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An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 7:54pm On Jun 14, 2020
An Escape To Rendezvous

At 16, she was forced out of the house by the beast she didn't choose...

It takes her three years to be back. And when she arrives her revenge is served even before she takes action.

Three years is a lot of years to live off parental guidance. Three years at Rendezvous...

Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 2:15am On Jun 17, 2020
1


Martha refused to return to Abeokuta despite the eyes staring at her like a tamed cat. She placed the glass cup on the table and waved her hand at her step-brother, Ayo, who happened to be her boyfriend and soul-mate. But he insisted she returns home.

They were in a restaurant. The sound of music mixed with side giggles and the noise from those watching the big TV and those drinking. The light was dull, creating an ambience.

Ayo was her stepbrother. They were separated when Martha decided one night that she couldn’t live in Abeokuta anymore and she disappeared, then three years later she had met her step-brother in Lagos.

When she left, she was just sixteen. She was innocent except for the torment and oppression that made her run in the first place. She had arrived into Lagos and fell into the hands of a guardian who happened to be a prostitute and stripper. She was hurtled into the hands of men, satisfying their perversions in the bar and in hotel rooms, sometimes visually, when she climbed the pole, sometimes physically, when she climbed a bed, sometimes in the rush like a flying jet, when she was called suddenly to help out in a car or an office desk.

She picked the cup again and sipped her wine. She wasn’t going back to Abeokuta. Not when she hadn’t achieved her aim in life. How could she meet her foster father when she hadn’t become a doctor but a stripper and a call girl?

‘Why?’ he asked.

She peered at him. She would tell him the reason, wished she could explain and watch what his reaction would be but not now. She would tell him only when she becomes a woman of importance.

‘I will go back home,’ she said, ‘but not now.’

‘Why!’ he asked and stamped the table with his palm. ‘You left home without letting us know your reasons and here you are insisting you won’t go back to the family that brought you up.’

She shook her head. The family that brought her up, she puffed and lower her cup down. The clock on the corner was digital and the time was 9 o’clock. The noise was getting louder as many people were entering the restaurant. She shifted and picked her bag from the table and, in the next minute, she was running out of the door and he was after her like a cat all over a mouse. Their desire wasn’t inclined and if she didn’t run, he would lure her to return, making her face the one she didn’t want to meet soon.

The night was a lonely night. By the standard of things, she used to be lonely at nights if she were sleeping at home. She would hear the noise of the AC and the crawl of some creatures up in the plastic ceilings. She could hear her own breath as she sat on the bed in just her underwear pant. She expected him to call, to say sorry, that he wouldn’t ever force him to do the things she didn’t want to do anymore. The silence was strong as though it was a human figure wearing a strong smell. She stared at her phone. She’d lost interest in playing with it as an object that could quench her boredom.

There was a TV hanging on the wall. She had switched it off some minutes ago. The light, too, was off, except for the bed lamp. A small table held her make-up kit, a power bank, her purse, her cards, a small jotter, a book titled ‘Americanah’ which she had read and read many times. An artwork decorated the wall in its frame. When the light was dim, the painting seemed to glow, sending a sweet sensation down to her stomach.

Her phone buzzed and she reached for it like it was a mosquito sting. She discovered he wasn’t the one and sighed, dropping the phone dejectedly.

His text came in late that night. She was still awake, waiting as though it was an important event that could not be missed and that would not fail to happen. The text read: At least talk to mum. This is her number 08133344455.
She waited till morning before she called the number, her step-mother, his mother. It rang slowly, too slowly and she felt her heart threatening to come out of her chest as a second passed with the phone ringing. It had been three years since she last talked to the one she used to call ‘mother.’ She was a heartless child. She hadn’t asked after the woman as though it was a painful memory. She remembered how well she had treated her as a daughter, how well she taught her about womanhood. She would say ‘no matter what, you will still have to do more house chores than a man. So practice now. It would become a habit before you are married.’ She would wake her up at five. The day began with washing the plate and then putting rooms in order, then it would continue in the kitchen, cooking.

‘Hello,’ a voice said on the other end. She recognized the voice, the same clear voice that sang among the choirs, the same voice that used to wake her up every morning, the same voice that would pelt her and say ‘your father was just being a father, he didn’t want you to become a bad child.’ She had thought she would keep her cool but something was melting inside her stomach, some emotions she hadn’t known existed. She was smiling, she was shedding a tear.

‘Mummy,’ she said softly, her own voice sounding different.

There was a pause on the other end, then a sudden blurting of ‘Martha!’ it was a question and a surprise altogether. She sniffed her tears and said ‘mummy,’ again.

‘Martha is that you?’

‘Yes… yes, ma. It’s me, ma.’

‘Ah Martha, we missed you. And it wasn’t good that way. What have we done to you that you wan punish us like that? It’s not good nah. It is not good at all. Put yourself in my shoe as a mother. I have been praying for you since you left and saw your message. Glory be to God. How are you?’

‘I’m fine, ma. I’m ok. I’m ok.’

‘Hallelujah, where are you?’

‘I’m… in Lagos.’

‘oh, God. Ayo too is in Lagos. I will call him for this good news. When will you come home?’
‘Ermm..’ she hadn’t thought of it. She would come home when she becomes a medical doctor and could stand before her step-father, the bishop. By then, she would have quit her job as a stripper come, call girl. She would come home when she could stand seeing her step-father’s eyes.

‘Martha,’ her step-mother said, ‘when will you come home? We want to see you. Me, your father, Ayo, Florence. All of us,’ she said. ‘Come today,’ she added.

She heard it clearly but she blurted, ‘ma?’
‘come home. We have been waiting for long, my dear. Just come home. Your father. Your father will be fine. Just come home.'

Then she imagined her step-father’s face, the man who picked her up from a refuse dump and raised her. She would say, ‘Daddy, I’m back,’ and he would look at her, not smiling, not frowning either. She wanted to tell her foster mother, Mrs Ajasin, that the man was the reason she must become a great person and it was more than her father’s scowl; it was her payback.

‘Mummy, I will come.’ There was a pause on both ends as if both were waiting. She checked the phone and continued, ‘I will come, not today – tomorrow. I will come tomorrow.’

‘Alright, darling,’ Mrs AJasin said.

She sighed. She had just brought a journey of ten years nearer.

She called Ayo to tell him she had decided but he would not answer his call. She filled her bag with some clothes that would last her two weeks. Two weeks were enough to celebrate her reunion and she would be back to Lagos, back to her work. She sighed and called Ayo again, the phone rang until it went dead.

The day rushed to the night and then it was lonely like the previous. The rats in the ceilings, the walls, the paintings were her companion. She picked her shoes and went to work as usual at a bar, as a striper. She slid into the changing room, filled with girls and girls costume. She changed into a short gown, wore lingerie and wore a small mask that only covered the area around her eyes. When she stepped out, her eyes caught some familiar faces of men who raised a toast at her appearance. There was a taunt man, bearded. He wore a suit and a tie loosely, shirt unbuttoned to his chest, and he smiled and called her with his finger to which she feigned a smile.

'Lap dance,' he said.

She sat on his lap and writhe and wriggle. She heard him exhale as though puffing. Perversion was a pleasurable thing, she thought, it cost money for women to sit on another man's lap than it usually costs in the outside world. She moved her bum rhythmically, up and down, quick and slowly as though she was obeying an army commander. She turned to face him, putting his face over her chest. He exhaled and he pushed him back slowly. Then she pulled it back, fast. The man smiled and tilted his head to the side in a knowing way. She shouldn't be doing this, she said, but when the man showed a strand of cash she led the way to the corner.

The light was blue and she could hardly see the next person unless she walked close to their nose. There were partitions made of fabrics and tall above human height. They could hear moans and dark figures behind the partitioned curtains. The place smelled of incense and lavender and sweat. The man stepped to one of the partition and she sat on a small stool. He loosed his belt and she moved closer, sitting on his lap, the clothes and underwears were shifted by hurried hands, sliding into her like a nail drawn by a magnet and she was three thousand Naira richer when it ended.

She walked past another stripper who was earning her extra cash in loud moans and entered the bathroom. She cleaned up and sprayed perfume on her body.

She walked back to the hall and was heading to the pole when a man pulled her and said 'lap dance.' She feigned a smile and followed him to a place he could find a seat. Just as she sat on his lap, she caught a figure looking curiously at her. The light cast a red shadow on him. Their eyes met. It was Ayo and he was leaving.
She was pulled back by the man when she tried getting up. In the man's eyes was anger that seemed like a stabbed kitten. Then she sat back and performed her occupational responsibility, feeling sad about it.

She went to Ayo's house after that. It was a single room around the campus of Lagos State University. The place was always lively with music blaring and filled with the smell of cigarettes, meat, hemp, alcohol, and dirt. Cars were usually parked. Rooms were lit, often powered by loud generators. The building was occupied by students, but hardly would she meet anyone when she visited. They talked behind their doors in high spirit, loud noise or the spirit of a party. When it was quiet, the building was empty or the exam was forthcoming in LASU. The building was always a reminder of her longing. She imagined herself sitting in a room like one of these rooms – decorated with wallpaper, had a student desk and a look of student lifestyle – behind a table, facing her medical books. It was in her mind yet and it would soon come to pass, she always thought.
She slid the gate open and waved at the gateman.

Ayo wasn’t at home when she knocked and opened his two bedrooms flat with her spare keys. It was dark. She turned on the bright bulb and waited and waited and waited. When it became apparent that he wouldn’t come, she picked a paper and write on it.

‘Bye-bye, Ayo. I have decided and maybe we will talk when we get to meet there. And please pick your calls.’

She placed the letter on a glass table and placed a remote control on it.

She left for Abeokuta in the early morning. The mosques were calling the Muslims to prayer and the traders were standing like one who had been working all night, food vendors pouring hot rice inside small bowls for their buyers and darkness disappearing over the city like smoke. She thought about Ayo as she sat on the old seats of the bus. He hadn’t picked his calls. She called Mrs Ajasin instead and tell her she was on her way. Her thought returned to him again. She remembered asking him if he would marry her if his parents indeed say ‘no.’ He had chuckled and replied ‘that’s not possible, they know you, you are their daughter.’ She shook her head to that – they don’t know her, not any more, the things she had done in the last one years, they don’t know her. She used to be their daughter, their little girl, the one with a cute smile and body bigger than her age, but many of that changed when she left home except her body size. It had changed when her father lunged at her and used her body for pleasure.

She was going home eventually and she wished Ayo could be beside her, patting her back, assuring her that no matter what ‘father… bishop,’ says or do, he would be beside her.’

