Adesua stirred the vegetable soup in the pot with a wooden spoon. She tasted it and nodded her head in approval. She switched off the table-top two burner gas cooker and turned on the electric kettle. She dipped a bowl into the bucket of water beside the sink and poured it into the kettle. She closed the lid and waited for it to boil. The corner of her eye caught the image of her daughter at the doorway.
“You are awake. Lunch is almost ready,” she broke into a smile.
Edua glared at her mother. She remembered being carried out of the room in the guest house the other night and placed at the back seat of a cab. Her encounter with the strange men left her bruised inside out. Her mother made her to swallow some pain relieving tablets when they got home. She slept off almost immediately and by the time she woke up, it was noon already.
“Why?” her angry light brown eyes were fixed on her mother’s confused face.
Adesua stared back at the girl. Her facial expression spoke volumes. She could perceive her state of mind.
“Why did you leave me alone in that room?”
She turned away and switched off the electric kettle. She poured the hot water into a bowl and brought out the container she kept cassava flakes. She spread several handful of the cassava flakes into the bowl and stirred with a short wooden stick.
“Why do you keep leaving me at the mercy of men who are old enough to be my father?” tears gathered in her sad eyes.
She raised her head and eyed the girl, “Do not bring your father into this.”
“Why not?” she stepped into the kitchen, “If he was alive, those men won’t have been able to lay their dirty fingers on me.”
Adesua hissed and continued to turn the molten mixture.
“Why are you doing this to me? What kind of mother puts her only child in harm’s way?”
“Edua out!” she pointed at the doorway. The girl’s words were beginning to get to her. She was doing the best she could to provide for them.
“Why are you selling me off to strange men? When did you become a pimp?”
The tears that covered the girl’s face made her chest to tighten in pain. “That’s enough!”
“I hate you…” came the bitter whisper.
Adesua gasped in shock.
“I will hate you till my dying day!” she yelled at her mother.
She dropped the short wooden stick and faced the girl. “Did you think I had a choice? Did my shop drop from the sky? Did I pluck the money I used to pay for your school fees on the tree?” she approached her sad looking daughter. “The food you eat, the clothes you wear, where did you think it all came from?” she stood a foot away from the eleven-year-old.
“Why aren’t you working?”
Adesua started to laugh, “You have no idea what the labour market is like.”
“And you think prostituting me is a better option?” she eyed her.
“No, but, you see… it is not like that…” she tried to find words to explain her actions.
“Shame on you,” Edua said through gritted teeth. It hurts that the woman she called mother wasn’t even remorseful.
Her brows knitted in an angry frown, “How dare you?!”
“You don’t deserve to be called a mother.”
Adesua hit the girl across the face. She watched her stagger backwards. “Don’t you ever in your life speak to me that way ever again!”
Edua steadied herself, hand on the side of her face. “I hate you!” she turned around and ran out of the kitchen.
She placed both hands on her braided hair and sighed heavily. The girl didn’t understand. She had no choice. She sighed again, dropped her hands and dished her food. She placed the plates of garri and vegetable soup on a tray, carried it out of the kitchen, into the sitting room and set it on a small stool in front of a chair. She sat down and began to eat. It upset her that her daughter hated her. She shook the thoughts off and concentrated on better plans.
She was going to expand her shop and buy more goods. She made a mental note to take her daughter to see a doctor the following week. They needed to take precautions so that she doesn’t get pregnant or get infected with STDs. She would also start to demand health status reports from future clients. It was better to be safe than sorry. She reasoned that the girl needed to show gratitude. The girl should be grateful that she didn’t abandon her. She cursed her in-laws who started it all.
Alhaji Musa and Mustapha got out of the white Hummer jeep and walked into the shop. Adesua beamed when she saw them. She arranged chairs for them to sit and instructed one of her sales to go buy some drinks.
“Alhaji, is this your face?” she took a seat beside them.
“Yes, it is. You are looking good,” Alhaji Musa winked at her.
The sales girl returned, placed a stool in front of the men and set a tray on it. She arranged the alcoholics drinks, opened them and left them.
“This is very cold,” Mustapha took a long sip of his drink.
“A soothing comfort under this hot weather,” Alhaji Musa added.
