BEFORE DAWN

BEFORE DAWN

I’m staring at my reflection in the mirror and can only imagine the amount of girls, women who are like me; struggling and trying to patch up their life with very little time. It seems like it’s something hanging from a thread about to cut and tear it apart. I don’t recognize the woman in the mirror again and that’s not because she doesn’t look like me, but because I wonder why she can be so silly to allow this man break her to the smallest pieces.

I’m drained mentally and broken physically.

My left eye is slightly open and bloodshot and my cheeks are swollen , my lips cracked. This is the man that promised a forever with me and made a vow on the altar , to be with me no matter the situation. I need constant reassurance that everything is going to be fine and it’s okay to have a miscarriage for the third time . I’m not barren and I’m not a witch  sent to destroy my home. I need assurance that I’m going to be protected and I’m going to be fine but he does the exact opposite. I’m looking hard into the mirror and suddenly I can no longer see myself all I can see is how we met five years ago and how my life took a wrong turn.

 I was coming out from Chicken republic after a long day at work . I had ordered a plate of rice with salad and water because I got tired of any other liquid. On the way to my car , I saw a man walking in who dropped something so I quickly tried to get the his attention. He turned slowly to look at the person calling him and that was how I met my husband, the monster. He had the athletic physique and this dazzling smile that seemed to reach his eyes and made them sparkle. He had ear piercings that I found really attractive. “Oh my, he’s a fine young man” I thought.

“You dropped something “ I said not sure how I sounded . Icy, unsure, I would never know till now, the same way I don’t know what he dropped on the floor till date. I never paid attention and would never know if it was his car keys or even house keys.

“Do you stay around here?” He asked and anytime I think of the fact that he never thanked me, or still hasn’t, hunts me. It’s stupid when you can feel really safe around a stranger and I wouldn’t know how to describe him now, if I am call him my husband, a stranger or worse than a monster cause I know the devil has definitely learnt a thing or two from him. This man took me by surprise and entered my life like a storm, it felt like I was riding a new wave with no time to catch my breath. He introduced me to the finer things of life. I had a new car, lots of jewelry and sometimes vacations with him. Perhaps it might because I never had the opportunity to see this side of life that I ignored the signs and let him into my life. I centered my life around him and even pushed family and friends away for him, thinking it was a smart decision. Thinking about it now, I wouldn’t really know how to feel. I convinced myself that letting him spend so much on me was just a way of living the good life and posting on social media and not a sign of commitment to him.

He would argue over the smallest things and make me feel unloved and unwanted then buy flowers to make it up, his way of showing love. Never would this man apologize or make me realize that I’m worth more than the daily flowers. It didn’t take long after ignoring these red flags that he proposed to me on one of our trips to Bali .

“You mean the world to me and I want you to spend the rest of your life with me to make you happy”,the note he passed to me through the waiter read. Thinking deep about the proposal, He did not go down on one knee to propose to me, instead he sat a few inches away from me, his eyes gleaming with ego because he knew that I would say yes. After all, he had changed my life so much that I ignored how bizarre and how drastic my life had changed that I owed him the favor to accept his damned proposal. Two days later the ring arrived, in a red box, embellished with purple ribbons and I wore the diamond ring. The beginning of bondage and torture in my life.

“Girlllll how did you do it? How did you bag such a sweetheart?”, my friends would ask all the time on my twitter comment box when I posted the picture of my hand with the ring. They assumed I lived the life. Shocking because, yes, that’s the life I thought I was living. I would not say that I was naïve because I was in my early twenties when it all began and old enough make decisions for myself. Everyone approved of the marriage except my mother and I felt she was just exaggerating. She told me that I was not happy but whenever you think you are in love, certain opinions or advice would not matter to you.

I quit my job to be with him because he wanted me to be well taken care of and did not want anything to stress me. Isn’t he a darling? I beamed.

Always wanting to look out for me, to take care of me and give me the ‘Princess treatment’ I desired. Not once did this man ever call me beautiful or give me the bare minimum. I only received shouting that turned into hitting and beatings that became worse. When he pushed me down the stairs, I lost my first baby and he blamed me for being careless conveniently forgetting he was the cause. He was never emotionally available for me and I blame myself everyday for ignoring red flags and still thinking I can bear this inhumane treatment because I’m scared of what people will say and how the ridicule I would face. No amount of money or the gifts he sends daily after battering me or raping me can replace my happiness. I’m tired of the gifts . I’m tired of the new cars, the flowers, the credit alerts. I just want my sanity back. But I don’t know why I want to stay in this toxic relationship where this man treats me like an inanimate object.  

