She awoke with the rays of the sun streaming in through the green window blinds close to her bed. She started and began to look around her, trying to identify her surrounding but everything looked foreign to her. The pale blue walls, the television set directly opposite her bed, the fruits laid on what was obviously once a cream coloured desk, the unidentified odor she perceived, the few other beds with other children, nothing was familiar. She attempted to sit up but groaned as hot pains shot through her. She gasped as she identified the source of the pain and reality came flooding back in. She lay down again, giddy with pains, careful not to disturb anything this time.
Just then, the door opened and her mother walked in with a nylon bag and Braiye on her back. As her mother rushed to her side to hug her, all the pain, shame and that feeling of betrayal threatened to overwhelm her. She closed her eyes but all she could see were the mean faces of those women as they held her, her screams, her blood, so much blood so she quickly opened them again as little tear drops escaped.
“Nne, please do not be like that please my daughter. I did not mean to hurt you. We did what was right for you so that you will not be different you hear?
Her mother crooned, hugging her as much as she could. Nimi wished she could be strong enough not to cry, but the sobs came racking her whole body as her mother held her. She felt as if her chest will burst open if she did not cry. That was how the nurse met them few minutes later. Nimi disentangled herself from her mother and looked at the young, beautiful nurse in her crisp white skirt and blouse. She shrank back into the bed, twisting her hands together, lips trembling and unshed tears still glistening in her big round eyes. The nurse took in the situation, the child’s palpable fear and smiled at her,
“Sweetheart, this is a hospital ok? We take care of people not hurt them”
Nimi winced at those words and eyed the tray of needles and bottles of injections she was carrying. She wondered at the meaning of that sentence, having heard such just before she was mutilated mercilessly. The nurse’s eyes shot daggers at the girl’s mother still sitting on the bed beside her daughter. The woman’s bloodshot eyes stared imploringly at the nurse, as if she too had been crying. She stood up to sit on the chair beside her daughter.
“My name is Nurse Rose, I am your friend and I promise I will not let anyone harm you. We only want to give you proper treatment so that the wound will heal fast and you can go home alright”. Just be a good girl and let me give you your injections”.
She received the injection with tears barely in check.
“Thank you Nurse” Nimi murmured, wiping her nose with the back of her hand. The nurse left but was almost knocked over at the door as Aunty Chinwe suddenly pushed it open and shot into the ward like tornado in a blaze of red and yellow gown and flower scented perfume. She apologized profusely to the nurse then looked around the ward before her eyes fell on them. She made straight for Nimi’s corner. Nimi sat up immediately, not minding the sharp pains shooting through her.
“My baby, what have they done to you?” she asked, gathering Nimi in her arms as great sobs escaped the girl. “No, no, baby love, it is ok, cry no more darling, I am here now.” Aunty Chinwe crooned, wiping the tears with her white handkerchief. Amidst Nimi’s heaving and sniffling, Aunty Chinwe seemed to recognize just then the presence of her Ma. She disentangled Nimi from herself and looked at her mother in a way that had even the crying Nimi cringe involuntarily and hold her aunt tight feeling safer than she had since this nightmare started.
“Uzo, how could you still do this to your child, in this present generation? I thought you must have learnt your lessons, especially with Jane”.
Aunty Chinwe fired at Nimi’s mother, facing her squarely. From where she sat on the hospital chair beside Nimi’s bed, tears glistening in her eyes, Ma sank lower into her chair. Nimi realized that she made a pitiable sight, her big brown eyes and rosy cheeks sunk in.
“I agreed to have her cut so that she will not be treated as an outcast like they do Mama Mracle’s daughters for refusing to be cut. Besides, we must ensure that she gets a good husband from our place when the right time comes.”
Nimi’s mother explained”
“Uzo, it is mutilation biko. Do not make it sound less inhuman by calling it ‘cut’,
Aunty Chinwe fumed. “I know your husband has something to do with all these abi?” she asked, hugging the now docile Nimi closer. “And don’t even start with that marriage thing now” she concluded raising a perfectly lined eye brow. “Oh, Uzo, when will you stop letting him dictate your fate and that of your girls?” asked Aunty Chinwe standing up to hug her only Sister. Nimi observed the two sisters, their resemblance was only physical, they shared the same aquiline nose, high cheek bones, deep set eyes, and the only difference was that Aunty Chinwe was fairer but shorter. In character however, they were like night and day. Nimi’s mother was demure, docile and as for Chinwe, she was like a whirlwind, outspoken, brave, she reminds Nimi of a wild cat.
