She lifted her upper body up off the bed first, swivelled and dropped her feet to the ground. She scrambled around with her toes until she found the bathroom slippers where she had tucked it away. Slipping her feet into them, she picked her wrapper from the bedside stool where she had carefully folded it and wrapped it securely around her body.
She looked back at the bed where “Johnny” was still lying replete. Like a Boa Constrictor, he was sprawled out on her bed, his chest rising and falling and a stupid grin spreading all over his face.
She had begun to call them all “Johnny”, it made no sense listening to the small talk they attempted to make during the long walk from the road, to the one room she occupied in the “face me I face you” compound. Her mind was always on one thing, always after one thing. As she walked languidly, a pace ahead of the Johnny, she would be mentally nilling off her bills against the agreed fee and calculating to see how many more she could accommodate before she could relax for the month.
Monthly rent – 5,000
Food. – 20,000
Utilities. – 3,000
Bus fare. – 1,000
Condoms. – 1,000
Clothing – 10,000
Cosmetics. – 1,500
Treats. – 3,000
Sometimes, her bills threatened to overwhelm her, especially since she also had to save and send some money down to support her parents. That item on her budget alongside her projections for condoms always made her laugh out loud!
Her parents accepted her money thinking she was working as a “secretary” in a law firm in Abuja.
When her clients rejected the proferred condoms, she never argued with them. It was their choice to choose to play Russian Roulette with their health and lives. She knew she was as protected as she could ever hope to be….
E go better jare! No condition is permanent. If e no kill you, e happen make you learn lesson from am!
Johnny rolled over, got off the bed and walked up to her, attempting to enfold her in a hug but she stepped back and held out her hand. She had met her own part of the deal, his turn now….
He fumbled around and came up with his trousers, extricated his boxers from them and struggled into it. Putting on and zipping up the trouser, he fished deep into the back pocket, brought out his wallet and began to count out the shiny N200 notes. Silently, she counted along. Ten shiny pieces. N2,000. The market value for an hour with her.
Bus fare and condoms covered for the month.
As he stretched out the money and she reached out her hand to take it, he snapped the money back…
“Angela, why you dey do me like dis na? I don beg you make you leave dis piopio work wey you dey do. I love you, I wan marry you.
“I love you wen una dey use collect jara for ashi hand ba?”
She hissed at him and snatched the money out of his hands
“Love ko? Love ni! Na today we don dey hear love matter? Abeg leave matter for Mathias joor!”
Wetting her thumb on her tongue, she quickly counted through the money. Complete! She stood, arms folded across her breasts, feet tapping out time on the floor while she waited…
Complete! She stood, arms folded across her breasts, feet tapping out time on the floor while she waited…
She stood, arms folded across her breasts, feet tapping out time on the floor while she waited…
… and waited.
He stood, arms held out by his side, cutting a pitiable sight in his trousers, boxers showing just slightly above the waistline of his trousers. He was a clean-shaven boy, with a small diamante studded earring in his right earlobe. His sideburns had been carefully carved and his mohawk of tight black curls stood out sharply against his extremely light complexioned skin. He was a fine boy. It was a bit ironical that he was here, pleading for some love out of her, a mere prostitute, he who could have any woman he wanted at the snap of a finger, he was THAT much of a hunk but…. they had history.
Her insistence on calling him Johnny always brought tears to his eyes…
His insistence on returning to her shanty regularly always brought tears to hers…
She recalled vividly the day she had made the mistake of sitting on the bed while waiting for him to dress and leave. Next thing she knew, he was on her, kissing her the way she had never allowed any of her other clients to. He had fondled her breasts and to her greatest surprise, she had found herself begin to respond to him. From struggling to push him off her, she had slowly begun to thaw until she suddenly found all her resistance melting away from her, like wax from a candle placed too close to the fire.
That day, she had mentally stopped counting down the minutes in her head and he had opened her up to a new world of possibilities. He had refused to allow her use any of her well practised tricks on him and each time she had attempted to, he had gently pushed her back and continued to tease and thrill her. It was way beyond her wildest imaginations. She felt so vulnerable, like a little child once again.
