I am not sure how I got through that day. I remember uncle kept asking for me and I just wouldn’t come out. I think I made some excuses about having a running tummy. In the end, my uncle gave up; left the treats he bought and was off.
I eventually came out to go back to bed. The sheets reminded me of the Bode act but yet I could not tell anyone. I would have to make up some excuses for my behaviour which was changing as the feelings of guilt – having some something wrong intensified.
It was about 7 am and I was still sharing my story. All Winnie could manage were words like “ah”s, “oh”s, yeh oh dear. At times it felt like she was no longer there listening but suddenly, her almost breaking voice, with pain so evident and about-to-cry tone would cut through and I would feel heard.
“Where was your Mummy again, when your Uncle came?” Winnie asked seeking clarification. “She and dad had gone back to their room upstairs,” I confirmed. It was later in the evening that dad announced we were going out for a family meal. I used to love those. They provided an opportunity to get dressed, put my nice shoes on, sing in the car and see some new faces. Kemi came running up the stairs to find me. She had sneaked in some sweets from uncle’s pack. “Take your sweets!” She announced with glee and then later whispered as if someone would hear us. Even the sweets which were also a reward for my silence failed to thrill me.
“I think we need to meet up,” Winnie interjected again. “It feels like you need more than a sympathetic voice making listening sounds at the other end of the phone’ she finalised. “Let’s do coffee.” I was reluctant to agree as I thought this would break the flow.
Kemi and I got dressed with Akin too, but I was so quiet. There was no singing in the car from me, no fights over who sat by the door or in the middle, a usual occurrence that needed one of the parents to get involved. Strangely that night I sat in the middle without a complaint. I was flanked on either side by the occupied window seat passengers – Akin and Kemi.
I was in a world of my own. How was I going to face this man? He lived with us and could be back by the time we got home. I would usually say “good evening” but what was going to be good about this evening, I don’t know.
We sat at the hotel’s dining area and dad ordered food from the menu. Dad was always excited about taking us out and telling us stories. This time he and mum were engrossed in conversation while they permitted us to walk around the restaurant when we saw other kids in a corner served with toys to play with. The evening went well as far as I can remember and soon, we were going home. It felt like terror thinking this. If my siblings or parents noticed anything, they never commented.
As soon as dad parked the car, I pushed past Kemi and ran to the house door waiting for dad or mum to open it.
I was feigning the behaviour of someone pushed to go to the bathroom for a “wee”. With that, no one would ask questions. I must have been there a while because mum was calling for me.
Terror reigned as Bode was back. I spotted the light was on in his room and music was playing on his battery-operated radio. What I thought was definitely, mum’s knock on the toilet door upstairs turned out to be his! Him. Yes him. Again. This time he firmly told me to hush. Threatened to smack me if I shouted or called his name and before I knew what was happening, he had pulled that “thing” out of his panties again and asked me to put my mouth on it and suck.
I tried to shout for mum and his right hand closed over my mouth as he warned me to be quiet. Gaining my cooperation and resignation to his wishes, he repeated that awful command.
Mum’s voice could be heard above the conversations taking place downstairs. And I heard her call me again. Phew! Now he would have to let me go…
He turned to the door quickly and left me in the bathroom. I was so badly shaken I could only weakly respond to mum. “Yes, mummy…”
“Are you OK darling?” Mum asked with concern in her voice. “My tummy hurts I lied. How could I tell her Bode had joined me in the bathroom asking me to do “private things?” This is one secret I will have to handle myself as he told me no one would believe me. I opened my mouth to talk but the words refuse to come out.
Then mum pulled me closer and put her arms on my forehead as if to check my temperature.
“You’re a bit warm to touch,” she said. My siblings were in the other part of the sitting room watching TV and quite oblivious to me and mum. “Let’s get you your nightcap and send you off to bed.” She called for Bode to help with this.
“Yes ma” he responded and then came downstairs. He daringly stared at me as if to warn me not to say anything. I must have shivered because mum seemed to instinctively pull me closer. He walked to the kitchen and came back a few minutes later with a warm chocolate drink for me.
The way he smiled at me if looks could kill, mine must have done a big job of slapping the smile off his face. I said, “thank you” and drank it. Next mum wanted me to have my bath and go to bed after some liquid medicine.
“Winnie, I’m getting tired of talking. How did we even get here?” I asked. “I have never opened up about this part of my life to anyone!” I continued truthfully but perhaps reverently.
