Outside, the relentless fall of snow had at last abated, and everything as far as the eye could see was thickly shrouded in an extra generous coating of frosted white. I was by the window, admiring the beauty of nature when I noticed Shan walking down to my apartment. I shrugged and put down the mug of tea I had in my hands.Shan came by again to the house, this time with orchid and peony flowers. He had a full box of chocolates in a gift bag, he became genuinely rueful.”I am sorry Etiene.” He pleaded, putting his knees on the floor while I watched him from the window.”Go away!” I yelled shrilly.”Sweetheart please I beg You, I won’t ever lay my filthy hands on you anymore.” He said in a broken but loud whisper. my chest grew tight with trepidation .”Are you going to open that door for him?” Arusi my Kenyan roommate asked boldly.”I love him.” I whispered.”You will keep loving him until he breaks your head.” Arusi said angrily. Her comment instigated a train of thought that instantly perturbed me.”Do you think he is gonna do this again?” I asked.”Etiene, I am not wishing you a bad relationship, but he will sure do. How many times has Shan beaten you up?””uncountable times.”
“and how many times has he come to beg, promising that he won’t ever do it again?”
“uncountable times,” I whispered again.
“what makes you think this time is different?”
“I love him Arusi. He takes care of me. He is paying my bills, my school fees etcetera. I can’t leave him. Everything outside is still frozen, and he still struggled to come apologize to me. He has a good heart.”
When Arusi noticed that apprehension sounded in my voice, she gave a loud sigh and walked to the kitchen, while I opened the door hastily for Shan.
“Thank you for letting me in.” He said icy smoke ran out of his mouth in slow Motion as he shivered.
Taking a deep breath, I moved restlessly from one end of the room to the other.
“I am sorry my love. I won’t ever beat you up anymore.” He knelt down again.
I was dazzled, I walked up to him and knelt with him too. He drew me back into his arms, holding me tightly. A passion flared between us, he began to kiss me softly.
“Let’s get to my apartment” he whispered in a shaky tone. His eyes begged me for something, I knew what it was.
I would do anything for Shan, My American rich boyfriend. I was his first black girlfriend whom he cherished so much, but something was wrong out of a beautiful perfection.
Just after we finished making love, he lighted a cigarette and inhaled deeply, then exhaled. He was staring at the wall of his windows while I skimmed through a Vogue magazine.Shan is the oldest son of a wealthy Creole and African American parents. And also the heir apparent to take over their famous, family, fashion business. His mother had a fashion label in America and France, they also had branches and distributors world wide. The Elliot fashion label was a brand name that rang a bell in terms of expensive fashionable wears and accessories.When I relocated to the US, Shan enrolled me in the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia. I took up modeling as a course which he reluctantly accepted. I wanted to support him too in his fashion business and bring up models who will promote the brand ‘Elliot’.While in Nigeria, I modeled for a few brands, but it was just once in a while business. I was naive when it came to fashion and modeling, but Shan brought me into the limelight and a grand exposure.”I think you should come live with me here.” He broke the silence.”What about school?” I asked, looking amazed.”The driver could drop you off daily. I really need you by my side now.”
His words were almost like a plea, and I felt as if he had just touched my soul. I buried my face against his chest and felt his strong arms go around me.”Not now Bebe. You know I will be doing my project presentation soon, I need to concentrate.””I am scared someone might take you away from me. You are such a beautiful model Etiene.” He said passionately, pronouncing my name orally like it was an English name.”Nobody can take me away from you, do you understand that?”He breathed in slowly and let his breath out before he could speak, and then his voice came out as a groan of despair.”I don’t like it when I see you with those guys in school.”
“My course mates Shan?”
“I don’t just like them around you. I don’t wanna see my woman hanging around men. I don’t hang around women. Do you see me smile or share moments with those models at the office? Even though they flaunt their selves around me, I don’t give them a face, because I have you.”
I glanced up at him and saw his jaw muscles tightening.
