STORIES EXPRESS

CHAPTER TEN: Rose’s Untold Pain

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When you are a child and your family is broken up, you tend to blame yourself for everything. This was the situation I found myself in following my parents’ breakup. I blamed myself endlessly since I could not blame them; after all they were my parents. I thought that by taking the blame, I could somehow change things for the better. Moreover, it was easier to blame myself since I had somehow caused the fight that led to the separation. I endlessly told myself that the fight would never had happened that night if I hadn’t insulted my father and provoked him into beating me up. But then I was wrong, for my parents’ marriage was doomed for failure long before it actually failed. Indeed, that unfortunate harmattan night’s incident was bound to happen even as my mother was bound to abandon us all and leave. But I was just too hurt by the fact that it actually happened to see the reasons why it happened.

            Unfortunately, life became extremely difficult following my parents’ divorce. Hunger was the greatest challenge, followed by that feeling of despair which came with being completely abandoned. I remember those days my siblings and I were left at home for several days with nothing to eat. My father would be too busy getting drunk and shamelessly disgracing himself at the village square to care about providing us with food. And so in a desperate bid to find what to eat, we would often climb the trees around our neighbourhood looking for fruits but seldom finding any. And then one particular afternoon as the hunger became so unbearably excruciating, my brothers stood in front of our compound and cried miserably while passersby watched them. It was while they did that that one old woman who was returning from the farm saw them and enquired what was wrong. She then gifted us some tubers of yam which we cooked and ate without telling my father about it. But somehow he got to know about the yam and punished me for disgracing him.

Meanwhile, inasmuch as I readily took the blame for everything that happened to us during this time, I wasn’t prepared for my father’s blames. I wasn’t prepared for it when he decided to make me the scapegoat in every situation, punishing me every time he wanted to relieve his frustrations. He beat me up at the slightest of provocations. As a matter of fact, he seemed to anticipate the opportunity to beat me. And every time he did beat me, he beat me exactly as he used to beat my mother. Perhaps he saw my mother in me; after all I was the spitting image of her. He imagined himself punishing my mother every time he punished me. He would call me a witch and a prostitute just as he used to call her, and then he would threaten to kill me if I didn’t leave his house.

Prior to this time, I always knew that my father disliked me very much. Right from when I was a toddler, there was hardly any special father-daughter bond between the two of us. I grew up being scared of the man I called father because he was a wife beater who frowned all the time except when he was drunk and stupid. And then he blamed everyone else for his woes in life except himself. He especially blamed my mother whom he accused of blocking his good fortunes with her bad lucks. All the time I wished my father could love me but he never did. And as I grew older, it dawned on me that he would never ever love me. Instead, he hated me just as much as he hated my mother. This was one of the reasons why life became extremely difficult when she left us; for my father shifted his hatred for my mother to me. And while I tried my best to endure it all, I wasn’t prepared for it when his blames and punishments became constant. This was why on the day he nearly killed me for menstruating for the first time, I knew I had to leave and never return.

(Shame and Forlorn Gaze by Emmanuel Abara Benson; coming soon)

Shame and Forlorn Gaze

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The Houseboys 

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Finally left alone ever since they arrived at their new home, the twins got to explore the place. Mrs Ijioma’s was a three bedroom flat, located on the uppermost and nicest part of the building. It was the only flat with its own inbuilt kitchen, toilet and bathroom, and this was expected considering that this was the same flat the late Mr Ijioma lived in prior to his death. The woman had forcefully claimed the flat for her own, arguing that since she was her late husband’s first wife, she was deserving of it. Her co-wife was however unhappy about this, seeing as she had to manage a cramped two bedroom flat with her teenage children.

All of the Ijioma’s lived on the same floor of the building. This was their own way of staying together as much as it was a well devised plan to save costs while renting out the rest of the flats to tenants. Unfortunately, the space was barely enough for all of them. There was Mrs Ijioma with her adult children- her eldest sons Sam and Uchenna who, though very grown, were still living at home. Each of them had a room to themselves, and they didn’t plan on leaving anytime soon.

Cynthia, one of Mrs Ijioma’s daughters, shared her mother’s flat even though she was always traveling in a desperate effort to escape from the bad reputation that trailed her following the mysterious death of her infant bastard son. The rest of Mrs Ijioma’s children were either living outside of the city or married, including Cynthia’s twin sister who had distanced herself from her family as though she was ashamed of them. And of course there was the last child James who lived in a boarding school in Umuahia.

