She knew nobody was allowed to touch her there; that secret place where even she felt ashamed to look. But Daddy wasn’t nobody. Huge, hairy Daddy, whose deep voice always surprised her when he spoke; Daddy with his preoccupied air and intimidating collection of professors’ books; Daddy who never seemed to see her.
She was standing before the mirror when Daddy came into her room. Daddy wanted to make sure she was clean inside. It was Daddies’ job to see that their girls were clean. Daddy said this, and she narrowed her eyes, listening—it wasn’t very often Daddy spoke to her. He told her to take off her dress. It was the new yellow one she loved; the one with the white lace that ran along the hems and the neckline; the one she would wear when she turned seven next week.
She hesitated. Daddies should always be obeyed; Aunty Kemjika said so. She took off her dress and laid it carefully on the edge of her bed. She did not want it to get creased. Daddy nodded slowly. She beamed, glad to have his approval. Daddy said very nice, but we have to make sure you are clean… inside. Daddy’s voice had changed. This wasn’t the deep rumble she knew; this voice had a cooing quality to it, like Daddy was whistling. She nodded anyway.
Daddy said get on the bed. She hesitated longer. For a reason she didn’t yet know, she wanted to hold her yellow dress to her chest and run from her room. But Daddy’s eyes held her. She got on her bed and sat, awkward and uncertain. She glanced at the door. Mummy had left this morning for the market, and from there she would be going for the village women’s meeting. She wouldn’t be coming back soon. Daddy said lie face up. She lay down, searching Daddy’s face. His eyes were blank and oily sweat shone on his forehead. Daddy said close your eyes. She closed her eyes and saw Daddy as he was with his professor friends. It was the only time Daddy really talked. Mummy would serve peppersoup with cold beer, and they would drink and laugh and argue with big words. Sometimes they would play loud highlife music and sing along, their voices like thunder. It was the only time Daddy laughed.
Daddy’s hands touched her thighs and her eyes flew open. Daddy said close your eyes, in his real voice. She didn’t like being bad. It was just natural the way her thighs clamped shut when Daddy tried to pull her panties down. Daddy said good girls don’t disobey their Daddies. She obeyed and Daddy took off her panties. Daddy said let’s see if you are clean. He was cooing again. Daddy parted her thighs and she shut her eyes tighter. She heard Daddy breathing. He sounded like her friend, Aisha, when her asthma attacks came. Daddy’s hard fingers pushed and prodded and pinched, and she gritted her teeth because she wanted to tell Daddy to stop. But that would be bad. She couldn’t tell how long it was before Daddy said open your eyes. Daddy said she was clean, but she could tell nobody about their game. It was something Daddy had to do. If she told, something very bad would happen. She stared at the floor as Daddy left, closing the door gently behind him. It was not good, this thing that she and Daddy just did; she didn’t know it, she just felt it. Aunty Kemjika, her class teacher, said Daddies and Mummies were always right. Daddy did something Mummy said nobody was allowed to do. Who then was wrong?
It must have been the yellow dress! She had always though it too pretty to wear. Daddy must have seen something in that dress. She’d never wear it again, not even on her birthday. Then maybe Daddy would never see her again.