An apple, they say does not fall far from the tree and this was what worried Michael the most. Michael has had to watch his father abuse his mother both verbally and physically for as long as he could remember. Challenging his father didn’t help much and his mother always tried to make sure he does not get involved. These experiences became his own demons and went on to shape his love story.
Whenever he asked his mother why she still sticks around to receive more abuse from his father, she would tell him it is the mother’s duty to protect the image of her family. She would try to explain to him that his father is not a bad man and that a lot of men out there were worse than him but their wives protected the family image. Perhaps the feeling that his mother was facing the devil by herself and he was helpless was hard to take in.
Michael might have been helpless against his dad, but in school he was untamable. He was rough and dreaded by other students. Everything he bottled up inside of him at home was let out once in school with peers. But he never opened up to anybody about what was happening at home.
As it is said, money really does answer all things. Michael’s family was one of the highest donors and the pillars of the school and community. This allowed Michael to get away with almost anything. But he was failing in school and he had to do something about it if he was to graduate and gain admission into a good tertiary institution.
His mother would plead with him regularly to take school seriously. She would tell him that all her efforts would be in vain if he didn’t pass and become something she would be proud of. She would explain to him that all she was passing through was for his sake. Little did she know the effect these words would have on Michael.
She told him that if she decided to leave his father, there is no telling what his father would do to him to get back at her. So it was better for her to stay, pray and work things out. Besides, they have had a few good family memories in the past and she was hopeful of recreating such again in the nearest future.
Deep down, she knew she was just trying to avoid the stigmatization that comes from a broken home.
A divorced woman is looked upon as a failure since the success of a woman in this part of the world is usually tied to how well she can keep her family. This contributes to why women feel obliged to condone domestic violence and infidelity from their partners in order to keep a good name.
The one time she opened up to her mother about Michael’s father’s infidelity, her mother laughed and told her “all men cheat”. Her mother said it was her cross to bear and that nobody would understand that she abandoned her home because of this. Her mother explained to her that in order to keep a home, a good woman needs to take in a whole lot of things that the world just wouldn’t understand. To her mother, the secret of a good marriage lies solely on the wife’s ability to condone and tolerate her husband’s shortcomings.
So whenever Michael would try to console her and ask her why she is still holding on to a failed marriage, she would simply reply “you won’t understand”. Because in the real sense of it, she herself does not understand why she has to go through all these but it’s the norm and it is what it is. After all, she was not the first to face this neither will she be the last.
Michael in order to improve his grades, needed a tutor to help him out academically. But due to his rough nature, most brilliant students avoided him and didn’t want to associate with him much. Especially the boys he would easily pick on.
Lisa, a daughter of a known prostitute was the only one interested in tutoring him. She really needed the money to help out at home.
At first, it was strange for Michael because everybody knows about Lisa’s mother’s profession and Lisa had to live with the stigmatization. At times, it amazes him the way Lisa goes about her business almost as if she is not bothered by what people say about her and her mother. But then again, Michael with his family background and all that happens at home knows what it means to bottle up feelings inside and put up an appearance.
Lisa would tutor Michael after school hours sometimes in school and other times at Michael’s place. It might not have been a love story for them but tutorials were a way for both Lisa and Michael to escape the demons of their world. For Lisa, she wouldn’t have to worry about her mother’s profession because Michael and his family were not judgemental of her coming around to tutor him. Neither was she worried about going home early to her mother and the different men she would bring home every night.
To Michael, it was an opportunity for him to keep his mother from being abused. Because whenever there was a visitor, his father, just to put up an appearance of a good man would try to contain his emotions. Because of this, Michael preferred Lisa tutoring him at home. Lisa didn’t mind because it was an opportunity for her to be part of a decent respectable family even if it was for few hours before she returns home to deal with her own reality.
Both of them tried to keep their relationship strictly professional. They would not talk about their families nor open up to each other. The one time Michael tried to ask about how Lisa felt about her mother’s profession and everybody always teasing her about it, she felt offended. She felt offended that a rich boy from a decent family who probably has everything given to him and plans put in place for him to succeed was trying to belittle her because of her family background. She told him that the family one is born into is not by choice. Some are lucky to be born into a decent family, and some are not so lucky. Michael got her point but little did she know that not all that glitters is gold because Michael’s family had their own demons with which Michael was battling.
Although Michael and Lisa wouldn’t let each other in, they both cared for each other more than what they would allow each other to see. Besides, when you practically spend most of your spare time with a person, it is hard not to develop some kind of feelings for the person. And it was no different with Lisa and Michael. They both cared deeply although silently for each other. That is why it broke Michael when he saw Lisa with bruises. Bruises he has seen on his mother way too many times. Bruises that would suggest Lisa has been physically abused.