GRACE - Episode 3

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - cheque book, cheque, hospital, rapes have taken my soul away, kill, blood, Grace, half a million Naira, bank, money.

“You should sign the check or die,” Benjamin yelled at me like a rabid dog. His eyes were red with fury as he waved the cheque leaf at me. “You don’t even know me,” he shouted. “I will kill you…I will let you die in labor,” he threatened. I could hear Atinuke crying outside. Foluke was by the main entrance to the compound outside, making sure that Atinuke did not run. Atinuke on the other hand felt completely debilitated; ravaged by crushing fear and bewilderment. A dense streak of sweat raced down my face and took cover underneath my dress as it crept in through my neck, soaking my body. I felt searing pains race through. At that point, I regretted every moment I may have disobeyed my mother. After carrying a child for nine months, and then having to go through labor pains to have a child and then nurturing them into adulthood, every mother deserves a pat on the back, at least. Labor pains were utterly ravaging me.

God! Will this pain ever end? I thought. “Please take me to hospital,” I pleaded with Benjamin but he was bent on raking in half a million Naira before taking me to the hospital as prearranged with the couple waiting to adopt my baby. “I will watch you die in pain if you don’t sign the cheque,” he insisted. I stopped for a moment, gathered the last vestiges of strength left in me and looked up at him. “You will have to put a knife to my throat to make me sign that check. Not even that will make me sign it,” I said emphatically. “You should let her have the baby first,” Foluke yelled from outside. “Please leave her alone…send her to the hospital!” Atinuke shouted. “What is going on?” Atinuke asked further as tears rained down her face.

Two days earlier, the couple had kept their promise. They returned to the house and took us to a bank in the nearby town where we all signed documents and confirmed that half a million Naira was sitting in the account. I thought of telling them in town that I had been held hostage all the while and that they should not send me back there, but a part of me worried about Atinuke. Benjamin had warned me before the couple arrived that if I pulled a fast one, Atinuke would be killed. Poor girl, I could not bear to see her die because of my action. I kept my peace and returned to that terrible house with him. He was sure to hold onto the cheque book. I am sure he did not sleep at all the night before and the next one. I saw him smelling the cheque book one morning. Money; it is such a controlling factor for those who crave it with unbridled desire.

Foluke continued to urge Benjamin to stick to the plan, “Let her deliver the baby first. If there is no child, then the couple would have to pull a plug on the money,” she explained to him. “I know, but what if we take out all the money first? What if we have her sign the cheque before delivery so that as soon as the baby is handed to the couple, we’ll cash the money right away,” he reasoned. “I am sure they won’t let anyone touch that money before they get the baby,” Foluke insisted. Benjamin appeared to listen to her, but the moment my contractions started, he was driven into a mad frenzy. Instead of rushing me to hospital, he held me in the room, demanding that I sign the cheque.

“I am willing to die Benjamin. Your beatings and rapes have taken my soul away. I have no feelings left in me, I guess. Go ahead; hit me like you always do. If this child is not delivered soon, you will not get a penny of that money. I am willing to die to stop you if I have to,” I said with stubbornness that sent him into mad frenzy. He rushed into the kitchen and returned with a blunt rusted kitchen knife. “I will cut your throat if I have to, to get that money,” he threatened. I could feel a streak of fluid dripping down my thighs and a raging pain sweep through me like an irate tornado on the loose. The sun seemed to have lost its bearing too; it had been a very hot day. I was nearly suffocating as the sun cooked up the corrugated iron sheets, which transferred all the heat to poor Benjamin and I in the tiny room.

He stepped closer to me, menacingly. He held the knife to my throat and even went as far as touching my neck with it. “I will kill you if you don’t sign here,” he whispered into my ear. He was breathing heavily. I barely heard him as my body entertained pains that I never knew existed. I turned and twisted and shouted, “Call me a doctor!!!” “Please Foluke, take her to hospital!!!” Atinuke shouted. Then I heard her voice again…she let out a loud shriek. “Argh!!!” “What is it?” Foluke asked her. “I don’t know!” She replied. She dropped to the ground as blood raced down her legs. She had suffered a miscarriage. The shock stemming from the events of the afternoon had led to her having a miscarriage. Foluke sighted a red Mercedes Benz cruising down the dusty road. She shouted to Benjamin, ignoring Atinuke, “The couple is coming! Benjamin, they are coming.”

