A young African maid narrates her story. This is the first draft.
|I’ve always wondered about anniversaries.
Birthdays, wedding anniversaries, death anniversaries. Birthdays, most especially. Maybe I’m particular about it because I never celebrated one, or because it took a very long time before I even knew what a birthday was. Either way, I wasn’t terribly awed with the idea of commemorating something that had happened years back every day for the rest of my life. Nothing could be that special.
I was wrong. Now, I have my own special day.
It was the day I officially graduated from the prestigious Seals Tailoring Institute at Victoria Island, and earned my freedom. It was also the day I lost my virginity. Now, before you put two and two together, it’s important you note that both events are totally unrelated. Some people might think because I earned the certificate to cut and sew clothes, I got ecstatic with joy and decided to celebrate by ripping my clothes off and doing ‘the deed’ with my boyfriend. I actually have friends who would have done that, and considering my present situation I probably wouldn’t have minded if that was what happened.
You know, leave the venue of the freedom celebration and head on to a pre-arranged hotel with my boyfriend. The room, dolled up in red drapes and scented candles and beautiful congratulatory cards would have a wide, wide bed laid with velvet bedspread, a bunch of those exotic flowers sprinkled over it. Soft music in the background, and… And I’m getting carried away. I’m bound to do that a lot. Kindly pull me back anytime you feel I’m veering out of point in future.
Now, where was I? Oh yes, wishing I’d lost my virginity to my boyfriend.
But I have no boyfriend, at least not in Lagos State, so that didn’t happen to me. At the risk of sounding like ‘Miss goodness’, I’ll like to mention that I was actually a good girl. I was never impressed with the huge cars or the expensive looking men that always offered to ‘take me out’. I knew where taking me out would lead to. At least ninety-five percent of the time. So I avoided all of them like the plague. I had someone waiting for me back home. Attahiru, my betrothed.
Someone I loved irrespective of the barriers (and they were many). Someone I was ready to spend the rest of my life with. I preserved myself for him, just as I knew he would for me.
My virginity was taken forcefully, and by someone I’d least expected. My boss’s husband.
Up until three weeks ago, my boss and her husband were what I referred to as the best things that had ever happened to me. The silver lining in my cloud, the diamonds in the rubbish heap of my life… that sort of thing. They were amazing. They transformed me from an ordinary village girl with no basis for existence to someone who had a purpose. Though they started as my bosses, less than a month after moving in with them, they became my teachers, my guardians. They were by all standards the most important people in my life. My parents didn’t count.
How, and why this people decided to destroy a life they had so painstakingly built now eludes me. Because, I tell you, my entire life is meaningless now. And I am not exaggerating. The tutoring, the exposures, the mingling with people of the city and the fat amount of money spent on making me skilled in tailoring doesn’t mean a thing any more. What was I going to do with them?
Get married to my awesome well-spoken English? Build a family with my amazing knowledge of how to wield a fork and knife? Or wait, have a life filled with happiness because I know the reply to ‘how do you do?’ is ‘how do you do too?’
I probably sound flippant. But in truth, I’m not. I’m devastated. I’ve been for the past three weeks when it happened. The first few days after it happened was the worst. The door to my room was bolted tight – to avoid a recurrence and to avoid seeing anyone. My bruised emotions careening madly around the room. I probably cried a river, and was working on crying an ocean but I ran out of tears and I was left feeling hollow, devastated and grief stricken.
Oh, how I wanted to die. But of course, I’m a coward, I couldn’t bring myself to commit suicide. So instead I prayed for lightning to strike, for the massive house to collapse, for a hired assasin to just visit and help me out of my mystery. My prayers wasn’t answered, none of such happened. And I still remained doomed.
Don’t get me wrong, Attahiru loves me (did I mention his name is Attahiru?), and I’m very sure my change in ‘status’ wouldn’t mean a thing to him. But what do I tell my parents? Or his? The priceless red stain that was tradition to show to our parents after the first night of our wedding had been washed off in yesterday’s laundry. I would be an object of ridicule and shame. Mothers would call their daughters and point at me, ‘behold the shameless girl that opened her legs for some one that wasn’t her husband.’ Everything I’d become would be used against me, and other young girls preparing to go out would be damned and discouraged. How did this happen to me?
I stepped out of my room after day three feeling soiled and unclean. My boss was beginning to get worried and… I needed to eat. Luckily for me, Uncle (that’s what I call the heartless cow) went on a business appointment and was away for a week. I was able to sort my emotions and pull myself together, I convinced myself it was one terrible mistake and it was because of all the stress he was going through. By the time he returned, I was able to walk past him without thinking of inflicting serious body harm on him. He looked at me like nothing had happened and went on being the wonderful head of the house. What choice did I have than to play along?
I didn’t tell my boss because I just couldn’t see myself hurting her that way. Asides being a kind person, she suffers from leukemia and her life expectancy is less than two years. What would telling her that sort of news make of me? Another heartless cow. So I kept it to myself, what’s the big deal? I’ve only lost my virginity and the possibility of ever getting married I could just remain in Lagos and remain a housemaid forever.
Dela and Sayo Fash. I call them uncle and Aunty. And I repeat, up until a few weeks ago they were the best set of human beings that walked under the sun. Both in their late forties, unbelievably wealthy, influential and humble - their humility humbles me myself. They have no children, and I can’t say if that was intentional or circumstantial, but I can say they didn’t seem affected by it. They were happy, easy going and seemed contented with their lives. When cancer struck the previous year everything changed, and we watched aunty die day by day, right before our eyes. We watched her hair fall off from all the chemotherapy sessions, and we watched her battle with pain. Our lives revolved around her, ready to do anything that would give her a little respite. At least, I was.
Until this unfortunate incident. Which brought about this entire story.