“You are my Life, that’s why a lot of times when you break my heart, I beat you up. it’s just the craziest way I express my love. I give you everything, you should love me even more.” He grappled for the right words. His head descended, his breath brushing against my lips. “my love” he whispered, his lips moving along my jawline.
I turned my face to offer him my lips, and he took the offer. The sound of my phone interrupted us, it was Manasseh the class representative who called. Shan’s countenance transformed to anger immediately.
“Who is Manna?” He asked, his eyes turning red.
“The class rep.”
“A male class rep?”
“Yes,” I replied with a trembling voice.
He grabbed the phone from me and smashed it on the wall.
My body shook instantly, I wanted to just vanish into the thin air. I went on my knees in a deep deliberately clumsy curtsy.
He ran his thumb across my lower lip gently.“I got you something.” he whispered.He took his hands down and brings out a package from a small gift bag, then dropped it on the table.
I hurriedly opened it and got bewildered by the sight of the amazing iPhone, it had a new Sim card attached to it.”You retrieved my number? how did you know…..””It’s a new Sim card.” He cut in immediately, then continued. “I want you to have privacy.”I am not a private person. I am a model, have got contracts hanging there, have got important contacts, they will will need to reach me!” I yelled angrily.”I give you everything! you are so ungrateful! I should be your everything, I should be of importance to you Etiene!”My heart became soft, I became calm at the sound of his voice.
I held his hands gently. “It’s okay. I will accept this.” I whispered.He became calm too. He removes the phone from its pack and fixed the micro Sim in it.”This cost you a lot. iPhones are expensive.” I said.”You need expensive things baby. I will do more. Just love me and do the things I want.” He accompanied the words with a wriggle of his eyebrows, my lips curved up into a smile.”I have a runway lessons today with Miss Cardilac.” I said, flipping through my new phone.
He stood up immediately and held my hands.
“We will be going to Haleakala Volcana and beaches this weekend. We need a vacation baby.” He said, twisting my hands gently.
“Where is that?”
“Maui.” He said in American English.
He sounded as if he was being generous and thoughtful. I knew that it would be churlish to complain about going on so many weekend Vacations, so I gave a soft smile as we walked out of the mall.
Shan and I were admired by a lot of people. People said he was Jayz and I was Beyonce, but he wasn’t ever ready to entertain such admirations from men when it came to me. He wasn’t ready to relinquish me easily, he was Never planning to.
“I don’t like the way guys are staring at you.” He whispered huskily.
“Even when we are together.”
“They all know you are my man, look; my hands are clasp to yours. Obviously, everyone knows you are my lover.”
I turned my face to offer him my lips and he took the offer. His lips were warmed, drawing emotions from inside me.
“You think this is love?” Arusi asked sarcastically.
“You are in an abusive relationship roomy, I am scared for You, just look at your face. Just last evening, Shan was at our door post, begging you like his life depended on it, and now see, you came back with another mark on your face.”
Arusi said, while turning the cake batter with a wooden stick.“He loves me Arusi. All through my lifetime, I have never met a guy this perfect. He doesn’t cheat, he gives me all I want. He is just a jealous lover.”She paused. “My father was a jealous lover. He used to beat up my mother every single day. She hid from us, but the injuries on her face revealed she was going through pains from papa. She gave up her dreams just to make my father happy. But one day, just one day, she died in the hands of my father’s belt.””What? just belt!” I exclaimed.”yes, just belt. that is what happens in an abusive relationship. Other days, he beats you with guns and machetes. The day he decides to give a light slap, she died at the spot. I lost my mother.” She said, her voice quivered now. She shrugged and continued turning the cake batter.”Does Wendy know that Shan beats you?” She asked.” of course not. I can’t tell her.””Why not? Wendy should know.””Why?””So that if anything happens to you, we will know what to tell the police. We all have to be aware.””Arusi! stay out of my relationship!
