Nneka had looked at her in incredulity when she told her that she was going for a party. The surprise had been more about the fact that she was leaving the house at 9pm than how she looked. She dressed in one of her mother’s dinner gown, a feat as she was way smaller than her mother’s plus-size. She used a rope to hold the gown around her waist and allowed the excess to fall in waves around her waist, disguising her figure. She used one of her mother’s bras stuffing it with her scarfs until the upper part of the gown fitted her more tightly. She refused to bemoan her perky and small breasts as she carried out the task. They would still grow, she was sure of that. Nneka had also assured her of that.

She had spent more than an hour on her make-up and it made the disguise more believable. Despite watching a number of YouTube videos, she couldn’t achieve the smoky, dark look that she was aiming for. She settled for just using a liner to darken the skin around her eyes and thick foundation that made her look way lighter than her caramel color. The lipstick she put one was so red that she feared it was too much but after looking through a few pictures on the internet, she became certain that it was what she needed for what she was about to do. She finished the look with one of her mother’s wigs, a dark red wig that fell down to the middle of her back with fringe that obscured the most of her face, huge earrings that threatened to tear her earlobes apart with matching necklace and bangles.

If the make-up had not done the work of disguising her, the wig had finished the task so perfectly that she could hardly recognize her face in the mirror. In fact, her face looked much thinner than it was. The high heels belonged to her. Her mother’s shoes were two sizes larger than hers. She didn’t want to walk with an ungainly gait, it would attract unwanted looks and make her task even more difficult than it was already.

Unfortunately, the get-up was very uncomfortable. Her face felt like mud had caked all over it, her lips so dry and when she tried to wet it with her tongue, the sticky, metallic taste of the lipstick had invaded her taste buds. A small but classic purse finished the look. She couldn’t wait for the night to come to an end.

“Perfect,” she said as she looked at herself in the mirror. She was not bothered about how she looked in the apparel but she was glad that she didn’t look like herself. If anything, she looked like one of the women that stood in front of Charward with shorter skirts and taller heels.

“Where are you going?” Nneka had asked, her tone more curious than it was warning.

“We have a school party.” Dinma’s voice was defensive.

“With this dressing,” Nneka said with mirth. “Go and come back early sha. Take the key with you. I may be asleep when you come back.”

Dinma was tempted to turn back into the house and pull off the ridiculous clothes she wore. What was she going there to do by the way? Longji had told her to remain at home, that he would solve the matter. Why couldn’t she just listen to him?

But…what if Longji couldn’t do anything? What if he forgot about it and didn’t do anything about it? Or what if it was beyond his power? No. She had to do something, she could not just sit at home without doing anything. With renewed determination, she marched out of the house. She didn’t stop to look back.

She had only gone a few feet from the house and she was already regretting her decision. The usually busy street was now empty. Even though the street lamps were on and lights filtered into the streets from houses, she could still feel the darkness pressing around her. Charward was a street away from the house. It would only take about ten minutes for her to get there. She heard the voices of two men coming up behind her. Her blood froze. Her steps became heavier in her shoes. She urged herself to move faster, hurry up. But her steps remained stubbornly slow. The voices came closer and closer until she could literally feel them behind her.

She stopped. She couldn’t control herself. Her legs couldn’t move forward. They refused to. The men met up with her and passed ignoring her existence. They didn’t even look at her. She recognized them as the gate men for the two houses at the end of the street. It wasn’t until they had gone far that the breath whooshed from her lungs. Without thinking about it, she turned back and raced back home. The shoes made loud clacking sounds on the ground but she could care less. She just ran until she got to the house. She was relieved that the gate was still opened. With the way she was shivering, she didn’t know if she could handle putting a key through the keyhole.

“You’re back already?” Nneka looked like she was holding in her laughter. She had been in the parlor and came out when she heard the noise at the gate.

Dinma pulled off her shoes and tossed it on one side. She removed the wig, promising herself never to wear something like that again. She eyed Nneka as she gently pushed her aside to enter the parlor. Nneka let out a peal of loud laughter going out to pick up Dinma’s shoes. She didn’t come in immediately. Dinma heard her locking the gate and putting the security alarm in place. Nneka had been watching a television program. Tossing the wig on one of the sofas, Dinma sat down and fixed her eyes unseeingly on the TV.

“I was thinking eh, what entered you to start wearing cloth to go for party. Ah! It shock me o.” Nneka was saying as she entered the house. She set the bolt of the door and the key turned with a click. She closed the curtains and placed the shoes in a corner of the room. She leaned over the coach Dinma sat on. She smelt of a cheap body spray.

Dinma wrinkled her nose. While she appreciated Nneka’s effort to always keep neat and smell nice, she preferred if the older lady didn’t bath herself in the perfume. “I wanted to go for a party.”

“At Charward?” Nneka peered at her.

Dinma frowned. “Wait, why did you ask that? The party is at a friends house.”

“I’m not a child, Chidinma. Why will you dress like this if you are going for a class party, abi it is costume party kwa?” Nneka stood up straight. Dinma had to turn and crane her neck to look at her. “Who are you going to see there ehn? I hope it is not what I am thinking? That boy you are always smiling with on the phone, hope he has not touched you in any way?”

“Ah!” Dinma’s face felt hot. “No, I wasn’t going to see anybody and nobody has touched me.” The words rushed out of her mouth in a tumble.

“Are you sure?” Nneka searched her face. “Because if anything goes wrong, it is Nneka they will call now. Better be careful. I didn’t have the power to, that is why I didn’t stop you from going out. But thank God you came back. I’m not ready to start telling stories.”

“It’s okay. I know how to take care of myself.” Dinma stood up from the couch, reaching for the discarded wig. “I’m going upstairs. Goodnight.”

It was a tiring climb through the flight of stairs. Dinma’s heart only grew heavier as she neared her room. She was scared of what tomorrow, or rather this night would bring. As she got into her room, she switched off her phone and kept it inside her wardrobe, in the pockets of one her jackets. She would keep the phone far enough from her until she went to school on Monday. That way, she wouldn’t kill herself with worry or breakdown and send another message the Facebook account.

It would be a tough work but it was the only thing that could keep her sane.