First thing the following morning, I took off from Ilorin to Lagos, making sure my whereabouts were concealed. I hadn’t told or informed anyone of my departure, not even Mimi. I had left at the break of dawn while she slept, putting at risk my papers for that morning and my exam for the entire semester at stake.
I felt weak and sluggish, together with the body pains, dizziness and the panging thud of headache inflicting me terribly, due to my lack of proper rest and sleep during the night. Akosuaʼs words still rang in my head like a bell.
• • •
“Sister wake up!” I heard a voice say beside me, tapping me on my shoulder. I slowly opened my eyes to see the passengers mounting down off the bus one by one. I then realized I had fallen asleep during my thoughts.
I thanked the lady who woke me as we mounted off together, realizing we had just arrived at Lagos at long last. I then took a cab heading for the area described to me by Akosua, where I took another cab headed for L.U.T.H, the hospital my father was admitted into.
I alighted directly in front of the hospital and stopped by a nearby store to get some items before rushing inside.
“Sister!” Akosua screamed as she laid eyes on me and the nurse who ushered me in. I saw my aunt and two other relatives seated also. She rushed towards me and embraced me with a tight grip, burying her head into my chest as she sobbed. I hugged her too with my eyes closed, stroking her back gently.
Moments like this were to be treasured. Moments like this seemed like forever. Forever! That was how I felt at that moment; to hug and hold her forever, but I had to let go. We had to let go.
I pulled out of the hug and placed my hands on her cheeks, wiping the drops of tears from her face.
“Everything would be okay. Itʼs fine,” I assured her with a smile, trying to get a hold of myself as well.
When the tension had calmed a bit, I moved closer to my aunt and wrapped her in a warm embrace. She hugged back tightly without saying anything. Then I edged closer to my uncles and hugged them both.
Turning around, my gaze fell on my dad’s lifeless body lying in the life machine. He looked pale and lifeless than usual.
“How is he?” I asked, referring to no one in particular.
“Calm down. He is only unconscious for now,” Uncle Ken answered.
“For how long?”
“Since he got struck with the cardiac arrest yesterday,” he replied, sounding sober.
I took another look at the unconscious body of my father lying in front of me and bowed my head, feeling a tear drop escape my eye.
“So what is the next step?” I summoned courage to ask, raising my head up.
“How?” my aunt intervened.
“What did the doctor say?” I repeated.
“Oh, my dear,” she sulked soberly, “Iʼm afraid it is not as easy as you think.”
“Just tell me!” I persisted.
“Well, your father needs to be operated on. He needs to undergo surgery and…”
“And…?” I urged her to go on.
“And,” she continued, “weʼve been asked to deposit a sum of five hundred thousand Naira for the full treatment. But so far, weʼve only been able to raise N300 thousand,” she stopped, and continued, “I and your uncles have decided to take a loan to balance it up.”
“No,” I interrupted.
“Pardon?” My aunt asked, confused.
“No, there’ll be no need for that,” I finalized, reaching for my handbag and took out two envelopes. I handed it over to her as she looked to and fro at my uncles, at the envelopes and then back to me.
“Those envelopes contain the balance,” I simply said, “It’s a total of N250,000.”
My auntʼs eyes bulged, as well as my uncles shot me a quick glare.
“How come?” Uncle Ken asked, obviously shocked.
“I’ll explain later,” I tried to give an excuse.
“No, explain it now!” Uncle Kofi, my other uncle, demanded.
I heaved a sigh and said, “Itʼs from my savings.”
With that, their minds calmed down a bit, except from Uncle Kofi who didn’t seem convinced.
“Are you sure?” He asked, staring at me suspiciously.
“Kofi, leave the girl!” my aunt intervened.
“We should see the doctor,” Akosua cut in, “now that we have the complete amount.”
“Yes, let’s see the doctor.” My aunt agreed.
• • • • •
It’s been two hours since we settled the bill and waited patiently at the reception passageway for the doctorʼs report.
