“Jay…” and the line went dead.
I tried to call back but her number was not reachable. I tried to suppress my panic as Daph and I walked out of the coffee lounge. It was past noon and the sun was scorching. Daph said something about the makeup of the girl who just walked past. I didn’t hear it but chuckled because it probably was funny. Daph jabbed me with her elbow and said, “answer now”. I turned and looked at her.
“I asked if you’d want to help me with my eyebrows. It needs tweezing”
“Ooh” I managed, trying not to sound stupid. “Yeah, sure. When I come over”.
“What were you thinking about?”
“Huh… Nothing. Just how dad would react and what made mom call”.
My phone began ringing again. It was mom.
“I was going to ask you if you had money with you. I need you to go to the market to get ingredients for dinner.”
“And I was scared” I said under my breath. “No ma, no money”.
“Go to Mama Tessy’s stall. I’ll drop money with her. Cook banga soup”.
I rolled my eyes. “Yes ma”.
The stall was a forty-five minute drive from school. I wondered why it had to be banga soup, today of all days. It was a minute before 2.00pm. Daphne and I had to pick up the pace if we wanted to get into the lab. It was three minutes after two o’ clock when we got in. Mr. Marcus was just behind us as we slipped in.
“That man no just get joy at all”, Daph said and nudged me.
I rolled my eyes. “He never smiles… Like he carries all the problems in the world.” and Daphne laughed.
“Get a seat, he’s looking at us”.
Too late. Mr. Marcus had seen us. He grinned at me and called out in his rather feigned Italian accent… “You in that floral dress, approach me.”
As I did, he smiled at me, which was rather irksome, that evil smile that never bode well for anyone.
“Bastard…” I cursed under my breath.
I reached the front of the class and he said “Face the class. I could feel his eyes caressing my fanny. I had to comport myself”.
“Tell the class what you both were discussing”. I said nothing. “Alright. The topic for today is Foetal development. Teach the class”.
I talked at length about everything I could remember and understood from what I read some days back. I had to read, because these days I didn’t get to attended the bulk of classes. When I felt I had exhausted the subject, I turned to him. “I’m done sir”.
“Thank you. Go back to your seat,” he said. “What is your name?” He asked. The class chorused JULIA. “Let the young woman answer for herself”, he roared. It turned and looking at him in the eye, I answered ” Julia, Omotoso Jackson Akinyele”.
“See me in my office, after the class”.
It was almost 10pm when I got home. My day was more than hectic. And I had a damning headache to suffer for it. As I stepped in, I greeted my mother,
“Eeeh Omo mii”. I rolled my eyes. Anytime mom called me Omo mi, it was a paycheck to do something she wouldn’t want to do. “How was your day? You look tired”
“That’s because I’m tired, ma” I said, taking quick strides to my room but first stopped at the kitchen to drop the huge sack of soup condiments I was carrying.
“Take your bath o” my mom hollered from the sitting room where she was watching DSTV. I said nothing, I was going to bathe anyways, wasn’t I? Why did she have to tell me? I was getting angry again, unnecessarily.
‘Calm down Julia’ I said to myself “calm!” I hurried my bath and stepped into my room. Mom was there. Looking at me in what I’ll call a pitiful examination, she said, “you’re lean, Julia. Are you okay?”
My head was screaming no. No, I’m stressed. No, frustrated. Ok, broken.Everything is not okay! Instead, I just replied “Yes” and turned to put my nightie on.
“Jay, you will cook the soup before you go to bed o. You know you don’t come home early from school”. And that alone was enough to make my eyes sting.
We were sitting in the lecture theatre awaiting Professor Ogborikoko amidst chit chat when someone signalled me from the window. “You’re Omotoso Julia, right?”
“Yes” I replied as I nodded.
“A man is outside looking for you. He’s at the carpark in a grey Prado jeep” the informant concluded with a wink. Whatever that meant I actually cared less but what set my heart pounding was my father had a grey Prado jeep. “Alright, thanks” I said to the retreating figure as I went back in the theatre. By now I was shaking all over and had broken out in a sweat. Daphne stared at me. All I could mutter was “dad”. I soon began chanting it as I grabbed my bag and raced out of the hall to meet him.
” Eku’asan sir” I greeted, avoiding my dad’s gaze. A hot slap that doused me with temporary blindness was his reply. I felt his hand tighten around my neck. “Stupid child” he roared as he bashed my head against the left passenger’s window of the car. “I’ll kill you before you kill me.” He shouted.” I am your father, the closest thing to God in your life. I own you. You will not disrespect me. You…. You” he thundered as he lifted me to stare at my face. “Why did you leave home? Why? Why?” and another slap tore at my face. I could feel something running down my nose and could taste copper. I looked at him and smiled. I could hear approaching footsteps. I knew it was Daph and Paul. I was mad they came out. I turned to shout them back but they had already caught up. “Sir please” I heard Daph beg. She was already on her knees. It maddened me all the more. I turned to asked her to get up and out of the scene. This was my battle, my movie to make. Pleading with him was only making him feel powerful, a feeling I was going to strip off him in a moment. But instead of chastisement, anger; mutiny! The only things that rolled out were tears. I couldn’t take it any longer. I was loosing the war even before the first battle. This would not happen. Ignoring the little crowd that had begun to gather, dad pulled me by the hand and flung me in the rear seat, throwing my bag and phone at me. And we drove off.
It has been two weeks since I left home. I had tried to talk to dad once again about schooling from home and how it was affecting me but it was a dead end. I had talked with Daph and little by little, I packed my essentials, careful not to be conspicuous. It wasn’t like anyone would notice anyway. I had left a note in dad’s room telling him I had decided to leave home for school and I would be back during the holidays. I begged him to understand. That night, I called him but he didn’t respond. The following morning, mom called and told me he was furious. For the next three days I kept calling dad without success. I just needed him to know i was alright. It hurt me again that he did not care how I fared. Now days after, this.
When we were past the gate and the engine of the car was turned off, dad flung the door open and dragged me out. He threw me to the floor as soon as we were inside the sitting-room.
“To your rooms all of you” he barked to my siblings”. As they scampered to their rooms, he bellowed, “No, come back here you all. I’m going to teach you a lesson never to challenge my authority”. Looking at me like an executioner, he said, ” I’m going to teach you submission”.
And my tongue began to taste something else aside copper.