Early in the morning we’d already set out to go to our cooking stand, I and my mother. We were hoping the food would be enough for the customers.
“Ama, please help me bring the cooler down from my head.”
I brought the cooler down and placed it on the wooden table that also had the basket of plates on it. We had started setting things that we’d use to serve the customers until Nero came. He parked by the side of our stand and came out. Just seeing his car, I started smiling.
“Hey,” he greeted.
“Hey,” I answered, still smiling.
“Nero, how are you?” My mother came placing her hands on his well-structured biceps.
“I’m fine, mama. Good Morning. How are you?” he asked as he glanced at me.
My teeth couldn’t help it and came out showing themselves to him. I left him and my mum and I went to collect broom from my mother’s friend at the next compound. I could feel his eyes on me as I walked past him. When mum was biting her finger as she closed her eyes in thoughts, he winked at me. I was just …. I don’t know… but I walked fast. I don’t want my mother to start asking questions.
When I came back, he had already left.
“Ama, God has done it again. That man is a really good man.”
“Mama, what happened?”
“Nero said he wants us to be cooking stew and soup for him and be bringing it to his house. He even demanded to pay me salary.” My mother was saying all these with so much glow in her eyes. The glow was something I haven’t seen in so many years. It was hope actually.
“So mama how much did you charge?”
After that day’s incident, our lives really changed a lot. We started eating three square meals a day. My younger brother and sister started going to school again because they were driven out before because of school fees. Gozie my elder brother, stopped his act of robbery. He usually robbed then and mum wasn’t always happy with him. When mum scolded him, he ran to our room and converts his anger to sadness.
“I am only doing this to get us out of this poor and godforsaken lifestyle. I want to change the way we live. I can’t just sit down and watch my younger ones become school dropouts. I want to get you back in school, Ama,” he would say.
“Ama, Mama is calling you,” Gozie called me from the kitchen where I was arranging Nero’s food. I carried the noisemaker paper bag containing his food and went to meet her.
“Take this money for transport…” She gave me money. “ … also be careful too. Okay?”
“I will, mama.”
I was actually the only one who usually went to drop his food at his house. Why? It was just because I wanted to. At least I would get to see him every week.
Minutes later, I was already at his house putting the containers of soup and stew into his refrigerator.
“Ama,” he called me from behind.
“Yes, Nero.” I turned facing him.
“I got something for you. I hope you like it.” He gave me a purple paper bag. Opening it, I saw this beautiful pair sandals I have been looking at opposite our cooking stand.
“Thank you so much,” I said as I put it on and it fit perfectly. “Thank you,” I said again looking at him as I put the sandals back into the bag.
“There are other ways to say thank you,” he said opening his arms. I hugged him and little by little he started kissing my neck. I broke the hug and put everything completely and closed the refrigerator. I was about leaving the kitchen when he held me back to his body. His hands were on my waist and his eyes bored into mine. We were just one week together, I wasn’t sure I wanted him so fast.
“Calm down.” He placed his hands on my cheeks. It was then I realized I was really tensed. He kissed me and I reciprocated.
From kissing he carried me up, my legs around his torso to his room. He dropped on the bed, still kissing me until our clothes started going off and the deed was done. He took my virginity. After he made love to me, the gave me an envelope.
“Twenty thousand, your mum’s salary while the thirty thousand for you and your siblings.”
“Thank you,” I said kissing him.
Two days later, he begged me to give one of his friends on the other side of the street a sealed envelope. I didn’t want to go but he kept on pleading and pleading so I agreed. That was how I started helping him with the parcels I knew nothing of. One of his friends raped me after I gave him the parcel. I told Nero about it and he told me to calm down and not to tell anyone, that he would deal with him personally. I went home that day and acted as if nothing happened.
The following month after we celebrated two months of our relationship, he asked me to go drop one of the parcels at a friend’s place that was a little bit far. I told him that I didn’t want to go because this other person might do the same thing. He said he trusted this one that he would do no such thing.
On my way to the place, the keke I was in was stopped by policemen. The policeman that stopped us demanded that he searched the keke and us. After he searched the keke and the other passengers, he asked me what I was holding.
“It’s a parcel my close friend said I should help him deliver,” I answered. The policeman took the paper bag from me and opened it bringing the envelope out and sniffing it.
“Open it,” he ordered.
“I can’t open it . It has been sealed and it’s not my parcel it’s someone else’s.”
“Open it.” He had increased the tone of his voice.
I opened the envelope and saw a transparent bag of white powder. I brought it out showing it to him with all confidence.
“See, so can I go now?” I asked. He opened the bag and brought the powder out to feel it and smell it.
“Madam you are under arrest.”
* * * * * * * * * * *
“Nero, I have been arrested. Please come pick me up from here.” I was crying into the phone.
“Ama, calm down. Okay I am coming.” Let’s say that was the last thing I heard he said.
Two hours in the cell turned into a day, from a day to three days, and I didn’t see or hear from Nero. I begged the officers to still lend me their phone and I called my mother. I couldn’t stay any longer and I knew they would be worried about my whereabouts.
Mum came to the police station with my elder brother. “What has my daughter done that you people have decided to put her in prison? She can’t possibly cause any of you trouble,” Mum said to the police men on the desk.
“Madam your daughter is a drug trafficker,” the policeman said. My eyes wanted to pop out of my face. Tears were already flowing out before mum and Gozie came toward my cell. I had bowed my head.
“Since when did you start selling drugs, Ama?” Gozie asked. Where will I even start the story from? Nero has finished me.
“Answer me!” he shouted, making me jump in fright.
“Oga, abeg talk small small,” one of the policemen said.
“Gozie, believe me I didn’t do it. I am not a trafficker, I’m not a drug trafficker.” I was crying seriously. “Mama please believe me, I don’t sell drugs.” Seeing her tears already told me that I had failed her and failed myself. Where will I go on from this? Gozie went to Nero’s home after I told them everything. He had left with so much anger.
I ended up staying two years in prison since Nero couldn’t be found. He had actually taken me for a fool, but I promise him that we would meet again. When we do he’s so going to pay.