I actually met a young, fair, beautiful lady when I got home. Her name was aunt Abigail whom I later learnt was Mama’s daughter in-law. Uncle Ugonna apparently went for her introduction while I was on holiday. My return created relief for her, I could sense that. Gradually we became very close, she would encourage and support me to keep trying. She believed there was always a light at the end of every tunnel. It was great having her around, an extra hand and someone who actually felt my pain.
However she was never respected as a daughter in-law. She would assist me in all house chores and would run petty errands for her in-laws. To me, she was just a glorified housemaid who had no rights whatsoever. The only person she was greater than in the house was me. She was very young maybe in her early twenties and was introduced to uncle by his aunt, Ebere who was mama’s younger sister.
Most times Mama and aunt Agnes would bring out their huge pile of dirty clothes for aunt Abigail to wash. Aunt Oby sometimes will add hers and grudgingly she will set to work, it wasn’t fun at all. But aunt Agnes began another act that worried us both. Aunt Agnes suffers from constant catarrh and usually used her handkerchiefs to keep her nostrils clean. After each use, she will hand them over to aunt Abigail to wash. It was so gross. Uncle’s wife knew better than to say no, so she would take it. After a while we devised a means to reduce the silliness of washing such. She bought a packet of handkerchief and hid them in their room. Whenever aunty gives her her soiled handkerchief to wash, she would burn it and bring a new one from the pack. She would then proceed to wash this new one to make it look used. Aunty never found out about it.
She stayed for a few months in the house before uncle started abusing her. The first day he slapped her was because of a little issue with Mama. She cried her eyes out and reported to her mum. She was given the usual endurance advice. It began happening frequently and she would always tell me it was because she and her husband were still staying in the family home. She believed so much in him and always exonerated him from all blames. She insisted he was being influenced greatly by his family (which was very true) and believed that if they moved out, he would change. However things grew from bad to worse after she took in. She then realized her husband wasn’t ready to make a move. He would beat her at any provocation. She gradually became a shadow of herself. My two aunts would say foul words to her and even reminded her she wasn’t yet a wife, in all this her husband never protected her, yet she endured.
She was still in her first trimester when she received a more aggressive beating from her husband who never considered her pregnancy. While she was still struggling to escape from his hold, she began to bleed. She was rushed to the hospital and that was the last time I ever saw her. Aunt Oby later mentioned after I asked of her, that she was a witch and as such lost their child. She added that they were no more interested in the marriage hence asked her to go home from the hospital. I was sure some of her things were still in our house. I still believed it was a prayer answered.
After she left, I became the sole bearer of all chores again. I actually realized how much of a help she had been this few months she had been with us. At least she always pacified me whenever I cried and would advise and encourage me. Some times I will cry for her absence secretly. Gradually I became used to the chores again and my life continued as if nothing happened.
It was as if uncle was set free from bondage as he began bringing in different women home. The most admirable of this all was that he had good taste in women. They were all fair, tall and beautiful and easily fell for his charms.
He was handsome by the way.
Then one day, one of his girlfriends came around and I guess he wasn’t prepared. I was downstairs when he called on me. I came up and knocked gently on the door. He slid the door open a little and whispered to me
“Go buy me a pack of condom. Buy it from aunty nurse and run as fast as you can”. He then squeezed thirty naira into my palms and shut the door. For a moment I was dumbfounded. I know I was naive but I for sure knew what condom was. I was so scared and embarrassed as I left the house to aunty nurse’s chemist shop. All I was worried of was how I was going to tell aunty nurse what I wanted.
“What would she think of me?”
“What if many customers were there” I asked myself.
I got to the shop and luckily she was sitting outside, having a conversation with a neighbor. I greeted her and went into her shop, she followed suit.
“What do you want?” she asked but I was quiet. I kept looking around the counter to see if I could recognise it, and finally I did. I slowly pointed at what I wanted. She was obviously shocked.
“Who sent you?”
“How much did he give you?”
“Thirty naira” I replied opening my palms to show her the money. She then kept quiet for few seconds.
“Go back and tell him it is seventy naira” she said as she walks to the door. I didn’t say a word, I just turned and left.
“Hey” she called after me. I turned around. “It’s sold for thirty naira but because he sent you, I will sell it for seventy. Go tell him that” I nodded and raced off. I was so ashamed to stand before her.
I delivered her message to uncle but surprisingly he made up the balance and asked me to go get it.
What a shameless beast!
Mama was sad when I told her. She said aunty nurse stopped her on her way home to tell her what I came to buy. She then promised to speak with him…