Patriciaâ€™s classmate Onome pulled her aside just as she was leaving the classroom after their morning lecture.
â€œDid you see your name on the notice board?â€
Patriciaâ€™s heart skipped a beat. She placed a slightly trembling hand over it.
Onome shrugged. â€œI donâ€™t know. It says the HOD wants to see you or something.â€
True to Onomeâ€™s words, Patricia found her name on the notice board with the message.
Please see the HOD immediately.
Patricia met the dour faced secretary of the head of her department when she squeezed into the narrow reception office with dust covered files sitting on tall book shelf and an old Philips air conditioner that rattled loudly and filled the office with a dank musty odour.
â€œYes, what do you want?â€
â€œI saw my name on the board ma,â€
â€œAnd you are?â€
â€œPatriciaâ€¦Patricia Ayodele ma.â€
The woman sifted through the heap of files and papers on her desk. She looked up a few minutes later.
â€œYes, you are supposed to see the HOD. Hold on.â€
The secretary called the HOD to announce Patriciaâ€™s presence. The white receiver still held against her ear, she looked up at Patricia, nodding to whatever the HOD was telling her.
â€œYes maâ€¦okay ma.â€
Returning the receiver to the cradle, the woman waved Patricia towards the six seater stainless steel chair behind her.
â€œSit down. She will call you in soon.â€
Taking a few steps back, Patricia stumbled into the waiting chair and sat with her hands clenched in her lap. As she sat listening to the noise coming from the air conditioner, she tried to convince herself that she had nothing to fear. After all, she had been an above average student who kept out of the way of trouble.
So why does she want to see me?
The secretaryâ€™s phone rang again. The secretary picked it and nodded.
The phone clattered back into the receiver and she waved Patricia forward.
â€œShe says you can come in now.â€
Mrs. Nwakpa, the HOD was a woman of severe standards. AllÂ Â over her office wall were posters and insignias promoting decent dressing, female emancipation and human virtuesâ€¦.Dressed in an austere brown high neck dress with small puffed sleeves, round reading glasses perched on the bridge of her nose, she was a picture of propriety and discipline. She watched Patricia from the top of her glasses as she walked towards her. Her attention completely riveted on her HOD, Patricia did not see the girl sitting opposite the HOD.
â€œPlease sit down Miss Patricia.â€
Patricia looked at the girl as she took her own seat and realized that she had seen her somewhere.
Mr. Adebayoâ€™s office.
â€œI assume you have met Miss Shola.â€
The girl turned to Patricia and nodded, her eyes liquid with unshed tears. Patricia also nodded.
The HOD nodded. â€œGood.â€
And then Patricia learned the reason she had been called. There had been stories about Mr. Adebayoâ€™s escapades with students. Was it true? Had she had any kind of intimate contact as he had had with Miss Shola here?
Patricia shook her head.
The HOD inclined her head, a kind smile appearing on her face.
â€œHe has not made any advances towards you?â€
Patricia wanted to shake her head, to deny Mr. Adebayoâ€™s constant harassment, but there was something all knowing and sincere about the HODâ€™s smile that made her change her mind.
â€œHe has ma.â€
The smile wiped off the HODâ€™s face immediately and she reached for a silver fountain pen on her table and wrote something on the paper in front of her. Patricia wondered if the woman was compiling a list of the people Mr. Adebayo had made advances to. At the end of her scribbling, the HOD looked up, her facial expression grim and determined.
â€œI donâ€™t know why most of you wait for things to get bad before coming to report.â€
She shook her head and then fixed her eyes on Patricia.
â€œAs for you Patricia, you can go.â€
Patricia muttered a lowÂ thank youÂ and stood up from her seat. She walked with quick steps to the door and was out of the HODâ€™s office in less than twenty seconds. She was just heaving a sigh of relief when she sighted Mr. Adebayo on the corridor. There was a wide grin on his face. He patted her affectionately on the side of her arm, causing her to stumble in surprise.
â€œGood morning sir,â€ Patricia greeted, head turning automatically in the direction of the HODâ€™s office. The grin was still on Mr. Adebayoâ€™s face when she turned to him.
â€œWhere are you coming from?â€
â€œErmâ€¦â€ Patricia bit her tongue, afraid to tell Mr. Adebayo about her visit to the HODâ€™s office.
