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He landed a nasty slap on her face. “ Ayooo !!!” She exclaimed in pain. “Get out of my apartment,” he snarled at her. She clutched ...

He landed a nasty slap on her face. “Ayooo!!!” She exclaimed in pain. “Get out of my apartment,” he snarled at her. She clutched her face as the force of the slap painfully permeated her skin. “Get out!” He shouted again, shoving her out of the apartment. “Please don’t do this to me Ikenna,” she begged him. “You know I love you Ikenna. Ike, please don’t treat me like this,” she pleaded fervently with him. He slammed the door on her face. Heartbroken, she sat on the floor refusing to leave. A few minutes later, he opened the door and threw her bags and clothes at her. “Take your things and never come back here,” he raved, as he tossed her belonging at her. She quickly sprang to her feet attempting to grab hold of him. Before she could reach him, he slammed the door shot yet again leaving her outside. “Please honey let me back in. Emene is so far away, and it is too late now. Honey please let me back in. I cannot find a bus or taxi home this late. Please, let me in just for the night.” Ikenna turned on his TV and turned up the volume as high as he could. The sound of the TV drowned out Florence’s voice. She banged on the door, but he wouldn’t answer. After begging for an hour, she picked up her belongings and headed downstairs. Her vision was clouded by a sea of tears as she climbed down the stairs.

It was past 1:00AM and the streets were deserted. She looked over her shoulders in fear as she walked along Ogui Road. The odd vehicle sped past her every now and again, but overall, the roads were empty. She lived in Emene, a considerable distance from Ogui Road. No matter what she did, she could not stop the tears that streamed down her face. A stabbing pain greeted every step she took. She and Ikenna had been dated for about three years, off and on. He was in the habit of beating her up, yet she kept going back to him. When she passed Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium, she recalled a friend who lived a short distance away on Owerri Road. That was her best shot. A trek back to Emene was not possible that night. It had been a while since she and Ifebuche saw each other. She hoped she still lived there. She was quite embarrassed to knock at the door this late, but she had to brave, else she’d sleep outside. Gently, she knocked. Then, she listened for any sign of movement inside. Then she knocked again, this time a bit louder. Yet there was no answer. The third time, she closed her teary eyes and knocked quite loudly. She pressed her ear against the door and listened hard. She was sure she heard some movement inside. Then she gave the door another knock.

“Who is it?” It was Ifebuche’s voice. Relief swept through her. “Ify it is me Florence,” she answered. “Florence Onuaguluchi?” Ifebuche asked. “Yes Ify.” The door flung open and Ifebuche hugged her. They had been friends since secondary school, but over the past few years, they had seen each other sparingly. Ifebuche was a student at UNEC, while Florence studied at the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT) both in Enugu. “What brings you here this late?” Ifebuche inquired. “I found myself in this area so late, so I figured I could come and sleep here until morning.” “Come right in. It is good to see you.” Ifebuche flipped on the light. Immediately, she could tell that something was wrong. Florence had a black eye and she was trying to conceal it. Her eyes were teary too. “Are you still with that guy Ikenna? He has been beating you as usual right?” Florence said nothing. “I am going to throw you out if you don’t tell me what is going on. I don’t care how long I have known you Floxy. I told you last year to quit that toxic relationship. What sort of a man beats a woman like this? For how long?”

Florence could no longer hold the tears back. She began to cry again. “He threw you out of his apartment right?” She nodded affirmatively. “I am calling my boyfriend Isidor. We are going there tonight to pound him like a bag,” Ifebuche declared. “No Ify, please don’t do that. He really loves me. He does not know what he is doing.” “What? Love you? He has been pounding you like a punching bag for the past two years and you claim he loves you? You have lost sight of what love is Florence. Get real my friend. I blame you as much as I blame him. You go back to him every time. Are you crazy? Is this the life you want for yourself? When we were children you had dreams…big dreams. Is this the big dream? You have the choice to end this right now and regain your dignity…that is if you still know what that means.” “I still love him and I know he loves me. Someday you will see it.” “If you keep talking like that, I will throw you out. So what have you done this time around?” “I…I looked through his phone and saw some text messages and pictures. You know…suggestive text messages and pictures from other girls, and I asked him about it.” And he beat you over that?” Florence nodded.

