He didn’t know her before he traveled back to marry her.
It was a five day trip.
He caught the last flight out from Atlanta after work on Wednesday.
Arrived in Lagos on Thursday, flew to the east that same day and was ready for the traditional marriage a.k.a wine carrying at her village on Friday.
It was the second time he was meeting her.
The first time was the Thursday he arrived.
It lasted for half an hour and consisted of a brief conversation in Igbo.
“How are you doing?”
“You are as beautiful as they said, even more beautiful than your picture.”
“I will make you very happy when I take you back to America.”
“How was your flight?”
“It was restful.”
“I couldn’t really sleep because I was very eager to see you. Hearing your voice was not enough.”
“I hope I have not disappointed you.”
“Ah not at all. Have I disappointed you?”
“You are pleasing to the eye.”
“I have to be going now.”
“I understand. I can’t wait for tomorrow to be over. Our unborn child is already crying to be made.”
“Please rest well, your journey has been long.”
“You will make me rest better tomorrow night.”
“You are naughty.”
“I have been praying that you will be a naughty person too.”
“I will be whatever my husband wants me to be.”
He made the sign of the cross then muttered.
“Thank you, God of my fathers.”
“I will be going. May the night be good to you.”
“And you too.”
And he watched her walk away with her aunt.
Her head bowed.
Her generous derriere undulating under her long damask skirt.
He felt himself come alive.
The night was busy.
And the day after was busier.
Then the night of the day after was even busier.
She proved to be far naughtier than he had envisaged.
After she had knelt down in front of him when they were alone in the master bedroom of the house he had built three years before in the village.
And apologised in Igbo for not being a virgin.
He was surprised and strangely pleased.
And he forgave her in as dramatic a fashion as he could conceive.
Then after they were done.
Bathed in sweat.
He in turn apologised for having not performed as he usually would.
He blamed it on jetlag and the stress of the period.
She was coquettish in response.
As she swore that the two bouts they had were pleasurable to her.
The white wedding the next day being a Saturday was a huge event.
Dignitaries and celebrities were awash.
It was a social statement.
An event etched in the collective memory of the village, town, state and country.
For its grandeur.
He returned back to Atlanta a new man on the Tuesday that followed after flying out of Nigeria on Monday.
Life suddenly had a new meaning.
He hadn’t believed his mother when she said to him that marrying someone you didn’t physically court can lead to a loveship just as surely as if you met them yourself and courted them before marriage, as long as the person fits your specification.
His mother was all he had.
She was his father and his sibling.
Him being an only child of a widow.
A plump and fair skinned widow who had risen from a primary school teacher to a properous businesswoman and government contractor.
He had sent his always stylishly dressed mother a list of his wants when she promised to find a wife for him.
It took her a little over a year.
A diligent search before she found her.
23 years old.
Modest yet fashionable.
Educated parents and siblings.
Grew up in the East.
Speaks Igbo and English.
Tall, beautiful and slim with luscious curves.
He was a tall, lean, fair skinned 40 years old at the time.
It took him a year plus to get her over to America.
And when he did, his life even took on even more meaning.
He was genuinely happy.
And each day was a new revelation.
She was frighteningly brilliant.
Acing her exams in one sitting.
In record time she was certified to practice pharmacy in the US.
And he was proud of her.
More proud that she could perform the feat nothwithstanding the fact that his mother was ceaselessly bickering from Nigeria that she wasn’t yet pregnant.
It had been three and a half years since they married.
His mother came visiting and it was even worse.
She scarred her with spiteful words and random curses.
“How dare you go to work, while me, your mother-in-law is at home.”
“You want me to take food from the fridge and go warm it myself because you are at some job and can’t take care of me?”
“Did I send you to my son to go work at a pharmacy? Is it money he told you is his problem? Where are his children?”
“You are buying me all these for what? You think you can bribe me to cover my eyes to your barrenness? You think you can silence me with money? I will show you who I am. I am just looking at you as you are walking into the trap I have set for you.”
“I will show you that it is my vagina that my son came from. I will make your life hell in this house. You think you have rights here in America? When I am done with you, it is your two legs you will use to run back to your parent’s house in Nigeria.”
Nothing she did could please his mother.
Her tears wrenched his heart and nothing he could assuage his mother to let go and let be.
It was three months his mother stayed with them.
A period in which she continuously called her own parents to tell them of the hell she was living in.
Her husband was a gift but his mother was a nightmare.
Her parents called him to plead with him to protect their daughter from his mother.
He promised them that he would.
But he couldn’t truly muster the strength and courage to stand up to her.
She had always had an iron control over him.
So he will start and then trail off when she glared at him or reminded him of all the sacrifices she made to bring him up when his father died and how she sold all her gold jewelry to send him to America and unmentionable things she had to do to pay his school fees for both his first degree and medical school in America.
And his cowardice irked his wife the more.
Soon it began to show.
They bickered over the slightest thing.
And held malice.
With his mother fanning the flames at every opportunity.
“What kind of home training did your parents give you? You are under the same roof with your husband and you are squeezing your face and giving him one-word answers? What kind of a girl have I gone to bring to my son?”
