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The Night Child | A. Aleke

I nine when he com to the house. Everybody happi. Ma make us clean everywhere and move all our things into her and Pa’s room so he can stay in our room and me and Tope can sleep on the mat outside.

“Big doctor!” Ma say as we clean, “Your Pa’s brother is big doctor inside town!” she keep announcing, so that befor long, everybody in the compound know that big doctor is comin to stay with us. All Pa do is smile.

As the sun start to go down, everybody sit in front of their house and the children play and laff under the bigtree at the end of the compound.

Ma shout wen a taxi finally drive inside the compound, she is loud l;ike that and me and tope laff and run to greet him. We never see him before, we never even knew Pa had brother. The boys run to greet him too and help us carry his bags. He bring big bags of bread and fruits and tell ma to share to the women. Mama twins start to dance and they bles him.

Unku Kayode is short, just like Pa, wit darker skin and gap teeth and wen he smile, everybody around him smile. Everybody like him at once, especially me, I like him most.

“Littu Tolu,” he say and rub my hair and I laff.

“Unku Kay-o-de.”

“Leave that one,” Ma say, “She don’t know to do anything,” but he laff so all of us laff and I know I have a new frend.

I tell him everytin, after scul when I pick beans he sit with me, we laff, I tell him about scul, about Tayo and wen Ma yell at me, he is the one that hugs me and tells me to not mind her, he gives me sweet, more than he gives the other children and after dark when they gather under the iroko to listen to his tales, I am the one who sits closest to him. “Littu Tolu” he say and my face will shine, everybody like Unku Kayode but I like him best and he like me too.

When I get sik, Ma tell me I hav malaria and Unku Kayode buy medicin for me to take, he say the moskitos outside are bad for me so I sleep inside. When I get hot and swet in the night, it is unku that put towel in water and pres my body to cool down. In the mornin, Ma giv me food and he sit wit me, he make sure I eat, he tel me story and make me smile even wen Tope laff at me.

“Don’t mind her.” He laff and I smile. I get better but I don’t go outside to sleep with Tope on the mat.

I asleep when I feel him kiss my face, I blink. “Unku?”

“Shh,” he say and kiss my cheek. He touch my arm, my cheek, my neck, my chest. My heart start to beat fast and I start to shake

“Unku?”

“Don’t you love me?” he whispers in my ear. I don’t answer but he hug me.  When I wake up, he not there but I see him outside and he smile at me.

My head swim, and I feel confused, was it a dream? He giv me sweet and ask how I fil, I smile at him.

In the night when he give me my medicine, I see it is more but he say not to worry that I will get better fast and I take everything. When I sleep, I dream, unku is on me, and I dream of blood but I don’t wake, I struggle and my heart beat fast but I don’t wake.

When I wake, my body hurt but I can’t move. I finally go out and chek mai pant, no blood. But why mai thigh hurt, why I feel dizzy, why mai thigh hurt?

Wen he com back, he giv Ma and Tope fruits, he smile at me and giv me sweets, plenty sweets. Pa say  “You spoil this girl too much.” and he laff, so all of dem laf. Ma and Pa laf, Tope laff. I look at him, his yellow teeth wit his mouth wide open. Mai best frend? Unku Kayode? He look at me and laff and laff and mai head swell, mai chest get hot and mai legs shake. I look at him. Why mai thigh hurt, why my thigh hurt?

Ma bring my medicine but I don’t take it. I don’t eat, I drag out my mat and sleep wit Tope.

“What wrong wit you?” she ask me, I tell her the room is hot, I say im fine and Pa tell her to leave me so she let me alone. Kayode com out in the night, he stand at the door and stare at me, I pretend to sleep but mai heart beat and beat till he goes. I open mai eyes and look at the stone wall. Moskitos sing in my ear but I don’t shuu dem away, the sound dey make is the same wit the sound in my head.

