ALONE.

Have you ever been in a room full of people, everyone is talking about something or laughing, they all seem to be having fun and enjoying each other’s company and then suddenly you realize something. That you are all alone.
Oh sure the room is full of people, you can’t be alone. But then how do you describe the emptiness you’re feeling. The sudden disconnect, the feeling that sets in and you begin to question whether you are one of them, whether you truly belong here. At that very moment you are undeniably alone.
You begin to ask yourself “what am I doing here?”. You begin to question how you even got here in the first place. You begin to look for an exit, an excuse because suddenly the room feels small. You try and listen to the conversation but then you realize you were never included.
Someone suddenly spots your face. Whether it’s the universe’s cruel way of taunting you or just some cruel twist of fate you suddenly become the subject of the conversation. But the universe isn’t done yet. You become the joke of the conversation. Someone says something rather funny about you and the crowd is pleased. They want more and the comedian, as crowd-pleasing as a gladiator, goes for the kill.
The crowd is pleased, the comedian has gained another set of adoring fans. But what they don’t know is how shitty you feel about yourself at the moment. You’ve probably had a bad day, week or maybe even a bad life. And that was really the last straw.
You head up to another room, out of anger or maybe even some pain you’re dealing with. You pass a kitchen and some knife winks at you conveniently, from its place on the kitchen table and you grab it without even thinking.
You close the room door behind you. You have decided to end it. There really isn’t a point anymore. Or is there? At this point you’d never really know. You decide to show them a lesson and you slice your wrist, silently hoping that someone out there noticed you and cared. Maybe they’d feel bad about what they did or how they treated you and made fun of you. But no one did and you lie there in a pool of your own blood and you bleed out and fade away.
Alas. You’re inside my head. Or I’m inside yours.
The question is “am I really alone?” Or is there someone out there who feels just as alone as I do?

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YETUNDE

The wind is blowing in my hair as I drive. The windows are down and the air conditioning is off. The bridge is empty as I drive, which is strange. The road is never this free. The sound of my little daughter in the backseat pulls me back to reality. I look back at her face and a smile sneaks up on me through the tears that have been streaming down my face.

My name is Yetunde. And I’m running for my life.

I wonder how it all went to hell. How everything nosed-dived into the pit I live in now. Everything was near perfect as far as I could tell. I had everything I wanted and more. I had a whole lot of things all the other girls wanted. I always felt the envious looks when I walked past. And I didn’t care. I was in my own perfect little fairytale. Oblivious to the fact that all it was was a happy never after.

It all started that one day. T – My best friend – and I were walking to the cafeteria. We were in our 400 level – final year – and we’d had the most gruesome day and we just wanted to get some food, eat and go back to our hall.

Of course to get to the cafeteria we had to pass the basket ball court. We were walking hand in hand to support each other. But I remember supporting the skinny twig with my won frame. Out of someone’s hand flew a ball and it bounced until I finally rolled its way to the front of us girls.

Someone was coming from the court to pick up their ball so I thought to pick it up and throw it towards whoever was coming. And I bent to pick up and I looked up right into the eyes of the man who would be my husband.

I had met a lot of guys in school but I don’t really remember meeting him before then. He was tall, with dark chocolate skin, wavy dark hair I wanted to run my hands through, arms that bulged from where he stood, a barrel chest that strained to free themselves from his somewhat tight basketball jersey and he was sporting a beard. I thought to myself man not boy.

I looked up into his eyes and I saw something and I knew I wanted him. We stood there for a few moments just staring into each other’s eyes. It felt like no time passed. T just walked off beside me to get food. She swore she told me something about leaving because she was hungry but I swore I didn’t hear a thing. He said of that day that someone had to wrestle the ball out of his hand because he had seen the woman he wanted to marry and he never wanted to stop looking. What girl doesn’t want to hear words like that?

If I didn’t know better I would have said it was true love. I saw something in his eyes that day but I was lost in the moment. Who wouldn’t be?

I spent the rest of the evening talking to him. I never wanted to leave. I had never felt that way with anyone before. I forgot about the hunger and the tiredness till after I left him to return to my hall. Then it hit me hard. God bless T, she had bought food for me. I wonder where I would be without her.

As soon as some of the peppered rice had gone down my throat, T set the room ablaze asking questions. I told her some of the things I had gleaned in the short time we had talked. He was in his final year too. 500 level mechanical engineering. He was 3 years older because he started school a little late. He was adopted. He had lost his parents when he was young in an accident I couldn’t bear to bring myself to ask about.

