My bags were packed, tears running down my eyes, my heart so heavy, my mind numb; all I could feel and see was a pain! Heart throbbing pain! “I am going to leave this house today and nothing is going to stop me.” That was what I said to myself right before I realized I was the one going to stop myself because I had nowhere to go to, no money to sustain me for God knows how long I planned on staying far away from home. I really needed to go, to go far away from home, from the anger and hatred, from everything standing on the way of my joy and peace of mind.
As a young girl, I grew up in a family of five; myself, my youngest sister, an older brother, and my parents. My father, a civil servant- at least he was one before he was dismissed from work for reasons I never cared to know- turned into a drunk months after his dismissal from work. I wasn’t really surprised because he always liked alcohol. My mother, a petty trader, was always bitter at the world and everything in it.
My younger sister, the baby of the house, she was the only person my mother actually cares about. Everything she does is right in her eyes. She is fourteen; five years younger than I am but spoilt to the core, arrogant and rude. My elder brother, my Father’s only son, his mother’s pride, just graduated from the university as a pharmacist. My parents see him as the hero of the house but I alone know the beast he is. Henry will forever be my worst nightmare.
I am nineteen. I left secondary school, three years ago but not yet in the university. Not because I never passed jamb, but because I never wrote it. My parents insisted I pause my academic pursuit to enable them to train their only son.
Life at home has always been unpleasant for me since I entered secondary school. I had what people call an early growth, I got mature so early, at the age of eleven, I was already putting on bras, my body has always looked two or three years ahead of my real age; I didn’t really blend in well at school. My classmates always made a jest of me, thinking I was way older than they were, but that wasn’t true. My butt was already round and shappy at the age of fourteen.
I got advances from men times two of my age almost every day, it was really sickening. Whenever I tried to tell my mum what I pass through, she would blame me and say I was the one seducing them. During my Jss3, my Maths teacher decided to be a torn in my flesh, he made advances at me, which I refused, and which reflected on my maths score at the end of the term.
One faithful day while I was at the market, an uncultured and unfortunate man tapped my butt, I turned around furious and saw him grinning from ear to ear. He disgustingly gave me a wink, I looked him in the eyes and spat on him. Immediately, I took to my heels, ran so fast without caution. I knocked down one or two things as I was on a flight for the safety of my life. I didn’t stop until I got to the bus stop. Panting heavily, I checked my hand and discovered I had lost the money and list of items I was to buy, I knew I was doomed for that day. I was contemplating on how I’ll explain to my mother how and why I lost the money she gave me to buy items needed to prepare dinner. She wouldn’t take any of my excuses. “She’ll definitely kill me,” I thought to myself. I had to come up with something smart if I still loved my life.
I got home almost two hours later than I was meant to be home. I could sense the anger and tension at home. My mom was not in the living room, neither was she in the kitchen. I was sweating profusely, rehearsing my speech in my head till I felt a slap on my back.
“Where have you been you little brat?” “so if I send you to the market, you’ll wander off to all your man friends house okwia?” “so your plan is to starve us in this house?”
Before I could say a word to answer my mom’s questions, her hand had landed twice on my face with the speed of light. I lost vision for about five seconds. I tried to talk but the words were not coming out. I guess she slapped away my life saving rehearsed speech.
” where were you this idiot?” “And where are the things I sent you to buy?” “Answer me!” She thundered again.
” mummy it was not my fault.” “One man hi***” Before I could finish my sentence she had dragged my ear; dragging me to the living room, calling on my father who had been in his room all the while the drama unfolded.
” So it was a man that kept you too busy and you forgot I sent you to buy things for this house? You this slut!”
That sentence obviously did not end without another hot slap on my already burning cheeks.
“Mummy that wasn’t what i was trying to say, hear me out please before you conclude. This was said amidst tears but, my mom was not ready to listen to me. I saw another slap heading for my unfortunate cheeks again, although was stopped midway by the timely intervention of my father.
“It’s okay na!” Do you want to kill her?”
If you kill her hope you will eat her corpse? My mom was not taking any of it, she let me go and went straight to the kitchen. I ran outside, scared of what she might do next.
