It was a beautiful evening.
I watched as raindrops cooled the sand in the orange crepuscule of what was a beautiful day.
Hah the weather was tempting, I was itching to run out of the one room I shared with my mother to go out and play with the other kids.
I watched eagerly waiting for her to take cognizance of my predicament. Which she did.
“Tammy have you done your homework?” Mother asked me, taking a fraction of a second to lift her eyes from the money she was counting; which was without doubt scattered across the centre table.
“Yes mother” I answered meekly. Quickly averting her eyes before she could see my desperation.
And as always, mother said “Tammy all you have to do is ask me; you know I will do anything for you”.
Her arm emballed my neck, almost impeding my breathe.
I struggled free, out of her embrace; a smile stretched the edges of my face.
“Thanks a lot mom, you’re the best” I shouted as I ran out the door. As fast as my legs could go.
“Hey Chinyere, my mama don allow me to come play with you” I screamed excitedly at my best friend.
She was five years old and a tad smaller and Skinnier than I was.
“Oya come na ‘tams” she beckoned me. Without much ado, I was neck deep in the wet sand that filled the humongous compound.
They say time flies when no one is looking.
Twilight had given way to darkness. The beautiful orange glow was gone but the rain refused to let up, it fell harder now. I solemnly made my way back to my room when I heard my name. “Tammy, that your tall uncle don come oh” a voice that carried contempt said in the darkness. I’d know that voice anywhere, it still haunts my dreams. I ignored Precious and her vicious sneers as well as her rants.
Dejectedly, I ran up to ‘my uncle’. A smile I had learned to wear, all thanks to mother and ‘her friends’. “Uncle welcome” I shouted with what summed up as childhood approval. I jumped into his hands, as he carried me all the way to our room. I watched mother’s countenance light up as she saw him.
Oblivious of my presence. Or so I thought till I got that dismissing glance. I walked out of the room; still prettified by that smile. I walked silently to Aunty Tina’s house, mother’s best friend in the compound.
On seeing me she asked, “your uncle don come?” Indifferently might I add. “Yes auntie” I answered, my disapproval quite evident.
“Eh be like you go sleep for here this night, na already nine pm”. I nodded in obeisance.
Aunty Tina never handled disobedience or arguments well. Continuing she added, matter of factly “thank God say my husband no de around, you go sleep for ground inside room eh”.
I replied with another nod.
A steaming plate of hot rice and fried plantain was placed before me.
Not one to back down from a plate of food. I ate with great rapacity and gusto.
A loud burp signalled the end of my meal.
It was about eleven pm before I fell into the whirlwind of a delightful slumber.
It was a cold ash Wednesday morning. The house was in pitch darkness when I woke up.
Profusely rubbing my eyelids, in a bid to remove the cloak of heaviness cast by the goddess of sleep.
Staggering half-dazed I made my way out of Aunty Tina’s house, heading straight to mine.
I shivered. It was cold. I could hear the harsh whisper of each breathe I inhaled.
I knocked; softly at first. No reply. I knocked for several minutes before I heard mother groan.
I imagined her rousing ‘uncle’ from the throes of sleep. “Mom na me, Tammy” I spoke in the softest of tone.
Her voice laced with sarcastic incredulity she asked “Tammy? ? Werin happen? What are you doing outside by this time?” Mother asked.
In the stillness of the morning I heard her maneuver her way to the door, releasing the bolt.
I wiggled my way into the room. My eyes already accustomed to the blackness of the night.
“Mama I wan go toilet” I answered. “For this midnight? Better hold am till tomorrow morning” she replied, treading back to the small mattress we shared.
I followed at her heel. I watched ‘uncle’ who was deep in the recesses of sleep. I watched her.
Fraught in the borderline between worry, concern and thinly veiled disapproval.
I sat on the only upholstery in the room; the mattress already occupied. “Oya go outside go arrange the water way you go use” she spoke sardonically.
A huge wave of relief washed over me. I edged my way out of the room.
Skedaddling to the huge black drum where we stored water, I filled the toilet bucket with water.
I waited for mother; who came almost a minute too late. “hey Tammy make we go” a gruff voice said behind me.
“Uncle Henry? Go where” I asked, perplexed.
Coming to the rescue mother replied “I go call am to escort you go the toilet, I no go fit leave your uncle alone” she offered as a way of explanation.
I said nothing, cleared my throat as I picked up my bucket and made my way down the compound to where the convenience was located. ‘Uncle Henry’ walking briskly behind me.
I was scared, almost slowing down to a halt; I scanned the entrance of the convenience building which was well away from the rooms.
Taking cognizance of my predicament, ‘uncle Henry’ walked in; urging me to follow suit. I hurriedly followed him into the building.
I could hear the chirping of invisible insects. Something flew towards me, causing a mild ruckus; I waved my hand frantically in a bid to cover my eyes and swat my attacker.
My bucket of water broke, drenching me. We had gotten to my stall. I pushed the door open, it creaked slowly before ‘uncle Henry’ kicked it. I stared inside.
