The blood on her face appeared to have a mind of its own like it was set to expose her. It was quite frustrating and an unwelcome herculean task having to rub and massage her face so roughly to get the dried cake of blood off, coupled with flashing images of her husband lying on the kitchen floor, helpless. She stuck on the word helpless; it was a word she didn’t believe existed in Chukwuma’s dictionary, except for today she couldn’t remember him ever being helpless. He was just that man who commanded her to obey, fear him and do all his biddings.
“Mum, when are we going home? I am hungry”
“Oh dear” she groaned, how had she forgotten that her child had to eat, I am such a terrible mother, she thought helplessly, what mother forgot to ensure that their child didn’t go hungry? She asked herself.
“We would get you something once we get out. What do you want to eat?”
“I want gala” Chizaram said with a smile, she had seen all those women hawking snacks and it had been a while since she had one of those and since today she was being given the opportunity to make a choice, she grabbed it with both hands.
“Done!” Ezinne responded, matching her daughter’s enthusiasm with a genuine smile. The feeling of freedom was completely overwhelming. She could feel the warmth and joy in the pit of her belly.
With a final scrub of her palm against her face the blood was off, so was the slight make-up- actually just powder, which she was almost certain had worn itself off a long time ago- she had worn in the morning.
The ringing of her phone gave her a jolt, almost causing her to fall over. In panic she rummaged her bag searching frantically for the phone, it was difficult to find it within all that cloth she stuffed in the bag. By the second ring she had located it, the caller ID showed that it was Titi. Did the woman know? Or maybe she had visited and didn’t see her. With shaky hands she picked the phone.
“Ezinne!” she called, half expecting a hysteric woman at the other end of the conversation.
“Ma” Ezinne replied fearful, she could practically hear the thumping of her heart in her chest, she glanced at Chizaram certain that the girl could sense her apprehension and being that she was pretty smart, she was careful in her words, there was no need letting her daughter in on her mess.
“Oh, thank God! Where are you?” the woman was careful, she wasn’t sure it was Ezinne who stabbed her husband- or rather she hoped her suspicion wouldn’t be confirmed- from all indications it had to be Ezinne. Other than the kitchen and rooms every other place was in perfect serenity, the rooms and the kitchen were the only places thrown in disarray. From the looks of it, she had seen that Ezinne was preparing lunch at the time the incident occurred and with the little she knew of Chukwuma she was certain he had attacked Ezinne and something had let up within her, the tamed demon that had been bidding its time. Who could blame a battered woman for fighting back against her assailant especially when one felt completely hopeless and had her back against the wall?
“I am fine ma, thank you for everything…” she started to say.
“No, no, Ezinne, this can’t be a goodbye. No you have to say the goodbyes face to face” Titi cut her short, there was no way she was taking a goodbye over the phone, besides she needed to make sure the other lady was ok and satisfy herself that Ezinne’s actions had nothing to do with anything she said or did yesterday or anything that was said in church today.
“I am really sorry ma but I didn’t intend for it to happen” she fought back the tears cautious of her daughter’s eyes on her. “I just really need to live, to breath again. One of us had to and it couldn’t be me, if it was me, who would take care of my daughter? He would bring a new woman within a day and make my daughter’s life miserable. One of us had to live” she turned away from Chizaram and sobbed silently.
“shhh, I understand dear, completely, believe me. I don’t know what it is like to be in your shoes but I need you to be strong, for Chizaram.
“Thank you ma, I hope God would forgive me”
“Ehm, actually we took him to the hospital and the doctors have stabilized him and I think he would survive,” came the reply at the other end. A silence passed between them, Ezinne didn’t know whether to smile or cry, whether to be grateful or not, somewhere in her heart she had felt a little relief that he was gone and that she made that happen but the human side of her accused her of so many wrongs, wrongs which she could have avoided had she been patient with God before jumping into marriage. Well it was too late for regrets now, wasn’t it?
“I know you can’t come back but at least let me help you set up yourself, let me help you start afresh. It would be our little secret. Please for the sake of Chizaram.” Titi pleaded, she hadn’t discussed it with her husband and wasn’t sure he would buy the idea, but she was desperate not to let a potentially beautiful soul go to waste.
Ezinne nodded like the woman could see her, she couldn’t stop the tears from flowing anymore, all the front she had put up suddenly broke down and melted away. It was like her tears was the purifier, the woman’s words went deep within her soul beyond all the walls she had laid up these years to keep her heart from feeling. It was the same softness that had made her realize she was still human and led her to fight back without intending to kill yet she had fought carelessly.
“Thank you for making me feel like a human again, but I need sometime to get back myself, to be me again, to live and breathe. I haven’t had me in a while. I am completely broken”
“Sweetheart, I know you are broken but no amount of years and time can fix that, only Jesus can. Please let us give him a chance to heal you and mold your daughter into the beautiful woman God has destined her to be”
Ezinne smiled sadly and turned to look at her daughter who had wandered away, she could see her walking down the hallway through the doorway, which she had left open when she stepped out of the bathroom and left her daughter to her conversation.
“I, I… would take you up on that please. Please let me talk to you later.” She didn’t hang up before she threw the phone in her bag and raced after her daughter, in one swoop she lifted the tiny legs off the ground unto her right shoulder and returned to the bathroom to wash off the tears that had stained her face.