If you missed episode 2 click HERE
“Behind the house of Mary, please wait till service starts”
I became impatient after reading those words. I couldn’t wait for the service to start. I kept adjusting myself on my seat.
Although there was no name on the note, it was Ruth’s handwriting. The “house of Mary” refers to a small building at one corner of the church compound. It had a statue of Mary built inside. People usually go there to pray.
The sight of the reverend father walking up to the altar made my heart beat faster. The time to leave is gradually coming.
The reverend welcomed everyone to the day’s service. People scrambled to find their seats around. The entire hall was rowdy for a while.
Slowly, normalcy was starting to return. Everyone sat down, and the day’s service was opened with a hymn.
My heart and soul were completely detached from the church. All i could focus on was how to leave the hall without arousing my parent’s suspicion.
I got up from my seat, and moved closer to my mum. I bent down and whispered into her ear.
“i want to buy sanitary pad, my period has suddenly started”
“didn’t you know it would start today? Are you a small child, she answered in a rather irritated tone.
“it happens unexpectedly sometimes”, which was a lie.
My mum put her hands in her purse, and brought out a #500naira note
“hurry before you stain yourself”
I get to accomplish my mission, and also get paid for it, I thought to myself as I made my way out of the hall.
A feeling of eagerness, and excitement coupled with a little guilt dominated my heart. I wondered if Ehis was waiting for me there.
The church compound was much quieter now. The walk way was nearly devoid of people, save for a few people who were probably on a mission too.
I headed straight for the house of Mary. I could see a car parked almost behind the house, a black, Toyota Camry, it had tinted Windows making it impossible to see who was inside.
Ruth was standing right next to the car as I approached. She opened the door to the back seat, and waved at me to go in.
My heartbeat raced as i saw Ehis inside the car. A smile enveloped my face. I could barely hide my excitement. He smiled back at me, and hugged me really tight.
He held my chin, and drew me closer to himself for a kiss. I closed my eyes, anticipating the taste of his lips.
A hard knock on the car window sharply interrupted our kiss. It was Ruth, she was trying to warn us of something.
I looked around, and saw my mother walking towards the house of Mary, with fury and haste, clutching on to my bible.
It suddenly hit me, i left the note in my bible. My mum must have found it. God, I’m in trouble again I said to myself.
Ehis saw the troubled look on my face. He smiled, and told me to calm down. Ruth will take care of this.
I doubted him, my mum was quite a detective.
My heart almost came to a stop as my mum approached the car. I was quite uneasy. Ehis put his index finger across my lips, telling me to be quiet.
My mum walked up to the house of Mary, and began to look around. She went inside the building and came out. She came around the back, towards the car.
She headed straight for Ruth, who was leaning on the car. I bent down quickly, to avoid her eagle eyes. Ehis assured me again that my mum couldn’t see us from outside.
“where is Ella”, she asked, looking around suspiciously.
” I don’t know ma, i haven’t seen her today” Ruth replied.
“young lady, don’t tell me lies, are you not the one she is planning to meet here?”
” me? No ma , i don’t know where she is o”
” who wrote her this note?” My mum asked as she handed the note over to Ruth.
“Oh, ma its me, but i gave it to her last week. We were suppose to have a rehearsal here during service. You know she is in the legion of Mary,”
“so what are you doing here now”? My mum probed further.
” we just finished another rehearsal here just now, i’m about to leave now.”
“so were are the others then?”
“they have all gone, i was just checking myself in the mirror, that’s why you met me ma” she said, pointing at the car’s side mirror.
My mum looked at Ruth, with an expression of disgust on her face. Frisking her from head to toe with her eyes.
Ruth was heavily made up, she owned every single make up accessory a woman can have, and she had no restraint about using them. My mum hated make up.
“oya, get inside the church, mass has started” my mum ordered.
My mum stood, as Ruth began to walk away slowly. Ruth was a talented liar. Weather her lies were premeditated, or spontaneous, it was hard to tell the difference.
When Ruth was out of sight, my mum took a walk around the car, perhaps admiring It’s beauty. I could see her through the tinted windows. My heart sank when she bent down, and adjusted her headtie, using the side mirror. Perhaps she would have seen me if she turned.
As my mum walked towards the church hall, i knew it was time for me to leave. I have been gone for nearly 15minutes. The longer i stay here, the closer I am to getting caught.
As soon as my mum was out of sight, i told Ehis I had to go.
“But common, she is gone now, we can spend a little time together, i really miss you Ella.” Ehis said, in his usual gentle and pleasing voice.
As tempting as those words sounded, i knew i really had to go. If i take long, i don’t know which excuse to give my mum. I have never been good at lying.
“Ehis, I’m sorry, i have to go, my mum will come looking for me again.”
