Have you been searching for Jamb Sweet Sixteen Novel by Bolaji Abdullahi? Well here you go with the complete Novel. You can also download Sweet Sixteen full Novel in a PDF version here. However, below is the complete sweet sixteen Novel to used by JAMB.
~ The Letter ~
My name is Aliya. I am the only child of my parents. I turned 16 last month; two days before my end of term examinations.
I had waited so eagerly for that day to come. When I was 14, I read a book titled ‘Sweet Sixteen’, which made me realise that at 16, one is no longer a child but a young adult.
For as long as I can remember, I had always hated to be called a child.
To me, ‘child’ means the same as
stupid. So, children’s stuff never interested me.
Instead, I found myself drawn to grown up things. I felt more comfortable relating with people who are many years older than me.
My father thought this was because of my size. I am what you might describe as plus size. If you
like, you could say I am plump or chubby but never say fat.
I started wearing bras at 10 and at 14, I was already a size 16. My father would say, “Aliya, don’t be deceived by your size, you are still a child and
should enjoy being a child.”
To this, I would counter that I was not a child, but an adult trapped in the body of a child.
He would shake his head and give
my mother a long stare, which I never understood.
Young adult’ therefore, sounded like a fair compromise between being a child; as my father
would insist, and being an adult, as I would insist.
My mother was a nurse. My father was, well, many things.
At the time I was born, he was a
journalist. When I was in primary school, he was working in a Public Relations agency.
He then went on to work for an international organization that helps poor people in Africa.
When I asked him what exactly his job in the organization was, he said it was still some kind of public relations.
The very day I turned 16, I was still in school.
Even if I was home, I knew better than to expect any parties. My father believed that the only thing
worth celebrating was a major achievement.
In his eyes, birthday was not an achievement at all. My mother said she agreed with him. I suspected she was just going along with her husband. For this, I have very strong evidence in the form of several photographs I had seen of her, standing all decked up behind birthday cakes, But to be fair, that was before she met and married Mr. Bello.
Whatever the case, birthdays were not a regular event in my home.
My father even hardly remembered birthdays, including his own.
Mummy however, would never, ever forget. She even remembered the birthdays of children in the extended family. But there would be no parties.
The closest to any form of celebration were the slightly more elaborate dinner and the much more elaborate prayers.
This is not to suggest that my parents some sort of boring people Not at all.
My father actually very funny. Mummy would often joke that he should consider another career in standup comedy. We also hosted parties and attended some
mostly weddings Birthday parties were just not our thing.
But something changed since I left home for the boarding school My father, who never remembered birthdays, would not fail to send me greeting cards on my birthdays.
I turned 12 when I was in JSS 1.
The birthday card was handed over to me by the principal himself after the morning assembly.
“Happy Birthday my First Lady Remember that only
God is greater than you.” my father had scrawled boldly across the blank space inside the card.
Even though I didn’t understand what he meant by “only God is greater than you” it made me feel very important, as if I was some kind of God’s deputy.
Sometimes, I wondered why he called me First Lady since I was an only child. I didn’t think you could have a first unless there was a second. Maybe he was hoping for a second. How much I wished I had a sister though. And maybe a brother too.
But my friends told me that brothers could be very annoying. Well, that was not so difficult to believe. I imagined having a brother like Akin in my class, who called himself the king of boys.
Even though he was very smart, Akin was the most unserious human being in the whole world. Be specialized in making fun of everything and playing pranks on everyone.
I remembered what happened last term in the Geometry class.
The mathematics teacher wrote the topic, Mensuration on the board, but Akin read it aloud as Menstruation! Who does that?
The whole class erupted in laughter. It was only the teacher, Miss Salako, who didn’t find it funny.
“Quiet, all of you!” she screamed. “I wonder what was so funny. And you..,” she said, pointing at
Akin, the culprit, “…must you always be a jerk?”
She asked menacingly.
But Akin stood up and answered calmly, “No ma,” and the class exploded in another round of
This got Miss Salako even angrier and she sent Akin to the wall. Still, Akin got an A in Mathematics at the end of the term.
It was a Tuesday, the day I turned 16. I woke up expecting to feel different. But I didn’t feel
anything. In fact. I had slept off the previous night not thinking of my long awaited birthday, but about
the examinations that would start later in the week.
