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I had entered my father’s room thinking about what would be said to me today. I have been told to come here several times in the past and each time something would happen. I wonder if today’s visit to the room would yield positive effects. But there was this pounding in my ear and the lump in my throat; they both warned that I should not be too optimistic. I walked into the large bedroom painted with blue and black paint. I had told my father several times in the past to change the paint but he wouldn’t listen. So now when I look at them, the paints were peeling as if they were being scraped by an obnoxious kid.
I greeted my parents and I picked up a chair to sit. I started looking around the room, then I hung my head low as a sign of respect for my parents. It was my mom who spoke first. “Listen closely to what your father has to tell you. We have been waiting for so long to tell you this but we both felt the right time would be today and now we can no longer keep the information to ourselves”. Her face radiated nervousness and this confirmed my earlier fears because I had always held the belief that my mother is a strong woman. She hardly gets nervous.
“I will”, I replied, in submission. I knew I didn’t have a choice. I would have to listen to them and obey them. My mother had told me many things about obeying orders. She had told me story of Adam and Eve who disobeyed. Seriously, there were many times which her lectures didn’t matter. That’s the way children are brought up in this part of the world. Children cannot correct the elder’s error, cannot demand for more and most definitely should not disobey. Being tied to a tree would be the result of disobedience.
My father spoke up immediately, “As we know tomorrow you turn 18 and I’ll like to bring back to mind the agreement which I had when you were born.”
What? Now he cares about my birthday? I had spent previous seventeen birthdays without a “happy birthday, my child” from him.
“You know that rich merchant’s son, Rasaq?” a rhetorical question it was but I responded. It is not a new joke that most people from my tribe and other tribes in Nigeria ask a lot of questions. It is funnier because most of them are rhetorical questions, still answers were given to them. An example is, “You’re back?” when the person you’re talking about is standing in front of you.
“You’ll marry him tomorrow. “, my dad pronounced as though he was a judge. He had that habit of dictating everything. Before my mother had an argument with him three months ago, he always dictated when I eat, drink, sleep, go out to take a nap or to see someone, and other nonsense. But this time around, his order was more like a death sentence to me. My blood ignited immediately. I became furious.
“What?”, I barked. I have never shouted in my father’s presence before, then again I have never been told this before.
My mom spoke up next, “I had some complications while giving birth to you. I couldn’t deliver my sweet girl by myself. An operation was required. We didn’t have money…”, she said amidst tears.
My dad continued when mother couldn’t continue, “Rasaq’s father offered to help. But he had a condition. If you turn out to be a boy, you’ll marry his daughter. But you turned out to be a girl.”, he paused and mother interjected,” such beauty you were, even at birth! He had to say you’ll have to marry his son when you turn 18.”
My father looked sternly at her for a moment before he turned to me to continue his story,
“I told him it wasn’t part of the deal. He told me it’s either he has my baby till we could pay back the money for the surgery, or you have to marry his son. Your mom and I finally got the money, but he’s a man who always get whatever he wants. ”
My mom spoke up next, for a person who had always lectured on obedience, she disobeyed quite well, “I was sad. I hate myself for what has happened. I knew a day like this would come. I wanted to tell you earlier, but I keep postponing. The pain is too much for me to bear. I kept praying today shouldn’t come. But I know that’s not possible. I’m grateful, yes I am. Such a wonderful, beautiful girl you turned out to be. I’ll forever hate myself if I lost such a wonder. ”
My mind exploded. Too much was coming in. It took minutes for me to catch up on what had been said. My heart jumped into my throat, it formed a lump. I swallowed hard. I wished it was just a nightmare. Wake me up!
I pinched myself to be sure I was not dreaming. No, it didn’t work. I closed my eyes and opened them again, it didn’t work either. It was then I was convinced that this was happening real and I was neither dreaming nor imagining it. My parents had stabbed me in the heart. It’s going to take a lot more than “we’re sorry” to pacify me.
Finally, the part of my brain that controls speech got into power. “You… You… You…”, I stammered, “You liars! It is better for you to have let me die than face this. What were you thinking?”
“Don’t say things like that! “, my mom said. I could feel her pain, but this is unacceptable. My heart started to drink in the pain. Time grew longer. Seconds became minutes, minutes became hours. I slowly took it all in. The frustration building… Then I feel like it’s all going to come out.
Adrenaline pumped, and I snapped, “You selfish people! I grew up believing you’re the loveliest parents ever. But really you’re darker than the devil. You hid something so important from me for so long. It’s impossible for me to marry a man I don’t love. I don’t believe you’ll understand what I mean. You sold your child for money! I despise you. Right from this moment, you’re no longer my parents. I disown you. I want nothing to do with you.
