BOOK REVIEW : “LIE TO ME, DAN” BY LONGRIN WETTEN 

Summary : What happens when a beautiful, ambitious but naive girl falls for a player? 

Lie To Me, Dan is a novel written by Longrin Wetten, a passionate writer who effectively blends compelling storytelling with an exploration of serious issues and has a deep insight into human nature as evidenced in this, his first novel. The book is an entertaining work of literature which has a deeper purpose of exploring the effects of cultism on individual lives and the way it interconnects with our society, the relationship between families, friends and relatives and the mystery of falling in love while navigating our convoluted and sometimes complicated tertiary education system.

The novel is centred around two major characters: Dan whose moniker as D-man overshadows his real name, and Marylyn – two young undergraduates who in their different ways are both focused and driven individuals. Through an almost investigative storytelling, it unveils how the events of a few days changed their lives forever. 

The novel starts out with a prologue foreshadowing the events that would transpire towards the end of the book. In it, we are introduced to a character we would not come in contact with until much later, and the ruthless nature of his brand of justice is highlighted. At the first look it seems disjointed from the story, but it comes into sharp context when it falls in with the rest of the book.

Marylyn, a beautiful and young but single-minded psychology student, has eyes only for her books and the bright future she knows is before her. She navigates the school system with a focused drive and an aloofness from its less academic pursuits until she runs into a fellow student who leaves a lasting impression on her. Granted, that impression was not favourable, and Marylyn and Dan had a truly terrible first experience together, but it was an impression all the same. She employed every weapon in her arsenal to keep D-man at arms length, but she underestimated his tenacity. 

She left an impression on Dan too. A very intense young man with a questionable reputation and great influence on the campus, Dan was handsome, popular and had seemingly endless resources. He was reknowned for his numerous temporary dalliances with the females on campus and the ease with which he discharged them afterward. His fascination with the beautiful and seemingly unavailable Marylyn started out as a simple potential conquest and quickly morphed into an obsession that started a chain reaction, roping in erstwhile innocent bystanders into the unfolding drama. 

The first of these was Yvonne, a voluptuous and much desired student with a violent boyfriend who was starting to feel stifled in her relationship and saw a liaison with D-man as her way out. Over several unfruitful encounters with her, Dan gets on the radar of the cultists he worked so hard in his university career to avoid and a series of unfortunate events were unleashed on both sides. 

Esse was an older friend and mentor of sorts to Marylyn, and an unfortunate coincidence made her a prime target for blackmail and an unwilling gateway into Marylyn’s life. Her involvement with both Dan and Marylyn swung on both sides of friend and foe, a convoluted relationship that affected the lives of nearly everyone in the book. 

Looming large through the story – though mostly absent in person – is Marylyn’s father, a man she looks up to and loves with a fearless devotion. It is clear that she owes her focused and confident nature to his mentoring, and he is a model of how raising children to think like adults shapes them into strong and resilient individuals. His overwhelming presense in her life manifests itself in every well thought-out and conscientious decision she makes and how she handles herself through the challenges that come her way. The breakdown of this deliberate reasoning process is an indication of how no one can really fall in love while holding on to logic.

The story is woven together like a tapestry, with every little incident being a part of a larger, hitherto unforeseen event. The author writes suspensefully  in a way that draws the reader in but does not isolate from the story, and the end of every chapter leaves breathless anticipation for the next. 

I particularly enjoyed the titles of the chapters: a way of foreshadowing the events to follow without giving much away in the process. With codes, mysterious rogue government agents, cryptic messages, betrayal, surprising twists, three-dimensional characters who make very human mistakes and a look into the increasingly younger population of our university campuses, the novel is an engaging read with unpredictable turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat. 

Lie To Me, Dan wraps up in a way that is both complete and open-ended, leaving the reader hungry for more. Since this is the first of a trilogy, it left my appetite temporarily sated but I am looking forward to what the next chapter of Dan and Marylyn’s lives will bring.

Readability : The diction is advanced and quite complex, but anyone who loves words used beautifully will be pleased. No word is wasted by the author, and it is a pleasure to read.  


Availability
: Hard copies are available in bookshops across Lagos. You can also buy the book on the author’s website at lawngreene.com. 

Rating : I give the book 4.5 stars out of 5, for taking something that could easily have been just another idea about love on campus and making it into a great story. 

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100 Ways to Find Love…When Not Looking for Love

We have a standing appointment. On Tuesdays, by four p.m, we meet at the usual place-her already in the room, while I arrive later to throw off suspicion.

In the beginning, we used to get right down to it after awkward pleasantries, but it has been two years. We know each other too well now. I know about her mother’s arthritis, her younger brother’s struggles with medical school, her insecurities about her body. She knows about the daughter who I can never seem to connect with, my wife and friend of twenty-two years who’d just had a malignant lump removed from her breast, leaving us all on tenterhooks as we waited for the test results that would either mean freedom from cancer or a short and bitter battle with it. She knows that my son is in prison in America for rape.

She knows it all, and she eases my pain in the only way she knows how. She is not very pretty, not in the way people usually expect of a girl in her profession, neither is she particularly bright. But she is sufficient for my needs.

Tuesdays, by four,  rarely exceeding two hours. And afterwards, I credit her account with fifty thousand Naira.

This suited me just fine, and her too. It is a practice many men of my age indulge in,  a practice our wives would find distasteful, but there are some things that have no explanation.

Things like my realisation that I was starting to depend on this girl – more  than dependence, I’d admitted to myself months ago that it had to be love that made me stay up nights thinking of ways to make her happy, and then rejecting them all because they would be horribly insufficient. I started paying double of our agreed upon fee, and she always returned the excess to me, looking insulted, almost like she was making a statement – “I want nothing from you except what I am owed.”

She deserves to be clothed in diamonds and gold, to be safe and happy. And no matter how much I hate myself for even thinking it, I love her enough to want to give her those things.

Love. A man of my age and stature brought to his knees by a mere slip of a girl, a girl who was supposed to be nothing more than a transaction to ease off stress.

If I continue down this path,  I will give up everything for her. It will be an insanity without recourse.  This is how I know that even though it is almost four today, I will not be at the usual place.

100 Ways to Find Love…in the Weirdest Places

​It was the last place I wanted to be. As I looked around at the shame and despair on the faces of the other patients at the STD clinic that mirrored my own, I sank lower into my seat. 

“Number 25!!!”, the nurse shouted out,  the sharp anger behind her voice startling me. The accused stood morosely, a reedy thin teenage boy with pimples. She pounced on his reluctance with glee,  “shebi you no go come fast fast? When you dey mess yourself around you no know say you go shame. Comon enter,  doctor no get time to dey wait you.” 

He slunk into the doctor’s office under the harsh gaze of the nurse, who hissed as he passed and swept her gaze around the small waiting room with a righteous smirk.

