“So that concludes it for today. We will meet again tomorrow. Make sure you guys finish up your ‘Purple Hibiscus’ by tomorrow. No excuses. I want full summary of the remaining chapters. Good day.” Mr. Lucas said, as he bade to leave the classroom. Their Literature class was over.
Abeebat sighed after their teacher was gone. She couldn’t believe she did not pay attention all through. They had discussed about her favourite Chimamanda novel and fictional characters ‘Kambili’ and ‘Father Amadi’, yet, her mind had been completely elsewhere. She didn’t contribute to the discussions at all.
She didn’t have a goodnight’s sleep the previous night too. Guilt and regret ate into her conscience, keeping her tossing and turning.
She felt inhuman having ranted about another person’s dead mother just because she was mad at someone else. She stole a shy glance at Kamil for the umpteenth time. He must really hate her, she thought.
Kamil adjusted in his chair, his mind breezing a million miles away, like crumpled crispy leaves in the harmattan. He couldn’t seem to wrap his head around anything since the previous day. His thoughts were disheveled.
The bell finally rang and after what seemed like an afterthought, Kamil rose impulsively from his chair and strode across to Abeeat’s seat. He glared down at her for some seconds before calmly but sternly grabbing her arm to lead her out of the class, much to her and everyone’s bewilderment.
Abeebat was calm and Kamil was a bit shocked. Wasn’t she going to spill all over him this time around and call him crazy? Tell him how disappointed his mother must be in him right now?
“I’m sorry about yesterday,” Abeebat started, looking ahead. She felt too guilty to look into his eyes. “I said things I was not supposed to say in a moment of anger. So I’m sorry.”
She sounded sincerely sorry but her voice still had an unapologetic edge to it. Kamil could feel it.
They were both seated on one of the steps that led to their school Hall. It was a quiet place. Students hardly hung around the place because the Hall was only used whenever the school had external exams to conduct or ceremonies to hold. Kamil had purposely brought them there.
Kamil softly cleared his throat and stared ahead too. “My girlfriend is pregnant.”
Abeebat froze. She swirled her head to him, incredibly shocked. But she immediately changed her countenance when Kamil turned to face her. He chuckled dryly now. “The one you had called ‘skanky’, Lolade. I have impregnated her and now, I feel like my life is officially over.”
“So?” Abeebat asked coldly, feigning indifference. “What has that got to do with me?” She said, looking away again.
Kamil smiled. “You know, each time we come across each other, all you do is stare at me with contempt, taunt me and drive me over the very edge and yet, I feel like I need to talk to you,” Abeebat slowly turned to face him, surprised at his words. “I feel like I need to explain myself to you and trust me, I’m not one that cares what people think about me, but every time you stare at me, every time you utter any word of opposition against me, I feel like I need to talk to you.”
Kamil turned to meet her stare. “And do you know the crazy part? I feel like you would listen. I feel like you would understand me.”
Abeebat’s breath was caught in her throat. She didn’t know how to react to…to this.
Kamil took his eyes off her and his face took on a serious expression. His eyes looked far away now; like he was going down a memory lane.
“I was two when I first saw him raise his hands to my mother.”
Abeebat swallowed, her gaze still fixed on him. “Who?” She asked.
“My father.” Kamil answered, facing her. His took his eyes away from her and continued. “But then, I was too young. I didn’t know it was wrong. I didn’t know he was hurting my mother.” Kamil swallowed now like he was forcing a lump of Fufu down his throat. “And then, I turned five and he was still hitting her at the slightest chance. I began to hurt inside whenever she was hit but I didn’t show it. I didn’t even think much of it. I thought it was a normal drill; that men hit their wives whenever they did wrong.”
Abeebat watched Kamil fondly, devoting him her total attention. “And then, I clocked eight and got smarter. My sister was born after a few months. But my father was still hitting my mom. I noticed he didn’t touch her all the while she was pregnant.” Kamil shrugged now. “Maybe he did hit her then, I’m not sure. But he never hit her in my presence and I never heard them through their room. But after my younger sister was born, the beating started again. And still I only felt for my Mom whenever I heard her muffled crying later. I still couldn’t do anything.”
Abeebat could notice that he was beginning to sound angry, more at himself. “And then I grew into a teenager, I got to see to outside world, and that was when I realized that hitting a woman was wrong,” He turned to face Abeebat now and his eyes glistened from unshed tears. Abeebat wanted to hug him that moment, prepared to allow him stain her uniform with his tears, but she refrained herself from any overly sympathetic display. “That was when I realized that my father was hurting my mother instead of loving her, caring for her. That was when I was finally able to start hating him comfortably.”
Kamil sniffled now, obviously struggling with keeping any tears from falling. “Then one day, my mom wore her sunglasses on a cold morning. She was hiding her bruises. She swept her car keys from the dining table that day, telling me that she was going somewhere. I knew that my dad had hit her all through the night. I had been woken up that night by screams and shrills, so I put on my small TV and started to play video games in the middle of the night. I increased the volume of the game so loud so that I wouldn’t hear anything for fear that I might barge into the room to hit my father with something dangerous.”
Kamil’s hand flew to his mouth now; his cheeks had relentless tears flowing down them already. He was struggling with keeping himself from bursting and breaking down completely. “And so,” Kamil’s voice trembled. “She took her car keys that morning and said that she was coming back. She said I should watch after my baby sister while she was gone,”
Abeebat already had tears flowing down her cheeks too. Her heart was busy breaking into a million pieces for Kamil as she watched him choke on tears as he spoke. “And then after a while… a call came in that my mom had been involved in an accident, that…” Kamil had broken down completely now. “That she was dead! They said my mother was dead!”
Abeebat held him now, not able to bear the sight of him in pain. She wrapped her arms around him tightly as he buried his head deeply into her shoulder, letting out heart wrenching tears that wasted no time in soaking her uniform. Abeebat held him more tightly.