I watched through hooded eyes as she entered the room. The room seemed to be closing on me, I shut my eyes for a few seconds and reopened them, she looked so pretty it felt unreal her wild curls and make up made her look like a goddess, I couldn’t have stand watching another man look at her, God she was mine for crying out loud maybe just for the time I’d be here but she still was.
She held the sash of her robe and ran it between her fingers, then untied it, gently pulled the robe from her body then dropped it on the floor, she looked so enchanting in the lingerie the stones on glinting on it made her look the more unreal, she smiled widely and held the pole then winked at me, I was amazed but was so intrigued by her look to let on.
She started swaying to the tune with her eyes closed, I swallowed hard and watched her sway her body to the song bucking her hips to the sides and around the pole, I was so lost in her moves and how her body synced with the song my eyes followed as she walked her fingers slowly over her body and removed the right strap of her bra, she looked up giving me an overly wide smile, then removed both straps of the bra, she pulled it down a bit leaving it to cover her nipple, she went back to the pole and held it climbing up and swirling. My heart felt like it was beating out of my chest I could hear it thud. Gone was the innocent girl I had seen the first day I came here, in her place was this enchanting seductress her moves were restrained that day maybe she felt off and didn’t give her all but she was quite the seductress today. I blinked a bit forcing my gaze away from the girl who’d become my addiction, I dialled Adam’s number then looked up again, I was amazed when she came down the pole slowly and sashayed slowly towards me. She unclasped the bra and threw it in the air when she was close to me, my eyes were almost closed by the time she made it to me. Her smile was fixed but still beautiful and her eyes glassy she laughed hysterically when she tripped then strided me circling her two arms around my neck. I swallowed hard listening to the loud thump of my heart and hers, I couldn’t do what I wanted to I heard the creak of the door and pulled her head down kissing her passionately I forcefully pulled away from the kiss and sighed hugging her tightly, “Marie… ” I heard a voice croak questioningly I couldn’t feel sorry for her, she raised her head but her eyes were drooping, I couldn’t tell if it was from the effect of the kiss “Marie is that you?” oddly I didn’t want him to see her in her present state, she was mine for the moment no one had to see her in this state but me she raised her head slumply fixing her gaze on the door, I looked intently into her eyes as she squinted them and creased her brow, I followed her gaze when I heard rumbling at the door as the boy wrestled to be free from Adam’s grip “Marie that’s not you right you’d never do something like this” he growled out, she threw her head back and laughed loudly tightening her hold on my shirt, then burst into hysterical tears. “You can’t do this after reprimanding me for seeing godfather” I heard him choke out brokenly as Adam carried him out of the room. I raised her head with my hand, she looked into my eyes confusingly wandering her eyes around wildy she squinted them tightly and laid her head on my chest her breathe hit my shirt as she breathed heavily, I gently eased her on the couch and walked to the stage for her robe, she was totally out by the time I made it back, she pulled her arm a bit as I wrapped it around her body, then held my hand, she tightened her hold when I tried pulling it away, I sighed and plopped back down on the couch. I didn’t want to leave her, I’d rather stay than leave her here, she acted like a druggie already, my eyebrows creased as I reminisced her actions she acted like a user, laughing like that when she should have been running after him, I turned around a bit and watched her sleeping form, she looked at peace and innocent in her sleep I gently ran my fingers over her lips then pulled my hand slowly out of her grip. I rose gently from the couch and dialled Adam again.
I furrowed my brows and nervously gnawed on my lips, “I-I’ve I don’t feel too well Adam please tell him I’ll see him another day” I said after i had ushered him into the room, he shook his head in disagreement, I smiled nervously and swallowed hard, I hated his stoic look, he looked away when our eyes met what was happening “Get ready, I’ll be waiting for you outside” I nodded hesitantly and took my purse, there was no need to prolong this meeting if he’s so keen to see me, but everything within me screamed for me not to go, I was wearing a mid-thigh long sleeved dress shirt with denim jeans, I didn’t even spare the ladies a look and slowly made my way to the car “I think business is really booming don’t you think” one of the ladies questioned loudly just as I passed them, I shook my head lightly and made a beeline to the car and opened the back door, I placed my bag gently on the seat and climbed into the car, I slumped the seat back and rested my head on the headrest closing my eyes, I saw Adam shake his head then turned the key in the ignition and started driving, I was amazed at the route he was taking cos it was no where near the one we always took I frowned a bit but didn’t speak, I was still amazed at how he was behaving then I remembered the last time he came and told me Assad wanted us our next meeting to be at the club. My nervousness skyrocketed, what did he have in mind I liked him; both him and Adam but from the reaction of Adam I can tell all is not well.
I shook the thought from my mind and cleared my throat straightening the chair, “So how’s Assad doing?” I tried smiling “He’s doing good” he gruffed out, “Adam are you giving me a cold shoulder?, I feel like I’ve done something wrong to have you acting all tight up with me” he shook his head and forced a smile “Did you do anything to have me acting like this?” he threw back at me, I hesitantly shook my head and he nodded “Just as I thought” I heard him mumble inwardly.
I kept quiet the rest of the ride and focused on the road, whatever was eating him up I hope I’m not the cause, I opened the door immediately he parked at the parking lot of the club, I stood aside waiting for him to come out, this building held so much for me, every single one of my disappointment started in this building, if it were before I’d have walked in to my station getting ready to work but since Assad laid claim on me I had to wait for Adam, I didn’t know why I was here maybe I did and refuting it made me feel better, but I pray he changes his mind especially after what happened with me and Shakeel yesterday I acted like his mom reprimanding him for every little mistake yet I was no saint myself.
