TOUGH LOVE - Episode 1

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - salaries had not been paid in months, dinner, father’s angry and drunken return, alcohol, wife, protective of her children, children, husband, drinking, friends.

 Baaam!!! He slapped her. She fell to the ground clutching her face. Tears careened around her eyes. “Get out of my way you good-for-nothing woman,” he snarled at her. In searing pain, she managed to drag her hurting body out his way, yet he kicked her in the stomach as he walked past her in a drunken stupor. She grabbed her stomach as she let out an agonizing yell. As though she were not human, he ignored her pains and headed into the living room. “Next time, don’t make me knock more than three times before you get the door,” he said authoritatively and walked into the bedroom.

It was about 1:00AM and he had just returned from a drinking spree with his friends as usual. It had become their Friday night ritual. Although their salaries had not been paid in months, they drank on credit and ended up spending a huge chunk of their paltry salaries on alcohol bills when their salaries finally arrived. “Juliet!” he yelled at her like a house maid. “Yes!” she answered through an avalanche of pain.

“I want my dinner ready before I return to the living room.” Juliet, his wife of nearly fifteen years diligently and obediently lifted her bruised and battered body to the kitchen and began to warm his dinner, which had long gone cold. Their children had been awoken as usual by their father’s angry and drunken return. They lay quietly in bed, wishing he would not lay his hands on their mother again.

Their only daughter, Ogemma, who was only nine years of age was crying. She muffled her voice by placing her hands over her mouth to keep from attracting their father’s anger. The last time she cried out loud in response to his terrible beating of their mother, their father Bernard Ogbodo slapped her into quiet submission. Their first child, Chudi who had just turned fourteen lay quietly on the bed, burning with rage. He wished he could beat his father in retaliation. Like a roaring lion, Bernard returned to the living room for his late dinner. He dangled and reeled as he walked; the effect of alcohol manifested itself fully on him.

Juliet had placed his garri and egusi soup on the table. He hurriedly washed his hands and began to descend on the food. He dipped his hand in the soup and ransacked every nook and cranny of it. “There is only one little piece of meat in this soup Juliet?” he asked in a feat of rage. “Please my husband that is all we have. It has been months since the last time you gave me any money for the upkeep of this house with four children and us to cater for, yet I have managed to put food on the table. That is all we have, please manage,” she pleaded with him. He rose to his feet as though he had not heard a word of her plea and slapped her with his garri and soup-covered hand.

Tears flowed limitlessly down her face. Juliet sold okpa, a snack made from a native bean. It was more like moi moi, but tasted entirely different. She woke up about 4:30AM almost every morning to begin making her supply for the day. She and her children worked tirelessly to make up for the several months Bernard had gone without pay. “Daddy please stop it!” Chudi shouted. He jumped out of bed and grabbed his father by the waist. He slapped him with sheer brute and he fell to the ground. Galvanized by anger and the desire to save her mother, he jumped back to his feet and pushed his drunken father who went flying to the ground. “You can’t do that to you father Chudi,” Juliet warned him. “Now go back to bed immediately,” she ordered.

Reluctantly, he returned to the bedroom and lay in bed. His heart was pounding against his ribs. “Are you okay?” Juliet asked Bernard. “Come on help me to my feet,” he snapped arrogantly at her. Despite his impudence, she helped him to his feet and placed him back on the couch. “Please eat your dinner Bernard,” she pleaded. Dazed from the fall, he sat back and quietly ate his dinner. Juliet stayed up to take away his plates and helped him to bed afterwards.

“Why don’t you break his head when he returns home drunk?” Chudi asked his mother in the morning. “You cannot talk like that about your father Chudi. “I don’t care. He is a worthless father. He barely feeds his family, yet he returns home drunk most nights and beats his wife who makes sure there is food on his table. I am ashamed of him.” “When you get older, you’d understand better. We can only pray for him and do our best.” “Our best would be to beat him silly when he is drunk, and I know you can do it. Why do you let him treat you like that?” “For the sake of God, we cannot return evil for evil.” “But mom, don’t you feel degraded as a person that he beats you in front of us? I agree with all that church preaching that you bring up all the time, but somethings are meant not to be tolerated, and this is one of them. I don’t think it is bad to put an end to a nasty behavior. Maybe he does not know what he is doing. We need to make him understand how he makes us feel.”

