I was in the backyard and yet I could hear my father’s voice clearly as he asked Darlington my whereabouts. Darlington was stammering, trying to act like he didn’t know where I was, not until my father left a thunderous slap on his face. Gosh! I heard it and my whole body shivered. I took on my heels immediately. I left through the back gate. I disappeared with the speed of light.
I knew what my father could do. He was completely unpredictable. He was brutal and it was never advantageous to my siblings and I. He was built like a bodybuilder, incredibly muscular. He would use his leather belt on us, and not just across the buttocks, but the back, legs, and anywhere he could get to. I couldn’t stand to face my father in grandma’s absence, so I ‘bolted’ as in Usain Bolt, I ran.
I can’t remember the last time got swatted on my face but it came so quick than expected from Zee’s father while I tried lying about Zee’s whereabouts. If I could get such a slap, what then would become of Zee, I had pondered. He searched every nook and cranny but didn’t see her yet.
I was shocked when he came back the second time. I had thought Zee went upstairs, and that was where I directed him when he slapped me.
“Where did you say she went to?” he asked.
“I thought she went upstairs. I don’t just know. She left immediately she sighted you.” I confessed, just to avoid another one from him.
“Okay then, she will run and meet me here,” he stalked off.
I tried calling Zee only to see her phone vibrating on her bed. I sighed slowly and left her room.
When I thought of where I’d stay and I couldn’t think of any of my friend’s places to go. Then I remembered Janet’s shop, the fashion designer grandma told me about the other time. Her shop was not too far from our house, so I went there.
“Good afternoon, aunty Janet.” I greeted her.
“Zee, kedu? How are you doing?”
“Aunty, I’m fine. How’s the work going?”
“My dear, we thank God. We’re pushing it as usual.
There was a young girl in the inner room ironing clothes while Aunty Janet was using her feet on the sewing machine. I soon noticed she had her eyes on my belly, and I knew exactly what was going on in her mind, it was clearly written on her face but aunty Janet didn’t seem to ask about it or probably teased me of overfeeding, but she didn’t do any of that. She minded her business. I sat on the long wooden bench outside. We got talking and I told her that I only felt like leaving the house, it was unlike me and she was surprised I came to spend time with her, little did she know I was avoiding being beaten by my father.
I stayed back with her till when I felt grandma must have returned from wherever she went to. So I walked back reluctantly, dragging my feet as I walked. I was simply scared of the unknown. Millions of thoughts on how my father would handle me. My heart was beating faster.
When finally I got home, I tiptoed through the small black gate in the backyard. I overheard him discussing with grandma in the living room, so I paused to see if they were talking about me, but they were talking about something different. I peeped and saw him relaxed on one of the couches in the sitting room, directly opposite grandma.
I peeped and withdrew my face at intervals not until my footwear fell off my hand, causing them to look in my direction. I withdrew immediately.
“Ziora,” grandma called. I got frozen. She knew it was me even without getting to see my face. I didn’t answer. I remained calm. I thought my father would say anything but he was mute. Grandma added with one Igbo proverb, saying that no matter how long I ran or perhaps hide, I’d still come out. I still stayed quiet and remained where I stood. I was that type of person that hated confrontation, raised voices and violence scared me.
Unfortunately, I didn’t realize how fast my father was able to get hold of me. I didn’t know he was coming and when I popped my head from my hiding corner, he grabbed me on the neck. Damn! I screamed, begging him not to beat me but he didn’t listen to my plea. He shoved me in the direction of my room, threw me on the bed, and proceeded to use his belt to ‘tan my hide’ I wasn’t sure how long it went on but my back was sore, but not bleeding.
I was crying out wild and it broke my heart that grandma didn’t make any move to interfere nor tried to stop him from hitting me hard, because I was carrying a baby in me. After I had left the house because she wasn’t around to intervene, there she sat unmoved in the living room. And what made it all worst was that my cousin’s brother, Darlington stood at my bedroom door and watched helplessly.
I didn’t move from the bed nor talked to anybody throughout the remaining hours of the day. I lay there on my bed, tears streaming on my pillowcases. It was such a terrible memory to remember and that was the last time my father hit me. The beating really affected me. I’d have nightmares, I’d get moody and depressed for seemingly no reason.
During the days my father spent in the village, we were probably the second verse of Tom and Jerry. He did make me feel like I committed the worst crime. My sight irritated him that he didn’t want to look me in the face, always averting his eyes. I bet I was the worst thing that happened to him in recent times. And the truth is, he had this trust in me. He never believed I could be that wayward to the extent of having sex at my age.
He even threatened to get Meska arrested for having sex with a minor but deep down I was like, me, a minor? I was already eighteen. I knew he was just blabbering and would do no such thing. He had always been like that towards other people but certainly not his children, he would make sure he dealt with us.
He left the village after one week and he didn’t come purposely for my sake, other issues brought him home. When he went back to Abuja, I had issues with grandma for not coming to my rescue when my father almost took me to the land of the deaths. But grandma responded by saying since she couldn’t lay her hands on me, she left me to get the double from my father and that was why he didn’t move.
Just imagine what grandma said. What if I had died?
Fast forwarding, my days in the village was gradually coming to an end by the breaking of a new day. I was making plans for another phase of life; life in the University. The school was to resume in a week, so I made my hair and bought some new clothes that would ease my pregnancy. I bought footwear and other accessories too.
Darlington and I equally went to the market to get some foodstuffs, and that reminded me how hard I had been sustaining Meska with foodstuffs.
Being admitted to the great citadel of learning, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka (Unizik) was such a gift from God and something I didn’t merit because of my wayward life during those periods. I thought God would have punished me by not granting my heart’s desires.
I had mixed feelings about it as I was happy for I would finally go out of grandma’s prying eyes and live an independent life, chasing my dreams. But on the other side, knowing I was going there as a pregnant young girl really bothered me. I was troubled by what people would say or think about me. Aside from that, I was faced with the questions of what and how to study, what to participate in, how to fend for myself and my unborn baby, how to cope with the dizziness and weakness of the body that comes with pregnancy, how to accomplish my goals, to mention a few.
Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve had my life planned out. I said to myself I was going to get my degrees, get a job, travel the world, and live comfortably with my hair done perfectly every day. And I would wait until at least 27 or 28 before getting married, and having kids.
That dream came to a screeching halt, realizing I was heading to the University as a pregnant young lady who might not even have the opportunity to meet up with lots of school activities. I didn’t have the slightest clue what the rest of my life was going to look like. I was enveloped with the fear of the unknown. To be honest, part of me felt like I had died. My dreams seemed like it was slipping away.
I also felt terrible knowing I had chances of meeting a lot of people I knew. I had some secondary school friends who were also students of Unizik. I had other people I knew from church and other places. I was worried about what they would say and think of me when they see my protruded belly on campus.
September, I was finally leaving Darlington and grandma behind to face another phase of life. I spoke with my mom, she encouraged me. My father was still upset and I didn’t want him yelling over the phone like a dog. Grandma said some words of advice to me. She encouraged me too. She added I should always remember where I’m coming from and since I was pregnant, I should mind the kind of friends I keep.
Darlington? Well, that one was sad I was leaving him behind. He badly wished he could come with me, but he promised he would visit me regularly to see how I was doing.
It was on a Friday evening, the weather was clear and inviting when I left with my bags and luggage in pursuit of my dreams and that welcomed me to a new phase of life; school life. Arguably, the best life, as they said. But I’d have to wait and see if truly school life is the best.
To be continued…
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