(An excerpt from the novel AFTER THESE EERIE DAYS by Abiose A.Adams… continued from last week)
The first time we talked, it was six o clock on a Friday evening. It was winter and it was dark. But in my heart it was warm and bright. He asked what I was doing in his house, and if I was Hamil’s girlfriend. I tried to curry his sympathy by telling him I was a victim of human trafficking, deceived that I gained admission to study at the University of Hildehoof in France, but found myself helpless in Europe. I also tried to impress him that I was pious, and I wasn’t Hamil’s girlfriend.
We leaned over the balustrade on the patio. He had a glass of red drink in his hand and the whole world in his hand. I had a pair of black gloves on my hands. He looked secure and confident in his a red button-up jacket, which had, on its top right corner, the red and blue Tommy Hilfiger insignia. He wore a pair of white Lacoste trainers and placed his left foot on a pot plant, not looking at me while he listened.
I was waiting for his sympathetic reaction to my answer- I thought he would say something like, “Oh..sorry about that”, oh these traffickers are deceivers! But he didn’t seem to believe the second part of my explanation. He told me Hamil ought to have sought his permission before bringing a girl to his house. I didn’t know whether to continue explaining; for to continue to explain would mean I truly had something to hide. So I watched him sip his drink and turn his baseball cap backward.
The cap partially covered his woven hair, whose tips ended in long braids that fell at the back of his neck and behind his shoulders.
The first time we talked, I realized that I was a million staircases beneath him. He was a hotshot footballer, playing for a club in Milan, earning thousands of euros per week. I was a jobless illegal immigrant, roaming the streets of Rome, a soon-to-be deportee, with a quit notice hanging around my neck. He lived a life of affluence, comfort and freedom.
I was broke, uncomfortable, and by no means free from the incarceration of poverty. While money was the least of his worries, it was top, on the list of my worries. We obviously don’t run in the same circle.
The first time we talked, I thought that would be the last time we would get to talk because I feared a man of his caliber and influence may turn me into a sex slave. And I didn’t want that anymore. I’ve had enough in the hands of human traffickers. But he surprised me when he turned to ask what my name is.
“I am Funto.”
“Any other name?” His smile raised his brow. Wow, he actually smiled at me. The thought of it made me blurt.
“Questa….,” I said, smiling a quick obsequious smile to return the compliment.
“Nice name,” he smiled truly, purely and unpretentiously.
“You are from which country?”
“Ohh…. Jayjay.. Kanu.. we geromee (get to meet) here,” he grinned, exposing a set of oblong-shaped, brownish, well- arranged teeth.
“Wow!” I over-laughed, loudly, as though it was really funny.
“Call me Khalil…Hamil is my twin.. though…” he shrugged as though he wasn’t sure of his last statement, and quickly sipped from his glass cup as though to cover the uncertainty that flashed across his face.
I almost choked at the revelation. I had often wondered about the resemblance. The same swarthy skin, same nose, brown eyes. The resemblance was striking, but for Khalil’s plaited hair and Hamil’s complicated air. Hamil had the air of a recluse, but Khalil was recklessly sociable.
While Hamil donned a frown, Khalil talked with a smile. While Hamil was eccentric, Khalil was people-centric.
“So what is your plan now that you are here?” he asked. I almost wanted to faint for joy at that question. It was a question that signaled genuine interest. A question a mentor would ask a mentee. A question concerned parents would ask their children. A question indicative of a willingness to guide rather than chide.
“I, I w..w..want to return to school. I want to pursue my dreams of becoming a doctor. I want to fulfil my purpose in life…
And he only nodded. “You should.”
I looked at him with the earnestness of one waiting to hear more.
“Can you plait,” he said, touching the tips of his braid. “…my spa needs a stylist..?”
“Yes, yes, yes,” I nodded for triple emphasis. I remembered how I used to plait my younger sister’s hair back in Nigeria.
“Let me see your hand.” This time, he took his foot from off the pot plant.
“I stretched out my gloved hands,” wondering what this was all about.
