If someone had told me today was going to be the worst day of my life, I would have stayed in bed and feigned sickness.
It’s Sunday morning, one of those days I simply dread. I sometimes wonder why people still go to church; I don’t understand the idea behind it. Don’t get me wrong it’s not like I don’t believe in the presence of The Creator or anything of the sort, I strongly believe in The Almighty but does the rest of the world? These “church-going individuals” are the most unkind of our kind.
I live in a world as cold as winter and dark as stormy nights. Where people strive to survive. Living in fear for the next few seconds and pure dread for the future. Sometimes I envy the dead; they just lie there peacefully without a care while the living run from here to there.
One thing I absolutely admire about my friends and family is their ability to pretend and act like everything is just dandy. For me, I don’t feel the need to pretend, I walk around like there’s a dark cloud over my head. I hardly ever crack a smile; that symbolises happiness, which is not in my repertoire anymore.
Hitherto, my mirth was overwhelming. Growing up was pure pleasure, I had what I needed at the time but things just recently took a downward spiral when dad died in a plane crash two years ago. I don’t blame anybody for that; at least I have a job, at a bar- which I absolutely hate- that helps take the burden off my mom.
I wish I could—
“Sarah! Get out of bed this instant!” my mom’s voice cut straight through my thoughts.
Only my mom would not know that she shouldn’t be shouting this early, the neighbours should be up now.
“Sarah!! Don’t make me come there!!! You will make me go late for mass and I will not find it funny” she shouted, this time waking the rest of the town.
“Mom I’m up, good morning ma”. I replied calmly, not really in the mood to patronize her.
“Make sure Jessica is dressed, I already brought something out for her to wear” she continued, ignoring my greeting and going into the bathroom.
“Yes ma” I said.
Jessica was my baby sister, four years old but equally as tiring as mom.
“Sawah, see my dwess” Jessica just popped out of my mom’s room holding a very bright blue dress covered in brighter yellow flowers.
“Is that how you say good morning?” I asked
“Goo morneen” she said, with a real silly grin showing a set of funny looking teeth.
“Good morning darling” I gave her a loud kiss on her cheek and she smiled even wider.
I quickly put the dress over her head and shoved both her arms into the opening on either side of the dress. I zipped it up and tied a bow behind then wore her a pair of really cute sky blue stockings and black ballerina shoes.
When i was done i asked “What do you say?”
“Tankyu” she was so cute and innocent.
“Okay. Go to my room and wait for me” I told her and she bounced happily away.
I hurriedly went into the bathroom, brushed my teeth and took a quick bath all within five minutes.
I put on a green dress, with little black flowers bordering the hem and black pumps. I wasn’t really up for makeup plus at the rate we were going we were going to make it to church after mass must have ended. I grabbed a black scarf since it was compulsory to cover your hair in church if you were female and I rushed off to meet up with mom who was already in the car with Jessica. I got in the passenger seat and we zoomed off.
Mass in itself was uneventful, just the same old things. The only thing that kept me intrigued was watching Mr Clement. The perverse Mr Clement.
Remember when I said I didn’t understand why people went to church? I was talking about this man. He was a regular at the bar I worked, regular meaning seven times a week. The man was a fraud, coming to church and acting like a saint, like he was better than everyone else, he held his wife’s hand and listened to the word eagerly. He sang louder and danced more than the rest of us heathens.
The hypocrite. He had the perfect life, beautiful wife, lovely kids and truckloads of cash. But he felt the need to get drunk and sleep with a different prostitute every night.
After offertory, they announced the names of families that were to come out for thanksgiving. Of course, Mr Clement and his family were the first family to be named. They went forward dancing like they had just won the lottery, I didn’t even bother to listen to their reason for coming forward, I mean, who cares? Clement brought a rope signifying his offering of a cow; like that wasn’t enough he presented a cheque of 1million naira to the church. Show off.
