After he rolled off her, she wept. She thought of the person she used to be and grimaced at how different she was now, how much of a shadow she had become. She thought of her children, aged five, three, and two years respectively, all female. She thought of the brutish manner he pried her thighs apart, the way he clenched his teeth, the alternate contraction and relaxation of the muscles of his shoulder and thighs as he thrust in and out of her. She tried to remember how their life had been, how her life had been, before they had their first child. Had there been smiles? Laughter? But it seemed her memories were determined to play hide and seek with her. The only things she remembered- and with much clarity- were heavily handed blows and the smell of hospitals.
There was no use fighting. She gave up the fight a long time ago, after she realized that there was no way she could win. She submitted herself to the sting of his belt as it hit her buttocks, knelt down with her hands held behind her back as he slapped her with such ferocity that she temporarily lost the use of her left eye. Her cries were reduced to soft whimpers- careful not to alert the neighbors- when he punched her face so hard that he knocked out one of her front teeth.
The few times she had opted to return to her parents house- he did not let her work and so she had no money and no other place to go- she was beaten by her mother and dragged back to his house, where she received even more torment. She tried to block out the memory of the things he had done to her, but the shrunken skin of her feet, where they had been dipped into boiling water, proved to be more than enough reminder.
As the silent tears continued to stream down her face, she wondered what he would do to her if he ever found out that she had begun to take contraceptive pills.
“The wedding is the third most important event a woman’s life, after the actual marriage and having kids, of course”, her mother had said to her, as she tucked straying strands of hair underneath the professionally tied gele on her daughter’s head.
So while the modalities of the traditional wedding were going on, she, the obedient daughter, was more concerned about having a perfect event. She was busy whispering into the ears of her younger sister, asking if all the guests had had enough to eat and so she failed to notice when he, in the presence of his family members and hers, with a loud, almost pained voice, said, “after the exorbitant amount of money I have spent on her bride price, she better gives me plenty of sons”. She was reeling in shock from her sister’s claim that they were running out of egusi soup, and so, she also failed to notice the collective ‘ah’ and ‘na so’ that resonated from the side of his family and her mother’s small voice saying, “she will give you many sons, don’t worry”.
The first time he hit her, they had been on a short vacation in the second month of their marriage, after she had told him that she did not want to start trying for children immediately. She wanted him to choose between using a condom and her using the pill. After the beating, he had bought her ice cream and a necklace and had told her that he loved her, he would never again do anything to hurt her. She bought the story and forgave him.
The second time he hit her, she had recently returned from the hospital after having their first daughter. He muttered as he climbed unto her that their next child had better be a boy, and she ignorantly said, “what if it’s a girl, is there anything wrong with having female children?” This time, there was no ice cream, no necklace, and no claim of unending love. And because she tried to fight back, he made sure to beat her every single day afterwards, until he was certain that he had broken her.
Also, he stopped being gentle in the bedroom.