Story: Bent not Broken


    EPISODE ONE

    Today, as I celebrate one of the greatest moments of my life, I can’t but think back to my past. I am Temitope Oyinloye and this is my story.
    Years ago, after we lost our dad, I and my 2 siblings found life a hard knock one. Our mother was not the type of mother people boast about, ours was a vicious, conniving and terrible woman. Things started going wrong 2 years after we lost our father.
    “Where’s mummy” Opeyemi, my youngest sister asked in her usual tiny voice. I heaved heavily because even I didn’t have an answer to that. Little Ope tugged at my gown waiting for an answer.
    “She would be back soon.” I replied and even I didn’t believe in my own answer. Laide, the only boy among us scoffed. “I don’t think so.” I nudged at him hastily to prevent Ope from asking further questions. After I gave my siblings dinner, Ope slept off immediately and I laid her in. Not so long after, Laide also drifted. I waited and late into the night, I heard a sharp knock on the main door. I sprang up in fear because I wasn’t sure if we were about to get robbed or it was just my mother. The knocks got more powerful and I still hesitated until I heard my name. I rushed to open the door and a very resounding slap greeted me. This, I can’t say is the first time, because since dad died, I’ve been going through rounds of abuse.
    “Do I need to ask for your permission before entering my own house?” My mother asked in anger as she swayed in reeling of alcohol. I was still trying to get over the shock of the first slap when another one hit me. I tried to hold back the tears but I couldn’t.
    “I’m sorry” I mumbled quietly in tears. She dragged herself to her room and shut the door. I sat back on the sofa and wept heavily. Being the eldest child, I knew I had to take care of my siblings no matter how difficult it may seem. I needed strength but strength was the one thing I wasn’t sure I had.
    ** ** ** ** ** ** ** **
    Things continued going terribly and I seemed to always be on my mother’s bad side. I hardly went to school while she gladly made sure my siblings didn’t miss one day. I couldn’t understand why my mother hated me so much. It was like I was her greatest enemy. Any time I asked her, she would tell me she’s preparing me for the harsh realities of life. On her late nights, I was always on the receiving end. It didn’t just end there, she started coming home with different men and I couldn’t just understand what was happening. She was just on a kind of spree that I couldn’t comprehend. My final exams were soon approaching and I knew I had to do everything possible to get into the University of my choice. Things as I already knew were going to be difficult for me but I was more than determined to make it work. One very hot day, as I got home very early from school (before noon) and I met the house in a terrible mess. Bottles were littered everywhere and it was obvious mum brought the party to the house this time. I tried to arrange before Laide and Ope got back. (I try as much as possible not to let them see our mother’s ways). As I was arranging, a man in his mid-40s came out of mum’s room in a small short. Oh! Did I mention my mum is 30 and always looking radiant? I looked at him and continued what I was doing.
    “Get me a cup of cold water” he ordered with a husky voice. I didn’t reply and just proceeded to get him what he wanted. I handed the water to him and after drinking, he threw the cup down and just went back into the room. I looked at the broken pieces and murmured.
    “Do you have a problem?” He asked, placing his hands on the door handle.
    “No”. I replied but I was furious. He left me standing there and just went in. While I was still trying to pick up the broken pieces, Opeyemi ran in and fell on the broken pieces. She let out a terrible cry and mum rushed out. My sister’s body was covered with little bruises and she just kept on crying. Mum didn’t even bother asking me anything. She just started hitting me and accused me of wanting to kill her precious daughter. I tried to explain to her but she wasn’t even ready to listen to me. When she was finally satisfied, she ordered me to clean up the house and go on with my chores. My tears that afternoon just kept flowing. I couldn’t understand what was happening to us, especially me. Laide and Ope had their share at times, but the anger and hatred was mostly directed towards me. This I think is because I’m the eldest. As I retired to my room later that day, my body ached and I could hardly do anything. Laide and Ope came to sit by me, each watching me with pity but lack of words to comfort me.
    “What is going on?”Laide asked eventually. “Things weren’t always like this.”
    “I don’t know.”I replied as honestly as I could. Ever since dad died, even our family members already stopped coming to our house. We couldn’t even locate anyone of them. There was just no hope. We sat there quietly for a long while before mum burst in and took them away.
    “You will not corrupt my kids with evil thoughts”. She said as she ushered them out of my room. I managed to lie down and eventually I fell asleep.
    I awoke to the sound of noise and hurried up. It was midnight already; I had overslept. The noise became intense and I rushed out of my room to see what the fuss was about. It was mum just coming back from one of her late nights. Ope and Laide were asleep carelessly on the floor. She looked at the sleeping kids and I could tell she was furious.
