The first thing Nike noticed when she stood in front of the Pastor’s lodge was that it had no fence. That bothered her greatly.
She remembered that two months after the death of her father, her uncles led by her father’s eldest sister, Iya Ilorin, pushed them out of the house her father had built and her mother, a full time housewife, had been left with nothing of her husband’s property. They finally ended up in a one room apartment somewhere in Bariga.
The night after they moved in, robbers raided their street but stopped a house away from theirs.
The following week, they returned at around 1 in the morning. Nike was studying for her WAEC exams when they began to bang on the entrance door. She jumped to her feet and tiptoed to the thin mattress on the ground where her mother slept. Before she could tap her mother, the woman was up on her feet, fully awake.
She switched off the light quickly and held her daughter’s hand. A door opened. Another opened too. There were murmurings at the corridor. Then doors closed and everywhere became silent.
The house erupted with a gunshot and the entrance door flew open. Nike could hear the voices of men fill the corridor and urine trickled down her thighs.
More gunshots. More doors opened. A girl screamed. Nike held her mother’s waist. Her sister, Kike, was fast asleep, snoring on the mat. Nike shook her shoulders. She turned to the other side and continued snoring. Nike finally covered her face with a pillow.
Nike’s mother sat on the floor, praying quietly. Nike rested her head on her shoulder, scared to death. Another gunshot and Nike grabbed her mother’s waist again.
Thirty minutes passed before everywhere became silent again. A woman let out a wail and others began to shout and cry.
When Nike’s mother came out of her apartment, she discovered that every room had been robbed except hers. A girl was raped and the policeman living adjacent to their room shot. He died before they could get him to the hospital.
That was the day hatred for Nike’s Mother began in that compound. How could every one have a bad story to tell except her? If she didn’t have a hand in it, how come they went past her room to the next room.
Someone called her a carrier of bad luck because the house had never been robbed before they moved in.
Some accused her of collaborating with the robbers. She was arrested and locked up but was released when no concrete evidence was presented by her accusers.
Nike looked around the Pastor’s lodge again noting how different it was from her house in Lagos. There was a little forest behind the house and she wondered if wild animals would eventually spring out at night to devour them. But what about snakes?
David sensed her fears. ‘Some of the members have promised to clear that bush by this week. We are safe here. Let’s go in.’ David held her hand and led her into the house.
The interiors had been painted green even though the floor was not tiled. The living room was sparsely furnished. There was a dinning table close to the entrance that led to the bedrooms. The tap in the kitchen was not running but from the window, Nike could see a well. How long has it been since she drew from a well? Foodstuff was heaped at the corner of the kitchen. There was a bag of rice and beans, a sack full of garri, some tubers of yam and a basket containing beverages.
‘This people tried. I wasn’t expecting this.’ David said.
Nike nodded and smiled. As they returned to the room to unpack, Nike made a mental note to purchase a wardrobe and some other furnishings.
Two ladies came later that evening with food warmers. One of them who introduced herself as Iya Ronke said when Nike was ready, she would take her to the market.
For the first three nights, Nike couldn’t sleep. She kept waiting for the day the lodge would be burgled. Gradually she settled into her new life.
‘I don’t know why Mary keeps defending her husband. She is refusing to speak out. How can she be taking this abuse so calmly. I can’t help her if she refuses to cooperate.’ Nike said one evening after they returned from evangelism.
‘Are you sure those bruises are from her husband? Pastor Joshua is not someone who can do something like this.’
Nike wanted to respond but she changed her mind and instead went the kitchen to serve dinner.
Later, as she sat with her laptop, browsing topics on how to reach women living in the interiors, her mind went back to Mary.
She prayed silently, hoping God would grant her wisdom on how to help her friend. David was already falling asleep beside her when someone knocked on the door. Nike looked up from her work.
David awoke with a jerk.
‘What’s that?’ David stared at his wife.
He stood up and hurried to the door. Nike shut her laptop and followed her husband. He opened the door to find Iya Ronke trembling.
She raised her hand and cried. ‘Pastor, help me o. My daughter is dying. Please come.’
David rushed back in to pick his bible and left the house with the two women in his rugged Peugeot, a car he had bought from the sale of his Toyota Camry.
As they approached the house, they saw a man standing at the entrance, furious. He was skinny and glared at Iya Ronke through hardened eyes.
‘Why did you go and disturb them. I already told you I will call my prophet.’
‘Good evening sir. Please can we see her?’ David asked.
The man frowned and moved away from the entrance. In an empty living room was a girl groaning in pain and holding her stomach.
A man in white overall was standing at the feet of the helpless girl barefoot, sprinkling water on the her body and shouting, ‘Oya jade! Come out in the name of Jesus.’ and afterwards he began to recite some incantations. Nike knelt beside the girl and felt prompted to turn her over. She saw blood.
‘Darling, we have to rush her to the clinic.’
‘Which clinic? This is a spiritual case.’ The skinny man was ready to push them out of the house.
Nike looked at the girl’s mother. ‘If we don’t rush your daughter to the hospital now, she will die.’
David was already lifting the blood soaked girl over his shoulder. He drove like a mad man to the clinic.
In the emergency ward, Nike stared at the girl’s innocent face and wondered what could have gone wrong.
The girl’s mother couldn’t stay still. Nike held her hand and tried to comfort her.
‘What’s your daughter’s name?’
‘Is she your first child?’
She nodded. ‘She is my only daughter. I have two boys but they are with my mother in Moro.’
‘How old is she?’
‘Really? she looks so small.’ Nike raised her head to find Doctor Afolabi, standing at the entrance. Nike had first seen the Doctor after the welcome ceremony at the church but had noticed she was withdrawn and unreceptive. Doctor Afolabi motioned for the two women to follow her to her office.
