THE WIFE I NEVER MARRIED- GRACE OCHIGBO
Matthew pushed open the door to the visitor’s room where Laibe lay with enormous force so much so that Laibe jerked up and drew backwards against the wall almost immediately, as though she wanted to pass through the wall out of the room. She was sleeping, sleeping so sound before now. Her first night in the town of her dreams; the only town she had been seeing flashes of, in dreams and other times in trance, whichever! She was certain she had pictured Ankpa in her head long enough to carve out its map ever before getting the opportunity to come here. She dare not lay sleeping back at Ofabo at this time. In fact she needed to have been awake early enough so as to sweep the whole of her grandfather’s compound that is continuously dirtied with dropping leaves which become even worse during harmattan. She needed to be done and dusted with all of those before Umali and Ebi would come, just when it was time for stream. The stream was an average distance to her own house as the rest would need pass through hers on their way to theirs. If one must get the clean water needed for the day’s use, going very early to the stream is an indispensable virtue, because the naughty and stubborn boys in the village wouldn’t have washed their dirty bodies in it neither would they have unsettled the almost muddy water by then. That’s how her mornings usually turn out to be. It’s either she gets to the market after that; if the day was a market day, or whenever she can, follow some of Baba’s workers to the farm and help in either harvesting or gathering, especially of beans. Beans seem to be the most productive crop in the whole village – competing back to back with cassava though – and most families have no need of going to buy beans from the market because they all planted at one time or the other. Instead, since everyone has more than enough, they would give it to the women going to òbà – the largest market very distant from the area, to help them sell. Hard work was one good thing she came to like about Omachoko aside his many bad sides, pomposity being the highest on the list. He appear to have mastered all the possible techniques that would bring maximum harvest in beans plantation; reason why his family still ranks richest in the entire village, and the credit could undoubtedly go to the hard work he inherited from his father right from a very tender age.
Laibe looked up from the bed at her uncle and as though she was noticing this for the first time, she could not help but marvel how a man could be that huge. So tall that he had to bend real down while standing in the door way. She wondered again how her aunty coped with her husband’s height but waved that thought aside when she noticed the redness in the eyes of the giant standing before her. It is true. She hadn’t heard his voice ever, more so that he hadn’t said a word to her since the kitchen incidence. She was scared as she managed to stammer…
Matthew said nothing, did nothing and didn’t blink his eyes, even after the poor girl greeted him ‘Good morning’ in utter fright. He stood at the door frame just unblinkingly looking at her with red shot eyes. The only movement noticeable in his whole body was the one around the region of his very obvious ‘Adam apple’, it moved quickly and slothfully at the same time, similar to the irregular movement of an amoeba. It was obvious that the ball of anger in him was too big to swallow with the way his face was like that of one pushing a heavy truck up a high mountain. He wanted to talk but he struggled as he refrained from it. He is not usually angry, in fact, his normally calm and pleasant demeanour had slowly changed till his face contorted in all- consuming anger; his nostrils flaring, his eyes flashing and closing into slits. His mouth had the tendency to quiver and drool angry words and he knew how synonymous to spewing into space like a volcano releasing its pent up emotions into the darkness those words would come if he let them out.
He kept staring at the girl squeezed to a corner up the bed for nothing less than fifteen minutes. Her legs crawled beneath her feet in fear as his eyes ran over her entire piece carrying gross hatred that Laibe could see clearly. The reason, she couldn’t provide by herself. She thought of saying something else, anything. Although he didn’t respond to her greetings, perhaps he would respond to sorry if she said it. Maybe, she should say she was sorry.
What if he asked her what she was sorry for afterwards?
What other explanation would she give?
‘What exactly has she done under heavens this beautiful sunny morning?’ All these thoughts and more took their time to fly or rather, drive recklessly through her mind in rapid succession until she finally made up her mind to speak out. Whatever she can bring herself to say, she would say it. Laibe rose her head up to talk and as though it was calculated, she saw and heard her door slam hard against her face before she could voice out any word.
That got her shivering even more in the hot morning. Her uncle barged into her room, forcing her door open so angrily that she almost fainted from the shock, he stood mute at the door for long without responding to her greeting and just when she was about to say something else, he slammed the door against her face? Was it that bad? She asked herself. Or better still, was she that bad and intolerable? She hit her head as though trying to bring herself to consciousness from some sort of nightmare she appears to be having since she stepped her foot into her long awaited Ankpa. Whatever must have made her uncle behave this way must be very serious and she needed to get to the root of it.
She got up and pulled another of those oversized gowns over her head – the second of the three. She planned to wash the other mud stained one today, then she would get to talk to her crush, Ocholi again, because she would surely be needing him to show her where to get water and soap. She was hoping in the process the amiable young man would smile kindly at her again like only he has been doing. Except for her friends and grandfather, she feels head over heels special anytime another fellow smiled at her and all those plans were not going to happen anytime soon with the way the morning is already starting out. She took in a deep breath, patting her chest in the process. Mimicked the sign of the cross before heading towards her door. It was mimic, she had never been a catholic, and she only see Ebi do it sometimes because the latter is. She still tasted fear in her mouth anyways.
