Eight year old Elizabeth was used to seeing women come and go in her father’s life. She was the fourth child. Her three older brothers had been borne to her father by three different women, her mother being the fourth.
For some reason, each woman left her father as soon as the child was old enough to fend for himself. Despite this fact, the four children were quite fond of each other and the boys dotted on Elizabeth, being their baby sister.
The following year, when her brothers left for boarding school, her father brought home a woman called Bina to live with them. She came along with a little light-skinned boy whom she had from a previous marriage. She had made Elizabeth’s father believe the boy was her only child.
Before long, Bina brought an older girl about Elizabeth’s age to live with them. Of course, Elizabeth didn’t mind because she now had a sister she could play with at last. As time went on, her stepmother brought in three teenage boys, one after the other into her father’s household. Bina depicted every inch of the fabled wicked stepmother, and Elizabeth was turned into an African Cinderella.
She did all the chores, while all the pretty dresses, love and attention went to Elizabeth’s step sister, Itohan. Bina always painted a terrible picture of Elizabeth to her father who would beat her up mercilessly if she dared protest her innocence.
One day, when Elizabeth turned eleven, she was alone at home with her stepmother. Bina called Elizabeth into her private bedroom and told her to take off all her clothes. As she feasted her eyes on her body, she kept commenting on how beautifully Elizabeth had blossomed into a lady and how well her hips had rounded out.
She began to fondle Elizabeth’s breasts. Thus began the genesis of an abusive lesbian relationship with her stepmother. When her stepmother wasn’t busy abusing her, her step brothers, Bina’s grownup sons would take turns at raping her. She became very depressed and withdrawn as she couldn’t share her dilemma with anyone.
Her brothers who were at boarding school soon came home for the holidays. They noticed their dear sister wasn’t her usual cheerful self. After much coaxing, she told them everything. Her brothers were livid with rage, they each broke a bottle; Warri style and went after the three step brothers, attacking them. What ensued was a woeful event.
Elizabeth’s father drove his sons away from home and disowned them all to make his wife happy. Elizabeth decided to run away from home to live with her mother. Her mother who had remarried, reluctantly accepted for her to live in her home. At night, her step father would creep into her room and sexually abuse her. When she told her mother about it, her mother sent her away because she was afraid of losing her new husband. Elizabeth was forced to return to her father. She grew up in her father’s house facing extreme hostility, a condition which was definitely not suitable for a young girl her age.
At school, Elizabeth was a bright student. She was extremely good at essay writing and literature. Her class teacher who was so fond of her would encourage her by saying she would one day become a famous writer. Suddenly, she wasn’t doing so well at school. When it was time to register for her junior West African Examination Council (WAEC) exams, her father paid for Itohan’s fees but told Elizabeth to wait.
That was how she missed the exams and had to drop out of school. Devastated, she ran away from home and went into prostitution. When I met with Elizabeth in her apartment, she had just been discharged from a mental institution.
She had stolen a mystic ring belonging to a European ‘client’. The man had demanded for his ring, warning her that the ring would do her more harm than good if she decided to keep it for herself because she was ignorant of the powers which the ring possessed. He even offered her a ridiculously large amount of money in exchange for the ring.
Elizabeth reasoned that the ring must be worth a lot more than what the white man was offering and foolishly held on to it. The result was her madness. Rumour has it that the spirit in the ring tormented her until she lost her sanity.
I asked her what she thought about her continued life of prostitution. She stared at me long and hard with a glazed expression that told me nothing at all. Then she got up and presented me with her diary. I opened this diary and was immediately transported on an unpleasant journey into Elizabeth’s world.
In it, she recorded in the most impressive writing style, the most horrific encounters she had experienced as a sex worker. It contained gross tales of clients paying to personally abuse her body. Sometimes, European men would pay her to have sex with another female prostitute while they watched. This freak show usually ended in an orgy of some sort.
Often times, I looked up from the diary to stare at her face with searching eyes that asked her to assure me that all I was reading in her journal didn’t really happen to her, but was a work of pure fiction. She would take a long drag from her cigarette, smile sadly and nod silently affirming the grisly tales in her diary.
As I put down the diary too shocked for words, she asked me if my question had been answered. Elizabeth said to me:
“This is the life I know. All my life, I’ve never known love. I’ve always had to stand up and fight for myself. Nobody wants me and nobody can help me.
I know very well that after reading my story and knowing how rotten my life is, you will never visit me again. I can see it in your eyes, looking all righteous and thinking I’m too dirty for you to touch!
Leave…just leave now!!”
I left Elizabeth’s apartment confused that afternoon. I stared back at the apartment building hoping to find answers yet too shocked to process the experience of the journey to her world. There, was gone what would have been one of the country’s finest writer. This young lady had known nothing but abuse all her life; steadily graduating from the sexual abuse she suffered in the hands of her stepmother and stepbrothers to the emotional abuse from her father and mother to the daily sexual abuse of prostitution.
Hers was one bridge of memories too many which needed to be broken. Once again, I remembered the mad man I saw on the street. Did his mother reject him? Did his father never listen to him and beat him up at the slightest provocation? Was he cut off from loving brothers?
If he ever suffered like Elizabeth did, then madness must have come as his saviour; a state of oblivion which brought him inner peace. Many people have been destroyed through the actions of people they met in the course of life; people they came to know, trust and love.
People with whom they had built strong memories; whose lives had become interwoven with theirs. True, memories form an integral part of our lives, but if hanging on to a memory would hinder us from moving on to making a success out of our lives, then it is a bridge worth breaking. Our past is very important. They remind us of how far we have come, but our future is more important because unlike our past which can never be changed, we can determine our future through our will to succeed and nobody is worth taking that away from us…nobody.
Life is a precious gift. Each dawn is an opportunity to do better, what we couldn’t do well yesterday. Move on, move out and conquer a new horizon.
Written By: Peace Ben Williams
No part or whole of this article should be copied or published in any form of media without the express permission of the author.
Broken Bridge Of Memories 3: The African Cinderella…Elizabeth’s Story ©2013
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