Maybe he has a girlfriend or maybe you’re just not his type. Really kachi? I say. What’s not his type? Tall, dark or fiiinee? Let’s not forget with brains. How about modest, modest and modest kachi shoots back.
This morning Kachi is trying out wedding dresses. She’s getting married In May to her college sweet heart ademide. She’s really happy is all I can think as I watch her change different dresses without being able to decide which she likes best.
Odera help me na, why you just sit down dey shine teeth? She laments, but I’m caught up in this moment, I find the scar above her right eyes and somehow I let myself drift to a time where we weren’t always this happy.
We grew up in a small town at the outskirts of rivers state. Father was a teacher at one of the secondary schools in town and mother was the typical Nigerian house wife who made clothes once in a while for the neighbors. We lived in a little two bedroom flat with broken windows and caving ceilings and whenever it rained the wind came in furiously and we had to position buckets strategically under the parts of the ceilings that leaked.
We were a long shot from being wealthy, we weren’t always comfortable either but my mother always made sure we had enough. I remember some nights when I ate with kachi and my mother just watched us eat. She never let us know the food wasn’t enough for three. She’ll always say; I’m not hungry.
We attended the local primary school because that’s where we could afford to and even then, we still could not afford all our books.
Then father got a new job at the university. I was four and Kachi was six. Mother was happy, things would be better now she told us. You would go to better schools and Odera you wouldn’t have to wear Kachi’s old clothes anymore. And we where happy because things would change, we were happy because mother was happy.
Few months after the new job, father bought a car. We still lived in our old house and we still attended the local school. The day he came home with the car was the first time we heard them fight. Mother was furious because he had bought a car when we hadn’t been enrolled in better schools. She complained about dad’s extravagant spending but he said it was his money.
We eventually changed schools. Mother enrolled us at a private school at the other side of town and so we had to be up by 5:00am to make it in school on time.
We went to school with the school bus every morning, but in the afternoons after school father picked us up on his way back from work.
The day everything changed was when my class teacher, I can’t remember her name had asked my father for a lift,and I wondered why she had to follow us all the way to the other side of town for father to drop us, before going to drop her off.
Father dropped us off at the beginning of the street that day and we had to walk down the lonely, deserted road back home. Mother was surprised when she saw us, she asked why we walked back and where my father was and I innocently told her he had gone to drop my class teacher off.
That was the second time we heard them fight. She kept screaming at him asking him why he had left us to walk back the lonely street while he went around town with another woman. What if they had been kidnapped? With all these ritual killings. Is your libido more important than the safety of your children ? She screamed at him.
I would proceed later to go check the meaning of libido because I couldn’t fathom why mother was so mad that dad had dropped my teacher off.
The arguments went on and on and on and then dad tried to leave the house but mom won’t let him, that was when he hit her. Then he pushed her against the wall and kept smashing her head against it. I stood there transfixed while kachi screamed and screamed till the neighbors came.
That night father didn’t come back home and mother tried not to cry even as kachi cleaned blood off her head.
When he eventually came home, I couldn’t look at him, it was like I didn’t see my father anymore, like he had been replaced by this beast who would hit my mother’s head against the wall for talking back at him. Mother had served him his food as she usually did and when he called kachi and I to give us little pieces of meat like he usually did, we said thank you, we just ate. Which was the response mother taught us to give when strangers offered us food. Because at that moment, he was a stranger to us.
We never spoke again of that night. Father started coming home really late. Drunk and reeking of alcohol. His temper became shorter and he would yell over the slightest things. I was still too little to get hit by him but he never spared Kachi. One time he when she had gotten in between his fight with mom he picked here up and flinched her across the room, on to the glass doors which shattered as she crashed into them. Then he had walked over to her and kicked her, a shard of glass had got stuck above her right eye and she had spent days in the hospital getting stitches.
From late nights, father graduated to coming back home just during the weekends. For two years we lived in fear of the weekends when he would come home but then one weekend he did not come home. He didn’t come home the week after and the week after that and just like that, one month, two month, six months went by and we never saw him.
Even when kachi got terribly sick and mother had tried contacting him, he had left us to our fate.
