The pungent smell of rotten cheese woke me up. I batted a damp piece of fabric off my face to the floor: a purple lace underwear. Sometime during the night, or very early this morning, someone had covered my bed in clothes—a blinding display of hideously coloured, feminine dirty clothes.
There was only one person who could have done this. I mumbled several curses under my breath as I headed for the sitting room. “Anwuli?”
Her grumpy voice came roaring back: “Hian! Anwuli this! Anwuli that! Can somebody not have peace in this house again?”
She was sitting on the sofa, feet up again on the wooden stool, remote control in hand. Yesterday, I had said nothing because I was tired. But today, I was not taking this. No way. I marched up to her, stood in front of the TV, and blocked her view. “I just saw clothes on my bed. Do you know anything about it?”
She craned her neck so she could still see the screen. “’Excuse,” she hissed, waving the remote control. “Move from my front.”
Enraged, I cursed.
She snapped her head toward me. “You say wetin?”
I spun around and stuck a finger into the TV knob, switching the blasted thing off. “Did you drop dirty clothes on my matrimonial bed, Anwuli?” I demanded.
“Are you drunk?” Anwuli leapt, limbs stretched, aiming for my neck. “I am watching a movie and you switched it off. Craze person swear for you?”
“I just asked you a simple question,” I said, ducking out of her reach. “Must you act like a madwoman? Can’t you just answer me?”
She jerked her finger toward our room. “Ehen. When then? And so? Yes. Those are my clothes. I brought them from my house for you to wash!”
“Wash your clothes? Your underwear? Is a screw loose or—”
The bark came from behind me.
I turned, saw my husband standing by the doorjamb, dressed in his work clothes, suit jacket hung over his shoulder with a finger. What was he doing here? I glanced at the wall clock—9:00 a.m. Wasn’t he supposed to be at work?
His gaze ping-ponged between us. “I forgot my files at home. What is this noise for? What happened?”
I tried to explain. “Your sister dumped her … clothes on my face. For me to wash. Can you imagine—?”
“Am I not a visitor?” Anwuli yelled, standing on tiptoe and shoving a green acrylic nail at my face. “Can you not be hospitable for once in your miserable life?”
“Hospitable.” I sneered. “I can be hospitable, Anwuli. In fact, I would gladly send your multicoloured self to a mental hospital if you try that rubbish—”
“Enough!” Chris bellowed, eyes blazing. “Ogini? Is it a crime to have two women in the same house? Can’t you people respect my presence under my roof?” He faced his sister. “Anwuli, excuse us. I want to talk to my wife.”
Anwuli blinked. “Brother, did you hear what I said? Your wife refused to—”
“I said excuse us!” Chris roared. “Are you deaf?”
I blasted him with a look. What was this about? Chris was asking his sister to excuse us so we could talk?
Anwuli grunted something in response and shuffled past Chris.
Chris kicked the door shut with his foot. He leaned on it, drew a breath. For a moment, he said nothing.
I watched him, unsure of what to think. When he dropped his suit jacket to the floor and raised a hand to his belt buckle, I took a step back.
“Chris—” I started. My thigh still held imprints from where he’d used that belt on me in the past. “Hear me out before you decide to—”
The belt slid out of his trousers in one easy swipe. “I don’t intend on using this on you, but I will dissect your body with it, if you don’t listen to what I have to say.”
I nodded, swallowed. “I … I am li-listening.” I bet Anwuli was too.
“I did not forget my files,” he said. The belt was curled around his fingers, a python on its prey.
“You didn’t?” I shuffled farther away.
“I have just been sacked.”
I bumped against the sofa, fell into it. “You what?”
“I have lost my job,” Chris said. “You want me to translate?”
I nodded, then shook my head. Confusion and fear warred in my insides. What now?
“Now that you know,” Chris said, “I want you to get up, go into that room, and pick up Anwuli’s clothes. I don’t want to hear one word for you, or from her. Wash them without question. Or else …” He uncurled the belt, stretched it until I heard a snap. “I will flog you with every ounce of energy I have left in my body.”
I struggled to my feet. My husband’s eyes were a blast of ice, menacing. Edging to the door, I breathed a thank-you when he shifted to allow me through.
Anwuli pushed herself off the wall in the hallway as soon as she saw me. She had been listening.
The smirk on her face screamed triumph.
Abimbola Dare started writing Christian fiction in 2011 following years of blogging as“bimbylads”. Her first novel, The Small Print (Divine Publishers, 2011), peaked at number 11 on Amazon UK Kindle bestseller list for Religious romance. She has featured in leading magazines across Nigeria, and has spoken at numerous events including the University of Middlesex Literary Festival. When Broken Chords Sing is her first novella, and second book. Abimbola lives with her family in the UK and is editing her third novel. She can, and loves to be contacted on facebook:www.facebook.com/bimbylads,or on Twitter: @bimbylads. “When Broken Chords Sing” is out on Amazon Kindle. Paperback is coming soon to Nigeria.