With the group session starting in about 5 minutes, Lara had same amount of time to contemplate if she would stay or run. Sessions like these were strange to her and every woman in the room looked too okay to have issues like hers or similar to. Looking at her watch, she realized time had trickled down to 2 minutes. It was now or never. A part of her wanted to satisfy her curiosity and listen to what this counselling session had to offer while the other, that had always taken control, wanted to leave and keep bearing the secret hurt and pain. Endurance was the word. Life had finally taught her the true meaning of patience or what more would one call ‘waiting for a child for 20 years’? It was still a miracle she was not depressed yet though right now, Lara was hanging on a thin line of hope. A minute more and Lara was still glued to her chair. What would hurt if she stayed? Her pride? That had been tarnished years ago.
One of the perks of marrying a gentle man was the peace Lara had in her home. Life was heaven on earth in year 2000 when she decided to cleave to her best friend. He was initially just a colleague at work though not in the same department. Their friendship gradually moved up the ladder till they could not do without communicating every day. Her husband, John, was more of her haven from wiles of life, work and family. Turned out that her inability to give him a child could turn her best friend to just a house mate. Gentle John was still gentle but frustrated. Who would not be? They had spent millions both in spiritual and scientific spheres of life to no avail. Her John did not abuse her or rather he did not physically abuse her. His words and actions hit home more than a slap. When in a heated argument, John always concluded saying her stubbornness was affecting her inability to conceive. Yes, she had never even conceived and lost it. To her surprise, he did not cheat neither did he divorce her which she expected after their 10 years’ marriage anniversary. Lara could not put all the blame on him. She had her own part in pouring out her frustrations on all and sundry including gentle John especially when he refused to support her adoption idea. It was no surprise she gradually lost her friends and confidants. No one wanted to hang around a bitter frustrated woman. Just this morning, he looked so relieved she was leaving the house that she almost cried. Her best friend could not stand her anymore so what was there to be proud of at the moment?
Lara came out of her reverie soon to hear everyone introducing themselves. This group session had a total number of 10 individuals of which 8 were females and surprisingly, the rest were males. Her curiosity piqued as she looked at the males. She was so interested in what they had to say. Males had it all figured out in her own opinion but this session was about shattering mindsets built over years. Beside she was a woman who looked too thin and tired for her liking. In fact, as she looked around, her problems began to shrink in size. Her life may not be that bad after all.
Kate let out a long breath and continued counting her wares. If this is what it means to be free, she was all for it. Most times, woes and situations make one believe they are the only one passing through life’s hurdles but today, Kate knew she was not the only one. They were many. They were many women who suffered in the hands of a man that professed to love them. How would they explain why they endured such from a beast of a man? It is strange to others but where she came from, Kate knew leaving her husband’s house was worse than being abused. Maybe it was time to face it, single women were scorned at in this country. If that was all, she would have found a way to cope but children of single women were also maltreated and bullied in and out of school. It may sound odd and stupid but Kate would stay and endure all if to save her only child, Chris.
Recently, Chris had seemed too withdrawn for her comfort. Probably, he is creating a coping mechanism in a wildfire of a house. Kate had tried getting him to open up but he would either hug her suddenly or change topic to something of his interest. That was why she always made sure she mentioned his name to his father’s face when they argue. Kate wanted Chris’ name to keep ringing in the ears of his father as his father landed his first blow, second and numerous after on her. At first she received the blows with no resistance or counter attacks but soon, she began to show him she was not a sheep led to the slaughter. Kate fought back every time with every being in her, leaving a satisfactory mark on him at all times with her teeth. This was not how she envisioned her marriage while entering it years before phones were introduced into Nigeria. Women have been brain-washed to endure all things in their matrimonial homes all in the name of sustaining the homes. Prior to her wedding, aunties and cousins took it upon themselves to scare her with stories of whatever they faced in their own marriages and how they endured and are still enduring. The bottom-line was that she should keep her home at all costs. At all costs had cost her miscarriages and hospital admissions and right now, is costing her mental health. As she reminisced the story of her life, her phone vibrated on her laps. It was Jeff, her husband calling her for the fifth time. If he wished, he could call her all day. Her sanity was much more important than his needs at this moment. Her phone began vibrating again and Kate let out a sigh that attracted the attention of one of her clients. This was the second time she was counting afresh the same goods. She needed to focus so she stood up and excused herself. Immediately her phone rang the seventh time, she picked. All Kate could hear was an intense breathing. So intense that she initially thought he was with one of his numerous thin-legged side chicks and called to hurt her but he had never done that before. If Jeff started this kind of madness, she would let all hell loose. There was much a woman could endure. She cut the call and turned to return to the session when her phone rang again. As Kate picked the call, she let out a string of words on her thoughts about him and once again included that she endured him because of the child they shared. All she heard in return was that intense breathing on which she cut the call and switched off her phone. As she stepped inside, her thoughts went to her son, the only light in her life presently. He would be a graduate in 2 years’ time, get a job and leave the hell of a house. That time, Jeff would never know what hit him because she was going to leave him as quickly as his next breath.
