A thousand and one things ran through Mary’s mind as she packed her things for the twelfth time in twelve years. She was used to the procedure and she felt little or no emotion as she watched the little children who ran across the sandy courtyard bare backed and bar footed.
They all had bulging abdomens and all had scanty, tiny short and knotty hair. They all looked like her, they were all related to her by blood… all fifteen of them.
She looked at the far horizon beyond which the world she was now accustomed to lay. Waiting, calling to her. That place of a mixture of heaven and hell. A mixture of Pleasures and pain. When she had first set out for that place, she had done so with so much hope. So much aspiration, so much faith in fate. But now as she looked at her now matured, well rounded body, the body that had been raped, beaten, punished, tortured, starved, maltreated in all forms of ways that only she could imagine, she knew that she would never be that hopeful or faithful again. She had come to realize that the world out there was really a world for the brave. Weak people get eaten by the sharks of this world.
Her life up to this point had been anything but easy and the proof of this statement could be seen in every inch of her body. She was a girl of about 5ft, maybe less. She could pass for a pretty girl if only she would smile. Her face was a square box with sharp corners and an oily appearance. Her hair was short and kinky. She had a well rounded figure that betrayed her age even though her height did not favour her at all. The light pink undersized dress she wore barely covered her ample and supple bosom. What was worse was that it also barely covered her well rounded ass. But for the black, out of place skirt that she wore on it, she would have been the center of attention for all humans with a third leg.
Mary would have passed for a fourteen year old if she didn’t have the body she did. She had the face of a twelve year old and the voice of maybe a slightly older person. Her manner was timid and she had the air of one of those people that you dismiss with the wave of the hand.
Underneath the person described above was a very contrasting personality. The Mary of the flesh was a timid young girl who was being used as domestic help from one place to another. She never saw her wages and she never dared ask. The Mary of the inside was a twenty three year old girl that had spent most of her life being a servant to people. She had seen a lot and knew a lot too. She knew secrets of rich powerful people and she could read and write. She could do simple arithmetic and could tell the time. She was a girl who could tell the kind of person a person is just by looking at them, a skill she had acquired over the years in the service of rich men and women who didn’t even know that she could speak proper English and pretend to be anyone she wanted.
This Mary was highly skilled in lie detection and she often used it when she could. This Mary was now going to Lagos for the twelfth time and as she mentally bade farewell to the crumbling building that housed her and her family, she knew that she would not be coming back.
“From the time of john the Baptist, the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence and only the violent take it by force”
She thought to herself as she resolved to become the predator and finally stop being the prey. She was tired, exhausted and quite ready to try a whole new different form of living. She would not be the victim anymore. Never never never…
She snapped her small carry all box shut and smiled with bitterness. After twelve years of slavish labour, this was all she could get herself. She still wore mostly the same clothes and the ones that were not old were hand- me- downs from either her employers or their children. Was she going back to live that life? She wondered but really, she needed no wonder because she had the answer to that question. She knew what she had to do… and in a way, she was excited.
“This will all end soon”
She thought to herself as she stepped out into the streets and was led to the waiting vehicle by her “uncle” the man that took her to rich people to be used as domestic help… the man who got her payment and never gave her a dime. The man who had taught her early in life that her position in life was to serve. More importantly, to not expect a payment for her services besides feeding and a roof over her head. That man…
The streets looked the same, more or less. After nearly thirteen years of living in different parts of Lagos, she now knew everywhere. Or at least, some of everywhere. She watched as the streets moved past the car ever so slowly. The hold up on the mainland bridges could try the patience of a monk!
“Bread!! Bread!!!” one guy was shouting and running after the cab like a crazy person. mary smiled and looked to her left. a young man of about eighteen was holding a mixture of windshield wipers and car chargers. His zipper was open and he wasn’t wearing any underwear. Mary did not look away. She gazed at the open fly until both the guy and his war cry like shouts of “car charger!!” had faded.
When her “uncle told the driver to turn left, Mary realised that she had been in that part of town before. What was it six years? She noticed that quite a few things had taken on new looks. The streets brought back memories. Deep rooted unsettling memories that she thought she had buried away successfully. Mary shook her head… “No no no” she muttered to herself.
“I will not think about anything. i will not remember anything!”
The attempt to blank out was futile. The memories flooded in and her eyes started to burn. She didn’t even know when the car stopped.
She started. She looked around to see who was calling her. Not that she needed to. The voice was her uncle’s.
Do u want to sleep in the car or what?”
Sorry” she muttered quietly as she struggled out of the car, still clutching her bag. Her “uncle” grabbed her hand and pulled her up the walkway that led to a gigantic mansion.
Almost as if he was afraid that she would run away at any moment. He walked up to the gate and pressed the door bell.
Her “uncle” looked at her as if he would break her head but ignored her. He stretched out his hand to touch the bell again but the gate swung open. Taken aback a little bit, he took a minute to walk into the compound. The gates swung shut once they were inside and Mary took a deep breath. Finally, her last journey down west was beginning. She clutched her bag and waited for the series of event which she already had memorized. Her employer stepped out of the house, Mary smiled as their eyes met.
Nice to meet you!” she thought. The rest of the following events just blurred out from there.
The agreement had been reached, her “uncle” had collected the money and left. Mary looked at the mansion that stood before her. One of the perks of being a house maid was that she had gotten to enter some really beautiful houses in her own time.
Even though she had mostly had to sleep in a side building, maybe the boy’s quarters or the security post. She had come to learn that the rich people were not all the same. Some were more animals than humans, others were more human than animals. But all rich people were essentially animals. She had worked in a lot of houses before then but as she stood before this big beautiful house, she knew this was still the most beautiful building she had ever been. it was huge and every inch of it smelt like money. Mary smiled inwards as the man who was to be her boss walked into the house, signaling for her to follow him. Life has a way of playing jokes on humans… now that she had decided to run away, she was lucky… or maybe unlucky as the case may be to be put in such a beautiful house to work for this totally handsome man.
