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Saturdays were usually a busy day for my dad at the clinic, the people would come from the villages around far and near with different ailments. Mostly, the wounds involved infections, malaria, and sometimes cuts and bruises.
A few times my dad would have to refer them to the government hospital not very far from town. My knowledge of medicine was increasing as dad gave me little lectures while he treated wounds. He would tell me what to do in times of emergency, how to apply First aid, and even though me how to give CPR. Though I only practice on dolls. Medicine was beautiful art.
However since the episode at the dinner table, dad had been avoiding him, not out of guilt; he wanted me to apologize, to say I was sorry for my behavior towards his wife. But how could I apologize for something I was not sorry for? I hated all she stood for. When they smiled at each other, I felt like smacking them both in the faces. How could he forget my mum so easily?
All the struggles, the pain, and tell hurt. The cancer had spread through my mum causing her excruciating pain, it killed me to have seen my mother in such a condition. Was it worth nothing? The least dad could do was to honor my mum’s memory. I dumped the mathematics workbook on my bed as I decided to help out in the clinic. It was almost nine, most of the villagers always wanted to get a head start and would soon be trooping in. I wore a yellow gown that stopped just around my knee accompanied by a flowery trouser that felt like silk.
The clinic was situated just close to our huge old iron gate with a door of its own, two doors making it possible for you to go to the clinic without going through the gate. The clinic was one of my favorites places, when dad built it, he had stuffed it with lots of medical books and journals, drugs, and charts. Despite how I love helping people with their health, I had no intention of becoming a doctor.
It shocked me to see my dad and his wife standing in the clinic going through some notes when I arrived there. The temporarily abated anger bubbled to the surface again in waves. This talatu took my mother’s place, did she want to take my place at the clinic too.
“Hi Larai”. My dad muttered quietly when he noticed me standing and that was it. He went back to explaining whatever he was to his wife. Sensing that my presence was no longer appreciated, I turned my back and made to leave.
“Wait Larai, you can stay. I’m not here to help your dad. It will amuse you to know that the sight of blood scares me”. Talatu chuckled lightly. “I’m just here to watch you work. You don’t have to leave because of me”. Her eyes held a silent plea. I realized she was desperate to work things between us. Not a chance.
I glanced over at my dad, he didn’t so much as glance at both of us. I nodded at her and began to arrange some drugs like it was the routine.
“Larai, how do you feel about my brother, that is my younger brother coming to live with us for a while. We think you might like his company.” Talatu started again. I just wanted to shut her up, I had no interest in her brother or his company.
“Well, what do you think?” She started again when I continued to do my work.
“Larai, don’t ignore your mother”. My dad began with his unusual tired voice.
“She’s not my mother” I muttered under my breath as I dusted some drugs crate. I powered the lights and the clinic was filled with lights.
“Larai, what do you want from me? You’ve been so impossible since your mother died. At first, I understood because you were her only child and you two were very close, but I don’t understand this any longer, what has Talatu got to do with this? I married her because I loved her, we moved here just like your mother wanted, to help people.”
“That’s not true. You moved here because you couldn’t wait to get over my mum. After all, she’d been so sick you couldn’t sleep with her for years. Dad, you couldn’t even stop to ask me what I wanted. It didn’t stop you to think about what relocating from Abuja meant to me, pulling me from my friends and everyone and everything I know. You’re mean dad”. I could no longer hide my pain. It was right there in the open, the tears blinding me, my voice hoarse. Both dad and Talatu looked at me wide-eyed.
After a short while, my dad spoke. ” This was how you truly felt, why didn’t you say anything?”
“Because you weren’t worth it. You’ve disrespected my mum, and her memory. You weren’t worth me or my feelings. I hate you dad”. I screamed. Few villagers that had just arrived just stood quietly afar watching the exchange.
“Larai, I’m so sorry about how you feel…”
“I hate you too,” I said to Talatu and ran back into the house. No, I couldn’t stay here. I have to leave before I hurt someone with the anger I felt.
Frantically, I reached out and started to grab my clothes throwing them in my small suitcase. I didn’t need much, all I wanted was to leave this place with my sanity intact. As I continued to throw the clothes haphazardly, u failed to notice my dad standing quietly behind me. It was his hands around my shoulders that made me jump, announcing his presence. Despite all my struggles, my dad didn’t budge, instead, he continued to hold me tightly in his arms.
Till all the fight left means all I could do was cry. I remembered how he would hug me and my mum before she had gotten very sick, we would all crowd together in one bed and tell stories far into the night. Oh, how I missed her presence, her smile, the smell of her perfume, and even the way she got angry when I did something wrong.
Like the first when she read a love letter a classmate had sent to me, even when I’d thought she’d get angry and mad, mum had laughed hard and pointed at little spelling errors in the wordings. That was how much I missed her. My dad continued to hold me and say soothing words to me, caressing my hair at the same time. The painful sobs racked through my body for a long time my head began to ache.
It dawned on me that I’d been worrying, worrying, and crying lately leaving me mostly tired. But as I cried today, I felt the anger diffusing, seeping from my body like milk from a bottle that had been turned down. Perhaps there was hope after all.
Days later, the tension seemed to have dissipated, a bit. Things were far from okay, and conversations with my father were still aloof, however, I had the feeling that after my rambling and cries the other day, he had finally understood my point, and even if he didn’t, he was trying hard to.
Talatu had kept from me for a while and only talked when it was necessary. It was harsh but I wasn’t sorry for her retreat. I was still angry at her for marrying a man whose wife died a little over eight months. Dad was trying, asking me questions, personal questions that mattered, making positive remarks and compliment, and listening to me.
This was the man I knew as my father, the man who took care of my mother for as long as she was sick. And gradually as the days passed by, I and my dad were laughing through conversations, making jokes, and accepting our shortcomings. I apologized for how I treated his wife, even though I wasn’t ready to forgive and be her friend.