    “Why are my kids sleeping on the floor? Have they even eaten?” She asked and I could sense from the tone of her voice, she was furious. She kept moving closer and I tried moving back. Just then, her ‘man-friend’ walked in.
    “What’s going on?” he asked in his drunken state.
    “She’s trying to punish my kids.” she replied pointing towards the sleeping kids.
    “I’m sorry, I overslept”. I mumbled quietly but I knew nothing was going to save me from another round of beating. I wasn’t so sure I could handle more violence in one day.
    “Please, don’t hit me.” I said even before I could stop myself. “I’m so sorry.” She approached me and raised her hands before her boyfriend stopped her. “Just let her go.” Mum starred at him for a while and finally stormed to her room. I mumbled a thank you and heaved a sigh of relief. I carried Ope in and woke Laide who groggily went to his room. Mum came back out some minutes later and asked for her food. Even I was going to bed without food. I slept so much that I forgot dinner.
    “I’ll make something immediately.” I replied quickly and made to go to the kitchen but her angry voice stopped me.
    “You mean you didn’t cook? You didn’t make anything? My kids actually went to bed without eating?” I just stood there and bowed my head. She continued “I do everything within my reach to provide the best for you. I work tirelessly to be the best mother and you can’t even take care of me in return?” At first I was confused because there was nothing true about her last statement. If anything, I’ve been the one taking care of the house. I kept quiet and still didn’t reply. Truth be told, I just couldn’t find the right words to say.
    “I’m sorry” That was all I could mumble. “Get me something to eat, right now” she ordered and I scurried into the kitchen. At midnight, I was there alone making dinner. By the time I was done, I wanted to knock in her door when I heard arguments from her room. I heard my name once and the argument continued. I couldn’t actually understand or hear them properly but I could tell it was a serious issue.
    Eventually, I knocked and my mother opened up.
    “Your meal is ready.” I said quietly and she eyed the tray in my hands and she flung it in my face. I managed to hold back my anger and hurt. I had just spent an hour cooking and trying to satisfy her and she just literally threw it in my face. Uncontrollable tears started flowing down and I looked at her to demand a reason for her attitude.
    “I’ve lost my appetite, clean up the mess.” she said and shut the door before I could even say anything. I bent down and sat on the floor and cried so hard. All I could think of was running away without turning back, but I couldn’t just leave my younger ones with her. I checked the time and it was 3am already. I knew I wasn’t getting any more sleep so I just got to work. I cleaned up the floor and set about my other chores. An hour later, I was already done; I was just left with ironing and preparing breakfast. I was ironing when I heard the door to my mother’s room open. I tried as much as possible not to do anything that could warrant a slap or even something worse, so I just continued my work. It was mum’s ‘man-friend’ and he came to where I was ironing and starred at me in a way I wasn’t comfortable with.
    “Do you need something?” I asked when I was tired of having him around.
    “No.” He replied and didn’t say anything else. My instincts kept telling me to abandon the cloths and just hide in my room but I didn’t listen. Just then he started moving closer and I felt his hands on my behind. I slapped his hand away quickly and furiously.
    “What are you trying to do?” I asked in my most angry state. He smirked and kept moving closer and his arms were around me. “Stop pretending like you don’t know what this is.” He replied with a husky voice.
    “Please, you can’t do this.” I pleaded but he was too strong for me. I screamed. Mum came rushing out and he released me quickly.
    “What is going on here?” she asked in confusion. I noticed Ope and Laide come out of their rooms too. I became quiet instantly and didn’t know what to say. The man smiled and gave out a loud laugh.
    “She wanted to get cozy with me. She’s not as pious as you think she is.” My countenance changed immediately.
    “He’s lying”. I screamed again. “He started it, he…” slaps came rolling in. Mother was so furious and she couldn’t seem to stop. I managed to talk but I couldn’t say anything. Laide rushed in to stop her, but she just pushed him off. Then I noticed the man leaving the room and I just cried more.
    “What is the matter with you? Have you finally gone crazy? How could you do this to me”? Mother yelled at me. “He’s lying” I managed to say but it seemed to just get her more upset. Before I could struggle to free myself, I felt a terrible burning sensation on my thighs. I let out a great yelp and fought free with all my strength.
    “You burnt me with an iron? How can you be so cruel to your own daughter? You’re my mother; you can’t keep doing this to your own child.” I screamed at her in tears. She stood straight and starred at me with hatred and anger.
    “No, I’m not. I’m just your stepmother.”
    ********************

