My husband has never hurt me. He studied and worked all hours, earning money to support my son and myself. Every day he has worked to bring us comfort.
But our lives are false. There is no meaning.
On the morning of our marriage, before dawn, his uncle came into my room. He raped me. I'd never even spoken to him. His wife was in the same room. When he left she just turned to the wall. I can never forgive her for that.
How could I tell my husband? What choice did I have? I forced myself through the day. On our wedding night I froze. I felt dirty. I couldn't sleep. My husband thought I was just frightened. He fell asleep, holding me, suffocating me with his kindness.
For years I dreamt of that morning. I could feel his hand clamped, pressing my mouth; his weight draining my strength. The pain tore me. The worst was that his wife had done nothing. Was that all I was worth? I couldn't understand how my husband continued to love me.
We have no other children, though we tried. I would have been proud to have a little girl, all of our own. My husband never knew that he was not his son's father.
Many men tried to catch my eye. I was frightened of them all. I am so lonely. I loved my husband, but I could never open myself to his love. I know that I hurt him dreadfully. I wish with all my heart that it could have been different.
He's visiting the hospital now, with my son. The old man is sick. When he dies, they'll ask me to pray for his soul.
My father owned a shop. When I was eleven, his nephew came from the island to work. He was eight years older than me, already a big man. He filled the house. In two years we were married. I had seven living children, and three dead. At twenty-seven was my last pregnancy. He'd had enough of me. I was glad.
A boy came to stay, from my husband's island. He served in the shop and looked after the house. Each night he studied. His eyes were gentle. He smiled and carried things for me. He joked with my daughter and picked her a flower. She wouldn't leave him alone. I loved to watch him, when he was clean and praying. I breathed the freshness of his newly washed clothes. Once, I was burning up with fever. The boy brought me soup. He bathed my face and stroked my fingers. My husband was watching. He slammed his fist into the side of my boy's head. After this the boy wouldn't look at me. But he still played with my children, and smiled at them.
The boy stayed for a year. He left when he married his cousin from the island. She was very beautiful. I was so happy that he could start a new life.
I was my father's eldest son. He lived from fishing and dreamt that I'd work in an office. I was sent to 'Male' to study. It was a different place in those days. The rustle of leaves was cooling. The white walls felt warm against my cheek. There was more time.
I stayed in the house of my uncle's wife. Inside was dark and quiet. On the wall hung a photograph, brown tones and curling paper. It was of a young woman, laughing and beautiful. She was lovely. I didn't know it was of my aunt until I saw her laugh with her daughters. Then she came to life.
I'd been in the house some months when she was sick. I took her food and held her hand. Her eyes filled and she clutched my fingers. She breathed my name. He walked into the room and beat my head against the wall. When I saw her next there was a burn on her face from the soup.
She had neither choices nor will. She did her jobs, fulfilled her duties. She was frightened of being disappointed, so she asked for nothing. If there had been magic in this life I would have taken her somewhere and made her laugh. When I married a girl from my island she was so happy for me. She cried for us as we left. That's how I know she loved me, too. More than my own wife ever did.
After years working away I returned to 'Male'. The old man was in hospital, hollowed by cancer. I visited him with my son. I was shocked to see his dying eyes glisten when he saw my boy.
She was by his bedside. She held his hand, her tears falling to his parched skin. I couldn't find any words to say to her. She looked at me, and whispered, 'Stay away.'
Six days later I heard that he'd died. She'd died years before.
I haven't long to live. Pain rides through me. My wife is by my side but she can't give me comfort. She is weak, of no use, and I wish she would go away.
She was lovely when we married, looking like a woman. I could make my hands into a circle and reach almost round her waist. People said I married her for the house. But it's not true. Her shy glances mesmerised me. Her hair, her eyes were so beautiful. I really did love her. I wanted no one else. But I married a child.
She never laughed. She never spoke with me. She only replied. She was mine, but there was nothing to own. I thought children would make us better. But she excluded me. When I came into the room their conversations stopped. She hid them from me. I was left alone. I spoke to them but they only gave me answers. If I hurt her, she would notice me. I went with other women, but I never divorced her, though I was entitled to. She filled me with guilt. How can you talk to someone who will not look into your eyes?
Part of me wants to talk of this now. But it would be like telling a corpse. I could weep at the waste.