CHINYERE

Sitting in this cramped office and watching this two year old stumble around, I felt a huge burden being rolled off my shoulders. The job was hardly done. But finally, I’m doing the right thing. Coming from someone like me, one whom everyone assumed always did the right thing, heck they confessed their sins to me, literally, it felt long overdue. The light from the high windows were fading fast, night was closing in. The child stumbled again, this time she tried to get up but started sobbing, much like a grown up, to herself. She didn’t scream like a typical child did for the attention, instead she sobbed quietly with a disoriented look on her face. It broke my heart. But before I could reach out, she did. The other person in the room, Anwuli, the child’s mother.
I reached out for the first time and carried my baby. She stopped crying at once, sighed like a relieved adult would and looked up in gratitude. She squinted at me for a second, then started screaming. This time she looked scared, “Father!!! I’m sorry!!! I’m sorry!!!” she yelled. I’m a monster. My own child fears me more than a man in white cloth that she barely knew. Oh, but that’s not the worst part. I just want to comfort her now, I held her closer in spite of her struggle to reach father,” it’s OK, shhhh. It’s OK.” I whispered. My baby is about 2 years old now, and she has not been named. I literally call her nothing. Strangers call her baby. No, I didn’t just meet her. I am a selfish monster. I probably deserve all my misfortunes. But there’s hope now, I’m going to change. Everything is about to change. “Everything will be fine, Chinyere.” I whispered. That will be her name now. God gave her to me. God will take care of us.
I’ve become someone I don’t even recognize. We all have. The bruises on both I and my child tell a story. A long story. Where to start?? Three years ago, I was just a normal teenager,15years old, rebellious, beautiful, brilliant, creative, top of my class, children leader in church, I was the pride of my family. My father is a big name in society. People look up to him, he’s a pillar of our parish, as is his wife, my mother. My other siblings did alright, but I was always the one with the shiny potential. At 15, I was already in college. Parents would point me out and ask their children if I have two heads. Hindsight would place the joke on them.
I didn’t even meet Akin in school, dad would have had a field day with that one. He wasn’t really in support of the college I chose, you know? He wanted me to go to his alma mater. I was feeling rebellious, so I insisted. I was going to be a doctor, he was happy with that much. That holiday, I was on my way back from school when i met him. I stopped by at my friend’s house to say hello. Her house was very close to mine and we were friends in secondary school before I skipped classes and left her behind.We stayed tight. I walked into her house without so much as knocking and sprawled on the couch was everything a 15year old ever dreamed of in man. Handsome( like Brad Pitt, complete with the piercing eyes), light skinned, tall, pink lips, not so young(24 in this case), he was gorgeous and shirtless. I did a double take, I was flustered to say the least. He looked slightly puzzled, then I got a hold of myself long enough to ask where Ndidiamaka is. She came out squealing. I was still staring at him, he looked in the direction of her squeal and smiled. He had the best smile ever. I couldn’t wait to have that smile beamed at me. Didn’t take long. I did some catching up with Nd, she introduced us. When she was walking me to where I’ll get a cab home I got the gist on Akin. He was in his third year in college, their neighbour’s brother, he was spending his vacation with the sister for the first time.
Akin and I found ways to be together all through the holidays. We talked on the phone all the time when we weren’t together. We were in love, at least I was. He said all the right things, talked about the future and how I was going to be his wife. We talked about everything and nothing. It was only a matter of time, well, not that long after all. We were doing more than just talking. It really didn’t feel so great, the sex I mean. I don’t think he realised how young I really was. The college thing had him thinking I was older than I admitted. I was OK with it tho, it was intimate, I wanted to be intimate with him in every way possible. The affair lasted all of the three month holidays. It was all flowers and perfume till I realized I was late. We talked about it of course. He said he was about resuming in his own school. Told me not to worry, said he’ll come visit and we’ll talk about it. I went back to school with a sense of apprehension about the whole issue. I couldn’t be pregnant. It just wasn’t possible. We did everything right, used protection and all. By the time I got to school, I couldn’t wait for him to visit. I missed him, plus the period thing hadn’t resolved itself. I could really be pregnant.