It was time for communion now and I watched Clement get up from his seat, walking down the aisle toward the altar. His palms joined together in front of his chest. I couldn’t help but wonder why he thought he could deceive God; he was already deceiving the rest of us.
Clement was a womanizer, he made advances towards me every time he saw me at work. I would say something but Clement led a perfect life. Who would believe me? I saw Clement turn back to glance at me a few times but I didn’t read anything to it, because—
“Go in peace, the mass is ended” the priest’s voice cut through my thoughts as he said the concluding rites.
Mass was over already? I wasn’t participating anyways.
We all proceeded towards the exit and stepped out into the sun. It was a really bright day which wasn’t a surprise since it rained heavily last night. I walked straight to the open space in front of the church where cars were parked. Holding Jessica’s hand in mine, she skipped as we walked along- little kids, always delirious.
Leaning on the car waiting for mom to come and open the doors for us get in, i spotted her exchanging greetings with Clement. What in the world could they be talking about? Mom was smiling and nodding and Clement had an even wider grin and was gesticulating like he was giving directions to some place.
After their somewhat forced exchange of pleasantries, mom finally decided we had waited enough and walked over to the car. She opened the doors and got into the driver’s seat while we got in our respective seats; me in the passenger’s seat and Jessica in the back. Then she started to pull out of the park and headed in the direction of home. Curiosity got the better of me and I couldn’t help but ask.
“What were you and Mr Clement discussing just now?” I inquired.
“Oh! He was just inviting me for a party at his house later today. It’s his 12th wedding anniversary.” She answered
“Are you going?” I asked absentmindedly. I had already brought out my iPhone and was going through my feeds on instagram.
“We are going” she replied matter-of-factly.
“Huh? Who is ‘we’?” she had my full attention now.
“We. You, me and Jess”
“I’m not going anywhere today, except to work of course.” I replied disgusted by the thought of visiting Clements place.
“You are going with me to that party. Mr Clement invited the family and the family will be there. I didn’t give you a choice.” She replied
“I’m not a kid anymore, I’m not Jess. You can’t really tell me what to do” I was beginning to get agitated by her imposition.
“Today I am and you will do as I say and that’s final.”
“I’ll be late for work”
“Your shift starts at six; you’ll be home by four to rest before work”
“No buts Sarah. I’m done having this conversation with you.”
What’s her problem? I’m 20years old now and she’s still making my life miserable. I return to my phone, one out of the two people who really got me.
The other person was my best friend Phoebe. Phoebe was just like me, an overall quiet demeanor and a very deep thinker. We met in secondary school and have been friends for about 9years now. I quickly texted her and told her to meet me at home in two hours, there’s no way I was attending that party alone.
“Phoebe is coming too” I offhandedly told my mom
“I thought as much” she replied without taking her eyes off the road.
The rest of the drive home was silent since Jessica fell asleep the moment her butt hit the car seat. I’m glad she did because I’m not sure I could stand her fussing and demand. “I want icecweam”. “Mummy buy candy”. “Sawah gimme that”
My usual melancholy overwhelmed me again. I think I suffer from depression, I know I’m antisocial and I’m always lost in my thoughts. But the real issue is: I have only sad thoughts. I still think death is better than life and I’ve contemplated suicide more times than I should have.
Is that normal for a girl my age?
Is that normal?
We were home now and I went straight to bed. I needed to mentally prepare myself for the torture ahead. Another gathering of people and I still get to go to work. Three gatherings in a day. Lucky me! That’s a new record for me.
Yet, somehow I still felt the worst was yet to come. There was a lingering sense of foreboding.
It doesn’t help that I’m an insomniac. I hear rest helps to relieve stress. I wouldn’t mind a break from reality. I’m exhausted.
“Sarah!” a voice deep enough to belong to a man resounded from the living room.
I knew that voice anywhere, it belonged to Phoebe. The one nobody dared to cross. Not only did she have an intimidating voice, she was also built like a rock.
“Phoebs. In here!” I called her by the nickname I gave her when we first met. She couldn’t give me one because, well, my name is Sarah. There isn’t much you can do with it.
