‘Oh my God! Auntie Kate is home. What am I to do now’? Stella just broke a ceramics plate before she heard the sound of her aunt’s car approaching the compound. Her heart would always skip whenever auntie Kate was around. And the broken plate was going to rouse her aunt to give her some beating of her life. So, she quickly tidied the floor where the plate had fallen, and pretended as though nothing happened. She began to pant as though heaven has fallen on her – fears kept her company that moment. She took deep breath severally to calm herself, but to no avail. Anyone could see through her body language that something was wrong. She was just standing like a statue waiting for the lady to come deal with her because it was something that must happen. They have been living that way, and not even today’s good weather could stop it. After standing for awhile, she was tempted to see what was keeping her from entering the house. As she approached the door, she found that it was a mechanic who drove in with the car. The said car broke down while auntie Kate was driving along the express road. So she had to call a mechanic to take care of it. The beautiful sight was a relief to her.
She had been living with her aunt in Owerri since 2 years, after her mom and dad died in a ghastly motor accident. The said aunt was her mom’s younger sister. But she never took care of her. Instead, she educated the ignorant girl who was just 10 how her mom never respected her while they were in college, and also fought her on silly issues. The young girl wondered why she kept telling her such stories day after day. Tears rolled down her cheeks because it hurt her, and each time she was told all these, the picture of her parents flashed through her mind.
One day, she told auntie Kate in a polite manner that she wouldn’t want her to be reminding her of her dead Parents. Before she could finish, the lady gave her a hot slap that could make anyone speak in tongue. She was overwhelmed by the slap. That day was when she believed that star is usually the product of dirty slaps. In pains, she began;
‘Auntie please… my eye hurt. You have injured me’
‘Who injured you? You are very stupid. You have the same stupid attitude with your dead mother. Naughty girl’, auntie Kate replied.
She was still crying and couldn’t open her left eye because a sharp object pierced into it. It was her auntie’s fixed nails. It happened in such a way that the slap came like a blow on the girl – a slap and a pierce. When her aunt discovered she was really injured, as blood gushed out from her eye, she said;
‘If I hear you tell anyone that I did this to you, I will kill you with my bear hands and bury you myself. Let me tell you, you will not go out for as long as this thing heal. Am I understood’?
‘Yes Ma’am’, she replied still crying.
When neighbours asked what happened, she would always say;
‘I fell off the staircase. When I was taking my bath, I slipped and fell onto the floor. I crashed myself on the pole at night. Children who were playing with sticks accidentally got them into my eye. Etc.’
She forgot that they were not living in an upstairs. And most times people understood that auntie Kate was behind the pains she was going through. It was obvious to everyone in the neighborhood that her aunt must have told her not to tell anyone what was going on. In fact anyone who saw the lady would know that she was naturally something else other than human being. If not for the sake of what people would say, she would have killed the little girl. She hated her and never wished to see her with her eyes.
People gossiped that the reason auntie Kate maltreated the young girl was because she was not able to find a husband for herself, let alone have children. So, she developed hatred on her.
Though people knew how she dealt with the poor girl, she pretended to love her to the sky. And whenever friends visited, she would not let Stella do house chores or even let her help in serving the visitors. All she would do was to let her seat in the mist of the visitors, served her good food meant for them and talked heaven of her.
Stella’s daily prayer was, God should bring visitors to their home everyday. But the funny aspect was, as soon as the visitors backed off, she received some flogging even without allowing the food digest. Sometimes, she would take twelve, sixteen or twenty-four strokes of the cane, depending on the amount of food she consumed that day. It got to a point where she gradually got acquainted with the floggings. All she said to herself was;
‘After all, everything will end up in flogging. So let me eat and wait for the cane’.
The next day, she went to school and discovered that her teachers were not happy with the way she was being treated. They asked her to tell them all that had happened, and how her aunt had been treating her. She refused saying a word to them in that auntie Kate would deal with her. They persuaded her and let her know that they would take care of the issue to the core, and see that she was safe – they planned to arrest the lady and charge her with child abuse. In the other hand, the little girl had no other place to stay. So, she pretended nothing was wrong. But the people knew too well that she was afraid. The first teacher started:
‘Stella, look at your body – I know your aunt must have done this again to you. It is time you tell us – so that we put an end to this’.
She shook her head, bit her finger, put her head down, and replied in a low tone;
‘No ma’am, I’m fine. I just had an accident. It’s not really my aunt’
‘My dear little girl, we all know how heartless your aunt is. She must have been the one behind this. We only want you to accept the fact that she is maltreating you, so that we hand her over to the police. You see, don’t be afraid. We shall take care of you’, the second teacher added.
‘But I’m afraid, as you can see. I don’t want her to deal with me. She has connections everywhere – even though you arrest her, she would be released someday and face me. Please ma’am, you people should let it go. Let God intervene’,
‘That’s exactly what we are talking about. God will intervene for you – but through someone or persons, and such people are us. So allow us to help you, God will not come down to help you, but through man okay? Another supported.
She was short of words. All she could do was to shake her head in disagreement, while she was still biting her fingers.
The teachers pitied her so much – her body was almost disfigured by her aunt.
On getting home, she met her aunt waiting for her in order to give her some flogging as usual – as one of auntie Kate’s friends who was also a teacher in her niece’s school overheard the teachers discussing how to rescue little Stella from her undeserved situation. Her face was not bright at all, and the young girl understood that something must have gone wrong. She greeted;
‘Good afternoon Ma!’
