BENT NOT BROKEN (EPISODE 1)
Today, as I celebrate one of the greatest moments of my life, I can’t but think back to my past. I am Temitope Oyinloye and this is my story.
Years ago, after we lost our dad, I and my 2 siblings found life a hard knock one. Our mother was not the type of mother people boast about, ours was a vicious, conniving and terrible woman. Things started going wrong 2 years after we lost our father.
“Where’s mummy” Opeyemi, my youngest sister asked in her usual tiny voice. I heaved heavily because even I didn’t have an answer to that. Little Ope tugged at my gown waiting for an answer.
“She would be back soon.” I replied and even I didn’t believe in my own answer. Laide, the only boy among us scoffed. “I don’t think so.” I nudged at him hastily to prevent Ope from asking further questions. After I gave my siblings dinner, Ope slept off immediately and I laid her in. Not so long after, Laide also drifted. I waited and late into the night, I heard a sharp knock on the main door. I sprang up in fear because I wasn’t sure if we were about to get robbed or it was just my mother. The knocks got more powerful and I still hesitated until I heard my name. I rushed to open the door and a very resounding slap greeted me. This, I can’t say is the first time, because since dad died, I’ve been going through rounds of abuse.
“Do I need to ask for your permission before entering my own house?” My mother asked in anger as she swayed in reeling of alcohol. I was still trying to get over the shock of the first slap when another one hit me. I tried to hold back the tears but I couldn’t.
“I’m sorry” I mumbled quietly in tears. She dragged herself to her room and shut the door. I sat back on the sofa and wept heavily. Being the eldest child, I knew I had to take care of my siblings no matter how difficult it may seem. I needed strength but strength was the one thing I wasn’t sure I had.
** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
Things continued going terribly and I seemed to always be on my mother’s bad side. I hardly went to school while she gladly made sure my siblings didn’t miss one day. I couldn’t understand why my mother hated me so much. It was like I was her greatest enemy. Any time I asked her, she would tell me she’s preparing me for the harsh realities of life. On her late nights, I was always on the receiving end. It didn’t just end there, she started coming home with different men and I couldn’t just understand what was happening. She was just on a kind of spree that I couldn’t comprehend. My final exams were soon approaching and I knew I had to do everything possible to get into the University of my choice. Things as I already knew were going to be difficult for me but I was more than determined to make it work. One very hot day, as I got home very early from school (before noon) and I met the house in a terrible mess. Bottles were littered everywhere and it was obvious mum brought the party to the house this time. I tried to arrange before Laide and Ope got back. (I try as much as possible not to let them see our mother’s ways). As I was arranging, a man in his mid-40s came out of mum’s room in a small short. Oh! Did I mention my mum is 30 and always looking radiant? I looked at him and continued what I was doing.
“Get me a cup of cold water” he ordered with a husky voice. I didn’t reply and just proceeded to get him what he wanted. I handed the water to him and after drinking, he threw the cup down and just went back into the room. I looked at the broken pieces and murmured.
“Do you have a problem?” He asked, placing his hands on the door handle.
“No”. I replied but I was furious. He left me standing there and just went in. While I was still trying to pick up the broken pieces, Opeyemi ran in and fell on the broken pieces. She let out a terrible cry and mum rushed out. My sister’s body was covered with little bruises and she just kept on crying. Mum didn’t even bother asking me anything. She just started hitting me and accused me of wanting to kill her precious daughter. I tried to explain to her but she wasn’t even ready to listen to me. When she was finally satisfied, she ordered me to clean up the house and go on with my chores. My tears that afternoon just kept flowing. I couldn’t understand what was happening to us, especially me. Laide and Ope had their share at times, but the anger and hatred was mostly directed towards me. This I think is because I’m the eldest. As I retired to my room later that day, my body ached and I could hardly do anything. Laide and Ope came to sit by me, each watching me with pity but lack of words to comfort me.
“What is going on?”Laide asked eventually. “Things weren’t always like this.”
“I don’t know.”I replied as honestly as I could. Ever since dad died, even our family members already stopped coming to our house. We couldn’t even locate anyone of them. There was just no hope. We sat there quietly for a long while before mum burst in and took them away.
“You will not corrupt my kids with evil thoughts”. She said as she ushered them out of my room. I managed to lie down and eventually I fell asleep.
I awoke to the sound of noise and hurried up. It was midnight already; I had overslept. The noise became intense and I rushed out of my room to see what the fuss was about. It was mum just coming back from one of her late nights. Ope and Laide were asleep carelessly on the floor. She looked at the sleeping kids and I could tell she was furious.
