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Querah watched and knew that she had to do more. Weekly messages aren’t enough, she had to do more. She sighed and continued to clean the kitchen glass carefully paying special attention to the edges which always threatened to hide dirt. She could hear the happy couple from their bedroom. Aneesah’s happy voice rang out clear in excitement. Truly she was happy for her and even wished her more of this happiness. But Querah knew that it was only temporary. This type of happiness doesn’t last forever. She was once in Aneesah’s shoes. It had been a long battle, but in the end, she triumphed.
Following the tremendous amount of success Aneesah made through her blog, Querah was passionate about making her experience her happiness, not one based on deceit. She smiled as she recalled some of her memories.
“Oh Miss Querah, what are you smiling about?”. Aneesah had crept up quietly beside her. She jumped on hearing her voice.
“Oh, I’m sorry Miss Querah. I didn’t mean to scare you. But who were you thinking of that’s making you smile, or have you met someone?”
Both of them busted into laughter. Aneesah had a radiant glow around her. Even her voice was lighter. Truly happiness was a medicine.
“Oh girl, who would be interested in an old woman like me?”
“Miss Querah, you could still make heads turn. You’re a very beautiful and amazing woman.”
“Merci Aneesah Merci, but I’ve already met my Mr right! I’m just thinking of the memories we shared”. Querah replied going back to cleaning the kitchen sink.
Aneesah smiled and decided to leave her alone.
It had been a week since she’d made up with Faisal and it had been blissful. They’d made passionate love daily and discovering new things about their selves. She was glad she didn’t heed Petra’s advice. Finally, she was enjoying her marriage. Maybe, God wanted to reward her for all her philanthropic gestures.
Right now she headed to the showers to take her bath. She needed to check the progress of Hafsat.
It had been two months since she moved out with her kids to stay at her sister’s place. Aneesah wanted to know how they were faring.
“Why don’t you stay a little longer?” Faisal purred when he came to the room and saw her dressing up. “You don’t have to go to Zaria today Neesah.”
Aneesah smiled, pulled her dress over her head. “Today is Saturday, the best day for this. Don’t worry I’ll be back soon.”
“Can I drive you?”
“No, it’s okay. I can handle it”. Aneesah replied as she sat on the small stool close to her huge wardrobe. She brought out her small make-up kit and started to apply, Faisal watching her intently from the back.
“Neesah, please don’t wear the red lipstick.”
Aneesah stopped short, her breath caught for a moment. That was the first step Faisal had used to control her. Choosing what she wore, what she ate, and where she went to. She really thought her abusive days were over or was it just a harmless suggestion? But deep down within her, she knew it wasn’t. His voice held that old familiar tone. Aneesah decided to shrug it off.
“Alright if you say so.” She brought out the pink lipstick and applied it sparingly on her lips.
“Now you look beautiful,” Faisal commented as she picked out a matching shoe, giving herself a last look at the mirror.
“Thank you. I’ll see you later.” Aneesah picked up her bag and left the house.
Maybe it was because she had made the trip countless times, but within an hour or so, Aneesah found herself in Kaduna driving towards the address Hafsat had given her. The sun was blazing today and it was blaring hot. Despite the air conditioner in her car, she was feeling hot and sweaty.
I hope this won’t take time, she muttered.
She parked between two cars close to the huge mango tree according to the address and came down to walk a short distance before she was greeted by a small but fancy-looking house. The painting matched the description.
Upon knocking, she was led in by a young boy who couldn’t be more than 10. Hafsat came out to greet her.
“Mrs. Aneesah, welcome. Sannu da zuwa. Please come in and have a seat.”
Aneesah sat down as she took note of the changes in Hafsat’s face. The bulgy drooling eyelids have been replaced by an exciting new look. She looked sharp and crisp, filled with happiness. Her makeup was also excellent. “How have you been Hafsat?”.
“I’ve been so fine. I can’t thank you enough Aneesah. You gave me the courage to move out, to save my life and that of my kids. Look at us we’re fine and happy now.”
Aneesah felt immense joy in hearing those words from Hafsat. Wasn’t that why we were created? To make life easier for each other?
“I’m happy for you Hafsat. No woman deserves to be abused for any reason. How’s your husband doing now?”
The woman dropped her voice an octave lower. “Well the last time we talked with his mother, she told me that he had been seeing a therapist with regards to his drinking issue. I sincerely hope he finds help Aneesah. He’s a good man. The bottle had just rubbished him.”
Aneesah dropped her bag on the clear glass table in the center. It was a small but beautiful house, painted yellow.
“I know, but before then take care of yourself and your kids. When he is clean, his therapist has promised to reach out to the NGO I partner with. In the meantime please, do not allow your kids to answer the door alone. Where’s your sister? The one you’re staying with?”
“She stepped out a while ago,” Hafsat answered from afar. She’d gone to get something and appeared with a bottle of maltina and water, placed it before Aneesah with a smile.
