Monday 22 August 2016

Burning Woman part 11&12

April 1994

At first Morris couldn’t look me in the eye. I didn’t question him but kept an icy silence whenever he was around. If he wanted to pretend that nothing had happened then that was his problem not mine.
He didn’t seem to know whether he wanted to apologize or mock me anymore and simply did what suited his mood. Sometimes he would be full of praises. My hard working wife, he would say, there is no one like you. When I remained untouched by such cheap platitudes he would become angry and resort to ridicule.
Sometimes I get so angry I can barely control myself. I simply can’t pretend everything is fine.
Morris Jnr sits quietly close to the door ready to bolt if his father loses his temper. Something that happens more often than not these days. After a short stay Onicca has long since returned to the city to have her baby. I wish Morris had gone along with her.
“I don’t like your moodiness,” he is saying. “I am your husband and if you don’t like anything about this situation the door is open. I won’t take any more attitude from you as long as you reside in my household.”
In the darkness outside I can see the shadowed skeleton of the brick house he is building for Onicca. It is a square building that will have an asbestos roof. The compound has been divided in half. My own territory is made up of thatched round huts.
“Do you understand what I am saying?”
“I understand.”
“And Morris, you will respect your stepmother like your own mother. If I hear any different I will deal harshly with you. Am I making myself clear?”
“Yes, father.”
“Okay right,” Morris takes a deep breath as if he has just tackled a very difficult subject. “Nothing is going to change. I still love my family. I will still look after you and your mother as before.”
You did an outstanding job of it too.
“Thank you, father.”
The next morning we are having breakfast. A few hours from now Morris will be returning to the city. His holiday is over. I am literally counting down the time. I can’t wait. I think I hate my husband.
“I saw a lovely blue dress in a shop in town before I came here. It is in the latest fashion. It will look good on you,” Morris says into the silence. “I think I will buy it for you when I return to the city.”
“That would be nice,” I say. “But it would be nicer if you got junior a new uniform. The one he has is getting frayed.”
“What is wrong with you woman?” Morris explodes. “Can’t you just say thank you. I know Morris needs a new uniform. I can afford to buy the uniform and the dress.”
“I would love a new dress, Morris.” I say. “Thank you.”
Morris smiles widely and springs from his chair. “Come Rudo, I miss walking in the forest with you.”
We walk through the village hand in hand. I can feel people’s eyes on us. They all know Morris has a new wife. My life is fodder for the gossip mill. I am grateful when the forest finally hides us from their sight.  After walking in silence for a while Morris starts to speak.
“I don’t want to lose our friendship. Onicca and I...we just happened. It doesn’t mean I think any less of you.”
As much as I would like to lash out I know it will not benefit me. Nothing I say will make the last two years disappear.
“Then you shouldn’t have done it,” I say at last. It’s not much of an apology but at least he is not trying to flatter me into forgiving him.
“I know but it is what it is.”
We’re close to the river a beautiful green spot we used to meet when we were so much younger. Remembering those days only intensifies my pain. Bringing me here only reminds me of everything I’ve lost.
Morris grabs me and starts to kiss me passionately. I belatedly realise that his bringing me here is his way of rekindling our dying love.
Who says I want you to touch me Morris, I feel like screaming. The idea makes me nauseous, I scream in my head. I’d rather die than let you touch me. You cheating slime. I wouldn’t dare say these words out loud.


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