Quickly, Benjamin moved away from me. He dashed to the kitchen and put the knife away. He dragged Atinuke to the store, dumping her like a bag of sand and leaving a trail of blood behind. Foluke quickly threw sand over the blood outside and wiped the blood patches on the cement pavement with a rag. You could still smell blood in the air though. “Keep your mouth shut; else, I’ll kill you,” Benjamin warned Atinuke as he locked the store room. Despite my pains, I felt a pang of pity for the poor girl. Imagine having a riotous miscarriage only to be dumped in a hot, barely ventilated room with no care at all. The Mercedes pulled into the compound quietly. “And you, if you say a word, I will kill Atinuke. Her blood is on you if you say anything to them,” he threatened.

“She is in labor, we have to get her to the hospital now,” Foluke said, pretending to be concerned. The couple dashed in as Benjamin attempted to help me up. He and the man lifted me into the car. More pains ravaged my body as they piled me into the car. Benjamin sat beside me while the man and his wife sat in front. He sped through the dusty hilly road to the nearest hospital. Foluke had stayed at home to attend to Atinuke. Minutes later, I was crying and begging in the theater as midwives urged me to “Push!” To born pikin no be small thing! I pushed and yelled and cried. Then, I cried more, rested and yelled even more. After an arduous effort, the beautiful girl emerged. Even when she cried, she looked beautiful. The midwives quickly wiped blood off her body and performed other medical rituals before handing her to me. The moment you bring a child into this world, it does not matter how old you are, your mentality changes – your motherly instincts kick in with vicious speed.

She was little, cute, and cuddly. She was helpless too. I wrapped my arms around her refusing to let go of her. I wanted to keep her, protect and care for her. I was attached to her the very first moment I held her in my arms. All that her father had done to me meant nothing, all of a sudden. “Grace!” I said. “What?” Asked the head midwife. “Grace…that is her name,” I replied. “Aww! What a beautiful name,” she said. “Yes…she is the grace that saw me through her pregnancy.” “It was a tough pregnancy?” She asked. I nodded. In my mind I was saying – ‘you have no idea how tough’. Soon, Benjamin was allowed into the room to see us. He carried Grace awkwardly. You could tell he had no feelings for her at all. All he cared about was the half a million Naira he was going to earn by selling her off to the couple who waited patiently outside.

Two days later, I was discharged. The couple whom I had come to know as Mr. and Mrs. Olabisi rented a room for Benjamin, Grace and I in a hotel. For the first time in my life, I was exposed to an air conditioner. Thankfully, we were shielded from the baking heat outside. Grace cried very little. She would sleep peacefully at night too after suckling. “Tomorrow, Mr. and Mrs. Olabisi will take her,” Benjamin said referring to Grace. He could not even call her by her name, referring to her as ‘her’, like she was some inconsequential being and not his own daughter. “You will have to behave yourself or I will have some of my friends go over to the house in the village and kill Atinuke,” he warned. I was sitting on the bed watching Grace closely.

“I am no longer giving her away,” I said. You should have seen the fire in his eyes. He wanted to pounce on me and smash my head against the wall, but he knew the Olabisis were next door, so he controlled his rage, with difficulty. “What are you saying? We agreed on this already. I will kill Atinuke and her blood will haunt you for the rest of your life,” he threatened. “And it will haunt you too,” I said. “Me, I have no feelings, Abimbola. That will never bother me.” “Someday it will – if not on this earth maybe after your death. You’d have to face God someday,” I said. “You can say whatever you like, but I know you…I know you can’t let Atinuke die. No, that will trouble you way too much here on earth before you meet your God.” “This is your daughter; don’t you have any feelings for her?” “There is half a million Naira sitting in a bank account and that is what I have feelings for. I have been waiting for this moment all my life. No one, not even you can stand in my way.” “So, you work with James Adekunle,” I said abruptly.

