• Lina was a kind soft-spoken girl.
• She was very beautiful.
It was an arranged marriage. George had just turned forty and his mother was tired of waiting for him to get himself a wife.
Lina’s mother was known to Mama George’s sister. That is how the marriage was arranged. Lina was twenty-four. Her father had died when she was young. She had younger half-siblings though. Her mother had remarried but her stepfather had also died. Lina and her family were outcasts of sorts. After the death of two men, her father and stepfather, the villagers feared them. Death seemed too familiar with them, no one wanted to be too close to them lest they became death’s next victim.
Being widowed, twice, Mama Lina had sort of given up on life. She barely had friends, people distanced themselves from her in the market and no one sat close enough to her in church. Her children, Lina and her siblings were educated by a catholic church. That is where Sister Agripina spotted Lina.
Lina was a kind soft-spoken girl. She was very beautiful. She had a round face, long black hair and the most innocent eyes you had ever seen. Her innocence was her best asset. She rarely raised her voice and she was always ready to help.
Sister Agripina had always liked Lina. She always tried to make her life a little better. Even if it was just by offering her a bar of chocolate after school. She had heard their story and being a Catholic nun, she did not believe in the villagers’ superstitions.
When her sister Mama George confided in her about her son’s situation, Sister Agripina knew how to solve the matter. She had kept in touch with Lina after she had finished her secondary education. It was not hard to reach out to her and her mother.
Sister Agripina arranged for a meeting between the two mothers. Mama George and Mama Lina. The meeting was held and a resolution reached. Their two children would marry and their families would become one.
George owned a successful business in the city. He offered outsourced IT services to big companies who did not necessarily want an IT department inhouse. He was among the first to get into this business so he was thriving. Aside from not being married, he was very successful.
For the owner of a successful company, George was awkward in social situations. He was nervous and unsure of himself. He was not bad to look at. He was short though, with small hands. That may have caused the insecurities he had.
He agreed to the marriage simply because he knew he had no hope in the marriage department without outside intervention. George had not even asked for a picture of Lina before they met. He had just assumed his mother had picked anything in a skirt from the village. He had resigned himself to his fate.
He first saw Lina when his aunt, Sister Agripina brought her for a visit to the city. She was shy, she hardly looked at him in the eye. When she greeted him she supported her right arm with her left one. She laughed nervously when he asked her how the journey was. He was so taken by her. She was so beautiful, her eyes were so clear. Her face was so smooth, her skin reminded him of satin fabric. She was modestly dressed but you could still tell she had killer womanly curves underneath her drab dress.
After the visit with Lina, he called his mother and asked her to arrange for the traditional wedding immediately. His mother could not have been more thrilled.
Lina did not object to the marriage. She did not even like George. She respected him, he was an old man to her and she knew to show respect to her elders. Other than that, there was nothing. She did not dare object though. It was not her place to. She did not think she had a choice in the matter. Her mother had said it was a great opportunity for her and the family. She said that her husband would educate her younger siblings, build her a house and boost her small grocer business. Basically, George would make them “people” in that village. How could she say no?
George came to pay her dowry in style. They travelled in a big convoy of luxury vehicles. They hired the local police to watch over the cars when they arrived at the village. Lina’s humble home had not had this many visitors even when there were funerals. They had cleaned the compound as best as they could. They swept the soil and painted all the big stones white with some cheap water-based paint. They applied a coat of oily blue paint on the walls in their small house. George had sent an outside catering company to sort out the food. He had also sent money for fabric for her dress.
No one in the village had believed that someone useful was actually marrying Lina. They had scoffed at the invitation until the village children yelled at the cars as they raised dust on their way to Lina’s home. Villagers hurriedly wore their clothes and made their way to the function. Even the village chief who had said he had an important government event to attend to, made his way to their compound and even requested for a chance to speak on behalf of Lina’s family. It was a spectacle.
Lina left for the city with her new husband. She had trained herself to feel nothing, that was her coping mechanism. She knew what was expected of her. Her family depended on her and for that, she lay down her life and her dreams for this man.
George was excited about his new wife. She was not like the city girls. She was untouched and she was all his.
The first time George hit Lina, she fled. She went home. That was the safest place she knew. She was seven months pregnant and she had made up her mind never to go back. They had been married for almost two years. George was impatient with Lina. It took her a while to master how he wanted things done. He did not want any changes or delays to his routine. He took his breakfast at seven in the morning. He came home for lunch every day so his food had to be on the table at a quarter to noon. He was home by six in the evening and had his bath at Seven and was at the table thirty minutes later for his supper. He expected lights out in the whole house by nine pm.
