The raging waves had a strange calming effect on Kemi. As she took another step closer to the ocean, she could feel the sand get wetter and softer beneath her feet. She took a deep breath, closed her eyes as the wind blew the solitary tear that had made its way down her cheeks into the beach air, and walked into the latest three-foot wave making its way across to the expansive shoreline.
She never came back.
As a young girl, Kemi was bright and exuberant. She loved Butter Pecan Ice Cream and would devour several plates of her mother's catfish stew with no care in the world. Even as a child she knew her world wasn't perfect and she understood the many nuances of growing up in Nigeria.
She'd seen her father disappear many-a-time, coupled with the constant abuse of her mother when he was around. That she never really understood. She knew her father's actions made her mother sad - she would often catch her crying alone in her bedroom after the latest round of slaps and screams - but since her mother did not leave or fight back, Kemi believed that was just another part of her childhood that did not make any sense. It was just what it was.
She had tried to blend in with the other kids in secondary school. She wanted to make friends, talk about boys and try on makeup. She just wanted to be a regular kid.
Unfortunately, that didn't happen. She wasn't as skinny as the other girls, which ultimately made her the wrong end of everyone's fat jokes, and she didn't find any of the lousy jokes the boys told, funny. It got even worse when she started to have stretch marks on the inside of her elbows and across the top of her breasts. The fat jokes got harsher and the taunting got louder. She cried every day, wishing for death but never finding it.
Her mother and sister had been the only people that never had a bad word or phrase for her. Until Ike. He was everybody's sweetheart: a very handsome, soft-spoken Igbo boy with a killer smile and a very wealthy father. Teachers loved Ike, the boys wanted to be him and the girls... well, let's just say he had enough panties left in his locker to make a cloak large enough to cover a football pitch.
He never joined the other kids to taunt or mock her and the day he came over to her desk to talk to her after Mr Fatai's class, she skipped all the way home. He would buy her sweets and locally-made ice cream from the tuck shop every day at "break time" and smile at her during class. Kemi couldn't believe Ike, the school celebrity, would even look at her much less accompany her to go submit assignments or hold her hand when one of the boys pushed her from the line at the bursar's office. She was completely enamoured by him.
Until he raped her one night at a party and let his best friend, Sola, watch.
For Kemi, college (University, but in America) was the ultimate escape. She was leaving Nigeria and its endless problems behind and her father was on his longest disappearance yet. Finally, she was getting a break. She didn't have to suffer so much. America was that light at the end of the soul-gobbling darkness that was her life.
College was better. She smoked weed, had several go's at love, experimented with lesbianism and aced every exam. She still carried a deep sense of inferiority and damage but the bad times were not as much as there was in secondary school. There were fewer bouts of depression, her mother's business was booming and her father had 'finally' died.
Before going to the beach that day, she had gone to Austin's house. Austin had been her boyfriend for the better part of a year and she had met him during one her holiday trips to Nigeria. He was a bodybuilder with panty-dropping, smoky eyes and a penchant for saying all the right things.
At first, they were just very good friends. She wasn't very attracted to him plus she was seeing someone else at the time. DaShaun was obsessive and manipulative, but cheating on him had never crossed her mind, and Austin wasn't interested in her that way. Or she thought.
Every time she came to Nigeria for holidays, she spent most of the time with Austin and at some point, they started to fuck. They'd had a conversation about it and agreed to leave it at that - when she was in Nigeria, they would hang out, do friend stuff and fuck. No strings, no responsibilities ... just a good old situationship.
Then, one day Austin sent her a message with six simple words: "I am in love with you." At first, she brushed it aside and told him not to say stuff he didn't mean. "Don't lie to me," she said. But, over the next few months, this guy wouldn't budge and eventually, she found herself believing him. She started to think about him more, miss him more and factor him into her decisions even more.
By this time, she was almost done with college and faced a choice between staying in America or coming back to Nigeria. DaShaun was getting even more ridiculous by the day and her mother really wanted her to come back to Nigeria, so she did. "I can finally be with Austin," she thought.
As soon Kemi was done unpacking, she took a quick shower, put on a special dress she had been saving, did her makeup and applied enough perfume to choke a goat. She was going to surprise Austin and she wanted to be perfect. The surprise wasn't her initial plan but he had not been picking his phone for the past three days, which wasn't unusual of Austin when she was in America - he'd just vanish for days on end. Besides, she couldn't think of a better way to make her return to Nigeria even more special.
When she arrived at Austin's house, there was a car in the driveway. As Kemi walked past it, she could see, from the items littered all over the inside of the car, that it was a woman's car. She smiled, thinking of the similarities between the red SUV and her grey Camry. "Women will always be women," she muttered.
At the front door, she knocked softly. No answer. She tried again, this time a bit harder. No answer. After about 10 minutes, she decided to check the spot where Austin usually kept a spare key. YES! She opened the door and the first thing that caught her eye was the maroon-colored handbag on the couch. That's weird. The house was hot so she went into Austin's room to take off her dress.
"WHAT THE FUCK?!," she screamed when she entered the room. There was Austin, the man who had made her believe in love again, who had told her several times that she was all he could think of, in bed naked, his face in between another woman's legs.
She sank to the floor, crying. The memories started to flood in like a highlight reel. Why did he have to lie to her? Why had he been leading her on so elaborately? What did she do to deserve this?
"Kems, its not what you think," Austin says. "It's not? Then what is it? WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS I'M LOOKING AT IF IT ISN"T WHAT I THINK IT IS, AUSTIN? What is it?," she retorted. She was so angry. She couldn't believe she had been taken for a fool again. After all the progress she had made in her fight against the ghosts of the past that haunted her endlessly.
As she stormed out of the building, the tears flowed freely. She remembered hr father hitting her mother, she remembered Sola's laugh while Ike raped her and he watched, she remembered the guy that deflowered her and refused to acknowledge that he did, a memory of her father hitting her across the breast joined the carousel. She remembered everything.
The speedometer was showing 160km/hr but she didn't care. She just drove. An hour and a half later, she found herself at the beach. She got out, sat on the soft beach sand and stared at the waves. She could still feel a searing pain in her chest but the tears weren't flowing anymore.
Then she took that first step towards the ocean - and never came back.
Inspired by true events.