All Tope knows to do is talk. All the time, even wen I tel her I have headache so I walk on my own wen we walk bak from scul. The boys walk in groups, dey left scul earliya to pluck mangoes and wen I see dem comin to us, I try to not look for Tayo but he finds me, he alwys finds me.

“Tolu,” he comes wit two nylon bags and one stik. He gives me one bag and I smile. He smiles and holds my hand. When the others point and laff, Tayo throws stones at dem and we all laff. Dat’s how we move in a grup, talkin and laffin till everyone gets home. When dey laff, I look at Tayo and suddenly, his teeth turn yellow. My hand starts sweating and shaking so I take it back.

“What wrong wit you?” he ask but I shake my head and smile. Mai chest swell and I cant breathe well but I smile.

“Thank you,” I say then run to our room wit the mangos. I watch from the window as dey move past our house.

Ma cooks oil rice today, oil rice is like Kayode, everybody like it, before you enter the compound, you can already smell it and Pa is already, shouting her praises. It’s mai turn to serve today. I serve Ma wit Pa. I serve Tope, I draw water from the mud pot and when Ma keep his food and ask me wher Kayode is, I shrug. When she goes, I take his food and wrap it in pawpaw leaf and take it to Mama twins and her babies and I eat wit dem, mai heart thud and thud but I eat wit dem and when she thank me, I nod and say thank God. Thank God.

Ma beat me. “What wrong wit you?” she shout. Pa tell her to leave me but she beat me. I don’t feel anything, mai chest don’t swell, mai hands don’t shake or sweat, I just kneel ther and look at ma. “This not how I raised you?” she scrim. “What wrong wit you, all of sudden, what wrong wit you?” He’s ther too, he watch her beat me, he don’t say nothing but he stare at me and I feel it, his stare on mai back, I feel it. Dat’s the only thing I feel, it make me feel naked but I just kneel ther and stare at Ma.

I don’t call him unku. I don’t grit him. I don’t serve him and everyday Ma shout, she tell me to have respect. Sometimes, she beat me.

The sun is hot and mothers are pouring cool water over their naked children outside as some run away playing wit sand and tyres. I know dey want the sun to set so dat after dinner dey can gather under the shade of the iroko tree wit him so he can tel dem doctor stories and make dem laff but Mama Busayo starts shouting and people start coming out to look. she beats Busayo on the ground and she hold oga Peter. He is one of the watchmen and nobody like him because he’s always drunk. Ma tell us to never go close to him, she say he smells, ‘he’s bad news’. Mama Busayo shouts and hits him and kicks Busayo on the ground, I think of the mad woman, shouting wildly and moving all her body at once, dat is how Mama Busayo is now, mad. Other people come and carry dem away but dey leave Busayo ther, crying on the floor.

“What happened?” I ask Tope

“She say Peter sleep wit her but-“

“He rape her?”

“Naw, shush. He mowlest her.”

“What’s dat?”

“He touch her. It’s not rape, it not dat serious, she-“

“How do you know?” I shout and she stop and look at me. Mai chest get hot. “It serious.” I shout. “It serious.” Mai chest swell and I want to throw up but I also want to beat her and beat Peter and beat Mama Busayo and everybody. I stand up and walk away, breathing like I run from scul.

Dey tell Mama Busayo to leave Peter, nobody like Peter. I think of Kayode, his yellow teeth, his laff. Everybody like him, everybody like Kayode. My breath shake, my fingers shake, mai legs shake, so I sit down.

‘Rape. Mowlest.’ Mow-lest. I don’t say it out becus my throat is tight and mai eyes are hot. ‘Rape. Mowlest.’ Mai chest try to burst but I hold it. ‘Rape. Mowlest, mowlest.’

Me and Tope go to watch the boys play ball, dey are covered in sweat and sand. I don’t like the game but its nice to watch dem play. Tayo doesn’t play tuday. He sit wit us and share water to the boys when dey get tired and he talk to me. I like the way he talk, not like me or Tope, he very smart, everybody know Tayo smart. He funny too because I don’t want to laff but he make me smile. He smile too and everytime, I look at his teeth and very soon, mai hand start to sweat and my chest start to get hot again but I smile.

