Breathtaking Nigerian Stories: House help, Electric iron, God why?; Letter, Tears, Punishment, Can’t you hear the pain in her voice?; Skin
Tawawam!!! Ifeoma flogged her house help, Adure with a tough leather belt. “Ayoo!!!” She cried out. Her voice was riddled with pain as tears rained down her face. “She is beating her again! It is not fair; she is beating her again,” Chieke complained bitterly to his sister, Njideka next door. Ifeoma’s children, Azunna and Chiamaka casually watched cartoon in the living room, hardly showing any feelings towards Adure’s bitter punishment. “How come you did not finish all the chores I assigned to you in the morning?” Ifeoma asked Adure as she delivered another brutal flog across her naked body. Blood sipped out of her skin as flog marks appeared with every whip of the belt that made ferocious contact with Adure’s skin. “I will finish them before morning, ma,” Adure pleaded through tears. “I tried my best ma…I really tried.” Her voice had gone hoarse from incessant crying. Hardly any day went by without Adure receiving a similar treatment. “Shut up!” Ifeoma shouted. Kneel down,” she ordered her. Adure obliged.
Ifeoma walked to the master bedroom and reappeared with a red-hot electric iron in hand. As soon as Adure saw it, she rose to her feet and made a frantic dash for the door. It was too late. Ifeoma caught her between the chest and shoulder. The iron burned through her skin like red-hot knife slashing through butter. “God!!! Oh God, where are you?” Adure yelled in pain. She pulled away with every ounce of strength in her, but Ifeoma was too powerful for her. She grabbed her hand, flung her to ground and pinned her down. Then, she pressed the iron into her back. A smelly whiff of smoke rose to the air as the iron charred Adure’s skin, leaving a black residue on and around the iron. “You are killing me!!!” Adure shouted. “You are going to kill me,” she continued, trying to break away, but she was sandwiched between the ground and the iron, applied directly onto her skin by the brute force of her madam, Ifeoma. Ifeoma was a stocky woman with considerable physical strength.
“God why? This is not fair!!!” Adure shouted as her body squirmed in deep searing pain. “I can’t take this anymore,” Chieke told Njideka. They had been at the door to in the adjoining flat listening to goings on in Ifeoma’s flat. “I can’t stand here while Adure is treated like this. I wonder what she is doing to her,” Chieke continued. “But what are you going to do?” Njideka asked. “I don’t know!” Chieke opened the door and banged loudly on Ifeoma’s door. He was only fourteen; the same age as Ifeoma’s son, Azunna. Azunna answered the door. “Chieke what can I do for you?” He asked nonchalantly. “Tell your wicked mother to leave Adure alone!” Chieke yelled at him. “Wetin concern you? (How does that concern you?)” Azunna asked him callously. “Can’t you hear the pain in her voice? Are you not worried that your mother could kill her? Why does she beat her all the time, for God’s sake?” Chieke asked. Tears dropped down his face as he could still hear Adure shrieking in pain. “Get out!!!” Azunna yelled at him. Chieke lost it. Impulsively, he punched Azunna in the face, sending him to ground. Azunna held his face yelling like a baby. Chieke walked past him and headed for the room.
Ifeoma dashed into the living room with the burning iron in hand having heard Azunna’s cry. Seeing her chance for an escape, Adure dragged her bruised and battered body up and sped past Ifeoma. She quickly ran past Chieke and headed downstairs. She cried at the top of her voice as she ran. “Come here!!! What is wrong with you Azu?” Ifeoma shouted. She was torn between attending to Azunna and catching Adure. “What have you done to my son?” She asked Chieke who stood at the door, making sure that Ifeoma did not have a clear path to catching up with Adure. “You are a wicked witch!!! How dare you place hot iron on another person’s child’s body?” Chieke asked her authoritatively. “You little brat, I will crush you with this iron if you don’t leave my house now. Azu my son, get up.”
Chieke stepped out of her flat, standing in the space between Ifeoma’s flat and theirs. “If you touch her again, I will knock every tooth off your son’s mouth,” Chieke threatened. “And I will squash you like a fly!!!” Ifeoma shouted, charging towards him. “I am not afraid of you, witch. If you touch me, my father will kill you. He is not like your husband – a gutless rabbit that shrinks in front of his monstrous wife!” “What? How dare you?” Ifeoma charged towards him, but Chieke stood his ground, staring at her with utter confidence. Ifeoma looked at him in anger. Her hands shook and so did the iron she was holding. “Try it…touch me and my father will throw you down from this second floor!” Chieke dared her. She retreated back into her flat, slamming the door behind herself. “Idiot!!!” Azunna shouted. “You can say that under the protection of your mother…and behind closed doors. Say that to my face at school and I will rip you to shreds,” Chieke replied.
Njideka opened the door and joined Chieke as he ran downstairs to find Adure. They found her in a corner in the street. She was shaking with pain; almost disoriented. Tears were still streaming down her face. She had only underwear on, with no top. Chieke removed his shirt and placed it gently around her. “I hope it does not hurt too much when it brushes against your skin,” he said, referring to the fresh electric iron-induced sores on her skin. “Thank you Chieke,” Adure said. “Come with us to our flat. We will take the back door through our kitchen. We can treat your wounds before our parents return from work,” Njideka offered. Adure followed them. Back in their flat, Njideka found proper clothes for Adure. Chieke went through their mother’s first aid box. He used iodine and bandage from the box to patch up Adure’s wounds. She winced each time Chieke cleaned the wounds with iodine. “I can hear your voice. I know you are in there. Come back here now!!” Ifeoma yelled at the door, ordering Adure to return to her flat. “Ignore her,” Chieke said to Adure. After dressing the wounds, Njideka offered Adure food and water. She gobbled down the yam and vegetable sauce with a ravenous appetite.
