I woke up to the sounds of weeping women and children. The blues had swept through our village overnight, and the howling and lamentation in my compound was echoed throughout the community. I could not make out any words from the blubbering of the women; the children crying hysterically from lack of understanding of the situation and neglect from their mothers had drowned their voices. I sat up on my bed and stared at my feet, in this part of the world, it is far too tropical to sleep with a cloth over your body. The sun coming in through the small window by my bed shone across my feet, generating an unpleasant toastiness between my toes, I changed positions on my bed, replacing my feet with my head, allowing the sunrays to illuminate my face making me squint as the light travelled into my eyes. I could just about make out how high the sun was in the sky, it was most definitely past midday and nobody had come searching for me, I didn’t expect them to anyway, not today. My thoughts were overtaken by an ear-piercing cry from an obvious new comer to the congregation in the living room, alerting me of the shadow that appeared underneath my door. I sat up hastily; someone had finally come for me. She opened the door slowly; the age-old wooden door creaked noisily as it came to a stop at an angle that gave her full view of my room. She glared at me; we held eye contact for about 30 seconds, saying nothing to each other. The room became rather cool as the wind rushed in through the open door; the silence made me nervous and her glare rendered me motionless, I waited for her to speak, to condemn me, to verbally mutilate me but she did no such thing. She simply turned away and shut the door behind her, leaving me dumbfounded to say the least.
[4 years ago]
“Dada, how old are you today?” He knew exactly how old I was turning today, he had probably been anticipating this day from the very second he laid his gawking eyes on me 6 years ago when I had been brought to live with his family. “I am 16 today uncle”, his expression went from amusement to a smug joy – which was fairly similar to the ones I had seen on the faces of village children when given spare change from passing cars before the rest of their squadron. “Call me Lekan,” he said, as he tugged on my hand, pulling me towards him, “we’re not family, we’re friends, so you can call me Lekan.” He had spent a year or so in England at some point in his life and for this reason he likes to adopt the English accent mixed in with his naturally strong Ogbomosho Ibadan accent; omitting “s” in many words, stressing vowels that need not be stressed and taking unnecessary pauses between words and sentences. “You know I have always taken care of you and will continue to do so, but sometimes I need to be taken care of too,” naïve as I was at the age of 16, those words set off a silent alarm in my head that left me verbally unresponsive. His eyes momentarily darkened at my response so I quickly nodded and backed away as Aunty Tope’s footsteps became louder down the corridor. As she walked into the room and an appalling rendition of the ‘Happy Birthday’ song was belted out in my direction, I plastered a grin on my face as she sang and gave her a generous round of applause as she came to the end of her song. Aunty Tope, like most boisterous Nigerian women, was very much bipolar and so when she was in a good mood it was best to enjoy it and hope it stretches out for as long as possible. “Dada, my dear, are you ready?” It was birthday tradition to go to church in the morning, then to Uncle Lekan’s sisters house for lunch. Every year, I sat next to Uncle Lekan; he would put his arm around my chair and stroke my arm as he spoke to me, when he wasn’t doing that he would let his hand rest on my thigh as I ate my lunch, he would drink his Guinness quickly and ask me to get him another, as I stood up, the back of his hand would brush my bum. I used to think Aunty Tope didn’t notice but I know better now. At some point she stopped buying me sleeveless clothes, she would sit next to him at the table but he would say the seat was reserved for ‘the birthday girl’. Even at home I was kept busy with chores and errands, when Uncle Lekan called for me, she would quickly send me out to do an unnecessary task but she never spoke up about the way he looked at me, the way he licked his lips unconsciously as he stared at me or even about the way he touched me subtly but very inappropriately. I remember the taste of salt in my mouth from the tears that fell from my eyes. I was excused from the living room when we returned home from Uncle Lekan’s sisters house. I was exhausted after entertaining her triplets for many hours whilst the adults talked in the living room. “Ah Dada, you put them to bed so quickly, I should have you here more often,” she said to my dismay. I went straight to bed. I must have slept for hours because I woke up to a room that was completely pitch-black; somber might be a better way to describe it. I looked out of the window; I can never forget the starless sky. The only lights that ever illuminated this room came from sunlight or moonlight and tonight the moon was partially concealed by clouds that matched the night sky. Behind me my door noisily creaked open and a figure walks in. It was only until he spoke that I knew it was him, “So Dada, you’re a big girl now, I’ve given you a home, I buy you gifts, I pay your school fees, do you see that I love you?” The alarm ringing in my head was practically ear-drum shattering, this time it was accompanied by a lump in my throat, and once again I couldn’t speak so I nodded my head in the darkness, frozen on my bed, by the window. “Don’t you see?” he hissed at me, angered by lack of verbal response. He stepped closer to the bed; now standing directly in the path of the limited moonlight I could see his face. For a man that only just passed the age of 50, his face showed early signs of wear, his cheeks were beginning to sag, his eyes constantly watered, he had deep wrinkle lines across his forehead, of which his current facial expression only helped to enhance. He squinted his eyes to see me better in the darkness, he stretched towards me, reaching for my leg, and I immediately scuttled back up my bed further into the dark corner behind me. I could see the frustration in his expression clearly as he moved in the light. “Why do you run from me girl?” the tone of his voice was venomous, “I give you clothes, I give you food, I sent you to school, did your parents do that for you? Did they take care of you like I did? No, instead they abandoned you. Nobody wanted you, but I took you in and here you are an ungrateful omo ale [bastard].” I tried hard to hold back the tears, I had never been told why I had been sent here, my parents and I had been driving from Kogi to Lagos where daddy was starting his new job, I slept most of the journey but when I woke up I found myself being taken from our car by strangers telling me that I would be staying with some people for a little while, I cried, kicked and screamed, looking around for my parents, but they were nowhere to be found. That “little while” turned out to be 10 years and counting. The tears began to flow from my eyes, he lunged forward grabbed my foot pulling me flat on my bed, “Kilo ndamu e? [What’s wrong with you?] Don’t worry you will like it.” With one hand over my mouth, Uncle Lekan raped me.
