“Come, let’s get you settled in” Titi’s voice echoed in her head as Ezinne watched her chance to a better life vamoosed from before her sight. A part of her wanted to run after her and leave behind Titi’s voice but her legs refused to move, she just stood there, still, like her entire life had come to a halt. It was exactly as she felt, trapped. No plans for the future, no more hope for something better, she could hear the emptiness inside of her, the void which no amount of encouragements could feel. She felt Titi’s arm on her lower back urging her to turn around and move towards the house. She allowed the woman nudge her towards the house.
The closer she got to the stairs the deeper the hollow in her heart became, leaving her an empty shell. All the money in the world meant nothing to her, not even the love for her daughter filled the hole rather it seemed to cut deeper edges to the side of the hollow, leaving in its wake an unapologetic excruciating pain.
She grimaced when she lifted her leg to take the first staircase
“you will be fine” she heart Titi say, her voice sounded afar off even though she was right behind her, how was that even possible, who says a person walking into the lion’s den would be fine? “My family will be there for you this time”
She cringed within her, she didn’t want anyone fighting her battles, infact she didn’t want to fight any more battles. After four months with no threats or violence, her five years of marriage felt like another lifetime. A lifetime she didn’t want to remember talk more of going back to. Her daughter’s voice at the top of the stairs awakened her from her trance-like walk. She bounded the steps in twos and enclosed her daughter in a hold-me-forever embrace. She began to conceive the thought of turning back and leaving with her daughter at this moment but when she lifted her face, he was standing there with the broadest and surely the most mischievous grin spread across his chocolate dark face. She gnarled, instantly in the mood to see him in tears or groaning in some kind of pain.
He wore only trousers and tucked him hands in the pocket of his pants, she blinked, surely he had had a t-shirt on while on the verandah, what was he up to? She looked below the stairs to see Titi frowning in distaste. Her eyes went from Titi to her husband, the shirtless body wasn’t for her, it was for Titi. He was trying to get her to stay away from his house. Ezinne hissed loudly, rather than get angry in his usual manner he cocked her head to the left his grin broadened and his stance firmer, daring Titi to come into his apartment and questioning what she would do.
Ezinne let go of her hold on Chizaram and went down the stairs to bring Mrs. Akinwande with her, she was done playing his games and dancing to his tunes, now it was her turn, freedom tasted too good to be kicked to the side curbs. When she got to the top of the stairs where he stood, she faced him glaring at him with eyes laced with unabashed challenge, daring him to maintain his stance on her pathway. He bulged and moved to the side to let her through, the grin still plastered on his face. It was a matter of time and he would break her again and cause her to submit to his will. Freedom must have sharpened her edges but he was stronger, he told himself and let go of her challenge.
The entire house stank and there were bottles opposite the sofa, without being told she guessed that it was where he sat and probably set up camp since he returned from the hospital. There were also some take away packs in the sitting room, asides the pizza box on the dinning table. Her face registered its disgust.
“this place is a mess” Titi said turning to cast a questioning look at Chukwuma who just stepped into the house with his left hand still resting safely in his pant pocket while he used his righ hand to close the door. He shrugged at her question, “that’s why I have a wife” he replied, and took a prideful stride past his wife making sure his shoulder brushed hers slightly, Titi watched Ezinne roll her lower lip into her teeth and held it there, certain it was an attempt to prevent herself from spitting words in anger.
“Dear can you please excuse us?” her eyes pleaded with Ezinne to leave them, she needed to deal with his attitude before Ezinne snapped again.
Titi beackoned on him to take a seat, while she took an opposite sofa.
“you should learn to treat your wife right, you have an awesome gift there and rather than take care of her, you are hurting her.”
He remained silent, staring at the floor while she spoke, Titi was not sure he heard anything she said but she hoped against hope that he did.