(An excerpt from the novel AFTER THESE EERIE DAYS by Abiose A.Adams… continued from last week)
She looked at me with eyes liquid with hate. Angry that I reckoned myself to be something, when in fact, in her books, I was nothing. A look inimical enough to snuff oxygen out of my nostrils. But I looked at her with eyes not lowered. And with a smirk, self-satisfied that this black girl could get a supposedly superior white girl, crashing with jealousy and insecurity.
I had been given ‘one more night’ to stay at the footballers’ quarters which Alan introduced me to. But ‘one more night’ rolled into even more nights. However, I was glad to have escaped Signora’s nest, and freed, at least, temporarily from the pressure of prostitution. So the guy who rolled in on me, the grace of more nights – by the way, he looked half Arabian and half European- helped me with a job as a nanny with Madamme Agostinelli, an 81-year-old Italian, who suffered from partial stroke, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.
My job was to resume by 7am and close by 10pm. I attended to her, prepared her food, fed her, cleaned her pooh and urine, and took her for walks. Madamme Agostinelli was an even-tempered old woman who bonded with me progressively. Before she did, she used to look at me with this shrivelling gaze that made me wither. I wasn’t sure whether it was a look of pain and disdain or helplessness and horror.
All my guesses were wrong the day I discovered it was a look of desire. A desire for friendship. A look borne out of loneliness, as Lucrezia, her 18 year-old-granddaughter – had not only de-friended her but de-friended everyone that tried to befriend her. Lucrezia, the blonde, with a reddish white skin, and round, blue eyes. Lucrezia, the snitty and snooty teenager, who was infinitesimally polite. Lucrezia, who attended a schmancy all girls college, where she learnt how to speak English with an Italian accent, pronouncing everything that starts with t as z.
One morning, when I arrived at the apartment, by 6:30am, I met the old woman still laid back in her lemon convertible sleeper chair; neither sleeping nor reading her favourite bible passage, but cursing. In between her spasmodic coughs, she cursed Lucrezia. With her tremulous voice, she cursed Lucrezia. She said her brain was wired anticlockwise. She called her a bastard. An ill-bred child! An upside-down generation! As she cursed, the white fluffy cat, edged on her wheel chair by her bedside, jumped in protest over something. Lucrezia told her she should go to the old people’s home, where she belonged, and die!
That morning, I spent most of the time settling quarrels between grandmother and granddaughter. The friendlier I got to her, the fiercer Lucrezia’s madness.
“You skeeve me out, you idiot,” she blustered, one day while I was using the Wash machine.
‘Wrong way zo use zhis! She slapped my cheeks; her face reddening the way green pepper ripens to red.
Certainly not zhat way either,” she scowled, hitting the basket of clothes on my head. The silver braces on her teeth, the twitching of her eyes and the pulsating veins at her temples, all made her look like a witch character in Harry Porter’s novel.
“Sorry, Madamme,” I trembled, fearing to lose this hard-earned job.
The following day, she began to bellyache, bleating like a sheep and hooting like an owl. “Now, you don’t spoil zhis. I will deduct money from your pay if you mess zhis up.”
“You zhick skull! You slow-to-reason fella!”
“Can’t you read zhe instructions!” her eyes were aglow, dancing in their sockets.
“I can’t read Italian,” I answered on bended knees, as unto a demi-god.
“C’mmon fuck off…you blackasshole!”
At the end of the first month, she threw at me, an envelope: “Here is your pay,” she tossed the envelope full of coins at me “I don’t ever want zo zee you wear zhose rags in zhis house next week!”
“Yes madamme,” I am supposed to have jubilated for having some money to my name, but her malice wouldn’t let me breathe.
In order to impress boss Lucrezia, I ran quickly to the shopping malls at the city center. By the way, shopping malls in Italy were architectural pieces of unending seduction. I could spend my whole pay on those juicy displays. I ran into those sections with shouting announcements on red placards: “Saldi, Metta Prezzo.” An attendant told me it meant, in English, ‘sales, half the price.’ Others meant,
‘Buy one get one free!” “All must go!”
I bought the expensive clothes at slashed prices. From the multiple labels, I knew they were quality stuffs whose prices had been slashed more than four times. But I still did not measure up to her standard of being a human. In Lucrezia’s books, I shouldn’t even exist.
Be that as it may, on one somnolent Sunday evening that January, Madamme Agostinelli was feeling better, so she had given me a day off work. I was at home in the footballers’ quarters, where I had been putting up since one month, seated on the glass dining, reading a novel. All of a sudden, I heard echoes of a huge fight issuing from a room, upstairs.
I eavesdropped. The fighters spoke Italian but occasionally interjected it with English.
“Tell me you’ve been sleeping with zhat whore,” I heard Lucrezia’s voice.
“Don’t you dare accuse me of unfaithfulness Lucy,” I heard the guy roared back. His voice loud and throaty, shaking anything that has a foundation.
As the argument wore on, I heard sudden stomping on the wooden staircase. “Where is she…where is that bitch?”
I watched her race down the stairs, dashing this way and that way, in search of me. Her straight, red hair, ruffled by the windstorm of rage. She finally caught sight of me.
“Look you fired!” she threw an angry fist.
Confused. I opened my mouth.
“You zhink you can cheat on me. Zake my boyfriend? And come into my house, zake my grandmama?” her face grew pinkish, her blue eyes danced in their sockets, her white, half-buttoned shirt, exposed some part of her petite breast. She was actually half naked. Hmmh!
“You dare me, I’ll show you. Don’t you step into my house anymore, you bitchy bitch!” she fled out as though being pursued, slamming the door behind her.
Seconds later, Hamil raced downstairs, half-naked too bare-chested, in red tights, his hairy, muscular chest and legs, on display.
He opened the front door and shouted back at her, “Fuck you Lucy. DAMN YOU!”
As soon as I saw him re-entering, I quickly retreated into my room, wondering what this was all about. Should I approach him or not? I have never even spoken to this guy, not to talk of having an affair with him. I don’t even know his name is Hamil until I heard her call him so. Does it mean I have lost my job as a nanny to Agostinelli? Oh dear! Can’t be! Was there any other girl in the house? Or was it me she was referring to?
What, by the way, does this black girl have that has turned this white girl into a green-eyed monster? This black girl -thick-skull, slow-to-reason, black asshole- who snatched her grandmamma? This bitchy, bitch that has glitched her romance with her white lover? Isn’t it ironic that some white girl could even believe that I was significant enough, not only to be a temptation to her boyfriend but to actually snatch him? This black girl without papers, without citizenship and without even a job?
The inferiority of superiority complex! The notion of such possibility was good for my ego and made me feel I must be beautiful. And for the first time, I felt victorious.
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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