We were friends at school.
And for a long time, my siblings and I had no idea our father was sleeping with our friend. We wouldn’t have known if my mother hadn’t confirmed it when Baba died suddenly. And when we knew, we just couldn’t hate my friend for all those years of deception, somehow, it just couldn’t have been her fault, our dad was a lecherous old man and a rapist!
So this is what happened.
I met Halimat in school; we were both in form one at that time. We weren’t even in the same class; I was an Art student, ‘Limat was a Science student. S.he was very intelligent but she was also a very dirty girl at school. It was a boarding school up north; so I mean, you understand the setting.
Limat was often made fun off as was the case with many students that were dirty; she had all kinds of craw-craw on her body because she wasn’t bathing well, wasn’t cleaning herself well…you know.
So a lot of students made fun of her and she got punished a lot, you know, she would be smelling like she didn’t use soap to wash, or toothpaste to brush her teeth. I heard that she was even using chewing stick…though with the benefit of hindsight, that should have served its purpose but back then, we were kids, we didn’t know jack!
Anyway, Limat was very brilliant, so she was spared more times than the others who were dirty and were not doing well. You get that kind of setting. That is how come I became friends with Limat. From being friends with her, I found out she was an orphan, living with a poor aunt who couldn’t afford much for her, so soap was scarce, cream was scarce and no pocket money whatsoever and no provisions. In my days, provisions were allowed in boarding houses; Limat had none.
I on the other hand came from a well-to-do family. I had provisions, pocket money that I never even exhausted by the end of every term and well, I had it but wasn’t so good with my lessons. So, my friendship with Limat, though, she was in a science class, was mainly because I needed help with math, I needed help with Biology and she was also great with Economics.
When we were in form three, my parents invited Limat to spend her holidays with us; I had told them lots of stories about my friend who was brilliant but came from a poor home and may not finish her schooling because her aunty was unable to continue sending her to school.
So my parents stepped in; my father to be precise, my mum was a homemaker, she couldn’t be the one to bring in an extra mouth to the house; anyway, Limat’s aunty was glad she had some other people to take care of her niece; she met with my parents and they must have stuck up an agreement because after that term, Limat began to go home with us for holidays. My father took up her tuition because I guess he saw how brilliant she was and knew that perhaps her aunty couldn’t keep her in our school for long… so she was almost like one of us…
We were say about 13years old at that time.
When we finished school, while I went abroad for my university studies, Limat attended a polytechnic here in Nigeria. She was sponsored by my father.
Now, all of these years we spent apart, we still kept in touch because you now my father was still responsible for her schooling. I had no reason to suspect anything untoward between Limat and my father, in fact as far as I was concerned and I would believe the rest of my family did too, I mean my mother and my siblings, Limat was an adopted child!
When we went back to secondary school at that times, she had almost the same things we had and she moved from being one of the dirtiest girls to being one of the most intelligent and everyone wanted to be friends with her you know how things like this can be?
We weren’t so close like that at school, like chummy, chummy friends but we were cool together. I mean though we each had our own circle of friends, we still sometimes went home together as well, sister/ friends, you know?
She alternated her holidays between my parents’ home and her aunty’s, it wasn’t like we were always going home on holidays or midterm breaks together.
So apparently, that was when my father began sleeping with her… while we were still in secondary school! I mean I don’t know when that began but my guess is maybe when we were in our final year at secondary school… who knows maybe even earlier! And at that time, she was under-aged, she wasn’t 18years old. We left school at age 16year! So what is the age of consent, isn’t it 18years?
Ok, so how did I find out?
We came home for his burial…we were going through his things and found out he had a kind of trust fund for Limat and her two kids! The two kids that I thought belonged to her husband, one man like that that she sent his photo to me a long time ago.
Then my mother told us she had long suspected Baba was sleeping with Limat but every time she called Limat to ask her, Limat would deny it!
Ah to! This kind of information was quite disturbing to us then; to find that your father whom you have loved so much, idolized even, had been sleeping with a girl the age of his daughter… I was saddened by it. If he was sleeping with her then it was rape! No? it is!
He took advantage of this girl and it is very sad.
So you ask, have I spoken to Limat about it?
No. we have exchanged text messages. She didn’t show up for Baba’s burial because my mother asked her not to but she confirmed that Baba is the father of her boys. You know, she asked me to beg our mother for forgiveness but, its done! I mean, what is mama to do? She knows Limat couldn’t have stood a chance with Baba; he was a Muslim, could marry another woman if he wanted to…you know…
Limat asked that I forgave her but she didn’t offend me; truth be told. She was young, innocent and needed help and her benefactor took advantage of her. This is what we see in all of it.
I hope Limat finds happiness, my family do not blame her for all that we imagine happened but we don’t want to have to deal with her…you know. We did not contest the will Baba left, we just grieved in peace and tried to get over the betrayal!
(series written and edited by Peju Akande and based on true stories)