Well, maybe one was not meant to feel anything, or maybe it was the thoughts of the coming examination that was affecting everything I had always been a “straight A” student, until I entered the senior class and started Chemistry.
I still scored A in all the other subjects, including Mathematics and Physics, which most of my classmates struggled with, but I never scored higher than a C in Chemistry.
As it happened, it was my first paper in
There were two blocks of eight rooms in my hostel and there were four of us in each room. We had ten bathroom cubicles, five for each block, so we took turns to have our bath. But this was not a problem.
Usually, you only had to wait for one person to finish up. I took a quick glance at my bedside clock still had more than an hour before the assembly Of my three roommates, one was about my age. even though she was slightly older.
Her name was Grace The other two were junior students.
They had all wished me a happy birthday that morning.
As I made my bed, Grace returned from the bathroom, She had a towel wrapped around her chest and another one on her head like a turban.
I turned to her and asked, “Grace, did you feel anything? I mean when you turned 16. did you like
feel different in any way?”
“No. It was like 14 or 15 Couldn’t feel any difference, to be honest,” she answered with a shrug
Grace was not a great talker. It was as if someone was going to charge her for the number of words she used each time she spoke.
Many people thought she was snobbish, but I knew she was a nice and generous person. I wouldn’t say she was my bestie, but we got along well enough, even though we were not in the same class.
“But I started to say, but changed my mind “Never mind. ” I added I knew Grace liked to be left
alone In any case, I thought I would rather focus on my Chemistry I had worked harder this term. And this was reflected in my continuous assessment results.
Still I was more than a little worried The main problem was that time was never enough for me to answer the questions and do all the practical tests. I had tried to improve on my speed by taking five minutes of the time allotted to each question On one occasion, I managed to finish about 17 minutes ahead of time.
But I still connected how would hold out in real examination conditions
As we sang the national anthem that morning at the assembly, I was already looking forward to the birthday card from my father.
But when I walked up to the principal later, he only asked me to see him in his office at break time.
“Ho- hope there there is no problem, sir? I stammered.
“Not at all,” the principal answered curtly.
Before I could say anything more, he was already talking to one of the teachers. He appeared upset by something. I noticed he didn’t say happy birthday to me. That also never happened before. Usually, as he handed me the card from my dad, he would say, “Happy birthday to daddy’s angel and my superstar.”
And we would both laugh. I wondered what could
have happened this time. Maybe he was distracted by whatever had upset him that morning.
As I walked towards the classroom, I glanced back at him
and I could see he was gesticulating wildly.
The teacher looked thoroughly chastened. My mind raced through all kinds of possibilities.
Or, did something happen to my dad? He travelled a lot Had he been involved in an accident?
Now; I got really scared. I remembered a couple of my
classmates who suddenly lost their fathers and how they had struggled to remain in the school
I even got my dad to help some of them.
But my worry at that moment was not about how to remain in school if anything happened to him.
I loved my parents, no doubt about that. But I was particularly close to my dad. I could éven say he was
very strict on some things, he always made me feel I could discuss anything with him. And in most cases, ai did.
I recalled what happened earlier in February, on Valentine’s Day. A boy in my class gave me a teddy bear and told me he likes me.
Everyone called him Bobo, but his real name was Tokunbo. I was walking back to the hostel from the school shop; where I had gone to buy some toiletries. I looked up and saw him coming towards me on the narrow concrete walkway. I held my shopping tighter. I had a pack of sanitary pads among the newly bought items in my bag.
I wouldn’t want him to see that. He was also clutching a small, blue gift bag.
“Hi Bobo, What’s up? Happy Valentine’s Day,” I greeted him
“Happy Valentine’s day, Aliya.” He fidgeted a bit, looking rather nervous.
“Are you okay? I see you have a Valentine’s gift already. Did someone give that to you or are you giving someone?”
“Actually.. It’s actually for you,” he stammered.
“Me? Oh, thank you.” I took the bag from him.
“You know, I have always wanted to tell you that… that I like you,” he said,
“You like me? Wow! I… I don’t know what to say.” It was my turn to be nervous.