‘She had an abortion and it was badly done. We’ll have to operate on her to get the remains of the foetus out as soon as possible.’
‘Oh my God!’ Nike exclaimed.
‘Doctor, what are you saying? What’s wrong with my child?’ Iya Ronke looked from Nike to the doctor.
‘She’ll be fine if we can get the remains of the foetus evacuated as quickly as possible.’
Nike leaned forward. ‘Please go ahead with the operation. I’ll pay the bills.’
When they left the office and Nike explained to Iya Ronke what the doctor had said, she fell on the floor and began to cry. ‘I don’t know what to do again. I’ve been talking to this girl. This is the third time.’
‘What? Who is the boy involved?’
She shook her head. ‘I don’t know.’
‘You’ve never asked her?’
Iya Ronke stood up. Nike held her hand and led her to the veranda. ‘I have beaten her many times but my husband always shouts at me to stop. I am just tired of the girl.’
‘Beating is not the solution. Your daughter should be able to open up to you. Beating her will not solve anything.’
Iya Ronke eyed the Pastor’s wife and hissed. ‘What are you trying to say, that I don’t know how to train my daughter?’
‘No, I meant-‘
‘Wait o, who are you to advise me, You that have never smelled a child in your womb, you want to teach me how to raise mine.’ she hissed again and walked back into the clinic.
Those words cut through Nike’s heart. She wanted to tell Iya Ronke that she had carried a child in her womb twice and if she hadn’t lost the first one and had a still born as the second, she would be a mother of two and maybe three if the doctor had not warned her not to get pregnant again.
She sat at the reception waiting for Ronke to be rolled out of the operating room. Across from where she sat, she saw Iya Ronke staring into space. Compassion filled her heart for the poor woman.
A week passed and Ronke began to recover. She had not spoken since she got out of the theatre. One afternoon, as her mother left for home to prepare dinner, Ronke turned towards Nike.
‘I don’t want to go back to that house. Please, can I stay with you?’
‘Your mum is coming to get you. I can’t just take you away like that.’
‘If I had a place to go, I would have disappeared long time ago. The only place I can think of is my grandma’s place and that man will find me there. Please I need you.’
‘What man are you talking about?’
‘I think you should listen to her.’ Ronke was surprised to find Doctor Afolabi checking Ronke’s pulse.’
That evening Iya Ronke returned with a bowl of efo and amala and was told Nike had taken her daughter away. The woman ran all the way to Nike’s house. Halfway through, she saw a bike and jumped on it, giving the bikeman directions.
‘I’m not releasing her to you yet.’ Nike said, when Iya Ronke showed up at her door.
She adjusted her wrapper and clapped her hand. ‘My own daughter, Are you mad?’
‘Right now, madness is the least of how I feel. You sat in that house and allowed your husband rape your daughter for 8 years and you call yourself a mother.’
She slapped Nike. ‘If you don’t go in and bring my daughter out now, I will give you the beating of your life.’
‘Wait till the police officers get here. I have called some people and they will be here first thing tomorrow. If you are not careful, they will take you and your husband and lock you all up.’
The woman stared at Nike, eyes wide
‘They didn’t tell you I am a lawyer? A crazy one at that. You lied to me that you didn’t know who got her pregnant. but it was you who helped her abort the first and second one after she told you it was that useless man that did it. You knew and you kept quiet. She is not safe with any of you.’
Nike slammed the door at her. It never occurred to her that her life was going to turn for the worse in the little town of Ipetumodu.
‘What would you prefer? Cornflakes or golden morn.’ Nike asked Ronke the following morning, shortly after her husband left for a meeting with Pastor Aderinto. She was resting in the living room reading Frank Peretti’s This present darkness.
‘I’m fine with anything you give me.’
She looked at the packs in her hand. ‘Okay. Cornflakes it is. As Nike returned to the kitchen, Ronke stood up to follow her.
‘Where are you going to?’
‘I want to help you in the kitchen.’
Nike laughed. ‘Don’t worry. I can handle this.’
As they sat to eat, Ronke told Nike how she had gotten admission to Osun State University but there was no money for school fees. Instead she had helped her mother sell fish in the market. But they never got to enjoy the proceeds because her stepfather always demanded for it. She had on several occasions hidden some of the money.
‘What about your father?’
‘He died mysteriously on the farm many years ago’
‘A year after my father died, Iya Abeke got my mother a husband.’
Nike raised her eyebrow at the mention of Iya Abeke.
‘I love my mother but I don’t want to go back there. I’ve begged her to leave him but she is ashamed of what people will say. The man is so lazy and all he does is drink and smoke on my mother’s sweat.’
Ronke straightened as she heard footsteps at the back. The two stopped talking. Ronke stood up, ran into one of the rooms and shut the door. Nike remembered she had forgotten to lock the back door and so she stood up to lock it.
As she approached the kitchen, the back door opened. Two men pounced on her and began to hit her. One held her throat making it difficult for her to breathe. Then a third blow blacked her out.
‘Get her fast.’ one of the men said to his partner. He rushed into the living room and moved to the bedrooms. The first room he entered was almost empty except for some boxes and a big ghana-must-go in one corner. The second room was locked. With the side of his body, he pushed hard but the door wouldn’t open. He turned to his partner who had also tried opening the door.
‘She is inside.’
One of the men squinted through the keyhole. He pushed again. ‘Ronke, Open this door and let’s go quietly.’ He pushed again. No response.
‘We have to break this door fast fast.’
His partner handed him a chisel and he began to hit the door with it.
Episode 7 comes up next.