I avoided her eyes. I felt ashamed enough,  I didn’t need for anyone to add to it. 

When she went back to the nurse’s station, there was visible relief in the room. 

“The jailers are usually the worst offenders,” someone said beside me,  making me look up from the magazine I was using to cover my face in the pretence of reading. I ignored him pointedly, he was breaking the first rule of fight club-don’t talk about fight club. Who else there did he see trying to make conversation?

Or maybe he was one of the sickos that think that because a girl is in the STD clinic, she must be a quick lay.

I shifted away from him imperceptibly. 

To my surprise, he shifted with me and nudged me.  

“Helloooo? Are you trying to ignore me? We inmates should stick together.” Trying, but not succeeding. For God’s sake! This nigga should stay in his lane!

He left me alone, and I sighed in relief, finally left alone to my thoughts.

That slimy snake! Giving me an infection and tying to make me feel like… 

“I’ve got gonorrhoea, you know, ” I was pulled out of my thoughts by the intruder, “Early stages, but still. Peeing hurts like a bitch on steroids.” “Leave me alone,” I whispered harshly, especially since the nurse was back in the room,  flipping through patient files loudly as if to make a statement . “You figure being here is not embarrassing enough, but then their attitude stinks! Aren’t they supposed to be trained health professionals?”  To my horror, the idiot was looking straight at dragon nurse, who had overhead him and now directed her glare at me. What did I do?

“Are you crazy? Keep your voice down!” “Why? I had unprotected sex, I didn’t kill anyone. Anyway,  what’s your crime?” “It’s private, okay?” I snapped. He laughed, and to my further annoyance I realised he had a nice mouth-wide enough to be appealing and just a tad crooked which was intriguing. 

Urgh! It was a smile like that that got me into this predicament in the first place. Genital herpes was a very costly price to pay for five minutes of crappy sex. 

I didn’t notice that the nurse was now standing in front of us. “Wetin you bin dey talk before?” “It was a private conversation, and you shouldn’t be intruding,” he said, looking her directly in the eye. The whole room was so quiet a pin could drop and the doctor would come running. “Private eh? You want to be private and you go dey chase woman, dey follow ashawo, after una go come here dey form private conversation. No insult me,  you hear?” “Maybe if you spent more time actually sticking to the tenets of your profession and less time vilifying patients who should be supported and helped, you would feel less insecure about being insulted.” 

Nobody actually said ghen ghen, but it hung in the air. Everyone’s eyes were wide with shock.

Dragon nurse spluttered,  turning red in the face. She seemed to swell in her white uniform. “Get out!” “Excuse me?” He raised a brow, settling into his seat like leaving was the last thing on his mind. “I said you should get up begin dey go! We no dey attend to patients we no get respect!” 

He scoffed, then to my eternal chagrin,  looked at me, “can you believe this woman? Please, what were we talking about?” She directed her vitriol at me, deducing I was a softer target. “You nor get shame, ashawo! Na so una go dey disgrace your mama and papa dem anyhow, see as you dey for wahala you dey still chase man for hospital. Children of these days! All of una dey go hell fire,  straight!” 

“We’ll have company there, because you’ll definitely be arriving before this lovely lady and I.  By the way,  my name is Femi, ” he said, smiling at me and extending his hand to be shaken like we were at the country club drinking mimosas. I was so shocked I shook it, ” Amaka.” “Nice to meet you, and having an STD doesn’t make you a bad person.  Probably careless, but then we all make mistakes,” he smiled again, totally at ease and ignoring dragon nurse who was almost in tears of indignation. She snapped her fingers at Femi and stalked off in anger. 

At this point, I decided it was enough. The day had started out weird-finding out I was infected from the woman who had given the infection to my ex and I, then breaking up with him-and was getting even more that way. I put the magazine-a hell and brimstone publication that I now understood must have been placed by dragon nurse as an attempt to save our deplorable souls-and stood up. 

Femi stood too, meeting me at the door to the stairs. We walked down to the parking lot in silence. 

“I am all for a sit-down protest,  but you’re right,” he finally said. “Right about what?” “It’s lunch time! We should fortify ourselves with some jollof rice so that we can live to fight another day.” “Why are you bent on talking to me? Can’t you get a hint?” “You looked like you needed to be talked to. You were punishing yourself more than you deserved,” he looked directly at me,  hands in the pockets of his jeans.  The earnest look on his face made my heart skip. “That’s very presumptuous of you,” I said, eyeing him, “and you shouldn’t have spoken to the nurse that way. It was rude.” He laughed, “don’t worry, she’s deserves it.  She’s my father’s wife.” “WHAT?! Shut up!” He laughed again, shaking his head. “She’s such a hypocrite.”

I was intrigued in spite of myself,  and he smiled, giving me that earnest look again. “I’ll tell you my story, but you have to let me take you to dinner.” “You’re hitting on a girl you met barely an hour ago, at an STD clinic? First you invited yourself to an imaginary jollof rice lunch, now dinner. Unbelievable.” “I like you, and I don’t believe in letting opportunities pass me by. Of course, we’ll both have to get treated for our respective…lapses in judgement, and talk about sexual boundaries, but there’s something here! I would like for us to explore this.”

I rolled my eyes, but I was smiling. I knew I would have dinner with him, I knew I would let myself be swept away in the heady magic of falling in love. I knew that I liked the way he looked at me like every word I spoke was the most interesting thing in the world. I knew that so far I liked his mind, his confidence and his smile. I knew that I would like the other parts of him I did not know yet.

The weirdest day of my year, and it was turning out to be the best.  We would at least have an interesting story to tell people when they ask “how did you two meet?”

Second Time Around

The first time was not the one that broke Selina’s world. When it happened, it had been a long time coming, like racing through the streets until your luck ran out and you were hit by a keke. For a girl that grew up in Ring Area, she was a rare commodity-fourteen and not even one boyfriend yet. She was pursued by the inexperienced boys and coveted both secretly and openly by the men who benefitted from the over-abundance of young flesh that dominated the houses on Ring.

Even Agnes had done it before her. She had come home very late after school that day; fortunately for her it was still a couple of hours before their sitting room would turn to the beer parlour where their mother made her livelihood, so her absence was not noted. She sneaked in through the back door into the room all the children shared, carrying a bulging yellow plastic bag, a satisfied smirk on her face. Selina felt sicker and sicker as her younger sister pulled out striped nylon skirts in different colours, gauzy chiffon tops, two pairs of netty leggings and hoop earrings, and topped it off with a wad of notes. Aggie raised a brow at her, ‘wetin you dey look? No touch my cloth o. Me I don get money to buy human hair join.’

‘Aggie, e pain you? How body dey do you?’ Aggies’s confident smile faltered, ‘no be ya consain, e hear? Holy holy.’ She hastily pushed the money into her bra and exited the room.