This had never happened to me before. No guy had ever said he liked me. I didn’t even know how I was supposed to respond. “Anyway, thank you,” I managed to say, and continued towards the hostel.
Not once did I even look back, but I could feel that he was still standing there. watching me. I felt so conscious I even stumbled on something and wondered if he saw that.
When I got to the hostel, I opened the bag and found a red teddy bear. I Love You’ was written on a
heart-shaped embossment on its tummy. I liked the teddy, but I was not sure I did the right thing by accepting the gift from Bobo. The following week, my dad came visiting.
I took the teddy bear with me to show him.
“A cute thing you’ve got there,” he said as I hugged him.
“Daddy, story, story,” I said in a sing-song as we sat on one of the concrete benches that were arranged around a black and white checkerboard on the floor. It was not really a board, but a raised cement platform on which giant black and white chess pieces mounted guards on opposite ends; as if waiting for their marching orders. This was where students, mostly boys, gathered to play chess during the weekends. I told Dad how I got the teddy bear.
“This boy, what is his name?” he asked, smiling.
“Bobo,” I answered.
“Bobo, is that his real name?”
“No, his real name is Tokunbo, Tokunbo Alabi.”
“Okay. Where do you think Tokunbo got the money to buy this gift for you? Did his parents give him a special allowance to buy Valentine’s gifts for girls?”
I said no, I didn’t think so.
“So, could it be that Tokunbo took part of his pocket money to buy the teddy bear?”
“Yes, most probably,” I answered.
Dad got up slowly and walked towards the chessboard. He picked up one of the pawns and moved it two steps forward; Then, he turned to me.
“You see, Aliya, there is nothing wrong in giving or receiving gifts. But usually, especially in this kind
of situation, when someone feels he has done you a favor, he would normally feel you owe him something.
Sometimes, he could even, maybe, expect you to return the favor.”
He walked to the other end of the chessboard and moved the knight. As he retraced his steps, he
asked, “So, this boy, what do you think he wants from you?”
I said I didn’t know. “He said he likes me. Maybe he wants me to like him back?”
“So, do you like him back?” He moved another
“Nooo,” I answered, drawing out the ‘O’ and shaking my head. The truth is I liked Bobo also.
He was very funny, so I liked talking to him. But that
was all. I never thought of him as more than a friendly classmate. He was not as smart as Akin, but
certainly not as rascally too. In that department,
Akin was the clear gold medalist.
Dad smiled broadly as if he knew more than he was actually saying. Then he came back to sit beside me, “You see, Aliya, maybe you don’t know yet what that question really means. But that is not even important now.
What is important is that you should never put yourself in a situation where you would feel obliged to do anything because you feel indebted to someone.
Anybody who gives you something because he wants something from you in return is not good for you.
No money in the world, no gift in the world is enough to buy you; because you are priceless.
In any case, the two of you are still too young to understand what that kind of relationship entails.
But I will want you to remember, Aliya, that no relationship between two people can survive if it is
based on material benefits.
Do not give things to people with the expectation that they will like you because of that.
In the same token, when people give you things, it does not necessarily mean they love you.”
He got up again, and walked up to the other end; to counter the move he made earlier; as his own
He had tried to teach me to play chess.
He said it would make me to think strategically. He said the black and white pieces represent two armies ranged in battle, the mission being to capture the opponent’s king.
Well, I was not so interested in
fighting any battles and certainly not interested in capturing any kings. But before he gave up on me, I had already known the names of all the pieces and how each of them moved.
I suspected he always chose this part of the school to meet with me so that he could play against
himself as he was doing now.
A group of students walked past us towards the hostel and said good afternoon to him.
In my school, it was compulsory
for every student to greet an adult they came across.
He returned their greetings and picked up another piece, a castle, from the board.
“Do you know the kind of girls that most boys like?”
“No,” I answered.
“Dumb girls. Boys like dumb girls.”
“Really? but I am not dumb,” I said, frowning.
“Of course. But this boy, e-r-r, what’s his name?
Bobo, does he know that? That you are not dumb?”
“He should. We are in the same class and I always beat him in exams.”
“Aliya, it is not all about exams. You can score A in all your subjects and still be dumb.”
“Daddy, I don’t understand?”
