Location: Plot 15, GRA road, Asaba
From the time I was told of Efua’s murder, I spent the entire month locked away in my darkened apartment, refusing to answer the telephone or the door. I was like a wounded animal, hiding. I wanted to be alone with my pain. Efua, there were so many times I wanted to say… “I love you,” so that you would say “I love you, too.” But I didn’t want to sound needy, I didn’t want to hold you against your freewill. I was a fool. Now I’m needy, I thought.
Finally, when the constant ringing of the telephone and the incessant sound of the doorbell would not stop, I weakly stood up to open the door. It’soyha stood there.
He looked at me and said, “You look like hell.”
When he saw that I wasn’t responding, his voice softened. “Everyone’s been trying to reach you, Denise. Where have you been?”
“I’m sorry, It’soyha, but I just can’t—” I broke into tears not able to control myself.
It’soyha took me in his arms. “I know. But there are a lot of questions I need to ask you.”
I shook my head. “No. It’soyha, I don’t want to talk about h….”
“Denise, Efua’s life might be over, but yours isn’t. Don’t shut people out. You need to talk about it. I need to ask you a lot of questions about Efua. Efua may still be alive.”
My eyes lit up when I heard him say that but then again, I got disappointed that I even raised my hopes high… “If Efua was still alive, she would have tried to contact me. I’m sure of that. She’s dead, It’soyha.” I broke down into silent sobs as I sat close to the wall.
“Can you at least hear me out, Denise? I have proof that she’s still very much alive, at least, her body hasn’t been found yet.”
“That’s not enough proof, It’soyha!” I screamed “She might as well be rotting somewhere we don’t even know.”
“Okay, what did Louisa tell you? What did the police ask you? Can we at least start from there? I’m sorry I didn’t call you or anything but we have to work together to find my wife. I am so sure that she’s alive somewhere and I’m guessing you would know where she is.”
I wiped my eyes as I stood up to get water from the fridge. I handed a bottle to it’soyha as I sat beside him close to an oil painting I had on the wall. “So…?” I asked after I had told him what I heard happened to Efua “What exactly do you want to do now?”
He looked at me for a while, reached into the small backpack he came with and pulled out a dirty haggard brown looking journal. “Here…” he said “I think you’ll find this interesting.”
“What’s this or rather what’s in it?” I queried
“A diary. It was your cousin’s. I’ll let you read it and hope you’ll get back to me.”
“How long will it take me to read it? Do you have to go? I thought you wanted us to find Efua?”
“Well, it took me four long hours to read that darn book and two straight hours to comprehend exactly what she was trying to pass across, so approximately, it may take you five hours to read and understand or three hours, if you don’t engage in the fictional fantasy she created.”
I looked at It’soyha trying to understand what he meant by his sarcastic comment but his face gave me no expression. Why was there something like pain in his voice when he was referring to Efua’s journal? What was it she wrote that hurt him so?
“Okay…” I replied “I’ll take my time and I’ll get back to you but don’t be surprised if I ring you up at a late hour.”
“Oh, that would be just fine. I’ve had trouble sleeping for a while now, there will be absolutely no trouble.” He smirked at me
“Why did you come back to Asaba by the way?” I asked worried
“I needed some space…” he had a faraway look in his eyes. There was a lot of pain behind his words. I felt sorry for him. Whoever did this to Efua wasn’t going to get away scot-free.
“Goodnight Denise.” I heard him say as he stood up and walked towards the door
“Oh yeah…night It’soyha.” I said as I stood up with him and followed suit to the door
“Please be sure to get back to me…I’ll be waiting.”
“I’ll try…I won’t promise but I will try.” I closed the door just as he stepped out. I looked down at the dirty haggard brown Journal just on the floor beside me and shook my head. So even in her marriage, Efua still had to pen down stuffs, I thought. She just wouldn’t change now, will she?
I picked it up and moved to my room. I was certain this was going to be a long read, I wanted to be cozy while reading what Efua had to say.
By 2:38am, It’soyha’s phone rang. He had gone downstairs to get himself some milk since he couldn’t sleep. When he got back to his room, he punched his phone and saw four missed calls from Denise and a message saying…
“Can you come over when you wake up? I need to see you ASAP! There’s a lot to tell.”
A little grin crept up It’soyha’s face as he hurriedly put on a T-shirt and his palm slipper. “I knew she would know something!” he said to himself as he walked out his door and drove away to Denise’s place.
DENISE ANIKA’S APARTMENT
Somewhere in G.R.A, Asaba
“Thank God you weren’t asleep, I was afraid for a moment that I’d have to wait till the early hours of the morning to see you. There’s no time to waste.” I started as It’soyha stepped into the living room.
“So…what did you find and what is it you want to tell me?”
I motioned for It’soyha to sit as he gladly obliged her looking intently at me. “I don’t know if Efua ever told you her story? Did she?”
“Her story? What story?”
“Did you two ever talk about her past?”
“I never really did bother to ask and she didn’t talk much about anything I didn’t ask her. What is the matter?”
“I see…” I replied shaking my head not knowing where to start from
“What do you see?”
“Well, you see, Efua had a rough childhood, not the rosy type you did expect or so.” I looked at It’soyha not sure whether to continue “I really don’t know if Efua wants me saying anything about her past to anyone she didn’t specifically tell…”
“For Pete’s sake, I’m her husband!”
“But she didn’t talk to you about her past…and I find that odd?”
“Oh, I bet you would. You know your cousin, she hardly says a word to anybody unless you prompt her. Can we just not do this?”
“Okay…I won’t go into all the soggy details of her past but I’ll tell you what you need to know.”
“Efua and I grew up together, so tactically, I know her in and out. First of all, I believe she truly wrote this journal, it sounds just like what her mind would think.” I stated pointing to the table where it was seated “Secondly, I’m very much certain that she’s still alive since her dramatic body hasn’t been found.”