I walked behind as we entered the building, it was the full swing gentlemen club it was tagged with scantily dressed women walking around serving drinks to the mostly male clientele, some of the girls gave me weird looks, I just smiled and waved to those I was familiar with then hurried on to the join him climb the stairs. I panted as he unlocked the door to the top floor, a fully furnished apartment, I never knew Don had something like this here, cos it was the whole floor, I worked at the mid floor, and made it a must to only meet Don when necessary, I felt like strangling him everytime we met.
“You are going to stay here all day till Assad comes he’s caught up in something now so enjoy your day” he rapped out and turned to leave “Adam-” he stood still but had his back to me “What-” “Someone will be here to fix you up, so don’t bother yourself doing any makeup” he said interrupting me and walked out of the room I slumped on the floor blinking my eyes rapidly as what just happened what was going on?
“Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah, Asalamu alaikum wa rahmatullah (Peace be unto you) I proclaimed as I ended my last prayer of the day.
I folded the prayer mat and entered the bathroom scrubbing my body with the sweet scented flower shampoo, I inhaled the scent deeply and exhaled, it somehow felt like old times except before I’d not be clueless of what was about to happen scratch that cos no one knows what will happen in the next second, I might not be in this position ever.
I wrapped myself in the bathrobe and tied a towel on my head, this should do. I sighed and plopped down on the stool in front on the dressing mirror, then started skimming through the creams on the top of the drawer attached to the mirror, I smiled widely when I spotted my favorite cocoa butter, I kissed the bottle and squirted a little then slowly rubbed my palms together and massaged it on my body, I couldn’t help the moan that escaped my lips, It felt so good, and I felt well rested after my forced afternoon nap.
I opened the door to Adam and a lady with the most infectious smile that had me reciprocating the gesture, holding a tray and Adam a trolley I widened the door “Good evening” Adam mumbled out a response and the lady’s smile widened, she hugged me which I don’t know how she managed to cos she was holding a tray. He came in and placed the bag close to the mirror then turned to us “She’s the make up artiste make sure to finish before 10 pm ok” she rolled her eyes and shook her head, “You can leave now since you’ve delivered the beast’s order” she replied saying the latter part in an undertone but I still heard her.
Adam gave her a warning look she just shrugged and rolled her eyes. “Sweetheart you go ahead and eat, I’ll set this up by the time you’re done ok” I nodded and gave her a weak smile.
I hissed in pain when she combed her hands through my hair, “We need to de-tangle your” she uttered as she applied a cream in my hair, “So will you tell me how met Be- uh I mean Assad” “We met here” I replied shortly looking intently at my reflection, she opened her mouth but clamped it shut then concentrated on doing my hair, I looked at how she worked expertly on my hair in the mirror, she rolled my hair with foam curlers then turned me away from the mirror and started doing my make up, I closed my eyes right after she did my eyelashes and left her to do her magic.
I heard a clap and opened my eyes, she fanned her eyes blinking them rapidly, I frowned a bit “Why did hurt yourself?” I asked worriedly she shook her head and pursed her lips “You are very beautiful Marie, you look like something out of a fairy tale” I rolled my eyes and shook my head, she pulled a box from the suitcase and handed it to me, “You’ll know how to use this more than me” I frowned at the package “You’ll have to use the bathroom with this one” I smiled then stopped when I heard her shriek “You’ll have to promise not to look at the mirror” I shrugged and went in then quickly unwrapped the box, a shimmering VS was written on the box then smaller multicolored VS all over it.
My eyes almost fell out of its socket when I saw the lingerie, the bra was adorned with glistening jewels I swallowed hard and removed it from the box, a note was tucked at the side I removed it with trembling fingers “Wear it, Assad” the guy is truly crazy, the lingerie is definitely everywomans dream underwear but there’d been a small part of me that had been hoping for Assad to free me from Don’s prison but it seems he truly meant business.
I wore it hurriedly, the bra had a front clasp so I was done in a few second, it felt good on me but I felt disgusted with myself. I wrapped the bathrobe on it, and went out “Ah that was fast” I clenched my jaw tightly and plopped heavily on the stool, I was not even fazed by how different I looked, she slowly started removing the curlers, my hair looked more voluptuous I looked pretty but I couldn’t hide my hurt, I walked back to the bathroom and removed the towel bathrobe for a pink silk one.
It felt good on me but I detest every second of what is to come, I sighed and tied the sash then turned back to my bubbly makeup artiste and smiled sadly “Take care Marie, he’s a good person but -” she shook her head and bit the side of her lips “Just be careful” she added handing me a silver strappy leather high heels with stones encrusted on.
She went out I suddenly felt nervous, I heard the door creak but didn’t turn to see who it was.
“Hey Marie” I turned around and smiled a when I saw Zak “Hey Zak long time” I replied hurriedly, I felt so embarrassed, “I heard you were not feeling well so I brought you this” I eyed the paper cup skeptically then looked at him, “It’s hot chocolate” my eye must have lightened up a smiled he shoved the cup into my hands, I took a sip and rolled it around my tongue relishing the taste.
This is not my best I don’t really feel this chap, the next one will be ASSAD’S (BEAST) Pov I know he has not played a major role but u r gonna like him.