“You are right. He certainly does not know what he is doing. We can only pray for him.” “Enough of that prayer mom. Slam the alcohol out of his head and he will never touch you in that manner again!” “I agree with Chudi mom,” added Onyenna, their second son, who was twelve.

“Everybody in our streets knows my father as a drunk, and they know he beats you. Other children make fun of us when we play football. How do you think that makes me feel? And you are still praying for him? The man is lost. He has no sense of responsibility. Beat him whenever he returns drunk, and he will stop it,” Onyenna insisted. “That is exactly what I say to her,” added Ogemma. “Everyone makes fun of me at school,” she continued. Juliet was willing to take Bernard’s brutality. She wanted to return his evil with love and prayers, but realizing that his attitude was making life too difficult for their children was a bitter pill to swallow. “Stop it children. I have heard enough from you. I don’t need your advice anymore.” Meanwhile, she was in deep thought as she tried to mask her pain and sorrows from them. Their words had touched a sore point in her heart. She was overly protective of her children. I have to end this terrible cycle, she thought.

“How can you stand such terrible treatment?” asked Mama Emeka, her best friend. They were chatting one afternoon after both women had finished their selling wares for the day. “I was awake the other night when he was pounding you like a punching bag. It is about time you put that ugly trend to an end you know,” she continued. “My friend, I understand what you mean, but I struggle with the idea of raising my finger against my drunk husband.” “So, you will watch him kill you? What happens to your children, should you be gone? Last time he left you with a damaged rib. No responsible man hits a woman like that. Think about your children,” Mama Emeka enjoined Juliet.

 Juliet and her husband were the biggest gossip topic of the neighborhood. Some women claimed they’d poison their husband if he treated them like Bernard treated Juliet. Juliet was aware of the gossip, but her faith and upbringing restrained her from retaliating. She tried to turn a deaf ear on the gossip flying around the neighborhood.

One evening, she sat in the living room reading the Bible. She had just returned from Bible study. The pastor had preached forgiveness and love. She studied the Bible intently, while praying in-between her study. She asked God to grant her the strength not to retaliate against her husband. Most of all, she asked that her husband would change for good. It was a Saturday evening. Bernard had gone out with his friends and was not expected home any time soon. The children played in front of the house with their friends.

“Have a nice evening Kevin,” Bernard’s voice roared from nearby. Kevin was his best friend and drinking buddy. He lived two blocks away. He too was in the habit of beating his wife, Chinelo.  “What are you doing there woman?” Bernard yelled impudently at Juliet as soon as he entered the living room. “Welcome Bernard,” Juliet answered. “I want my dinner ready before I return to the living room,” he ordered as he entered the bedroom to change. His reeked of alcohol. Although Juliet sat on the opposite end of the room, she could smell alcohol from his breath as he spoke.

As always, she left what she was doing and headed for the kitchen to fix him dinner. Within minutes, she had his dinner set on the table. He dangled back into the living room and pounced on his dinner. “I rarely hear you thank me for the work I do in this house. You have not given me a penny in months, yet I feed us all. It would be nice if you said a simple thank you,” Juliet said politely to him. “What did you say?” he snapped back at her. “You are doing what other women are doing. In fact, other women are doing better out there. If you are not here, I would have another wife to replace you in a week. You should shut up and do what you ought to do woman!” Again, tears circled her eyes. She was used to his brash and caustic words, but all the same, she was still human; she still craved a bit of love, and warmth from him. She took his plates away and returned to her Bible reading, while he sprawled out on the bed and began to snore away like a drunk elephant. In the morning, after church Juliet decided to have a chat with him since he was sober.

STORY CONTINUES...
              CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 2

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: TOUGH LOVE - Episode 1
TOUGH LOVE - Episode 1
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - salaries had not been paid in months, dinner, father’s angry and drunken return, alcohol, wife, protective of her children, children, husband, drinking, friends.
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