Victoria sighed as the sun greeted her skin, warming the chills that had come from staying so long in an air conditioned store. She walked with her dad to the car, clutching the bag that held her new laptop. Immediately they settled into the car, she flew into her dad’s arms.
“Thank you, daddy!”
He held her close. “Anything for my Princess.”
They stayed like that for a while before they separated and he started the ignition of the car.
“Where did you say you wanted to go?” he asked as he backed the jeep out of the parking lot of the electronics store.
He nodded and continued driving. They settled into a comfortable silence as they passed through the inner-city which was bustling with people not quite in a frenzy as they did on weekdays.
Victoria glanced at her watch and saw it was past one pm. She knew Anjola should be at the bar by this time and could not wait to see her. Throughout the week, her uneasiness about Anjola had grown and she wished she could point to the problem. She knew God was trying to tell her something but she had not fully learned to discern his voice. The first flash came on Thursday and she had planned to pray that night but had slept off and the next morning she had an 8 o’clock lecture which left her with little time to pray. Now as she sat in her dad’s car, she remembered that she had put it off and felt terrible about it.
She pulled out a carton from the bag that sat at her feet and brought out the new phone she got for Anjola. It was a simple phone but very functional. She had thought it would make sense to have a means to communicate with her new friend. Her dad had insisted on paying for it even though he did not know Anjola. Her father was like that; a giver to the core and she respected that about him and tried to learn from him.
“I think she’ll like it,” her dad said, glancing briefly at her before facing the road.
“I hope so. Thanks dad.”
He smiled but said nothing.
“When are you travelling again?”
“Not until next month and that would be to Kenya for a conference.”
She nodded and fell silent. She wondered if now was a good time to bring up the issue about the Youths fellowship. She had spoken with Uncle Chidi yesterday about her idea for raising money for the outreach and he had been very excited about it. She felt that somehow, God had used her to encourage a weary man and she was grateful for it.
They drove on, talking and occasionally lapsing into silence. When they finally got to Aje and stopped at the community school, her father turned to her with bothered eyes.
“This…this is quite something. Are you sure you should be going here alone?” he turned his head and watched some guys sitting under a shed, with puffs of smoke swirling from their mouths and nostrils.
“I’ll be fine, dad.”
“I mean who smokes under this hot sun?” he shook his head. She chuckled and grabbed her bag, leaving only her new laptop behind.
“I’ll see you later. Thanks for the ride,” she said as she got down.
As the rear of the car disappeared through the corner, Victoria made her way past the cluttered houses to the bar. She smiled at a child staring at her from his position on the veranda and wondered who his mother was. How old was she? Did his father beat her? Did she have dreams?
They really needed to do the outreach.
The bar was quiet when she stepped through the rattling curtain. Not even a customer was on sight.
“Is someone here?” she asked tentatively.
She rapped her hands noisily and waited.
A lady raised her head above the counter with heavy eyes, yawning.
“What you want?” she asked in a husky voice, her eyes struggling to bring Victoria into focus.
“Sorry, I’m looking for Anjola.”
The lady gave her a look. Her face was shaped with lines and edges in a way that made her interesting to look at. She was about as tall as Anjola with a tinge of resemblance, especially with those brows. She must be the cousin Anjola spoke of.
“Anjola? Who are you?”
“I’m her friend.”
Victoria watched as the lady’s prominent brows shot up before saying;
“She is in the house.”
Then she muttered under her breath, something Victoria did not get but guessed had to do with the lady’s displeasure at Anjola’s stay in the house.
“Okay. How do I get there?”
The lady gave her a description of the house while Victoria mostly nodded even when she wasn’t sure what she was saying at some point. She figured she would ask around since she had an address.
As she walked past old houses and through smelly streets, Victoria realised again the dire need of these people for help. After walking a while, she stopped about two people to ask before she finally came to the storey building beside a mosque. The lady had told her it was the only storey building on that street so it had to be it.
“Good afternoon ma,” she greeted one of the women who sat outside washing clothes.
The woman raised tired eyes to her and muttered, “Yes?”
“Please I’m looking for Anjola.”
She said nothing, just pointed to one of the doors behind a veranda.
Victoria knocked on the door and after several raps, there was still no response. She was about to turn back to the woman to ask her again when she heard a creak, followed by Anjola’s face peering through a partially open door. She was surprised to see her, that much was obvious but the dark puffs below her eyes stood stark and made her look older than the last time she saw her.
Something was wrong.
“Hi,” Victoria greeted cheerily.
Anjola did not open the door any wider. She just stood there protectively, as though guarding something, hiding something.