After eating, she asked them, “Can I lie on your bed for some time? I am so tired.” “Yes, please. Come, I will show you where to rest,” Chieke and Njideka offered. They took her to their room and had her lie on Chieke’s bed. No sooner she had hit the bed than she passed out. “She is so tired. I feel very sorry for her,” Chieke remarked. “Me too,” Njideka answered. Some two hours later, their father Johnson Ibekala was walking up the stairs. He labored up each step after an exhausting day at work. “Mr. Ibekala, please tell your children to release my house help to me,” Ifeoma yelled as soon as Johnson reached the door to his flat. “What do you mean?” He asked her. “Your children have taken my house help. She is in your flat. I want her back here right now.” Mrs. Arinola Ibekala, Johnson’s wife who was walking upstairs heard Ifeoma’s loud voice.
“What is going on here?” She queried. “My house help is in your flat. I want here now before I call the police!” She had her hand to her waist, shaking as though she was about to challenge the couple to a wrestling contest. “Let me get home first and talk to my children. I need to find out what is going on,” Mr. Ibekala answered. Arinola followed him closely behind. They were well aware of Ifeoma’s troublesome nature. Inside, Chieke and Njideka narrated the events of the afternoon to their parents. “I am sorry, we have send Adure back to her,” Mr. Ibekala told his children. “No daddy. You can’t do that. Please, don’t make her go back. She is going to kill her,” Chieke pleaded with his father. “I am sorry, I have to. She is her guardian, so I can’t keep her here,” Mr. Ibekala explained. “Daddy, don’t you care about Adure?” Njideka asked. “I do my dear, but Ifeoma and her husband are her guardians. If she calls the police, she could claim that we kidnapped her, and the police might arrest me and your mom.” At this point, Adure walked sluggishly into the living room. She dragged her feet like a runner who had just completed a day-long marathon.
She had heard the discussion between Mr. Ibekala and his children. “It is okay, I will return to her,” she said yawning. Mrs. Ibekala sighted the sign of blood on Adure’s back and chest. She was a nurse. “Come here, let me examine you first,” she said. Adure walked to her. “Gracious God!!!” She shouted. “How did this happen?” Arinola asked. “She pressed a hot iron against her skin!!!” Chieke answered before Adure could utter a word. Johnson and Arinola looked at each other in sheer shock. “You always told us to fight for good, mom and dad, even if it meant going to jail or dying to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Does that apply only to protecting my sister?” Chieke asked his parents. “Is Adure not entitled to such protection?” “Sit down my child,” Arinola told Adure. “There is no way we are letting this girl go back there, Johnson,” Arinola said to her husband.
Later that night, Isiakpati, Ifeoma’s husband paid them a visit. “I have come to take our house help back,” he told Johnson. “I would like to return her to you, but I am afraid, my conscience would not let me do that. I can’t believe what your wife did to that poor girl. If you want to, please go ahead and call the police, then I will show them what your wife did to her.” Isiakpati left unhappy, warning Johnson that he was likely to call the police on him. “Go ahead. I will be waiting for them,” Johnson Ibekala insisted. By morning, he and his wife drove Adure to the motor park. It was Saturday morning, so the entire family rode to the motor park together. They gave her money in case she needed some during the trip and handed her to the bus driver after paying for her fare.
“Will I see you again?” Chieke asked her. “I am sure we’ll see again, Chieke unless you forget me,” Adure answered. She had stuck her head through the bus window to bid good bye to Chieke and Njideka. “I promise to never forget you,” Chieke promised. “Me too, I will never forget you,” she replied. “You have our address, please write us a letter when you settle back into life in your village,” Njideka requested. “I will. My English is so bad, as you know because I have never really been regular at school…my aunty never really wanted me in school, but I will try my best. Thank you for everything.” “I will miss you Ada,” Njideka said. She was fighting back tears. She turned around and looked away. Then she walked to her mother and hugged her, brushing aside the tears that were clouding her eyes.
Chieke stood there looking at Adure. He was fighting hard to keep the dam in place against a powerful flood of tears that threatened to break onto the corridors of his eyes. Adure could no longer hold back her tears. They began to stream down her face. She wiped and wiped again, but more tears flowed onto her cheeks and down to her shoulders. “You are my best friend, Chieke,” she said just as the bus was about to leave the motor park. “You are my very best friend, Ada. I will really miss you. Please write,” he implored her. “I will!” She replied.
Every night, Chieke waited impatiently for a word from Adure when his father gathered mails from their mail box. “Do I have any letters, dad?” “No, my son. Adure must be busy settling back into life in her village. She will write when she gets the time,” he explained to him. Chieke would smile, but the next time his father had mails to sift through, he asked the same question. “You like Adure a lot, don’t you?” Njideka asked Chieke one evening. “How do you mean? Everyone liked Adure. Didn’t you?” He replied defensively. “I mean, you would want her to be your girlfriend, right?” Chieke blushed. “You are not saying anything. I knew you really liked her…you know, the way boys like girls,” Njideka explained.
“Well…Yes I did; and I still do. She never stopped smiling, despite what that woman did to her. She was always willing to help others, including her wicked madam’s children who were not nice to her. She made me laugh.” He paused for a moment. “I cried with my face pressed into my pillow each time I heard her cry. I don’t know why, but I just wanted to make her pains and troubles go away. I felt she would do the same for me if I were in her shoes. She is that kind of person.” “You are right, Chieke. She is such a wonderful person. I still miss her.” “I hope she has not forgotten me….us!” “I am sure she has not. She is not that kind of person,” Njideka remarked. They both smiled.
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