Looking carefully at every crevice, searching for insects and rodents alike. I quickly moved to the side as a rodent rushed past me.
“You de fear rat?” Uncle Henry asked mockingly. “I no de fear, I just hate am” I answered, my voice quivering. I entered the stall amidst trepidation.
Getting my skirt out of the way I gave to ‘uncle Henry’, I climbed up the platform and lowered my pant; getting down to business. Uncle Henry waited for me outside the stall; I left the door open.
The stall was illuminated by the torchlight I clasped tightly. In no time I was done. I called for ‘uncle Henry’ to pass the bucket; its content all but gone.
He silently walked into the stall, gave me the bucket and just stood there; staring at me. “Uncle Henry de go outside na?” I asked, out of embarrassment than anything else.
Shaking his head he answered, “No, I wan stay for here with you”. I ignored him as I washed up, rose to my feet when I finished.
No sooner had my feet left the platform did he rush towards me. I was taken aback. He pushed me till my back was against the wall. I was stupefied by it all.
Finding my voice I asked in the authority and wisdom of a six year old girl “hah uncle Henry, wetin happen na?”. I struggled to push him away from my half naked body while I tug on my underwear.
He said nothing, for an answer he tugged my panties free and proceeded to lock the stall. I was trapped, between his chest and the wall.
At first I thought he was afraid but something about the way he pressed me felt out of place. His right hand cupped my oval face, his lips descended on mine; as he kissed me.
Forcing his tongue; saliva into my mouth. I struggled against him, pushing and screaming. He swallowed my screams.
When he spoke he sounded different, “I don de like you since I come this compound” he said before he let me go.
Uncle Henry took the torchlight from me and switched it off, darkness quickly enveloped us.
I was thrown into discombobulation I heaved a sign of relief. But my respite was brief.
I heard a strange noise coming from him, with my back to him I couldn’t see what he was doing.
It was dark. I groped in the pitch darkness, unaccustomed to the blackness of the night.
Strong hands gripped mine, he forced my searching hands down until he wrapped it around something. It was flesh; an eerie flesh.
It was hard, spongy and soft with deep veins. I tried to free my hands from the strange organ; but he held me still.
In a futile means of escape I bit hard into the first place I could find. A pained yelp escaped his lips, a few seconds later one escaped mine as he slapped me. I cried out in pain.
His hands covered my mouth as my scream died within me. “If you do that thing again I go leave you for here go, you hear me?” Uncle Henry threatened me.
His breathing was laboured, as was mine. I trembled from fear and something else.
His lips descended roughly on mine as his knees nudged my legs apart.
A slight intrusion from that place where my thighs join had me pushing him again wanting to get free.
For the umpteenth time his hands clasped my mouth, forcing my scream to die inside of me.
Painful sensations flooded my senses as he pushed something inside of me. I shook from the sheer force of the movement.
My eyes watered from pain. Still pressing me with his body weight, he moved the object of pain inside of me; hurting me.
Tears ran down my cheeks, I was dazed. I was numb. I heard my name from afar, someone was calling from a distance.
A slap jolted me, quickly bringing me back to reality. The flashlight shining directly on my face, so I couldn’t see his. “Take” Uncle Henry said as he offered me my underpant, “clean your leg” he instructed me.
Quietly I collected it, only as I began to wipe did I see the tickle of blood that had found its way to my ankle.
I scrubbed furiously all the while wondering where it had come from. When I was done, I wore the bloodstained undergarment.
I didn’t know what uncle Henry did to me but I knew that it hurt alot. It hurt when I attempted to walk; and the pain stemmed from my inside, “that place where I de piss”.
We made it out of the convenience in total silence. I wiped my sudden sweat. I ached, I was sore and my legs felt heavier.
We walked straight to ‘Aunty Tina’s’ no use bothering mother and ‘uncle’.
I laid on the mat at the foot of the bed where ‘Aunty Tina’ snored contentedly.
Sleep evaded me; pain was my companion for the remainder of that night.
Morning came slowly, almost as if God was taking His time. I trudged back home, mother had left with ‘uncle’.
I read the note on the floor. Shuffled to the neat mattress and laid down to rest.
A compensation for the sleepless night.
That day was the first time in four years I had missed a school day.
It was six years later before I knew what ‘uncle Henry’ did to me that night. What he took from me.
It’s now ten years after that.
Here I am standing at the entrance of the morgue, peering at the grotesquely decorated body; lying lifeless on the bed.
His face ghastly and bloodied, bruised beyond recognition.
Mother wrinkled her face in disgust, quickly making her way out of the room.
I walked in, a smile spreading the corners of my lips as I registered his appearance. Indeed a better death could not be asked for.
I imagined the pain he must have endured and my smile widen the more.
Silently given kudos to the God I had abandoned years earlier I answered
“Yes I know him, he’s my uncle”. That night I slept sober and soundly for the first time in sixteen years…
By Nabiebu Selina
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