Mrs Asemota looked at me through her glasses ‘why do u nid a written note of permission to go home? Is there something wrong?’
I tried not to blink…because tears might just roll down if i did ‘i’m…i’m sick…i need to go home’
She suddenly looked concerned…being the most intelligent person in my class…i had the favours of so many teachers and our form mistress, Mrs Asemota was no different.
‘okay…are you sure you can walk home by yourself?’ she asked scribbling something down on a sheet of paper.
‘yes i can ma…’ i replied.
She handed the paper to me ‘tell Chigozie to see me’
‘okay mama…’ i prostrated and left the staffroom headed straight to the classroom.
Immediately i entered the noisy class…my eyes went to the blackboard and written boldly on it was;
s£x IS BEST ENJOYED IN A RESTAURANT’S RESTROOM – Says Ivyy Maduemezie.
I nearly collapsed but i managed to drag myself to the seat. Henna came into the classroom that moment followed by Jude. She read what was written on the board and with an angry stare, she faced the class.
‘who wrote this?!’ she asked, her voice laced with anger.
I rested my head on my desk…i should be packing my things and leaving but i couldnt…i just felt like crying my eyes out. Ralph did a number of me…he really won. What hurt the most was the fact that he went ahead telling everyone that he had slept with me and he hadnt enjoyed it because i was too loose and everyone had believed him because of jealousy of my intelligence and probably because of the friends i kept.
‘you guys are really trying me in this class….’ Henna said ‘so what if a girl fu.cks in a restroom…you want to tell me that you’re any better…whether you do it in a restroom or in a bedroom, se.x is se.x…and i wont have you guys taunting my best friend…let this be the last!’ She warned sternly ‘and you Favour….’ she pointed at a light skinned and butty girl ‘wasnt it you i saw with the same Ralph the other day, his hands under your skirt probably squeezing you big as.s like butter and bread behind the Chemistry Lab? Or you want to deny it? Even if you do…i bet Ralph wouldnt…isnt that so Ralph?’
Trust the shameless fool to always be shameless ‘i really squeezed it well…so succulent…’ he said…the guys in the classroom roared in laughter. Favour’s face flushed in embarrassment as she looked at Ralph and Henna in embarrassment.
‘or is you Mesoma or whatever you call yourself…i caught you and Ralph in the male toilet remember?’ Henna continued ‘just because i didnt tell anyone? And then you open that brown teeth of yours to laugh at my friend? Let me catch you again…i will show you that your skin is not as light as a prostitute’s p—y!’ she snapped.
The whole class gasped and all eyes turned to Mesoma. Then she face Okwudili…one of Ralph’s crazy friends.
‘and you Okwy…wasnt your mother the one who was stripped n@ked and stoned to death in the market square last year simply because she slept…no, raped her neighbour’s child? Or you want to deny it? Because i didnt tell anyone in school that she was your mother? Or you think i didnt see how you acted nonchalant or pretended not to be concerned at the market square that day? You denied your mother when she was publicly disgraced…cant you see? Is your mother any better than Ivyy…then why should she mock her…or is it ur sister who died during abortion and your parents had to lie that they sent her to the city to learn a trade and she died in a ghastly motor accident on her way there? Common…ur family is a mess so you have no rite whatsoever to laff at my friend!’
Even i was shocked…Okwudili’s mother was that woman who was cruelly stoned to death for raping her neightbour’s son? Who could have thought.
Okwudili stared daggers at Henna and she equally looked back.
‘your pvssycat eyes do not scare me…because no matter how fierce they looked, they cant kill me!’ she snapped.
Ralph was the first to laugh at his friend.
‘should i continue exposing everyone’s dirty linen here?’ Henna asked.
‘noooo!’ the whole class screamed…everyone scared they might be next.
‘then you all should go on your kness and ask Ivyy for forgiveness!’ she commanded.
