GUILTY OF INNOCENCE

            The earth was earnest in its herculean task, like an electron around nucleus, in the endless space among its fellows that are either bigger or smaller than itself but not conducive for any living creature to survive. Its sun stood strategically in its azure sky, brilliant in the noon splendour which caresses human skin, old and young alike, with a temperature of about 32o C and it had experienced heaven sprinkling of its waters. However, the sun in its best was about to be disappointed by twilight and to encourage the sparkling elements in the sky for their nocturnal duty.
           Anon, the world was seemed to be dead asleep. One once said that those sparkling elements          afore-mentioned are diamonds and they fall down to enrich the homes they fall into, although some believed that every star is a destiny, and this reaction of detachment from the sky could be ill-omen to some destinies attached to these elements, and that the ‘eyes’ that could look at them all-year round could be enriched with fortune.
          And, those gloomy eyes of this poor lady could contaminate those radiant elements that adorn the sky of the night if were too tenacious on them. If every tear could solve every trouble man would face, then profuse tears those eyes have lost would even solve the troubles fated for her next generation. Those tears fell profusely by the memory that tugged on her heartstring.
         It never occurred to the day that a young lady would break her waters, bring hesitantly an innocent child into the world whose fate she was not sure she would be able to decide. She sprawled on a hill of refuse, surrounded by filths, and a baby was lying beside her, naked and covered with blood, crying incessantly as though protesting against the impiety and cruelty of the world he was about to be exposed to, yet this earliest cry wouldn’t save these vices of life. His mother was sprawling beside him, sobbing as she remembered her past of ignorance, mistake and heartbreak:
          At the pubescent age when Adebimpe’s body was evolving with strange features known to this period of her age like a species whose genetic configuration was been upgraded by nature. Her earliest ritual of womanhood came when she gave her first womanly pure blood between her groins – made her first menstruation – and her bafflement heaped up upon worry of the phase attained as this change was reoccurring through the sacred cycle of twenty eight days. She could remember her mother once tingled her and joked she was becoming a woman yet she didn’t explain to her what she was to expect as a woman. Her father, a retired soldier who was strict, never showed any sign of concern. She was the first child of her parents and has three siblings, all male. Her parents were poor, and lived in a face-me-face-you apartment, sitting precariously in an area sprawling along the bank of Ogunpa River in Ibadan. She was an intelligent child. She exhibited exceptional performance in school.
         Her father being a retired soldier had not received his pension for about a year ago. This had brought a great deal of hardship on the family, and she seemed to be the only victim of this ‘crucial’ change…although the change is unavoidable but this change, coupled to her ignorance she could not imagine would buy her maidenhead so cheaply and plant seed of life in her womb which she had incubated and brought forth as a baby who was naked and incessantly crying beside her.
        Being a thirteen-year old girl she was completely evolved into a maiden.   Added with this, nature evaluated her with inviting beauty which the harsh state of her livelihood could not dispute.
         One sunny day, she was ironing her brother’s and parents’ clothes at a corner of a tiny parlour which was deprived of ventilation by its maker who erected one tiny window on its wall. Her mother was talking with her aunt, Aunty Biola, about her cousin who was a year older than she was, who got pregnant. Her cousin, Pelumi, was in secondary school. Her school mate was responsible for her pregnancy, and he was said to have denied been responsible for it. When her father entered with a  strong face and perspirations about his chest and face, she greeted according to folkway, and her mother and aunty did as well. Then her mother declared:
         ‘Pelumi is pregnant!’
         ‘How come?’ he screamed out his shock.
         ‘She is just pregnant and her mate in school is responsible for the pregnancy.’
         Having plunked himself down on the old chair he asked in his surprise, ‘A secondary school boy?’
        ‘Yes, a secondary school boy–’
          Aunty Biola cut in, ‘He even denied being responsible for the pregnancy.’
          ‘That is bad. What did her father do?’
         ‘He has no choice than to allow the poor girl to embrace her fate and bear the pregnancy.’
         ‘And the boy still refused to accept the responsibility?’
         ‘Yes. The boy is wicked.’
