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All Men Must Die (Short Story)

You get out of your car after it destroys the beautifully trimmed hedges in your driveway.

“Welcome,” Aira’s voice comes from the speakers after you slam your front door shut. She tells you your husband is on his way home.

You go into the bathroom. Dr. Frankie had told you to take it easy but you don’t care. You don’t even know what easy means, how it feels, not for the past twenty years.

In the mirror, your hair looks great, your eyes slightly crazed. You’re crazy alright. You wouldn’t be seeing a therapist if you weren’t. Tonye and Tega wouldn’t be at your mother’s house if you weren’t. Your husband would have been home two days ago if you weren’t. But life had been cruel to you. You have a right to be crazy.

You blend your foundation properly, reapply lipstick, wash your hands and head to the kitchen.

Aira tells you that you have ten messages, six from Chinaza, two from your mother, two from Nonso. You tell her to delete them all not because you don’t want to know what they have to say but because you already know what they have to say. You mother wants you to tell her that what she heard wasn’t true. Chinaza wants to know if you’re done with your project. Nonso wants to know if you’re home yet.

You pour wine into two glasses because Nonso will be home soon. With a glass in your hand, you walk into the front room of the house. When you both were newly weds, you had the idea to turn it into a gallery. Lining the walls were pictures of you both, the children, skylines, mountains, random objects, random people and random splashes of paint on canvas.

“What was going through your mind when it all happened?” Dr. Frankie had asked you that morning.

“Nothing. It just happened,” you replied.

“Do you think about it often?”

“I don’t think about it. I just live through whatever happens.”

And that’s all you ever did. From growing up in the slums, making your way through secondary school, getting married before you were nineteen, holding your baby boy before you were twenty, all you ever did was try to live in the moment and not think about what would have or will be. Not think about your mother struggling to take care of six kids, not think about your dad staggering home stinking of cigarettes, beer and women; not thinking about your brothers hitting you because you refused to do whatever they asked; not thinking about whether you passed or failed your exams, not thinking about whether you loved Nonso or not before agreeing to marry him. You did not think things through, you just tried to live in the moment.

“You do have to pause and make decisions,” Dr. Frankie said.

“And I do.”

You hear your front door open and close and for a split second, your heart catches in your throat. In seconds, you feel his familiar presence, standing in the doorway, staring at your back. You count to five before you turn around. It doesn’t matter though because the sight of him still takes your breath away. You wince when you see the scar running from his forehead to his cheekbone.

“Well,” he says, his bag falling to the ground, his lean, muscular arms outstretched.

You move into his arms, inhaling his scent, pausing only to kiss him. He hesitates but he kisses you back. He loves you, you know and it hurts.

It hurts that he came back home. It hurts that he still loves you after what you did. It hurts that he’s so stupid. And it brings tears to your eyes.

For the first time, thoughts of all the times you spent together run through your mind: the vacations, the alone times without the kids, the first date, the first time you saw him.

Now the tears are flowing and he tries to comfort you. He whispers apologies and comforting words in your ear, but you’re the one who should be sorry. He does not see you reach into your dress. He does not feel the cold blade of the metal. He pulls away, disbelief on his face, then pain. He falls quickly.

The tears are coming hard now as you watch him writhe, blood coming up his throat and out of his mouth in short bursts as he tries to breathe.

Aira announces an incoming video call and she wipes her eyes.

“Number 969548SL done,” you say to the woman on the screen.

The woman nods and looks in the direction of the body on the floor. “Ooh, nasty.”

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