She walked in wearing blue jeans and a white silk blouse. She looked really good in her outfit.
“Melanin. What’s up?” only Phoebe would call me that, I wouldn’t blame her though. A few shades darker and I would have been pitch black.
“I’m okay. You look nice. Please don’t tell me you got all dressed up for Clement”
“Ha-Ha. Really funny” sarcasm dripped from every word.
I smiled at her and got up to find an outfit. I finally settled for black jeans and a blue peplum blouse.
“Hurry up. Your mum said you haven’t had breakfast. She wants you to eat something before we leave”.
“I’m sure the only stomach you’re worried about is yours. You love food way too much” I teased her
“You know it” she winked at me
I put on my clothes and we went to the dining room, mom and Jessica had already had breakfast so Phoebe and I went into the kitchen to dish our food. Mom made fried rice and pepper chicken; Phoebe’s favourite.
Within minutes we were done eating, we did our dishes and went to the living room to relax with mom and Jess. They were both dressed up. Jess was watching cartoons and mom was just trying to keep up. Phoebe and I talked a little till it was almost 12:30.
Clement’s house, as expected for a man of his reputation was a palace. An Olympic sized swimming pool at one corner of the compound, a large water fountain in the middle of the compound, boys quarters at another side of the compound. The main building was a three storey with a ‘C’ shape when viewed from the front, an ‘L’ shape from either side and a ‘V’ shape when viewed from the back. The compound was flooded with cars of different shapes, sizes and colours. I saw colours like purple, pink, sky blue, lemon, indigo, beige, gold and I stopped to ask myself what happened to regular colours like black. Some looked like boxes, some like spiders and even turtles.
Mom was fortunate enough to find a slot to park at the far end of the compound close to the boy’s quarters. Mrs Clement –the trophy wife- came out to welcome us and ushered us into the living room.
I would describe the living room too but adjectives haven’t been made for that yet.
Mom and Jess sat in the closest seat they could find, while Phoebs and I found our way to the most inconspicuous seat we could find and felt at home in it.
Music was booming from invisible speakers, food and drinks were served by some young people wearing uniforms while Phoebs and I chattered on about guests and their lives.
In no time the torture was over and mom sought us out to tell us it was time to leave. I had never been happier in my life and we dashed for the exit. Mom signalled to us to come over and say thanks and congrats to our hosts and we headed in her direction.
I froze in my tracks but I recovered immediately. Clement was standing there with ‘the crew’. I knew those men from the bar. These were men who came in with Clement every day. The short round one, the big bald burly one and the skinny bespectacled one. Dear Lord save me!
“Mrs Brown! Meet my friends”. Clement said eagerly
“This is Mr Donaldson”. He gestured toward the big bald burly one and mom shook hand with him.
“This is Mr Green”. He gestured towards the skinny bespectacled one and mom equally shook his hand
“And this is Mr Andrews”. The short round one extended his sweaty hands and mom took it.
“These are my kids, little Jessica and Sarah and this is Sarah’s best friend Phoebe”. Mom introduced us and we shook hands with them.
They went on and on about how cute Jessica was. When they were done talking it was time to go.
“Thanks for having us, Mr. Clement” mom said politely
“And thanks for coming, Mrs. Brown” Clement replied
“Give my best to your wife”
“I’ll let her know” Clement said and waved us goodbye.
Home had never been so welcoming; mom dropped Phoebe off on our way home and I went straight to my room. My safe haven. I lay in bed, closed my eyes and got lost in my thoughts.
The shrilling sound of my alarm tone filled the silence. 5.30pm. Time to head out. I brought out my side bag and shoved my uniform in. I changed my peplum blouse to one of my old t-shirts, put on black ballerina flats, and left my room.
Mom was helping Jess with her homework in the living room.
“Mom, I’m leaving” I said impassively, still mad at her for making me go to Clement’s.
“Have fun” she replied without looking up.
“Bye Jess” I told my sister.
