Stephanie’s Short Stories – Living In A Small Town
I could almost say that I was sleeping because I was not conscious of the fact that men were in my neighbourhood. I heard rants, shouts, comments, cries but then that was much later after I had awoken. While I was sleeping, I dreamt about my husband who had gone to visit his cousin Danladi Usman and his wife aunty Retna in Abuja. He said he’d be back by yesterday afternoon, in fact he was the main reason I didn’t go to see my father because I did not want my husband to come back and not meet me at home; but he didn’t come back yesterday. I dreamt about his return and how he’d hug me and tell me how much he’d missed me. My husband used to like to carry me up from my waist; he said it helped him build his muscles rather than going for a run with his friends. I also dreamt about him explaining to me why he was not back early enough. But all of a sudden, I realised that there was someone else shouting on top of their voice. It turned to voices. Then I heard a very familiar voice and I woke up and realised that my neighbourhood as small as it was, Chibok, in Bornu State, had been invaded. My aunty Aisha came into our room and screamed, I could pick from some of her mumblings that she was crying about how Allah had broken her heart. I wanted to know exactly what she was saying but I had just woken up and I tried to gain consciousness. She removed her hijab and revealed her really short but white hair. The hair was neatly plaited in seven cornrows but it was very slim due to the scantiness of her hair. ‘Memunat and Ruqayyah have been taken’.
It was such a short sentence that filled my heart with shock. I stopped itching my eyes, and I stood up and looked at my aunty. I refolded my wrapper and held it tighter than it was, I turned fully to my aunty who had nothing on at this time. She was stark naked on her knees with her eyes really swollen and due to the fact that she had rubbed her head in pain and anguish, her hair started becoming messy. Aunty Aisha had just announced that her only two children had been taken. I did not understand. These girls were like my sisters, not only were there close to me but they were very responsible girls. They are twin sisters who are sixteen years of age; very ripe to be married to men from where I come from in fact, Ruqayyah was already betrothed. They are very tall, slim and light skinned, maybe they took that after their dad. They both had dimples. I can safely say they are identical twins. These girls are smart and very funny. I remember whenever my husband and I got into a bad argument; it was Memunat that cheered me up. She did not have to say much, she just had to be herself and put me in a fantastic mood, her intelligence; unprecedented. Her sister, although funny was strict. But I loved these girls and the thought of them, being abducted by strange men sent chills down my spine. It was then that I began to fear, I panicked, tears started to form in my eyes, the reality hit me that my sisters have been taken. What was I supposed to do? I had seen them give birth to these kids, raise them and then unexpectedly, some men just march into our community and take these girls. I was confounded and very scared. I did not know how to console my aunty not because she wailed too much but because my pain too knew no limits. It felt like my end had come. I needed someone to wake me up from everything.
‘Allah help me before I kill myself’. My aunty started speaking of suicide.
I ran out, I saw so many women, about fifty of them crying about their daughters, nieces, grandchildren and cousins. These women cried about their female children who just disappeared. I could not stay here. I feared being hurt, being taken, being in so much pain that I could not face life anymore. I too wanted to die.
BY: STEPHANIE CHIZOBA ODILI