CHIOMA! tall dark girl, honey gold skin, white bright eyes, charcoal black hair... I envied her sometimes, especially when she packed her dark hair in two doughnuts, she was as pretty as she was graceful. Chioma was my neighbour thirteen years ago when I was eight, she was ten but she bloomed like she was twelve, save that her breasts were still two tiny nuts like the rest of us. Chioma was a very cheerful girl, she was the joy of the neighbourhood, she had her way with people, she was my best friend.
I remember the day he came, it was raining and I pressed my face on the living room window, my breath formed misty circles on the window pane as I watched the raindrop in crystal balls on the flowers in our front yard. He arrived in a noisy motorcycle, wearing what I now know as NYSC uniform, he hurriedly ran into Chioma's parent's flat and the bike man took shade in the zinc shade where Chioma's mother fried Akara balls each morning.
"Menstruation", she quipped with self-pride, "Uncle Festus has told me all about it. He said it happens to big girls, and without it, you cannot have children". I stared in wide-eyed amazement at the amount of information Chioma already had. I had only read about menstruation in my elder sister's Home Economics workbook but did not pay much attention to it till Chioma mentioned it again. And that is how Chioma fed me with a lot of adult knowledge, from Uncle Festus. I envied her again. How would I have known that 10-year-old Chioma did not only know but had experienced what we saw in the movies and our mothers closed our eyes, what we heard during Sunday School and the teacher shrieked we would go to hell if we tried it, Chioma had become a woman as a child.
Thirteen years later, Chioma is twenty-threeand she is loveless, Chioma does not trust men, she doesn't want a relationship, she is broken, she says she lost her childhood, and her life is a storm. worse still, her parents did not believe her when she told them what Uncle Festus had done. I feel sorry for the girl I once envied, I really do feel sorry for Chioma.