It was 4 A.M. on a Saturday. The rain poured heavily, and I fought an invisible war. I looked at the door, afraid he would come in at any moment after a night out. Then there would be physical war —only this time, he couldn’t hurt me. “He can’t hurt you anymore,” I said repeatedly, but I couldn’t face away from the door. My child needed me to protect her like I had done many times, except the time he hit me so hard that I fell on my now-wailing toddler. There were more times when I had failed her, but my mind blocked it out because there was only so much I could handle.
There was a soft knock, and then the door knob turned. I held on to the pillow tightly. “Honey, are you okay?” Patricia asked me. It was just Patty, my friend who was hosting my child and me before I got back on my feet. When I took sleeping medication, I slept soundly, but today, I didn’t want to sleep too soundly in case my child needed me at night. I had this nightmare instead, except it wasn’t a nightmare but a constant reminder of what the past year of my life had been like.
I met Arnold at work, and in six months, we were planning a wedding. Being in my mid-thirties, I had dedicated slightly over a decade to my career, and it was time to have a family. It didn’t take much persuasion when Arnold suggested I should quit my job and focus on my pregnancy and child after we found out we were pregnant. He was the most loving man I had ever encountered, so I believed him when he said he would take care of us. And he did for a while, and then it was reserved for when I was on my best behaviour.
I was the envy of my friends and relatives. Arnold was wealthy and loved spoiling me. “Do you know how many people find a good man at your age? Very few,” they would often say. I had a stellar career and now a wonderful man. What luck! How would I tell them the man who was my ‘gift’ from above yelled at me at the slightest provocation? Where would I begin telling them that I had limited access to our accounts and hit me sometimes? But just when I didn’t ‘behave’, that’s what he said. I was suddenly learning how to behave as I was also teaching our toddler because I didn’t “know how to show respect” to my husband.
Every nanny left us until Josephina joined us when my child was six months old. Arnold’s mother recommended her; otherwise, Arnold would have dismissed her for being too old. He preferred the youngins. Anything above twenty-two was too old. Josephina was in her mid-twenties. She needed to save up to finish college. For the first time, I felt like someone was watching out for me.
At first, I didn’t think I could trust her since Arnold’s mother recommended her, but she helped me time and time again. She helped me hide my wounds and scars when needed. Having grown up in such an environment, she knew a few ‘tips’ to de-escalate the situation. I was sure she would leave in a month, but she stayed. Josephina encouraged me to speak to someone, so I went to my parents. It was hard to believe that Arnold could do any of those things.
“You know, the first year of marriage and especially after a kid is very difficult. Work it out, marriage is forever,” they said.
I went home dejected. Arnold’s abuse didn’t seem to hurt as much as my parents’ words. My greatest companion became Josephina. The situation remained unchanged for the next few months until Patricia called me. I didn’t have her number since Arnold had deleted most of my contacts.
“Hello”, I said in a formal way suggesting I didn’t know who I was talking to.
“Hey, it’s Patricia,” the caller said.
“Oh hi Patricia,” I said.
“I know it’s been a while so I’ll cut to the chase. I’m starting a company and I was hoping to work with you but I was told you quit your former place of employment. Would you be interested?” Patricia asked.
She asked to meet me the following day. I was unsure about the meeting, but Josephina encouraged me to go to the meeting. She would cover for me with Arnold. That meeting changed my life. “How are you?” Patricia asked me. It was probably how she asked that made me feel like I could trust her. I cried for half an hour and then told her what I was experiencing. After that discussion, we started formulating my exit from my wretched marriage.
Josephina texted me when Arnold got home and told me that she had lied about where I had gone. I came home and found Josephina had prepared Arnold’s favourite dish, and I just needed to serve him. For the next few weeks, I did my best to appease Arnold while meeting Patricia when I could.
We agreed that I would leave at the end of the month. It would ensure that Josephina got that month’s pay, and she also decided to go with me. “You know I can’t pay you as much as Arnold paid you?” I asked Josephina. She wasn’t dissuaded.
When the time came, she asked for leave. I left shortly after with nothing but my child’s bag in case one of the estate guards alerted Arnold. Patricia helped me with housing in one of her rentals in the duplex she lived in until I was on my feet. She also offered me a job, which first tracked my bounce back. But, on nights like this, the horror of my time with Arnold returned to haunt me.
Patricia came to check on me until I began going to her when I felt overwhelmed. She could then trust that I could speak up when in trouble. Josephina and Patricia are the sisters’ life has given me.
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