T said I was lucky. I had meet this totally hot guy and connected with him in just a few hours. People do that in months. Years maybe. We were inseparable over our final year in school. We did everything together and we did it in sync like it was natural. T had to make some space I was happy. Service year came along and we pulled all the strings we could so we could serve in the same state. And we pulled the right strings. He would drive over to my house each morning to pick me for work and drop me back home in the evening.

My mother gave her blessings immediately, my brothers just wanted my happiness and what they saw gave them conviction but my father was reluctant to give his blessings. He wouldn’t say what his reasons were but after hours and days of intervening by the entire family he finally did; saying I no longer belonged to him but to my husband now.

We got married 5 years after we meet. 4 years after leaving school. The ceremony was wonderful. My father spared no expense. I was his only daughter. And it didn’t help that my husband came from a wealthy family with an inheritance from his birth parents.

It was the events of the night after, which forever changed me. I had been looking forward to the night after like every new virgin bride. I had never experience anything of that nature. Blame it on lack of opportunity and me waiting for “The One” and I was married to him now. I snuck out early with T in tow to go “freshen up” for my new husband. She helped me pick out a sexy little number and left me to wait on my husband.

He wasn’t long behind. He had this dark look as he walked towards me. I could feel butterflies in my stomach as he got nearer. He was finally in front of me and our lips met in an explosive fiery kiss. He led us to the bed and ripped the little thing I was wearing. His eyes grew darker and he pushed me down on the bed. I felt his weight upon me holding me still and then he fingers closing in around my throat, choking me. And the next thing I remember was the searing pain as he pummeled me. I passed out from the intensity of what I went through in the short time. As soon as he realized I was up he was ready to go again despite my tears. The pain was beyond me and I passed out again.

I couldn’t walk the next morning. He told me that I had better get used to it. It continued nights after. The instrument of punishment varied and I would be subject to various things prodding me inside and out. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, who would believe me? Except T of course.

I got pregnant after enduring three months of my own personal hell. He stopped all his “punishments” and became doting as he was before. He would take care of all my needs. And treat me his precious baby once again. I began to see light at the end of my tunnel. Till last night, six months after I had delivered our baby daughter he came home with those same look in his eyes.

I did the one thing T had been saying I should do – run. I packed out things and here we are on the road running for my life. I made a quick stop at T’s place to say quick goodbyes and headed out back as fast as I came in.

I was making my way to the airport. I was leaving and never looking back. Some distance to the airport I spotted a car that was as familiar to me as my left hand – my husband’s! He was moving closer in his bid to catch me and take me back with him. I had sworn that I was never going back. I pushed down on the accelerator pushing the car faster, running from what would soon be my past.

I didn’t see it soon enough. There was construction work going on and one of the workers was in the glare of my headlights. I swerved and the car somersaulted. I knew I was going to die. It was an expected end. I’m just glad I gave T and the baby time to get away.

CHANDELIER

She walked up to the door. It seemed quiet. She checked her phone again to be sure she was at the right address. She was. She rang the bell and the door swung open and she could see the party was in full swing. The house must be sound proof, she thought to herself. A blast of cold air hit her as she stepped into the house.
The techno beat was hypnotic. It sounded like something Calvin Harris had thrown together. As she moved through the crowd someone handed her a red plastic cup. She grabbed it and swallowed its contents in one gulp.
She began swaying to the beat of the music. Just another night in her life. She lived for the party. She would party to the early hours of the morning and repeat it all again the next day. She felt someone’s hand move to her waist. She didn’t look back, it would disrupt her momentum. She grabbed his hands as she gyrated into him, his body fitting hers perfectly. She was lost in the moment.
She stretched out her hand and another cup was passed to her, the hypnotic beat filling her head as she danced. She had done everything but it still wasn’t enough. Her phone started vibrating against her leg. The body hard against hers felt too good, she didn’t want to risk losing him in the crowd. Her phone kept vibrating but she didn’t acknowledge its urgency.
She spotted a familiar face walking towards her in the crowd. The last face she expected to see here, one of the faces that led her to escape her life every night.
“Your friend told me you were here” he said, his tone accusing.
“Can we not do this now” she said as she felt the hand pull away from her.
And with that he pulled her upstairs and into a room.
“I’m done, with all this. It’s been what, three years since I’ve had to put up with your bullshit.”
She just looked at him, like he wasn’t there.
The song playing downstairs escaped into the room.
Party Girls don’t get hurt, can’t feel anything.
Yes. And sadly she didn’t feel anything.
“Say something, anything” he pleaded.
“I’m done too” she said, and with that she walked out of the room.
Keep my glass full until morning light.
She reached for another cup and gulped its contents. Someone was on hand to fill her glass. Till the morning light the song said.
‘Cos I’m just holding on for tonight.
After all she was just holding on for tonight. Once the night was over she would feel no pain.
Throw them back till I lose count.
She had lost count of how many glasses she had had. The buzz was finally beginning to set in.
I wanna swing from a chandelier.
The gears in her head began to spin. She looked at the roof and right in the middle was a chandelier. Bright as it could be, filling the house with light. She steadied herself on the railing of the stairs and jumped.
She grabbed the chandelier. She didn’t fear falling. She swung her legs and the chandelier began to swing. Someone noticed her movements and pointed up. The entire house stopped to cheer her on. She was the life of the party, like she always was.
As the chants got louder and her momentum increased, her hand slipped. As she fell, the crowd parted and she landed with her back to the ground and her world faded to black.

