The journey home was slow that day as I pulled my brother along. I couldn't wait to peel off my school uniform as it was sticking to my back. The mixture of sweat and blood was itching like mad but too painful to scratch. My brother commiserated with me and showed me his "war wounds" from the day before. I was not the only one fighting a battle it would seem. On reaching home I rushed to my room to remove the offending dress, quickly showered myself and applied ointment to the wounds I could reach and wanted no one to see. I slept fitfully that night. The pain was intense, a physical and mental reminder of my unfortunate circumstances where school was concerned.
I so badly wanted to be back in England where things were cool, safe, orderly and predictable. I planned how I would run away to the airport, smuggle myself through the baggage carousel and onto the plane when no one was looking and on arrival put myself up for adoption. Surely there were lots of childless couples out there looking for a well behaved little mixed race girl who could help around the house in exchange for a quiet place to just be?. I awoke to the delicious smell of fried eggs and plantain and wondered if I could smuggle onto the plane various Nigerian food items as I could not go back to eating baked beans and sausages. At the least I would need to carry a big bag of dried pepper.
My mother (pictured above) had breakfast waiting downstairs. This was an occasional treat when she had the day off from her work as a secretary . My brother blurted out are you better now? as I sat gingerly on my chair. Whats the matter? my mother asked. My brother, between swallowing bits of egg said, they beat her black and blue. My mother eyes filled with tears as she removed my uniform and saw the wounds I had been given. She had a tendency to get very emotional and would now link my unfortunate episode with a lot of other injustices in the past and would go off on a diatribe that would inevitably affect the whole household. This was something I always wanted to avoid as it drove my father first to distraction and then drove him our way as inevitably it would become our fault.
My father was from the tribe called suck it in and take it like a man (just on the outskirts of Asaba), and we, my brothers and I, never wanted him to see us weak. After a lengthy discussion my mother decided no one was going to school that day. She professionally bathed, disinfected and bandaged my wounds bringing all her qualified nursing skills into play, sent my brothers off to play and put me to bed. I awoke to shouts a few hours later. Not surprisingly an argument had ensued over my treatment. My father had popped back for lunch and as my mother unleashed the full weight of her unhappiness at my treatment it was doubtful my father would be going back to work. I eased myself out of bed with a mixture of fear and unhappiness as I did not want to be the topic of this argument and did not want my father looking at me with disappointment in his eyes as I was not living up to his Nigerian dream. Obviously I must have done something wrong to have gotten myself flogged. As far as he was concerned that was the only reason children got flogged in school. He insisted I went back to school, that this was how thing were done over here and I would be toughened up. "Over my dead body" my mother screamed. She had sent me to school for an education not physical and psychological damage. As they took the argument into the bedroom I dressed and made a dash for the back door determining to spend the rest of the day outside keeping watch and hoping my father would return to work. His car pulled out a couple of hours later and i headed back to the safety of my room. On hearing my return my mother informed me my Catholic schooling was over. Amen. Hallelujah.
The Christmas season came and with it drier air and expectations. Lagos felt lighter, with less traffic as many of its populace would travel out to their various states to spend Christmas with their extended family. We woke up on Xmas day to our presents ,two huge boxes of books to be shared amongst us. I was beside myself with joy as I could never have, or get enough books to read. I was constantly saving my coke and gala money to buy them and then berating myself for reading them too fast. There wasn't that much on TV to interest me except the Village Headmaster with Amebo being my favorite character as she was forever meddling in other peoples business. This pile of books in front of me seemed to be unending.
As I emptied the box onto the floor a box set caught my eye. It had a picture of an eagle soaring into a big cloudless sky and two pages into the book I was sold out I had found the holy grail.........