Sifa Gowon [PICTURED] is a seasoned short story writer. This is one of her exclusive fiction story titled "Broken Vessel". So, sit back, grab a pop-corn + drink and read on. It gets very interesting...
Joseph had been acting strange. He had been receiving some phone calls in a rather furtive manner, always walking away from her when he did. One day, while he was in the bathroom showering, his phone rang a few times and she picked it and answered. It was a lady with a low, seductive voice.
“Who is this?” she asked.
“Tell Joseph it’s Patricia…tell him I need him to call me back.” The lady hung up immediately. Raya held the phone, puzzled. Joseph came out of the bathroom, toweling his head dry. She looked at him.“Uhm…a Patricia called. Who’s she?” The rage she saw in his eyes made her stumble back in terror.“Who gave you the right to answer my calls?!” he roared, walking toward her in a threatening manner.She took a step back as she answered haltingly. “You left the phone when you went into the bathroom…and it kept ringing. I didn’t think it would be a problem to answer for you. Anyway, what’s the big deal if I ask who she is? Why should it bother you if it’s nothing you need to hide?” He gripped her shoulders and pulled her to him, hissing in her face.
What happened next? find out after the cuttt...
“Don’t you ever answer my phone again. Are you out of your mind? Have you been reading my text messages too?” Raya started to panic.“No…no…I” He let go of her abruptly. He then turned away, talking as he walked away.“You had better not ask me such stupid questions again.” Raya stood in shock. It was quite hot and balmy outside, typical of Abuja weather but Raya had to hug herself for chill that crept through her skin. Raya knew then that she should pack up and leave, go as far away from him as she could. But she stayed.Some weeks later, as they were driving from a party hosted by one of his clients, things came to a head. She had seen him conversing with a gorgeous woman and something about their body language made her uneasy- he had seemed a little too familiar with the woman, while she had leaned into him suggestively. Raya broached the subject.“Joseph, who was that you were talking to? The pretty woman in black?”“I thought I told you never to ask me such silly questions. If you must know, she’s a client.”“What type of client would…”“Shut up, Raya. You’re getting me angry. Besides, why should you question me or whom I choose to be friends with? Don’t I give you everything you need?” Raya looked at him incredulously. He continued.“I’m a man, Raya, and men have needs that must be fulfilled. The sooner you understand that the better. ” Raya swallowed. Needs? What needs? What about her? Where did she fit in? “You should count yourself lucky to have a man like me, a man who gives you everything, and accepts the fact that you have a child from another man,” he continued, his hands gripping the steering wheel so tightly she was afraid he would yank it off. He thought her to be lucky simply because he was in her life? She spoke without thinking.“You don’t own me, Joseph. I can walk out any day.” Her left cheek exploded in pain, her vision momentarily destabilized. She gasped in shock, raising her hand to the side of her face. He had slapped her.“Walk away, Raya? From me? Where would you go? Who would take you and give you what I’ve given you? You should even be grateful that I’ve accepted you with your baggage. Don’t forget that you were already damaged goods when you got to me and you’ll be even more damaged by the time you leave. Anybody else that would want you would only use you, thinking you no better than an asewo, prostitute.” Raya’s eyes stung with tears, less from the physical pain and more from Joseph’s callous words. He had called her precious Nayla ‘baggage’- cheapened the wonderful gift that was her daughter.They rode in silence the rest of the way home. When they drove into the compound, Joseph stopped the car and leaned over, contrition in his eyes.“I’m sorry baby. I didn’t mean to…I mean I…it’s just that I was so angry and…” She looked at him, face devoid of emotion. Then she turned and stepped out of the car wordlessly. She had never felt so worthless in her life...well she had but that was a long time ago. ‘Obviously not long enough’, she thought, ‘if it can still hurt me even now.’ Old feelings of doubt surfaced, feelings she had kept suppressed and hidden. He opened the door and moved aside, letting her walk in. She went straight to their bedroom and sat on the bed.She then looked around her. She realized then that there was very little of her essence in what she had thought had been her home. Almost everything in the apartment reflected Joseph and who he was ranging from the furnishing and colors to the very dishes in the kitchen. She was merely a fixture, an ornament in the apartment and indeed Joseph’s life. Another thought hit her and this was far more painful than the first: Joseph did not want Nayla. He had not made any provision for her presence in their lives from the moment they had begun their relationship and Raya had been too blind to see it.She made a decision then. She would go to Larissa’s place to stay, at least until she could get on her two feet and excise Joseph from her life. It was long overdue.She waited until the next evening to leave when Joseph had gone out to be with ‘friends’. She called Larissa, letting her know she would be coming over.“I hope everything’s okay” Larissa said, her voice colored with concern.