Fatima was eight when she decided it would never happen to her again:
She didn’t notice when he sat beside her, didn’t see him until his hand touched between her legs. She had been engrossed in her favourite book, a book she had read repeatedly, “The Joys of Motherhood by Ebuchi Emecheta.” The fact she read books her age mates didn’t, was the only thing about her, her mother was proud of, and would always flaunt to anyone who would listen. At first that’s why Fatima read but soon the books started to inspire her. She had dreams of being a famous writer, dreams she would never realise.
He told her not to scream, that it was natural. He said he had been watching her grow into a young lady and she was ready to be turned into woman. Fatima hit his hands with her book and he slapped her hard across the face. ‘This isn’t a joke.’ He said, ‘I will get what I want from you today. It can be simple, sweet and loving, or rough and forceful the choice is yours.’ Fatima fought as he pushed his hand more urgently between her legs. She screamed out even though she knew no one would hear. She wished she wasn’t in her secret place; in the fields where she loved to read and hide away from her world. This time he hit her with the book, right across her face, cutting her just below the eye, a cut that would later turn into a scar. After that she did everything he asked her to.
He told her to take off her clothes. She did this slowly, folding each item carefully before placing them on the grass beside her. She thought this would get him angry but it seemed to turn him on more. When she was done he told her to lie down and spread her legs wide open. He called her beautiful, said her mother had nothing on her. Then he made her watch as he took off his clothes. When he finally lay on top of her and entered her, his pee-stick was rigid and long, this was something she had never seen before so she covered her face with “The Joys of motherhood,” and wondered, if her mother was here, would she protect her?
When she finally got home late that night. Her mother didn’t ask about the cut below her eye, instead she scolded her for coming home late. Her father sat in his chair ignoring them like he always did. After that day she decided it would never happen to her again. She made sure she never went out alone and when she was at home she locked herself in her room even though she knew she was safe there.
FATIMA WAS sixteen when she decided she would never love her husband:
Her mother was the one that told her she was going to marry Musa. She said they couldn’t afford her schooling, and besides, girls that could read didn’t need school. Later she would hear her mother tell her best friend, that Fatima was a devil sent to destroy her marriage, so she had to marry her off. Musa seemed nice, he bought her gifts, listened when she spoke, so after months of protesting she gave up and married him.
Fatima couldn’t enjoy the wedding day, not because she was sad or still opposing but because she was scared of the night. She knew what was expected of her, but since that day aged eight she had become scared of her body. She hardly looked at herself in the mirror anymore and when she had her wash, her hands refused to move pass her hips.
After the celebration of the day, Musa sat beside her on the bed jovial and slightly drunk. When his hand touched her thighs, the image of that day came flooding back and it made her shift away from him. She crawled up, hugging her knees to herself like a child and started to cry. Musa asked what was wrong as he gently rubbed her back. She wouldn’t talk at first but he kept on consoling her and reassuring her. He told her she could tell him and he would understand. So she did, she told him about the man who took her virtue a man that took her love for books and with it her dreams.
Musa understood like he said he would and didn’t touch her that night. His understanding would last a month and then the month after that and soon Fatima started to feel happy in her marriage. Maybe she could learn to love this man who was so understanding. He was so much different than her parents, but on the day of her sixteenth birthday Musa’s understanding would cease.
On that day Musa sat by her bed and placed his hand on her thigh like he always did, but this time when she crawled into a ball, Musa would not remove his hand. He told her that men had needs, needs their wife were meant to fulfil. If he wanted to be celibate then he would have become a catholic priest not a cattle seller. She tried to push him off, but he was too strong for her. When he slapped her, hitting the scar below her eye, she remembered what caused it in the first place; it made her cover her face with a pillow, while Musa forced himself repeatedly on her that night. He would apologise later, say he was sorry that he hit her, but a man didn’t marry a beautiful wife like her to be tempted by his heifers. He would say this every night after he forced himself on her and Fatima knew he was right, but she also decided then she would never love him.
