Twelve | by Maureen Wambũi

Posted on Posted in Guest Post, Short Stories

It is a very hot day. Temperatures are estimated to be in the upwards of eighty degrees. One can see waves of heat rising above metals and other reflective surfaces. One can feel how sweaty and sticky clothing clings to the body. No quantity of ice cream or cold carbonated drinks can keep the sweltering heat at bay.

In my bright blue woolen jumper, I stand out like a sore thumb. I can feel their stares and hear some of their whispers. Who is she? Is she crazy, does she not feel how hot it is? What is she hiding in there? Isn’t that the weird daughter of….?

 

I try to ignore them and go about my errands with a seemingly laissez-faire attitude. Most of them are just gossip mongers anyway, always looking for ways to make others look bad and bring some excitement to their dreary lives. I refuse to be a piece of gossip; will not give them the satisfaction of seeing how uncomfortable I am.

 

It is so hot inside my jumper! Is it possible to die from too much heat, I wonder. I can feel the jumper stuck to my back because of the sweat. There are fine drops of sweat on my brow and a thin trail of it slides down my forehead, past my cheek and disappears beneath the neck of my jumper. It all feels tingly and I badly want to scratch, but I barely hold myself back. Only a few more minutes till I get home, remove my jumper and take a shower, because, honestly, I reek of sweat!

 

Why do I choose to torture myself this way?

 

It wasn’t always like this. Just a year ago, I was a happy eleven year old whose biggest worry in life was whose house I would go on a sleepover next. Flash forward a year later and puberty hits. Suddenly, boys are breaking voices and we girls are growing things on our chest. Suddenly, my chest looks like its been bitten by mosquitoes. Suddenly, I have to deal with the teasing of boys in class.

 

I have to take drastic measures. I hunch over when I walk now. It is harder for my chest to be noticed that way. I also have to hide the evidence, i.e. my chest. My jumper is perfect for that because it has a lot of breathing room and therefore makes my body shapeless. So what if it makes me look fat and gets me funny looks at a time like this when it is so hot. That is a small price to pay for hiding my shame. If you can’t see it, it probably isn’t there, right?

 

When I get home, I find mommy. I almost do a double take. I haven’t seen mommy in two weeks. She was on another business trip to somewhere. I’m sure she told me but the details are blurry, there have been so many work trips since daddy left us. I eavesdropped on their last fight when daddy kept telling mummy that he couldn’t take it anymore and he was leaving. That she never makes him feel like a man, whatever that means. I know a secret though. He left mommy for that woman on his phone. I saw the pictures and they were doing bad manners.

 

These days mommy is always busy. She leaves me with auntie and goes off on another trip. She is rarely at home. She hasn’t yet noticed how much I’ve grown. I doubt she even knows how old I am now, we hardly ever talk. Shouldn’t mothers know these things? I want to talk to her about everything- my fears, the body changes, the teasing, the weird feelings I keep having- but it is like she forgot I existed when daddy left.

 

Once again, we shall share a meal, sit at the same table and not speak a word to each other.

 

               * * *

OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD! OHMYGOD!!!

 

I am bleeding! Down there. Why am I bleeding? Did I hit something? Did I use too much force when I went to the toilet? What is happening?

 

This is so embarrassing. I am not sure if I should tell someone. Maybe it will stop on its own. What if it doesn’t and I bleed out? Or it leaks and shows on my school uniform? Oh no! I could never live that down.

 

The teacher calls mommy and tells her to come get me. Mommy is away so he lets me go home early, telling me to go buy pads. I have no idea what that is but I will find out soon. Auntie helps me with the purchase and explains to me what is happening. I can’t believe my body would do something gross like that. I almost die of shame when I remember my male teacher knows about this.

 

Pads feel weird. I feel like I am wearing a diaper. It is very difficult for me to not walk funny. Only the idea of drawing attention to myself makes me restrain myself.

 

It is the next day. There are several people in class talking to the girls about puberty. Others are talking to the boys in a separate room. My face is burning from embarrassment due to some of the things they say. There are many red faces and nervous giggles from us. They keep talking about bad manners, about s-e-x. Didn’t their mommies beat them and tell them that was a bad word?

 

After the meeting they give us pads. We can’t let the boys see so we hide them inside our sweaters. Somehow, some of them see and the teasing begins.

 * * *

Teacher Fred has called me into his office. I don’t have any idea why, I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. On my way to his office I try to think back on what I may have said or done to him since the day he called mommy. Nothing comes to mind.

 

When I get to his office, he closes and locks the door behind me. He has a windowless office so it feels quite stuffy. He comes and sits next to me and leans in really close. He asks me how I’ve been since the last time we spoke, did the bleeding stop, how I am coping…. I stammer out some reply, my face is flaming. I wish he would just let the subject drop. I wish he didn’t know something so personal about me.

 

He then starts telling me how pretty I am, that I am turning into a beautiful young woman. He looks at my chest the entire time he says this. He then reaches out a hand and touches my chest.

 

I stand up and move to go to the door. I am in shock, confused and with nowhere to run. I can see the look in his eye and he looks mad, feral.

 

He tells me to come back and sit beside him. I don’t want to but I don’t see a choice in the matter. He is the adult and I was taught that adults are to be obeyed without question. He touches my chest again. He seems to be enjoying himself. While some part of me is repulsed and knows this is wrong, another part marvels that he would care for a part of my body that I detest.

 

When his hand touches me down there, I know something bad will happen. I try to scream but he clamps a hand over my mouth. I watch in horror as he lets down the zip of his pants. I close my eyes in defeat when I feel him put his thing inside me.

 

When it is over, he opens the door and tells me to leave. He threatens to kill me if I tell anyone. As if anyone would believe me! He is the adult.

 

I am in so much pain. I walk slowly home and hope that the pain will go away soon. I feel so dirty, used.

 

Mommy is at home again. I want to tell her what happened and how scared I am but she barely looks my way. Why can’t she see it?

* * *

A few weeks later, mommy takes me to hospital after I vomit again. The doctor runs some tests and tells me I will have a baby. Me, a baby, will have another. I don’t understand how this happened.

 

Mommy is busy screaming at the doctor that he must be wrong, at me for having sex…. I just keep quiet. Finally, she asks quietly, “How could you do this to me? I thought I taught you better than this.’’

 

 

No. No, you didn’t.

 

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