Sometimes you make me feel like you are jealous of my man. oh because your Patson isn’t as rich as him.” I said angrily.Arusi stared at me, a smile curved her lips, she giggled and kept turning the batter.
“Do you think this is all about being rich?
It’s not all about the Money, it’s all about your peace of mind, your happiness. You don’t have peace of mind Etiene. Right now, as you are standing there, you are scared, you are not free. You are a prisoner of a foolish love ”
All of a sudden I stood up from the kitchen stool and walked out angrily, I took a cab to Cresh town, I was ready for Maui’s weekend trip.
A few hours later, I was right at Shan’s sitting room. Lost in my thoughts, it took a couple of seconds for me to raise my head at the sound of that masculine voice.
“Are you okay sweetheart,” Shan asked calmly.
“I am ready for our weekend getaway in Maui.”
He kissed me on the forehead and went for his wardrobe. He picked a few clothes into a trunk box and we both left for Maui.
The hotel rooms at Haleakala Volcano and beaches had a breath taking sight.
It was not just about the good food, beverages, nor the comfort of the cream cushioned round back seat in the rooms, nor even the vivid splash of bright yellow flowers arrangement on the hallway; It was the whole Haleakala, looking fabulously beautiful.
The acrid smell of Shan’s cigarette woke me.
He took a sip of vodka and then came to bed. He gripped my shoulders, and there was that leashed intensity that he kept tightly reined.“I wanna sleep. I feel sleepy a bit.” he whispered.
He laid his head calmly on my chest, and after a while, he was deeply asleep.I became bored and thought I should go around Haleakala Volcano. I walked out wearing a pair of sneakers and a jersey.Shan’s sweet scent clinging to me as I walked around the beach side. Then I heard a loud voice.”Etiene Martins!” I was flabbergasted.
Who knew me in Haleakala?I exhaled feeling my heart beat settle into a natural rhythm. Then I turned, it was Andre Okpo, my course mate in Pennsylvania, he graduated before me, who was also a Nigerian.I had been Andre’s crush for a very long time, he was a fashion designer and a brand ambassador for Levi Strauss and co, he was in America to buy the franchise back to Nigeria.”What are you doing in Haleakala baby?” He asked excitedly, hugging me.”Well I am here with my boyfriend for a short weekend vacation.””Same Shan? the American?” I nodded with a smile.
“Oh great, great. well, I am here for a shoot. I came in from LA last night.””You now live in LA?””not really, I got some works to do in LA. I came here to audition some models for Paris fashion night in France, you should be there.”
“really? oh, my god! then audition me.”
“I will give you my card, you call me when you are free.” He handed me a card from his pocket.
“You know I used to love you Etiene. I still do.”
“Andre, I have a boyfriend. I love him.” I said boldly.
Andre stared at me for a moment, there was this slight emotion that transpired between us.
“Etiene!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I heard my name, as it echoed Aloud, it was Shan. He walked as fast as he could towards where Andre and I stood.
“Hi, Shan, nice to meet you.” Andre greeted smartly as he pulled out his hands for a shake, but Shan gave him a cold shoulder.
“What are you doing here? you left the room to see a man?” He Asked, his expression becoming almost stern.
“No! We met by coincident.” Andre interrupted.
He didn’t look at Andre in the face. The fury that got through him had him clenching his jaw until the words could merely slither out.
I shook my head, my bottom lip quivering.
“He used to be my school mate!” I yelled at him.
“So you sneaked out of the hotel room just to be with your school mate?” He asked, yelling too.
“We met by coincidence. Andre came here for work, we…”
Then he slapped me again and pushed me to the floor. Andre struggled to save me, but he Couldn’t, Shan pushed him away and dragged me to the hotel room.
mixed with a headache and pains overshadowed me.Shan’s face became Stern, stupidity incarnate.He clicked the door open with a card and slammed it.”I left my work, business meetings postponed to be with the woman I love, and this is how you pay me back for my devoted love?” Shan reeled off.”He used to be in Pennsylvania.” I stammered, but before I could turn my face he slapped me hard on the face.”Leave me alone! I don’t love you anymore! I cried out. He Rushed for his belt and beat me up mercilessly. Alarm and crisis crashed into my head like a tornado.
