“You’re shouting. I can just close the window or drug you and no one would hear you, then I’ll do whatever I want.” He said so that Ezinwa’s sobs became louder and he pulled away.
“Why are you crying? Why are you acting like this? Are you a child? What did you expect when you came here? Look how you are dressed.” What did she expect? To have a good time with him, to laugh and eat and talk. Was there a problem with that? it suddenly sounded absurd to her that she would visit a man and not expect him to make a move on her. But it was possible. It should be possible. How she was dressed? She was putting on a short sleeveless gown and a jean. What was wrong?
“Hassan, just let me go. Please.” He snatched his phone from the table, rage simmering in him.
“Delete your number. Everything. And get out of my house. I never want to see you again.” She took it and with shaky hands, she began clearing every trace of her. Anything to get out of the house. And then she thought. What if he was doing it so that he could do whatever he wanted to her, then kill her and no one would suspect him. “Give me your phone, delete my number, every single text everything”
“Please, let me go.” She knelt down and cried as she begged him.
“Do it!” He barked and it occurred to her that this might be it. That maybe he wanted to have her dead. She began to recite the Hail Mary continuously in her mind. She prayed for forgiveness, for another chance at life. She did as he said and asked for her clothes, then he started begging again. Told her that he would give her whatever it was that she wanted. He pulled out an engagement ring and told her that it cost a lot, that he could give it to her, and she could pawn it. Ezinwa had known in her heart, that the ring was meant for Zainab, but it was none of her business. Did he think she wanted money? What kind of person did he think she was? She wondered if there were other girls he had tried to rape, if he was even a new to New Orleans. He asked for whatever she wanted, and what she wanted was to leave, so she told him. He pulled her to the bed and threw her on it.
“For the sake of Zainab, please let me go. How would you feel if someone did this to her? Don’t you have sisters? What if someone did this to them?”
“Stop saying that! Stop that nonsense!” He forced her legs open and while she cried, he entered her. He touched every single part of her body not caring about her tears, about her pleas. When he was done, they dressed up in silence. He begged that he had no idea of what had come over him. He said he was not the type of person to treat a woman like that. She said she understood because she wanted to leave. He begged her to stay, to give him another chance to act right. She said some other time because she wanted to leave and she didn’t want to get him angry. He made her promise to come again and she did, she just needed to leave. He insisted on dropping her at the house against her will. She agreed because she did not want to make him angry. He made small talk on the way to her house and when they got to the front of her house, he asked her for a kiss. She was still locked in the car so she kissed him, and when he finally unlocked the door, she fled into her house, to her bed and under her duvet and cried for a long time. He called and sent text messages because he wanted to meet up. He sent texts that didn’t sound remorseful, texts unrelated to what happened, like that day never happened, like he had the right to do what he did to her. They had a short argument before she blocked his contact. Blocking his contact did not stop the fear she felt, that one day he would come to look for her and a repeat of that day would happen.
Ezinwa raises her head up from the steering wheel and looks towards the station. She waits for the urge, the zeal to go back and say what happened but she feels nothing. She put her key in the ignition and drives off. She is attending a family event with Brian. She has agreed to go because she wanted to take her mind off what happened that day. She walks into the Gucci store. If they were going to piss his parents off, she might as well dress well. She picks a fur scarf and a baby pink coloured slit gown. Just perfect. She tries it on, staring at herself in the mirror. She hopes the dress would make her look less like the new Ezinwa and more like the old Ezinwa. It doesn’t. She looks the same. Only the dress stands out. It does not help cover her scars or the new Ezinwa. Maybe if she applied some makeup, she would look different, she thought, as she slips out of the gown. She pays and walks out of the store with bags of new items for herself.
Getting home, Ezinwa dresses up, touching up her makeup before walking out of her room. Ifenna is leaning on the wall while Brian sits on the couch, his elbows resting on his knees. She does not like the way they’re looking at her.
“What is it?” she asks confused.
“What’s been going on with you?” Brian asks.
“I don’t understand.”
“The silence, the few words, the fear in your eyes, the constant jumping at the sound of things or when I mistakenly touch you. Always wearing coats, cardigans, covering yourself in a duvet. You don’t do those things.” Ifenna says.
“I’m cold. I think I caught the flu.”
“It’s summer. I’m your boyfriend, a lot of things have changed about you. Ifenna has noticed too. What’s going on?” Ezinwa does not like the fact that they have been talking about her, that they are concerned, or rather making a big deal out of their concern for her. Did they think she would just occupy one of the sofas and tell them what happened? She wants to bail on Brian, she suddenly doesn’t feel like going anywhere. She wants to go back to her room, cry and bring pain to her body but she knows it would give them an avenue to focus more on the topic.
“I’m fine,” she say, turning to leave, I’ll be waiting for you outside.” It feels hard to tell them not to worry. Or that she is fine. She is too far away from fine to even mention it, to try to lie about it. “Don’t worry, I’m fine.” She imagines saying to Brian. Yet, when she tries to say it out loud, the words feel heavy, impossible to let out.
Brian drives in silence. Unsaid words hangs in the air, making it thick. Ezinwa feels like taking out her knife and slicing the air, so the tension in it could give her some space to breathe, to think. Brian reaches for her hand and she pulls it away. She has failed again. She had told herself not to flinch or cringe when people tried to touch her. It aroused suspicions.
“Did someone touch you?”
“Is it someone from my family?” He takes his eyes off the road to look at her momentarily. She figures she should tell him about his parents pleading with her to leave the relationship. They even offered her compensations, huge rewards.
“They’ve confronted me a few times, should I be worried? Would someone from your family go to that extent? I mean to hurt me?”
“Someone hurt you?”
“That’s not what I asked.”
Brian hesitates and sighs loudly. His eyes drifted away from the road and then, back. “You promised not to keep anything from me, Brian.”
“They’re part of an organization.” She waits for him to say more.