by Ezeh Michael Ogonna
History has a way of repeating itself, so I have learned to pay more attention to little past details.
Rumour has it there was a boy I once crushed so much on to the point I kissed him in the classroom under the watch of everyone. I was four years as at the time.
I wouldn’t know the feel of such moments, if the stories were exactly true, I
just know I once fought my younger sister for making a joke out of it.
Yester-evening, unlike ten years ago, the rush was real, my adrenaline and estrogens flushed all over me.
I hardly breathe whenever Ikechi was around and last evening I almost literally choked when he held my hands and looked in my eyes while he said he loved me.
Daddy has told me he loved me almost every other morning, and that sort of makes me strong.
It probably was Ikechi’s hands or voice that made my legs weak and wobbly when I heard those same words I have been hearing since I was one day old.
I could stand all evening gazing at his magical self, but instead he pecked my forehead and said “Goodnight”.
Every other night I thought about our first evening together, waiting for the next.
The next meeting didn’t quite happen as expected, he came to me now in the form of a letter; a letter I still have till this day. A letter I read twelve times that night.
It was for me the next magical moment.
On the sixteenth of April, 2001, I woke up with a start, a loud unusual
voice howling at me in my dreams—or was I awake?
It felt real—I wasn’t asleep—I just realized when my bedroom door cracked open without courtesy.
Daddy was filled with rage, his eyes ember red. He looked like he had been crying all night. I stood startled. I have never seen him in such a devastated mood ever, not since mum died three years ago.
Today was worse. He stood for a minute or two, just staring at me, leaving
me confused and in suspense.
“Have you been seeing a man?” he whispered as though unsure if those were the right choice of words.
“Have you been seeing a man during school hours?!” he spoke a little
Louder this time, taking a gradual step towards me with his eyes fully fixed on
I wish I could vanish.
“Yes,” I coughed and covered my face in disbelief of the word that just made its way out of my mouth.
I couldn’t lie; there was no time to think up one. It was 5:30 am, maybe people don’t lie at this time of the morning. I wasn’t expecting he would ever find out; Ikechi promised dad will never know.
He is 27 and I 14, he knows how best to make sure dad never finds out and he has been excellent in doing so for the past seven months.
Dad took a step towards me now and unleashed the first real slap of my life. I screamed in horror as he raised his hand to hit me again, and again, repeatedly yelling, “Ada I have to kill you before you kill me!”
He quoted a Bible verse or two, that one about training a child in the way he should go so that he’d not depart from it when he is old, all the while his face covered with the greatest hate I had ever seen.
Ann, my younger sister rushed in crying already. She’d heard me cry and that was all she needed to join in the chorus.
Ann has my father’s kind of heart, soft and too good it gets her into trouble—like those times she covered up for me without ever snitching.
In one of those occasions, when I’d broken mum’s mirror, she had admitted we were playing when it broke.
We were both punished for it, even though I was actually the one playing with mum’s makeup kit when the mirror broke.
I pushed Ann down at the doorway as I fled the room, as I fled from the only man that had loved me before Ikechi came calling.
I fled from his love to my love. My parents have never had to hit me before now, just some minor spanks and scolds now and then.
But today daddy was a beast; he seemed to have forgotten the language of the love he once professed to me.
After today he shall see me no more. I shall be with my Ikechi—he promised never to let me down.
I banged on his door for the umpteenth time before his neighbor screamed from her room.
“Who is there?!”
“It’s me. Adaku!” I replied in-between sobs.
“Ada, didn’t your uncle tell you he was travelling?”
“No, ma,” I muttered, my lips apart in bewilderment.
“Well, he no longer stays here. He is done with his program and has travelled back to his family in the North.”
I heard the volume of her television increase as she asked passively, “Hope there is no problem, Ada?”
There was a problem, but she can’t solve it. Only Ikechi can and he is not
here to hear how our love has broken my father’s heart.
I stood in a fix, shocked with the fact that Ikechi never does anything without letting me know.
Perhaps it was an emergency, I tried to convince myself as I turned to head back home. Back to my father and his rage.
Shame and disappointment warred in me.
I understand my father’s overreaction, we spend most times talking about our personal lives and I never mentioned having a man nor my skipping classes for him. I was sure getting him in the know would bring an end to those beautiful moments and we weren’t ready to let anything come between us. Ikechi was old enough to know the best for us, or so I thought.
I feel sorry for him, but somewhere deep inside all I wanted as I walked home was to meet Ike as he is fondly called on the way and fall into his macho arms again.
It’s been 15 years since my apology to my dad for letting him down, 15 years since I decided never to trust any man born of a woman again, except my son, Wisdom, whom I just wish would become a reliable man like the one that raised me and is still supporting me till this moment.
Every time I read Ikechi’s letters and love notes, it stands as a constant reminder never to completely believe anyone except myself.
Ezeh Michael Ogonna hails from Ebonyi State, Nigeria.