Hello Les AmisYayyy!!!!!!!!!
So I have amazing news to share......
The other day I got a mail from Farafina Books that they were interested in one of my short stories and that it would be featured on their short story series on the biNu app.
Was so happy, still happy and forever grateful to God for the opportunity...(Still improving as a writer/ story teller but honestly, the news did well for my confidence....)
Sooooooooooooooooo Grateful to God :))
It's my first story ever and so dear to my heart...
Hope you like it?
‘Koin, koin, koin’, their black sky high heeled shoes clucked on the sandy concrete floor, Yemi and her friends chatted as they went to their cafeteria, the noon sun kissing their skin as they hurried to join the now long queue. The well-lit cafeteria was beautiful, high ceiling with glittering chandeliers. Sweet smelling food enveloped
the hall. It was painted white and had the most beautiful artistic work at every corner of the room, the green flower vase at the centre of the room added spunk to ‘the kitchen’ as the cafeteria is popularly called. The girls entered the cafeteria and joined the over 100 people standing on either side of the flower vase queuing to dish their meal. Today was African meal day. There were assorted meats, Kunu and Zobo drinks, Eba, Pounded Yam, and Amala, and all sorts of Sauces. Ada, popularly called ‘Oyibo’ was in front of her friends, Yemi and Alimat who were both dark, though Yemi was taller of the girls. ‘I love this song’, she says, singing along to it, “If you ask me, Na who I go ask, the matter wey we dey see so, la la la” shaking her head to the beat of the song. ‘Omawunmi killed this song sha’, Alimat says, also shifting her feet in an attempt to dance to the song, her black tight high waist skirt restricting her movements as she tries to rock to the song. The 24 inch TV provided entertainment for the crowd. Yes, ‘the Kitchen’ provided a means for the group to relax and talk.
Funny how the noise in that hall could not interrupt Eni’s thoughts. ‘Ah, see my madam’, Yemi says, as they look for a place to sit in one of the traditionally crafted round tables while she was brushing her long hair back from her face. They all looked at Eni. ‘She is always so distracted. This morning I had to say good morning three times before she responded’, ‘it’s like she is not here with us, and she is the nicest person I've ever worked with’. ‘Maybe its problems at home that is making her act like that’, Ada interjected. Yemi nodded her head, ‘maybe! But, at least she doesn’t shout at me much like that Mr. Lanre who brings problems at home to work’. ‘That Lion!!!’ Alimat says sarcastically, opening her wide like she always does, ‘Roar Roar, See his coconut head’ she sounded like a baby with her tiny voice as she said that, looking glamorous in her plain fuchsia shirt and black pants. The girls laughed at that while eating their ewedu soup with assorted meat and Amala. Yemi thought she heard her name and turned; she then looked briefly at her boss and prayed silently for her. ‘Oh my God, see my shirt ooo’ she says. Her shirt now stained with oil from the soup. ‘Kpele, sorry, we will wash it off or you can use my Jacket’ Ada offered. ‘Please bring toothpick!!!’ They heard someone say in the distance...
Eni sat at her table, the ones reserved for the top managers. As Chief of Public Relations, she was the face of the Company. She was also respected as Clients were always impressed with her work. Her small diamond earrings shimmered in the bright cafeteria, her black suit and sleek short hair-do made her the perfect candidate for business woman of the year and matched her fair complexion perfectly. She was 5feet 4 inches tall and had perfect features that made her a head turner. Years of beauty regime had removed the scars, scars that only her eyes can see.