How will you cope now with father after all he has done to you? She smiled and replied, ‘pretence. I will pretend nothing happened until I become a great woman.’

She unlocked her phone, it turned off and she unlocked again and again. She scrolled through the pictures, the one where Ayo was smiling. Like his father, he was bearded, but he was younger and more handsome. Perhaps you are measuring the beauty with the affection in your heart. She shook her head.

The bus drove towards Abeokuta. Ayo had been her ‘brother’ and friend since childhood. They were raised by the same parent. She was adopted but she never felt that way from Ayo’s mother. They grew together. They shared the same bed innocently at some points. They watched movies together and talked about it for many days later. When she danced as she loved to, Ayo would clap and hug her in that shy hug like someone who over-estimated the effects of a simple gesture. They shared their ambitions together. She would become a doctor and he would become an engineer and they would make their parents proud – Ayomide Ajasin and Martha Ajasin. That had ended when she decided to run away at sixteen, but it had first taken a blow when his father began committing abominations when she was fifteen.

Ayo’s picture was still in her hand. He wore a white vest and his smile lit his face as though there was a light bulb under his facial skin. The muscle of his arms was evident and so was his wide chest, making her smile inwardly. The woman beside her said, ‘handsome bobo, is that your boyfriend?’ she shook her head, smiled and thought of what she would call him and how the chaos in her life had become still since they reunited. She could call him anything of course when they were together – treasure, hobby, love – but she shook her head. When she reached Abeokuta and she is before his parent, their parent, she would not call him any of that. ‘my brother,’ she said to the woman and smiled, his picture still in her hand.

*****

She wouldn’t have guessed she would be entangled with a murder case when she arrived in Abeokuta.



https://hadehsblog./2020/05/08/from-home-to-rendezvous-1/
Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 2:20am On Jun 17, 2020
@IamHadeh
Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 9:44am On Jun 19, 2020
2



Abeokuta was the same city after three years. It was the same familiar buildings, the touch of the sun over the city’s roofs, and only the feeling was different, the feeling of one daughter returning to her mother after a long sundering. She had looked from one corner to another, not with the aim to see something entirely new, but to see the quotidian things newly, that it was the same as she used to know, the road, the filling stations, the government buildings.


Their house still wore the same brown colour, fainting and dull. Bishop’s Toyota was parked at a corner of the house. She heard that he bought a new car a year ago, but the car wasn’t anything new as it was parked. Dust and mud covered the body, a blinker was broken and a little crack was on the rear windshield. At the other corner, there was an orange tree where it used to be, taller than what it used to be. She took a minute to see it all, the floor, the hibiscus flower at the front near the gate, the sounds of chicken from the poultry behind. Then, slowly, as though, she might miss an important moment, she walked to the door, her bag pulled by her side. She sighed and raised her hand for what seemed like hours, sighed again before knocking on the wooden door with carved images.

‘Who is it?’ her foster mother replied. Her voice was clear and alive as the time of Martha’s childhood. It was different than what she heard hours ago when she was on the bus.
She cleared her throat and breathed out, and said, as her heart kept pushing against her chest, ‘Martha.’ She heard a shout and then the repetition of her name as though the woman was exultant to announce it to those in the house and then quietly as if she did not want her to hear it. Shifting her weight on one leg to another, she folded her lips and breathed out. She was wearing a short gown and her ears held long earrings that they might consider too big, lips covered in red lipstick. It was all her way of saying she didn’t subscribe to all she was taught or feared about her hypocrite father’s teachings. She stared at her white painted fingernails and her exposed arms and smiled. She would be an obedient girl anyway and by the end of two weeks, she would be in Lagos, fighting the rough path to becoming a great woman. The door creaked. Her foster mother stepped out, smiling and hugged her tight, detached herself, and checked her from head to toe. They hugged again, with Mrs Ajasin, touching Martha’s arm, back and breast. She giggled and defended her chest and they both laughed, a pure and sweet laugh. They hugged and she realized Mrs Ajasin smelled of sweat, onions and seasoning. This brought a kind of longing for the type of food she used to enjoy as a girl.

She stepped into the living room, where her step-father was sitting on a settee, his face behind a newspaper. Their eyes met and the smile on Martha’s face dissolved slowly like a cube of glucose inside warm water. This wasn’t the kind of communication she wished to share, the type she wanted to avoid at the moment. She knelt down, supporting her left hand on her bag and she said, ‘good afternoon, sir.’

He didn’t smile nor did he frown, his face was expressionless, plain and without focus, as though her presence distracted him from some important activities. He only snorted and said ‘Martha,’ as if he couldn’t believe she was the one kneeling before him.

She sighed. This wasn’t how she planned to meet him after the years. She had thought he would be afraid to see him, and that she would keep quiet about it till she becomes a great person. But looking at him, he stared calmly, so innocently that she doubted if he still remembered his actions. He looked at her as if she was a long past, a lost child, everything a distant, blurry memory and missing between the years and the present.

‘Come, come, come.’ Mrs Ajasin took her arm and her bag and she followed her into an old familiar room, the room she used to share with Florence. The woman brought her wrapper and her big vest, saying ‘change to this and join me in the kitchen.’ She remained in the room and stared at the old things, the walls, the paint, the shelf, hangers, reading table, the bed. Many times, Mr Ajasin had come over with his torch, asking her to spread her legs to this side and this side and he would climb over this way, sliding his filthy hand into her wrapper. She closed her eyes and sighed. Florence used to sleep on this side of the bed, a clueless, calm and harmless sleep. She opened her eyes. The walls of the room held pictures of her stepsister, the pictures they took together many years ago where it was Christmas and she wore a Santa cap. She was young and no man had ever climbed over her. She smiled at the thought and wished she could boldly say that now. She laughed, the hopelessness of her wish felt humourous. Florence was now a fine and older girl – by the new pictures, she was older and more mature. She could see her thighs in a picture where she was wearing an inter-house sports dress and in her eyes was pure innocence. She would be fifteen next month, she thought, just like you, when… when… She saw another picture of her where she was jumping over a bar and there she saw the skin of her thigh, just covered by a short. She would be fifteen next month, just likee you.

‘Just like me, what?’

She frowned and stared at the picture that had been a source of questions and painful remembrance. Her father, she screamed. She turned quickly. Where is Florence?

It was the morning of the following day when she was called into the sitting room. She could guess what the purpose of such meeting was about by looking at Mrs Ajasin’s calm face and Mr Ajasin’s expressionless face and she was ready for it. Florence sat by her right, wearing a smile. She remembered hugging the girl tightly as though she wanted her to glue to her own body and never be separated again. She had waited till night when they were about sleeping before she asked one important question that had bugged her. ‘Are you still a virgin,’ she had asked. First, the girl frowned. Then Martha had pointed to the girl’s lower region and asked again, ‘hope, you haven’t done it before.’ The girl shook her head and giggled as if she was tickled all over the body. She had sighed and patted her head and blurted out, ‘he didn’t touch his own.’

They started with songs that lasted thirty minutes in English, Yoruba and pidgin. Then they switched to worship songs. Mrs Ajasin prayed for forgiveness. Mr Ajasin expressed ‘their’ appreciation to God for giving them the cloth to wear and food to eat, or bringing the prodigal daughter back and for guarding her movements through the ‘wilderness’, for protecting her from the wolves of this sinful world… it lasted another thirty minutes. When Martha was called to pray, she started and ended in three sentences – thirty seconds.

‘Blessed redeemer will appreciate you lord for you are our guardian and refuge. Therefore, we give you control of today’s activity. Take it and give us reasons to be grateful at the end of the day.’ she paused and added ‘amen.’

She kept her eyes shut for long before she opened them. Her step-father was watching her as though she was possessed by something evil and by looking her carefully he would find it either on her right arm or on her cheek or on her belly. She kept her face straight, focusing on Florence’s happy face or the figurine of Jesus on the TV.

Mr Ajasin said amen again, thank God again, cleared his throat and said, ‘we want to know, Martha, where you have been and why you run away?’

How could he ask? He was the reason she left, of course, now he was asking like a completely innocent soul, as if he was clueless of the deeds he had committed. She bit her lower lip slightly. Her hands brushed the top of her knee which was clothed in a jean trouser. She had chosen to wear it despite knowing it used to be forbidden in the house. Mrs Ajasin’s face seemed to be saying, please tell us, Florence's face was saying, ‘I want to hear it,’ and Mr Ajasin, ‘say nonsense and you will not imagine what I will do to you.’
She had prepared her answers in two parts. The first part was for the distant future when she would have become a doctor, married and with kids. She would stand before this man and tell the world the atrocities he had committed. The second part was for now – a blatant lie – she ran away to find a job in Lagos and to find her real parents.

‘I ran away,’ she said and after the expected ‘why’ as their reply, she added, ‘ I think I would find my parent.’

‘What?!’ Mrs Ajasin screamed.

‘It’s a lie,’ Mr Ajasin stood. ‘You are a fool if you think I will believe such a thing.’ His voice was rising. ‘Tell us how you have been surviving for the past three years.’ ‘Slut.’

Slut? She called you a slut. She felt blood flying around in her veins and to her head. She blinked twice and again. She exhaled and what came out of her mouth could have been a blast from a furnace. Slut? How could he say that when he was a greater, shameless slut she called ‘father,’ when he was the Satan who set her foot on the run. She whirled to her feet to match his height.
‘You made me a slut, Mr Ajasin,’ she said. She heard a sudden gasp behind her.

Mr Ajasin’s eyes were darting from one corner to another. He was looking at her as though she had breached an agreement, a secret they both agreed to keep bottled.

‘You are the shameless fagot; you called me your daughter and raped me for years.’

Mrs Ajasin stood and hobbled on one foot and another, deliberating. She didn’t offer coherent words, except ‘ah’, ‘yeeh,’ as though she had lost the ability to utter coherent sentences.

‘You haven’t seen enough, sir,’ Martha said, ‘by the time I’m done with you; your life will never remain the same. You will wish you never saved me,’ she added, tears threatening to flow from her eyes socket. She was a vessel for the words coming out of her mouth. There was an aged annoyance inside her, a caged one, it was talking now and she had no control over it. What she was saying should have been said so many years back, but she hadn’t earned the freedom to say them. When she earned such freedom, from stepping into the wildness of the world, she wished she had taken a different route to earn a living, had the world been easier. She was angry that the source of her trouble was the one to cast the first stone. How dare he?

A knock came over the door. Three people were allowed into the house. The first was a woman in a white shirt and a black trouser. The other two were police officers. The lady greeted and introduced herself as sergeant Ngozi.

Martha remembered the lady. She was an officer at Uchenna’s office in Ikoyi. They had met several times and each time was an encounter as if there was malice between the two who hadn’t done much talking to one another.