I forcefully stood up and pushed him to the floor, running out of the room in torn jersey and shattered looking hair.
I ran without looking back, then I ran into Andre.”Help me, Andre, he will kill me!” I screamed. He held my hands gently and backed me like a child to his hotel room.”This is not good for you Etiene. Too bad.””I wanna just leave here, leave this place as soon as possible. Take me out from here.” I said, shivering like a cold bunny.
Andre took a sweater from his bed and wore me as fast as he could.”You will be fine.” He said soothingly.Tears streamed out of my eyes, I was in deep fear, my heart was beating so fast.
“Calm Down. Do you need anything?”
“No. I want to go now. Take me home, this place isn’t safe.” I said in a shaky tone.
I left the Island of Maui by flight in the early hours of the next day. Andre took me home, all through the night, he had watched me cry, and lament to sleep.
“What happened to you?” Arusi asked in dismay.
“She was beaten up by Shan.” Andre said sarcastically.
“Shan? Andre!” Arusi exclaimed.
“how did you two meet? what really happened? You saw her in Maui?” Arusi asked looking confused.
But we were all mute for a while. Arusi dialed Wendy’s number and called her immediately.
“You should be here as soon as possible. Your best friend was almost killed by Shan today.” she said meanly, not looking at our faces, then hung the call.
“Wendy will be here in a bit” she snapped.
“Why would you tell Wendy this?” I asked weakly.
“Because she is in the right position to talk senses into you!”
I never wanted Wendy to know about Shan maltreating me. she is my best friend, but sharing this with her was going to complicate issues. Wendy is a woman who knows how to colour her shit to beauty.
We all waited anxiously for the drama queen’s arrival.
I was covered with a duvet, while Arusi laid a warm towel on my forehead.”Oh my god! what happened to my best friend, what did Shan do to you?” Wendy asked shrilly, kneeling beside the bed and running her hands on my hair.”Shan has been beating up Etiene. Almost every single day.” Arusi said, and gave a low murmur.”Oh no! that’s not true! Not the almighty Shan!” Wendy scoffed, looking dramatically amazed.”I don’t get. I have tried to talk senses to her, but she wouldn’t listen, maybe you too should try.” Arusi said softly, and took the warm towel from my forehead.”Etiene, Look at you! I mean Augustus has never talked to me badly, he has never dared, talk of attempting to lay his hands on me, I will break his head, is he mad? I be naija babe, guy no fit do that kind thing for where I dey.” Wendy boasted.”What happened to your face Wendy? there is a mark on it.” Arusi asked.” Oh dear, Augustus and I were having a romantic play at the shower, when I mistakenly hit it on the shower tap, you should have watched him cry all through the night like a baby. He watched me sleep and pampered me till the pains ceased.” Wendy reeled off these words in two seconds. She has always been boastful, proud and a talkative. Arusi and I were used to her dramatic lifestyle.”How sweet of him. You are so lucky Wendy.” Arusi sighed.”Leave Shan alone my friend. Stay off his lane. He is not worth you.” Wendy said calmly. “I don’t want to know what you did to him, but he doesn’t have any single reason to beat you up this way. My Augustus has never done this.” The smile varnished from my face as Wendy mentioned Augustus again.
“Why are you comparing Augustus to Shan? They are two different human beings ” I said in a low tone.
“That’s because my Augustus is the angel. I am trying to cite an example of a good, perfect man. compared to Your Shan who gives you pains and heartbreaks. You should end this with him, any man who beats or cheats on a woman is a coward.”
” He has never cheated on me.”
“My Augustus neither. I am the only woman in his life, he gives me all I want, anytime I want it.” Wendy said, looking at herself In a stylish manner.
“I am ending this.”
