I glanced at the clock for the umpteenth time. Why was he taking so long?
Suddenly I heard the door to our bedroom shut.
“I’m going out.” He said curtly, walking briskly past me.
“Where are you going daddy?” Our son called out.
He stopped. When he turned his head around, there was a big smile plastered across his face; a smile he only reserved for his son. “Don’t worry, I’ll be back soon.” He lied. “Okay daddy!” Our son quipped.
He glanced over at me and the smile was gone. “I’ll see you later.”
“Not this time you won’t.” I said in my head. “Not this Christmas.”
Ours was definitely one you would call a “whirlwind romance”. There was barely any courtship and before I got a chance to really know him, he proposed.
You know how they say a man does not become a monster overnight, and that there are usually signs in the beginning that women ignore? Well, I did not ignore them; but I did the more idiotic thing of dismissing them because everyone else thought I was crazy. “The man has a good job, he’s rich, and wants to marry you, so what’s the problem?” One friend had said. “He is from a good family, and seems like a nice young man; so what is it?” My mother had queried. “Keep wasting time, he’ll leave you and marry someone else!” My sister had warned. So I gave in, deciding that his quick proposal was not suspicious at all, but indicative of how strongly he felt about me. That is, until things took a strange turn at Christmas.
On Christmas day of the year we got married, my husband got a distressing call and rushed out without a word to me. He did not return until the wee hours of the following morning, and offered me no more than a croaky “I lost my friend.”
In the days that followed, his friends and family members visited and called continuously – which was a bit unusual for one who lost a friend, not a relative.
On one of such days, I overheard a conversation that cleared my confusion.
My husband had not just lost a friend; he had lost the love of his life!
They met while at University and were headed for marriage, but his parents disapproved of her. Out of sheer frustration one day, she mentioned to him that perhaps they should go their separate ways as she could not imagine marrying him without his parent’s blessings. In anger, he had stormed off. “…so he married the next person he saw just to spite her, and has regretted it ever since!” the storyteller ended.
I gripped my chest and steadied my breath. It was not true. So what if he lost an old girlfriend? That did not mean our marriage was merely a ruse to make her jealous. People could be so cruel.
I straightened my bubu where I stood and was about to turn the corner and throw the gossips out of my house when I heard “babe, leave story. I heard he was planning to end the marriage until he found out that his wife was pregnant and his brother talked him out of it.” At that, I sank to the floor; mortified as I remembered the day I told him I was with child.
He had walked into the house and said stoically “we need to talk” just as I blurted out that I was pregnant with a sheepish grin on my face. He dashed outside in response. After a few minutes of confusion, I had walked towards the front door in a bid to find him and had heard the tail end of a phone conversation. “So you are trying to tell me I should stay on even though I’m not happy? Okay, fine!”
I had assumed he was talking about a project at work; especially since he returned with something that looked like a smile.
Many tear-filled nights later, I decided to make my marriage work despite what I knew. I would prove to him that I deserved to be loved just as much as I had grown to love him. Besides, we had a little boy; we had to make it work for his sake at least. I knew something had died in him, something I was sure I could not resurrect; but I did not give up. Not even when the beatings started.
The first time was two years later; three days before Christmas. He was moody as he had been the year prior around Christmas and I knew it was because he still mourned her, so I tried to be patient with him. That week however, he was constantly coming home drunk and I did not like our son seeing him like that. So, I confronted him and was met with a slap that sent me falling back a few feet. The Christmas after that, it was a closed-fisted punch; and the Christmas after that, it was a full-fledged pummelling because I dared to mention her name. Even in my semi-conscious state on the floor, I was willing to forgive him…until he spoke those words. “I don’t know why I have been blaming myself all this while. It’s YOUR fault! If you didn’t get pregnant, I would have dumped you long ago and she would still be alive today!”
Perhaps it was the concussion, but I could hear the tiny crinkling sounds as the scales fell from my eyes. It was definitely over.
The day had come and he had finally left the house to go on his usual Christmas week binge-drinking fiasco. I emerged from the guest room where I had hidden a suitcase packed with my valuables and some of my son’s clothes. “Come on baby, you and I are going on a trip!” I announced.
For the first time in six years, I was finally going to have a Christmas; this Christmas.