Over the next few days and weeks to come, Stella made life a living hell for Oluchi and her sibligs-Chidera and Nnabuife.
She was a firm supporter of her husbands decision not to hire any domestic help, with the attendant consequence that the entire workload of managing the house as well as Stella’s every eccentric whim fell squarely on Oluchi shoulders, her siblings being too young to do any serious chores.
In addition to this, Stella chose the slightest provocation to mete out physical discipline to her and her younger ones.
On an occasion, she had poured a spoonful of hot rice down Oluchis’ chest for allowing it to burn, and on another occasion, she forced her head down a sink full of lather, nearly drowning her because she adjudged a few plates were not as clean as she wanted.
Her main focus was oluchi it seemed and whatever her reasons were, she couldn’t fathom her stepmother’s wickedness.
Home became almost impossible for her habitation, her only source of joy came from the few moments she spent in school.
She still got lots of advances from boys in her class but she never took any serious.
She had read a novel once about a damsel in distress rescued by her prince charming and she silently hoped that she would meet hers someday.
In the meantime she would have to endure the indignities she constantly received at home.
On a certain Friday, Oluchi came home together with her siblings. She met Stella sprawled out on the sofa in the sitting room seemingly asleep.
It was not unusual to see her that way, as her only source of income was her husband, and thus she had no meaningful occupation.
Oluchi and her siblings, believing that she was asleep and not wanting to disturb her quietly made their way past her and went up to their rooms.
She was undressed in her room, bent over, trying to put on her house clothes when she felt a searing hotness course down her back. She screamed out in terror and turning around saw Stella holding a kettle in her hand. She had emptied the steaming water over her back, and she cackled as she hissed at Oluchi.
“So you think you are too big to greet me now abi? Is it because you are now developing breasts you think you can insult me as you like? That is good for you. Stupid girl”.
Oluchi was still screaming in agony, when her father came into the house unexpectedly.
That was the first time he ever showed any emotion at any of his children’s plight, as he rushed Oluchi to the hospital almost in tears.
All the while Stella had mistreated them, he always stood aloof like someone under a spell.
It took a month for her to heal completely, and in that time, Oluchi decided that if she wanted to live, she had to escape from home.