Talking of handsome men…
She looked at her new boss who had seated himself in a couch opposite from the one he had motioned for her to sit. He was a well built man. he reminded her of Oseni. Oseni the local wresting champ of her village. Full of ripped chest muscles and vibrating tendons. Oseni, her secret crush and sweetheart. he had followed the older hunters on a trip in 2006, she had been so proud of him when she heard he was going. Even though Oseni had always followed the fair skinned girls, the chief’s daughters… she knew he was hers to keep. She knew that someday… Oseni would find that she and only she loved him like no other. She shook her head and blinked twice. She looked at the man in the chair. He had been saying a lot if things and she hadn’t been paying attention. Presently he was saying
” Can you read and write Mary?” he was asking
“Oga… i dey try small small ” she answered in faltering tongue. she would not disclose how much she knew to him. she wanted to be untraceable when she did decide to vamoose out of his fine house.
“okay… that is good. but can you also keep secrets?” he asked
The room suddenly started to spin around her and spin her around. The sentence repeated itself through the mouths that suddenly grew on the walls. around and around, louder and louder , she started to hyperventilate and as much as she tried to stop it, she couldn’t. She remembered those same words…
“can you keep a secret!!”
“You should keep this a secret”
“Your coming here is a secret. Nobody knows… if you tell them, they won’t believe you”
“keep it a secret and maybe I’ll be nice to you…”
” secrets… secRETS…SECrets…SecrETS… SECRETS!!!!”
It was her new employer calling out loud. She started and looked up hastily.
“Are you sure you can handle the duties that would be given to you around here you seem distracted? “He asked, looking like he was ready to put her on e next vehicle back o her “uncle”.
“oga…!” she said as she sat up quickly and tried to compose herself.. “No vex abeg… na that so… so… travel wey we travel dey do me like this. abeg no vex.”she said timidly. He looked at her and decided she might be right. Maybe she was tired from the journey.
“Okay… i will ask the cleaner to show you your duties. and your room” he said and stood up, stretched and started to leave the room. Mary looked at him, surprised and unsure how to react. Did he just say cleaner? If there was a cleaner in the house… why did they need her? What was to be her role exactly?
“oga…” she called with arms outstretched. He turned around and looked at her. “As you don’t talk say na cleaner go dey show me wetin i go dey do… if una get cleaner… wetin i go come do?”
He looked at her and smiled. It was a sad smile but it was a smile all the same. He turned around and went back to the chair he was in. He motioned for her to sit too and said…
“Mary… you are not here to clean or cook or anything of the sort. You are here to help me keep a secret. ” he stood up and started to walk out of the room” Come with me.” he said.
Mary stood up and followed him. They went through a long hallway that had portraits of a lot of people on the walls.” These people must be important… big big men…” Mary thought. At the end of the hallway was a door that stood alone. Strangely apart from the rest of the building. Even before he opened the door, she knew that what she was about to see would probably change a lot of things. Her palms started sweating and her heart raced rapidly. When he opened the door and stepped aside for her to go in first, she picked her steps carefully and got ready to run like crazy at the tiniest hint of trouble.
The door swung in and Mary walked into a beautiful room. Done in beautiful blue paints and white and blue wallpapers. The room smelled of air freshener. Sweet and neat. It was furnished with a king sized bed that looked like a mini playground. A door was open to her left and she could see that it led to a walk in closet. The room was littered with toys of different variety and colours. Mary looked around, eyes wide at the luxury but also at the anticipation of whatever evil this man was hiding in the house. She waited for him to show her but when he didn’t, she turned around to ask him what it was she was supposed to be looking at and saw him bent over, in silent communication with a little boy of about five years old. The moment the boy saw that she had turned around, he moved swiftly and hid behind the man. Mary’s employer stood up and holding the boy by the thumb, said to Mary…
“meet Duke. My son.” and then he turned to the boy and said… “Duke, meet Mary your new friends”
The little boy looked at Mary once and said without making eye contact.
“Mary is a Jewish name that evolved out of the name “Mara” which means “bitterness”. It is popular for being the name of the woman who was according to the Christian myth impregnated by an invisible power called the Holy Spirit. The holy spirit is not the only one who raped other men’s wives… there is also a character in Greek mythology named Zeus who was fond of appearing to women in different forms and putting his children in them. a product of such affair was Hercules and Jesus and Achilles…” the boy was saying very rapidly and looking at his fingers the whole time. He was tapping his feet on the ground softly but constantly and rhythmically.
“ok… there…that’s enough right now.” his father was saying while he out his hand on the boy’s shoulder but even though Duke’s voice faded, he continued to mumble to himself while still avoiding eye contact with Mary.
“So this is the secret you have to keep Mary, you have to stay with him all day long. He is my son but nobody knows this and I would like to keep that way. His teachers will be here at certain times of the day, all you have to do is stay with him all the time. He should never be allowed to venture outside this door … this is his part of the building. You will live here with him, your room is basically here and all you have to do is keep him occupied all the time. Can you do that?”
Mary looked at the room, she felt dizzy from the grandeur of the room and the sweet smell.
“If you plan to run, this is the best time to do it. Don’t commit yourself Mary. ”
She said to herself. She looked at the little boy again, he seemed to be too small for a five year old even though somehow, Mary knew he couldn’t be less than that. He was now concentrating on the lace of the shoes his father had on and he seemed to be so engrossed with it. Mary looked at him and she knew she could not refuse. She looked at her employer and said
“Yes… i go fit do am oga.”
To be continued….