On the other hand was Mrs Ijioma’s co-wife and her children who managed with a two bedroom flat. The woman had four children, the oldest of whom was Ifeanyi. At age seventeen, Ifeanyi was a very lanky, handsome and happy chap. His academic brilliance was equally unrivalled by the rest of his siblings. Sadly, underneath his happy go lucky persona was this frustration about who he was and the family he was born into. He longed for the time he would finally get admitted into the university so he could be away from his family. In the meantime, he lived with his mother and three siblings, all of whom were sharply contrasted to him. There was his immediate younger brother Johnson who had a perpetual frown on his face as though he was constantly angry with the world. Johnson had one of those broody old people’s faces- very knowing and constantly gloomy. He would stare at people with those set of knowing eyes, his demeanour completely unfriendly and very reproachful as though he could tell people’s deepest secrets just by looking at them. His mates were scared to befriend him. And for that, he was a loner.

Ifeanyi’s second sibling was Nkiru, an ugly girl who was undoubtedly the least beautiful of all her siblings. But what was most unflattering about Nkiru was that she had the bad habit of always begging for things. She would beg for anything and most especially something to put in her mouth and eat. The only time she wasn’t begging was when she didn’t see anybody holding something in their hands. Nkiru was indeed very much unlike her immediate younger sister Chika who was very beautiful and beloved by all. And here is the interesting thing about Chika- in spite of all the attention and privileges entitled her, she remained a sweet little girl. She walked gently, spoke softly and wouldn’t hurt a fly. She was the kind of girl who cried whenever a Christmas chicken got killed, even though she would be the first person to eat the chicken legs…

As Nnamdi and Chukwu continued to explore their new home, they soon came upon the general parlour which was located closer to Ifeanyi’s flat. It was a truly massive room which had taken up much of the space on that floor. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as beautiful as the sitting room in Mrs Ijioma’s villa mansion. Unlike that one, the décor here was archaic. The carpet was old and discolored, and the TV had a huge, box-like back which made it look hideous. The boys stood there for a while, carefully admiring everything in the room from the family portraits hanging on the walls to the old chandelier dangling from the ceiling. And it was as they did that that they were suddenly rattled by someone else’s presence.

“What are you doing here? You are not supposed to be in here!” the girl spoke hastily and sternly. She was the same girl who had sorely served them some bottles of Coca Cola earlier that day at the village. She was a pretty girl, thanks to her exotic facial features which was made possible by an obvious mixture of East Asian and African bloods. Her name was Chinko, a name which had a rather long story behind it. In the meantime, Nnamdi and his brother stood speechless, staring at the girl while feeling guilty.

“Sorry…” Nnamdi muttered. “We didn’t know we are not supposed to be in here.”

“It’s okay” Chinko replied, her voice nicer now. “Sorry for shouting at you. It’s just that cleaning this place takes a lot of work. Moreover, it is meant only for entertaining important guests.”

“We understand now…” Chukwu said, just as an awkward moment of silence passed during which the three kids just stared uncomfortably at each other.

“So I am Nnamdi. This is my brother Chukwu.”

“It’s nice to meet you. Are you Mama’s new houseboys?” Chinko asked. She said the word houseboys with such indifference; as though she was used to saying it. This made Nnamdi uncomfortable.

“Yes we are–”

“Do you know what happened to the last help she had?” Chinko asked them.

“No…”

“What happened to him or her?”

Both boys were suddenly curious, edging closer to the girl as if doing so would help them better understand the big reveal.

“She was a good girl” Chinko said. “Very hardworking too. But to mama, she was not good enough. Mama constantly accused Nma of stealing from her. By the way, every servant in this household is always accused of stealing. I just think you should know that!”

Nnamdi felt the urge to ask Chinko whether she too was a servant. But he restrained himself because somehow he could tell that she was. So he asked to know what exactly happened to Nma instead.

“Nma never liked this place” Chinko continued. “She told me that her mother forced her to come here because mama had promised to always send the woman money at the end of every month. Apparently, Nma’s mother had no idea the hell her daughter was about to go through. It was so bad that on several occasions the girl tried to run away. And then all of a sudden she became pregnant!”

Chinko paused at this point as though to let the full implication of what she had just said to fully sink in. She had a dramatic tone to her voice and a uniqueness to her persona which was so captivating. Perhaps it was her mixed race that generally made her features so striking and hard to ignore. She was so exotic that many of the men who watched her in the streets as she went about her daily activities would go home and masturbate at night while thinking about her. Indeed she was captivating, and the twins were enthralled by the story she was telling them.

