It is finally time to call my mother. It can’t be delayed any longer. I pick up the receiver for the last time and with trembling hands punch in her number. It rings once and I disconnect it. I don’t think I could lie to my mother. Only I can see that my marriage is over, I love my mother but she loves Tade even more, I am alone in this fight. Before I leave, I drop the medical report from my gynaecologist on the vanity, outlining the cause of my recent miscarriage, the third in eleven months.
I bundle the luggage to the threshold and with a hand firmly in each of mine I stride out towards my freedom. My blood runs cold as I see Tade leaning against the gate bristling with rage. I can hear telling tick of his car’s engine just beyond, he never left.
“Maryann, do you think you can leave me?” He roars, starting towards me. Instinctively I push the children behind me. He lunges for my throat and I hesitate, torn between protecting myself and my children. Like the mythical griffin which in times of lack nourishes it’s young from its own breast, I sacrifice myself for my young. Tade strikes me flush with the flat of his hand, knocking out a tooth. Irene is screaming for help at the top of her lungs but we live in a world where our neighbours are the maids and guards, nurturers and protectors for parents who are too busy to do the job themselves. They know better than to interfere in other people’s business.
“Did you think I wouldn’t notice the money you spirited away? If I had known you were so foolish to go this far I would have put a stop to this a long time ago.”
He hits me again but it’s too late to subdue me. Irene grabs Adeolu who begins to cry as the severity of the scene dawns on him and together they run back into the house. Irene bolts the door and calls Amaka like I drilled. Tade is momentarily distracted and I use the opportunity to sucker punch him and flee. He regains his focus just as I pass him and claws at my jacket which tears exposing my chiffon sundress. I shed the remains of my jacket and run for the gate, pull it open and wiggle out to the street beyond, as Tade recovers and gives chase.
Like lot’s wife I turn back for a final glance, not out of regret but out of fear. No matter, the consequence is the same. I hear the screech of tires and smell burning rubber as Abdul and Jason’s stolen joyride rapidly metamorphoses into a nightmare. The hoarse screams of teenage boys fill the air as I succumb to the cold metal of their car. It is like I am on a rollercoaster ride, everything slows interminably. The impact carries me over the car in a series of somersaults, denting upon violent contact with my body. The windscreen breaks in a web of cracks, drawing long ugly lines on my back. I feel each pain individually like a kaleidoscope of feeling. They are so overwhelming that my pain receptors shut down and blissful numbness takes over. In a split second, reality snaps back. The accident is over and I am sprawled in the middle of the road like some grotesque exhibition. Tade is the first to reach me and all signs of his murderous rage are swept away. All that is left is overwhelming guilt. My head is clear and devoid of emotion for the first time in a long while and I can see that Tade will blame himself for this. I try to stroke his face but my arms are broken. I try to soothe him with my words but I do is leak blood. So I lie as quietly and serenely as I can hoping my serenity will be comfort enough for him.
It is for this side of Tade I stayed so long, this quiet and compassionate side. His touch so gentle, feathers seem abrasive and air heavy and choking. The man I married, hiding a terrible person within him. It is a pity that only my pain can incite his compassion. He pulls me to himself and sobs, Abdul hovering behind him mumbling incoherently, a massive gash across his forehead. I hear retching in the background, it is probably Jason. The tighter Tade hugs me; pressing me into himself, the deeper he pushes the jagged rib into my lung, expanding the wound. I try to inhale but all I make is a noisy gurgle. The experience is not unlike drowning. Black spots encroach on my vision, I feel light-headed. I am content to keep my gaze firmly on Tade, memorizing his features, the curve of his lips, the laugh lines created during picnics at the park, the scar above his left eyebrow from our first fight. I stare at him intently, searing his image onto my retinas as my vision blurs and the world grows dark around me. Tade takes my hand and places it on his cheek. It is warm to the touch, I slowly fade away. I am like a battered butterfly, with my tattered sundress for wings and a whispered prayer for my children on my lips.