The little ones watched their exchange but did not understand-unless maybe Grace, who was wiser than her ten years. When Selina looked in her direction, she continued furiously polishing her school sandals while pretending to not have heard anything.

Selina had spent days after that in a guilty haze, jumping whenever Ma Vero called her name, wondering whether to tell their mother and deciding against it when she saw her sly, covert smile at Papa Ifeanyi when he swatted her bottom at the shop. She would just maybe brush it aside, after definitely twisting her ear. Then she would take Aggies’s money, and the girl could hold on to a grudge.

Vero was a buxom woman whose washed out, fair skinned beauty and excellent shape told of someone who having been forced to make hard choices, lived with their consequences-and she had. She had also grown up on Ring, dreaming big dreams of being a singer and becoming a neighbourhood sensation-even moving briefly to the big city-when she won a talent show. In an unfortunate twist, she’d fallen in with one of the judges-some producer nobody seemed to remember his name-and when he denied her and her unborn child, she had no choice but to return to Ring and lick her wounds.

She had collapsed, and never quite gotten up off her fall.

Her method of dealing with the grief of her failure resulted in more children from men who never showed up after she took in- Agnes, Grace, Charity and Bobo. Bobo’s father had compensated her with their two-room apartment for giving him a much needed son-whom his family was still in the dark about-and still paid them nocturnal visits when his wife was being particularly cantankerous.

Selina had learned early that she had caused the stalling of her mother’s dreams, and had to make herself as invisible as possible. Ma Vero was liberal with her censure and her smacks and most of them were directed at her.

So it was that the first time she had sex, Selina had been expecting it for some time. Ifeanyi had been ahead of her in school before he dropped out to open a VCD rental shop, after which his attention became a source of worry for her. Girls who did not stay invisible on Ring became mothers before they were ready.

No matter how much she tried to avoid him, he would invariably wait for her in dark corners she would never have even thought of as opportune places for amorous attention-near the borehole, and at the back of her mother’s shop, and at block rosary-where his hands always found their way under her skirt or down her shirt. She rebuffed him, but that only seemed to encourage him. His leers followed her everywhere until he’d caught her one night on her way back from youth fellowship at the church and a hurried fumble in his shop had done the deed; her frantic shouting drowned out by the drumming of the neighbourhood carollers.

She slunk home, feeling filthy and weak, crying tears of defeat, and went straight to bath, after which she crawled into the bed she shared with Aggie and Grace and covered herself. Even at the threat of caning by Ma Vero when business became really busy that night, she didn’t surface from her misery. Her mother left her alone. Aggie seemed to know that something monumental had happened, and brought her a cup of hot Milo. She ignored the drink, but Charity drank the beverage and then crawled under the wrapper with her, and her littlest sister patted her head while she cried.

She found that her legs were wobbly and she hurt the next day. She’d forgotten to brave the pain and adjust her steps when passing her mother with an empty bucket from doing her washing. Vero’s narrowed gaze followed her until, ‘Selina, come here.’

‘Ma?’

‘I say come here!’ She shuffled to her and kept some distance between them. Ma Vero dragged her by the ear into the small enclosure from their sitting room/beer parlour that served as her office. ‘Wetin dey do you?’

‘Notin ma.’

‘Shatap dia! I say wetin dey wori you? Na who touch you?’

‘Ma?’ she echoed dumbly, her heart pounding.

She didn’t duck in time to avoid the slap; her ears rang and tears sprang to her eyes. ‘You wan make I ask you again?’

‘No ma,’ she sniffed, ‘na…na Ifeanyi wey come take me to im shop and im come…’

‘Wen dis wan happen?’

‘Yesterday.’

‘Eeeh? So you no know say you go tell your mama when somtin lai dis happen abi?’

‘Im force me, mama, I no wan do am,’ she’d broken into sobs.

Her mother watched her cry for a few seconds, then, ‘E don do, wetin don happen don happen. Wetin im give you?’

Her eyes widened, ‘Ma?’

‘Na wetin dey worri you dis geh sef? You no hear me abi you no understand wetin I talk?’

She cast her eyes down, ‘Sorry ma. Im no give me anything.’

Ma Vero’s eyes went dangerously dark. ‘Say wetin?’

‘I say im no give me…’ 

Ma Vero peered at her in obvious disappointment. Her daughter’s lack of drive was a source of both bafflement and annoyance to her. Now, if it had been Aggie…

She pushed her aside and seconds later, the door to the house banged shut.

Selina was too afraid to leave the room; she stood there shaking until her mother returned an hour later with two small boys carrying a TV and VCD player, which she placed in the parlour with a smile of satisfaction. Then she’d taken Selina to the chemist, who seemed to know what she wanted and gave her some pills to swallow.

Ifeanyi never spoke to her again.

She never could look at that TV set without feeling the worst sort of shame, and nobody could persuade her to watch home videos on it with the rest of the family-not even little Bobo, whom it seemed to give so much joy. She couldn’t see it as anything other than the price her mother felt was acceptable for an act she would never be able to erase from her memory.

The second time was two years later, after she’d accepted that Ma Vero would not pay her school fees to start senior secondary school, and had resigned herself to a life of serving her drunken customers while avoiding their fevered gropes, and borrowing books to read in dark corners from her classmates. She was stealing a reading break, peering intently into the pages of a Johanna Lindsey novel in the kitchen outside, when she heard her mother shout her name.

‘Selina! Seli!’

‘Ma!’

‘Come quick-quick.’

She rushed to the parlour to see that a huge man in a brown kaftan was causing a furore. He was loudly and brashly asking for the best seat, and beer, and some goat-meat pepper soup. Her mother was smiling widely, brushing up against him as she led him to a private booth and made him comfortable. Her make-up looked garish under the blue and yellow lights, her silky top and leggings gaudy, but it seemed to do the trick because the man was smiling back at her and touching her backside like he owned it. Her other customers could not grumble that she didn’t show them such attention because they were curious, and some of them even signalled Aggie and Grace for extra bottles of drink so that they would have an excuse to gawk.

No one who dressed like the man in the brown kaftan drank at Ma Vero’s. Was he lost?

His presence made Selina nervous and she had a deep foreboding that things were about to change.

Ma Vero and the man had an intense consultation with much head shaking and nodding and gesticulating, and Selina watched with a growing sense of unease as her mother glanced at her once, twice.

Aggie served him some beer and the pepper-soup while Ma Vero motioned for Selina to follow her to her room.

In the room, she wordlessly went to her wardrobe -a territory forbidden to the children on pain of pepper in their eyes and private parts- and pulled out a green strapless dress from the very back. She clutched it to her, caressing the dress like it was a dear friend until the silence got to Selina, ‘Ma, na wetin?’

‘Seli, remove ya cloth.’

‘Ma?’ she whipped around furiously.