“Who got Nma pregnant?” Nnamdi asked.

“For a while she refused to tell anyone. Actually, she tried so hard to hide the pregnancy. But mama was quick to notice the signs and so pressurised her to reveal who was responsible. But Nma wouldn’t, even as mama beat and starved her for days. At this point, all Nma wanted was to return home to her mother…”

At this point, Chinko paused yet again, her eyes furrowed as though in angered frustration as she recollected Nma’s ordeal.

“Mama eventually forced Nma to abort the pregnancy!” Chinko said. “It was after this that she sent her back to Igbere. But before she left, she told me that it was mama’s second son who repeatedly raped and impregnated her!”

“That’s horrible” Nnamdi muttered.

“It is horrible” Chukwu agreed. And then Chinko warned them-

“Do not tell anyone about this. I’ve never told anyone about this… I have to go now.”

“But wait…you didn’t tell us your name” Nnamdi pointed out to the girl who was already headed towards the door.

“My name is Chinko” she said and then finally hurried away before the boys could ask her anymore questions.

“Her name is Chinko?” Chukwu said almost to himself. “What kind of name is that?”

“Well she does look Chinkoish; doesn’t she?” Nnamdi replied as they both left the place even as he couldn’t help but think about why the girl had such an unusual name…

Chinko was a fifteen year old girl whom troubles had trailed even before she was born. Her challenges in life began when her village beauty mother became betrothed to a man who was based in the city. The marriage was a fanfare, because not only was Chinko’s mother a village celebrity due to her unrivalled beauty among the maidens, she was also from a relatively well known family background. After the marital rites, the young maiden was brought to Lagos where she began living with her husband. But it wasn’t long afterwards before she was carried away the exciting lifestyle she saw in the city. She liked it when other men began to notice her beauty as she walked in the streets, and then she encouraged the sexual advances that ensued. Soon afterwards, she was sneaking around with the different men that flirted with her. She did this even though it greatly unsettled her neighbours, friends and relatives of the man who married her. Rumour spread like wild fire about her infidelity. But her husband loved her too much to listen to what the people were saying.

Before long she was pregnant. And while people were happy for her, they were also concerned; for they knew of her adulterous ways just as much as they knew of her husband’s constant absence from home. And truth be told, it wasn’t indeed her husband who was responsible for the pregnancy. Instead, it was a Chinese-American business man who had once been in Lagos for work and needed a muse. The married woman was the muse he had for the days he was in Lagos. And it was barely a few weeks afterwards that the woman realised she was pregnant. Nine months later, she gave birth to a baby girl. But the baby looked nothing like the typical African baby. It was at this point that her infidelity became obvious, for her baby had striking Asian features.

The baby and her mother instantly became social outcasts.The disgraced and embittered husband sent his wife away along with her baby. And upon returning to the village, the woman and her Chinko baby were rejected as well. For many years afterwards, the woman remained shunned by her immediate family members who were angry that she brought shame and dishonour to them. As for the baby, the villagers simply called her Chinko; a name which stock after many years and which the teen would later embrace just so nobody would bully her with it…

(Culled from Emmanuel Abara Benson’s forthcoming novel “SHAME & FORLORN GAZE”)

Ngozi: The Woman in Denial (Chapter Nine) 

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I may not have been a good wife to my ex husband, and for all I know I may not have been a good mother either. But one thing I do know for sure is that marrying Imo was the greatest mistake of my life. He was bad for me in every aspect, and I knew it from the beginning. Unfortunately, I was not in the right position to make my life’s decisions at the point when I married him. Consequently, for many years I suffered under him. It was altogether a horrible experience, one which will undoubtedly torment me for the rest of my life. But I am happy that I was able to find the courage to get away from him eventually, even though it wasn’t an easy thing to do.

My life was almost ruined following my decision to leave Imo. I instantly became known as the evil prostitute who abandoned her husband and her children. I heard all the rumour and it was hard to take in. But in spite of what the people said, nobody ever really knew the truth except those of us who were involved. I am for instance a far better parent than Imo could ever be to our children. Even the children themselves knew this very well, which was why they kept coming to me. But I kept them distant from me although it was a very selfish thing to do no doubt. I however had to do that in order me to first of all ensure my sanity and also restart the course of my life the way I always desired for it to be…