“Thanks,” Aneesah muttered. She wasn’t interested in the reception. She just wanted to assure herself that they were doing well. “Your other children have also gone out I presume?”
“Yes, they followed my sister to her makeup studio. I asked Abba to stay home. He was having a high-temperature last night”. Hafsat said, holding the handsome boy beside her.
“Alright. That’s good. The kids are settling in I guess. How has work been?”. Aneesah asked taking notes.
“Oh fine. Even though the distance is farther than my previous place”.
“Oh, I’m sorry about that. You get there by cab right?”
“Yes, I do.”
Aneesah put her book down and faced her squarely. “Alright, I’m glad that you’re settling down. Let your kids know that this is a temporary arrangement pending when things get sorted out. In the meantime take absolute care of yourself and do not forget that you can call me anytime if you need help. Meanwhile here’s 50,000 Naira. It’s not much but because you have kids we think you can get some of the things you need.”
Hafsat was speechless. Tears welled up in her eyes. “Wow. Aneesah, I don’t even know what to say. You know, I just pray that all your heart desires come to pass. Thank you so much”. She replied collecting the white envelope.
All in all, Aneesah concluded that it was a nice visit. She bade the woman goodbye and drive off. Aneesah was grateful for the funds that the NGO had always provided for the women she helped. She couldn’t be more grateful. Alone she had tried to do her best to help financially, donating almost all of her monthly earnings to these women. She was therefore glad when the NGO had reached out to her and since then they have been saddled with the responsibility of helping these women financially.
Her mind went to Petra, it had been a while since they had a long discussion, mostly at work, they were both busy. Petra was getting closer to her due date. Aneesah couldn’t wait to be a godmother. Driving into the estate, she saw Samir who frantically waved at her with a huge smile on his face. Such a handsome boy, she thought.
The house was quiet and still. Faisal had obviously gone out and Miss Querah was done for the day. Aneesah went to the bathroom and wiped off the pink lipstick on her lips. All through her drive, she had been conscious of it.
She brought out her laptop waiting for a message from her “stalker”. It had been a while since a message was sent to her. But still, the words color your life resonated in her head. Well, she guessed her life was now colored. Faisal had been doing great.
Aneesah spent a few minutes on her laptop and quickly went to the kitchen to prepare dinner. Faisal had left a note on the kitchen fridge.
Aneesah smiled. Their relationship had been growing steadily discovering new things about each other. Who would have thought that Faisal was a huge fan of the author Dan Brown, and Robert Langdon is his favorite book character?
She quickly made spaghetti and brought out the fish stew from the fridge and warm it. Just on cue, she heard Faisal’s car drove in. Gone was the old fear she felt whenever she heard his footsteps now she was elated as he hugged her from behind.
“How was your trip?”. The one thing that hadn’t change was his deep low voice. However, it didn’t scare her anymore. It sent tingles over her body.
“Oh it was great actually. Welcome. Should I set the table now?”.
“Yes, please do.”
And as they sat down to eat, Faisal let out a heavy sigh. Somehow he seemed to be in a bad mood.
“Why did you have to make spaghetti?”.
“Oh, I thought you said to make pasta.”
“Yes, but not spaghetti. I meant macaroni. Honestly, Aneesah you’re just so dumb. You were supposed to know I meant macaroni.”
Aneesah was stunned. Did he just call her dumb? What was wrong with Faisal?. She decided to keep mute as she dug into her food. Faisal took a few bites and roughly dropped his spoon, went to his study closing the door tight behind him. Aneesah was shocked at his behavior, did he just get upset because she cooked spaghetti instead of macaroni?.
Later as they were about to sleep, Aneesah was going through her paper. She had been invited to speak at a seminar on her experience dealing with women who have been victims of domestic violence.
“Will you drop that laptop and come to bed?” Faisal asked. He had been laying down for few minutes.
There was an edge to his voice that Aneesah didn’t like. He sounded like he was a ticking bomb. What was happening to her newfound happiness?
“I’ll be there, I’m just working on the last paragraph”.
“And I said come to bed. You do whatever I say and when I say it. I’m not asking you, I’m telling you to come to bed this very moment”.
Aneesah dropped the laptop and came to lie down beside him gingerly on the bed. And subtly, she felt shivers all over her body. Her happiness was fading right before her eyes. She knew what this was, heck! She had even made several videos about it. Mental and psychological abuse. The need to control a person’s life from what they ate, put on, and even what they say.
She remembered saying in one of her videos, “This is one of the most destructive forms of abuse, taking away your willpower and the ability to make your own choices”.
Yet here she was, subtly becoming a victim of it.
After two weeks the toils of the mental and psychological abuse were showing on her physical well-being. Aneesah was often tired and stressed out, looking bored and sick.
Petra was getting worried again, what was happening to her friend? Was Faisal hurting her again? She had never wanted Aneesah to go back, but when she was hell-bent on making a decision, nothing stops her.
