“And you woman, get out of my house now!!!” roared Baba Ruvimbo as soon as his wife limped into their bedroom. The very sight of her sparked rage in his innermost being but why was she to blame for his infidelity? The previous day, she had the shocking experience of her life: walking in on her husband sleeping with another woman in their matrimonial bed! It was the last thing she was expecting to meet upon her return from Muzarabani. This had shocked her out of all wits as she always upheld and esteemed him as a religious figure.
With a shrill voice, Mai Ruvimbo had screamed with disbelief but before she could cause a scene, Baba Ruvimbo pounced at her and gave her a piercing slap on the mouth. She abruptly kept quiet in both shock and disbelief. Sheila the prostitute sneered at her, picked up her clothes and asked for her “tip” before casually swaying her hips as she exited the bedroom. Instead of being apologetic, Baba Ruvimbo turned and blazingly looked at his wife before yelling, “What did you get from being such a jerk? Didn’t I tell you to go back to your uncle’s house where I saw you seven years ago and made that dreadful mistake of assuming I could amend my ways and settle down? I regret that move but I now want your replacement! Now get out of my sight before I rearrange your teeth…”
Baba Ruvimbo’s promiscuity was well-known in the shebeens and community bars in Lusaka, Highfield and this had even gained him the name “Two-Ladies alongside Tots Maestro.” He boasted of how his innocent wife was blind to all his shenanigans and how he’d beat her out of existence the moment she interfered, in the event of her finding out. A few weeks passed, spanning into months and years so for him to feel more comfortable with his crooked lifestyle, Mai Ruvimbo had to be partially out of the picture. Going to their rural home became a second lifestyle up until that very moment of truth.
It then slowly dawned in, how she was side-lined all these years and sent to Muzarabani during the ploughing and harvesting seasons. “So this has purely nothing to do with me being the eldest daughter-in law right,” contemplated Mai Ruvimbo as she sat on her veranda, one cheek held loosely in her left arm. Tears flowed gently, wetting her apron and soaking her face. She sobbed silently until her inquisitive neighbour Theresa ‘the spinster’ saw her through the fence and came over to where she sat.
Theresa asked thoughtfully, “What really is causing all this grief Mai Rue?” And before she could even utter a reply she went on, “Is it that ungrateful husband of yours who finds it hard to control his manhood? He isn’t worth it really. The other day he even tried his shoddy tricks on me! Haayii haayii, I told him straight up, ‘Go to Mai Ruvimbo who stands all this crap! If I were her you’d be singing with the ancestors now!’…” Mai Ruvimbo’s eyes widened with disbelief as she wasn’t expecting such a confession. It seemed as if she was the only person in the dark, everybody else ‘knew’ her husband’s adultery. This ordeal was just the beginning of a physically, emotionally and psychologically abusive marriage.
Now that his little secret was out, Baba Ruvimbo became shameless. From late nights out to frequent brawls over women at clubs, he became uncontrollable. He would come home late every day and wake up his wife and daughter for ‘life lectures.’ Afterwards, he would then forcefully sleep with Mai Ruvimbo and although she insisted on using protection, he would get verbally abusive, beat her up and overpower the poor woman. This went on for years until Mai Ruvimbo decided to leave her matrimonial home and return to her relatives’ home. Being an orphan herself, she had a few people to turn to but Mai Ruvimbo knew that staying wouldn’t solve her problems either. She packed up her bags, cooked her last meal and waited patiently for her daughter to return from school.
Ruvimbo returned and saw all their clothes packed. “Where are we going mum? Did father chase you away from his house?” she asked innocently. Explaining to her grade 5 daughter was not hard at all. She knew her father’s abusive tendencies and she quickly understood and agreed to leave too. Mother and daughter locked up and headed for the bus terminus but as they were about to board, Baba Ruvimbo approached them from the blue. “So you have decided to leave my house finally huh? Well, go but not with my blood! My daughter stays with me.” This provoked the inner beast which lay dormant within her for years and a fight erupted. Baba Ruvimbo acted barbaric, tearing her clothes and uttering insults until a group of passer-by’s came to her rescue.
As she was being rushed to the local clinic, Mai Ruvimbo whimpered, blood-soaked and tired. Her blood pressure and sugar levels had skyrocketed and she was immediately referred to Harare Hospital. Her forehead had farrowed due to the years of endurance and suffering and as her vision blurred, deep down she knew she couldn’t take life anymore. She sat silently in the ward, tears of pain stinging her eyes because she knew she would not be there to see Ruvimbo through. During the wee hours of dawn, Mai Ruvimbo gave her last breath.
“Ashes to ashes, the dust returns to dust!” bellowed the Priest as the crowd paid their last veneration to Mai Ruvimbo’s remaining memories. The ten year old looked thoughtfully as the six men shovelled down her mother’s casket, knowing that her life would never be the same in the care of her abusive father and the spiteful Sheila who had taken over the harnesses long before her mother had died. Her neighbours looked at her pitifully as they walked off, knowing the tables had surely turned.
Life went on, and it wasn’t easy as Ruvimbo’s life became characterised by usual beatings which gave her the willpower to study hard to improve her life. Each lashing was provision for better grades, paving way for a budding future. “I have endured for years and it’s now time to leave,” thought Ruvimbo as she hurriedly packed her bags to leave home for Hope Fellowship and Shelter, knowing that she would never come back. She threw her back-pack over her shoulder, took one glance at the prison she called “home” for nineteen years and swore in her heart that all she needed was this start for a real life-spin!
Tears flowed from her eyes as she treaded down the path she had walked throughout her primary and secondary years. Memories of the hard life she lived made her the steel-hearted lady of fortitude who would help others flee from abuse. The brilliant results she held in her hands and a willpower to succeed were the starting point for all she could dream of. “The sky is the limit and you will make it Rue,” she reaffirmed herself as she briskly walked off.
Story written by Miriam C.R Mushaikwa, Freelance writer and editor, Harare. Miriam is a buddying freelance writer and editor and passionately advocates for gender-related issues and women empowerment through her writings. Her fictional story “The Last Veneration” is her first publication for Her Zimbabwe. She holds a Bachelor of Arts. (Hons.) English degree and hopes to further her studies soon.
Main image taken from www.nabiesmagazin.blogspot.com