Udale held onto one of her husband’s hands. No matter what she had discovered he did, she couldn’t bear the mere thought of losing him to the shivering hands of death.
A part of her that still felt any form of affection for him… whether love or pity, she held onto it. All through the drive from Ankpa down to the federal medical centre Abuja, she had pondered over and over again on Max’s revelation.
“Isn’t that a type of paraphilia? A mental disorder? A sexual orientation?”
She couldn’t believe her ears.
Matthew seemed normal and alright. Well, according to the part of mental health that was taught her in nursing school and all the various professional courses she had undertaken in her course of service, people with sexual orientation usually lead a normal healthy life, so much so that the difference between paedophiles and the seemingly ‘normal’ people is in the category of people they are sexually attracted to. Also, it has come on record that one major boosting characteristics that can stimulate the expression of these disorders is isolation.
Matthew has always been an isolated person right from time immemorial. In fact, it was because her pastors, who were her guardians then, felt she needed some more courtship time, to get to know him better, that they were hesitating. She, however, felt she found the one. The very ‘right one’ at that. Matthew has always been a man of few words, but whenever he outbursts in anger, you would wish hell was let loose instead. She had always known him to be a lover of little, adolescent and all categories of children – probably that was why he taught at a secondary school regardless of his high performance from the university.
Perhaps he discovered this inordinate feelings for the children he taught and that was why he resigned, to the utter amazement of everyone. This could only be the most reasonable explanation for that kind of drastic decision he took, as he has blatantly refused to say to anyone why he let go of his so called life’s passion. Doctor Max said they discovered… rather, they confirmed it not so long ago. It was actually Dr Nonso that did, during one of his numerous interactions with Matthew, and he had been undergoing therapy and taking drugs alongside since then. Drugs has not been an effective medium of treating patients with mental disorders, research has come to prove, and this is even worse because it’s a sexual orientation. Maybe, all those ‘initial gragra’ were his own way of being careful so his lust doesn’t lead him into something as embarrassing as what has eventually happened.
Udale could remember a lot of things.
First and foremost was his outright refusal to accommodate Laibe, the first day she was brought to Ankpa. Udale had known Matthew to be friends with children right from the world go, so couldn’t really understand why he was that harsh with her niece. Maybe if she had calmed down to hear his reasons, she would have found another better option. But she wasn’t calming down at all, in fact, none of them seemed ready to reach a consensus regarding the matter. Udale could bet her instinct telling her that her husband had something on his mind which he needed to say. His hesitations in voicing out was more or less a source of worry to her.
Who would say such a thing as this easily, anyway?
Thence, came this issue of Matthew telling baba that he would be taking another wife; there was also a time he told Udale that she might be the ‘architectural designer’ of his next wife.
Udale cried more on his hand while all these thoughts flashed back her mind. He is lying unconscious with the oxygen mask firmly gripping his nose.
She still can’t stop wondering why Dr Nonso hadn’t told her. Matthew’s case isn’t exclusively paedophilia as it were then; because they had great s-x in the beginning time of their marriage, at least up until the resignation from teaching. Things started moving down the spiral from that time, so much so that at some points, she felt like a stranger on her own husband’s bed.
They slept so wide apart like young people forbidden to fornicate.
When pastor Lydia told her, ‘some men have wives they never married’, it didn’t make the slightest meaning to her or maybe the older woman didn’t explain well enough? Could she have known about this Matthew’s condition too and didn’t tell her?
“No! That can’t be!” She screamed from her thoughts.
Her head is beginning to shatter again. So much sorrow in her lifetime. She glanced at Matthew to be sure her shout didn’t wake him, on a second thought, she wished the shout actually could wake him.
The more she thinks about it, the more she realises that this abuse thing thrived in her house due to her quick assumption, ignorance and carefreeness.
What could she have rather done?
They have taken Laibe to be their own daughter. Should a mother not trust her husband with their daughter any longer?
As much as she tried, she wasn’t well able to console herself.
There was the night Matthew woke her up. He looked like he had something serious on his mind. Maybe, she should have listened instead of talking. Maybe she should not have concluded he was only worried with Baba’s ill health and let him say what his mind was. But she would not. Typical of her to take the first lead and feel in charge of every situation. See where it has landed her in now.
Then the day she found a lot of romantic presents in Laibe’s room. The little girl said her uncle bought them for her and actually when she confronted her husband, she could tell she felt discomfort in his voice. He first was eager to confirm how she learnt of it. Udale didn’t suspect anything, nothing whatsoever. Even when the white paper she saw in Ocholi’s hands that evening contained a horror diagram – a little girl with tattered clothes, like the type that result after gang rape, was pushing hard at a thick tall wall. A huge man, who she now believes was the abuser seemed to be chasing after the poor little girl as she struggles for rescue, while another older woman is seen, just beside them, dozing off on a table with lots of paper works to attend to.
Udale snapped back immediately,
“Did Ocholi say he drew that picture? He probably quickly admitted making that painting, just not to arouse further questions. So it was a cover up? Oh my God!” Her tears doesn’t seem to be finishing as they poured out the more, helplessly. She should have pressed on further till Ocholi tell her the truth about who made that painting.
