Rogers was sore for weeks and wouldn’t tell Jacinta how he got the bruises that ran from this neck to his feet. She smiled inwardly when he told her it was by armed robbers. It felt good to see him writhe in pain when she nursed his wounds. He couldn’t sit down even after she plushed his chair with soft blankets. She was most certainly going to invite her younger brother over more often.
Two weeks later, on the thirteenth of March 2003, just before daybreak she left the house for the meat market. She returned a few hours later with the condiments for fried meat and ishi-ewu pepper soup which she had promised to provide for Veronica, Rogers’s cousin’s thanksgiving service. The morning was quiet, except for her neighbour’s wife shouting at her salesgirls. She still wasn’t accustomed to the woman’s shrill voice. The woman was the caterer who she was going to hire to cook for Victor’s birthday the following weekend. She winced as she made a mental note to discuss the design of the cake with the woman. Victor hadn’t decided between football and a castle. Rogers insists he gets both. Of course he will. Victor was, after all, his son. She had not produced a child yet, not with her almost consistent miscarriages.
She heard a car rev, a crunch of the gravel, and then the click of the door. Feeling that her imagination had got the better of her, she headed to the fridge for a cold drink to ease the taste of the medication on her tongue. She didn’t bother to close the fridge. She leant against the door, tossed the medicine in her mouth, tipped the juice carton, and closed her eyes before swallowing. She sniffed, raised a brow, and shook her head. He was supposed to be in a meeting and couldn’t be back so early.
She closed the fridge door and arched her back, then stiffened when she felt someone’s hand on her nape. Her hands began to shake so she closed her eyes. Her legs were no longer sturdy. Rogers was burly, his hands were as cold as his heart, and they were too close to her oesophagus. She stilled herself and assessed the room, in search of anything that would be viable for some defence, but she had put everything away in case he tried to use it to dispose of her.
“Relax, I came home because I miss my wife.”
Jacinta squinted, looking for an exit strategy.
“Relax!” he snapped. “Why are you so rigid?”
She doubled as pain shot through her body. She placed her hand on her groin and the other on her swollen belly, but the pain didn’t stop. She prayed fervently and silently. She was tired of losing her pregnancies. She leant against the counter and tried to rouse herself.
Rogers glared at her. “What is this? Now you don’t want me? Well, it’s my right as your husband. So come and give me what wives give their husband and stop pretending. Besides, the baby is not due for months to come. That is if you don’t kill it.”
She slumped to the floor. His words tore through her and it felt worse than the pain she was suffering. Through blurry eyes, she saw him walk hurriedly towards her and she began to back away. He pulled her with one hand and the force propelled her into the edge of the door and she passed out. When she came through he was in her. Enraged she tried to push him off her, then tried to sit up but couldn’t, so she laid back and summoned enough strength to roll down the side of the bed. He rushed at her, she jerked back and let out a long shrill sound then everything went blank.
She didn’t know how long she had blanked but she could hear people calling her name. Some came to view the house of the only person in the neighbourhood who wouldn’t allow anyone into his house, some came to find out if he had finally killed her. She heard heavily footsteps and something shattering. She heard the bathroom door close and assumed it may have been Rogers but didn’t understand why he was making so much noise.
“What have you done to her, you this coward? What have you done to her?” The caterer spat and yelled as she bent over Jacinta. “She is here! Come o! She is here!”
People were talking all at once in pidgin English.
“Ey, see blood o!”
“Quick, quick, quick, carry her out of here. Eno, go and get my car keys.”
“Madam you should move out of the way so that someone can carry her!”
“What? Did I block your path?”
“It’s enough! All of you, out. Madam, go bring your car.”
Everything went blank again.
She could hear everything that was happening around her; trickling, tapping, whirring and squashing sounds, after a while she heard shuffling of feet then whispers but this time it was slow and light. She flicked her eyes open slowly and sighed feeling sure she was already in heaven because everything was white, the people standing close by were dressed in white, then the familiar smell of disinfectant overwhelmed her when another person in white opened the door.
Again? She closed her eyes to hold back tears as she heard the familiar voice of Mrs Ikpeba, the matron. What a luck she had, the matron always seemed to be the one on duty whenever she was hospitalised. She was now more frequent to the hospital than a child living beside a candy store. She saw the look on the woman’s face and was submerged in so much shame that she hid her face in her hand and turned her back to her audience, she couldn’t tell if the look she saw was of pity, contempt or disgust.
Then Rogers waltzed in like he owned the place with a large box of chocolate and flowers. “Honey, are you alright?”
“She lost the baby.” One of the nurses muttered even though her friend was nudging and eyeing her to say nothing.
“Oh my God, Jacinta!” He staggered then turned to the nurses. “Can I have the room, please? I need to speak to my wife alone.”
“They will do no such thing.” She said her voice raising as she trembled. She tried to rouse herself but faltered. He attempted to touch her, but she recoiled as if burnt, she allowed a nurse to help her up, muttering. She nodded her thanks and wore a wry smile. “Whatever you want to say can be done now. After all, my linen has already been washed in public.”
Rogers looked at the nurses who were eagerly waiting for him to give an explanation. He twisted in his mouth and turned to his wife. “We will talk when we get home then.” He set the flowers down on the grey bedside cabinet, placed the box of chocolates on her lap which she brushed off immediately. He tried to camouflage his anger and failed as he watched the descent of the box to the ground.
The matron walked towards the door and turned around and signalled the other nurses to join her. The last nurse to leave left the door ajar and came back with two other colleagues to listen in.
Later, Rogers told her was sure that they were waiting for her to die so that they could put an automobile tyre over his head and burn him to death, not for her death but because he has siphoned public funds and worst of all he stole from Lagos state government when he wasn’t even a Lagosian.
The room was quiet, she could feel eyes boring into her. “I’m not going back with you. My mother should be packing my things by now.”
“Your mother? In my house?”
“Our house and yes she’s in the house. Why shouldn’t my mother come to the house when it’s your mother’s second home.” She crossed her arms and glared at him.
“Have you thought about Victor? Have you thought about what this will do to him?”
“He is a strong child. A boy for that matter, he will cope.”
“Jacinta, heal first, then think things through.”
She summoned strength at last and was out of the bed. “Think things through, think things through. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past five years. How many miscarriages? How many pregnancies have I lost to ‘thinking things through’. You want to finally kill me so that you can marry another wife. No, go and marry all of the women you want but leave me alone. I want to live my life in peace and tranquillity, you hear me?”