Adanna stared at the red shoes her father had handed her before rubbing the back of his neck. It was in a black box and while she opened it, he played with his hands. Her mother sat beside him rubbing his back. The shoes were beautiful, the exact type she’d have gotten if she went to the store herself.
“Nne, your father selected it by himself.”
Her father nodded his head to support her mother’s claim. She looked at her father but not for too long. Her eyes rested on her mother’s stomach as she remembered Uncle Ambrose telling her father to be good to her while he awaited a male son. According to Uncle Ambrose, if her father wasn’t nice to her, she had the tendency to, out of anger and jealousy, kill her brother and the worst her father could do was kill her and become childless.
That was three years ago and her father didn’t become nice to her and her mother didn’t conceive and bear a male child.
Adanna knew she should say something, a ‘thank you, sir’ like she always said each time her father brought toy guns and cars instead of the Barbie doll she had always requested for. There was something about this gesture that a ‘thank you, sir’ couldn’t suffice. Her father giving her one of her favourite things and in her favourite colour. And to crown the gesture, he was yet to make a snide remark about her being a daughter.
“Are you pregnant?”
The room went more silent and her mother had stopped rubbing her father’s back. “No.”
“Is Daddy dying?”
“Why did he buy me shoes?”
“Nne, Your father is sitting right in front of you. Ask him.”
Adanna looked at her father but wasn’t sure what to say. With the way her father looked anywhere but at her, she knew he was at sea too. Her mother had always been the middle man except for cases where her father didn’t trust her mother to put the emotions into words like, “I wish you were boy, I’d have endured better” “if you knew you were going to be this disgraceful, why didn’t you let them send a boy instead?”
Her parents had almost gotten a divorce because of how her father made her feel. She could still remember her mother yelling at the top of her voice, cursing him to hell for hating his daughter. She still remembered her father’s pleas and screams of how he didn’t hate her, of how he always wanted a son, and how he wasn’t sure of what to do with a daughter especially when his plans for his child were made with a son in mind. Then her mother had called him a disgraceful man and her father had, in a bid to calm her mother, promised change. His definition of change was being indifferent.
“I know I’ve not been the best father to you,” her father began and it was good that he did. Between both of them, she was ready to keep mute until the second coming of Christ. “And I’m ashamed of how I treated you, no child should have to feel inadequate in the hands of their parents. You’re my beloved daughter and you’re worth more than a thousand sons.”
Worth more than a thousand sons? Her tear gland shook and they shouldn’t have. Her mind came up with a million reasons for her father’s change of heart. He wasn’t dying and her mother wasn’t pregnant. Maybe he had realised that there was a great chance that she would refuse him the right to walk her down the aisle. Or maybe her mother couldn’t give birth to another child. Or maybe a pastor had told him she was an Obangje and she was holding his male child back.
“I feel like if I say anything more, it’d be some sort of justification for my actions and I don’t want that. I really want a relationship with you and even though it, might be too late for that, I want to try.”
A single tear ran down her cheek. All her life, she had waited for those words and there they were pouring out of her father’s mouth. She wanted to jump and grin, but a part of her didn’t believe her father was being honest with her. Maybe he wanted to please someone, show her off in public and hate her in private. Only there was no one he had to put on a show for.
“Nne, your father started seeing a therapist. He is sorry and wants to change.”
Adanna picked the shoes up and underneath it, her name was engraved with an addition. Adannaya. Her father’s daughter.
That was a Sunday.
Monday came quicker than it usually did. It messed up her schedule of two hours of sleep, and counting ceilings for the remaining hours until the alarm rang. The entire night, she tossed and turned, thought of her father, hated him for having the right to change. Wondered if she’d have turned out any different if the man had loved her like the fathers of the other girls loved them. She had wondered if she’d have smiled more if her father had cared. She wondered if she would have let Okey go without breaking his teeth even though he did nothing. Would she have learned to not assume that every laughing person was laughing at her because her father didn’t love her? Would she have been different? She still couldn’t believe a therapist was all it took. If she had known earlier, she’d have suggested it to her mother. Maybe if her father had started his journey to repentance earlier, she wouldn’t have talked down to the students she taught because her father talked down to her.
The alarm rang and with the thoughts running through her head, it was a miracle how she managed to get ready on time. She stood in front of her door for a long time, unsure of how to react to her father. She paced and wiped her sweaty palm on her black jean. When she wasn’t pacing, she was wondering if wearing the shoes her father bought her was a sign that she was ready to accept her father’s apology.
One time, her mother had told her the best appreciation to a gift was to use the gift. She stared at the gift she was wearing, walking about the room, hearing the koi-koi it made on the floor and understanding why the students had nicknamed her Madam Koi-Koi. She liked the shoes especially since they came with the came with an apology she had looked forward to for years.
