Hello Blog family!
Thank you again for following through with the last series and the last short story.
Here's a new one!
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WHAT YOU DID TO GIRL
“As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise”
- Luke 6.31
“Ima, oya come inside the car.” Aunty Itoro said. Her face was still glistering with layers of brown powder spread across it but the set of acne on the side of her face glistered even more. She wore a flower print chiffon blouse and a high waist blue skirt. Uncle Nsikak was behind the steering wheel. He had lifted all the boxes and bags into the trunk of the car.
Ima wiped her oily mouth with the back of her hand. She just finished having breakfast of badly cooked yams and fried eggs. The cook had left. So had the house keeper. Aunty Itoro said her mother had fired them. Ima didn’t understand. Her mother never had any issues with the domestic staff.
“Um…Aunty, how long am I going to be there for again?” Ima asked.
“Till your mother comes back from London.” Aunty Itoro replied.
Ima frowned. It had been over a month since her mother was supposed to return from London. She saw her mother for the last time on the 5th day of May. Her mother had come to visit her at the boarding house in Ogun state with lots of food and provisions. She noticed that there was something odd and misplaced about her mum though. She seemed a little unbalanced. Ima had asked her if she was okay and her mother had smiled, patting her on the head.
“I will always be okay. It’s you who needs to be okay.” She had said.
Ima did not understand but she nodded.
She didn’t have a father. Well, that was scientifically impossible. She of course had a father but she did not know who he was. He was probably just a sperm giver. Her mother told her that he was an oil worker who had come to their town for some time. They met, fell in love and had sex. Ima was conceived and her father returned to his home in Lagos where he had a wife and three children already, unknown to Ima’s mother. He never returned and he never looked back. Ima had grown up in Lagos with her mom. Her mom owned a very successful furniture and office improvement business and enjoyed robust patronage from all the socialites and top business men in town. Many times when she went with her mother to her office, she saw the lots of men that had VIP access to her mother’s private office. They would walk in and then come out smiling. A few came by their home. She always thought maybe one of them would marry her mother but none did. Or maybe it was her mother who did not want to get married to any of them.
Her mother said she was travelling to London for a little while to visit a good hospital. Ima became scared. She had never seen her mother sick. But her mother had told her not to worry. She promised that she would be back in no time. It was a month and she had still not received as little as a phone call from her.
Aunty Itoro was her mother’s cousin. Uncle Nsikak was her husband. Ima remembered that Aunty Itoro always came by the house and complained about Uncle Nsikak and his philandering ways. Her mother consoled her and they both drowned in bottles of strong drinks to find some courage and bliss in a little out of body experience, free from reality. And whenever Aunty Itoro was leaving, Ima’s mother was sure to say the temporary farewells with stashes of cash or signed cheques.
It was Aunty Itoro who had come to pick her from school last week. She said her mother was still out of the country and had instructed her to pick Ima from school and take her to spend some time with her grandmother in Ikot Udo Abia. Ima had never met her grandmother. She only heard stories from her mother that she had been married thrice and that she lived alone in their home town.
By the time they arrived Ikot Udo Abia, Ima and Aunty Itoro were asleep. It was already dark and the town was nothing like Lagos. The road that led to grandma’s house was bumpy, dusty and narrow.
“Wake up.” Uncle Nsikak said. He knew the area very well.
Aunty Itoro continued to snore. Her makeup was ruined already. A little drooling had found its way from her colored lips to the car seat.
“Itoro, wake up mbok.” He said.
He pushed her shoulder.
“Ehn.” She opened her eyes and wiped her mouth. The rest of the color stained her hand.
“We are here already. I hope Mama is still awake.” Uncle Nsikak said.
He parked the car and Ima woke up. A young woman followed by two others came out of the house to see who the visitor was. Aunty Itoro adjusted her blouse.
“Itoro? Welcome. I did-n know you were coming. This is a surprise.” The one who looked the most enlightened said, smiling. The others nodded with different dialectical renditions.
“Uyai, how are you?” Aunty Itoro looked at the lady, shoulders high in spite of her smeared makeup. She waved at the others. She wanted to establish that she was the better of them both.