“So what if he refuses to eat your food? You think you can give him witchcraft to eat? As long as I am alive whatever evil you plan for him will not work. I will show you that I am a bigger witch than you.”
Four days before his mother was scheduled to leave, she marched into the master bedroom where he lay sleeping after she had confronted his wife downstairs for once again cooking food and placing them in containers for her and her son to eat at their convenience.
When she had tried to explain to his mother.
She had given her a resounding slap.
It had stunned her into silence.
When she opened her mouth to speak again.
His mother gave her a forceful dirty backhand.
Her two rings with giant gemstones tore the flesh of her cheeks and nose and drew blood.
Then his mother in the fit of anger that had seized her bounded up the staircase.
Her voice was loud and vexatious.
He woke up.
“She must leave this house this minute!”
“She slapped me.”
He sprung out of bed as though an electric prong was placed on him.
She burst out in tears.
“What have I done to deserve this?”
“Where is she?!”
He was filled with rage.
And rushed out of the room as though possessed by a legion of demons.
He took the steps three at a time as he ran down clad only in his silk boxer shorts.
When he ran into the expansive kitchen, he saw his wife on her cell phone.
But he was in such a state of anger that he didn’t see the torn flesh on her face, her swollen lip or the blood mixed with her tears that had flowed down to her white top.
He advanced on her, panting like a beast.
“How dare you slap my mother?!”
She was confused.
He attacked her just as his mother walked into the kitchen still wailing.
Just before the first punch hit her in the temple and darkness rushed over her she screamed.
Into her cellphone as it flew out of her hands and careened across the marble floor.
He kept kicking her limp form and screaming entreaties and insults at her.
His mother kicked her too and added insults while spitting on her.
They didn’t hear the voice calling out from the phone that lay on the floor a distance away.
“Madam are you there?… Madam if you can hear me go to a place where you can barricade yourself from your attackers. Help is on the way…. Madam if you can hear me please make a sound, we can hear … ”
The voice went on, the beating went on, the insults went on.
Then his mother heard the familiar sounds.
She pulled at her son shouting.
“Stop! Police are coming! Stop beating her! Police.”
But the anger had blocked his ears as he kicked on.
She screamed his name and tugged at him.
The sirens were louder.
“She called the police! Stop beating her! Can’t you hear me?! Stop.”
The 911 operator could hear them and was recording everything.
But by the time he heard his mother.
Three police cars with sirens blaring and an ambulance was in front of their stately home in the gated high brow neighbourhood.
The police rang the bell and announced themselves.
They stood there in confusion trying to decide what to do.
It was their delay that forced the police to enter the house arms drawn without anyone opening the unlocked front door.
They swept the house calling out.
“This is the police. Is anyone in? Announce yourself and come out with your hands above your head.”
When they walked into the kitchen, he and his mother were standing over the limp body of his wife, with their hands over their heads.
The arrest was brisk.
Arms behind their backs. Handcuffs around their wrists.
Mother crying and repeating over and over again.
“Satan you are a liar. Jesus take control.”
And then speaking in unknown tongues.
Her son in an impossibly calm voice speaking to the officers as they lead him out.
“Officers, I need to place a call to my lawyers.”
They were silent having already read his mother and him their Miranda rights.
The EMT’s went to work and revived her.
And when she came to on the stretcher by the ambulance she asked to call her parents.
The officers handed her, her cellphone.
As they spoke to her.
“… we will collect the recording from the 911 operator and your statement. We will file charges against them from assault, battery, aggravated assault…”
“Please let me speak to my parents before you do anything.”
Her mother picked up.
She told her what happened as she burst into tears again.
Then she listened to her mother silently.
And at the end of it, she tried to explain again, but her mother cut her short and reiterated what she had been saying all along. When she was done. All she said to her mother in Igbo was.
“I agree with you mom. I will do as you say. May the evening be good to you.”
She hung up and turned to the police officer who had been patiently waiting.
“My parents do not want charges filed against my husband and mother-in-law.”
The police officer was quiet for a moment as he looked at her, then he asked.
“What do you want?”
She hesitated for a moment before she replied.
“I want what they want.”
“You know it is our job to file charges, the prosecutor to press the charges in court or drop the charges. He will of course listen to you, but he is not bound to drop charges because you want to drop the charges…”
“Please if they go to jail it will destroy my parents back in Nigeria. To send my own mother-in-law and husband to jail in America will be a shame on my family. His people will curse us.”
“They nearly killed you.”
“No one at home will understand that. They will call it a common beating…”
“A common beating? That is madness. You mean your parents want them to go scot-free?”
“Not scot-free. My mother says they will return the dowry my husband’s family paid and dissolve the marriage traditionally before I file for divorce.”
“Is that what you want to do?”
“I just want my mother-in-law out of our lives.”
“And your husband?”
“We can make it work.”
“He is a good man. I love him. And where this is love, there should be forgiveness and second chances. It is just his mother that is the problem.”
The policeman and the EMT looked at each other in disbelief.
As she burst out in tears once more.