“Are you sure the rape was not an imagination? Dr. Halima started, this especially being our first meet since the most recent revelation. “I mean you were seeing a movie, if you badly wanted to relate to it, it’s possible your subconscious might have fit you into it somehow.”
“Sorry, I needed to be sure.” She explained to my dull glare and further told incidents when traumatic patients had attached to some weird occurrences only to realize later its falseness. Her pen flew in quick strokes in the next moments over that familiar pad which I would love to read someday.
“So I’d like to know your memories, your thoughts, your recollections, your reveries, your dreams, nightmares, everything. She flashed a gentle smile, and added “That’s if you don’t mind.”
She, Tobi and Kamiye warped curious stares which soon bequeaths a smile from me. I find it amusing how they all want to read into my head. I focused on Tobi and for a vague moment, recollecting our last misunderstanding which seems almost inexistent as he is more strung on important matters, topping the list is his concern for me. Perhaps, I just might give up on his threat as well.
Taking a deep breath, I closed my eyes and started into my past, revealing what I suppose must be the darkest part of my soul unbarred to any man. Terror cobbed over as I relive Uncle Fidelis’ hands crawling down my thighs, aggressively punching them apart, numbing my muscles while I endure his violent thrust. My stomach churned nauseated at the exhumed ghoul and when I feel the firm, gentle grip my lids jut open. It is Kamiye, and her eyes bled with such intensified love as she murmured consolations. Her voice through my shame felt like a stream of refreshing waters, lending courage.
“I was eleven when it first happened.” I started strengthened by the warmth of Kamiye’s grip, but not oblivious to her constrained gasp or Tobi’s stoic glare. “It was only a year from when I started living with aunt Yemi and her husband. I remember the first night, he’d come back late and both of them had matched to my room with her behind him pleading. I knew something wasn’t right when he stopped at my bed and yanked out his belt with his eyes on me. I thought I had done something wrong and he was going to beat me. I remember the shock in her eyes when she realized what was coming except it wasn’t what I thought. He turned to her and the next thing, Aunt Yemi fled like she’d seen a ghost.”
“God, what sort of person does that?” Kamiye whispered enraged and then as if sensing my double-mindedness, she sought me out, soothing her hands down my arm and whispering. “Don’t worry it’s over.”
It didn’t feel like it! My inside screamed.
The psychologist’s voice returned. “Did you hear what he said to her?”
I shrugged helplessly.
“So she just fled without a word.”
“I don’t know!” I spat hatefully but caught myself just too late. Dr. Halima doesn’t deserve this. She was only trying to helping. “I’m sorry.” I sang solemnly. Sigh! Discussing this is harder than I thought. I must be crazy to have thought I could talk about this.
“It’s okay.” Her eyes flashed patience and understanding. She said nothing more, leaving the utmost decisions to me. I continued. “ I don’t think he said anything. All I know is she left trembling.”
“Did she discuss it afterward?”
My lips spread a distant menacing smile. “She warned me never to speak of it. She said such things happened. She sounded so normal like I had not just been defiled the previous night.”
“So that was it?!” Tobi raged.
I shrugged bitterly, ducking in shame.
“Damn!” he cursed furiously pushing to his feet. Tobi’s rage coursed apparent as he crossed the room, his sticks sounding violent taps against the floor. “How long did it go on?” he growled, a shadow of anger darkening his tone. “How long?!”
“Two years.” I supplied shakily.
“Shit! So you are telling me for two years she acted like it was normal?!” the bed shook from his firm grip on the banister. I wince, feeling my insides crush like wilting flowers. “And Pelumi you never told anyone?! Not even me when I came around?!”
“Don’t accuse me!” I flashed steely at him. “I wanted to. I tried to. That’s why I emphasized how much I wanted to see you. But she always read my letters before I sent them and you rarely showed. And even when you visited, your visits were short. And how would I have told you when she was always there watching?”
Tobi’s face cracked a moment of internal struggle. It took longer to work his emotions. But he eventually did and to my surprise, apologized, his face now sobered a fraction. My eyes misted at its unexpectedness. I bunched a fist, aggressively wiping the tears off my eyes and hating myself for cracking before this faces. My insides felt near eruption.
Tobi sat beside me, his stick clattering noisily to the ground, further intensifying the coming emotional tidal wave. I shivered; fighting for control as he again apologized. Every breath now felt fitful as I feel waned of strength to hold back. I will not crumble here! My inner self chanted until I felt myself regain control.
“Had Fidelis been making passes to you before then?’ Dr. Halima’s voice returned solemn but firm.
“Not that I noticed.”
“So the couple was obviously having issues. Apart from constant quarrels were there fights, physical exchanges between them like your parents?”
I heard Tobi’s difficult wheeze beside me. This wasn’t any easy on him or me. “Not that I know off. Aunt Yemi’s suffering was subtler. It was different. She never had bruises or scratches like mother, but most times she cried especially when she thought I wasn’t looking.”
Dr. Halima’s pen paused mid-way in the air. “Was she scared?”
“Yes! Very scared.” Even at such a young age, I had sensed that much.
