Speak up!

By Amarachi Okpunobi

The early morning sun was getting brighter, yet it seemed we were no inch getting closer to the city. I prayed earnestly but silently that my Late Father’s Chi will lead us safely. Most of the travellers looked somewhat or rather aged. I appeared to be the youngest in the bus excluding the little baby that slept almost all the time in the arms of his mother. I presumed the young man sitting next to the baby’s mother was the father because he evidently care so much. He would wake up, cuddle his mother’s breast while he got fed as he sucked it. I began to imagine how harmless and succulent I were in my mother’s arms when I was a baby. I wondered if my father was always sitting near her to look at my beautiful eyes and wipe my face even when there was no sweat on it. I wondered if any one really cared. I envied the little baby and once again wished I was him. His mother, Father and probably, his other relations cared so much too.

I kept looking at the baby till we got to a big river. No! That would rather be called a sea. We were moving on it, the ground on which the bus rode on was made with igwe, iron. Chikwado my younger brother once told me that igwe is called metal. I can’t forget, yes, it’s called metal.

The noise the iron made frightened me and I called upon the Chi of my Father repeatedly to keep us safe. Each step further on the igwe made my heart sink. I took another glance at the water, this time I saw some small ugbo mmiri with people that looked like rats on the river shore. Some of the ugbo mmiri were left at the middle of the sea, both on the left and the right as it was divided into two by the igwe. Gradually as we encrouched dry land, I felt a great sign of relief. The aged woman sitting close to me smiled as she looked at me.
Nwa m, o ka o na-adi na mbu, ujo atula gi, my daughter it’s always like that the first time, don’t be afraid.

She read me like my mother. She knew it was my first time of crossing such a big sea. I nodded my head in concurrence to what she said and kept to myself till she broke the silence again.

“Who are you traveling with?”

Initially, I ignored her. She was beginning to speak English. I didn’t see the fore walls of education. Where was I going to manufacture the answers at such a time. I therefore borrowed silence as my helper but she seemed not to be stopping any time soon.
Nwa m, kedu onye gi na ya so? She asked again, now in a language that I understood.
O nwanne nne m nke nwaanyi, my maternal Aunty,I replied in a very comfortable tone.
I na a-gakwa akwukwo chacha? Do you go to school at all?, She inquired again.
This time I bent my head and nodded again in response. Then I heard myself saying.
“She promised that I will be enrolled in school once we got to the city”. I said this in a lower tone as I feared my Aunty sitting adjacent to me may hear me. I was strictly warned not to let anyone know me or even know that I was traveling with my Aunty. Thanks to the earpiece that blocked her ears. The earpiece has been stuck in there since the passengers offered prayers to their Chi.

“O di mma, I kwesiri I gu akwukwo, o nwata nwaanyi ka I bu. Ugbua a bughi mgbe uwa na eche na nwaanyi abaghi uru. It’s well, you should be in school. Gone are the era when women were looked upon with less value in the society.”

The conversation continued for a long moment and I found the opportunity to express how I felt since father’s death. We laughed and talked and she understood me just like my mother. We spoke in my dialect till I fell asleep on the laps of the aged woman.

I woke up on the way, took my lunch of rice that mother prepared for me. Aunty had said it was going to be a long journey, so she prepared jollof rice. Jollof Rice is an occasional meal in my house. Mother would always say it cost her too much and we should buy akwu, palm fruit for stew. Few minutes after the food, I dozed off again into a more deep sleep.

Unending sound of horns and incessant cry of agberos woke me up. Welcome to the city! I sluggishly raised my head and behold, a very long line of vehicles stuck on the highway. The people around me were speaking a language that sounded so strange, I bet if I have heard it before if not then. I looked at my Aunty who was was on call. She unleached her anger on the receiver who patiently listened to her complaint of the city’s traffic congestion. Miraculously, we manage to scale through and ended up in my Aunt’s house late in the night.

When it was morning, I was introduced to the members of the family of a father and three kids. I was also oriented on rules that guided the house like seeing the television of the Adults parlour if not children’s. I adapted easily and lived happily with them.

Months passed and so did a year too. Yet I was not close to getting admitted into any school. I would stay at home all day after getting the kids ready for school then continue with the chores. I was not maltreated except the fact that I was not schooling. Domestic chores has become part of me as I am the eldest in my family.

The story began to change when my Aunty’s husband lost his job and joined me in keeping the house. I wished everyday that he would secure another job and leave the house. He is a huge man and seeing him scares the hell out of me.

Things continued this way, My “uncle”(that’s what I now call him since he is aunt’s husband) was not getting any close to having a new job or better still return to the former one. We both stay at home till the return of other members of the family.

One fateful Wednesday, my aunty made it clear that she will be working overtime due to the absence of one of her colleague, that means she won’t be coming back early as usual and the children too will be having extra moral lessons at school. It seems it was a perfect opportunity for my uncle to execute his already planned heart desire unknown to the rest of the family which is harassing me sexually and if possible, end up in bed with me.

The minute hand of the clock was ticking and getting close to the hour of 12 noon,still going about my daily chores in the kitchen, I heard my name from my uncle’s room, thinking maybe I was imagining hearing my name I waited to know if the call will come again and behold I heard my name again, at last it was real….no imaginations. Yes uncle……I responded as I rushed to his room to inquire the need for the unusual call from him. On getting there, I knocked….”come in” was the reply. I stepped in still wondering the reason for the call, come closer and sit down pointing towards the bed….am fine standing, I replied back. He stood up and started coming close to me,”since Mohammed did not go to the mountain, the mountain will definitely go to Mohammed”. I moved backwards trying to gain space and balance away from him,but the more I move backwards the more forward he comes untill I had no space to move backwards again, and before you know it he took hold of me, talking to me now with a quiet voice trying to convince me to remain calm,he doesn’t mean any harm and that everything will go smoothly and end before I know it.

With a shaky voice,tears dropping down my cheeks I looked at him and there was this strange look on his face,I started begging him to free me from his strong hands that was already hurting me but my pleas was falling on deaf ears as he dragged me and placed me on bed as he overpowered me due to his hugeness. Before I could give another shout he was already on me using his hand to cover my mouth to limit the echo is f my voice. Suddenly I found my clothes deeply soaked with blood, shouting at me he asked me to leave the room immediately and never let anyone to know what happened or I return back to the village. I felt bad, looking for an opportunity to tell my aunty what happened, but will she really believe me?

Days turned into months as I started to notice some changes in my body, my aunty noticed too and started questioning me, I had no option than to narrate what happened to her and Boom! I was in for trouble. From that moment my aunty developed hatred for me, claiming that I have come to scatter her family. That was the beginning of my suffering and sad story.

Rushing me into the labour room,I was in pains and looking forward to the midwife to come to my rescue, finally, I could hear the cry of my baby and it was a baby boy. The nurse cleaned me up, my baby and wheeled me to the ward, after some days, the nurse called me into the nurse’s room for some discussion seeing that I was under age to become a mother.

Sobbing and cleaning my eyes with my handkerchief,I said “Nurse Mary, that’s how I became a victim of adolescent pregnancy” leaving the nurse in a broken heart that is ready to fight against rape,child abuse and adolescent pregnancy.