I almost had a childhood before the bulky and strifeful adulthood. Responsibilities were passed on to me. Even at four, my late mum would tell me I look so much like her mother because of her pleasantness. And my father who adores the swiftness of my body when drums roll out fondly calls me “Dancing Baby”.
I had thought life had ended when my mum during childbirth, few months to my 5th birthday until dad married this young woman around our neighbourhood. She appeared nice despite the vile thoughts she nurtured against me. I had series of slaps and beatings from her which redefined my gait. Many times she picked on me whenever I was alone with my father making me wonder if she would prevent me from seeing my own father.
On several occasions, my step mum would chastise me for coming late from school. The report got to my father who gullibly believed the well packaged lies his wife told him. The following week, I stopped schooling so I started putting myself to use on the farm, and hawking my stepmother’s goods.
One certain night, I felt some little pains near my abdomen and when morning came, I noticed a bloody discharge in my panties. What could this be? Why did the flow not stop? I was barely ten now so I was afraid if I continued bleeding like this. So I made my step- mum my only confidant on this matter. She did none of the things I could have ever thought she could do after she learnt about my predicament. She radiated wicked joy and started dancing. That evening, my father who had been shared the news accepted it with much confidence and bought kegs of palm wine with his friends. “My Dancing baby is now a woman” – he shouted to me after he summoned me into their gathering. I was certain I was a woman even at ten, because my father said so.
On several occasions, one or two old men would come and speak in low tones with my father in his room. Sometimes, I would hear “Ketu…” in their words and I would wonder what relevance my name had in their arguments. Later, those men would come out of the room eyeing my small self up and down. Two years later, my step- mum started giving me lectures on child bearing and most especially the weaknesses of my mum which made her lose her life and baby. It was around mid- month when my father came and said “Ketu, you will no longer stay in this house. Your place is no longer here” he added.
My step-mother then appeared behind me, wrapping some white veil on my head before she pronounced those horrible words that ruined my life. “You are getting married to your Mallam”. At first I was silent and looked from one person to the other before asking “who?”, “get married”, “how do you mean?”… Just as my father was going to talk, a man in his forties whom I remembered as one of my father’s friends came in and started smiling at me sheepishly through his almost grey teeth. My step-mum treated the man to a warm welcome while my father instructed me to pack my clothes in a jiffy.
Now I have a husband whose looks make me tremble and wish to run back to my father’s house. He would beat me till I bleed when tears cease to rain and the consummate it with a brazen and rough release through my anal compartment. This and many other ordeals persisted for four months before he proved his fertility in me. Something is hitting me so badly that I want to die. Hell became better for me than life as my pains persisted a day and a night.
I felt my world shatter and my world collapse the day my baby boy pushed through to the world. I did no better but rot in my own “pool of mess” as everywhere stinks of my discharges. The doctor’s words raise scare and pity in my memory_ “you may not be able to control your excretory system again”. “Mother did you pass through this?”, “is this marriage?”, “why do I look more like a sack than that vibrant little girl?”, “what happened to my smiles?”, “why are my hips so sunken and my face lined with wicked worries?”.
This is the first part of the series about Child Marriage. Watch out for part 2.