He went to the supermarket himself. He even bought her clothes right down to her underwear. The only money he gave her was one thousand shillings twice a month to have her hair plaited.
When Lina got home. She expected sympathy. Instead, her mother called George. She told him Lina was home because she was anxious about the birth of their first child. She assured him all was well and asked him to pick her up in a couple of days. Mama Lina then went on to scold her daughter.
“This is what marriage is like! A woman protects her marriage and is never troublesome. Don’t think you will ruin your marriage and return here. You are now married, this is no longer your home.”
George did not hit her again until after the birth of their son Junior. Small things seemed to set him off. If she took too long at the shops, he accused her of having a boyfriend. The argument usually ended with a slap. He did not want her to talk back. He did not want any excuses for why something was not done the way he had wanted it done or for his meals being even a few minutes late. George did not drink or smoke. He never slept out. He was home all weekend and went to work each weekday but was always home by six in the evening, every day like clockwork. His friends had stopped coming by their house because he accused them of wanting his wife and for that, his wife got a beating.
By the time Junior was old enough to go to school, George took his wife to driving school and then bought her a car of her own. Well, let us say a car she could drive. He never let her forget it was his car and that she owned nothing. Not even her hairstyle.
Lina cherished the times she was able to spend away from the house with Junior. Even if it was a short ride to and from school. One time she took Junior to the mall from school but got home before Geroge’s six o’clock. When George came back, he knew she had not come straight home. She tried to lie but he had put a tracking device in the car, so the minute she went off course he was aware. That night he broke her wrist.
Lina knew she had to get away from George. He was becoming worse. She was almost afraid to breathe next to him. He would beat her but expect her to be affectionate when they got to bed. It was a horrible experience. She started saving her salon money in hopes that it would soon be enough for her and her son to run away.
When Junior was in primary school, he got very interested in sports. He was actually very athletic. He was in the cross country team, football team and played a little bit of rugby. This was his escape. On the pitch or on a run he could release his pent-up anger.
Lina met Saulo at the salon. He was a kind man who travelled often to Dubai and China. They became friends right away. Saulo felt sorry for Lina, he had heard the hairdressers gossiping about Lina. He could see the sadness she tried to hide with her shy smiles. Saulo liked Lina and made sure to schedule his manicure and pedicure appointments when Lina’s salon appointments were. Thanks to George’s routines, she went to the salon every two weeks on Thursdays at one after he had had lunch. She would have enough time to have her hair done with plenty of time to spare so that she was not late to pick Junior up. Lina looked forward to those Thursdays when she would see Saulo. He knew so much about life. She enjoyed his travel stories, his fashion advice and they had fun gossip sessions.
Junior was sent to boarding school for his high school. His father felt he was too close to his mother and would become too soft. The reality was that George was jealous of their relationship. The beatings had reduced. George was getting old. He was not as strong nor as quick to beat Lina as he was. The verbal abuse got worse though. The older he got the meaner he seemed to be. His business was not as big as it used to be. Many players got into the industry. Younger players with fresh ideas and he was literally squeezed out to the market. He had to reduce his operation considerably in order to keep business open, but he knew the end was near. He only had one steady client and that was not enough to keep them afloat.
Time does fly when you are being mistreated. By the end of 2019, Junior had completed his secondary school education and Lina was over forty years old. She still had the dream of leaving her husband and Saulo was helping her make it a reality.
Saulo had helped Lina open a small shop next to the salon. She had asked him to buy her small trinkets with the monies she had saved on his travels and that is how her business started. She had employed a young salesgirl who she would check on daily when George was at work. Her business grew from selling trinkets to a full-fledge clothing boutique. She was ready to leave.
The morning of her exit, she prepared George’s food as usual. Served him and sat and listened to his criticism and insults. She then cleared the table and he left for his office.
She then sat down with Junior and had a candid conversation about her plans. Junior was so excited to leave he did not mind that they were moving to a much smaller house in a different part of town. They quickly packed a few essentials and left.
George was having a particularly rough day. His landlord at the office had sent auctioneers and his one remaining client had sent a notice to terminate. As he drove home for lunch he hoped his wife had his meal on the table. This was one of the days he could easily be set off.
He walked into his house and there was no smell of food. The house was deathly quiet. Usually, he would have to shout at Junior to turn down his ghastly music.
“If this stupid woman has not cooked, I will knock her teeth out today!” he muttered to himself.
“Lina!” He yelled. “I will not call you twice!”
Her car was outside. He went up to Junior’s room, he was not in. He went to the master bedroom, Lina was not in.
He sat on his chair and waited. He waited till it became dark. She was not coming back.