Nimi’s mother had four girls before Braiye the boy came along. As a result, she had suffered untold humiliation and pain from her husband and in-laws. Even now, Braiye was like their king, their duty as his subjects was to ensure his happiness and comfort. Pa would rake and whip anyone that fails in that duty. They lived like slaves with their mother in their own father’s house. This was a chance to escape the prison figured Nimi.
“Aunty, can I go to Port Harcourt with you?” Nimi chirped eagerly. Aunty Chinwe looked at her, then at the mother and replied,
“Baby, I… we need to ask your father first. He has the final say” replied Aunty Chinwe.
“I told him already but he said he will think about it” said Nimi, Aunty, maybe you should talk to him yourself.” Nimi suggested.
Both women exchanged glances before Nimi’s mother replied,
“Nimi, we will speak to him and see what he will say ok?” Chinwe rummaged inside her hand bag and brought out chocolates and assorted delicacies which she handed to an expectant Nimi.
“There are more goodies for you inside the nylon bag there my darling. Just get well soonest”
Aunty Chinwe said, pointing at the nylon beside her mother’s chair
. “Your cousins wanted to come see you too but because of school, they decided to send you stuffs instead”
“That is ok Aunty but I want to go with you!” Nimi persisted. Both women assured her that they would talk to her dad.
Nimi entered her father’s compound when the huge orange sun was just setting behind her father’s house. As she approached the house with her mother behind, the place was a bee hive of activity and she knew immediately that something was up. Her mother maneuvered her to pass through the backdoor instead of passing through the front door. She peeped inside to try and find out what was going on with all the noise coming from within but her mother nudged her forward. She suddenly did not feel like entering that house but her mother was already walking briskly towards the backdoor.
“Ma, what is going on again?” she asked when she caught up with her mother. She only shrugged without as much as a pause. Nimi continued after her but bumped into her elder sister at the back door. Jane hugged her happily and whispered that Angela their eldest sister would soon be getting married to her betrothed.
“Married? Sister Angela? Did Papa agree?” asked Nimi
“You can be stupid eh, who do you think arranged the marriage?” Jane asked, taking her small travel bag from her. She took her hand in the other hand as both of them walked into the house.
“Does it still hurt down there?” she asked pointing towards the place in question. “A little, especially when I am not careful enough. You never told me Jane” Nimi said accusingly.
“Mama warned us not to say anything if we do not want Papa’s anger so we kept quiet.. He did not even allow us to follow Mama to the hospital these four days to come see you.”
Jane whispered as they passed their parents’ room to their own
She hugged her little sister when they entered their room. “Did he visit you?”
“Yes, twice” replied Nimi. They sat on the bed, hands around each other. Jane wiped the tears from her sister’s face.
“I was so scared. Ma kept telling us that you were fine but they would not let us see you. Then they said Angela will be going off to her husband’s place soon”
“Who is her husband J and where is she right now?”
Nimi asked, tears pooling in her eyes.
“Nobody wants to tell me. Angela has been crying since they told her. They kept her inside Pa’s chambers. She will stop going to school and start making babies”.
Nimi sat up straight at that, “Can Sister Angela make babies now?” she asked in awe.
But Jane shook her head and declared that she did not know. Nimi’s face fell once again.
“Are you going to leave me and go to your husband’s place too?”
she asked her sister.
“Nooo! I am just eleven Nimi while Angela is going to fifteen. Maybe that is why she is going to her husband’s house. Besides, I have not been betrothed to any man.
“How do you know that? Did Sister Angela know she had one? Maybe we should just run away J because I don’t think Pa will let me go to Port Harcourt”.
Jane stared at her in astonishment but just as she opened her mouth to say something, they heard their mother shouting for Jane.