For the past few weeks, I have been serialising my book, ‘The Cost of Our Lives – Pandemic Edition‘, and sharing a chapter with you every week. The Cost Of Our Lives highlights the story of how Ibidun was taken from Ajegunle to London by her mother’s friend. This novella details Ibidun’s London adventure of friendship, betrayal, freedom, and how she was able to return to Nigeria to begin a career as a celebrity fashion stylist.
I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. If you missed the previous chapters, read them here.
While Papa was very strict and distant, Mama’s step brother who had come to live with us was the nicest person I had ever met. He had lived in Benin for over twenty years and had come to Lagos in search of a better life. At first, I was worried about where he would be sleeping and how he would manage to live in the same room with all of us, but he never once slept in the room with us. He only dropped his things and came in occasionally to change and leave again. I often wondered where he slept. He was the only one in the house who was constantly smiling. He always had something to give me every time I met him at home – Maltina, Cream Crackers, Digestive Biscuit, Éclairs, and many other things some of my classmates brought to school to snack on during the break.
The sweets and biscuits got more frequent and I gradually began to develop a fondness for Uncle Femi. Even when I didn’t meet him at home after school, I would look around for him. He had become my only source of happiness, my confidant and best friend. He was the only one who looked out for me and always asked me, “Ibidun, how are you?” Even my parents couldn’t afford to be bothered about my day-to-day wellbeing because they were too busy trying to get us the little we had but Uncle Femi was always there for me.
My father had a bad right leg from an accident that almost left him paralysed, and so he walked with the help of crutches. Yet Papa often beat us for no reason, sometimes with the crutches. He would take out his frustrations on us at every slightest offence like spilling water on the floor or leaving the bed slightly rumpled. We nicknamed him ‘Papa terror’ because he terrified us whenever we saw him.
In all the years I knew my father, he never had a job, he never went to work. It was Mama who hustled and worked hard to keep us all barely surviving. Papa would stay at home from morning till 7pm and then head to the local beer parlour. He had no source of income whatsoever, so he would always wait for Mama to get back home from work so he could collect money from her or sometimes steal any spare change in her bag.
Whenever Jide and I got back from school, Jide would drop his nylon bag of books at home and then go down the road to play football with the other boys in the area. We hardly ever had homework, and even the few times we did, he would wait till we got back to class the following day to copy mine. Most times, I stayed at home with Papa just to attend to his needs and make sure he was fine. It must have been tough for my father to be unemployed for so long despite having a first class degree in Agricultural Science. He had tried his hands on several business ventures but they all failed. I guess this was part of the reason he was so mean to everyone. He was probably frustrated.
It was my 10th birthday the first time Uncle Femi came into the room while I was taking off my school uniform. Jide had dashed off to play football, Papa was nowhere in sight and Mama wouldn’t be back until much later. I heard the door open while my uniform was already above my head so I couldn’t see who it was that had entered.
“Who is that?” I asked, expecting to hear Jide’s voice, or Mama’s, or Papa’s. For a moment, I imagined they had all planned a surprise for me even though I knew it was almost improbable.
“Shhh,” the voice answered.
I immediately became scared and quickly tried to get my uniform off as quickly as possible. I looked up after I managed to pull off my dress only to see it was Uncle Femi standing close to the door, staring intently at my half naked body. I completely forgot he also had access to our room. I suddenly became afraid as he began to move towards me. He looked so different, like he was about to hurt me. As he moved closer, he kept whispering, “Shh… don’t scream, I won’t hurt you,” even though the look in his eyes told me he was about to do just that. He grabbed me and held me close to him before pushing me onto the bed. He started touching and fondling me and then laid on top of me. I had no idea what my uncle was doing to me but I knew it was bad. He was heavy on me, pressing me down and I knew he wasn’t meant to be touching me on my chest or between my legs like he was doing, so I told him to leave me alone. He seemed to be in a world of his own though, it was as if he couldn’t even hear me. Before I knew it, he had forcefully pulled my pant to the side, his trousers were down and his manhood was playing around my private part. I could feel his skin pressing against mine. At that point, I knew I was in big trouble. As he tried desperately to force himself into me, I let out yet another scream and tried to push him up without much success. All of a sudden, a strange stillness swept over me, one that I had never felt before. I was in pain but I couldn’t scream anymore, I was weak, tired and powerless. I just let my body be as he forcefully inserted his manhood in and out of my private part. I was experiencing two different types of tears, one from my eyes as water flowed freely and another from between my legs as the force from Uncle Femi’s penis violently tore me down there. I was in pain but I had also become weak from his weight on top of me and all the struggling I had done. I was too tired to react anymore to his movements. I was numb to all he was doing to me and I just wanted it to end as quickly as possible. Yet he kept saying, “Trust me Ibidun, I’ll never hurt you,” as he moaned and moved on top of me. I wondered how he could say that considering what he was doing to me.
Even though I didn’t fully understand what exactly he was doing to me at the time, I just knew it couldn’t be right. I was only ten years old and Uncle Femi was the only man I trusted. After he was done with me, he got up, put his trousers back on, then he looked into my eyes and said, “Ibidun, you are the only girl I love, that’s why I keep buying you things. This is another way of showing you I love you. Happy birthday my love.” Our eyes locked, he winked at me and walked out of the room as if nothing happened.
As the tears continued to roll down my eyes, I wondered if it was normal for every young girl to experience this strange birthday gift from a male adult on their 10th birthday. I couldn’t believe what had happened, I didn’t even understand it. I tried to get up but I couldn’t. My legs were shaking, I was also bleeding from my private part and I was too weak to stand so I just dragged myself off the bed, lay down on one side of the room and cried myself to sleep. I woke up the next day only to realise that no one even noticed what had happened.
It wasn’t until many years later that I began to fully understand what Uncle Femi had done to me. He had molested me, violated, raped and sexually abused me on my 10th birthday. That was the day he initiated me into being his little bed mate. Many years later, I would get to understand the evil Uncle Femi had committed against my body. He had robbed me of my innocence and made me lose any trust I could have possibly had for any man.
The hatred I had for my parents increased as my love for Uncle Femi grew. I prayed every night for him because he was the only person that made me happy. Sex with Uncle Femi became more frequent as I seemed to enjoy it even more each time we managed to be alone together. Initially, I would just lie down like a lifeless creature while he had his way with me, but after a while, he would tell me to move and I would wriggle my body while he did those things to me. Each time he was done, he would say to me, “this is our little secret, don’t tell anyone, don’t let them know anything.”
And I did just that.
Join me next week for the next chapter of The Cost Of Our Lives.
Posted by: Ariyike Akinbobola