Fatima was eighteen when she decided she would never love anyone or anything more:
Fatima knew the exact moment when she conceived Sule. She was used to their nightly ritual by then. Musa would come into their room and place his hands on her thighs. She would slowly get up, take off her clothes, fold them neatly beside the bed and cover her face with the pillow, while Musa lay on top of her and attended to his needs. Outside the bedroom they lived completely different lives. Musa was very outgoing and loud. He would leave in the early hours of the morning and Fatima wouldn’t see him until it was time for dinner. On some days she only saw him when it was time to sleep.
Fatima spent her days cleaning; she tidied the house, made sure everywhere was spotless. Then she would sit down and admire her work. Maybe admire is the wrong word, she felt peace, actually maybe not peace, content, yes, she felt content in the neatness the clean environment created.
The day Sule was conceived, Musa came home earlier than normal slightly drunk. He had just won a big contract and wanted to celebrate with his wife. He turned up the volume on the radio and danced on his own, knocking over objects and making a mess. Fatima sat and watched him; the mess he was making made her nervous. Then he waltzed towards her and placed his hand there, showing his intent. Fatima told him it wasn’t night-time yet, and they were in the living room, but Musa was too excited to listen. He lifted her in excitement and placed her on the dinning table. He didn’t let her take off her clothes or fold them neatly; he didn’t let her cover her face and he didn’t notice that she cried all the while he was inside her. Later when he was done, she knew, knew he had left something in her that she wasn’t sure she wanted.
In a little over nine months on her eighteen-birthday, Fatima screamed and screamed as she pushed Sule out of her. Sule was strong and announced his arrival into the world with a bellow of a child that knew what destiny had in store for it. Fatima refused to hold the baby, not until he had been cleaned and she had cleansed herself of his blood. When the midwife finally handed Sule over to her and she looked into his big brown eyes, she decided then that her heart belonged to him.
Fatima was twenty-six when she decided enough was enough:
After Sule was born; Fatima’s life changed. She tried to make him fit into the calm she had created for herself, but Sule had his own mind. He craved her attention all the time, would cry for absolutely no reason and when he started crawling, he would sit and watch her tidy up, then go about creating new mess after she was done; but all he did made her love him more.
When he was five he discovered books, he read everything he laid his hands on, even the shopping list gave him delight. One day she saw him reading “The Joys of Motherhood,” and something in her gave way. That night while he slept she sneaked into his room, took the book from underneath his pillow and read it. As she did, she remembered her dreams and the man that took it from her. She fell asleep reading it and when she woke up she went to their back yard and set it ablaze. As it burnt, she saw her dreams disappear in the flames.
When she walked through the door into their living room, on the day she turned twenty-six, she knew something was wrong. Everywhere was like how she had left it that morning, but something troubled her. She went into the kitchen and picked up a knife (why? she wasn’t sure) and slowly she made her way to Sule’s room.
They were too engrossed in what they were doing that they didn’t notice her open the door. Sule was sitting on the edge of the bed; his face nested between the legs of the naked man standing in front of him. The man was grunting in pleasure reminding Sule this was their secret, no one else was meant to know, especially his mother.
That was when Fatima decided Enough was Enough.
Fatima thanked Allah that she had the knife in her hand. She tiptoed to him, scared that if she made any noise the man would turn around and overpower her. When she stabbed him in the back she screamed. With each stab the screaming got louder; as she felt the pains of her past wash away with his spilled blood.
Fatima watched him as he fell to the floor. He didn’t struggle or make any noise, he just lay there and stared at her the way he did when she was a child. Her mother always said she was a curse sent to destroy her marriage. That her beauty was from the devil, that it was this devilish beauty that made her father look at her with such lust, but her mother was wrong.
Was Sule beautiful? Did Sule live in her home? Yet this man, a man she called father was robbing him of his dignity, they way he had taken hers.
She sat beside Sule on the bed, holding him close to her as they both cried watching her father die. After what seemed an eternity, she stood up and started to clean up his room. As she cleaned around her father’s body, she knew then, she would finally get her peace.