After the game, he hug me. I start to shake. I tell maiself, this not him, this is Tayo. Smart Tayo and I try to hug him tighter but my whole body shake and mai head start making dat moskito noise.

“What wrong?” he ask but I cant say anything. I just stand ther and shake and dey start to laugh.

“Vibrator,” dey laugh. “What wrong wit your sister?”

“Vibrator. Vibrator.”

I hear Tope tell dem to shutup, I hear Tayo run after me but I run fast, I run till I reach home before my leg kolapse, before mai whole body kolapse on the floor. Dat’s wher Ma find me.

“What wrong?” she say but I cant breathe. She pick me and shake me, she hold me. She say “Tell me.”

So I tell her.

Because mai chest too heavy for me now, and I cant sleep at night and mai whole body always shake. I tell her. She hug me and mai chest feel light, mai chest open and I can breathe, I want to cry but I just breathe, I don’t remember when last I breathe like this.

“He must leave this house today,” she say as she hug me. “He must leave this house today.” When she leave me, I lay ther on her bed and I breathe.

I hear their laffter first and just like dat, mai breath go away again and rock settle on mai chest. I see dem through the small window. Dey sit facing each other on the wooden stool and Ma slap his arm playfully as she laff and he laff and both of dem laff and everything inside me shrink and get cold.

Mai chest swell and swell and burst but mai body shrink and get cold… when the noise starts in mai head again, it’s laffin too wit yellow teeth and it echo so dat I smile.

When the mothers take their children under the iroko tree for evening stories, I follow. The evening is calm and the briz whispers in mai ears and I smile. He make dem laff, dey ask him questions and he answer and dey look at him like he a god, a happy god. Kayode the happy god, everybody love happy god, me too. I love dem best. When its dark, the children say goodnight and go. The mothers go too and I stay. I watch him fall aslip under the tree. Beautiful sleeping god.

I take the rope and go round the tree. One, two, three times then I drag it and knot it so his hands and lower body is tied to the tree. He wake, he call mai name and I look at him.

“Tolu…”

“Shh. Do you love me?” I whisper. He stare at me and I laugh. Mai chest open and my body fly out so I dance and laugh and finally, I feel free.

He call mai name again and I put my shirt in his mouth.

The moon shine on mai naked breasts and the light reflect on the knife. I take the dark earth and rub on mai chest. The night sings to me and the briz carry mai laff like a dance to the sky.

I take his finger first. “Do you love me?” I ask and when he cry, I cry. “I love yu.” Then I take his tongue. He cry and I rub his blood on mai breasts so it mix wit mai tears.

I cut his neck, his cheek, his lip, small fine cuts and all he do is cry.

“Littu Tolu, she cant do anything.” But she can, she can cry. She can kill.

I laugh and laugh, then I cry because mai chest is free and mai fingers don’t shake anymore. I arrange his fingers around him then I put the knife in the middle of his neck. I bury it ther and he is quiet. I bathe.

I don’t think of Pa or Ma. I don’t think of Tayo or Tope. I think of the mothers dat would snatch their children away from this tree, the blood coated one. Dey wont tell a story, no, Dey would spit and swear and the tree will shrivel up and die, maybe. But dey will still laugh wit every Kayode, dey will still love dem.

I lay down and cut mai wrist. Tears run into my ear but I smile and when the night says “Come, mai child.”

I go.

 

Photo by Joshua Oluwagbemiga on Unsplash


A. Aleke writes articles and poetry on coexisting with self, growth and justice systems also on the happenings in Africa as she is a young African writer. You might find some of her works in magazines and on her website, alekee.wordpress.com. Find her on Twitter, @__Aleke

Published inFictionShort Stories

2 Comments

  1. Aretha Aretha

    This was so powerful & so sad 😭😭 well detailed & well written , really felt the story.

  2. Amarachi Amarachi

    Wow…. this is amazing

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