Her voice when she spoke was cold.
“What are you doing here?”
Something was definitely wrong.
* * * *
Anjola could not remember the last time she felt shame at having someone in her house. Maybe when she was five years younger but not recently. She had learned to accept her life, learned to get her head out of the clouds a little bit, out of the perfectly mowed lawns in the books she read into this dingy world she found herself.
But now, with Victoria standing before their broken door, she felt that shame now. But even now, she wasn’t sure where the shame really came from, since her life was a true representation of disgrace at the moment.
“Come in,” She managed to choke out as she stepped aside a little for her to step in. She looked back at their one room apartment as though with fresh eyes. With eyes she assumed Victoria would use. And she saw it: the clothes strewn carelessly on the bed and around the room, the torn carpet she did not have the strength to sweep, the odds and ends that stuck around in inconvenient places, the heat that filled the room and oozed an air she was sure only a stranger could sense.
“What can I get you?” Anjola asked when Victoria sat on a stool. Which was nothing more than courtesy since the only reasonable drink they had was tap water.
“I’m fine. Thanks.”
Anjola shrugged as she found her place on the bed opposite Victoria. The silence that fell was thick and uncomfortable. The space of nothingness between gave room for Anjola’s pain to resurface. It stood sturdily on her heart; so acute, so deep that she did not know how to cry again, as though it was too deep for her tear glands to draw the waters out from their wells. Maybe she was becoming numb; that would be nice.
“Anjola, what happened?” Victoria asked suddenly, her tiny voice breaking the silence into shards.
Anjola observed a particularly fascinating line on her palm and remained silent. After a while, she shook her head.
“You can’t tell me no. Something is wrong.”
She wanted to yell at her, wanted to scream at her till she ran out of the house, as confused and hurt as she was, wanted to dissolve into broken sobs that somehow communicated her sorrow without words. But she did not because she was too tired to scream and too numb to cry.
“I was raped,” she said instead.
The gasp that followed was expected. But Anjola did not expect the anguished cry that came from Victoria. And strangely, at that moment, it felt like she was the victim.
“Dear God…no. No, no, no…” She was saying brokenly, shaking her head. Before long, Anjola felt her self being squeezed into a sweetly scented embrace.
“Are you sure? H-h-how?” she asked when they broke off.
Anjola just looked at her as tears spilled down her face without her consent.
* * * *
Victoria had never felt such pain and compassion for another human before. She had heard of people who felt the pain of others like it was theirs and had wondered how that happened. That kind of thing did not happen to someone as selfish and self absorbed as her. But now it did and it hurt. It hurt so terribly.
She listened wordlessly as Anjola stoically recounted what happened to her. And all the while, she sought for traces of devastation but aside from the tears that spilled earlier, saw nothing. Just a retelling of facts. Like a third party narrating the evening news.
“Does anyone know?” she asked her when she was done. And she shook her head.
“Oh God. I’m so sorry. So sorry…”
“Why?” Anjola asked in that monotonous way she had done since she came. Victoria did not need to ask for clarity.
Victoria opened her mouth but closed it again. What could she say? How was she supposed to explain to this young girl that God was still good, that he still had a plan for her life? How could she, in all good conscience, offer words of comfort in the face of such grief? How could she give her answers when she had a few questions for God herself? Normally, she would have said something along the lines of “All things work together for the good of those who love God” but she could not do so. Not now.
So she shook her head instead.
“What did I do that was so wrong? Yes, I know I have sinned but you told me God forgave me. Why would He do this to me then?” She was crying now, in gut wrenching sobs that broke Victoria’s heart all the more.
“Ever since I had the sense to do so, I have done everything to keep myself. I have held my dignity and ignored all the pressure. But what do I get in return? Having that dignity torn from me so cheaply, cheaper than the what I avoided. Maybe if I had succumbed earlier, maybe if I had done what my mate do, I would have even gotten some money out of it. But now… Why? Why…” her words were tumbling together as tears rolled unrestrained down her cheeks.
“It’s not fair. It makes no sense.”
Victoria did not say anything, just held her and cried with her, praying that somehow God would comfort her because she could not do it. She had no words.
At times like these, words did not work.
* * * *
Hello guys. Long time no blog. I’m sorry. I’ve been very occupied lately and have been in a place where I have minimal space and resources to post anything.
I wish I don’t have to do this so often but I apologize.
And because I know you are getting bored with this story, I plan to post several times a week starting from this week so we can wrap it up and hope that God willing, by 2017, I’ll start a new series.
Thanks for your loyalty.
I should do one of those end-of-the-year bonanzas that companies do for their customers though 😉
What do you think?