(A VERY SHORT FREE STORY)
It was a lovely day in Lagos city. Felix was driving through a street one day after he had chosen to take a detour in order to avoid the traffic jam on the main road which would inevitably trap him for hours. It was indeed a lovely Tuesday afternoon and all Felix wanted to do that day was go to the Ileya (sallah) party which his friends had invited him to somewhere in Lawanson. As he took a turn into another street with a rough road strewn with tons of waste, he suddenly jammed his feet on the break, bringing the car to an abrupt halt after a young lady who seemed to be in her early twenties had dashed out from a damaged red gate, into the street. She was sweating, looking tattered, bleeding and looked so petrified. Completely oblivious to the fact that she had just narrowly escaped being run over by his car, he glanced up and down the street as if confused of which way to run to in order to get away from whoever was after her.
Confused about why she was like that, Felix saw a man stalk out of the compound she had come out from, and when the girl saw the man, she began to slowly move backwards, shaking her head in trepidation and refusal. Felix could literally see her trembling. From the sharp gestures the man gave, Felix could tell that he was ordering her to get back into the compound but the girl refused and continued to shake her head. Suddenly, the man lunged for her, caught her before she could make a run for it, and the thundering blow he gave her on the head made Felix wince and cringe as if he was the one who had been hit like that. As the girl struggled to break free while the man dealt her more blows to probably thwart her defiance, Felix watched in dismay as he wondered why on Earth a man would hit a woman like that, and what even baffled him more was why the hell a woman would choose to endure such rubbish from a man. As he watched the man forcefully dragged the girl into the compound, he sat there, helpless about what to do since he didn’t really know what was going on.
When the couple had disappeared into the compound, Felix resumed his driving now, and as he continued down the street, many questions flitted through his mind almost at once. He began to wonder who the helpless girl was to the brute that had beaten her up in the street? Was she his sister? Was she his wife? Was she his girlfriend? Was this the first time he was physically assaulting her? Were there neighbours in that compound right now who were pleading on the girl’s behalf? Was he still hitting that terrified girl? All these questions went unanswered and Felix found himself stepping on the break again, but mildly this time. His conscience kept pricking him and something in his guts told him to go back and check what was going on. Putting the gear in reverse, even though he knew that he was going to be really late for the sallah party he was going for, Felix reversed till he got to the gate.
When he got there, he parked his car properly, stepped down, locked his car and cautiously walked into the compound. To his surprise, he saw a woman preparing ogi (pap) in a bowl near the fence as she tied the chunk of ground maize in a white cloth and squeezed the water out till the chunk of ground maize formed into a big lump inside the cloth, While a man who seemed to be in his late thirties was washing his motorcycle close to the almost stagnant gutter near the gate. Both of them lifted their heads to look at him as if the whiff of his cologne had announced his presence and Felix began to wonder if these two hadn’t witnessed what had just happened a few minutes ago.
“Una good afternoon.” He greeted politely.
“Good afternoon.” The woman half-heartedly answered while the man ignored him and continued to wash his bike with a big piece of garri bag which he had used as a makeshift sponge. “Na who you dey find? (Who are you looking for?)” The woman asked as she took a big sieve and began to serve the pap she was preparing.
“I dey find one girl wey run come out from this compound three minutes ago. (I’m looking for a girl who ran out of this compound three minutes ago)” Felix replied.
“Ehen?” The woman curiously regarded him with a not-for-friendly look. “Na who you be? You be her brother? (Who are you? Are you her brother?)”
“No, but she dey bleed when I see am and I almost jam her sef. (No, but she was bleeding when I saw her and I almost ran her over too.)”
“I see… Na why you dey find her? You no happy say God save you make you no jam person pikin? (Why are you looking for her? Aren’t you happy that God actually saved you from running over someone’s child?)” She asked with a frown on her face, turned her face to blow her nose, hit the mucus on the ground, crushed it into the sand with her rubber-slippered feet, wipe her hand against the thigh of her wrapper then returned that same hand to the pap she was making after waving away the flies that kept perching around.
“I just wan see am, abeg. (I just want to see her, please.)” Felix pleaded, eager to be done with this unnecessary interrogation, especially when he was disgusted with what she had just done. If these two were here all along, why didn’t they help the lady out? Why were they just sitting here like nothing had happened. Why were Nigerians quick to turn their faces the other way when someome else was in distress?
“Dem dey stay for boy’s quarters.” The woman finally answered, pointing to the back of the house. “I sha hope say you no be one of those people wey dey toast am o? Abeg, if na so, just dey go back now now. No go worsen that girl beating because Emma fit kuku kill am. (They stay in the boy’s quarters. I just hope you are not one of those men who woo her. If so, please just quickly go back now so that you don’t worsen the girl’s beating because Emmanuel can just kill her out of jealousy.)”