Eni sat at her table, staring intently at her Children’s pictures, not distracted at all by the on goings in the hall. Junior, her big boy is now 5, dark like his father and extremely smart, and Adeola, her baby will be 3 years old next month. She loves playing dress-up and can’t stop sleeping with her on the bed. ‘Mommy, I’m scared of
Ojuju Calabar’ she will say. Eni smiled at the thought of her children. She loved them so much. So much to keep doing whatever she can to survive. ‘If only Ade, the father of her children had not called her names, If only she can forget?’ Maybe she should have told him early in their marriage. Her thoughts spiraled off like it always does to those days of yesteryears. She collected her thoughts and forced herself to gulp down her cup of Kunu... ‘Gban, gban’ the alarm sounded signalling the end of lunch... Walking fast like she always does, Eni walked to her office which was 1 minute away from the Cafeteria in 50 seconds. Her blue office like she wanted it to be painted was plush. She found comfort in that colour. It had 4 White seats that were comfortable, a state-of-the art computer and DVD player. The painting of ‘Obalende’ was there at her order. She just wanted it in her office. ‘My meds!’, she tells herself. She needed her medications, to stop the pounding heart beat she was experiencing now.
*****‘Dr. Kola Oni is here to see you Ma’, Yemi told her. ‘Ok, let him in, thank you’. Eni said. ‘Ok Ma’. Yemi replied. ‘Doctor K, welcome, How is your family and the grandkids? She asks. ‘They are fine, how are you? What happened yesterday, you were supposed to come to the hospital and you’ve refused to pick my call?’ Doctor Kola asked. ‘Its work ooo, I’m so sorry. Did you bring the Meds; I’m running short on them’. Eni asked. Doctor Kola’s phone rang, ‘Eni please excuse me’, he said in his thick voice. He picked it up and talked in hushed tone. Eni looked at her doctor and friend. She remembered the day she met him. He was older now, about 60, with dark thick eye brow and kind eyes. He was tall and well educated. She smiled at the wrinkle on his face. What was wrong with her? She wondered. She loved her family and would do anything to ensure they stay together. But what is wrong with her? She pondered. ‘Eni, here is your drug but we need to talk, it’s more important to talk than to take all these medications. I will leave town tomorrow evening, and will be back next week, Can we see then?’ Doctor Kola said. ‘OK. Thank you for stopping by and for the refill’ Eni said. ‘Bye, Bye Doc’, she said as she walked him to the door. ‘And Eni?’ Doctor Kola wanted to tell her again what he always tells her but she never listens to. He shook his head and said, ‘Never Mind’. He walked out of her office.
Eni watched him go. He was more than her doctor and psychiatrist. He was her friend.
She sat in at several meetings like she does, her thoughts spiraling off now and then. It’s a wonder how she ever made it big in the company, in life for that matter.
This time around she was thinking of how much she loves her family, her life, their reaction when they read her note, ‘Will they hate me? Will they miss me?’ She mused...
*****The drive back home from work brings back lots of memory. The stench of the high class Ikoyi area of Lagos brings back memory of yesteryears. ‘GET OFF MY WINDOW BEFORE I SLAP YOU!!’ Jolts her back to reality. ‘Oga please now, I don clean am for you’ cries the small, ebony, curly haired boy. ‘Na only 20 naira’ he says.
‘You dey mad ooo’ her driver retorted.’ ‘Na me send you clean my car’. He said. ‘Don’t insult him’, Eni says. ‘If you don’t want to give him money, you don’t have to insult him to prove your point’. ‘Awww... poor thing’ she sighs. ‘Please, take, give this to him’. She passes 500 naira to the driver. Awestricken, the little boy shows his shovel brown teeth. He mutters his thanks as he rushes over to meet his peers. His formerly white shirt showing traces of holes, here and there. Eni smiles at the kindred spirit with a feeling of nostalgia. The long ride home gave her time to sleep and for the first time, the dreams weren't there. Silence filled her beautiful home as she enters. She was glad they were away. Ade had taken the kids to his grandparents. He kissed her before he left but she still thought of his words. They stung. They reminded her of what life was like. Yes, she was glad they will not see this. ‘If only, I had a perfect past’, she thought to herself.
Her hands quavering as she tries again.
“Trust is overstated and I don’t know if I’m up to it anymore. I know you need an explanation; I can’t give you one. I can’t even explain to myself why I’m doing this. I hope this will help me and you too.