â€œWas it the HODâ€™s office?â€
Patricia stared at her lecturer.
How did he know?
The man looked past her shoulder, his expression changing from curious to cordial.
â€œI see,â€ he said, stepping out of her way and walking around her. Patricia turned with him. She saw the HOD walking towards them. â€œAnd ohâ€¦I wanted to tell youâ€¦â€ Mr. Adebayo said, his voice rising as he took steps away from her. â€œI have found your missing scripts. Your score has been corrected now.â€
Patricia bopped her head.
â€œThank you sir.â€
There was no acknowledgment from the lecturer who had now stopped beside the HOD and was engaged in a discussion with her. Patricia did not wait. She headed for the exit of the faculty and left Mr. Adebayo to face the consequences of his actions.
Pero saw the documents before Joe left the bathroom. They were papers of incorporation. She held the papers in her hands, unable to believe what she was reading.
Pero Fadugba Director
She looked at the bold letters at the top of the paper.
Jolan Engineering Consulting.
Joe returned to see her staring open mouthed at the documents.
â€œI wanted to tell you about it yesterday.â€
Pero stared at the paper in her hand again, slowing understanding the implications of Joeâ€™s decision to make her one of his companyâ€™s directors. Suddenly the future loomed frighteningly in front of her. She gave him an uneasy smile.
Joe changed for work, leaving Pero to prepare for school. Thirty minutes later, she kissed him goodbye and moved around the house in a daze, tidying up the one bedroom apartment and sometimes returning to look at the papers again. She managed to get herself ready for the eleven oâ€™clock lecture she had that morning. Her bag in her hand, she turned off the light switches in the apartment and left for school. Yemisi called her before she could step out of the gate.
â€œWhere are you?â€
â€œAre you coming to school?â€
â€œHurry and come. I have something for you.â€
Pero frowned. â€œWhat is it?â€
â€œCome first,â€ Yemisi said and then ended the call.
Pero saw Yemisi briefly when she returned to school. Her room was packed to the roof with her roommates and other strange faces Pero had not seen before. The girls talked loudly, creating a deafening din. Yemisi was half unclad as usual, yellow lace panties hanging in lopsided fashion on her buttocks. Her unrestrained breasts swinging side to side, she bounced up to Pero and waved a paper in front of her nose.
â€œWill you join?â€
Pero took the paper from Yemisi and looked at it closely. It was a registration form. She looked up with a frown at Yemisi.
â€œWhat is it for?â€
â€œIslander girls,â€ Yemisi said, dropping to her bed and sitting with her legs opened wide. â€œMembership is just thirty thousand.â€
Before Pero could give her an answer Yemisi showed the new gold necklace and pendant hanging from her neck. Done with showing off her jewelry, she pointed to the heap of new clothes on her bed.
â€œIt is the money from that party,â€ she told Pero with pride. â€œWe made plenty money.â€
Much to her surprise, Pero found herself unmoved by Yemisiâ€™s display.
Slipping her hands between her thighs, Yemisi scratched her crotch viciously with her long square tipped and bright pink fake nails.
â€œDonâ€™t you want to join?â€
Pero shook her head.
â€œI am not too sure.â€
Yemisiâ€™s mouth sloped downwards in annoyance.
â€œYou have become virgin Mary because of man abi?â€
Pero sighed and told her friend it was time to go.Â Â Yemisi shrugged in a dismissive manner, turned to her roommate and hollered.
â€œWhere is Mama Tina and my food na? Abeg I need to refuel. I have waka this night.â€
As Pero left the room, she heard Yemisiâ€™s roommate begin to discuss the matter of a popular politician who liked to use walking sticks on girls.
You know, he will just put it there and gives you hundred k. Just like that.
She did not hear the hoots of laughter.
Please I want his number.
Who has his number?
Maybe is juju.
Juju or no juju. Me, I will do, and then go to mountain for three days dry fast.
Eno left Funshoâ€™s room after a call to him. He had gone out to buy drinks with Lekan and was on his way back. She was tired of counting the lines on the ceiling and was in the mood for some entertainment. She found the living room empty and made herself comfortable on one of the living room sofas. She flipped through channels until she got to CNN. There was a news report on the missing Malaysian plane and an explosion in New York. She was engrossed in what she was watching and did not notice Joy join her in the living room.