“He is exchanging such texts and pictures with other girls and you still think he loves you?” “These girls…they throw themselves at him. It is me he truly loves.” “Iyamma!!! Nwanne m nwanyi, kunie n’ura!!! (Indeed!!! Wake up my friend!)” “I know it. When he sees me next he will apologize. He really loves me.” “You just don’t love yourself enough to know who truly loves you. Your mental state has been destroyed by your relationship with Ikenna. You have no confidence and belief in yourself anymore. You are keen to regain your identity and validation by going about it the wrong way. You believe that you can get him to stop beating you, and when he does, then, you will feel worthy and important again. You don’t need him to rediscover yourself. Just end it and start anew. There are thousands of great guys out there who will treat you right. It is time to end this toxic merry-go-round Florence.” Florence said nothing in reply.

“I can’t understand why you keep going back to him,” Ifebuche said in the morning as he walked Florence to the bus stop. “I will think about what you said,” she promised before hopping onto the bus. Two bus stops away, she hopped off and boarded a bus going in the opposite direction. When she reached Ikennna’s apartment, he was leaving for the market. He sold motor spare parts at Coal Camp. With him was a fine looking girl who had her hands all over him. Florence stood at the base of the stairs and stared at them. “Sorry Ik, I wanted to see you,” she said demurely. Her voice was bereft of confidence; somewhat shaky. “Who is this?” The other girl asked Ikenna. “Honey, this is my ex-girlfriend. She won’t leave me alone,” Ikenna lied through his teeth. “What is your problem? Person sey e no want you and you still dey follow am. You no dey shame at all? Please leave my boyfriend alone!” The girl shouted at Florence.  Her voice was filled with caustic rage and contempt. Florence stood there watching them helplessly. She was transfixed. So he brought her home as soon as he threw me out last night? She wondered. She had seen pictures of the girl on Ikenna’s phone before. Her eyes became misty again. She could hardly utter anything. She looked on as they walked past her, his arm around her waist and hers on his shoulder. Her high-heeled shoes generated a loud sound as she dug them fiercely into the ground.

With her belongings in hand, she slowly walked back to the bus stop. Her legs were saggy as she trudged tiredly. Her belongings dropped to the ground. Her arms had grown even weaker. Even though Ikenna had beaten her several times, this was the first time he flaunted another girl in front of her. She felt an intense emotional pain as she bent over to pick up her belongings. Bus conductors were exuberantly announcing their destinations, but she could not make sense of what they were saying. Nothing really made sense to her. She was in total oblivion; worlds away from reality. She walked along the road partially propelled by the morning breeze. Tears were flowing down uncontrollably. She did not want to get on the bus yet. She wanted to pull herself together before boarding another bus. Before she knew it, she found herself at Otigba junction. She crossed the road, and took a spot at the bus stop. Her legs had grown more tired. She heard the conductor shouting “Emene! Emene! Emene!” She hopped onto the bus and covered her face with her palms. Her palms were soon deluged with tears. When she got home, she locked herself in and cried her heart out. In the ensuing weeks, she bounced from one shallow relationship to another. She made efforts to wear a happy face on the outside but deep inside she was being battered by ‘agonizing pain’. One day she ran into Maduabuchi at friend’s party. He was nice and funny. At first, he wanted to take things slow, but Florence in her desperate nature threw herself at him. Even though he seemed to like her initially, he was put off by her rather desperate disposition. She did not seem to have an identity of her own. Whatever Maduabuchi did or said was great. She was quick to jump into the sac too. She appeared overly clingy and needy.

Slowly, he began to withdraw from her, and she noticed it. The same pattern was playing out before her very eyes yet again. He ran and she chased after him. She would call and he’d ignore her calls forcing her to call even more. She would show up at his apartment unannounced, terrified that he had another girl at home. Maduabuchi made excuses as he tried to explain away his sudden change in attitude towards her. Why? Why? God why? She’d pose the same question to herself every day. She barely slept at bight, and her grades at school were taking a massive tumble. She would decide to forget him like many before him, but barely an hour after making the decision, she would be on the phone dialing his number. One evening she lay in bed drenched in tears as she wondered why she could not seem to find a man who would love and accept her. Through misty eyes she peered at the clock and the time was about 7:00PM. She impulsively got dressed and boarded a bus to Maduabichi’s in New Haven. Her heart was pounding with fear as she knocked on the door. She could hear voices inside. Immediately, she concluded that he had female company at home. When he opened the door, he had a bottle of Guinness small stout in hand. “Floxy!” He shouted. Clearly, he was not expecting her. “Can I come in?” “Yes, please come in.” Inside, there were two other guys and two girls in the apartment. Maduabuchi was a contractor, and he had just won a considerably big contract from the state government, so he was celebrating with his friends. He was slightly tipsy. They had been drinking for a while.