“Use this to get you going in life,” and then he returned to his former posture.
I stood there partially smiling, partially wondering, partially developing a crush on this guy. Predictable? Why not? He seemed to meet my specs of a guy to date. But do I meet his specs? Well, this can only be a loony idea, laying up blocks and bricks in the air! I was far beneath him.
The gate creaked open and Hamil strolled in, in a brown puffer jacket, the hood drawn over his head and his two hands, tucked into its side pockets. I shivered, unsure of what might happen.
What would he tell his brother? Would he say I was his girlfriend and then bungle this opportunity for me? That wasn’t possible, because though we lived in the same house, he had never spoken to me, not to even talk of touching me. They exchanged glances, spoke some words in Italian, and then Khalil followed him in, leaving me, standing on the patio, abruptly.
There was no finality to our talk, no ‘I’ll be right back, no ‘bye’ or ‘ciao.’ Was I supposed to fill in the blanks of the incomplete sentences and summarize the open-ended conversation?
The night wore on. The sound of fork and knife, hitting ceramic plates under the low-hanging sophisticated chandelier of the dinning, was the only thing as loud as the echoes of Khalil’s voice in my mind. I was expecting him to call me to join the table, but he didn’t. I was expecting him to give me more details about the stylist job opening at the spa, but he said nothing more to me.
Under the unbearable weight of dashed expectation, I trudged to my room and fell on my bed. Slightly depressed that I didn’t consummate the conversation, and slightly upset with Hamil for dousing this kindling flame in my heart. I cried on my pillow, picked up my pen and wrote a poem about the guy I met today. Khalil, this Arab-American football star, who didn’t look at me with a condescending eye; who talked to me in an upbeat voice.
Khalil, who wore designers, who smiled a lot and made me smile too. Khalil who told me to work with my hands to achieve my dreams, and not with my butt or with my back laid. Everything about him made an impression on me, and he wouldn’t leave my thoughts, no matter how hard I tried. I cried again.
Something was definitely wrong with me. My temperature was rising and my heart was beating fast, skipping its beat, even. I was coming down with a fever! Love fever! I couldn’t remember ever feeling this way about any guy. Was I falling in love? Was this the ‘boy-meet-girl, love at first sight, romance writers, wrote about?
Love- this ineffable feeling, that will, one minute, make you jump in exult, and the next minute slump in a dirge; an odd combination of
joy and sorrow. Joy for finding someone with such an electrifying, personality, but sorrow because it was unrequited. I got up from my bed, passed through the dining, as though I was looking for a precious something. A something I had just found and had just lost. The brothers were eating and speaking, in argumentative tone, in Italian.
I went back into the room, hoping he would call me back. But I doubted, I wasn’t even noticed. The night was cold. The kind of coldness that would make one long for the warmth, not of an artificial heater, but of real flesh and blood. I buried myself under the duvet, fantasizing about Khalil.
At around three in the morning, I felt someone crawl into my bed. His hand beneath the sheet covering me, was warm. His mouth moved over my skin. His stubble tickled my pores. His skin against mine. I thought I was still fantasizing. My lights were off, and I didn’t want to turn them on.
It must be Khalil. He had reserved this solemn act for this solemn hour. His grip was irresistible. I relaxed, taking it all in ecstasy, counting myself blessed amongst women, to be desired by this desirable player. I reached out for his plaited hair, but my hands met a bald skin. Shocked. I didn’t know when my hands pressed the switch of the bed lamp. And lo, it was indeed the fantasy of Khalil, but the hand of Hamil, just the way it was the voice of Jacob but the hand of Esau.
I wanted to push him away, but he simply planted a kiss on my lips, as though to authenticate that he came to me. He put on his pair of boxers and slammed the door behind him. I lay there frozen; as heavy lead, and as immobilized as a tombstone; plumbing the depths of
sorrow. If I ever saw Khalil again, how do I begin to explain to him that I was so pious, and never did it with his brother! Oh my God! I had allowed myself to be scammed!
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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