“A dumb girl, the kind of girl that boys like, is not necessarily the one who cannot pass exams. A dumb girl is the one who thinks she needs to live up to other people’s expectations; a girl who feels the need to belong; a girl who thinks she needs to have sex with a boy to prove that she loves him, or who thinks that having sex and generally misbehaving is the way to show that she is grown-up; a girl who is not smart enough to know when she is being manipulated or exploited; that is a dumb girl.”
“Okay, well, that sounds really dumb to me,” I said.
He returned the castle to its position and picked up a queen instead. By then, the pawns on the white side had marshalled out into some kind of triangular formation.
“Daddy, do you think I should return the teddy?”
He kept quiet for a while. Then he shrugged and said, “Well, that is a decision you would have to make for yourself.” He looked at his wristwatch. “By the way, do you still have your inhalers?”
I knew this was his way of saying the conversation was over and he would like to be on his way. I still had my inhalers and he knew. I had been asthmatic since childhood and the Ventolin inhaler had been a constant presence in my life.
Soon after, I took the teddy with me to the class with the intention to return it to Bobo. As I entered the class, he saw me first and walked up to me.
“I can see you like your teddy,” he said, looking very pleased with himself.
“Bobo, actually… yes, I like it,” I stuttered. Seeing how happy he was, I could not bring myself to hurt him. He was probably just being nice. If only my father had told me what to do.
“I am glad to hear that,” he said still grinning from ear to ear.
“But Bobo, can I ask you something?” I had regained my composure.
“Yes, of course.”
“Do you want something from me? I mean like, you gave me the teddy and I know it must have cost
you some of your pocket money. Why did you do that?”
“Nothing, It was Valentine’s Day. Some of my roommates were talking about gifts for their girlfriends and I don’t have a girlfriend. I could only
think of you. So…”
“But I am not your girlfriend…”
“Yes, I know. I just.”
Someone sighted the duty master coming towards our class and everybody scurried back to their seats.
After that day, something happened that involved another girl in my class, So, Bobo and I never had the opportunity to finish our conversation. True, my intention that evening was to give him back the teddy, but when I realized I couldn’t do that without hurting him, I was going to make it clear that if he expected anything more thanba thank you from me, he was in for a disappointment.
But somehow, I never got the opportunity.
When we resumed school the following term, I learnt that Bobo had relocated to Ireland with his parents.
I was surprised by how unhappy I felt when I heard the news from other classmates. I was not even sure if I was unhappy or angry or both. He should at least have told me he was relocating.
Daddy was right after all when he said you should not believe that someone loved you only because they gave you a gift.
That was the kind of relationship I had with my dad. How I had eagerly looked forward to turning 16, when he, of all people, would no longer consider me a child and formally recognize me as a young
But here I was, with not even the usual birthday card from my father and the principal acting all strange! The idea that something might have happened to my dad truly scared me.
Suddenly I was no longer so sure that I was ready to be grown-up girl I had always wanted to be.
With my dad, I would be lost like sheep without the shepherd.
The moment the teacher signaled the end of the first period, I ran out of the class.
I could hear Bisi calling after me that I had dropped a pen. “Keep it
for me,” I shouted back and continued to run.
Afterwards, she said she thought I was rushing to catch a flight or something. In actual fact, I only managed to sit through the class.
I could not even recall a word of what was taught that morning; even though on a good day the Geography class could be
I ran all the way to the principal’s office and was still panting when I
To my pleasant surprise, the principal’s face dissolved in a big smile the moment he saw me.
He asked why I was panting. “Did you run all the way here?”
I said yes.
“Well, happy birthday,” he said. “I guess your boyfriend has a special present for you this year,” he said as he brought out a gift box with a pinkish wrap and a bright red ribbon that had a full multi-colored bow on top of it.
When he said my boyfriend, I knew he meant my dad, The two of
them had forged some kind of friendship that I could not understand, especially as they had little in common, or so I thought.
My dad was much younger than the principal, even though I didn’t
know the principal’s exact age.
The principal was Christian, my dad was Muslim.
My dad was Yoruba, the principal was Tiv.
“Oh, my God!” I exclaimed as I collected the box.
But it was not the gift that excited me so much, but the utter relief in realising that all my fears were unfounded after all.
