As the camera clicked away, my forced smile never left my face. It was that time of the year again; the time when I get to soak my pillow with tears; with thoughts all coming back like it was just yesterday.
As I posed for a picture with the devil himself, I felt hot tears streaming down my cheeks.
“Sonia? Are you okay?” Nonye, the event planner who is a family friend inquired.
I had not even noticed that I was in tears till she mentioned it.
“O! Yes, I am fine, I think it is the flash from the camera.” I quickly tried wiping the tears off ,while trying to hide from the camera, which resulted to the ruining of the mascara I had on.
I was led out by Nonye to my room. She quickly called the attention of the makeup artist to my face. Being out of the crowd gave me the space I needed to cry. I sent the makeup artist away so that I could have a quiet time.
It is my brother’s twentieth birthday, and like every other year, a big party was thrown for him. 24th May, a day which I so much hate as it brings back a lot of painful memories. I was only fifteen when it all happened.
I was the only child of one of the most influential families in the country. At the mention of the Williams family, every closed door opened. And no, I am not exaggerating, my father, Chief Fredick Willams was among the top five successful businessmen in the country, and this made every movement made by any member of the family known to the public.
I was the only child of my parents for fifteen years till Kenneth came into the picture. Kenneth was born out of my pains and tears.
I can remember every single thing; the smell of his cologne mixed with sweat. My thoughts were interrupted by the woman I called mummy.
“Sonia? What are you doing here? We have guests to attend to,” she said as soon as she entered. “What? Do you have to do this rubbish every year?” she asked as she squeezed her face in disgust.
“I will keep doing this as long as you and that devil you call a husband keep reminding me of what I have been trying so hard to forget,” I said amidst tears.
“I will slap the hell out of you if you don’t respect the man who gave you everything in life,” she flared.
I let out a mocking laughter. “Of course! He gave me everything, including a baby!”
“When are you going to let the sleeping dogs lie? Sonia why don’t you let go and forgive?” my mum asked while attempting to shed her pretentious tears.
I’m not getting moved this time by it.
“Mummy don’t you dare do that, don’t you dare! How long are you going to keep covering this up? Mummy it’s been twenty years! But I am still hurting! It still feels like yesterday mummy. Staying apart from you guys and coming back to celebrate the result of a pain every year is not helping me heal! That devil is yet to apologize!”
The slap that landed on my face snapped my head sideways with a force I’ve never experienced.
Typical Mrs. Williams, always making sure to never go back on her words.
“Now let me make it clear to you!” she said almost screaming, “everything that has ever happened to you was your fault! Yes, I have been holding myself every year you make a display of your pathetic attitude from telling you this, which is clearly the truth!”
I opened my eyes in shock while trying to recover from the slap I had received.
“Yes, Sonia, you brought it upon yourself—going around the house on bum shorts and see through singlets. You dirty slut.”
“Jesus Christ, mummy! I was only fifteen and was in my father’s house!” I cried out
“Look here, Sonia, you better get a grip on yourself and let today pass without any hitch. You only get to see the so called devil three times in a year, so I don’t see a reason why you cannot let go at least for the family’s name! For goodness sake, why do you need a verbal apology when he has tried to show how sorry he is by providing the best of things for you? He has made you next of kin to most of his properties. What other apology is better than all these things he has done for you?”
“A verbal apology, mummy!” I screamed out. “A sincere apology, from the heart; one which the devil won’t be blamed for it!”
“Then I am apologizing on his behalf, Sonia; you cannot continue this way. It was all a mistake which I am very sure he is sorry for. He might not apologize, but he has tried to show you how sorry he is by doing things that are way more than his responsibilities for you. I am going to send in the makeup artist and just be sure to get yourself together before coming out. We all love you, Sonia, you should appreciate and reciprocate by protecting the family’s name.”
With that, she left my room.
That’s it, I have had enough. It was time to cut myself off. Those three times I get to see the devil were enough to bury my peace of mind six feet down.
While I let the makeup artist work on my face, I promised myself to disappear.
“Can I come in?” a voice took me out of my thoughts. I looked up to find Kenneth, my brother looking so handsome in his suit and his well-carved haircut.
“Sure you can.”
He waited for the makeup artist to finish up and leave before he finally spoke up.
“It is time for me to cut my cake and I want to do it with you by my side,” he said with a smile
“Of course, no problem.” I stood up and looked around for my purse; picking it, I straightened my gown and looked up to meet the stare of Kenneth.
“You look beautiful… mum,” he said
What? Did he just call me that?
“Can I call you that?” he said as tears gathered in his eyes.
“You know? You know about all these?” Tears found their way down my cheeks, ruining my makeup for the second time.
“I have known since last year. Grandma told me before she died.”
I threw myself on him in a deep hug. I was denied the chance to be with him and watch him grow. I was close to him but yet far. For the first time in twenty years, I felt a little relief from the pains.
I was only fifteen years when I was raped by my father. It was more horrible as there was an evidence of the evil act. I was sent to London with my mum to keep the evil act away from the eyes of the public. Kenneth came forth on 24th May through a caesarean section and he was immediately taken away from me. I wasn’t even allowed to hold or breastfeed him. I was sternly instructed not to stay longer than thirty minutes with Kenneth for the fear of letting out the big secret to him. I had no form of interaction or conversation with him.
I was also required not to come back to Nigeria except during occasions like award ceremonies and birthday parties. All these were done in other to keep a stain away from the family name.
“I am going to tell the whole world what he did to you,” Kenneth said when we were done crying and consoling ourselves.
“No, Ken, we can’t… you can’t. Think about what it would do to the family, let things be the way they are.”
“We cannot keep going on like things are fine. I had always wondered why you were so cold and distant with me. Being a lot older than me was always the excuse I got for that, and it wasn’t convincing. Grandma told me about the big family secret and why you were always away. Sis… I mean mum, I want things to change. Nineteen years of my life have been a lie. I am telling everyone what he did to you.”
Three months after the big announcement, Chief Willams was found dead in his bedroom. He could not cope with the effects of the damage that was brought upon him due to the uncovering of the family secret, therefore he killed himself by taking an overdose of his sleeping pills.
He still never got to apologize to me but as a consolation to that, I had my son to take me through the path of recovery.