KNOCKOUT

Her thin slow beep comes on as she tucks herself into bed. She groans and stretches for the phone. She clicks on the message. “What?” She says excitedly. Veronica rolls on the bed. She covers her mouth with her hand. Seeing Veronica is still asleep, she sighs, smiles, and drops her phone. 

_______________________________________________ Veronica yawned and stretched as she opened her eyes. “Rita,” She called. 

“Sister, good morning. You are awake,” Rita replied. 

“Yes, I am awake because all your rattling wouldn’t let me sleep. Why are you up so early? And why are dressed? Where are you going to?” 

“Veronica, all these questions this early morning,” Rita responded and turned to Veronica. 

Veronica gave her a surprised look. 

“Ahh, sorry o, Sister Veronica,” Rita jokingly corrected herself and they burst into a laugh. After some seconds of laughing, “Well…I’m going for an interview and they said to be there before 8. And you know I have to win against Lagos traffic to be there on time. “ Rita explained. 

“See my baby girl o. Ehen, what interview is that?” Veronica asked. 

“Well, you know I’ve been applying to be a host, and yesterday this show noticed me so I guess this is it,” Rita replied as she packed her things into her bag. 

“What show?” Veronica inquired. 

Rita put her hair behind as she bent to pick her shoes. “It’s a new game show called ‘knockout’.” 

“Knockout? I have not heard of it before,” Veronica said and climbed out of bed. 

Rita put her shoes in a nylon bag. “Yes, it’s new. I’m going to be among the first hosts they will be interviewing for their show.”

“Are you sure about this?” Veronica asked with a worried look. 

“Definitely. Wait let me show you something,” Rita said as she brought out her phone from her bag, she unlocked it, swiped left and right, and went over to sit with her sister. 

“This is the address,” She and Veronica stared into the phone. Rita took it and swiped again, “This is the flier with the people who own the show in it,” Rita said smiling. 

Veronica tried to smile, “Yea, it looks legit but I don’t know, Rita.”

“Come on Sis. I know you are worried about me but I’m a grown woman and I can take care of myself and besides I’m chasing my dreams,” Rita assured her. 

“Yes you are,” Veronica chuckled. 

“Okay we’ll do it like this, once I get to the place I’ll call you. I’ll video call you so you can see the place,” Rita suggested. 

“You promise?” Veronica asked. 

“Cross my heart. Hope to die.” They both giggled. 

“Oya come and be going before you go late. After all, there is nothing I’ll say that’ll make you change your mind,” Rita said. 

“Nothing o,” Rita voiced as she stood up. She picked up her things and headed for the door. She opened it, “Bye big sis,” and then shut it. 

“Bye, call me,” Veronica yelled. She sighed and went back to bed. 

“And then four hours later…,” Veronica tells her fiancé. 
_______________________________________________ Veronica entered her boss’s office with some folders, and as she stepped in, the folders fell from her trembling hands and she held on to the doorway. 

Her boss and his secretary looked in her direction. “Veronica?” Her boss called. 

“I’m sorry,” Veronica apologized and squatted to pick the folders up. The secretary joined her. 

“Are you okay?” The secretary asked her. 

“I’m fine, Chioma. I just felt dizzy. That’s all,” Veronica responded. 

“Are you sure?” Chioma insisted. 

Veronica nodded. 

“Go to the sickbay. I’ll give these to him and bring them back to you, okay?” Chioma told her. 

“Really?” Veronica asked. Chioma nodded, smiling. They stood up. 

“Go on,” Chioma urged her. 

“Excuse me, Sir,” Veronica managed to say out. 

“Okay, Veronica,” her boss replied. Veronica walked out of his office. 

_______________________________________________
“I didn’t see her calls or even a video call. I thought it was nothing. And then I went home, she wasn’t there. Her number was switched off so I thought maybe her battery was flat. So I decided to wait but then I fell asleep. I woke up and she wasn’t still back. 4 am and my baby wasn’t back. That’s unlike Rita. That’s why I freaked out and came here. You have to help me,” Veronica expresses in tears. 

“Hey, hey, hey, hey, don’t do this, okay? Calm down. Don’t cry,” Kachi consoles her as he dries her tears with his hand and hugs her. “You know the address, don’t you?” Kachi asks her. Veronica nods. 

“Good, so we will wait till it’s a little bit bright, then we will go,” he tells her. 