“There must have been something. That sort of bruise is usually emotional and it’s equally as dangerous as the physical.” Dr. Halima muttered thoughtfully.Then to me. “So are you ready to give details of the rape?”
I froze, feeling my eyes almost pop out of their sockets. How in God’s name am I expected to spill off my robbed innocence? But as the next minutes proved, she did in fact and even provided Tobi a listless litany of reasons supporting her questions. Tobi intervened. If I have ever doubted his love, never would I. A vein slashed visibly down his forehead like a bolt of lightning matching his raked tone to her absurd inquiry. He would not hear it. A lot of the details were already tearing him apart.
“Please Tobi, let her do her job.” Kamiye pleaded, working her feminine hold on him. He silenced, but not for long I can tell. Like a loose cannon, it is only a matter of time till he exploded again.
“I can’t listen.” He simply said with such distraught in his eyes. My heart tore and rejoiced at the same time. I longed to console him, to reach to him that all that was the past, except even I am not in the proper state to.
“I can’t listen.” He sternly said, rising with such determination as he started to depart.
“Tobi!’ I called panicky of desertion by my one true family. If there was anyone I want to share with, who else but him. “Please stay.”
In that single moment, our bond of old struck and I found gaping adoringly at him like I had when we were kids. He felt it too, rooted against his will as if sensing my need for him.
Dr. Halima was quick to his side, and for the first time ever allowed some emotion as they talked things through. Her words seemed to work some magic on Tobi who returned with her a couple of minutes later.
“You don’t have to discuss this if you don’t want to.” Halima turned to me from her plastic chair. “ I’m not forcing you. But I think its best you let it out and stop letting it fester there.” she gesticulated, tapping at her chest like she were conversing with a kid and then waving to the room. “These people here love you, and I do too. We just need to rid your heart of this long-standing bitterness, and without your cooperation, that is impossible.”
I break from her, but her voice followed reasonably through. “Please let me help you Pelumi.” And then slowly, she steered my face to hers, her sincere gentle nods nudged a crack in my well-erected defenses, and in split seconds, I realize I need to let go. I have harbored such great weight for too long. It is time I rid of it.
“I awoke that night at the sound on my door.” Her grip on my shoulders was such great comfort, her gentle eyes undoing, and her simple gestures empowering as spilled the horridness of the worst two years of my life. The long-held vigil’s to stay awake to his coming only to succumb to nature’s sleep and awaken as usual to the pressing weight, Its suddenness barely awarding space or time for thought or action.
Once, I had locked the door and freed for the night. But that was as far as it went, as I had returned from school the next day, to find the door knobless. But at least that had been the birth of my harbored escape which didn’t come until another year.
Kamiye’s glare was misty when I finished, Tobi’s tormented with a tightly clenched fist, and Dr. Halima’s pained.
“So you mean that went on for two years?”
Tobi pushed to his feet in full-fledged rage, fiercely cursing his wrath on Aunt Yemi and too oblivious to his unaided pace like some train prepared to crutch whatever on his tracks. Pain briefly flashed across Tobi’s face. But it could as well be from his anger as the foot. Suddenly he spun, baring inconcealable accusations at me. Through my shame, I feel anger. None would understand the man’s threats or my fears (of it) back then, I voiced it.
“It’s okay.” Dr. Halima non–judgmentally supplied. “It’s not her fault. She was kid.”
Tobi huffed a sigh and turned away bowing his face in his hands in tired resignation. His muscles rippled with such emotions and when he turned back his eyes were tear clogged, his face pain contorted and his shoulders slumped dejectedly. “I wish you told me. I wish I was a better brother. I should have known something was up when in all your letters you said how badly you wanted to see me. I should have shown-up more.” He paused on a sigh that took much from him. “But the dread of your brokenness every time we saw was greater than seeing you.” he confessed.
“Please don’t do that Mr. Longe. Guilt or regret won’t help.”
Tobi turned dolefully to the psychologist and then back to me with a mixed combination of hurt, regret, and apology.
“So what was uncle Fidelis’s threat about?”
It took a moment to realize her question, but at last, it struck. “He threatened to kill me.” I winced at those words and its shallowness. It sure felt stupid uttering them now, but back then it didn’t. The man was capable of it.
“So that’s why you ran.”
“He would have done it-eventually” I stared straight ahead. “And I would have preferred death, but it just wasn’t coming. I nursed suicide for a while but I couldn’t do it. Everything was my fault. He always said it and I believed him. He said it was my fault that I’d attained puberty too early and I didn’t know how to handle it. That I had seduced him, and that deep down, I wanted him.” In my mind I clearly see those menacing eyes convincing me of it.
“And do you think you did?”
Tobi’s explosion was sudden, strong, surprising. “For chrissakes, she was eleven! What would a twelve-year-old know about seduction?!”
“A lot than you can imagine Mr. Longe.”
Tobi scoffed. “That’s stupid!”
“Tobi!” Kamiye rang soothingly to let Dr. Halima do her job which was beginning to wear on even me.
