For her sake
© Folakemi Emem-Akpan
I am amazed at the radical change in my thought process, at the swiftness with which I cross the moral dilemma that has plagued me for years. Yes, I could kill. And yes, I would kill if I had to.
There is something about newborns; that soft mewling sound which translates into total helplessness, into utter dependence. Ten years ago, I held Sarah in my arms for the first time and vowed to protect her, promised solemnly to die for her, if need be.
This night, I might kill for her.
Sarah’s father did not live long enough to hold her. Two weeks before I pushed her into the world, he was mowed down by a garbage truck. We’d been married all of ten months. I was twenty-one, a widow, a mom. The world came down around my ears and threatened to suffocate me. I would wake up from sleep, my heart heavy like it was weighted down with rocks. I would sit and forget to breathe until hyperventilation set it.
But I held on strong, held on to blind faith because there was nothing else to do. There was no one else that would be there for my new born child.
Somehow, we survived. Somehow, she turned two, then three. And then Matthew came into our lives. He was thirty and though I was much younger than him, only just celebrated my twenty fourth birthday, he seemed kind of childish, a man who was just as content playing dolls with Sarah, as he was doing grown up things with me.
He seemed perfect. Five months after we met him in the park, we were married.
The first year of marriage was uneventful. He worked hard, played even harder with Sarah, hardly had any time for me. When I gave birth to Junior, he seemed disappointed. Later he would tell me he’d have preferred a little girl.
The second year was the year of the trial. On a dark, dark night, I opened the door to police officers, flashing lights and an arrest warrant. Matt was the lead suspect in the rape of a ten-year-old girl. Although he denied vehemently until the last, my heart shattered into a million tiny unredeemable pieces. The trial was a constant thorn in my flesh, a circus that played out for two weeks. When he was acquitted, when he walked into my arms, I shuddered, said a little prayer, hoped I’d never go through the horror again.
I was wrong.
Two years later, we went through the same thing again. Only it was a different courtroom, a different judge, a different prosecutor, a different defense lawyer, a different victim, a nine-year-old.
I put on a good front, said over and over again that my husband was being framed. He loved little girls; how could he sodomize them? But in my heart, in that secret place you can never lie to yourself, I began to doubt. How could he be accused not once, but twice?
I’d look at Sarah, almost eight then, and shudder with revulsion at the thought of a pedophile doing to her the unspeakable things Matt was being accused of. It was at that time that I made a vow to myself. I’d go after the nut myself, wouldn’t wait for a court of law to judge him guilty.
Again, Matthew was acquitted. Again, we went home.
But my heart no longer trusted him. When he touched me at night, my heart could balloon and swell against my chest, and I would feel like I was suffocating, like I was drowning in a black, murky sea. And in the daytime, suspicion dodged each and every one of my waking moments. If he went into Sarah’s room, I was right behind. If he sat to help her with her homework, I hovered nearby.
This night, I hold a sobbing Sarah in my arms. She heaves sob after agonising sob, floods the front of my shirt with warm salty tears.
“He tweaked my breasts…he ran his hand through…through my hair.”
Something breaks loose within me, a consuming rage that sets my stomach afire. “Shh.” I tell her. “It won’t happen again. I’ll see to it it doesn’t.”
She cries harder. My own tears taste funny, like the distillation of several dangerous liquids. I wipe them, determined not to cry. Yet I cry more.
When Sarah is spent, when there are no more tears to cry, I promise her yet again. and mean it with every fibre of my being. “It won’t happen again.”
From my knife rack, I make a selection. The biggest. The sharpest. The shiniest.
I hide the knife in my apron, and wait for Matt to come in.