They hesitated at first but when she called a girl’s name…everyone went on their knees and turned to my direction.
‘Ivyy, we are sorry…’
‘Ivyy, please forgive us, we shouldnt have mocked you’
‘Ivyy, abeg no vex, we no go do am again’
‘i will buy you lunch just to show you how sorry i am’
Henna walked up to me and i looked at her in tears. She smiled..i stood up and hugged me.
To think i never really liked Henna..but she was the one who stood up for me in my most difficult times.
That marked the beginning of i and Henna’s closeness.
You know ur true friends through hard times..
I just sat under the mango tree…the cool breeze was very refreshing…
I hated boys…i really hated boys..what Ralph did to me, i wasnt sure i was ever going to forgive him. Yes, not that it was unexpected but i never expected him to have it videod thereby exposing my nudity to many perverted boys in this school. And i was told that everyone who had a phone in school (as a student) got the video.
I saw Henna approaching me and i smiled.
I saw Henna in a new light. Yes, she was a bad girl..yes she was the wild type and a bad influence..but she was way better to those holier-than-thou friends out there who would simply abandon you to your fate in times of need. I never really expected Henna to do what she really did for him. She stood up for me when i needed her the must. And i felt i could trust her now.
‘Vee…been looking for you…’ she sat opposite me fanning herself with a handfan…she was sweating and looked dishevelled.
I eyed her suspiciously ‘what have you been up to? Why are you sweating?’
‘its that shameless old government master oo…that man just wont leave my p—y alone oo…since SS1…you needed to see the way he was begging me for a blowjo.b…’ she hissed.
‘meaning…u slept with him?’
‘i had no oda choice Vee…the man begged me and you know i’m not a wicked girl so i had to help an old man in need. I mean, how can a man old enof to be my fada ask me for a favour and i refuse him…thats cruelty and an act of disrespect’ she rolled her eyes and i laughed loudly.
‘seriously…you have a problem’ i said laughing cheerfully..for a moment, i forgot about mama and Ralph and set my whole heart in the laughter i shared with my new BEST friend, Henna.
‘no i dont. I’m just a cheerful giver…so whats up? Have you seen Oma and Ije?’
‘nope…probably with their boos…’ i said returning my gaze to the Nora Roberts “Summer Pleasures” in my front.
‘you know Ije is dating Okechukwu now abi?’
‘which Okechukwu? Ralph’s elder brother in the SS3-science class?’ i asked unbelievably.
‘gbam…you know him wella…that he goat…even if i would have to sleep with every boy in this school before i finish…certainly not Okechukwu, that pompous rat!’ Henna snapped ‘had it not been that his mother and my mother are friends, i would have thought him a lesson…trust me’ she chewed her chewing gum nosily.
I laughed ‘c’mon Henna…give trouble a break! You too like wahala’
She raised her collar stylishly ‘its good to be sharp my dear…that way no one can over ride you no matter who they think they are’
‘exactly…’ i stopped talking when i sighed Ralph coming with Sam as usual.
My heart pounded furiously, were they heading towards my direction?
‘Veeluv…’ Ralph called cheerfully as he approached us… ‘Henna, na here you dhey…na Jude come dhey find you like person wey dhey find gold…’
‘that one no concern you…w€tin you dey do for here?’ Henna asked immediately eyeing him.
‘which kind question be that..i come see my babe na….’
‘heyy Ralph or whatever you call yourself…listen and listen very good…just because i’ve not confronted you since or just because i didnt call your name in class that does not mean i do not know that your mother did not marry your father a virgin….’ Henna spat out.
You needed to see Ralph’s face..it became swollen all of a sudden.
