The first time I saw Chief, I had just graduated from secondary school. He came to see my father about a job my father had done for him. My father had helped him build furniture for his house. He wanted my father to build a new set for the house he had just built.
“I want to marry a new wife into that house” he laughed.
I thought he had an air of complacence about him, like an overfed goat. When he laughed, spittle flew from his mouth like missiles. I caught my father wipe his face a couple of times. My father called me to serve him drinks.
“Mr. Ojo, I don’t mind this your daughter o, she will make a good wife. Look at how she knelt down properly. You have trained her well.”
“Thank you sir, she has made all the money I’ve spent on her worth it” my father replied, smiling sheepishly.
I rolled my eyes, and hissed silently. Chief caught me, and his laugh was so violent, I thought he was going to have a stroke; his eyes reddened as his body shook and threatened to break the chair. I left his presence at once fuming. I did not like the way he looked at me one bit. He visited my father a couple of times after that, but I made sure to make myself scarce during his visits.
One cold evening, while my father was sitting on his reclining chair, reading a newspaper, he called me. I stood there for several minutes, not wanting to interrupt him; he appeared to be engrossed in whatever he was reading. I shuffled my feet a few times to get his attention. He removed his reading glasses and set them on the table, and cleared his throat.
“Chief Fagade has asked for your hand in marriage, and I accepted”, my father said with a wave of his hand, as if he had just sent me on an errand.
My heart started to pound against my rib cage.
“Ehn? That old man! No o lai lai, over my dead body!”
“I’m not ready to get married o, what will happen to my education?”
My father was quiet; he looked at me like I was a raving lunatic, picked up his glasses and resumed reading. This was my father’s way of saying end of discussion. I started to cry.
That night, my mother came to the room I shared with my two younger sisters. Her movement was hesitant, I could tell because of the way she shuffled her feet on the carpet, like something was dragging her back. I pretended to be asleep. She tapped me.
“Ibiyemi Akanke, I need to talk to you”, she whispered, in a conspiring voice. “Your father has asked me to talk to you about the marriage, that you should consider it”.
“Haba! Mother, how can I consider such a thing? I am nineteen for God’s sake” my voice trembled.
I cried my eyes out. My mother’s shushing and cooing did nothing to calm me. My sisters were awake by then, bewildered. I resented my father at that moment, because he had taken a decision without considering me. I resented my mother even more, because in her docile manner she had agreed to marry me off to a stranger. I could not believe it was my own mother delivering the message of doom.
I lost my appetite, and didn’t leave my room for days except to eat. My sisters knew better, and stayed out of my way. I constantly prayed that I would wake up from my bad dream. I smiled for the first time in weeks when my admission to the university came through, I was ecstatic. When I showed my father my admission letter, he nodded and studied the piece of paper for a while. He cleared his throat. I stiffened.
“You know you would have to defer till you are married”, he said as though he we already discussed the possibility and he was reminding me. He continued, “I don’t have the money to send you now. Your husband can do that. Your sisters are also there too. Your husband has promised to sponsor their education too.”
“This is good for our family, you know…” smiling at me like I just won an Olympic gold medal. I did not wait to hear the rest. I ran to colour our toilet bowl with my inside.
I did not have a proper wedding, at least not the type I imagined for myself. I got married in my father’s sitting room, not the palatial chapel I usually imagined. My groom was forty nine years older than me. He looked no way like the man of my dreams; he was fat and bald, with a middle that looked as if a medium sized baby resided there, he had brown teeth from years of chewing Kola nut. My bridal train constituted of my two sisters, who only escorted me from my room to my father’s sitting room. I always imagined myself as a magazine cover bride, but I got married wearing my Sunday best with my mother’s ‘Ofi’ veiling my tear stained face and my shame.
I settled into my new home with the help of Chief’s most senior wife. I started calling her mummy. I think she took pity on me and treated me like her child: I usually spent my days crying. I had my own house to myself. Well, not quite to myself; I had helps; uniformed helps. In the massive 3 acre estate chief built, mine was the latest; a baronial mansion. It had a stately charm; like the chapel I always imagined I would get married in; bathed with light from majestic chandeliers, shiny floors, and overpriced art. It had something else too, a deafening echo; like an empty house.
