Ronke yelled as she felt the broom come in contact with her back and arms.
“I don’t know him-“ her plea was cut short by another assault across her belly. She rolled herself into a ball in a weak effort to shield herself from her aunt’s attack.
“I swear to god, I’ll beat the ashewo out of your soul today. It’s not in my house you’ll manifest your witchcraft!” Her aunt shouted as she assailed Ronke’s naked body with the broom she held. Her aunt had locked her in the kitchen and placed the key in her bra. She was a huge pudgy woman with a round face and small cold eyes. Ronke knew there was no way her fourteen-year-old self can struggle for her freedom.
“Better confess now. You have started sleeping around. Ehn? Is that what you have become? The ashewo of the street? I will never let you corrupt my children! Jesus reigns in this household.”
Ronke wailed as she felt her aunt grip her hair and drag her to a stool. She flayed her arms for support as she felt hot pain lick across her scalp and neck; she could even feel her hair tearing from its roots. She wailed and scratched at her aunt’s beefy hand, desperate to be free from her vicelike grip.
“Winifred! Open this door this instant!” Uncle Deji’s voice boomed from the other side of the door. Her aunt immediately released her hair and threw her across a stool. The little wooded seat jabbed her stomach painfully but Ronke was grateful for the temporary relief.
“Deji, better stay out of this. We have been housing a prostitute!” her aunt replied as Ronke heard her rummaging through the kitchen utensils. What was she looking for? Did she want to kill her? She refused to open her eyes to confirm her fear, instead, she muttered her last prayers and waited for death. Surely death would feel better than how she felt now.
Little splinters of the broom had pierced her face, back, and arms. The broom left long, thin red marks across her fair skin and every part of her was hurting.
“Who told you she is a prostitute? What happened?” Uncle Deji’s sounded stupefied as if his wife had gone crazy. Aunt Winifred did not have a lick of respect for her husband and he was the last person that could protect her now.
“Oh so you don’t believe me? You believe this stupid niece of mine is still chaste. Wait…are you defending her? Do you also have your eyes on her?” Her aunt sounded angrier now. Ronke was half expecting a knife to plunge into her heart anytime soon, so she kept her eyes shut and waited patiently. Hopefully.
“Don’t be ridiculous! Stop making stupid assumptions and open this door. Ronke is both our responsibility, she is also under my care for god sake! I would not stand by and watch her suffer from the effects of your religious delusions!” Uncle Deji sounded quite furious and impatient now.
“Delusions?! Religious delusions you say!” Ronke heard her aunt laugh shrilly as the sound of shattering glassware filled the air. She felt tiny shards of glass pierce her calves but remained still, with her stomach on the stool and the rest of her body lying across the floor. She felt too tired and scared to move.
“You haven’t seen delusion. You pitiful philanderer! Please stay out of this.” Ronke heard her aunt grab something and advance toward her.
“Winifred don’t you dare touch that girl! What is wrong with you? She’s just fourteen for god sake!” her aunt’s husband sounded desperate as he pounded on the door.
Ronke felt sorry for him. He had always tried to shield her from his wife but there were times he just couldn’t …times like now.
“So, where were we? I can see that my late sister didn’t show you what real discipline is,” Ronke shivered at the coldness of her voice. She shut her eyes even tighter and whimpered.
“Who was that boy that came to see you? He said he was your boyfriend. He even said it with a stupid grin on his face.” Ronke’s heart sank when she heard those words. Why was Clifford so stupid?
“If you answer me, I won’t be so hard on you. So open your eyes and look me in the eye now,” her aunt commanded as she gripped her jaw painfully.
“Is he your boyfriend?”
Ronke opened her eyes at last and found herself staring into her aunt’s burning dark eyes. Her expression was bland but Ronke knew she was brimming with fury.
“His name is Clifford and he asked me to be his girlfriend yesterday at school. But I told him I wasn’t interested.” Ronke said in a dull monotonous voice. It was the truth, but she saw the disbelief in her aunt’s eyes right before she felt her slap across the cheek.
“Lair! You have started sleeping with boys!” Her aunt spat. The banging on the door seemed to fuel her rage the more.