“I no dey toast am, ma. (I’m not one of those who woo her, ma.)” I said and simply started for the boy’s quarters. As I drew closer to it, I began to hear her cries coming from one of the six single rooms in the boy’s quarters. I followed the sound till I got to the last room in a corner near the fence and as I pulled closer, I could hear the sound of a whip colliding with raw flesh which was followed by a howl of pain each time it hit home. When I reached the spot, I realized that the door was ajar and the girl had been tied down on the floor while the man whipped her with the detached cord of an electric iron. As I glanced around the surroundings, I could tell the profession of her assaulter. He was an electrician and there were several damaged televisions, radios, irons, electrical parts and other home appliances lying around. The place was like a junk yard and there was a small tiger generator that was in need of a replacement from overuse.
He thought of pouncing on the man but quickly restrained himself because he believed that violence was definitely not the answer to this situation. So instead, he cleared his throat loudly to get his attention and the man stopped whipping the girl and turned to look at him. When he realised that he couldn’t recognize Felix, his expression was instantly replaced with a scowl now. “Ehen? Na who you be? (Yes? Who are you?)” He asked tersely, panting, while the girl whimpered and trembled on the floor.
“My name is Felix…” Felix started to introduce himself but the man angrily interrupted him.
“Ehn, na wetin you want?! You wan repair something?! (Yes, what do you want? Do you want to repair something?!)”
“No… I’m just curious about the girl.” Felix replied. “She almost ran in front of my car just a few minutes ago. She was bleeding and I saw what you did to her out there too.”
The man turned to face him squarely now. “Na who you be? You be police? (Who are you? Are you a cop?)”
“I’m not but please kindly untie that girl. She’s human, not an animal.” Felix told him.
“Na wetin concern you for this matter? No be my girlfriend?! Na my responsibility! Na me bring am come from village! Na me wan marry her! Na me don dey feed am since, which mean say anything wey I like, I go do am. (What’s your business in this matter? Is she not my girlfriend?! She’s my responsibility! I am the one who brought her from the village! I’m her fiance! I have been the one feeding her since which means that I’ll do to her what I wish!)” The man fumed.
“But what did she do to deserve all this? This is top cruel! Haven’t you punished her enough for any offence she might have committed?” Felix asked, not pleased at all with all his words.
“Shuoo! Dem send you? Abi you dey find where you wan die put? For this Lagos, una no fit mind una business again? Anyway, since you wan know, I go tell you! This stupid girl wey you dey see so…
(Were you sent to me? Or are you just looking for where to die? Can’t people mind their own business in this Lagos anymore? Anyway, since you want to know, I’ll tell you! This stupid girl here…)” He pointed down at her with the cord. “This morning, I say make she cook rice this morning, she sleep, rice burn. I no too vex, I just slap am small. This afternoon, I say make I collect wetin be my right, na im she talk say she no dey for mood! Imagine! How she go talk say she no dey mood! This foolish girl wey I decide to even train go school small since me I no go school. (This morning, I told her to prepare some rice but she slept off and burnt the rice. I did not get very mad, I just gave her a few slaps! This afternoon, I felt like taking what’s mine but she told that she’s not in the mood! This stupid girl that I have taken it upon me to send her to school since I’m an illiterate!)”
“Wait a minute. Let me get this straight.” Felix said. “What you are actually saying is that you actually beat her up this way simply because she denied you sex?”
“Yes…I say I wan do for back but she no gree! (Yes! I said I wanted to go in from behind but she refused!)” He said in indignation.
“What! You actually want to have anal sex with her?!” Felix asked in surprise, unable to believe his ears.
The fool smiled now as he asked calmly, probably trying to make Felix see reasons with him. “Shey you no know say na that place dey sweet pass? This girl na virgin and I just wan respect wetin my church dey preach say fornication is bad. If we go for marriage counseling now, dem go ask us if we don dey fuck, so in order to preserve her virginity, I dey use the back. Sex dey very important for man and I no fit come dey feed girl wey no go satisfy my sexual needs. (Don’t you know that anal sex is sweeter? This girl is a virgin and I just want to respect my church’s preaching against fornication. When we start going for marriage counseling, we will be asked if we are having sex, so, in order to preserve her virginity, I have anal sex with her. Sex is very important to a man and I will not continue to take care of a girl who will not satisfy my sexual needs.”
Appalled by all he had heard and very angry now, Felix ordered. “Release her.”
At first, the man gave him a confused look. “Wetin be release her? Osigini? (What do you mean by release her?)”
“Mr. Man, I’m not here to joke with you!” Felix said sternly now. “It’s obvious that you are not only a senseless illiterate, you are a blithering idiot! You have the guts to treat this girl this way all because of your rotten sexual needs?!”
The man slowly advanced towards Felix now with a menacing look. “Na me you dey call idiot and illiterate?! You know who you dey talk to so?! You know who I be?! Dem no born anybody well for this street make them put mouth for my matter, na you this ode na im wan kon kill yourself by yourself. See, forget all your English and all your fine boy looks, if you no bounce commot from this place now now, I go use this wire design your body! (Am I the one you are calling an idiot and an illiterate? Do you even know who you are talking to? In this street, no one dares interferes in my matter and you this fool just appeared out of nowhere bent on causing yourself trouble! See, to hell with all your good English and fine boy looks, if you don’t scram right now, I shall decorate your body with this cord!” He threatened, brandishing the electric iron cord at Felix.
