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SUNDAY, 13TH JULY 2014
1.45am – Bosco’s house, Surulere
Bola could not sleep. Her heart was heavy with dread. She looked at the table clock and trembled when she saw she had fifteen minutes left to take the walk out of the bedroom into the adjoining one. She had not anticipated what she had met when she arrived at Bosco’s door-step some ten hours ago. A half-naked woman with a glass half-filled with wine had let them in and Bosco, who looked like he just had a quick bath and was still dripping with water, had come in a minute later to welcome them. He had introduced the other woman as his cousin, much to her dismay, and had asked her to deliver a package immediately to her mother. The woman, who looked much older than him, looked disappointed and as she walked out of the house, she cast Bola a hateful stare, muttering some words under her breath.
Bola caught the words and she shuddered. What had she got herself into?
“I am glad you finally came to your senses, my dear. I told you your father had nothing to offer you.” Bosco poured himself a glass of red wine, speaking in fluent Yoruba. “Do you like my house?”
Bola took in the big living room painted masterfully with cream and chocolate brown. The leather chairs and other furniture in the room matched perfectly. Everything was in perfect harmony and looked very tasteful. Only someone with access to good money could afford this. “It… it is beautiful.”
Boso smiled with pride. “I knew you would love it. One of the bedrooms is yours.” His eyes flew to the little boy sitting beside her. He added with less enthusiasm. “And for your brother too.”
Bola’s arm flew protectively over Tomiwa. “I can assure you he is a good boy. He will not give you any problem at all.”
“I actually don’t do well with little children around me. In fact, I don’t want them around me, but because this is about you and I love you very much, I am sure I can manage.”
“I am the only one he has and…”
“I know that.” Bosco interrupted her and took a large gulp of the wine. “As long as he does not stand in my way, I am sure we shall go along fine.”
“Thank you.” Bola nudged Tomiwa lightly and whispered into his ears. “Say ‘thank you’ to Uncle Bosco.”
Tomiwa stood up and prostrated on the floor. “Thank you, sir.”
Bosco turned his back against the little boy, hiding the little smile on his lips. He could not believe how everything was going so well beyond what he had planned. Now, he could move as quickly as possible. Not only did he have the girl under his roof, he also now had leverage over her. With her brother under his grasp, he could get her to do whatever it was he wanted. How perfect!
He turned around with a stern on his face. “Go into that room, boy. I want to talk to your sister alone.” He pointed at the room on the left side of the corridor. “There are some sweets and chocolates on the table beside the bed. Take as many as you want, okay?”
Tomiwa looked at his sister as if to seek her approval. When Bola nodded, he relaxed and ran into the room excitedly.
When the door was closed, Bosco cleared his throat and sat beside her. “I am so happy you are here, my love.” He traced a finger across her face. “I promise you that you will never regret this decision. This beautiful place can be yours if you do all I ask you to do, you know what I mean.” He traced the finger across her lips.
Bola shook slightly. “I know and I am prepared to do whatever you ask me. My body is yours. All I ask for is a good life for my brother and I.”
Bosco chuckled. “You cannot even imagine the kind of good life I have in store for you. Soon, you will be rolling in money. I mean good money and you will be glad you agreed to be my lover.”
Bola’s heart quickened in anticipation, but something still bothered her. “What… what about the woman that just left here? Is she really your cousin? She said something that made me think otherwise.”
Bosco’s face twisted into an ugly frown. “What did that fool say?”
“She said ‘Na turn by turn’.”
“Na turn by turn.” He repeated slowly. “Don’t mind her. She is just a jealous cousin. She actually came here to beg me for money to start up a business for her mother. I gave her what I could afford, but she was so greedy she wanted more. She thinks you also came here to beg for money. She doesn’t know you are my girlfriend.”
Bola did not know whether to believe or not, but he sounded sincere. “Okay.”
He inched closer to her and spoke softly. “So tonight, I should expect you in my room? Let’s say 2 am?”
So quickly? Bola did not expect she would have to start paying the price so early. “Well… i..um… I thought I could just rest a bit tonight. You know…umm… my brother is…”
“Your brother does not have to know and he should be soundly asleep by then. That is why I asked you to come into my room. It is the room opposite yours. I know you are a smart girl and you can find your way out without his knowledge.”
