In her eyes I see me

In her eyes I see me

© Folakemi Emem-Akpan

 

She arrives before the others, bag tightly clutched, feet clad in black shoes. The creaking door signals her entry, and for the briefest of moments as I look at this nervous girl, I am assailed with memories of days gone by. Days filled with terror and unspeakable deeds.

 

“Good morning m’am.”

 

“Hi Barbara. And how are you today?”

 

She nods, finds the least conspicuous seat in the class, and folds her long frame onto it. I look at the clock to ascertain it’s yet thirty minutes to the start of the Sunday school. Then yielding to the prompting that’s been beating in my heart for a week, I approach Barbara.

 

She already has a book out, and seems to want to disappear into it when I sit by her. “Can I see that?”

 

The book is one of the Enid Blyton’s series, my favorite when I was eight, the same age Barbara is now. “Is it in this book that Dame Washalot loses her tub?”

 

Laughter suddenly fills Barbara’s eyes and she nods yes. Almost immediately, the laughter is replaced by the bleak, blank expression I’ve since come to associate with her.

 

I first set eyes on her four months ago. On that day, with one glance, I could tell that something had wrung the joy from this little girl’s eyes. Her mother, a gaunt once-pretty nervous woman, explained they were new in the neighborhood and that Barbara wanted to come to Sunday school.

 

Barbara looked familiar. It wasn’t until I got home that it occurred to me that she looked like I had when I was her age. I got out an old picture to compare and true, my picture could have passed for hers. Long black hair, gangly arms and legs, and the dead look in both of our eyes.

 

It wasn’t until last week that I realized the resemblance went deeper than that. Sorting through old newspapers, I had come across a story, five months old. It gave the details of a trial held in the State that adjourns mine. A woman returned home from work earlier than was normal and found her husband of ten years sexually assaulting their six-year-old daughter. Wild with anger, she’d run to the kitchen, gotten hold of the largest kitchen knife, and hacked her husband to death. Having only her word, and believing she’d tutored her daughter into collaborating her story, the state went ahead to prosecute her. A year later, a jury of twelve found her not guilty of first degree murder and acquitted her. The reporter had included a picture of the woman and the abused daughter.

 

It was the picture of Barbara and her mother.

 

Suddenly, everything made sense. Barbara’s perfectionist attitude, her inability to laugh, that look in her eyes.

 

“It’s okay to laugh, sweetheart.” I tilt her head so that her eyes meet mine. There are tears swollen behind her eyes, and I am temporarily transported back twenty-five years in time.

 

I was ten years old. The place where he’d just been hurt like a thousand hells. Leaning against the sink, shaking uncontrollably, I tried to concentrate on washing the plates. If you ever tell your mother, I’ll kill you. That was the last thing I remembered. I came to, staring into the foggy eyes of my mother.

 

“You fainted and you’re bleeding. He raped you, didn’t you?” She asked in a tremulous voice.

 

“Hello, Mrs. Brown.” Matthew breaks my reverie, bursting into the class with his usual boisterousness.

 

“Hi Matt.” I’m still holding Barbara’s chin, and her eyes are still full of unshed tears. I do the only thing I can. “Sweetheart, will you tell your mum to see me after church?”

 

*

 

“I know what happened to Barbara, why you moved down here. Perhaps we can talk. I might…”

 

“What makes you think you can help? You don’t know the first thing about what we’ve been through.” The lines on her face seem to grow deeper.

 

I try to dispel her anger with a smile. “Because my father raped me from the time I was eight until I turned ten.”

 

She stares at me like I’m talking Greek, holding her daughter’s hand so tightly her knuckles are grey. Then, she pushes the door wider and steps into the empty classroom. “Perhaps we can talk.”

 

 



16 thoughts on “In her eyes I see me” by Folakemi Emem-Akpan (@Folakemi)

  1. Honestly things happen in this world that just sounds so gruesome I want to cringe and rip people’s skins apart. A child of eight, really???
    Sounds like a continuation from your other story where the woman stabbed her husband to death for molesting her daughter.
    Good read as always…

    1. @roy-journals, thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, things like this happens everyday. Do you know it didn’t even cross my mind that I had done a similar story (For her sake) until you pointed it out. Thanks and cheers

  2. Hmm…. The world is full of wickedness.

    1. @chijy, the world is indeed full of wickedness. Thanks for commenting

  3. Well done @folakemi. I feel like killing that monster myself.

    1. @simisolaade, thanks for your heartfelt comment

  4. #paedophile #incest #worldcomingtoanend #abomination hmmm!

    1. @shovey #thanks #indeedworldcomingtoanend

  5. Her experience of evil equipped and put her in a position to effectively reach out to and help other victims. No one wants to experience the bad and ugly, and we often wonder why a good God would allow good /innocent people to experience the pain of evil. We may not always find it easy to answer all questions, but I trust that the great Creator, who is the Architect, Designer and Author of life and all our stories, knows what He is doing. Following His ways wIll ensure we heal and receive grace to help others.

    1. @musemussang, I totally get you. The Bible talks about us comforting others with the comfort that we have received, and I am a firm believer than your experiences, good and/or bad can become a blessing and a source of encouragement to someone else. Thanks for your comment.

  6. It is so sad that such is becoming the order of the day. I read in the paper of a man raping his young daughter and police telling the mother that they should go home and settle as it was ‘family issues! I am glad the man was eventually arrested but not before he had done more harm.

  7. @nalongo, what horror. And for the police to tell them it was a family issue. My blood is boiling right now.

  8. @folakemi Beautiful piece, you always pass timely messages…this one burns deep in my heart. I still do struggle to understand why a father would rape his daughter, whether eight or eighteen years…it shows how man can be ‘desperately wicked.’ I read recently online on pulse.ng the other day that a man raped a 3 year old girl to death, A 3Yr Old! Confounds my reasoning, what pleasure is worth so much as ruining a life. People who survive rape end up becoming bitter all their days, resisting love, believing in the callousness of the human heart. The self-esteem is gone too. Only few ever bounce back. Joyce Meyer did always say her Dad started abusing her when she was around age 12. She did recuperate, but not everyone does. Even some commit sucide. I hear Aisha Buhari is pressing for more punishment for rape offenders, I am in full support of it.
    #SayNoToRape!

    Well done.

    1. @praize, thanks so much for your comment. Your passion shines through, and i also will never understand why some men rape at all, not to talk of raping your own child. #saynotorape

    2. @praize Recently a perp got 6 months, slap on the wrist. I also recently read of another who infected his 9 year old neighbour with HIV, isn’t that wickedness? Some things cannot be understood. It seems these days the maximum punishment is no longer a deterrent. The more parents engage their kids in this matter the better, but when it is the parent committing these crimes who is there to turn to? Hopefully teachers can be more observant like Mrs. Brown.
      Well written @folakemi

  9. Rape cases are everywhere and most victims can’t report basically because they’ve no one to report to. I really don’t know why a father would molest his own child….that’s just bias and inhumane. Theses cases of rapes are order of the day everywhere, fathers, uncles, neighours raping 6-12 years old, even toddlers……

    Scars gotten from such abuses alwys remain, few muster courage and live but some can’t.

    Nyce piece.

    God is in control.

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