Onyinye knew from the moment she took the last sip of the orange juice from the plastic cup that Stanley gave to her that she had made a mistake. As the room blurred and settled into deep darkness, she had one fleeting thought.
Oh God, this is what guys do when they want to rape women.
Onyinye woke up six hours later with a headache and a mouth that felt like it was full of wool. She massaged her temples and sat up on the mattress on the floor, her eyes going to the door with the Faculty of Engineering Students sticker on it. She blinked slowly for several minutes, eyes darting around the room as she tried to figure where the bunks in her room went. Still confused, she looked down at herself and found that she was dressed in black jeans and a blue baby doll top.
Drawing a deep breath to steel her scattered wits, she struggled to the edge of the mattress and then turned when she found out that the blue and yellow bed sheet that barely covered the mattress was caught between her thighs. She separated the bed sheet from her thighs and turned again to the edge of the bed. Onyinye found out that she had lost her ability to use her legs the moment she tried to balance on them. She tottered wildly for a few minutes, rocking between the balls of her feet and her heels. Quickly reaching out for the wall beside her, she transferred her weight to it and waited to regain some of her strength. After a few minutes, the spell passed and she tested her legs around the room, taking small measured steps to the door. She was just stretching one hand towards the handle of the door when it flew open, missing her by inches.
Stanley stood by the door, a look of guilt on his face and a small green transparent polythene bag in the right hand he held up. Onyinye saw the shadow of a pink Styrofoam plate inside the polythene but she was more interested in the look on her course mateâ€™s face.
â€œStanley what happened? Why am I here?â€
Tall and square faced with dimples and slightly pink lips, Stanley was unarguably one of the most handsome men in Onyinyeâ€™s class. Normally, a very confident person, he stood that evening before Onyinye and suffered speech impediment.
â€œIâ€¦I wehâ€¦went downâ€¦stairs to get you noodles.â€
Onyinye refused to look at the polythene bag dangling from his hand. She was focused on reading his face.
â€œI donâ€™t want noodles.â€
The announcement made Stanleyâ€™s shoulders droop.
â€œBut I got it for you.â€
Onyinye stamped her feet and then felt sharp pain shoot up her spine. She rubbed the side of her right thigh and groaned. Stanley dropped the polythene bag on the medium sized cupboard beside the door and hurried forward but Onyinye took two steps backwards before he could reach her.
â€œWait!â€ she ordered, holding out her left hand to him, a frown on her face. â€œDonâ€™t come near me.â€
Stanley halted inches away from her, stiff and unhappy.
â€œYou put something in that juice, didnâ€™t you?â€
Stanleyâ€™s face fell.
It had been a guess but hearing Stanleyâ€™s apology confirmed Onyinyeâ€™s fears. She gasped and then took one shaky step forward.
â€œYou tried to drug me?â€
Stanley held up his hands in surrender.
â€œSee, it was a stupid thing to do and I apologize for it. The thing isâ€¦I like you and I didnâ€™t know how to tell you.â€
Onyinye stopped before Stanley and slapped him hard on the side of his right arm.
â€œSo you had to drug meâ€¦to do whatâ€¦to sleep with me?â€
â€œI just wanted you to be more relaxed,â€ Stanley said, his face twisting in a rueful frown. â€œBut I think the drug was urmâ€¦sort of too much, so you slept.â€
Onyinye stared at Stanley at loss for what to say. He reached for her hand but she moved away from his reach and looked back towards the bed, her eyes searching for her bag. She found it tucked in a corner at the opposite end of the bed. She marched back to the bed, fell on her hands and knees, grabbed hold of the strap of the black handbag and squirmed back to the edge of the bed again. She left Stanley standing by the door, his head hanging low. She stopped before him, one hand on the door handle and swore,
â€œI am never talking to you again, stupid rapist!â€
Patricia and Pero both had frowns on their faces as they sat across each other on their beds, each lost in deep thought. They were both faced with hard decisions and neither knew how to find their way out of the situations they had found themselves. When Onyinye walked in, they barely noticed her disheveled appearance or the angry frown on her face as she dumped her bag on her bed.
â€œPatricia,â€ Pero called, standing up with a weary sigh. â€œI donâ€™t have a choice. I have to help mumsie.â€
Patricia nodded absentmindedly.
â€œWhat about you? What are you going to do?â€
Patricia rubbed her palms together as if to warm herself.
â€œI might have to see him.â€
Patricia looked down at her phone to check the time.
Pero wanted to say something to dissuade Patricia from going for the date with her boyfriendâ€™s friend but she had troubles of her own to consider. She left her bed with difficulty and walked to her cupboard and swept the clothes there into her arms before walking to her bed to dump them in the middle of it. While she struggled with choosing something for her trip out of school with Yemisi, Onyinye finally broke her silence and confided in Patricia about her experience in Stanleyâ€™s room. Pero left the heap on her bed and walked to stand with Onyinye in Patriciaâ€™s corner. The girls listened to Onyinyeâ€™s story with wonder in their eyes.