“You promised me you would do whatever I asked. I am asking you to join me in my room at 2am. Is that something too much to ask?” Bosco looked disappointed. She had known this would come up, didn’t she? Then why was she pretending? Or could she be having second thoughts?
Bola stared at him in silence as her mind pondered on what to do. Bosco was the only available choice she had. If she refused his invitation and walked out of the house with Tomiwa, where or to whom would they turn to for help? She swallowed hard. “It is not a problem at all. I will be at your room by 2a.m.”
“Good.” Bosco looked into her eyes deeply. “I know you are a smart girl.” He stood up. “I have a business meeting now and may not return until night. The kitchen is open to you and full of food. You can cook something for yourself and your brother. Feel free in this house. It is for you and I now, okay baby?”
He bent and pasted a kiss on her forehead. “Love you so much. I have to dress up now or I will be late for the meeting.” He walked towards his bedroom and winked at her before closing the door after him.
Now, ten hours later with sleep far from her eyes, Bola knew the next minutes would take her life into another phase, but was she prepared for this? She looked at Tomiwa, who was sleeping peacefully and the way he clutched the pillow tugged at her heart. He had never slept with a pillow before and neither had he had a toy to hold dearly to his heart the way he held the pillow. Her heart yearned for a better life for him. It was her duty to give him that life.
She stood up from the bed and towards the door. She opened it as silently as she could and tiptoed outside, trying not to arouse the sleeping boy. When she turned, she found out the opposite door was slightly open and music was playing in very low volume, one could hardly hear it. There was also a strange and unmistakable smell coming out of the room, one Bola could recognize instantly and she stopped dead on her feet. What had she got herself into?
“Hey!” The voice was low and guttural. “What are you waiting for? Come here!” Bosco had appeared out of nowhere and stood in front of the door. “I kept the door open for you.”
“You are smoking Mary J, Bosco.” The words barely came out as a whisper. Bola was shocked beyond her wits. She had not bargained for this. How would she be able to keep herself and Tomiwa away from this kind of life? It was like jumping from frying pan into fire.
“Why do you always behave like a JJC? You are telling me you have not taken one before? Everyone takes it in Mushin, don’t they?” Without warning, he stretched out a hand and pulled her into the room, locking the door behind them. He pushed her forward. “Have a seat. I have a business proposal for you.”
Bola took in the large room and the big bed in the centre. In front of the bed was a small stool on which was a tray filled with little pieces of white substance that Bosco was packaging into small nylons.
“My God!” Bola placed her arms over her head in perplexity . “You are into drugs, Bosco. Is this the business you have been doing?”
Bosco glanced at her as if she just spoke like a foolish child. “Oh! You think selling pure water on the streets is what has given me this lovely house or my car? I said you should sit down.”
Bola shook her head in disagreement, heading towards the exit. “I want no part in this.”
“Too late.” Bosco sat down on the bed and reached for the side drawer, pulling out a pistol and placing it on top of the stool. “If you love yourself, you will do as I said. Sit down and listen to what I have to propose. If you fight this, I can assure you that this is a silent pistol and no one will hear a sound or suspect anything.” He continued wrapping the substance into nylons as if he did not just threaten her life.
Bola quickly covered her mouth to stop the scream in her throat. She walked like a robot to the chair beside the bed and sat at the edge.
Bosco picked some of the substance with his right index finger and placed it right under his nose. He inhaled it sharply and laid back as it took its effect on him. For some seconds, his eyes were dazed and looked like he had travelled thousands of kilometers away, then he exhaled contentedly and refocused his eyes on her. “You don’t know how good this feels. It is like going to heaven and back.”
Bola moved uncomfortably at the edge of her seat. “What do you want from me? I promise not to tell anyone about this. Whatever you want, you can do, but please, I don’t not want to have any part in this.”
Bosco cleared his throat, ignoring her plea. “You do not determine whether or not you will do this. You don’t have a choice. You will do this job to convince us that you are capable and then we shall decide whether to keep you or do away with you and your brother.”
“What… what job?”
“You have to deliver a package to one of my clients tomorrow. You will be taken to the venue where someone will come over to collect the bag from you and hand you another bag. This other bag will contain a lot of money so you should guard it with your life. When the exchange is done, you will walk quietly and cautiously back to the car, which will bring you back here. Is that clear enough?”
