‘Two times three’, she said as she handed her the medicine without a glance. She pulled herself up from the bed and zipped her dress, with tears coming from one eye. She looked up and their eyes met, with sympathy. Zawadi held her hand. As much as she hated the recurring incidents, she couldn’t help the empathy and love she has for her childhood friend Zenah. Through her eyes, she saw pain, anger and weakness. She didn’t understand why someone as beautiful and smart as her would settle for, well less is an understatement.
Zenah and Zawadi have been friends for as long as they can remember. They went to the same school and graduated the same year in nursing. They both had dreams and goals to achieve, but things didn’t go as they planned at least not for Zenah. Having obeyed all the rules and stay in school as their peer’s dropout and get married at an early age, it was only right for her to fall in love and start a relationship. This didn’t only provoke her father but also her close friend who she constantly considers her as a sister. In a million years, Juma was not a man the whole village thought Zenah would madly fall in love with. But she did.
Juma’s level of education is no different as a newborn baby, he couldn’t even spell his name! He had nothing going on for himself. The only things he could claim were the 3 cows his father left him and half bricks and half mud house. Actually, right now he just owns the house after taking the 3 cows to his father-in-law as a dowry to marry Zenah, of which Mzee Zimba slaughtered them and fed the homeless people in the village. He didn’t need anything from Juma and didn’t even give them his blessing, but Zenah got married anyway.
The love was young and beautiful until one day, Zenah came home late from work (the community hospital). She was welcomed with a very hard slap from the angry husband as she tried explaining why she was late. Juma considered her excuse as stupid and inconsiderate. As a punishment, she was asked to never step in that hospital again. This bugged everyone especially her family to a point they started disowning her. She made dinner that night crying quietly, feeling the burn in her chest. But a good wife, she obeyed everything Juma said even not making a sound as he beat her up every night when he is drunk. He would say, ‘a good wife protects the secrets of her homestead and don’t tell anyone on what is going on in her house’.
She limped home that day after getting free some medicines and advice for a thousandth time, from her friend Zawadi. She covered her swollen face with a ‘leso’. The bleeding from her knocked out tooth hadn’t stopped yet and she walked all the way spitting blood. She sighed deeply when he noticed Juma was not around. She knew this time her plan will go through. She went out and looked around the house. She pushed the 3 poles supporting their house hard. One side of the house had been swept by the heavy rains that had been pouring nonstop for the past one week. They had covered the missing part with nylons, the other side was held together by the weak bricks and mud. She started making dinner as usual but that night it was a little different, she seemed happy for no particular reason. Her feelings were all over the place before restlessness kicked in when he heard singing from a distant drunk.
‘Woman, where is the food?’, he shouted. She served the food and did everything he asked for. Not finding a reason to beat her, as if he needs one, he threw himself in a squeaking bed and started snoring immediately. After a few minutes, Zenah rushed out screaming and shouting. Using all her efforts, she pushed the weakest pole and it didn’t disappoint. The whole house came down trembling. Nobody could recognize Juma’s face after the neighbours pulled him away from the bricks.
At that point, nobody could accuse her of anything because she was crying so loud and with so much pain. ‘Am proud of you, you finally did it’ said Zawadi the following day at the burial.