Instead, she was stupidly more concerned about Ocholi teaching her fine arts than she was about the message Laibe’s painting was presenting.
She has heard that abused children result to writing or drawing their pains since they’ve been probably banned and at some case threatened from letting anyone know about it.
Why didn’t she think this?
Udale pitied herself.
Of course, the painting on the white paper, though not so accurately done depicts deep emotions. She could see the connection more now as she thinks about it. Right there was a poor girl running away from an abusive man, and she, who is supposed to be the refuge, the listener, the mother the girl could run to, was busy with a lot of work coupled with tiredness, so much so, that she didn’t even smell the aroma of the food being cooked under her very nose. She has always called herself a failed mother, guess this crowns it all. She used to be one of those persons that wonder how sexual abuses thrives in homes and people don’t get to learn of it early enough until a danger or harm is done.
At those times, she blamed the man who is irresponsible enough to be involved in such an abominable act but right now, she has seen how much most of the abuses thrive, simply because one of the parents – especially the mother, has chosen to be either too busy or carefree.
The latest of the events that made her completely judge herself a failure was the day she brought Baba from the village. Truth is, everything sounded and appeared suspicious to her that morning but she didn’t let her brain think the possibilities in there.
Mathew rarely sleeps in the sitting room… more like never. She found the spare bunch of keys for the house, which is always kept somewhere not close by, on the table. He was wearing only a boxer and slept so deep that he didn’t even notice when she walked in till she tapped him and the best explanation her ‘daft head’ could conclude was that PHCN probably dragged him out there.
“How could I be that dumb?” she asked herself.
“Laibe’s room was scattered. Since I don’t even visit enough times, I couldn’t tell if that was done overnight or if it was a normal attitude. God! I was so fast to judge her. She couldn’t move, she couldn’t explain herself, yet I was busy slapping her.” Udale let hot searing tears pour down her face as the scene of that day played in her head, torturing every part of her being. She should have known that Laibe would normally run into her grandfather’s arms any day, and not stand staring vaguely at him. She should have asked better to be sure her leaping painful steps was truly as a result of playing badminton as she claimed… or not. She should never have been quick to judge Laibe. She should have visited her room more often, get to know the kind of person she is, and what her fears were. She should have been less concerned with the IVF Dr Nonso advised they do and focus on caring for her niece who had become her daughter. She should have tried to understand Matthew’s hesitations about accommodating Laibe, she should have tried to understand his hesitations concerning doing an IVF.
She should have done a lot of things to save her marriage and the poor girl. She should have… she should have…she should have done a lot of things, but she failed at all of it, every single one of it.
“Oh God! I’m a failed wife and mother!” she screamed out.
“No, you are not.”
Udale jerked back to see someone she presumed to be the doctor walk in.
Pastor Lydia couldn’t follow them down to Abuja as she needed to stay with Laibe at the hospital. Max who drove them down has been with the doctor… this doctor, ever since and now that he was here, Udale could only hope for a milder bad news, because it’s certain the news can’t be any good.
“Doctor, is my husband going to survive this?” She dragged herself up and hurriedly moved over to the approaching doctor. She has lost appreciable kilograms of weight in the last weeks. She hopes to wake up sometime and all these are nightmares.
“Calm down, Mrs…”
“Onoja… Udale Onoja.” She cuts in before the doctor could finish her name.
His face wasn’t betraying any expression whatsoever and Udale could feel her heart almost spilling out through her ribcage.
“Let’s see in my office, Ma’am.” He said, and turned to walk out.
Udale glanced at the helpless shadow of her very own hefty husband on the bed and sniffs. She picked up her phone and followed the doctor as fast as she could. If there was anything she’s sure about, it’s the fact that Laibe cannot keep a baby for her husband.
Laibe felt like she was watching her own obituary.
How could this be happening to her?
She had long been eager to meet Aunty Halima’s daughter and she just did, even though she never envisaged meeting her this way. A lot of things has happened since morning. The last she could remember was that she felt horrible about herself.
First was that Uncle Matthew walked in, glared at her like a piece of thrash and walked out in silence. He was followed by aunty Udale much later, and she came asking her who she was pregnant for. She had sat down helplessly when her aunty dashed out of the room, and Halima followed after her. She used to think she was a curse of some sort. If not, what would explain her losing her dad, her mother, her grandfather and now… herself. She wanted to end it all.
There was absolutely no use of her anymore, so she grabbed one of the dinning knives in her food basket and slashed her hand.
She was praying to die.
She needed to die.
Perhaps after death, she would understand why so much horrible things has happened to her in a life time – her father died in a ghastly motor accident when she was only a child. Then her mother died also few years ago.
She felt coming to Ankpa when aunty Udale suggested it to her this time three years ago was God’s way of answering prayers and taking her many steps nearer her dreams. She had always wanted to be great, to be influential, and to be someone with a name. The first thing she did with the android phone uncle Matthew bought for her was to google names of influential young people in Nigeria. She saw many persons that gave her inspiration and if not for anything, she shares one thing in common with most of those people – they came from a very humble background. Majority of those persons are survivors of poverty, abuse, discrimination and even low self-esteem. She was so inspired that even with the torture and abuse from her uncle, she could still see that one day she would be able to break lose and become all that she had ever wanted to be.