A Thin Line

Rachael knew she was in trouble when her husband came back from work, ignored the ‘welcome dear’ she called out and went straight to his room with his face tightly squeezed in a frown. Her hands started shaking so bad she took calming breaths before she could steady them. She went into the kitchen and put the water to boil. Martins liked his eba really hot. She set the pot on the gas to warm up the soup while arranging the plates on a tray.

 

She stood by the counter, trying to remember if she had dressed the bed after the nap. She really couldn’t tell and it worried her. The whistling of the kettle rattled her she almost dropped the plate she held. She set the table and sat down to wait.

 

Martins came down, dressed in his black silk pyjamas that highlighted his dark brown eyes. His jaw was tightly clenched, his eyes distant. He settled into his seat and opened his plates without a word. He paused for a moment, then turned to look at her. She jumped and rushed to pour cold water into his cup, silently berating herself for forgetting to pour the water before he came.

 

He ate slowly like one with heavy things in mind. The eba on his plate was almost finished when she heard a sharp sound from his mouth. She tensed, her hands steady on the soup in front of her. Her heart beat faster, she knew what was coming but it still surprised her when the slap came. Her pale white skin was already turning red, the imprint of his hand showing clearly.

 

“How dare you serve me food with sand?” he shouted.

Her hand held her stinging jaw, tears dripping into hand still stained with yellow eba.

“Useless” he muttered as he walked away.

 

She sat there until the tears stopped coming before packing the plates and washing them off. She put them in the rack and climbed the stairs slowly to the room. Martins was already on the bed, absently fiddling with the remote. He paused as she came in. She went to the dresser and started cleaning her face. She knelt down and said a short prayer before climbing into bed, lying with her back to Martins.

“Am sorry.” he said softly.

She ignored him and closed her eyes.

“I know you’re not sleeping. I said am sorry.” he said with a louder tone.

Still she said nothing.

He fell back on the bed and turned his back to her.

 

She didn’t sleep well. He was gone when she woke the next morning, a wad of cash on her dresser. She didn’t touch it. It would stay there until he returned. She dressed and went to the car towards afternoon, wearing a black hijab with beautiful patterns over her red gown. Her lip was shouting red as she entered into her jeep and drove off. She went to her mother’s supermarket and picked the things she needed. Her mother was not around so she left to the nearby fast food.

 

She felt a light touch on her shoulder and turned in surprise..

“Hello Rachael” said the cool calm and deep voice that only belonged to Chika.

Her smile was radiant as she hugged him, his musky scent bringing back memories.

“Mehn guy, where have you been? I haven’t seen you in a while now.” she asked.

He smiled and touched her nose lightly. “Were you missing me?” He was grinning.

“Oh please.” she held up her hand “See this?” she asked teasingly, pointing to her ring.

“Yeah yeah, I see it clearly.” he hugged her again. “You came to eat here?” he inquired.

“Yes yes, am famished. I’ve not had anything since morning.”

“Keeping in shape I see.” He replied.

“No am not. All this…” she ran her hand down her body.  “…is natural. No exercise, no diet.” she smiled proudly.

“I know Rach.” he said simply.

Her smile dimmed. He was the only person who called her Rach.

 

“Common, let’s go eat.” he put his arm around her and led her gently into the fast food. They ordered their meals and settled down to eat in comfortable silence.

“So what’s up with the hijab? Are you now a muslim?” he asked in the middle of the meal.

She cleared her throat and sipped some water before answering.

“Not at all. It’s kinda trending now you know.” She smiled tightly.

“Hmmm.” He replied knowingly.

“What’s that?” She asked.

“What’s what?” He looked perplexed.

“That hmmm you just did.”

“I didn’t say anything Rach. Why you getting all worked up?” He replied.

“Nothing.” She took a deep breath. “It’s nothing at all.” She went back to her food with great concentration.

Chika covered her hand with his on the table and squeezed lightly, reassuringly.

“You know you can tell me anything right?”

She smiled wanely. “I know.”

 

She went back home driving angrily. Martins was a jerk. A huge jerk. And she was tired of living in fear. She was tired of letting him do whatever he wanted to her.

She sat down on the couch, tapping her foot as her mind whirled. She didn’t realize when she slept off. The sound of the door opening woke her up. Martins walked in and stopped as he saw her just waking up.

“Have you been sleeping all day? My dinner better be ready by the time I come downstairs.” He stomped away.

 

She yawned widely and stretched her body, then walked lazily to the kitchen. She opened the fridge to bring out the soup but found herself standing there and staring at the bowl of soup. She stayed there until Martins came downstairs and walked into the kitchen.

He snapped his fingers close to her ears. She turned and looked at him.

“Where’s my dinner?”

“In the fridge.” she replied and shut the fridge with a bang.

“So what am I going to eat?” he asked slowly like he was talking to a child.