Mother started sewing clothes full time and she was able to provide the basics for us. But we still lived in fear. Fear of the weekend when father came back and the whole terror started again but he never did. And so we tried to be normal again, we tried to make friends with the other kids; but we could never answer when they asked where our father was, we couldn’t say we actually did not want him back. We could never explain why we had the phobia for being touched. And so we became comfortable with just us.
Just when we’d settled into a normal life. A new routine. I had just started senior high school and Kachi had just graduated high school awaiting her admission into the university, he came home.
That day I had come home from school and found the locks on the door broken, I assumed me had been robbed. I could hear mom talking to someone but I could not place the voice, but as soon as I entered the living room, I recognized him. My father was here. He was fatter now. Pot belly. Beards. But I knew it was him because his ten years absence did not erase the chills that travelled down my spine whenever I was before him.
Mom??? Was all I could say as I stood watching them act like everything was normal.
Later that night when kachi got back she had argued with mother. How can you let him back in ? she had asked. After ten years. He abandoned us remember? He left us penniless. He left you in a pool of your own blood to die! How can you let that monster back in here? Kachi had cried. And mom started to cry too. He is different now kachi, he has changed. He is still your father and he is still my husband and this is his house. And we trusted my mother because believe it or not, father was not always a monster.
For the first few weeks every thing had seemed fine. Almost normal. Dad wasn’t yelling. He wasn’t coming home drunk. There were no arguments with mom and so I told kachi; maybe dad is really different. Because more than anything I wanted to believe that the nightmare was over and we could all just start our lives afresh. All kachi had said was, “people never really change.”
And so it was that on one of the Saturdays mom had left for the market at Choba , she had come back home early to find dad with a girl at home. A girl who she said was not much older than Kachi, so they argued about it, mom threw objects, dad dodged objects. Dished out a few blows and then left the house while mom sat sobbing at a corner. Kachi had come back home and met her at that corner. She had asked mom, did he hit you again, but mum said she fell and hit her head. That was the day we realized that no matter what father did, mother would always make excuses for him. I could never understand what sort of love that was.
The whole cycle started again And so i and kachi found a new routine. We stayed away from the house as much as possible. We didn’t want to get in his way again and be caught in the violence.
Kachi found her escape soon, she left for college a few months after father’s return and so I was left with an angry man and a too scared to react woman, I wasn’t little anymore and so he didn’t mind knocking me around a few times.
The day it all ended, was a Tuesday. I came back from school to meet them fighting. I couldn’t tell what they were fighting about this time but I had screamed at father to stop. He stopped hitting my mother and then he moved towards me with his belt. The first stroke was on my shoulder and the following strokes came down every where. Even when I fell to the floor and stopped moving he didn’t stop I was slowly loosing consciousness but just before my eyes closed I heard father scream as he fell to the ground while kachi pounced on top of him with a knife and stabbed and stabbed and kept stabbing him even when he had stopped moving.
At midnight we dragged the body to the farmland behind the house it took hours for Kachi to dig a hole big and deep enough and we pushed him in it and covered it up. We made ridges on the “grave” and put in cassava stems.
All the while mother just stood there muttering what have you done? In that moment I was angry at my mother she was supposed to protect us and she had failed us. And so I screamed at her, Kachi saved me, she saved you. She protected us when you failed to. All you ever did was protect him and make excuses for him. Since you were so good at lying for him, you had better get ready to lie again because from this moment the official story is, he left again. We don’t know where he went to, we do not know who he left with. He just upped and left. After all this would not be the first time he has abandoned us.
And so we walked back home in silence by 4:00 a.m with a new secret weighing on our souls.
No one spoke of that night again. We started our new lives with a new fear. That one day, some one would discover what we had done and we would spend the rest of our lives paying for the brutality of one man. But the next day no one questioned us, and the day after that, and the next week and the next month and before we knew it…. it was eight years.
We started living again. I am happy, Kachi is happy, and even mother is learning to breath again.
Kachi is getting married and now I wonder what Ademide would do if he ever finds out about the secrets we had swore never to speak of again.
But then, that is another chapter of another story. (Here)