(An excerpt from the novel AFTER THESE EERIE DAYS by Abiose A.Adams… continued from last week)
My legs felt like those clamped in iron stocks as I dragged them to the room where I was kept. I sat there like a sheep awaiting slaughter- on the tile-less floor, with my back against the wall, my knees pulled up to my chest and my arms wrapped around them. Motionless was I in that position staring into the nothingness and emptiness of ambition. The room was airless, windowless and eerily silent except for the occasional beat of my heart, and the tick-tock sound the‘seconds’ hand struck in the grandfather’s clock against the wall. Gradually noon crawled in, and then it was 3 o clock, and before I regained my senses, dusk stole at my door. I later heard a knock on its ramshackle lid. A bare-chested man showed up. He was tall and hefty. His breasts pulsated to the rhythm of his steps and his half-closed mouth exposed a set of uneven teeth, several broken and missing.
“How are you, fine girl,” he said, and his eyes fell on the picture of an apple crested on the bust area of my blue t-shirt. When I didn’t answer, his eyes still refused to leave there, rather he grinned with an irritable leer in his eyes and on his lips. I watched him from my ‘sitting duck’ position with a look of insolence and an inexplicable ache emanating from somewhere deep in my soul.
“My name is Ablavi, and I want to welcome you to Ablavo motel. Very soon our madam will come and talk to you about your work here,” his voice was laced with hidden sordid details that I didn’t allow myself to imagine.
A cloud of heaviness hovered over me, almost suffocating. Oh, so Cadmus had pulled the wool over my eyes…eehhh? You mean there was no scintilla of truth in all he said. So both the passport and admission letter with the University’s seal were forged? What a mendacious homo sapien! What a trickster!
From that moment I began to see everything in that room in twos. Two hours later, Ablavi returned- this time, to usher me into a room, just spacious enough to accommodate myself and twelve other girls.
There were seven red wooden chairs, arranged like a displaced arc, in the poorly lit room. With two buttocks wedged on one chair, we all sat, speaking nothing to one another and looking not at one another. We all gazed at the floor. A few minutes afterward, she walked in majestically like a flamingo gliding through the mashes. A maid accompanied her. An odd mingling of her perfume and body creams trailed her. In no minutes, the smell had diffused in the whole room, poorly ventilated room, rudely assailing our nostrils.
She was tubby, busty and dressed in a purple figure-hugging mini dress that clung to all the adipose tissues, which had formed folds and rings on her waist and belly. The flesh on her humongous laps trembled with every move she made. Her facial skin looked whitish from bleaching except for her upper lips which remained black in defiance to the creams, thus giving her the anomalous look of a female with a moustache.
“My name is Magarita. I am called Madam Maga…..” she began as she wedged her massive buttocks into the small wooden chair reserved for her at the center of the room. I watched secretly hoping the chair wouldn’t crash under her weight. Three men, including Ablavi, stood like bodyguards, waiting to prop her in the event of a fall.
She continued fluttering her artificial-lashes strewn eyelid repeatedly, preening herself like a peacock. “You are all welcome,” she said, pausing as though thinking upon her words. Her face was jowly, her voice was gruff and her demeanour bitter. She smacked her lips repetitively as she chewed a pink gum. The sound of the smacked lips echoed like punctuations.
“All of you will work for us, after two years if you gather enough money, you will gain independence. If you want to return to school or if you want to start business….” She paused abruptly again to pop large bubbles with the gum in her mouth and then smiled at the sound of its burst and smacked her lips.
“Every evening you will service our customers and you will bring in at least five men in a night,” she dabbed her sweltering face with a handkerchief and then touched the gold ring on her nose and rolled up her eyes towards the ceiling. “If you are able to gather this money, you will be lucky to go to Europe.”
I looked at the other girls, trying to see who also heard what I heard. But they were stone-faced. I instantly turned deaf. Her words lost its articulation and became like blows hitting me like the edge of a sledgehammer. All my hopes to study Medicine in France came crumbling like a pack of ill-arranged cards and like wounded sparrows falling into the mire.
Goddamn it! So this has been a cock-eyed idea. How come I never suspected. Where was my gut feeling I trusted so much? I felt like screaming. I felt like slapping Cadmus for blowing smoke into my eyes. I began to quake. I wanted to convert the new surge of energy in my bloodstream to something: Something crazy. I had never fought in my life, but at this time, I felt like giving someone a blow: yes…smashing somebody’s head. I stood up under the pretext of wanting to use the toilet. I wished I could return to Nigeria. This was the middle of nowhere. Me? Prostitution? God forbid! I hissed, snapping my finger over my head.
“Show her the toilet,” she ordered Ablavi.
To be continued next week
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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