It was the smoke that woke me up. I opened my eyes into the gloom of shadows thrown by the afternoon light. I was on a mattress. I sighed, it had been a dream. I tried to get up but I could not, then I felt the pain of the ropes tying my wrists and ankles and then I noticed that I was completely naked. I looked about in fear, there was no one with me but I could suddenly hear voices and I could perceive the stink of Indian hemp. Panic gripped me. I didn’t know if I had been touched or not but I knew that if I didn’t leave this prison, I will die.
I tugged at the ropes and a block scraped the floor. I turned to see that the ropes had been tied to cement blocks. Sweat and tears fell off my face as I struggled but I had not gotten anything done, when Osazee stepped into the room and his shadow fell over me.
Osazee: “you don wake? Good. Now make we enter the next lesson.” He said pulling his trouser and boxer shorts in one push.
I turned my eyes away from his turgid penis. He laughed as he climbed over me.
Princess: “please I beg you. Don’t do this please. Abeg Osazee. Do anything you want with me but don’t do this abeg.” I pleaded with him, trying to be calm.
Osazee: “you for think all this one before you carry broom flog my papa.” He said as he forced himself into me.
I screamed as my hymen broke. I screamed as he surged into me again and again. I screamed as he came. Shuddering with nerve wracking sobs, I tried to curl into myself but the ropes won’t let me and they were not done. They came in one by one; wild with weed smoke and raped me; each and every one of them. In that time, I came to know the taste of their sweat, the smell of their skin, the colour of their eyes, the sound of their voice and the feel of them inside me. I came to know fear; I came to know hate. I passed out.
You who read this, pray you never find yourself underneath a man that does not care about your feelings; pray you never experience rape. It is death; it is hell.
I woke up again to my nightmare, or not. I was no longer in the uncompleted building. I was on a hospital bed. Mama was crying beside me, while Uncle Jonathan prowled about the room like a tiger let loose in a chicken cage. I watched him clench and unclench his fists. I felt like laughing at the futility of his anger. “What is done is done.”
Mama appeared before me suddenly. It seemed I had chuckled. I could not feel my body. It was like I stood to the side, observing myself and the people around me. My tongue felt swollen and my throat was sore.
Matilda: “Princess! Oh Princess! Thank God! I thought I had lost you.” she said covering me with her scent and her warmth.
This usually gave me a sense of security but this time, I felt nothing. i looked at her blankly and I saw that she could not even save herself. Uncle Jonathan came and stared at me; his face grim.
Uncle Jonathan: “can you identify who did this to you?” he asked.
I shook my head, wincing in the pain the movement caused. Of course I could identify them. They were on my skin, on my lips, between my legs, in my soul. I could identify the four of them but I wanted nothing but to sleep forever. I didn’t care for anyone’s worry or need to save what was already lost. I slept.
I was in the hospital for three weeks. I never found out who had brought me to the hospital. They said a man had brought me, claiming a boy had called his attention to my body. Uncle Jonathan travelled back to Kano, after they presented the items demanded by Chief Dominic to him. I never found out the result of Mama’s medical checkup at Uselu until I was discharged. She told me that they had found nothing wrong with her and funny enough, for the period, I spent in the hospital there was no blackout. I was thankful for that. I got back home and life went back to normal. At least it seemed so.
A week after my return from the hospital, I went to the market to buy foodstuff we needed to make soup. I had finished my shopping and was about to leave the market when I saw Edirin. He was standing by his mother’s shed, watching me intently. I stared back at him in like manner without blinking and he turned his face away guiltily. I felt sad for him. “He will get what is his due,” I promised myself.
When I got home, after dropping the food items on the kitchen table, I entered my room and eased out the knife I had bought. It was long and it glittered in the afternoon light. I had paid to have it sharpened. I got an old leather sandal of mine and cut into it with a scissors, then taking shoemaker thread and needle, I sewed the leather together into a sheath for the knife. I stuck the knife in the rubber band of my skirt and covered it with my shirt. “I will never be caught unprepared again; never!”
Before I was a shy girl that minded my business. Now I was completely a shadow. I learned in class, did my assignment, and kept completely to myself. Girls learnt to stay far away from me, when they realised that I didn’t care to be friends with anyone and boys gave me space when they realised that I was willing to play rough. I minded my business but Edirin was always close by; a shadow that hung at the corners, watching me. He never came close which was good enough but he was never far away either.
One day after school, it rained. I was already halfway home when the rain started. The road from my school was a mess that got flooded so fast it seemed as if the water had been under the skin of the soil all this while. After wading through the filth, I saw a short cut that was on a high ground. The path way would take me to the back of a church that was directly opposite our shop, so I took it.
As I walked the rain increased in intensity and I could barely see. I kept on walking almost blind with water streaming into my eyes. I was on the middle of the road when I heard the noise. It was a mudslide. A part of the earth detached itself from the path way and fell away. I stopped and stared at the blockade. Behind me was a river that I was not keen on entering and front of me was a path that could crumble if I place my weight on it. I decided to risk it by going into the bush proper and wading through wet grass and weed.
I had not entered the bush in more than two steps when I heard someone shout in the rain. I turned and wiped the rain from my eyes; standing not too far from me was Edirin. I stood rock still, unsure of what to do. I could not run away in the rain. I turned back and kept on walking. He called my name again but I ignored him and kept on running through the bush. The whipping leaves of the wet grasses tugged at my feet and the tiny branches of trees whipped my face as I ran blind through the bush. I had not gone far when suddenly I stopped short. A rushing stream had cut my path into two. I had to cross the new stream to get to the other side. I dipped my leg into the water and it flowed above my ankle but I had not touched the bottom. I was pulling my leg out when a hand grabbed me.
I swear I didn’t know how it happened; one moment, I was removing my leg from the water the next moment I was on the ground under a body. I reacted instinctively. The knife came out of my skirt in a flash.
Someone was screaming as I stabbed up again and again and again. Something just broke inside me and I kept stabbing the body. Then the rain suddenly stopped. I pushed the body off me and got up. There was blood all over my uniform. I tore the uniform off me and threw the knife into the new stream; it bobbed on top of the water from some seconds then it sank out of sight. I turned to my attacker and looked at him closely. It was Edirin and he was dead. As I puked into the grass, the sun came out and dispersed the cloud. I turned away from the body and I ran.
Question: do you think Edirin had an evil intention towards Princess? Do you think Princess will be able to get away from this crime?
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