“but when can i see you again? I ll like to hang out with you” He asked, with a sad look on his face.
i don’t know, I’m only allowed to go to church and school, i can’t leave the house”
There was a look of disappointment on Ehis’s face, he seemed a little frustrated. Deep down in my own heart, I’d love to hang out with him. But there was nothing i could do about it. My parents were everywhere.
“what if i pick you up from school?”
I greeted the question with a look of confusion on my face,
“how? ” i asked. Still very confused.
“i ll come and pick you with my friend’s car during break, i ll bring you back quickly. No one will notice you were gone. Ruth will tell you how to leave the school.
My mind went blank for sometime. i know Ruth and Hannah usually sneaked out of the school during breaks, but i had never followed them. I had no reason to. I still wondered how they were able to leave and return unnoticed.
I have always participated in the goodies they bring back from where ever they go.
I was really scared, but i had to accept. It was worth the risk, so i thought.
I unlocked the door, and attempted to leave, Ehis held me back, and pulled me closer to himself.
There was that look on his face again, and the pink lips. My heartbeat raced again. My head wanted to go, but my heart had a different plan.
I was still consumed in my thoughts when I felt his lips on mine. It was wet, slow and passionate like the first. I felt the flutter in my stomach again.
He began to move his hands towards my bosoms. I was scared and uncomfortable. It took every muscle in my body to hold his hand, and break the kiss.
“Not today please, when I see you on Monday” i said as I tried to leave.
“We ll continue from here, Promise?”
“okay” he said, licking his lips in a seductive manner. I never knew what that meant. I had no idea what i had just promised.
As i walked towards the hall, me eye-ball kept dancing from side to side, incase someone had spotted me coming out of the car.
As i approached my parents seat, my heart began to beat faster. I felt like a thief, i just hoped the guilt i felt in my heart hasn’t registered on my gave. I stole a quick glance at my mum’s face. She was still holding on to the note.
“when did Ruth give you this?” She asked as soon as I sat.
My mum gave me a long suspicious look, and turned her attention to the altar.
I was really nervous, but all i could think about was meeting Ehis on Monday. I had made him a promise, even if i barely understood the nature of the promise.
The 6’o clock alarmed buzzed with It’s usual disrespect and insolence. I hated that alarm. It seems to go off during the sweetest part of my sleep.
Unlike most people though, i loved Monday mornings. It meant going back to school. It way my getaway, my only chance of leaving this cell.
Today was a special Monday, i was going to do something i had never done before. I was excited and scared at the same time.
My day began like every other day, i jumped out of bed 5 minutes after the alarm, and dragged myself to the sitting room for morning devotion.
Once again, order than mumbling a few unintelligible words, i had no active participation in the prayers.
My mind was solely focused on getting to school. As soon as the prayer ended, i greeted every one, and headed straight for the kitchen to do my chores.
I finished up quite early, the zeal and speed with which i finished my chores surprised my mum, i was fond of lingering on chores.
I bathed swiftly, and got set for school. My white shirt and blue skirt were properly ironed. There was not a single stain on my stockings.
I looked as neat and tidy as possible, everything was in order. I came out of the house, and sat inside my mum’s car waiting for her to take me to school. She took me to and from school every single day of my 6 years in secondary school.
As i sat there, my mind began to wander. I was about to do something strange and unfamiliar. How ll this day turn out? Where exactly is Ehis going to take me? I was unsure of myself, but i just couldn’t wait to find out.
My mum joined me in the car few minutes later, it was already 7:45am. She started the engine and we zoomed off. My day was just about to start.
The usual traffic in Benin city ensured that i was almost late for school. My mum Dropped me off exactly 2 minutes before 8 0’clock. She handed me a hundred naira note for lunch, and zoomed off.
As i walked through the gate, i took time to examine the entire school compound. And kept wondering how i would be able to make it out without being noticed.
The entire compound was tightly secured. The perimeter fence was high, and lined with barbed wire. It was impossible to jump over.
The school had 2 entrances, and 2 security posts. One in front and one behind. Each had stern looking men manning the gates, with strict warning not to allow students out of the compound till the school closes.
The security arrangement in the school, coupled with the hostile nature of the gatemen made the school look more like a federal prison than a learning center.
I walked straight to the assembly hall with my bag firmly hung on my shoulders, as i was already late.
The morning assembly was like every other one. We sang some hymns, recited the national anthem and performed other daily routine.
The principal made an announcement, reminding all SS3 students of the commencement of waec and JAMB registration, we were to part with the sum of 25thousand naira in all.
The announcement was greeted with some happiness, it meant we would soon be out of secondary school. I can’t wait to be in the university, it would mean one thing…..Freedom!
We marched to our various classes, singing along.
As soon as we sat in class, i moved to Ruth’s seat. I couldn’t contain my excitement. I wanted all the details of the escape plan. How exactly I’m i going to leave this school compound?.