Winnie did not say a word. I could see the concern in her eyes. She took my right hand in both hers and said, “I’m so sorry for your pain” I had tears in my eyes, and she asked if I wanted to go on. At this time the coffee shop staff were beginning to come round to ask if we wanted to order anything else. You could see that other people customers were leaning towards our direction to see what was transpiring with the staff.
We had been visited a few times during our conversation, but we ignored their attempts to interrupt us. By this time it was a few hours since we had a drink so Winnie thought we should rectify the situation.
“Excuse me!” called Winnie as she raised her hand to get someone’s attention. The sofa in the corner of the shop came with cushions of different sizes and I had my derrières against the angled corner in a relaxed pose. I forgot to mention that I had erased my eyebrow and had coloured laser replacement ones which were semi-permanent on my face. Winnie, on the other hand, was in a wooden chair with 4 legs and sat opposite from me on the table.
Then again Winnie spoke. “I don’t know what to say,” she managed after jaw-dropping stares a few times. The oh, ah, moments had come and gone. It was sinking in that this friend of hers had some very deep hurt.
“I’m so sorry,” she said again with tears in her bloodshot eyes. “I had no idea”. To which I replied, “How could you?” It’s not something to say to people, “oh by the way I was sexually abused at the age of 7!” I managed to say as if in jest whilst I managed a wry smile.
“Would you like to talk some more?” Winnie continued unsure about whether it was the right thing to say. “We can talk another time”
“Do you need to go?” I blurt out without thinking that we had been talking a few hours by now. I was hoping she would say no and was relieved when she said “I’m here for you… “But it sounded more like a question, not a statement.
I reasoned that since I had started, to open a can of worms it was better to empty it, literally.
I could see Winnie was getting a bit restless as she reached for her phone, mumbled a few words which sounded like excuses. She said, “I just need to make a call” She rummaged in her designer brown, a gold buckled bag which had some type of metal finish to top each partition and boasted of a popular designer label. That did not mean much to me these days. I had made and lost money buying fancy things only realising how empty collecting things made me feel.
She made a string of phone calls to some young person as her voice got softer as she apologised for not picking some kids from school. Then her face lit up as she connected to another call, after her delicately wine coloured manicured nails played on the phone surface and dialled the magic numbers. “Darling…? “I heard before her voice drowned out as I walked towards the bathroom to give her space to make those sweet pleasantries. I thought it was only good to give her some space to speak to her family now after I had taken so much her time and attention. It must have been at least 5:15 pm by now. As I emerged from the bathroom, I could hear her laughter and heightened exclamatory voice notes.
A tinge of jealousy swept over me. She seemed genuinely happy and her face beamed a lot too.
I wondered why she was so radiant.
“Hey, Cici!” She called out as I walked toward her. How do I get back to talking about the serious issues we had been discussing earlier? I was thinking.
I slowly walked back to our coffee table and sat down. Where do I start now?
“Are you OK?” Winnie wanted to check all was good with me.
“Yes, fine!” I lied. It was not fine at all. I wanted what she had but could not find the words to tell her.
“So what happened after the medicine that night?” Her sharp mind remembered. So she had been listening all along. “Are kids, hubby and family OK?”
“Yes, they are all taken care off. My neighbours will help with the young ones. And my darling knows I’ll be home late. I’m all yours,” she announced excitedly.
“Hmmm,” I said beginning to withdraw a little as I reflected how perfect her life seemed.
“What’s up? You seem a little reluctant to talk,” Winnie noticed that my mood had changed.
“Yes, “I continued.”Bode made it a habit of working out when I was on my own. He would suddenly join me in the toilet or my bedroom. The problem was that he was so trusted by my parents, and he knew it.” He was so quick to offer to help me with my homework when it looked like mum was having trouble with me understanding my maths. Mum was so relieved that it seemed that responsibility was passed on to him. Dad was so busy, he left for work early and came back late. We saw a bit of him at family dinner when we the children ate late.
So Kemi let out an annoying sound when she discovered on waking up that I had wet the bed. “What happened little sister?”
She said in disbelief. I had already passed the stage of nappies years ago so it was puzzling that I should resume this behaviour, years later. She had to tell mum. And that was it for me. It was a new way of avoiding facing Bode since I knew he would be waiting for me if I went to the toilet alone. I could not tell anyone as he had warned me not to. Not only did I feel violated by the display of his body parts but he had proceeded to touch me in my private parts. Each time he would try and stop my mouth from uttering any sound. This went on for months!