         ‘Ahh! If it were me I would shoot both of them. That’ll give me an opportunity to use my double-barrel which seemed to have been lost into the corner of my room.’
        ‘But that wouldn’t be fair, Baba Bimpe.’ Said Aunty Biola.
         He didn’t even respond to that as he rose up quickly and retired into the room. He was known to always be forthright and specific to his point and one could hardly hear his voice in discussion, quite a strict personality. That was just odd of him that very day! He hardly involved in casual discussion. That day the uncertainties stringed to the stage of life she was stared in her face and the worries interred in her shallow heart came to the surface. She lacked the courage to ask her mother these crucial questions which this phase of life is cycled with.
        In the course of time, her father got a job as a night guard to allay the spell of poverty on them; however, their naked bodies could only enjoy cast-off clothes from their neighbours and friends, although could not redeem their scrawny figures which malnutrition has inflicted, from cold of the harmattan and raining season. The roof over their shelter was leaking, and in the rain pails and some plastic counters would have to be placed in strategic locations to collect the rain. Her brothers and herself always slept on bare floor and parents had a bed worn out flat with time to lay their backs. The bed had been used since a decade ago. The apartment was an empire of cockroaches, bedbugs,  rats and flies. The only electronic equipment they had had broken down beyond repair. Therefore, Adebimpe and her siblings would have to go and watch their favourite programs on TVs in the apartment of their neighbours, (Uncle) Laide and (Uncle) Kolade. The former was a mechanic and a close friend  of the family. He was a Casanova, although he was about two-score year old he was not married. Meanwhile the latter was a respected fellow, once married but now divorced and his wife had left with his only child because of the defect in his spine, and not had any woman to marry him again; his erstwhile wife had run away because of shame. He was also known for his kindheartedness and was fond of children. Adebimpe’s parents loved him although he feared her stern-looking father.
        At a certain dawn, when it was about the time for the world to open its window for pleasant morning light, a wind from the east blew gently the curtain that seemed idly hung behind the tiny  window  that led into the room also deprived of ventilation possessing invisible hand which seemed to  tap her into awakening. Behind that tiny window, almost about the same time a day before she saw (Uncle) Laide having his bath in a bathroom in the backyard, made with pan but he was not hanging cloth on its entrance, probably believed nobody would have woken up and be looking at that time of the day.
         The sight shocked her because she had never seen such a display of male physical composition before and the memory kept recurring in her mind till she went into bed in the night. There was nobody she could ask about this except her ‘school mothers’. One of them playfully patted her back as she answered with ludicrousness imbued in her tone:
       ‘Omo, that is just man. Now, that you are a woman you will understand.’
       ‘Omo, you must taste that o! It is a fun!’ the other lady said.
       ‘I don’t understand what you mean.’ Bimpe said.
       ‘See…see…see…’her palm warm with compassion felt her face and neck. ‘…you are indeed looking ill and fragile.’
       Sure, Bimpe’s  head stood on her neck like earth resting precariously on a thin cane.
       ‘Omo, you need someone to take care of you. You really need someone.’
         ‘But my parents are trying.’
        ‘No, don’t get me wrong!’ she almost shouted at her. ‘I mean you really need a man, a real man.’
        ‘A man? I still don’t understand.’
        ‘I will explain:’ the lady drew closer to her. ‘you need someone like uncle laide.’
        ‘Omo, you need fun!’ Yetunde the second lady exclaimed.
        ‘I do not understand yet, Aunty Ola.’
        ‘Dont worry, I will teach you. Lets start with Oscar.’
          ‘Oscar! What?’
         Oscar was a tyrant though a son of well-to-do parents.
         After a long persuasion, a relationship was facilitated between her and Oscar. Oscar started the relationship with a bait of pseudo-care and love. Oscar used to give her some money to spend at break time. She often went to school without meal in her stomach. However, all the efforts of Oscar to bring her to his house and sleep with her was abortive. Bimpe was always eager to get home after school: how would she tell her parents she went somewhere after school? They might kill her. Nevertheless, Oscar has another plan in mind.
        Meanwhile around this time, she was in JSS 3 and her Junior WAEC was close by.