‘We have bad news,’ the female officer said, ‘I suggest you sit down,’ she added.

The room was silent. The presence of the visitor did not ruin the current atmosphere; instead, Martha began to breathe hard. She was sweating. One thing was certain and that was she hadn’t informed the police about Mr Ajasin’s atrocities. She hadn’t informed anyone either, except the woman who helped her to Lagos three years ago, and she had promised to keep it a secret.

‘Your son,’ the lady said, ‘was murdered two days ago.’

Martha heard the voice, like a muffled sound, as if someone blew air into a cup of water. She brushed a hand over her head and gasped. They had met two days ago, she remembered. Ayo was fine. He was the handsome little boy who melted her heart like butter – bearded, with a sweet smile. They talked about coming home. At the restaurant, they ate. The shock registered first on Mrs Ajasin’s face and she cried. Then a long silence followed. Martha felt a sudden stab in her stomach and she winched, then she turned, staring at the walls as if a face would appear on the frame or peer in through the window and he would say, ‘this is a prank, we were meant to come home together, and now, I’m here.’ She closed her eyes and muttered what seemed like a prayer.

‘We have to keep the body for now for our investigation.’ The lady continued. ‘We are to inform you,’ she paused and when she was sure she had their attention, added, ‘Miss Martha, we will like to bring you in for questioning.’

Mr Ajasin collapsed to the floor like a heavy book. Martha heard a scream. Then her hands dropped lifelessly by her side as if she had been electrocuted and all cells were dead. The female officer was walking towards her and Martha shut her eyes. Maybe she would wake up from this dream. She collapsed down slowly as images of three years began to form in her head. Her world was getting dark, to a meshed-up picture of human bodies and vision that seemed like blurred colours. She remembered that little girl who was climbing the fence to escape the life she never chose. She was young again, her present situation pushed back and her breathing was being swallowed by the recent news. She would die if she had the chance. She wasn’t dying.

Whatever pain and whatever shocked she felt and whatever weakened her bones now, she felt worse when she was seventeen, until that day she said goodbye to Abeokuta, never to come back until she becomes a doctor. It started there – she could point at it like a spot on a beach.


****

https://hadehsblog./

1 Like

Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 6:08pm On Jun 20, 2020
Your comments, likes and critics will be appreciated... Thanks
Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by ndiuelish(m): 6:32am On Jun 21, 2020
Nice story my guy. Continue

1 Like

Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 8:52am On Jun 21, 2020
ndiuelish:
Nice story my guy. Continue


Thank you... Update coming soon
Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 7:10pm On Jun 21, 2020
3


October 2010 (Three Years Ago)


Martha had just arrived in Lagos. She went to the club which would eventually become her place of work although she did not know it yet.

She had arrived a day ago into the hands of her new guardian, Sophia. When she arrived, Sophia had peered at her for long and nodded her head, a smile spread on her bedizened face, which Martha believed had ruined her beauty. It was many months later that Martha would know that the simple nod was an acknowledgement that she would succeed in the ‘business.’

She was at home on the first day while Sophia went to work. She didn’t ask where she worked. Visitors, as she had learned, do not ask many questions. Sophia would tell her when the time was appropriate. So she sat at home on the leather settee, her shoes removed so as not to dirty the rug and tiles, and she watched television till her eyes itched. She slid into boredom later like a cube of sugar melting inside hot water and she moved her feet rhythmically to the hum from her mouth.

The following day, Sophia arrived at night and told her they were going to a club. She didn’t ask where. She wore one of Sophia’s jean and vest and followed. She felt strange in the trouser. It was tight and comfortable and made her feel proud of her own body. But it was louche, shameful and ungodly if her foster father could judge it.

She remembered how she had left home one night all too sudden, sudden and she surprised herself by showing the courage to run away. It all started with the man she called father.

Initially, she had thought she owed her life to him. The neighbour talked about the ‘favour he did for her’ as they would talk about one who invented feminism or the civil rights, and Martha, being a responsible little kid thought she had to worship him. It was said that he was kind and from the thought of his kindness, she had a deformed perception about kindness. They described him as a man with a heart of gold. Mama Toyin, their neighbour, said when he brought Martha home on that day in a cartoon of biscuit, she looked like a skinny baby crocodile. Martha thought she would have said lizard if Martha had smiled at other things. ‘You should be grateful,’ the old, lousy woman had added.

She wasn’t grateful. The stories did not help up to the bitterness of her situation even after she ran away, she thought of being left to rot on the refuse dump, fed upon by flies and rats and cockroaches. She had kept this to herself or she would have been whipped, to destroy the evil spirit in her soul and so she would smile and nod when the woman told such a story, her story.
So she became a member of a family of three, Mr Ajasin (the Good Samaritan and a bishop in his church), his wife and their first son, Ayo. It took five years before there was another addition to the family, a girl; they named her Florence. By the eight harmattans of her arrival in the house, Martha realized she had a strange love for music. Although she had the voice which was useful in the choir, it was her body that would want to expound this strange feeling. She danced. She would dance to the strings from the terrace’s metal pole, Ayo being the drummer. Her dance was different among the choir and they would stop and watch. She danced at home to the song on the radio and her siblings would hail.
‘Where did she learn to dance like that,’ her foster father would ask.

‘Leave her alone,’ the mother would say, mopping the table with a piece of cloth, ‘I know she would like to dance by the way she wriggle in my hands when she was a baby.’

She remembered it all. But she was done with such restriction. Now that she was away from them, she could dance and feel no torment.
They arrived at the club. There were a metal door and a sign at the top in blue light. Rendezvous clubhouse. They walked past a bar where people sat peacefully and drank. It was quiet there and they continued through a lobby till they reach another door. Two men stood by this door and they smiled at Aunty Sophia, allowing them into the interiors. They walked through a long lobby, with strange sounds from the side rooms, like a face-me-I-face-you house. The only difference was that there was no door, just curtains, and she could make out the shape of a girl or that of a man lying on his back, or the cry of a girl whose seem naked or actually naked. She paused and stared round. Where’s this place? Girls walked past her wearing just bras and pants and hefty men stood at intervals, smiling at Aunty Sophia as they allowed them and until they got finally to a big hall.

It was crowded. The light was red and dark that made her look twice before she could see their faces; even if she walked up to them tomorrow, she might not be able to tell if she ever met them. Two girls were standing on a podium, climbing, wriggling and twisting by two poles. They were wearing just their pants and bras, and by moving up and down the pole, they gave the world the chance to see the space under their thighs. She watched and, for a moment, forgot she was following a woman.

They took a corner to their left and it led back to the lobby they walked past earlier. They entered a room, where Aunty Sophia sat and dressed like the girls on the pole, a pant and bra exposed her body too much. Then she stood and said, ‘wait for me. You can watch from this room,’ pointing to a corner, which hung the CCTV and a man sat by a desk ‘or you can come to the main hall. I will be back,’ she said and without waiting for Martha’s response, she left. She would learn later that the man behind the office desk was the manager of the most lucrative part of the hotel, Rugged (pronounced Ruggedi). Martha didn’t have a reply either. She couldn’t even nod her head and she just stared at the exposed buttocks and arms and back as Aunty Sophia cat-walked out of the room.

Like a zombie, she followed her back into the hall and stood by a far corner, where there was a bartender. There, she watched, first as Aunty Sophia danced briefly and then a man tapped her buttocks, flashed some money and she followed. The man sat on a chair. She was surprised to see Aunty Sophia adjusting the only piece of clothing covering her nudity by holding the edge of pant, expanding it and pulling it up. She folded her hands and watched and watched – Aunty Sophia, the other girls, the men drinking, the way they put money in the girls bra, the way the girls danced by sitting on men’s laps, pulling the men’s face on their chest, the way they led men out into the lobby, like a ram willingly following a butcher.
That night, they talked about Martha becoming a stripper. It was an idea she would not welcome, and, so, she shook her head and began to cry. This wasn’t what the woman told her. Aunty Sophia moved to the arm of the couch, sitting beside her, an arm across Martha’s shoulder. They were inside her apartment.

‘See, I started like you. Since then, I’ve been able to afford all these things.’

‘No!’ she said and sobbed.

This wasn’t the way she wanted to live, to spread her legs for men to see, to sit on their laps and place their head on her chest. No. She wasn’t going to take such a life; it wasn’t better than what she was running away from. Her life in Abeokuta was hell enough that she would wish death on the man who adopted her and when her prayer wasn’t answered, she sat by street corners and cried her energy out. The man would not let her dance and by night, when Martha lay in bed, wrapped in Mrs Ajasin’s wrapper, he would come as silently as a snail. Such time frazzled her and it never ceased to happen almost every night. The creaking of the door would cut her fantasy of becoming a famous dancer. She would toss and toss and toss, hoping he wouldn’t come close, and she would hold her leg tight, her eyes shut, body stiffened. But the hands would come on her buttocks and roll her over, then grip her legs, then pulling Mrs Ajasin’s wrapper off her body, the bed vibrating to hold his weight. Then her legs would be shifted apart, and she would shut her eyes tighter and tighter as if she was seeing a bad dream.

There was an old uncompleted building near their house in Abeokuta. She used to find solace inside for crying and to wish death on herself or the man. Twice, a woman had found her weeping and she lied about her woes. She didn’t say dancing was rebuked in the house; she said her father hates to see dancers. She didn’t say he climbed over her every night, she said she didn’t feel like one of the family and that if she could find a way to run away from the family, she would take it. The woman listened and the third time the crier met the sympathizer, an arrangement was made. She would come to Lagos – to escape that life – and by 2 am, one Sunday morning, she had gone into Mrs Ajasin’s purse ‘to borrow five thousand Naira she would pay back later in life,’ climbed the fence because the gate was still locked and left, her back turned against that life.

She wiped her tears with the back of her hand and pressed her nose to ease the painful sting she was feeling in the nostrils. When she thought she had been away from such life, being used as an object of satisfaction like a toy, she was signing up for another.

‘All I want to do is to work,’ she sobbed. ‘I thought I could work as a maid and raise some money and go to school.’ She stopped, keeping the rest of the story to herself. She had heard stories of how girls come to Lagos to work and many years later, they would become big women, riding fine cars to their village, parked before a small bungalow in the street. The neighbours would then tell the story – she was just a little girl when she left, working as a maid, look at her now, how did she do it.

‘My dear, you are facing the reality,’ Aunty Sophia said, ‘if you are in this kind of job and you are smart, you can meet someone that would help you.’

‘Not this. I don’t think I can do this.’

‘When I heard your story, I feel you need help and I’m ready to give it to you. Trust me; you can have a good life after all this.’

