Read Part 1 here
Days following the event at dawn, Mama Augusta told me what she had heard about the incident. She heard Aunty Ireti had gone out with friends the night before…danced and partied all night long…and only returned at dawn. She heard Mr. Atilade had waited all night for her… and it was her entrance that woke him from the chair he had sat all night. She heard he became so angry… he lost control… so he beat her… but he regretted it…so he went out and bought her new clothes and bags to show how sorry he is… Aunty Ireti forgave and all was well again.
But the Atilades happiness never lasted… the event of that dawn became a norm…we hear a scream, then a story of how angry Mr. Atilade had been…always about something Aunty Ireti did. Then we hear how sorry he is…we see Aunty Ireti's new shoes…or bags…or clothes… and a new sunglasses she will wear to cover the bruises… and as soon as the bruises fade…all will be well again. Until they are not…
We had all become used to the cycle of events with the Atilades…we expect it… we gossip about it… we wait and we watch…and sometimes, I lay on my bed listening to the screams, wondering why she stays.
So yesterday evening when we heard the scream, no one rushed out… ‘here we go again’ I thought… I knew how it will end… and I assume so did everyone else… for like me, they also stayed in their houses waiting for the episode to be over.
But yesterday was different… the particular episode took a turn outside of the cycle we had come to know and expect. After the scream, came a loud bang, it sounded like someone was pushed to a door…then Silence…the kind that is deafening… then a gut-wrenching cry for help. It was Mr. Atilade's voice that cried out… and I knew for sure that something had gone terribly wrong, so I rushed out and so did everyone else, only to see Mr. Atilade hurrying out with the limp body of Aunty Ireti in his arms.
The men rushed to help him… Mr. Atilade was frantic… his eyes were filled with tears… he kept calling 'Ireti!!!’ over and over again as if urging her to open her eyes. The men opened the car door and laid Aunty Ireti's limp body on the back seat, as Mr. Atilade rushed to the driver’s seat. We all could see he was in no condition to drive, so Papa Augusta took the key from him and offered to drive them to the hospital.
And as they drove off, everyone waited in pairs…whispering. I stood at the door of my room…staring at the dust left behind by the car, wondering if Aunty Ireti would live… wondering if there was more we all could have done to help our neighbour… or maybe we should have banged their door as we used to at the beginning.
I turned to Mama Augusta
“Do you know why she stayed? Why would a woman stay with a man who beats her?”
“Sisi, you are not married so you may not understand. Marriage is forever and a woman must persevere no matter what”
Then whispering, she continued,
“Shey you know there was a time Aunty Ireti wanted to leave, but her mother told her that she must stay, that a woman’s place is in her husband’s house…and that a husband’s home is a place of learning…”
I sighed at her words… the truth of it scares me.
That evening, we waited till late in the night but neither Papa Augusta nor Mr. Atilade returned, so everyone went back to their rooms. I slept very little… I was worried about what news the morning will bring… I thought about the sad truth of the beliefs of ‘our people’ about marriage and violence… I prayed that Aunty Ireti survives… then I scolded myself for wishing for a man like Mr. Atilade… reminding myself to be careful what I wish for.
At 7 am this morning, Papa Augusta returned with news… Aunty Ireti lives… she had only fainted. He said she had been pregnant…that even Mr. Atilade had not known…but they lost the baby to the punches and kicks.
“So, what next” I wondered. “What will Aunty Ireti do when she leaves the hospital…” I asked myself.