        On the third day of Feb 1991 it was a new moon. Her father preparing for work called her to a private and for the first time talked to her one-on-one as father and daughter. She could not believe that. He said, placing his hand on her shoulder and looking straight into her shy eyes:
        ‘My daughter, I want to ask you something.’
        ‘Yes, papa.’
       ‘Do you know you are my first child?’
       ‘I do, papa, yes.’
       ‘You can see what your mother and I are going through for you and your brothers to make you became great in life.
        ‘I am sure I will be proud of you.’
        ‘Yes, papa.’
        ‘And, um, you might view your father as being wicked to you.’ Quickly, she shook her head. ‘I am not, my daughter. It is just for your benefit.’
      ‘You know your junior WAEC is around the corner, and I have not gotten its form for you.’ She nodded. ‘I am very tired and, as you can see, sick but I have to go to work because of you. Today I will collect my wage so I can purchase your form.
      ‘Please, please and please, don’t disappoint your father. Please, don’t disappoint your mother too. I am  sure you are not blind. You can see our efforts on you. I love you, my daughter.’
       ‘I love you too, papa.’ she seemed to stammer as she uttered that sentence; she had never spoken that length of sentence with such a comfort, although stammered, before with her father.
        Papa left to work with a thought ‘Please, please and please, don’t disappoint your father…and your mother too’ echoing in her heart. What the admonition and the repetition of ‘please’, attached with concern from the tongue that produced it, meant baffled her. That odd expression from him; he had never talked to her in a fatherly tone neither had he expressed his great expectation of her. How wonderful to look into fatherly eyes as one listen to  good admonition which is only an appropriate vehicle that fit the road of life full of potholes, hump, hills and so and so!
       Was that admonition of not disappointing her parents about her preparation for the examination? No, her father knew she was reading hard for it; it meant more than she could understand, yet she does not know how to ask her mother – the mother-to-daughter relationship was not so  intimate, although they should be the best friends…
        When papa left that night, he never returned in few days. All the members of the family were very worried about what could have happened to him. She could not believe her mother could that be nervous during these ill days her father was missing.
        On the third day he did returned home, stooped with terrible experiences he had gone through, his face filled with grimes, perspiration, abrasions and cuts. For two days afterward he was overwhelmed by spell of sedative drug, rendering his lips attached to each other, inadequate to, from explaining the tragic incidents that have befallen him. Neighbours, families, friends and some people she had never seen in life were pouring into their apartment with conspicuous compassion hanging on their faces. When recuperated he explained to his family what had befallen him. Meanwhile three policemen with another one who was not in uniform had come to show appreciation and some well-to-do men and women as well. She had guesses they were neighbours in the estate papa was working as night guard. He had narrated that on the ill-fated day some armed robbers invaded the street where he was working as night duty and how he had used his military experience with his shotgun, but was overwhelmed and taken an hostage in the armed-robbers’ hide-out. He couldn’t believe why he had not been killed by them, or maybe they might have another vile plan in mind.  Nevertheless, with military tactics he had escaped, informed the police and the armed-robbers were arrested. With his testimony one of her siblings had vowed to be a soldier. How an epitome her father was to them. This incident won him fame and favour, and one rich neighbor in the neighbourhoood he worked as night guard employed him to work for him in his new company in Maiduguri and he would be receiving enticing salary.
        For the first time, a night to the day her father would be leaving she has a melancholic countenance conspicuous on her father’s face, and she had to cover her face and shed tears. Her mother and siblings also cried. Papa could not hold himself but to cry as well. It would take a couple of months for him to return temporally when he would for upkeep. He admonished her to be a good girl and never engage in any ‘moral act’, be ‘careful’ and perform well in her examination; he also admonished her siblings that morning he was leaving, leaving behind hope and promises to perform his fatherly roles.
        Comparing the words ‘moral act’ and ‘be careful’ with ‘don’t disappoint….’ The string of confusion was tensioned with her heart, yet she was shy to ask her mother about it. Thus she had to turn to (Uncle) Kolade for answer. Apart from her father,( Uncle) Kolade had been admonishing her about life  and what future expects of her, warning her about the ‘dangerous’ men that filled the city and are ready to devastate life of vulnerable girls like her, to detail. After his admonition and confusion in him about her boyfriend in the school and all the wrong advices her ‘school mothers’ were giving her, he charged her to put an end to her relationship with Oscar which she did.