“Why don’t you wait until you see what is in the box before you get all excited,” the principal said
“No. Not that sir. I was so scared before I go here.”
“Scared of what?”
“It was just unusual sir, me having to come to your office to pick up the card. So, I was kind of afraid
that something terrible might have happened.”
“To whom? Your father? No. Nothing happened. I still saw him yesterday.” The principal chuckled.
“Thank you sir. Thank God.”
“You are welcome, and happy birthday!” he shouted after me as I practically hopped out of his office.
The relief that I felt at knowing that my father was okay was quickly overtaken by curiosity.
I couldn’t wait to see what was in the beautiful box.
I ran back to the hostel and tore the parcel open.
I almost felt bad with the way I ripped off the ribbon.
Someone must have taken the trouble to tie it so beautifully, I thought. Oh well. gifts are meant to be opened no matter how beautiful the wrapping is, right?
In the box was a portable digital camera, a birthday card that said
“Happy Sweet Sixteen”, and a spiral bound document. But it was the camera that got me.
“Oh my God..! oh my God!” I muttered breathlessly as I fiddled with the camera.
I loved photography and had always wanted to own a
My dad had promised some months before that he would buy me one. I thought he had forgotten, but I also knew that it would be a mistake to remind him.
He did not like being hassled like that. Now, I had my camera. He didn’t forget his promise after all.
I didn’t even bother to take a second look at the card. It used to be the main thing on previous birthdays. But this year, it had been
relegated to a mere add on.
The camera had all my attention. It was a compact digital camera with an LCD monitor.
I loved it. I was tempted to try it immediately, but I decided it
was better to wait until I had the time to read the manual.
But what about the spiral bound document? I wondered what it was.
It had a blue cover that bore the bold inscription, “Letter to My
I once read a book with that same title, written by Maya Angelou. I was not sure i understood everything that the author was saying.
But I wondered why my father would not make photocopy to send to me when he could have sent the book itself if he thought I needed to read it again.
I soon found. when I opened the document that my father had only copied Maya Angelou’s title. It
was his own letter to me, his daughter.
He started by congratulating me on my 16th birthday
“How time flies,” he began.
He wrote of the joy he felt when I was born.
He also recalled how my birth meant he had to take life more seriously and live up to the task of being responsible for another human being.
“For every day of the last 16 years, you have been a major reason for me to work hard so that I would be able to give you those things I never had as a child, and make it possible for you to have those things I never enjoyed.
I have also tried to teach you those core values and the essential character that I have inherited from my humble parents; my parents who had neither gold nor silver to give me, but taught me to be a real human being, an Omoluabi,” he wrote.
It was a 16-page letter. A page for each year of my life.
Trust my daddy to do anything like that.
In the letter that my father wrote to me when I was 16, he recalled an
Interesting outing we had some years before I was 12 at the time I just returned home for holiday after my JSS 1. Even though we had had several such outings since then, I remembered this particular one quite well.
It was a cool Saturday morning, not much doing After a quick
breakfast, I had climbed back into bed, looking forward to another lazy morning of rolling around and listening to music I was about to plug in my earphones when I noticed a presence in the doorway.
“Aliya, are you alright? It was my dad. He was still holding the door
and I could only see half of his body.
“Yes, Dad, I am fine You want me to do something
“No. I want to drive around and was just wondering if you would like to come along.
“Of course,”I said, dropping the earphone and jumping up from the
“Are we going anywhere in particular “I asked as I tried to figure our if I needed a change of clothing and what shoes to wear.
“Not really I think you are okay,”he said, gesticulating to indicate that
my outfit was fine.
I was wearing a pair of blue jeans and a Chelsea Football Club jersey
that had my nickname First Lady printed on the back. It was his gift to me when he returned from London some months earlier.
“I think that’s fine, he said, pointing at the pair of sandals I had
picked up from the floor I was actually divided between those and the Nike trainers on the shoe rack. By this time, he had into the room and sat on the bed He watched as stood in front of the mirror trying to arrange my hair.
“You are going to be worse than your mother,” he said with a broad
grin “Come on, let go.
“Daddy, I am a lady, I have to look good. “I retorted with a smile
applied some lip gloss.