“Have something to drink Floxy,” Maduabuchi offered. “I am fine, thanks for offering,” she replied. “No we are celebrating. You have to have something,” one of his friends insisted. “I am fine thanks,” she replied yet again. “Come on Floxy, have Malta Guinness at least,” Maduabuchi persisted. Reluctantly, she took one even though she had no appetite whatsoever. She took a sip and placed the bottle on the table. She barely touched it again. A few hours later, Maduabuchi’s friends began to leave one at a time. Soon, the two of them were alone together. She clutched her bag, stood up and said, “I have to leave now.” “Really? I thought you were spending the night?” He asked. “Really? When I was not even invited to the party in the first place?” “I am sorry honey,” he lied. “I was going to tell you tomorrow.” “You don’t have to lie Abuchi. It is all my fault not yours. I threw myself at you like a worthless girl that is the reason you thought I would just walk in like that and spend the night with you. I don’t blame you. I blame myself. Yes, I have no confidence in myself. It is true; I have literally placed myself at the feet of any man that dared look in my direction, including you. I am needy and clingy, and for a long time I have pretended I did not know I had these flaws. You have seen what I am worth and you have made up your mind that I am not worth much. You have sized me up and I am like a piece of rag to you. You have gotten what you wanted after all. It is okay, carry on with your life.” She could not hold back the tears. Her face was covered in tears. Maduabuchi’s heart was pierced sharply by her words.  

“I thought maybe you were different. I thought maybe you would look beyond my many faults and love me like I love you. I am a broken and confused girl. I have been cheated upon, beaten and dumped over and over again. I am from a broken home too. My father used to come home drunk and batter my mother like a boxer pummeling a fellow boxer in the ring. He would yell at us and beat the life out of my siblings and I. I have been searching for someone to put their arms around me for too long. For someone to comfort me. For someone to know of all the mess in my life and still say, ‘Yes I love you nonetheless. For someone to wipe my tears and make me feel really special even if it was just for one day. I am not perfect Abuchi, but despite everything I have been through and how broken I am, I know one thing. I am still a bundle of love deep inside. I have been carrying it around since my mother passed away looking for someone to give it to with all my heart…if only they would just love me back a little. I don’t ask for too much; just a little bit. You may be better than I am or maybe not but you are not perfect. 

"You let your friends use you because you want to be loved by them. You snore terribly when you sleep. Your arm pit is like a zoo when you don’t shave. Dirt can grow wings and fly around your apartment until I, your slave come around and do the cleaning. I could name a lot more weaknesses that you possess but they won’t make any difference, because I have grown to love you despite all that. We are not so different Abuchi except…I am willing to love you the way you are. To be there for you and walk through any changes that may be necessary with you. But for you, I am not worthy of you because I do this and I do that. If you picked my calls I would not call you as often as I do. If you made me feel great; loved and wanted, I would not be as clingy and needy. Why don’t you have the guts to tell me to my face that you no longer want me? Say it. Say it like the rest of them. You have been stalling on that because you are different. Beneath everything I mentioned about you, I still see a deep slow-moving oasis of love. Be a man and take a chance on love or simply tell me you don’t want me. Would you follow your heart or would you listen to what your friends have to say? Floxy is devoid of confidence; Floxy is clingy; Floxy is needy. She does not know where she is going. That is a lie!” She shouted.

“I know where I am going, I am just too afraid to go there alone…I need someone beside me to dull my fears and worries. The fears that I picked up from my previous experiences. You can either follow what the world tells you or follow your heart. Just tell me right now that you don’t want me; that you feel absolutely nothing for me and I would never bother you again. Go ahead and say it!” She was crying with her back to the door, ready to leave if he said it. He walked towards her wiping buckets of tears that had invaded the corridors of his eyes. “Please let me hold you Florence. Please stop talking. Just let me hold you my dear. I am sorry. I had no right whatsoever to judge you the way I did. Please let me hold you,” he said. His voice was broken up as he began to sob. He took her in his arms and pressed her hard as though he was seeing her for the first time after so many years. She dissolved into his arms in tears. “I just wanted someone to return my love…that is all I have ever wanted,” she said. “From this day on, I will return it. You deserve better Florence. You have such a great heart. You are so giving, loving, caring and trusting. How did I overlook all that? Stop talking my dear. You will no longer cry or search for love. I am here for you…and I will stand by you for as long as I live.” The both of them morphed into a statue of a hugging man and woman as they held to each other as if they’d die if they let go.

This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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