‘Shebi I don tell you say make you stop dis foolish “ma, ma” you dey do wen pesin wan talk somtin wey dey important. I say remove that cloth,’ she pointed at the black skirt and yellow tank top Selina was wearing. She removed the clothes, and her mother handed her the green dress, which she put on almost reverently.

‘Na dat dress I wear de day I win Sing Aloud Talent Contest,’ her mother smiled, and in that moment, she looked as young as she really was. ‘E dey bring luck. I never wear am again, because I come…I come get belle. Beht you go wear am today, my daughter Seli, you don bring us luck.’

Selina was thoroughly puzzled, even though she liked the way the dress fit her and the feel of the expensive material. She didn’t want to parrot another ‘ma’, so she kept quiet.

Vero sat beside her on the bed and held her close. ‘Selina, open yer ear well-well, make you hear wetin I wan talk. That man wey just come say im don see you as you dey waka, and im like you sotee im ask people and dem tell am say you be my pikin. Im remember me from when I dey sing…and im wan epp us. We go get new house, big flat for Independence Road! We go live for upstair. Im wan open big supermarket for me, we go get boi-boi wey go dey sell am for us. Im wan epp me sing again,’ her eyes filled with tears, ‘im say im get one hotel…Protea, you know am?’

Selina nodded mutely.

‘Na im hotel, and I go start to dey sing for the club wey dey dere.’ She got a faraway look in her eyes, ‘if pesin tell me say na you go help dis family progress, I for no believe am. E beta say I dey see am korokoro with my two eyes. Even de school wey you wan go, im talk sey you go reach university sef!’

‘Im wan make I do maid for am?’ Selina’s head was screaming an entirely different question, but those were the words she found coming out of her mouth.

Vero gave her a slow, shrewd look, like she was failing at a test she expected her to know she was taking. ‘No. Im wan make you go make am happy. Anytin im tell you, do am.’ 

‘Ma?’ 

Vero took a deep, fortifying breath, ‘Dis geh! You no hear wetin I say?’

‘A hear ma.’

‘So wetin you dey ask again? You be small pikin? Oya, come make I do you tiro,’ she produced an eyebrow pencil from her handbag and carefully lined her daughter’s eyes, then gave her a pair of her jewelled slippers to wear, and armed her with a purse she’d hastily crammed full of stuff.

Selina found herself numbly being shuffled out the back door and into the man’s Mercedes car. It was very coldly air-conditioned, but it did nothing to mask the smell of him when he crammed himself in next to her, moments later.

A fetid brew of stale sweat, spit and onions.

She soon found out that the spit was an inevitable consequence of him speaking, and she was consistently sprayed the whole ride to his hotel as he rained platitudes on her.

‘Fain geh, see as your skin fresh. Eh! You don ripe o! You like chocolate? I go give you chocolate, and by the time I don sama your life eh…you go be big geh for this town…you wan chop? You like chicken suya..?’

She ignored him-not that she would have answered him anyway if she wanted to. She felt like she was watching something happen to someone else-she couldn’t feel any part of her body, and the part of her that was even vaguely aware was floating away from the speeding car. It was an odd feeling, to be so disconnected from herself.

When they got to the hotel, she could only form a brief impression of grand structures and bright lights before she was whisked up a lift and into a luxurious suite.

The man-for she still did not know his name-tried to coax her into the shower, but she was unresponsive so he laughed it off as nervousness and took off his kaftan, leaving him clad only in a sweat-soaked singlet and his boxers. She sat there, on the edge of the immaculately made bed, as he went to the walk-in closet and produced a black duffel bag.

She was roused from her lethargy when he opened the bag and withdrew its contents, placing each carefully on to the bed. Handcuffs; a thin, silvery chain; a whip she recognised because her mother had some regulars who were in the army;…and some scuffed, wicked-looking leather implements she didn’t even want to contemplate, that shone from wear.

Reality slammed into her-this was happening. Those leather things had made an appearance because she, Selina, was in the room. She stood so quickly she swayed on her feet.

‘Oga, wait…’ 

Take off your dress and lie down.

His brash, uncultured tone had morphed into cold civility. That change made her afraid. She hugged herself around the middle. ‘But sir…I want to go home.

You will go home, my dear girl,’ he said in a gentle voice she would have never thought him capable of, ‘but not just yet. Not until we have had some fun first.’ He arranged the paraphernalia on the bed with practiced precision, and then fixed his gaze on her.

Something in his eyes made her blood run cold. Tears slipped hot and wet down her cheeks. She removed her mother’s beautiful dress and laid it carefully over a chair and stood in only her panties, shivering from the cold air; her mother’s dress had not permitted a bra.

That too,’ he was sounding less and less patient. She took it off, her hands trembling. She’d heard stories of ritual killers, but they usually kidnapped unwary children from the streets. She’d never heard of one given to them by their mothers or fathers.

She lay down and closed her eyes, resolving that she would not feel anything, but she felt every wisp of air, every breath he took, every nuance of his groans as cold metal wrapped around her foot and clasped to the bedpost, and the rough bite of leather on her other foot, making sure she stayed spread-eagled. She bit back a cry as the whip traced her body in slow, languid sweeps, and even though she tensed, nothing prepared her for the first lash.

Or the others after that.

Her cries only excited him, and soon he was in her.

She felt a tearing pain, and she knew that nothing would ever be okay again.

 

Credits:

Edited by: Plastosilch (Samuel Opara, https://plastosilch.wordpress.com)

Madness


Even Gloria did not know when she became a mad woman.

Three years ago, she had two boutiques at Ikoyi and travelled to Dubai and Cotonou and London and Italy on a whim. She was personally responsible for dressing the first lady of Lagos state in her infamously lavish aso-okes, and the wives and daughters and lovers and sisters of the movers and shakers of the state  called her to personally advice them on what to wear to their owambes. Her laces were the toast of the town, the latest, hottest styles. Sometimes, on leisurely Saturdays, she used to cruise around the hot spots in Ikoyi and Ikeja just to admire her materials on the backs and swinging hips of women celebrating the birth of her children, their marriages, their graduation parties.

So, yes, maybe she’d been a little mad then, but it was an indulgent malady that did no one harm. Olu used to shake his head in amusement as he drove her, too courteous to voice his disapproval but comfortable enough in his employment to raise his brows at her eccentricity.

Well, the water has spilled from the calabash. There was no going back from this one. 

She glanced with fierce pride at the faces of her children, the greatest things she had ever done. She smiled as she saw Amarachukwu’s thoughtfully furrowed brows, the small scar just above her eye she’d gotten the day she fell from her bicycle-the first day that Gloria knew that one’s heart could take flight out of their chest and their whole world condense into little pinpricks of light.  Her cautious one, always quick to forgive and soft-spoken. Or was it Uchenna, brash and stubborn, the one that should have been the son Madu wanted. The one that made her almost breathless with pride. Nineteen and already so sure of herself, of her place in the world.

What had she known at nineteen apart from Madu’s insistently wandering hands and heated kisses? She remembered almost nothing of that year.