I heaved a tired sigh when I was finally done with the last dress, my eyes felt like they were stuck on a drooping mode, I couldn’t open them widely I felt more like someone who was high I wonder if that’s how they really feel. I stuffed my things in my bag and rose up my legs felt like jelly I plopped heavily on the seat and blinked fighting off the sudden dizziness, Mansa shook her head in sympathy and held my arm “Go home take some pain killers and rest, cos you really need it” she scoffed out, I felt like strangling her but she was right, I really needed to rest, I waved at them and stood a cab outside, I couldn’t walk to the bus stop, that’d probably push me to an early grave, I gave him the name of my area and leaned my head on the headrest “Maame we’re here which route should I take……..hey ” I heard loudly startling me awake, I blinked my eyes numerously trying to adjust it to the sudden brightness, “I was asking you the route I was going to take you’re delaying me” he huffed out tsking I swallowed hard and looked around me “Take the slope to the left after the next three lanes” I uttered in my sleepy voice, he started mumbling I zoned him out and looked ahead. I liked around me it was still morning and the area was very quiet, after dawn prayers most people go back to sleep, the junkies among them mostly go for their fix around this time, I hate this area so much I held my head in my left hand and started massaging it slowly, I felt like I was coming down with something “please alight me at the fifth house, the fenceless one” I said rummaging through my bag to pay the fare, I handed him a 10 cedis note and held the door handle to get out, “Do you think this is enough for picking you from that area to this place” I heard him say making me release the handle, “that’s the normal fare for dropping” I retorted, “Then add 5 cedis to it, cos I can’t drive that distance this early morning for just 10 cedis” I sunk my hand into the bag but thought otherwise “I’m sorry but that’s all I have” I pleaded “Obaa fo, tutuuni (useless lady, prostitute) do you think I’m working for your father” I breathed in deeply and got out of the car, the noise he was making had gathered us quite a number of audience, I held my bag tightly and held my head up, I left him and walked majestically toward the house, for each step I took I wished the earth would just open and swallow me up.
I closed my eyes and leaned my head on the door, what did I ever do to deserve this, how will I ever get out there to go bathe when I’ve given this women the opportunity to insult me, cos I’ve clearly validated their claims. I looked around my single room and the kichennette at the side of the door and shook my head, I dropped my bag at the door and hurriedly went to the kichennette and prepared a little maize porridge, my eyes were drooping by the time I was done, I dropped on the bed after I was done.
Days rest turned into a week and some days, I’ve not gone to work and I’ve still not heard from Adam and Assad, I looked at my reflection in the mirror content at how long my natural hair had grown, I tied it in two Afro puffs and smiled, that was how mom used to do my hair when I was a kid, I started relaxing it in high school, then shaved it after senior high and now look at how grown it is. I frowned at the rapid knock on the door then tied my head with a scarf, I frowned when I didn’t see anyone then I fell down when a figure jumped in front of me startling me, I raised my head when I heard the light chuckle, ‘Shakeel’ I clenched my jaw and squinted my eye, then forced a smile on my face, “Come pull me up” I said with a smile raising my hand up, “Don’t try anything Marie I didn’t mean for you to fall like that” he pleaded entering the room hesitantly, “Hurry I think I fractured my hip bone” I blurted closing my eyes tightly in feigned hurt he reached his hands out to me I groaned and stretched out my hand pulling him down I straddled him and started hitting him with a rolled paper I took on the floor, “Don’t you ever scare me like that again” I warned as I hit him “Sorry” he apologised repeatedly covering his face. I sighed and stood up then pulled him up and hugged him “I really missed you” I said my voice tearing up a bit “I missed you too that’s why I came to see you” my smile widened and my eyes probably as huge as saucers I squealed in delight and seated him on a small stool let me wear something so we can go out I looked down at the ankle length halter neck dress I was wearing “I think this will do I pulled a boyfriend jacket from my bag and wore it over my dress and took my purse and headed to the door, “Let’s go somewhere special” I said smiling at the choice of place I had in mind.
“Come back here Shakeel I just want a little scoop please” I whined as I ran after him, “Please” I was panting but I still chased after I him, I stood trying to catch my breath, why was I even chasing after him when I know he’s an athlete but I really love chocolate ice cream and mine was finish, he turned back and held the cup of ice cream up, then scooped a spoonful and swallowed, I rolled my eyes and turned around I smiled when I heard the thud of his feet, slowly turned around and snatched the bowl from his hands, he shook his head and pulled me into a hug, “I miss this, I miss mom and dad, I miss all that we used to be” I blinked my eyes willing the tears that had welled in them away, I felt a lone tear trickle down and pursed my lips tightly “We have each other now and I know they will be very proud of us and how far we’ve come” you have come I wanted to say cos I know they’ll be very disappointed in me . The park wasn’t crowded today but we still had a few prying eyes giving us awkward looks. We prayed Zuhr and Asr there, “So why are you home” I asked in a sober voice suddenly sobering from all the excitement, I watched his adam apple bob, I squinted my eyes a bit, giving him a mean look, “Uhm we were giving some days off after winning the inter-schools super-zonal games” he blurted hurriedly giving me his megawatt smile. I didn’t totally believe him but I nodded and intertwined our fingers, let’s go home or we’ll miss the bus, “Marie I’m not going home with you I have to go for my notes from my friend we were only asked to stay home a day, so I’ll go for it if you don’t see me I’ll be already in school, but I’ll give you a call when I get to school” I stopped abruptly making him collide into my back I turned slowly looking at him intently , “Shakeel you’re making me suspicious tell me what you’re up to or so help me God if I find… ” “God Marie you’re really getting on my nerves acting like my mom when you’re nothing but my sister and only a few years older than me” my eyes widened when I saw him hold his cheek “Shakeel I’m sorr-” “Save it Marie I’m not ready for your tantrums and you know what forget about the call” he roared out and left, I shook my head in disbelief what was happening I was too stunned to believe what happened, I held all my emotions in and walked to the shed at the bus stop, I slowly eased into the seats and blinked back the tears that was stinging my eyes.
I slowly entered the bus and leaned my head on the glass making the tears fall freely, I wiped my face when I got to my stop and took the long route home, the ladies started speaking in hushed tones when they saw me, I brushed them off and slowly walked to my room.
