9 by Efe Imoyin-Omene

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As I stuffed my remains into worn-out suitcases, He shouted ‘No one can love you like I can!’.
I prayed that was true.

The twisted love I had to endure was built on the foundation of His possessiveness and my commitment to be owned, kept, His. I’m not angry at myself for not seeing the blinding red lights; I hate myself for ignoring them.
I thought it was a carnival. Explosive colours staining the pure air. Marrying the smoke.
Merging marvellously with the debris.

‘He’ll only hurt you.’ The Greek chorus warned, harmonizing vocalisations of disapproval.
As tears flowed from my swelled eyes to my bruised cheeks, I wondered what joys I could’ve experienced if I listened. Maybe me and Aaliyah wouldn’t have faded into bittersweet memories because He hated her questions. Maybe I would’ve found someone who listened instead of reacted, loved instead of loathed, held instead of strangled.

The bitter rain was roaring outside. The power pulled all the beautiful diamonds and pearls off the mantle and helped me see things for what they were.

‘No one can love you like I can!’ He shrieked, his cling to dominance loosening. This was his favourite phrase to recycle after foreplay escalated to degradation. Apologies quickly followed, a salve to the scars his pain imprinted on me. When he lavished me with surprise getaways, I knew what he was doing. That phrase was a poetic tribute to his magnanimity. It twisted me into submission, a poisonous pill that choked the spirit of rebellion coiled deep inside of me. I was forever indebted to Him.

My packing was all done, and He’d transitioned from a repetitive refrain to a biting verse.
‘You’re nothing without me.’ He smashed loving portraits of us and growled so loud the rain retreated to a tepid trickle.

This house was not a home; it was a Warzone.

His temper could be my death sentence.
Dying trying seemed better than withering away hostage.
I was going to miss us though.
Two strangers kept smiling at me.
Our falls from grace would shatter them.
Even then He wanted all my passwords. He loved me. He wanted me safe.
‘When you’re in love two become One.’
They say third time’s a charm. Do you know what they say about eight? Every attempt to free myself was always derailed by His sweet nothings that sounded so alluring hummed softly in my ear. He would profess His love to me, drenched in rain, sweat, desperation.
A cliché, I know.
He could trap me with glimmering fake gold or slip His hand into mine. He was the perfect fit. If all else failed, ‘No one can love you like I can!’ dragged me into the house quicker than any of His threats.
I felt stuck in this circle. He would beat me. I would toothlessly protest, cry in the mirror, witnessing my soul diminish before me. It didn’t hurt any less but perhaps I grew an unhealthy tolerance to the intolerable.
I just needed to get through it until Uni, I always told myself.
‘You need to leave!’ the Greek chorus would exclaim every time a new scabby souvenir was forced upon my body. They assembled a game plan. My friend Ade helped me create a secret savings account.

‘You’ll leave when you’re good and ready.’ The rest resigned, filing out and murmuring defeatist platitudes.
Every Wednesday I told Him I was going on a jog when I was meeting with Ade for
financial advice. I worked at the local Café and begged my manager for any and every extra shift.
A few sleep deprived nights are worth an eternity of peace.
I’d saved up enough for a down payment on temporary accommodation far away from the lurking demons haunting my life.

Grimacing at the boulevard of broken dreams, I called Ade. I made plans to stay with them while my ticket to safety was being renovated. I was pseudo-strutting, feeling triumphant but unable to tame the burning fires of fright stoked in me. What if I’m completely useless in the real world? What if I’m just a dirty and depraved drunk who’s lucky he took pity on me?
What if I’m too fragile to ever be strong?
‘No, I can do it!’ I told myself while he was reeling in my peripheral.
Something about him finally on his knees gratified me beyond belief. My sequined dress illuminating the full moon. Kissing the scratches better.
‘I’m s-so sorry!’ ‘I love you, there’s no one out there for me!’
If this were attempt six or seven, he might have wrenched me back into his orbit. I would be a slave to the back of his hand.

I looked forward, smiling as his porcelain skin swelled to a crimson joy. I waited for the welcoming squeal of Ade’s tires.
What was taking them so long?
‘Peter, I’m begging you.’ He coughs, the sincerity of his tone submerged in the purposeless storm and strangled in the wake of the howling winds. His beach blonde hair sways beautifully though and His vulnerability proves to be an amorous aphrodisiac. I ignore my deceptive desires.
02:30: Ade, where are you?
What if no one can love me like He can?
He holds me close.
‘Souviens-toi’ He whispers sweetly and kisses me along my trembling neck with the
machismo of a million sex symbols. ‘de’ He trails his inquisitive tongue along my weak spots while His masterful fingertips do deft acrobatics along my love line. He slips His perfect hand into mine. I remain steadfast even though I’m tempted to melt under the heat. My grip’s waning. The legs of my suitcases are dangling in the borderline of autonomy and coercion.
‘Paris?’ He lilts in hushed tones, soliciting my reflective moan. He transports me to the top of the Eiffel Tower, overlooking the wonderful city, spying on couples loving without restraint.

My suitcases fall from grace, sprawled on the pavement.

But I am determined to find peace.

Here’s to the peace I hope we both find.

Do you know what they say about nine?

Emoefeoghene (Efe) Akpofure Imoyin-Omene is a British Nigerian writer. He has independently published a novel called Ese: The Misadventures of Moving Forward and writes for numerous platforms. While being a bestseller is his goal, creating work that makes people feel less alone is the dream.
Instagram: @Emoefeoghene
Twitter: @EfeImoyin

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