“Fine. Sosongo.” (Thank you.) Uyai responded.
Nsikak got down from the car and greeted the ladies. Ima came down too.
“Good evening.” Ima said to Uyai.
“Oh. Is this your daughter?” Uyai looked at Nsikak and Itoro.
“No. Ini’s daughter.” Itoro said.
“Oh—ho. She has decided to come back to see her mother after all these years.” Uyai said sarcastically.
Itoro sighed. She looked at Nsikak.
“Where is Mama?” Nsikak said.
“Inside.” Uyai said.
Uyai was another distant cousin. She lived in Uyo but came often to the town to visit her parents and Mama.
“She’s sick.” Uyai added.
“Oh. What is wrong with her?” Itoro said.
It had been seven months since they brought her mother’s corpse back to Ikot Udo Abia from London. Aunty Itoro had arranged for the entire burial process. Ima now knew the story. Her mother had been sick. Very sick. And she knew she was dying. She had been battling cancer for a while and that was why she had moved Ima to the boarding house. They did not tell her the kind of cancer it was. Aunty Itoro just said it was cancer. They promised to take care of her and Aunty Itoro said she could come live with them; her and Uncle Nsikak. She didn’t say when she would come to fetch her from her grandmother’s place though.
“What about my mother’s office and our house?” Ima had asked on the day after the burial when they said they were going back to Lagos.
Itoro had looked at Nsikak, mumbled some words then looked at Ima.
“Your mother wanted me to manage her properties until you are old enough to.” Aunty Itoro said.
Of a truth, she was not lying. Ini had put her in charge of her businesses. She knew that she would be away in the UK for a while so she made Itoro a signatory to her accounts in order to disburse funds and sign for other business transactions. Ini had no other family and Ima was just twelve years old. She trusted Itoro. They were cousins. It did not matter if distant or first.
“I want to leave the village Aunty. I don’t like it here.” She said.
“You need to stay with your grandmother.” Itoro replied.
“She does not speak to me much. She only sends me on errands.”
Uncle Nsikak started to hurry her up. He said they would get to Lagos late if they delayed any further. Aunty Itoro hugged her goodbye and left. She said she would be back to get her. Ima believed her aunty but when weeks became many more months, she stopped believing. She heard Aunty Uyai mention one time that Aunty Itoro and Uncle Nsikak had gone on vacation to Dubai.
It was a sunny Sunday afternoon. Mama said she was too old to go to church. She was always in the house. The house was a two bedroom apartment with peeling paints on the walls of the very narrow hallway. The house belonged to Mama’s third husband. He was the one Mama had stayed with till he passed on from a brief illness like one of the neighbors had told her. She sat on the stool in front of the house. Mama told her to pick beans. They would have beans for lunch and Ima would cook it. Ima did not know how to cook. She was a child. But in the past weeks, she had started to learn the art from the different relatives that came to check on Mama’s health. Her health further deteriorated after the news of Ini’s death. She had two other sons who lived in Abuja and Dublin respectively. They hardly came home since they got married to pretty urban women. Ima missed her mother. Not a day went by that she didn’t miss her. She wished she could come and defend the endless gossip that the village women passed around about her. They said all stories. Some even said it was the wife of one of Ini’s sugar daddies that did juju on her which resulted in her death.
She turned around immediately. She felt someone cover her eyes with his hands. She knew the person was male. The hands were too strong to be feminine.
“Who’s there?” She giggled as the person started to tickle her.
“It’s me Ifiok.” The person said.
She looked at him. It was the son of Madam Eno that lived on the next street. Ifiok was about twenty one years old. He worked with his mother at her tailoring shop. He didn’t go to the University and it was evident in his grammatical attempts.
“Hi, Ifiok.” She smiled. She had a subtle crush on him. He was actually a very handsome young man. His beards had just started to come out and he always pulled the strands whenever he spoke to her as though he was trying to prove that he was a grown man.
“You’re picking beans. Cook my own too. I haven’t ate today.” He said.
She shook her head.
“Eaten. Not ate.” She corrected him.
“Just give me food, that is my own.”
“I’m not your wife.”
“Nsido mfinaa mfo?” (What is your problem?) He frowned.