Petra remembered when she tried to talk her out of marrying Faisal, Aneesah had insisted on not wanting to disappoint her mother. Now, the same thing was happening all over again, she didn’t want to disappoint all the women she’d inspired. Aneesah had forgotten about her own happiness. She resolved to talk to her friend at lunch today, irrespective of how busy they both were.
Aneesah was in a dilemma. Two colleagues had already asked her if she was okay. Even Maryam working in the cafeteria gave her a strange look while serving her.
In times like this, Aneesah understood the strength of every woman who had survived domestic violence. It’s easy to tell a woman to leave, but only a few people understand. Faisal had turned her into a puppet. Even the meals she ate were controlled by him. She couldn’t open her laptop without his permission and he always gave her a certain limit. Aneesah was distraught. She couldn’t continue.
“Hey, Kawata“. The words were accompanied by a warm and tight hug from behind. It was just what Aneesah needed. Right there in the cafeteria, she broke down in tears.
Petra dragged her to her office and allowed her to cry for several minutes. She didn’t judge or castigate. All she was interested in was supporting her friend, till she found the strength to choose her own.
“Petra, I’m tired of Faisal. He’ll never change, he wants to control whatever I do, what I eat, wear and even say. I can’t stand him anymore. I may kill him one day”.
“Alright dear”. Petra answered coming to sit on the table, she pushed the paper far to make room for her. ” You can’t stand him right? So are you saying you want to leave?”.
“Absolutely”. Aneesah replied sniffing. She couldn’t stop the tears.
Starting today she would color her life.
Petra came closer and hugged her tightly. “It’s alright Neesah. Stop crying. Where do you want to go? Will you stay at my home?”
“No Petra, I don’t want to be a burden. Don’t try to convince me otherwise”. Aneesah replied wiping her tears. “I’ll go to my mum’s for a while. I’ll know what to do. I just need to clear my head”.
“Alright then. Hope your mum won’t be a problem?”. Petra asked slightly lowering her voice.
Aneesah thought about her mum and her dogmatic views. It wouldn’t be easy, but they would have to find a way to live together. “She’s not a problem. Thank you so much Petra, I don’t know what I’d do without you. Thank you so much”. She started to cry.
“It’s okay”. Petra soothed her. “It’s okay sweetheart. When do you intend to leave? Will you inform Faisal?”.
“Yes, I’ll tell him I want to see my mum for the weekend and that she requested to see me. He may not agree but I’ll try and convince him.”
“It’s alright. If you need my help or Dave’s, you know where to find us”.
“Of course. Thank you so much”.
And Aneesah found solace right there at Petra’s office with her arm wrapped around her.
Aneesah was happy when she got home and learned that Faisal had traveled. That’s the one thing she was happy about Faisal’s job, he was always traveling. She got home stripped of her clothes and took a shower.
While driving home, she heard a notification on her laptop. Without been told, she knew it was her anonymous stalker. Unconsciously, Aneesah was expecting a puzzle, an assurance that would lead her out of the house, that will build her the courage to leave Faisal. She was done with him. Period. No amount of apology or persuasion would make her stay. It’s one thing to be flogged and beaten, it’s a very different thing for a man to control what you ate. Aneesah had had enough, for her mental health, she had to leave. She was now a desperate woman.
The message reads:
A bolt to purple.
Journey to nowhere.
Nowhere is peace.
This sounded like a puzzle, but it didn’t mean anything to Aneesah other than the color purple mentioned. A bolt signified a door, but which door? However, her eyes caught with her purple veil lying close to the edge of the door. But it didn’t mean anything right? It was just a coincidence.
Aneesah ignored the puzzle and started to pack the clothes she intended to live with, just a few clothes. Presently, she didn’t care about the number of clothes she went home with, her safety and mental health were all she cared for. Aneesah went to the kitchen to talk with Miss Querah.
“Miss Querah, I’ll be gone for a while. I don’t actually know when I’ll be back. So after today, you don’t need to come in till I call you. But be rest assured, you’ll be paid your monthly allowance.”
“Oh dear, I hope everything is fine.” Miss Querah asked concerned, Aneesah didn’t want to think about it, but she had the feeling that Miss Querah was faking it.
“Oh yeah. Everything is fine. Thanks for asking really.” Aneesah turned back to her room.
“Wait Aneesah. Here’s my address. Don’t worry about the card, I used it a long time ago for a certain business. You can call me anytime you need help.”
19. (Aneesah and Querrah)
Aneesah looked at the card strangely, something about it seemed vaguely familiar. How did Miss Querah know she would need help?
“Thanks, Miss Querah, I appreciate it.”
With her head full of thoughts, she went back to continue packing.
Suddenly something dawned on her, picking the purple veil, she realized what this puzzle meant. Go home. Yes, this puzzle meant to go home. Her mum had given her the purple veil the last time she visited.
And home she will go.
What do you think of this episode? Do you think Aneesah will be safe from Faisal in her mother’s house? Tell us in the comments section.