“Where is the lady? You are a child!”
“I am not a child. I am a lady, “I protested.
“You are a child”
“I am a lady”
We continued this way as we walked down the stairs and we soon started laughing. Mummy was on morning shift. If she was at home and heard us arguing the way we were doing just then, she would have said,
“What are you two Tom and Jerry arguing about this time?”
It was a pleasant drive. The traffic was light The sun was bright For me, who lived behind a fence, any opportunity to go out and see other people was always a thrill.
At the traffic light, a lorry pulled up beside us with No Condition Is Permanent Inscribed on its side in uneven letters.
Somehow, the first word had faded off, and at first glance it now read, ‘Condition Is Permanent’ Two girls about my age scurried between vehicles and tried to sell oranges and cooked groundnuts to us in transparent plastic bags.
“You want some?”Daddy asked me. I shook my head. The traffic light changed and we moved on.
“You know, Daddy, I actually envy those girls,”I said.
“The girls that we saw by the traffic lights, selling things.”
“You envy them? And why is that?”
“I guess they must be having fun I mean the freedom to go
anywhere you want and meet different people.”
“Well, I don’t know if they are having fun or not. But I know they
would not mind trading places with you right now,”Dad said.
I reflected briefly on what he said. I agreed that maybe those girls too
would look at me and wish they were the ones sitting in an air-conditioned car.
Well, maybe he was right. But I still wondered why we had to stay
behind those tall fences all the time Grandma said the fence made our house look like a prison.
I guess that was why she would never agree to come and live with us, despite several appeals from both Dad and Mum.
My grandfather was long dead So, Daddy worried a lot about grandma.
To make matters worse, and for reasons no one quite understood, she would not accept to have a house help
“It looks to you like they are having fun,” Daddy was saying about the
girls as he changed lanes. “But if you had to stand in the sun for hours to sell what in the end amounts to very little money, I doubt you would still
consider what they’re doing to be fun.
I know rather well that kind of life
We ran into a pothole and he had to swerve quickly to avoid falling
into another, much bigger one “Sorry,” he said, casting a quick glance at me “Do you know I was once like those girls” he asked. But he was not asking a question.
He had told me several times how growing up was difficult for him.
His mother was a petty trader He and his elder sister, the one I called Big Mummy, had to hawk some of their mother’s wares after school. Sometimes, it was the only way the next meal could be guaranteed.
But it was in spite of that experience that I got to where I am today.
Thanks to education. I believe if those girls are able to get good education.
They too can climb out of poverty and even become important people in the future.
We got to a junction, he made to turn right, and then he changed his
mind and turned left.
The car behind us blared its home in protest and daddy raised one hand in apology.
It was a pointless gesture though because the rear window of our car was tinted.
For you…” he continued. “You are of a different background. Your
story is different. But don’t ever take what you have for granted.
Ordinarily, we should expect that you would end up better than those girls at the traffic light. But you know what, darling? It does not follow.
You also have to work hard, if not harder, because it is easier to climb up on an empty stomach than a full one. You know what that means?”
“Yes, I do,” I answered.
“Sometimes, hunger is what you need to drive you ahead in life. I don’t mean food hunger alone; I mean that deep desire to improve your condition in life and be a better person.
That type of hunger was what most of us, children of poor parents, had. Unfortunately, after we have achieved success, we are not always able to pass the same hunger to our own children.
As we approached Aunty Gigis, a popular fast food place, he asked if I would like something to eat or drink. I said I wouldn’t mind. We stopped and got ice cream and orange drink.
We returned to the car and continued to drive around. By then, the traffic had begun to build up slightly. It was approaching noon, and I could see many elegantly dressed people, some of them tightly packed in different cars, the number plates said, About to Wed It made you wonder if all the people in those cars were the ones going to marry themselves.
But then you would see another car with ribbons and balloons flying around on the roof and you know that was the one carrying the bride and the groom.
I greatly enjoyed seeing all these, the hustles and the bustles Daddy
and I went on to discuss a lot of other things. When we returned home shortly before one o’clock, Mum still hadn’t come back. At the time, I didn’t think any of the things we talked about meant anything more than random conversations.