        She could remember those she used to look upon as ‘Agbalagbas’ in the street looked lustfully at her and whistled calls at her; but she had started to understand life better because of words of wisdom she  was benevolent of (Uncle) Kolade she attended to her education keenly.
        However, papa had not sent any money to them, even letter, since a few months he had had in Maiduguri, (Uncle) Laide and Kolade had been good Samaritans to the family.  She and her siblings hardly could eat two square meals save in uncles’ places sometimes in the morning and evening. What poverty can cause! It is indeed curse to social system among other factors.
        On a Saturday in the month of June, (Uncle) Laide was sick and couldn’t go to work. Meanwhile her mother and siblings had gone to pay one of her aunties in Lagos  visit for a weekend, leaving no food for her, and her into uncle Kolade and Laide’s hands to be catered for, her as their gross responsibility.
        When the noon sky was lightened of its clouds, which seemed to have silver linings, cool morn had deposited on it, the earth became warmer and she was famished. Then, she went to (Uncle) Laide’s apartment probably she would be able to relieve her twitching belly with food. Fortunately, one of (Uncle) Laide’s girlfriends had just cooked a palatable food and as he was seeing her off she reaches his doorstep. She bade the lady goodbye and he informed her he had preserved her own food in the pot. He was in a pair of boxer shorts and bare at the torso. Then she served herself a large quantity of food and voraciously devoured it. She had not eaten since last night. Soon, she was satisfied and her belly swelled as a result of this satisfaction. She quickly washed the dirty plates and pot and later eased her back in his bed. His one-room apartment, stacked with equipment s, appliances and his other belongings. Later, she put on the video player and TV. There was a cassette titled ‘Fantasy’ in the slot of the video player and she played it, and the film came on on the TV. It was shocking yet enticing: it was a x-rated film. An odd sensation overwhelmed her like a spell. She didn’t even notice when the door creaked open and he entered. Then she started to feel ebony hands moving over her erogenous zones and she was yielding to the lust ravaging through her supple breasts but when she remembers all the admonitions of (Uncle) Kolade about moral stance and risk of pregnancy and her pregnant cousin, she suddenly pushed him away with a shocking scream and dashed out of the room into her parents’ apartment and locked its door behind, sobbing till dusk descends upon the earth.
       Uncle Kolade came early from work today, and checked on her first. He knocked at the door that he almost severe his knuckles with bruises. Until she confirmed it was Uncle Kolade that she opened the door, then fell into his arms, sobbing, and explained everything to him. Furious he dashed to (Uncle) Laide’s apartment but he had temporarily left it because of the shame and guilt. But when he returned later that evening, he caught hold of his collar and vehemently shook him, raving at him. Hefell flat on his face and apologized, begging him not to let anybody else hear about it, especially her father, and vowed never to do that again.
     His apology been accepted, he warned him never to dare that again and he agreed, then left toward his apartment. Adebimpe begged him to allow her to sleep in his apartment; she felt she would be secure in his apartment, and he agreed hesitantly.
     There in his parlour, he served her a cold juice he extracted from his refrigerator, rice and stew with roasted pork. He also served himself the food and juice and as they were eating the meal they watched a program on TV. A few seconds after the meal, she could not help herself against the subduing slumber that descended upon her – so, she slept off on a settee in the parlour.
      The next morning when she woke up, she felt light or something had penetrated her. In all her life she had never felt such a sensation before: maybe it was because of the heavy food she had taken the previous day and, or what (Uncle) Laide had endevoured to do to her. Somewhat she mates with lust in the fantasy of her dream: the erotic scenario she had experienced in the film she had watched in (Uncle) Laide’s apartment came live in her sleep with her involvement not negligent. So, she told him about this feeling, and he told her not worry, that sometimes in certain age of every woman, she feels such a felling, and the experience she had had in the previous day had come in her dream which she seemed to feel between her groins. Then, not perturbed, she went home and took her bath, prepared for church. She followed him to his church.