Both men roared in laughter. Adesua watched them and grinned. When her former landlord called to tell her that he needed to see her that afternoon, she had been excited because she knew that it would involve money. She needed funds to do a lot of things.
“Let’s talk business,” he placed the half empty bottle on the tray, “A friend of mine is celebrating his birthday this weekend and, I want to do something special for him,” Alhaji Musa winked at her.
“Okay,” Adesua listened with rapt attention.
“He is interested in tasting fresh lambs, but, he isn’t bold enough to hunt for his heart’s desire.”
She nodded, “How do I come in?”
“We are going to surprise him. I will send a car to pick you and the merchandise up. We will take it from there.”
“Okay,” she began to dream of the amount they would pay her.
“I can’t wait to see the look in his eyes when he sees her naked, covered up in vanilla cream and cholate spread,” Mustapha’s dark eyes twinkled.
“Yes, yes…” he nodded at his friend, then turned to his former tenant, “The man is very rich and he will pay you handsomely.”
“Okay then. We will be ready,” she assured him.
“Business woman, that’s why I like you,” Alhaji Musa placed a hand on her thigh and squeezed gently.
“Who doesn’t need money in this country?” she eyed him.
“We all do,” Mustapha emptied his bottle.
“Some more than others,” Alhaji Musa winked at her.
“Story,” she leaned against the plastic chair.
The men started to laugh again.
Edua sat on a stool in the bathroom washing her school uniforms and other clothes. She had been giving her mother the silent treatment since the night she left her in the motel room with the strange men. She spoke in mono-syllables whenever she was asked a question, she kept to herself and seldom eat the woman’s food. She was ready to live on indomie, eggs and geisha for as long as she could. She had not been able to come to terms with her mother’s decision to sacrifice her body for money. If the woman wanted to sleep around. Fine! She wouldn’t judge her. But, she had no right to give her away to men old enough to be her grand-father in exchange of money. Her mother now has a bigger shop, more goods, there was an increase in the daily patronage. She had also bought a car. They were living comfortably. But, all at the expense of her innocence. She made up her mind to move out as soon as she completed her Secondary school education. She would live far away from her mother and be in charge of her own life.
“Come out of that place and get dressed.”
She heard her mother’s voice before she saw her standing by the door, clad in a silver lace attire, in a skirt and blouse style. She had on silver jewelry, pencil heeled peep-toe shoes and hand-bag. Her silky jet black Brazilian hair was styled ‘all-back’ and its length was a little above the waist line.
“Am I am speaking to a mute?!” Adesua’s hazel eyes flashed with anger. She sized the girl up, irritated by her reluctance to get up. Gone were the days the girl followed her every instruction. But, now, she was full of questions and acted in defiance.
“Where are we going?” she looked her up and down.
“Stop asking me stupid questions!” she suppressed the urge to slap the girl.
“I am not going anywhere with you,” she dipped her hands into the basin.
Her brain began to boil, “Is something wrong with you?”
“I have an assignment. I am submitting it on Monday. I am going to the Library to search for the textbooks I need to complete the assignment,” she squeezed the cloth in her hand.
“What happened to all the books I bought for you this term?” Adesua eyed her.
“The teacher recommended the old edition of these textbooks. I don’t have it. I need to get to the library once I am done washing my clothes,” she raised her head and met her mother’s impatient stare.
“We can stop by a few bookstores on our way. We will buy whatever book you need,” she glanced at her silver plated wrist-watch.
“I checked several bookstores in this area yesterday. They don’t have. I also tried those ones in
Tejuosho and Yaba markets. My best bet is the library,” Edua insisted.
Adesua hissed again. “Go in there and changed into something… one of those pleated V-neck dresses I brought home from the shop will do.”
She picked another cloth and began to wash, “Where are we going? What’s more important than my education?” she looked her mother in the eye.
Adesua pulled off one of her shoes and hurled it at the girl. Edua jumped to her feet quickly, dodging the flying shoe.
“Do not make me descend on you this afternoon!”
Edua eyed the woman she called mother.
“You have five minutes to get ready. Meet me outside,” she limped into the bathroom, retrieved the shoe, put it back on and walked out.
