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Growing up in the midst of soldiers was an enviable experience. Contrary to popular belief, some soldiers are not as disciplined as claimed. Some of them would use some really filthy words in their conversation without caring wether a little girl who was returning from school was close by. And even if you say a greeting as you walk pass them, they wouldn't even respond as their brains had already been inebriated with hemp and other drugs.
Unlike the other soldiers, Sergeant Francis ( not his real name), wasn't a smoker neither was he a womanizer and he had never drank alcohol. Sergeant Francis was deeply introverted, he hardly talked and never laughed. In fact, other soldiers were afraid of him because he had a huge stature and was very hostile. At almost 40years old, he wasn't yet married neither did he have any girlfriend.
Sergeant Francis was also unkind to children. He could catch you and start beating you for no reason. So, we never played close to his room even if he was not at home .
At that time, there was this bully who was 13 years old, just a year old than I am. We were all playing one day when Bisi announced that hence forth, the other children should start addressing her as "aunty " since she was the oldest and biggest amongst us.
Well, I found this quite laughable because I had a 15-year-old cousin, Amina, who was living with my parents and I have alway called her by the name. So why would I address a 13 year old as "aunty". Out of cattiness, I called Bisi a disparaging name that the boys usually called her due to her gross weight. Then i ran away.
As she ran after me, i kept laughing at her cos I knew that she would get tired soon due to her stout stature .
I turned around at the last moment before something very terrible would have happened. More out of reflex than cleverness, I deflected my head slightly and the object flew passed me in close range and landed on the window of Sergeant Francis, smashing it to pieces.
Bisi had hurled a stepping stone that was almost the size of a man's head at me since she couldn't catch me. I turned around to look at bisi and saw that she had also frozen at where she stood. Another look at the stone told me more than anything else that if it had struck my head, I would be laying in a pool of blood by now. I was so terrified that I began to ran home.
I had been sleeping on the couch for more than an hour when an aggressive bang on the door woke me up. As I got to the door, I had a premonition of checking who the person was by looking through the window. As soon as I saw Sergeant Francis, my heart sank and I took two unsteady steps backwards. I turned around and ran to look for my mother at the backyard.
" Mummy, somebody is looking for you ", I said to my mother in a shaky voice.
I had been hiding in the bedroom for ten minutes when my mum called me twice but I remained silent.
" if you don't come out now, I will come to that room and break your head ", she threatened when she called me out the third time.
" Good a-aftunoon sir", I greeted sergeant Francis in a trembling voice when I walked into the sitting room.
With smoldering eyes and a thunderous voice, he screamed at me. " Bilqees, why did you break my window?"
I was shocked to hear this, maybe Bisi had already lied to him so i narrated the whole story of how the incident happened.
After I had finished, Sergeant Francis replied in an indifferent voice. "Why did you dodge the stone that was meant for your head?". "Don't you know that apples are better than oranges?"
It took me another seven years before I fully understood what he meant by that statement.
Mom apologised to sergeant Francis profusely but the soldier stormed out of our house without saying another word to me or my mother.
As soon as the soldier had left, mom dragged me by one of the ears and led me to her bedroom for judgment. As much as i tried to explain, mom insisted that she had warned me repeatedly never to play with a silly girl like Bisi who lacked proper home training. She accused me of getting her into trouble with "mad man" Francis and that was the last thing she wanted while living at the barracks.
I cried for almost an hour after mother's slippers landed on my bare back in ten quick successions.
Dad was told about sergeant Francis visit to the house and his reason for visiting. Luckily for me, my father was not as strict as my mother. As a highly educated man, a journalist for that matter, he never apIlied force on a child or anyone else. He always preferred talks and negotiations. So, he only criticized me for going out to play when I was so supposed to be at my homework, especially when mother had adviced me several times not to associate with a naughty girl like bisi
To cut the long story, I was so angry that i refused to touch my dinner. It was as if everyone was blaming me because I didn't allow bisi to crush my head with a rock
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