For a long time, I was called a street kid. Thinking about it now; I think I was deprived of love. Or was I?
In these last few hours, I choose to trust you and I will share my life experiences with you. With our Children. Remember that night we met and I told you I was orphaned.
Here is how...
Life was not all that bad, you know. I was the first of 2 kids with very strict parents. Dad was the typical Nigerian Dad. Pot bellied, bald, always frowning, read your books, no TV, no friends, go to lessons- kind of dad. Our education was important to him. Just education. He believed boys will ruin my life in the long run as such I was not allowed to talk to any of them. One of my neighbours and classmates, Ajayi, or ‘fine lepa’ like we used to call him pestered me a lot. I liked him and in my innocent mind, he was cute. But daddy said he was a bad boy. I remember the day he chased him from our house to the street. Daddy turned my bottom red that day. Mom was the quiet one, the supportive wife and a loving mother to her kids in those early years; she was my pillar and support. She was fair, too thin and had traces of a once beautiful woman. Maybe the suffering got to her. Her red scarf never left her head.
But Mama loved me so much.
Once, when I came 7th in class, and had to endure dad’s whooping, Mom held me close and cried with me. She was always there when I needed her, to talk to, to listen. I just wish she wasn't so quiet.
Like every Nigerian parents, a boy was important in the family. So, when Olani was born, my parent’s joy knew no bounds. Ola, as we fondly call him was our delight. I remember going to see mama in the hospital, and seeing Ola’s big brown eyes for the first time, and I immediately fell in love. I remember playing hide and seek with him or the first time he spelled his name...0, l, a, n, 1...Oh, the mixture of numbers and alphabets (Big grin)... Let me not forget aunt Lily or ‘anti Yiyi’ as Ola calls her, our favourite shop woman where we buy gala, bobo milk, tom tom, thinking about such times makes me sad, I wasn't prepared for life you know , I was so young.. I don’t understand why it happened?
I remember the first time, as usual, our small home was the center for dad’s age grade meeting, and dad is always happy on such days... He breaks the kola, pours the libation and welcomes his people with big smiles. He flashes his brown teeth on such days, the tribal mark on his cheeks reaching his eyes when he does that. He wears his big ‘agbada’ and mama makes the efo riro soup with bush meat and pounded yam. For a warm day with blue sky, I wonder what went wrong in my little world, the little town of Ota I've come to love...
On that day, Aunt Sade came with Lola. As usual, Aunt Sade was loud but I loved her for her boisterousness. She wears the biggest head scarf and flamboyant wrapper. Lola was aunt’s 16 years old daughter, in an all–girls’ boarding school.
Being seven, stubborn and amicable, I immediately liked Lola. I showed her off to my neighbours as my big sister and I remember their jealous-steaming eyes staring at me. I wanted to be like her when I grew up. She looked innocent, friendly and rolled
her eyes when her mother said something unwelcoming. I remember she said her favourite color was red.
Yes, I remember that day clearly, it was in the far corner of our house, in my bedroom. The tiny room I share with Ola. I invited her to show her books, paintings and probably get her to help me out with my assignments. And it happened; it started out as little touches here and there. She said I was pretty and it is right. She said it will not hurt me. It was something that I will enjoy...Oh I wanted to stop, and then she forced her big body on me...If only I had said NO. If only my papa and mama had taught me something, anything about sex education. This new friend molested me.
She said it was Ok to sleep with her. She said everyone in her school does it. She said dad hates me and if he finds out, he will kill me. She said I will be a public disgrace and will be laughed at. She said I was useless. It happened three times.