“Oh, thank God!”
“Thirdly, I need to know, did you really cheat on her?” I asked looking at It’soyha who was now trying to hide his face in shame “Oh well, you created this problem for yourself!”
“How?” It’soyha looked shocked
“You should never have cheated on Efua. Really, some people don’t deal too well with cheating and Efua happens to be one of those persons. You see, when we were kids, our grand-aunt told us about how her husband cheated and what she did to him.”
“Efua did tell me about that but she didn’t fully tell the story.”
“Our grand-aunt had gotten married when she was 18 to her first love, like it always was back in the days. Along the line, after 6 years of marriage, he started cheating. She knew by the scent of female perfumes all over him and his sheepish smile every night he got back home but she kept mute about it, hoping silently that he would stop cheating or better still, tell her about the other woman and whether or not he was getting married a second time. After 2 months, he still did not utter a word. That was ‘Strike 1’ to my grand-aunt. She told us that a good marriage needed honest communication and when her husband failed to do that, she knew she was losing him gradually. Several months later, he started spending late nights and even stopped eating her food. Each time she asked him about it, he would just say, he was too busy at the oil farm and that the white men had asked him to stay a while for a talk over food and drinks. That was ‘Strike 2’ but she let it slide under the carpet though she knew it was his second lover that kept him out late. A year later, he started being violent, saying she nagged a lot. For the first time in their marriage, he laid his hands on her and even extended it to their 5 year old daughter, that’s our aunty Ofure. Our grand-aunt said she got scared; she had never seen her husband behave in that manner before. She could have taken it if he was been violent towards her alone but to have extended it to their daughter and later their 6 year old son for laughing at a joke was too much to bear. To her, that was ‘Strike 3’ and she couldn’t let him strike any further. So two weeks later, she poisoned his snuff and watched him die a slow painful death when he left for the oil farm. She got rid of the burden tormenting her and the kids. To her, a cheating man got what he deserves. She warned us never to let any man do so to us.” I sighed as I stretched my legs
After that story, Efua got scared of men and love. Efua didn’t like the fact that our grand-aunt had to kill her husband but that seemed like the perfect plan as at that time. Efua used to say she wouldn’t get married. She used to say she wouldn’t let any man use her as a punching bag or as a sex dump. She felt that there was no joy in getting married since all men love to do, is cheat on their wives and have kids all around. Efua didn’t want that. She was content with rather adopting kids, being a single lady and being a full blown career woman.”
“But she never seemed that way to me. She was sweet and charming and almost perfect.” It’soyha said
“That’s the fantasy Efua lived in. She wanted to be sweet and charming and strangely enough, she was an effortless charmer. She portrayed herself to everyone as perfect, she didn’t want to seem less but that didn’t change the fact that she was depressed within. She was a perfect melancholy. She tried to build walls around her, never wanting anyone to crash them down.”
“Why did she do that?”
“Like I said, I can’t venture into soggy details of her past. She has to tell you that herself. All I can say is, Efua loved to write imaginary fantasies, sometimes creating problems with her stories and other times, creating a too perfect sweet charming life with no problems. She was always looking happy even when she was not. I have no doubt she framed you for cheating…she did that to me thrice. My mum tried to help her but I knew that Efua’s mind was twisted and nothing could change how she felt. We tried to let her know that everything cannot be all perfect but Efua failed to understand. When you two got married, I was excited for Efua and I prayed silently that your love would be genuine.”
“My love was and is genuine!”
“It was not It’soyha!”
“It was and still is…I loved that woman.”
“You cheated and that makes your last statement a lie.” I watched It’soyha cover his face with his palms as he cussed out. “I still don’t understand how you can cheat on your wife and claim that you still love her. I just can never understand how men keep saying that. It’s so freaking annoying.”
“You know how a woman derives pleasure by taking her man’s ATM card to withdraw money for clothes, jewelries, shoes and bags? That’s the exact same way a man derives pleasure when he sees another pretty woman that can give him some good loving.”
“When you already have a woman at home? Don’t ever equate it with that, it’s never the same thing It’soyha!” I replied angrily
“The way you women see cheating is not the same way we see it Denise. A man who truly loves his woman, will never bring home another lady he is banging because one, he respects his wife; two, he loves her and three, his home is hers and hers alone. So whether or not he is banging another lady, it doesn’t change the fact that he loves his wife still.”
“It’soyha that’s just a stupid way of thinking. If a man claims to love me, then everything he has, even what stays in between his legs, is mine and mine alone. It’s not and will never be for sharing unless the man ceases to be mine. The day he shares it to another person, he loses my love and respect. Every man should know that. If you cannot keep what’s in between your legs for just one woman, why marry then and swear a vow? Don’t you know that sex is a connection between two souls? How then can you go about doing it with so many other people when you have made a vow of commitment to one person?”
“Okay fine…I’m sorry, I didn’t think it that way. I didn’t think it was spiritual. I’m sure almost every man thinks it is a physical act.” It’soyha responded rubbing his temples
“It’soyha, sex was never meant to be physical. That wasn’t God’s plan. It is an intimate connection between two souls of mutual understanding, love and respect. Nowadays, it’s just a mere act of pleasure. It’s a pity how we’ve come to live with it like that but that’s not who Efua is.”
“Alright, I get it now and I’m sorry I thought that way but please, where can I find Efua?”
I looked at him hard enough trying to decipher whether or not to tell him but he looked so desperate. “It’s going to be a long drive It’soyha…”
“I don’t mind.” He replied standing up and grabbing his car keys “Let’s go!”
“I’m going to so kill my cousin if she really is where I think she is…” I thought as we headed out to the car.