I stayed outside for about two hours, long enough for my mother’s fury to go away. I went to bed on an empty stomach, she probably made food for herself and her precious daughter. I didn’t really bother much if that was the price to pay for my life.
Days after days, I still got the silent treatment from my mother. I still did not get the opportunity to explain what happened that evening to her, she never cared to know. My life at home didn’t get any better. My brother did not go to school from home, he lived in the school, though he schooled in the same state. He came home occasionally, weekends, sometimes on weekdays, when it was very necessary and convenient for him.
There wasn’t much bad blood between us, but we weren’t best of friends, our relationship as siblings was just a very casual sibling thing. We didn’t have long conversations, he, in fact, didn’t think I was smart enough to have deep or interesting conversations. I wasn’t particularly bothered about that, at least I respected him and he too showed slight respect. Things between us were cool not till my seventh birthday. I would kill to erase that day from the world, I wish I never woke up to that day. My world ended over and over again. I still haven’t forgotten, neither have o forgiven him. But I guess I just moved on.
The few years I stayed at home, waiting on my parents to make up their mind if I would get a university degree under their care I decided to work and save up some money. I worked for the four years I stayed at home. After my brother graduated from the university, I decided to tell my parents I really wanted to go to school, they agreed on the condition I choose a cheap course, one that won’t require them to spend a lot of money. I gave up on my dreams of studying law and picked political science.
The universe decided to smile at me when I gained admission into the university. I met Michael, in my first year, he was doing his clearance for his NYSC. Tall, dark, handsome young man. It was my first tutorial as a fresher, I was excited despite the fact that I was already late for the class. In the bid to catch up with the class, I was walking really fast towards the hall which was annoyingly on the second floor of the faculty building, I obviously did not notice the guys discussing ahead of me when I bumped into Michael. His iPhone fell off his hand and I watched Michael get frozen for about five to seven seconds as he watched his phone get destroyed the second it reached the floor.
“Can’t you see?”
Is something wrong with you?!” Look at what you have done!” Michael thundered.
“I’m so sorry, it was a mistake, I was rushing to …
“Just shut up your mouth!”
He didn’t let me finish talking, he obviously was very angry at that moment, his friend tried to calm him down.
“I’m really sorry, it wasn’t international, I was in a hurry, please forgive me”.
He looked at me for a few seconds. “It’s fine, it’s just a phone”.
I think he saw the innocence in my eyes, he saw it was actually a mistake and that I didn’t mean for him to lose his phone.
“Well, you have to pay me for this, somehow.”
“It’s fine, but please know this, I don’t have money for this, I can’t afford it.”
“Just give me your number young lady, I’ll call you and tell you what I want”.
He used his friend’s phone to collect my number. Well, about the tutorial class, I did not attend it again, I was feeling too bad that I decided to go back to my hostel.
He didn’t call me till, after a week, when he called, he asked for a lunch date. I accepted if that would save me from paying for the phone, which I couldn’t afford.
The date went well, better than we both expected, there were lots of laughter, we almost did not discuss the phone. He had gotten a new one so he told me not to bother. We became friends, we spoke almost every day on the phone, the friendship was amazing. He went for his youth service in the North. We never stopped communicating, it actually became an everyday affair.
After his one year service, he came back home. We planned on a date the next day of his return. He then asked me to be his girlfriend, I joyfully accepted. I secretly was hoping on the day he would ask me that, and it came, I was not going to throw that answered prayers away. We started dating, it was more than what I imagined, my life was filled with bright colors, with him in my life, I learn how to smile, how to laugh so loud without restrictions, life became beautiful, worth fighting for. I knew the other part of love, what it meant to be loved and adored by someone, who isn’t even family!
I graduated from school with a second class upper in political science. I got home after collecting my result, broke the good news to my parents.
“We’re very proud of you nne” that was the first time I heard them say that to me, or even say something nice or complimenting.
I was super happy and proud of myself too. I told them about Michael and they told me to invite him over. He came the next day and they liked him. Two weeks after his visit to the house, he called and told me he wanted to take me out for dinner that Friday, I accepted and told my parents about the date. They accepted it, well, since my graduation, they started warming up to me, was at first weird but I liked it.
