On the day I clocked 15, my dad gave me, as a birthday gift, a blue Moleskine notepad with a set of 12 coloured pens. So inspired was I by the blank spaces, that I wanted to fill it, quickly, with words, sketches and pictures. And the first thing I wrote on it was my personal vision and mission statements. I wanted to be this and that, and everything that gave me joy.
So on that night when the guy in the snazzy ox-blood jacket, picked me up from the pub, my inner GPS immediately alerted me, that I was on a southward drift off my life’s purpose. The suddenness of this thought was so overwhelming that I didn’t quite realize when his car pulled into a compound which looked and smelled like money. It wasn’t the musty, mildew smell of notes or the jangling of coins, it was the smell of class and power.
“My name is Alan,” he swerved the car’s tyres on a snow-coated parking space, and pushed the gear stick to ‘P’.
“So what’s your name?” he smiled a smile of conquest- a smile that means how much of me he can get, and how powerless I was to do anything about it.
“Questa,” I answered, looking away from him to the well landscaped floral arrangement, that appeared so beautiful in the shine of the well-lit yard.
“..beauriful name,” he leaned back his head, leered and smiled a little longer. He looked easy and approachable- like a big brother. A big brother who would want his younger sister to keep herself till marriage, and so could easily understand, if I told him, I wasn’t ready for what he was about to ask me.
“I play for a club based here in Italy. But I will be going to England for training tomorrow.” He turned off the car heater, alighted from it and began leading the way to the entrance of the house. It was about 8pm.
I followed, my steps after him, unsure. The house was a detached duplex covered by climbing plants.
We stopped at the cloakroom. My heart stopped too. Temporarily. Funto, what are you up to? I kept asking myself.
He put off his brown overcoat and hung it on the wooden cloth rack. I hesitated, gritting my teeth from both the cold and anxiety.
“Takiroff,… the heeras on,” he said, gesturing at my winter coat. And that is supposed to mean “take it off the heater is on…”. Hmmh.
“I’m still cold… I’d rather have it on,” I said, lips quivering.
He pushed open the door, and voila, they were all guys, in the sitting room. By some reflex action, I docked behind Alan, so sure he had brought me there for a gang rape experience. Oh my God!
He said nothing but merely gestured at the large couch, while he went on shaking, slapping backs, laughing loudly and falling on the necks of his friends.
I sank tiredly into the sofa, my eyes nervously on these guys of different nationalities, sitting in twos, tittering, probably gossiping and watching the theatre-sized television.
I ran my eyes quietly around the house- everything there so smelt of money- the white exquisite sofas, the paintings, and chandeliers, the flooring, the aura, the occupants- even the fishes in the aquarium had polished fins and scales. I almost couldn’t believe I was a place where Uju, Chelsea and Somto, would have loved to be. The reality of the dreams and strivings of young Africans. A place of abundance and luxury The only thing I wasn’t sure was there was joy and inner fulfilment.
Thirty minutes afterwards the guys were going out. Alan beckoned on me to join them. We all got into the SUV driven by an Italian guy, who had a clean shave and a peevish look. We had dinner at one of Rome’s best restaurants. The obviously star-struck waiters were at their elbows bringing food with nervous hands.
The Italian guy who drove us popped the champagne and all hailed as the froth spilled. They talked with the confidence of one who has the whole world at its disposal. No money problems!
I sat there transfixed at what I was seeing. I couldn’t believe I was in the company of international football stars who earned thousands of pounds per week. International football stars, for whom local fans, bet and quarrel. And for whose cause they become martyrs.
We went back to their apartment and as the night wore on Alan invited me over to his room. My tremour from terror began again.
“What the hell do you think you are doing? You mean after all these you tell me a cock a doodle doo????” He huffed.
“I am sorry….I, I,,,..I I’m really sorry.”
“I will send you to go play your saint Virgin Mary escapade on the streets where I picked you from.” He put on his trousers. His face was incandescent with rage.
He kicked me out that night. I hid myself in the outdoor garden, shivering from the cold winter and watching the sky for the first sign of dawn. I later watched him from behind the flowers, he was pulling out of the yard.
By the break of the day, the Italian with the skin cut, found and tapped me.
“Who are you. What are you doing there?” he said, puffing up smoke from his pipe.
“I have nowhere to go?” I said, my voice tremulous from cold spasms.
He looked at me disparagingly, “You liar! How did you get here?”
I looked at him, surprised, wondering if he didn’t see me the last night. Even if I was so black, he should have noticed, I was a black ‘girl.’ I recognized him. He was the hairless Italian with the peevish look, who drive us to the restaurant
“You don’t belong here. You have to go back to the dunghill from where you were picked,” he said sourly, pointing his finger towards the gate. “Leave now….leave, leave,” he said peevishly.
“Please don’t let me go back. I will do any work here for you: sweeping, cleaning, washing, anything I beg,” my voice was shaky, my eyes glistened with tears as I knelt with my two hands open, looking upwards at this tall, rage-red figure, as though make supplication unto a god.
I had never felt so reduced to nothing, in all my life. Not even the Sahara or the Mediterranean sea experience, made me feel this inhuman. I, Miss Funto Questa Colesworth, a missing miss?
“This house is not a brothel as you can see,” he said with a crease of his hairy brows and his two hands wide apart.
“I can explain, just give me one more night.”
“I give you one more night.”
“I looked up from my crouched position.
He shooed me into the sitting room.
“Thank you,” I said, dusting my knees, still panting.
I edged my buttocks on the sofa, shaking, thinking of how to return from this southward drift from my life’s purpose. This drift that made a miserable version of me and crushed my passion. This drift that was driving me into a hole and not towards a goal- bringing me contempt and not content.
Abiose A. Adams is a novelist, investigative journalist and programme officer at TheCable Newspaper Journalism Foundation. She can be reached on [email protected], @abioseadams, 08174217144(WhatsApp only).
Synopsis (After these eerie days)
She is ambitious but unschooled in street-wiseness. Seventeen-year-old Funto Colesworth did not know the trip to study her dream course, Medicine, in France, is one to nowhere until she finds herself in a brothel in Cotonou.
Rather than remain there to hawk sex which she is mandated to do, she escapes and joins another set of human traffickers to cross the ghoulish Sahara Desert with ten other trafficked girls. On surviving, she continues her flirtations with danger; gets into a close-shave with death in the Mediterranean Sea, where she is the only survivor amongst the girls. Arriving Italy breathless, Funto is introduced to Rome’s red-light district, where she subsequently meets a rich and snazzy footballer, Khalil.
Their whirlwind romance would have resulted in marriage and landed her a fortune, but her hopes went up in flames again when he is killed by his irascible, psychotic twin brother Hamil. Then she realises the more ruinous cost of naivety when Hamil implicates her, leading to her imprisonment in Germany. Thrown in gaol, and with no clemency in sight, Funto felt defeated until she meets a Ghanaian missionary, Duncan Melanby, whose romance with her leads to the fence-mending between father and daughter, after twelve eerie years.
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