GRACE - Episode 6

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Alagbon police station, in Lagos, Grace, Hulk Hogan, Sergeant Slaughter, Royal Rumble match, half a million Naira, My father.

“You look great in that outfit, Abimbola,” Gbenga said to me. “Thank you,” I answered shyly. “If you take it off, I will iron it for you,” he offered. “No, you don’t have to do that pastor Gbenga. I will iron it….I can iron yours too,” I offered sycophantically. “Let me help you, Abimbola. It is okay to let someone else help you,” he insisted. He had taken me to a shop nearby and bought me a few clothes after our arrival in Lagos. We had agreed that it would be better to contact his relative who was a top-ranking police officer at Alagbon police station before returning home to my parents to avoid putting them in danger. We had settled in an apartment in Badagry belonging to his friend, Akinyele, who had driven us to Lagos. There were two rooms and a living room. I was very thankful to Gbenga for his help. For once in over a year, I had some decent new clothes to change into. I wanted to look my best the next day for the trip to Alagbon. “Okay, pastor Gbenga,” I finally succumbed to his pressure.

He ironed my dresses while I fixed lunch. We all ate in the living room afterwards. The guys went on to watch football, while I retired to one of the bedrooms where I had been staying. I lay down and slept off. In my sleep, I saw Grace. She was sitting on the floor wearing dirty diapers and there was no one to help her. “Mama!” She called desperately to me as soon as she saw me. I took her in my arms and changed her. She stopped crying and began to giggle happily in my arms. When I woke up, the room was dark. I wanted to reach out and hug my pretty little Grace. The power company had fulfilled their part of the bargain – shutting off power supply to the area as usual. Power outages were very common that almost everyone had a generator. I could hear all sorts of sounds from generators outside; some yelled, some clapped, some cried bitterly, while others jumped and sang. For some reason, Akin had not turned on his generator. I walked to the door, carefully negotiating my way through the darkness. When I got to the door, I heard the voices of Akin and Gbenga. They were debating in a low, controlled tone in the living room.

“This girl is worth half a million Naira,” Akin said. “She and us can come up with a story that her husband died and now she wants to claim the money she and her late husband had left in the bank account. With a good lawyer, we can gain access to the money. We will pay the lawyer off and split the money,” Akin suggested. “What about Abimbola? James will be waiting for her in Olodi Apapa. That means she can’t go home to her parents. Besides, I don’t believe it is the right thing to do. I am a pastor and I don’t want to go against the will of God. She has the right to claim that money for herself, eventually for what those monsters put her through. We would not be any different than they if we steal her money from her,” Gbenga protested. I could hear my heart slamming against my rib cage like Hulk Hogan slamming Sergeant Slaughter against the ring in a Royal Rumble match. Not again, I prayed. God please I am tired of running. Don’t let Gbenga agree to this plan, please!!!

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, Gbenga. Imagine, half a million Naira,” Akin stressed. “Imagine gaining the whole world and losing your soul, Akin, my friend,” Gbenga answered. “The girl is falling for you already. I can see the way she looks at you…the way she talks to you. She’d do anything you tell her. In the end, you can keep her for a while, give her some good time and then get rid of her.” “How can you be so callous Akin? I thought you had changed. Take her back to the same village where those monsters are looking for her? I am sorry, we are not discussing this any further. I will be glad if you could drop us off to Alagbon tomorrow. I will pay you for your fuel and time so far and for the journey from the village. I saw this girl in my dream and God clearly instructed me to help her. I want to do that. I will not go for money over God’s instruction. In the end, we all die and the money still remains behind.”

I wanted to dash out there and hug Gbenga. For the first time in my life, apart from my father, I found a man I could truly count on. I returned to bed and pretended I was asleep…well, I eventually passed into another deep, slumber. By morning, Gbenga used Akin’s landline to call Alagbon only to find out that his cousin was out of town. He was due back in two days, so we had to stay a bit longer in Akin’s house and wait. I did not mention to Gbenga that I had overheard his discussion with Akin. I thought about Grace, my parents, my sister and brothers a lot. I could not wait to see them…well, my parents and siblings first. The next day, Gbenga took a walk late in the evening while I rested in the bedroom. Akin had left a bit earlier. I had no idea where he had gone to. While I slept, I felt a hand creeping gently under my dress. I thought I was dreaming. When I opened my eyes, Akin was lying beside me.