It was Uchenna who had brought the news that morning, two days ago. The girls were at home with her in their tiny flat in Ijaniki, even though the university strike had ended. She despaired, she despaired everyday as the months passed and Barrister Rowland had no good news for her.

Nne, you will not believe what I just heard.’ 

She called her Nne, the technically correct term for ‘mother’ in their native tongue. A few years ago, Uchenna had rediscovered her Igbo heritage between the pages of an Ngozi Adichie book, and since then, she had clung to it with a fierce passion was enough to make Gloria feel ashamed-she who had dropped her native name Nkechi and had not returned to Ogwashi-Ukwu since she’d run away with Madu. Neither of them had been too keen on her returning to a family that had not wanted them to be together.

Now see. Just see. Suddenly, she fiercely missed her stepmother.

Nne,’ she had sat beside her mother in her exasperatingly heedless way, her jeans crinkling, dark eyes flashing indignantly, ‘he is getting married. I cannot believe he has the audacity to be getting married!’

 They all knew who ‘he’ was. His name, or his position in their lives, was now a taboo word in their small house. Even here, away from him, the mention of him sucked up all the air from their lungs.

It was a leap and a jump from there, and then here she was. At Madu’s wedding party. On the brink of madness.

She felt good; better than she had in years. Better than in the two years since he’d stopped coming home, since she’d had to close up her business to feed her children and make sure Amarachukwu didn’t die from that terrible, terrible crisis and the hip-replacement surgery that followed. Two years since…

Hmmm. Maybe a trip down memory lane wasn’t the best tack now.

Nne, let’s do this.’ She turned to her elder daughter, who had started smiling, inexplicably. Amarachukwu was radiant, beautiful, looking at her through eyes that always reminded her of her own father’s kind, brown gaze. She drew strength from those eyes, and chuckled at the honorific. Amara only called her ‘Nne’ when she was trying to be sarcastic or funny.

Uchenna hefted the length of wood she was holding and crinkled her neck with a series of loud pops. Agu nwanyi, thought Gloria, as her younger daughter jumped out of the taxi and right into the fray. They hadn’t been noticed yet, but that changed fast with the first series of crashes. The girl had a good head on her shoulders. She went straight for the beautiful clay pots and dishes that were in a neat pile, and the cacophony was deeply satisfying.

Shocked gazes, gasps, fingers pointing. The live band leader ‘s voice spluttered and died in a shocked screech of the microphone. She ignored them all and went straight for her prize even as her daughters wrecked havoc in her wake. 

He was open-mouthed, looking strangely small in his voluminous, richly embroidered agbada as he watched his ex-wife stride towards him. She stopped at the table where he sat with a nauseatingly fair-skinned girl who couldn’t be more than two years older than Amarachukwu, and without even a glance at him, turned the contents of the bowl of monetary gifts into the bag she was carrying. She swiped the car keys on the table too, and at a signal from her, the area boys she had brought as backup started packing wrapped gifts into the parked car.

He’d bought a car for his new wife as a wedding gift, but couldn’t care less when his daughter was sick to the point of death. Or when they had to drop out of school because she couldn’t keep up with the payments. ‘Ife esika, there’s no money! The economy is affecting everybody! I need you to be patient!’ Those were his token responses to her lawyer. A lawyer she’d had to let go, because by the end, she could not afford him.

‘Gloria, are you mad? Ala apubago i?’ The voice cut through her like a knife.

Oh, not you, this bitch. You I will devour. 

She turned to Ezinne, Madu’s elder sister. The one who had personally thrown her out.

Her hand flashed and she heard a sound, felt the satisfying impact of her palm connecting with jowly flesh. Ezinne’s eyes were wide with disbelief. ‘Ezinne Ekwusigo, don’t you dare open that your flea-infested mouth to talk to me! You, you that two of your sons grew up in my house, you that your daughter met her husband right in my shop! You that I saved from kidney failure when Madu wasn’t even giving you face! You that I hid from Ofili when he was beating you like a rat, you that I took to Cotonou to start your business when he died. Hei, Nkechi ifu si a! A tago m nsi! I have suffered! Just because this useless excuse of a man you called brother didn’t plant sons in my womb, you came in the night, Ezinne, and you bodily threw my children and me in the streets. Did this idiot,’ she pointed a shaky finger at Madu, who was spluttering in outrage but keeping it down as one of her boys glared at him almost daringly, ‘give me sons and I refused to bear them?’

Finally, he gathered up a spark of courage and opened his mouth, but she cut him off. She wasn’t sure that she wouldn’t descend into the waiting arms of insanity and murder him with her bare hands if he ever spoke to her again. He’d almost broken her before, and she needed to keep it together. For her children.

Otolo n’enweghi ikwu n’ibe gbagbu kwaa gi dia, anu ofia nwuru anwu. Ezi Bida. I swear eh, if you even dare to open that your smelling mouth, I will make sure you never shut it again.’

It was amazing, but he shut up. He was seeing a side of her he’d never seen before, and suddenly, she realised that this should have been the woman Madu met all those years ago at Onitsha. This woman, he wouldn’t push around, or take for granted.

This woman he wouldn’t ignore.

There was something to be said for madness, she thought, as Amarachukwu sped along the roads in their newly acquired car. It would get her daughters back in school. It would give her hope for their future, these women that God had blessed her with.

She had almost let them down, staying sane.

She felt tears on her cheeks, and did nothing to wipe them. She’d never felt so powerful. 

Nollywood and it’s window on our society.

I once saw a Nollywood movie that thoroughly incensed me.
Ok, at this point, a lot of you readers will pause to think, “doesn’t she mean ALL Nollywood movies?” To you, I’ll answer, absolutely not.
(“So this girl actually watches Nigerian films?”)
Nollywood is the salt of the earth, and I do indulge. Deal with it. Let’s move on.

This particular work of (art?) was a story built around a prince: an only child, who studies abroad; his parents, and the independent woman he chose to be his wife.

This Prince, whom I shall dub ‘X’ for clarity, came home after almost ten years abroad getting his degree and pursuing a masters programme. He was educated, he was exposed. He’d seen the world. His parents were proud of their son, and when he came home, his mother made him all his favourite dishes.
Fast forward a few weeks later. King G started asking the age-long question -“X, my son, when will you marry?”
X didn’t want just any girl, you see. If he did, he would have taken his pick of the girls his mother had surreptitiously been inviting to the palace to parade under his nose. He wanted a particular girl, a girl he’d known when he was in secondary school, a special lady. For months, he tried to track her down to no avail.
Just as he’d given up, he had to process a bank transaction for his father and lo, the branch manager was the girl of his dreams!
Oh happy day!

