It was 2 a.m., I lay awake on my bed thinking of the previous day. It had not been a good one for me nor for my mother. My father had beaten her, again. She had done nothing; well, she had done ‘almost’ nothing. Daddy had come home late as usual under the excuse of attending a business meeting but that wasn’t what earned mummy the worse beating of her life, it was her care for us.
After serving daddy’s dinner, I heard her ask, “Baba Deola, what about Segun’s School fees?”
“Woman, I’m just coming from work. Can’t you spare me the troubles and besides, I don’t have the money yet”, Dad hissed. “No, you’re not just coming back from work”, she looked downward and fiddled with her fingers. I was stunned. No one had ever admitted dad was cheating on mother and in extension, on all of us for the money that should have been spent on us was obviously used in taking care of some others but mom had never hinted it. I thought I was the only one who suspected dad of infidelity. It always smelt on him.
Dad rose slowly to his feet,
” what did you just say? ” I saw it in his eyes, he was hurt or was it just his ego? Before mom could reply, he hit her hard, I shivered. My brother ran to my side and hugged me. I broke away and ran to separate her from my father but he pushed me away and I crashed into the centre table. He kept hitting her continuously till she was too weak to defend herself, then he stormed inside. I stood bewildered as my brother went to my mother’s side to console her.
” It’s alright, stop crying” she held his head on her laps and wept.
I lay on the floor bewildered. I had never witnessed such in my life before. This was too much, dad had hit mum before now but not this brutally. I tried to rise and winced. I felt a sting and immediately held my elbow up, I was bleeding. The glass on the table had tore my skin, I kept staring at it, no tears came rolling down. I only stared till I heard my mother groan, she was in greater pain than I was, I sprang up and helped her to her feet.
She held my elbow, “let us go and treat that” her grip was near the cut and I gritted my teeth as she used me as a support. She tried to stand straight and staggered. Her back was bent as she started dragging me towards the kitchen, “mummy” I protested, “what about you?”
“Shut up” she almost choked on her tears as she looked away to hide her face from mine.
About an hour later, she had freshened up but was still looking worn out and tired. After a long hour of consoling my brother, he fell asleep; right beside my mother while she slept next to me.
I was scared my father could wake up in the middle of the night and continue from where he left off. The rage I had seen in his eyes some hours earlier seemed to have been wrought from the pit of hell and couldn’t be quenched in a few hours of sleep.
So I lay awake, just staring at the ceiling. Mom had stopped sobbing, deep sobs that rocked the whole bed, I could hear her sigh once on a while. I was staring and wondering if there was ever a time she was in love with my father. I tried to imagine it, like in the movies: he chasing her in a beautiful garden but it was blurry, all I could see was tonight’s scene, mummy crouched beside the cushion, her face hidden in her palms and daddy throwing punches.
I wondered if the movies were true or perhaps this was really all there was to love: quarrels, abusive words, fist throws, curses, malice, tears and pain; for many times, I could notice the gulf between them. They were oceans apart yet they lived under the same roof; daddy eating mummy’s food and mummy simply asking for money, a boring, seemingly unending circle.
I jolted out of my thoughts. I had heard a sound. I paused and listened, then it came again, the front door was being hit. I held my breathe, “mummy”
“Shhhhh…, what is that?”
“I don’t know, it’s the door”
We laid still. The only sound that cut through the air was my father’s snor. It came again, another loud bang, then voices. “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, the blood of Jesus” mummy was praying fervently, I was confused. I felt my brother’s hand squeeze hard on mine. “Lie down, don’t move”, she stood up and quietly opened the door that led to the short pavement. A moment passed by, then I heard her scream,
” Keep quiet!” came a harsh voice, “Your face down, If I hear a sound, I’ll shoot you”
I gasped, armed robbers. I held my breath and laid still.
“Where is your husband?”another harsh voice asked. I heard no reply or perhaps they had shot her, I wondered. I heard another loud bang, it was the door to my parent’s room.
