Charlie doesn’t propose. He just starts calling Chidimma his wife every time he sees her. Soon everyone is calling her his wife too and she almost starts to believe them. He is a handsome and popular student at the only high school in the village. It is for boys only so Chidimma can’t attend and father can’t afford to send her to a boarding school. The way Charlie looks at her and smiles makes her squirm but he doesn’t pinch her breasts or try to kiss her when no one is looking like the old men in the village.
Charlie has 3 brothers that live in the village. Every day they wait for Chidimma on the way to the stream and accompany her and her sisters the rest of the way and back. Afterwards they come and visit her older brothers who are Charlie’s friends. Chidimma’s brothers send her to buy cigarettes and beer and then make her sit with them. Her brother Anayo a bus conductor tells wild stories of life and people in the towns he has been to. Sometimes Chidimma wishes she could be a bus conductor too.
Sometimes Charlie sits next to Chidimma and holds her hand. One day her father chases him away with a machete. He threatens to kill her brothers too but they all escape through the window. Chidimma doesn’t run and Father beats her. She falls sick and can’t go to the stream or to the market for a very long time. Her mother died when Chidimma was born so there is no one to cook for her and her brothers when she is sick. Father’s new wife doesn’t like them very much and won’t cook for them.
Early one morning Father gets very angry. Someone stole his money. He shouts a lot and threatens to call the police. Chidimma saw Marcel one of her brothers counting money behind the house yesterday. He hid it when he saw her watching him. When no one is home he brings out his penis and makes her sit on it. He says he will tell father she stole the money if she doesn’t. She cries and begs but he doesn’t listen. He doesn’t put it inside her just rubs her bare ass against it till he shudders and she feels a warm wetness.
One day father’s half-sister Ahuekwe comes from Aba and takes Chidimma away with her. Ahuekwe promises Father she will send Chidimma to school and look after her like her own daughter. Aba is a big town with wide roads and electric lights. There are many houses finer than Sunrise Hotel. Ahuekwe rents two rooms and a bucket toilet in a big old building where she lives with her teenage son and daughter and runs a beer parlor. It is lit with red and blue light bulbs like Sunrise Hotel. At night her customers come with beautiful painted women that smell good and wear short dresses and Chidimma serves them beer and pepper soup.