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ÀPĀ—The Scar (1)

'Hmmm. What a beautiful story of love, lost hope, and restoration.' (Said Dr. Luke Daton as he scrolled through his phone.) 

He wondered if reading out this story to the rape victims at the next group therapy session he was having would do them any good?  Most of the patients were between the ages of twenty-one and thirty years—young ladies and young married women who were battling with depression and anxiety as a result of their hurtful pasts. Dr. Daton believed in healing beyond medical aid; he thought that listening to the healing journey of others could do other victims a lot of good. 

9 a.m., at City Life Clinic
Hello ladies, 
Hope you had a pleasant week. Yay! It's Saturday, and I'm excited to welcome every one of you to today's session. As you all know, I wouldn't say I like to stick to routines, so today, I want to share a beautiful story of love, loss, and restoration with you. The truth is that we have all lost something at one point or the other. That was the same for Ajoke. 

'Hmmm...' (Dr. Luke gazed thoughtfully and began telling the story). 

Ajoke Josephine Alison, the daughter of Orelope Justine Alison and Deji Adio Alison, was an African American, born unto a half-caste mother, Orelope Justine Alison (mother: Nigerian, father: American), and a Nigerian father, Deji Adio Alison who was a member of the American Corps. Through dedication, hard work, and his exceptional performance in the AmeriCorps, Deji was promoted several times and then won the heart of Orelope's father, an American who had married a Nigerian woman himself.

Mr Fidge Johnson, a top leader in AmeriCorps, opened his doors to Deji. He visited them frequently because his eyes had caught a glimpse of Mr. Fidge's daughter, Orelope Justine Johnson when he first visited and saw her return home from college. 

'Sharp guy... !'  (Said the narrator) 

Deji's heart went considerably after Orelope; he hadn't had time for love since he started his service in AmeriCorps but could not resist the young lady's beauty. Beyond her charm, Orelope Justine was also knowledgeable, hospitable, and quite traditional, like her mother. Even though she was white, she preferred to go by her African name as a form of respect for her mother and her tribe.

Not long before Mr Fidge noticed Deji's affection towards his daughter, he had no problem with this since his wife was also a Nigerian, and she seemed to like Deji a lot. Hence, he spoke to Deji, enquired about his feelings for his daughter, and said he had no problems with this as long as Orelope Justine also felt the same. So, he permitted Deji to speak to his daughter about his feelings and intentions for her. Meanwhile, Orelope Justine had also secretly developed some affection for Deji; she desired to settle down with a good and kind-hearted African like her mother if she ever found one. God had brought Deji, a kind-hearted, diligent, and handsome man, her way—she couldn't have asked for a better man than Deji. 

'Whoosh... Butterflies!' (Said, the narrator and laughed). 

The alliance was fixed, and the wedding took place. A few months later, Deji and Orelope welcomed their first child, Ajoke Josephine Alison, a lovely baby girl who portrayed the features of both her mother and father—hers was a case of a well-blended African and American beauty who grew to become chocolate in complexion like her father, slender with a pointy nose like her mother—tall and with the most elegant gait for a sixteen-year-old. While Ajoke's mother had straight hair, Ajoke had kinky hair like her maternal grandmother, Mrs Fisayo Johnson, Mr Fidge's wife. 

Everyone loved Ajoke; she was not only the apple of the eye of the Alisons and the Johnsons but also that of her friends and all who came across her. Time flew so fast, and so did Ajoke. Josephine continued to grow with an ever-radiating beauty often compared to a blossoming flower in its morning glory. She had now turned eighteen and was preparing for her high school graduation. 
It was the promenade night, in the spring season, Josephine was decked from head to toe with the prettiest gown, tiara and shoes that her mum could parents could get. She was so excited to attend her first dinner alone without her parents' guarding eyes. 

'This reminds me of my days in high school. Oh, I had eyes of a crush and asked her to prom dinner. She didn't quite like me, so it was just one dance, and I never saw her again.' (Said the narrator. Chuckled softly).

The students were also excited to loosen up and mingle since it was the only opportunity to party freely before proceeding to different colleges. High school lovers among the seniors and juniors were excited to get the freedom to dance and drink away from their teachers' and parents' prying eyes. 

'Yeah... Freedom is always on the mind of every high schooler!' (Retorted the narrator and smiled) 

Not so with Ajoke, who stayed far away from anything different from eatables, fruit juice, and water; she knew the aftermath of consuming alcohol would be dangerous as she was alone with her friends. Hence, she had only what was safe and stayed within the circle of her best friends. As soon as the prom ended, she left the hall and drove home. 

