At night she dreams of chickens, asphyxiating, flapping their wings in feeble attempts to fly away and squawking, their eyes rolled so far back only the whites seem to show. She wakes up from these panting, shouting, running and her husband always draws her in, trapping her in a different kind of nightmare.
One she is also trying to run away from.
She has instructed the girl never to put chicken in her plate again, and when she prepares it, all doors and windows must be open. Even though the chicken stowed away in the freezer is all store bought, when it cooks she is certain she can smell the feathers, coated with thick layers of clotted blood, assailing the air within the house. On several occasions she has had to create a list of items to be purchased, just so she would leave the house and its foul stench.
‘Did she say where she was going to?’ he asks.
The girl clears her throat, searching for the kind of words that would leave her in good standing with both her master and madam.
‘Ah,’ she drags. The words are hard to come by, and someone must be betrayed.
‘She, uh… she just left in a hurry. She didn’t…’
She sighs, relieved.
His Mother-in-law has been on speed dial since the day he’d gone looking for her at her old house in Harare, this was before their marriage, way before he’d arranged for her whole family to move with them to their new adopted home. And so when his restless hands starts ferreting about his pockets for his phone, the thought of his Mother-in-law and her eternal gratitude to him calms and assures him that everything will be okay. In other words, Fay will always stay in line.
‘Mhai, it’s me. Is she there?’
‘Mukwasha, are you well? Is everything alright? You sound so agitated.’
“I am well Mhai. Is Fay with you?”
‘Feyi? No she’s not. What is going on? Is she becoming a problem again? Because if she is, I swear, heeeh this child does not know who I am! I will …’
‘Calm down Mhai, I’m just trying to make sure I’ve eliminated all the possible places she could be, before we start panicking. Let me call Tete Mai Dean, she’s probably with her. I will call if I hear anything. ‘
He does not answer, he knows what is coming and so he exhales instead, clearing up space for the awkward load he’s about to carry.
‘How has uhm, have things eh? What I mean, you know ka. In the bedroom, is there any significant change?’
The earth below him threatens to throw him over, so he grabs on to the edges of the study desk in front of him and breathes.
‘I heard you Mhai. Eerh, we are working on it. Slowly. It’s not yet perfect but we’ll get there. I believe in your prayers Mhai, your god will not fail us.’
“Amen! In that case, I’ll just keep doing what I can from my end. Make sure that you both pray, together, as husband and wife. ‘
She continues, ‘these evil spirits do not rest, just because they’ve been exorcised doesn’t mean you are home free. They are watching, waiting to strike at the most opportune time. Make sure that you leave no room for such, fortify your marriage with prayer, my son. As for Fay, you leave her to me.’
‘I hear you Mhai. Let me go, I still need to make sure that she is okay. I’ll speak to you soon Mhai. We might drop by this weekend, I’ll let you know.’
They say their goodbyes and he hangs up.
The door to the study opens and Fay walks in with a huge plastic bag filled with books, hanging from her wrist.
‘Where were you Fay?’ he asks, and then grits his teeth, forcing back the whirlwind of anger currently making its way past his throat.
‘Hi, how was your day… husband?’
She does not see it as it comes but only feels it as it propels her against the door behind her. She makes no effort to rise up to her feet.
He is now towering over her, still gritting his teeth, forcing back the tears in his eyes, now and again cussing at the walls that watch on in silence.
She raises her knees and buries her face in them. She too, is crying and cussing.
He kneels in front of her and with his index finger, lifts her face up by the chin. There’s fresh blood, cascading down her left cheek.
He does not remember giving her that mark, not in a while. So he pleads with his eyes, hoping to tap into that place inside her that manages to feel for everybody else but him. The secret and sacred cavern within her that manages to contain everything in between her heart and her mind, that is ever flowing into the laps and sprawled out palms of everyone else but him and perhaps her mother too.
Her phone rings and she looks away as she answers.
‘Iwe Feyi, where are you?’ her mother demands. Fay feels the air inside the room contracting, meticulously folding her ribs in as it goes.
She breathes in deeply, hoping to catch the last of the air that hasn’t folded in on itself and her, hoping the words will find themselves and escape with the exhale she is about to take.
Instead of words, there are tears, diluting the blood on her face as they flow.
He takes the phone and speaks.
‘Mhai, she just came in.’
‘Did she tell you where she was? She was hanging around those godless people again hanti? This child wants to take me to the grave before my time! This child!’
She wails into the earpiece, making it hard for him keep the phone close to his ear, however rude this may be.
‘I will talk to her, Mhai. I’m sure it’s not what you’re assuming it is. I will talk to her.’
He hangs up.
He looks deep into her eyes once more, pleading with her.
His eyes ask the question, what happened?
Something ghastly, her eyes reply
Nothing you and my mother haven’t done already though!, the sinister flash in her eyes adds.