He looked at me and placed a hand over his mouth. “Shh!” He instructed me. “I can’t take my eyes off you,” he added. I was repulsed. I could not help but think of Benjamin mounting me like a dog or James ravaging me without restraint. I sprang to my feet. You would have thought I was an Olympic long jumper. He rose briskly to his feet too, and grabbed me by the arm and flung me back onto the bed. I was not about to let him have his way with me. I was willing to die fighting. I lunged at him, kicking him between his legs. I could see the pain in his eyes. I had struck my intended target…you know where I am referring to. The look on his face said it all. Besides, he gasped, “Ayoo!!!” I took his left arm and bit him like a rabid dog in a mad frenzy. My teeth sank into his skin like an arrow piercing through flesh. More pain sprang into his eyes. While he tried to gather his composure and clarity, I pushed my way around him and headed for the door. He grabbed my dress and pulled with every ounce of strength left in him.

He tore my dress to shreds, exposing my bra and entire upper body. His eyes broadened with excitement as he reached for my bra. Without warning, I attacked his hand again with my teeth. You would have thought I was a ravenous hyena ripping meat off a dead carcass. This time, I sank my teeth even deeper into his skin. I twisted in an effort to break free from his grip, but he kicked my legs sending me to ground. I began to shout. Thankfully, Gbenga rushed in just in time to pick me up. He stood between me and Akin. “What is going on here?” He asked “She attacked me. She is a witch,” Akin said. My ripped clothes told a different story. “She is a witch and you were trying to save her by ripping her clothes?” Gbenga asked him. I was short of words. I guess I had been thrown into another shock. Why are all these happening to me? I wondered fleetingly. “Please, take me away from here, Gbenga,” I pleaded with him. “I don’t want to sleep here tonight or ever. Please, take me away now.”

Gbenga helped me pack my things after which he put his personal effects together and we left Akin’s house. He got us a room in a hotel nearby. He did not have enough money to pay for separate rooms, so we stayed in the same room. There was a single bed in the room, so I offered to sleep on the couch, but Gbenga would have none of it. He slept on the couch, conceding the bed to me. I hardly slept all night though. I was too shaken to sleep. By morning, we showered, dressed and left for Alagbon. I finally slept on the bus. I guess the presence of other people allayed my fears.

Gbenga’s cousin was a hefty man in his fifties. His stomach was protruding out like a rocket on a mission to space. His voice was husky; probably saturated by beer and pepper soup. Gbenga explained my situation to him. He listened attentively. After Gbenga finished narrating my circumstance and asking for his help to have James and his group arrested, he began to nod his head. He was in a deep thought. Gbenga had been careful to leave out the half a million Naira. I was glad he had not mentioned it. His experience with Akin had taught him a lesson. “I don’t see the reason why you should be afraid to return to your parents,” he said finally. “But they may be afraid that she would report them to the police, so they might want to harm her,” Gbenga explained. “Well, they should be running now not looking to come after you. By the way, your daughter that was taken away from you, I guess they sold her to some couple who wanted a child, right?” “I guess so,” I replied. I was keen not to bring money into the picture, but clearly, that was where his interest rested.

“How much did they collect for your daughter?” “I don’t know. They did everything behind my back.” “Are you sure of that?” “Yes sir,” I replied. “Then, you have no reason to be afraid. They will be enjoying the money somewhere now.” “But sir, don’t you think they should be arrested for…raping me? For selling my child? For kidnapping me?” I fired at him. “We have a lot of things on our hands my dear. It would be impossible for us to trace them to Oyo State. I would suggest you report the case to the Oyo State police command,” he answered. I became very furious. I wanted to spit on him. I was very sure that if we had mentioned the money involved and that the money was still locked away in a bank account, he would have been willing to work on the case at supersonic speed.

