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A chance to live

“Mummy, let us run away.” Chiamaka cried as she held on to her mother’s legs.

Even though she was just six years old, she was tired of the situation she and her mother found themselves in. The past twelve months had been traumatic for both of them. “Mummy.” Chiamaka said as she shook her mother.

*****

Kelechi rang the doorbell. Tope rushed to open the door and smiled. “Welcome darling.” She said as she hugged him. Kelechi refused to hug her back and she stepped back to look at him. “Is something wrong?”

Kelechi ignored her as he walked into the living room of their two bedroom flat and slumped into the couch. Tope looked on as she wondered what the problem could be. She walked into the living room and sat beside her husband. “Kelechi, what is the problem?” She asked.

“Please just leave me alone.”

“Ah…ah, Kelechi. How can I leave you alone when you are looking this way? Tell me please. Did something happen in the office?”

“Woman, I said leave me alone.” Kelechi snapped.

“Okay, okay.” Tope said standing up. “Are you ready to eat now?”

Kelechi nodded a response.

Tope dished the food and put it on the table. She called her husband to have his meal and left to clean up the kitchen.

*****

The next day, Tope woke up at 6:00a.m as usual. She had her bath, woke her daughter, Chiamaka and got her prepared for school. At 7:00a.m, Chiamaka asked her mum. “Where is daddy? He hasn’t come out of the room. Isn’t he taking me to school today?”

Tope looked at the clock on the wall. Kelechi should have been out of the room by now, dressed for work and ready to drop their daughter off at school on the way to his office.

She went back into the bedroom and saw Kelechi still sleeping. She sat on the bed and tapped him. “Darling, you are late for work and Chiamaka is almost ready for school.”

“I am not going to work today.” Kelechi said as he turned his back to her.

“But you did not tell me you are going on leave. We always planned for it together for Chiamaka’s school vacation period.”

Kelechi turned to look at Tope. “Look Tope, can you please leave me alone?”

Tope’s jaw dropped as she looked at her husband. “What is going on?” She thought. She took a deep breath. “Your daughter is ready for school.”

“I am not taking her to school today.”

“Kelechi, what is the meaning of all this? I have been asking you since yesterday what the problem is and you have refused to say anything?”

Kelechi stood up from the bed all of a sudden. “You want to know, abi? I have been sacked. Sacked, do you hear me? Sacked?”

*****

The next twelve months, Tope had done her best to take care of the family. She paid their daughter’s school fees, provided for the home and made sure they lacked nothing. She was a school teacher in a private secondary school. Her salary was not fantastic but she managed whatever she received and prayed that Kelechi would get another job to relieve her of the financial strain.

Kelechi went out every evening and came back home drunk. Initially, Tope complained and each time she did, she got beaten. She was reminded that the fact that she took care of the home did not make her the head of the house. When Tope got tired of being beaten, she stopped complaining. She left the door unlocked every evening for Kelechi to come in whenever he decided to.

*****

Tope had been so tired when she got back from work that she forgot to leave the door unlocked. Kelechi rang the bell so many times before Tope opened it. As she did, dozens of slaps landed on her face.

“So you have the guts to lock me outside now, ehn?” Kelechi shouted breathlessly as he continued to pummel her face.

Tope screamed but the more she struggled, the more kicks and slaps she got. When Kelechi was done, he walked into their bedroom breathing hard and slumped on the bed. In a few minutes, he began to snore loudly.

Tope sat on the floor as she cried. She was tired of getting beaten every time. Everything she did or said was used against her. She thought of leaving but what would people say. What would her friends say? What would her family say? What would her church members say? All these questions bothered her.

She crawled into her daughter’s bed and folded into a foetal position as she cried to sleep. Chiamaka woke up at about 6:00am and saw her mother lying beside her. There were bruises all over her face and body. Chiamaka burst into tears.

“Mummy, wake up and let us run away.” Chiamaka said as she tapped her mother. “Mummy, wake up.” She cried.

Chiamaka stood up from her bed and opened the door of her room. She could hear her father snoring loudly from the bedroom opposite hers. She walked to the main door and opened it. She stepped out and banged on the door of the flat opposite theirs.