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Her eyes opened as the morning light hit her face. She looked around. She didn’t remember where she was. She knew that to mean her night had been a good one. There were bodies on the floor, passed out from the partying. She felt a sudden breeze and looked down. She was missing her undergarments.
The same song was still playing in the background.
Here comes the shame, here comes the shame.
She felt sore as she stood up. As she stepped out of the house and into the street she only felt one thing.
Shame.

Her Dreams (Part III)

Before you continue, read how it all started Her Dreams (Part I) and Her Dreams (Part II)

He advanced towards her, step by step. With each step he took towards her, she took a step backwards. Till she felt her back pressed to the wall. She looked around the room and wondered if this was how she was going to lose something she had held on to so tightly.
She spotted something shine in the light of the passing moon beside her. It was a table knife she realized as she reached for it. It was a bit dull but she would use pressure if she had to. She pointed the knife in his direction. The gleam in his eyes died as his smile faded.
“Wetin you wan use that knife do? You wan kill me?” He laughed anxiously.
“Just lemme, make I waka commot. I no wan do” she said as she inched toward him with the knife pointed at his chest.
He stepped back and reached for his towel which still lay on the floor without taking his eyes off her.
“Oya waka commot from my room” he hissed at her.
She made her way out without turning her back to him, keeping the knife pointed at his chest. She dropped the knife on the floor as soon as she crossed the threshold of his room and ran back to Sade’s room. She knocked as hard as she could without alerting the whole compound to her presence.
Sade opened it groggy-eyed. Biola jumped in as fast as she could. The customer was gone now. Biola explained everything that had happened as fast as she could. Sade stood there and listened to her and as soon as she was done, she burst into laughter.
“Sha sleep.” she said as soon as she was done laughing. “But tomorrow morning you go pack your load commot from my house, I no like this your kind wahala.”
Biola was speechless. She just took her usual sleeping position beside Sade and drifted off to sleep.
As soon as it was bright out, she rushed out of the house to seek a business center. She dialed the number she had memorized for no reason thinking she would never need it, but here she was calling someone she never thought she would.
He picked it on the third ring.
“Hello, who is this?”
“Good morning sir.” She said, her voice timid and seeking another way out. “it’s biola”.
“Ah, biola. I was expecting your call sooner. Have you thought about what I said?”
“Yes sir. Yes”
“Stop calling me sir, we are friends. Meet me by 12 at the address I gave you. Take a taxi. I’ll pay for it”
And with that she knew her fate was sealed. She went back to Sade’s place and packed the single bag she had come with. Sade was apparently surprised. Perhaps she had wanted her to beg. She took her bath, thinking about her choice every single moment.
She wore her only black skirt and one of the blouses she had been saving for her first audition. Sade just keeping staring at her while she moved about, dressing up and picking up her stuff.
“But girl, you sabi say I dey joke?” She said. “How I go chase you commot? Hehn? Where you go stay?”
“You never sabi say you dey joke before? Na when I don pack my load commot finish na in you sabi say you dey joke. I don commot”
And with that she picked up her bag and she left the house. It was a few minutes to 12 when she stepped out, she didn’t want to get there too early and at the same time she wanted a chance to back out if she could. Once she was inside the cab there was no going back. She couldn’t afford a taxi. Or even a bus to where she was going.
This is it she thought. She hailed a taxi and gave him the address. She didn’t bother to barter over the price. She wouldn’t know how much it cost anyways.
He was waiting for her outside the place. It looked like a hotel. Nothing too fancy but it would be better than any where she had stayed. He paid for the taxi as arranged, he didn’t even complained that the driver had charged too much.
He ushered her in with such speed and anticipation that her heart skipped several beats. The man at the reception didn’t even bat an eyelash at them. Meaning he was a regular.
