I was twelve years old when uncle Bala first called me his wife. I didn’t understand him so I went back to tell Tola and Dosi, they shrugged It off and we went back to our sand castles and talked about our English grades.
School was decent and I liked it. I didn’t get bullied as much because I joined the debating team. Now I appear on the assembly stage twice a week and that makes me kinda cool.
I don’t like Dosi’s voice though, she sounds like two cymbals hitting each other and she raises her voice when she’s losing. But Dosi is my friend and when we are not at each other’s throats in school, we read books together and play with sand.
My mother thinks I’m too old to play in the sand but I do not think so; I like the smoothness of it; sand is flexible, hot when the sun is out and cold when the night has fallen, it could be a blanket and yet could be the thing that blinds you. Everyone in the neighborhood knows of my ethereal fascination with sand.
I like to play but my favourite past time is spent reading books, my favourite book is the Beautiful ones are not yet born by Ayi Kwei Amah. I want to be like him when I grow up.
Aunty Kakusha told me I have the right to be whomever I wanted to be, she said I didn’t have to dream like a girl, she says some things about gender roles and societal expectations but I’m not sure what she means, I just really like when she speaks to me. She would say to me “Ilori, don’t dream as a girl, just dream”
Uncle Bala doesn’t like aunty Kakusha, he says she’s a feminist and feminists end up in hell because they hate men and defy authority. I like aunty Kakusha and I think I want to be a feminist but I am worried about hell.
Baba doesn’t talk much, he reads the newspaper in our dialect and brushes his teeth with chewing stick from the cashew tree. He grunts and mumbles but never really speaks.
Sometimes I wonder does he ever talk?
Mama is always happy but you can see the sadness whenever she smiles. She wishes baba would work and contribute to the upkeep of the family because the farm work was getting too much for her bad back. She doesn’t complain much though, she feeds us all including Baba. She seems to enjoy making that watery soup, I think to myself, when I become like Ayi kwei Amah, I would invest in some thick Egusi soup and trade the Tuwo for some pounded yam.
“There will be a celebration!” Mama announced after school on Thursday, I am excited. What shall we wear? Shall we get our beads done by Tabitha? I screamed in excitement. Anything you want my dear, mama said in her crooked English accent.
I saw uncle Bala dressed in Babariga, white as snow with his brothers in tow. For the first time in a long time papa wasn’t on the rocking chair with his chewing stick, he was dressed up in a powder blue Atiku made in Senegalese style top and trouser. Was that a smile on his face?
Everyone was seated and the flute players carried on with their talent display! It was a sight to behold! Mama dressed me up in a dress, white as snow, just like the one uncle Bala had on, my scarf delicately placed on my shoulders and my neck adorned with coral beads by Tabitha.
I wondered what I did to deserve such a regal outfit and before I could come to myself, mama started to talk, a smile on her face and tears in her eyes. “Ilori, named after my best friend, God rest her soul, you are now a woman and I must teach you some things”. I didn’t understand her and kept playing with my coral beads wondering why Tola and Dosi were missing my party.
“Bring out the bride” I heard my father call, four words, I wondered, that’s the most I’ve ever heard him say in twelve and half years. Mama held me by my shoulder and nudged me toward the waiting crowd; they were mostly men with smiles on their faces and alcohol in their cups. Uncle Bala beamed when he saw me; he hugged me and sat me next to him. It felt like an out of body experience, I wasn’t sure if I was dreaming or these events were really happening.
Later that night, he climbed on top of me and I felt it, a sharp pain tore through me like the knife JP Clark spoke of serrating down Abiku’s back. It was painful, very painful but it almost felt good, I wasn’t sure if I was happy or sad. The tears just flowed and I just wanted to die. I wondered why mama would give me away to uncle Bala, did I mean nothing to her?
I felt a sharp pain in my head and I slowly woke up, I felt a warm liquid between my thighs and I was curious, it was blood. Mama was pacing, her hands on her head and her voice weak from crying.
The doctor looked somber as he spoke, I am sorry she bled a little too much so we have to keep her for a few days, I have to tell you, she has developed a condition that has made it impossible for her bladder to function as normal. She will need urgent surgery.
Mama looked at me and mouthed weakly, “take care my child” as she left, that was the last I saw of her.
Uncle Bala sat in the corner, the smile on his face now replaced by a frown.
Here is the first short story, please comment, like and share.
Have a great week everyone!
According to Larz