Veronica breaks off from the hug. “A little bit bright?” She asks furiously. “What if something happens to her?” She yells, “I’m not waiting for when it’s a little bit bright. I’m not planning to marry a soldier if I have to wait till it’s a little bit bright to take important actions. Besides, it’ll be a little bit bright by the time we get there. We are going now.”

Kachi is shocked. “Okay, I’m sorry. We are going now,” Kachi says calmly. 

“Good,” and she storms out of the house. 

_______________________________________________
“Something is wrong with her. Something is wrong with my sister, Kachi. I can feel it,” Veronica says, sadly and lowly. 

Kachi glances at her and faces the road. “Baby, she’s fine, trust me. We are going there to get her, and hopefully as a new employee. You’ll see,” he assures her. Veronica folds her arms and looks away. 

The day is already getting brighter. Veronica slowly sits upright. “What’s happening there?” She asks. 

“Where?” He replies as he passes the scene where people are gathered by the roadside. 

“Stop, stop, stop,” she urges him. 

Kachi brings the car to a halt. “What is it?” He asks. 

“I want to see what’s going on,” she tells him. 

“But baby, you can’t just stop in a place you don’t know to join bystanders,” he advises her. 

“I don’t feel comfortable. I feel like we should check it out, please,” she pleads. 

Kachi sighs, “Fine but we won’t take long, all right?” Veronica nods. 

They approach the crowd, they try to see what is drawing their attention. Veronica manages to see through; from the legs to the hand, the twin bracelet. She froze; feeling nauseous and dizzy as flashing lights cover her vision. 

“Veronica, Veronica,” she faintly hears Kachi’s voice. She blacks out. 

_______________________________________________
She put on her heels and knocked on the gate. “Who is there?” The gateman asked. 

“I’m here for the interview.”

The gate opened and she entered. 

“Good morning,” she greeted. 

“Good morning,” the gateman responded. “Welcome. Just go into the building, you’ll be attended to,” he instructed her. 

“Thank you,” she greeted, smiling. 

She cat-walked into the building still smiling with confidence. She scanned the beautiful interior and also saw some girls being led into different doors. 

“Hi, may I help you?” A voice cut her scanning. She looked at him; tall, handsome, and well built. 

“I’m Rita. I’m here for Knockout’s interview,” still smiling. 

“I’m Julius. The boss’s PA,” Julius introduced himself. “

“Nice to meet you,” Rita said. 

“Nice to meet you too. Can I see your CV?” Julius asked. 

Rita reached for her file, she brought out a paper and handed it to him. Julius rushed through it. 

“Nice,” he remarked. 

“Hope there’s no problem?” Rita asked nervously. 

“No, not at all. They saw it before calling you here and I think your CV is impressive.” 

He smiles. 

“Follow me,” he orders. 

Rita followed him through a door. It’s an office. 

“Sit,” Julius told her as he took a seat at the other side of the table. He pressed a sanitizer into his palms and rubbed his two palms together. Two casually dressed men entered. Rita looked back. “So who did you tell about your movement?” Julius asked and Rita faced him. 

Unsuspectingly, “my sister,” she responded. 

Julius took a pen and tried to write. 

“So where does your sister live?” He demanded. 

With a nervous laugh, “why would you want to know that?” 

The man of her left landed a backhand slap on her cheek. Rita screamed and another slap landed on her right cheek. Rita burst into tears, “what did I do?” 

Julius indicated with his head. One cupped his hand over her mouth, while the other twisted her hands behind her. Rita moaned painfully as they dragged her out of the chair. Julius stood up and began to undress. Rita’s eyes widened in shock as she understood what was about to go down. Rita struggled with the powerful men as they forcefully and firmly laid her on the table. Julius picked up a black box and took out a pair of scissors. He faced Rita with a devilish smile. 

Rita, with all the strength she could muster vehemently wriggled her body but she couldn’t break free. Julius bent over her, and he slowly cut open her dress from bottom to top. Tears fell down Rita’s eyes. 

Sans pity, “I’m sorry you honored Knockout’s invitation,” Julius told her as he climbed on her. 

_______________________________________________
Veronica opens her eyes. Kachi rushes to her side in the bed. 

“You are awake,” he utters. She looks at him, “it wasn’t a dream, was it?” She asks with a pale countenance. 

Kachi shakes his head. 

Veronica stares at him. 

“My colleagues went to the house. There was no one there. We are still on the search hunt.” 