‘Can’t I get a job as a maid?’ she cried, biting her lower lips.

‘You can but I’m not the one to help you find it. This is Lagos. Strip club pays you twice as you will get working as a maid. And a maid is a “useless girl” when madam husband cannot get to her. She is also a “useless girl” if madam husband gets to her and madam finds out.’
‘I don’t want to do that kind of work.’

‘My dear, you can do it. I didn’t die doing it. On lucky nights, I come with as much as twenty thousand Naira, because I’m smart.’ she said, raising her buttocks from the couch the way Martha had seen her done at the club, and smiled. ‘They will pay you every night. Cool cash,’ she winked.

‘I don’t know how to dance around that pole.’
‘I will teach you.’

Martha was quiet.

So it was set that she would become a stripper and she would start the next day. Through the night, Martha thought about her new life. She imagined the way her family would feel if they heard about it, that she regaled men in a night club. Then she remembered how much Aunty Sophia said she could make – that’s hundreds of thousands per month. She smiled. It took a very long hour of staring at the ceiling before sleep knocked her over.

The next day, they went to the club around 3 o’clock when it was empty and they met with the manager, who Aunty Sophia introduced as Rugged, then saying this is the girl I told you. Rugged was bald but he made for it for a good amount of beard and sideburns. He wore a white vest and black jeans, with a Rolex wristwatch. He smiled at Martha and asked of her favourite song. She waited for some seconds, thinking about what did becoming a stripper has to do with her favourite song. But he insisted, looking straight to her face.

‘Do me, by P-square’ Martha said. That was one song she could not get tired of.

Rugged played the song through a computer and the sound cried out of the big speakers, ‘could you dance to it?’ he asked.

Martha laughed. She couldn’t tell what he was driving at but it seemed like a big joke to have asked her to dance to this one song. She could dance to it all day and so she danced, first tapping her feet, front, back, her shoulders take their own movement and her waist rotating like the atlas ball fixed to a pole. Rugged clapped. Aunty Sophia clapped, beaming with a smile. Then Rugged sat on a settee.

‘Give me a lap dance,’ he said, tapping his thigh.
‘Sir?’

‘What’s sir, I’m Rugged. I said I want a lap dance.’ He frowned.

Martha glanced at Aunty Sophia, who crossed her hands on her chest and stared back at her. She made Martha remembered Mrs Ajasin when she was angry.

What will she do? She wasn’t interested in all those things she had seen Aunty Sophia doing to men the other night. She had feared this would be part of the job, and she had reminded herself it was better than living under the same roof with her foster father. She would do it, she had thought. She looked behind Rugged’s bald head, where there was the TV, a woman dancing to Dbanj’s song, Fall in Love.

‘I don’t know to do a lap dance.’

‘Are you sure you tell her what job she will be doing here?’ Rugged asked, turning to Aunty Sophia who was looking unpleased.

‘I did,’ Aunty Sophia said.

‘And other things?’ he asked.

Aunty Sophia nodded, then she said to Martha, ‘watch,’ and she walked to Rugged and started a lap dance. She started slowly like a cat walking over a soft mattress. She sat and twisted on his thigh, her back against his chest, Rugged’s face blank. she shook and teased her buttocks on his groin, shifted forward, then pushed back with a sudden jerk. Rugged gasped, and then they both chuckled as if they had communicated a secret that was oblivion to Martha. She stood, turned to Martha and said, ‘your turn.’

Martha froze. She could feel her heart drumming against her chest. Then silently saying, the lord is my shepherd, she took tentative steps towards the man who was staring at her chest with the keen interest of a doctor. When she began, Aunty Sophia scoffed, shook her head and said, ‘she needs to learn badly’ and so, they started training the next day, at home and at the club.

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Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 4:10pm On Jun 25, 2020
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Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 4:19pm On Jun 25, 2020
4


The next Saturday was her first time as a stripper. Aunty Sophia had given her another short gown in her collections and Martha drank two cups of alcohol to feel, as Sophia said, a little wild. She wore a blonde wig, she was helped with her makeup, and her sandals were as high as the thread of a staircase.


The red light of the club adored her skin. Two girls were already on the podium, the bar wasn’t crowded yet and the few sitting men were interested in drinks and gabbing. She took her position around the pole and started dancing. She had practised with Aunty Sophia. The lady had given her time to tutor her about everything. They would sit together on a dull evening and talk about lighting up the evening. What they had both meant was coming to the club, learning pole dancing and how to give a lap dance and to drink and dance. Then last night was the longest when she had listened to Aunty Sophia through an hour of talk which felt as if she was engulfed in her advice, her story, her mistakes and her future. She wouldn’t want that again.

She danced slowly at first. She danced, observing the other dancers on the podium. It felt easy than she had imagined. If this was just her job, she would be willing to come every day. But it wasn’t and so she had come to a conclusion that lap dancing wasn’t prostitution and that people did dirty jobs in their life before they became successful. This was her dirty job. When she glanced at the faces in the club, men holding cups or ogling women in short gowns, she knew they wouldn’t agree with her on this thought. She danced, climbing up and down and around, delicately, head down, legs up, legs spread apart but not too wide. A man watching would have noticed she drew her legs back too quickly than the other girls. She was told that the management would pay two thousand nairas for dancing on the pole but the men would pay if she could give them a good lap dance. ‘The price for lap dance although is fixed at 2k, but they can pay you well and even ask for more if you satisfy their bulala.’ She looked across the club and she glanced at a man who seemed young, smoking a cigarette. He wore a black vest. He was on a low cut, sitting on a stool, body blaring tattoos and a dazzling piece of jewellery on his muscular chest. He waved at her and Martha looked away then looked back at him. He waved again. Martha took another second before walking gingerly like a model, to him, remembering the lessons Aunty Sophia had thought her in the past few days.

'Save money, no matter how fashionable you want to look... there are cheap men everywhere; learn how to differentiate them... I was like you when I came to Lagos. My mummy just let me just go as she had told you. And I wish I can leave the job soon but there was not enough money to allow me to quit. Save money if you really want to leave this job someday… carry your own protection all around. You don’t want to do things because you are hot and no protection around… men are perverts; many will pay if they can use you for their own satisfaction if they are satisfied with each time with you. So you have to learn that… Tease them. Good sex. Most of them are stupid…’

Martha had sighed through the long hours. She had thought she wouldn’t need the protection, except, of course, she met a man of her taste – tall, dark skin that would compliment her light skin, and rich.

She pushed strands of hair back from the wig on her head. Pushing her toes one after the other like a tiger after a prey, she bent to the man’s face and asked, ‘what can I do for you,’ crooning her voice like she wanted to pelt a child.
The man smiled and puffed into her face. ‘Give me something, girl,’ he said.

Martha feigned a smile, placed her hand on his shoulder and said, ‘money, first.’

‘Oh, baby, you want the doh first.’ He reached into his wallet and brought out two thousand naira notes. Martha took it and slipped it in the corner of her bra. She sat on the man’s lap and started her dance – just as she had been taught.
She swirled her bum on the man’s groin and the man gasped and exhaled. She turned to face him, her legs on each side of his waist, and she pulled his head closer to her budding breast. Careful, not to suffocate him, she slowly wriggled her chest on his face, then carefully pushed him back. Then she twitched his head back to her chest. He smelled of cigarette, alcohol and sweat. She felt him hard under her buttocks, pushing her up, and she felt for a moment, she was on her bed in Abeokuta. The inner of her thighs felt warm and she pulled her legs tighter as if that would stop it. A desire was growing and she would explode if she didn’t act. She frowned. She wanted to stand up, to run into a room and stop whatever was burning inside her thighs, but they said a lap dance lasted five minutes. She would endure and so the rhythm of her dance dwindled, the hot desire under her thigh taking control. She breathed out loud. The colour of her eyes changed. She stood from the man’s lap and danced seductively before him. This seemed to reduce desire. Then she sat back, rocking the man slowly, placed her hands on his shoulder and said, hope you enjoy it.

‘Com mon, yes. You do good, babe,’ he said. As soon as she estimated the time to be enough, she hurried off, slipping past a number of hands that were calling her, and entered the bathroom. She waited there till late when she left for home. Rugged paid her three thousand; he said the extra one thousand was because it was her first day. She smiled, she had five thousand but the thought of what she did to have the money nauseated her. It would go away, you are not a prostitute. You are doing this to raise money.
She had the room to herself when she got home, Aunty Sophia had been driven away in a black SUV, where she smiled and waved and an older man in Agbada sat nonchalantly beside her. Martha took the money from her bag and placed it on the bed. She took off all her clothing except her pant and bra, watching the television by the bed. She switched it off as it was interrupting her flow of thought. She thought of what she would do with the money, she thought about how easy it was to make that much in one short evening, how it seemed like the money was thrown at her without working for it, how she could afford nice clothes and good shoes if she earned enough by the end of the month. But the thought of what she did to earn it made her feel tart as though she had bitten her lips out of enormous excitement to enjoy a delicious meal. She hated the way men look at her and the other girls, first like an attractive car and then like a car they would never take home but test drive. And what was that she felt when she was sitting on the man’s lap? It was strange as if something was burning on her thigh and it was warm and nice. She shifted her thighs and stared at her groins and thought about the moment. She shook her head. No, she shouldn’t be feeling that way. It was…it is unholy.

Martha was learning about the modus Operandi of the club. The club was a business organization and it was focused on making money so, it prepared girls randomly for night parties in undisclosed locations and whoever turned down the offer would be out of the club forever. The girls didn’t want to turn it down, either. They look forward to those parties and they talked about it that ‘one connection with a big man or a politician can change their “career’” as though they had one. At the club, men bobbed girls’ buttocks and such girls would scream or keep quiet – depending. If she screamed or flinched, a bouncer would come and throw the man out but it was unlikely because the men were rich and could afford the bouncer. If she didn’t shout, it meant such man had put dollar bills or some naira notes in his palm, showed it to the girls face before rapping her buttocks like a besotted drummer. There were cases of breast grabbing or men reaching their hands into places they didn’t pay for. Like the girls, Martha talked or didn’t talk. She was learning.

Gradually, she eased into life as a stripper. She came by every evening to dance like she always told herself before she left home, but she would silence the other voice inside which would say she was going to the den where men gaped at preys, men watch them like kids watching cartoon and they could have access to them like toys at the flashing of two thousand naira notes. She learned the etiquette quickly. She was making money, of course, and she could make more or save more so that she could quit very quickly. Life was sweet here. Every night she gave lap dance and turned down the request for a ‘short time’ in the ‘room 2.’ But after the day's end and she got home, alone with her thought, she remembered the burning desire under her thighs. It was hot and sweet and couldn’t be enjoyed. She would shift on the bed, half unclad, begging for it to stop. She wanted more, to feel, to hold another human close in a hug, to feel another human inside of her although when she told Aunty Sophia, she shook her head and warned her against it. At the club, she looked for Aunty Sophia to see if that face was watching and their eyes would meet, with the older woman shaking her head whenever she received another offer for a ‘short time.’

