BusinessDay

Locked up

I was 19 years old in 1981 when I met Titus. He was an apprentice at an electrical workshop. He was a very ambitious and focused young man and I liked him a lot. He liked me too and he promised to marry me as soon as he rounded up his apprenticeship. To prove how serious he was, Titus had visited my parents to indicate his interest in taking me as his wife. My mother didn’t have anything to say, she was like a door mat in her husband’s house, her opinion was never needed because her opinion didn’t count but my father “seemed” genuinely happy at the prospect of giving out his first daughter in marriage.

As part of the preparation for the marriage ceremony, my father asked that I followed him to the village to get the traditional marriage list and also find out the things that will required for the ceremony. I didn’t understand the urgency because Titus did not mention when he was coming with his family but Papa insisted that going to the village, whether at that time or later wasn’t an issue as long as we were prepared for our in-laws whenever they came.

Going to the village with Papa turned out to be the biggest mistake of my life. He had secretly married me off to Chief Duncan, (the richest cocoa merchant in his village). It was very obvious that this man had paid good money to my greedy father just to have me. I could not believe that my own father lured me to the village to sell me off to the highest bidder.

I was locked up in a room in Chief’s mansion and I had no access to the outside world. There were two mean looking guys and a very unfriendly woman who waited on me hand and foot. Chief came in every night to rape me with the intention of getting me pregnant. I cried every night and day. I fought him everytime until I got tired and lost the will to keep fighting. This went on for a long time until his aim was achieved. I became pregnant but I was never allowed to go anywhere unaccompanied, even to the market, church or hospital for fear that I might run away. I thought about Titus, I thought about my future. I thought about my life. I thought I would die.

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I was a prisoner in Chief’s house and I continued living that way until I had four children for him. One would ask why I didn’t run away all those years but you will not understand. When I got to Chief’s house in 1981, incisions were done on my back and thighs and I was forced to wear a charmed waistbead which was constantly changed or renewed like I was told. These things were done to prevent me from running away from Chief or sleeping with another man.. the consequences for doing any of this was madness or death. I lived in perpetual fear. I felt trapped. On the hand, Chief was free to have hoards of concubines. He had them in different shapes and sizes.

I lost confidence in my self. I suffered from depression. My mental health was affected and I didn’t know what to do. With the advent of the mobile phone, I was given a tiny phone that had only one number, Chief’s. All of this was going to change as my children became older. They became my voice. They spoke up for me when they began to understand the kind of life I had been subjected to by their father. The boldness in my children started to build my confidence and I opened up to them about Titus and how I became Chief’s property.

I became bolder and took off the waist bead…my heart raced as I did it but I told myself that I was ready for consequences, after all l already died the day I stepped into Chief’s house so what was there to loose?.
I waited..and waited for the cursed waist bead to take its effect on me but nothing happened. Chief had deceived me into believing a lie for several years. The waist bead, the incisions and my supposed marriage to Chief were all a sham.

In 2014, my children went on social media and tried to find Titus, the good man that should have been their father, it didn’t take them too long to find him. Titus now lived in Italy, he has become a priest. He could not imagine his life with another woman after I was “abducted’ by Chief so he decided to take the priestly vows. He became a Priest. He had given up hope of ever seeing me again and now that he had found me again, he wasn’t going to let me go away again.

In 2018, with the support of my children, I summoned the courage and left my marriage. Chief sued me… he accused me of so many things.. half of which I couldn’t even pronounce. It was a messy case but the court ruled in my favor and I received a lot of money and houses as compensation afterwards.

In 2021, Titus renounced his priesthood and asked for my hand in marriage. I had the blessings of my children so I finally got to be with the love of my life.

Throughout my marriage to Chief, my parents never visited me and I wasn’t allowed to see them either. I tried to find them after I left Chief but I was told that they had both died and nobody knew where my sisters were. Maybe Papa had also sold them off to other rich men.

I’ve been married to Titus for only a few months but I’m the happiest that I’ve ever been in my life. Living a caged life affected my mind and my life in many ways but my husband loves me the same way he did 40years ago. My children tell me that I deserve to be happy and I believe them.

In the end, my story is a happy ever after after all. I didn’t not realise that I was holding my breath for 40 years. Now I can breathe again.
My father gave me a horrible man. God gave me wonderful children. And my children helped me find happiness again.

My name is Lilian (real name withheld) and I am sending you love from Florence, Italy.

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