“I have to deliver a package of cocaine? What if I am caught?”
“You cannot be caught or must not be caught. You must act as natural as possible. The lady who usually delivered this for me, unfortunately, has been done away with. So, consider this a test for you. Do this exchange successfully and consider your life changed for good.”
“How do you mean ‘done away with’? What happened to her?”
Bosco’s eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. “We discovered she had been telling the Police about our operations and decided to deal with her before she put us into trouble.” He wrapped the final batch. “And if you do the same mistake, I promise you I will handle your execution myself.”
Execution? Bola quickly fell on her knees, her eyes filled with tears. “Bosco, I beg you please, if you love me like you say you do, please don’t let me do this. I did not prepare for this. Just let me go back to my room and get my brother and we shall step out of here as if we never came. I promise I will not tell anyone about your business.”
Bosco laughed sarcastically. “You wanted a good life and I am giving it to you and here you are begging me to take it back. What did you think? That I would give you a good life on a platter of gold? You have to work for it and right now, you do not have a choice here. You must do this job.”
“But I don’t want to!”
Bosco’s hand went to the pistol. “Then you will not give me much choice to use this on your little fool sleeping in the next room now.”
“Yes! I will kill him without a second thought if you refuse.”
Bola started weeping. She could never have imagined things would turn out this way. She was to be a drug peddler? What if she was caught? What would happen to her? What would happen to Tomiwa?
“Save those crocodile tears and go and prepare yourself. I will be driving you there myself to make sure you do as you are told and we shall leave at exactly 8a.m. There is a school uniform for you inside the cupboard in your room. No one will suspect a school girl. And don’t think of escaping. Everywhere is locked right now. If I were you, I will concentrate on doing this job right if you ever want to see your brother again. You want a better life, you have it now. Get out of my room.”
Bola rushed at the door and quickly opened it. Her mind was on the next room where she had left Tomiwa. She wanted to hold him tightly in her arms and be sure he was safe. When she saw him sleeping soundly, she almost burst into another round of sobs. She climbed the bed noiselessly and pulled him into her arms as she thought of how to take them out of the dilemma her greed had pushed her into, but right now, her mind was empty, as blank as the starless sky up above her. Who could she call to come to their rescue? She knew nobody. They were alone in the devil’s trap. Her mind flew back to the old woman whom she had met at the Mall some days back. She doubted the woman would even want to come and help her, not after the disrespectful way Bola had treated her. Plus, Bola had discarded her card, so there was no way she could reach the woman. She had no choice. She had to do this job in order to keep them alive. She wanted a ‘better’ life, didn’t she? Now, she has got it.
5:58am – Ezinne’s house
Ezinne stared down at her friend whose head laid on her laps. The previous night had been a nightmare. Pauline had spent most of it crying and making regretful statements about marriage and that had scared Ezinne to bits. Coming from a broken home herself, she had promised herself not to make the same mistake her mother made, getting married to a man whom she did not love, but had been forced to marry. At nine years old, her father had left the house and never returned, leaving a jobless woman to cater for herself and her child. Her mother, herself, had not been too supportive either and Ezinne had to live from one house to another, as a house-help, until she met The Edunjobi family whose kindness had turned her life around. They had taken her in and treated her like a daughter, and not a slave she had groomed herself to be. They had made sure she attended school and even funded her University education. She wondered what would have happened to her, if God had not made their paths cross. However, despite the kindness of her guardian, especially Mr. Edunjobi, she still had not got over the rejection she felt when her father took that walk out the door and never came back. And every time she thought she had recovered a bit, something would come up that would make her detest men more than ever.
She looked at her friend’s sad, sleepy face and felt like crying. Why should this poor woman have to go through this trauma for something she did not bring upon herself? Why would she have to go through such humiliation because she could not conceive? It was not that she committed abortion and had her womb destroyed. She was raped, for Pete’s sake, and that could have happened to anyone. Anger boiled within her. She suppressed the need to stand up and find her way to meet Pauline’s husband and talk some sense into his head. What an ingrate! Here was a woman who remained faithful to him all these years, while he was going about cheating, and all he could repay her with was this?
Pauline raised her head. “I am sorry to disturb you this way, Ezinne. I should allow you to have some rest.”