As soon as they were inside his room, he locked the door, signaling a lack of an escape route. She was really going to do this. He started taking off his shirt, smiling as he looked at her. She thought of her mother as tears flowed from her eyes.
She didn’t know how much time passed but he gave a satisfied grin when he was done with her. The tears kept flowing.
“Biola, Biola, you have done me well. Sorry about the pain hehn. Oya take paracetamol and order anything you want from the hotel. You can even sleep here. Just come for the movie audition tomorrow. The part don sure you.” He said with another grin.
He went into the bathroom, came out a while later and dropped some Naira notes and was gone.
She got up and cleaned herself. She still felt filthy afterwards. She tried to eat but she had no appetite. She fell asleep thinking that at least her dreams would come true.
She barely slept at night and was up early for her first movie audition. No one else had considered her, saying she was an unknown face. And she had met Mr. Gbenga at one of the auditions. He said he had come to scout out potential talent for the movie he was producing and she looked like she belonged on billboards and in movies but first she had to give him what he wanted from her. After that she would be a super star. He would make sure of it.
She spotted the throngs of girls there also auditioning for the same role. She had the upper hand but she wouldn’t stop herself from acting her heart out. She had been the female lead in all the dramas acted in the village festivals for as long as she could remember.
Soon she was the one facing the panel. Mr Gbenga sat at the centre like the chairman that he was. She channelled her inner actress, picturing the world of the character, living her life and speaking her words. She opened her eyes as soon as she was done. The other two judges looked impressed but Mr. Gbenga’s had the same bored expression he had had on with all the other mediocre girls.
“I’m sorry but you’re not good enough for this role. Try your luck somewhere else.” Mr. Gbenga said with the same bored expression.
Her head exploded with the words she had just heard. She couldn’t move or talk. Her heart just kept beating, almost like it would shut down any time from now. She didn’t recall how she had moved off the center stage but she recalled looking back and seeing a woman walk in and greet mr. Gbenga. She recognized her, she was of those actresses she used to see on posters, but whom she had always thought she was better than.
Mr. Gbenga’s voice rang saying he had found the actress playing his lead role. She looked at them and their body language suggested intimacy. And with that she collapsed to the floor.

Rewa opened her eyes. She didn’t believe it had been five years from that day. The events of that day had changed her. She had changed her name to rewa. Sade had died on the floor that day. She had decided to use what she had to get what wanted, after all she had lost her dignity and everything that day. She did get her revenge on the producer and his precious actress. Sade had wanted back in her good books once she learnt her friend was famous. It hadn’t taken long to convince her to seduce the producer and then tape him. What she didn’t know was that she had planned to switch the tape with the movie he had produced. She had paid one of crew handsomely to switch it up and the movie had gone straight to the market. The producer had been ruined and bankrupted. Of course she had relocated Sade and paid her off. She had made it her personal mission to ensure that the actress never got another role, it didn’t matter who she had to sleep with. She could be very persuasive, she had picked up some tricks from Sade.
And now she was standing in front of all these people to accept the most prestigious award an actress in her shoes could ask for, all in five years. Hate was a powerful motivator. She straighten her crisp white dress and she turned to accept her award and give her speech. Out of the corner of her eye someone stood up in the audience, she thought it was just another adoring fan. She smiled, as he raised his hand and pointed his gun at her and fired two bullets into her chest before anyone could stop him. She hit the ground as her white gown became red in the hue of her blood.
Security held on to Mr. Gbenga as he dropped in the gun in his hand. Someone held some cloth to her bleeding wounds shouting words she couldn’t be bothered to listen to.
She smiled again. She had after all achieved her dreams.

