The images from that day stuck with me like some love scene from a Ghollywood movie. Suddenly, I found myself withdrawn from Sister Folake, who was, until then, my favourite sibling. And going to church became an exercise I dreaded. Before long everyone noticed.
“What’s wrong TJ?” Sister Folake asked me one Sunday morning as she prepared for church. She was wearing a beautiful cream skirt suit, the skirt struggling to cover her knees, on 4-inch pumps. She looked beautiful, as always, and so so incapable of sinning. My heart melted at the sight of her and I wanted to draw near to her and tell her all I saw. But my mind was made up: I will let her be.
“Nothing,” I answered moving quickly away from her and into my room. Determined to extract a reasonable answer from me, she followed me into the room and shut the door behind her.
“TJ darling,” she said in that sonorous voice she uses when she needed a favour or something from me, “wont you talk to big sister?” With those words, she moved closer and gave me a side hug, squeezing my biceps with familial fondness.
“Sister mi, nothing?” I answered quickly, her touch feeling alarmingly unfamiliar. “No. I know you more than that,” she started as we both sat on my bed, “now, tell me, what have I done to you? Is this about Segun?”
I shook my head. Segun was her university boyfriend, the one that had been taking her away from home more than before and yes, I was jealous and scared that another guy was grabbing all the attention instead of me, but I was getting used to the whole love wantintin.
I shook my head again.
“So what’s this about? You avoid me, you don’t want to go to church again, you seem withdrawn from everyone in the house, you don’t even go out to play football with your friends any longer, ki lo n sele?”
“Sister, forget about it, nothing.” I stated firmly, my anger beginning to rise.
“Are you sure?” she asked, finality visible in every word, as she turned my face towards her, her palms holding my cheeks –and gaze- in place. I caught her gaze, then reflexively her lips. And the memories rushed back like some long forgotten emotions. Before I could stop my self, I burst into tears.
Confused and totally ignorant of my thoughts, she drew me closer to her and I buried my head between the mounds of her breasts, her faint cologne racking my brain with some pleasant scent. Something in me wanted to tell her but I refused and kept insisting, even amidst my tears, that all is well. After a frustrated time with me, she left for church.
Every move was made to know my state of mind but I wouldn’t bulge. To rub salt on an already festering wound, Pastor Momoh was invited to speak to me after service. I still remember the day he came, bible in hand with his trademark toothy smile.He sat in his preferred settee beside dad, while mum sat across from them.
I was made to stand in front of them like some accused facing trial.
“Tunji,” the pastor began in that velvety voice he preaches with, “I heard you no longer want to come to church, is that true?”
“No sir, I want to go to church but not yours sir.” I answered with a frown even as I could see from the peripheral of my vision that dad had sat upright in his seat. Yes, I was just over sixteen years old but events of the past few days had made me much older. Try keeping a secret and you might get an inkling of the maturity and boldness that suddenly descended on me.
Pastor Momoh smiled; a feint and fake smile that reminded me of a traitor in some of those late-night movies we saw on TV.
“So, what’s wrong with my church?”
“Nothing sir, I just don’t want to attend yours again. I will go back to attending the Anglican Church we attended before you came sir.”
Quietness settled over the room as fast as darkness overcomes a well-lit room at night when NEPA suddenly decides to cut off electricity.
“Folake!” dad shouted on top of his voice.
“Sah!” she answered and came into the room like some angel who had lost his way to heaven. I could swear she was just outside the door.
“Fetch the pipe! I must beat some sense into this boy.” He finished.
I have never seen dad get that angry before or after that day. His face turned red, literally, and venom spit from both eyes like some abominable spirit from hell. Pastor Momoh just sat back in the settee, stroking his sparse beard and watched me with deep boring eyes.
Sister Folake brought the pipe and I was ordered to lie down. As always, mum tried to defend me but my case was indefensible. With the precision of an expert, dad flogged me repeatedly. And for the first time, I didn’t shed a tear. After several rounds of the pipe, dad saw I still kept a straight face. He stopped, dropped the pipe and went into his room. That marked the official retirement of the pipe from active duty.
I got up from the floor, dusted my bare belly, went into my room and locked the door behind me.
Night after night, I struggled with the devilish scene and my nights became restless and awkward. I sought solace in my own company and my textbooks. Miraculously, I began to understand Maths enough to look forward to each class. Physics took shape and Further Maths did task my brain harder.
Before I knew it, my grades soared.
In the first term of SS 2, I chalked up three As and Six Cs. Everyone believed it was the product of my renewed commitment to my study, maybe; but only I knew what I was going through: I had channelled my anger towards my books, after all, I told myself, if I wasn’t such a dullard, I wouldn’t have had cause to go to the pastorage and witnessed all I saw.
When Christmas came, I was pampered -even adored- by all, all in a bid to encourage me to do more and for me to become more involved in the family. Academically, I did more but at home, I was not improving. I still kept Sister Folake at arms’ length but I maintained my relationship with my younger sister, Kemi, who then was in JS 1.
By the end of the second term, I had become one of the brilliant students in class. I became friends with more students and the toast of my teachers. When the results came out, I made seven As, one B and one C. The result shocked even me and I pondered what was going on in my life. But the more I think about it, the more confused I get.
I had my first girlfriend about that time. Her name is Adesuwa. Adesuwa was the best in our class and my astonishing improvements brought us closer. One thing led to the other and we ended up, well, going out, if that’s what secondary school students do.
I liked Adesuwa and gave her all my spare moments. From class to extra murals and all, we were always together. From being rivals for the best student position, we became study mates and immature lovers. And my life changed.
Suddenly, I became livelier. The nightmares stopped and I got an added impetus for studying. No longer do I detest Sister Folake, something in me just didn’t care anymore, I had Adesuwa. At the end of the session, Adesuwa was announced the best student while I came third, another girl was second. I was happy for her and we shared the euphoria of the award together.
For weeks I had stopped attending Pastor Momoh’s church and though dad didn’t warm to me as he used to do, he quietly appreciated my soaring grades. He no longer had anything to punish me for. My results were excellent and had, in fact, helped Kemi become more academically inclined. Sister Folake was just rounding up her second year in the university. And with my newfound happiness, I mended our relationship and we got closer.
Everything went well until few weeks to my SSCE.
to be continued