Rays of sunlight streamed into the room through holes in the worn out curtain. I focused my attention on the little spots that fell on odd places around the room, letting my imagination play. Any distraction was welcome lately. I tried to get into a more comfortable position, but my body hurt too much so I just stayed there. I knew I’d have to get up eventually, but he’d be out for at least three more hours. Why rush?
I hated this bed more than I hated mine. So much more. Lying on it, even being in the same room with it, was a violation of my soul, my mind, my whole being. But, unlike with my bed, I couldn’t refuse to lie on it. Why? Because I was usually thrown or pushed on it. I sighed as I watched dust particles dance in the sun rays. He grunted beside me.. Tears welled up in my eyes as another attempt to get off that dreadful bed and leave proved even more painful than the last.
The rain continued to fall outside, thundering and beating the dirt off the windows of the house, as I washed the day’s dishes by the dim glow of the only candle we had left at home. I took my time with each plate, slowly and deliberately getting every inch of the ceramic clean. Honestly, the plate wasn’t really dirty. I had to focus on it, or I’d start crying all over again.
I can’t say there was anything unusual about the morning she’d left. It was every other day. As always, she and papa had argued loudly the night before, throwing and breaking more items from around the house. They were arguing fighting about me again, but this time I couldn’t help but feel it was my fault. For some time, I’d been hammering on mama to allow me start school, and she’d finally agreed to talk to papa that evening. As the fight escalated outside my door, i’d stayed in my room, cowering under my duvet, unable to sleep, until the house fell quiet a little past midnight. The following morning, my mum had assigned me my chores for the day, picked up her bag, and left without another word. Fear and, dare I say, wisdom prevented me from inquiring about my request. She never came back.
Day after day, I’d sat outside, scanning the street from my perch on the stairs, as I wasn’t allowed to leave the compound without papa’s permission, looking out for any sign of her. Two weeks had passed, and I’d given up on sitting on the stairs in front of the house awaiting mama’s return, and enduring taunts from papa regarding the issue. The dishes were a good distraction from the hurt and abandonment I felt. I couldn’t think of a logical reason why she would leave without so much as a “goodbye”, or why she would leave me with this horrid man. I finished the last of the dishes, adjusted my wrapper, and picked up the candle.
As I made my way through the sitting room, I heard a grunt from the couch. Papa had dozed off on the chair, it seemed.
I continued towards my room, and had just reached the door when he called to me “Ememgini.”
I paused “Yes, papa.”
“Come and help your father inside.”
I reluctantly walked back towards him, and bent so he could put an arm round my shoulder in order to stand up. he reeked of alcohol and cigarettes, and I couldn’t wait to be away from him. I led him to his room, helped him lie down, and was about making a hasty retreat when I felt him grab me. “Is there anything else papa?” I asked.
His speech was slurry “Are you happy now? You’ve chased my wife away.”
“Papa.” I tried to pull away, but his grip was firm.
“Who will keep me company now in this house? Ehn? Onye?”
“Papa, I want to go and sleep.”
“Sleep?” His laugh was the sound of evil, and sent a shiver down my spine. “What sleep? Is this not what you wanted?”
“Papa, biko…” Before I could complete my sentence, he had pulled me down on to the bed.
I started to scream, but was quickly silenced with a blow. “Shattap!” He tore frantically at my wrapper until it came loose, exposing my bare chest and legs. “See? Prostitute! This is what you want, ehn?”
He was kneeling between my legs, unfastening his pants. The realization of what was about to happen fully hit me, and I began to beg again, only to be rewarded with another blow to the face.
I don’t think I cried because of the pain I felt when he ripped me as entered forcefully. It was the feeling of my soul being wrenched from my body, as he hammered mercilessly into my pre-pubescent body, raining insults on me. Any form of protest or struggle was met with a blow, until eventually I just lay there and took it, silent tears rolling down into my ears. I felt like a used piece of rag, as he collapsed on me, snoring. I was too scared to try to move. At intervals through out the night, he would wake up and pound into me for a bit before drifting back to sleep. He never got off.
I’ve never felt shame like when he finally woke that morning. I was grateful when his weight was finally off me. He stood, by the bed, looking at me with disgust, and hissed “Get this place cleaned up. Look at you. Prostitute. Like your mother. Ekwensu.” I’d cried that morning as I washed the congealed blood between my legs in the bathroom. The assaults had continued steadily after that day.
I was jolted from my memory as a sharp pain forced me to tumble off the bed and unto the floor. He’d kicked me “What are you still doing here? Ekwensu! Zuzu puta n’ebe a!”
I got off the floor and briskly left the room.