Henna continued ‘i just didnt say it because i know your mother and she’s a very sweet woman. Oh! Lest i forget, your father screws all the maids in the house, too bad…and he bits your mum like a punching bag to…my sincere sympathy to your mother…she must be going through alot in the hands of a monster like your father’
His face was a mixture of surprise and shock ‘Henna…how…how did you know…’
‘nothing gets past my ears baby Ralph…i get all the information i want with just the snap of my fingers…so dont go around putting on that playboy and cold exterior of yours because it pisses the hell out of me…you know, i dont even know what i saw in you, you are such a loser without choice…anything that wears skirt becomes your choice…imagine Mesoma…can you compare me and that trash? Yuck Ralph! You disgust me like never before!’
‘Henna…’ i spoke up ‘lets just get out of here’
‘no Vee…’ she said immediately ‘you dont run away from your problems…you deal with it…let the fool speak…thats if he can even utter a word because i will tell the whole school how i overheard his mother telling my mother that both him and his stupid brother were adopted!’
My mouth flew open.
I dont know how the whole school got to know about it but before school dismissed, it was on everybody’s lips ‘Ralph and Okechukwu were adopted children’
I’d never seen Ralph so quiet before and looking withdrawn, embarrassed and sad…i guessed he understood now how people felt when their dirty secrets were exposed.
Once the Economics teacher left, Henna picked up a white chalk and went to the blackboard.
She cleared her throat before speaking ‘as you all know…our almighty Ralph here, Ralph Obi is an adopted child, i wont beat around the bush…but you know, we all are classmates and as classmates, we need to help ourselves in times of need. Now we all know that Chief Agunna Obi isnt Ralph’s real father…and Ralph really should know his father because its mandatory…’ she cleared her throat and winked at me ‘so i want everyone to put hands together and lets search for his father…i mean his biological father…’ she said in a sarcastic tone and the whole class roared in laughter…even i could not help but laugh.
‘silence class…’ Henna said holding her hands up and the whole class became silent ‘so we all are going to be embarking on a operation called OPERATION FINDING RALPH’S BIOLOGICAL FATHER’ She turned and wrote it on the blackboard ‘i will be the president of this research group and Ivyy my assistant…Ije and Oma would be the treasurer and admin officer respectively…if you know you are going to be part of this group…can i see your hands up?’
Everyone (except Ralph of course) raised up their hand…including Sam who immediately brought it down immediately Ralph shot him a wierd look.
Oops! Did i say everyone? Not everyone…because Mesoma soon spoke up.
‘this is not fair Henna, you have no right whatsoever to expose one’s family background make ridicule of it…thats very sensitive’ she said.
Henna wrinkled her nose ‘and who’s the rat squeaking in dis class? Pls i want humans to talk, not rats’
Papa was around…in the sitting room. Aunt Chime and i were in the kitchen. I still gave them the cold attitude…and they noticed it and gave me chance.
‘Ivyy, i wont be around tomorrow…’ aunt Chime said stirring the soup ‘i and your father would be going out’
Thats it…mama’s persecution day…it brought tears to my eyes…i felt like telling aunt Chime that there’s reward for evil done against a fellow human but instead i asked:
‘Aunt Chime, why dont you like mama?’
She looked up as though she was surprised, then she smiled and closed the lid of the soup sitting close to me ‘what makes you think i dont like your mother?’
‘its very obvious….because i was told you never attended their marriage and you were the only one against mama in the enitire family’
‘thats because i see what others do not. I was right afterall…i dont just hate people…i must have reasons for hating them’
‘whats makes you think you were right afterall?’
She smiled and rubbed my head ‘Ivyy the wise child…trying to get words from my mouth, it will not work, akpa sense….’ she laughed again.
I looked at her in disgust….my hatred for her tripled and i felt like digging the knife in my hand inside her stomach but i restrained myself…i might never be able to save mama but i will surely avenge her.
‘the food is ready…bring plates let me serve the food’ she said rising on her feet.
‘the plates are there…’ i replied coldly and a bit rudely.
She paused ‘are you okay? You sounded rude just now…’
‘i will go fill the jug with drinking water’ i said and left the kitchen.
