Angela left the hotel a few minutes after Ijeoma drove away. The young woman had bought a room for her and even went as far as taking Angela’s things to the room and examining the room to make sure that it was okay for her. When she was leaving again, she turned to Angela with a mask of mixed expressions—apology, guilt, and then sadness.
“I’m sorry ma. My husband was quite insistent on this,” she said wringing her hands and avoiding looking at her in the face. The sneer on Angela’s face had been too blatant, too raw.
Angela flashed white teeth. “It’s okay honey. Just watch out for yourself.”
But it was not okay, it was not okay at all, Angela thought as she got into the Uber that she had called. She gave the man a once over and hmmed in approval when she saw that he was young and quite appealing to the eyes. She did not attempt to talk to him as he was humming and singing along to songs playing on the radio. He had a great voice so she didn’t mind the little noise.
When she came down from the car, she had a smile on her face and a new contact in her phone. The driver drove away with a similar smile, an extra ten thousand naira added to his account.
She frowned at the duplex in front of her then looked down the street and her frown turned to surprise. She had been so engrossed in talking with the driver that she didn’t pay attention to where they were. The street she had grown up in had turned into something else. Wrought iron fences painted in different colors now stood where shabby block fences had protected the houses from the outside all through the duration of her stay in the area.
She eyed the tarred road, obviously not expecting it. The last time she was here, the tarred road was still dusty, much better than the roads of other streets but it became so muddy during the rainy season that many cars had their tires buried deep into it, unable to move forward or backward. Opposite her was a supermarket, a large one she could tell. The building had held a barbing salon, a restaurant, and a provision store before she left. She’d spent most of her time in the barbing salon, learning how to barb hair and… She shook her head. No thinking about the past, she reminded herself.
Her eyes came back to the building that she stood in front of. It was no different from the many other houses in the street. It had only been fenced recently she could tell from the stains of the cream paint on the floor. The black gate was glossy. She looked around for a doorbell and was relieved when she found it. She pressed lightly. From where she stood, she could hear the sharp jarring ring of the bell inside. She felt a tinge of guilt for the person inside. It was almost noon. As she waited, she wondered if she had come at the right time.
She raised her hand to ring the bell again but someone opened the door from inside the house. She held her breath as an old man, already bent in age, a simple singlet exposed his chocolate, wrinkled skin. Under it, a wrapper was tied around his waist and ended in a flimsy knot on his left side.
“Baba,” she called as he asked who it was. Despite his age, his eyes were still clear, only yellowed by age.
“Angela?” He wondered. His bony hands reached for the gate and opened it for her, moving to one side to make way for her.
Angela stood awkwardly by the gate. She was supposed to bend to greet him but she couldn’t bring herself to do so, especially when memories that she had fought hard to remain hidden rose to the surface. Baba’s alcoholic breath on her face… Baba heaving above her… Baba’s rough hands twisting her nipples…
“Good afternoon baba,” she managed to get out. She never wanted to come back, never imagined she would. But it was necessary. Baba was the only one that could help her.
Baba looked at her from head to toe, his eyes lingering on her chest area with honey-toned skin peaking from the blouse she wore. Angela made no move to stop him from looking. Feast your eyes, she thought. It was a small inconvenience, with everything she had gone through at his hands, she was barely fazed by it.
“Come inside,” he said when he was done looking with a smack of his lips.
Angela followed him into the house noting the neatly trimmed flowers that decorated the house. The sound of her shoes was loud against the German floor. She remembered days of playing on the sandy floor that surrounded the house, playing ‘I call’ with the other children from the other houses because their home was the only one that was not fenced and allowed the children to run a distance before the person called shouted “Stop”. Those were the days before her aunt died and left her with Baba before the nightly visits began before Baba disowned his son.
The house smelt heavily of air-freshener. Angela almost choked at the sickly sweet smell. She was not familiar with the house. It was where she had spent 16 years of her life but it was as unfamiliar to her as anything. And it was not because the house had undergone a massive change, in fact, she was grateful for it. The brown walls that had existed before the present light green walls held her screams and cries. Even somewhere behind the light green paint, she could still hear the cries of that young her. Baba please…please…
“Will you take anything?” Baba said showing her to the parlor.
She shook her head. She wanted to get this over and done with. The house was making her skin crawl. “I’m in a hurry, Baba.”
Baba nodded and sat down. He was quiet, his eyes remained on the glass table in the middle of the parlor.
“I need you to do something for me,” Angela said without beating about the bush. She reached into her bag and brought out a picture and slid it across the table to him. Baba picked up the picture and looked at it.
He looked up at Angela. “A married man?”
Angela nodded, ignoring the faint glint in his eyes. “His wife is pregnant. I want her to lose it and every other pregnancy she would have.”
Baba frowned. “Angela?”
“Baba, will you do it for me?” She brought out a wad of cash from her purse and dropped it on the table. “This should be enough.”
He nodded. “I don’t want your mo-”
“Take it. I won’t give you any other thing. I have done enough for you,” she said. Though she had been certain that Baba would not ask anything else of her, it was hard to tell with him.
“Okay, but you know the real payment. The money is not payment enough,” his eyes ran through her body.
She shivered when she saw the way he looked at him. “Not this time,” her voice was firm. “I’m seeing my blood,” she added knowing how much he hated hearing about it.
As she had expected, the look in his eyes disappeared immediately. He picked up the money. “You have to add to this. Send it to my account before tomorrow. I will do it for you.”
A sigh of relief escaped her lips. “Thank you, Baba.” She stood up.
“You’re going?” he asked nonchalantly counting the money.
“Yes, I have work.” She bade him goodbye and left the house. As she closed the gate behind her, she shook off the shadow that had descended around her shoulders as she entered the house. She stopped a taxi and got into it.
Apham, Ijeoma. The two names were a whisper on her lips as the taxi drove out of the street.