He began to pursue her with relentless enthusiasm, but there was a spanner in the works…Miss V was not ready to get married yet. Yes, she was 29, and you wouldn’t think so, but surprise surprise, her ambitions didn’t revolve around a diamond ring and diapers.
You see, she’d just gotten that promotion, and bought her first house. She was happy with the direction her life had taken. She was going places in her firm.

Prince X wouldn’t take no for an answer though, and Miss V started to ask herself, “would it really be so terrible to share my success, my life with a man I obviously love?” So, she told him that she would marry him-on the condition that she would keep her job and wait at least a year to start thinking about kids. Prince X was so overjoyed, he didn’t hesitate to say yes.

Introduction to Parents Day did not go smoothly. For one, Miss X came from work so she wasn’t wearing a “respectable” floor-length Ankara dress. She was in a smart but sexy pantsuit. She didn’t come from royal stock -or any stock for that matter. Her parents had both been teachers, were deceased, and she was raised by the Catholic church in an orphanage. She also had the effrontery to say that she worked in a bank and owned a tasteful apartment in a swanky part of town.
Oh, horror! A girl, unmarried, living alone? No, that’s against all plans of God and nature! She must be secretly running a prostitution ring-with herself as the only thing on the menu, of course. And my dear, saintly son, did you not hear her say she was a bank manager? We all know what those girls do to get there! It cannot be those qualifications of which she seems  so proud-the masters degree in accounting and the year-long course abroad! That girl cannot be anyone’s wife, she has not reduced her self enough to be married to a self-respecting, misogynistic egomaniac like I raised you to be. We’re your parents, we know what’s best for you.
(I’m just paraphrasing here, folks. Some words were lost in translation).
Lawl.
Anyway, X goes ahead to marry her. Then after the wedding, it occurs to her that she’d never asked where they would live, because she’d not expected a grown man to still sleep in the room he had as a toddler in his parents’ house. Long story short, they both had to sleep in that room now. She overcame her disappointment because her new husband assured her that he’d been looking for a house, a place they would raise their kids and grow old together. It was just temporary.
But X lied, because he’d also assured his mother that her only child wasn’t going anywhere out of her earshot again-not even on a honeymoon. After all, they had plenty servants to make meals and carry out V’s every whim. (“Did she agree to this?” Maybe not, but “I’m her husband and she has to listen to me.”) And maybe because of that confidence, Queen G, the morning after their wedding night, came to change her baby boy’s sheets and take out his laundry, like she always did.

An emergency family meeting was called. Miss V was summoned to the throne room from where she’d been lounging beside the pool and charges levelled against her. The supplicant? Her new MIL. Her first grievance? The lack of blood on the sheets as evidence that Miss V came under their hallowed roof with an intact hymen. Her second? She held up a trembling hand with a condom wrapper in it.

To her credit, Miss V had started laughing, thinking it was a joke until she saw the condom wrapper. Then her mirth turned to incredulity. Did her MIL really enter her bedroom, the one she’d spent most of last night having acrobatic sex in, just to look for evidence and investigate under what circumstances the sex really happened?
Surely nobody was that intrusive, and besides, her parents-in-law were enlightened people. Surely this was just some comic relief. Right?
Nope. King G was scowling even more than his wife, and her Prince, her knight-in-shining armour, was apologising with his eyes on the ground. His father accepted his apology because he couldn’t have known that she wasn’t pure, but “you remember what I told you about these girls? Now see.” Also, the condom thing? Such deeds should never be heard of again under the roof of King G the Fruitful, Third of That Name, May-All-Who-Hear-It-Tremble.
Queen G wasn’t to be left out. She reminded her baby that he was the only son, so his primary duty was to produce progeny immediately! Then they dismissed them.

I would like to say this was the least of it, but it wasn’t. Miss V’s maids had to report to the queen on whether she bought any sanitary pads every month. She was greeted at the breakfast table with “are you pregnant yet?” “Hope no more condoms” and “how many times do you and your husband do it?” Prince X was given an ultimatum by his father (“I’m giving you one month, one month to present me with a positive result or else I will disown you!”) Miss V, when she’d had it and calmly told her MIL to mind her business one fateful day when the woman declared she had to get a fertility test, was slapped and then reported to the king. Again.
In fact, that girl’s marriage was more like living in a boarding house where you get to have sex (and I write that tongue-in-cheek).

Then after three months, her leave was done and she wanted to go back to work. Another wahala. The husband who had agreed with her that her job was important was nowhere to be found. Instead, she had a petulant child who resented the fact that she would be “working with those men” and “have no time for me”. Plus “we’re trying to get pregnant here.”
“No, we’re not”, she said, “remember? We agreed we would wait! If your parents want a baby so much, maybe you should go give it to them! Don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve seen that Oluchi girl with the wide hips that comes to ‘see your mother’ every other day yet manages to end up in obscure corners with you. I’m not an idiot!”
She went to work. And then, she issued her own ultimatum -she’d be staying at the house she’d bought, and if Prince X was serious about building a life with her, he would move there with her.
Lol. Like that one was going to go down well with King & Queen G. Their precious son, tomato of their eyes, moving into his wife’s house-a house a Oman had bought with her own money? Mbanu! The gods will not agree, not while they had breath in their  bodies.

So, they locked a grown man in his room until he was cured of his temporary madness, and then they got Miss V arrested for “attempted kidnapping”.

Hay, God. At this point, I was almost foaming at the mouth. Is this one marriage?
Nollywood is not the problem, abeg. Art imitates life, right? That means that there are some women out there who thought they were entering into a loving union with a man, only for them to realise that his parents still wiped his nose for him. This means that some parents would really prefer for their sons to be in a loveless marriage with a girl whose highest achievement is knowing how to never say no-WAEC certificate optional.
Wow. I have never spent four hours so angry. What is wrong with us women, who think our highest achievement should be marriage? And what is wrong with our men, who have been so indoctrinated that they feel justified in perpetuating the stereotype?
Why would you marry a vibrant, vital, driven woman with a lust for life, then dedicate the next few years to whittling her down until there’s nothing left of her?

All these antiquated thinkers eh…I don’t even have strength for Nigeria again.

Er…footnote-you guys need to try Nollywood more. I’m serious. You will be thoroughly entertained-and educated. Maybe not in the way you expect (those people are definitely not passing the Bechdel test anytime soon), but you will be educated all the same.
Over and out.