Truth is I was once a young girl with big dreams. But after I finished primary school at the age of fifteen, my first dream of going to secondary school was dashed; no thanks to my father who greatly disappointed me. He told me to forget about school and that I should marry instead as it was supposedly my responsibility as a girl to do so. Schools were for boys, he said. And he wouldn’t go against the tradition of his people by sending his daughter to school. That night we had this talk was one of the worst nights of my life. I cried my eyes out, and would not allow anybody (not even my mother) to console me. I just couldn’t understand why it was such a taboo for a girl to get educated but very normal for a boy to do same. Moreover, to think that I made a better first school leaving certificate than my brother did… I felt betrayed! I was saddened and could not make sense of the reason why I was going to reject an admission to study at Ovim Girl’s College, the best of such schools and only a few towns away from my village. The school was comprised of female students; young girls like me whose parents were brave enough to defy tradition them to school. I wondered why my father couldn’t be as brave… 

I was full of questions that night, questions that I probably never would have dared to ask myself until that night. But I asked them anyway, wondering why I could not be given the opportunity to put my academic brilliance to good use just because I lacked a dick in-between my thighs. Moreover, the fact that my father could even consider it right to marry me off at the age of fifteen was disturbing to me. The idea of me being in a man’s house at that age and attending to his whims and caprices instead of being in school worried me. Said worry kept me awake through much of the night even as I sobbed uncontrollably, attracting my mother’s attention who then came to console me while promising to discuss the matter with my father the following day. 

Unfortunately, my mother’s attempt to reason with my father only ended up getting him upset. He perceived my mother’s advice as a challenge to his position in the family, enraged that she could even as much as question his decision. He reminded my mother that he was the head of the family, not her. And then he had blamed her for not training me well; raising me up to aspire to take after men instead of to know my place as a woman. For several days after this altercation, my parents did not speak to each other. The situation at home got so tense such that I began to feel guilty. My mother had always been the obedient and dutiful wife, a woman who meticulously ensured to please her husband even if it meant her suffering. To think that she was then disputing with him for my sake made me sad. And this is why when she later came to advice me to give up education and consider marriage, I forgave her.

“You are my only daughter, Ngozi” she began as we rested from work one day at the farm. “You are the only daughter your father and I have. And trust me, we mean well for you. You may not believe it now, but getting married is indeed the best thing you can do for yourself.”

My mother was a gentle woman who always was concerned about the kind of impact she had on people; especially her family. As a matter of fact, she made a conscious effort all the time to never hurt anyone. One of the ways she did that was to find a way to let everyone have their way at all times. Consequently she felt very guilty that afternoon because she knew I would never have my way. I heard the guilt in her voice as she talked to me about the traditional principles I knew even she did not believe in. She told me about the stigma associated with girl child education in the village, and how no man would want to marry me later after I must have spent many years in school.

“Our people believe that sending a daughter to school is not just a waste of resources that would be used to train sons, but also a way of preparing said daughter for a promiscuous life in the future. Now you know that your father is prominent in this village; it would be a think of shame for him to have an educated daughter. Please I plead with you to understand…” I did not understand, and I most definitely did not agree with anything my mother said that afternoon. But I had to pretend like I understood just so she (my mother) could feel less guilty over the situation.

By the year 1978, my brother Nduka was done with secondary school. And then one day I overheard my father discussing with his friend about the plans he was making to send Nduka to the university at a distant place called Nnsuka. The mere idea of that happening filled me with jealousy even as I quickly remembered how I had been vehemently denied a secondary school education just because I was a girl. I began to wish I were a boy, even as I despised my womanhood. And with this anger and frustration came a deep-seated hatred for my father which I loved to love. But no matter how much I hated him and no matter how obvious I made my hatred for him, he refused to rescind his decision about my future. This made me grumpy for months. I hated everyone 

Interestingly, I was unable to get married until I was twenty years old. In other words, I waited for five whole years after finishing primary school before I could marry. What was annoying about this is that this was the same five year period it would have taken me to acquire a secondary school education. But instead of getting married, I wasted it being a single village maiden whom none of the men could muster enough courage to propose to because they thought that I was too beautiful, intelligent and bold. Perhaps  intentionally made it difficult for them all to dare approach me. This is because out of spite for my father, I had sworn to not marry anyone. Consequently, everyday as I walked to and fro the numerous farms we owned,  I held my head up high, exuding pride and magnifying my beauty while subtly telling all the men to stay clear of me as they were out of my league. And so it happened that no man even had the courage to woo me until one December night when everything changed.