She got to the door and pressed down the knob but it wasn’t moving. She tried it again with her feeble and tiny fingers, this time using the whole energy left from the food she ate late last night, but the door still didn’t show any sign of yielding to her push. She moved sideways till her body hit the wall behind her.
Has it gotten to the point of locking her up in the room?
She held the wall and slid down from her standing height till her buttocks rested on the marble tiles.
“What are you doing Matthew? What has come over you?” Udale screamed as hot burning tears rolled ceaselessly down her chubby cheeks immediately her husband opened back their bed room door. She had gotten up when he stormed out earlier but she didn’t follow him. She waited till he came back. He owed her an explanation and she was getting it now, no matter what. She charged towards him and held his pyjamas around his chest region, her hands struggled to hold it firmly there though due to the height difference but she did, still crying, hitting him hard while at it.
“You must tell me what is over you today. And you would have to kill me or Laibe, else none of us is stepping out of this house” Udale kept screaming and screaming, her voice rising higher at every new statement she made and her hands squeezed her husband’s dress the more. Matthew stood without responding to all his wife’s actions on him. He knew better than to beat her up right now, because with the percentage anger locked up within him, the poor woman would spend nothing less than fifteen nights at an intensive care unit as the aftermath of any action he would take as it stands. He only pocketed his hands and watched her like one would watch from the pinnacle of a storey building as the woman jacked his shirt.
“Perhaps if your seeds were agile enough, you would have reaped bountiful harvests a long time ago…” Udale continued.
Thankfully, the house was built in such a way that each room had its own toilet and other accessories, it is padded sound proof as well. Someone in another room would not hear screams no matter how loud it was in the room, unless the person is standing and struggling to eavesdrop right at the door. That was why even if the comments from his wife were getting on his nerves, he knew none of the two other persons in the building right now would hear them.
“Is it my fault that you are not man enough?”
With this, Matthew flung her onto the bed like a light piece of cloth and charged forward towards her with a raised hand.
“How dare you?” He roared as his hands grabbed Udale’s neck.
Udale could see the end of the line close to her eyes already with the mighty hand holding her neck, she would choke, she would gasp and ultimately die soonest,
“Please let me go Matthew” she pleaded, her loud voice now as quiet as a calm stream. Matthew didn’t seem to bulge, he held her whole body up on the bed with just that right hand on her neck. Her pleas and tears meant nothing to him right now, he had just been hit on the wrongeat side by those last words from his wife and she would face the consequences of touching him at the forbidden place when he is angry.
“Awaa! Please let me go” Udale continued pleading in tears
“On one condition…” Matthew answered with eyes still red from over bloated temper.
“What condition?” Udale asked with shaky voice.
Laibe quickly shifted her legs into each other immediately she heard the sound on her door. She adjusted so well where she sat on the floor like a snail in its shell, such a way that she wouldn’t be sighted if whoever was at the door only opened it to check without entering. That’s because the large beautifully carved out brown door would hide the whole of her behind it. She imagined what would happen next if that was her uncle trying to open the door again. Her eyes darted from side to side just maybe she can get an escape route out of this room before the person successfully got in. Goosebumps broke out on her skin as she searched eagerly but there was none. Even the way the bed was built was very different from the ones they had in Ofabo. The ones at Ofabo have large spaces directly underneath it where things with many inches height could freely move under the bed. This does not have that space so she can’t crawl underneath it. She saw the wardrobe and alarm rang up in her head. Perhaps that could help her and just when she ran halfway over to the corner where the wardrobe stood, the door opened.
“Jesus!” She screamed and jumped backwards involuntarily.
“What happened?” Ocholi asked immediately Laibe screamed, wondering what made her look that scared to death. Laibe gave him a ‘did you just ask me that?’ kind of look and he closed his once opened mouth. Laibe kept staring at him from up to toe with different unimaginable thoughts in her mind. Ocholi was all dressed up just about eight o’clock in the morning? She marvelled at where he was already coming from at this time. Worse is that he wasn’t smiling today. Even when he asked her the question, his face was stern. The clothes he had on looked quite squeezed and not properly worn; the type that usually happens when PHCN takes light for so long, one couldn’t iron a dress he had planned to wear to a celebration party and still had no choice but to wear it all the same. Well, the summary to her was that he was looking like someone hurried him into dressing up.
“You know what, Laibe?” Ocholi asked and she responded by nodding from side to side.
“Come and I’ll tell you!”
Laibe hastened towards him with her heart in her mouth to at least know what the whole problem is. She stood few inches away from him as her eyes begged him to talk already but he wanted to whisper into her ears instead.
To be continued