The night my father disappeared, nobody saw anything. Usually, Mrs Oby sees everything that happens in our compound, even when you think she doesn’t. But that night, she saw nothing and neither did Mr Bala.
We live in a four-storey building with eight flats, ours is the left flat on the second floor. Mrs Oby lives opposite us and Mr Bala lives on the first floor, directly beneath us.
That night, Mr Bala wasn’t around; he had travelled to Ibadan. I knew this because he left his keys with us and told us where he was going. He always left his keys with us.
I think it’s because he likes my mum and so, he took whatever opportunity he could to look at her and talk to her. I don’t find it weird that he likes my mum because I like him too and secretly wish he were my father.
He is tall, handsome and well-built; I asked him once or twice if he was an athlete, but he told me no, that he was just a writer. I didn’t believe him. He never liked my father, they fought a lot.
I think my father knew Mr Bala liked my mum, so, he always found a way to attack him and Mr Bala never backed down.
It’s been six days now since my father disappeared, six days of peace and quiet. The only person that still seems to be bothered that he’s missing is Mrs Oby, I wonder why. My mum showed concern for two days; during that time, she called the police and called every family and church member she could call, but no one knew where my father was.
After two days of fruitless searching, mum stopped bothering herself. I find it odd. Somewhere in my mind, I think she’s happy he disappeared; I’m happy too. My father used to abuse me, and my mum knew. Sometimes, I hate her as much as I hate him because she didn’t do enough to protect me.
How could she live with a man who abused his own daughter? How could she sleep in the same room he did, on the same bed? How could she breathe the same air he did? How could she cook for him? How could she eat on the same table as he?
I wish I could ask my mum all these questions?
My father was good to me, most times, except the times when he came into my room at night, late at night, when mum and all the neighbours were asleep, at night, when even Mrs Oby all seeing eyes were shut.
The first night my father came into my room, I was eight years old. Mum was away on a trip to Ibadan. Father and I had dinner together; he made me noodles and boiled egg. That was all he knew how to cook.
We watched a movie together; although I couldn’t hear what they were saying, I understood what was going on. My father loved prison break, he used to tell me that his favourite character was T-Bag; I didn’t understand why he could like that kind of person. That night, I found out.
I was having trouble sleeping, so I stayed awake imagining what it would be like to be Oprah Winfrey. The door opened and someone came in. I turned to see who it was. I wanted to be sure it wasn’t a ghost. It was father. I sat up on my bed and he sat beside me. He didn’t try to tell me anything.
After a few seconds, I lay down on my back and he did the same. Some seconds later, he turned to face me, and then he put his left arm around me. I felt his arm move from my chest to my stomach, and then lower, and lower. I jerked.
He brought his arm up to my shoulder and tapped it gently. I’d rather not tell you what happened after that; these are the things I want to forget. I’ve already told you enough, fill in the gap.
Mum came back from Ibadan the next day. My father hugged and kissed her like nothing happened the night before. I hugged and kissed her too. I couldn’t tell her what happened because I didn’t understand it myself.
I wish I told her. If I did, maybe my father would have never tried what he did again. But, I didn’t tell her anything, so he did again. And again. And again. For four months straight.
Two months after that night was the first time I saw the bruise on mum’s face. She told me she fell. I wondered what kind of fall could give her that bruise on her forehead; she had a swollen eye too; must have been a bad fall. I never heard anything; I couldn’t hear anything.
I started to see wounds on mum more often and I became worried; I pestered her with questions, but she wouldn’t answer. She always said I was too smart for my own good.
My father used to call me a ‘precocious’ child. He wrote it down on a piece of paper and asked me to check the meaning in the dictionary. I did and I liked it. I read the dictionary a lot so I knew big words.
My lesson teachers also always told me I was good at English Language; one of them used to call me Shakespeare; I liked the name because it looked like that of a genius; I consider myself a genius.
A few weeks to my tenth birthday, I started seeing mum less. My father had stopped coming into my room, maybe mum finally convinced him, but he still beat her a lot. I had seen it happen many times, although they never saw me when I saw them fighting. Also, one time, I saw mum hit his face with a belt buckle, I gasped, but I don’t think they heard me.
The night my father disappeared, nobody saw anything. Not even Mrs Oby. But I knew what happened and I promised myself I would never tell anyone.
Not even my mum knows I know.
But I can tell you if you want to know…
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