The day was going painfully slow today, and the night much slower, my head throbbed a bit from crying all night, I woke up late in the morning and did my prayers then went back to sleep, I tried the number Shakeel contacted me with but it wasn’t going through, I held the phone to my ear and ran to the door when I heard a knock. I had a hopeful smile on my face which dropped when I saw Adam at the door.
I WAS SURPRISED BY THE SUDDEN change of heart but I was also happy this means I get the chance to go to my sewing classes and go to my early morning islamic studies. I turned on my side still thinking of Assad’s sudden change of heart I rose from the bed and walked to the wooden rack I hanged my bags on, I had only three leather bags which I inherited from mom, I heaved a sigh and removed them from the rack, I took the smallest one and unzipped the middle pocket, I didn’t know how much I had in there but I hope it would see me through the week, my heart thumped as I roamed my hand through the bag, I pulled out the rumpled notes I had thrown in, and sighed that was the little I made during the last month from sewing, I raised my head and looked at the clock on the wall it was past 10 pm, I hated going out at this time, I stood at the veranda and did my ablution then ran back inside.
I lied on the prayer mat after I was done ‘I just hope this will be the end of my scantily dressed days’, but why did he give me the whole week off, I smiled as I succumbed to the darkness that engulfed me.
I looked up and jotted down what was written on the board “Well that’s all for today, don’t forget to rewrite the words I’ve written”, I rolled my eyes internally, I hated writing, I prefer given memorization assignment to this. I smiled at the lady I shared a desk with after the mu’alim (teacher) was done praying, “See you tomorrow” she said gesturing to her extended hand I nodded and shook her hand.
I blinked back the tears that had welled in my eyes after leaving the mosque premises, mom would have been very proud if she were alive, she’d be amazed by my how I turned out but she’d still be happy. I pulled off my abaya and wore the old dress I wear when I’m going to bathe, I was quite disappointed when no water flowed from the tap after turning the faucet, it was mostly closed yet we still had to pay exorbitant monthly bills, I rolled my eyes and took the plastic bucket back to my room, I was lucky I had two gallons filled with water, I half filled the bucket with the water and went back to the bathhouse to bathe.
I wore my white ankle length chiffon dress with a blue mandarin collar and blue belt across the tummy, then tied my head with a blue and white head gear, I held the mirror further from my face and pushed the gear a bit up, I nodded and smiled content with my look, I placed the mirror back on the top of the drawer on my bedside. I looked around the room one more time to see if I’d forgotten anything then took my bag and locked the door.
Leaving the house is always heart wrenching the sneers I receive from the tenants is annoying, I rolled my eyes and shook my head lightly when I saw the ladies at their usual gossip joint, I walked by them not caring to greet either of them which I know would be a topic immediately my feet hit the ground outside or even right now.
“Good morning” I greeted smiling tightly “Good morning welcome” they all replied in unison, I arched my brow at Mansa who was giving me a skeptical look, she burst into a fit of laughter with some of the girls following cue, the shop we work at is a bit huge and has 6 rows of desks in the middle of the room and about eight around the room facing the wall, I frowned and checked if I had stained my dress but it was clean I looked around at the other girls who were also trying to hold in their laughter then rolled my eyes, the sad news was I sat close to Mansa, we sat by each other both facing the wall “What is it this time around Mansa?” I asked getting more irritated when she covered her mouth with her palm, I placed my bag gently beneath my table and turned to look at the other girls “Well you can go back to what you were doing or continue laughing like this fool here I know the Madam will be very happy to lay off a few of us when she comes in and find you laughing the day away” that quieted them down I pulled a tissue and wiped the top of the wooden chair then took my seat.
I still wonder what was so amusing about me that had them laughing, I shrugged turning my attention to fixing the thread through my sewing machine, sewing was the only thing I was good at after years of watching mom sew.
The head seamstress “Madam” as we called her arrived at noon and checked the progress we’ve made in sewing the school uniforms the shop was contracted with, she stood at the door of her office and cleared her throat “Girls I’m not happy with the progress you’re making, schools will be reopening next week and I have lots of schools assigning me to make their uniforms so I expect you guys to do a double shift from now onwards ……..you shouldn’t be squealing Marie those schools saw the kind of work I did with other schools before assigning me with this project so I want you all to bring on your ace game” I clamped my mouth shut and blinked thinking of how I could combine Assad’s work with this, will he even understand this?, I cleared my throat refocusing on the lady, “Mansa, Marie, Amanda, Hawa you are my lead apprentices so you’ll do majority of the work” WTF did she mean I have other things to do my life doesn’t evolve around this work.
“Uhm ma’am I usually work after this so I don’t think I can make it, …… Uhm I mean combining my work with this one” she squinted her eyes a little and shook her head “No you don’t get to have any say in this, what I’ve already said is final, you know where to find the door if you can’t do it and that goes for the rest of you too” the girls chuckled in mockery, she rolled her eyes and sauntered back to her little office, I turned back facing my machine, “So you can’t wait to see your new rich beau is that why you were complaining” Mansa asked undertone in a teasing voice, I was not too surprised by her statement she’s a real gossip monger, and knows about almost everyone here, I decided to indulge her a bit
“Oh so you’ve heard about my rich friend already?” she nodded her smile widening a bit “I wonder why you’re here though I would not even spend a second here if I had a guy with that kind of wealth” she straightened up and raised her hand waving like a pageant queen, “I’d sit in the car and wave my hand to everyone I see” I shook my head and held up the dress I was working on, “Are you happy with this new arrangement?” I asked Mansa quietly she shrugged twisting her lips a bit “Who cares, I don’t even care if we have to spend the whole day here so far as I’ve got my family covered it’s ok” I nodded in understanding that was one thing I loved about her, she was a single parent to two lovely girls, and she’d kill and die for them, that was the only thing we had in common, we hustled for our loved ones, she for her children and I for Shakeel and the debt Don had tagged on my family.