Halima gave a limp smile and started reasonably. “I’m not criticizing Pelumi but you cannot imagine what I have seen discovered in this job.” And then to me, apologetically. “It doesn’t matter what the answer is. I just need you to answer this as truthfully as you can. It’s all part of therapy.”
“No, I didn’t! ” I supplied, angered by her consideration of it. Honestly, while growing I had been quite a needy child and had even adored uncle Fidelis before all the bad. So when mother and father had disappeared, I had sourced for parental attention from him. So maybe I had somehow lured him, however unintentional. He’d referred to me as ‘tempting.”
“Oh please.” Tobi snorted stamping his healthy foot angrily. His next words told my shared thoughts. “Early puberty is no excuse for rape.” He said and in next moments, spat curses. Kamiye flinched at his choice words and muttered a subtle reprieve in Yoruba.
“I believed him. I guess I was too dumb back then to believe otherwise.”
“Stop! Please don’t say that. You were neither dumb nor stupid.” Kamiye plead, with part focus at Tobi pacing with apparent anger and a hurtful limp. Having had enough of worry, Kamiye retrieved his sticks and crossed to hand it to him. Tobi took it with cold vengeance. I feared for Uncle Fidelis and her husband.
“So where is uncle Fidelis now?”
“Dead!” Tobi hissed between clenched teeth and ran a frustrated palm over well-groomed hair. “Even if he were crawling, he would have long made it to hell! Because heaven holds no place for such.” He turned unremorseful to Kamiye.
For a second, I feel infuriated at death which seemed a too easy option for him. I hope it was painful and of course, I hope he rots in hell.
“Where did you go from your aunt’s place?” Dr. Halima further prodded into the quiet room. I searched my thoughts for answers. “I don’t remember. I only know I left”
On Dr. Halima’s insistence, I gave it another shot but more for myself than anyone’s. The result was the same except this time a quick waver of some warm bright face blotched in red shiny lips and afro which disappeared almost as soon as it had come.
“I really don’t remember.”
“It’s okay.” She tapped with an encouraging smile but soon froze transfixed at my shoulder. “What’s that?”
I craned at the scar on my shoulder blade which I have accustomed to since awakening. It was old, and nothing like the recently healed ones. But intuitions told it was bad.
“It seems like a bullet wound.” Dr. Halima queried in study, Tobi affirmed with great certainty, spelling how he’d taken note of it on our reunion years back.
“How did you get this?”
I shrugged at all three expectant prodding glares each searching my experiences through the years.
At last, Dr. Halima shut her pad and readied to leave with that thoughtful smile in place as she termed and encouraged what good start we had, and also assuring our progress. She would be here again tomorrow, she promised and lastly, inquired how it felt sharing.
“Truthfully, I feel great. Although it still hurts, but I feel some peace.”
A quick pass flashed between the Doctor and Tobi as if proving some point to Tobi which he wryly admitted. And when she left, Kamiye was quick to claim the psychologist’s vacated spot leaving Tobi brooding at a corner.
“Tobi?” she summoned and tapped lightly on the spot beside me. He returned after a moment’s hesitation and settled glumly beside me. My lips automatically set a wan smile.
“What’s funny?” his handsome face creased with a frown.
“You walked without your sticks.”
“I know.” He suppressed a tentative smile. His face soon returned to its worried cast. “I thought you were safe with them.” He meant my aunt and her husband. “I was going to come back for you.” His eyes had turned ultra-pleading as he locked palms with me, lacing his fingers with mine. “But I was going to finish school, make some money first and come back for you. “He meant it! “I came back Pelumi, but you were lost without a trace. We searched endlessly for you.”
“Aunt Yemi too?”
Tobi nodded, seething. “She and the bastard searched for you, they fooled me. But I never forgave them for allowing you to miss under their roof. I left and I never returned.”
Suddenly, a strange, unprecedented sob caught in Tobi’s throat, I shuddered with emotion. “I’m sorry I was never there when you needed me Pelumi. I know you’ve been through a lot which I cannot erase, but from now, I promise to be there for you. I promise.” He re-echoed over and over as tears flowed freely down his cheeks equaling mine and Kamiye’s. My love for both at that moment could not be any more multiplied.
“I’m never going to lose you Pelumi!”
“Me too!” Starry-eyed, I chatted believingly at the man who had never stopped being my hero.”I love you Tobi.” I whispered, falling into his warm embrace.
I feel Tobi’s tremor at my sudden confession and his hands wound even more tightly as he whispered back fiercely, producing a sift giggle from me.
I have always loved my brother. As memory serves, he’d given me the best of childhood before life went awry. I remember those chilly nights back in my aunt’s house when thoughts of Tobi and his words were all that had kept me going.
Finally, we parted. Tobi’s eyes now were rid of tears and filled with the childlike glint I have come to remember. For moments we were lost in each’s stare, basking in mutual affection and bonding through lost years and promises of an even better future. Until jotted to reality by Kamiye’s sniff. And on a flash she launched on me swearing her undying love in a teary hug, I returned it.
Tobi arose, uninundated by the feminine outburst and with a final look at us, grabbed his stick and was out the door, relieved.