â€œNa wa o,â€ Pero said, clapping her hands. â€œYou see why I donâ€™t like school boys ehn, it is because of things like this.â€
â€œHe apologized,â€ Patricia said, eyes moving between Onyinye and her phone. â€œI think you should forgive him andâ€¦is it not the same guy you said you liked?â€
Onyinye gave a sulky nod and fished for facial wipes from her bag to wipe her face clean of make up. She was not just upset about Stanleyâ€™s near rape attempt; she was upset with herself for letting her guard down. For the first time in her life, she had fallen for a man and the same man had tried to rape her.
Time flew and it was late when Patricia and Pero left their room together, Yemisi in tow. They separated when they got to the road beside their hostel, taking separate taxis â€“ one to private party at the secluded home of a wealthy American returnee with an insatiable appetite for s3x parties and the other to the fish and chips bar situated in the quiet side of the bustling former capital where a man with ulterior motives waited.
The party shocked Pero with its extreme debauchery. As the heavy door slammed shut behind her, sealing her fate for the evening, Pero could do nothing but stare at the unclad writhing bodies scattered all over the expansive living room. The air was replete with grunts, moans and squeals. Pero looked back at Yemisi but her friend had moved from behind her to stand in front of her. Pero walked forward and planted herself beside Yemisi, her eyes still on the orgy happening in the living room.
â€œWhat is this?â€
Yemisi laughed, milk coloured teeth taking flashing brightly against red lipstick.
â€œWhat do you think it is,â€ she said, waving at a unclad male positioned behind the mammoth sized buttocks of a girl Pero recognized from campus. The girlâ€™s small breasts swung like pendulum bobs as she squeezed her face and hissed through her teeth. The man waved happily at Yemisi, continuing his thrusting.
â€œThat is Gabbyâ€¦â€
Gabby, one of the best dressed girls on campus, a proud owner of a red Mercedes S-class and blessed with a poise that made many students doubt the rumours of her impoverished family background was on her fours at the moment, fine strands of Brazilian weave matted to a body slick with sweat as a man twice her age rammed into her with energy made possible from a cocktail of drugs and energy drinks.
â€œWo, you lighten up,â€ Yemisi said, leaving Pero and picking her way through the bodies to meet the man she had waved to. The man stopped moving behind Gabby to raise his hand for a handshake. Yemisi stood over Gabby and shook his hand. They spoke for some minutes with Yemisi looking sideways at the spiraling staircase with an intricately carved metal balustrade at the other end of the room. Pero watched as she made for the staircase but just as she touched the edge of the balustrade, a door slammed with a loud echo above them and theÂ slap slapÂ of approaching steps could be heard.
After a few seconds, Pero saw a man in white robe appear at the top of the stairs. The man slowly descended the stairs, wide set eyes looking past Yemisi at Pero. His gray streaked goatee moved as he gave her a quirky smile.
â€œWe got a new comer,â€ he said, his voice American sounding and toneless as he walked to meet her. Yemisi followed behind him. Pero sought her friendâ€™s eyes for explanation and guidance but Yemisiâ€™s attention was riveted on the man, eyes brightening with anticipation. The man gave Pero his hand. â€œMy name is Lanreâ€¦but you can call me M.OG.â€
Pero took his hand and shook it lightly.
â€œYou know what M.O.G means?â€
Pero shook her head. The manâ€™s smile grew.
â€œAsk Yemisi for it later.â€
He moved closer to her and stared at the swell of breasts escaping the low cut black Bodycon dress she wore.
â€œNice. Can I touch them?â€
Pero was thrown off balance by the request but the man did not wait for her answer, his hand flew into her dress and he attempted to fondle her breasts. Acting on impulse, Pero fought the manâ€™s fondling and won.
â€œAre you a virgin?â€ the man asked, stepping back with a laugh.
Pero looked down at the mirror surface of the white marble under her feet.
The man laughed again.
â€œName your priceâ€¦How much?â€
Pero remembered her mother and the depleting supplies in the small shop she set up outside their two bedroom apartment in Bariga. She needed money. She looked back into the manâ€™s eyes.
The man turned to Yemisi.
â€œDid you tell her what was going on here?â€
Yemisi shrugged, lips curling in a seductive smile.
The man stepped backwards so that he held Pero and Yemisi in his view.
â€œYou want to show her?â€ he asked, winking at Yemisi.
Lanre a.k.a M.O.G parted his terry robe, exposing his flaccid manhood to the girls. Yemisi dropped to her knees before Pero could draw her next breath, grabbed his manhood and lowered her head to it. Her head bopping up and down, Yemisi suckled furiously, her desire to impress producing slurping sounds. Lanre watched her ministrations with a smile before looking at Pero.