I stifled the yawn with the back of my hand and tightly shutted my eye warding off the sleep away, “I don’t think I can keep my eyes open to finish this one I feel like sand has been thrown into my eyes” Hiba one of colleagues complained in a sleepy voice, I felt just like her maybe worst, I don’t even know if I was sewing the dress I was making right.
“Would you stop whining and do the work at hand, you’ve only started today and you’re complaining what of the days to come today is the first day and I want to have 200 nice completely sewn dresses before any of you leaves this place”.
I don’t know if I can do this the next minute cos my head was starting to throb the lighting system is not so good and my eyes was starting to water from forcing them open, going on almost 24 hrs with no sleep, “Madam I’m done with mine” I said folding the dress I had just finish making. “You can leave it there and go” she replied not even turning to look at me, I took my bag and walked out of the room. My heart started thumping when I got outside, what if something happens to me, I was lucky to get a taxi, just as I got to the bus stop, I sighed and entered the backseat, then nodded at the passengers; two ladies one at the front the other at the back with a guy, I was very scared cos of recent taxi snatching and robbery events, I blurted out my stop praying that he really takes me there.
I heaved a sigh when the taxi alighted me at the junction that led to my house, I looked around a bit scared of what might happen to me, but one thing about the thugs around here is they don’t attack the people living in this vicinity, they more like share their loot here, but I was still scared I held my bag tightly innerly praying to reach home safe.
I walked hurriedly and rushed into the house, “Alhamdulillah” I muttered softly when I got to my door I heaved a sigh leaning my back on the door, ‘This is the last time I’ll ever do any of those late night shift, nothing happened today but what of tomorrow, I couldn’t use the bathroom now, so I wetted a towel and wiped my body with it.
I heaved a sigh as we drove out of the house seeing the house more clearer in daylight makes the whole thing feel more surreal, I looked behind me as we drove off the Palace like building, ‘how can just one person live in this building?’ I shook my head and looked forward I could feel Adam’s gaze on me but I didn’t look up at him, I just couldn’t bear his skeptical looks, I cleared my throat trying to figure out a way to start conversation with him, “Uhm so what’s uh-” I huffed out nervously “W-what’s his name?” “I’m sorry you’ll have to ask him that” he replied shortly I opened my mouth but shut it again “I’m sorry, I tend to blab when I’m nervous” I said sighing, I turned my gaze to the window, watching the beautiful scenery we passed.”Assad” I whipped my head to Adam, his eyes were still on the road, I couldn’t tell if he indeed said the words “His name is Assad” I smiled and nodded “Thank you” I noticed him nod too but I couldn’t tell if the quirk on his lip was real or just an imagination. He was quite again I leaned my head on the window glass and closed my eyes, all I could think about was Shakeel.
‘Is he ok’ I couldn’t shake off the feeling that something bad was happening to him, or rid off the guilt of not being able to visit him two months in a row.
“Which turn should I take?” he asked when we made it to the roundabout “Uhm I’m not very familiar with the place I can only tell when we’re driving from the center of the city” he sighed in frustration and shook his head “Cut you drove to the house with Zak” he asked in an irritative voice “I was asleep throughout the ride” I replied meekly. It wasn’t my fault that I don’t go out regularly, taking public transport too was not much of a great help cos I always pass the same route, I sighed and shook my head “I was asking you the name of the area” I heard him ask I blabbed out the address, and watched through hooded eyes as he tapped it on the GPS I didn’t live in the most beautiful part of town,it’s kind of funny how one seem to have it all and then loses it slowly then the next thing you know you’ve become this different person, I scrubbed my hands harshly against my arm trying to ward off the devastating feeling.”We’re here which route should I take?” he asked again I knew the GPS couldn’t pick the address of my place, “You can drop me here I can walk home” “No I’m taking you home those were the boss’s exact words” I nodded and pointed to the the small route that led to my house, he drove on the bumps “Its the house after this one” I pointed to the house, I could tell he was amused by the kind of place I lived, girls in my line of work mostly lived their lives to the fullest, but my case is different since I don’t do it by choice. “Thanks for the ride I really appreciate it see you tomorrow?” I blurted questioningly he shook his head but made no move to move the car, I nodded and opened the door, I shook my head at the kids that had surrounded the car cheering and clapping. I hurriedly entered the fenceless house, I lived at the worst part of town, I’m not very proud of the area I live, we had very good people but it was the worst cos the youth over here mostly indulge in drugs and robbery.
“I can see you’ve also gotten yourself one of those men” a neighbor who lived a few rooms away from mine snickered I shook my head and headed to my room, indulging her would be a big mistake there were already rumours that I was involved in prostitution and I didn’t owe me any form of explanation. I took my keys out of my bag and opened the door “Which good comes out of a girl who just appeared here with no one knowing her roots, with a boy she claims to be her brother and now I see her coming home with men in expensive cars” another lady added, I hurriedly entered it wouldn’t be long when I become the major talk in this neighborhood, I could feel it. I just hope it doesn’t get back to Shakeel, that was why I sent him off to boarding school. I lived in a 14 tenant compound house most of the tenants were married couples, the only problem was we we had only two bath houses, one for the ladies and the other for men but we had no toilet we had to walk miles to a public toilet. I wore my long dress I wear when I’m going to bathe and passed the women with my bucket in hand, “Hmm Sis Muni I sometimes marvel at how girls of today who claim to be good Muslims and God sent sell themselves short to men just for a few pennies”.