I passed the sitting room and was heading towards my room when papa called me ‘nwam…’
I spun around…and threw him a cold look ‘what is it?’ i asked gently but coldly.
‘mu ki na gwa what is it? Mu? Nwoke muru gi? Mu (is it me you are telling what is it? Me? The man who gave birth to you? Me) I dont blame you….infact get inside before i scatter your face with slaps…’
I rolled my eyes ‘thats what you were always known for so its not a surprise…afterall didnt you turn mama into a punching bag? Or you should i show you the marks you left on my body…do whatever you like papa because i’m already used to your hostility and wickedness….and did i just call you father? Of course not, i will insult all fathers by calling you one…because you are not worthy to be called a father!’
‘mechionu!’ Aunt Chime who stood by the door holding a tray of food screamed but she was too late as papa stood up immediately and landed me a slap that brought blood from my lips.
‘yes go on…hit me again…its nothing new to me!’ she spat the blood on the ground ‘you are just a shameless father…no, a shameless man and i’ll tell you this again and again. God will judge you for all your evil deeds…and you aunt Chime, the reason why you remained unmarried till now despite you being papa’s senior is because you’ll never let married couple enjoy their marriage thats why God has refused to give you a husband of your own! God’s wrath would soon befall the both of you, just watch and see, evil perpetrators!’ i snapped, spat out blood, eyed them both, then left for my room.
‘Jesus! This girl has just told me my life history….’ i heard Aunt Chime say from the sitting room but i didnt care.
I quickly dressed up in my school uniform early. I hid a black shawl underneath my books and made sure i wore a black gown under my uniform…i had my plans already.
I went to the sitting room and saw aunt Chime dressed in a pink gorge…that was her favourite clothing and she only wore it on special days…now, i wondered what was special about mama being killed today.
‘good morning…’ i greeted and sat on another sofa.
She didnt respond and i didnt care..and i was going to wait for till she gave me my daily allowance…afterall it was just 6:54am.
When she finished painting her face…she looked at me ‘why arent you going to school yet?’
‘because i know that if you had had a child, you wont let the child go to school on an empty stomach’ I retorted.
She looked angry ‘Ivyy, this is the last time i’ll take insults from you, not because i pardoned you yesterday and begged your father to forgive you…if you try messing with me again…i’ll show you the stuff i’m made of’
‘you heard me. Throw me out of your house aunty…i want it. Thats why i’m being disrespectful…whats delaying you?’
‘if i throw you out of my house…you’ll have nowhere to go because your father would not recieve you…’
‘so you think…’
‘Chimezie…’ i heard papa called from outside ‘are you ready? Lets go’
She looked at me ‘i’m coming George…’ she dropped two hundred naira on the table ‘go to mama Ebuka’s shop and buy bread, eat it before going to school, then take d remaining to school’ She picked her bag and left.
I waited till i heard their footsteps leave the compound…then i jumped up on my feet.
I trailed them to the village square wearing black all through and covering myself with a black cloak.
I stood under a big tree a little distance from the village square. I saw aunt Chime sit together with some women and they were discussing. Papa went to some men and while papa tried to put up a hardened look, their faces were filled with sympathy. What was going on?
A trumpet was heard as our great igwe, Igwe Okala alighted from the big elephant he rode on. A black sleek hummer jeep drove into the village square and Henna’s father, Ifeanyi, Kainene and Henna’s mother, madam Grace, the sauciest woman in the village…her mouth was like a razor and everyone who had an encounter with her actually had an experience to share about how they spent most of the night weeping and thinking of their lives.
Henna’s father – Chief Ekwueme sat beside the igwe as the onowu – next in command while madam Grace sat beside the lolo (Igwe’s wife) who sat under another canopy where the other women sat, including aunt Chime.
Not too long after, some men dressed in black with leaves between their lips trooped into the square.
Then i sighted mama….oh mama..being dragged like a thief..she was n@ked from head to toe with her hair scraped.