“Why don’t you eat me? If you don’t know what to eat, go to a fast food. Am going to bed.” she slammed the kitchen door and started to climb upstairs. She made it to the room before Martins burst through the door.

“What was that?”

She ignored him and continued combing her hair with a brush.

He grabbed the brush and threw it on the bed.

“I asked you a question.”

She laughed bitterly, looking down.

“Martins, Martins, leave me alone tonight. I don’t want any trouble. As you can see…” She pointed to her face “…the bruise you gave me last night has not faded. or you want to add more?”

 

She hissed loud and long and walked into the bathroom. Martins stood in shock. In her mind’s eye, she could imagine his mouth hanging open and she burst out laughing loudly.

She heard a knock. “What?” she shouted fiercely.

“Are you okay? You’re acting strange.” He sounded concerned.

“Now you’re worried about me? Since when?”

No reply. She showered and walked into the room. Her heart was bitter. Martins was sitting on the bed, a confused look on his face.

As she lay on the bed to sleep, she turned to him, “Oh, and before I forget, we’ve not had children this last two years because I’ve been taking contraceptives. I don’t want you killing my children before they come into this world.”

 

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Black Tussle

 

“Carrie, oh Carrie, how I love you” Priye was singing in his Donald duck voice, his dark blue shirt was a sharp contrast to his light skin. He looked as handsome as the first time she saw him, sitting on the steps and sipping a tropic alcoholic drink covered with a brown paper bag. He always sat outside his father’s house with his two dumb friends, gisting and laughing at people who walked by.

Carrie pretended not to hear him. She walked past, swaying more extravagantly so her flayed pink shirt danced above her knees, showing off her spotless straight legs. She was just sixteen but she knew the dance.

So she went everyday, always an excuse to go buy something, anything towards evening. Any excuse to see Priye’s face and hear his funny antics as he tried to profess his love. He was only four years her senior. She knew the hard-to-get game was getting old so she made a plan. On the Friday of that week, she would finally give him an answer.

Although she never told anybody, her sister, Violet, knew. She could tell from the shine in her eyes, always teasing her. Priye was the popular boy in the area, feeding off his father’s fame. His tall lanky frame and light complexion, coupled with his dark curly hair and pink lips earned him the term ‘oyibo’.

She dressed carefully that Friday, stealing some of violet’s lip gloss to make her lips shine. She styled her hair artfully and left the house on the pretext of going to buy popcorn for her little brother. She slowed down as she came towards Priye’s house and started her cat walk. It was a waste. Priye was not there. Just his two dumb friends snickering and laughing.

Her smile dimmed and she walked past like she was in a hurry. Priye was inside, she knew. His two friends wouldn’t be standing outside if he was not around.  She was going to say yes to Priye today, come hell or high water. She spent as much time as she possibly could, to make sure he would be out by the time she walked past again.

This time, she saw him. He was coming out from his house, wearing a red singlet on an army green short. She stood straight and was about to start her famous walk, when she noticed that he wasn’t alone. He was with a girl, they were coming out together. His hands were on her shoulders possesively and even though her back was turned, she couldn’t mistake that purple skirt and green top the girl wore. It was Violet. She stood still and watched as they hugged and Priye gave her a goodbye kiss. Violet giggled and sashayed away.

It took ten minutes before she could get her legs to move. She walked woodenly past the boys. Priye acted unabashed. He didn’t know he had been seen. She ignored his calls and went home. Violet was lying on the bed, reading one of her novels. She dropped the popcorn on the bed and asked her “What were you doing with Priye today?”

Violet paused, her eyes went hard. “What business of yours is that? You’ve been playing hard to get so I took over.” she replied staunchly and went back to her novel, like it didn’t matter.

“But you knew he was asking me out. You knew I liked him.” she exploded as tears filled her eyes.

Violet hissed long and hard. “If you liked him so much then why haven’t you said yes? You think you’re the prettiest girl abi? You think you’re finer than me. You want to date Priye so that you’ll be boasting that you have the finest and richest boyfriend in this area abi? Let me see how that will happen.”

“Yes am finer than you. Yes am prettier than you. Is it my fault that boys like me instead of you?” she burst out.

Violet dropped her novel and stood up shaking her head. She walked to Carrie and released a sound slap on her face, her eyes filled with hatred.

Carrie stood there, shocked. If it came to a fight, Violet would beat her black and blue. She was helpless. She was the one supposed to date Priye. She was the most beautiful girl in the area. Everybody said so. How could she show her face again if she lost him to a less prettier girl? Violet of all people.

Then an unrealistic calm took over. Suddenly she knew what she had to do. Nobody saw her as she left the house or as she came back. She waited until the food had been dished and her mother had left the kitchen. Then she went into the kitchen and looked at the plates. She knew Violet would pick the soup with the big meat. So she poured the rat poison into that soup and went away. True enough, Violet picked that soup and ate it. She watched her gleefully, her mind not bothered about anything. All she could see was Priye.