“You could have aborted me when you had the chance. It’s better for I’ll be in heaven than in this! “, I turned to my mom,” I no longer blame God for not giving you a second child. You treated me poorly enough! ”
“Halema! “, my dad barked. He had turned red.” We’ll not accept this from you. This man has everything you could ever ask for: money, fame… He’s good-looking. I tell you, you’re a fool if you do not accept this. If you think that NYSC pauper is going to offer you better, then you’re dreaming. Two years from now you’ll remember today and you will smile. I tell you! ”
Rasaq is indeed good-looking, but he never struck me as someone I could ever marry. He’s nothing I want in a man. Hell, I’m still too young! I’m only 18, I don’t want to be a wife yet. I’m not ready!
Tears rolled down my cheek. It has been long my dad ever shouted at me. He was so used to giving orders that he has forgotten that I have a mind which would filter through it. My dad spoke up again, “We’ll leave you now to sort your mind. If really pains me to have to do this to you. But think of this, Rasaq’s father is terminally ill and we don’t know how much time he has left. Let this, at least, be his final gift before he dies. Think of the pain he’ll go through if you reject Rasaq.”
I considered it and I can’t let that be the reason why I’d marry his son. The next sound I heard was that of the door, I didn’t know when my dad left the room. I knew he’ll be back in fifteen minutes to sleep so I greeted my mother and I left the room. On the way to my own room, I asked myself if I could do this. I felt lightheaded and I couldn’t think carefully. My subconscious shook her head. Every length and breadth of me knew that this isn’t possible.
I called on God to give me strength, as my mother had taught me to. No, I don’t want strength. I want all this gone. I don’t want to marry yet. The fact that the person I’m forced to marry is rich didn’t do anything to the situation. “O God, I know you must know what situation I’m in right now. You promised not to test our faith with what we can’t endure, now I’m here to tender a complaint. I can’t endure this in any way. I don’t want to be married yet. I want to paint the world, leave a mark. I don’t want to be some wife. ”
I had so much to ask God, but then something made me realize it was no use. He had let me be born like this in the first place. He started it all. No need running to Him now. I cried. “You taught the prophets that you’re an epitome of peace, good, and all the values. But you’re not in any way good to me. You’re wicked!
“Why couldn’t I be born like other kids? Why me? Why all these? You let it happen. You looked down with disinterest and ruined my life. Oh, the depravity!
“I hadn’t committed any sin; all I begged for was to be born like every normal kid. And you denied me just that?
“You’re just too remote. You don’t care about what happens to us! We’re just toys who’ll end up in your fiery hell because we chose to live like we want?
“You’re also impartial! “I cried bitterly. But I realized God isn’t going to help me. From that moment, I left Him.
I believe in myself. I’m the master of my own universe. Right on cue, my brain fired an idea. A nasty idea. An escape. I could easily run away from it all. I sat on my bed and started dreaming on how it’d feel like.
But then again, another mind told me I cannot run away from my problems. I asked myself how bad it could turn out. Truly, the man in question is rich and handsome. He isn’t just right for me. Even if he is, I can’t marry him this way. This is human rights abuse! I would be forced to do what I didn’t want.
It was a battle in my mind. The opposing thoughts were equal in frequency and power, but none of them is more appealing. All I wanted is everything gone. I finally made up my mind. It wasn’t easy but I had no other option. I chose to face my problems. I had envisaged my life after escaping, nothing good can possibly come out of it. My life would depend on chance and I don’t want that.
Morning came without me getting a minute of sleep. My eye lids grew heavy. I left my bed and went to stare at my broken mirror. I looked like a malnourished kid; my eyes were swollen and reddish-black. My tongue was sore, and the lump in my throat still hung. I looked like the perfect picture of defeat and failure. “No, I’m strong, I can’t be easily defeated.”, I told myself.
So I smiled. On a normal day, my smiles could turn up the world; it shone brighter than a thousand fireflies. But today isn’t any normal day – it’s my eighteenth birthday and a day I’m supposed to marry Rasaq. My smile did nothing to brighten my face.
I went downstairs and located a bowl of water. I washed my face, and I rose. I started my chores like yesterday night chat didn’t occur. My siblings have been awake some minutes earlier. They greeted me with respect. They all knew something is wrong with me, but they don’t know certainly. I’m very sure their smart brains would start trying to develop theories on why their big sister is so off today. I reminded myself to smile, but it just isn’t helping. I quickly finished the chores and prepared for breakfast.
Finally, the time came. I wished the time never came. I am strong, I told myself. My dad and I went to the house of Rasaq’s father where a large party had started. His house was a three-storeyed building which was painted in sky blue and dark blue. The compound was large enough to contain several hundreds of people. I was dressed as a bride in the house, but shortly before the time came for the main wedding to commence, Rasaq came in to the room I was staying. He wore a native Hausa attire. We were meeting officially for the first time and it felt awkward for me. Is this how things are done? I shook him and I spoke politely in Hausa, “My name is Halema and it is very nice to meet you, Rasaq.”