He came, as promised. He came bearing gifts. OK he brought some drugs with instructions as to how to take them. I tried to look up the side effects but he brushed everything aside and told me to trust him. I did. Besides, I’m an Igbo girl, I also know the family I come from. This was the way to go. He left later that day. I was still fine. I slept that night and woke up in my parent’s house. They were furious. Dad was livid. Mom was even worse. She gave me the speech I had never received. They hadn’t so much as had to spank me before now. She informed me the baby didn’t go anywhere. Apparently I was unconscious, I had lost some blood, but I was still very pregnant. She was much more upset about that. Then followed the inquiries and investigations. Akin wasn’t having any of all that. He denied vehemently. Threatened me with bodily harm. The fact that my parents simply didn’t want the publicity didn’t help. First, mom tried sending me to his sister’s place so they’ll take responsibility. She denied and reacted violently. I was chased all the way home. My dad would have none of all that drama anymore. I was dead to him, but my corpse was allowed to exist so long as I don’t make myself visible. My mom on the other hand probably figured, if she hit me hard enough or if I had enough accidents, I may just lose the pregnancy and life would go on. When I “accidentally” fell down the stairs, she finally gave up.I only broke a leg. Mom was done with me. I barely ate. I was sent to the village. No one is in our village. No one I know anyway. Our grandparents are long gone. I have a never do well uncle there who hated my parents cos he feels they abandoned him. They left me with him. He transferred all his frustration and hatred on me. My child was born at home, with the aid of passers by that heard my screams. I had tried to die countless times. The baby on her part refused to die.I hated her. I hated Akin. I hated everyone. My life was over.
I was now a proper village girl. I farmed, did odd jobs to feed. I “forgot” to feed her a lot. I beat her at the slightest provocation. She cried a lot. I mean, she seems to be a sunny child, happy, adorable, even when she’s starved. However, once the sun goes down or you take her inside without turning on lights, she’ll yell and yell. I beat her to shut her up. How dare you be scared of the dark? You don’t get that luxury, you ruined my life. I turned off the lights sometimes so she’ll cry and I’ll hit her. I never bothered naming her, what’s the point anyway? She was also slow developing physical abilities. I mean, she talked real fast, showed creativity with the way she learned to bathe and dress herself, but she walked late and she stumbled a lot. I hated the slowness, maybe she’s retarded I thought. Just what I need. She used to walk up to me when she recently learned and just giggle, waiting for me to praise her like the villagers did. I pushed her away. Now she just avoids me and hovers only when she’s really hungry and she sees me with food, hoping against hope that I’ll be full before the food is exhausted. She’ll lick the crumbs off my plate then wash it.
I went to church sometimes. Sometimes they had events and they gave out free food. That was where I met Father Joe. He never really showed me special attention. Just asked me yesterday to allow him take my child somewhere and because I really couldn’t care less, I honestly wished someone would take that blight away from me, I didn’t even ask where.
I watched her hold the child and cry. The child was quiet now. She was just scared after all. Though it wasn’t quite dark yet, the child would perceive it as such. She had congenital cataracts. I was watching her stumble in the children’s section in church when noticed she went really close to see anything. She seemed smart, yet she wasn’t even chosen for the children games cos she stumbled a lot and generally missed stuff. I felt she may need glasses. So I met the mother and asked to take her child away for a day. She didn’t even ask why. I knew her story. It was a sad one. She was a model turned laughing stock. I had some missionary doctors run a test and she was diagnosed. I’m going back home next month. Mother and child will go with me. I’ve spoken with her parents, they really don’t care. The father tried to make things difficult bit the church has it’s ways. I convinced the church back home (London) to take care of the surgery. I’ll be responsible for their well being thereafter. I feel…fulfilled.

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