â€œHi,â€ Eno said, turning to her with a smile as she sat down on the sofa beside her own.
Joy did not respond to Enoâ€™s greeting. She chose instead to frown.
â€œCan I have the remote?â€
Eno handed over the remote without a word. Joy slouched lazily in her seat and began her own channel flipping. She soon settled for MTVBase. After watching several videos of Nigerian artistes with half unclad women grinding against them, Joy received a call. Abandoning TV, she walked out of the living room to receive the call. Eno was left with music she did not like. She put up with the music until she decided to do something about it. She retrieved the discarded remote control on Joyâ€™s seat and changed channels. CNN came back on but an advert was running this time.
â€œWhy did you change the channel?â€
Eno turned with surprise to Joy who stood beside her, a dark scowl on her face.
The word barely got past her lips when Joy leaned and snatched the remote from her hand. Eno was taken aback by Joyâ€™s aggression.
What happened to the friendly person that had begged her to accompany her to this place a few weeks ago?
Loud auto tuned music filled the living room again as MTVBase won the war against CNN, but Joy was not watching, she stood one hand on hip, glaring at Eno.
â€œWas it not just two weeks ago that you came? How come you think you now own the place?â€
Eno shook her head.
â€œI donâ€™t understand.â€
Joy rolled her eyes. â€œOf course you donâ€™t, ode.
Closing the mouth that had been open in surprise, Eno sat straight in her seat.
â€œPlease donâ€™t call me ode.â€
Joyâ€™s upper lip curled in derision.
â€œWhat will happen if I do?â€
Her spirit sagging within her, Eno stood up from her seat and tried to walk past Joy. She never made it far. A hard shove from Joy sent her staggering backwards. Arms flailing wildly, Eno fought to regain her balance. She lost. In the end, she heard a loud bang and thought one thing.
Was that my head?
The two girls sat in the tastefully furnished living room and waited for their host to appear. Two glasses sat empty on an oval frosted glass center table, lipstick stains running along the rim of the glasses. The girls toyed with their phones and avoided eye contact. All though they dressed alike in clothes that exposed generous cleavages and rounded backsides, the girls were total strangers. Both knew nothing about the other, except that they were there to take care of an oversized man of great wealth and connections.
So they waited, heads lifting every time the sound of a door opening echoed in the great space of the living room. Several times they were disappointed. It was not their host but a stooping employee rushing to assure them thatÂ chief would soon be ready for them.Â It was an hour later before they finally saw their host. A man of intimidating stature and regal in white agbada, he strolled towards them, small beady eyes appraising the human parts on display. He asked them questions.
Were they in school?
What did they read?
They answered him with their acquired accents.
Yes they were in school, Unilag to be precise.
Then they turned and gasped at each other.
Oh you are in Unilag?
New respect dawning in abnormally green and blue eyes made possible by over the counter contact lenses, they batted false lashes at each other and sealed their new friendship with wide smiles. Chief was impatient.
Did they know what they were here for?
Were they ready?
The girls nodded eagerly.
The man stood up, gathering the folds of his agbada around his body.
Okay follow me.
He led them to a room upstairs where they found a bed the size of a football field and several unclad young men. The chief walked to a throne like chair in a corner of the room, pointed to the unclad men and told the girls what to do.Â Â The girls were surprised. They exchanged looks. Chief smiled at them, pushed the hem of his top up and loosened the drawstring at the waist band of his trouser.
I will pay you. Hurry.
As chiefâ€™s right hand disappeared into the band of his trouser, the young men descended on the girls, hands reaching to tug at their clothes until they were stripped unclad and on their back. The orgy began with chief in the background as spectator. Sometimes he groaned loudly in ecstasy as his eyes travelled over the sweaty bodies on the bed, hands moving up and down in his trouser. Sometimes he sat so still, he could have been mistaken for a statue, except for the beads of sweat on his forehead. The girls took different lovers and assumed different positions.
They wondered as the men went on for hours if it would ever end. Then they stopped wondering and resorted to begging the men.
They were tired.
Could they rest a bit?
Chief groaned and twitched in his seat. He waved frantically at them.
Continue! Continue. Almost there!
Five minutes later, his body shook in the throne like chair and his eyes rolled in their sockets. The young men followed their leader and convulsed wildly over, on top and behind the girls. In the end, the girls lay on their back and counted their money.