â€œYou see? Aint nothing to it babe.â€
Conversation soon proved hard for M.O.G to maintain as Yemisi worked on him. His eyes clouding over, he threw his head back and moaned.
Pero looked away from the action in front of her. Her eyes fell on Gabby once again. The popular runs girl hung bravely from the edge of a two seater, one leg pointing upwards as she took the pounding her new partner, a tall skinny man with bulging veins on his temple was giving to her. She said something. Pero read her lips.
I am tired. Let me rest.
The man ignored Gabby and continued to push into her, one hand grabbing her uplifted leg by the ankle. Pero knew she had to get away from it all. She backed away slowly to the door, watching for any sign of alertness from the lust fueled activity in the living room. No one paid her any attention. She finally found the confidence to turn her back on the orgy. She grabbed the brass handle of the heavy door and tested the handle once. It refused to budge at first but she tried again, pushing it all the way down with all of her strength. Something clicked and then the door moved in her hand. Pero pulled it open and made her escape.
Patricia refused Dejiâ€™s offer of a drink and sat quietly as he sipped his drink opposite her, his eyes moving all over her body in a way that unsettled her. He had not told her why he called her. They had spent thirty minutes, engaging in difficult conversation that had thankfully ended when he received a phone call. Now Patricia wanted to go back to school and prepared to tell Deji so.
â€œSo whatâ€™s up with you tonight?â€ he asked, lowering his glass and giving her a flirty look.
Patricia sat up in her chair and adjusted the neckline of her pink peplum top.
â€œI want to go back to school.â€
â€œOkay, thatâ€™s cool,â€ Deji said and picked his keys from the table. â€œLet me drop you off.â€
They drove to Maryland and then Deji took a detour and parked in a dark winding street with tall uninhabited buildings. He stopped the car under a tree and turned to Patricia just as she opened her mouth to ask him why they stopped.
â€œSo whatâ€™s up?â€
â€œWhatâ€™s up with what?â€ Patricia asked, brows furrowing in a frown. â€œWhy are we here?â€
Deji looked outside his window at the darkness.
â€œNothing,â€ he said shrugging when he faced her again. â€œI just want a private moment with you.â€
Patriciaâ€™s hand floated to the door.
â€œBecause I like you.â€
â€œI am not sure I understand,â€ Patricia said, shaking her head. â€œI am dating your friend.â€
Patricia was confounded by the careless shrug that followed his answer.
â€œLike I said, I like you.â€
Patricia shook her head again.
â€œSorry, this is wrong. I shouldnâ€™t even be here in the first place.â€
Deji touched her lap and she brushed his hand off. She felt for the door handle beside her and tried to open the door but it was locked. She dropped her hand from it.
â€œIâ€™d like to go now.â€
The car was quiet as Dejiâ€™s eyes drilled holes into her.
â€œWhy are you being difficult?â€
â€œDeji please I need to go.â€
â€œI will drop you Patricia, chill.â€
Deji ignored Patriciaâ€™s pleas and began to lean towards her, hands more firm and hard to shake off as they settled on her lap again.
â€œWe can keep this between us.â€
Patricia pulled his hands off with effort.
â€œKeep what between us?â€
Dejiâ€™s breath fanned Patriciaâ€™s face.
â€œWhat I want from you.â€
Patricia fought with the door handle.
â€œOpen this door please.â€
Deji grabbed her arm and held on.
â€œYou are just making things difficult. You realize Tolaâ€™s dad asked questions about you?â€
His words made Patricia pause and turn to him.
â€œYes,â€ Deji nodded, his lips drawing dangerously close to her own. â€œHe wanted to know about you. Be a good girl and I will tell him good things about you.â€
His hand touched the underside of her breasts and Patricia slapped it violently away.
â€œTouch me again and I will tell Tola.â€
Deji drew back and cocked his head at her.
â€œArenâ€™t you a runs girl? What is all the weird behaviour for?â€
â€œI am not a runs girl.â€
Deji scoffed. â€œReally? Since when? Because I remember Clara was the one that arranged you and your friends that night for us.â€
â€œThey were not my friends and that was my first and lastâ€¦â€ Patricia caught herself and reached for the door again. â€œWhy am I even telling you anything? I donâ€™t owe you any explanation. Open your door or I will scream.â€
Her threat worked and Deji released the lock on the doors. Patricia fled from the car and began a long walk down the dark road. Somewhere in the middle of it, she called Tola. He was surprised to learn she was in Maryland.
â€œWhat are you doing there?â€
â€œIâ€™ll tell you when I see you.â€
Patricia walked five hundred meters before she found a taxi. It was expensive but she did not mind. All she wanted was to get to Tola.