Her Dreams (Part II)

Before you proceed, you should (if you haven’t) read the prologue Her Dreams (Part I) here

She felt a tap on her shoulders. She didn’t remember dozing off on the ground. The cold and the exhaustion must have helped her off. She took a moment to readjust to her new surroundings.
The events of the night came back in a rush. She dared not go back to Sade’s room. She looked up to see the person that had tapped her back to reality. It was one of Sade’s neighbors. An Igbo man with fair skin, a round head and a belly that preceded him. She never really paid any attention to him before. He was after all not on her list of priorities.
She couldn’t see his face clearly in the dark but she could feel he was smiling at her.
“I was dey come from the bathroom when I see say you dey sleep for ground.” He said, his accent thick on his words. “You and your sister fight?”
Abiola wasn’t however, in the mood to explain to him that Sade wasn’t her sister. She didn’t even know what Sade was to her now. She just nodded a reply to him.
“Sorry hehn, I get space for my room o, you fit come sleep there. I no like how you dey sleep for ground. Bia come inside”
Sade peeked her head through the doorway of the open room, it was quite spacious. Maybe because he didn’t have as much junk as Sade did. Or maybe his room was actually bigger. In truth the room was inviting. And the thought of a warm bed compared to the cold concrete compelled her in.
She picked the wrapper from the ground and made her way inside. She sat on the bed wondering if he would sleep on the soft carpeting on the floor. He dropped the bucket he had brought in from the bathroom in a corner of the room and turned to face her, his body still gleaming from the water that was on his body.
He kept adjusting the towel which hung loosely on his waist. And after a thought he let it fall to the floor.
“So how we go do this thing? You prefer bed or you wan do am for the carpet, we fit even stand, I be agile man. Cat way back no dey touch ground”
Abiola looked in horror at the sight in front of her. She hadn’t thought this had been his intention when he invited her into his room. His gentle manner had deceived her.
“Or you think say I no sabi wetin your sister dey do? I go even pay you extra sef”
She looked round the room for an exit but the only way out was through him and he was evidently ready for action. She was determined not to go down without a struggle even though it would prove fruitless.

Her Dreams (Part I)

She looked at herself in the mirror. Everything she wanted could be hers with just a phone call. She looked at herself again. Could she go through with it? The only thing she had to lose was her dream after all. Her dream or her dignity. Dignity would not feed her nor give her the life she wanted. But her mother had told her once, that her dignity would be all she had left when everything was gone.
She couldn’t pick out a top to wear – not like the decision mattered, all she had were the few tops she came to Lagos with and so she sat in front of the mirror in just her bra and the one black skirt she wore every time.
She was staying with one of the girls she knew who had left home years ago with her dream, in her one room apartment. She had never told her what she did but it wasn’t much seeing from the state of her life. She told herself every day that this was temporary.
Her friend – Sade – walked into the room then, with a man in tow. The guy gave her the once over with his eyes and she saw approval which disgusted her but still gave her a sense of pride. She hadn’t been the village beauty for nothing. Sade on the other hand had always envied her but she liked being known as the friend of ‘Arewa’
‘Arewa’ wasn’t her given name but it had stuck. She had been named Abiola and that was the name she used everywhere. She wasn’t only blessed with beauty, she had brains also. She had aced every one of those village classes and had always craved knowledge. She was literate and always practiced how to talk like the ‘City People’.
Sade’s voice snapped her back to the present.
“Rewa, Abeg I get customer.”
The look of recognition came into Abiola’s eyes. This was what her friend did for a living.
“I never bring customer since you don come here but I need the money.” Sade’s voice rang again.
“But Sade where will I go? I have no where else to go.”
“That one consign me? But you gan sef e never do?” She eyed her as she said it. “You don dey here for weeks I never collect one kobo from you, I never even ask you to commot house rent but still I dey tell you may you gimme one night make I do my work but you dey refuse, you be wicked friend”
And with that Sade bundled her out of the room, still in just her bra and her only black skirt. She locked the door behind her and threw a wrapper through the window.
She could hear her “customer” through the thin walls saying that she could have joined them and that he was willing to pay extra but Sade bluntly refused. Abiola sensed that it was the jealousy talking – not like she wanted to join them – as she laid herself down on the cold concrete in front of her room and covered herself with the flimsy wrapper that was thrown at her.
She made up her mind there and then that she would do whatever she could to achieve her dreams and that included saying yes in the morning. But first she had to make it through the night.

Read the next part here Her Dreams (Part II)