    EPISODE TWO

    Imagine realizing that everything you believed in has always been a lie. A week after “my mother’s” great outburst, things just worsened. It was like since I already knew the truth, there was no need to act like she really cared anymore. I knew she could decide to throw me out anytime but something just kept stopping her. I know this because of the heated arguments she keeps on having with her boyfriend and my name just can’t stop popping up. I became very careful and cautious of her boyfriend, especially after our last encounter. A week to my final exams, I came home and just when I was about entering, an elderly woman was coming out. At first, I couldn’t recognize who it was until she screamed my name. It was my dad’s elder sister. I hugged her with so much joy as I let my tears flow freely. When she finally released me, I could only just stare at her in search of answers.
    “Why did you just leave us? It’s been hell here” I said in tears. I wanted to tell her so much but the look on her face told me something worse was going on. She stroked my rough face with her soft hand and a painful tear dropped from the corner of her right eye.
    “Temitope oko mi, I’m sorry but there’s not much I can do for you at the moment. Your mother is going crazy. She has a restraining order on us; we’re not allowed to take you anywhere.”
    “Why?” I asked in confusion. “She’s not even my mother.” I blurted in anger.
    “You know?” She asked in shock and I just shrugged.
    “She told me when she burnt me with an iron” I replied with a straight face.
    “There is more to all these than you think. Temitope we can’t get a hold of your father’s will.”
    “What??”
    “Why do you think we don’t have a say in all of these? The family can’t do anything; we’ve all been shut out. I came here to talk to her and she literally threatened to have me arrested.”
    “This doesn’t make any sense; dad had a lawyer.”
    “The lawyer claims not to have it. He said your father collected it from him for safe keeping before he died.”
    I sighed heavily and just stood there in shock. Am I ever going to get through this?
    “What are we going to do now?” I asked in a very hopeless voice.
    “Until we get that will, nothing. Even the lawyer is hardly seen these days. It’s like there’s something shady going on with him. You have to be strong my darling.” She said with her hands on my shoulder. I can only tell you things would be fine eventually, just not yet.” I could tell she really felt sorry for me. I just nodded sadly. We took a walk for a while, got her phone number, before I finally went back home. Entering the house felt like torment to me. I just didn’t belong there.
    “Why are you just getting back?” My mum asked from the sofa she was sitting on. She looked so haggard and tired.
    “School.” I replied sheepishly. She gave me an “I can tell you’re lying” look and just shrugged and went in. Some hours later, my siblings came in and sneaked into my room. We were not really allowed to hang around each other anymore. Mum warned them to steer clear of me and the one time they refused, they received the beating of their lives. So sometimes, I chase them off myself. Seeing them get hurt just keeps tearing me apart. But this moment, I just needed to hug them and they gladly wrapped themselves around me. After a while, I let them go and they left the room silently. I rested for a while and went to the kitchen. I heard mum’s boyfriend come in and murmuring. They didn’t seem to get along the way they used to but it wasn’t my business. I finished cooking, did some random cleaning and went to my room to rest when I started hearing noise again. I groaned in anger and covered my head with my pillow. Some minutes later, the boyfriend entered my room closely followed by mum and then she turned back quickly and locked the door. It was like my worst nightmare was playing out right in front of me. I jumped up in confusion and tried to protect myself.
    “We can do this the easy way, or the hard way.” he simply said. I knew there was nothing I was going to say that could save me from the brutality I was about to go through.
    “Please, don’t do this. Don’t you even respect my mother?”
    He scoffed and smiled a little. Your mother? Nahh, she’s not your mother. Plus, she gave me the permission to do this.” My eyes opened wider at this revelation and I just started crying. I tried to fight but it was of no use. He hit me severally until I was bleeding and didn’t have the strength to fight anymore.
    He had his way with me.
    *********************