A week passed too quickly. It was the Saturday of her second week that she gave in to a young boy’s request for a ‘short time.’ The boy wore a face cap and she couldn’t see his face clearly under the red light. He was light in complexion and tall and spoke in short sentences as though he was rapping to a song. Five minutes later, she had done the job, received her payment, felt satisfied and really satisfied, a burden was lifted off her as though she felt ache earlier and ice had been placed on her pain. But it was for a while. When she arrived at home at night, she sat on the tiled floor thinking about the short time with that boy. The period was so short and relieving, but as she sat on the tiled floor in just her pant and bra, she felt as though the boy had slid into her and had withdrawn a lot from her emotional bank. She wanted to be in someone’s company, a father, a man, to be hugged and to laugh. She stared into her phone screen and flung it over the bed. She folded her knees over her chest and thought of that moment she felt a burning desire under her thighs. She didn’t know when she began to cry, a slow and free flow of tears down her cheeks.

Her phone beeped and she saw messages from a man she had shared her contact with, a man she had saved his name as ‘idiot’. The messages were pictures and videos of men, naked men holding naked women in strange manners. She watched and grimaced, feeling a burning under her thighs. She shuddered at the scenes and actions. Reaching her hands into herself like she would rinse a cup, she touched and relieved herself. Then she flung the phone and cried.
When Aunty Sophia arrived, she woke up from sleeping on the tile and walked to the parlour, covering herself with a towel. Aunty Sophia was pouring herself a drink from the fridge.

‘Why did you leave early?’ Aunty Sophia asked.
‘I had a headache,’ she said.

‘You had your first time today,’ she said. ‘how was it?’

She was shocked that she mentioned it. She had thought she wouldn’t talk about it. It was normal and all the girls did it for money. They would just get into the room and come back with money and the men looking relieved.

‘Good for you,’ she continued.

‘I did it because you do it.’

Aunty Sophia stopped and laughed. ‘You are becoming a slut.’ She said, not looking at her face. ‘Only God’s grace can save you now from what you are going to become.’

Martha was confused. Was this not the plan after all? Why did she give all those pieces of advice when she didn’t want her to sleep with men? She held the towel at her chest and sat on the settee. She was dirty and needed a bath, but that could wait. She needed to clear her head and think about what Aunty Sophia said. Was she jealous? Had she seen her when she took the contact of the man she saved as ‘idiot,’ the fool who slapped her buttocks and waved at her? When she screamed, one of his bodyguards had given her an envelope. Was she jealous of that? She thought about how often Aunty Sophia slept at home. She was sleeping at men’s house, gracing their bed like a nomadic cow. Now when she slept with one, she was razing the house down as if it was her body, as if it was her future. She stared at the parlour and hissed. The house – she would find a place of her own soon, she thought.

She started following men to ‘room 2’ as the other rooms were being called. She satisfied men for money and returned with three thousand nairas and a wet pant. It was too good, too fast to get rich. Then, gradually, like a child in a new world, she was learning about the job and the club. Lap dancing was a façade, it paid less than visiting ‘Room 2’. The sad thing was that the men knew it and they looked at her with those eyes of mockery, the way a mother looked at a child throwing tantrum.

Three months later, she had a lot of new clothes, a new phone and a better idea of places in Lagos which she had learned by spending a night in one hotel or another. She knew the drugs to use, the clinic to go when she ran into STD troubles or fatigue or pains or pregnancy. She was learning. She lived in a new house. She was looking for men who could afford her good money for satisfying them, ‘maga,’ the girls at the club call them. She was thinking, too. Why did the girl keep doing the job when they could make a lot of money and quit? Why didn’t Aunty Sophia quit after so many years? What were the reasons?
Her questions, like learning the truth about life, took many years to be answered completely, but three months later after moving out of Aunty Sophia’s house, she got her first answer when she encountered two boys.

They came to Renzdevous club like other men. She had seen them talking and pointing towards her and so she walked seductively towards them. She had learned a lot in three months that when she began to swirl and twist close to their nose, they paused and watched with their mouth open. One of them was fair, he wore a pink vest and shinning pair of earrings, his middle finger bearing a ring. The other was tall and dark and bearded, with muscular arms that could be convinced as that of a weight lifter or a boxer or someone who does heavy work – breaking rocks or pulling loads up a rig. They asked for her performance and she danced for each man, sitting on their laps and teasing them with her breast. Then the shorter man leaned towards her ear and said they would like to have her for the night – the two of them for twenty thousand. It was weird – two men over a night – nothing like she had ever done before.

She was quiet for long, watching from one face to another to catch a glimpse if they were joking. The taller one nodded and looked away. The shorter was looking at her face. She was not living with Aunty Sophia; she would have taken an excuse and sent her a text, asking for her opinion. Twenty thousand for a night was a good offer if she looked at the reality of it, she wouldn’t be spending the whole night with them. She brushed strands of her hair backwards. She brushed it again and told herself it is just one night and just two small boys, she had been with older and more muscular men and so she said ‘Okay.’ If they try anything funny, she would just pull a crazy one on them like her friend Anita had done one day. ‘I just break bottle commot,’ Anita had told them, ‘con see as small boys dey beg me. They wan die? Then never live for inside street reach.’ She would be exercising the craziness she had kept and caged all her life. So, they left in a red Toyota car and she spent two hours between two naked boys in a hotel room, stupid boys, weird boys, who hadn’t have such opportunity and were bent on using it to the fullest, touching, groping, humping. She left them sleeping on the bed like lazy dogs.

The city of Lagos was just falling asleep. Martha could still hear the sound of music around. She was eager to get home and catch some sleep. She had made enough money for the night that could last her for a week. She was about getting a ride when she heard a voice called, a man in a black uniform stepping out of a dark corner.

‘Excuse me, madam’ he was a police officer, a short man with a belly like a pregnant pig.

‘Yes? What is it?’

‘I’m sorry young lady, but we have been vigilante around this place. We were told that girls like you are causing trouble and unrest to the occupants of this street.’

‘Girls like me?’

‘Yes,’

‘Girls like me. What do you mean by that?’
‘I’m sorry madam. But I don’t like to waste my and your time I will have to search you.’

‘Search me? For what?’

‘For security reasons.’ He said, walking close. ‘We don’t want someone reporting that a killer was on the loose last night. So cooperate with me, young lady.’

‘You can’t be serious,’ she said, in a low voice, imitating the soft voice she had learned to use, the voice of her partners at the club.

The police officer snatched her bag before she could hide it behind her back. He dipped his hand inside and began to search, his gun hanging on his shoulder. He brought out women things – a brush, a powder box, a handkerchief, a bottle of perfume – and put them on the floor. He then held a wrapped white piece of paper to Martha’s face. It didn’t belong to Martha, and her eyes widened and her heart began to drum hard as if she was running on a steep mountain where a lion is chasing her from below. She watched the paper and the officer’s face for any sign of trouble and she saw it, from the expression on his face and the slow movement which he held the paper. He crooked his torch between his neck and his head, and un-wrapped it, and then smelling it, he said, ‘you are under arrest for possession of harmful substances.’

Martha didn’t look away, but she heard the voice of a man behind her, mocking and laughing and she knew it was a hallucination but it was too strong to be separated from reality and so she soberly thought, may she shouldn’t have left.



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Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 9:20pm On Jul 09, 2020
Hello, here

I want to use this medium to announce that the blog comes first before Nairaland.

I'm sorry for the little inconvenience that might have caused...

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Updates coming tomorrow. Thanks
Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 5:27am On Jul 11, 2020
5

Sophia and Rugged came to the police station in the morning. The officer had asked her to call someone and she had only thought of Sophia and no one else. She was happy that she showed up but she kept quiet when she was called out of the cell and didn’t acknowledge her.

She was told to say her side of the story and before she could finish she was soaked in tears. Rugged listened carefully without fretting; Sophia moved closer and hugged Martha. When she finished, Rugged said they should excuse him, so they left and stood outside of the new officer’s office, awkward silence falling between them.

They stood apart and Sophia folded her hands over her chest. She was quiet and watching. Martha expected she would say another word – that she would advise her like she used to do, that she would correct her where she had gone wrong, but she was placid, watching, just watching her. Martha stared at the floor before her toes. She was wrong to have left Sophia, but she had needed her freedom from the house. Before she decided to leave, Sophia had asked her to pay half of the house rent and that was it. Martha thought of having another place where she would pay definitely but have her freedom.

‘Thank you,’ she said, still looking at the floor. She felt ashamed. She had been admitted into Sophia’s house for free for the first couple of days, free food and she got her first pair of trousers. She had paid her back poorly. She wanted to say sorry but she cast her eyes at Sophia and saw her eyes were still peering at her. Martha kept quiet and said thank you so softly that she could barely hear the words coming out of her own mouth.

Sophia said nothing but Martha noticed what seemed like a nod. She looked at the office, the counter, the police van through the window, the ‘bail is free’ tag attached to the wall.
Rugged came out some minutes later, the new police officer following behind. The police officer ordered another officer to return Martha’s belonging, her bag. Two minutes later they were driving out of the police station.

‘How did it go?’ Sophia asked and Martha almost say thank you again for asking.

‘Well, it was set up. She fell into a trap. The officer who arrested her and those boys know about. I call one of their bosses from another branch and fix it. Gave them something for the weekend,’ he said.

‘Thank you,’ Martha said.

Rugged nodded and turned at Sophia, ‘thank her,’ he said.

‘Thank you’ she repeated softly.

They drove in silence afterwards and Sophia alighted along the road. Rugged asked Martha to accompany him to meet the officer who made her release quick. They were going to show appreciation. So they drove to another police station, where an officer saluted Rugged amusingly and asked them into an office.

It was a clean office, the room occupied by a small plasma television, an office desk, two cushions, a center table, the flag of Nigeria, the coat of arm and the picture of the state commissioner. There was a picture on the wall showing a bearded man in uniform, a bearded man who seemed to be as old as Rugged. The office owner came in after them and exchanged pleasantries with Rugged. They laughed and hugged and clasped their palms together as if in one fist, then they grinned again. They disengaged and stared at each other and talked for some minutes and hugged and laughed all over.

