Ten-year-old Edua sat on the bed and looked around her. Her mother told her that morning that they were going to visit a friend of hers. They left the house after a light breakfast and boarded a taxi at the end of their street. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been in a cab. Gone were the days when she was taken every where she wanted to go in her father’s or mother’s cars. When they arrived at her mother’s friend’s place, she was given a plate of cookies and a glass of fruit juice. While they spoke in low tones, she was asked to wait in the guest room. She placed the plate of cookies and the drink on the bedside table and surveyed the large room. Everything in the room was big. The bed was big, the wardrobe was big, there was a big flat screen television on the wall, a big white refrigerator stood opposite the bed, the air-conditioner was big and the ceiling fan was massive. Her mother’s friend must like big things.
Her mother’s friend came in, smiling. He closed the door and kept on grinning at her. Edua looked at him up and down, wondering why he was just standing there. She glanced towards the closed door. Where was her mother? Was it time to leave? She would rather be home watching her favourite television stations, rather than sit doing nothing.
“You haven’t touched your snack,” he took some steps forward, “You need to eat something, at least, drink the juice,” he walked towards the bed, picked up the glass of fruit juice and passed it to her.
Edua shook her head. She didn’t want anything. She wanted to go home.
“Drink a little,” he urged her.
She eyed the man. Maybe if she took a sip, he would let her be. She collected the glass from him and drank some of the juice. It tasted very sweet. She took a long drink. The chillness of the drink soothed her throat. She drank some more, unable to stop herself. She began to feel dizzy. Her vision became a bit blurred and a sudden weakness slipped into her bones. The glass dropped. The man caught it before it fell on the bed, but, some of the liquid spilled on the bedsheet. Edua fell backwards, her head hit the pillow, the rest of her body remained motionless. She tried to move, but, she felt paralyzed. Fear gripped her heart. What was happening to her?
The man got up and placed the glass on the beside draw. He pulled off his clothes and climbed the bed. He had just twenty minutes before the pill loosens it potency.
“Don’t be afraid. I am not going to hurt you,” he looked into her frightened eyes.
Edua was shocked to see her mother’s friend stark Unclad. Was he responsible for the way she felt? Did he put something in her drink? What did he want? Why did her mother leave her with him? Where was her mother? Was she in the sitting room?
“Relax, it will be over soon,” he knelt beside her and began to pull at her skirt.
“Mummy!” she looked towards the closed door.
“Sssssh…” the man threw the skirt, blouse and underwear on the floor.
“Mummy!” her teary eyes stayed glued to the door, hopeful that her mother would come to her rescue.
She gasped as his weight crushed her small body. She felt his rough hands on her bosom, pulling and squeezing. Why was he touching her this way? She was but a child. What he was doing was wrong. Where was her mother? Unexpectedly, a sharp pain spread through her nerve cells. She felt him inside her, driving in with force and pulling out the next moment. The continuous in and out motion made the pain unbearable. She couldn’t move. She could only scream and cry. She drifted into unconsciousness. She welcomed the soothing darkness where there was no pain.
Edua opened her eyes and found herself in a sitting position, in a bath-tub, Unclad and dripping wet. She saw her mother leaning over her, crying and dabbing her skin with a towel.
“It will be over soon. We are going to leave soon.”
What was she blabbing about? Were they still in her mother’s friend’s place? She looked into her mother’s eyes in fear.
“I am so sorry princess, oh my baby…” her daughter’s frightened eyes gnawed at her soul. She had almost stopped the whole process when she held the girl screaming. It took all the will power in her not to break down the door and yank her daughter away from her tormentor.
Someone opened the door and peeped, “Is she awake? The others are waiting,” Mustapha looked from mother to daughter.
“What others?” Adesua glanced at him.
“Everyone is here; I think it is better we do what we need to do.”
Her jaw dropped. Four men in one day? Were they crazy? This wasn’t what she agreed to. Her daughter was supposed to see a man per day. But, they wanted to devour her in one day. Was it safe? She was just a child.