 

Kola walked to the door groggily. He opened the door and was shocked to see Chiamaka standing before him. She was still in her “Dora the explorer” pyjamas. Kola bent down and looked at her. “Chiamaka, what are you doing outside at this time of the morning? Where is your mummy and why are you crying?”

Chiamaka wiped her cheeks with her hands. “I have been waking my mummy up so that we can run away but she is not answering me.”

Kola took a deep breath. He understood what Chiamaka was talking about. He had talked to Kelechi once about it but Kelechi had told him to mind his business. He even told him that his inability to mind his business was the reason why he was still single.

“Let us go and see your mummy.” Kola said as he held Chiamaka’s hands.

Chiamaka led him into the house and into her room. Kola was shocked when he saw Tope. He lifted her up and carried her out of the house. He placed her gently in the backseat of his car while Chiamaka eased in and sat beside her mother.

“Are you taking us far away from this house?” Chiamaka asked Kola as he eased into the car.

“Chi, your mother needs to see a doctor first.”

“Okay sir. But we don’t want to come back here and I don’t want my daddy to know where we are.”

Kola sighed. “Okay Chi.”

 

A week later, Tope was discharged from the hospital. Kola took her straight to her parents house. Her parents welcomed her back with open arms. They hugged Chiamaka with tears in their eyes. They were grateful to her for saving their daughter’s life.

——-
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The Wedding

The minister faced the congregation. “Does anyone have any reasons why these two should not be joined together, let them speak now or forever hold their peace?”

Kayode smiled as he beheld the face of his bride. He had no skeletons in his cupboard and he was sure everyone in attendance wanted he and Tolani married.

He had told them to take out that phrase from his marriage vows but the minister had insisted; saying it was part of the church tradition to include it. He was positive no one would disrupt his wedding and he felt that phrase was useless.

The minister was about to continue with the wedding proceedings when Tolani raised her right hand. There were loud gasps within the hall. Kayode’s smile wiped away immediately giving way to a shocked expression.

The minister looked at Tolani as he nodded his head expecting an explanation from her.

“I can’t do this, Reverend.” Tolani said to the minister. Tears spilled down her cheeks as she looked at Kayode. “I’m sorry.”

Tolani dropped her bouquet on the floor and ran out of the hall. Kayode looked at Lolade; Tolani’s younger sister and chief bride’s maid. Lolade shrugged and ran after her sister with a smile on her face.

Her sister eventually did it and she was proud.

********

 

The night before, Tolani had confided in her that she could not go ahead with the wedding. Kayode had proposed to her at a family dinner in the presence of both familes and everyone had urged her to say “yes”. They had only started dating six months before and he was already proposing. She felt she still needed to know him and be comfortable with him. Every time they were together, the only discussion they had was about him, his work and his passions. Whenever she tried to talk, he shut her down by saying, women needed to be seen and not heard. She had said “yes” to his proposal to save his ego. She had however returned the engagement ring the next day telling him that she was not interested in getting married to him.

The next three weeks had been weeks of cajoling and threatening by her parents. They insisted she had to get married to him as he was a suitable choice according to them. His own parents had also done their bit of cajoling. Even though, she loved his parents, she could not bring herself to love their son.

Wedding preparations started against her wish. She begged, cried and explained to her mother but no one listened to her. They all concluded that she was insensitive as Kayode had proved that he loved her.

*******

 

Lolade held her elder sister in her arms as she cried. “Sis, if you don’t love him, don’t make the mistake of marrying him.” She had concluded. As Lolade ran out of the hall, Tolani was getting into Lolade’s car. She had told her elder sister the night before that if she decided to change her mind and cancel the wedding, she could leave in her car. She had booked a stay in a hotel out of town for her sister. The car key was intentionally left on the ignition for a speedy getaway. Lolade watched as her sister sped off from the church premises.

“Where is she going? You are looking at your sister and you couldn’t stop her?” Her father barked.

“Ah! Tolani has embarrassed me today!” Her mother lamented.

Lolade looked at her mother; disgust written all over her face. “Mum, is that all you can say?”

“C’mon shut up! What do you know?” Her mother shouted at her.

 

Lolade shrugged as she walked to the car her sister had come in. “Please take me home.” She said to the driver.

As the driver pulled out of the premises, Lolade laid her head on the head rest and smiled. “Finally, her elder sister was taking charge of her life.”