During that time, I had gotten a series of phone calls from both Mimi, Boma and Oluchi alike, all of which I never picked up. I knew they were obviously concerned about my whereabout, but I couldn’t disclose my location to them yet. So, I switched off my phone.
Later on, after much tension on our necks, the doctor finally came out, accompanied by a nurse by his side.
“The operation was successful.”
That was all he said. That was all he had to say to make us jump in excitement.
Akosua screamed out loud, hugging tight to me as I held back tighter too, enveloped with joy. Then we squeezed our aunt in a hug, followed by my uncles.
“Can we see him now, doctor?” my aunt demanded.
“No, not now,” the doctor answered, “he still needs to regain consciousness. I advice you give him time to recover,” he finalized. My aunt nodded in agreement.
“Is he going to be okay?” Akosua questioned, uncertainty in her tone.
“He’ll be fine.” The doctor assured and called Uncle Ken to follow him to his office. They both left together, leaving us behind.
• • •
About five hours later, my father hadn’t still regained consciousness. It was getting late already and my aunt urged me to return home, back to Ilorin, due to my exams. As much as I tried to resist, she kept on urging me harder till I was left at a blank point with no choice.
I had to bid them farewell with a promise to come over during the weekend again.
• • •
It took me three hours journey to get back to Ilorin. I had contemplated whether to switch on my phone or not, so as to inform Mimi I was alright and on my way home, but I had disregarded the thought several times.
I crossed a certain pedestrian bridge and was about to take a route which led to my area when a kid stopped me.
“Aunty!” he called out as he ran after me. I halted and turned back, thinking it was probably one of those less privileged who needed aid.
“Aunty please help me!” he gasped in tears, holding tightly onto my jean. I was moved to ask him, “What happened?”
“It’s my sister! She fell into a gutter on our way back and she’s stuck, she can’t move!” He cried.
“Where is she?” I demanded instantly, filled with compassion. He pointed towards a narrow path and said, “There!”
Without thinking twice, I told him to lead the way and we walked across the narrow path that led to a deserted, lonely street. We were still walking when I asked, “Haven’t we gotten there?”
To my surprise, the teenage kid began laughing. He turned and faced me with a smile.
The next thing I knew, I felt something hard hit me on my head from behind. I blacked out, collapsed.
Darkness filled the atmosphere as my eyes slowly opened. I felt my body become limp and weak. I had a blurry eyesight too, and a banging thud of headache to flow with it.
I tried moving my body to stand up, but it was stiff. I felt my legs folded together, tied onto something, same as my hands too. I seemed to be in a sitting position, with my hands, my legs and my mouth sealed. My body also reeked of excess sweat.
I coughed out repeatedly without ease till I felt a figure beside me. The figure advanced further and flashed a torch to my face. I instantly looked away from the excess brightness penetrating my eyes.
“She’s alive.” The figure mumbled quietly, still flashing the torch on me.
“Call Lady Tee,” I heard another familiar voice.
Immediately, the atmosphere became brightened. The light had been turned on, and I could see two hefty guys and a skinny one. I remembered his face; it was him, Big Tiny; the guy who had once threatened me with a gun.
“Hello!” He gestured with a hand wave and a mocking tone from the corner he stood. I was too weak to speak.
Shortly after, the door to the room creaked open and a lady walked in. She was accompanied by a tall, macho guy and a kid.
To say I was surprised would be an understatement. I was shocked! Partly because, this same kid who accompanied her was the same boy who had stopped me along the way to help him aid his sister. I remembered offering to help him and…
“Surprised?” The lady suddenly spoke, jerking me out of my thoughts. I turned to face her and recognised her instantly.
“Remember me?” she asked, taking a sit on an empty plastic chair directly in front of me. I tried to speak but my voice came out in a muffled tone.
“Remove the wrap from her mouth!” She ordered. One of the guys came forward behind me and loosened it off. I felt fresh air and coughed out repeatedly.
