by Nathaniel Bivan
The crumpled paper had rolled off the little girl’s palm, landed in a spot that will remain engraved in her mind when she makes slow calculated steps from the door of the church to the front of the pulpit. There, she will hear her fiancé say “I do” and later wonder if she actually responded amidst the screams in her head. And still later, the frighteningly familiar sensation as he hung over her, heavy breath like that first wind of damnation, making her lips tremble as though in revelation.
There will be none.
A headline from the past will quickly surface: ‘Girl aged eight defiled’ and a courtroom drama to prolong the agony. So she will fight terror with ecstasy, close her eyes to naivety’s landmark—a fifty naira bond and memory to last a lifetime.
“Kasham,” her husband will whisper, but it is another’s breath that will cause the tremor, the moaning, and the tears. It will sting her eyes and he will happily mistake them for pure passion. Innocently, he will strive to take her to where he hopes she will beg him to stop.
He will succeed.
Only, she will not be in that soft bed and candlelit room, but on a flat mattress, on a hard floor, in a compound of twenty rooms and an outhouse. There, where everything was taken from her—her childhood, her joy, her innocence.
* * *
That morning Kasham’s joy was stolen; she was out hawking doughnuts in her neighbourhood. She first went to Sani’s mechanic workshop, where the men patted her fondly and bought half what sat on her wide tray. Happy, she went to the marketplace. There, she sold everything. “Don’t come back to this house until you have sold everything,” her mother had said.
Kasham trotted home by twelve noon.
Then it happened.
Her wrapper came off and gripping the folds, she realised the money, all the money, was gone. She cried. Weeping, she walked home.
“Why are you crying? What happened?” A voice called. It was Teju the barber, standing outside the compound where he lived. Everybody knew the house. It was even called the bachelors’ den.
She told him and he promised to give her what she lost.
“But only if you come into my room and do exactly what I say.”
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Nathaniel Bivan is a journalist living in Abuja, Nigeria. he is married to Winnie and they have a daughter, Swaan. Sometimes, when he is in the mood, he writes poetry. He is presently working on a novel.