Tears fall from Veronica’s eyes but she doesn’t blink. She rubs the bracelet on her wrist. 

“There’s something you should know,” Kachi continues. Veronica doesn’t take her eyes off him. 

“She was raped,” Kachi reveals. 

Veronica gasps, her mouth opens in shock and she starts breathing fast. 

Kachi grabs her, “Stay with me, baby. Don’t go off on me again.”

“My baby, my poor baby. They treated her like an animal. They didn’t just rape her but they left her for me without a head. You’re going to find them. You’re going to find them,” Veronica sobs. 

Kachi embraces her, “I will, my love. I will”. 

INTENSE

We were laughing hard at his joke, and then she walks in. I look towards her and the laugh ceases. I become irritated on the seat as she walks over to kiss him. She gives me a bad look as she sits by his side. 

Feeling uneasy, I get up, “Sir I’ll leave now. Call me when you need me,” I say to him. 

“All right Sandy,” he replies smiling, that always gives me cold chills. 

I pick up my tablet, steal a glance at her and hurriedly leave the room. 

I sigh immediately I close the door behind me. 

I can’t explain but I always feel choked whenever I’m with my boss and she comes around. The way she even looks at me doesn’t make things easier. 

Twenty minutes later we are at the meeting I was discussing with him earlier on before she walked in on us and I am not surprised she is here too. Why does she always have to be all over him? She should let him breathe, she isn’t the first to have a rich guy for a fiancé. 

But what’s my business? Why do I care? It’s their life. 

Oh, Sandy stop this and focus. 

I cough softly using my left hand to cover my mouth as I raise my right hand up. All eyes turn to me. 

“Excuse me, I need to use the restroom,” I get up without waiting for a response and I quickly walk out of the room. I stop outside the door to catch my breath but as I hear another chair sound, I hurry to the restroom. 

I rinse my face and look into the mirror, “Oh my goodness,” I said in shock seeing him stand behind me. 

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you,” he apologises taking my hand. I stylishly pull my hand away, dropping the napkin on the hand basin. 

“It’s all right Sir. I’m fine,” I say as I gaze intently into his face. 

“That’s your problem,” he utters. 

“What is?” I ask in a curiously calm manner. 

“You can look me in the eye when it’s just you and me but not when I’m with Jennifer. Why is that so?”

Woah, that question hit me hard. I wasn’t expecting it. How do I answer this? Thinking to myself as I scratch my head. 

“Sandy,” 

“Sir”

He gives me a quizzical look. 

I stammer, “It’s nothing serious. Just that I…,” 

He cuts me short, “Is it what I think it is?” He asks with that charming smile. 

Confused, “What do you think it is?” I ask him as my heart races. 

Still smiling, “that you li…,” immediately the door comes open and her head pops in. 

We turn to her and he exhales a sigh. 

“Baby, what are you doing? They need you. Come,” she says stretching her hand forward. 

He shakes his head and points at me, “We are not done with this conversation,” he tells me as he moves towards Jennifer. I swallow hard as my mind runs in circles. “Hope he hasn’t figured out?” I mutter to myself. 

Catch Me

My eyes flickered as I tried to open them. 

I paused. What was that? A floating hand was by the right side of my bed. As my heart raced, I closed my eyes again forming in mind that it was just a dream. I gently opened my eyes but it was still there. Motionless. 

I got up slowly and then, it turned swiftly to me like it had been waiting for me to wake up. I let out an audible gasp as I moved backwards. 

It jumped on me and I let out a deafening scream. 

I screamed until I woke up panting. 

With a feeling of nervousity in my bones, I slowly searched my room with my eyes and in a flash the hand jumped right at me. 

I let out a sharp shrilling cry. It struggled to cover my mouth as I made efforts to resist it. 

He stopped struggling and turned away, then back to me again. He ascended and as fast as lightning he charged towards me with its pointing fingers. 

“noooooooooooooooooooo,” I screamed with my eyes closed. 

And with a spasmodic jerk, I woke up panting, drenched in my own sweat. 

Disallow

“You may kiss the bride,” the Priest passed freely. 

Without hesitation, the couple kissed and the congregation or should I say the five persons they had invited, cheered. 

Feeling uneasy, Uloma got up from the back where she had been seated watching the whole thing. She knelt with one knee as she made the sign of the cross. She got up, kissed her Holy Rosary and made to leave the church. The worried look on her face was conspicuous. 

