“Pikin wey say em mama no go sleep, em sef no go sleep”, this was my mother’s favorite saying. At some point, I’d recite those lines with her because she sounded like a broken record.
I wasn’t a stubborn child like my mother thought. I was just a free spirited girl. Yes, I always got into trouble, not because I liked to but I think trouble was attracted to me. And my mother? She was a busy body and she loved to poke her nose in my business. Mama will not see anything I do and kept quiet. Whatever her eye’s see, her mouth must say and this really pissed me off. I was not her only child but she liked to prey on me.
Then she had this annoying habit of praying at odd hours and her prayers were long and loud. Everybody knows how the early morning sleep can be very sweet. Yet, that’s the time mama would decide to sprinkle holy water and holy oil on your sleepy head. And on some days, she’d lay her hands on your head and scream prayers into your ears. Sometimes my siblings would wake up to join her but that could never be me.
Anyway sha, my mother used to call me “waka waka” and it was during one of my “waka waka outing” that I met Abi. She was a real street girl. This girl was the real OG. I thought I knew the streets but when I met Abi, I realized that I was a learner. She was crazy and I liked her craze. Abi was daring. She’d dress up in very short skirts, thigh high boots, colored hair, she had tattoos and piercings and she always had her trade mark cigarette behind her left earlobe. I loved her style but No! not my mother…. from the first time mama set eyes on her, she had nothing good to say about her. “My spirit does not agree with your friend’s spirit”… “There is something evil about your friend”… “She has a bad spirit”….blah blah blah. I would laugh at her whenever she came reeling out her nonsense to me. Old woman! What did she know?
Anyway, there were these group of boys in our community called the G-boys. Parents barred their children from associating with them but I found their lifestyle quite fascinating. They knew how to spend money and they threw the baddest parties. I never had the chance to attend any one until I met Abi.
So, there was going to be a Christmas party at the Downtown Guesthouse. It was going to be a “mad” gathering. The who’s who of the streets would be there and I was beyond ecstatic that I had the opportunity to hang out with them. The party was lit and things got more interesting when the head of the G-boys signalled me to join his table. Abi and I join him at the VIP section. I was almost walking in the air. Me, Omoye sitting with Makanaki. Heeeey! Omoye see your life.
Abi whispered to me that she heard him telling his guys that he liked me… Maybe if I played my cards well, I could be his girlfriend. Being his girlfriend was going to be such a big deal so I decided that I’d do anything to make him like me even more. So when he asked me to take a walk with him by the pool side, I gladly obliged. We walked hand in hand as we talked about this, that and nothing in particular. Hmmm, It won’t be a surprise if I fall in love with Makanaki before the end the night o.
I was the cynosure of all eyes. The girls had dagger in their eyes. I could read envy on their forehead but abegi they can hug a transformer for all I care.
When his hand touched my shoulder, I shivered, not because I was cold but because his fingers sent chills down my spine, he misunderstood my reaction and took off his jacket to cover me. Awwn! He was also a gentleman. And when he leaned forward to kiss me, I let myself drown in the moment. I was oblivious of my surrounding and I gave in with reckless abandon.
After the kiss that lasted a lifetime, Makanaki beckoned on a waiter to refill our cups as he continued to tell me sweet nothings. Suddenly, I noticed that my speech was slurring, I felt extremely weak and couldn’t walk by myself. Everything seemed hazy and confusing. I could hear voices that I couldn’t recognize but in my subconscious mind I could pick Abi’s voice. She was arguing with Makanaki about payment for services rendered. I knew then that I was in trouble, I felt like screaming but there was no strength in me. I felt helpless and for the first time in my life, I really needed my mummy. I blacked out.
When I opened my eyes, every where was pitch black. I tried to move but my head hurt badly. I heard movements around me but I couldn’t see a thing. There was some kind of commotion going on. Movement here and there. Muffled sounds and cries from every corner but I couldn’t figure out where I was.
Little by little I started to recollect what happened at the party. I remember walking by the pool side with Makanaki and feeling on top of the world, then he ordered more drinks for us and….. on my goodness the drink!! My eyes widened in shock as I realized that my drink had been spiked.
Cold breeze hit my body and realized that I was naked, the only thing on my body was my wrist watch. I could see the light of day gradually seeping through the dark sky. Oh! I was in a jungle, surrounded by large trees and naked people. I was afraid and I screamed, I let out the loudest and biggest shout that my lungs could give. Then I felt a blinding slap on my face followed by blows that landed on every part of my naked body. I was given the beating of my life.
An old man came from behind a red curtain and asked, ‘Who dey shout for there?’ The response I heard from my attacker made my skin crawl. “Baba, na Makanaki meat dey disturb us” The old man hissed and walked away.
My head was spinning. I felt blind in one eye. My lips were swollen and broken. Pain seeped through every pore in my skin. At every opportunity I had, I begged them to let me go but my pleas fell on deaf ears.
We were over 20 people held captive in the jungle. I watched in horror as men and women were raped openly. I watched how some people were taken behind the red curtain and they never came back. I didn’t need to be told what went on behind those curtains. Two people were released to their families because our abductors had been paid the ransom they demanded. Before the end of that day, five new people were brought in, maybe to replace the five that were taken behind the curtain earlier.
I thought about my siblings, I thought about my life, I thought about my mom and all the trouble she had to go through because of me. I remembered her words of advise, her reproof, her instructions…I remembered her and I cried.
I looked at my broken wrist watch and it was 11am. I was confused about how long I had been in the jungle until I heard my abductors making plans for Christmas. If the next day was Christmas then it means they’ve had me for six days. My family must be worried about me by now.
I remembered my mother’s Christmas morning ritual. The short sermon about the reason for the season, her prayers and the music and dance that followed. Right now I could give anything to hear her voice, I was ready to hear her pray all night, she could bath me with as much holy water and holy oil as she wanted. I could give anything to hear my mother’s voice and to be with my family.
Our abductors were in high spirits. It was Christmas season so there would be no killings for the next few days. “Tis a season to be jolly” they all said. However, one of them pointed out that I was beginning to look frail so I should be up for the next line of rituals. I couldn’t believe how blatantly they discussed taking my life in front of me. The clock was ticking. In a matter of days, I will become part of the statistics. I needed a miracle and I needed one fast.
To be continued…