Grace walked out of the church service more agitated than before. It seemed every man of God she met thought she was demon possessed, even the one she did not ask for opinion from. It was that bad. As she walked into her car, she vowed to herself never to listen to her sister again. In fact, her entire family whether they feel she was rude, depressed, angry, saucy, proud or not. Trying to please everyone led her here where the prophet provided a stomach churning solution. Apart from the list of items that looked like bride price list, he said she would sleep in his house for a week. Height of foolishness if anyone thought her that gullible to obey Prophet Samson. That man was intending to marry her for goodness sake! It was so frustrating no one could see that. Once bitten, twice shy. She was once desperate like Mama in her 20s and even 30s but presently, she was more concerned about making an impact. Well, she could not deny the once-in-a-while need to share time with someone special. Someone that would pamper her after a hectic day, listen to her numerous tales of work and create memories together with her including children. Maybe she still had a tiny thread of desperation or what would justify her following various family members for prayers and spiritual cleansing?
As Grace navigated her car on the road towards her house, she let her mind wander freely to days she let desperation get the hold of her. Mama Nkechi told her of a great man that had prophesied financial blessings on her shop and after a week, she sold all her goods. Every single item. As if that testimony was not enough, she invited Grace for a power-packed service that had many single-ladies testifying of marriage after Prophet Dee prayed for them. Grace needed no more convincing. Her marriage was around the corner. However, the story changed when Prophet Dee suggested an intercourse to break the covenant of singleness. In shock, Grace laughed at him and turned to leave. Prophet Dee had other plans in mind as he dragged her and almost had his way. Since then, her hatred for false prophets increased but she still gave each one a benefit of doubt till they showed their stupidity and they always did including Prophet Samson, a direct replica of Samson in the Bible because she was so sure women would truncate his life if he continued like this.
Cars horning behind her shook her off her reverie. Grace realized she had started driving too slow for a major road. She picked up speed and headed straight home. She was fed up of seeking solution for what is not even a life threatening problem, hearing side comments from family and colleagues and living in a shadow because to the society, she is not complete as a woman until she is married. Frustrating. Gradually, several things said began to affect her as she started allowing bitter thoughts and feelings get hold of her. Blood pressure high, overthinking about life, sleeping too much and eating too much today and too little tomorrow. Mood swing was another issue she did not want to divulge. Her coping mechanism was to shut down and coil into her shell-house much to her mother’s dismay. Maybe she was not destined to have a partner is this life. Maybe the next if she is patient enough. One thing she would always brag about was her cooking skills. She experimented in her kitchen and it was no different this time. Grace was ready to drown her pains into her soup and eat to her satisfaction tonight. Tomorrow is another day and she might hope again.
Gran, as she is popularly called, woke up in a startle. Today was the third day she had the same bad dream. Three was much more like a confirmation for her and she knew she had to intensify her prayers. As she was about to open her mouth to begin prayers, she smelt him or rather sensed him or her. God replaced her loss of sight with heightened sense of hearing so she knew she was not alone in her room this hot afternoon. What was left was to know the exact location of the intruder. Grabbing her walking stick quietly, she waited to sense the direction she should throw her attack. No one sneaked on Gran and got out without a scratch and this intruder would not be an exception. His heavy breath snuck fear around her like a snake. This was not how she planned on saying goodbye. It was now or never. She waited for some seconds before she struck her intruder on her right. A muffled sound was next and a thump on the floor. Gran picked her phone and called her the number on her speed dial.
Every member of the group session gathered in Kate’s house. Though Lara was new to the group, she felt she should show up and sympathize with a member that lost her son a week ago. Not only was Kate her group member, she was also a neighbor and this hit home too much especially when it was discovered that the murderer was Kate’s husband. Life can be cruel. It felt surreal though. Here she was, mourning her infertility and a fertile woman who had labored over the years on her only child had to lose hers. The whole story made her lose the food in a stomach the day she heard. How a man beat his flesh and blood to death is beyond wickedness already. Not only did he do that, Kate’s husband had a foolish thought of killing any neighbor at home so he could escape implication and sentence. He, however, chose the wrong neighbor, Gran, as she hit him so hard that he lost consciousness till her son and police arrived. They were on their way to the station when a cry was heard in Kate’s house. Kate came back early to meet her dead son. The rest was history.
Grace was the last neighbor to pay a condolence visit and she did it shaking to the very hairs on her body. They had a killer in the neighborhood and no one knew. It was scary a thought. As she looked at Kate’s still form on the floor of her living room, she could not hold the tears that came through. Kate was a woman she thought had it all, a responsible man, a child, a thriving business and a good family. Guess she assumed too much. Grace had no words to comfort her so she just nodded and sat, staring at the wall. Her issues faded into the thin air at the sight of Chris’ picture on the wall. Of course, they were good marriages with forever in it but until she is so sure and willing to take the risk, no more desperate solutions. Life had a way to making all the cards fall in place as long as one does not sit idle or is not desperate. Moderation was the word Gran used when she spoke last at Memories, a counselling group session hosted by her son bi-weekly. Grace was not a regular member but maybe she should be serious from now henceforth.
Kate stared at nothing. She should have left Jeff since. She should.
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