(Continued from The Devils You Know II)
Jesse flies down the stairs towards the parking lot only to realize that he does not have his car keys. He starts the journey back to Judith’s apartment, irritation temporarily overpowering the emptiness he has been feeling since he entered the apartment.
Once he opens the door he hears the clattering of furniture as though people are fighting. He enters the sitting room and finds Erick strangling Judith. Judith is kicking about trying to set herself free but she is no match for Erick. Her face is swollen and she is bleeding through the mouth. On impulse, Jesse jumps in and punches Erick in the side of the face. That catches Erick by surprise and he momentarily loosens his grip on Judith’s neck. Jesse shoves him and hits him again. This time the blow lands on Erick’s jaw.
Judith collapses to the floor while Erick turns to face his new aggressor. His eyes are blazing and his mouth is twisted in a ferocious snarl. He is bigger and more heavily built than Jesse, but Jesse is not worried as he is a trained karate fighter.
Erick rushes forward to grab Jesse but Jesse ducks and trips Erick with his foot. Erick falls, knocking his knee on a stool. This enrages him, and he hurls another stool in Jesse’s direction. Jesse ducks and it crashes into a window. Erick then throws himself onto Jesse, but Jesse tackles him and he falls on a table and then lies still.
Jesse rises quickly and checks on Judith. She is conscious but can hardly move. Tears are rolling down her swollen face. Jesse picks her up gently and places her on the three-seater sofa seat. He calls the police.
The police and the ambulance arrive within minutes of each other, less than half an hour after Jesse made the call. Erick and Judith are rushed to the hospital while the cops inspect the scene. They then ask Jesse to accompany them to the police station to write a statement.
Jesse drives to the police station with one police officer on the co-driver’s seat. He knows he might be arrested but his mind is numb. Everything is a blur, as though he is a bystander in his own dream.
At the police station, he records his statement and is allowed to leave. He drives straight to Kilele Hospital. After brief inquiries, a dozing attendant at Kilele Hospital tells him that he would have to wait because Judith and Erick are still being attended to.
It is then that he remembers to call Judith’s sister, Stella, and Zuhura, Erick’s wife.
(The following day)
Erick suffered from a concussion, while Judith’s injuries were largely soft tissue. Both are okay now, with Erick guarded by a cop. Earlier Judith had explained to Stella and Jesse how Erick had attacked her almost immediately Jesse had left. He had started raining blows on her like a maniac, threatening to kill her so that she would not take him to court. She had started screaming, and that is when he had grabbed her and started to strangle her.
“Why didn’t you tell me that Judith has a child?” Jesse suddenly asks Stella as they wait to be allowed to see Judith.
Stella hesitates, obviously caught by surprise.
“I thought it was proper that she tells you herself,” she replies cautiously.
“But you knew she wouldn’t tell me,”
“Yes. Look, Jesse. Derrick is a sensitive topic for Judith, but she adores him. The boy has been mistreated. Our father used to insult and beat him all the time while drunk. Judith used to cry every night. My husband and I finally took Derrick with us, that is why you have not seen him in mom’s house. Eventually, our father left and Judith blames herself for his departure.”
“It’s not her fault. He just wanted to leave and wanted an excuse,” Jesse says kindly.
“You don’t understand. Our father is Derrick’s father too. He raped Judith one day when she was going to shower, and later claimed she seduced him by walking with only a towel around her. Judith sort of believed it, although I tried to make her see that dad was just a pervert.”
“Yeah, Derrick is both my nephew and my brother,”
“What did your mom say about the rape?”
“Mum just said we should keep praying for our father. I was so mad at her. I still get angry when I think about it. Anyway, Judith met Erick at work a couple of years ago and they started having this thing. It was not really a relationship because Erick never asked her to be his girlfriend and Judith refused to sleep with him. Then mom fell ill and Erick said that he could organize for their company to take care of her treatment, him being senior management and all. But only if Judith would sleep with him. So Judith agreed to sleep with him. She agreed, largely for mum but at that point she was still hopeful that he would ask her to be her girlfriend, so she told herself that if they started having sex, then perhaps she would be his.
Erick never asked her to be his girlfriend. Then Erick found out about Derrick and his condition and he started his brutal jokes about him. Judith would often come to my house crying about something or the other Erick had said about Derrick. Judith wanted to leave him, but he threatened to have her sacked and mom’s medication cut off. Although my husband and I don’t earn much, we wanted her to leave him but Judith argued that mother would die without medication. So she continued to sleep with Erick for mom’s medical care. Then you came along and I thought finally Judith would be free of Erick. But Judith refused to ask for your assistance because she did not want to appear as if she only dated you for your money. So she remained in Erick’s grasp. I don’t know how long she intended to continue sleeping with him”
“She was cutting him loose when I found them,”
“Yea, she was,”
They sit in silence for a while.
“I will marry Judith once she is out of the hospital. And we will take Derrick from you once we come back from the honeymoon,” Jesse says suddenly.
“I am glad to hear that. But Jesse, my sister is an emotional wreck. Do not marry her out of pity, because you will wreck her further. She can handle a breakup, but I don’t think she can handle a cold or abusive husband. Marry her only if you truly love her and can express it,”
“I love your sister Stella. I will admit that this is all very confusing, but deep down I love her.”
“She is hurting and may not be herself for a while. At least until her emotional wounds heal. Are you prepared for that?”
“No one can be fully ready. But I believe she and I will overcome whatever challenge life throws our way. I will be patient with her. And oh, I will handle mum’s medical care. Let it not bother you,”
“That is kind of you Jesse, thank you. Just don’t tell Judith we had this conversation because she will kill me,”
Just then, Zuhura joins them.
“I am so sorry about what my husband did to Judith. Erick is a violent man” she says. “He always beats me and makes me feel like it is my fault. I always thought that if I tried harder, you know, to be a better wife, we would be happy. But after hearing what he has been doing to Judith, I have realized that I am fooling myself. Erick had been manipulating me the same way he has been manipulating her. I am done. I am divorcing him,”
Stella and Jesse exchange glances.
“So you are coming to see him as his ex-wife?” Jesse asks.
“I have come to see Judith. I am still her best maid at the wedding, am I not, Jesse?”
“You still are, Zuhura,” Jesse responds with a smile.
Suddenly the doors open and an attendant announces that the wards are open to visitors.
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