I didn’t know how to respond. I was not even sure I was supposed to say anything. “should this woman be telling me something like this?” I muttered to myself.
“did you say something?” she asked
“no Ma, I was only coughing,” I said.
It was Papa who sent me to the boarding school because of Big Aunty’s obsession with redesigning the shape of my head.
“Can I come in?” Papa asked, few minutes after Oga Emma stitched my head. This time, he had to shave a sizable portion of my head. I was still standing in front of the mirror in my room, staring at the hideous creature in front of me when I heard Papa’s voice.
“it’s your house,” I said, surprised.
“I was talking to Mr. Afunwa the other day,” Papa began. “You remember Mr. Afunwa, the further maths teacher at Shalom Academy?”
he continued when I didn’t say anything.
“I have collected the school’s prospectus and will be going to the market tomorrow to buy all the necessary items you would need”, he said, sitting at my white stool. He looked strange there. The back of his head was reflected in the mirror, he was going really bald back there. Papa looked skinny too, his head was starting to look bigger than his whole body. I realised how hard I must have been on him. He wasn’t having it easy either. Big Aunty was a devil from the pit of hell. She spared no one.
“Okay,” I said, trying to force out a little smile. Papa smiled back, getting up more slowly than he used to. “this must be nka,” I said to myself. I didn’t want Big Aunty to take credit for every bit of ruin in our lives. I detested giving her such power. But how much can a 14-year-old do? I wasn’t the one who single-handedly, brought a known devil into our house after all. The sort of behaviour Ayobanna refers to as ikwochaa aka tielu okuko aki.
Home – though it wasn’t just home anymore. It never got back to being the same since Mama left. Nevertheless, I was glad it was a long holiday. The thought of being with Ayobanna again got me excited throughout the last week in school. I had only been home for two days when Papa said I would be going to Port-Harcourt to spend my long vacation with his long-time friend.
I didn’t give so much thought as to why I would be going to stay with a friend of Papa’s, rather than a blood relative – which was the norm. Papa’s brothers were ‘utterly useless’ (in Papa’s words). “if you are going to spend the holiday away from your father’s house, you should spend it in a comfortable home filled with love” he said.
One thing that was in abundance at the Akuabata’s was laughter. I marvelled at how often they laughed. It was new to me, and I liked it. Within a couple of days, I became inseparable from the kids, except Golibe. For no reason I could point to, she appeared not to like me at all. She constantly made fun of the way I spoke; she says I spoke English with Nsukka accent. I avoided her as much as I could.
When Mrs. Akuabata called me to talk that morning, I panicked. I felt she wanted to chide me for insisting that Golibe should respectfully give her clothes to the houseboy to wash, rather than throw it at him like she was throwing bones to a dog. But, I was wrong.
“hmmm this your bum bum is coming out n’ike n’ike o,” Mrs. Akuabata said.
I was a little bit embarrassed but smiled with relief.
“see, I waited till I was 18… and it wasn’t just to any kind of man o,” she said dreamily.
I was lost. I had no idea what she was talking about. But I listened.
“he was a reputable Barrister,” she said.
“oh. Yes, Ma” I said when it clicked. She was talking about sex. I knew about sex even before my biology teacher did extensive coverage of the topic. Ayobanna knew everything about sex and childbearing even though he had never done it before. I always asked him how he knew what he knew. He would always shrug with a smile.
It felt good to have an adult have a one-on-one talk with me about sex. Only that it seemed Mrs. Akuabata was only bragging to me; about when she lost it and the caliber of a man she lost it to.
“why would she just assume that I had lost mine?” I thought to myself.
At first, I thought it was a snake, the other kids were asleep. Golibe’s head was dangling back and forth at the passenger’s seat, in front of the car, I thought it would break. We were all exhausted. It was a rainy Sunday, Mrs. Akuabata had gone for a friend’s house warming ceremony in Owerri the previous day. Uncle took us to the mall; I had never been to such a big supermarket before.
“Ouch!” Uncle shrieked. “do you pound yam with your bare hands this girl?”
“what was your hand doing on my lap?” I retaliated.
His hand returned a few times before we got to the house.
“Ralu, gbaba kwa!” Ayobanna screamed as I narrated yesterday’s event to him on the phone.
But how do I tell Papa that his trusted friend was making sexual advances at me?