” For better, for worse…”
* * *
It started so beautifully; like all mothers of fairy tales, and for just three years, and then his soft touches began to hurt and his tender smiles became devilish smug. The nights cuddled together in bed, bearing dreams full of stars turned to Gothic red-mooned nightmares. The moments she felt butterflies in her tummy transformed to bugs in her gut. Their love slowly faded away like the lipstick stain on a rain beaten wall, until for better became worse.
Ifedayo sniffed what remained of the fragrance of the shrinking red rose flowers in the ceramic pot by the sitting room window. She wondered how something so divine, carefully crafted by God Himself and so close to His heart could lose its beauty- if not watered.
She had been so busy she hadn’t noticed; when the flowers begged for water and laid down their crowns to plead for sunshine. She guiltily placed the pot on the table beside the window, hoping it could be revived. We would later get to know that her marriage so much depended on it.
They had been so busy they hadn’t noticed; the words left unsaid, kept in the closet of negligence and tagged with “We’ll talk about it when I get back from work” had turned into a mess- a mass of decayed elements that snuffed out the air out of their marriage. No wonders the flowers were dying; no wonders everything around them were dying. He lost his job but she never had one for he made her a sit-at-home full house wife. She sometimes delighted in her husband’s loss of his job, a thing she should have been guilty about. Her hope was that, it will create the time to talk about the shelved issues. She had been wrong, rather things became worse. You can swear by God she felt more guilty…Oh! Yes! She did. The many tearful nights that resulted were in hope she could wash away her guilt. Her incessant sobs irritated her husband, Adetunji, the more, making him to turn the sitting room to his bed room.
Then Adetunji started breaking plates and cups to prove his points. He started hitting the wall at any burst of anger during many of their heated conversations, and she wondered if he had wished it was her body he pounded on. Like always, she felt guilty again
I shouldn’t have made him mad. I shouldn’t have said this, I shouldn’t have said that. If he wasn’t ready to talk, I shouldn’t have forced him. He’s my husband; I’m his wife. I should listen if he wants to talk, and shut up, if he wasn’t!
So, she often thought like a guilty and wretched bastard!
To her surprise and of course the whole world, Adetunji frequented church more often, even than she did. Yes, the whole world noticed, for the name of the church he attended was ‘The Global Church of God’- the globe can be interchanged with the world, or earth, you know.
But he never behaved like a church man. He would wake up as early as 4 a.m to pray but wouldn’t wake his wife to join him. He never did pray for his wife. I hope that son of a bitch rot in hell!
One early Saturday morning, around 4.a.m., she was still sleeping and didn’t hear him knock at the door. He was coming from a vigil in Church. When she eventually woke up and went to open the door for him. He responded to her greetings with a very hot slap. Then she realized it had begun. She wasn’t wrong this time, he had tested the waters and it boosted his ego. Ifedayo became a punching bag; he needed not go to any gym. His home became a boxing ring, only that the opponent was a weaker vessel.
One morning, he woke up his wife. Ifedayo was surprised at his soft touch.
“It’s time for morning devotion honey.”
Morning devotion? Wonders shall never end in this house. Ifedayo thought. She was hoping it was going to be a new beginning for them. She had thought an angel appeared to him in a dream and whispered or even hollered into his ears, “Tunji! Tunji!! Stop beating your wife or I will smite you with the sword!”
The man of the house began his exultation, and it was on the issue of marriage.
“The Bible says the only authentic and genuine and legal ground for a Christian woman to get divorced and get sent back to her father’s house is when she’d committed adultery” Adetunji preached, looking straight into her brown eyes.
What’s he getting at? Did he catch me cheating on him? Me?
Those thoughts ransacked her mind, as if unsure of herself.
He continued, “but you are a woman that doesn’t have the gut. Of all your faults, infidelity is not one.”
So, pastor, what are you driving at?
“So, don’t let it ever cross your mind…you can’t ask for a divorce. It’s in my hands.”
Ifedayo took in a very deep breath.
“Let’s share the grace.” He closed.
Since that day, anytime a thought of divorce crossed her mind, she dismissed it as the work of the devil and tried evading such thoughts by overworking herself- washing her husband’s clothes, used and unused; and plates used and unused. After all an idle hand is the devil’s workshop.
One unfortunate morning, Ifedayo served her husband breakfast on the dining room table, and only God knew the devil that steered her to go carry the water meant for her husband to the sitting room and wet the flowers in the pot- the flowers she hoped to revive.
She had never been to space, but she had a glimpse of it when Adetunji’s slap landed hard on her face. What was meant to bring her back from her daydream rather boycotted the realm of consciousness into an interstellar space.
She could only hear faintly the sound of the crashing flower pot, and all she just wished for was that some alien should appear and elope with her, he does not need to be handsome, he just needed to be an alien, not from this world- for she was tired of life.
Later that day, Ifedayo made a call to one of her friends, Emeka; he used to be her only boyfriend. He never scored with her as Emeka usually said, and the pressure for sex made her to dump him then, in school. So, Ifedayo married Adetunji, a virgin- what else did he want from her?