“Ending?” Wendy and Arusi asked in Unison but scoffingly.
“I am finally ending with Shan!”
Arusi laughed out loud and clapped their hands in unison. Shaking my head, I wiped my mirth filled eyes after a long laugh too.
“let’s wait and see. I hope that when he comes here with flowers and chocolates you won’t go back into his arms?”
“Good! that’s the way forward!” Wendy exclaimed excitedly, she quirked a brow as she brought her phone from her handbag.
She didn’t forget to show us pictures of the vacation She and Augustus went for at Portland and Puerto Rico.”It was awesome, I feel like the luckiest woman in the world to own this amazing man” Wendy said, hijacking her handbag.
“Off I go best friend!”I was almost too weary and heartsick to talk to anyone, so I just nodded silently. Wendy gave me a peck on the cheeks and hugged Arusi.
“Bye ladies, let me go see my loving husband.””Okay bye.” Arusi whispered as Wendy slammed the door.”Lucky Wendy. With all her drama filled life and craziness, she still had the luck of meeting a responsible man.””Wendy and Augustus have dated for long. Since back in Nigeria. When she came over to America, she made provisions for him to join her.””How does that stop him from being a good man Etiene? A good man is a good man, whether he lived in Nigeria before or America.” Arusi said and leaned casually against the wall, the hardness in her eyes was a warning that I should talk less of Wendy’s husband and think of how I was going to get over Shan. An idea came to her, and she blurted out, “I am sure Shan will come here today, we should pour him a full bucket of ice, so that he won’t come back.” Her eyes became hooded.”Maybe you will pour the ice on him, for me, I don’t wanna ever see his face again.”Arusi poured milk into a saucer, and then crumpled several slices of crisp bacon into a bowl and handed it to me.”My birthday is in few weeks.” I said, as I sipped the crisp gradually.
“The first birthday you are going to celebrate without Shan in America.” She muttered.
“Do not bring Shan into our conversations. I can have a happy birthday without him.”
How did you meet Shan?” Arusi threw the question at me like a bomb.
“Facebook, we met on Facebook.”
“What? Facebook?” she giggled.
“After I lost my family in a ghastly motor accident. I paid a tribute to my mom on my timeline, he saw it and chatted me up. He told me I was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. That year, he wanted me to come visit him here in America, but I was scared. He used to send me lots of money, even when I never met him. So I trusted him, and then I decided to relocate as he demanded. He knew I loved modeling, so he enrolled me in Pennsylvania. Got me this apartment, gave me money monthly. He is like my Daddy.” I said, my voice quivered as tears ran down my eyes.
Suddenly the door bell rang. Arusi rushed to see who was at the door.
“It’s Shan.” She whispered aloud.
My heart trembled.
“Are you serious?” I asked.
“Joking! it’s the pizza guy!” I gave a loud sigh of relieve as I fell back on the couch.
I rushed to the kitchen to make a coffee, while Arusi tried to exercise on the yoga mat.The door bell rang, and Arusi walked slowly to the door.”It’s Shan!” she screamed. My heart skipped a bit.”Don’t open the door!” I yelled.”Joking!” She giggled. “It’s Wendy!”
Wendy walked in with drops of snow falling off her winter coat.”I brought you breakfast best friend.” She said girlishly, pulling out a food warmer from a fancy bag.”Oh dear, thank you.” I said and hurriedly opened the food warmer.”It’s rice and chicken in curry sauce, your fave. I wanna treat you the way my husband treats me.” Wendy Said, rolling her eyes.The aroma of the well garnished sauce went around the whole sitting room, Arusi ran to the kitchen and got some cutleries and plates.”I saw a rose bouquet and some gifts on your verandah when I came In, with a note alongside.” Wendy said.
“obviously from Shan.” Arusi said. She walked out to the verandah and came back with packs of gifts. “There is a note attached to it.”
“Open it let’s read please.” Wendy said shrilly.
