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SINS OF THE FATHER, A SHORT STORY BY IKEDICHIM C. CHIBUNDU

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Break time came and the primary school kids all trooped out of their various classrooms to the playground. Different kids cliqued up and chose their fun spots and games, but Matilda rushed to the swing section, placed herself on the wooden seater of a swing and began swaying gently on it. The swing cradled her light, petite body while her hands grasped the two fixed, overhead supports which helped her maintain a proper balance on the swing. As she moved rhythmically, to and fro, the meek air came brushing against her sweet face, her smooth, tender skin, and her ironed uniform.

She embodied happiness and her countenance was bright and colorful, like the sunshine that lay on the well-groomed, green field of the playground. While she enjoyed her own company on the swing, she stayed her eyes on Joseph, who was meters away, having fun with his best friend on the see-saw.

Matilda liked Joseph more than her favorite toy, but she had no way to let him in on her childish feelings for him. Suddenly, an idea barged into her mind like an uninvited guest and then carefully, she got down from the swing.

Standing before the swing, she scanned the vicinity for any small, fine stone. And when her eyes spotted one buried halfway into the ground, she moved toward it, uprooted it and made it clean with her skirt. After examining the stone once more, she tactfully sent it flying towards Joseph’s arm. The stone successfully made impact with her target, causing her lips to part with a mischievous smile. Impulsively, Joseph turned his head to all directions to discern who hurled the stone at him.

When his roaming eyes ran into Matilda’s gaze and mischievous smile, he speedily got off the see-saw and chased after her, leaving his best friend on the other end of the see-saw collapsing onto the field. His best friend picked himself up from the field and threw insults at Joseph, but little Joseph could not care less. He was hellbent on making Matilda pay for what she had just done to him. As he drew closer to her, she fled and made for the back of the school building. Joseph followed after her in hot pursuit, with some sand enclosed in his clenched fist.

It was not in any way funny to Joseph as it was to Matilda, so when they both stood facing each other at the back of the school building, Matilda became remorseful when she saw his clenched fist. She knew how horrible her eyes had felt when she had sand in them about a month ago. So she begged him not to launch the sand at her face, promising him a pleasant surprise if he considered her humble request. With a faint trace of anger, Joseph moved closer to her and asked coldly, “What is the surprise?”

The sound of the bell which brought break time to an end rang out before Matilda could utter a reply, but Joseph was going nowhere. He stood there, still, looking intently at Matilda as patience left him bit by bit. “Close your eyes,” cooed Matilda, coyly. Joseph became confused. He thought she wanted to pull a fast trick on him, but before his mind could tend to any more speculations, she repeated what she had said. This time in a more soft and convincing tone; one that dispelled all thoughts from Joseph’s wandering mind, like wind to wisps of smoke.

Joseph quietly shut his eyes and Matilda looked around and then came closer to him. She held his head, delicately, and kissed him, like a rushing sea nestling its coast; intensely, lovingly, passionately. Her kisses washed down his guts like sweet, purely-refined alcohol. The sand in his hand fell freely and his brain grew dizzy. They stood there lost in time, trapped in fleeting emotions, and gravely engrossed with each other’s lips. Their faces and lips were forcefully separated when a voice came roaring from behind
them. They both turned and to meet the school’s new headmistress standing with a fresh, healthy cane in her hand.

“Joseph, this is why I sent you to school, right!?” Ms. Janet thundered, her face red with rage. Joseph and Matilda trembled at her stern voice, fidgeting greatly in unsureness of who the painful lashes of the cane would first descend on. “M-mommy, I won’t do it again,” Joseph stuttered, in low tones, with his face still turned downward. “I will deal with you when we get back home! Now, before I open my eyes and close them, you are back to your class!” Ms. Janet ordered with a shout and Joseph evaporated.

At this point Matilda knew she was about to be nailed to the cross for her sins. So she dropped to her knees and begged Ms. Janet not to unleash her wrath on her. But Ms. Janet was blind to her tears and deaf to her pleas. In time past, Ms. Janet had pardoned some disobedient pupils who showed that kind of contrition, only to get report weeks later of more grievous offences committed than they had received pardon for. This had made her heart impregnable to such show of remorse. Discipline had to be meted out to any offender of stipulated rules and regulations.

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“My friend, will you give me your hand! Your parents brought you to school to learn how to kiss boys, abi!? My son for that matter! I said give me your hand!!” Ms. Janet barked, like a dog in the presence of a sneaky thief. Matilda sobbed, sniffed and quaked as she stretched out a shaking hand. Ms. Janet, steaming with annoyance, raised her cane to whip Matilda’s palm, mercilessly. But while the cane was just about making impact with Matilda’s palm, Ms. Janet took a more discerning look at Matilda, and
impulsively held up her cane. “What is your name?” Ms. Janet inquired, with a look that reflected curiosity. Matilda managed to lift her drooping head to face Ms. Janet, before stammering: “M-Matilda F-Femi Coker, ma.”

The cane slipped from Ms. Janet’s grip and crashed onto the ground. And for a few moments, she stood before Matilda like a mannequin; motionless and mute. This left Matilda flustered. She wondered why the mere mention of her name would bring that much of a shocking effect upon the new, feared headmistress. “What is it about my name? Is Ms. Janet OK? Why would her cane fall that way from her hand? Does this mean she is going to let me go?” Thoughts warped and twisted upon each other in Matilda’s mind, as she held her gaze at Ms. Janet. “Pick up that cane and stand up,” instructed Ms. Janet, as she snapped to herself.

Matilda did as instructed. And Ms. Janet quietly retrieved the cane from Matilda’s hand before turning to leave, without as much as a whiff of sound. She walked circumspectly from behind the back of the school building and straight to her office, leaving Matilda utterly confused and unable to decide her next line of action. She wasn’t sure if she should stand there to wait for Ms. Janet, or to return to her class, or to get back on her knees. She just stood there, battling with her dilemma and her sobs. Ms. Janet did not care to look back as she moved away from Matilda, for tears brimmed her eyes. She had seen a slight resemblance on Matilda’s looks that freighted her mind with memories. Terrible memories. Those pair of eyes on Matilda and the shape of her nose were strikingly similar to Femi Coker’s. The same man who had sexually molested her ten years ago.

She remembered how she had screamed and protested that night in the back seat of his Mercedes, while he tightly held her hands and forcefully had carnal knowledge of her. Tears flowed down her cheeks soon as she entered her office and shut the door. She sat and wept bitterly when she recalled the demeaning stares elderly nurses had passed her at the local clinic the first time her mother took her to her first antenatal appointment. How the birth of her baby boy had almost driven her mentally ill, owing to the shame supplied by societal stigma. And so with eyes heavy with tears and a heart ladened with grief, Ms. Janet sat down and looked to the ceiling, cursing the day she was conceived. Then she brought her head down to face her desk, wiped her eyes, and gnashed her teeth as she drafted a letter of resignation, for little Matilda was a sight she could never stand.

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