The best words to describe what she felt would have been a little girl, running around in the rain, naked save for a pair of panties….
She had woken up with a start the next morning to the unfamiliar feeling of being cuddled. The strange familiarity of a heart thudding close to hers at first soothing, then with a start, she recollected herself and pulled herself out of his grasp. As she jerked up, he had sat up and reached out for her..
“Johnny, abeg come wear cloth make you dey go. Ah don tell you say ah nor dey do TDB.”
“Nor “baby” me joor, abeg abeg. Na who wan pay for all this time wey you dey here now ehn? You wan take style collect osho free?”
“Please dear”, he scrambled around on the floor, retrieved his trousers and pulled out a wad of crisp N200 notes which he dropped on the bed by her side, “I will pay baby. Please come back here and let us talk!”
“Ah nor wan talk joor. Come dey go, you no know say time na money? Abeg, Johnny, come dey go make I arrange my life joor!”
He turned his back to shield the tears that suddenly sprang to his eyes and missed seeing the sudden flash of despair that flew across hers.
He had left that day and she had collapsed on the bed in tears.
Tears for dashed hopes and failed dreams…
Tears for stolen innocence…
Tears for tarnished virtues
Tears for shattered hopes and misplaced trust…
Some situations could never be remedied, but she was determined to make the best out of it. For herself and her son…
Watching her tapping her foot to an unknown rhythm, he felt emotions overwhelm him and reached out slowly for his undershirt and then slipped on his Polo Teeshirt, the straightness of the mallet held aloft by the horseback rider on the teeshirt an attestation to the fact that this was the real deal.
He could not for the life of him fathom what had led Angela down this path and it had come as a shock to him the first day he saw her plying her trade.
Driving past the girl leaning against the lamp post, he shook his head wryly and then almost ran into the car in front of him as his heart took a nosedive, straight into his rectum. He knew that face, as distinctive as the nose on his face. He recalled seeing that face on campus, an eager jambite being led from office door to office door by her parents, he a wizened 200 level student of the same department had chuckled to himself while he observed their slow progress. He had walked up to them and offered help which she had shyly declined initially, but suddenly set adrift by her parents who had to rush back out of town to attend to other engagements, she had as shyly, walked up to him and requested to know if the offer for help was still open.
Roaring with laughter, he had taken her firmly by the hand and proceeded to sort out accommodation, registration, faculty dues, etc in record time. From then, they had been almost inseparable.
Even though he always felt his heart stirring within him, somehow, he was reluctant to sully the innocence that radiated from her with the actualisation of the thoughts running around in his own head and so he had hovered around her like an overprotective elder brother while indulging on frequent short bursts of amorous relationships all over campus.
He knew his presence scared off all the campus lover boys flocking around her like bees around a honey pot. No one could precisely define the relationship between them but no one was willing to risk his ire and attempt a proper toasting. He could also see her gratitude for his “protection” as she always showed up bearing some cooked offering or the other. In addition to her sterling qualities and brilliant mind, she was a good cook.
He had it all mapped out, He would propose as soon as he graduated. That would ensure that during his one year of NYSC, she would be focused and secure in the knowledge that he was still there for her. Then immediately after his service year, when she would be graduating, they would hold the introduction and traditional marriage. The wedding proper would hold just before she was due to depart for her service year to ensure she would be posted back to his state. The future was well planned out, in his head at least. He had no fears of financial security, as the only child of two fiercely competitive business moguls, he had informed his parents that he would consolidate the businesses and run them as one as soon as he finished his NYSC.
As always happened to the best-laid plans of mice and men, his parents had proposed a three-month stint in the UK, US, Dubai and South Africa to gather research materials for his final year project. As an International Studies student, they felt the experience garnered from the trip would help flesh out his discussion and place it a world above others.
Angela’s face crumpled when he told her.
“But Somtee, how am I ever going to cope without you?”
“Don’t worry Angel, you will get by. I will make adequate arrangements to ensure you are well taken care of in my absence.”
“But me no buts!” He growled in the tones of Professor Amanyi, their Head of Department, and she collapsed in laughter.
