Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Light and Dark (05/21/09)
TITLE: The morning after
By Folakemi Emem-Akpan
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When the first streaks of daylight turned her room a grey hue, Dami rolled onto her back. Her lower back ached slightly, just like she’d known it would, and there was a devil of a headache somewhere in her temple. She rubbed at her forehead, found it was flushed with sweat, grimaced.
Her feet made connection with the floor and she hurried over to the window. As she yanked the curtains apart, the room grew brighter and the pit-a-pat racing of her heart eased somewhat.
God, how she hated nights.
She has not always had a fear for darkness, but it is amazing how fast the human mind learns fear.
The horror story began the day she turned twelve. Her aunt had organized a party for her and was busy putting up balloons in the living room. In the kitchen, as she worked alongside her uncle, he’d brushed his arm against her budding chest. She chalked it up as a mistake, ignored it and made it a point of duty to enjoy her party.
The following evening, her aunty Jess was on night duty at the hospital and left Dami and the twins in care of her husband. That was the first night he visited her room. The ordeal lasted less than twenty minutes but she would remember it for the whole of her life. The rankness of his breath, the disturbing heat of his palms, the searing pain he inflicted in that secret part of her, and the blood afterwards.
When he was done, when he’d finished pulling up his pajama bottoms, he’d looked at her strangely, his eyes filled with a cold fire she’d never before seen. “One word to Jess and I’ll kill you. Believe me, I will.”
The next night, her aunt stayed home and he didn’t come in to her. But that didn’t stop Dami from staying awake, terror-stricken, counting the minutes before dawn arrived. That day, she fell asleep at her desk in school, got sent to the detention room.
This morning, she stepped into the bathroom and turned on the shower full blast. The hot needles of water struck her not too gently but she stayed under, scrubbing, washing away the fluids of the man she hated with her whole being.
The tragedy of the story was that she was not some orphan that was living at her aunt’s via charity. Back home in Nigeria, her parents were alive, wealthy, loving. When she turned ten, they’d sent her to London to live with her father’s younger sister and husband because the harsh Lagos sun gave her migraines. Her first two years in London ran like a dream. She was loved, protected, cherished. Until that night of violation.
When she was done with bathing, she slipped on a smock and sandals and made her way downstairs to the living room. In the kitchen, she made pancakes and brought out a pitcher of milk from the fridge.
Sitting at the dinning while the rest of the family still slept, she considered her life. She was fourteen, had suffered sexual abuse for two years, and had just recently begun menstruating. She’d heard stories of girls who got pregnant at fourteen, and she was not about to become a statistic. Closing her eyes, gathering courage round about her like a cloak, she stood to her feet. She knew what she had to do.
Lagos, Nigeria was an hour behind London, but she knew her father would be awake already. The phone did not ring long before it was picked up. She said all she’d rehearsed, forced the words past her constricted throat, refused to choke up and cry. She heard the cry of rage from the other end, heard the muffled curses and then the soft question. “Are you all right?”
She said yes, then added, “Could you wait until you get here before saying anything to aunty?”
When finally she disconnected the call, she leaned against the wall. She heard someone sobbing softly and it took a full minute to realize that the sound was coming from her. Quickly, she mopped at her face, willed herself to stop crying.
Outside, dawn had finally broken.
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