Well, two months later, I woke up felling feverish and my innocent mind didn’t want to go to school. Ugly reddish rash in my labia and acute pain whenever I took a pee got me worried. I didn’t know who to tell. The fever worsened and my parents had to
take me to the hospital where a blood test showed that I had genital herpes. Her predictions gradually came to pass. Dad hated me. My dear mother was disappointed in me. She didn’t even take time to hear me out. She didn’t defend me in her own way like she used to. No one came to my defense Even the incessant flogging from the man in white, the celestial church pastor could not save me from
the wrath of Dad. He couldn't stand my sight. Dad said ‘you dey foolish. Na that boy, Ajayi, wey do am. He don teach you wetin adults dey do Abi. God don catch you today’. Dad never wanted my explanation. The next year, short and stout Uncle Lamide, Dad’s younger brother that lives in Lagos, came to visit us for 1 month.
Daddy said I had a bad behavior and kept bad friends so I was instructed to stay with uncle Lamide and his wife in Lagos.
I remember the rickety bus that took me and my uncle to Lagos. It was filled with lots of luggage's at the boot of the bus. We were squeezed between two fat women as I struggled to see Ola’s tearful face. Thick smoke filled the air as we bade good bye to
the people I knew. We went past my parents, past my little town, past the toll gate that was inscribed with ‘Good-bye from Ogun state’. That was the last time I saw any of them, the last time I saw my Ola.
****Life in AJ city as it is popularly called was horrible. People lived in unfinished Shanty ‘face me, I face you’ houses, there were unfinished houses at every turns, slurry blackish overfilled drainages lined up the streets. The road to Uncle Lamide’s house was decorated with dirt. Uncle Lamis house was a coal stained one bedroom apartment with leaky roofs, one TV and radio. They had just bed and a bench. We shared toilets with 12 families and cleaning was done routinely. Sleeping was not easy there as the loud angry sound of several small generator sets filled the air at
night. Electricity was always in very short supply. The music and playfulness of the mosquitoes did not make life easy as well. ‘Buzz, Buzz’, Slaps from all corner as we try to kill the mosquitoes, made me miserable. I was always falling ill. People talked in such colloquial language, ‘wetin dey do u? Na wah o? Wetin dey pa?’ they say.
When it rains, it’s like all the dirt’s in Lagos come there. Its floods right into our house. Yes, beds, clothes, cutleries’ all bath in our flooded house. Dogs and goats roamed the street like humans and scoured for food in the dirtiest of places. Most times, they can be seen in the gutters looking for food.
I remember the first time I got to AJ City. I was scared. Uncle Lamide and I arrived with our luggage’s on Motorcycles. His wife, Tola, dark in complexion and equally short like uncle, but fat, welcomed us though she didn’t smile at me. I later got to realized he was open toothed and had a sharp tongue. That night, she and my Uncle argued over me. Uncle finally convinced her that I will be useful to them in selling their packaged water. I braced myself for the worse as I cried myself to sleep on the hard cold floor. They had no children.
Immediately, I was assigned the task of supporting the family by selling packaged water (popularly called pure water). No school, just work. Uncle Lamide’s fancied that since I was fair skinned, I will attract people to patronize me. Sadly, I did not. Life back home in Ota was not the same as life in Lagos. So much hustle and bustle. Everyone seems to be in a hurry. Cars with loud horns, people insulting each other, such was Lagos life. The big men don’t drink packaged water; the smaller men prefer iced water. Consistent beatings from Uncle Lami and his wife made me more aggressive towards work. Words like useless girl, disgrace, hopeless girl made me depressed and stubborn at the same time. I felt I needed to prove something to the world. Yes, reality turned me to a young adult. I was only eight. The morning before I became a full blown street girl, no, a full blown kid deprived of love, I went about my usual business of selling pure water, I decided that selling on Apapa Bridge which is at the outskirts of Ajegunle was best because of the traffic congestion commonly experienced there. Also, I get to interact with my other ‘colleagues’ as I choose to call them- The popcorn guy who carries dozens of popcorn on his outstretched hands, the soft drink boy who wears his black cap and runs at every buses he sees. The gala boy who stands in the middle of the road without fear and care in the world as he stares at on coming vehicles waiting to be called. The plantain chips girls who sit on the side of the bridge looking at the scenery of sand mixed with pure water packs, nylon bags, feces and black flies perch on feces. Looking at the boys playing football in the open space close to the bridge. Yes these were my colleagues and friends. ‘Buy your pure water, water, water’, I cried. My small voice sored from the constant competition I had with my colleagues. It was scorching hot and I was not clear minded. Sticky Sweat trickling down my red, rashed neck. A lady in the yellow and blacked stripped bus needed pure water and as usual I had to struggle with the rest of the clan to sell to her. After the constant argument of which is cold, she finally picked mine. But immediately the road freed up and the bus zoomed off. My little legs could not take me so far, my little hands could not hold my water baskets, my little eyes could not hold back the salty tears, my little body could not take any more beatings, and my little heart could not take any more hurtful words. I was so distraught. People say home is where your heart belongs; I asked myself, where does my heart belong?