Tipping her chin up with his hands, he looked deep into her eyes. “Listen my dear, wish me well okay? When I return, I will have a pleasant surprise waiting for you but you must assure me you will continue to do extremely well in your studies. Make me proud of you.”
She nodded and he reached down and achingly, brushed his lips against hers. It took all his will power not to ravish her there and then, but the package was meant for him. Why pick at the wrappings?
When she came to see him off the next day, he plucked his gold crucifix off the chain on his neck, slipped off the chain on her neck and fixed the crucifix on it before placing it back on her neck. Turning her hand over in his palm, he slipped off the tiny gold ring she wore on her engagement finger and affixed it to his own chain before placing it back around his neck.
He smiled to himself. Simple gesture but now, he had the right measurement for the perfect engagement ring.
Simple gesture but now, he had the right measurement for the perfect engagement ring.
He handed her over to his best friend and room mate Ikechukwu, once again brushed his lips against hers, and got into the back seat of the car that would take him off on his adventure.
That was the last day he would ever set eyes on her.
Upon his return back to campus, Aikay could not give a reasonable account of her disappearance
“My guy, e be like say them say the girl papa want make she marry, me I no know.”
“But I for marry her now”, he brought out the platinum engagement ring with inset diamonds and showed it to his friend
“You know say women get light brain na. You see na, she no know that one na.”
Something about Aikay’s responses, something about the cavalier attitude did not quite ring true with him but he ignored the misgivings, resolving to travel down to her parents’ house in search of her after his project defence.
She was such a brilliant girl and it seemed unlikely that she would abandon her studies in her final year and vanish into thin air. Her parents were quite comfortable and so the idea of an economic marriage did not quite sound right to him. Her phone lines were not going through and when he finally found the time to visit her home, was repelled by the sudden icy reception he received.
Three years on, he still wore the ring on the same gold necklace around his neck. He had had several relationships, but had sadly broken off each one in the nick of time. There was always a missing x-factor. Somehow, his heart refused to give up on his Angel.
What then were the odds that having consolidated his parents’ business as threatened, leaving them to oversee the administrative arms of each entity in Imo and moving off to the Nation’s capital city to set up and run the headquarters, that he would run into Angel leaning against a street lamp?
What were the odds that taking a short cut to avoid traffic and nipping down a back lane, he would feel his heart suddenly leap out of his chest and gallop six years back down memory lane?
He reversed the car to where she stood and as she leant in through the window, he saw first recognition, then shock and finally disbelief chase themselves across her face.
“Johnny, short time or TDB?”
When he left the room, shutting the door behind him, Angel slowly unfolded her arms, allowing the tension to leave her body.
It was unfair that fate had to treat her this way. From that day he had kissed her on campus, her heart knew. It had known long before then, but it had not been sure the feeling was mutual. When he brushed his lips against hers, her heart took off on a wild tango. She had resolved to wait and had cherished the crucifix he gave her. She ran her hand around her neck and fished it out, still on the necklace where he had placed it, an unwilling spectator to all the depravities she had indulged in, yet a silent reminder of a love long lost!
He was the last face she had expected to see trolling the streets that day. She had been shocked but had succeeded in masking the emotions fleeting across her face. When he persisted, coming out of his car to grab her arm as if in an attempt to shake some recognition out of her, she had raised an alarm and her “colleagues” had quickly gathered around her, eager to shield her from the violent john. He had immediately let go of her, promising to be back.
It was ironic that she had taken such firm measures to protect herself and her son: she never followed the Johnnys home. It was either back to her shanty or no deal. After being interrupted mid-session by her then two-year-old son who had suddenly woken up needing water, she had always arranged to drop him off with any of her colleagues who was “off work”; she never cased a street alone and never accepted money on the streets; yet the one thing she had failed to protect was what betrayed her the most now – her heart.
