Tabitha eyed the girl sitting next to her on the bed. If only looks could kill… well, forget looks… she would have loved to tear her apart with her bare hands. She was tired of raging and shouting and now she could only sit and stare at the harbinger of her current misfortunes.
The fair skinned girl lowered her head as she nervously twisted her fingers.
“Aunty, I am sorry,” she said at an interval with a low voice.
The apology angered Tabitha, “Sorry! Can it change anything? Do you know what you have done? Everything I have worked for, you just brought it down in two weeks, two weeks! Sarah, why?”
She looked up tearfully, “Aunty, I did not know. I swear everything happened in a flash.”
“But Bobby abi wetin dem dey call am na your boyfriend. You cannot say you didn’t know he was a fraudster.” Tabitha was still highly suspicious of this her nineteen year-old niece. After all, the guy that went away with all her money was introduced by her.
At this, tears began to fall from Sarah’s eyes as she sought to defend herself. “Aunty, he deceived me too. He went away with my money too. He also took my virginity…” she shut her mouth as soon as she said the last word.
Tabitha turned at her in surprise, “What is wrong with you? Is that how you spread you legs for anybody that just tells you anything. Oh my God, what do you want me to tell my sister? Hope you both used protection? In fact, why did you even let him touch you? At your age…? Chineke. There is nothing somebody will not hear. At your age…hmm. Just leave my room. I’m tired,” Tabitha rubbed her temples and motioned to the door.
“Aunty… ” Sarah was unsure.
“Get out. Don’t ‘aunty’ me. Your voice is annoying me.” Tabitha sat down in front of her dresser filled with a lot of skin products and picked up a face cleanser.
With a deep breath, Sarah stood up and left the room, closing the door shut behind her. As she wore her slippers, which she had left in front of the room, the pitiful expression on her face was replaced by scorn. “Stupid woman,” she hissed.
She went down stairs, her slippers making flip-flop sounds. The sound of the television brought a fond smile which decorated her round face. She walked to the sitting room with careful steps.
He was seated on the couch farthest from the TV screen, so focused on the football match that he didn’t notice her entrance. With a mischievous smile, Sarah walked across and switched off the socket, bringing the middle-aged man on the couch back to his immediate environment.
“Onye?” he bursted out with anger. Looking around he found the culprit. “Oh, it’s you.” The look of anger on his face disappeared, replaced by a look of exasperation. “What of Tabitha?” He looked towards the door leading to the stairs.
Sarah walked to the center table, made of glass and sat down, crossing one slim leg over the other. Being a man, Ifeanyi’s eyes were drawn to them.
“You should learn to control your eyes,” Sarah said with a coquettish smile. “After all, you are a man with a wife, ‘uncle’.” The word ‘uncle’ was purposely drawn out.
Ifeanyi quickly pulled his eyes away from the object of temptation. Sarah laughed softly.
“Is she okay?” he asked with concern.
Sarah shrugged, “I don’t know. You should ask her. I mean she told me to get out of her room.”
“But seriously, how come you didn’t know your boyfriend was a yahoo boy? What if he used you for rituals?” His concern towards her was more than that of an man towards his wife’s niece. Behind those words lay a lot of concealed emotions.
“Don’t worry. I’m not that stupid. I wouldn’t even let him go that far,” she brushed his concerns away, and with a smirk added, “moreover, all these…” she used her hand to refer to her body “…belongs to one person.” She winked at him.
Ifeanyi shook his head in warning, but his eyes glowed with happiness as he made the comment, “My wife is around.”
“I know.” Sarah said then stood up. “You should go and comfort her. I mean, she just lost her money and the business she has spent seveb years to build is about to collapse. She needs her husband by her side now.”
“Don’t worry. I will take care of her.” Ifeanyi picked up his two phones from the side table and left. Sarah waited until she heard him knock on a door before she went to her room, or rather the guestroom that had been given to her when she had first arrived.
She bolted the door behind her, switched on the light and laid down on the bed. Pulling out an iPhone from under the pillow, she dialed a number.
A deep male voice picked up the call. “Hello, Sarah?” he asked.
“Yes, it’s me. I got the alert yesterday, and as promised, I sent you 20% of the money. I added N10,000 as extra-commission. You know what it means right?”
“Yes. I won’t come back to that side again. And I never dated you, neither did I have any connection to you or your aunty,” the man said without missing a beat.
Sarah smiled, “Good. Bye.” Without saying much, she hung up the call and deleted the number including messages and bank transactions she had had with the number. She kept the phone aside and closed her eyes, a look of relief filled her face.
“I’m sorry, Nnenna. This is how far I could go,” she murmured as the image of a dark girl with chuku fetching water from the well.
Sarah could still remember how she had trailed behind Nnenna with a small custard bucket, insisting that she could also work. Nnenna never filled up the tiny bucket despite all the assurance from Sarah that she could carry it. Nnenna would lift a big bucket on her head, balancing it with one hand and then hold the then nine year-old Sarah with her other hand, as she carried her small pail of water.
After fetching water, Sarah would rush to pick a broom to sweep the compound, because she knew that was the next thing Nnenna would do. And with a chuckle, Nnenna would look for another broom, praising the little girl as she maneuvered the thick broom.