“Uloma,” a loud voice startled her as she got to the narthex. 

Uloma looked down and saw her standing there, she held herself from spitting on her. She just gave her the bad eyes. 

“Uloma eeeeh. Is this how you are?” 

“Adanma, Ogini? What is it ehhh? Why are you shouting my name like that? Don’t you know that this is the house of God?” Uloma retorted. 

“House of God gba g’oku there,” Adanma returned. “So after warning you to tell your son to stay away from my daughter, you didn’t yield instead you allowed your son to stupidly lead my daughter to this altar. To think you even passed by my shop this morning and you didn’t deem it wise to let me know, okwa ya?” with an evil temper. 

“Look at you. So you think I was invited. Well unlike you, I found out about it and I honored the event in ‘peace’. But here you are raving like a madwoman. I don’t have time to exchange words with you. I’m leaving,” Uloma said and pushed her aside. 

“You’re leaving, right? Okay. Where is that son of yours?” screamed Adanma as she turned and started marching down the aisle to the altar. 

The couple turned to see her when they heard the screams. 

Fear crippled the bride. 

“You won’t touch my son, you witch,” Uloma yelled as she went after Adanma. 

“Did you tell her anything?” Ebube asked his bride. 

She directed her attention to him and in surprise, “of course not. How can you ask me that?” Kelechi responded. 

“Then how did she find out?” Ebube asked again. 

“I don’t know. How did your mother find out too?” Kelechi asked as her ire had been aroused. 

“I’ll kill you both today,” Adanma threatened as she drew closer. 

She made to seize Kelechi but a hand pulled Kelechi away and dragged her towards the vestry. 

“Chibuzor,” Adanma roared. 

“This girl won’t kill me.” Immediately she grabbed Ebube by the collar, “you dared me, this boy. Ebube, you dared me,” she vociferated as she choked him by pulling his tie continuously. 

“Mummy,” Ebube managed to call out as he choked. 

“Let go of my son, witch,” Uloma struggled with her till Adanma let go of her son. 

Still fuming, she ran off to where Kelechi had gone to. 

“Thank you mother,” Ebube uttered. Uloma eyed him from his head to his toe as she let out a deafening hiss. 

Knowing the exact room they were in, she walked up to the door and banged on it. 

“Kelechi, Chibuzor, open this door right now,” she ordered. 

Chibuzor looked upon her elder sister who was sitting on the floor with her wedding dress. They could hear their own heartbeats. 

“Open this door now,” she shouted behind the door. 

“No mother. I will not open this door and I’m not coming out of this place,” Kelechi found her voice. 

Adanma chuckled, ”so you girls have now grown to defy my orders. Kelechi, I ordered you not marry any man at all; rich or poor, dead or crippled but you went ahead to marry Ebube. Chim o, you’ve killed me,” she whined. 

“Why do you always think we should let you ruin our lives because you say so. We do every single stupid thing you’ve asked of us. Mother, I have not offended you in any way. I only got married to the man I love…”

“Shut up your mouth. Lover girl. I got married to the man I love,” Adanma mimicked her. 

“Yes mother, I am now Ebube’s wife and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Kelechi stated unapologetically. 

Adanma banged on the door more furiously, startling the girls. She couldn’t stand their insolence. 

“If you like break the door, I’m not coming out of here,” Kelechi vocalized. 

“Mother, we can all talk this out. Just calm down. See, Ebube is a nice guy; he’s intelligent, caring, well to do, handsome and above all, he loves sister,” Chibuzor added. 

“Shut up that stinking mouth of yours. What do you know about love, little girl?” Adanma riposted. 

“Okay o, all-knowing Mother Oracle, you will sleep out there this night. I’m not saying anything again,” Chibuzor stated as she joined her sister on the floor and held her hands. 

“And until you conceive vividly that all your reasons for always hurting us are useless, we are going to remain locked in here. If we die, we die at least it’s better than spending another minute with you,” Kelechi said as she looked into Chibuzor’s eyes. She squeezed her palms and they smiled. 

The thing

Neatly dressed but with an appearance sans colour, she stepped out of the keke, took a deep breath and exhaled. 

She stood on the side of the road waiting to cross to the other side. 

“Do you think you really need to be there?” He asked her. 

Slowly, she turned her head to her left, “Excuse me?” 

He chuckled, “Why are you going there?” He asked signalling with his head to the gym on the other side. 

