“Her breasts are too tiny, they look like Udara*“
“My in-law don’t worry, they will grow bigger when she starts bearing you sons”
“They better grow because a man needs something he can feel in his hands”
“Let me call her for you. “
I move quickly from behind the door and resume peeling yam as I hear Mama’s approaching footsteps.
“Olanna, your husband is leaving, won’t you come tell him bye bye?”
I shake my head as mama begs me with pleading eyes. We hear the sound of the door and I’m glad he has gone. I take the yam peels to the back of the house and spread them on the ground for the goats.
I wish I could vanish. Miss Susan said vanish is another word for disappear.
Vanish like a ghost at cock-crowing.
My parents are handing me over in marriage to Ikenna tomorrow like a Christmas chicken. Just like they did to my elder sister, Adaobi. They don’t mind that he is old enough to be my father or the fact that I would be his second wife. I curse the day I was born. I curse the gods for making me a woman.
My parents can’t even wait for me to finish form 2. Papa says I have to marry Ikenna because he needs the bride price to treat his illness. Ikenna is rich and is one of the few villagers who live in a house made with blocks unlike our small mud house. He also has a shining motor cycle. Mama said I’m lucky because I won’t suffer like she has suffered with Papa.
I would miss these brown walls, these walls that watched while mama bore each of us, these walls that have heard every secret between Adaobi and I. I trace the lines on the wall where Adaobi and I marked our heights when we were younger.
I miss Adaobi. Mama said we should have come as twins. I miss all the laughter we shared in this house. Adaobi no longer laughs as loud as before. Her smiles always seem forced. I think her husband beats her because I’ve seen bruises on her face. Even though she claims it was caused by one accident or another.
I remember the morning I found out I had become a woman, which was a year ago. Hot tears flowed down my face as I washed my blood stained underwear. I knew it would happen; I just didn’t expect it to be so soon, I had just turned 13. I told Mama just like every girl does. A husband was chosen for me not too long after.
Ikenna is very ugly. He looks like the stubborn he-goat tied behind Mama Ekene’s house. His big eyes look like they are about to pop out and his ears look like dry ugwu leaves attached to his head. When he talks, his faces resembles a badly wrapped mould of fufu. His stomach is so big he resembles a pregnant woman
I want to become a teacher like Miss Susan; I like how she talks through her nose. I like her flowing skirts and leather sandals. Miss Susan said I will make a fine teacher. I want to teach children when I grow up just like her and maybe one day I’ll go to London to see the queen. Then I would speak all the big words I know, Queen’s English as Miss Susan calls it.
She came to talk to Papa when she learnt I was about to get married. We walked home together after school that day. I left her at the doorstep and went in through the backyard so my parents would not know we came together. I listened to how she told Papa that I was very bright and had a great future ahead of me because she was sure I would qualify for the scholarship. Papa and Mama didn’t say a word while she spoke; I thought maybe, just maybe she had said enough to persuade them to change their mind. Till Papa thundered with his loud voice.
“Leave my house! Onye Ocha*! You cannot tell me what to do with my own child.”
That was the last time I saw her because Papa banned me from going to school.
Ikenna would sleep with me tomorrow.
Adaobi told me about the first time she slept with her husband. She said it was very painful. When he put his thing inside her, she almost died from the pain. The fire between her legs prevented her from walking for two days. Even after being married for a year, she hates sleeping with him. She just lies under him and remembers when we were growing up, how we used to go to the stream to fetch water and stop at Ngozi’s house on our way back home to pluck mangoes.
Tomorrow he would see me naked, see my Udara breasts as he called them.
I have to give Ikenna sons.
I’m afraid of having babies. Nene died last week during child birth. The villagers say she wasn’t strong enough that’s why she died but Miss Susan said she died because she was too young to have a baby. I remember Mama’s agonizing screams that threatened to pull down the house each time she gave birth to my brothers. How they used to cry at night, especially Kelechi. His cries used to wake all of us up. I don’t want a baby that would be crying so much.
I will disappear.
Vanish like a ghost at cock-crowing.
It’s the only way I can escape.
I would miss Adaobi and Mama; Mama Ada as everyone calls her. I would miss all the stories she tells me whenever she weaves my hair. I would miss her Ofe Onugbu*. Who would help her pick beans, wash bitterleaf and pound yam?
I hope Papa gets better. I hope he does not come and join me soon.
I’ll go to the stream after midnight today.
*Udara- Igbo word for Africa Star Apple; popularly known as Agbalumo.
*Ofe Onugbu – Bitterleaf soup.
* Onye Ocha – White person
Today’s story is rather sad. Please share your thoughts.
Thanks for reading!