His Sister seemed to have heard an earful. She hissed as I walked and said something in Ibo. All I could pick out of the gibberish was – Animal Mother. When she tried to withhold the baby from me, my Daughter wailed. I then grabbed her and left. There was something inside of me that changed that day, as I held my daughter in the “Marwa” on our way home. Some voice said to me “be calm, be wise”. The next few days were great for him as I gave him more pocket money, bought him more chocolate and even shared the offer letter of my new job with him. He was very happy with me and said he knew I’d come back to my senses.
He seemed to have a radar for my payday. He then came up with a policy that as he had given me all his salary when he had a job I should do likewise. I gave in because the house had been cool in the last few weeks.
At Month 2 of the salary kidnap, still peace in the house. He was buying stuff for himself. He’d call me a few days after I’d given him my salary and ask what we needed in the house. It was a bad joke but I played along with it. By month 3, throughout the whole month he gave me only N5,000 and said I should ‘manage’.
One day in month 4 of the salary kidnap, I came home a little late because we had last minute arrangements to tidy up for the Christmas concert the next day. I had called him several times during the day to update him, so I was not expecting him to be upset when I got home. Getting home, I met him at the balcony. He was smoking a cigarette this time.
“Good evening “I said
He didn’t respond
Me again: ”Good evening”
Still he didn’t respond
Him: Is this the time responsible married women come home? ’Who were you with?”
Me: ha Haa Haba, I was with no one”
My response enraged him and then he gave me a hot slap and started pounding me with his fists with kicks following. I rolled myself into a ball for safety. It was not the first, second, third or fourth time this had happened. Everything went black!
Later on, awareness came in bits. There were tubes in my nose, on my arm and a urine bag pipe in between my legs. I tried to move but couldn’t. I felt a presence. It was an evil one. I knew it was him. He was saying something I tried to focus but all I heard was “I love her so much and”…I drifted back into the safety of unconsciousness.
Apparently, I’d been in a comma for 8 days. I had some internal bleeding. It was not life threatening but required hospital care. I felt someone lift my eyelids and instantly I was conscious.
“Who are you? I said.
“I’m the Angelic Doctor that treated you when your husband rushed you in here. Lucky for you he was nearby when that car hit you. ”How are you feeling? What time of day do you think it is? You’ve been here for 8 days. We had to induce the comma to make the inflammation in your head go down.
I couldn’t remember any car hitting me but I just nodded.
“I’m Doctor Hassana ” and I know that story of his was a ton of rubbish I have seen bruises all over your body”I held up my hand…and tears made their way down my face.
Dr. Hassana, said she understood and left. After a day or two, I begged the doctor not to tell Steven that I was out of the comma. I asked whether she’d seen my Baby. She said she had asked and that He had said something like the baby was at his sister’s.
I had my eyes closed most times during visiting hours so that Steven wouldn’t walk in and find me awake. I devised a means of seeing through almost closed eyes. He came in with his sister and the baby. He started saying stupid things. He said he’d never be mean to me again…He wept, kissed me on the forehead and had his head on my chest. I heard his sister say that they should both go to see their father after leaving the hospital to update him on my state of health. I knew for a fact that their dad was a talkative and they would be there for quite a while.
After 20 minutes of their departure, I buzzed the nurse who came in quickly. She took off all the tubes and helped me to get dressed. I knew that even if they saw me they wouldn’t recognize me because they would never expect to see me up. Dr. Hassana had arranged everything. We had become friends in the last few days. I was ushered into the back stairway and given a scarf, veil and dark shades. A car and driver was waiting to pick me up. I got to the house, collected the spare key from our neighbour, went to the box with all my important documents, picked a few of the baby’s things, my wallet cheque books, and passport and took off. I described a short cut I knew to the driver to take us to my Father-in-law’s place in a jiffy. We parked across the house. I sank down into the seat and asked the driver to alert me when Steven and his sister got there.
It was not too long after, they drove in, in my car. My Father-in-Law was one of the old money people. He had a big compound with lots of shops and tenants.
Many of his tenants had become like his children as they had been there for several years. After what seemed like 30 minutes I approached the tailor whose shop was directly under the old man’s apartment. I told her what had been happening in a few minutes and that my Daughter had not been breastfed for 2 weeks. She sighed and said I should leave it to her. She then called her daughter and asked her to go up and play with the baby and then bring her down.
It was the worst 15 minutes ever of my life waiting for my baby. As the little girl brought her down, I shoved a N200 in her mother’s palm and made a fast gateway to the car. I half leaped and half jumped as we sped away. My heart kept beating and I cried tears of relief.
What is the name you want me to put on the affidavit Ma? Felicia Duke, I answered.
Okay, the man said and started typing away. I changed my name, changed my address and let go of my married status. I chose to live. The baby was now two years old. We left Lagos and started afresh in Calabar.
There was an applause! The women of hope had invited me to share my experience with other women who had experienced violence at home.