She sighed as she cast her minds back to the events that happened after Somtee left her with Aikay
She had sought the privacy to read that she always had in his room and had used her key to open the door. Aikay was lying on his bed reading and she had greeted him, exchanged the usual banters and sat on Somtee’s bed to read. After some hours of reading, she had suddenly begun to miss him and sniffing back tears, was surprised to see Aikay squatting in front of her, offering her a hanky. She took it and blew her nose while he kept “comforting” her by running his hands down her laps, thighs and back. When his hand moved too dangerously close to her breast, she had packed up her books and hurriedly made for the door. He followed and walked her down to her hostel, pleading with her not to misunderstand, that he was just trying to comfort her. She kept nodding and reassuring him there was no problem, but she just needed to get back to her room as quickly as possible.
After some hours of reading, she had suddenly begun to miss him and sniffing back tears, was surprised to see Aikay squatting in front of her, offering her a hanky. She took it and blew her nose while he kept “comforting” her by running his hands down her laps, thighs and back. When his hand moved too dangerously close to her breast, she had packed up her books and hurriedly made for the door. He followed and walked her down to her hostel, pleading with her not to misunderstand, that he was just trying to comfort her. She kept nodding and reassuring him there was no problem, but she just needed to get back to her room as quickly as possible.
He followed and walked her down to her hostel, pleading with her not to misunderstand, that he was just trying to comfort her. She kept nodding and reassuring him there was no problem, but she just needed to get back to her room as quickly as possible.
Since then, she carefully avoided him. Sneaking into the room when she needed to read only when she was sure he would be out of the room. Sometimes, the room would be untidy and she would quickly straighten it up before settling down to read. At other times, hungry herself, she would make a quick meal, leaving a sizable portion for him. She would ignore any obvious gifts left lying around for her and since she had a good idea of their lecture schedules, would leave well before he was due back from lectures.
That fateful day, knowing he had a three-hour lecture, she had let herself in early in the morning and sat on the bed to read. She must have dozed off because it was the pressure on her wrists and ankles that woke her up…
Aikay and four of his classmates, one anchored on each of her wrists and ankles, her skirt pushed up above her waist
As she attempted to struggle, Aikay pulled out a sharp and dangerous looking knife and placed the point against her throat
Immediately, the struggle drained out of her, the scream dried up in her throat.
Cussing, he tore open her shirt,
“Harlot. You think I am my friend that you deceive with your innocenti look. Today na today. We go teach you a bitter lesson. Harlot. You go dey tempt man pikin anyhow. Idiot”
He tore off her panties and went to enter her, felt the resistance and deflated. As he looked up in confusion and met her eyes, he saw the proud determined look in her eyes. They would take her body but not her pride, she would not scream or shout for mercy. She would not close her eyes or blank out the incident. As they raped her body, she wanted them to look into her soul and see an uncowed being.
The anger rose again in Aikay and he forced his way into her. Spent, he moved aside and took one of her ankles. Again, she kept her eyes open, not a single whimper escaped her. Their sounds and raucous laughter died down as each took their turn defiling her. For each, she coldly stared into their souls and they each went through the motions, because they had to validate themselves to their cronies. As each stood up from her, they could neither meet her eyes nor the eyes of their cohorts.
Since Aikay never mentioned the fact that that rape also doubled as her deflowering, none of them could guess the impact the brutal assault had left on that innocent soul. How in one second, she had metamorphosed from the innocent naive Angel to the hardened fighter they left behind.
She had gone back to her room, packed up her belongings and left the campus same day.
No explanations given to anyone.
She had told her parents she had finished with course work and they believed her until the vomiting spells started. At her mum’s insistence, she went to the hospital where after a series of tests, she was handed two results.
Going home with both results in her hand, she did not know how to approach her parents. She kept putting it off until she began to grow and show
Her angry father had packed her off to the village to stay with her grandmother while she put to bed
Three months after delivery, tired of the taunts, jibes and naggings from her grandmother, she had simply picked up her bag and her baby one day and walked out of the compound. There was no clear destination in her mind until she got to the motor park. At the park, she boarded the nearest bus headed to Abuja and after two nights of sleeping rough on the streets, bumped into a kind hearted lady of the streets who permitted her sleep in her room when she did not have an overnight john, or in the compound when she did. Making the decision to join the trade was easy for her. She simply reached towards that same resolve that helped her face her ordeal unflinchingly, and made the decision to join in her benefactor’s profession in order to secure some form of sustenance for herself and her son.
