They say when a student goes through the form 2 class without any suspension from school,that one needs a reward. That one is the good type. Hence, mine falls in the other camp.
She got her first suspension in term 1, I heard her older siblings congratulating her. Nowadays, social ills accord you a special seat in the society. I reprimanded them only to turn and see them compliment her by bumping Fiona’s fists as she smiled broadly and proudly. She and three other girls had been found with bottles of alcohol in their school boxes.
Her father and I commanded austere measures for her during the two weeks she was at home. She was to spent that duration studying in her room. She was not to come and dine with us during meal times. I would bring food to her room. She was not allowed to join her older brothers in watching TV or going out. She never went out anyway, she was a girl and still young.
When she went back to school, her teachers were hard on her. As they closed term, her class-teacher called. He said Fiona had changed. Her dramatic, attention-seeking behaviour was on the low, her grades were better, although she frequently visited the school nurse.
We were happy,our daughter was now guided to the right direction. Little did we know, that the April holiday would be the start of a very lengthy hilly journey.
I have read stuff about transgender people. They prefer to be like the opposite sex. So when Fiona started to borrow her elder brother’s sweaters and hoods, I was in mortal fear. That evening, I talked to her father.
“This is Africa my dear, that disease has not reached here yet,” he brushed my fear off with a guffaw. “She probably needs bigger clothes.” He added as I silently doubted his suggestion, Fiona had enough clothes for her size. I wondered why she would leave her feminine clothes to wear fashionless attire, so unlike Fiona.
Then there was something else, the three had become unusually close. They talked in hushed tones and behind closed doors. Fiona’s brothers had also changed, they did not want Fiona to perform any house chores. What raised my eyebrows was when they offered to help her wash the dishes. This was never Max and Levy’s cup of tea. But for their sister they were willing to soil their hands by washing off left overs from dirty cutlery.
Every fibre in me told me that there was something not right . I prayed for it to be revealed soon because my nerves were cracking and my three children were pushing me further in the dark. Their father was in the dark too but it seemed he did not mind the darkness. As long as they were all in good health, there was no need to be alarmed, he said.
My prayer finally got its answer. I was passing by doing laundry. They were in Max’s bathroom whispering agitatedly at each other. They had forgotten to lock the bedroom door. I tiptoed slowly and eavesdropped.
“Who else was in that party? We need all the names!”Max said
“Even though we know everyone who was in the party, how will we know who did it?” Fiona asked
” We will beat up all of them one by one until they confess! I swear if I know who it is, I will crush their neck so hard and laugh at their burial!” I had never heard Levy so angry. I let myself in. They were mortified at my sudden presence!
“Ehe! Who are you killing on which party?” The three gasped in utter shock. Max had sat on the toilet seat. Levy was standing by the shower as Fiona stood at the door. Then they did the odd thing again. Max woke up quickly from the seat and gestured to his sister to sit.She obliged,she sat and and crossed her legs as the two brothers watched her keenly then Levy discreetly nodded at her. This secret communication was too much!
“Hey! I want answers!” I demanded as the brother threw glances at their sister who had fixed her gaze at one tile on the floor, fidgeting nervously.
“Ok. It seems I am not getting any answers here, let me call your dad,and tell him that you are planning to kill somebody!” I went for my mobile phone from my dress pocket but Max stopped me. Their father was not good news when he was angry. He was ruthless when punishing a form of indiscipline. None of them liked to ruffle his feathers.
“Please mum, promise to stay calm as we tell you.!” Max said.
I nodded , swallowing my terror ready for the impending reveal.
“Fiona is pregnant.” Max said.
“What?” I was astounded. I dropped my laundry basket and sat on the floor in complete awe. I was silent for too many minutes. She was just in form 2. How now?
” Who is the father?” I asked and there was silence.
“I asked! Who is the damn father!” I had never cursed before in front of my kids. They looked at me , frightened. There was still silence but Levy broke it with a confusing reply.
“We do not know, it could be anyone!”
” Whaat? Are you telling me she is sleeping with every Tom, Dick and Harry?” I asked as I sprang to beat her up. Max and Levy were quick to protect her. They calmed me down. It was not as I thought, they said.
“Mum, it was not consensual sex!” Fiona said, wiping her tears from her eyes. Sympathy overwhelmed me.
“What? Rape?” I asked ,my voice trembling.
They shook their heads almost together. I looked at them as I tried to decipher what they were saying. She was not raped, but it was not consensual sex?
” What are you three telling me?” I desperately inquired.
“Ok mum. This is how it happened. That time Fiona was suspended . She was so down when you and dad punished her. We thought of cheering her up that weekend . So we invited her to a friend’s bash. We sneaked her out late at night when you guys were asleep. When we came early morning, she disclosed to us that she had fallen asleep at the party only to wake up and find her body violated. ” Max finally divulged.