“I don’t understand.” She shrugged.
“Come, I want to show you something.” He said.
“Just follow me.”
“The back of the house. I brought something for you.”
She smiled. She hadn’t received anything from any one of late.
“What did you buy?” The pitch of her voice increased a little.
“Follow me.” He said.
She dropped the tray of beans and tip toed behind him to the back of the house where the trees and tall maize plants covered them. He brought out something from his pocket. It was a small perfume bottle, obviously a cheap knock off. Her mother did not allow her to use perfumes although she sneaked many times into her mother’s room and played with her perfumes and makeup.
“I bring this for you.” He said.
She smiled. She opened her mouth to correct him but she stopped.
“Sosongo.” She blushed. Her accent was a little twisted.
Ifiok laughed. He put his hand on her waist and pulled her closer to him.
“What are you doing?” She said trying to get his hands off her.
“I love you. Daz why I am on your matter.” He smiled.
He was more handsome when he smiled. He pulled at his immature goatee again.
“Allow me small kiss.” He said.
She shut her eyes and leaned forward. She expected her leg to pop like she had seen in the many Disney cartoons she had grown up on. He came closer and brushed her lips with his then he held her waist.
“Your breast is still small. It will still grow.” He said.
She pulled back. She was shy. She covered her chest with her hands.
“Imaobong! Sai Abasi!”
It was Mama Ndueso, one of their neighbors that frequented Mama’s house. Ima started to cry suddenly. Ifiok took to his heels and ran away. Ima wanted to run too but Mama Ndueso pulled her by the collar of her shirt and started to drag her to the front of the house. She pulled her into the house shouting and yelling at the top of her voice.
“Mama! Mama eh!” Mama Ndueso called out.
Mama was sitting in the old velvet chair in her bedroom listening to the radio. She had just woken up from a nap.
“Mama Ndueso, what is it?” Mama said, looking at a weeping Ima.
“What did she do?”
Mama Ndueso started to clap her hands, signifying that an atrocity had happened.
“I was on my way from the church. The Women’s fellowship. I remembered that I have not visited you in a long time so I said okay let me come and greet Mama and see how she is faring especially as Ima is now living with her. I started to come into the house. I saw a tray of beans at the front yard. I thought maybe Ima was fetching water from the well at the back when I did not see her because I also know that Uyai is not around today so it could not have been Uyai that was helping you to…”
“Mama Ndueso what happened?” Mama repeated.
Mama Ndueso sighed.
“You won’t believe what I saw this girl doing! She was at the back in the bush with ehn….Eno’s son. That rascal that has impregnated all the young girls in this village.”
“Yes! Ifiok. He was putting his mouth in her mouth romancing their self at the back there! This little girl! Abasi!” She shuddered, looking at Ima who was wailing for the fear of whatever punishment that was to come.
Mama looked at Ima.
“She is like her mother. Imaobong you want to inherit your mother’s prostituting ways, isn’t it?” Mama said.
Ima shook her head.
“My mother was not a prostitute.” She said, crying.
“Then explain where your father is.” Mama said.
Mama Ndueso shook her head.
“See, Mama, we have to look at her. If you want me to, I will call Adiaha. She can come and have a look at her.”
Mama sighed. She nodded. She agreed with inviting the Adiaha.
“Who is that?” Ima said.
“This girl has a very sharp mouth! Will you shut up there!” Mama Ndueso yelled. Ima continued to sob.
It was around Four o’ clock in the morning. Ima was still asleep in the second bedroom where Mama kept old items and unwashed clothes. She was naked save for her underwear because of the heat. There was no electricity. She was having a dream. She saw her mother in the dream. Her mother seemed peaceful. She was extending her hands and Ima did not understand why she was. Then she saw Aunty Itoro and Uncle Nsikak in America eating jollof rice and chicken with small stout. She was still dreaming when she heard the door of the bedroom creak open. She saw someone holding a lantern. She heard voices. Female voices. She was not a deep sleeper. She sat up straight on the bed.
“Who is there?” Ima called out.
There was no response. Then she saw them clearly. Mama Ndueso and another woman. Mama Ndueso walked over to the bed.