But here he was in this letter, telling me that the casual drive on that Saturday morning was deliberately arranged by him
just so that we could have some of those very discussions I thought were random.
“Can you imagine!” I blurted out to myself as I sank further into the
bed. I propped my head up with a pillow and settled to read more
“A few days before the day we went for that drive, your mother
informed me that you had seen your menstrual period for the first time.
I was not sure how a father was supposed to receive that kind of news. I was a bit anxious as I wondered what responsibility this new phase of your life imposed on me. I knew I had to have a conversation with you sooner or later, but I was not sure how to approach it or even what to talk about.
After trying several approaches in my mind, I decided that the best
way to go about it was to make the conversation as informal as possible.
If was able to make it look unplanned, there was a good chance that you would be relaxed and be in a proper frame of mind to understand what I was really going to say.
Even then, I did not know how to start the conversation until we got to the ice cream place. That was my opportunity.”
I remembered everything now. When we stopped at Aunty Gigis, I had ordered a combination of vanilla and chocolate ice cream.
He ordered fresh orange juice.
As we walked back to the car, he asked me, “Do you know that sugar affects some women during their menstruation?”
I had paused for a second, wondering what that was about. “No, I
don’t,” I answered in-between mouthfuls of ice-cream.
“Well,” he began,” what do you know about menstruation?”
“Mummy and our hostel mistress have taught me how to menstruate, ”
I answered, even though I did not feel that was something I wanted to talk about. I was even taken aback when he looked at me and burst into laughter.
“Why, what’s… funny?”
“No, nothing,” he answered as he tried to calm down. “I am sorry, It’s
just that, no one needs to be taught how to menstruate,” he said. “Mummy and the hostel mistress must have taught you how to take care of yourself
when you see your period.”
I recalled feeling a slight embarrassment after that. Now, he wrote in his letter that the ice cream actually provided him the opportunity he needed to start the conversation he had planned all along.
“The ice cream helped me to break the ice,” he wrote.
I recalled that most of the conversation centered largely on issues around sex and things like that. He said menstruation was normal and natural and it was nothing to be embarrassed about or ashamed of He said it was my body’s way of telling me that I was biologically ready to be a
I remembered asking him if what my friend told me was true.
“What is that?”
She said her mother told her when she started her period that if a boy
touched her, she would get pregnant.”
“Your belt,” he said, pointing at my seatbelt as he fastened his own and started the car. “Her mother told her that?”
“She told me that her mother warned her to stop playing with boys because if they touched her, she would get pregnant.”
“Well, I think I understand what the mother was trying to say, but that
may not be exactly correct,” he explained. You don’t have to stop playing with boys just because you have started menstruating.
Also, no one gets pregnant from a handshake,” he said and laughed at his own attempt at a joke.
I didn’t find it funny though.
“I know, Daddy. I am not stupid.”
“What do you know?”
“Daddy, I have heard ‘sex’ before, “I said and rolled my eyes at him.
“What? You have had what…?”
“Come on, Daddy. I mean heard, as in beaaaard,” I said, pulling at my ear.
We burst into laughter and he held his chest, saying he almost had a
“But.. tell me, how did you know about…sex?” he asked.
“Of course, everywhere. On TV, from some of my classmates…it is also in some books, magazines.. whatever.
“Well, like Cosmopolitan,” I answered as I bent to pick up the plastic
bag to dispose of an empty ice cream cup.
“And where did you get that… Cosmopolitan?”
“I found some copies in my Auntie Molara’s room after she left for
school,” I said. I regretted this immediately. Maybe I shouldn’t have said it.
I didn’t want to put anybody in trouble. Auntie Molara was my mother’s younger sister.
She was at university, but she stayed with us during the
holidays. I liked her a lot and always looked forward to having her around.
“But you know some of these things are meant for adults only and you should not really be reading them,” he said in a low and sober voice. “I will have to talk to your mother about that.”
“I am sorry, Daddy. I will not read that kind of stuff again.”
He did not say anything. He still looked upset.
“Ha-Ha, Mr. Bello, I said I am sorry,” I tried to put an arm around his
“You better don’t get us killed,” he said and smiled as he tried to keep
his eyes on the road.
He seemed to like it when I called him Mr. Bello. I called him that
whenever I wanted to get him to do something.