Pero was having a hard time explaining to Joe who had come to her rescue after she found herself stranded on the Island, why she had gone out with Yemisi. He was driving her back to school and had in past ten minutes of the journey warned her about giving flimsy excuses for her escapade.
â€œI am waiting Pero,â€ he said, gripping the wheel with his two hands, anger visible on his face. Pero pulled the hem of her dress past her knees and sighed.
â€œI neededâ€¦.my motherâ€¦.â€
Pero shook her head, unable to bring herself to share her family problems with her boyfriend.
â€œYou wonâ€™t understand.â€
â€œDonâ€™t piss me off Pero, I need a reason now.â€
â€œJoe please, this is not necessary. I made a mistake. I wonâ€™t repeat it again. Letâ€™s forget about it.â€
Joe looked away from his driving to give Pero a sideways glance. His brows dipped and then rose back to their normal position but he said nothing. They drove in silence until he braked in front of her hostel. Joe broke the silence with a solemn speech.
â€œYou know, I think I am tired of the whole thing. I donâ€™t want a prostitute for a girlfriend Pero. I am breaking up with you.â€
Pero stared at him, mouth agape.
â€œYou are breaking up with me?â€
Joe did not answer her question.
â€œGood night Pero.â€
Pero could not move. She sat deathly still.
â€œAre you joking?â€
Joe was not joking. He proved it by turning his key in his ignition and running the engine. Pero took the cue and left his car. She stood and watched as if in a bad dream as he reversed and shot off in the opposite direction. Thoroughly shaken and without any sense of direction, she walked into the hostel, stumbling many times.
Patricia walked into Tolaâ€™s arms the moment he opened the door.
â€œI am so sorry.â€
He pulled away from her and stared down at her, questions in his eyes.
â€œWhat happened and urmâ€¦where are you coming from?â€
Patricia walked into the apartment before turning to answer him.
â€œPromise you wonâ€™t be mad.â€
Tola shook his head.
â€œI donâ€™t make rash promises. Answer me.â€
â€œI went to meet Deji.â€
Tolaâ€™s eyes darkened.
Patricia began to talk, starting from Dejiâ€™s text message till she got to their conversation in his car. Tola listened with growing anger. At the end of her story, he reached for his phone and called his friend. The conversation was not long but when it ended, Patricia was relieved. She was not losing her boyfriend and her blackmailer had been silenced.
â€œYou have trust issues Patricia,â€ Tola told her when they were in bed later that night. â€œYou canâ€™t seem to trust me to make the right decisions for us.â€
Patricia felt chastised. She kissed her boyfriend and promised to change.
Pero was still crying. Big fat tears rolled down past swollen eye lids and down her cheeks. Eno and Onyinye continued to console her.
â€œStop crying now,â€ Eno said, concern on her face. â€œYou will fall sick if you continue like this o!â€
â€œI canâ€¦canâ€™tâ€¦.â€ Pero hiccupped. â€œI canâ€™t believe Joe broke up with me.â€
Onyinye shook her head.
â€œMen are so hard to predict sometimes.â€
Eno defended Joe.
â€œBut you know he told her to stop going out with Yemisi,â€
The roommates stood beside Peroâ€™s bed and watched helplessly as she cried into her pillow. Someone knocked on the door and Eno walked to answer it. She was surprised to see who it was. A smile appeared on her face.
The person at the door nodded.
â€œHello. Please can I see Pero?â€
Peroâ€™s head shot up from her pillow and she sat up quickly, startling Onyinye.
â€œJoe,â€ she croaked, looking expectantly at the door. Eno stepped away from the door and Joe walked in. Onyinye left Peroâ€™s side as he drew closer. The girls had questions. Pero asked the most perplexing. How had he gotten in? It was one hour past visiting hours.
â€œI spoke to the porter,â€ he told her, sitting beside her. What he did not tell her was that two thousand Naira had passed from him to the porterâ€™s greasy palm.
Pero hugged him in relief and pressed kisses everywhere she found skin. Eno and Onyinye looked away from the affectionate display, doing their best to give the lovebirds some privacy.
â€œPlease donâ€™t break up with me,â€ Pero begged finally.
Joe touched her swollen eye lids with gentle fingers.
â€œTell me whyâ€¦why did you go out with her?â€
Pero forgot shame this time.
â€œMy motherâ€¦she needs money.â€
Joe thought about her answer for some minutes.
â€œIs that it?â€
Joe knew she was telling the truth. He linked fingers with her.
â€œOkay, we will talk about it.â€
They hugged once again and then he had to go. That night, Pero slept peacefully. She had a boyfriend again.
Umari Ayim is the author of â€œTwilight At Terracotta Indigoâ€ and â€œInside my Headâ€. She blogs at www.umariayim.com/