A deep breath and one self-talk later, Adanna pushed open her door and hurried downstairs. Her heart beating loudly. She was aware of the shoes making the koi-koi sound each time the heels kissed the floor. She had to admit the kids had surprised her with the nickname. She had expected to be nicknamed Aunty Red Shoe or even Wicked Aunty, but Madam Koi-Koi was unexpected.
Downstairs, her mother had already set the table and Adanna hurriedly said her greetings. She hugged her mother and planted a kiss on her cheek. The hug with her father was awkward but her father had laughed and said ‘baby steps’ then she apologized for not being able to eat because she was running late, and they shouldn’t wait up, she’d be staying over at school because she had promised to cover the staff-on-duty task for her friend Titi.
The entire day was a breeze and people were slightly taken aback by her actions. She had forgotten to take her long thick cane when she was going to her classes, she had let Ade go scot-free when he made jokes as taught the reproductive system, she had laughed at the Geography teacher’s joke. The staff room had gone silent and that made her laugh harder until her eyes watered. Then she tried to apologize, but the Maths teacher had told her not to sweat it. They were just surprised to hear her laugh, nothing serious. She finally let Miss. Tessa share the lunch from her plate and listened to her small talk.
Her day was good if anyone ever asked, but no one did and she didn’t care. She knew Titi would ask tomorrow, she’d tell Titi that the geography teacher, Jide, wasn’t all that horrible like she had thought. He had offered to walk her to Tina’s room in the staff quarters. They walked together and as the students walked to their hostel, she could hear them whispering and it made her uncomfortable, but Jide took it well, pretending not to notice. So, she tried to pretend she didn’t notice the student asking what Madam Koi-Koi was doing with Mr GG. GG standing for Greek God.
Jide had waved her goodbye when she got to Titi’s and left immediately. She was grateful for that. With her shoes still on her feet, she opened the door and stepped in. she knew she should take the shoes off, but she couldn’t bring herself to. She wore the shoes and ate dinner. Her parents called to check up on her and it was only then she realised how late it had been. The movie was watching on Titi’s laptop had to be the best one she had seen in a while.
Her father was the first to speak, rendering yet another apology. Her mother spoke next wishing her a good night sleep. She might have gotten a good night sleep, but the sound outside the window was insistent and all her effort to ignore it proved futile. Titi had warned her about the noise, but she didn’t expect it to be this much.
Adanna stood up from the bed and walked outside. “Whoever is there should better leave before I lose grip of my sanity.”
It was dark out and there was no way of seeing who she was talking to. Titi had said she stopped replacing the bulbs after her unwanted visitors kept breaking the bulbs. The only sign that made her know for sure that people were there was the lit cigarettes. She watched the cigarettes fall to the ground and then the light was going out.
Her heart skipped a bit when she heard footsteps approaching. She tried to go back inside and shut the door, but it was already too late. The people smoking had other plans. Someone dragged her out the door and pushed her to the floor. She tried to stand up, but she was kicked back down.
“You’re getting out of hand in this school,” the voice accused and delivered a kick to her stomach. Adanna clutched her stomach trying to endure the pain and remember the owner of the voice.
“Are you the only teacher in this school?” the new voice was familiar, but she couldn’t say who.
“Miss. Titi never came out to shout at anybody. She just took it. It’s not even your house.”
Another kick came and another. Someone covered her mouth and more people held her down. She tried to struggle, to scream but it was useless. Blows followed kicks and soon, she was being stomped on by many feet. They stuffed her mouth with a piece of clothing, she wanted to beg, tell them they were hurting her, but no one was giving her a chance. She felt suffocated and the pain was shooting through her. the harder she tried to fight, the harder their resolve to silent her became.
She felt her shoes leave her feet and before she could beg them to leave the shoes be, she felt her entire system shut down. When they came back online, the pain was sharp and there was nothing she could do but scream. Only the cloth didn’t allow any sound out. The sharp pain came three more times and all the while, her abusers scolded her for being a horrible person. Telling her she deserved worse.
They walked away leaving her there to bleed, none of them cared that the heel of the shoe her father had given her was lodged in her head. None of them cared that her father was finally starting to accept her. They didn’t care that all she wanted was slowly coming to her, they didn’t care that they took everything from her.
With her last breath, she’d swore they’d pay. It didn’t matter where they went or how hard they hid; she’d make them pay. She’d find them and she’d make sure they knew it was her. The clicking of her heels would alert them, they’d cower at the sound of her. If they thought she was scary now, they’d be in for a treat. She wouldn’t forget, and by the heavens, she wouldn’t forgive.