Two women in an abusive marriage finds it hard to leave their partners
“Oh God,” he cried into his hands. “Oh God.”
He looked up at her and to her surprise his face was wet with tears. “I could kill myself, Timi. I didn’t know what I was doing. Jesus, I didn’t know what came over me. I’m terribly, terribly sorry. You know I didn’t mean to do that. I -”
His voice broke and he buried his face in his hands again, his body shaking with barely suppressed devastation. “You have to forgive me, Timi. I’ll go if you don’t want to see me aver again –”
Go? She thought with a panicky clutch in her chest. But why, it was only a mistake. “It’s okay, Yomi.” She put tentative arms around his heaving body. “It’s fine.”
He looked up at her, his face tearfully contrite, snot dribbling down his nose and into his lips. “Are you sure?”
She nodded, and had to stifle a wince when he grasped her to him and kissed her. “Thank you! It would never happen again.”
Within the warm confines of the chrome and glass restaurant, Timileyin Julo sat at the table closest to the wall as she nursed a bottle of malt, looking out the glass walls at the heaving street outside. She was glad she was the first to arrive, giving herself ample time to get herself together and banish her nervousness. God knows how she had managed to get out of the house after another one of Yomi’s sporadic rages, but she hadn’t wanted to miss the afternoon get-together with her friends.
She needed to see them; even though her left eye pulsed painfully under her dark shades. Even though her cheek still throbbed from that unexpected slap. She needed them, they were the only bright spot in the rubbish heap of her life. In the rubbish mess she’d made of her life.
Why, she used to be an ambitious girl, someone who loved and ate and breathed the world of high finance. Until she’d allowed Yomi to upend everything and somehow she’d been reduced to absolutely nothing.
If only she’d done something about it the very first time, or the second, or even the tenth time. If only she’d walked out, gone to her parents or whoever, refuse to live with him, but she’d been too desperately in love with him and she kept on telling herself she just needed to understand him more. Need to go out less, need to cook his meals perfectly, need to stop working. She had chosen not to leave, and now this was the bed she had made for herself, her own doing and therefore she wouldn’t complain.
Maybe she shouldn’t have come, she thought, nervously swirling her straw in the bottle. She ought to have stayed away until her face was marginally back to normal. If either of them noticed her eyes or her lips – she touched it gingerly, ran her finger over the split – they’ll know. And the shame would just be too much. But before she’d talked herself out of waiting for her friends and heading back home, she saw Moyo’s Ford Explorer pull into the restaurants parking lot. Adjusting her shades so it covered the purplish streaks around her eye socket, she fixed a warm smile on her face and waved when Moyo clattered inside.
She wore a shocking red dress that glowed with newness and showed all her curves. Yomi would have a fit if Timi had dared going out of the house like that.
“That’s our birthday girl!” Timi rose, walked around the table to give her friend a hug. “Happy birthday.”
“Belated birthday,” Moyo corrected ruefully. “You don’t get to say ‘Happy birthday’ since you couldn’t make time to see me that day.”
“I’m sorry. I… had to –”
“Just say Yomi didn’t allow you to step out.”
Timi’s mouth opened to voice out her protest, then closed. She sighed, “You’re right.”
Moyo smiled, ready to pretend that was a normal thing. “What are you having?”
“Malt. I was waiting for you girls.”
Just then Carol walked in, and her stride across the restaurant floor observed by the staff and most of the other diners. Tall, pretty and sophisticated, she exuded an aura of quiet confidence. She gave a wide smile when she spotted Timi and Moyo.
“Beautiful,” she nodded at Moyo’s dress as she settled, then frowned at Timi. “What’s with the shades?”
Timi shifted uneasily. “I just felt like it.”
The three of them had been best of friends since their secondary school years. They’d gone through University, marriage and child birth together. And every fortnight, they made time to meet and have a mini get-together party.
“No, you mustn’t feel like it.” Carol shook her head, her shiny hair swinging in a sleek bob. “The only people allowed to wear them inside dark restaurants are celebrities or people who had just received beatings from –” She stopped suddenly, her eyes widening, her mouth opened slightly. She’d known.
“What happened again?” Moyo whispered.