Mummy sometimes even
got jealous that I was able to succeed with him where she had failed to get him to do some things.
“Daddy, I hope you’re not angry with Auntie Molara? It was not her
fault. She didn’t even know I took the magazine.”
He shook his head and said he was not angry with my aunty. He would only tell her to be mindful of what she left lying around.
“Sex is everywhere these days, sad to say,” he lamented. “All over the place. Even commercials and advertisements do not appear complete nowadays without the trash heard that even some children’s cartoons now contain references to sex. Or even these things that you call Hannah Montana, High School Musical or whatever…”
“Hannah Montana? That’s like, a zillion years ago. Besides, watches TV anymore these days,
What do you mean, nobody watches TV anymore?” He asked,looking genuinely curious.
“You can download and watch everything on Netflix…”
“What is Netflix?”
“You don’t know Netflix?”I was surprised.
“No. Never heard of it,” he said.
“Daddy, how would you not know Netflix? They stream videos online.
They were the ones who did House of Cards.”
“What? You have watched that?”He sounded genuinely horrified.
“Hmm, kind of,”I answered cautiously.
“What do you mean ‘kind of?”
“Daddy, I know what you are worried about. But I don’t watch those things. Whenever I see that it is getting like that, I just fast forward.”
He looked frustrated and worried at the same time. This is on the
computer in the study? Or, do you have access to another one that I am not aware of?”
“No. It is just that,” I answered, wondering if I had not put myself in another trouble.
“You see, Aliya, your mind is like a beautiful room. You have to be
careful about what you let in. And I am not just talking about sex. All sorts of vulgarity bad language, violence, they are all as bad Watching those things
is like dragging filth into your beautiful room. You have to avoid them.
I mean, your mother and I also have a duty to guide you, but we cannot be monitoring you all the time.”
He did not sound as upset as I feared. I hated to make him angry for any reason.
I also liked the example he gave about a beautiful room and
dirty things. He reached for his bottle of orange from the cup holder and gulped down what was left of it.
Then he switched on the car radio as if to signal the end of the discussion. He fumbled with the dial for a while.
Then he switched it off again.
“I also want you to be careful what kind of company you keep in
school,” he continued. “Some of these classmates that you said were talking about sex, who knows? It’s quite possible they have started doing bad things with boys. Don’t emulate them, don’t be like them.
They may try to pressure you to join them. You should not do something simply because other people are doing it. The majority can be wrong.
They may even call you a ‘bush girl if you refuse to follow their way. But as I have always told you, pressure from friends is never a good reason to do anything.
You also don’t need anybody to approve of you or the kind of
person that you are. You should never be afraid to stand alone as long as you stand for the right thing.”
He reached for the radio switch again. Music Streamed out this time, and he quickly turned down the volume. The mood in the car had changed since the issue of the magazines and television came up.
I knew he was not really angry with me.
It was possible that he was even angry with himself
He always wished he had more time to spend with me, especially before I went into the boarding school.
“And one more thing,” he said. “Please don’t allow anybody, and I
mean anybody, to touch you in your private parts.”
“And I believe you know what those are?”
“Yes, I do.”
After that, we barely spoke until we got home. That was four years ago.
He had always tried to teach me things. Sometimes, my mother would even complain that I was too young for some of the things he wanted me to learn about.
The letter he wrote to me for my 16 birthday was like a
recap of everything he had taught me since I was old enough to
understand what he was saying. It was like a textbook on life.
I recalled the story of the prophet, Lukman, who was sent by God to teach his own son.
Maybe he was my prophet.
Despite the coming Chemistry examination, I read the letter twice. I didn’t realize I was crying until I saw teardrops on the paper in front of me.
I dabbed at it gently, careful not to blot the ink. At that moment, I felt
nothing but pure love for my father. I was very happy with the camera, but this letter was the greatest birthday gift I had ever received.
I was determined to keep it safe, and if possible, show it to my own children one day.
Even after two readings, I still did not fully understand everything he
was trying to say to me. If anything, the letter had actually raised a lot more questions in my mind. I resolved that after my examination, I would read the letter again and underline those parts that I wanted him to explain further.
For now, I had to face Chemistry.
To be continued