“Because that’s where I work,” she responded. 

“No, that’s where you’ll die.” 

Flummoxed, she turned to him fully, “What are you talking about?” 

“Enough with the pretentious act. I can see your soul leaving your body gradually and I’m certain you can feel it. They are poisoning you slowly. If don’t act fast, you’d be the next to die there,” he warned. 

“I have people I need to train and you’re delaying me,” she said as she made to cross. 

“Do you want to die?” He asked. 

“We are all going to die one day,” she declared as her heart raced. 

“But not if you have the chance to save yourself. Why are you letting them do this? Listen, you owe them nothing. They gave you a job and trained you. They’ve changed your life but that doesn’t mean they own you and that definitely doesn’t mean they can take your life too. Or do you want to die in someone else’s arms as Tipsy did in yours?” He questioned. 

She shut her eyes and flashes of Tipsy filled her mind; Tipsy had come out of the pool and as she handed the towel to her, smiling, Tipsy fell on her, dead. 

He could see her quivering body. 

“I can help you escape what’s coming,” he revealed to her. 

“It’s useless. I don’t have much time left. Besides, they’re watching my every move. I’ll be dead before I even get to wherever my safe haven might be,” she informed him. 

“If you leave now, you’d have every chance in this world to save you. Let me help you, Chinaza,” he stated as he took her hand in his. 

Hearing her real name for the first time in three years, she turned to face him again, “Okay.” 

He smiled contentedly and handed over the bottle he was holding.

“What is this?” 

“Palm oil for a start.”

And with shaky hands, she took it from him. 

With a grin, he glanced at a jwindow in the tall gym building and with her hand in his, he led her away. 

The Switch Room

Startled, she turns around as the gate opens. Her eyes lock into theirs as they stare at each other, she in fear. 

“Kaima, what are you doing standing outside? It’s been over fifteen minutes since Muna said he was coming to get you,” her mother asks her. 

“Same thing I’ve been asking her. I came out to get her only to find her sitting here and she has refused to come in,” Muna explains. 

Kaima’s mother looks at her husband as he stares at Kaima speechlessly. 

“So because you burnt her workshop you want to banish yourself, right?” Her mother asks with a stern look. 

Kaima bends her head in shame while her mother’s face loosens up and she takes Kaima’s hand into hers. 

“My darling, the damage has been done. Thank God nobody was killed. So we are not going to turn you away because of a mistake. We’re going to stand by you whatever happens. So let’s go in,” she enunciates. 

“I warned you against going to work there. I told you to stay home and wait for your service but no, you wanted to be an independent girl overnight as if I ever complained taking care of you was a big deal,” her father finally verbalized. 

“Honey,” her mother uttered. “You can’t talk to her like that. She’s going through a traumatic time now and doesn’t need all these from you, please. Come in my baby,” she states as she widely opens the gate and leads Kaima into the house. 

“I went into the switch room to turn on the switch like I’ve been doing for the last five days after I had been taught how to turn on and off the switches. It’s confusing but I know I’m always cautious when turning them on and off. So today, I went to turn on the water switch for the washing and I’m so sure I turned on the right switch. But then the water started flowing into the room instead. It mingled with the engines, they sparked and in a twinkle of an eye, there was a fire in the room and I had to run out,” Kaima narrates to the Policemen who had arrived twenty minutes later and were seated around the dining table with her mother, father, younger sister and brother. 

“So you’re saying you didn’t start the fire, Miss? But you just said the switches are confusing,” the IPO asks. 

“I’m saying I didn’t start the fire intentionally,” Kaima replies. 

“IPO, you heard her narration. Maybe something must have loosened up to make it go wrong,” her mother states and her husband touches her in a bid to silence her. 

The IPO admonishes Kaima’s mother and proceeds to give his inference. 

“You’ll either work voluntarily for your boss for two years or you’ll pay for the switch room in 6 months. It all depends on you. I expect to see you at the station tomorrow to learn about your decision.”

“No,” Kaima says and everyone turns to look at her. 

“No what?” the IPO catechizes. 

“No, I won’t come tomorrow because I already have my answer. I’ll work for her.” 

“Fine then,” the IPO says as he gives Kaima the required document to sign while her father watches in dismay and her mother with sadness and pity. 

“I’m so sorry sis,” Cheta says while she consoles her sister as they all sit in the sitting room talking about what had just happened. 

