It was a refrain. Oh, the hands on my lips, warm and sticky, had become a detested symbol to me. My life was shrouded in mystery. Secrets upon secrets, I had lost my identity. Lost??? I questioned myself as I sat on my bed that humid afternoon, the rickety fan swirling slowly and tiredly – a good representation of how my life was. I was tired! Fed up! The secrets were choking the very breath I breathe. I looked around my room with tears in my eyes and my eyes stumbled on Papa’s picture. Sniffing, I wiped my eyes with my sweat-soaked shirt and picked the picture up.
“Oh Papa, why did you leave me so early?” My hand outlined his form.
I held the picture close to my heart. I missed him so much. He was my anchor. I never knew who my mother was. The first secret. Any question about her was rebuffed. I saw the pain in Papa’s eyes anytime I asked as a child. It made me become matured way beyond my age and I learnt quickly not to inflict such pain on him. We grew so close but I couldn’t tell him the secret. THE SECRET! Fresh scalding tears rolled down my eyes. How could I? How could I tell Papa that his brother, my own uncle was taking advantage of me sexually? Papa never knew even till his dying day that Uncle Tobore snuck into my room weekly to force himself on me. Uncle Tobore had been my favourite uncle and Papa’s favourite brother. He could do no wrong in his eyes. I couldn’t tell him. Uncle had sternly warned me that telling anyone spelt my doom. I was afraid and kept dying in silence. Then! Papa died and left me in the care of the devil. Uncle Tobore.
My only bright spot dimmed immediately. Even now, I could still see his evil grin and hear his evil laughter. Uncle Tobore, the devil in sheep’s clothing. Aunty Teni never knew. In all honesty, she loved me like her own and did her best to make me comfortable but how could I? In the lion’s den? Impossible!
I stood up angrily now, tears all dried up. I survived. I looked down at the picture in my hands.
“Yes, Papa. I survived. It was hard but I survived.”
The shrill ringtone jerked me out of my reverie. It was Chidi.
Chidi who declared his undying love for me. Could I give him a chance? He too had scars but he had opened up to me.
I walked to the window and drew the curtains open. Could I? I couldn’t continue to allow Uncle Tobore to rule my life. “Ejiro you are worthy of love.” I whispered. I peered into the sun. The choice was mine. I could remain in the dark with my secrets or I could step out into love’s embrace and heal. Time to open my vault of secrets. No more hiding.
The phone rang again. He wasn’t giving up. I smiled.
I was stepping into the light, my heart unlocked to receive Chidi’s love.
Story by Oruare Ojimadu