Our relationship started as most clichés do, he was my boss. Well, actually, I worked for his parents, but he was the junior boss. I never knew exactly what he did, but he was always at the office. It started simply enough, casual touches, lingering stares and suggestive conversations. He wanted me, I could see it in his eyes, and I would be lying if I said that seeing him didn’t make my heart beat a little faster and my palms sweaty. I didn’t understand his interest in me, however. I mean, I wasn’t the most beautiful girl, or even the most glamorous, and his kind of lifestyle seemed to demand both. He persisted, though, and I was swept into a six-month whirlwind romance that led up to our fairytale wedding.
When you are young and in love, the world is your oyster. You can do anything and you feel invincible. It is easy to ignore the imperfect, the small things that don’t fit into your perfect life. He has a hair-trigger temper, ignore. He treats you like a paid hooker, ignore. He is too possessive, ignore.
Mark was the only child of a very well off family. He was mostly a figurehead in his father’s company. He didn’t see the value of work when he was going to inherit it all one day. My role in his life was that of a housewife and he wouldn’t even hear of me going back to work. I spent my days cooking for my husband, puttering around in the garden, and getting well-versed in all that reality television had to offer. It was so boring I wanted to punch something.
When a former colleague called me one day with an exciting job opportunity where I could work remotely, I jumped at the chance and went to meet him for coffee to discuss it further. Mark had forbidden me to go anywhere without him, but I figured he would understand this time. Besides, his possessiveness was too much, sometimes!
My wanderings took longer than I expected, and I found that Mark had gotten to the house before me. He was just seated on the couch, staring off into space. I remember thinking that was weird because the lights were off and even the television was silent. I could see his silhouette illuminated by the moonlight coming through the windows. The curtains hadn’t been drawn yet.
“Hi, darling, you cannot believe the amazing day I had,” I said as I moved around straightening this and that, and bending down to kiss him. He moved away at the last moment, leaving me quite puzzled by his behaviour.
“Where have you been?” He asked in a quiet tone I had never heard him use before.
I started to tell him, at the same time thinking of what I could quickly prepare for dinner. I wanted to go take a seat but he grabbed my arm in a bruising grip. I let out a small gasp of pain. It seemed that Mark did not even hear it. In his eyes, I could see the familiar anger I was used to along with something that sent a shiver down my spine. When the first slap landed on my cheek, my head jerked back with force. I didn’t even cry out. I could feel the pain radiating from the point of contact but my mind was still grappling with this new reality. In all my years I had never been slapped. For it to happen now when I was a grownup and by my husband’s hand, it felt like someone else’s nightmare.
As he continued to beat me, even as I cried out in pain and cowered in fear from him, I felt like I was on the outside looking in. As if I were watching a movie of someone else’s life or as if this was a nightmare I would wake up from any second now. I don’t know how long it lasted, I must have blacked out for a few minutes. At one point, I thought I heard the phone ring. The next thing I knew, Mark was back and he was picking me up off the floor. I instinctively made myself as small as possible, wanting no part of him to touch me. Mark started sobbing and saying how sorry he was. He took me to the bathroom and gently cleaned my wounds.
He was extra sweet to me for the next two weeks. He bought me presents, stayed at the house and took care of me, and when the bruising faded, he took me out to dinner most nights. He tried, but it just wasn’t the same. He had broken a part of me. I went through the motions as a wife, as a lover, but my heart just wasn’t in it.
I gave some thought to telling someone, but I chickened out. We were the ‘relationship goals’ couple to everyone we knew. If I claimed he was a wife beater, who would believe me? Keeping silent was the worst mistake I ever made.
It wasn’t long before it happened again. I don’t remember the excuse he used this time, but I had to go to the hospital. I was bleeding profusely. When he realized that he had hurt me seriously, he panicked and called his parents. They called their personal doctor to the house. He told them some story of how I fell down the stairs. It sounded implausible. I could see it in their eyes that they didn’t believe that, but they let it go. In a couple of hours, the bleeding had been stopped. The evidence had been successfully swept under the rug and life went back to my new normal. The cycle of beating and pampering continued.
I have to go down there soon. I have used my grieving widow privilege for an hour now and locked myself in my room. I know that someone will be coming up the stairs to look for me soon but I am not yet ready to face everyone and pretend to feel sad that that monster is dead.
I wish I could remove all this funeral garb and wear my brightest colours. That is how happy I am. Instead, I am forced to wear a drab black dress. I have put no effort whatsoever on how I look today. Let them think I was too overcome with grief, I don’t care.
It always amazes me how people from all walks of life and inclinations gather at a funeral. Sure, some of them were related to the deceased and others known to him, but they mostly all get together because of some macabre appreciation of death. It is like they have to see the dead body being buried in the ground with their own eyes to believe.
If I started dancing right now, would they say that my mind had finally snapped from the grief and leave me alone, or would they see right through me?
I can almost hear them from up here. Remembering the good times, talking about how nice Mark was, even when they knew otherwise, practically sainting him. No one seems to remember what a monster he really was. I can’t help but wonder if being dead automatically erases all the bad things he did.
I wish someone would inquire why my dress is long-sleeved, yet it is very hot today, but I doubt anyone has really seen me today. Oh, they’ve talked to me plenty, and I’ve received a lifetime supply of hugs today, but I’m yet to see anyone look me directly in the eye as they all perform the ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ dance. For whose benefit? It should be mine, I guess, but I feel detached from it all. I peel back the sleeves, up to my elbows and look at the black-and-blue marks there. They are lash marks made by a belt, courtesy of my dear departed husband. There are more marks all over my body. Some have become wounds from repeated prodding, while others have scabbed over and left scars.
Mark never did care if I lived or died after his beatings. So I just made sure he died first. I had planned it for a while and I made sure that when it comes down to it, nobody will suspect me.
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