“I used too much lipstick,” Timi replied hollowly.
“And that’s why he punched your eye?” Carol asked.
“No, it…” Timi adjusted her shades. “It was actually a slap. His ring caught my socket.”
In the silence that ensued, Timi occupied herself playing with her straw while Carol and Moyo looked at her.
“You need to leave him.” Moyo said finally. She was the balance amongst the three of them. With Carol being temperamental and Timi being more than a little laid back, Moyo was just in the middle. She was gentle, and tactful and sensible. Now her sense was talking. “You need to pack your things and leave that house.”
Timi chewed her straw nervously. “After three kids.”
“So?” Carol demanded. “Take them and leave. Do you want him to kill you?”
“He wouldn’t kill me. It’s unintentional, he has… anger management issues.”
“So you’ve said countless times! Shouldn’t he have been healed by now?” Carol hooted, in outrage. “Didn’t you say he was seeing a psychologist at Ibadan?”
It was a lie but Timi had used it to hold her friends off when they’d appeared in her house one morning ready to pack out her belongings after one of Yomi’s ministrations had caused a miscarriage.
“Y-yes,” Timi said feebly. “But you know those things take time. They don’t work like magic, you know?”
“Leave him, Timileyin,” Moyo repeated, a little more forcibly. “Enough of this.”
“And we’re sick of your excuses,” Carol said with unexpected fury. “I mean, look at you, Timi. You’re a mess. That good for nothing man has taken away all your self-worth. You don’t care about things you used to anymore. You stopped working, you wouldn’t go anywhere except for an hour lunch with us.” Angry tears had started to run down her face. “Look at your hair! Look at your clothes! You look like Suni, my house girl. What is wrong with you?”
Timi’s heart banged in her chest. “But I can’t leave him.” The thought alone was brewing a headache. A life without Yomi? What would become of her? It was like being told to jump into the lagoon. “We love each other…”
“You’re talking like a moron.” Carol spat.
“And what does my being with him have to do with you?” Timi spat back, desperately wishing she had saved herself this agony and stayed at home.
“I want you to be happy.”
“I’m happy!” Timi shouted, her throat burning. Tears had sprung into her eyes too. “You are the one that should worry. With your husband that can’t keep his trousers zipped. At least I know my husband is faithful to me.” Too much pent-up emotion slopped over as she took an angry, choking breath. “He never gets you anything, instead he uses your money to service his extra marital affairs. He has no regard for you and you think showing up here, all shiny and beautiful would cover that fact. You are the one that should leave her husband.”
Carol shot up, her chair falling with a crash and again, drawing the attention of people in the restaurant. She spun around and without another word marched out of the restaurant.
“I shouldn’t have said that,” Timi said, horrified. The rage had vanished just as quickly as it appeared. “Oh, I shouldn’t have. God, why didn’t I just say I had a headache and stayed back at home?”
“It’s good you came,” Moyo said softly, the sadness of everything trembled in her voice like tears. “And Carol would be fine. But I’m worried about you.”
Carol slammed the door of her car and marched up the terrace without responding to the security man running after her, calling a greeting. In the house, she stomped in, yanked off her shoes and held a hand up at Suni, who had also hurried out to greet her. Suni, well aware of her Madams temperament slinked back. Carols temper wasn’t the type that boiled and then cooled, it was a hot simmering thing that rose and rose until it spilled out and over anyone close by.
Stupid, idiotic, dumb girl. She fumed, as she took the steps, two at once. Why did she have to keep trying to get through to her? It wouldn’t be her business if Timi got herself killed because she was just too stupid. She flung open the door to her room, and found Goke, her husband of five-and-a-half-years, sitting up on the bed, riffling through the day’s paper.
He looked up at her, his expression a blend of annoyance and bemusement. “What is it again?” he asked.
“That girl would kill herself.” She tossed her purse on the bed, yanked off her earrings. “And I’m not going to cry at her funeral.”
“Mm...” Came the reply.
“Wouldn’t you say anything?” she asked, turning to look at her husband whose face was glued to his paper again. He was an averagely built, gradually balding, standoffish man. His love for asun and Gulder was manifested in his rapidly growing paunch. And, as Timi had rightfully said, his love for young girls had begun to worry her.