I blocked them out and took the water to the bath house, ‘I’m a sinner I know I am but I might be much better than them in eyes of the Lord and answering them will only make me like them I’m not proud of my life but I never did any of what I did willingly I was forced down that road, and will definitely find my way back on track’.I prayed after I had freshened up and dressed up in my ankle length black abaya it was pass 2 pm when I got there, I smiled and greeted the security guard at the gate, “Sorry madam today is not the visiting day I can’t allow you in” I smiled and nodded “I know but it’s very urgent, I couldn’t make it here the last two visiting days and my brother has ran out of food and cash” I replied raising the small poly bag I held in hand filled with provisions, he nodded looking at the small bag, “What’s his name?” “Shakeel” I muttered smiling, he nodded looking me over, then shrugged and called one of the security guards inside the room at the check point, he relayed what I said to him and turned back to me, “He’ll be back soon with Shakeel” I nodded and entered the the gate, “You can sit there” he said pointing to the bench I smiled and sat on the bench facing the school, I’m proud that I was able to bring my brother here he deserved it, I smiled when I saw his lanky figure dwarfing the security guard approaching us,I rose from the bench gently placing the things I was holding on the bench, he had bent his head so he did not see me, I felt I’ve running to him but I forced myself to wait for him, “Shakeel” I squealed when he was a few metres from me, he raised his head and smiled widely brightening up my world,everything felt alright at that moment I ran to him and hugged him tightly he raised me and swirled me around, “God Marie what have you been eating, I swear you grow lighter every day” he complained frowning at he eased me down I playfully smacked his arm “Hey just because you’re taller and bigger than me doesn’t mean you get to pick on me ok” I said squinting my eyes a bit to show him how serious I was, “Ok Mademoiselle, no need to hit me it really hurts you know” I sighed and hugged him tightly, “I really miss you lil boy” I uttered my voice thick with emotion,”God Marie you are embarrassing me” he complained pulling himself from the hug, God he was growing up real fast he looked more like my older brother and more like dad everyday, I shook my head and grabbed his hand walking to the bench, I sat and scooted over making space for him,”So my older sister decides to neglect me for two whole months no calls no nothing and then reappears, just like that” he complained sulking and batting his eyelashes I smiled as I looked at his pretty face but he had bags under his eyes”I’m sorry” I apologized running my hand over his face prolonging it under the bag of his eyes “You’ve not been getting adequate rest Shakeel, you have bags under your eyes stop pushing yourself too hard” I uttered softly. “I’m a man Marie I know how to take care of myself but I’ve been worried about you” I shook my head forcing a smile in my face when I remembered the dreams I had been having recently. “I’m doing very good but you over have got me worried and how you look today has heightened my worries why do you look like this you have to take things easy” “It’s nothing” he mumbled turning his head as he coughed I didn’t believe him but I had to take his words for what they were.”I’ll be surprising you very soon” he said snapping me out of my trance I didn’t even know I had zoned out, I nodded and smiled “Shakeel have you been seeing god-father?” I asked fearing the answer he’d give me he quickly looked away my heart thudded as I waited to hear his response.
“I-uhm ” he looked away then looked at me again “You’ve been seeing him right?” I asked in a cold voice I didn’t even know I possessed “Marie he just wants to help you cater for my schooling when I leave here, you know I need a male-” I raised my palm up stopping him in his tracks “Shakeel you are on a sports scholarship, and they pay half of your fees already I don’t need any help paying the rest, and I’m sorry I’m not a guy for you to emulate from, one thing I really need from you is for you to not get involved in any way with that man”.
I muttered looking earnestly into his eyes, he blinked back the tears that had gathered in his eyes and nodded “Thank you” I added giving him a tight hug “Please don’t get involved with him even if this is the only advice I give you’d ever adhere to” I felt him bob his head and hoped he’ll really do my bidding.
I handed him the goods I had brought along and thanked the security men, “Marie I promise to stay away from him I don’t want to see you hurt”I nodded and clasped his hands in mine, “And focus on your studies too, tone the sports done a bit, I don’t want you too fatigued ok” I hugged him one last time and made my way to the gate, I turned back after I was outside the gate and bidding farewell to the security guards, he still stood at the spot I left him, I nodded and waved at him, swallowing hard to wet my suddenly dry throat. I couldn’t stop thinking of Don Omar’s crooked ways I know when he sinks his claws into Shakeel I’d have a very difficult time getting him back, I shook my head at the thought it shall not commenting pass in shaa Allah.I boarded a trotro (ovan) home, I alighted and my area’s station and walked home surprisingly finding Assad’s car parked in front of my house the kids were not as many as earlier today ‘Did I do anything wrong?’ I kept asking myself repeatedly, I walked on wobbly legs to the car knocking on the window he rolled the glass down and motioned to the passenger door with his head, I forced a smile and greeted him “Good evening Adam did you forget something?” he nodded but didn’t return my smile I frowned a bit he was warming up to me before leaving earlier, “the boss changed his mind, he says he’s given you the rest of the week off and would meet you only at the club” I nodded wondering what suddenly made him change his mind, I thought I’d already seen the end of this club days but it seems it just began, why now of all times.
♠ ♠ ♠ ♠
Our mystery man is Assad B. Hernandez, what do you think made him change his mind on coming back to his house.