“I am sorry,” Gbenga said to me as we left. “It was not your fault. You did your best,” I replied. “You are a good man Gbenga. I overheard your discussion with Akin last night. You are truly a man of God. Thanks for your help and thanks for not mentioning money to your cousin. I want to go home now.” “Are you sure of that?” “Yes. I don’t care what happens. I want to see my father…my mother and siblings.” “Would you let me take you home then?” He asked. “Yes, that is fine by me. Wait here, I will be back in a moment,” I requested. I went to the bathroom and dug out the ten thousand Naira that I had been carrying in my shorts. “Take this for your trip back home. After we have seen my parents, I would like you to take this back to Ibadan,” I said offering him three thousand Naira. “I have money on me, Abimbola. You don’t have to worry about me,” he replied with a smile. We went to a restaurant and got something to eat. I made sure I paid. It was great to be able to do something for Gbenga. We hung around the restaurant for quite some time before boarding a bus to Olodi Apapa.

I paid the fare for both of us. I had to do something for Gbenga after all he had done for me. It was slowly getting dark, but Gbenga insisted on returning home with me. As we walked past Boundary market, tears began to fill my eyes. Memories came back to me. I could not believe that a chunk of my life had been forcibly taken away from me. We stood in front of our building a short while later. Neighbors looked through their windows. Some people thought it was my ghost. Others rushed outside to see for themselves. My father was at the door to our living room when he sighted me. He stepped into the hallway and then outside. My legs shook as did my heart and hands. “Abimbola!” He shouted. “Papa!”  I replied. He raced towards me and took me in his arms. My father was not the type to show any emotions, but not on this day. He was crying like a baby. He even pecked me on the cheek, holding tightly onto me. “Praise be to God!” He shouted.

“My sister, Linda had grown much taller. She too was crying. My brothers Segun and Tosin were much taller too. I hugged them very tightly. “Where is mama?” I asked. My question was greeted by an eerie silence. Could mama be dead? I wondered. I feared the worst. They took me into our apartment. Neighbors were trying to push through to see and touch me. My father dragged me into the house. I made sure to drag Gbenga with me. Inside, they took me to our single bedroom. It was as stuffy as always. My mother was lying on the bed. She looked seriously ill. “She had a heart attack after your disappearance,” my father explained. “She is better now. She would be a lot better if we had money to give her the right treatment,” he added. I hugged her as tears continued to rain down my face.

I saw a flicker of light in her eyes. “A…Abi…Abim-bo-la,” she said with great difficulty. Her speech had been impaired by the heart attack and stroke. “It is me, mama,” I said hoping that my reappearance would somehow restore her health. Daggers of pain and sorrow stabbed at me as I watched her lying helplessly on the bed. I hugged her firmly. I could still hear the commotion outside as neighbors gathered to sing praises to God. I quickly narrated some of my story to my family, telling them how Gbenga had helped me. My father and siblings thanked him effusively. Even my mother reached out and held his hand. “God will bless you,” Linda said to him.

“We want to see Abimbola!” Voices yelled outside. The singing neighbors wanted me to address them briefly before they dispersed. I was too tired, but out of courtesy, I obliged them at my father’s request. “Every one of them has been praying for your safe return, my daughter. Say a quick word to them out of respect,” he pleaded with me. Gbenga was beside me as I walked outside. My father was right behind me and my siblings were to my left. As I stepped outside, I was awed at the crowd outside. There, in the corner was my nemesis, James. He was wearing a hat in an attempt to mask his face. Benjamin was not far away. He too wore a cap. I could not possibly mistake them after what I had gone through in their hands.  My heart began to pound. I was waiting for them to gun me down any moment, but then, I realized they were bent on laying their hands on the money. I was still petrified to see them nonetheless. “They are here! They are here papa,” I said. “Gbenga, they are right here!” I repeated in crippling fear.
Story continues...

Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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GRACE - Episode 6
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - Alagbon police station, in Lagos, Grace, Hulk Hogan, Sergeant Slaughter, Royal Rumble match, half a million Naira, My father. An African Literary Blog
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