1: How it all started
I DID NOT tell my boyfriend I was getting married, so, when my phone began to ring on my wedding night with his name and picture appearing on my phone’s screen, I did not pick. It continued to ring, this iPhone eight with its delicate features and envious specs. His smiling face stared back at me, his reddish lips parted to reveal immaculate white teeth but I still did not pick, even with the customised ringtone taunting my ears, I did not pick.
Suddenly, the double doors pushed open to reveal the man whom the priest proclaimed to be my husband a few hours ago. He was still clad in the black suit and matching shoes he wore for the wedding with his white packet shirt sporting a red stain from the wine shared at the reception. On his face was a dizzying smile, the kind only a warrior wore after a successful battle and my shoulders slumped, he did win the war but at what expense? My unhappiness?
With supersonic speed, I shoved the phone under the unusually soft pillows, another one of the extravagances I was yet to get accustomed to while my other hand smoothed the creases on the handsewn, armless, silver gown I wore to the reception. Everything was perfect, from the venue, bridesmaids gowns to the groomsmen tuxedos and his permanent smile. Perfect and expensive, the opposite of what I was used to, what I knew. I sighed. But I loved my life as it was before him, mama’s croaky laughter before she burst into a fit of coughs that would cause her shoulders to tremble, then my siblings would rush to get her agbo, a local herb.
I blinked false eyelashes as he undid the last of his dress shirt button, watching him heave a sigh of relief as his slightly protruded belly burst free from its previous confines and my fingers sunk into the mattress. Content with his new state of undress, he walked out of the room with his stomach hanging low on his belt buckle and a wider grin on his face.
The sound of his retreating footsteps against the cool mirror tiles could be compared to that of a person’s palm beating against the surface of a big bowl of water, my lips curled into a sad smile, it was oddly comforting. Certain he was out of earshot, I retrieved the phone to call Kunle, my heart squeezed and my fingers froze on the screen at the text that just came in.
“One day, our dreams will come true, we will both be the people we have always wanted to be–happy and of course, blessed. Then, I will have my heart’s one desire which is, coming back every day to see my bae on the couch with those hot legs crossed. I will kiss you and then we would talk about our day and what to do about our children’s performances in school.
Till then, sleep well my love.”
There was a slight movement in my chest as I read the last line of Kunle’s text over and over again, a warm sensation wrapped around me like a blanket on a rainy morning, cocooning me in a temporary bubble of happiness that deflated at the sight of my husband at the door.
He did not see the tears I blinked back or the sniffles I tried to hide by coughing neither was he aware that my eyes burned on the inside from trying so hard to keep up a brave front. His face broke into a suggestive smile which I forced myself to return, fingers pinching the inside of my thighs to refrain from doing otherwise. He has won the battle and I am his prize.
“Coming, Emeka,” the voice belonged to me but it sounded strange to my ears.
His gaze followed my every move as I sauntered to the bathroom and my heartbeat slowed to a regular pattern when the door was locked behind me. Resting my back against the smooth surface of the door, I slid to the cold, tiled floors and exhaled slowly, feverishly, wishing for some magic wand to make all of this disappear. I could do with a Cinderella miracle now.
The woman in the full-length mirror who stared back at me when I finally stood could be considered beautiful. Her white gown with gold lace trimming surrounding the collar hugged her every dip and curve, a neat bun sat atop her head with blunt bangs that helped to frame her oval face covering her eyebrows. The flawless makeup called attention to her eyes, eyes that were so black, they could see right into your soul while revealing its owner’s emptiness.
Her shoulders sagged like she was carrying an invisible weight. Her unblemished dark skin radiated. Crow feet lined the corners of her eyes, she raised manicured fingers to her chubby cheeks and sniffed. The dimples that appeared at the faux smile tugging at her lips contradicted the look of sadness in her black orbs that were now brimming with unshed tears.