“I’ll explain when I get there.” Raya didn’t think it would be best to discuss things over the phone. She packed a few of her things in a duffel bag and left. She would go over to the National Hospital first and meet Larissa and then they would proceed to her apartment. She also needed a day or two away from work so she had taken excuse, citing illness as her reason. Mr Adams had been very understanding.“Take all the time you need to recover, my dear,” he had said over the phone. He wouldn’t understand just how poignant his words were to her.Larissa came out of her office, anxiety clearly written across her face. She reached out, hugging her sister.“Baby, what is it? What happened?” Raya just looked at her, tears filling her eyes.“He didn’t…oh my God, Raya. Did he hurt you? Hit you?” Raya nodded and Larissa’s eyes widened, filling with rage and then sadness.“He did?! That piece of…never mind, that’s the last time he’ll ever lay his hands on you, the creep. You stay over at my place until we can sort things out. You’re moving in with me and that’s final. I always knew he was a piece of trash but this…” Larissa continued talking as they headed out toward her car in the parking lot, got in and drove off to her place.They were in Larissa’s house for about an hour when they heard banging on the door. It was Joseph.“Raya! Open up, I know you’re in there!” He was shouting. Raya’s eyes widened in fear. Larissa put her fingers to her lips, indicating that she remain silent and walked to the door, speaking.“Get away from my door, Joseph. Don’t ever come near my sister again. I’m not half as nice as Raya and believe me I don’t make idle threats. I’ll arrange to have those touts that hang around the bridges in Nyanya mess you up, starting with your pretty boy face…and that’s before I call up some of those soldiers from Abacha Barracks to break every one of your bones” Larissa said icily, her mouth a few inches away from the door. Raya marveled at the steel in her sister’s voice.“Stay out of it, Larissa. This is between me and Raya and has nothing to do with you,” Joseph bellowed.“Oh, I beg to differ. It has everything to do with me because she’s my sister. Now, I’ll warn you once again: get away from my door and away from my house. If you don’t I’ll call the Rapid Response boys and have you spend the next three days in a cold cell with rats and ticks…before you go to Kiri-Kiri, where the real fun is.”She heard Joseph curse and shuffle before she heard his footsteps receding. Larissa turned, looking at Raya.“Okay little sis…tell me everything.”
“Let me ask you something, Raya. And I want you to be sincere. Do you still feel guilty about what happened with Leon? I mean with getting pregnant and all?” Larissa asked one evening when they sat curled on the couch, sipping merlot from their wine glasses. Raya had been with her for a week after the incident with Joseph, gradually getting used to the fact that they were no longer together as well as making arrangements for Nayla’s eventual move to the apartment she and her sister would share. Raya had opened up about the circumstances of her pregnancy and Larissa had listened without speaking or passing judgement.“Rissa, I…I’m way past that now and…” Raya said.“No you’re not. Your descent in to this…this self-imposed guilt trip started from there and took you to where you are with Joseph today. Tell me, do you feel like you committed some sort of unpardonable sin? Is that it?”“I feel like…Rissa, how can I explain it? I haven’t felt clean since that time and…”“Raya, remember David? The one in the Bible?” Raya looked at her quizzically. What was the point of bringing up Sunday school stories? She nodded.“Well, remember that he was a man after God’s own Heart, wasn’t he? He was also a murderer and adulterer. The point is that as soon as he realized he did wrong, he confessed, got right with God and moved on. He was human, just like you and me. Yes you made a mistake: who on this earth doesn’t. The problem is… I don’t think you ever moved on. You haven’t forgiven yourself.” Raya closed her eyes, willing her sister to stop talking.“And now because of the rejection you faced from Leon you think that you deserve what you get, even if it’s a creep like Joseph? For God’s sake, why do you insist on playing the martyr and punishing yourself for one mistake? Why load yourself with guilt when you could have easily just said a simple ‘I messed up, I’m sorry’ and moved on? Besides, don’t forget that your disaster with Leon still gave you the most precious thing on earth: Nayla. If that isn’t a sign of Heavenly benevolence, then I don’t know what is,” Larissa said gently but earnestly.Raya couldn’t stop the tears from overflowing as she covered her face with her hands. Larissa clucked her tongue in sympathy and reached out to hug her sister. Raya realized in that instant that she had been punishing herself needlessly and in the process had hurt not just herself but her family and daughter.She wept. She wept for her wasted years and for allowing herself to get so insecure that she was willing to accept anything that came her way. She wept for believing the lies she had told herself; looking at her image through a distorted looking glass filled with cracks. Mostly, she wept for the distance she had put between herself and her Creator. Larissa held her, stroking her hair, for what seemed like hours.When she had cried herself out, she sat up, nose and eyes swollen but feeling oddly liberated. She smiled as she sniffed. Larissa smiled.“Feel better?” Raya nodded, smiling. She felt as though a burden had been lifted off her shoulders.
Sifa Asani Gowon is an incurable romantic persona who spends her time juggling her writing, school 'runs' and a small baking business. Her first novel 'Playing by Her Rules', is scheduled to be published soon. She lives in Nigeria with her husband and children.