The late 90’s…
She searches her bag for the second time, her heart filled with dread. Her teacher is coming closer with his brown, flexible cane in his purported very good left hand. Already, some of her classmates are recipients of the painful and lingering caresses of the cane. With more determination, she dips her hand into her much envied Barbie school bag and uses her fingers to trace the outlines of it in the hope that she might find her saving grace. Still, she finds it not. It is with startling and fearful realization that she remembers her pencil case still sits pretty on her bed. She steals a glance at her Fine Arts teacher who is getting ready to bless yet another person. Her head shaking, she decides that she doesn’t want to be flogged. Her thoughts whirling, she looks for a way out of her predicament. A thought comes and she smiles but almost immediately she sobers up to the point of tears.
It has occurred to her that the only person who can help her is the school’s headmaster, a family friend. The sobering comes from the recollection of last week’s event. Not exactly sure of what and/or why he touched her in her special place, she tells no one. In a flash, the events come to her.
By the entrance to the sitting room in her house are two 1 seater couches. She is sitting on the second one, farthest from the door when he pays them a visit. Since he lives around the area, his visit is expected. Since he is trusted, she is left alone with him as he takes a seat beside her close to the door. She notices him briefly and continues watching her cartoons.
Barely 7 years old, she still loves her Tom and Jerry cartoons and because she is engrossed, it isn’t until his hand is on her thigh that she notices he’s moved closer to her. Confused, she looks at his face and at his right hand resting gently on her thigh. She looks for her sisters, they are somewhere around but she doesn’t find them. For some strange reason, she is frozen to her chair and can’t seem to move. She can feel him watching her intently, perhaps to see her reaction. Her eyes are back on the TV but she isn’t watching anymore. She knows something is wrong but she doesn’t know what it is.
His hand goes up her small thigh, slowly. She freezes again, hoping that someone comes in. Someone, anyone. No one does. For five minutes, no one comes in. She is wearing her pant under her skirt but somehow, he manages to bypass them. In those five minutes, his fingers deftly work their way up to her special place. She looks… she doesn’t look at him or maybe she does. She can’t remember.
The curtain shifts and he rights his position. His hands are gone from her special place. Someone comes. Where she sits, she notices his heavy breathing. She doesn’t understand but she knows something is wrong.
Her Fine Arts teacher is coming closer and no one has an extra pencil case. Does she stay and be caned? She steals a glance at the boy who sits three rows from her. His tears are heavy and his painful groans are somewhat disturbing. She decides to get a pencil case from the headmaster’s office. Will he want to touch her special place in school? She doesn’t think so. Many people around. Fibbing, she tells her teacher she wants to use the toilet. He pays her no mind because he knows she can’t run away. Waving her off, he concentrates on his next victim. Standing, she adjusts her green pinafore and walks out of her classroom, climbs one flight of stairs and walks down that corridor to his office. Unsure of what to expect, she pauses from some seconds before knocking. She knocks thrice and opens the door. A smile warms his face when he sees her. She is happy that he is happy to see her. Her eyes see the rows of pencil cases for other classes and she knows she’s come to the right place.
Walking forward, she states her case and asks for a pencil case. She explains that it will be returned the very next day as hers isn’t lost but simply at home. He studies her and nods. Taking one of the shelf, he holds it out to her. Happy that her request has been granted, she takes some steps forward and stretches forth her hand to receive it. Alas! Her fingers fall not on the case but on his palm. Gently, he moves her closer to him. She is that frozen state again. At that moment, she wonders if the cane might have been a better option. His left hand goes around her waist drawing her closer to his left side. Perhaps he notices she is shaking and just isn’t bothered or maybe he doesn’t notice it.
But she is shaking. Her eyes are filling with tears. She doesn’t want it to happen again but she feels powerless to stop him. She doesn’t know she can shout or move away or say no. so, she stays.
His right hand comes up as if to touch her face but it doesn’t. Instead, it stays on her chest, touching her painless overgrown pimples through her school uniform. She closes her eyes because that is the only way she can survive the moment. Her mind leaves his office; goes to the picnic she is at the previous weekend. She feels him prodding, looking, circling but her mind isn’t there.
Some seconds later, he stops, gives her the pencil case and tells her to go. She has no feeling at the time. She just leaves without a backward glance and walks back to her classroom for the Fine Arts class which by this time is over.
She sits heavily, her lips trembling. She looks around. None can save her. Who does she tell?
She decides to tell no one. How does she explain that she stands for two minutes without saying a word or attempting to leave? To whom does she tell that her parents were in the next room but she doesn’t call them for help?
She decides to tell no one. She decides to never greet him again or so much as look at him. The pencil case is never returned and she seems to go on with life.
It is through the burglary bars of her classroom that she sees the police take him out of the school with his hands restrained behind him. There’s so much noise around. Students are at their windows trying to see what’s happening. Perhaps, he tried to touch another girl. Her hands hold the bars and she looks at him until he enters the police car. She remains there long after he’s been taken. That’s the last she sees of him. She never sees him again.
17+ years later…
She’s found love and although she still remembers what happened to her, although she felt filthy for a very long time, although she questioned God as she increased in years, although she now understands what happened, although her eyes fill as she writes this, she knows for certain that it wasn’t her fault. She knows that good men are good men still exist. She knows that no matter what has happened or happens, God loves her. Although, she might never understand why He would let it happen, she’s comforted by the scripture – “His ways are higher than our ways and his thoughts higher than our thoughts.”
Kabi O Osi.
Based on a true life story.
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