       When her mother and siblings returned that day, she didn’t tell her the vices she had experienced in the past few days other than the uncles were kind to her. Even, her mother had to thank (Uncle) Laide and Kolade for taking care of her daughter. She had returned with glad tidings: her husband’s letter and money for upkeep. When Adebimpe read the letter she felt both happy and pity for her father who was tautening his arms veins on a foreign soil for the welfare of the family. What a wonderful father! Their status changed; and they could eat three square meals. Preparing to enter SS 1 class her parents could afford to purchase the entire text books she would need.
      Well-nigh a month after, on a sunny day, she was in school uniform and heading home after school along a narrow path that meandered through thickets. Three guys pursued her and then raped her. She could only recognize Oscar among those guys.
       After her mother’s complain to police about the incident, Oscar was arrested and only detained overnight but other guys had escaped. Because of his father’s influence as a district counselor he was released without charge but he was rusticated from school, and she was not compensated or apologized to for the damage she was caused. Her mother strived to inform her father about the incident but the means of communication between them was extremely weak.
        Because of the stigma this incidents caused her she had to change her school to another public school, yet she could not get off of the entangled-with stigma.
       Anon, a feeling of dizziness, body weakness, vomiting and others changed her health as they preceded her protruding stomach – these changes she couldn’t explain what ‘it’ meant. One day, it was a new moon, her mother and (Aunty) Biola called her to privately and declared to her she was pregnant. This declaration preceded profuse tears from her eyes and she cried overnight which could not recede a bit for her consolation.
       After a medical examination she was confirmed three-month pregnant. She was confused: it ‘seemed ’- if the word ‘seemed’ is appropriate – nobody had ever slept with her except  Oscar and other guys that raped her…but that happened about two months ago, and she was about three-month pregnant. Could it have jumped from nowhere and attached to her? She was indeed confused, even her mother and Aunty. She was believed to be chaste.
       After a long unsuccessful persuasion of her mother for her confession concerning who was really responsible for the pregnancy, (Aunty) Biola was confused about her ignorance of who was responsible for it, she invited her to her house and in subtlety questioned her about the matter. She assumed ‘she might be hypnotized when was penetrated’ and she began to explain sensational feeling women feel after sex, and the child remembered she used to have such a sensation.
        She remembered she used to feel such described sensational feeling whenever she goes to (Uncle) Kolade’s apartment. Most of the time, she often fell asleep after taking juice he offered her.  When she woke up, she felt such feeling; that something had penetrated her. She could remember the sensational pain she felt between her groins that Sunday morning after (Uncle) Laide had fondled her and tried to sleep with her the previous day. Even she had once noticed a strange fluid, which she later understood as semen, on her pant when she woke up from her slumber in his room and had wondered what she was doing in his room, in his bed while he was also lying beside her almost naked and herself. She could remember he had told her he taken off her dress because the room was stuffy. She never thought he would do anything absurd with her.
         She told her aunty all these, and on this revelation reported to a district police station. He was arrested.
         The next day, having bribed the police he was released on bail without charge and then he ran away, leaving his belongings behind.
         On the return of her mother, aunt and two of their neighbours that day, they were disappointed by the report that he had been released and were manhandled when they raised their complaint. Thereafter,  all their effort to find him so they might press fresh charges against him became abortive and they had to compromise to aborting the pregnancy. However, she wouldn’t do so because she had once heard of three or four ladies in their neighbourhood who had died as a result of abortion by quack doctors. So, she would hang to her life on this line of risk, bearing the pregnancy instead of a risk of death. Apart from this, public stigma joined by the rape a few months ago, the fear of her father meeting her in that state – the arrival he had stated in his recent letter to be in a few weeks – and his comment that he would shoot his daughter, which she believed thus, if she ever had an unwanted pregnancy made her to pack her few belongings and ran out of town, turning out a  vagabond in another city. She was six-month pregnant then.
    Therefore, tonight there in a strange land she had an innocent baby put to bed, and then she was between the devil and deep blue sea on what next to do. Should she abandon the child and continue with her life or take her child and return home? What would she do?

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