“Larai, your stepmother’s brother will be coming later in the day. Is that okay with you? I mean if you don’t want him here, we could ask him not to come”. My dad said when he came to stop by in my room to help me with a chemistry workout. I was still an SS2 student who found science very complicated.
“How long will he be staying?” I asked just to be sure I wouldn’t have to start struggling for my dad’s attention.
“I’m not sure, but just for a while”.
“Well, it’s alright then.” He said and left.
A few hours later, I was in the living room been introduced to Salisu, Talatus’s brother who came from Lagos. He was a two hundred-level student of unilag and was currently on a semester break.
“Larai is my daughter. She’s in SS2, perhaps you might find time to work her through her science subjects, she’s struggling with it”. My dad said.
“It’s alright Sir.” He curtly responded. Salisu was tall, huge, and fair. He was wearing blue jeans with a white kaftan draped on them. His round mustache made him look older, but I was sure he wasn’t more than 25. There was something about his look that frightened me. It was the way he looked at me like he was looking through my heart, making him feel like prey and he was the predator. Suddenly, I felt threatened. I didn’t like this guy.
“Come along Salisu, let me show you to your room”. Talatu led him to the guest room where she had prepared earlier. Two days later, I and Salisu had no particular contact other than the basics. We both said “good morning” at the breakfast table and that was it. It was on Wednesday when I came back from school and the house was quiet.
Dad had mentioned earlier about going to town to get some medical supplies and taking his wife with him, perhaps he had also gone with Salisu. I was, however, shocked to see Salisu in my room going through my suitcase. How did he get into my room? What did he want? He must have felt my presence, for he turned suddenly startled to find me behind him.
“Oh, Larai you’re back.” He chuckled nervously. “I was trying to look for a handkerchief, can you imagine I couldn’t find mine”. Beads of perspiration were already forming in his forehead and he looked like my room was the last place he wanted to be in.
“There are some handkerchiefs in my dad’s clinic,” I replied sternly, not batting an eyelid.
“Oh right, thanks.” He replied and moved away from my room quietly.
I went through the same suitcase, nothing was missing only my clothes were ruffled. What had he wanted? I decided to overlook it, perhaps there was a reasonable explanation. However, a strange fear continued to gnaw at the back of my head, something was wrong with him. The way he looked at me was unsettling.
It was a very sunny Sunday morning and my stepmother was busy, I was eagerly interested in what she was doing, but I wanted nothing to do with her. As part of her father’s little clinic project, he thought it proper to teach and provide the villagers with the proper use of sanitary pads and other toiletries.
When father and his wife traveled to the city, they bought a very large supply of the said products. Talatu was busy separating and putting them into parcels to enable each woman to take home hers. I was passionate about such philanthropic gestures but I couldn’t see beyond the anger I felt towards this woman.
Since the episode with Salisu, I’ve been wary of her and her brother, I didn’t trust them both. So as she continued to work tiredly across the room, I was watching a local Telemundo rerun on the TV, not that I was interested but I couldn’t bring myself to help her.
“Larai, will you be there when we share the stuff?” She began, it was a subtle way to get me talking.
“Probably not,” I replied my tone flat, a subtle way to tell her I wasn’t ready to talk.
“Alright”. She replied, looking at me for a while, and sighed. Shoulders dropping, she continued her work paying me no mind. A while later, Salisu joined her after giving me a “hello”.
They worked with joy, sharing laughter and jokes. It made me realize how much I missed people’s company. Since we relocated back to the village, I only kept to myself at school and home, not relating with anyone. I had a vacuum within me waiting to be filled.
“Well, I’ll go ahead now, you take care of yourself”.
Talatu said to me as she trooped out with packages. The house got exceedingly boring and thought about all the fun she would have with the women. I wasn’t close with anyone, but from my little interactions with the villagers at my dad’s clinic and the girls at school, I could tell they were loving people.
I went to my room, put on my earpiece, and began to listen to some tracks. It reminded me of my friends at school, and the countless fun we had. Far was I in my thoughts and music, that I didn’t notice Salisu come into the room.
I felt sudden darkness in the room and turned to see his large frame standing just by the door. What was he doing here? Quickly, I stood up and adjusted my clothes, expecting him to say it was a mistake and wanted to leave. Instead, he didn’t and looked at me from head and toe.
“What do you want?”
“Do I have to want something before I come into your room?” He replied curtly.
Since he came except for the ravishing looks he gave me, Salisu kept to himself and occasionally talked to my dad, mostly with his sister.
“Well, no. But I don’t appreciate you coming into my room like this. I would like you to leave”.
Paying no need to my words, he proceeded forward.”Don’t act naive Larai, you know why I’m here”.
My breath got stuck in my throat, I hope it wasn’t what I was thinking. Thinking fast, I looked around for an object I could protect myself. His eyes followed mine.
“Don’t think about it Larai”. His voice dropped to whisper, husky and deep. “I don’t want to rape. It’s just sex, you’ll enjoy it.”
“I’m not interested”. I replied trying to act confident, but deep down I’d already turned mushy. What would I do if he tried to force me? No one would hear my screams.
“That’s because you don’t know how good it can be”. His voice was deeper, and eyes eager. I could see he was getting desperate. “Just trust me Larai, this would be beautiful, you’ll enjoy it, I promise to be gentle”.
“Salisu, get out of my room, I’ll make sure your sister and my dad know about this”. My voice had confidence I didn’t feel. My tough act must have gotten to him as his shoulders drooped slightly.
“Okay, but just think about my proposal. I’m serious”. With that, he left abruptly as he had come in. I heaved a sigh of relief. Time to change my locks.
Next Episode (16th May 2021)