His name was Isaac, and he was the first suitor I ever had. The first thing about him that caught my attention was of course his handsomeness; the kind that no girl can ignore. And then I was carried away by the fact that he wasn’t resident in the village. Instead, he was a city boy who lived and worked in Enugu and was only in the village for the yuletide. He wooed me so romantically, and then made me feel comfortable with the idea of being wooed. It was all very exciting, right from the first night he approached me as I returned from the evening market with my girlfriends. What can I say; Isaac was perfect in every aspect, and I gave in easily to his overtures more than I thought it would have been possible. This was the December of 1979 and the best Christmas season I ever had. Unfortunately, it all soon came to an end because he had to return to Enugu. I was devastated when he left the village in the January of 1980. Even his promises to return to see me during Easter failed to serve as enough comfort.

I counted each day from January till March, waiting earnestly for Easter and wondering why Jesus Christ hadn’t been killed earlier. But while I waited to see Isaac again, I secretly corresponded with him. He was such a good writer, even though he often used difficult words which I found hard to comprehend. Nevertheless, I looked forward to his letters, said letters which I always managed to sneak into the house and hide under my mattress. And after reading those sweet things he wrote me, I would write my replies and send them through my friend Olanma who always helped me to post at the Post Office at Onu. Unlike me, Olanma was lucky enough to have been sent to the teachers’ training college where she qualified as a teacher and then taught at the Ibina Primary School…

Meanwhile, as Easter finally came, Isaac returned to the village to see me just as he had promised. I was very excited to see him just as he was to see me. And then I was convinced that he looked even more handsome than he did the last time he was around. He came bearing many gifts; clothes and some tasty brown stuff which he told me were called chocolates. And every day throughout the time he was around we found a way to meet up and talk at length. On one of such days (which was a sunny Sunday afternoon), Isaac followed me to the stream where he helped me wash some dirty clothes while telling me stories about Enugu. He told me about the trains that always passed through Enugu while heading to a place called Kafanchan in the north, and then even told me about the university where my brother was studying at. I wished I could just vanish and appear in those places he was mentioning in his stories. And at that instant, it was as though Isaac read my mind. And that was when he surprised me, whipping out a small black box which contained an inexpensive ring. With that in view, he went on bended knee and proposed to me, much to my utter shock and excitement…

 (SHAME AND FORLORN GAZE IS A WORK OF FICTION WHICH WILL SOON BE AVAILABLE FOR SALES ON AMAZON

SEEING IS NOT BELIEVING! 🙆😎

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“I don’t believe it!” 

That was what Mazi said as he stared in utter bewilderment, unable to believe the sight of his wife naked and in bed with another man in a cheap hotel room. For a while, the rumour mongers tried abortively to warn him about his wife’s cheating ways. They told him about the nights different voices of men were heard coming from his room; voices of men who moaned and cried as they fucked his wife and then ejaculated. But the man disbelieved the rumours. He trusted his wife too much, reason why he could leave her alone at home while he traveled the length and breath of Nigeria; merchandising. However, one thing that was unknown to him was that his wife was indeed getting some pleasure in his absence. You see, he was a man with a peculiar sexual weakness! Therefore, his woman longed for those days he was away so she could have her lover over to please her in all the right ways… 

Meanwhile, as the she soon learned about the rumours which have spread about her infidelity, Mrs Mazi devised a new and convenient way to get it with her lover- she began lodging in hotels. This worked for a while until the nosey people (who wouldn’t let her be great) became aware of her new arrangement. So they found out about  the hotel she usually lodged in and then relayed the information to her husband who once again disbelieved them. But the rumour mongers were relentless. They ensured  to always relay every bit of Mrs Mazi’s “sexcapades” to her husband; albeit very salaciously. Unfortunately for them, he disbelieved them everytime. But a time came when the man began to pay attention to the rumours about his wife even though he didn’t still believe it. He told his “reporters” that seeing would be believing.

Consequently, the rumour mongers plotted to set Mrs Mazi up for fail by giving her husband details about the day and time she usually met up with her lover at the hotel. To catch with them, the man pretended as though he was embarking on one of his journeys. But of course he hung around in town. And on that faithful day, he barged into the hotel and very easily got information about the room his wife was lodging in. It was as he broke into the room  and caught the lovers red-handed that he began saying “I don’t believe it”…

Before long, a small crowd had gathered to watch as the drama unfolded. And while they busied themselves cursing at the woman and her lover as  well  as taking pictures of them, Mr Mazi was unfortunately losing hold of his faculties. He was beyond shocked by what he had seen. And he would never be the same again.

So to him, seeing was not believing after all. 

[THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION]

~Emmanuel Abara Benson 

SWEPT BY THE WAVE OF LOVE

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The first time Nedum set eyes on Ginika, he felt the power of attraction. She was a total stranger, yet deep down within him he felt an instant click; that romantic feeling that just overwhelms you when you find the one! It was more easily felt than expressed because it all happened so unexpectedly when they both looked into each other’s eyes from across the concourse. He was there waiting to pick up his girlfriend who was flying in from Abuja…

The awe-striking moment didn’t last forever though because Ginika quickly looked away from Nedum and had hurriedly left the place instead. Truth is, she felt exactly the same way Nedum did. It was nothing short of an instant connection, a typical moment of attraction every sexual human finds [themselves] in every now and then. But then she decided to let the moment slide because it made her feel guilty. She was a married woman although quite unhappy no thanks to her husband and his cheating ways. It had however been a long time since anybody admired her way Nedum did and the encounter awakened a lot of desires within her. She however didn’t know exactly how a married woman was supposed to react to such feelings! Nobody taught her these things. All her life she had been the good girl- church-going, Jesus-loving and married to the only man who knew her private parts. She was loyal and loving to her husband despite his many shortcomings.

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But as she sat at the back of that taxi heading to her deluxe Lekki residence, she kept thinking about the strange man she saw at the airport, the man with who she felt the best attraction ever. She knew quite well that sitting in a cab and fantasizing about a stranger wasn’t exactly the most Christian thing to do as a married woman, yet she couldn’t help herself. So she fantasized that Nedum was every bit the realest man she had always wished she got to have and to hold. She wished she could see him again and feel the same way she had felt earlier. She kept thinking about him as the cab drove her home.

Unknown to her, she was getting home to meet an unexpected surprise. Her husband never expected her home that night. So as she got into the house and climbed upstairs to their bedroom, she met husband in bed, caught up in compromising positions with two women. They were busy doing many things at the same time, so busy they hardly even noticed her presence at first.  Never before had Ginika’s husband been careless enough to let her catch him in the act. He was a pastor, highly respected in church and easily mistakable for a saint. Those were attributes that made her love him enough to marry him. Unknown to her, she would spend every day suspecting him until she finally caught him in the act. And what was more; the two women he was frolicking with were highly respected sisters in the church! That evening, she had the perfect excuse to leave the marriage…

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Fast forward to five months later, Ginika was a divorced woman, facing all the stereotypes and loving it all. She felt good being free and was looking forwards to better days. And then one day after work as she stopped over at her favourite restaurant to have dinner, she met someone she thought she’d never meet again. It was Nedum, sitting just a table away with his back to her as he ate alone. Their gaze met and got hocked again when for whatever turned around to scan the place. And just like the first time, they shared that moment of attraction. And this time, neither of them was going to let the moment slip away. Just like Ginika, Nedum was freshly out of a relationship after his girlfriend left him to become the second wife of a senator. For months he was devastated and meeting Ginika again was indeed the best thing that happened to him the longest of times.

Today their love story continues, blossoming with every single day that passes. Got to love Love!

Written by Emmanuel Abara Benson

ON MY WAY HOME LAST NIGHT…

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Imagine a tired young man leaving the office after several hours of serious work. That’s me, tired and spent as I was. But at least I looked forward to having a great weekend as I walked towards the bus stop, leaving behind the deluxe estate where my office is located. It was already past eight in the night and there was a long journey ahead of me; two bus drops and of course the unpleasant traffic I would surely encounter. Poor me indeed!

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I got through the first half of my journey quickly enough and before long had managed to get into the next bus that would convey me home. The rain was threatening to pour down and I didn’t want it to pour on my body. So as I sat in that uncomfortable space, I wanted more than anything for the bus to start moving already. It did, but unfortunately we came upon a heavy traffic on the main street soon enough. There were yellow buses, tankers and private [fanciful] vehicles all moving bumper to bumper. And even though the rain was yet to start, I knew it was sure to rain down.  I wished more than anything to be in the comfort of my bed before it started to rain. If only I could evoke some supernatural powers and perhaps fly home already. But then wishes aren’t horses, so I remained sat in that cramped up space with the bodies of total strangers pressed against mine.

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The bus was so cramped up so much so I could hardly even move freely much less observe those behind me. But I could clearly see the driver, a middle-aged man who was so focused on the road with his hands gripping the steering as though everything depended on it. Beside him were two individuals I immediately assumed were a couple.  The man was sitting right next to the driver with his right hand draped around the woman’s neck. Yet, as couplie as the two seemed I couldn’t help but notice something rather odd about them. First of all, the woman appeared a lot classier than the man. She even donned what appeared to be gold jewelries. And then I noticed how she seemed uncomfortable with the man’s hand resting on her. But then strange things happen in marriages all the time… I ignored them.

