Blog Festival | THE CLOAK | By Olusola Alli

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She wrapped her insecurities around herself, a quilted cloak made up of different patterns and shapes depicting her cynicism, trust issues, fear of betrayal and pain. She wasn’t always that way; no, she wasn’t.

At a time, not too long in the past, she had been open – a blossoming flower with petals spread wide gifting all around her with the sweet scent of innocence, beauty, possibilities.

She loved. She trusted.

From the estate security men to the beggar roaming the streets, she gifted everyone with her smile, her time, her money. No one was unworthy, no one was beyond redemption. Her father’s driver could not figure it out. How come that whenever she spoke to him, she treated him as an equal? On how many occasions had he forgotten that he was speaking with his boss’s daughter and addressed her as he would a younger sister?

New employees tob the house believed it was a trap. She was waiting in the wings, making a list of their offences and presumed impertinences. She would soon show her true colours. After all, it was impossible to have a rich man’s daughter that was not snooty.

These servants, like the ones before them, soon came to realise that their waiting game would not pay off, she wasn’t going to change.

During her 100 level second semester mid-semester break; she came home to find her mother’s bags packed. Mother was leaving! Why? Her father had impregnated her aunt, her mother’s younger sister – who was staying with them while undergoing the NYSC programme.

She was devastated. Her father, unfaithful? She pleaded with her mother; not to leave her father, not to leave the marriage, not to leave her. Her pleas fell on deaf ears; mother was not ready to enter a polygamous union alongside her own sister (her father insisted on marrying said sister and keeping the baby).

She fell ill – with pneumonia. Her mother paid her a visit at the school clinic. Mother brought her a cloak. She recognised the pattern already stitched on the cloak, invisible though it was to any other person. She could see it, her mother could too.

It was betrayal, in cursive.

Time, they say, heals all wounds. She got better and moved on. She folded her cloak and kept it under her pillow – a constant reminder whenever she wanted to sleep at night but during the day, she was free.

The rain came without warning. It started around 6:00 pm bringing along with it strong howling winds that flung everything in its path in different directions. Thunder formed an appropriate accompaniment to the music of the wind. Tade, her long time reading partner and friend, was stuck in her room. The rain also brought with it something else, something different from the wind and the thunder, it brought madness.

Tade raped her. The howling wind was her enemy, no one heard her cries. The rain was complicit, Cynthia from the next building could not come to ‘borrow’ sachet water or powdered milk as she normally did.

Few minutes past nine pm, the rain stopped. Tade left. She crawled to her bed, wrapped the cloak around her shivering body.

Another invisible pattern had been made.

Two weeks to the end of her service year, she got a tip from a contact to submit her resume at the head office of his company. There were five positions available for graduate trainees and he would try his best to ensure she got the job if she submitted her CV and came for the interview.

Down with the flu, she sent her roommate and encouraged the roomie to submit her own resume too. Six weeks after the end of service, she called the roommate to ask if she had heard any news about the job. Helen replied that she had just gone for the final interview the previous day and got a call confirming her appointment that very morning.

Confused and hurt, she called her contact. Why was she not even called for the interview before being rejected? Puzzled, he replied he never saw her resume and assumed she was no longer interested in the job. She insisted that she submitted her CV. How did she go about that? She sent her roommate, she replied.

With a funny feeling curdling her stomach, she gave him her roommate’s full name. He confirmed from the company files. Yes, he had that person’s resume but hers never came up.

Helen never submitted her resume.

She became numb. It no longer mattered whether the weather was freezing or boiling, her cloak became her companion, her defence, her shelter, her armour.

She married Emeka with her eyes wide open. She needed a husband and that was it. She never spoke of love and after five years of marriage, he stopped asking if she loved him.

With eight years gone and no child in view, she prevailed upon him that they should adopt. He consented to make her happy. She never thanked him.

The day her flight got cancelled and she went back home only to find her husband forcing himself on their ten-year-old adopted daughter, she never said a word.

She walked to the kitchen, picked up her best butcher knife and stabbed him three times. She called the police by herself and stayed with the body till they came.

Before they snapped the handcuffs on her wrists, she made a simple request; that they let her take her cloak with her.

They agreed.

AUTHOR’S BIOOlusola Alli is always a reader, sometimes a writer. Addicted to country songs and thriller novels, she believes the best thing you can do for yourself is to read a book; the next best is to write. Follow her on facebook  via https://web.facebook.com/holushorlar.alli.

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