Edua gritted her teeth. She couldn’t understand why she must be dragged along everywhere the woman went. Her mother partied almost every weekend. Due to her growing business, she met a lot of people and she was always attending one function or the other. It annoyed her that she didn’t have a say. It didn’t matter if she wanted to come along or stay back at home. She wished she would grow over night and move out.
Adesua and her daughter arrived at the birthday party of a sixty-year-old man. His family and friends were gathered together in a hotel hall to celebrate with him. There were all sorts of food being served by three different caterers, variety of fruit juices and alcoholic drinks littered every table in the hall. Trays of small chops, pastries, cakes and mouth-watering deserts were passed around by the youthful looking waiters and waitresses.
Edua sat beside her mother at a table for twelve. She was still fuming. It would be hard to complete her assignment that night. They rarely attended church on Sundays, except there was a baby dedication or some sort of ceremony organized by any of her mother’s customers. Even if she woke up early that Sunday, where was she going to get the books she needed? She bit at her lower lip and collected one of the chapman drinks served by a waiter at their table. She took a long sip and sighed heavily. Maybe she might call some of her classmates and find out if they had been successful in getting the textbooks. The class captain of her class lived in Tejuosho. She planned to call him when they get home that night. She might send a text first. She would go to his place on Sunday afternoon. She was sure he would be willing to lend her his books. He was one of the students that had been nice to her since she got admitted into the school.
Adesua watched her daughter closely. She smiled broadly when the girl began to bob her head. She collected the half-empty glass from her, placed it on the table, and got up, pulling the girl after her.
“I feel… dizzy,” Edua yawned loudly.
“I know, come with me,” she led her gently out of the hall, towards the elevator.
On the sixth floor, Adesua led her daughter out of the elevator, down the hallway, and stopped outside a room. She knocked quickly and waited. A dark skinned plump looking woman in her late forties opened the door and let them in.
“I have been waiting for you.”
“I know, help me with her.”
They carried her towards the bed, made her to lay down on her back and began to pull off her dress, shoes and jewelry. Edua tried to get up when she felt the cold white and brown thick substance poured all over her body. Her bones felt so weak. She slumped back on the bed and licked some of the substance on her shoulder. It tasted like vanilla and chocolate ice-cream. She turned her head and saw her mother heading towards the door with her dress and shoes in her hand.
The woman ignored her, opened the door and walked out.
Her heart beat accelerated. Where was she? Why does she feel dizzy and weakened? She tried to lift her weight, but, couldn’t.
“Now you are ready,” the dark skinned woman looked down at her.
Edua stared back at the woman. Ready for what? What was she talking about? Where did her mother go to?
The woman headed out and shut the door behind her. In less than a minute, a group of men came into the room, singing the ‘happy birthday song’ to the blindfolded celebrant. Her heart summersaulted when she recognized Alhaji Musa and his friend Mustapha amongst the men that surrounded the celebrant. Several thoughts ran through her mind. It dawned on her that her mother had sold her out again. Tears stung her eyes.
The celebrant removed the blindfold and when he saw her, he screamed in excitement. Alhaji Musa and the others wished him a very pleasurable birthday and left the room. The sixty-year-old man approached the bed, eyes glowing with lust. He got out of his clothes in a hurry and joined her on the bed.
“You are the best birthday gift ever,” he leaned over her and began to lick her all up.
Edua began to whimper. When was her nightmare going to end? When would her mother’s greed for money be satisfied?
About an hour and half later, Alhaji Musa and Mustapha came in when the birthday celebrant left.
“You have made the celebrant very happy,” Mustapha sat at the bedside, staring at her and licking his lips hungrily.
“Your mother is going to be well rewarded,” Alhaji Musa began to pull off his clothes.
“We must also partake of the pleasure…” Mustapha began to laugh.
Edua began to cry again. She wished death would come and take her away. What had her mother gotten her into?
About two hours later, Alhaji Musa and Mustapha left. Edua sat up, whatever she had been drugged with was beginning to wear off. Where was her mother? She wanted to go home.
Five strange men came in. The way they looked at her made her discern their intent. Fear gripped her. How was she going to get away from them? Where was her mother?
“Please…” she tried to speak. Her throat felt patched and her eyes burned due to excessive crying.
Like a predator after a prey, they approached the bed.