’t want to, I mean.
I turned my head to the side, stared at the wall and waited for him to finish. Struggling or getting angry would only piss him off. I stayed still, let my mind run amork. I only turned to him when I felt the jerks that signalled that he was done. He got off me and moved to his side of the bed, while I curled in a fetal position on my side of the King size bed. My chest felt tight. There was pressure in my throat. Tears leaked from my eyes dropping onto the bed, as I worked hard not to let a sound escape. I believe it was at this point I gave up trying. I slept.
Early the next day, I awoke, at six a.m. Overtime, my body had learnt to wake up at exactly six, without prompting or the blare of an alarm.
I swept the house and made breakfast. I was almost done with breakfast when Ikechi came into the kitchen, fiddling with his cufflinks.
‘How long is it taking you to make breakfast? I need to head out, early.’ He complained.
‘You can take bread and tea and go. You’re the one who created a breakfast timetable and penned in ukwa for this morning.” I replied as I crushed in some seasoning cubes, into the cooking pot.
“Ehen? And it takes ten years to just make ukwa?’ He asked. I pretended not to hear him. It was just too early for a fight. He grabbed my left hand and dragged me closer.
“Answer me when I am talking to you.” He told me. His sharp long nails bit into my arm. I was afraid it was drawing blood.
“It is just 6:46 a.m. Your office doesn’t open until 8:30, for God’s sake.” I let out, through gritted teeth. His hold on my arm was painful.
“When I choose to head out to work should not concern you. What you should concern yourself with is feeding me with what I want, even if I choose to head out by 3 a.m in the morning.” He said.
“It is almost done.” I told him.
“Good. I’ll be at the table.” He said, as he freed my arm. Then, he headed for the dining table. I increased the heat on the cooker. The earlier he ate, the earlier I could get out of the house.
I served his food and washed the dishes when he finished eating and left.
I had my bath, dressed up and went to see my mother.
‘I am tired.’ I told her, as we sat in the front yard. She looked at me and shook her head.
‘You need to try harder to make it work. That’s all.’ She told me.
‘I have been working at it for six years, mother. I am done.’ I replied. Her features started to blur as tears filled my eyes. I rubbed my eyes.
‘Marriage is for better or worse.’ My mother said. A frown marred her pretty features, same features I see every time I look in the mirror. The only difference, being age.
‘May be if you had a child, it will get better.’ She suggested.
‘He doesn’t know what to do with me, what would he do with a child?’ I said.
‘He rapes me.’ I told her. She clamps her hand over my mouth,then removes it.
‘Shush! A man doesn’t rape his wife. You can’t steal your own property.’ She said in a furious whisper. We both took deep breaths and silence reigned for a while.
‘Your father will soon get back from his walk.’ She broke the silence.
‘Then, I better get going.’ I stood.
‘Won’t you wait for him?’ She asked. I shook my head. I wouldn’t mind never seeing him again. I went to my tailoring shop.
Later in the day, I closed the shop, went to the market to buy ingredients for dinner. I was done buying the things I needed when I passed by a man with a cage, containing a bunch of kittens. I stopped, stood, considered. After standing there for a few minutes, I bought one. I hurried home and started on dinner.
The evening was not as lonely as other evenings, with the kitten curled at my feet as I made dinner, listening to my chatter, mewling her replies.
Dinner wasn’t ready yet, when I heard the front door open and close. I looked at the wall clock. It was 6:30 p.m. What could have made him come back this early? I walked to the sitting room.
He had come in with his mother. I rushed forward and greeted her, after acknowledging Ikechi’s presence.
‘I didn’t know you were coming.’ I said, all smiles. I was delighted to see her.
‘Does she need to notify you before coming?’ My husband said. His mother gaze went back and forth between us for some seconds.
‘I called Ikechi last week and told him I was coming today. I am surprised you didn’t know.’ She informed me.
‘I hope dinner is ready.’ My husband said.
‘Almost.’ I answered. I grab my mother-in-law’s bags.
‘Let me show you your room, so you can freshen up. Dinner is almost ready.’ I told her.
I left her in the room and rushed down to the kitchen to finish making dinner. I was stirring the stew when Ikechi poked his head in from the door.
‘Won’t you run me a bath?’ He asked. I turned from the pot and looked at him. Couldn’t he see that I was busy?
‘Do you want me to boil water for you?’ I asked.
‘So, what exactly do you want me to do? Turn on the shower for you?’ I asked.
‘I am kind of busy with your dinner, so, if you could just do it yourself, this time, that would be great.’ Sarcasm dripped from my voice. His darkening expression said he heard the sarcasm too. With his mother present, I was feeling kind of brave, because I knew he would be watchful of what he said. He left the kitchen without another word.
Few minutes later, dinner was served. We dug in, my mother-in-law and I. Ikechi just stared at his food. I had a pretty good idea what he was going to complain about.
‘This is beef.’
‘Mhmm.’ I nodded.
‘I specifically told you I wanted snails.’ He said.
‘I got to the market late. Most of the stores were closed. I couldn’t get snails, so, I just bought what I could find. I am sorry.’ I replied.
‘You couldn’t close your shop early, to go get me snails?’ He was starting to sound angry.
‘I had this particular job that I needed to finish today and I completely lost track of time.’ I explained. He stood, moved his plate towards me.
‘When you finish yours, eat this one too and make sure you finish it.’ He instructed.
‘Ikechi, sit down.’ My mother-in-law’s voice was loud.
‘You will sit down, eat your food and appreciate the person that made it.’ She said.
‘It’s not what I want to eat.’ He said.
‘And who died and made you king?’ She replied.
‘Mom, this is between my wife and I. I told…’ He was saying, but the kitten chose that moment to walk in, mewling.
‘Where did that come from?’ He asked.
‘It’s my cat.’ I answer, waiting for his reaction, which I was pretty sure wouldn’t be a good one.
‘Since when do you have a cat?’ He wants to know.
‘I got it today.’ I told him.
‘I want that thing out of my house.’ He said. I rushed to the cat and picked it up.
‘No.’ The cat was the first friend I had made in years. No way was I letting it go. I am pathetic, I know but my husband wasn’t exactly receptive to the friends I had prior to our marriage, so, they all sort of drifted away.
‘Hand it over.’ He said. I shook my head.
‘Stop it, right now!’ My mother-in-law tried to wade in. Nobody was listening to her, though.
He tried to grab the cat but I wasn’t cooperating.
‘Leave with the cat, then.’ He yelled, pushing me. My jaw hit the edge of the table, as I fell. I hit the ground hard. The last thing I saw was the shock on my mother-in-law’s face. I could hear the cat mewling erratically. My jaw felt like it had been set on fire. Everything went black and there was no pain.