‘Meet my friend,’ Rugged said, ‘Uchenna, he is now a police officer.’ He added. They were now sitting on the couch. Martha smiled and felt she was the unpaired soul in the room. She had been through a lot in the past 12 hours and she realized she hadn’t had her bath since the time with those boys, she hadn’t eaten anything either. Her hair must be unkempt and her face a jumbled color. She had been too occupied with her desire for freedom to care about it. She smiled and when the man extended his hand, she took it briefly and released it and looked at his chest and not his face.

Uchenna was the D.P.O of the branch they came to. He had taken the position after he got lucky, ran through the promotion process like an aggressive bulldog. He was younger than the position no doubt but he was powered by personalities that control the police forces– the kind of thing which is possible if he knew someone who knew someone at the top of the government. He was well-built, tall, dark and spoke as if he measured each word before saying them, in that soft manner of an actor following a script. He could have been an actor, by the way, and his features could have sold well in the movie industry.

‘You were telling me about your girl?’ Officer Uchenna asked, ‘what happened?’

Rugged narrated how Sophia had called him, and then he turned to Martha to narrate her own part of the story. She did and when she was close to the finish, she was sniffing.

‘I’m very sorry,’ Officer Uchenna said, ‘you are unlucky. The way things work here, you just have to give them something. But now that you are here, you can call me anytime. You don’t have to worry. I will be your shield,’ he said and smile.
Martha smiled. Suddenly, it was easier to smile after all she had been through. She stared around the office – the portrait of the president, Goodluck Jonathan, the coat of arm and the minister of police. She smiled at it all.

She was given Officer Uchenna’s number and she settled to a cup of juice a female officer offered her, watching as the two friends talked about football, politics and why they haven’t married.
It was four days later when she met Uchenna at a shopping mall in Ikoyi. She had just returned from the barber’s shop, her haircut well-trimmed and neat. She was wearing a blue gown that hugged her waist tight and the shape of her curves were revealing. She wore a necklace and a brown watch to match it. When she saw him and she said, ‘officer Uchenna,’ he froze beside the grocery shelves, turned to her, his hand still holding a basket. He put the basket down and frowned. Martha smiled and said ‘good afternoon.’

He said, ‘Martha, right?’

She nodded.

His mouth curved to an ‘O’ and she watched as he fought to find his word. He stared at her from head to toes. ‘Waoh!’ he said eventually and Martha laughed. He walked closer and said, ‘let’s do your shopping.’ Then he picked the basket and they walked and talked, picking one item and another.

‘So you also buy things here?’ he asked.

‘Yes, she said. I didn’t know I was going to meet someone like you here,’ she said.

‘I wanted to grab a few things for the weekend. But don’t worry, I can come back for it,’ he said. ‘Do you mind if I take you for lunch?’ he asked. Martha stared at him and then her wristwatch. ‘We won’t stay long,’ he quickly added ‘I will have to go to work later in the evening.’ She agreed and they bought her things and walked out of the supermarket. He drove to an expensive restaurant on the street.

Martha watched him carefully. His face had a strange admiration, which seems like if he wasn’t smart enough Martha would turn into the wind and disappear. It was a pleasure to see a man who would treat her this way; this seemed like a genuine impulse, like a father celebrating her daughter. He was older than a man she believed she could date, older than a man who should act like this towards her. He was around his mid-thirties like Rugged. Martha was just eighteen.
When they sat by the table, he asked her to make her order and not to feel shy. That was difficult. He was a police officer, not those kinds of men who come to the club, Rendezvous, he was handsome and so Martha found it difficult not to feel shy. She stared at the menu for too long and then at her fingers as if she was noticing, newly, the nails and the lines on them.

‘I couldn’t believe you were the one,’ he said. His smile was like a white sheet of paper. Martha glanced at his face and his head and imagined him in police uniform, the black cap on his head. ‘You look really different.’

‘I was in a mess the other day and that didn’t help my look,’ she said.

‘Please don’t be in that mess again. It hides your beauty,’ Officer Uchenna said.

They chatted and ate for some minutes.
They ended their lunch on that day and he drove her home in his car. He didn’t leave on the without asking for another date, ‘I want one which you really planned for,’ he said and Martha nodded and a day was fixed for it. She had thought she would be going to the Rendezvous that day, but she had gotten more groceries than she could afford and she was ready to take a day off again and this man was so cool. So she said yes to another date. That night when she shut her eyes to sleep, even before she became unconscious to sleep, she dreamed of being in his hand, her head on his wide chest and muscular arms and he was smiling and she was giggling, even giggling as she dreamt.

On the next day, she spent hours being finicky on a million of dresses before she limited her option to three, then she took photos of the dress and asked for her friends’ (the other strippers at the club) permission. She finally chose a red gown with a rose design on its chest side. It exposed her cleavage and she spent a good time applying the right amount of cream on her body especially her cleavage. She ate biscuits that afternoon to feel light and by night she ate another few biscuits before Officer Uchenna drove her to another restaurant. He didn’t freeze like he did the previous day. He didn’t look into her eyes like he was seeing stars. He had smiled broadly and gave her flowers when she had opened the door for him.

The restaurant was another classic one on the mainland. There was a touch of gold colors on the cushion, the table, the wallpaper, the artwork of a woman pounding yam.

The waiter brought their orders – fruit wine and chickens and fried rice and fish pepper soups and vodka. Martha had sipped a little wine and glanced at the couple at the side of their table. They seemed like a father and a daughter, except that their laughter was wide like a girl flirting with her father’s friend. She hoped Uchenna and herself didn’t look that way and if they did, this is Lagos, it is done. She hoped however that she would look older than she was actually as people as often said of her at the Rendezvous.

‘I use to come here when I was a sergeant,’ he said. ‘My Oga used to bring me here. You know, he took a special likeness for me. Because my father was connected. Pops know a man who was close to the commissioner. I was the commissioner's son after all,’ he laughed and Martha only giggled briefly and began to eat her fried rice. He was eating his fish.

‘That was how you became a D.P.O at a young age right?’

He nodded and smiled, ‘but it didn’t happen overnight. I’ve been in the service for some time and I was responsible. My boss got transferred and the order came that I should be the next boss.’

Martha thought of what he meant by responsible, she had checked his finger many times to know he wasn’t married, and the other day, he and Rugged had teased each other for not getting married. Responsible, she thought, can a police officer be responsible. He was different though, perhaps because he was the boss and he wasn’t at the roadblocks and among those who waved cars down and asked for their papers. What they want is a tip and the drivers could go to hell with their incomplete driving documents.

‘I’m not that young by the way,’ Uchenna said.

‘I don’t know how young you are,’ Martha said. ‘But… I’m the younger one here anyway. Can you guess my age?’

Uchenna shook his head as if making calculations, ‘eighteen? Nineteen?’

‘Wow’

‘I’m right?’he asked.

‘Yeah, you are. You are truly a police officer. I thought I looked older than that,’ Martha said.
‘Not to me,’ he said. ‘I just could tell. I could guess people’s secret. It’s part of my job.’ He winked.

‘Really?’

‘I know some of your secrets. You sleep late. Past one at times. You are still chatting and uploading on Facebook.’

Martha laughed. She felt warm and calm to laugh this way while he was looking at her closely. She stared at the plate of rice and fed another spoon to her mouth.

‘You must be keeping eyes on me,’ she said. ‘Am I safe?’

‘No. Until I know everything about you. So tell me all your secrets.’ He leaned closer to her mockingly but spoke loud enough that those around could have heard the discussion.
She laughed and thought of what she could call a secret in her life, her mind wandering round the scenes that she had kept away from anyone else, scenes of her foster father climbing over her bed, scenes where she had done stupid and shameful things as a stripper at Rendezvous. Men had asked for strange things. There was a time two women had asked for a private dance in their home. She hadn’t told anyone about but it came freshly to her mind now – how the two women had surrounded her and used her as a human toy. Her faces grew sullen suddenly. The pay was good but she would never do it again. What if the pay could sponsor you through medical school? She shook her head briefly, so short she thought that the man before her wouldn’t have noticed.

‘Are you okay?’ he asked.

‘Yeah,’ she said, brushing a hand through her hair, hurriedly putting a spoon of fried rice into her mouth and chewing it slowly afterwards.

‘I’m not a dangerous guy if that’s what you are thinking. I just want to know you. Just to want to spend a lot of time with you,’ he said.

‘No, no, no, I wasn’t thinking about you as a bad guy. You are nice, a very nice person to me.’

‘I’m blushing,’ he said and they smiled.

‘So tell me, what tribe are you?’ ‘You are Martha. That doesn’t say it.’

She chewed another spoon of rice and said, ‘I’m Yoruba,’ although she didn’t believe it either. His face was expressionless. It wasn’t a lie. Her foster father had named her ‘Toluwani,’ (this is God’s own). She was raised by Yoruba parents but her real parent could have been any tribe in the country.

‘Great,’ he said. ‘I thought you are Igbo. My instinct deceived me on that one,’ he added.
Martha wished she could tell him that she had thought herself to be Igbo or Urhobo, that she was just living with Yoruba parents. This was the truth about her life – that her true identity had been exchanged, gone or dead; perhaps it was just missing and would be that way till the end of her life. This was her real mother’s fault or the fault of the ones scared of raising her up. When she told Sophia how she hated to have been thrown on the refuse dump as a baby, and to have landed in the hands of her foster father and to have been tormented every night, Sophia had told her to be grateful instead; some mothers would have had other worse plans.

She drank some wine, sipping it slowly, waited, and then sipped more slowly. All the while Uchenna was watching her like a bar of magnet that could disconnect from him any moment. She smiled at him and he smiled back, chewing his soup of fish. Looking at his bearded face as he smiled, she wished she could reach for his beard and touch it if possible put her head on his muscular arms and let it soothe her to sleep. She drank more wine and waited and drank more and waited for the best day to ask the questions on her mind.

She preferred Sundays nights for their outings although he always wanted Saturdays; it was the best days for Martha to earn well at Rendezvous, a weekend, the hall would be filled and there were usually many offers. As the outing persisted, not as often as Martha wished because Uchenna had occupational duties, some questions began to come up in her mind like stubborn weeds. Why would a senior police officer be interested in her when he knows she works as a stripper? In the clubhouse operated by his friend, Rugged? He even knew she was young, very young. What would become of their relationship and dreams if he asked for her hands in marriage? The question seemed stupid – the man would not be stupid to tarnish his own image, but two weeks, they hadn’t shared more than a hug and gifts and her patience was getting slimmer by the day.

So, one day when they were eating, she popped a question at him ‘can we go home now?’ He looked up from his plate and glanced at the half-empty wine accusingly. When Martha remained quiet, he said alright.