At the park, she boarded the nearest bus headed to Abuja and after two nights of sleeping rough on the streets, bumped into a kind hearted lady of the streets who permitted her sleep in her room when she did not have an overnight john, or in the compound when she did. Making the decision to join the trade was easy for her. She simply reached towards that same resolve that helped her face her ordeal unflinchingly, and made the decision to join in her benefactor’s profession in order to secure some form of sustenance for herself and her son.
Making the decision to join the trade was easy for her. She simply reached towards that same resolve that helped her face her ordeal unflinchingly, and made the decision to join in her benefactor’s profession in order to secure some form of sustenance for herself and her son.
She walked across the compound and knocked on her friend’s door, the door opened to admit her and she walked in to pick up her sleeping son.
Back in her room, she kicked the door shut and walked across to lay him on the bed. Straightening up, she was almost at the door when it burst wide open. Somtee stood there, framed against the door post, breathing like he had just survived a fall off a very high cliff.
“Angel, it has been almost one year of these games since I found you. I am at breaking point now. If you do not talk to me today, I cannot guarantee you that I will live to see tomorrow”
He saw the flicker of fear pass across her face and moved away from the door to grasp her by the arms.
“My Love, we end this today. Up till now, i have played by your rules. You have agreed to see me only as a paying client and I have obliged. Coming every day, sometimes paying for more than one hour just to be in your company and keep you off the streets. I apologise for the times I have allowed my body get the better of me and taken advantage of you, but I swear, I cannot hold back from you a minute more. You had such a bright promising future, a family that doted on you and a man that loved you. Yes, you knew I loved you, still do, I can see my crucifix still hanging around your neck. How could you have left all that for this….”
As he spoke, his hand swept around the room, his eye followed suit, fell on the sleeping form on the bed and his mouth fell open, staring.
Angela slowly walked to the door, locked it and walked back to Somtee. She took him by the hand and led him to the bed. As he slumped into it, she pulled out the small stool, placed it by his feet and sat sideways with her profile to him. As usual, since the day of the rape, she reached within her and found the strength to confront the task ahead of her.
As she began to narrate her story, her brash street attitude dropped and once again, he could see the naive little baby he had had the privilege of knowing way back when.
Her voice, that voice that always melted him back in the days, softly whispering what needed to be said.
All her anguish and inner turmoil poured out, her self-hatred for being naive enough to keep going back to the room after that first clumsy attempt by Aikay…. but she missed Somtee so much and somehow being in his room was her comfort zone, like a well known and loved blanket wrapped around her.
Her regret for not screaming out and taking a chance that Aikay would have killed her and gotten it over with (he flinched at that one but thanked God for the inner strength that made her go through the ordeal and survive it – His Survivor).
The beatings, neglect, taunts and naggings – first at the hands of her parents who felt she had let them down and set a bad example for her younger ones; then at the hand of her grandmother who took out the shame of caring for a great grandchild without having first taken wine on behalf of her grandchild, on her.
She spoke softly, sometimes he strained to hear her. He turned once or twice to look at the sleeping child whenever she made reference to him and surprisingly, all he could feel in his heart towards the boy was love. Pure undiluted, swelling love. He even caught himself thanking God no one would have the guts to step up and fight his claim to this child.
Yet, he felt something had been left unsaid.
As he pulled her up and moulded her into his body, she came willingly this time, she had reverted to the sweet Angel he used to know. There was no fighting, no holding back, no reserves and yet.
She pulled back and looked beyond him to her son sleeping on the bed. Her mind went back to the day she picked the results from the hospital. What one report had predicted lay, thumb in mouth, softly snoring on the bed. She walked over to the box on the cupboard, pulled it down and pulled out an envelope. As she walked back to him, she heard the doctor’s words playing back, over and over in her mind.
Low CD4 count
High Viral Load
… She held out the piece of paper to him, the second test results, the contents of which she had never breathed to any other soul dead or alive. As he took it, she took a step back, bowed down her head, and waited.