“You were saying?” she urged me on.
“I said, you again! You witch!” I repeated, anger vested in my voice. She laughed.
“I’m glad you remember me,” she said with a slight smile. I would have punched her in the face if my hands weren’t tied.
“What do you want from me this time, witch?” I spat angrily.
Almost immediately, a thunderous slap befell my left cheek.
“Mind how you talk to Lady Tee!” The macho guy behind me barked. I bowed my head towards the ground, squealing from the imprinted impact to my cheek.
“Thank you.” The lady gestured.
“Now look here,” she ordered. I paid no heed and kept my head down.
“She said look here!” The guy behind me barked, pulling my hair up to face her.
“Do you remember the first day we met, what I told you?” Lady Tee asked, directing the question to me. I remained mute.
“Do you remember the last time we met?” she asked again. I said nothing.
“ʼTell your Senator to take his money and bundle himself to hell.ʼ Wasn’t that what you told me?”
Again, I remained silent.
“Well,” she continued, “today is your lucky day. I’m happy to tell you that the Senator himself is here today, so you can as well repeat that exact statement to his face.”
With a click of her fingers, the macho guy behind me re-wrapped my mouth and after that, another guy opened the door and went out. In a split second, he returned again with a man and another armed guy behind that man.
The man was pot-bellied, fat and looked like an obese. I was certain he was the Senator in question, from the way he walked, the way he looked and the way the other guys hailed him.
Hurriedly, Lady Tee stood up for him to sit after dusting the chair with her palm, and he sat, facing me.
The macho guy behind me lit a stick of cigarette and handed it to him. He inhaled it deeply and then puffed it to my face. I choked from the smoke.
“So it’s you.” He simply said, with a bass pitched voice, slightly laughing.
“Untie her!” He said next. The macho guy behind me loosened the ropes on my hands and legs, and then unwrapped the seal on my mouth. For the first time that moment, I felt comfortable. Yet, I wondered why I was let loose.
“I want us to reason like humans,” he said, inhaling deeply into the cigarette with an avid stare on me. Thereafter, he threw it down and mashed it roughly under his feet.
“Like humans?” I repeated. He nodded.
“Like humans, yet you kidnapped me, tied me up and held me hostage here? What kind of human are you?”
At this, the guy behind me raised a hand to hit me, but the Senator gave him a sign to be calm.
“I gave you a chance. You had the chance, and you blew it up,” the Senator said, and continued, “I still offered you money. I gave you gifts, and I was willing to give even more, but yet, you had the guts to tell me to take my money and bundle myself to hell, isn’t it?”
I remained silent.
“Well, I am a man of patience. I forgive you for that,” he said, and added, “But, it also depends on how you cooperate with us henceforth.”
Hearing that, I already knew where he was headed even before he spoke.
“Nobody knows you are here, nobody knows where you are. Worst of it all, nobody would come to save or help you, except you comply with us. Is that clear?”
I nodded hesitantly, eager to hear what he had to say next.
“I really don’t get how hard it is for someone like you, as smart as you are, to snitch up on these guys and supply me inside information concerning their plans for the election processes, while I pay you handsomely for it. And at the end of the day, if it eventually turns out as we expect and I win to become Governor, we part ways like nothing ever happened… I just don’t understand!” he lamented frantically, looking me in the eyes. I stared back harder.
“If you do me this favor,” he continued, “I promise to establish you beyond your dreams than you could ever imagine.”
I laughed out loud.
“What’s funny in what I just said?” The Senator asked, confused.
“I rather die than aid you in this quest!” I stated plainly, spitting out to his face. He marvelled in shock!
The next thing I knew, a hot-sauced slap welcomed me heavily.
“How dare you!” The Senator raved, staring fiercely at me, with rage filled in his eyes.
In a twinkle of an eye, another slap welcomed me again.
“I’ll make sure you regret this,” he said angrily whilst walking away, and then stopped halfway towards the door.
“Boys, deal with her mercilessly!”