Pushing myself from the door, I took off my smalls and climbed into the bathtub that had previously been filled with rose-scented water, the iPhone in my right hand. Stretching my legs to loosen the knots in my joints, I swiped on the phone’s screen to reveal the message from Kunle. I read line after line until I mastered each word, each syllable and the position of every punctuation mark, it was like a primary school rhyme I hoped never to forget.
This time, there was a rhythm in my heart as I read the message out loud, a vibration of some sort as the butterflies danced gently in my stomach as if performing an elegy for my loss. The water rose around me, its white foam the same colour as the bathtub, the colour of snow and I played fleetingly with the idea of staying submerged underneath for longer than I should.
Imitating Kunle’s melodious voice, I closed my eyes and pretended he was reading the message out loud to me, tilting my head for him to place a kiss on his favourite spot right below my ear. His fingers wiped the tears that streamed down my cheeks and when he whispered with those hot legs crossed, I found myself doing as he demanded, a moan of longing slipping from my lips as his breath fanned my ear. I stayed that way until the water lost its warmth and his voice faded, the loud bangs on the door jerking me back into reality.
“Is everything alright?” Emeka’s voice was laced with concern but it swept over me like light showers before a thunderstorm.
In slow motion, I stood from the tub, walking out with the elegance of a zombie.
“Boobae… Is everything alright?” Emeka held me in his arms when I came out, eyebrows furrowed as he scanned every inch of my body for any sign of injury.
Nodding to reassure him, I moved away from him. If only this jelly of a man would stop calling me boobae. He still looked unconvinced but didn’t say a word as I dropped the phone to dry my body. Walking out of the room, his buttocks, flesh, every part of his body jiggled like he was made of water and I sighed inwardly at the images of Kunle’s firm body that contested for space in my mind. He was the definition of firm and fit, the perfect body.
I wondered what he was doing at this moment, pictured him gawking at his phone, his face contorted in worry as he muttered, “Why isn’t Jumoke picking up?”
When my husband returned with a mischievous smile, I was lying naked on the bed, legs spread far apart like Isaac waiting for slaughter. He clapped his chubby hands together, his fingers looking swollen like he suffered from whitlow. The mattress dipped with his weight beside me and I avoided those bulging eyes that peeped out of his face like mini spectacles.
“Boobae, I don’t like this. You don’t look happy.” His concern was genuine, the love he had for his new bride evident in the gentle caress of my cheek. “What is the problem?”
Turning my face to him, I bit down hard on my tongue at his newly repulsive appearance. His saggy breasts laid on his chest as if asleep and his stomach tilted sideways like it was about to fall off. I did not understand why my mother thought I could do this or fall for him.
“I’m fine,” I said in a moment of hysteria when his face lowered to mine..
My eyes showed signs of betrayal, so I blindly reached out for the bedside lamp, letting the warm, salty liquid trail down my cheek as darkness descended the room.
“No, boobae. I want to see your face.” I did not protest when the light came back on, only taking deep breaths to keep the waterworks at bay. “What is wrong? Talk to me.”
“I’m just tired from the wedding,” I said when he continued staring moronically at me.
The rest of the night was a catalogue of mishaps: this jelly of a man climbed on top of me, his weight crushing me as he thrust in and out of me with a prick the size of my last finger. The look of contentment in his eyes made my stomach knot, his sticky fluid inside of me made me feel like I was soaked up in mire and when he rolled away from me, it brought to mind the way the angels rolled away the heavy stone on Jesus’s tomb but with lots of sorrow.
He laid awake next to me, panting heavily like we had just finished a marathon, I scoffed when he remembered to ask if I enjoyed it, a question that went unanswered. His hands tried to bring me closer to him but I stood up, going on to turn off the light after which I walked off into the bathroom to clean up the semen slowly dripping to my thighs. On my return, I laid far away from him, muttering gratitude under my breath at his lack of protests.
I counted to twenty, keeping deathly still when I heard him call my name. When he got no response, his hand that was as rubbery as a sachet of water pulled me closer to cuddle me. Tears threatened to drop from my eyes and I sunk my teeth into my lower lip to avoid crying.
This was my new life, Happy Married Life, Jumoke.