Short story | Broken by Marjaan Sadiq | The Arts-Muse Fair

By Marjaan Sadiq

"Lick the lollipop, sweetheart." He said into my ears as his fingers continued to explore my "treasure chest", cementing the "bond" between us.

I pressed my eyelids tightly together, and closed my quivering lips over the bulb, willing the tears to not spill, forcing the sob back down my throat. I didn't want to cry. He said crying was for weak girls, for servile girls. Princesses and queens do not cry. I was his little princess. I was to be strong. But I didn't want his hands, or mouth to touch me in the places they did, those places were already too sore, too bruised. I didn't want this kind of love, it hurt too much.

I was five when it first happened. Mama was out of town. Her business took her away most times. He said I had become big, and well rounded. "I want to show you something," he had said, caressing the back of my hands. "It's a secret bond every father shares with his daughter. It breeds love between them."

He told me that this "bond" was divine, and should not be broken. Telling anyone, even Mama, would break it, and then our family would be as dysfunctional as the legal system. He said the legal system was a messed up phenomenon, when I asked what it meant. He said that was all I needed to know about it. He told me I was the most special little girl on earth, and that I was destined for paradise.

"Paradise is where good girls who maintain bonds with their fathers go." He would whisper softly, whenever he fondled me. Paradise, as he said it, was full of green life, flowing rivers, and princesses on thrones, with beautiful diamond crowns atop their heads. He said I was the princess of all princesses.

Every time Mama was away, he would take my clothes off and "bless" me with his fingers and tongue. He blessed every part of my body, especially my "treasure chest".

"Between your thighs lies your treasure chest," he would say, tears gliding down his cheeks. "Fathers bless their daughters' treasure chests. It's part of the bonding." I had no idea why he always cried whenever we bonded. I wanted to ask if it was okay for kings to be weak while queens and princesses ate their tears, but I was too scared to.

He never touched me whenever Mama was around. Of course, she must not know that we had started fostering our unity, as had been required of fathers and daughters since man's inception. Mama had shared the same bond with her father.

I cherished those times Mama was at home. It meant that we would have a bonding break. I would follow her around the house, clinging to her clothes. I would hide behind her wrapper if he was around. I would shy away from him, and other people. Mama would notice my timidity and complain that I was becoming too quiet, too withdrawn. He would whisper words that I didn't hear to her. They always calmed her worries, while mine heightened. It didn't help that she seemed to approve so much of our bonding.

"You should bond with your father, daughters need that." She would always say whenever I would clutch at her legs during her business departures, swallowing my untold fears and blinking tears away. I didn't tell her that we had already started the process, and that I hated it. I didn't tell her that I didn't want to bond anymore. I feared lest I should break a tradition that is old as man himself.

One day, Mama told me that I was to have a home teacher. They couldn't find a woman worthy enough, so they found a young man. I was seven. She said she couldn't tell whether my new teacher's eyes were really shifty, or it was her motherly instincts. She said I was to tell her or my Baba if he looked at me in a way that made feel uncomfortable. "Nobody should make you feel uncomfortable," she said, squatting to my height. "No one should touch you in unforgivable places."

She lightly touched the parting at the top of my thighs with her hands, my buttocks, my chest, and my neck. "These places are unforgivable places to touch. No one should touch you there. Nobody!"
"Even my Baba?" I lowered my head as I asked.

"Even your Baba." Her voice carried a hint of amusement. I kept my head lowered, my eyes trained to the patterns on the tiled floor. I didn't look up. She suddenly gasped, and then she put a finger under my chin and lifted my face. I still didn't look at her. I didn't want her to see our secret in my eyes.

"Khadijah, look at me," she said. I looked. In her eyes was a mix of several emotions that I couldn't comprehend. "Has your baba ever...? Did he...? Has he...?" I didn't know what to say. She wasn't making sense. I lowered my eyes again. "I said look at me." Again, I did. "What did your baba do?" Again, I lowered my eyes.

Mama's finger slipped away from my chin, and she started murmuring verses from the Qur'an. She lifted my skirt, pushed my panties aside and touched my unforgivable place to touch, scrutinizing, still reciting several verses. He voice gained pitch as she looked deeper. Then she screamed so loud, and for so long, that I thought she would lose it. I didn't expect the loud, choking sobs that followed. Did she not know that queens and princesses shouldn't cry? Did her Baba not tell her that it was a sign of weakness?

She cried for a very long time, sitting on the floor, her hands on her head, and then she got up and walked into the bedroom, leaving me standing there alone. I heard her talking on the phone. I was too frightened to move. When she came back, she was dragging a big suitcase. She knelt in from of me, looked into my eyes. I saw then, that my Baba had done things he wasn't supposed to do. She hunched, her shoulders shook slightly as she cried. When she raised her head to meet mine, she cradled my face in her hands, and then she hugged me. "I'm so sorry," she said, as she stroked my back.

We left the house that day, before Baba came back from work. I never saw him again. And my Mama stopped her business for teaching.

Marjaan Sadiq is a journalist and writer. She lives and work in Kano, Nigeria. She loves to read. She writes a lot of fiction.


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