“I have to go somewhere now,” I stood up and headed toward the kitchen to wash our plates.
“Where?” Uche asked. I could feel his eyes on me. I wasn’t a good liar, so I strategically avoided his stares.
“Oluoma is sick,” I faked a smile, but I still didn’t look at him.
“You will have to wait for mama to get back,” he said with finality in his voice.
My heart skipped, “I-I can’t w-wait,” why do words have to betray me now? “She needs me. I promise not to stay long.” I knew I was running out of time. Today was the day I was to meet the strange lady, and although I felt bad for not mentioning it to my family, I assured myself that it was for the best. I was doing this for them, for my mama, who has suffered to just to ensure that we don’t go hungry. Why’s my papa so cruel? Why can’t he be nice and kind to mama? I vowed to have nothing to do with men, because Papa treated mama in a very cruel manner. Sometimes, I wondered if he had a conscience.
“Didn’t you hear me? What are you thinking about?”
“Oh!” I smiled, “it’s nothing.”
“You can go,” he said, “but come back early. Don’t stay out long and make mama worry.”
My heart skipped a beat. That was exactly what I was going to do. I was going to stay out long, and eventually make mama worry. But, it’s for the best. I’m doing this for her.
Without another word, I left the house. The strange lady was already waiting for me.
“You are late!” She opened the door to the passenger seat for me. It was my first time seeing a car.
I was surprised and happy. Everything was happening fast. How can my story change in such a little time? How could such luck visit me out of the blue? An inner voice told me to run, and I was feeling uneasy; but then I thought about my family, and what we’ve been through. I have to do this. It’s the only way to liberate them.
We arrived at our destination hours later. The place was beautiful, but it didn’t look like a school.
“Come with me,” the strange woman led me inside the building. As we passed the rooms, I could girls my age with older men in awkward positions. Was this really a school?
“Excuse m-me, ma’am,”
“Is this a school?”
The woman looked down at me, “yes. It’s a school for prostitutes.”
“What does that mean?” My question was left hanging in the air.
“This is your room” she gave me a beautiful dress to put on. “Don’t be late for class, or else your teacher would be angry.”
I quickly wore the dress. It was beautiful, but very short and it exposed my small cleavage. What type of school wore such clothing as school uniform? I went downstairs to ask the woman where my classroom was. She was talking with an elderly man. I greeted the man, and asked the strange woman the way to my classroom.
She introduced me to the elderly, who was old enough to be my grandfather; then she said, “He will be your teacher for today. Go with him, Ahdah… and be good.” She smiled mischievously, and I could tell that all wasn’t as it seemed to be.
“Let’s go,” the old man made to take my hand in his, but I withdrew.
“Lead the way, Sir.” I was trying hard to hide my frustration. Nothing made sense, and I was beginning to have a very bad feeling about everything. The man ked me into a beautifully lit up room.
“What are we doing here?”
“Don’t be silly,” he sounded irritated, “what do you do in a hotel room?”
It was then that everything began to make sense to me. Yes, I’m uneducated, and I had no idea what a hotel room was; but, when the old man began to pull off his clothes, I got a clue as to what was about to happen.
“What are you waiting for?” He laughed sinisterly. “Undress!”
I froze, “I thought you were supposed to teach me. Isn’t this a school?” I was visibly shaking.
“Are you stupid, or are you just pretending to be?” He took a few steps towards me. “Does this look like a school to you?” He pulled off his remaining clothing, and looked at me with a devilish smile. I closed my eyes immediately. I was horrified. What was going on? Where am I?
“I get it now. She didn’t tell you, did she?”
“T-tell me-me wh-what?” I struggled with my words, and willed my body and mind to keep calm.
“You are right about one thing. I’m here to teach you, so undress now.”
I quickly dashed for the door, but it was locked, “please, let me go. I didn’t sign up for this.”
“You came here of you ownr will, didn’t you?”
“She decieved me,” I sobbed aloud. “She lied to me.”
“So, you are a victim of child trafficking? Doesn’t make any difference to me. I have already paid for you. It’s left for you now to please me.” He graduated me by the arm, and began ripping my clothes off.
“Don’t do this, Sir” I begged, “it’s inhuman.” But, he wasn’t listening. He was too busy with my body to register anything I had said.
Just then before I lost conciousnes, I thought about my mother and how much life had dealt with her. I had betrayed her. I had let her down. I had disappointed her. My brother and father would be disappointed in me too. I had let them down l too. My mother’s advice rung in my ears repeatedly, “Do not be quick to trust anyone, my daughter. All that glitters isn’t gold. Be wary of the company you keep, and of the type of the type of people you associate with. Yes, we may be poor now, but our time to rejoice will definitely come. God hasn’t forgotten us, and so you mustn’t be driven by the things of the world. Know your worth, Ada, and let no one take advantage of you or your situation.”
I looked down at my legs in horror. I was bleeding profusely. I could feel the old man’s breath on my neck. I felt sick and dizzy.
“I’m sorry, Mama,” I regretted not confiding in her. She would never had permitted me to go with the strange woman. Everything made sense now, ” I have let you down. I hope you forgive me.”
I was unaware of every activity that happened after then. I don’t know if I got another opportunity to live again.
Ekwebelum Chizurum Melody.
Alex Ekwueme Federal University, Ebonyi State, NIGERIA