Ruth and Hannah looked at me with surprise and laughed hysterically. My naivety must have amused them. I looked like a curious lamb perhaps.
” Did you bring extra clothes?” Ruth asked
“why? What for?” I asked, genuinely surprised.
“Haba you can’t be walking outside with your school uniform na, you want to tell the entire Benin that you escaped from school?” Hannah replied, a little irritated.
“i didn’t know i had to, so what do we do now?” I asked, with a worried look
“Ruth will give you her own”
Ruth obliged, she always comes in handy for evil deeds. She was like the devil’s assistant to me.
I was about to ask other questions, when the class suddenly became quiet. Our class teacher had just walked in.
I turned around and headed for my seat.
“last period before break” Ruth whispered to me. As I approached my seat.
The morning lessons went by slowly. I barely understood anything that was said in class, thanks to the fear and excitement building up inside me.
The bell rang, to signify the end of the third lesson of the day, and the beginning of the last lesson before break.
The subject was geography, which i don’t offer. I got up and hurried left the class before the teacher arrives. Ruth and Hannah were right behind me. They were both holding their school bags, mine was still on my seat.
They led me towards the security post behind the school. I kept wondering how we were going to walk past the gateman.
As soon as the gateman saw us, he beckoned on us to hurry up. We quickened our pace, and entered the gate house.
I saw too other girls inside the house, i couldn’t tell which class they were, because they were no longer on their uniforms.
One was putting on blue denim jean trousers, with a white t-shirt, with very low neck line that revealed some cleavage.
She was busy applying make up, she hardly noticed our presence. Her companion seemed a little more decent, she was uneasy and shy just like me.
They finished their make up, and handed 1000 naira note to the gate man.
He stepped outside, opened the gate and looked around for a while. When he was sure no one was in sight, he beckoned on them to proceed. They both walked briskly across the gate and out of sight.
It would be really difficult for anyone to spot them, because the rear gate was quite far from the main school compound, and it was shielded by trees and tall grasses.
It is rare for anyone to use the rear gate. It is mainly used during the morning hours, to ease traffic.
As i stood and watched, i began to understand how the whole process works. The gate man was merely making money off the girls.
He collects, a fee of 500 naira from each girl, and allows them escape unnoticed. The gate house was their changing room. The gateman even keeps their uniform safe when they are gone.
It all seemed like a safe plan, at least for now.
“here, put this on” Ruth ordered, as she handed me a pair of leggings and a pink top.
I struggled into the trousers. It felt really weird, i had never worn trousers before, my mum doesn’t like it on me, even if she wears.
Hannah opened her school bag, and brought out a box containing make up accessories, and handed them over to me.
I held on to them, not knowing what exactly to do with them. I have never used make up before. This was a whole new experience for me.
Ruth noticed my dilemma, and came to my rescue. She applied the make up on my face, layer after layer. I felt like a different person already.
I grabbed a mirror from the box, and looked at my face. I couldn’t believe how pretty i was.
The red lipstick matched my earrings, the handbag went with the shoes. Everything looked perfect. I wished i could look like this every day.
Ruth brought out her phone, and dialed a number. I guess she called Ehis.
Few minutes later, we heard the sound of a car horn just outside the gate.
The gate man came out, looked around as usual, to make sure no one sees us. He signaled us to go. Hannah handed over a thousand naira note to him, as we made our way outside.
Ruth waved me farewell with a smile on her face, urging me to have fun. She did not go with us, because i had
Borrowed her cloths.
A car was packed just outside the fence. I recognized it, it was the same car from Sunday.
The door opened, and i sat in front. Hannah took the back seat. There was someone else at the back, a boy. I haven’t seen him before. But judging by his appearance, he was in his late twenties.
I turned towards Ehis at the driver’s seat. He smiled as my eyes met his.
“you look beautiful honey”
“thank you” I replied, almost blushing.
He introduced me to the boy at the back, his name was Odion, he was a cousin of Ehis, who just returned from his NYSC.
I turned around and greeted him in English. He extended a hand, and i gave him mine. He drew my hand up to his mouth and kissed the back of my palm.
“You are such a pretty lady” he said, staring down my cleavage.
I was a little embarrassed
“thank you sir” i replied, trying to turn around quickly before he tears of my bra with his eyes.
Ehis started the ignition, and drove straight ahead. I had no idea where we were going, or what we were going to do. Ehis simply said we would hang out.
I raised my head and looked at the rear view mirror, i could see Hannah and Odion. They were kissing lustfully. He had one hand underneath her skirt manipulating her,while the other caressed her b—m.
My heart began to beat faster. I felt the tension building up in my head. Only then i realised what was going to happen that day.
I was deeply terrified, I didn’t think i wanted to do this anymore. But it was already too late, as Ehis pulled over and stopped the car.
To Be Continued…