Home was nowhere in sight.
Having only made 200 Naira that day, I decide that the best decision was going to Uncle Lamide’s house. I forced my tired sore feet to walk back home. Walking back was about 50 minutes but I had to go home.
How could I have stayed in that house? Yes, it was his house, his rules. He said I was incompetent, He beat me blue back. I couldn't take it anymore. I moved out. I moved on.
‘Stupid girl I will kill you!!’ The masked man chased me again, on falling, I screamed, ‘Mom, where are you?’ Yes, that was the first of the many nightmares I had in the seven years I lived with Emmet, Sysco, Eagle, and Fire man on the street. ‘Stupid wealth, abeg Wake up ooo!!’ They would say. I was called wealth. Those were our nick names. I never knew their names. We were known as ‘awon marun- the five people’. When I have such dreams, Emmet gives me a whitish powder like substance he calls’ Alabukun’, he says it cures malaria and all sorts of illness.
Emmet is the doctor of the group. He is the head of the clan. His mother gave birth to him in the street, so he understood the street before the rest of us did.
I met Emmet the day I left Uncle Lamide’s house. I remember crying and walking, just going anywhere without money to go back home or for food and then I bumped into Emmet. He was tall, had a snobbish air around him and dark-brown hair. He offered me a place to sleep as it was windy and dark and I accepted. He took me to a space under the bridge. He said he paid for it. I ate bread that night and we became friends ever since then.
Eagle was my sister. She is the only other girl in our group. Her Libyan origin endeared me to her. I remember seeing her beautiful tiny frame at one of the bus stops where her mom sends her and her sisters to beg for money. They go to the long queue and hold any gentle faced person they see till the person gives them money. She joined the group after she was raped by one of the local tout where she begs. Emmet helped out with the abortion and she joined us. She was 10. She helps out with food which is sometimes pilfered from road side traders, gotten from the garbage dumps, other times, from kind-hearted people.
Sysco and fire man were the Hench men. They were brought into Lagos unsuspectingly by strangers and they became runaways like me. Sysco works as a horse rider at Oniru beach in Lagos. Sometimes we spend the night in the cold at the beach because of Sysco’s connection there. I remember his beach stories.
Sometimes, he begs people to ride the horses, but they refuse. They are scared of his rough and ragged look.
Fire man is so tall and handsome especially with his dreadlocks; he works as a bus conductor during the day and sometimes as a petty thief. He tries hard to be fashionable even though he’s street like us. The jewelleries I wear, and the cell phones we all had were as a result of his mastermind. Life in the street was sometimes fun and sometimes scary.
Our favorite hangout was beneath the Obalende Bridge. It had amazing colors of red, yellow and blue buses. It had parks for different locations in Lagos hence we had our hand full with works. Sometimes, I assist in sweeping the buses at the end of each work day and get paid 50 Naira. At least it was something and we get to eat.
