Sometimes a student teaches his teacher how to teach. Sometimes a patient makes a doctor feel better. Sometimes the passenger shows the driver the best route to take. And sometimes a single woman gives a married woman the best advice on marriage.
Florence was the married woman. She had been married for seven years. Her best friend was her agemate, but unmarried. Libby had everything a man would want, a pretty face, a good brain on top of a good body. She was also an independent woman. Florence wondered why her friend showed zero interest in marriage yet her biological clock was ticking.
“You said No to Anderson!” She once exclaimed when Libby rejected her colleague. Anderson was a rich senior bachelor willing to settle down with a beautiful woman. When Florence showed him a picture of Libby, he nodded approvingly. He asked her to hook him up with her asap. But their date, he later said, had been unfriutful. Libby wanted nothing serious.
“Or are you a lesbo, girl? Florence said,nudging her best friend.
“What?No! What makes you think that? It was me who offered a no strings attached kind of thing to your colleague but he kept talking of marriage!” Libby said.
“And what’s wrong with that? Is this how you want to spend the rest your life ?” Florence asked but Libby shrugged her shoulders and like she always did, changed the topic. Florence never understood that side of her best friend. She decided to wash her hands off her friend’s case. She already had a lot to think about. Like her own marriage.
Florence’s marriage was starting to take a heavy toll on her. Jonathan was wallowing in drunkedness day in day out. He had slapped her a couple of times in his insobriety. She was also the rough stone that he was using to sharpen his insulting skills. But hadn’t she vowed to stay by him for better for worse?
On one Friday night he came and woke Florence and their six year old daughter. He wanted them to cook the kilogram of meat he had bought, at 2:00am!
“Can we not cook it tomorrow,please?” Florence had meekly asked him but he was way too drunk to see her point. He went berserk at her “rudeness” and demanded they all leave the house. Florence helplessly watched as he threw them from the house,locking himself in.
Fortunately, Libby’s house was not so far from theirs. She was shocked to see them in their pyjamas shivering with cold. She helped tuck the scared little girl in bed and soothe her to sleep then finally sat with Florence at the kitchen dining over a cup of hot coffee.
“So,what happened Flo?” Libby asked and keenly listened as Flo opened up about her husband’s unbecoming behaviour that worsened by the day. When Flo poured her heart out, she was startled at Libby’s reply.
“You have to be careful girl,or else you will become just like my mother.” She said.
“Your mother? What did she do?” Flo asked perturbed.
Libby’s mind seemed to sail miles away as she uttered her next reply.
“She put a scar in me. A scar that cannot be repaired by any cosmetic surgeon. The scar is in my heart and nothing will ever get rid of it.”
“Tell me more please,” Flo whispered.
“What I watched my mother go through under the hands of a man, I vowed never to get married.” She sipped her coffee absentmindedly and started to narrate a story that she had kept locked from Flo for so many years.
“My mother believed it was an achievement to be addressed as a Mrs. She treasured that title. She would do anything just to remain my father’s wife. Unfortunately, that adoration was never reciprocated by father.
I remember one day he had won a bonus at his workplace. He came home delighted and announced his big victory. I was fifteen years old then. He gave me five thousand shillings and left to the bar as was his norm. It was as if mum never existed in his life. I was jubilant at the money on my hand but when I saw my mum’s injured face, I gave it all to her. She made a short prayer of gratitude for her husband’s success yet he had shown great contempt for her a few minutes before.
Then there was this time. Rumour had it that dad had started an affair with a certain woman from the local village. He was spending most of his evenings with her. When mum got wind of it, she decided to go and confront them. She left me in the house with her sister. Then two hours later,she came home crying. I heard her narrate to her sister how impertinent father had been to her. He had told her off, asking her to kill herself now that she had found out he was cheating.
But that was not bad enough. Mother’s sister who she thought she trusted betrayed her in the worst way possible. I was in boarding school then. I heard from the neighbours that mother had lost her voice for a whole week when she caught the two in bed. Apparently, father had dismissively told her to either sit and watch them as they continued with their business or close the door behind her.
But funny thing is, my mother stayed on. She endured the agony of living with such a man just to remain married. I tend to think it was because he knew she did not know her worth that he treated her like trash but she perservered commenting that no home was perfect. I remember asking her why she bore the brunt of dad’s impudence and she meekly replied that other women suffered worse.
Then father became ill. After philandering with every floozy in the village, he finally got what he was chasing after: HIV. It was a big blow! He was the first case in our village. The nurse who tested him could not shut her mouth. She told every Tom, Dick and Harriet. Word spread like bushfire. Our family became stigmatised, no one wanted to have anything to do with us. It was really hard!
Yet, like a good wife, mother stood by my father’s side. She would wait till late in the evening, tie a scarf around her face and go to the market to buy vegetables and friuts for dad’s balanced diet after passing by the chemist to get his drugs. Then one day, we knocked on her room, she did not open. We had to break it down. She was dead. We learnt later that she had been severely stressed probably from the stigma and dad’s condition.
All along, father had seemed to be at the edge of life. He was weak, emaciated and miserable. I did not believe that mother died before him. I was enraged at mother’s death. She had died for father’s iniquities. It should have been him to suffer for his own wickedness. No, instead, he got better. His antiretrovirals favoured him. He became strong and handsome and even remarried.
I love him because he is my father but I am still infuriated by the fact that he is alive and kicking when mother is rotting six feet under. Still, it was her that triggered that gun. She withstood what she shouldn’t have and it eventually killed her. Everytime I hear the word marriage, I remember her. And I am afraid that I could be like her. I don’t want to get married because I might be as enduring. I know not all marriages are like my parents’ but what if, just what if? No, marriage is not for me. I’m too scared. I just can’t.”
“My goodness, Libby. I did not know. I now understand.” Florence said after listening to her best friend’s sorrowful story of her life.
“So my dear friend, for the sake of your six year old daughter, make wise decisions, because what you do, she is watching and it will either make or break her. Value yourself and let her learn that a woman should know her worth. Otherwise, she will abhor all men and her approach in life will be scarred forever. Or she might also condone being trampled upon.” Libby said and took her last sip of coffee then asked her friend that they now go and sleep.
Florence heard her friend snoring comfortably next to her. She had never slept as well for years. But then she thought of her little girl. She realised why her daughter would suddenly scream at night for no reason. Florence understood why she no longer wanted to play with her agemates. If they did play, they would complain that her daughter was too contentious.
Her father’s behaviour was weighing on her daughter. Florence had to act fast. She was not going to tolerate any more crap from Jonathan. She would show her six year old daughter that it was not ok to be beaten or insulted or thrown out of the house. She did not want her daughter to end up with a deep scar as the one Libby had. She did not know how but she knew she would put an end to the harm Jonathan was causing to them. For her daughter’s sake.