Ezinne gingerly eased the pot off the stove unto the tabletop gas cooker, it had been 3 months since she last used the cooker, the gas in the cylinder was exhausted and she hadn’t gotten the courage to ask her husband for money for a refill, at least he had been kind enough to give her money weekly for food and other household necessities. She sighed, he was going through a rough time, she told herself. Their travails had began exactly a year after their wedding when his mother suddenly passed on, the night before her delivery.
It was strange and scary to her, why would his mother die the night before she put to bed? So while for her it was scary, for her husband and his relatives it was unacceptable. As far as they were concerned Ezinne was the witch that took the woman’s life in place of hers so that she would not die at child birth. She had overheard her husband’s younger sister, Osisioma telling her husband that at the hospital, and sincerely she didn’t want to believe he would consider it let alone believe it but then everything he did, every word he said, every action he projected, every glare at her since she had their child, Chizaram portrayed those words. She would have confronted Osisioma but that would only confirm that she was a witch otherwise how would she have heard what they were saying standing by the door of her ward in the hospital when she was supposedly sleeping, but she hadn’t been asleep. Her body had been tired from the labour of childbirth but her mind had been active, taking in her environment and the people who she thought loved her and were right there with her. Her husband, his sister Osisioma and her husband, Samantha and her husband, her husband’s younger brother Ikechukwu. In the few minutes the rest of the clan went out to give her space to sleep, her husband and his sister stayed back pretending to watch over her for a while before his sister burst out on what she had been thinking.
Ezinne was sure it was the news of her mother-in-laws’ death that had caused her to go into early labour but none of them was any wiser to give that any consideration. The woman had treated her the same way she would treat her own daughter so why would she want her dead, her death had given her the creeps, the woman had gone to bed in good health but didn’t find the strength to wake up the next morning. Three months after her death, her mother, Chukwuma’s grandmother passed on and that was when Chukwuma lost it completely, it was then that the everyday shouting and insults graduated into everyday slapping, punching and raping. Now there was no one to help her, hadn’t she gone against her father’s direction not to marry the man rather to finish her education and become the artist she had always loved to be. She strolled to the balcony to take some fresh air, the cool breeze felt good on her skin, it caressed her, the palm trees hummed silently, she could hear its silent hum despite all the noise in the street adjacent to their building, her fingers longed to paint, it longed for her spatula and colours but it was gloom that filled her heart.
She saw Chizaram run across the yard, she was followed closely but Adesanya, the son of a neighbor. Subconsciously her eyes wandered to the front of Adesanya’s house and she could see his father and mother playing chess and laughing. In her mind she could hear the woman’s strong voice, the voice of a woman with confidence. Why wouldn’t she be confident? When her husband carried her like she was an egg. The woman worked in a bank yet had her husband’s loyalty. It reminded her of her father. She smiled sadly, if only she had listened to him. He was one man filled with the wisdom of Solomon, even after his wife’s death, he remained single, no scandal. It wasn’t as if she or her siblings would have objected to his taking another wife, he chose to serve God the rest of his days. She didn’t think such men still existed in her generation.