They would shop for that expensive bag Uche the bag seller from Yaba came to hawk in their hostel.
They would pay the annoying human hair dealer that would not stop disturbing them for her money even though they had only bought the hair weave the week before.
They snapped out of their day dreams when the young men began to leave the room one by one. Chief was last to leave.
He pointed to a door across the room. They could shower in the bathroom there, get dressed and meet him downstairs.
The girls thanked him, gathered their clothes and limped to the bathroom. In the bathroom, they made jokes about the men and groaned about their aching vaginas. They touched and probed red pink flesh.
Those men were bastards.
Did they use drugs?
Then they laughed and exchanged information about themselves.
One was in Honours hostel.
The other was in Moremi hall.
They exchanged BBM pins.
Talk to you in school.
I will call you if there are more paroles.
They finally showered, and left the bathroom. Downstairs chief and his young men were gathered with frowns on their faces. Someone had stolen chiefâ€™s money. The men gave the girls funny looks. Chiefâ€™s money never got missing. It had to be a stranger. Then the first slap landed, and the second and the third.
The girls held their cheeks, shock on their faces. They screamed their innocence and reminded their host that they just left the bathroom. Chief did not listen. His money was gone. Someone had to pay.
The young men punched and kicked the girls, ugly sneers in the place where rapturous expressions had been a few minutes ago. One of the girls screamed and pretended to faint. Chief ordered the young men to carry their bloodied forms out of his living room. The men complied, throwing them like sack of potatoes into a white Camry, driving to the junction outside the quiet estate and dumping them there. The unconscious girl opened her eyes as soon as the car zoomed off. The girls dragged themselves to the road, holding the torn edges of their tops against their bodies as headlights from oncoming vehicles exposed their shame and misery.
They cried and begged for help, but the people of the city, desensitized and full of their own problems barely spared them a glance. Housewives wearing shapeless gowns that hid evidences of their sedentary lifestyles looked down their noses at the girls as they drove past with their Baby on Board stickers.
Useless girls. Husband snatchers. Good for them.
Finally, an old taxi driver took pity on them. He was returning home from the dayâ€™s work. They could as well be his daughters. The girls were full of gratitude as they slid into the backseat of his car.
Thank you sir, thank you sir.
The taxi driver was curious.
One of the girl touched her swollen cheek and then lowered her eyes.
It was ritualists. They were saved by the grace of God.
The old man shook his head.
The city is really full of evil. The country is hard. If only Government can do something for young people of the country but the government is far in Abuja. Government eat plenty money, give wife plenty power, allow that Diezani woman to do anyhow. Did they hear? The governor, our lawyer, big SAN, he is taking the government to court for taking their money. Big thief, that government, but not to worry, God will save them all.
At last, the old man sighed and looked at the girls in his rear view mirror.
You people are lucky. Many people die in ritualist hand.
The girls did not answer him. They did not feel lucky. There would be no bags from Uche and that noisy human hair dealer was sure to raise hell on her next visit. The girl who had lied to the old taxi driver about their ordeal checked her swollen face in the mirror and regretted her decision to buy jewelries and clothes the previous day.
What would she tell her roommates or her friend Pero?
She resolved to keep the unfortunate experience to herself.
The ritualist story would stay and her lack of money would be tied to chiefâ€™s busy schedule and a promise to pay one hundred thousand naira in her account in three days.
Onyinye was having a hard time shaking Stanley off. He was everywhere she turned â€“ in the library when she sat to read, outside her hostel waiting as she returned from lectures and sometimes in the dreams that was meant to be her escape. His messages were becoming more aggressive as she found herself willfully falling out of love with him. His last message had given her sleepless nights.
You are avoiding me, but guess what? You canâ€™t run away from me, at least, not while you are still on this campus.
Now Onyinye saw shadows everywhere she turned. She was afraid to leave her room and wished her roommates didnâ€™t sleep outside school so often. As she sat in bed, holding her phone to her ear and listening to a ghostly voice threaten her for spurning its love, Onyinye made a resolve of her own.
She would move back home and far away from the nightmare her life had become.
Umari Ayim is the author of â€œTwilight At Terracotta Indigoâ€ and â€œInside my Headâ€. She blogs at www.umariayim.com/