“Mama Ndueso.” Ima said.
The woman eye balled her.
“You sleep with no clothes.” She said.
“It’s hot. What are you doing here?” Ima said.
“Don’t ask me questions. We are here to help you.”
“Help me? Help me to do what?”
Mama Ndueso then dragged her by the arm and held her.
Ima continued to struggle.
“Leave me alone! Leave me! Where are you taking me to?!” She screamed.
Mama Ndueso covered Ima’s mouth with her hands. The other woman with the lantern held Ima’s legs. The lantern touched Ima’s foot and the heat burnt her. She screamed and shrieked in pain. They dragged her to Mama’s room. Mama was sitting in her old velvet chair. There was another lantern there. There was also a mat on the floor and a piece of cloth. Ima saw a bowl with a set of blades and a knife. There was a rope too. It was not short. Mama Ndueso placed her on the floor. Another woman joined them in the room. Ima wondered if they had all slept there.
The one with the lantern sat on Ima’s chest as she continued to struggle.
“Mama! Mama they want to kill me! Please help me please!” She continued to scream, looking for a ray of hope from her grandmother. But the old woman was in support. She was giving directions to the other woman on how to hold Ima still.
“Oh Jesus! Please! Please help me.” Ima cried. She wanted to see her mother. She wanted to go back to the dream she had been having. She wanted to accept her mother’s extended hands. Maybe she would find peace and safety there.
Mama Ndueso held her legs while the other woman tied her ankles with the rope to the wooden stand of Mama’s bed. Then Mama Ndueso held her hands.
“What do you want to do to me?!” Ima screamed.
Mama Ndueso slapped her face and told her to shut up.
“Please. Please I won’t talk to Ifiok again please. Please I’m sorry” Ima cried. She was twelve years old. It was not abnormal to have crushes at her age. She was almost a teenager.
“Ima, it is our tradition. I did this for your mother. My mother did it for me. Every body here has done it. It is a good thing. We don’t hate you. We love you and we don’t want you to turn out like your mother.” Mama tried to explain to Ima.
She stretched her neck to see what was going on. The third woman grabbed the bowl containing the sharp instruments and took the blade. It did not seem new. Ima could swear that she saw a little stain on it. She remembered her mother. Her mother never let her cut her nails with old blades.
The woman who sat on her chest had a broad behind so Ima’s vision was blocked. She could not see what was going on.
Then she felt it all of a sudden.
The pain was extremely sharp. She knew she had been cut. She was not being raped. But maybe she would have preferred rape. The depth of the cut went right into her soul. It felt as though her spirit was being severed from her body. She screamed at the top of her lungs, wailing in extreme pain. She knew she was bleeding profusely. She did not have to look before she knew that blood was finding way out of her vagina. And no, she had not started her period.
She felt the entrance and exit of a needle through her vagina. She didn’t know what they were doing but she could feel that she was being stitched. She was being closed up. She continued to weep. She could not bear the pain. She wriggled despite the weight of the woman on her chest and the cutter mistakenly cut her own finger. The woman’s blood spilled.
“Is she a witch?!” The woman yelled in pain.
Ima started to breathe heavily. She continued to touch Ima’s interior with the wounded hand.
“It is the spirit of her mother.” Mama Ndueso said.
The woman continued to stitch Ima up. She left a little opening for urine and menstrual blood to find an exit. When she was through, she heaved a sigh.
“Thank you very much Adiaha.” Mama Ndueso said.
“Thank you. Sorry about the cut.” Mama said.
“Neferna ebagha.” (No problem) Adiaha the cutter replied as she gathered her tools of trade.
The continuation of this short story "WHAT YOU DID TO GIRL" is in my new book titled Neon Spirits.
Neon Spirits is a set of five short stories by me to be released on July 8th on Okadabooks in honour of my birthday.
(Don't forget to wish me a happy birthday lol.)
Please watch out for the release on okadabooks.com to be available in the early hours of tomorrow July 8th.
It contains five short stories titled:
1. What you did to Girl
2. Perforated Wings
3. These Usual Choices
4. Footsteps from Beneath
5. The Rest room
Thank you so much for your support.
Here's the book cover for Neon Spirits.