Ajoke was driving in the new car her dad bought as a gift on her eighteenth birthday a few weeks ago. She had only driven a few meters from the school when she heard someone blaring the horn repeatedly behind her as if he would knock her off the road if she didn't stop. She looked in her side mirror and saw some of her friends that she had left behind at the prom. Curious to know what was happening, she parked her car by the roadside and waited to hear what they had to say, making them come after her that fast.

'Hmm!  I smell trouble.' (Said the narrator)Charles, Dickson, Damien, and Kiara exited their car and ran briskly to Ajoke's car.' Ajoke, we can't believe you left so early! Ain't you aware of the after party tonight at 8 p.m till dusk?' (Kiara said). 

'Oh, no...I really cannot wait. My parents expect me exactly at 8 p.m., and it's almost time. The latest I have stayed out was at 7 p.m., but this was permitted because the prom was a dinner. I must return home now to my parents. I'm sorry.' (Ajoke said). 

No... Josephine... Don't be a coward! You're preparing for college; now is the time to mingle and loosen up. You cannot be attached to your parents forever. Come on!  Okay,  I promise you'll be home before 10 p.m., and we will drive with you back safely.' (Charles said). 

Deal?' (Damien asked Ajoke). 

'Mmmm, okay, deal, but I will call my parents to inform them.' (Ajoke said). 

'No... Why bother? It's your day,  girl. They will let you off... ' (Dickson said convincingly). 

'Alright, alright, Let's go.' (Ajoke said). 

The after-party was held somewhere in one of the mansions of their classmates, whose parents were hardly at home. Almost all the students had left, and only a few came to the after-party. She wondered if the decision she made to go to the party was right at all.

'Umph...' (The narrator sighed)

The music was now loud and almost noisy, and she could perceive the smell of alcohol on some students. 

Kiara came and brought her something in a glass; it didn't look like the regular fruit juice. She asked Kiara what it was, and she said it was just some mixed drink that would make her feel more relaxed and free. She was skeptical about receiving the glass but didn't want to disappoint her friends. So, she took the glass and drank. 

'Hmm, it tastes nice!' (Ajoke said) 

'I told ya!' (Kiara said) 

It was half past nine, and the party had gotten more intense and heated, with girls dancing nonchalantly and the guys hooing at the girls. 

Ajoke had taken six glasses of the mixed drink and was now up jumping and dancing nonchalantly like the other girls. Damien drew her close for a dance and began to touch her inappropriately, but she pushed him and said 'no' in her almost drunk state. This time, Damien drew her so closely to himself again, making her so uncomfortable and disgusted, which made her raise her hands and give him a slap across his face. This made Damien angry and more determined to get Ajoke at all costs. He knew he could have anything he wanted once he decided to do so,  and Ajoke was no different. 

Damien waited around and allowed more people to leave the party. He had his eyes fixed on Ajoke and waited for an opportunity for her to be alone. 
Not so long after, Ajoke went down to one of the restrooms. The restroom was away from the dance hall upstairs and towards the guest room area downstairs. So, she decided to use a guest room in one of the rooms upstairs. 

She held the doorknob and pushed the door back to go in, and then, a hand grabbed her and pushed her in, closing the door behind them. She couldn't see the face because the hand grabbed her from behind. The unknown person placed his hand over her mouth before she could scream and turned off the light switch in the room. He gave her two tight slaps; now, her eyes were clear, and she was more in her senses. She jerked and kicked him, but he pinned her down to the wall. She could feel his strength; now, it was clear that he was masculine. He held her dress aggressively at the neckline of the gown and hurt her most painfully for any girl. He then left her on the floor bruised, molested and raped. 

(All eyes were more fixed on Dr. Luke as he paused and gazed at the patients in the room, who were all looking back at him in shock). For a moment, it felt like the patients had lost their grief and sympathized with Ajoke.

(The narrator continued). 

Orelope Justine Alison was becoming more impatient at home; she paced about and wondered why their daughter was not home. She then told Deji to grab the keys and take her to the school hall. The school gate was locked when they arrived, and no students were seen around. They called the security officer, who told them the prom had ended at 7:30 pm, and all the students had left. However, he said he heard some of the students discussing an after-party that would be held at 8 p.m. in one of the student's homes. 

'No, my daughter cannot be there! We trained her well and she knows better.' (Deji said) 

The after-party was now over, and Kiara was now looking for Ajoke. The rest of them, Dickson and Charles also joined in the search. They wondered where Damian was after, the incident that took place between him and Ajoke at the dancing hall earlier,  perhaps he was too embarrassed and must have left without informing them. 

They searched the parking area for Ajoke but did not find her, so they went back inside the house and checked the room. 

'She must have gone to sleep somewhere after taking so many glasses of that stuff.' (Charles said, and they all laughed.) 

They decided to split up and check each of the rooms upstairs. On getting into one of the rooms upstairs, Kiara screamed, seeing the state that Ajoke was lying unconscious on the floor. She took off her shawl and covered up her friend. Dickson and Charles ran in immediately after they heard her scream. 