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I LOOKED ON AT THE APPROACHING FIGURE OF SHAKEEL AND SMILED, it took everything in me to remain seated on the bench, he raised his head and looked around probably looking for me, the school was filled with visitors I waved in his direction “Shakeel” I called out his name, he smiled back when our eyes met and hastened his pace so he could get to me, he was only a few paces away from me then turned to the other direction, I furrowed my brows in confusion and turned to the place he was going, Don stood there with his cane in hand wiggling it in the air, in Shakeel’s direction “Shakeel come back here” I called out sternly but he didn’t turn “Shakeel” I called out again my voice turning desperate he stood beside Don Omar laughing like a loon, “Shakeel that man is bad news please come back, please…….., Shakeel don’t leave me alone you’re the only one I’ve got” I uttered between hiccups he shook his head and started walking away with Don, I couldn’t rise from the chair and when I forcefully rose up I fell on the floor, my breath ragged up as his figure disappeared with Don’s, “Shakeel…Shakeel” I croaked out “Marie” a distant voice called, “Marie you have to… ” I couldn’t make out the words, “Marie wake up, I know you can hear me wake up”, my eyelids felt so heavy, I felt a hand around my body but I still couldn’t open my eyes Shakeel was gone my life is now meaningless he’s my everything and without him I’ve lost everything, “You have me” the voice that had been calling me replied, “I want Shakeel back, I want him back, he can’t go to that man he’ll ruin him just as he’s trying to do me”, I was met with silence this time around then out of the blue the voice cooed “Open your eyes” the voice was so soft I felt obliged to comply, I opened my eyes to an unfamiliar place, the ceiling seemed to be going on for miles, and it was stark white, my eyes felt too heavy to move around, “Welcome back” a familiar voice muttered, my throat felt too raw to reply, I slowly turned my head to the direction of the voice and met with the mesmerising eyes of the stranger, my frown deepened, “water” I croaked out he turned to the night stand, the sound of the liquid being poured out invaded the quietness of the room. I bucked myself up a bit resting my head on what felt like a mountain of pillows, I opened my mouth meekly and he placed the glass between my lips, it felt so refreshing I pushed his hand away causing the water to drain on my body and nose, I coughed as it choked me. “Sorry, I’m so sorry” he cooed patting my back as I coughed. “Who’s Shakeel?” he asked throwing me offguard after I had settled down I blinked rapidly as the dream I had invaded my thoughts once again.”He has him, I have to leave” I said as I tried to climb off the bed, “No you’re not in the right state of mind or health to leave this place” he said in a stern voice, “I don’t know what kind of agreement you had with Don but I’m not for sale and I think I’ve already overstayed my stay here” he shook his head in disapproval, “I won’t have you hurt yourself at my expense, and this has totally nothing to do with Don, you’ll stay in bed until I see you fit to leave”, I blinked back the tears that stinged the back of my eyes, my head throbbed loudly silencing me from replying, I bit my lip as another wave of pain hit me. “But –don’t– let him get to Shakeel- I beg of you” I forced out of my trembling lips. My vision became blurry but I could make out his profile as he nodded.
“Who is this Shakeel she’s been mentioning his name in her sleep, and asked me to keep him away from that man who owns the club, he’s Don Omar right?”,I pressed my ear to the door but couldn’t make out what the other person was saying, their voices were hushed now, I retraced my steps and entered another room. Then came out when the door was opened, it was the stoutly built man, I blinked my eyes trying clear the guilt I felt for eavesdropping on them, “Uhm I’m kind of hungry, but couldn’t make out where the kitchen is?” I lied looking around, he gave me a skeptical look, I felt like he was looking right through me, “the kitchen is this way ma’am” “Can I have a word with the boss?” I asked looking behind him at the huge wooden door, he nodded and turned around turning the knob, then motioning for me to enter “Thanks”.
He raised his head shaking it in disapproval “You should be in bed” he muttered in his hoarse voice, “Uhm I just wanted to thank you for all you’ve done for me, but I’d really like to take my leave now, I’ve been here for almost 24 hours or probably more” I complained my stomach growled”That’s after I’ve eaten” I added when I noticed the look he was giving, “Join Adam outside he’ll take you to the kitchen we’ll talk some more after you’re done you can see Zak isn’t here to take you back” I smiled and nodded at his words ‘he was going to let me go home’ I squealed internally.
I nodded when he turned to his laptop, and slowly left the room, I smiled and nodded at Adam following his lead to the kitchen, I looked behind me at how long the hallway was, “We’re here” he said when he got to the door and noticed how I ogled the place, the kitchen is a whole different issue, I was practically drooling the kitchen, I snapped my mouth shut when he cleared his throat”What’d you like?, we have sandwich of you want something light, soup, and then we have spaghetti bolognese, “I’d take the soup then the spaghetti afterwards”, I replied if he was surprised he didn’t show it. He placed a bowl of a strange looking soup in front of me, then placed a spoon on a saucer next to it, I took the spoon and scooped a little bit of the soup scrunching my nose as I placed the spoon between my lips, I closed my eyes as the soup hit my taste buds, I licked my lips and placed the spoon on the saucer placed beside it then lifted the bowl to my lips, I swallowed every bit of the soup before putting the bowl down, I closed my eyes and sighed holding my hand to my lips when I involuntarily burped, “Sorry” I apologized as I burst in a fit of giggles, I held my chest trying to sober up, ‘It’s been so long, I couldn’t even remember’ I burst into tears, I never used to believe in this irony, laughing and crying at the same time. “Are you ok ma’am?” Adam asked worriedly, I fanned my face trying to stop the tears that had welled in my eyes then wiped the small ones that had made it beneath my eye lid.
“I need to get out of here” I whispered to myself.
