Is he the one? Could this really be the one Stribee told me about for almost three years? My heart raced, even though to the man beside me, I was a picture of calm.
Femi didn’t know what I knew, he had no idea I had anticipated this meeting, this day for almost three years now. If anyone had told me before meeting Stribee my life would ever change, I would have laughed my usual mirthless laugh and moved on. Life had taught me a few valuable lessons…
After my mom died, I lived at the mercy of my Aunt Kate, who lived at the mercy of her common law husband Preston. Social services were clueless, and remained so until it was too late for me. Aunt Kate, poor woman, she did try her best.
When Uncle Preston first touched me, I almost froze to death from the paralysis of fear. It was one of those days he insisted on roast lamb made from scratch. Just before she hurried off to Tesco for the lamb, Aunt Kate popped into my room to tell me to keep an eye on the babies. The babies are twins: three years old, Isaac and Noah.
There were no warning signs or previous attempts. He came into my room about twenty minutes after Aunty Kate left and walked straight to my bed where I lay on my belly doing homework.
“Uncle P, that you?” I asked, as I normally would. And as usual, he responded with a laugh and said yes.
I was relaxed. It was not unusual for him to come into my room. He would sometimes help with my homework; after all, I was his twelve years old niece.
From his breath I knew where he was; beside me, and I could smell alcohol on him. The babies must still be napping I said to myself, struggling to shake the tenseness I felt.
“I don’t need help today uncle P, Miss made a few recordings for me after school and I….” I never finished my sentence. Uncle P. violently pulled me by the feet towards him, covering my mouth with his large hand, muffling the terror invoked scream which tore from my throat. Uncle P. is huge and quite tall.
My tiny body did not stand a chance against his Goliath frame. He hiked my school skirt over my face as he forced my legs apart. Immediately surrounded by darkness and without help, this demon ripped into me. I was in hell. Both he and the darkness tore me to shreds. I heard animal grunts as he pushed into me. Every back and forth motion of this thing, was a knife cutting further into me and further accompanied by a grunt. And just like it began, there was a loud grunt and he collapsed on top of me.
I should have been unconscious, or better still, dead. After what seemed like forever, he got off me. Very gently, he pulled me up like nothing had happened and asked me to change my clothes.
I froze where I stood. I no longer recognized my surroundings. I had no bearing. Before, I had images of what was my home, now all I saw was darkness and I did not know where to go. Large hands grabbed my shoulders and he barked for me to get into bathroom and clean up immediately. I walked straight into the wall trying to find my way to the bathroom. Using the wall, I felt my way as some fluid which could only be blood trickled down my legs. I found the shower and as I washed away the blood between my legs, the smell became stronger. I washed myself letting the water run down my back wanting to wash away the pain and fear tearing at my heart. I felt my way back into the room afterwards, and put on clean underwear, sweat pants and a t-shirt. I found my rocker, sat on it and began to rock myself. The squeaking of the old rocker was the only sound I could hear. It was magnified a thousand times in my head: squeak, squeak, squeak…meanwhile Uncle P. was muttering incoherently as something shuffled along the floor, he was cleaning the blood.
That evening during dinner, Aunty Kate made small talk, asking about school, and how my day went. I said ok. She did not notice I barely touched my food or that I was filled with terror. At a point, Uncle P. spoke to Aunty Kate, just hearing his voice made me wet my pants. I spilled water on myself to cover up. My world no longer made sense, yet everything was normal in Aunty Kate’s world: the twins cried, babbled and yelled mama, papa, at varying times. Uncle P nudged me once or twice describing what the little cuties were doing and our normal family appeared the picture of perfection. Thus was born the beginning of my constant rape and torture, while I lived with my loving aunt and uncle.
“It’s the second door to the left Femi. Here, take the key.” After Coco handed the keys to me, she stopped and reached towards a row of letter boxes on the right. She touched the boxes, starting with the first from the right, stopping at the fourth, with flat 4 written in braille on it.
Just before we stepped inside her flat, the door to the flat opposite, opened and a middle-aged white woman stuck her head out. “Ah…it’s you Coco, I thought as much! A wee early love, aren’t you? And how were the misfits today, then?” She asked with a laugh.
