Coming of Age?




“Hey there pretty girl!”

I didn’t look up. People usually addressed me as lardy or four-eyes. The compliment must have been addressed to my sister – as all compliments usually were. Out of the corner of my eye, I glanced toward the chair next to me. I had got used to her putting her index finger in front of her mouth, in order to spare my feelings. But the chair next to mine was empty.

“Hey there pretty girl!” I took off my gasses and put them on the Youth Club table. I did that thing where you press your eyes with your index and middle fingers, and then slide your fingers outward, to act nonchalant and give the message that I didn’t care either way that someone else, and not I, was being called pretty.

But when I opened my eyes, he was standing there – all six feet of him. His teal eyes bored into mine, and tousled black hair and a dimpled cheek completed the picture. He winked. I gaped. He made a beckoning motion with his hand, and held out the other one to help me stand up… I think he knew my knees had turned to jelly. He put an arm around my shoulder and whispered that he wanted to go to bed with me more than anything else in the world.

This, then, was seduction. I had thought it would never happen to me.

We went to his aunt’s house; she was abroad for the summer, and he’d taken the key from his mother’s purse. It was a very hot day. He took off his shirt – how his muscles rippled – and apologised for smelling of sweat. As if he had just thought of it, he said he would take a shower, and asked me to join him.

I balked. Nobody had even seen me naked. But then, he said it would be fun, with lots of cool water and lather and giggles…and I shrugged and joined him.

I lost my virginity that day – I was only 15.

Later, I found out he’d done it for a bet. And that my sister had set me up.



People laugh at me and call me a butch lesbian, although that term has long been out of fashion.

Until today, I have never told my story.

It started as a joke. Almost I was straight-up-and-down – no boobs or bum to speak of. People thought to was funny to call me ‘boy’. Even my parents, in my hearing, would say they had “three boys” when asked about their offspring.

I wore my bothers’ hand-me-down jeans… they discarded them as soon as they began to fade, and, frankly, I hoped that this state of affairs would go on forever… even if I had to become anorexic to remain thin and fit into them.

I felt at home in jeans – but, weirdly, I usually paired them with cut-off tops to show off my flat stomach, and also, perhaps, to remind myself that I should not ‘get fat’. My jeans were a second skin – a protective armour to compensate for my vulnerable midriff.

I loved the way I looked; unique. Of course some of my peers were jealous of me – but my real friends suggested I should become a model, and they actually applied in my name, forging my signature, to enter the Junior Category of one of the very few beauty contests at the time. I won, and it whetted my appetite for more.

I was still fifteen years old, so I had to get my parents to sign stuff for me.

One of the make-up artistes told me I could go far, perhaps even get a career abroad. And like a fool I believed her, and I became a sort of protégée of hers. One day, she suggested I could wow the judges if she painted a design on my legs. She showed me pictures of her work, and I was impressed.

She asked me – told me – to go to her house on the following Saturday morning (the Finals were in the evening, and I had qualified). Laughingly, she said I should wear a skirt, so I would not have to take off my jeans in front of her, and that we should keep our meeting a secret, so I would spring the surprise at the show itself.

I sat on the chair and put my heels on the table. When she was working on my legs, she kept brushing her head against my thighs. The first few times she apologised – but then, she shook her head and said “Look, this isn’t working. Sit down on the table and put your toes on the edge of the chair. Lie back if you feel more comfortable…”

And I did. Suddenly, her fingers were exploring me. I tried to get up, but she pushed me back, saying I would like what she was doing. And I did.

I placed second in the contest – but I didn’t mind. I had realised that I’d been waiting for something like that to happen all the time.




They say I am crazy; that I should get tested for bi-polar disorder or schizophrenia or Asperger’s or heaven knows what else.

One of my aunts sort of hinted that before she committed suicide, my ma had told her I was probably conceived in rape, after she got drunk at a party…but she didn’t say who my birth father could have been. No wonder my legal father never liked me. I didn’t look like either of them – but my three siblings did. I was always the odd one out – and I mean odd one.

I was passed around from aunty to aunty like a bag of second-hand clothes; they always made it clear that I was a charity child, and that but for the goodness of their hearts, I would be living in a Children’s Home. All I owned was in two large supermarket bags.

I was astute enough to realise even then that my siblings stayed at the same relatives’ house all the time. Most probably, although I only realise it now, I was a gifted child… and that is what made it so easy for me to achieve high marks in examinations, to the chagrin of my aunts, uncles, cousins… and siblings.

I counted the days till I could fend for myself. I ran errands for people and washed floors, saving all I could so that I would have a nest-egg for when I turned eighteen years old.

A few weeks after I turned fifteen, my world came crashing around my ears. One of my cousins waited till his parents had left the house, and then barged into my room, and raped me. He threatened to kill me if I told on him, and fool that I was, I believed him.

And that is how I have a daughter whom people think is my sister.


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