The beatings started barely a month after I moved into my new house. Chief had been away on a business trip to Europe. I guess he was in a hurry to play with his latest acquisition; he called ahead as soon as he landed at the airport.
“Get yourself ready for me this night” he bellowed over the din of the background noise and hung up.
I prepared myself. When he came in that night, I insisted that we put out the lights. He refused saying he wanted to stare at the body he paid for. I bit my lips. It was all I could do not to cry. I closed my eyes as he entered me and slobbered kisses all over my face; sweat trickled from his face all over me, as he grunted like a pig in heat. I closed my eyes, because it was all I could do not to throw up my dinner. I imagined he was someone else, someone from my dreams. It didn’t matter that his stomach pinned down my lungs, like he was determined to crush them. I closed my eyes till it was over. He grunted and rolled on his side. He was snoring within seconds. I ran to the bathroom and scrubbed my body, crying as I scrubbed. I scrubbed till my hands cramped, and my body became weak from crying.
In the middle of the night, I felt his hands crawl on my arms. I woke up and jumped up from the bed.
“What is the matter with you?” Chief asked, irritated.
“Nothing, I am tired”
“Tired ke? How many rounds did I do that you are tired?”
“Please, chief, just let me sleep, wait till morning”
“Hehe, see this small girl o, it’s like your seniors did not tell you, I usually do three rounds before morning, and another one before I go to the office” veins popping on the sides of his head.
“Please, chief I beg you in the name of God”
“It’s like you are deaf” his voice was grave with warning.
He started towards me, and I retreated into the wall. He looked at me with fury in his eyes and gave me the full wrath of his right hand. I staggered and hit my face against the wall. Maybe, it was the anger I saw in his eyes, my body weakened, and I became limp as he carried me onto the bed, he gave me a few slaps. I did not flinch. My body was too numb to feel. He tore at my cloth and forced himself into me. When he was finished, I laid there, sweat and stench and saliva until it was morning.
The next morning, after chief had left my room, I ran to the senior wife’s house and banged on her door.
“Mummy, chief beat and raped me” I cried when she opened the door, obviously just waking.
She looked at me like I suddenly grew horns on my forehead.
“Kai!” she rebuked me.
“A wife must never say her husband raped her” she fired in rapid Yoruba.
“shhh! Listen to me, it is your duty as a responsible wife to always satisfy your husband, no matter what” she said in a stern voice.
I became dumb. She hurried inside, and after sometime, came out with a bowl of water and small towel, started to mop my swollen face with the wet towel. I winced.
“You too, you shouldn’t have made chief angry”. As if it was my fault.
And so, I learnt my place. I was never to anger my husband, I was to love him. Or try to love him. Chief did not stop hitting me and raping me. Even though I tried not vex him, on nights he was drunk, he would shatter the echo of the house, stomping his feet. He would barge into my room.
“Why are you not wearing the lingerie I bought for you?”
Twack! Twack! Pow!
I once went to my mother crying; she comforted me saying marriage was all about endurance, as if it was my choice to marry in the first place. I stopped complaining to anyone. I bore my bruises with grace. My silence comforted me. I endured.
The beatings has stopped; for the time being. I am pregnant. It is my second year in chief’s house, and I’m pregnant. When the doctor told me, I cried. I cried because my body had betrayed me. I willed my body not to surrender and let chief’s seed be implanted in me. My body betrayed me, and wants to tie me down in hell.
“He will stop beating you once you start bearing him children” senior wife had said.
Even though, my body has betrayed me, my mind hasn’t. Chief has started lavishing me with gifts, and money. He says I will deliver my child in the UK. He has just bought me a 30 carat Swarovski diamond necklace. I am keeping it all; gifts and cash. I will act like I’m supposed to, the latest, grateful, over pampered wife, pregnant with chief’s child; not because I want to. See, I’m planning my escape, I’m running away from this hell. I will run as far as my will can carry me, my child and I, maybe I will be able to glue together what is left of my dignity, find myself, and start my life once again.About the author: This story was written by Akintomiwa Ogunnika. He blogs here and it’s a blog you definitely want to check out. Thanks for participating hon. 0