We should all be feminists

One day not quite long ago, I entered a keke and sat down. The driver turned to me as he drove off and said in Igbo “why are you wearing an earpiece in public, don’t you know that you are a woman?”
I looked at the boy sitting beside me. He was considerably younger than I am. He was wearing an earpiece and nodding to his music in peace. He was not expected to be anything.
I told him to mind his business, and turned up the volume of my music.
It annoys me. Yes, I am annoyed at the narrow niche society has created for me just for the singular (mis?)fortune of being female.
In first year, when our FYNIMELSSA elections were coming up, our class rep announced the posts available-and specified that the President had to be a man and the vice-president a woman. I remember asking why women cannot run for president, and he told me that it’s just the way things are done. What does the VP do anyway? As usual, she is relegated to ‘woman’s work‘. She is unofficially the welfare chairman and is in charge of food and comfort of her peers.
Her peers.
I ask, who makes the rules? Were we made for culture or culture for us? Is the ego of a man so fragile that being led by a woman would shatter it? Would it make him less masculine, less muscular, less tall?
I believe that respect should be equal and reciprocal-and given on merit, not based on gender. When an elected official is a woman and she fails in one thing, all we hear is “women sef.” Yet, this is a stunted nation rapidly approaching her sixties and almost exclusively governed by men. We blame the economy. We blame wrong policies and greed. No one has ever said “Nigeria is a failed state because the president is a man.”
Failure, art thou a woman? Weakness, art thou female?
When you hear a woman say “I must marry this year”, her tone is loaded with frustration and varying degrees of desperation. She is getting on in years. Her time is passing. A woman is for a season, her mother has instructed her, and should be meek and unassuming and respect men and not talk too much and wear makeup and be decent and not read too much book and be kitchen-savvy and …
When a man says ” I want to get married this year “, his tone is infinitely different. He is determined. He is sure. He is confident. Because he knows the girls will line up. Because his mother has assured him that he doesn’t need to be brilliant or respectful or handsome. All he needs to be, is rich.
I have not gone to Ogbete market in Enugu in almost a year. This is due to various reasons, but the chief of them is that I will be groped, and dragged and mocked, and sexualised in varying degrees by men (and even women) marketing their wares. I slapped a man once when he refused to let go of my arm in the market, and walked away amidst a hail of insults from his peers- ” a ga-anukwa gi anu?” “Ma nwoke emeturo gi aka, onye ga-emetu gi aka?” “Azuro gi azu.” “O ndi di ka gi na-agbakari ndi ozo ashawo….”
I’m female, so my body does not belong to me. It belongs to any man out there who deems me worthy of his touch. I should be accessible and meek. I should never stand up for myself. And of course, for defending my honour, I must lack home training and be a postitute (even though, if I were, my clientele would all be male).
These are just a few instances. Everyday, when I dress up and rock my short afro in a twist-out, I am preparing for battle with the world out there. I am preparing to defend my feminity and morality-even to my fellow women, who have been so indoctrinated that any woman who rises above must be cut down.
It vexes me, it really does, because I would love to run for SUG president, and still wear make-up because I like it. I would love to rent a house because I like my privacy, and not have to get my parent or husband’s signature. I would like to buy my own car and take my time in choosing a life partner without being accused of chasing men away (why the hell would I want to marry a man who doesn’t like my multiple degrees or is threatened by a car?). I would like to work at an outreach where I’m not expected to run all the urinalysis tests because ‘it’s a woman’s thing’ (this one happened recently)-we have the same training, how the hell did it become my thing?
Our parents have failed our brothers, and that is the truth. They have raised men who would rather stay hungry when their sisters and wives have not come home, than nip into the kitchen to fix something to eat. It is up to us to change that, to raise strong boys and strong girls who are aware of their worth-as people. To have boys who run to fetch water with the same speed they would run to fix lunch, who fight with their sisters against bullies and open doors for women-not because they cannot open their own doors, but because it’s respectful to do so. Girls who are not afraid to change the lightbulb with the same dexterity they dance, who know how to change a tyre, and still know their way around a kitchen. Girls who curtsy when they greet-not because they are expected to, but because they are proud enough to know that it does not diminish them.
This is an age when mental prowess puts one at the top of the food chain, not physical strength. Let us get with the program!
I agree with Adichie, we should all be feminists!

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The Age of Gambrach: Wahala Morghulis

I have not stopped laughing…

TexTheLaw

2015-09-25 12.18.59

In the 9th month of the first year of King Gambrach, the prophecy of Wahala Morghulis pronounced by Shiwajun came to pass. Abushola ascended to the seat that the Apicurians had reserved for Lar-Wan, but in the first Centjoury of Gambrach the senatii adjourned for vacation more than to sit over the affairs of the kingdom.

And yea, in that time did a cry go out against Abushola that whilst he was King of the lesser kingdom of Kwarapotamia, did he on a dozen and one occasions declare falsely of his property before the Tribunal Conductivitis. And lo, did the Warden of Conductivitis bring charges against Abushola (whose name they sought to change to Ananias – his wife had almost been Saphiratised herself) which wouldst unseat him as Warden of the senatii.

“Shiwajun persecuteth me”, cried Abushola Ananias, “rise up ye people of the Kingdom against this impunity!” But…

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The Thing

Whenever people ask ‘what is the worst thing that ever happened to you?’, I always laugh my hiding laugh and tell them I have had a good life. Or I tell them about the time I was stranded at Aba and lost my phone.
I never tell them about the thing. Nobody in my family talks about the thing-not since it happened. Not since Daddy packed the soil tight and pounded it with the flat of the rusted shovel left behind by the bricklayers.
Sometimes, I feel it in my throat, like a hard pebble I cannot swallow. I look at the fat woman sitting next to me on the bus, sweating from a hard day of haggling with impatient people, and I want to blurt it out to her.I swallow the pebble instead. I swallow and swallow until it slides back down, a comforting weight in the pit of my stomach.

I know that if that pebble is dislodged, if I cough it out, I will feel relief but then what?
It has been ten years, and when my family gathers during the holidays, we’re a normal family-laughing and swapping stories and watching Adaku’s children frolic all over the place. We all avoid looking at the empty dining seat that belongs to Ifeanyi, our eyes gliding over it like it’s not there, like he’s going to bounce into the room from basketball practise and ask for his dinner at any minute.
I know it’s there. It is clear he’s not.
I don’t know why Mummy will not remove the seat-maybe because it’s not being there would be even more glaring than its thereness. We say nothing, and we eat chin-chin and drink zobo like we always do.

Maybe I cannot tell anyone…but you’re not just anyone. And I hope, that when you read this, you will not view me differently. Or judge what we did. We were only making the best of an impossible situation, you know how it is.

I’m sure you do. Right?
On the night the thing happened, Adaku and I had been fighting. We shared a room, and being eleven months older than her, I felt like it was mine-but she was bigger and taller than me, and she was having none of it. She never let me fet away with bullying her, for any reason. We quarrelled so bitterly that night.
She went downstairs to cool off, and I stayed upstairs to triumphantly mark my territory.
Something woke me. I got up and listened hard, but I heard nothing. Daddy is a light sleeper and would always wake up if he heard any sound, but he was still asleep and that reassured me.
But then I heard a sound again.
I was afraid, I realised, as my heart pounded in my chest. My feet were locked in terror, but I forced it to move. I opened the door to the stairs and tiptoed down…
The lights were off, and I had to blink a lot and widen my eyes to see. My physics teacher taught us that wider pupils made light flood into the eyes, causing increased vision. It’d been two years, but I hadn’t forgotten that lesson.
I was downstairs. Terror rose like bile in my throat as I listened and listened hard. There was someone there in the dining room. I could feel it, like a tangible yet invisible weight pressing on my right side. My hands shook as I made for the switch…
Chii. It’s me.’ I stopped.
It was Ifeanyi, my elder brother. My confidante, my defender, my friend. There was no one in the world I trusted more than I trusted Ifeanyi, yet there was a basic instinct that told me not to let down my guard.
‘What are you doing down here? It’s late.’ My voice quivered in suppressed fright. ‘Go back to sleep Chii,’ he said, real quiet like, ‘I just want to be alone.’