The two guys stood regretfully in shock,  thinking that they were the ones who made Ajoke attend the after-party. They were so scared and confused about what to do. Kiara shouted at them and told them to carry Ajoke to the car, so she could get fast medical attention. 

They got her to the nearest hospital they could find and told the nurses who rushed out to them that their friend had been attacked and was unconscious. 

A doctor rushed to examine her, and he found out that she had been molested due to the bruises on her body and her torn gown. They later found out that it was a rape case. A case was filed and the students were told to give their statements. They also called Mr. and Mrs Alison, who were still standing outside the school and waiting for information about their daughter. The Alisons arrived at the hospital and were devastated by the news of their daughter. Both parents wept bitterly. 

It was almost noon after the night of the incident, and Ajoke had just opened her eyes for the first time after being unconscious for over twelve hours. Ajoke held her head as she had flashes of the last incident with the faceless guy. She remembered pulling at the pendent of the chain the guy was wearing, a round pendent with stones. She wept as she recollected how he tore her dress and defiled her. She wept even louder and screamed jerking on the bed. A nurse rushed to her and told her parents to stay outside while they attended to her. She was given a sedative injection, and she soon fell asleep. 

From the statements given by Ajoke's friends, the main suspect was Damien; seeing that he had left the party without informing the rest of his friends. The officer leading the case then said they needed to wait to get Ajoke's statement.

It was evening, and Ajoke—when she was conscious again told them everything she could remember. She mentioned pulling at the faceless guy's rounded pendant in her statement. Charles immediately remembered that he had admired Damien's new golden chain earlier at the party and that the chain had a round pendant. This was enough proof that the culprit was Damien, especially since he had initially harassed Ajoke on the dance floor at the after-party. Ajoke wept when she heard that the main suspect was Damien. She regretted ever parking her car to listen to what her friend had to say when they chased after her car. 

'Umph' (One of the patients listening to Dr Luke sniffs and wipes her face with a handkerchief). 

It was moments of silence and grief at the Alisons' residence. Upon getting the call about their beloved granddaughter, the Johnsons had reached their home. Orelope knew that nothing could ever be the same in their home and their daughter's life again. Their precious flower had been squashed while still blossoming. 

They got the best mental health counsellor to see their daughter. Ajoke had undergone a series of counseling sessions in the last couple of days. Ajoke could not attend the graduation party, so her school diploma certificate was mailed to their residence. 

A year had passed, and the Alisons were considering speaking to Ajoke about resuming college. She had passed all her exams but didn't seem mentally ready for college a year ago due to the unfortunate incident. Her admission had been deferred for one year till she was fit enough to study. 

For Ajoke Josephine, studying Law at Harvard was her dream, but times had changed since the incident; hence, it seemed like a mere routine. She was no longer the free-spirited girl she once was. 

Time flew by, and Ajoke completed her law degree and was practicing in a law firm in New York back home with her parents. Ever since she returned home from Law school, her parents had been expecting that she would give love a chance and, and least let her past wounds heal. When the matter was brought up on the dining table which seemed to be the only time she had to see eye-to-eye with her parents, Ajoke would turn the peaceful discussion into a quarrel—she would say her wounds had healed but they left on her a lasting scar (àpā in the Yoruba language as her grandmother called it). Often, the discussion about her marriage always met a dead end; hence, her parents could only hope that she would someday heal completely and give love a chance. 

Just like Deji's exploits, Ajoke Josephine Alison continued to have great success in her career—winning cases upon cases and soon the envy of other lawyers. 

Life continued for Ajoke with increasing success while also battling with depression and low self-esteem; she constantly tried to overcome her mental instability by overworking herself. She had become addicted to antidepressants and analgesics for her frequent headaches. Even more, her cups of coffee every morning increased. 

Ajoke needed saving, but who would? (Said the narrator rhetorically). 

Like a mental scar on her face, Ajoke could not forget how she was defiled by a callous, faceless guy who happened to be Damien, a demon in disguise who was later charged, arrested, and sent to juvenile jail where he truly belonged. 

'He had no right to intrude on my privacy that way—all I had nurtured and kept as my pride, he took away in one sweep. He made me feel worthless and dirty, can never forget; the stain and shame would never leave me.'  (Ajoke said and wept as she gazed aimlessly at the sky; listening to Oceans by Hillsong). 

'God, can you hear me—I need healing deep inside! Ahhhhh!SMASH!' (Ajoke screamed and threw the glass of vodka she was drinking away). 

(The patients cringed as they heard the SMASH sound of the shattered glass. Everything felt real.)

My mind wonders beautifully as it gazes upon nature and draws inspiration from events around me.