“You think I’m a fool? Your worldly mother allowed you to dress like the daughters of Jezebel and you even brought those articles of hell into my home. The spirit behind wearing trousers, putting on earrings, attachment, and makeup has planted promiscuity in you. I will be your baptism. I will not sit by and watch you corrupt my innocent girls. Jesus rules in this house. I will cleanse this place of all those articles of Jezebel and also rid you of this ashewo gene you inherited from my sister,” she muttered menacingly as she pinched her hard on her cheek.
“My mother is not a prosti-“ her statement was cut short by another sharp slap across her mouth. She let out a choked sob as she tasted the saltiness of her blood.
“I’ll call my sister whatever I please. Now seat on this stool.” When she refused to move, her aunt grabbed her by the hair again and unceremoniously dropped her on the stool. Yelping from the pain the harsh movement caused her, Ronke cried harder as she heard the snipping sound of scissors. Her aunt was cutting her hair!
She listened to her aunt mutter about daughters of Jezebels who perm their hair with relaxers made by mermaids in the depth of the sea. Her hair was one of the only things that made her feel remotely pretty but now it was being cut like grass. She closed her eyes and wept silently, refusing to look at the long black tresses that littered the tiled floor.
“This is what girls that follow in the footsteps of harlots get. Let me see how those boys high on hormones would chase you now.
Now, I want you to confess. Have you been sleeping with that Clifford boy?”
“Aunty, no…I stopped talking to boys like you said I should. B-but he kept pestering me and asking me to be his girlfriend. Aunty, I’m not a harlot. I’ve never slep-”
“Shut up and stop lying! As far as I’m concerned you are the daughter of your mother!” her aunt shouted. Ronke heard her fling the scissors aside. She had a look of intense disgust on her face as she regarded her.
“I’ll get that confession out of you and teach you how to keep your legs closed.”
She watched her aunt open the fridge and retrieved a container containing red bell pepper. Grabbing a wooden mortar and pestle, she placed it in front of Ronke. She dumped the entire content in the mortar and pointed.
“Pound that now!” her voice sounded clipped and impatient.
“Aunty p-please…” She heard louder bangs at the door and her uncle shouting at his wife to open the door. But it seems her pleas and the bangs made aunt Winifred madder with rage because she grabbed the broom and began to whip her all over. As Ronke cried out in pain, she wondered why her aunt hated her so much.
“I say pound that pepper this instant!” She loomed over Ronke’s battered body, huffing and puffing like a raging bull. Ronke obediently began to pound, ignoring the pain and focusing on the singular act of properly turning the pepper to mush. What did her aunt plan to do with the pepper?
“Winifred if you touch that girl I’ll not take it easy with you. What is wrong with you? That girl has suffered enough. Open this door now!” Ronke heard him trying keys and hitting the door with something heavy. The door refused to budge, it was one of those expensive iron doors that had sophisticated locks. She was stuck.
When she pounded the pepper to an extent, she quickly sprung up from the stool, hoping to take her aunt by surprise and hide in the kitchen store. But her aunt was at her heels, grabbing her by the arm and flinging her to the floor like she weighed nothing more than a basket of laundry.
“Sinner man runneth when no one pursueth. I will teach you how to stay away from those boys today. I will help you close your legs!”
Ronke really tried to get away. She wailed, begged, kicked, and screamed as her aunt pinned her down with a strong hand and one knee. She struggle futilely as her aunt smeared pepper all over her breasts, underarm, and where the sun does not shine.
Ronke couldn’t stop screaming as waves of pain swept over her. She writhed on the floor in agony as she heard her aunt open the door at last. She could hear uncle Deji and her aunt having a shouting match but her mind was too drunk with pain to even register their words.
She laid there with her entire body trembling and burning in tender places. She had never felt pain so intense in her entire life. When she felt a cold hand on her forehead, she managed to open her eyes and stop her screaming. She saw Juliet, her aunt’s firstborn, kneeling in front of her. Juliet was a few months younger than her and she was the only friend she had made since she moved in with them two weeks ago.
“Oh my God. Ronke, I’m so sorry for what she did to you. I’m so, so sorry…oh God..” Juliet’s words came as a choked whisper and they tore at her wounded soul. Before the excruciating pain swept Ronke into unconsciousness, she managed to ask, “Juliet…who is a daughter of Jezebel?”