Daddy told me to stay, he said he would be back in a jiffy, I don’t know how long a jiffy is but I know quite a few jiffies have gone past since he left. The sun has set now but I’m still waiting, soon the street would be filled with the hoodlums mummy always warned me about. She always said “Amara, don’t go out at night else those hoodlums would do bad things to you” she never told me what the bad things were, she said they weren’t things a five years old should know about. I’m 12 now, I’ll be 13 soon, I don’t think daddy remembers, his memory has been a little faulty since mum died while giving birth to what would have been my younger brother. Daddy worked harder than ever after that, he took up drinking and gambling too, Aunty Moji says it’s his way of grieving. I hope he hasn’t forgotten about me, I’m getting scared. There’s a strange man across the street giving me funny looks; he gives me the chills. There’s still no sign of daddy, I want to go home but I don’t know the way, I don’t even know where I am. My social studies teacher said if I ever get lost I should stay where I am so that’s what I’d do. Maybe daddy is getting delayed at work.
A woman came up to me and asked for my name, she was so beautiful and exquisitely dressed that she could have walked out of a magazine. She asked what I was doing there so late and if I had parents. I told her my mother had died years back and my father told me to wait there for him. She said it was almost 11 and little girls shouldn’t be out by themselves at that time and this was a dangerous place with many bad men so I should go with her and by morning we would go searching for daddy. I didn’t want to leave in case daddy came back, he wouldn’t like me disobeying him and he’s had a terrible temper since mum died. But I was hungry and she didn’t take no for an answer so after much cajoling I left with her.
It was a long drive to her house, she told me her name was Priscilla and she had a son who was a little older than me. Her husband had died a few years ago like mum and she and her son had been left alone in the world. She didn’t look like she had a drinking or gambling problem so it couldn’t be so bad. I secretly wished it was dad who died and not mum. She said we would go to media houses and the police station in the morning, we would leave pictures of me and her phone number so my dad or anyone with relevant information would call. She said she was a business woman and often took long trips and she was on her way home from another one when she found me. I told her I was grateful and when I got back home I’d give a long testimony like the ones mummy Nduka always gave at church. She laughed and said I was a funny little girl, I didn’t know I had made a joke but I laughed anyway because it would be impolite not to and she had a funny laugh. Her house was almost as beautiful as her, it made my jaw drop to the ground, she laughed again and told me to wait until I see the inside of the house. It reminded me of a palace, mine and daddy’s house was beautiful but it looked like a mud hut compared to this mansion. I wanted to live there forever. She told the chef to make some food for me and went to get some clothes for me. She said she didn’t have a daughter but she was a small woman so her old clothes would fit me. She was right, they looked like they were made for me. I said thank you and she showed me to my room, told me to freshen up then go to bed.
The next morning I woke up feeling like I was still dreaming, the bed was perfect for me, everything in the room was, she had my soap, even the toothpaste I liked to use; if I didn’t know better I’d have said she already knew me. But they could be coincidences, surely mum wasn’t the only person who preferred those brands. After my bath I went down to meet her, I saw a young boy in the dining area, I guessed he was her son, he didn’t look a day older than 16 and she did say her son was just a little older than me. I greeted him and asked for his mum, he said she was waiting for me to finish my breakfast so we could run some errands. I ate quickly and he took me to her. She said we’d go to a photo studio first so we could get pictures of me to put in the dailies and submit at the police station.
The photo studio was grand, she must have paid a lot of money for it. The photographer looked like those fashion photographers on E! The pictures were amazing, I looked like an angel. We went to the media houses next, the workers had sympathetic looks and swore they’d do everything in their power to help. The police officers took the picture and said the same thing although theirs seemed more out of habit than sympathetic. Back at her house we sat down for lunch and she formally introduced me to her son; his name was Michael, that was the name I had given my younger brother. I didn’t tell them that though.
She said she’d be going on another business trip in two days, I wondered how she was going to help me find father if she was out of town. She said she’d leave some money and I and Michael could do whatever we wanted while she was away. The next day she took me shopping and made me take some more pictures, this time she said they were for preservation of memories. I thought it was a good idea, I’d certainly want to remember her. She started packing immediately we got back home, she said she’d be leaving first thing in the morning. She took photographs of me along with her, I assumed she planned to go to more media houses and police stations and put up fliers of me everywhere like in the movies.
She left before I woke up the next morning, Michael was staring down at me when I opened my eyes, he pulled me out of bed and into his room to play games on his play station, I told him I didn’t know how to play but be said it was okay, that he only needed someone to beat. Playing with him was fun, he made me wish I had an older brother. He asked me questions about my life, where I lived, and what school I went to, he said Lagos was far from where we were, he said we were in Calabar, I remembered that I and daddy had been driving for long when we got to the place he left me and a sign there did say Delta state but I thought it was just a marketing strategy. I asked him if his mother was always away, he said she was. Then he said he thinks my dad left me there on purpose and his mum finding me wasn’t a coincidence. I told him I didn’t understand. He took me to a room and showed me a file with my name on it, it had pictures of me I had taken back home and records of payments made to daddy, he said his mum sold younger girls to couples who needed children and girls my age to old men as wives or human traffickers who would take them abroad, never to be seen again. I had heard of things like this but I didn’t think they were true. I guess this is one of the bad things mother warned me about. He told me to relax and enjoy my last few days of being free and I shouldn’t try to escape or I would be killed. We spent the rest of the week playing games in his room, he let me win a few of them, when we got tired of playing, we would go down to the pool or out to the mall where we would go shopping and see a movie, he got me a charm bracelet, he said it was good luck. I didn’t think my luck would get better.
At the end of the week his mother came home, she said she had found my father and we would go to him immediately, I started to believe in the power of my bracelet. She and Michael helped me pack and when I gave him a goodbye hug I had a feeling I’d never see him again. We drove to the airport where some men in a private jet were waiting for me, she said they were her friends and they would take me to father, I wanted to believe her but I could tell she was lying. I went with the men and after an hour of flying we landed in a place I knew wasn’t Lagos, the screens that displayed flight information all said “Abj to …” so I knew I was in Abuja, I asked them when I was going to see father and they said “soon enough.” We got into a car and they said we’d be driving to Nasarawa, I knew we weren’t going to see father. When we arrived at our destination, all the women called me the new wife, they took me to a room and dressed me up like a bride, then we went to the wedding hall. I saw a man sitting there who was dressed like a groom but he was far too old, I guessed he was the father of the groom, rather, I wanted to believe he was the father of the groom. The ceremony was quick and the women took me to a room that looked like a honeymoon suite. They told me to sit on the bed and wait for my husband and that I should be a good wife. I didn’t know how to be a good wife, I was barely a good daughter. The man came into the room later on, he tore off my clothes and did the same to his, he had an evil glint in his eyes and the fear in mine seemed to fuel his passion. He put his boy parts in me and I blacked out, from the pain or disgust or both.