“Kaima,” a voice says and everyone turns to look at him. 

“What?”, Kaima asks her youngest brother. He hands over the phone he’s holding to her, she receives the phone and sees it’s Cheta’s phone. 

“What am I suppose to do with it?”

“Read what’s written on the screen,” he tells her. 

Seeing Cheta’s reaction, Kaima becomes eager to read what is displayed on the screen. 

As she reads through, her face turns red in anger and she looks up at Cheta in fury. 

“How dare you, Cheta?” She says standing up quickly and moving to hit her but her mother obstructs her. 

“What’s wrong Kaima?” She demands. Kaima presents the phone to her mother who in turn gives it to her father and the disgust they felt at that moment is visible on their faces. 

“Cheta,” her father calls out. 

“So you sabotaged me. You tampered with the switch room and made me burn that place so I could seem like the bad person. My own sister. Imagine her friend is even her accomplice. Why Cheta? Why would you offer to talk to your boss about giving me a job and then turn around to betray me?”

“Will you start talking now or I will give you the beating of your life. Answer her, she’s talking to you,” their father thunders. 

As she shakes all over with fear, “Kaima is a graduate and immediately she got to my workplace, she found favour in the eyes of my boss. Why does she always have to get better things?” Cheta explains sobbing. 

Their mother shakes her head in sudden disappointment as she sits down and watches. 

“You disappoint me Cheta. I had high hopes in you,” her father says. 

Everyone becomes silent for a while. 

“I think you’d have to report her to her boss so they’d give her the punishment she deserves,” Muna suggests breaking the silence. 

“No please, Sister Kaima, I’m sorry I allowed my emotions to get the best of me. I’m truly sorry, please,” Cheta apologizes as she gets on her knees. 

Kaima sits down and remains silent for a while and everyone gazes at her as they wait for her to speak.  

“I’ll do as I have told the Police. And as for you Cheta, I’m cutting you out of my life.” Cheta’s eyes widen in shock. “I don’t want to see or talk to you for as long as I can be able to assimilate what you’ve done. Mum, Dad, I’ll be in my room.” 

With that, she stands up and leaves the room. Their mother and Muna turns to look at Cheta as she sits in the chair with regrets. 

Junior Exams!

“Calm down kids. We are going to be fine,” Miss Lisa told her students.

“Miss, how can you tell us to calm down? We are terrified,” Benita stated.

“Yes Miss. We can’t help but be scared because we don’t even know what these people will do to us.” Femi added. “What if they kill us?”

“Let’s not center our minds on negative thoughts. I’d advise you all to pray instead, you have to show them you are strong and don’t let your fears make you vulnerable,” Miss Lisa impelled the children.

“Miss, I didn’t sign up for this when I decided to write my junior exams. What will my mother do?” Lucas another student said amidst tears. 

“So I signed up for this, right? Come on kids it’s nobody’s fault that we were all kidnapped from the bus that was conveying us to the exam center. So I’ll recommend you all stop whining and pray,” she told them.

Lucas turned around to see the expressions of his classmates; there were 27 students in the room they were locked in. He directed his eyes to his teacher and imagined she could just be as scared as they were but was trying to be the adult.

Benita entwined her arms around her legs as she mumbled words of prayers. She wasn’t ready to leave her parents or her brothers. What would happen to her loving family if anything happened to her? Would they be sad and mourn her for a long time or would they forget her after a while? She thought. 

Lucas was the only son of his mother; she had used all her savings to register him for the junior exams. What was she going to do if she lost her only son that was going to take her out of poverty and who will look after her when she becomes old? He closed his eyes and tried to imagine the answers to his questions but he couldn’t.

Femi had always been quiet and didn’t really relate well with his mates. But he didn’t really care what happens to them on this boat, in this sea. At least, he’d be able to get away from his abusive step-father. 

The children were all lost in their anxious thoughts when the door came open and one of the men who had taken them hostage came in.

“Get up, all of you and move,” he roared.

The children rose to their feet and moved out of the room into the hands of mean looking men who compelled them to enter a boat. 

They realized they were in a place different from their city. They got into the boat; their eyes caught the sight of a man who seemed to be the leader and although he was a very handsome man, he appeared to be extremely vicious. The engine came on and the boat made to move but then who was it that appeared behind him? As she kissed the handsome man, it became clear that it was no other than their own Miss Lisa.

Toy store

“Mum, I like that one,” 4 year old Zainab said pointing to a doll that was nearly hidden on the shelf.

