DESIRE by Deborah Oluniran

A large cockroach ran across her foot and she wanted to scream like someone insane but compared to the pain she was feeling all over her body, this one was insignificant. Plus, she didn’t want anything to tamper with the pain. It was sacred. Sacred like her virginity. Sacred like blood and pain and pleasure .She tried walking, placing one foot gingerly in front of the other, hoping she would make it to her room without breaking into several pieces.

Yewande said the formula would wash it down painlessly. She guessed this one was stubborn. Now, Yewande would know; she had done it on behalf of most of the boys in school and some of the male teachers.

Warm milk didn’t help.

“Désíre! Kilode?” his deep voice jolted her, making her turn quickly, shooting more pain up her spine.

“Good morning, daddy. Did you sleep well?”

“What happened?”

“I… Err… I slipped in the bathroom.” His eyes held hers, daring her to admit she was lying to him but she remained firm.

“I did that to you, didn’t I?” He ran two frizzled hands into his full afro hair and sighed. His eyes were dark with regret. Not too much, not too small. The right amount of regret.

“Don’t hate me, please.”

“I swear, daddy, I don’t.” She hated herself.

Désíre waited for him to dismiss her with a nod or anything to indicate she could leave but he remained there. A shy smile played across his lips as he looked at her through brown eyelashes.

“I liked it.”

She nodded. Not in acceptance but in awareness that her daddy slept with her and enjoyed it.

She was thirteen when it first started. Or had it started long before then? Her father had insisted on bathing her even when she could do it herself. He took extra care in washing all the contours of her nubile body. He was her father; she didn’t think to question him. She didn’t question him either when he started to drink more and more from the green bottles in the fridge. Neither did she say a word on the night he arrived late, drunk and confused. He called her mummy Désíre. He said he missed her. It was only when he pounced on her that she cried out.

“You’re my wife and I will have you. Can’t hold back anymore.” She was his daughter. He bit down on her small nipples making her yelp in pain. She fought back but he was stronger. Her pleas did nothing to deter him.

He came back for more. Even though he apologized for hurting her, he always said he liked what they did. That was the routine.

The cockroach came back and stayed for a while before running off again.

He was in his study, reading. She would take her bath and lay down, hoping the ache would have gentled when she awoke. She stood by the bed, drinking in all her features. The mirror on the wall revealed all that he saw. She didn’t blame him, she did look like her mother. It seemed with every rising of the sun, she morphed into the woman her mother had been: the same dark skin, full eyebrows and full lips. At fifteen, Désíre’s hips were twice the size of her friends’.

Her father claimed using condom made what they shared impure; “Condom is a third party. We don’t want it. You’ll be fine.”

That was after the first abortion. This time, when the cockroach came back, she fought the pain and smashed it. Even after it had died, she continued hitting it with the heel of her foot.

Daddy would want his food soon. She prayed that he would see her as Désíre this night and not mummy Désíre. She couldn’t survive any more of his pummeling if he tried to take her. There was soup in the fridge. She warmed it and made eba for him. If only he would eat and sleep forever, she would be grateful to the universe. The table was served. She paused half way to the kitchen, and turned back into her room. She reached under her pillow for the white powder that was supposed to end her suffering. Yewande said it would tear his insides apart. Désíre pinched a little into his soup, stirred it and thought, what will I do with the remnant? So she emptied it all inside his soup and stirred again.

He ate, thanked her for the food and asked if she was feeling better. She was not. He didn’t come to her that night. The next morning, he didn’t come to wake her either. She went to his room and knocked. The door was open.

“…Started after I ate last night,” he explained after five seconds. Five seconds during which she thought he had died. She called Yewande, sobbing loudly. Yewande brought more and she added it to his tea and food. For three days, he couldn’t go to work. He started coughing blood, his breath coming out in gasps. Why won’t he die, if only to relive himself of the pain?

“Always know I love you, as much as I loved your mother.” He wheezed.

She nodded.

“Be strong.” He patted her cheeks and turned away, facing the wall. She knew he was crying. She ran out of the room as her sobs grew louder. She didn’t go to see him that night. She didn’t give him food, with or without the poison.

The next morning, Yewande’s call woke her.

“How’s he?”

“I don’t know. I think he’s dead.” She sounded breathy with relief.

She was outside the bathroom when she noticed that the door to his study stood ajar. She peered into the room. He was sitting up, reading.

“Daddy?” He looked up and she saw his eyes over the glasses perched on the bridge of his nose. They were smiling.

“Yes, Mummy Désíre.” And she went blank.

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