We made vows on the altar and I happen to be the only one who fully renews the vows but ENOUGH IS ENOUGH . I’m tired and cannot bear to continue. His mom would come and insult me tirelessly calling me a witch sent from her village to destroy her son. I begin to think about the herbs she always mixed to give me and wonder if it was really for my own good or to worsen the situation. When I finally realized that he is toxic and I’ve been a fool for years, letting this man break me and allowing him erase my identity. I did not have a shoulder to lean on especially now that I really needed help and it will be shameful to call my mother after everything.There’s so much to unpack and I wouldn’t know again as I stare into the mirror and my reflection stares back.  She looks sad like she has given up on hope. How is hope supposed to find me now? Lost in thought and I doubting if I have any emotion left. I need to leave for fresh air, to breathe and live life again. Maybe I’m no more afraid of what people will say. After all, they noticed when I used make up to cover up the bruises on my face and skin and my smiling through the pain of my miscarriages, withdrawals and silly lies all trying to defend this devil when we went for events.

Two days ago after I realized I lost the baby, I could see the anger and guilt in his eyes. The way he looked at me with pity and sadness.

“ Don’t leave me please ! I’m sorry for everything. That was supposed to be our son and I messed it up”, he cried. Maybe he began to see the signs that I would leave, and that’s the way a manipulative person acts. Aren’t I the victim? So how dare he feel pity and sadness over something he caused?.

He began to lock the door as he left for work and give the gateman instructions not to allow me go anywhere because I was not in the right state of mind.

Now that I look away from the mirror and fall on the tiled floor of the bathroom, I weigh my options and begin to think. I’m sweating profusely but it doesn’t matter because I’m going to get out today. I will leave today and maybe there’s still hope laying in me somewhere. It burns and I can feel it .

There’s a place he hides spare keys and when I open the drawer beside his wardrobe, I smile. My lips hurt from how badly he has cracked it but the pain feels like pleasure right now. He didn’t come back last night from work as usual. I search frantically for the keys and from the way I search, it’s obvious that I don’t want to be defeated. I can feel metal on my palm and when I draw it out , it’s the keys. I’m elated.

My phone is downstairs on the counter in the kitchen and I’m aware he keeps some money under the bed which is very primitive considering the amount of money he has but I don’t want to take his money. I take all the jewelry he has bought for me instead and gently walk downstairs. It’s a few minutes before dawn and I’m aware of the chances I’m about to take. I don’t bother changing my clothes . It’s a black abaya and blue scarf that is covering my hair slightly. Another obstacle is this man at the gate . The gate man is very easy to distract but seems like the odds are not in my favor today because no matter how many times I tell him it’s urgent he simply tells me it’s above his powers. I go back into the house and sit on the couch thinking of what to do next . My body hurts badly and I know that slowly I’d run out of breath. There’s still hope burning inside of me  and I decide to try the last option I’ve weighed and give it my all.

I shout very loudly and I hear him leaving the gate unattended to find out what is going on. That will be his biggest mistake but he will thank me later because nobody is actually fit to live around the monster I once called ‘husband’. He is knocking on the door asking for permission to come inside and this is no action movie so I prepare to run with the ounce of strength I have. This is me giving it my all for some type of hope still left. If I win, I have almost won the battle . He will look for me. He will find me but I don’t mind because I will be with my mother. I miss her and it hurts because I know she already saw what I could not see. The gateman finally enters the house but before he can turn to ask what has happened, I push him aside and run. I’m not looking back.

It’s the only way to leave the toxic relationship I entered. It’s the only way to apologize to my three children who I have lost because of the monster I called my husband. It’s the only way I know my healing starts. The cries for help by the gate man begins to fade and I only want to meet my mother and beg for her forgiveness. I was carried away by material things but I know that I don’t deserve what My husband; the monster did to me. Wrecking me and making me doubt my worth. Now, as I run, I can feel the breeze on my skin and the thrill it gives and then I know that this is what true freedom feels like. I hope that before dawn arrives , my liberation will begin .

– Ernestine Okafor

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