It was Friday, the long-awaited Friday, he was to come to the house by 5 pm to pick me up, but he came earlier, chatted in low tones with my parents, whatever they discussed I did not know, and at that moment I didn’t want to know. I put on the red gown that took me all day to buy, I really wanted to look my best, I just didn’t know why I felt particularly excited about that day’s dinner, it wasn’t even our first dinner date. At last, it was 5 pm and we bid my parents’ goodbye, to return on or before 9 pm.
We saw a movie first before we went to eat, the place he took me to was so beautiful, I didn’t even know that place existed.
“My love, what will you like to eat?”
“Anything” I answered.
We ordered chicken and fries. We chatted and laughed hard while stuffing our faces with food, it was a very beautiful moment, I felt the world stand still for me to savor the moment. Nothing was more beautiful seeing Michael go down on one knee, with a ring in his hand, when and how he brought it out, I did not know, I was too surprised I couldn’t say a thing.
“Make me the happiest man on earth by saying yes to be mine forever, be my queen and wife, will you marry me, my love?” I heard chants from the people that were meant to be minding their dates and business, “say yes, say yes!” They chanted. I could feel butterflies in my tummy.
“I will marry you, my love, yes I will!” I said it and in split seconds my feet were off the ground, he carried me up and spinning me around, he sealed the proposal with a warm kiss. “I love you baby” I whispered in his ears. We got home that night and broke the good news to my parents, it turned out that he came earlier that day to tell my parents of his intentions and seek their blessings. The wedding was planned, the traditional marriage took place 3 weeks after the proposals, he was bent on making me his as fast as possible.
The D day came on the wedding day. I was super excited, we all were. My whole family was present, my brother came back home for it, I had not seen him for more than a year and I wasn’t even bothered. After the wedding, we drove straight to his house, we decided we won’t spend our honeymoon in any hotel. Michael was particularly excited about the night, I on the other side was nervous, he tried to get me in the mood but I declined all advances he made towards me, I loved him, but I just couldn’t do it. He let me sleep that night, the next day, the same story. On the third day, he couldn’t take it anymore.
“What is really wrong baby, why can’t you let me touch you, I waited for four good years on your request, who would do that, I am losing my patience, what is wrong with you?”
I looked him in the eyes with tears in my eyes, how could I tell him this, how could I tell him that my only brother raped me and I haven’t gotten over it, he would surely make sure my brother is locked up forever. I still did not say a word, he saw the tears rolling down my eyes without control, he reached to me and hugged me tight, he might have figured something out. “Baby you can talk to me, tell me what the problem is, I am here for you and will always be, were you raped? I gave him that knowing look.
“Which bastard did this to you?” Now he was furious, I could see the rage in his eyes, I had never seen him like that before, what do I tell him, what will say?.
I mustered up the courage and spoke to him.
“I was raped by a stranger, I got stuck in traffic that day, it was very late, I decided to trek home and was this guy from nowhere overpowered me and raped me, it was so bad baby, but I never told anyone, even my parents, I have lived with it ever since and I can’t see myself having sex with anyone”.
“Baby I’m sorry I hid this from you, I thought I could handle it myself, but now I realize I need a psychologist to help me through this”
“Oh my God! Baby I had no idea you went through this ugly situation, I understand you’re not telling me, I totally do, I will stand by you always as I promised you, tomorrow, we’ll find a psychologist, I will do any and everything it takes to help you overcome this, we will be fine my love”.
What did I ever do to deserve someone like Michael?
As he promised, we found someone who helped me, the whole process took about a month. I told the psychologist the truth because I really wanted to heal completely, I made him promise not to ever tell my husband the truth, he understood my reasons and accepted. Michael was with me all the way, he always came to pick me up each time I went to see my psychologist with either flowers or a box of chocolate.
My name is Nene Okafor, wife of Michael Okafor, mother of Mirabel and Jayden Okafor, and I have a secret that will follow me to the grave, I guess it’s going to be better that way. This is my story.