‘To your house,’ she added quickly. The skin of his forehead crisped. He glanced at her face as if he had heard wrong. She had thought of the absurdity of this request and had cancelled it out once. She had thought that she could have waited and let him do the invite, but there was a silent voice in her saying she should say it to surprise him. She noticed the sudden pause in his reaction and how he carried on immediately as if he was not surprised. She had meant to surprise him anyway; to see what he would say. He said nothing, dried his mouth with the serviette and said alright. They drove through the night and he was more talkative, talking about the great things the government was doing in Lagos and his life as a student in Unilag, which reminded Martha of her own fantasy degree in medicine. Martha was quiet; absorbed in the thought of what his house would look like and what his behaviour would be once they are in his home and the door shut against the world. Her worry was cut short when he received a call on the way about some emergencies and he had to turn around and take her home.

‘They need my attention at the office,’ he said, ‘another murder in Lagos.’

It was relieving and painful like a delicious meal with too much pepper and Martha did not know how to react. It meant her questions would wait and her curiosity would be stronger. Her mind conjured thoughts of them together in a happy mood as they made a turn towards his office and then she thought how long it would be to have answers to her questions.

https://hadehsblog./
Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 9:36am On Nov 06, 2020
Story resumes this weekend.

Although it is now available on Okadabooks, I will keep sharing.

I have other works coming up, and I needed to push this out and be done with it.

Bambooks users, I hope it will available for you guys soon.

Mercis.
Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 9:54pm On Nov 15, 2020
6

Martha’s wish about the relationship diddled on like a snail. Although she had had more than five outings with Officer Uchenna, yet nothing had changed about the way they spent their time together. Officer Uchenna was only content with taking her out and spending some time with her. He would come over most, especially on Sunday nights, and they would visit a beautiful place. Most times, they would end up in a lounge or a posh restaurant where he would order for sumptuous drinks. But Martha wanted more.

She admired the muscular structure of his body. She had seen his chest many times and wished she could rest her heads on it. She wished to touch his big arms and to feel the muscle of his biceps wrapped around her waist. She wanted to be with him many times in a day and to see him as often as she saw the walls of Rendezvous.

She was happy that he never took her to a clubhouse or talked about her job at Rendezvous. When they sat at a restaurant, Martha was immersed with longing; she gazed with affection as if she wanted to reach for his arms and touch them. Officer was talking about the things that didn’t bother Martha.

‘I loved Fela so much,’ Officer Uchenna said forking a chunk of chicken. ‘I used to listen to him all the time when I was young.’

‘We can’t listen to his song in our house,’ Martha said.

Officer Uchenna looked up as if he’d just heard something strange. ‘Why?’ he asked. ‘Most people liked his song even if they didn’t like him personally?’

‘My father doesn’t like both his song and his personality,’ Martha said. She didn’t want to say that, to talk about her foster father with the fear that Officer Uchenna might ask further questions. She cut a small portion of the moi-moi in her plate and put it in her mouth.

‘I listened to Fela throughout my childhood,’ Officer Uchenna said. ‘I am his fan till date, even till university days.’

At the mention of University, Martha stopped cutting the moi-moi. She waited a minute, thinking about her academic ambitions too. She’d wanted to go to school but she was still entangled with a job she didn’t like. How long did she have to wait or lie that she would go to school one day and become a doctor one day?

‘We would sit in the classroom and sing his songs. We gathered friends that year from different departments. Skipped school to go listen to Fela. It was crazy. School life —’

It was at this point that Officer Uchenna’s voice began to fade in Martha’s ears. She scratched her hair and wished Officer Uchenna would stick with talking about Fela. But he was talking about his school days in Unilag — his encounters with prideful lecturers, the things he did as a member of the student union government. She bit her lower lips. She feared that Officer Uchenna would ask her questions about her academic ambitions.

The conversation shifted later to things Martha loved. ‘I loved dancing. Really, all this kind of dance, I don’t need to try too hard,’ she said.

‘Can we dance?’ officer Uchenna asked.

‘No,’ Martha giggled.

‘Why not? You just said you are good at it.’ He had a curious look on his face.

‘Some other time,’ Martha managed to say.

They kept meeting and the same routine continued, eating, talking and giving gifts. Martha’s wish that Officer Uchenna would ask her to be his girlfriend didn’t seem in the routine or in the near future.

Sometimes, her fantasy went wild. Once, when they visited the Film house cinema in Surulere and watched an old boring movie. Martha rested her head on his shoulder, a wrap of popcorn in her hand, her head on his shoulder. The ambience and dull light had a similitude of Rendezvous. The seats were made of fabrics which were darkish red. They were soft too, enhancing the romantic atmosphere of the interiors of the cinema.

Martha imagined him kissing and smooching her right there and when Officer Uchenna looked into her eyes and licked his lips, a thousand butterflies fluttered in her stomach as her heart began to ponder faster. Then she blinked.

‘Do you enjoy the movie?’ he asked.

She blinked and kept quiet. She didn’t want to talk about the movie. She wanted to kiss him and place her hands on his arm. But he looked at her, patiently waiting for her response.

Martha shook her head.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘I hope they show something better the next time we come.’

She sighed and bit her lips. Officer Uchenna must have noticed, she thought, he was too smart to not see the lust in her eyes. She stared at the big screen at the front.

‘Where should we go, next time?’ he asked.

She wouldn’t go to the cinema apparently. The movie they watched some minutes ago was boring and the cinema created a romantic atmosphere, despite that Officer Uchenna ignored the signs or seemed to haven’t noticed.

‘Let’s go to your place,’ she said.

Officer Uchenna nodded and brought her home later that night. Martha’s brain was filled with the thought if the cinema and the longings she had for Officer Uchenna.

She kept looking forward to spending more time with him. Unless she was at Rendezvous, her thoughts were filled with the joyfulness of the moments they have shared together. She reminisced on how he usually stared at her as if she were the most expensive jewellery in the world. She thought of him whenever she could and the thoughts grew like watered plants. Usually, after one date night or lunch, they would plan the next one. Martha would express what she wanted as a gift and he would bring the gift when she least expected it. It was fun. She wished they could meet every day, but many times, their dates would be cut short by calls from his office. Before she slept every night, she gave it enough time to imagine how sweet to have him lay beside her. Her mind painted pictures and more pictures of them sleeping and rubbing bodies together.

On one particular night of their outings, Martha asked him, ‘Can you marry someone that is younger than your sister?’ They were eating at a restaurant.

He looked at Martha as if Martha had said ‘can you drink poison?’ ‘Yes,’ he responded so quickly as if he was already expecting the question and had kept the answer on the tip of his tongue.

Martha looked away from him. She was surprised with the way the words rolled out of her own mouth too in the first place as if she had been chewing on the question for centuries.

Then they both continued eating. Martha controlled her facial expression, trying to hide the joy she was feeling within. She kept quiet, smiled briefly and used the serviette to hide her smile. She didn’t ask more questions on her mind. She was probably younger than his sister if he truly had one, she thought. What were his plans for her? What would happen to her education? She didn’t ask and another night passed without answers.

She was getting impatient. She wanted to know what he wanted from her and so she began to think of ways to get answers. But she was afraid of sounding stupid. She was scared that all the sweet moments would stop if she pushed too far. She would get an obvious answer since he knew the kind of job she was doing.

Sometimes, she imagined he would come one day with a face expressing disgust, and demand that she should give him a lap dance. She imagined him saying, that’s what she does for a living. But they went on many dates and he never mentioned what her job was or acknowledged he knew the kind of job she was doing. She was happy and was waiting too for the day he would ask her to be his girlfriend.

On the nights they didn’t meet, she went to Rendezvous, where she performed lap dance and attended to men in ‘Room 2.’ Sometimes, her customers would come with wild demands. A particular short man who could barely speak perfect English language once asked her to dance naked before him. ‘I want you to… to make you dance in a naked way. Your clothes take am. Dance…’ She glared at the man and hated herself for working as a stripper. He was potbellied with a round head like a coconut. She walked back to the main hall, leaving the man in limbo. She didn’t reply Rugged who came afterwards to ask why she left the customer in Room 2.

‘He was…,’ Martha snarled, ‘He was ridiculous. He asked me to dance naked.’

Rugged frowned, ‘What’s the big deal about dancing naked?’

‘He wanted me to dance naked. To dance… To dance without clothes.’

‘It still makes no difference. It’s not in the hall for God’s sake!’

Martha hissed.

She left Rendezvous that night thinking why men like Officer Uchenna were so rare. She wished Officer Uchenna would visit Rendezvous one day.

A wild and risky idea came to her mind. She decided she would try something crazy for Uchenna soon. She would invite him to her house and when they are completely alone, she would give him a lap dance. She would strip naked and dance for him. No man in his right mind could ever overcome the lust for her type of body –big breasts and wide hips. No man had ever resisted her whenever she danced, not to talk of stripping off all her clothing. She would watch as his face would lighten. Then she would put a hand on his chest to feel his heart pulsing harder.

Then the day arrived.

****
Thank you for reading.

Check https:///view/hadehsblog. for more stories.

You can download a copy of this book on Okadabooks using this link https://okadabooks.com/book/about/an_escape_to_rendezvous/38216
Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 3:44pm On Nov 18, 2020
6 (continue)
6 (continue)


The day arrived. Officer Uchenna came to her house, wearing a striped shirt on a black jean trouser. His cologne filled the room as he tried to sit on a couch. Relaxing his arms on the head of the settee like a king, he smiled at Mattha.

Martha sat on the same settee, watching him. While they talked and laughed, she never shifted her bum, didn’t come closer to him. Officer Uchenna seemed absorbed with the conversation as they talked and played cards. She followed his lead till it was late in the night when he got up and said good night.

She was angry with her own lack of courage to move closer and touch him as she had planned. Crawling on her bed that night, she punched and hugged the pillow, brooding till around 1 am.

She continued to look to another day when she would be able to lure him into her house again. Her heart was seriously yearning for his love and body. Seeing him never ceased to be a blessing. Hearing him on the phone made her feel excited, like she was riding a bicycle down a hill, a gust of breeze splashing on her face. Whenever they ate together, and he cackled, it reminded her of watching ‘Super Stories.’ In his presence, she felt adored like a queen. But it was sad that each night, after their outing, she ended up on the bed again, fantasizing without getting the chance to hold him onto her chest or to kiss him like she would love to do. There were some words she wanted to hear, words of a man professing his love to her in a way cool music feels the soul at an opera. She never ceased to discuss her affection towards Officer Uchenna with Sophia.

‘I can give you a trick if you will listen to me,’ Sophia said.

‘Of course, I will listen,’ Martha replied, ‘you are my mentor.’