” Come out!”
“Bring out all the money in this house!”
“Your face down, I’ll shoot you!”, there were many voices screaming out orders all at once.
I heard my father’s voice, filled with fear “there is no money”
Then I heard him make short sounds, they were kicking him.
“Fool” another voice cursed, I was getting familiar with the voices. This one seemed like the the ring leader for his voice was more frequent and authoritative.
“Guys, check the other rooms” the same voice ordered. I froze. I had forgotten we were also in the house, my brother and I.
He held my hand tight. “Shhhhh, get up” I whispered. He didn’t respond, I carried him off the bed and tiptoed quietly towards the table, the hurried footsteps were drawing closer and as I bent down to stay underneath the table, my brother’s head hit the sharp edge, he winced aloud. I stood still. Then the door creaked and a torch shone bright across the room. I held my breath and hoped my brother would be wise enough to do the same but there was no need hoping for in a split second, the light from the torch rested on us.
“Come out!”, my brother burst onto tears. “Come out!”
I crawled out with my brother still in my arms. They pushed us out of the room and led us to the sitting room where my parents lay side by side on the floor, they kicked my brother and I and we fell beside them.
“The man talk say im get no money” a voice roared. There was silence. “Kill him”
My parents screamed. “Please, biko, don’t kill me, I beg you”, I heard my father plead.
” So in this whole house, there is no money, Is that what you are saying?”, another deep voice roared. So perhaps daddy was not lying the previous night when he had told mummy he had no money for Segun’s school fees, I thought. “You no get use” another voice hissed.
A hand grabbed and pulled me up, “Your pikin no bad at all o”, everywhere was silent, ” abi, wetin you think Oscar”
“She dey alright ” Oscar laughed.
My mother sprang up, “please kill me, please don’t touch her”
“Westin, shut up! They pushed her back to the ground.
I stiffened my body and refused to move as they attempted dragging me forward. ” Eh! The girl sef dey stubborn o, bring her daddy” I heard my father struggle as they pulled him up. “Bring am” the voice ordered. “See baby” he held my chin up, “shey you want make I kill your father?”, I didn’t respond.
” E be like say she no sabi wetin you talk” one laughed.
“Do you want me to kill your father?”, he repeated in plain English, tears rolled down my face.
“Good”, he smoothened my rough hair, “so it is better you cooperate o”. He pushed me to the chair and I looked at his face, he wore a mask as well as the others. “Please don’t touch my daughter, kill me”, my father pleaded. I could hear my mother’s sobs, ” please kill me, don’t touch my daughter ”
The man asked me as he loosened his belt, “or baby, should I kill your father. He no get money before sef” they all laughed. “I won’t touch you if you say we should shoot him o”
I shook my head profusely as hot tears rolled down my face, “Good girl” he patted my arm as other hands pinned me down to the chair. My brother sprang up, “No!”, some of the robbers had immediately held him.
” Kill daddy!” “Kill daddy”, he cried. The leader laughed heartily,
” e be lie say this your son no like you o”
I looked at my brother through my tear filled eyes and saw the hatred in his eyes. He is only seven, I wondered, how could he possibly understand what was going on?
Why would he ask that daddy be killed but the hatred I saw in his eyes for that split second said it all: he hated them all, including my father. I also hated them but I wasn’t sure how I felt about my father. A while ago, I could have sworn I detested him. I felt a sharp pain and screamed, blood trickled down my thighs.
“Oya, work don do, if money no dey, babe sha dey”, they laughed heartily. ” I fit talk say all of Una take round but she be small girl” they laughed, “no problem Oga” another hailed.
“Oya, let us bounce” I heard their feet run out the front door, my mother rose quickly while my father was silent, lying with his face to the ground. I stared hard at his figure as if I wasn’t sure who it was; I had bled twice for this man.
The clock ticked noisily, it was 2.45 a.m.