The Little Bird by Nwadinma Chizalum


๐“๐‡๐„ ๐’๐ˆ๐‚๐Š๐„๐๐ˆ๐๐† ๐’๐Ž๐”๐๐ƒ of belt buckle meeting flesh rang in her ears so loudly that she didn’t have time to fully register the pain, coming from her back, travelling down her arms and fingertips, up to her head and back to the tip of her toes.

The buckle of the belt met her skin again, the sharp cold metal digging deep and tearing out her flesh and the wielder of the belt swung it back high, one end of the worn out belt wrapped around the thick hairy arm.

“After today, you will learn to never disobey me,” He swung the belt forward again, immediately it met her bare back, he dragged it back quickly, making sure the buckle ran across her skin, leaving rough jagged lines across her back, blood oozing and dripping from both skin and buckle.

Her eyes stung painfully with tears but they couldn’t fall. She wouldn’t let them fall. She would not give him the satisfaction of seeing her face stained with tears. She bit the insides of her cheeks. Hard. To keep herself from crying out.

“I am your father,” the man barked. “And it is my duty to teach you respect and discipline, even if I have to beat it into you.”

She squeezed her eyes shut, her arms and legs buckled hard with pain as the belt landed on her back, dragging her flesh, blood slowly seeping out from the gashes.

Swing. Drag. Tear.

Swing. Drag. Tear.

She didn’t know how long the beating went, time became a blur to her. Her back felt heavy and her hands and legs couldn’t support her weight any longer. When the belt landed on her again, she collapsed, sprawled on the floor, breathing heavily through her nose and she laid there, taking the beating.

It finally stopped. She didn’t know when. She must have passed out and when she came too, he was gone, the belt laying beside her, her blood coated the buckle and both lump and bile rose in her throat.

She couldn’t move, pain shot through every fibre of her body. Her back felt as if it was on fire. She could hardly breathe.

She sat up, her body screaming at her to stop moving. She gathered her clothes in her arms and practically dragged herself to her room.

Her room was tiny and cold. A small window was opposite the door, sunlight hardly passing through the broken panes. Her school books were piled at one corner, her clothes and her three worn out shoes at another. What could only be described as a bed was placed in the middle.

She laid face down on her bed, letting the breeze coming in from the tiny window cool her heated and bloodied back. Tears threatened to fall, but she held them back. A single tear escaped, rolling down her cheek and finally rested above her lips. Her body might ache with unbearable pain, but her heart ached and bled more.
She had always considered running away. But the question that always filtered into her mind was Where would she go?

Her father was her only family. She had never met her mother and he had never mentioned her. He had always beaten her right from when she was younger that for a moment, she thought it was normal.

At school, she heard others talking about how loving and wonderful their fathers were and her heart ached with longing and pain.

Will he ever love her the way other fathers loved their kids?

Will he ever buy her nice things?

Will he ever stop the beatings?

She heard her room door groan loudly and heavy footsteps followed. She knew it was him, she expected him. She felt her bed go down as his heavy body sat on it. His rough hands felt gentle as it traced the new scars he had graced her. Rough hands that had once been around her throat, choking her till she passed out because she didn’t come back home on time.

Rough hands that had slapped her more times than she could count till blood pooled in her mouth because he found the stash of money she had been saving and he claimed she stole from him, or the time one of her teachers had followed her home to ask about why she was always sporting a new injury every week and he claimed that she was going around telling everyone about their business.

Those rough hands felt as gentle and soft as a pillow and the dam broke. The tears she tried so hard to hold back, cascaded in waves. The tears felt so cold against her heated skin. The one thing she tried avoiding finally happened, she broke down in front of him.

“My little bird,” he murmured gently. “You know I hate doing this to you, it pains me to see you like this. I do this out of the love I have for you. If I don’t train and discipline you, you would grow up to be like every other thug on the street and I don’t want that for you.”

She nodded her head, forcing herself to swallow the hard lump in her throat. ‘My little bird’ was what he had always called her for as long as she could remember. She hated it, despised those three little words coming out from those lips of his, but she preferred it to her name, Hope.

She had stopped being hopeful about the future a long time ago, she had stopped hoping that one day her father would miraculously stop tormenting her, stop inflicting pain upon pain on her. She gave up, she lost hope.

She felt the soft touch of the cotton wool and the wetness of the spirit he had poured on it on her back. She couldn’t control the pained cry and sob that escaped her lips as a burning hot sensation flared in her back.

“Shhh, my little bird,” her father cooed, stroking her hair gently. “Everything is going to be alright, you’re going to be alright.”

She nodded, biting into a piece of clothing to keep any sound from coming out. This was their routine. She gets beaten and he treats her wounds, telling her how much he loves her and wants what’s best for her. How everything was going to be alright. Maybe for him, but never for her.

He cleaned up her wounds and bandaged her up. He stood up from the bed, kissing the top of her head.

“I’ll go get you some ice cream. It will make you feel better,” he didn’t wait for her to answer and walked out of the room, his heavy footsteps making the floorboard creak.

Hope sat up slowly, bringing her knees up to her chin, hugging herself and letting out all her emotions out, silently crying, her body trembling with each sob, with each pained cry.

She couldn’t do it anymore, she wanted to die. She didn’t understand the point of living like this, she couldn’t see the point in living at all.

She dug her fingers into her arms, digging deep till she drew blood. She couldn’t do this anymore. She just couldn’t.

She couldn’t.

She couldn’t

She couldn’t.

As the tears flowed, she thought that the nickname ‘My little bird ‘ was actually very fitting for her, because she felt like a bird with broken wings locked in a cage. She was trapped and she had no means of escaping.

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Pencilmarks and Scribbles Magazine was founded in 2017 by Clara Jack to be a home for African writers, asking them to come as they are and giving them room for growth. The publication aims to give back to the Nigerian Literary scene for the things it has given us.