    EPISODE THREE

    As I lay on the floor covered in my own blood, I thought of different ways to commit suicide. I didn’t want to keep living. I felt hurt, sore and useless. This was the height. I just couldn’t go on with this. I heard voices and it was Laide.
    “How could you do that to her? What kind of a mother are you?” He was weeping and voicing out in anger. Olaide has never raised his voice at anyone before and this was new to me. But, I couldn’t get up. I was too weak and felt lifeless. I heard sounds like he was getting a real beating and I heard mum shouting. I just closed my eyes and shut them out of my head. Mum’s voice woke me up moments later.
    “I thought you were dead. Here, use this.” She dropped a cup of water and some pills on the floor and went out immediately. I used the pills and managed to get up. I cleaned myself up and cleaned my room and just lay on the bed again. I couldn’t bring myself to leave the room. It was like I had being separated from the rest of the world. My mind went back to dad. I just missed him so much at that moment and needed his support. The only thing I had from him after he died was a silly big frame I hardly even looked at. It was one of those fancy frames but it could not replace my love for him. I pulled the frame. I turned it around and toyed with it. I noticed a little handle behind and I pulled it. A neatly folded paper was lying on the back and I just thought it was part of the frame. I took it out and opened it and I got the greatest shock of my life.
    I was holding my father’s will in my hands
    With shaky hands, different thoughts flooded my head. This had been with me all these while and I never even realized it. I couldn’t even understand why he would have given it to me. I just knew I had to talk to my aunt before anyone ever finds out. But I didn’t have a phone. I would have to wait till I leave the house but fear just kept creeping into my heart. I wish I hadn’t seen it or never knew I had it. Holding it with me just put me in very grave danger and I knew my dad had a very good reason to leave it with me. He had to have been hiding it from someone. I didn’t have much sleep that night.
    Very early in the morning, I went out of my room to cook for my siblings and sneak off before anyone could even notice when I heard soft noises from my mother’s room. It was one of their altercations again and I tiptoed to the door to listen.
    “You’re not doing anything and that is the most annoying part.” It was her boyfriend and he was blurting in anger.
    “What am I supposed to do? Kill her for it” My mother replied in anger and my heart skipped a beat. Something told me the “her” in that statement was referring to me. At this point I didn’t feel safe anymore but I still listened in.
    “It is just a will, how hard is it to know if she knows anything about it? Do you realise that if that will ever come out, that would be it for us?” He asked again
    “Oh, I’m just supposed to ask her, Temi, do you know anything about your father’s will?” I widened my eyes and my heartbeat increased its pace. The will? It has been about the will? No wonder she didn’t want to send me off. The whole thing just started making sense to me. I could understand everything perfectly now. In my own world, I missed out on what they were saying until I heard her boyfriend raise his voice slightly.
    “You said she could get through to her. You said she could get it from her.”
    She? I had no idea who this “she” was. I heard footsteps and I ran to my room and locked up behind me. It was like my heart was going to fail. All these while, I had being living in danger and I was too oblivious of it. I needed to be strong and very smart. My exams were coming soon and finding out about this would just make me lose concentration. I remained in my room still shaky and when I was a little bit composed, I dressed up for school and left. I found a way to call my aunt but all I said was that we needed to talk. I didn’t feel it was safe telling her over the phone. She promised to come over later that afternoon and that made me feel a little better. I managed to go through the rest of the day and left for home earlier than normal. I waited around for my aunt and when she finally came, I ran into her arms and breathed heavily.
    “Are you okay?” she asked when I finally relaxed.
    “They’re trying to kill me. They want the will. They…”
    “Slow down. They?”
    “Mum and her boyfriend.” She starred at me in confusion.
    “Your mum has a boyfriend?” she asked in shock. “Who’s he”?
    “Some guy that’s always around. He just started coming one day and then it became frequent. This morning, I heard them arguing about me and he was really furious.” My aunt just starred at me and didn’t even know what to say.
    “What were they arguing about?” she finally asked.
    “The will and I have it.”I replied quietly and she starred at me with so much shock.
    “How? How did you manage to get what even we weren’t able to find?” The surprise on her face was priceless. I knew it was a lot to handle.
    “I just found it in my stuff. The one dad gave me before he died.”
    “Do you realize they can’t ever find out about it? Where is it?”
    “I have it but I can’t just keep taking it about. I just found it yesterday.”
    “You have to give it to me. You can’t hold on to it.” She replied looking at me in fear; as if she felt I was going to die in a matter of days. From where we were staying, Mum and her boyfriend drove out of the compound. He got down to fix something I couldn’t really point at. I quickly tapped aunt.
    “That’s him, that’s my mum’s boyfriend.” She starred at the man like she had seen a ghost. When they finally drove off, she looked at me still in shock and said;
    “That’s your dad’s lawyer.”
    **********************