“I want the one close to it,” her elder sister Amina stated.

Ejiro looked closely at the dolls and saw they appeared uncanny.

“Of all the beautiful dolls in this toy shop, these are the ones you girls want?” she asked them.

“Yes mom,” the replied in unison. 

“I think you girls are not getting any dolls and I am sure your elder sister is going to get a better doll,” she told the girls.

“Mom, mom,” a voice came calling from the other side of the shelf.

“What is it?” Ejiro asked her eldest daughter.
Monsurat dragged her by the hand, “Come and see the doll I want.”

“I told you girls,” she said to the little ones as she followed Monsurat to the shelf where the doll she wanted was.

“That’s it,” she indicated as they got to the spot.

Ejiro’s smile disappeared immediately as she beheld the ugliest looking doll.

“What is wrong with all of you?” she asked furiously.

The girls cowered in fear.

She turned and saw the employees leering at her. She didn’t want them to think she was a bad mother but still didn’t want her children to get those hideous dolls. Girls of their age love colorful and pretty dolls.

“Fine, you girls should pick your preferred dolls,” she told them smiling.

The girls’ faces lit up, they hugged her and ran to take the dolls from the shelves.

“How much are these dolls?” Ejiro asked the cashier at the counter.

Smiling, “What dolls ma’am?” the cashier asked her.

Ejiro scoffed, “The ones my girls are holding.”
Still smiling, the cashier asked, “Ma’am, are you trying to toy with me?” 

“Young lady, I think you’re the one who is trying to toy with me here and I don’t like it.”

“But I don’t see any dolls with your girls,” the cashier replied.

Ejiro sighed, “Sweeties, hold up the dolls so she can see them very well,” Ejiro asked her girls and they did.

The cashier became uneasy, “Lucy, please come,” she called out to her colleague.

“Yes, what is it?” her colleague asked.

“This lady says her children are holding dolls but I can’t see any,” the cashier explained.

Lucy looked at Ejiro and then the kids, “I don’t see any doll either.”

Ejiro expired and looked at her girls; put out her hands to feel the dolls. She could see and feel it.

“Monsurat, Amina, Zainab, what are the colors of the dolls you’re holding?” she demanded.

“Black,” Monsurat said.

“Black,” Amina said.

“Black,” Zainab said too.

Immediately, all the lights went off and dark clouds filled the air. The employees screamed in fear. The kids panicked and Ejiro’s heart thumped.

Three dark shadows came into sight and walked toward them. As the shadows drew closer, Ejiro held her children close but a strong force pulled her and flung her into one of the shelves.

“Mom,” her kids cried out.

“You have trespassed and you will pay,” the shadows said and their voices echoed. The shadows touched the girls; they faded away, the cloud disappeared and the lights were restored.

“Noooooooooooo. Not my babies,” Ejiro screamed as she ran to the spot where they had stood. 

The store employees, still mystified couldn’t move.

Shift

I tried to control my emotions as she, with nimble fingers poured tea into our cups and served our toast. My solicitude over her grew as I couldn’t digest all I had just seen minutes ago.


Two hours ago, I had seen my mother dressed to leave the house and it was surprising because I and my siblings never get to know she left the house because she never told us whenever she wanted to go out even if it was to get something for the house and for that reason we never knew when she left the house. Ever since our father transited to the other side, we became a dysfunctional family.


Today I woke up early and was just in time to see her serve breakfast and leave almost immediately dressed for work and that surprised me. I could swear my mother rarely went out talk more of working and that always made me wonder how she had enough money to take care of us or go out to buy stuffs if at all she had the money.


“Maybe she wanted to do some shopping,” I said to myself and then I saw our cat run from the other side of the dining table to the kitchen. In a bid to play with it, I followed it to the kitchen and I was paralyzed by what I beheld.


It slowly transformed to my mother, pulled her hair back and tied it. She turned around to see if anyone was looking, and when she was convinced no one was looking, she smiled satisfyingly. As she walked toward the kitchen door, I found the bodily capacity to flee and hide under the dining table. She walked to my elder sister’s room to wake her up and immediately I ran upstairs to pretend I was still sleeping. After some minutes she came to me and my brother’s room and as usual she woke us up sweetly like we were always woken up in the mornings. Now I understood why mum was sweet in the mornings and harsh in the evenings; even if we didn’t talk much, she tried to make us feel good in the morning. I pretended to sluggishly wake up.