Ezinne looked at the wall clock. It was 6am already and her eyes were heavy with sleep. “I am fine, Pauline. You should be the one to rest. You were awake all through the night.”
“But what have I done to deserve to be treated like this?”
Here we go again, Ezinne thought wildly. She was afraid she might be forced to do something terrible to someone this Sunday morning. “Just stop worrying and rest, Pauline. Don’t worry, everything will work well for you in the end. Every plan of the devil will be destroyed by fire.” And I will break George’s head too.
Pauline looked up at her friend. She could see how Ezinne was trying hard to keep calm. The Ezinne she knew would not stay this long before reacting. Ezinne had always been the presumptuous one, always ready to counter every opposition standing in her way, or in the way of someone she loved. Pauline was only glad she had a friend she could run to at this traumatic moment of her life. She lifted herself off her friend’s laps. “It is 6 o’clock. We should start preparing for church.”
“We?” Ezinne could not believe her friend was thinking about attending church in her terrible emotional state.
“Yes, we. I have to be in church too.”
“I don’t think that is a good idea.” Ezinne discouraged her, taking in her frail form and puffy eyes. What would she do if she came face-to-face with her husband?
“I know what you are thinking. I want him to see that what he did to me has no effect on me anymore. I want him to know I have moved on.”
“You haven’t, Pauline.” Ezinne shook her head. “You are going through a lot right now and you are not thinking straight. We shall stay in this house together. No church for us today.”
“Okay.” Pauline agreed without further argument.
“Okay? Just like that?” Ezinne raised a suspicious eyebrow. She had anticipated more resistance over this.
“Yes, okay. You are right. I need to get my head straight, so I don’t do any foolish thing.” Pauline moved towards the bedroom. “I should sleep and you should too.”
“Good idea.” Ezinne yawned loudly, stretching her body on the sofa. “I will rest here. You can take the bedroom.”
Pauline smiled. “Thank you for being there for me all through the night. Sleep well.”
Ezinne nodded absently. Sleep was already taking over and she could not stop it in any way. Her mind and body were tired.
Pauline watched her friend relax into the sofa. She would count one to fifty and she would be out of here. She would find a way to the church, where she would begin a full-fledged revenge against the man who had hurt her without any sign of remorse. He married her for better, for worse, hadn’t he? He had made her life hell, now it was time to make his a nightmare. She would make sure he paid for every year of pain she had spent with him. When she was done with him, then she would face God. God would have to explain why He sat back and allowed all these to happen to her. Why He said He loved her, yet never showed it. Why He watched from afar as her life was torn to pieces. And why she should ever believe in Him at all. Everyone would pay in one way or the other. Four, five, six…
8.43am – St. George’s Hospital, Ikoyi
“Hi, mum. I was just about to call you when I saw your call. Coincidental, right? Shows we are of one mind.”
Lola rolled over on her side on the bed. She had been trying to reach her son after yesterday’s incident, but his phone was off and could not get him until now. “I don’t know about that. I have been dialing your number since yesterday, but couldn’t reach you. What happened to your phone?”
“Well, I had to do an urgent surgery on one of my patients and it took longer than expected. You won’t believe I almost lost her, but she finally came around at the last minute. I was so relieved. Is there a problem that you have been trying to call me since yesterday?”
“I want you to come home.”
“What!” Charles sounded irritated. “C’mon, mum! I told you I would try my best to make it next month and I thought you were satisfied with that. I am so busy this month I hardly have time to take a nap.”
“Charles my son, have I asked for anything from you desperately like this before?”
There was a resigned sigh on the other end of the line. “No, mum.”
“And you don’t think there could be a reason behind my insistence?”
“I know the reason, mum. It’s the same you have always given. You feel lonely and miss me so much. I know how hard it has been for you since daddy left and I have given you my word that I shall be with you soon. You’ve got to understand my situation too.”
Lola cleaned the tear that had slid down her face. “I wish your dad were alive. I would not have to resort to begging you to come home to see your mother.”
“Get over it, mum! Dad’s gone and life continues. Maybe you should get married again. You obviously need a companion and as much as I hate to admit, truth is I cannot fill that spot as much as you want me to. There are a couple of my close friends whose dads can fill the spot. I will be glad to make the introductions if you don’t mind.”