As the traffic stretched endlessly along the road, the driver suddenly decided to divert the course of our journey by driving off the main street into a strange neighbourhood. Nobody in the bus said a word because we figured that bypassing the gridlock was better than being stuck in it for hours.  For a while, we drove freely, passing different kinds of neighbourhoods until we came upon traffic once again. How unfortunate!  We were back to moving at a snail’s pace. And by this time I had no choice than to resign to fat. Blocking my ears with my earpiece, I pressed play on my Play Music and was soon listening to Tekno sing Pana.

The bus kept moving slowly. And then all of a sudden the supposed couple beside the driver began to alight. At first I thought they had gotten to their destination but then I realized their journey wasn’t over. While the man ran across the street as though he was quickly going to see someone or buy something, the woman paced along with the bus while waiting for him to return.  Later on I learnt he had gone to ease himself, but surprisingly he spent nearly seven minutes doing that. No thanks to the traffic, we literarily remained in the same spot waiting for him until he was back. And when he did return, both him and the woman returned to their seats just as traffic coincidentally eased up and we drove along.  For a while we just drove on freely until suddenly I noticed a major drama unfolding in the front seat. The man who had gone out earlier was frantically searching for something. He was sweating as he searched everywhere- his pockets, his bag, the dashboard and even the belongs of the woman I thought was his wife. He then demanded that the driver stop the bus and he [the driver] quickly obliged, parking by the roadside just as I watched other vehicles pass us by. At this point I was beginning to wonder what sort of hellish ride I was in just as I removed my earpiece to learn what exactly was going on. Much to my surprise, the man said he had lost his sixty thousand naira. He said the money was in his wallet, resting on his laps just before he went down to ease himself. And the he couldn’t find it. Some of the passengers suggested he should go back to the place he went to ease himself to look there. Quickly he dashed off there but was back soon enough, saying he didn’t find a thing. His hysteria attracted a little crowd and I imagined the situation could be dangerous because after all this was Lagosians where people are famous for erratic behaviour and mob actions. Moreover, that neighbourhood I suddenly found myself stuck in wasn’t the best of them and the possibility of touts overtaking the situation abounded.

    Meanwhile, my logical mind was already piecing the man’s narrative together and instantly I saw a lot of loopholes in his account. First of all, it is utterly impossible for a wallet to contain that amount of money; too many notes. Moreover, what sort of idiot would carelessly keep such an amount of money on his laps in a bus full of strangers and then leave to urinate without holding tightly to it? By the way, how come it took him so long to urinate, and upon his return never noticed that the money was gone? And then the most important question of all- where in the world could the money have gone to since nobody had left the bus yet asides the man? As he kept on screaming, going short of calling all of us suspects, I wondered whether I should ask him the questions on my mind.  I could tell even the other passengers were suspecting him but being rather careful about what they said. Yet the man went on rampaging even accusing both the driver and the woman of stealing the money just as he tore apart the woman’s bag in search of the non-existent money.

It wasn’t until a long vehicle plying the road nearly knocked the bus and all of us off the road that we all became agitated. The passengers screamed at the driver to move the bus already. It was late and the rain was about to fall. No single individual should ever have to keep almost twenty people stranded for so long. But the man insisted that the driver was not going anywhere until the money is found. This prompted me to address him. I told the man that if indeed he lost his money, it was unfortunate. And as sad as it was, he should be considerate for those of us who were late from work, tired and needed rest. In response he screamed at me for being heartless and said he prayed I lost something valuable soon. According to him, he was the one who deserved all the considerations he lost seventy five thousand naira. Immediately he said that, most of the passengers have noticed the inconsistency in his story and began to shout at him. They questioned how he had suddenly gone from losing sixty thousand to seventy five; who did he think he was fooling, they asked him. As we screamed at the driver take us away from the place or refund our money, the man finally mellowed down and suggested that we contribute anything we can for him as compensation. But people told him sorry that there was recession in town. And just like that, we left him as the bus finally moved.