Undaunted, Felix knew that he had to reveal the street part of himself. Without saying a word, he pulled out his cellphone and made a false call. “Hello! Ha! Arrow, baba alaye! Abeg make una dey come now now. E get one idiot wey life don tire. Make una come help me deal with am. (Hello! Ha, Arrow, father of thug! Please I want you people to come immediately. There’s an idiot who’s tired of living and I want you all to come help me teach him a lesson!)” On hearing this, the man took a step backward now, suddenly afraid now as he swallowed hard. “Just come with four of your guys, this one na urgent matter abeg.” Felix continued and when he began to describe where he was to the louts, the man quickly began to plead for mercy now.
“Oga, abeg, no vex. E never reach that one. Na mouth I just dey make. Abeg, no call anybody come here. I be common electrician. I use God beg you. In fact, I go loose am now now. (Sir, please don’t be angry. It hasn’t gotten to this. I was just bluffing. Please, do not call anyone over. I’m just an electrician. I beg you with God. In fact, I’ll untie her right away!)” Quickly, he tossed the cord away and began to loosen the ropes around the girl, then resumed begging Felix. When the girl managed to sit up with her clothes torn in places, Felix cancelled his fake call, approached her now and carefully helped her to her feet as she groaned in pain and hopped on one foot. Felix knew that he had to take her out of this hell hole if she was to survive the night. He had bo idea what the fool would do to her once he left.
“Sorry…” Felix comforted her as she grimaced in pain when his hand accidentally touched one of the numerous welts the foolish man had inflicted on her body. As he began to guide her out of the house, the man asked with a start.
“Na where you dey carry am go? How I wan take know say no be kidnap you wan kidnap am?! (Where are you taking her to? How am I sure that you don’t want to kidnap her?)” He questioned but quickly shut his mouth when Felix shot him a glare.
“One more stupid word from that mouth of yours and I’ll make sure that you sleep in the police cell tonight!” Felix threatened.
The man said nothing more but the anger in his eyes spoke volumes. As Felix carefully led the girl away, the man followed at a distance, angry that he was unable to do anything to stop a stranger from carting away with his girlfriend. Then he began to mumble under his breath: “Na so poor man wey dey manage, dey mind him own business, go sidawn him own, person go just come out of nowhere dey put mouth for wetin no concern am because they believe say dem fit oppress person with their money. (That’s how a poor man who is trying to survive will be minding his own business and a man will just come out of nowhere to interfere because they believe that they can oppress the poor with their money.)”
Felix ignored him and as he helped the girl out of the compound, the woman still processing the pap and the man who was now drying his motorcycle with a rag turned to watch them go in surprise. Felix helped the girl into the car by helping her sit in the seat next to the driver’s seat, then he went around the car and got in too. The man stopped outside the gate and continued to grumble. As Felix started to drive away; from the side mirror, he saw the man pick a stone and haul it at the car, but the stone missed narrowly while the man fumed as he watched them go. As Felix continued to drive, putting a great distance between them and the man, he turned to look at the girl and asked:
“What’s your name?”
“My name is Loveth.” She managed to answer through her pain and he was surprise that she spoke good English even though her igbo accent was still very strong.
“I’m Felix.” He told her.
“Thank you for saving me.” She told him with droopy eyes, her tears-streaked face turned towards him and Felix felt a surge of anger when he noticed that she was still trembling. For how long has that fool been assaulting this helpless innocent girl?
“Don’t mention.” Felix answered as he turned into the main road and joined the Lagos traffic, making up his mind to forgo the party and take this strange girl whom his heart had gone out to, to the hospital for some treatement.
Twenty minutes, still stuck in traffic, after making a call to explain to his friends that he wouldn’t be able to make it to the party, Felix glanced over at the girl only to discover that she had fallen asleep with her head almost touching her left shoulder. Now that he took enough time to scrutinize the poor girl, he realised that she had her natural hair plaited which was so rough, needed to be unbraided, washed and plaited again. He also noticed that she had a black birth mark on her left temple, full eyebrows, long eyelashes, a narrow nose bridge that sloped down to a small pointy nose and beautiful lips, with a full lower one.
She had a long neck, ringed with beautiful lines, and her collar bones were so obvious that it showed that she wasn’t feeding well. Her arms were slender and on her upper arm was a depressed spot which must have been caused by an injection several years ago when she was still a child. But as his eyes travelled to her chest now, that was when he realised that she had no brassiere on, and through one of the torn parts of her worn-out blouse, a fat nipple was innocently peeking through it. Felix swallowed hard, he tried to look away but he knew that he would definitely be tempted to look at it again, especially when he knew that there was a juicy nipple exposed for him to lust after. He began to speculate if he should reach out and adjust her blouse by shifting the torn part away so her nipple was hidden, but what if she woke up then and thought that he was trying to take advantage of her? The last thing he wanted was the girl screaming in his car and accusing him of rape by drawing the attention of the public who might immediately lynch him without proper investigation.
To Be Continued…
© Angela Okoduwa