I wasn’t always quiet; I used to be a happy child, a smiley child. My parents named me Oluwapamilerin – God has made me laugh but because of my hair I was nicknamed Dada when I got here. I stopped going to school at 16, Uncle Lekan refused to pay my tuition fees. Aunty Tope never objected, she in fact, became almost as quiet as me and never protested her husband’s wishes. I worked daily for my food, going into the market to sell whatever I was told to sell, from groundnut to dried fish. Uncle Lekan would constantly abuse me, saying I smell, or that I am stupid, yet he continued to rape me until I became pregnant for him. He will take me to a doctor to abort the baby, which eventually led to the destruction of my womb. At the start, he would hide his wrong doings from his wife but he no longer cared, he would call me into his bedroom at night, and send his wife to sleep elsewhere, she never complained, she would just get up and leave. Last night, I had been called to his room at about 3am, before then I lay in bed waiting. I had been laughed at all day by some of the children coming back from school, I used to be in the same class as majority of them, I was smarter than most of them, but here I was being mocked by them. Chioma was amongst them, my best friend Chioma, now made fun of my clothes with the others. I had confided in her the issues I was experiencing at home with Uncle l.ekan and Aunty Tope, and here she was taunting me, I was angry, but I could do nothing for the fear of what would happen to me if I was reported to Uncle Lekan. I got home to more taunting from Uncle Lekan, who had just been laid off from his job as a mechanic and so drowned himself for most of the day in palm wine, which made him irrational, clumsy and angry, more than usual anyway. It was disgusting to see a grown man behave the way he did. He took to physically abusing both Aunty Tope and I over the smallest things of which he deemed “not oyinbo enough”, like using our hands to eat or shouting across the room. I was beginning to lose my mind and Aunty Tope did not help. She was quiet most of the time, she never spoke up against him, she let him have his way with me, and she would simply look away. Outside of the house, she was your typical Yoruba woman; she was at all the owambe’s, helping with the catering, she was the person I had initially known her to be, but the second we entered the house, she became a recluse. I walked from my room through the kitchen, a knife lay on the table, I stared at it, and the anger within me began to rise, I hated him for ruining my life, I felt useless, I couldn’t have an education and so I would never make anything out of my life, no good man would want a stupid wife, let alone a wife that will never bear him children, my life has become a waste because of this man. This evil man. I grabbed the knife and held it behind my back, I steadied my heartbeat and walked to his room, I knocked and a low growl was heard in response. I pushed the door open and shut it behind me. Uncle Lekan lay on his bed obviously passed out drunk from the palm wine he had been consuming since he woke. The room had two windows and so was a little more illuminated than mine. I walked to the side of the bed carefully placing the knife under the pillow I would lay my head on, I began to remove my clothing, leaving just a wrapper around me, I lay down next to him waiting for him to roll on top of me. I counted my breath to stop my nervousness from becoming obvious; I doubt he would have noticed anyway. He stirred, acknowledging my presence, and began to wriggle his trousers off, he then turned to roll on top of me. I steadied myself as he did so, slowly reaching under my pillow for the knife, he began to undo my wrapper and my breath ceased. He stopped and looked at me with a puzzled expression, which slowly turned into an evil grin, “you are nothi-“, I plunged my knife into his back before he had the chance to say one more degrading thing to me. I took the knife out of his back and pushed him off me, he lay next to me, bleeding and gasping for air, I stared at him as life left his body. I got up, took my clothes, and walked out of the room; I washed myself and cleaned the knife in the bathroom, before going back to bed. This morning Uncle Lekan was found dead.
Aunty Tope ran outside crying and wailing, she put on a good show for the village as the mourning widow, but I know she hated him with every inch of her body and so it could not possibly upset her as much as she claimed it did.
I felt no emotion; after all it was my knife that plunged into his heart.