“Why are my kids sleeping on the floor? Have they even eaten?” She asked and I could sense from the tone of her voice, she was furious. She kept moving closer and I tried moving back. Just then, her ‘man-friend’ walked in.
“What’s going on?” he asked in his drunken state.
“She’s trying to punish my kids.” she replied pointing towards the sleeping kids.
“I’m sorry, I overslept”. I mumbled quietly but I knew nothing was going to save me from another round of beating. I wasn’t so sure I could handle more violence in one day.
“Please, don’t hit me.” I said even before I could stop myself. “I’m so sorry.” She approached me and raised her hands before her boyfriend stopped her. “Just let her go.” Mum starred at him for a while and finally stormed to her room. I mumbled a thank you and heaved a sigh of relief. I carried Ope in and woke Laide who groggily went to his room. Mum came back out some minutes later and asked for her food. Even I was going to bed without food. I slept so much that I forgot dinner.
“I’ll make something immediately.” I replied quickly and made to go to the kitchen but her angry voice stopped me.
“You mean you didn’t cook? You didn’t make anything? My kids actually went to bed without eating?” I just stood there and bowed my head. She continued “I do everything within my reach to provide the best for you. I work tirelessly to be the best mother and you can’t even take care of me in return?” At first I was confused because there was nothing true about her last statement. If anything, I’ve been the one taking care of the house. I kept quiet and still didn’t reply. Truth be told, I just couldn’t find the right words to say.
“I’m sorry” That was all I could mumble. “Get me something to eat, right now” she ordered and I scurried into the kitchen. At midnight, I was there alone making dinner. By the time I was done, I wanted to knock in her door when I heard arguments from her room. I heard my name once and the argument continued. I couldn’t actually understand or hear them properly but I could tell it was a serious issue.
Eventually, I knocked and my mother opened up.
“Your meal is ready.” I said quietly and she eyed the tray in my hands and she flung it in my face. I managed to hold back my anger and hurt. I had just spent an hour cooking and trying to satisfy her and she just literally threw it in my face. Uncontrollable tears started flowing down and I looked at her to demand a reason for her attitude.
“I’ve lost my appetite, clean up the mess.” she said and shut the door before I could even say anything. I bent down and sat on the floor and cried so hard. All I could think of was running away without turning back, but I couldn’t just leave my younger ones with her. I checked the time and it was 3am already. I knew I wasn’t getting any more sleep so I just got to work. I cleaned up the floor and set about my other chores. An hour later, I was already done; I was just left with ironing and preparing breakfast. I was ironing when I heard the door to my mother’s room open. I tried as much as possible not to do anything that could warrant a slap or even something worse, so I just continued my work. It was mum’s ‘man-friend’ and he came to where I was ironing and starred at me in a way I wasn’t comfortable with.
“Do you need something?” I asked when I was tired of having him around.
“No.” He replied and didn’t say anything else. My instincts kept telling me to abandon the cloths and just hide in my room but I didn’t listen. Just then he started moving closer and I felt his hands on my behind. I slapped his hand away quickly and furiously.
“What are you trying to do?” I asked in my most angry state. He smirked and kept moving closer and his arms were around me. “Stop pretending like you don’t know what this is.” He replied with a husky voice.
“Please, you can’t do this.” I pleaded but he was too strong for me. I screamed. Mum came rushing out and he released me quickly.
“What is going on here?” she asked in confusion. I noticed Ope and Laide come out of their rooms too. I became quiet instantly and didn’t know what to say. The man smiled and gave out a loud laugh.
“She wanted to get cozy with me. She’s not as pious as you think she is.” My countenance changed immediately.
“He’s lying”. I screamed again. “He started it, he…” slaps came rolling in. Mother was so furious and she couldn’t seem to stop. I managed to talk but I couldn’t say anything. Laide rushed in to stop her, but she just pushed him off. Then I noticed the man leaving the room and I just cried more.
“What is the matter with you? Have you finally gone crazy? How could you do this to me”? Mother yelled at me. “He’s lying” I managed to say but it seemed to just get her more upset. Before I could struggle to free myself, I felt a terrible burning sensation on my thighs. I let out a great yelp and fought free with all my strength.
“You burnt me with an iron? How can you be so cruel to your own daughter? You’re my mother; you can’t keep doing this to your own child.” I screamed at her in tears. She stood straight and starred at me with hatred and anger.
“No, I’m not. I’m just your stepmother.”