My body was shaking. I was crying and kicking and boxing the wall like a mad woman. They looked on , allowing me to let the steam out. It would have been better if she was coming out of a transgender closet.
“Where were you two when all this was happening?Huh? When somebody was taking advantage of your fifteen year old sister? Were you messing around too with young girls?Huh?Answer me!” I screamt.
“Mum,” It was Levy, his voice quivering, his tears flowing freely on his cheeks, “We don’t know what happened. We got unusually drunk at that party. We think someone put something in the drinks.” He said and gave in to a long cry. Fiona went up to him and held him closely.
” Mum, if you ask me what happened on that night, I can’t tell. All of us woke up in the wee hours of the morning feeling extremely groggy and our heads too heavy. Fiona herself only took one glass, I took two but it takes me more than five bottles for me to start feeling tipsy.” Max said.
We were all on the floor, all of us lost in our own thoughts. What disturbed me at that time was how to break the news their father.
“I need time alone. I need to think about this. I don’t know how to tell your father this.” They all rose up quickly calling out to me. They did not want their father to know. Not just yet, they pleaded. Until they found out who was behind this. One week, I gave them. One week and I would have to tell their father. They agreed.
It was the longest week for all the four of us. Their father was now suspicious. We were all acting peculiarly. He asked questions which I evaded.
The last day of the ultimatum finally reached. My hair rose and my eyebrows kept shaking. Was it a bad omen? I bit my tongue three times in a span of one hour. ‘It’s a bad omen.’ A voice rang in my head. I decided to go and make breakfast even though it was too early. I could not sleep any more.
As soon as I stepped out of the bedroom, a loud ear-piercing shriek broke from Levy’s bedroom, but that was Fiona’s scream. I ran, unaware that my husband had followed me . I met Fiona at the door, her face all white in fright. I looked at the direction her eyes were facing and let out a louder shrill. Levy was hanging in the air, a rope tied round his neck, Max was trying to get him out of that position. Their father almost knocked us down at the door as he went to aid Max.
They placed Levy’s unmoving body on the bed. Max was breathing air into his brother’s mouth when their father was performing chest compressions on him.
“Start the car!” Their father ordered. Before I started to leave, Fiona let out another blood curdling scream. She was holding her stomach. Her face cringing in pain. Her father ordered Max to lift his brother and take him to the car while he ran to his daughter, picking her up and running after Max who struggled to walk with his heavy brother on his shoulder. We took two of our children to hospital, both on the very verge of death.
It was a long wait in hospital. I spilled everything to my husband at the waiting bay. It took every bit of himself to control his cool. Right then, he was focused on the lives of two of his children he so dearly loved. I went to Max who sat alone , his eyes closed. He was startled at my presence. He rose up as if he wanted to escape my being around him. I immediately figured out that he knew why Levy had tried to kill himself. I urged for answers.
“Mum, Levy is the father!” If I survived that shock then, I can survive whatever else comes my way.
“What?” I asked, my fingers intertwining painfully.
“A friend who was at that bash told us so. He says he only took half a glass and started to feel dizzy but amidst his confusion and tipsiness, he saw Levy undress Fiona and have sex with her. The friend believes that Levy was so drunk he did not know who he was sleeping with.”
“Does Levy know that he slept with his sister?” I wanted a different answer from what I already knew.
“Yes mum, that is why he tried to kill himself. He could not swallow such a bitter pill. He says he knows he slept with someone but he thought it was his girlfriend. We were too inebriated that day,mum!” Max said.
“Fiona?Does she know?” I asked.
“No mum, and she should never know. Dad too, he will kill all of us.” Max said
“Dad already knows.” He was standing behind us. “I will kill no one, Max, but I will stand by your side.” He held both our shoulders.
“I agree with you though, Fiona should never know that it was Levy. It will kill h…” He whispered but he saw the doctor approaching. We stood in anxious anticipation.
Levy had missed death by a whisker,he said. It was fortunate for him that someone had found him early enough. He was now conscious and would be stable within a few days. Fiona had lost her pregnancy but was also stable. She would take longer to be well but she was out of danger.
The next month was slow. When Levy and Fiona healed, their father called them all for a meeting. He said it was the first and last time he would talk about the recent incidents. He gave an emotional speech of love for his family.
“We are family. We will always be by each other’s side. We will stand stronger than before. Your mum and I forgive all the wrongdoings. Just do not do anything to take us back to that netherworld. We will forget the past and move on regardless.”
They listened and put into practice. Fiona finished school without any other suspension. She scored an A. Levy and Max also completed their college education and started a small company. What would have torn us apart drew us even closer.