I hid under the bed holding my favorite teddy bear close. I pressed myself flat on the ground; it hurt as my nipples were sensitive. But the pain I was feeling was nothing compared to the pain I would feel if my father found me. I hoped my mother would succeed in calming him down but something inside me told me that the odds of that happening were quite slim. I heard the combined sound of my father’s angry voice and my mother’s pleading coming slowly up the stairs. I thought about the events of the day as I moved further under the bed.
My father had told me for as long as I could comprehend things that he never wanted to see me with a boy, talk to one, hold hands with one or even acknowledge one. He said it was for my safety and that boys would destroy me like they had destroyed his sister – an aunt I had never seen. After 14 years I was curious as to what evils boys would do to me but my fear of my father and the memory of the last time he lashed me with his belt out-weighed every bit of curiosity in me.
All the boys in school had been warned by the principal and the entire teaching staff not to approach me, my father is an influential figure in the school and so he was respected and feared and most of what he said was law. But today, a new student was transferred in, he was the cutest boy I had seen and he stood out from all the others. He was tall, surprisingly built, with dark skin, coal black eyes, wavy hair, shining white teeth and a model’s face. The story was that he and his parents were returning to the country after some years abroad. I pushed him to the back of my mind as I focused on the classes of the day.
The time flew by, the day dragging on. He passed by my seat during break and smiled at me, revealing his beautiful white teeth, making butterflies fly in my stomach. I swallowed and went back to being on my own. School was over and I packed my books into my bag in a hurry and as I turned to leave he was right beside me giving me a sly grin. My heart was beating faster and everyone in class was looking at him, shocked that he dared to talk to me. I tried maneuvering round him but he was quick and followed me for every step.
“I’m not moving until you say something to me” he said with his beautiful bass voice.
“Please…” I croaked out.
“School is barely over, chill a bit”
“I have to get home, my father mustn’t know about this. I have to be home in 15 minutes. Please.”
“Okay, but at least let me walk you home” he said with another perfect smile.
I agreed because it was a losing battle either way. He was determined to talk to me and he wasn’t bulging. And besides he was the first boy I had spoken to in almost all my life. His name was David. We walked and talked and I realized that apart from being the most handsome boy I had seen, he was also smart and funny. He told me how beautiful I was, the only other person who had said that was my mother during the nights when we would sit in front of her mirror and brush my hair and apply Aloe Vera to it until it shone.
It was barely a 15 minute walk but it was like I had spent a day with him. Two blocks from my house, I had to let him go for I didn’t want anyone to see me walk in with a boy in tow. He gave me this look of understanding, and as he turned to go, he gave me a quick kiss on my lips. I was stunned. No one had ever done that before. He smiled and left. If I had been fair, I would have been pink all over.
My father’s car wasn’t in the driveway. He wasn’t due till 5. I walked in feeling on top of the world with a fuzzy feeling in my stomach. The door was open as usual and I shouted a quick greeting to my mom who was always in the kitchen at this time preparing lunch. I walked into the living room to see my father seated on a couch, looking angry. I mumbled a quiet ‘good afternoon sir’ and he turned to face me.
“Who was that boy I saw you with?” he shouted at me.
“What boy, sir” thinking he couldn’t have seen me with David.
“The boy I saw kissing you.” I knew then that I was in trouble. I had violated my father’s most treasured rule and I had gotten flogged for less.
My mother walked into the room, saying that I should go upstairs while trying to reason with my father. He pulled out his belt and I ran up the stairs, into my room and under my bed.
Their voices were becoming louder. My father barged into the room with my mother behind him.
“How many times do I have to tell what boys did to my sister?”
“Dapo, please. She’s just barely a child”
“She disobeyed the one rule that was most important to me and so she must be flogged.”
I peeked from my hiding place and saw his shining black shoes walk to the side of the bed and walk away. I felt relief.
“So you think you can hide from me?” he shouted from beside me. I screamed and ran out on the other side. My mother was quick to come in between us.
“Bimpe, run!!!” she screamed at me. I moved back slowly. My father walked towards me, with even more fury on his face. She pulled on his arm to slow him down and using his elbow he pushed her away from him. She slipped on a doll and fell hitting her head on the ground and the next thing I saw was blood flowing from the back of her head contrasting against the white floor of my bedroom.
I screamed again as I ran, my father still coming towards me. I ran as fast as my legs could carry me, running out into the street. The skies were dark when I finally stopped moving. I had been walking for hours; I didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t even go back if I wanted to. My mother’s face as she lay on the floor and my father’s wrath were the images I pictured when I thought of home.
I looked up and saw that the neighborhood had changed; I was no more in the area of classy, well designed houses with driveways. I was in the area of poor housing and sanitation. I heard the loud voices of some men coming towards me. I didn’t know where to go so I bowed my head letting my hair cover my face as I walked quickly past them.
“Baby.” One of the men called just as I had walked past them. I pretended to not hear them. I instantly felt someone pull me before I saw them. His breath smelt strongly of alcohol.
“The babe set o!” he called out to his friends as he pulled at my breast. He was rewarded with a slap on the face from me. His face twisted in anger as he pushed me down and gave me some punches. I couldn’t move. I was pinned to the ground between his legs and I was seeing stars from the blows I just received. All I heard were the multiple sounds of belts un-buckling – a sound I was familiar with – and the pull of zippers as I faded into black.
I don’t recall my eyelids opening but I found myself in a space, with darkness everywhere. It was thick and choking. I heard voices calling me back from a place that was vaguely familiar. And then I saw my mother dressed in shining white walking towards me with the biggest smile on her face. I looked down and saw I was wearing a white dress too. She took my hand and we walked off towards the light with our white garments shining in the dark.