I thought I’d enjoy the break from school since i didn’t have a lot of friends at school I would miss anyway. I thought wrong because only a month into the lockdown, the screams started.
Papa used to stay long hours at work and I barely ever saw him. I was usually fast asleep by the time he would get home but since the pandemic started he had to stay home too.
On a rainy February night, as the wind blew, ushering in the delicious aroma of mama Joy’s ofada stew from the flat right next to ours, I heard a chilling scream next door snapping me out of my food-lust.
Papa had hit nnanna again. I couldn’t wrap my head around why they couldn’t seem to settle an argument without papa hitting her. I hated it, so I covered my ears with my pillow, hoping to block it all out. I still heard her screams though, not through the pillow but the ones already etched in my memory.
The days rolled by and there seemed to be more of new virus cases discovered faster than I could spell my name. I stayed in my room most of the time and I settled into music which was the only thing that kept my heart from the fear that one day it would be my turn. There was a stiffling silence around the house. My nnanna and I barely spoke to each other. She didnt want to share her pain with me.
” nwa m nwanyị, please get me some stock cubes” nnanna said as she handed me a fifty naira note. I was glad for the oppurtunity to leave the house even for a few minutes. I reluctantly dragged myself home from iya bisi’s shop where I had bought the cubes.
As I stepped into the house, I heard a tiny voice cry from the room my parents shared. Then suddenly it went dead silent. It felt normal at this point to hear my nnanna cry and beg him to stop but this time I heard nothing. I didn’t think too much of the unusual silence so I just went to my room, sat by my window and stared at the electronic billboard which was a long distance from my house.
I tried to focus on the changing images on the billboard but my mind kept wandering back to the grave silence from my parents room. I wondered to myself “what wounds would she have to nurse this time?”
First it was her right arm, then a cut across her cheek, then a swollen eye, I had seen her nurse them all.
An hour went by and I heard no sounds from my parents room.
Then papa came out, with a bloody shirt on. “Your mother slipped and hit her head” he said with a steady voice and ice cold look on his face. I waited for nnanna to come out but she didn’t.
Then an ambulance came and everything else happened so fast. I saw a horrible gash to her head as her body was rolled out of the room but no one asked questions. The police believed papa’s story or perhaps they failed to ask further questions because he had given them some “change” for their trouble.
Today, no one says anything directly to me about it, but I hear the neighbors whisper. They know the truth and they fear for my life too. I don’t have my nnanna now and I know why but if anyone asks me how she died, i’d probably tell them the virus took her.
Im still at home and im still afraid. Its only a matter of time till he needs to hit someone again.
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