Articles

On The Brink

By Habiba Wakio

Bahati trudged along the track heading home, a bag of groceries in her hand. It’s been six months since their move to a rental house after her husband had been laid off, losing the house and car that came with the job. Business was failing and Bahati barely had enough money to cover their expenses: the rent, the house necessities, her daughter’s school fees and her mother’s antihypertensive drugs.

She missed the man who had paid for her mother’s dialysis while courting her. The man who had showered her with gifts and love. The man who had seemed to worship the ground she walked on. After saying yes to Joseph, her mother had been happy while some of her friends had been envious of their union. These days, Joseph was a grumpy and irritable man whose only job was to get drunk with her money (which he insisted was also his since he’d provided the capital for the shop) then come back demanding for food.

Sometimes, he brought flowers and cooked her dinner. Other times, he lashed out. The bruises on her body spoke of the latter. Nevertheless, she believed that the hard times would come to pass, and Joseph would be back to being his happy self. As she neared her abode, her landlady called, approaching from the neighbouring house. Bahati started giving her usual explanations for not paying the rent on time, but Riziki cut her off, saying she understood her situation and was only concerned for her wellbeing. Though Bahati had been making up stories about the bruises on her body at the beginning, she eventually confessed. Riziki had advised her to cut ties with the man who did not appreciate her, but to no avail.

The wife was in charge of making her home, Bahati reminded herself. It was her duty to support her husband.

How could Riziki understand the way a marriage worked when she was still waiting to be swept off her feet? They gossiped for a while before parting ways. Bahati slumped down onto the sofa immediately she entered her house. Sometime later, her phone rang. She answered it, glad to hear from her childhood friend and former fiancé. When she said she couldn’t go out to see him, he suggested visiting her place so she ended up agreeing to meet him. After a quick shower, she wore a long sleeve dress, a shawl and concealing make-up.

At the hotel, Daniel did a lot of talking and Bahati was happy to listen. She was smiling by the time he excused himself stating that he had an errand to run. He offered her a lift which she declined saying that she was going to stay behind for a few hours. At the door, he turned and waved at her. She waved back and returned to her unfinished drink.

“Bahati,” called Joseph.

Bahati jumped and almost spilled her drink. She was glad Daniel had left. Picking her purse, she moved away from the table, as pale as a sheet.

“Joseph,” she gulped. “You…you’re here!” She swallowed and tried to compose herself. “I…I wasn’t expecting you.”

Joseph gave her a thin-lipped smile. “I know. I came to buy pizza after getting Furaha a cake to congratulate her on emerging the winner in the Insha competition.” He showed her the package he had been hiding behind his back.

A smile spread across Bahati’s lips.

This is a good sign, she thought, willing her heart to stop pounding.

Riziki brought a box of pizza to their table and left. Bahati flinched as Joseph’s nails dug into her flesh.

“You’re hurting me,” she whimpered as he pulled her out of the restaurant.

Bahati’s heart throbbed as they reached their house. Joseph had been awfully quiet on the way, and she couldn’t understand the change in his demeanor. When they entered their small cozy sitting room, a furious Joseph charged towards Bahati like a bull, grabbed her hand and dragged her towards the kitchen where he took a knife and pointed it at her. Bahati’s heart thumped profusely. Where was the soft, tender, and loving man she had wedded?

“I saw your ex leaving the restaurant. Tell me how long you’ve been seeing him!”

“Joseph….please. Don’t hurt me. Danny and I only met today. He was just updating me about mother’s health condition.”

Joseph tightened his grip on her. “You can find out about your mother’s condition by speaking with her over the phone!” He seethed.

Bahati wriggled her arms. “You wouldn’t let me visit her,” she whined. “Mom might pretend to be okay on the phone so as not to worry me. I needed to see her in person, but since you forbade me to leave-”

“You decided to go on a date with Daniel,” Joseph interposed.

“It wasn’t a date,” she protested. “Am not seeing Danny, I promise.”

“Liar!” Joseph traced the skin on Bahati’s neck with the knife. She winced, her heart racing faster. “I won’t spare you! I won’t spare him either!”

“Do-Don’t h-hurt me…please,” Bahati pleaded.

The knife left her neck and stopped above her arm. She gasped as it grazed her, flinched as Joseph drew blood from her skin. She couldn’t believe that her husband would go to that extent. Was he going to end her life tonight? She wondered.

“Joseph, please. I’ll do anything you say. You’re hurting me,” she cried.

“You hurt me first!”

Bahati spotted an empty bottle of soda on the floor behind Joseph.

I must get a hold of it, she thought.

“I am bleeding,” she wept. “Please let me get a first aid kit.”

“No! I will teach you a lesson today.” Joseph dropped the knife and started beating her, ignoring her cries.

“Dad, please stop,” said Furaha coming in. “You’re hurting mom.”

Joseph pushed Bahati down. He lurched forward and held Furaha’s jaw, his nails scratching her cheeks. Bahati crawled towards the bottle behind him and grabbed it. She got to her feet and hit her husband on the head. He groaned and reluctantly released Furaha. He put his hands on his head which was spinning. Bahati pulled her daughter to her side as Joseph dropped to the ground.

“You’re bleeding, mummy!”

“I’ll be fine. Let’s go.”

The two of them went to the one place they felt was safe for them- Riziki’s house.

  “Will dad be, okay?” Furaha asked as Riziki served them kimanga– a mixture of pounded sweet potatoes and beans- the meal her grandmother liked cooking for her.

“Yes,” Bahati assured her.

“Do you need a painkiller?” Riziki asked her friend.

“No,” Bahati choked. “Am sorry for not listening to you before.”

Riziki squeezed Bahati’s hand. “Better late than never. Am glad you finally left him.”

“Thanks for tending my wounds and letting us into your house.”

  Riziki gave her a warm smile. “That’s what friends are for.”

                               ***

Bahati bit her lip as her house came into view. It had taken her a long time to make up her mind. Sending Joseph to jail would serve as a recompense for all the pain he had inflicted on her.

Furaha would be devastated by the news, but she would get through this, Bahati told herself.

Joseph glanced up and saw his wife walking towards him.

She has finally come back to her senses, he thought. She can’t live without me.

Joseph was stunned when he noticed that Bahati was accompanied by Daniel and two policemen. Joseph knew he wouldn’t get a chance at redemption. Was this the end of the road for him?

Author’s notes:

Government statistics from the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) indicate that over 40 percent of women have experienced physical or sexual intimate partner violence in their lifetime.

The findings in the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey 2022 showed Bungoma led in the number of women who experienced physical and sexual violence.

62% of women who experienced physical violence were in Bungoma, 53.7% in Murang’a while 53.5% were in Homa Bay County.

On the other part, Bungoma County also recorded the highest number of women who have experienced sexual violence (30%). It is closely followed by Murang’a at 24%, Homa Bay at 23%, and Embu County at 22%.

Mandera County was found to be having the least number of women who have experienced physical violence, with 9% of women between age 15-49 having experienced violence.

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