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Thursday, October 29, 2015

My best friend's husband (2)

One evening, Patra came home from an outing with a sparkling ring on her middle finger. 
"Wow! This is beautiful!" I exclaimed, admiring the ring. She said Eric was bringing her home that evening when he suddenly stopped the car, saying there was a problem with the engine.
"He got down and instead of opening the bonnet of the car, he came to my door and opened it. The next thing I knew, he brought out a ring and proposed to me right there by the roadside. I was so shocked!" she stated, smiling happily. 
"How romantic! Lucky you!" I said, hugging her. At that moment, I was genuinely happy for her. Later in my room though, as I lay in bed, a sad feeling came over me on realizing that Eric was lost to me forever.
'He belongs to Patra now,' I thought sadly, a lone tear snaking down my cheek.
  Their engagement was a short one. Within seven months, their wedding took place and Patra began a new life as a married woman. Though, she had moved out of our apartment, we still saw regularly in the office when she resumed work after their honeymoon. 
She always looked happy and raved about how sweet Eric was to her and how she was enjoying married life. That was until one evening about four months after their wedding. It was a Sunday evening. I was downstairs talking with a neighbour when Patra rushed in through the gate of the compound. She looked disheveled as if she had been in a fight or something. Her blouse had a tear by the side and her hair rough looking. Worse, she had been weeping as her eyes were red and swollen.
"Patra, what happened?" Who did this to you?" I asked with concern. I quickly took her upstairs to my apartment where she sat down and kept staring at the floor. My persistent inquiries about what could have happened to put her in the state she was in went unanswered. Then, suddenly she began weeping again; great sobs with tears streaming down her face. It was then the whole sordid story came out- she had had a fight with Eric that evening when she had served him his dinner.
"He said the food was tasteless, that I can't cook to save my life. He said he had been enduring it for a while now but he could not bear it any longer. 'What kind of woman are you? Didn't your mother teach you how to cook? Everyday, you give me food that is not fit for a dog. And you expect me to eat such rubbish?' were the words he said. I tried telling him that there was nothing wrong with the food and that was when he got violent. He threw his plate of soup at me; luckily I moved on time to avoid being hit. He then slapped me and started hitting me and I fought back. He looked so angry that I got scared. I managed to break away from him and I ran straight here," she narrated.
"My God! You mean Eric did this to you because of food? What has come over him?" I said angrily. I went to the bathroom to get some medication for the bruises on her arms and on her neck. All the while, wondering how Eric could beat up his new bride over a misunderstanding over food.
"Men are really strange beings," I muttered as I applied some methylated spirit on her arm.
That night, Patra refused to go home. She stayed in my place, in her old room for nearly six days before she agreed to return to her matrimonial home. That was after Eric had come begging, promising never to lift a finger on her again. I also advised her not to do things that would provoke her husband and always do her best to please him. They made up and she went back to her home. Peace reigned for a while and I thought they had sorted out their differences. 

A war zone
As things turned out, the truce was short lived. Not too long after that quarrel, Patra came to the office one morning looking dull and wearing dark sun glasses even though there was no sun and rain had been falling all morning.
I asked her if anything was the matter and she shook her head and replied that she was fine. 
Later, at lunch time, I went to call her from her office so we could go to our favourite eatery together. I met her crying silently at her desk. She quickly wiped her face with a hanky on sighting me and replaced the goggles she had taken off. 
"Patra, what is it again? And don't tell me all is well as I can see you are in pains," I stated sharply. I removed the dark glasses and quickly stepped back in shock. She had a black right eye with a deep bruise on her brow.
"What is this? Eric again?" I queried. She simply nodded, overcome with emotion. It was the same story: the usual complaints about her cooking, her poor housekeeping skills, dirty habits and so on. "There is nothing I do that pleases him. I just don't know what to do any more. Patra, I need help! My home has become a war zone!" she cried despairingly. I felt really bad for her.
"It's too early in the day for all this stress. You have been married barely six months and its been one trouble or the other. Is this what you are going to face for the next five, ten years? Something needs to be done!" I said emphatically.
That evening, I called Eric, telling him I wanted to see him over an issue.
He came over to my house the following day, a Saturday. I had just finished preparing lunch. He said he was hungry so I served him some of the egusi soup and semovita I had made. He ate it with great relish as if he had been starved of food for ages.
"Now, that is what you call a nice meal," he stated as he sat on my couch, picking his teeth, a satisfied look on his handsome face.
"That's how a woman should cook. Not the rubbish concoction your friend feeds me with at home," he said, his face twisted in disgust.
"Look, Eric,"I began, "People are different. Besides, it's not all women who have great cooking skills. If her cooking is so bad, why don't you enroll her in a cooking school or get a cook. You can afford one," I suggested.
"Why should I employ a cook when I have a wife? It's her responsibility to take care of my meals. And she's failing woefully in that aspect. And in other areas too," he said gruffly.
"Anyway, the main reason I wanted to see you is this: take it easy on Patra. Stop beating her at the slightest provocation. She is only human and can make mistakes. If she does something you don't like, simply correct her and sort things out rather than fighting all the time. She is very unhappy right now you know," I pointed out.
"And you think I'm happy?" he fired back angrily. "You should also tell your friend to mend her ways and stop being so damn sensitive, aggressive and stubborn. She does not listen to advice or corrections and always wants things her way. How can she be challenging me, her husband all the time? Is she the one wearing the trousers in the home or what? How can there be peace in the home with that kind of attitude?" he asked.
After that day, Eric began to frequent my home just like in the days when he and Patra were courting. This time, though, I was the one he was coming for. Or rather my food. Nearly every weekend, he would come over especially at lunch time to eat. Initially, he would call before coming. Later, he would simply stroll in as if he owned the place. My house had become his second home.
I did not really mind. Apart from his bad temper, Eric was a nice person and he was good company. He was funny as well and made me laugh with his jokes. At this point, it was all harmless. He was just my friend's husband who came over to eat at my place once in a while.
Then one evening, he arrived for dinner. After eating, he stretched out on the couch, sighed and stated:
"I feel so relaxed and comfortable when I'm with you, Una." Sometimes, I wish..."
"Yes? You wish what?" I asked, turning my eyes away from the TV to gaze at him. Then he said something that made my heart beat increase.
"I wish you were the one I had married instead of Patra." With that, he took the remote from my hand and drew me towards him. I fell on him, our faces close. We gazed at each other for a while before our lips locked in a passionate kiss...

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.

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