He accepted the handshake and looked into my eyes and said, “Halema, where have you been?”
The question took me by surprise and I asked him what he meant and he brushed it off. I asked him if he had known that we were to marry today, he nodded and I got a little angry. “So why didn’t you come to see me even for once?”, I asked him. He smiled and said, “I came but your mother wouldn’t permit me to see you. She explained that you have not been told. Now I have a question for you. May I ask?”
I nodded and he asked, “What do you want from me? I already have a girlfriend I was planning to marry before my father told me about you. His life is at a critical point now and that is why I am doing this. So, I want to know what you want from me.”
What? Such arrogance?
“The only reason I’m doing this is because I didn’t want to disobey my father. I have no alternative, really. I don’t have any particular thing I want from you”,
“Not even my money?”
How could he even think that? I am not like those girls who would offer themselves at men because of money. Didn’t he see that?
“How could you even think that? I’d kill myself rather than want your money.”
“It’s a pity this cannot be even because I have a particular thing that I want from you. And you’ll have to give me”, he said and he reminded me of my father.
I asked myself again if I had made the right decision. “What is it”
“I want you to be my sex slave. You’re going to heed to my call every time I ask you. Trust me it’s not going to be an easy thing. I fuck very vigorously.”
Language, please. I giggled at the thought of vigorous sex. How vigorous could it get? He has no idea the type of person I am. I smiled and I knew everything is going to be alright. He looked at me as though to ask if I had problem with his offer. Of course there’s a problem. But I wouldn’t let him know that. I was about to open my mouth to speak when I remembered.
I remembered what had happened almost a year ago. It was a rainy and dark night when I remembered that I had forgotten something at Austin’s house. I ran back to the house to meet the door locked. I gave up and I came home immediately. I was on the way home when I heard some weird noise coming from a very close distance. I kept looking back but I saw nothing. I walked for another minute in fear and I was given a punch on my head. I fell and then I saw my attacker. I didn’t really see him because my sight still blurred from the impact on my head. The only thing I knew about him is that he’s male. He came closer to me and he dragged his legs over me. He pinned me to the floor with this knees so I lay still in fear and frustration while he unbuckled his belts and removed his trousers from one knee at a time.
Then he raped me. It was the most annoying moment of my life. He had inserted his penis into my clitoris and had his damned sperm into my body. After he was done, he stood up to leave but then I gave him a bite on his hand. He let out a cry before he slapped me down with his other hand. I now see why I didn’t see him at first. He was masked. I felt defeated and humiliated at that moment. I had lost my precious virginity to a rapist. It’s the worst thing any girl could ever get. I went home that day like nothing happened and…
It was Rasaq’s voice that pulled my mind back to the present. “You wanted to say something?”
“Yes. I forgot to mention one thing I truly need from you. I need to be educated. I need to go to school. I don’t want to be a liability just because I’m married to a rich man who inherited a fortune from his father. I do not want your money. All I’m asking for is simple education. I want to be responsible for myself. My parents never got to educate me. I don’t know how to read or write like you. I want to know”, I said. I covered my face with my hands. Why does life have to be like this? Your enemy is the only person that can guarantee you your dreams.
“What you asked me is a very simple request. I’ll educate you anywhere in the world. But you must do whatever I ask you to do.”
That was the best thing I’ve heard since yesterday. I was euphoric. Oh, my wise father. You’re so right! This would be beneficial for me. I replied with joy in my words, “I will do whatever you ask me.”
“Now let’s get wed!”
And I thought about Austin. He would be devastated when he hears of the wedding between Rasaq and me. He had promised me his love but I didn’t love him back. I told myself he wouldn’t be that devastated as I hadn’t promised him anything. I haven’t even told him whether I do love him or not. But I knew it was a lie. Austin loves me very much but he will find another woman who would love him just as he loves her. I hope so because it’ll be a pain for me to know that I had put him in such a state. I swept the thought away from my mind just as quickly as I thought about it. I can’t let that spoil my spirit today.
Rasaq left the room leaving me to make any final preparations before I come outside to get wed to him. I was about to leave the room when I saw Austin. He had come for me. He saw me and he came straight to me. He carried a pained expression with him and I was already feeling bad but there’s nothing I could do. He said, “now I’ve finally met the man whom you love and would agree to marry. But I don’t think he’s good enough for you. You can still run away with me before it’s too late.”
I told him how sorry I was and how I wished it didn’t come to this and I saw a tear drop from his eyes. And I had to echo it, “I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean for it to end this way. I never promised you anything from the beginning because this is exactly what I wanted to avoid.”
He looked at me and said, “Very well. Happy married life. Don’t forget I’ll always love you.” Then he left. I cleaned the tears forming in my eyes with my palm and I looked into the mirror. I looked just fine. I walked outside where I was accompanied by two maids and I finally got wed to Rasaq.