Benjamin cringed. For the first time, I saw fear in his eyes. He wondered how I got that information. “Who is James?” He asked evasively. “James Adekunle. The man who got me pregnant in the first place. So that is what he does…going about giving young girls belle, while you and Foluke handle the other end of the business?” “I don’t know what you are talking about.” He tried to hide it, but he looked clearly rattled. “I am going to tell the couple next door that I want Grace. I want my daughter. She is so beautiful. I can’t bear to give her away.” Benjamin walked to the door, opened it and walked out. A few minutes later, he walked back in with a menacing young man who bore scars – massive scars all over his arms and face.

He was deeply dark and his steely red eyes stared at me coldly. He reeked of Indian hemp and his voice was croaky.  “Wetin dey worry you?” he asked waving a gun at me. He placed the barrel of the gun over Grace’s mouth leaving me frozen with fear. Then, another one walked in. He looked just as rough. “Make I shoot am?” He asked Benjamin. “If she does not do what we say, we go shoot am and the baby or shoot am and take the baby away,” Benjamin replied. “The baby is worth a lot of money. We go shoot am and take her baby comot,” the other one suggested. My mouth was hanging open and I began to sweat under the air conditioner. My hands shook as though I had Parkinson’s disease. “Now listen,” Benjamin said. “You will do as we say. If you attempt any games, we’ll shoot you and the man and woman next door and take your baby girl away. We will make a lot of money by selling her to another couple. And, there is Atinuke at home. We can shoot her or impregnate her for another baby, which is an even better idea. You have everything to lose. Do as we say or you are dead. We will hand the baby over to them in the morning and then you will return to the village with us. First, you will sign the check and I will withdraw all the money. Is that clear?” I nodded obsequiously.

There was a knock on the door and it was Mrs. Olabisi. “Who is it?” I asked pretending that all was well. “It is me,” she answered. I will be with you in a minute.” I carried my baby to their room, avoiding signing the check. I spent most of the night in their room, knowing that Benjamin and his men were watching us closely. I had never felt more afraid in my whole life. The next morning, I handed Grace to Mr. and Mrs. Olabisi. “Please, don’t change her name,” I begged them through tears. “I won’t,” Mrs. Olabisi assured me. “Take good care of her!” I added. “I promise you, I will,” she replied emphatically. “Please can I have your address? I would like to know how she is doing,” I requested. “We would rather not do that,” Mr. Olabisi answered. “You see, we are paying you very well so that we can have her. If you are not ready to let go of her, then we’ll have to walk away from the deal,” he explained. “We will accept the deal,” Benjamin cut in. He stared at me angrily. I knew two gun-wielding men were standing outside. “It is okay,” I said, even though it was not really okay, but I had no choice.

Crying, I took Grace back from Mrs. Olabisi for one last hug. “Mommy loves you Grace. Mommy really loves you,” I said staring her in the eye as tears rained down my face.  I could feel a barrage of emotional daggers stabbing at me deep inside. It was like giving a part of me away – well, Grace had been a part of me for nine months. She heard my cries at night when Benjamin beat and slapped me around. She was there with me when he mounted me like a rabid dog and raped me repeatedly. She heard me pray when I called on God for redemption. Now, I had to give her away to total strangers who had bought me some goodies and stashed some money in an account – money that I may never touch.

The couple took her away while I watched. My knees creaked under the weight of my body and I fainted shortly after they had left. The last sound I heard was that of the Mercedes Benz engine shunting to life and then screeching off the hotel premises. I woke up a short while later after Benjamin and his fellow hoodlums had emptied packs of pure water over my face and body. Like daredevils with no human soul, they flashed a cheque at me and asked me to sign it just after I had come around. I refused adamantly. The pain of giving my daughter away was like an open wound that was bleeding profusely. “If death is my portion, then let me have it,” I said to them. Fear had suddenly left me. I was emboldened, yet crushed by indescribable pain.
Story continues...

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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GRACE - Episode 3
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - cheque book, cheque, hospital, rapes have taken my soul away, kill, blood, Grace, half a million Naira, bank, money. An African Literary Blog
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