As we proceeded without him, the passengers began to analyze the incident. Everybody agreed the man was an amateur criminal. Several of his kind exists across the city of Lagos, but we were lucky we didn’t find ourselves surrounded by them all.  Anyway, the bus soon rejoined the main street and thankfully the traffic was no longer as bad. We drove for a few minutes before some passengers began to get down at their respective bus stops. And just as we were nearing my bus stop the controversial man reappeared from nowhere with another man, both jumping into the bus as it moved. The man was beside the driver once again and was threatening to maim the man if he didn’t return his money while the other fellow sat beside me. At this point there were just a few of us left in the bus and the stranger sitting beside me just kept staring at me with those drugged out eyes of his. There was something evil about him as I managed to look into the eyes it was though I was looking into the eyes of Danger. Unfortunately, he knew how uncomfortable he made me feel and had seemed to be really enjoying the moment. So I sat still and pretended to ignore him until luckily for me, we came upon a little traffic jam and without thinking twice I quickly pushed past the stranger and jumped out into the middle of the road. And as I quickly crossed to the other side, I noticed the strange man alighting and following me and so did the other one who allegedly lost his money. Thankfully, there were still people out and about on the main street so I walked briskly in a bid to disappear to my neighbourhood. But it seemed the individuals were intent at keeping up with me. Nobody had to tell me I must not let that happen.

hood

As soon as I left the main street and walked down the street that led to my apartment, I became instantly aware of how very desolate everywhere was. The impending rain had caused people to get behind the comfort of their doors. Moreover, it was really late by this time. So I kept walking as fast as I could as those two kept following me, and just then the rain began to fall. Perhaps it was fortunate for me that it began to rain when it did because it was the perfect excuse for me to run. And run I did, quickly diverting to ensure the creeps didn’t follow me home. My heart was pounding heavily against my chest by the time I got home and somehow I knew I had looked into the face of danger and yet escaped its harm…

~Emmanuel Benson

*These were true events.

THE GIRL WHO RAN AWAY

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hausa landscape

She was from a really small town in Northern Nigeria, fleeing all the way south, away from the dirty old  man she had been betrothed and away from all the chaos and the hardhsip she had known her entire life. All she had with her was her little savings from working on people’s farms the previous year, the money she made from selling fura da nono, and of course the dowry money  Alhaji Tanko had paid to her father which she stole! But more than that, she  had a wishlist, top of which was to visit a beach. She had only heard amazing tales about oceans, saw a few pictures of beautiful beaches but never got around seeing one in real life. Good thing she was finally escaping to a place where the ocean’ waves lapped against rocky cliffs; a place where pretty girls wore bikinis and strolled on the beaches without molestation! She was fleeing to her freedom, or at least so she thought!FATIMA

At the age of twelve, Fatima was the only girl (of all her mates) who was yet to get married. Her situation had become so scandalous to the extent that it brought shame to her family. Rumour had it that no man wanted to marry her because she was too wild and wouldn’t remain in a husband’s house; her mother hadn’t raised her well, they said. Well, the little girl was okay with being labelled “wild” as long as no man thrice her age and more had to force his way through her young man one horrible night. She was satisfied with being “untrained” as long as she had the opportunity to be a child. She could not understand why her childhood should be taken away from her so forcefully. But most importantly, she could not understand why her parents “especially her father) would want to put her in the same condition as most of her mates who were forced to marry before her. Each time she saw them carrying their frail-looking babies with flies trailing them, she never understood why they usually had that horrible urea stench about them. But whatever the cause of them, she didn’t want to get married if that was what marriage was about.

But her parents never listened to her pleas. They were too eager to get rid of her in order to stop the rumours that were making the rounds due to her continued stay in the house. But more than that, they wanted to earn an extra income for the family through the bride price they would certainly receive on Fatima’s head. Consequently, the moment Alhaji Tanko came along with his money and his disgusting self,  Fatima’s parents jumped at the offer and readily decided to give their daughter to him. The bride price was hastily paid the following day. And that night while everyone slept, Fatima made a drastic decision in a spur of the moment to leave her family and escape from her house. But before she did, she stole the bride price from her father. This was to spite him, but more to support herself as she journeyed to the unknown…

Fatima 2

Ten years later after young Fatima made that drastic, almost dangerous decision to save herself, she had become one of the most important humans in her circles. Her story was nothing such of a miracle-  a beautiful, disadvantaged girl who was opportune to have caught the attention of a good human somewhere in Abuja while she languished under the heat selling  fura da nono. Yes, she never made it down to the south until seven years after initially setting out to the place. But ending up in Abuja had paid off big because that was the place she got discovered and made a local film star…

~Written by Emmanuel Benson

*This story is not entirely fictitious and the issue discussed is real…

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