My hands flew to my mouth as my heart pounded furiously against my chest…no! No! Mama hadnt committed adultery…she would never do that. This was all a setup…
I remembered Mama telling us that women who were caught committing adultery were usually stripped n@ked and dragged to the village square after some days when the council finally decides on the matter.
She lowered her face in shame as women started shouting…throwing insults on her. I saw aunt Chime stand up from her chair and spat on her face.
Mama just lowered her head so i couldnt tell her facial expression….i looked at Henna’s mother and her face was frowned in disgust as she stood up clapping her hands, i heard her screaming ‘akuna kuna ten naira…ashawo hundred kobo…money for hand back for ground…ikpu kobo!’ She clapped in mockery.
Tears ran down my cheeks…mama had really disappointed me…how and why would she commit adultery? My own mama…the woman whom i looked up to in every aspect of my life…my role model…
No wonder papa took me away from her, i should have thought…in Umueke, whenever a woman is caught committing adultery, her children are immediately taken faraway from her as it is believed that the women possessed their children -especially their daughters with the spirit of adultery and they become prostitutes before and after they get married.
I wondered who the man she committed adultery with was…but my question was soon ordered when uncle Ejike was dragged to the market square.
My hands flew to my mouth…uncle Ejike was papa’s best friend, infact he was the only friend papa ever had. They usually spent ours at the backyard of our house, smoking pipe, drinking palmwine and talking about politics both in the village and in the country as a whole.
Yes…i always noticed the lustful look uncle Ejike always gave mama whenever he was around and mama would always smile at him. How long had their relationship been going on? I wondered.
By this time, the Igwe had ordered for silence and everywhere was silence, the onowu, Henna’s father called papa out and was saying something to papa…i did not hear so i went closer to the market square and mixed with the crowd.
ONOWU – Elder George Maduemezie, look at your wife…
Papa looked at mama as ordered.
ONOWU – Do you think you can ever forgive her for the crime she has committed?
Papa shook his head ‘never!’
The crowd roared and the Onowu had to call for silence again.
ONOWU – You can never forget the evil she has committed and take her back as your wife and mother of your kids? This is your last chance to save her.
PAPA – I will not and can never forgive an adulterous woman like her.
GBAM – The crowd chorused.
It was like everyone was against my mother…no one was trying to support and understand her predicament at all.
ONOWU – You have one last thing to say to her before we carry on with the ritual?
PAPA – Yes (he faced mama) Woman, you are a disgrace and you’ve brought shame into my household…marrying is something i will live to regret for as long as we live. I married you a nonvirgin…but yet i protected you…
The crowd roared in surprise again…even i was surprised.
PAPA – After the nite of our wedding, when i discovered you were not a fresh blood, i killed a coat and sprinkled it on the white cloth given to me by adas of our land…just so you will be saved the shame and humiliation……Chimezie warned me not to marry you but because i truly loved you with all my heart…i didnt listen to her…now see the shame and disgrace you’ve brought upon yourself…despite having covered up your uncleaness and shame…you exposed yourself again by sleeping with my best friend on our matrimonial bed..and i wonder how And i wonder how long this has been going on…on my matrimonial bed! With my own friend…you’re a disgrace to womanhood and you’re very lucky your children arent here to see the kind of woman they have for a mother.
The crowd roared again.
The venom with which papa spoke exposed so many emotions and feelings he would have tried to hide. He loved mama, yes, it was evident in his voice…but he never showed it to her. He never treated her with love and he seized every opportunity he could to remind her of the favour he did for her by marrying her to save her dying mother and ended up giving her series of beatings sometimes, locking her up in a room.
He never treated mama with love and respect so i actually dont blame her…she was a woman and she had feelings and desires to be loved and cherished for and maybe uncle Ejike was the only one who provided her that love.
Mama surprised everyone when she raised up her head…her face soaked in tears as she faced papa. She spat on his face.