“Bah bye Sawah” she beamed at me and waved goodbye.
I walked into The Bar -yes, I worked in a bar named The Bar- and went straight to the female toilet to change into my uniform.
I went round and waited tables. Took orders and served customers. My routine went on for the first couple of hours without any problems.
In the third hour, Clement and ‘the crew’ came in, as was expected of them. I tried to avoid them but who was I kidding? The moment they saw me I knew my fate.
They waved me over and I took their orders. An hour later the dipsomaniacs were still ordering more bottles of beer. I had one hour left to the end of my shift and they had to pay before I took my leave.
I walked up to their table and handed the bill to Mr Clement. He looked at it with blurry eyes and smiled.
“Sarah Sarah, come sit with us” he patted his lap for me to sit.
“No thank you sir but I’m on duty”
“Aww come on, no need to call me sir. We’re friends now aren’t we?” He slurred
“Not really sir”
“Call me Clement”
“I’d rather not—“
“Young lady just sit with us” the bespectacled one interjected
“We’ll make it worth your while” the round sweaty one continued
“No sirs thank you” I refused
Before I could insist Mr Andrews held my hand and Mr Donaldson spanked my butt. I tried to wiggle my way out but Andrews had a firm grip.
“Please sirs just pay me so I can leave” I pleaded
“Just sit with us” Green commanded.
Like something was funny they all burst into laughter. These men were either crazy or really drunk.
The security guard at the door noticed the struggle and came over. In no time Clement and his crew were thrown out but not before paying their tab.
Relief washed over me and I thanked the guard. At 11pm I balanced my accounts, went into the toilet and changed back into my t-shirt. I said goodnight to my colleagues and left the bar.
Hailing a cab I gave him directions to my home. It was almost 11.30pm now, at the entrance to the street the cab guy stood his engine.
“Madam I no go fit enter your street o. Road no good, my motor go sink” he complained.
“Please sir, its dark. Just help me out here” I begged.
“Ah madam either you come down or I go carry you go back”
“Please sir, just a little further. It’s really dark and late for a girl like me. It not sa—“
“Madam give me my money make I de go jare. I no de for English abeg”
“No problem sir. Thank you” I handed him his fare and got out of the cab.
Bracing myself I walked into the darkness. I walked briskly and kept glancing over my shoulder every second.
I felt it before I saw it. Less than 30ft from my house two figures emerged from the corner in front of me. I turned back to run and I saw another short round figure behind me.
Dear Lord please save me. I was already saying my Hail Marys. I knew who they were but I had no idea what they were capable of. My blood froze in my veins and my heart stopped beating.
“What do you want?” I surprised myself by asking
“You” a voice spoke from the shadows on my left.
Oh my God. That was Clement. I couldn’t breathe. He stepped out of the darkness in all his malevolent glory and the air stilled. There was a glint in his eyes that spoke of terror to come.
Hands grabbed me from behind and pulled be to the floor. Before I could scream another set of hands covered my mouth and another pair held down my legs. I struggled as tears rolled from eyes.
Clement came and stood over me, his ominous presence draining the last bit of energy in me. My head ached and my eyes stung. They all reeked of alcohol. There was nowhere for me to go and nothing else for me to do.
Clement ripped my t-shirt open exposing bare skin. I started to struggle again, my eyes silently pleading for mercy.
“You think you’re special. Who the hell do you think you are?!!!”
“You made a fool out of me today. You felt too big to sit with us. You made the guard throw us out and now you want to get away with it!!”
He knelt down straddling me and grabbed my neck and started to squeeze the life out of me. Suddenly there was no oxygen reaching my lungs. I couldn’t breathe, I was going to die. I started to struggle but they didn’t even budge. Black dots started to dance in front of me.
It was over now. I relaxed and let the cold hands of death take me. I started to feel at peace and I suddenly felt happy. I welcomed the darkness and let it lead me home.
“Sarah! Get out of bed this instant!”
My mom’s voice had never sounded so welcoming.