I heard something in his voice, something that chilled me to my bones. Ifeanyi was confident, sure, his voice bore a wisdom beyond his years. Yet, his voice was tremulous. It wasn’t the weakness in his voice that made me shudder, it was the hopeless quality to it.

Kpim. Kpim. Kpim. Kpim. My heart thundered in my ears.
He wasn’t the only one there, I knew it. There was someone else in the room, and Ifeanyi was afraid.
The lights suddenly came on, and I was momentarily blinded, blinking spots from my eyes. There were three tall men in our living room, wearing black masks, holding guns pointed at Ifeanyi who was lying with his hands above his head. One of them still had his finger on the light switch. Adaku was just lying there on the white tiled floor, motionless. Something about the way she lay seemed…wrong. There was blood, smeared like somebody had slipped in it. I didn’t know whose.

There was a metallic clink, and one of the masked men unbuckled his pants. His menacingly quiet voice broke the silence, ‘bros, you wan use us play ojoro? Shebi you talk say na only you and your sister dey house?’ ‘A…a…a..Abeg,’ Ifeanyi stammered, and I remember the oddest thought coming into my head-Ifeanyi hadn’t stammered in years. Mummy’s speech therapist would not be happy if he regressed.
One of the men walked towards me, and I felt something hot and wet slip down my pyjama bottoms, a pool of moisture enveloping my feet. It didn’t feel like me, though. It felt like I was floating above my body, watching a horror happen to strangers. His callused fingers dragged down my cheek, and lower. I closed my eyes and whimpered when he twisted my nipple hard enough to cause pain. Ifeanyi groaned, a deep sound of anguish. I heard Adaku stir and start crying.
‘Dis wan na fresh meat. Yelo po-po. See as she fine die. Bros, you get fain fain sister o. I no blame you, wen you say make you chop small…’
They all guffawed. I didn’t understand their mirth-I couldn’t. I was in too much pain.
Ah, dat na piss? Sistah, you piss for your bodi?’

‘What is going on here?’

Dad’s deep voice cut through the night, and panic cut through me. The night was suddenly filled with noise as all three men rushed for him. He was dragged down the stairs and made to lie down there in the dining room, and moments later, mum beside him. he just kept saying ‘please don’t hurt my family,’ over and over again in perfectly crisp English, which was bizarre because Daddy only spoke English at the office-he communicated with everyone in Igbo and was a staunch MASSOB apologist.
They made me lie down too, but for some reason, they left me alone. Maybe it was my accidental bathroom break. They taunted Daddy and Mummy, calling them fat and old and touching Mummy’s buttocks with the butts of their guns. She was crying, great racking sobs that tore through her body and made me ache.
They taunted Ifeanyi too, a lot, but more like he was one of their own. I didn’t understand then, but now I know why.
We all know why.
Then they started in on Adaku. They did things…things that haunt me at night, things that choke my throat in the silences between my thoughts. And when they were done, they invited Ifeanyi to take his turn. He was crying, tears and snot mixing and running down his face, some of it collecting in his cleft chin to drip down the floor. They beat him with the butt of their guns, telling him to do it since he liked it anyway. He kept saying no, but when one of them stabbed him in the thigh and twisted the knife, he did as they asked.

The monster who had twisted my nipple came back for me. He bent and turned me over. ‘Ah know say you dey wait for me since. Make I come totori dis ya fine body…’ ‘Please. Please…please,’ Daddy was chanting as Mummy wailed louder. I closed my eyes and waited for the horror-
They was a crash, and a loud report of a gun, and something heavy fell on me. A shockingly warm, sticky wetness flowed down my arm.
I could hear scuffling but terror kept my eyes closed. Minutes passed…
The weight was suddenly relieved, and I warily opened my eyes.
Daddy was standing. So was Ifeanyi. He was holding a gun, a mad glint in his eyes. The monster who had hurt me was laying very still, a big gash on the side of his head. He was dead. His partners were gone.
Daddy walked up to Ifeanyi and slapped him, hard. The sound rattled in my head, shocking me. Mummy just cried, saying nothing. Adaku was curled up in a small ball, silent. Her shoulders were shaking.
‘How could you? How could you? You are no son of mine! You filthy rapist!’ He slapped him again. Ifeanyi just stood here, saying nothing, the gun limp in his hand. I stood shakily, intending to stop Daddy from hitting him, willing my voice to work, but my vision went blurry and then everything was dark.
I woke up on my bed, Mummy sitting beside me. She had stopped crying, and there was a hard look in her eyes. It reminded me of Ifeanyi’s. She took my hand. ‘Come. You father wants us all there.’
We went back downstairs, where Daddy was putting in new batteries in his handsaw. Adaku was there, dishevelled and her nightgown torn. So was Ifeanyi. I didn’t ask why he was carrying his backpack.
Daddy didn’t look at us. We didn’t look at each other as he did the deed. We all carried some part of the monster with us to the backyard, where there was a big hole. It didn’t occur to me then to ask how it had gotten there. We dumped, and covered, and Daddy packed the soil tight and pounded it with the flat of the rusted shovel left behind by the bricklayers who were building our fence. The broken down fence that had let the monsters into our house, our sanctuary, where we felt safe.
Afterward, we all sat around the dining table, saying nothing to each other. We all sat there in the deafening silence until Ifeanyi stood up and walked out.
He hasn’t come back since. I think Daddy told him not to. He could forgive Adaku-she had turned from a willing participant to a victim in the end. But Ifeanyi’s sin was unforgiveable.
It still shocks me, the way we bounced right back into our routines. The next day, daddy went to work. Mummy made some chicken stew. Adaku and I went to school. And that day passed, and the next, and the next…
We never spoke of it. We learned how to laugh hiding laughs, and not say the things that we wanted to be said. We learned not look too deep at each other for fear of what we might see. We learned to hold our pebbles deep in our stomachs, a weight that can never be coughed out.
Even when the twins came, two strong boys with clefts in their chins, we did not talk about it. Adaku repeated junior WAEC in another school and then went to Zaria to live with Aunty Nkenna.
The thing still looms large in our house, the thing that changed everything. We carry it everywhere we go.