The fluorescent light in the rundown kitchen flickered on and off repeatedly, leaving five-and two-second intervals between each shift in lighting change.
Lara stood motionless, staring at the food placed at the center of the serving tray, the cutlery laid delicately next to it. Steam rose gently out of the bowl containing the fish pepper soup he’d demanded her to make when he had gotten back from work. I wonder what he’ll find wrong with it tonight. At the thought, contempt clouded her mind and, for some odd reason, all she could taste was steel.
Several attempts at lifting the tray had failed pitifully. Lara placed her hands on the counter, the cold causing her to shiver involuntarily. Her bones felt weak and hurt. The skin above the bones hurt even more and was covered in bruises. Slowly, she lifted her hand to her face and touched her left cheek with her fingertips. Swollen. Liquid, warm and sticky, greeted the probes and she flinched. For someone who hated the sight of blood, she’d seen an awful lot of it over the past years. This has to stop.
She was at war with her conscience. You see, this wasn’t the first time Lara had entertained this idea, but she’d always ended up backing out. Why? She wasn’t quite sure. Fear, maybe. Or most likely the barely recognizable fragments of the intense love they’d shared at a time that seemed too far back in history for Lara to remember. Whatever it was, it had kept Lanre alive this long. No more.
She whispered those two words over and again in the empty kitchen and felt her resolve strengthen. She knew this time was different. Lanre need to pay. For everything. She simply couldn’t afford to allow him another opportunity to lay a hand on her again. All the promises he’d made about things getting better had finally come to mean nothing more than empty words. Lanre’s constant cries and pleas whenever she was packed and ready to walk out, crooning in her ear how she was his entire world, how much he needed her, and how she was the most important thing in the world to him, meant nothing more to Lara now, than promises of another incident.
A low laugh escaped Lara’s lips as she remembered how often he’d cried and told her how much he hated himself for hitting her. How ashamed it made him. Funny how all that shame went out the window whenever he perceived another slight on her part. The fists would fly again, and no one could do anything to stop Lanre whenever his eyes and mind where blinded with rage. The neighbors had even stopped trying to come to her aid when Lanre had thrown a brick at a man who had pulled him off Lara’s tiny, cowering frame on the concrete floor of the compound courtyard. It’s either I kill him or he kills me. And me, I’m not ready to die.
A glance down at the bowl in front of her informed Lara she’d have to reheat the pepper soup. God forbid she presented her beloved husband with a lukewarm meal. As she shut the oven door and set the timer, the fluorescent tube flickered back on and she caught her reflection in the oven door. The woman before her was barely recognizable. She saw a woman who had been brutally beaten down by life, not the soft, happy features she once boasted. Gone was the youthful fire in her eyes that Lanre claimed had attracted him to her in the first place. Now, hey eyes were just cold…and dead. At that moment, Lara realized more than ever how desperately she needed that light back. And just what she was willing to do to get it back.
Retribution. She could almost taste it. She knew she was ready.
“OMOLARA!!!” Lanre’s voice startled her, but only briefly. She stopped the microwave and pulled out the food as he shouted again from the living room. “Ahnahn! How long does it take to make pepper soup?! Are you cooking for an army?!”
Lara composed herself and headed towards the living room with the bowl of pepper soup, stopping by the door to take the pestle in her other hand. She took a deep breath as she stepped into the living room. This is it. She walked up to where Lanre was seated in front of the TV and stood behind him, hoping her resolve didn’t fail her now. Lanre stretched out his hand without even bothering to turn his attention from the flickering images before him. Finally she opened her mouth, her voice a low whisper. “The food is here, Lanre.”
“Put it in my hand now! Are you stupid?!”
Lanre finally turned around, and the look in his eyes was unmistakable. Hatred. Pure, undiluted hatred.
Before Lanre could speak or react, Lara threw the bowl at his face. As expected, Lanre screamed and covered his face giving her enough time to steady herself and hold the pestle firmly in both hands. He managed to open his eyes just as she raised the pestle above her head, and Lara recognized another emotion register on her soon-to-be ex-husband’s face as the realization of what she had planned dawned on him. His mouth opened, and his free hand went up in a petty attempt to defend himself, but she was having none of it. With every ounce of force she could muster, Lara brought the pestle down on Lanre’s head.
There was a loud pop and then a crack as she penetrated the skull, followed by a wet squelching sound. Her anger boiled over and she kept hitting his head with the pestle, her screaming serving as another outlet for her anger and frustration.
Anger subsided, Lara stood panting in the living room, the people in the television still carrying on with their business, and surrounded by a mess of blood and brain matter. And then she realized the full implications of what she had done. “Oh, darling. I’m so sorry. She whispered to no one. “You can’t imagine how much I hate myself for this. You’re my world. I’m nothing without you, and I promise this won’t happen again.” And then she laughed. It was loud and carefree, filled with purity and joy and the execution of darkness. Her first real laughter in years.
The sight of Lanre’s chair soaked in the remnants of what used to be his head filled Lara with unimaginable joy and a sense of fulfillment. She went upstairs, packed up most of her belongings and took her time getting cleaned up. As she headed out the door of their apartment, she glanced back at the mess in the sitting room and thought about what Lanre would say if he could still speak. “Ode! Useless fool. I’m going out. This place should be spotless by the time I get back.”