Dr Eki lived inside UNIBEN. She explained to me as she drove passed the school gate, that she lectured in the school when she was not at the hospital. I found it interesting that Papa had found her interesting; a working woman! Papa had never allowed Mama to even go to the shop and that was the reason why she could not handle the business when Papa died;
Princess: “did my father not know that you were working?” I asked her
Dr Eki: “he tried but I am not a woman that will become beholden to a man. The moment you depend on a man for your life, your every need, you have sold yourself short. He will have no value for the sacrifice you have made because he will not see it as a sacrifice. He will see his offering to take care of you as the sacrifice. I told him no. I did not go to the university to become someone’s prized possession. I intended to use my qualification, I did and he respected my decision.” She replied smiling.
Princess: “he wasn’t so agreeable with my mother o.” I replied, comparing Papa I know with the man she had just spoke of. They didn’t fit in my mind.
Dr Eki: “your mother let him. Your mother preferred to stay at home and mind the house. If she had been desperate enough, she would have been able to make a living of her own.” She replied.
I thought about it as we drove to the front of a block of flats and she stopped. The door of one of the flats opened and a little boy ran out followed by an older woman.
Teddy: “Mummy!” the boy yelled in the night as he fell into his mother’s waiting arms. I stood to the side and watched the two of them. I remembered a time in my life when life was as simple as this.
Dr Eki: “Teddy, I want you to meet someone; meet your elder sister, Princess.” She said, pointing at me. The boy gazed at me with wide innocent eyes and smiled. I stretched my hands to pat his head then I stopped; I had hated it when I was small. I stretched my hands for a shake and he shook it, greeting me politely. I looked up as he rushed back to his mother; the older woman was staring at me with her mouth wide open. I greeted her. “Yes, meet my mother, Princess. Mama, Princess.” She added. The woman snorted and went back into the house. I turned to Dr Eki and she rolled her eyes; “don’t ask. Come in.” she said.
The house was furnished simply and it was neat. I entered and sat down carefully on a cane chair close to the front door. I watched as Teddy jumped around his mother; he would be five or six years old. “So this was the reason Papa and Mama had quarreled that night, years ago. But Mama never said anything. She never told me. I wonder what other secrets she has in her head.” I thought to myself.
Teddy: “will you be staying with us now?” he asked.
I blinked and turned to him, leaving my worries behind me for a while. He was a cute boy, Teddy. “Will probably be breaking one girl’s heart real soon.” I thought as I watched him
Princess: “I don’t think so. I only came for a visit. But I will come to visit again if I have the chance.” I replied. The lie tasted sour in my mouth.
The boy nodded. He came closer and pushed his small body between my laps and held up a toy aeroplane in his hand;
Teddy: “when you come, you will play with me. Mummy does not want me to play with them Junior and their dog, and Esther and Favour. She said that they are rough and dirty. Esther said that she will show me her thing if I show her my own.” He said, looking at his toy intently. “I didn’t show her o. I told her mummy said that it is only married people that should show each other their thing. Is mummy your mummy?” he suddenly asked
I was still trying to understand why a little girl and a little boy will be curious about their genitals when that question came.
Princess: “no she is not my mummy. I have my own mummy.” I replied softly.
Teddy: “mummy cries at night when she thinks I am sleeping. Grandma will start shouting at her and speaking gibberish. Don’t tell I told you o. is my daddy your daddy?” he asked. I nodded. He smiled then he hugged me. “I will tell everybody in school that I have a big sister that will come and beat them if they take my lunch again.” He added, grinning.
Princess: “do they take your lunch?” I asked, curious.
Teddy: “Bennie says that am too small to be eating so much. He eats my lunch. He is bigger.” He replied.
Princess: “Have you told your mummy?” I asked, angry.
Teddy: “she is never home. When she comes, she falls asleep immediately. She is already sleeping now.” He replied. His grandmother called him suddenly and he detached himself from me and left me alone in the sitting room.
Some minutes later, Dr Eki entered the sitting room. She had changed into a t-shirt and shorts. She smiled at me and went into the kitchen. After some minutes, she came out with food and placed it on the dining table then she invited me to come and eat. I joined her and we sat down to eat. She said the blessing before she began. I didn’t join her, I just stared at her curiously. Don’t ask me why; God had forgotten me.
The food was delicious and I ate ravenously. After eating, I debated on telling her about Teddy’s bully but thought better of it.
Princess: “do you mind if I stay here for the one week?” I asked suddenly. Dr Eki looked at me silently for a minute then shrugged. “I could be taking Teddy to school for you, if you want.” I added, stretching my luck.
Dr Eki: “that is like the only time, he and I get to talk during the week. I cherish that. But you can go pick him up from school, if you want.” She replied. I nodded.
I knew what I was going to do.
By 9:30am the next day, I was at the school gate. I had followed Dr Eki and Teddy in the morning so that I could be able to find my way later. I stood and watched the kids stream out for break. I didn’t want to be caught unawares by anyone who could remember me from my previous stay in Benin. I waited until the playground was full before I entered and showed the gateman the pass that allows one to come and pick up a child from the school. He directed me to the headmistress’ office. I entered and greeted the secretary at the door. I explained to the man that I was there to see the headmistress on behalf of my mum. He told me to take a seat and wait.
After some minutes, a man came out of the office and the secretary asked me to go in.
The headmistress was a tall, dark complexioned lady. She had glasses perched on her nose and stared at me from above it. There was a time when she would have got me shaking just with that look but I was beyond all that.
Headmistress: “yes young lady what can I do for you?” she asked.
Princess: “I have a message for a boy, Bennie, I believe his name is. The next time, he beats up my brother or takes his lunch, I will wait for him outside the school, his home, his church and I will break his leg. Tell him to stay off my brother or I will find him and make him wish his father had never slept with his mother.” I said angrily.
Headmistress: “excuse me young lady! What is wrong with you? Don’t you have manners or know how to talk to your elders? What is wrong with this world? Young people lack respect.” She said, frowning.
Princess: “headmistress, if I lacked manners I will not come to tell you my intentions; you will simply get a message from the boy’s parents that he was beat up. I have warned you. Do something to stop it or you will face a parent’s anger when I injure the Bennie boy.” I replied softly and left the office.
As I walked angrily out of the school gate, I ran into a man coming into the gate. The man held me to keep me from falling and to balance himself. I saw his face and drew my scarf quickly to cover my face properly. I pushed away from him and rushed across the road. I could feel his eyes follow me across the road; the eyes of a rapist. It was one of the boys who had torn into me so many years ago.
Question: Was Princess’ action at the school necessary? Do you think Dr Eki means well for her? if you were Princess and you come across someone who had done you so much hurt, what will you do?
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