Emeka had been calling Ifedayo for quite sometimes now, and she had refused to see him.
“Emeka, do you want to score some goals?”
There was silence at the other end of the line.
“Come quick to my house right now, before the final whistle.”
“Your…hus-band..is he-” he stammered.
“Don’t worry, he traveled, and won’t be back till next week. Come now before I change my mind.”
She lied, she knew by the time Emeka will get to her place, it will be the same time Adetunji will get back from his job search.
Adetunji came in to find the door of the house opened wide. He was furious and ready to pounce on his lazy wife again, knowing she will be sleeping in bed. He took giant strides that was at par with his throbbing head…
He stood cold at the door of the bedroom when he saw another man on top of his wife.
The man ran out of the house when he sighted Adetunji, but his ‘innocent’ wife- Ifedayo just laid on the bed, unashamed, and without a hint of remorse.
“I want a divorce.” She said.
He jumped on her and beat her he thought she was going to die. He didn’t leave until he was sure he had left her a scar, a memorabilia of her unfaithful act- he broke her arm.
The next morning, Adetunji missed his morning devotion, he was angry with his pastor, his Church, himself, his life, his wife and even God. Sometimes he saw himself like a madman. He took his bath and to his surprise the dining table was set, breakfast ready.
How could she have managed to prepare food with her hand broken?
Ifedayo had gone to the hospital a few hours after her hand had been broken by her husband. She came back, not only with her arms in a cast, but with something else.
She noticed as her husband dragged his feet to the dinning room and took a seat opposite her.
She wished him to wash his hands, that he be washed of his sins. God knows, she would have wrenched and thrown up into his food, so he wouldn’t have to eat it. But he didn’t even look the food twice, he thought she wanted to poison him.
“The son of a bitch will not renounce his sins and be washed clean?” She thought.
She’s god now, and it’s time for justice to be done. She asked her husband,
“Adetunji, do you remember the vows we took on our wedding day? You do only quote it in part. ‘ For better for worse.”
She paused to make her message register.
“Till death do us part.”
She brought out an automatic pistol, and before Adetunji’s muscles could twitch, she pulled the trigger and he fell back, the chair with him with his head scattered on the floor.
Ifedayo drew the water closer to wash her hands; of her sins and guilt. She then pulled the food closer. She observed a moment of prayer; not to bless the food, but to ask for forgiveness as she took a lump of the Semovita and dipped it into the efo-riro she had poisoned, and swallowed it. The blood that gushed out of her dead spouse’s scattered brain didn’t make her lose appetite; after all it was her last supper.
* * *
“Did she die granny?” asked Anthonia.
“Too much what’s it you children of these days put in your ears can cause a loud Jezebel screaming in your ears that you become deaf.” Grandma replied.
“Mama decibel, a unit of the measure of the intensity of sound, not Jezebel.” Corrected her grandson, Steven.
“Listen to me you two. You think I will be on your side because you are my grandson? Please, don’t turn into a beast that will hurt this girl. Hian! Beasts are ugly.”
Then grandma turned to Anthonia,
“And you princess. Don’t you ever turn this gentleman into what he’s not. I watched him grew up and I know him well. Fan his love into flames; don’t wake up the beast in him.”
The young lovers looked at grandma’s wrinkled face and a head seasoned with grey hair.
“As much as I love you two, think it through before you take that vow before God and His people tomorrow. If you are not ready now, you can wait till the year you are sure…even if I’m dead and I’m not around when you eventually tie the knot, I will rest well.”
Grandma looked from the deep, warning eyes of his grandson to the smiling, soulful eyes of his soon to be bride, and asked her,
“Do you know he smokes?”
Anthonia’s eyes widened in surprise.
“Ah! I thought as much.” Grandma inferred.
Steven walked out on them. As Grandma watched Steven walked out of the Grey Center for The Old, Yaba, Lagos., she looked at Anthonia with a warmth in her eyes that a mother hen will hope for under her wings for her chicks on a cold December night, trailed by words that tugged at the strings of her weak but broad heart,
“I’m not saying this because I don’t like you. You can swear by Almighty God I do, Oh! I do, and you know it.”
She looked into the now tearful eyes of Anthonia, as if for a reassurance.
“I know my grandson well, he will tell you I’m senile and I say whatever I like because I have no one to talk to. But that’s not true, my best friend was just wheeled away to his grave yesterday, we had a great time talking with each other.”
Anthonia smiled, “Thank you ma.”
Anthonia got out of the building to meet a defensive Steven ranting,
“Baby, don’t mind mama. She’s getting senile…and she probably made that story up! That’s what a long time not talking to somebody does to you.”
Anthonia shook her head and said,
“She does really know you well.”
With that, she walked away.
Steven ran after her,
“Please, babe…don’t walk away.”
Anthonia turned back to look into her lover’s eyes and folded her arms across her chest.
“I just have my fears Steve, and I know you have yours too, but we don’t talk about them. We only discuss ideas, not our emotions.”
Steven drew nearer to her, humbled and replied,
“Now, let’s talk.”
* * *
“For better, for worse; till death do us part.”