    EPISODE FOUR (Penultimate)

    After talking to my aunt, we fixed a day for her to come take the burden off me. But, something kept on telling me there was something amiss. Everything just seemed so wrong and I was jittery for a long time. She didn’t get in touch with me for a while and I tried as much as possible not to live in fear. My final exams went well and when I finally finished, I felt I could breathe for a while. I got back home that afternoon feeling very lightheaded. But it didn’t last long. I entered my room and what I saw almost made me choke. My room was thrashed; someone had been there to scatter the whole place or should I say search for something. I couldn’t enter, I just stood there looking and scared and edgy. Here I was thinking I was safe already but it looks like it was just starting. I walked in slowly and then I remembered what I had to look for. I picked up the frame quickly and checked for it. It was still there. I knew leaving it there was not safe but I couldn’t think of where else to keep it. I needed to call my aunt so quickly before something worse happened. I returned it and dropped it carelessly so that no one would think it held something of sentimental value. I was leaving the room when I saw my aunt come in. I quickly went back and closed the door but not completely, so I could watch what was going on. I saw mum meet her halfway; I didn’t even know anyone was home. At first, they were murmuring and then I saw anger on my aunt’s face.
    “I told you not to interfere, I told you I could handle it. I had a plan.” My aunt said raising her voice a little.
    “A plan? Your plan is taking forever. We can’t just keep hanging here waiting for your big plan.” My mum yelled back. My aunt quickly covered her mouth with her hands.
    “Stop yelling, she could hear you.” My aunt whispered. My mum brushed her hands off.
    “She’s not back from school yet.”
    “You weren’t supposed to go through her things. She already thinks you are trying to harm her.”
    I covered my mouths with my hands and just closed the door as quietly as I could. I was just thinking my aunt was finally my breakthrough whereas she just wanted to get through to me. I had been played and toyed with. My head started banging and my vision became blurry. I placed my arms on my temple and walked round the room. There was no one I could talk to. Nobody! The only person I felt I could trust just stabbed me in the back. All those sympathy talks and getting on my good side was just so she could get the will from me. How many people are in this scheme? And then I heard a bang on my door. I paused and didn’t say anything. The bangs grew louder and I heard my mum talk.
    “Temitope, I know you’re in there.” How did she even know I was in? As if she knew what I was thinking, she answered.
    “Your school bag is laying on the sofa right now, open this door.” I got down on my knees and just started shivering. These people are going to kill me. I looked at the frame but taking it out would be useless. It was better to leave it there. They kept on hitting the door and finally, I opened up. My aunt pulled me out by the neck.
    “Where’s it?” She barked at me. Her look was anything but friendly. It was like she was ready to kill me for it.
    “I don’t have it anymore. I gave it to someone to keep.” I answered with a shaky voice.
    “You think I’m stupid? You gave a whole will to someone to keep? I know you’re lying so just tell me where it is.”
    “How can you even do this? He was your brother?”
    “If she’s not cooperating, we’re doing it the hard way.” I turned around to see my mum’s boyfriend who also happens to be my dad’s lawyer looking at me with mischief in his eyes. These people looked so ready to do anything to get that will from me, even if they had to kill me. The blows started coming in and all I could just do was hope someone was going to save me.
    “All you have to do is hand it over.
    How stubborn can you get? Nobody is going to come to your rescue.” Mum said. I held on and kept letting them hit me. I was sure they wouldn’t kill me, not until they had the will with them. Then we heard a car pull into the compound and then bangs on the main door. It continued and we all stood in fear.
    “Who’s there?” Mum asked. The lock turned twice and then someone came in with cops.
    “Stay away from my daughter.” My supposedly ‘dead’ father said in the angriest voice.
    ******************