“I cannot believe you are suggesting this to me.”
“I just suggested the most reasonable solution to this loneliness problem. Truth is I cannot fly to Nigeria every time you need me and every day it’s clearer you need someone who you can depend on, on whose shoulders you can lay your head and who will hold your hands. As much as I want to be that, I cannot because I have got responsibilities of my own. I have a family I take care of, too. And if I ask you to travel down to the States, I know you will not want to. Plus I will not have time to keep settling disputes between you and my wife on how to raise our kids.”
Lola shut her eyes against the implications of her son’s words. She knew he said the truth. His wife, Geraldine, and she had never been on the same side, especially when it came to her grandchildren and as much as she did not want to interfere into her son’s family affairs, she had not been so pleased with the ungodly behavior of the kids the last time they were in Nigeria. And every moment she tried to correct them, Geraldine would always attack her, telling her she did not want her kids to be raised in the Jesus way. They were free moral agents and would be free to choose the kind of religion they wanted to practice when they were ready. About getting married again, that was out of the question. She had little time to live, so why waste time on getting attached to a man she would not be with for a long time? Plus, she was yet to get over Tobi. She doubted she ever would. Perhaps, she should resign to her fate. She would die a lonely widow.
“It’s okay, Charles. I just want you to know how much I love you and that no matter what happens, that love will never die.”
“Ummm… I don’t get it, Mum. What’s gonna happen?” Charles became disconcerted. “Are you okay? Just hold on. I promise I will be with you soon.”
“Everything’s fine, Charles. Extend my greetings to your wife and kids.”
There was a bit of silence as if Charles was thinking of how to respond. “I will. I love you, Mum.”
Lola cut the call and buried her head into the pillow. It ached to hear her son profess love for her yet he could hardly act it out.
“Was that Charles?”
Lola raised her head to see Dr. Aluko standing right behind her. She quickly cleaned her wet eyes, but it was too late. The doctor had seen the pain in her eyes. “Yes.”
“When are you going to tell him?”
Lola stared straight into his eyes. How long had he been eavesdropping? “I… I don’t know.” She stammered, unsure of her answer. “He isn’t ready for such news.”
“But you know you need him as a donor. Plus he is your son and deserves to know.”
Lola sat up. “So what do you suggest I do, Doctor? Tie him up and drag him down to Nigeria when he obviously doesn’t consider it important to come down and see his mother.”
“Perhaps if he understands the real reason behind your demand, he will come with the next flight.” Dr. Aluko moved closer to her, his eyes pleading. “We need a donor urgently, Mrs. Williams, and your son would be perfect, other things being equal.”
Lola knew the doctor was right and she understood the urgency of the situation, but it hurt her deeply that her son would only come down to Nigeria because of her health, and not because it was of his own volition. “Can’t we get someone else, just in case he cannot make it down soon enough? I mean… we can find another alternative, can’t we?”
“Yes, we can. But having your son down will make the process easier for us. Apart from being a donor, you will also need someone very close to you for support when you travel for the transplant.”
“Don’t worry, Doctor. God will provide the right person for me.” She tried to stand. “I think I feel very well enough to go home. I don’t want to spend another night in this place.”
Dr. Aluko looked at the poor woman, feeling sorry for her. Though she pretended to be strong on the outside, she was groaning within and he had been her doctor long enough to know once she made up her mind, it was difficult to persuade her. “Just give me a couple more hours and I will have you out of here, but one of my nurses will go with you to take care of you and report to me.”
Dr. Aluko gave her a professional smile. “Thank you.” He walked towards the door. “You should rest. The next couple of weeks are going to be very hard on you, but I know you will come out fine. I have always known you to be a strong woman.”
“Thank you, Doctor.”
The doctor nodded at her and closed the door gently behind him. Lola took in deep breaths, trying to put some calmness into her head, but it proved difficult. Her mind was in chaos, just like her health and she feared she might collapse even before the surgery.
I cannot do this, Lord. I feel so feeble right now.
Are you there, Lord? I am dying and need Your arms around me.
The room was quiet as a graveyard and Lola could not hear that familiar soothing voice in her head. She was alone. Alone with her problems. She burst into fresh tears. Nothing would ever be the same again.