“And it reads, My love, my life is meaningless without you, come back to me, let’s perfect our love. I am so sorry for breaking your heart. Shan.”
“Hmmm….nawaaaoooo, oyigbo man sabi love,” Wendy exclaimed.
“I knew he was going to come back as usual, Raven Loony.” Arusi tore the note into smaller pieces and threw them into the bin bag.
“We should drop this outside so that he can come back and see his shits.”
“I am so surprised that an American will act this way. Beating up a woman! I am so happy that I married a black man though. My Augustus knows the worth of a woman.”
A frown creased my brow.
Wendy had gone, Arusi and I had a lecture to catch up in school. We hurriedly wore our sweaters and stepped out. The cold weather made us shiver. Then we heard foot sound walking behind us. Arusi turned and whispered, “Shan is right behind us.”
“Liar! you can’t fool me again.” I said, raising my voice.
“Etiene!” Shan screamed my name, but I didn’t turn, I didn’t utter a word, I kept walking, then Arusi stopped walking and then turned to him.
“Leave her alone Shan! She doesn’t want you.” Arusi said, using her hands to block Shan from reaching to me, while I kept walking.
“Let her say it by herself that she doesn’t want me,” Shan said, his voice shaking like he was under pressure.
“I don’t want you anymore. if I get a chance, I will run far away from you!” I screamed from afar, my face became stern. Shan became grief stricken, a line of tear rushed out of his eyes.
He tried to push Arusi off the path, Arusi pushed him to the frozen floor.
“You think that I am Etiene? I am not her, if you dare lay those hands on me, I will call the police and charge you for violence against a woman. leave my friend alone!” She said with a serious face that I had never seen before. She ran towards me, while Shan watched us trek to the school bus station. There was deep sadness written on his face, but he didn’t give up, he still stalked me at the library on that same day.
“You have not been yourself since after Shan and I had that fight.”I nodded silently, tears running out of my eyes. Arusi laced her hands in mine.” oh, poor darling, I know exactly how you feel. you are now my soul sister. You helped me, accommodated me in your apartment even when you didn’t know me that much. You saved me when I was stranded. I can’t let you walk into danger. I have witnessed domestic violence, my mother was a victim, I have said this before. Whatever I did to Shan was for you.” She said in broken whispers. My heart calmed.”Thank you.” I said calmly and gave her a warm hug.My phone rang and when I checked, it was Andre.”It’s Andre.” I said.”Talk to him, this could be the right person who would take your mind off from Shan.”No. I don’t want a relationship now.” I said softly.”I understand. Take it easy. Your birthday is at the corner, so brighten up a bit. I am off to Fashion class for my test.” Arusi said giving a forceful Smile.I strolled to the library that afternoon to read for my last test before the final examination. My emptiness was filled with anger, heartbreak, and thoughts of Shan.
As I walked into the library, someone covered my mouth and dragged me backwardly to a corner. I wasn’t sure who it was until the smell of his perfume hit me hard on the nose.
He quaked and trembled as he sought my mouth. He tried to control his movements, to still his heartbeat, but he was on fire.
He kissed me deeply and then hugged me with my hands tied down to his in a wrap.
“I am sorry, please listen to me. I have missed you so much, baby. look at me, I am falling sick because of you. I am love sick my heart.” He said in a trembling voice.
“I don’t want to see you anymore,” I said tearily.
“It’s not true, I know you still love me. Arusi told you to say these things to me.” He whispered. He drew me into his arms, holding me tightly.
“There is so much we have to say to each other. I have an issue. I am meeting with a therapist soon. I am ready to change for you Etiene. I am having posttraumatic stress disorder, it leads to depression at times. It doesn’t have a cure, but my therapist will work with me.”
“You liar!” I yelled. He grabbed me to himself and forcefully kissed me again.
Long moments passed as his body interlocked with mine. I pushed him off and ran away, he ran after me like his life depended on it.
To be Continued………..
Written by Vicky Bon Uzuazor