“Your money is ready; it is in an envelope on the table in the sitting room.”
She blinked. Eight hundred thousand naira! She would be able to do so many things with the money.
“Mummy…” Edua tugged at her mother’s shoulder.
Adesua wrapped her up with the towel and carried her out of the bath-tub.
“Mummy I want to go home.”
She lifted the girl in her arms and followed Mustapha back to the bedroom. There were three other men in the room. One of them was her landlord and they were all Unclad. She placed the girl on the bed and walked out.
“Mummy!” Edua watched her leave.
“I will give her some pills, she will be calm and ready in a moment,” Mustapha brought out a syringe from his pocket.
The girl stared at the Unclad men. They were all grinning at her. She felt like a prey been sized up by a set of predators. Who was going to save her from them? Her mother had abandoned her!
Adesua sat on the sofa weeping. What she had been paid for was unthinkable. She couldn’t imagine what her daughter was going through. She sold her daughter to four men for eight hundred thousand naira. How long with it last? She feared for the girl’s emotional and psychological state. Would she ever recover? She placed her hands on her head in shame and guilt. The screams of the girl echoed through the walls. She could feel her heart breaking. She would take the girl’s place in a second, but, the greedy men didn’t want her, they wanted the ten-year-old girl.
She began to strategize in her aching mind. She planned to move out of the Alhaji’s place, rent another apartment far away from his house, enroll her daughter into a secondary school, rent a shop and use the rest of the money to buy goods. She was determined to re-start her sales of clothes business, so that she would be able to take care of herself and her daughter. She hoped to never meet the likes of the Alhaji and his friends ever again.
Two hours later, the door opened. Alhaji Musa and his friends strode out of the room smiling with satisfaction. Adesua got up and ran into the room. She found her daughter on the bed, curled into a ball and bleeding from her private part. She covered her up with the towel on the drawer and carried her. Guilt tugged at her heart, ripping it into shreds. She hoped the girl would find it in her heart to forgive her one day.
“Your daughter was quite a delicacy,” Mustapha flung a wad of notes at her, “That’s an extra two hundred thousand naira,” he winked at her and walked away.
She picked up the money and stuffed it into the envelope with the rest of the cash she had been paid. She held back the tears threatening to blind her, pulled her weight up and carried her daughter in her arms, out of the room. She left the house without looking back, holding unto the large envelope. She doubted if the one million naira was worth what her child went through that day.
Edua sat under the mango tree, eating her lunch and watching the students playing a game of soccer on the field. Many others ran around, playing a game of hide and seek. She glanced at her leather wrist-watch. The long break period was almost over. She finished her meal, covered the cooler and drank from her water bottle. She leaned against the tree and closed her eyes. Ugly memories saturated her line of thought. She opened her watery eyes and breathed out loudly.
There were nights when she barely slept a wink. Her nightmares were always concentrated on the men that had carnal knowledge of her. Even though they had moved out of their former house and were now living in a one-bedroom flat in a different area, she found it hard to forget what took place in her mother’s friend’s place. Men who were older than her late father defiled her without mercy and her mother was part of the whole act. She took her to them. She made some sort of agreement with them. She allowed them to do unspeakable things to her. She didn’t even try to stop them. What kind of a person does that? There were days when she doubted that Adesua was her real mother. If only her father was still alive. A tear drop slid down her fair smooth face.
Their condition was a bit better than when they first arrived in Lagos. Aside moving into a new apartment, her mother got her admitted into a Secondary School. She had also paid for a shop in Tejuosho market and set up the place. She sold first and second grade clothes in the small shop. It was a far cry from her mother’s butiks in Abuja. But, at least, now, they could boast of a three square meal. Nevertheless, it all came at the expense and cost of her innocence. It wasn’t worth it.
One of the school prefects stood in the middle of the field and began to ring the bell. The students playing around dispersed and headed to their different classrooms. Edua picked up her food cooler and water bottle, got up and dusted her uniform. She sighed heavily and set up to her class.