‘What is good about this afternoon? After you and your stupid teachers have conspired to insult me right? Well, it’s my fault considering seeing through your studies. In fact, you are going to quit from going to school. If you were not schooling, how would they know what is happening in my house, let alone suggest how I should run my family? Stupid teachers.’
As she was shouting on top her voice, she pointed at the girl to the extent of almost reaching her eyes again. And before the little girl could reply, a heavy slap landed on her cheeks.
‘By the time I finish with you in this house, you will know that I am what you don’t know I am. You and your teachers think that I am some of those cheap people out there who could be arrested and charged with anything right? In fact, I am ready for them, I’m waiting to see how they can dance to the drum of horror. And for you, thank your lucky star that Martin my elder brother contribute to your studies. If not, I have already made up my mind that you are not going to school again’
The little girl cried all night, and wished her parents were alive to see how she had been suffering. What came to her mind that night was to commit suicide, before another thing occupied the space – the moral instruction she received in school yesterday. The teacher who took the moral instruction made them understand that it is not good for one to commit suicide, and also stated clearly the aftermaths of the action. So, she reconsidered staying alive – but would do something to make sure she mustn’t die in the hand of her aunt.
Uncle Martin got a news that auntie Kate was maltreating the young girl. So he had to visit them to see for himself. He didn’t hesitate to visit because he so much loved Stella – she was an exceptional gift from God, and her birth was a mystery, in that her mother almost died when giving birth to her, and the child had lesser opportunity to live, but she made it. Moreover, the girl was a good one – her goodness was incomparable. She was intelligent, humble, kind, helpful, obedient and so on. So, uncle Martin never joked with her.
When he got to auntie Kate’s house, he refused taking water as usual, let alone accept whatever that was given to him. The lady understood that some busy bodies must have informed him about her and her niece. So, she began;
‘My brother, I hope all is well? This is unlike you. You have refused to take the food I placed before you – you didn’t even drink water at least. Usually, you’d first ask for a glass of water before any other thing. What is the problem?
‘Stop pretending as though you don’t know why I’m not happy. Why have you decided to treat this little girl this way? Everyone is complaining how you have been maltreating her. Remember, she’s the daughter of your late sister – our sister. So, she need our care now. What is happening?’
At the moment, she wore an innocent face as though nothing was going on. Her body language showed that she had been a good mother to the girl. She adjusted her blouse, moved her hands from left to right, adjusted her seat closer to the man and replied in a low tone;
‘My brother, even though people say all these, you still believed them? Don’t you know what your sister is capable of again? Are you really convinced that I did that to her? I have been taking good care of her as you’d always advice me. Why would people state such expensive joke, and you agreed upfront? Have you forgotten that you spoke to us over the phone three days ago, and you confirmed that she was sounding well? – what have I done wrong now?’
‘It’s not like that. But you know, when people start sounding the way I heard it, there must be something to it – I think everyone shouldn’t be lying at the same time. That is why I have come to see for myself. But it would be good that what I heard is not true. Because if it is, you are really not doing it right, at all.’
‘Trust your sister. I cannot do such thing. Have I ever disobeyed you?’
‘That’s what I’m saying – you have been a good woman and will ever be…’
Haven said this, the lady began to smile deeply. Because she thought everything would just go like that – as she was succeeding in deceiving her brother; uncle Martin continued;
‘…So tell me, where is she?’
This time, auntie Kate wasn’t comfortable because she found it difficult to let the girl out, so that he would not see the bruises on her body. She started;
‘Oh – she? I think she went out to see her friends. She said she would come back in the evening’
‘Really? In that case, she is fine – if you allow her see her friends, you are doing well my sister’
‘hahahaha… I hope you trust me now?’
Meanwhile, the poor girl was in the inner room and was instructed not to come out, as her uncle would be visiting. Her aunt told her that she would find it difficult throughout her life if she come out. For that reason, she had to stay indoor until her uncle leave.
She managed to make her ways towards the front room – where she could hear what they were discussing. She stood there crying on seeing how auntie Kate was deceiving the other with lies. She wanted to come out and make the man notice her, but she had a rethought – on how she would be pounded like yam thereafter. Tears ran down her cheeks, she made a sniff with her nose, as she couldn’t control the tears. Immediately, uncle Martin sensed that someone was in there, he asked;
‘Who is that?’
‘Maybe the television is on, let me check; I’ll be right back, his sister replied.
As she was making her ways to the room, Stella disappeared through the middle room that led to the inner one – where she was caged. Auntie Kate couldn’t see anyone. Though she knew it was her niece. She shook her head, made some facial expressions – an angry face, and made her way to the room where the girl was;
‘I think I told you not to make a sound, let alone step out. I know you are the one who was making that sound there, right?’
She shook her head in disagreement, and uttered no words. The woman continued;
‘You are mopping at me, as a good girl huh? Well, whatever. But I have told you; if I see you there again, or attempt to sneak out, I will deal with you in such a way that you will not live to tell the story. Read my lips now, I’m not going to warn you again’.
Those words were big blow to her. She began to cry out loud – but no amount of shout would make her voice penetrate towards the living room. So, the woman didn’t bother to make her shut up. She left the room.
Uncle Martin was about to leave now. He left some money with the woman for his niece, and hoped the money would reach her. He adviced his sister to take care of her and should not hesitate to inform him in case they needed any financial aid – for the benefit of Stella. But he never knew that the lady in question was a white toilet. Her goodness towards the little girl would usually be the moment when people visited. She made a promised to take care of her, both of them bid goodbye – he left.