Memories of sitting on a small stool as Nnenna weaved her hair, cooing when she complained that she pulled too much. Or those times when she hid in the kitchen with Nnenna sneakily taking spoon after spoon of soaked garri with groundnuts, the forbidden food in the house.
There were so many memories, memories that were slowly fading away. The face of the dark girl was already a blur, her smile was the only thing Sarah could remember now.
That day, however, was still very clear in her mind. Nnenna had gone to spend the holidays in one of her elder sister’s house. This time, it wasn’t Sarah’s mother, but the second to the last born, Tabitha. Aunty Tabitha at that time was not yet married, she was staying with her boyfriend in a three bedroom flat. The flat belonged to Tabitha at that time, so no one worried about the so-called boyfriend who was even feeding off her hands.
That day, twelve year-old Sarah had received a call from Nnenna on her small Itel phone. Glad to receive a call from her, she picked it.
“Aunty…” she shouted excitedly. But she was met with sniffles and groans from the other side of the phone. Her excitement was immediately replaced by fear and worry. “Aunty, what is the problem? Are you okay? Aunty…”
“Sarah…” Nnenna let out a groan, “Is your mother at home? I called her but she was not picking her phone.”
Sarah immediately rushed out of her room, “Mummy, mummy.” She knocked on the door to another room and without waiting for a reply, she opened the door and went into the room.
Her mother stretched sleepily, “What is the problem? Can’t you see that I am sleeping—?”
Without listening to what her mother was saying, she pushed the phone to her mother’s ears, “Mummy, it’s Aunty Nnenna. I don’t know what is wrong with her.”
The panic in her daughter’s voice made her realize the severity of the problem. She knew how close the two of them were. She held the phone to her ears and sat up.
“Nnenna, what happened?” she asked in Igbo. Sarah struggled to hear what Nnenna was saying but her mother gently pushed her. “Jesus Christ,” her mother screamed. “Where is Tabitha? How could she leave you alone with someone like that? Where are you now? Have you alerted the neighbors?”
Sarah was becoming more worried. What happened to Nnenna?
“Nne, biko. Calm down. Don’t talk like that. Is no one around? I’m coming, let me call Tabitha.” She reached for her phone and dialed Tabitha’s number. “She is not picking her calls,” her mother’s voice became desperate as she kept on trying to reach Tabitha.
Sarah, unable to contain herself, reached out and collected the phone from her mother.
“Aunty, aunty what happened?” She was met with only groans and the soun of Nnenna crying. “Aunty, don’t worry. Mummy will soon get to Aunty Tabitha. Just wait.” Even though she didn’t know what was wrong with Nnenna, she knew that the situation could be saved if they were able to reach Tabitha on time. No matter how much she wanted to be with Nnenna at that time, she knew it was impossible. They were in Abuja, while Tabitha lived in Lagos. She could only wish that Tabitha would pick up her calls.
Finally, Tabitha picked her calls. But it was late. Nnenna was already cold. Tabitha had found her on the bathroom floor, she had bled to death from a small cut on her wrist. She had killed herself, minutes after Tabitha’s boyfriend had taken her over and over again, ruthlessly thrusting into her, until she had lost her dignity and will to live.
Sarah had not believed it until months later when the funeral ceremony was carried out for the twenty-three year-old Nnenna.
For seven years, she had always blamed Tabitha for the death of Nnenna. If she had picked her call earlier, if she had not left such a vile person at home with her younger sister, if she had arrived home earlier… so many ifs. But no matter how she thought now, Nnenna was no longer Alice.
Three weeks ago, on a Friday night, she had found Tabitha’s ex-boyfriend. He had disappeared as soon as he finished raping Nnenna. She had tracked him on Facebook. Lagos was a big place, but for a girl with so much bitterness in her heart, it wasn’t so big again. She had chatted him up on Facebook and he was still as leery as before. A promise of a good lay, and he was already eating out of her hand. She found out where he lived, and after waiting patiently, she had finally caught him unawares. That night he had gone out to drink and was drunk. Dressed in male clothes, she ambushed him; a drunk person at his weakest, she didn’t kill him. She was too young to have her hands stained with blood. Rather, she cut off his male parts, stuffing his mouth with a piece of cloth when he shouted.
She was scared the whole time, but the memory of Nnenna, the image of her body being put in the ground spurred her. When she was done, she had called the police and disappeared from the area. Though it had been a clean job, her heart kept on beating hard when she saw uniformed men. He had been over the news:
“Local man assaulted and had his private parts removed.”
He had also been rushed to the hospital on time and so he had survived it, but he would never be able to perform like a man. What better punishment than this for such a vile man.
Her revenge had worked out as she planned. She had brought down her aunty’s business and she had served the rapist justice. But in the process, she had fallen in love with her aunty’s husband.
A soft knock sounded, and without asking, she knew it was him. She opened the door and he walked in quietly. It was almost midnight, and the generator had been switched off. So all was dark and quiet. She switched on the rechargeable lantern.
He pulled her immediately into a passionate hug. She responded, raising her head to meet his lips.
Just this night, she thought. Tomorrow, I would go back to my normal life. Nnenna, Goodbye.