I took a bus to the island and tseexted Mr. Falade from a small supermarket off Idejo
“Please I need your help sir”
His texts had become erratic and less frequent, from meeting every night to just weekends.
Perhaps another clue for me, maybe he had found someone more satisfying.
There was no reply after an hour.
I debated returning to mother, I imagined her going through the compound screaming “Ronke!”
Maybe she wouldn’t notice today. I wondered if her eyes would swell with tears when she found my empty wardrobe or if she’d say a prayer and move on.
The sun was setting accompanied by panic. I started walking home, walking slowly, what was I thinking going this far. I thought of mother gloating loudly in my ears, screaming her testimony about how God arrested me found a cheap hotel halfway home.
The receptionist eyed me and my belongings suspiciously but decided to slip me his number whispering “In case your body cold for night”
The next day Mr. Falade texted where to meet him as usual, my prior text unacknowledged.
He didn’t acknowledge the text in person either, demanding I turn my face away this time. He barely ever looked at me. As he thumped into me from behind I kept my eyes fixed on the red curtain, it didn’t hurt anymore. I felt myself in the room, then far away. I wanted a way out, all my life I just wanted to escape. When he finished, I began speaking still looking at the curtain.
“Sir please I don’t have anywhere to go from here. Please help me”
Tears filled my eyes, how did I get here? To this red curtained room and then he spoke, not hiding the irritation in his voice
“How old are you?”
“What do you think I can do for you? Don’t I already pay you?”
He was right
“I just thought…” I trailed off… I didn’t think
“I can give you somewhere to stay. In Ikorodu, one of my businesses, you’d work for your rent and we won’t have this arrangement anymore. You’d deal with my manager”
I agreed with silence the way we always had.
That was how I met my first family, Oga Salim who was like a father, making sure we got paid in full. Chioma in the opposite room who taught me to count my money before sex. Lade gave me a pocket knife. Cynthia borrowed me her shoes on my first night out.
I didn’t see Mr. Falade anymore but once in a while Mr. Salim would give me envelopes with cash from him. No notes attached, the silence that assured me he hadn’t changed.
Akin was my real promotion, randy as they come. Years later he picked me from the roadside, slipping his hands into my skirt as soon as I got in his car. He was a real bastard
He liked to talk about power and how he owned it, snorting drugs off my stomach after I undressed. The world was divided into hunters and meat for him and I was just another bush rat, some days brought ropes and whips, binding me before fulfilling his appetite. He was an insatiable man.
I tried to stop him, begged, begged Oga Salim who screamed that I was ungrateful.
Lade dabbed my bruises and handed me a gun one night, shouting in pidgin
“Ronke! Off that bastard!”
The last night Akin hunted meat was in his own bedroom, he was demonstrating how he was going to choke me with his belt, the white powdery drug around his nostrils. I sat in the middle of his bed, clutching my bag, my hand on a gun I had never fired. I was shivering.
He must have noticed my fear, I remember his cackling laughter
“Don’t worry the belt will only make it more enjoyable. You’re a common ashawo, this is the only thing you’re good for”
I aimed straight at his head.
I can still remember the panic in his eyes as I pulled the trigger.
Oga Salim visited my room not long after handing me two hundred thousand naira
“We were paid good money for Akin. Tomorrow you’d meet Charles Ekeh.”