She looked me over casually and I smiled and waved, still standing by the door as Coco turned to reply her.
“Oh, Pauline you are just silly! Those misfits keep me grounded and they were just wonderful thank you. Where are your lot? Their dad got them?”
Pauline came out into the corridor towards us, smiling at Coco. She asked if Coco was not going to introduce her friend. Coco ignored her, saying we should go into the flat. As we pushed the door open to walk in, Pauline walked in right behind us.
This flat is huge! Flats in London are usually miniscule, but this one…you could easily get two more average sized rooms out of. Her door led us into a spacious living room. A wide, long corridor was on the right. It has three doors; only one of these three doors was shut. The door at the end of the corridor is her bedroom. The door closer to the living room is the kitchen and the one next to it, with the closed-door, I suspect is the bathroom.
“Please sit Femi, make yourself comfortable. This here is my neighbor and bodyguard Pauline.”
Coco laughed as she spoke and Pauline took a mock bow, adding, “Also mother hen and confidante. It’s a pleasure to know you Femi, you are Yoruba huh?” She asked cocking her head to one side awaiting my reply.
“Yes I am.” I replied. She is quick…what the hell does she know about Yoruba’s, I wondered curiously. She responded to my question like she had read my mind.
“Been married to a Yoruba man for 15 years now, crazy fuck! He not only messed up my mind, the man turned me to a mom and nana all at once…all because he could not make up his bloody mind!”
“Be nice now Pauline, Femi does not want all the negativity from you, do you now, Femi?” Coco added quickly.
The rapport and warmth between these two was quite obvious. Pauline did not pay heed to Coco; rather she focused on me and continued talking.
“So how do you two kids know each other? Oh don’t tell me, you also teach in that weird factory of hers? Honestly, Coco, that place will do you in one day love, just like the freaks on that American show, Criminal Minds”.
Pauline was genuinely spooked by Coco’s place of work. A worried frown creased her forehead as she walked toward Coco who had left the room, and now returned, changed into a pair of sweat pants and a polo jersey.
“First of all, no one is doing anyone in Pauline. You should be ashamed of yourself for being prejudiced. Femi and I, formally met today, but he’s been getting to know me for about two weeks now, right Femi?” She asked, looking in the direction of the brown leather sofa I sat on.
“I on the other hand feel as if we’ve known each other for so long, like I’ve known you all my life.” She said looking directly at me. Even though her eyes were glazed over, I felt Coco saw right into my soul.
I smiled at her remark, not quite sure how to respond. What would she say if she knew my heart, about Kenya and the incredible resemblance they bore, not just physically but in character.
Coco and Pauline, now standing together were speaking in low tones. Looking around the living room, it was sparsely furnished with the sofa, coffee table and an old Shaker rocker draped with a blue worn cotton blanket. Even her decor was all Kenya. Pauline later said goodbye but promised we would continue our discussion about the Yoruba’s of Nigeria another time.
As soon as the door closed behind her, Coco came over to the rocker and sat down. She was barefoot. Her toenails colored bright pink. “Don’t let her scare you Femi, her bark is worse. You hungry? I have rice, peas and some jerk chicken in the fridge; it will go well with the sangria. Come…help me get things ready in the kitchen.”
I marveled at how she moved about the flat without the aid of her cane. She was already half way to the kitchen before I got up and followed. The kitchen, like the living room is not cluttered. It has only four items: a big two door fridge freezer, a cooker and microwave, all on one side, and a three seat dining table in the corner.
In silence she brought out two plastic containers and a bottle of sangria. Placing these on the table, she methodically reached for the middle cupboard above the sink and brought out some plates and two wine glasses.
I stood watching her, amazed at how she did everything herself. I felt she was showing off…look at what this chic can do, I imagine her say. If Kenya was here under these same circumstances, she would equally be as sarcastic. In order not to seem obvious to her thinking, I asked, “and erm…I was supposed to be helping?”
She shook her head and replied “No not really, helping as in watching me do it and thinking wow! She does do things herself,” she quipped slowly.
“The worst thing people do, is feel sorry for me, I hate that!”