Out of concern for my bed wetting, mum decided to see the Doctor. I was asked lots of questions but none were producing any convincing responses to justify the incidents. My schoolwork had suffered hence the offer from Bode to help me get up to speed with lessons. I spent days in class day-dreaming.
Wishing that this problem at home would go away. I had to be called a few times in class to get my attention. I worried about what my class teacher would write in my report at the end of the term.
The doctor looked me over, checked my temperature, did some Urine tests and ordered blood tests. He then asked mum to leave for a few minutes while he asked for the nurse’s help after he examined me and discovered very puzzling changes in my private areas. He asked the female nurse to take a look! They were so shocked that they exchanged looks and began to whisper. I must have been about 8 years at this time.
The nurse asked me if anyone had tampered with me below and I began to cry. “I didn’t do anything… He told me not to tell…” I sobbed.
My mum was called in. It must have been one of the most difficult things to tell my mum that her little girl was no longer innocent and had been abused on more than one occasion and she had not spotted it.
“Oh!” I exclaimed as the buzzing of my mobile phone interrupted my flow of thoughts. “I have to take this!” My face must have fallen because Winnie in a concerned tone said “is everything OK?” as she reached out to take my hand. I stopped for a moment at her gesture, pausing to look at the phone again, then I pressed the side button to silence the vibration and placed the phone on the table. I was shaking a little prompting Winnie to ask again, “Are you OK?” “I am” I breathed in a whisper. “It was him…”
“Him? Him who?” she pleaded in the request for further details, explanation of some sort. I withdrew my hands from hers, then said: “you don’t want to know…”
“Oh? Is that your…?”
“Yes…” I offered in defeat.
“Pimp?” she managed to get the words out, without judgment in her tone. I nodded and tears in little drops streamed down my face.
“I have to go soon”
“Why?” Winnie asked as if she could not understand. “There will be trouble if you don’t…” she finished my thoughts for me.
I nodded as I wiped the tears off with the back of my hand. A few minutes of silence passed then Winnie took my hands in hers again and said,
“Please stay a little longer?”
“You don’t understand” I replied shaking my head. “He’ll…”
“He’ll do what?”
“Well, never mind, you won’t understand”
“Try me!” Winnie answered confidently in such a persuasive way that I felt compelled to sit for a few more minutes.
“OK!” I heard myself say as I drew in a sharp intake of breath.
“I don’t know where to start…”
“How about the beginning?” she replied softly and gently, whilst managing a smile.
“Dick is in charge of my work at night. He usually did a check-in call to ensure I was alive, not passed out as we regularly do drugs. That was his way of checking he would be getting some income from my work tonight. It filled me with fear to get a call from him but yet I felt compelled to do as he asked. It was never a kind or respectful call; it was more authoritative and threatening in a way. I was expected to answer within 3 rings or face the consequences later. And he would ask where I was, where I had been who I had been with and a lot more. I have to take his call or I’ll be punished later. He could make things much tougher for me. I depend on him and can’t exist without his help. He’s good when he’s not bad”
“I think there were changing expressions across your face Winnie.” I managed as if asking for her understanding without judgment or condemnation.
I could see pain, sadness, once a flicker of hope then it seemed to disappear as she was taking in my story.
“It does not have to be like this…” her voice broke as she uttered her thoughts to dispel my confusing anticipation about her reaction to my story.
Tears were streaming down my face again. I was not sure how to respond to her comment. What did she mean? I thought. I have always lived like this did not seem to be an appropriate response. But it had not always been like this. I knew better but somehow; I had sunk so deep that I felt I was beyond help. Was she going to condemn me next?
Maybe it’s time I pack my bag, makeup and heels and get going. After all, Dick was going to call me back soon as I had not responded to his call. I was already in trouble. Did I have time to answer her question?
Maybe not. I will run away as I always do when people confront me with what looks like truth. Truth? What was truth anyway?
It seemed like an eternal pause. Maybe there was love. Maybe there was hope. Or feeling. Or god or God. Whatever. When last did I feel like this? Feel like there was feeling?
I pulled away from her hand grasp and began to push my chair back slowly with all the emotional and physical strength I could muster. I had to put a distance between me and her.
What did she want anyway? I like my life I thought as I lied to myself again. But did I!? I did not want to think or consider the alternative.
“I think it’s time to go!” I managed as if I was making a huge announcement to Winnie and me, about some important event I had to go to.
This was an excerpt from the book: Love at First Byte