I hurriedly left the kitchen in search of his office, I shook the knob and ran into the office “Sir I don’t know the kind of agreement you had with Don, I want to leave I have things to tend to” “I thought I told you we’d talk when you’re done eating” he replied rising from his desk, I nodded suddenly feeling intimidated by him, “Uhm I have things to do back at home and I only work at the club at night, I need to go back, I have work to do, and I’m missing a lot on my studies, please you can have Adam bring me back here when I’m done, please I’d forever be indebted to you”I pleaded on the verge of tears. He nodded “You can leave with Adam I’ll give you tonight off, but you’ll have to come back tomorrow evening by” he clicked his laptop and looked up at me, “5 pm that’s all I’m giving you but” I swallowed hard when he added that “You can’t go back to the club, or entertain any other man for that matter, I’m trusting you to not do that, but be warned if I find you doing otherwise you and that old man will regret ever crossing path with me” I clasped my hand tightly and kissed it “Thank you so much it really means a lot to me, I’d never in a million years even think of doing all those things behind your back, but where can I find my purse?” I added the latter gnawing on my lip. “Adam will bring it in”. I nodded and waited for Adam.I could finally see Shakeel “You can sit” I shook my head and smiled “In I’d rather wait for him here” he shrugged and turned back to whatever he was doing.
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I looked sideways but I still couldn’t make out where we were going “Uhm Zak would you please tell me where we are going?” I asked hating the little waver in my voice, he kept mute and drove on to God knows where, ‘What if Don has finally tire of me and is going to sell me off or better yet kill me’ my heartbeat quickened, as we drove down the quite road filled with trees.
“Hey wake up” I heard a distant voice call and my hands being shook, I fluttered my eye slowly adjusting it to the light “Hey Marie wake up already we are running late” I became fully awake when he said that, I didn’t even know I had fallen asleep I turned my wrist studying the time, I swallowed hard and blinked back the tears that had gathered in my eyes.
The place looked so surreal the greenery of the grass, and the fountain we had to circle before driving to the parking lot, I looked up the avenue we drove by then turned to Zak “Zak if anything ever happens to me, promise me Shakeel will be well taken care of” I uttered in a desperate voice, I’ve never been good friends with him but I couldn’t shake off the feeling that something was about to me and he might have a good side, everyone is suppose to, my life was altering I could feel it in my blood and if there’s anything I’ve learnt to trust it’s this particular feeling, it happened before the most tragic moments of my life. He smirked and shook his head “Get your mind out of the gutters ok” he chided giving me a skeptical look “Nothing bad is going to happen” he added in a soothing voice maybe after seeing how shaken I was.
I looked down the avenue when I alighted, the scenery looked like something out of a magazine birds chirping from the trees, the place looked serene and lovely but these are the kind of places that crimes go unnoticed, I could be killed and dumped without anyone noticing, the place looked deserted enough for that to happen, “So where are we?” I finally mustered the courage to ask “Just chill” I nodded and walked on wobbly legs to the large door.
He quirked his brow questioningly as he held the door knocker “Are you ready?” he asked as he knocked on the door rhythmically, I swallowed hard and looked at the rich wooden door intently like it could answer the questions whirling in my mind.
A stoutly built man opened the door, and nodded like he was having a secret conversation with Zak, he widened the door and motioned for us to walk in, my movements jerked as I walked into the building, I moved my eyeballs slowly studying the place the best I could, the hallway had long vases filled with flowers, it seemed like we had been walking to God knows where for eons of hours, I looked up the two flights of stairs facing each other, then at the man leading “Will we be taking any of these stairs?” I asked looking terrifyingly at the stairs “No ma’am we’re going this way” he replied in a thick british accent pointing to a metal door I nodded in relief. He pressed a button and the elevator door pinged open, ‘Where the f*ck did Don bring me’ I shouted in my head.
I cleared my throat when we all entered, my lips were itching to ask what we were going to do “Uhm, sir what exactly are we doing here?” I asked meekly, he turned to Zak, we had him in the middle, then turned to me and shrugged “I do not know ma’am” he replied, I wiped my hand on my dress and gnawed on my lip, “We’re here ma’am” he called out snapping me from my trance, I nodded and got off the elevator, Zak gave me a murderous look when our eyes met “No questions” he mouthed, I nodded ignoring the tears that brimmed my eye and was threatening to fall, ‘You have to be brave Marie’ I chided myself but I was falling apart within.
I looked up at the opulent door we stood by which had a tulip engraved on, the man pushed it then stood back for us to enter, I walked in like a cattle brought to a slaughter house, ready to face my fate, I could feel in my gut that my life was going to change the headache I had this morning suddenly came back in full force my head throbbed so loud I could hear it pound in my ear, “Lord have mercy on me, forgive me for my past sins for I know nought and was forced to do them, I seek repentance for the ones I did intentionally,Ya Allah, forgive all our departed souls who’ve preceded us in the after life and make ours a soothing journey when it’s our time, dear Lord please have my brother well taken care of, aameen” “Aameen” I heard a hoarse baritone voice reply to a prayer I didn’t even know I’ve said out loud, I raised my head up frighteningly but all I saw was a large chest I looked further up looking at the beauty in front of me, he exuded masculinity and beauty I wonder if the two words can even pair in a sentence,
I swallowed hard and blinked a few times, he had the most beautiful eyes ever, green eyes with a speck of gold, “Close your mouth” I clamped my mouth shut, at his words. “Take a seat” he said motioning to the chair in front of me. “Marie” I sat on the chair without a fuss, “I’m intrigued by your dance so I’ve hired you for the rest of the time I’ll be here” he spoke out softly like he was talking to a child, I nodded before realizing I told Don I’d never give a private dance even when it elongated my indefinite sentence in his hellhole of a club. “I…. ” my argument died down when our eyes met
“Did you want to ask anything Marie?” I shook my head gingerly, irking the headache I clasped my head as a sudden pain hit me blurring my vision , I blinked trying to fight the darkness that was enveloping me “Marie… ” I heard a distant voice call out but I couldn’t fight the darkness, then everything was pitch black.
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