“It’s time for breakfast sweeties. Wash your mouth and come down to have your breakfast,” she said smiling.


“Okay mum,” my younger brother said as he hurried to the bathroom to wash his mouth.


I didn’t get down from the bed and I could feel her stares piercing into my body so I looked at her.


“What are you waiting for, young man?” she asked me with a stern look.


I grudgingly got down from the bed and walked to the bathroom. I opened the door to peep as she left the room.


“Clement, aren’t you going to eat your breakfast?” She or should I say Cat mum asked me.


“I will,” I said forcing a smile.

With my shaky hands and a mind cognizant of what was happening, I picked the cup and brought it to my lips but I couldn’t drink out of it.


I looked up from the cup to look at my bother and sister’s face, oblivious of what was happening, they cheerfully ate their breakfast. I was torn between telling them what I had seen and keeping quiet because I deemed our cat was a sweeter mum.

Mom’s motel

“Mum, mum, I’m back,” I called out when I entered the house. Surprisingly, the door was open and that was unlikely. 

My eyes widened in astonishment as I walked into my room. My things were not there anymore and the walls were painted white. I couldn’t grasp the meaning of what my eyes were seeing.

“Hello,” I heard a voice say so I turned back to see who it was.

I glared at her for a while because I had not seen her before and I wondered what she was doing in my room.

“Hi, who are you?” I demanded.

She smiled, “I’m Victoria and you?”

“That’s not important. What are you doing in my house and in my room?” I asked her. 

She walked over to the bed, dropped what she was holding and sat down, “Your room? I don’t know what you are talking about. This is a motel and I paid to stay here for a few days.”

I swallowed hard, “What do you mean by a motel?”

She sighed, “Young lady, you’re disturbing me, the sign is outside. You should go check it out or talk to the owner,” she said dismissing me.

My heart raced and many things went through my mind. What if my mother had sold my dad’s house but how could she without telling me? I rushed outside to look for the sign and there it was, boldly indicated on the signpost. I was so steamed up so I rushed to find the owner. 

“Excuse me, where can I find the owner of this place?” I asked a young man I saw as he was about to enter the compound.

He directed me to the office and I proceeded to find the owner.

Mum saw me as I stepped in and she rushed to hug me with excitement, I hugged her in return. I could see she was so happy to see me but right now, I wasn’t.

“Amanda, you didn’t tell me you were coming back today.”

“And you didn’t tell me you were selling my father’s house for your stupid motel. So save your pretense mum,” I angrily told her.

“You won’t talk to me like that young lady, you’ll show me some respect. Has that boarding school loosened some nuts in your head?”

“Of course it has. Imagine coming into your father’s house to see everything changed and some strange lady living in your room. That drove me insane. I’m sure John and Lucy’s room would have been converted too,” I bitterly complained. “How could you mum? You know how much this house means to us and all the memories we have here.”

My mum wasn’t looking tough anymore. Her face grew pale and she left me and went to sit on the desk.

“You don’t understand Amanda and that’s why I didn’t tell you. I have you and your siblings to take care off. I also found out your father incurred some debts before he died so I’m trying everything possible to raise money to clear his debts and take care of you guys. I’m out of options, this is the only choice I have,” my mother sadly explained.

“No, this isn’t your only option. You should have gotten a job but no lazy women don’t,” and with that I ran out of her office and out of the compound to my friend’s house who I hadn’t seen for a long time.

Tears streaked down my cheeks as I walked back to the motel. I couldn’t help but feel bad about all Jake had said to me. He was right; I shouldn’t have spoken to my mum like that. I guess I let my emotions take the best of me. What kind of a daughter was I?

I cleaned my wet eyes when I saw my mum in front of the gate; she was sharing flyers to create awareness for her motel. I walked up to her but she didn’t turn to look at me.

I went on my knees and held her skirt, “Mum, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to talk to you like that. I know you’re doing your best for us because you love us. I’m so sorry for speaking to you like that,” I pleaded and begged my mum with hot tears streaking down my tears.

Mum turned to look at me, “It’s okay my baby. I’m not mad at you. I expected it. I love you and I forgive you. Now get up, people are staring,” she said as she helped me up and hugged me.

She wiped my eyes and I collected some flyers from her so I could help her share them. She smiled at me and I swore in my heart that I never want to be the reason that smiles disappeared.