    EPISODE FIVE(Final)

    After the cops did their job, my dad dressed up my wounds and put me to bed. But I had a lot of questions. How can a dead person just show up alive?
    “I know you have a lot of questions darling, and I’m definitely going to give you an answer. But first, you need to rest.” My father said and put me to sleep. That happened to be the best sleep in a long time. It was more than peaceful. When I finally woke up, I went to the sitting room and saw my siblings sitting beside dad. It was like grace had finally lain upon us. He gave me a reassuring smile that things were fine and I just stood there crying. I hugged him and didn’t feel like letting him go but I just needed to get answers first.
    “What happened?”
    “People are not always going to be who they seem to be. I learnt that the hard way. After your mother died and I remarried, things were okay for a while until I noticed your step-mum was in it for the money. She promised to always take care of you like her own, but I soon realized her love for you wasn’t genuine. She was always searching for a way to lay her hands on my money and when I refused, she just got so angry. I realized I had to do something and so I made my will. I was going to the lawyer’s office one day to give him a proposal when I saw your step-mum coming out of his office. They were together and they seemed really cosy. I didn’t need a soothsayer to tell me there was something terribly wrong. I made sure they didn’t see me and went back home. I knew I couldn’t leave the will with him, so I went to get it back from him with the excuse that I needed to make some review. That was when I hid it in that frame. He kept calling me for it and I kept telling him I wasn’t done with it. He seemed more curious than a lawyer should be and I knew I couldn’t trust him.” He paused for a while and I was just eager for him to continue.
    “We were home one night eating dinner when some men came in and attacked us. They weren’t interested in stealing anything, they were just after me. I got shot and your step-mum thought I was dead. She disposed my body herself. I woke up months later in a hospital and they told me I had been in a coma for too long.”
    With tears in my eyes, I asked “Why didn’t you reach out when you got well again?”
    “Because my darling, up to last week, I was working on regaining my memories. I didn’t mean to leave you. I’m just glad things didn’t get worse. And about your aunt, I have no idea what she was thinking. Personally, I think she’s just after the money.”
    “Mum let him rape me dad, we went through a lot here. It’s been hell.” My tears were flowing uncontrollably. It was a tear of joy and grief at the same time. “I’m just glad all this is over.”
    “I know I can’t take back the grief all these caused you, but there will be justice. And, no one is going to hurt you again.” My dad hugged me and we both wept. I still had some questions for him like stories about my real mother, where the other family members are and so much more but right now, I just want to bask in the embrace of my father’s love.
    *
    *
    *
    Fast forward to the present, I can only just smile and embrace the new joy I’ve found. I gained admission into one of the most prestigious schools to study Law. Maybe because of what I went through or maybe for some other reasons, I knew I just wanted to bring the bad people to justice. My step mum and boyfriend were basking in the stench of prison walls. My aunt got a lenient punishment. My siblings and I were happy once more and my dad found peace. Times were hard, things were difficult, and crying became part of my routine but now, not anymore.
    A lot of people go through trying moments, moments even worse than mine. Losing up is not the next thing, I almost did and maybe I would have but I thank God his grace found me quickly. For this reason, this Princess is happy and fulfilled.
    ******************
    THE END!!!

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