“What do you want me to say?” He mumbled. “You said she’ll die. So okay.”
Carol bristled. “Do you even know who I’m talking about?”
“You didn’t tell me.”
She wanted to stomp out of their bedroom too, but she knew that would cause more problem than solve the issue at hand. She decided to push Timi’s issue aside. Here was her husband who never hit her or shout at her or stop her from wearing beautiful clothes.
“So,” she asked as peeled of her blouse, sucking her stomach in. “Did you miss me?”
Now, he looked up. His face puzzled. “Why?”
“I went out,” she responded playfully, flashing him her purple Chromat bra, the one that always made her breasts look perky. “You should miss me.”
His eyes ran over her, lingering slightly on her stomach. She tried to suck them a little more, but they wouldn’t go in further. “Did you take ice-cream at your outing?”
“I didn’t eat anything, Goke, we hadn’t – ”
“Good,” he interrupted. “Your stomach is beginning to look as if you are pregnant. Cut the food, start exercising.”
“I am exercising, Goke. I spend hours at the gym.” The confidence people associated with her had slipped, to be replaced with insecurity, and paranoia. “You should try to commend my efforts once in a while.”
“Of course, I do,” he declared mildly. “Didn’t I tell you your hair is fuller than Mini’s own?”
Mini was his colleague at work, and someone who knew Yomi, just as intimately as Carol did. Maybe more. She sighed. There was no reason pointing out that he’d just compared her to one of his flings. Again. His demeaning response was always, “Ah, but you are the original one, those ones are just for fun.”
Desperate for any form of reassurance, she crawled into the bed and across his laps.
He squirmed and gently but firmly pushed her away. “What is it, Carol?”
“I missed you,” She twinkled, but the playful look on her face wobbled and disappeared when Goke laughed incredulously, extracted his laps from beneath her and walked out of the room.
Shivering, she wrapped her arms around herself feeling humiliated, dehumanized and worthless.
She tried to move away, but he grasped her waist and hoisted her on the bed.
“Please,” Her skirt was pushed up, and he pushed himself into her despite her dry resistance. Painful. But not as much as the fire burning in her chest. “I need to go to the hospital.”
She heard her own voice; small, pathetic, helpless.
Why had she let it come to this?
“I’m in pain –”
“Shut. Up.” Ground between intense grunts.
Instantly she quietened, and let him batter his way inside her, even though the pain slashing at her sides made her feel like vomiting. She was probably bleeding inside somewhere, her ribs could be broken, she could be dying… but he had to finish first.
Why, why had she done this to herself? To her children?
Carol couldn’t stop screaming. She flung her phone – the bearer of bad news against the wall – and pushed her back against the wall. Screaming.
Goke tore in, Suni and the security man in his wake. “What happened?” His eyes were wide as he crouched in front of Carol and shook her. “Stop shouting, what happened? Who did you see?”
“He killed her. He killed her,” she spluttered.
“Timi. He… has killed… Timi,” Carol managed between racking sobs. “Oh, my God, Goke –”
Goke released her arms. “Is that why you were screaming like that?” He looked thunderous. “For God sake, we knew she had it coming.”
Shock stunned her into silence. She stared at Goke, wondering if he misunderstood her.
“Aren’t you even surprise she lasted this long,” he said, waving those standing at the doorway away. “Such a drama queen.”
Just then, as if her face was wiped with water, she saw everything. Plain and clear. Abuse doesn’t have to be physical. It could come in form of emotional battering.
“I’m leaving you,” she heard herself whisper, barely aware of the tears running down her face.
He frowned. “Where are you going?”
“Away. Away from the toxic life I had with you.” Oh God, the years she’d spent lying to herself, convincing herself that she just had to change to please him. The wasted years. She’d watched herself mutate from a care-free, self-sufficient woman to someone who depended on his bitter, hateful endorsements. But she was putting an end to that now. “You should be glad we don’t have kids.” But Timi had, what would happen to them?
She rose wearily, “I’ll come for my things.” she said leaving Goke staring open mouthed as walked out, heading to Moyo’s house to mourn the friend that hadn’t been lucky to leave when she could.