My father is a King, yet I’m not a Princess.
Growing up, everyone called my father his Royal Highness. As a child, I wondered why; we didn’t live in a beautiful palace like Royalties with maids at our beck and call, armed guards guiding our building and following us wherever we went, rather than sharing a space with Mama Chiji, our face me and face you neighbor; we didn’t have a Television like Ifechukwu my playmate whose house I go to watch television after school.
At 7, I got to understand that truly my father is a King. king of the clowns without a painted face, King of the streets without having the slightest idea of how to throw a punch. The first time he tried to throw a punch at Papa Chuka (who accused him of depositing vomit at his doorstep), his legs betrayed him and threw a punch at his staggering frame instead. He fell facedown at the vomit…talk about a dog going back to his vomit.
My father is a King of the drunk, one who ruled blissfully with bottles of ogogolo and kia kia. His subjects were just like him, drunks who paraded our streets like lawless soldiers, pushing down any imaginary thing on their path. Dusk always catch my father sitting cross-legged on his favourite spot at Nwoke ụwa Bar across the street, with his minions singing his praises.
I have never heard of a King who worked to provide for his subjects except my father. He sure is a good man. Rather than his subjects giving him, he gave them; paid for their drinks and fed on their praises. Sometimes I used to wonder how my father manages to keep it together at work. He works as a security man at the Big shop at the express. Does it bother me? No, his monthly earnings were quashed at Nwoke ụwa Bar anyways.
My father is a King but mother and I lived as paupers feeding on whatever my mother got from her daily travels. My father’s only concern was feeding his subjects with drink and meats. Of course he bears all the cost, that’s what a good King does right?
It’s been 6 years since my mother was committed to the earth. How could cancer take a perfect mother? It needs to face trial at a court of justice. Why didn’t he take father with him instead? Sometimes I love to think that mother was so good that God needed her in heaven, so good that she died for the man whom I bear his name. I love to think that while father drowned himself in Alcohol, it was channeled to my mother. Father drank, mother’s systems damaged. The drink was slow in attacking father’s liver but Mother’s breasts weren’t sparred from cancer. Those lovely breasts that I suckled on. That’s the only explanation.
When the Doctor said we were late and the cancer had spread to other parts of her body,I was lost. I imagined the cancer eating up her insides the way fire razes a building, slow at first, the in a rush. I thought of how much pain mother had endured; all those nights I caught her sniffling, the times she thought I wasn’t looking and let those balls of water roll down her cheeks.
Being her only child, mother strived to give me the best with the little money she got from biscuits and sweets she sold in front of the compound. I loved watching her count the crispy notes she got from her trade, screaming silently as she removed my school fees first before thinking of herself, all those while words of complaint never slipped from her tongue.
It’s been 5 years since I started living with my father’s sister. She is the devil’s sister rather, except she doesn’t have horns…yet. Satan needs to give her long ones like that of Maleficent. Isn’t it sweet that at my age, I could iron, wash, fill all the drums with water, clean, mop and cook. While I work like a donkey, her children dress like royalties. It’s sad for my father is a King. I should be adorned in gold and silver. She beats me at every instance, calls me a whore and other unspeakable names. The promise of continuing with education tucked away.
The last time, (I swear it was only a mistake) I burnt one of her yellow flay gown. The smell of burnt cloth which was soon covered by the smell of burnt skin chased her out of her room. She tattooed the shape of the iron on my back, a sick reminder to be more careful next time. She showed me what fire does to the ears of a rat. Though I am a child, pain has forced me into an adult. Thirteen isn’t old, is it?
The time before the last time, I had fallen sick. Let me tell you that ill-health is a crime not found in the laws of the land. My Aunty had questioned who gave me the right to fall sick. Sick people prepare for their illness, she said. With no medications, I was forced to do the chores. I should have been more careful. I shouldn’t have carried that quantity of water considering I was sick. I broke one of her paint buckets while climbing the staircase. Right now I’m trying to figure out what hurts more, the pain of watching my mother die or the feel of pepper climbing the walls of my vagina from my Aunty’s fingers.
I have vowed to free myself someday. So when her brother in-law comes calling at night, I let him in and spread my legs for him. I have learnt to not fight nor scream anymore. It gets easier as the day breaks and dusk comes. The first time was the hardest. Brother Ike as we call him, had slipped in the kitchen where I sleep (even though there were free rooms in the house) and forced his tool in me. I woke up to a fingers clasping my mouth, the other hand working vigorously to tear my clothes. I fought. I cried. It was like fighting one of the huge beasts I saw in Chidimma’s television when I was younger. He found his way in, and rode me like a bicycle with no owner.
He came the next and the next and the next… I lost count. I learnt to fight no more. Who would I tell? Who would believe? So when he comes I lie like a log of wood, thoughts of my mother caressing my mind while he pumps in and out, heaving like a cow. Relief comes with the naira notes he slips into my palm before wearing his boxers. Once he had told me I was tight and sweet. I only starred at him with hatred wishing that my eyes could send a bullet into his head and do the world a favour.
I toy with the idea of cutting off his manhood while putting the money from last night where no one even ant could find it. I’m saving up. I’m planning my escape.
My father is a King, yet I’m not a Princess.