I used to think life was very unfair to me, I never had the love of my father. My childhood was filled with pain from loss and abuse.
I grew up in Bariga, in the midst of the slums and filth. Our tiny wooden house stood at the far end of Ayedun street, built on marshy terrain as dry land wasn't abundant. My father Akanni Fernandes was a typical Yoruba man with several wives. My mother was his first and the least favoured.
I and my siblings had to wrestle with the other children for tiny scraps of food that wasn't readily available in the house. Sometimes I had to trek to my cousin's place in Shomolu just to scrape the pot of beans prepared by my aunt.
Childhood memories made me nostalgic as I made my way through the rush hour traffic, a few stray tears gave me away. It was always like this anytime I drove past Bariga on my way home from my law firm's Yaba office.
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It wasn't rosy being the last child in a large family, on several occasions I was bullied into doing menial chores for my elder ones. Refusal could earn me the beating of my life, I complied with it until the day my father died. He was hit by a drunk driver while riding his motorcycle home from work. That day was horrible, I can still hear the howls that rent the air that fateful day...
My mother fell ill shortly after and died too mostly from malnourishment, and inadequate medical attention. After my parents death, life in Bariga became unbearable. My father's numerous wives chased I and my siblings out of the house. We found solace at my aunt's house but that was the biggest mistake I've ever made. My aunt's husband abused me all through my childhood and early teens. I told my aunt but she called me a little devil, telling me to leave her house if it wasn't convenient.
The week I turned sixteen, I emerged with the best results in WASSCE and was awarded a scholarship to study Law at the prestigious Stanford University USA. It was beyond me, I cried for days because I couldn't believe anything good could ever happen to me. My siblings were ecstatic, they paid through their nose to buy me a velvet dress and black shoes to travel in. It was my life's best moment.
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As a black student in an ivy league school, I had so many expectations to live up to. I had to maintain a very high CGPA, dress right and hang out with the right crowd. I didn't have time to actually socialize or meet people because I didn't know how to behave around them. I was timid and socially awkward, my traumatic childhood had shaped me into a very rigid young adult.
At twenty one, I had never dated. I detested being in close contact with men, I practically ignored the advances made by my male colleagues and deliberately didn't show up to dates set up by my few friends. I worked as a paralegal at one of the top law firms for the most part of my undergraduate years and that was how I met Siji.
I was working on a case with Siji's defense attorney and we met for the very first time in the court room. He was in court over a property dispute with his former partner and friend Jude. After several months of adjournment and proper investigations, we won the case and Siji was overjoyed.
He threw a celebratory dinner and we got talking over few drinks. I really liked him and that was a first for me, he told me about his childhood issues and I could totally relate. I got overwhelmed and had too much to drink, I became tipsy and passed out in his arms...
I woke up with a splitting headache, I opened my eyes to see a strange bed and immediately felt a jab of pain in my abdomen. I became alarmed and screamed, an elderly Asian woman walked in with a tray of food.
"Breakfast is served." She said smiling down at my disheveled state.
"Where am I?" I managed to ask.
"Mr Siji will be coming in shortly to see you, he wouldn't like to see that frown on your face Miss. Please try to have a bath and eat before he makes his way up here." She declared. With that, she placed tray on the table and left as quickly as she came.
I picked up a slightly brown toast and nibbled, it was delicious. In a few minutes the food had disappeared into my belly. I obliged the woman whom I've come to love and had a hot shower. I was combing my thick tresses when I heard a knock on the door.
"Please come in. The door is not locked." I said.
Sijibomi walked in, looking so dashing my breath almost ceased.
"Morning sleeping beauty, hope you slept well?" He asked.
I was too startled to reply, he had this crazy effect on me all the time. I could only nod my head.
"You had too much to drink last night and had to stay here for the night, I'm sorry I didn't control your intake, please forgive me." He said pleadingly.
"I am too embarrassed to get angry I just hope nothing happened between us." I replied.
He seemed surprised, and couldn't hide it.
"I'm not that kind of man that takes advantage of vulnerable women."
"I'm not vulnerable!" I retorted. Standing up to face him.
He raised his hands in surrender and shook his head.
'I didn't touch you, it was my housekeeper Tami that took care of you. I'm sure you've met her.I only brought you upstairs and handed you to her."
Visibly calm now, I relaxed and flashed him my best smile.
"I'm sorry for being a pain in the ass, thanks for taking care of me, I really appreciate it."
He tried taking my hand but I automatically slapped off his fingers, he was startled and stepped back.
I blushed and shook my head.
"I'm so sorry Siji, it was a reflex action." I blurted out.
"It's okay Derin, you'll be fine. If you don't mind I'd like to drop you off at your apartment when you are ready. I'll be in my study, if you need anything feel free to press the bell over there."
With that he left the room leaving me all alone.
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After that day, I got to know more about Sijibomi Bankole. We became an item almost immediately. After Law school, he helped me get a permanent position at the law firm. We dated for two years and he proposed on my 25th birthday. I said yes and we got married six months later. It was a huge wedding, Siji was from a wealthy family with political connections. He helped my siblings secure contracts with the government and we lived happily ever after...
I used to think life was very unfair to me, I never had the love of my father. My childhood was filled with pain from loss and abuse. I never trusted anyone especially the men in my life. I practically despised them, not until Sijibomi. He made all my assumptions wrong, I told him my story and he didn't judge me.
Instead, he loved me with all my flaws and made me the Queen of his empire. God is indeed faithful, and I always tell anyone who cares to listen that there are a few good men but God gave me the best of them.
Aderinsola Bankole, née Fernandes.
Written by Bello Adekunbi "Kunbella"