It was my fifteenth Christmas. I was no longer the person i was ten Christmases ago! I had grown and remarkably well if i might add. My waist was as slender as my face but what followed beyond it was a “load” people wondered how i carried! But i carried it because it was my load!
I was just fifteen but the way my hips swayed when i walked, left and right in the perfect rhythm almost seemed like i had practiced for more years than fifteen. I heard people whisper and point as i walked by. I was told i was beautiful at every Street and corner. I didn’t know if the beauty they saw was below my waist or above my neck. It was confusing! Mother had gotten tired of the countless approaches from men concerning me. I wondered how it must be for her, trying to explain that i was just fifteen. Father on the other hand couldn’t wait for the “unlucky” man coming for my hand in marriage, he counted his chickens before they had the opportunity to hatch and he did this with great pride.
It was my fifteenth Christmas and it was special because i was finally leaving the village! I knew my star would never shine here. I knew i was made for city life. Adaeze and Afam had moved to the city years back. I was fifteen and it was finally my turn! The twins had grown too. They were adorable together. I looked at them most times daydreaming of my own twins. These were the thoughts that kept me from losing my mind.
I was fifteen and i was wiser than every girl my age. Though not as wise as Mother or Adaeze,but i was getting there. Mother sometimes wondered at the kind of things coming out of my mouth. She always said i was too smart for my own good. Mother. My beautiful mother. My best friend and confidant. Age had drawn its signature all over her and had added extra effects. Ten years ago, as she walked to the market, men would stop her and ask for her hand in marriage only to be told she had already produced five children. Most of then never believed and had to come see for themselves. How could a woman so beautiful and young have produced five children already? This question never seemed to have an answer. Mother would smile and laugh and talk about her family to whoever cared to listen. Ten years ago. How time flew!
Adaeze and Afam had come to celebrate Christmas with us this time around. They were doing well for themselves. I was proud! It was my fifteenth christmas and i was old enough to make the Christmas meal. My family gathered together and shared stories and jokes after eating the delicious meal i prepared with mothers assistance of course. Afam teased me about my cooking. He said he would kidnap me and take me to the city to be his personal cook. He said city girls didn’t know how to cook. We all laughed. Mother smiled. The twins tried to bargain over me with Afam. They also needed my food and couldn’t let me go just like that.
Father was quiet. Father was different. Ten years ago, father changed! Nothing was the same. The laughter had since reduced in my family and we had all gotten used to it. The crying had greatly increased too. Many times, too many times a senior family member was called to interfere. Mother never knew what she did to deserve such treatment yet mother had to make peace. I watched father in anger. I wondered why he never hit us the way he did mother. If one of the twins did something wrong, mother would go down for it. He never wasted any opportunity to practice his warrior skills on her. I was fed up. I wondered why we couldn’t just leave him. I knew he would never survive without us. He was ungrateful!
I watched him as he looked at mother and each one of his children. He got up and mumbled some words and went to his quarters. Everyone suddenly became relaxed and cracked even funnier jokes. Mother seemed to be enjoying herself for once! The beast was gone and the beauties could play! After some time, We all decided it was late enough and time to retire to our respective beds. I wanted to talk to Adaeze, badly. I had missed her greatly. I grabbed her hands and pulled her with me to our “special place”. I was eager to start our gossip!
It was not up to 2 minutes when we heard the familiar rhythm of the blows father dealt on mother. It was almost like he was beating her to a song playing in his head. I dropped the cloth i was folding. I looked at Adaeze. She had tears in her eyes. She had a look that asked me “he still beats her?”. I understood and i nodded my head. Everybody had gotten up now. Afam rushed to fathers quarters and banged on the door. He shouted and shouted. He begged, he threatened. Father didn’t stop at any point. Mother’s cries pierced my heart. I had had enough! I could hear her curse and cry and scream and kick. Father never stopped. Then her voice ceased. He had finally killed her. We all rushed to father’s door. He opened the door and pushed Afam out of his way, grabbed his cane and walked away. Adaeze rushed to mother. She was lifeless. I pulled the twins away and asked them to go back to our quarters. Afam and Adaeze carried mother and lay her on the bed. I rushed to get water and we poured on her. She sneezed! She wasn’t dead but her face was looked dead. We nursed her wounds and took her to our quarters to sleep peacefully.
It was not a new phenomenon. I was used to it. My father had become a tyrant and my mother, the victim. This had become my routine. I was the one who cleaned up after my father had performed art on my mother’s already designed face. Most times the wounds were not healed before he did more, reopening the old ones in the process. Adaeze and Afam didn’t know the amount of beating mother had been served by father and had forcefully eaten because of “family”! They were far away in the city. They couldn’t know. But i knew. I was there. Even in the dead of the night, when father thought we were all deep in sleep, i still could hear. My heart bled not only from the fact that mother was in pain but also because i couldn’t do anything about it!
It was my fifteenth Christmas, the Christmas i made up my mind never to get married, the Christmas i lost my mind totally!!!