‘yes i cheated on you! I slept with your best friend on your matrimonial bed! But i didnt start it…you started it! I knew about your escapades with Grace, the onowu’s wife…i saw you so many times going to Omego Inn and not too long after, she goes in too..i’ve overgeard the both of you speaking so many times over the phone and the money you used in running the home was given to u by Grace. I have ample evidence to prove to everyone here that you and Grace were having an affair. And moreover you never showered me with love and care like a husband should…how many times did you bruise my body? How many times did you rape me telling me that you owned my? How many times did….did you call i and my mother a witch? How many times did you embarass me in front of people….yes, i didnt marry you a virgin…thats because i was constantly raped my maternal uncle and i told you this..and i’m very grateful to you that you chose to marry me despite everything but dont you stand there and told me that you loved me! Because you never did…you treated me with disrespect like i was the cause of all my misfortunes in life…whenever you lost a gambling bet, you always took it our on me and called me badluck..how many times George..how many times? I slept with Ejike not because i wanted to..but i wanted to spite you…show you how it hurts for someone to cheat on you…the reason i remained married to you was for my children….for Ivyy because i knew divorce had greater effects on females more than in males….i constantly took all your beatings and insults waiting patiently till d day you die…yes, i hoped and prayed everyday for your death because you were nothing but a heartless man! You and your wicked sister who constantly did everything she could to make my marriage a living hell….and even as she tried everything she could to destroy my marriage, God punished her by not giving her a husband and a family and i’m eternally grateful for that….yes, i should never have committed adultery…but i dont regret it…the only thing i regret today is leaving my wonderful children behind to the mercies of you two! My Ivyy…my Danke…i’m going to miss them….’ she broke down in tears.
The crowd was silent…i looked up and saw Grace boiling in her seat…almost everyone was emotional…perhaps they understood mama now.
Then the Lolo stood up all of a sudden and faced Grace ‘so even you…’ she looked at Grace in disdain ‘could stoop so low to sleep with a man like George…i knew it! Igwe, didnt i tell you that this woman here could be having affair with other men of lower status in this village? What did you tell me? Ngozi, mind you business…and i did…now look! Shame! Disgrace! Guards!’
The royal guards stood in front of her.
‘drag this woman here to join her partner in crime…strip her n@ked for her case deserves no judgement…as an onowu’s wife, she deserves to serve as an example to others, not treading the wrong path!’
The guards advanced towards her immediately.
‘leave me alone, you smelly dirty chipmunks….!’ Grace struggled ‘Onowu, Igwe…please do something, tell thsi golddigging fools to leave me alone!’
The onowu and Igwe didnt say anything. I didnt see anything like disgrace and suprise on the Onowu’s face…it was like he knew about everything all this while.
Grace was immediately stripped n@ked and so was papa…i saw aunt Chime weeping where she was.
Grace was weeping too ‘i didnt do it, i swear i didnt do it ooo’
‘shut up!’ a woman screamed from the crowd ‘finally you’ve been caught! You nearly ruined my marriage by constantly seducing my husband…thank God he didnt fall for your tricks! You had to bribe us so we dont expose you but now you’ve finally been caught…no matter how bright the sun is…it would surely leave the sky and give the moon a chance to reign, you deserve to die, shameless woman!!!!’
The onowu cleared his throat ‘let the ritual begin’
And then everyone picked up stones and threw it towards them.
I suddenly screamed and everyone stopped and turned to my direction.
I threw the cloak away and ran to mama.
She was surprised to see me.
I hugged her and we cried together.
‘Ivyy…i’m so sorry…i’m so sorry my child…’
I couldnt talk…the pains in my heart weighed me down. I was allowed to remain like that with my mother before guards dragged me away from her.
I cried and screamed, laying curses on papa…i tried running back to mama but i was held by them.
And so i watched in tears and pains as they were all stoned to death…
Including my mother.
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