The boys play football each day under the sandy part of the bridge with used tires as their goal posts and their bare feet as their boots. Baths are done once a week and teeth’s are cleaned with chewing sticks or sometimes with charcoal and salt. Blaring music from our favorite artist can also be found under the bridge and birthdays are
celebrated there. Iya Ariyo, the ‘buka’ lady who is bald and almost reddish in complexion with lots of stretch marks as a result of the bleaching cream she uses helps us out with rice whenever she feels like. Being the only one that can read, I sometimes read the papers at the paper stand under the bridge while trying to enjoy talks of football with other people there. We hated the police most especially, the boys. We avoided having any confrontations with them.
****My life as a street child ended when I was 13, Fireman raped me. He called it sanitizing me. Maybe, if I hadn't told them of my past, things wouldn't have spiraled out of control. I remember that day, after telling them, fireman said ‘one day you will know that men give better sex’.
Well, that day came sooner than I expected. He lured me by saying that he had a job of cleaning buses for me. In my innocent mind, I went and that’s when it happened.
At first, I thought it might be a joke but he said it will be OK I screamed, Yes, I did.
But, it was common sight here in Obalende; it happens every day they say. Nobody cares. My ‘friend’ brought out a knife; he said he will stab me all over. He said I was stained and needed to be cleaned. He took his time... I felt numb and hurt so badly that day, Dr. Emmet could not save me. I needed proper medical treatment... I never saw them again after that incident.
I woke up to the smell of medications and noise in a hospital bed. I don’t know how I got there but it was a public ward. There were lots of people around, you can hear children crying. I look around and saw drip stands and women wearing white, checking on each person.
Luckily, I was attended to by a Kind doctor. Doctor Kola Oni. His first words were, ‘You are beautiful and I want you to never give up’. It was strange hearing that from someone I never knew but my once pounding heart eased. Dr. Kola took care of me.
His beautiful wife and young son treated me as one of their own. He took me to Saint Mary’s home where I was further educated and worked to earn some money to take me to the University later on.
When I was in the street, I felt such homes were no good. But Saint Mary proved to be a sanctuary for me and other kids like me. Its bright blue room with the big brown bible on the black table comforted me. I laid on a real bed there and saw an air conditioner for the first time. I was encouraged by my mentor, the fair and beautiful lady with a streak of white hair, the late Mrs. Sade Onokoya, (remember, her?) to strive for greatness and I’m glad I made her proud. Will she proud of me after tonight?
I met you, Ade. My joy. I remember seeing you for the first time that night at the university and you showed me love divine. I will never forget those brown eyes of yours and the beauty mark on your nose accentuating your dark features. I’m glad I made a home with you.
But the nightmares are back; those days of yesteryear's are haunting me. Dr. Kola said its post traumatic stress disorder. I don’t know what to call it. But our fight last week and your words- it stung me, it reminded me of those days?” Eni Sighed, she couldn't continue...
*****She looked at the tear-stained note. It was now wet and dirty with smears of ink, here and there. She dropped her pen and picked up the note. ‘Can anyone ever read and understand this? She thought to herself. She gave a weak smile as thoughts of Ade and the kids flashed through her mind. ‘What kind of name of is “Otapiapia”?
She said aloud, looking at the substance and laughing as she did so. She shredded the note into tiny pieces. The once brownish-white note with blue inks now just one of her memories.
The sound of her phone ringing brought her back to reality. She checked the caller’s ID and saw Dr. Kola name on it. She then remembered the words of a kind Doctor she met some years ago, “You are beautiful, and I want you to never give up”. She grinned as she pressed the received button and said ‘Hello Doctor K…’
- The end :)
You can go to biNu to check the story out. BiNu is a mobile app. In order to access the story, you will need to download the app on your phone: binu.mobi , Then go to books-----World Reader-----Short Stories and look out for my story, it's called Yesteryear's.
Hope you like it too!!!!
Song of the day- Strangely Dim by Francesca Battistelli
Never give up on your dreams...
Never give up on God.
Thanks a lot for reading :)