Then Sophia gave her a piece of advice. Martha thought it was a plausible idea, and she would act exactly as Sophia had told her.

Martha would remember that cold night in November 2013 for a long time. The city was wet as it had just stopped raining. The day activities had died down, and the shady events of the night were resuming. Barbecue and suya stands were getting erected. Loudspeakers blasted songs from night parties while many people could be seen clustering around the pedestrian side, waiting for transport. Car exhausts mixed with the smell of barbecue filtered into the air, causing a putrid atmosphere.

Martha and Officer Uchenna came out of the ‘Titanic’ restaurant in Victoria Island, giggling at each other like babies. She was in a good mood just as he was. They were going to Uchenna’s house. Martha could feel a strange sensation of pleasure rushing through her spine as she held unto his hands. The noise, the smell, the cold night, and the fact that she was heading to Officer Uchenna’s house for the first time made her feel so excited. Hand-in-hand, they walked towards where his car was parked.

‘My house is located in Ikoyi, you remember?’ he asked as he got the car started.

Martha remembered he had talked about it. He had told her that he rented the place a year ago when he got promoted as the D.P.O. His friends had always wanted him to live in a luxurious house, saying he deserved a classier and bigger flat than the one-room apartment he lived in before.

‘You have told me about it.’ Martha reminded him.

But he continued talking about it nevertheless.

‘Rugged wan put me for trouble with the big, expensive houses. Mad guy! He wan borrow me money to rent the place. Can you imagine? He said he would take it back later when I begin to earn big, big money as the D.P.O. See, I told him, find something cheaper.’ He laughed while Martha smiled.

His flat was on the top floor of a two-story building. The walls were coloured cream, or it could have been ash, but for the night, she couldn’t tell. The main living room had leather settees, black furry cushions, and a rug. The rug had the design of a big shield at its centre, and it was lying under a glass table. There was a 42-inch plasma television hanging on the wall, and below it, there was a shelf. Two stereos stood beside the shelf and on the left was a standing fan. A bit to the right, above the television, was his framed picture in his black uniform with his police cap decorating his head. He wore a handsome smile that could seduce a woman.

It was only a few times Martha had seen him in that uniform, for they usually meet at night after the normal office hours. Many times, when Martha had come to pay a visit, he was always busy or away. She ended up not seeing him on many occasions, so Martha stopped visiting his office.

Martha turned around, taking her time to stare at one thing before moving to the next and the next. The wall behind the television was painted in random and beautiful patterns. On the longest couch was a neatly folded newspaper, The Nation. Hanging on the wall was a giant painting. It was the image of a boy reading with a local lantern. She had those similar memories, and she believed Officer Uchenna had the same too. She used to sit on the dining table in Abeokuta, studying with candlelight.

Officer Uchenna surely lived alone, Martha could tell, as she noticed one gamepad on the stool while the other was sitting on the shelf. The soft smell of air freshener welcomed her properly.

Officer Uchenna beckoned to have her seat while he inquired about what she would like to take.

Martha sat down, and with a shrug, she said, ‘alcohol!’ She needed to be a bit tipsy, lose a few of her senses. It was pretty simple with other men; every step was an ad, every swaying of hips was a trap, and every moan was an attempt to earn a living. Things were different with him. Officer Uchenna had never asked for even a kiss. But this night, she was confident she would hold him by the waist, her other hand would caress his bare chest, and she would kiss him and kiss him.

‘Are you sure?’ he asked.

She feigned surprise, ‘so you don’t have alcohol?’

He smiled as though she had said he couldn’t spell his name. He brought a bottle of cold whiskey and served in two tumblers. They began to drink alcohol and to watch Telemundo, and to chat.

She was crooked by his side, her head on his shoulder, and she could feel his breath blowing on her forehead. Her eyes were directed at the television, but she looked over her shoulder, admiring his beard, his lips, and the side of his face. Officer Uchenna only glanced at her when he wanted to pass a comment about how the actions being performed on the TV were too slow. She wasn’t interested in the movie either, so she only giggled to his comments and outburst of his disappointment.

Then he kept quiet and drank from his tumbler. Maybe he was thinking about something important, Martha thought.

The questions that have been on her mind came back in full force. She turned to face him. She had thought she would wait until he talked about it, but she couldn’t hold it any longer.

‘Uchenna,’ she called, looking up at him, ‘I have wanted to ask… what this is all about, this relationship between us?’ Although she sounded like someone requesting on another person’s behalf, she hoped he got the message.

He got the message. Staring up at the wall for a few seconds, he gulped his drink. Then he caressed the edge of the cup with his finger. ‘You know, I’ve been thinking about it too,’ he said. ‘I have this urge that… I am made to be a part of your life. I want to be your friend for now, and maybe… just maybe, something might come out of it. You don’t need to be scared. And you can walk away anytime. But I like you and want to see you every day.’ He gulped another amount of the drink, then stared into Martha’s eyes.

She was grinning silently. He was smiling. It seemed his face brightened after he had spoken like the glowing of the moon. The hair of his beard was like a polished shoe. His lips were like two slices of cookies, and his eyes were beautiful like that of an animal she couldn’t remember – a rabbit or a red panda. She admired his face, and other things happening went to the background of her thought. The television was just a blur of moving colours and sounds. She was grinning, and she shielded her face with the glass cup, waiting for him to say more. Drinking from his tumbler, he stared at her and smiled.

She touched her face with her left palm, and her cheeks were warm. She felt as though the flesh of her face was turning red and melting off. He must have seen her struggle, so he smiled more and shifted closer.

‘I want to be closer to you,’ he said.

She would melt now, from head to toe, from his breath that was touching her hair like a massage. The glass cup would fall from her shaking hands if she didn’t hold it tight, so she supported it with the second hand. She had always wanted to be this close and to hold him and to feel his hand wrapped around her shoulder or her waist. He was rubbing her shoulder gently, and she shut her eyes briefly before she opened them again. After that, he reached for her head and placed it gently on his chest. She relaxed like a puppy that had found a bed.

‘Can I dance for you?’ she asked. It was all part of the plan to make Officer Uchenna come out of his cage. Martha remembered Aunty Sophia once told her to ask him what he wanted. ‘Make sure the environment is right,’ Aunty Sophia had added. She had thought of his place as the best. Her friends and housemates were gossipers; they would call her a fool if she brought a man like Officer Uchenna to the house and showed romance on the couch in the main living room they all shared. It was a rule that clients were not allowed in the house. They wouldn’t understand that Officer Uchenna wasn’t a client. They wouldn’t know she wasn’t ‘in for his money,’ and he wasn’t ‘in for the thing in between her legs.’ She had asked for their advice, and all the three girls had told her to take his money and dump him. She didn’t want that.

‘A lap dance,’ Martha added.

He looked up at her, marveled and speechless.

So, Martha took the tumbler from him and placed it on the centre table. She changed the T.V channel to ‘Hip TV,’ where 2face’s African Queen was being played. She started dancing in front of him. She danced and wiggled and shook, her side turned to his face so that he could see her bum and her breasts swinging inside her gown. She turned to face him fully. He stared into her eyes, and she smiled. His face was expressionless, like a toddler watching the launching of a rocket. She turned her back to him, sat on his lap, and placed his hands on her laps. She moved her bum on his lap, and his body followed her commanding movement forward and backwards. Turning to face him, she ground her bum on his groin, watching his face for any sign of pleasure or resistance. She moved his head closer to her chest with a cool smile and moved it back, slowly.

He was calm, watching, as if cautious of expressing himself. He sighed, and Martha knew that was a good sign. Her breathing increased like that of a tired athlete as she put more passion into the lap dance. She wanted to kiss him, a longing that had stayed in her heart for many days, tormented her for months, and inflicted her with insomnia. She paused, for her nipples were beginning to push against the fabric of her gown. So, she brought his head closer to her chest and held it to her breast longer than she had held any other man’s. She felt an electric kind of shock running through her body. As she kept performing the actions, Officer Uchenna was calm and obedient.

She could get more than this, she thought. She bent again, but instead of closing her chest to his face, she brought her face closer to his. It was slow; the movement of the two lips coming together felt like a slow journey between two snails. Then she kissed him. Her first kiss. The instant her lips touched his, things turned faster like a jet flying into space, the two lips rubbing against each other rapidly. He kissed her back, and then she kissed him back, and then he kissed her back. Is this how sweet kisses are? She would like to keep doing these; this tongue communication, this exchange of passion, this tasteless but sweet flavour, waking all the senses in her body from her toes to her intestines, even her closed eyes were rolling. The butterflies in her stomach were doing a high jump. She felt happy.

She felt a great comfort when he held her waist to keep her still as though she might fall off a cliff but for his hands on her waist. Her hands were suspended, shaking, their lips still entangled. She was blinking her eyes, trying to force them close, not wanting to see anything, at least not at the moment. Her mind rode to the faraway future. By then, she would have stopped working at Rendezvous. She would have saved some money and gone to school. She would have a sweet, older, and caring man like Officer Uchenna by her side, a man she could be proud of. She was eighteen, young, the world was in front of her to explore. She would have loved to become his wife. She would become a great woman with Uchenna’s support and develop Uchenna’s calm and patience type. She would help others become who they want – especially children that have been molested or assaulted. ‘I am going to live a life of sacrifice. Girls who are victims of abuse and molestation deserve to succeed, they deserve victory despite their humiliations. I am going to bring out as many of them as possible from the ruins.’ That would be her words. One day, in the long future, when she had become a doctor and the wife of a high ranked police officer, she would be standing on a podium addressing young girls that have gone through emotional tortures. When the time comes, she would dance joyfully.

She pushed her tongue into his and kissed him more. She stopped kissing –the urge was beginning to get the better of her. In a split second, she unbuttoned his shirt. She reached for his trouser buckle. With the expertise she had learned from working in ‘Room 2,’ at Rendezvous, she held it. He winced.

‘Can I go wild for you?’ she asked.

Then he held her hands and carried her off his laps.

‘I’m not your customer,’ he said as he stood and entered his room.

Martha stared at him leaving with her mouth fully wide open. The last couple of minutes flashed before her eyes like a ray of blinding lights – flashes of her move, her dance steps, and the last statement she made. Can I go wild for you? She stared at the direction of his room and then turned at the opposite side, the TV. She sighed and rubbed her palms on her face. Maybe it was a dream, a sweet one with a feeble ending. It wasn’t a dream – all of it. It was her reality. Everything had turned sour so quickly. The kind of job she was doing for a living would end up hurting her at the very minute when she least expected it. With shaky hands, she fiddled with her purse, which fell back on the couch repeatedly before she could take a full grab of it. Without looking back, she walked into the street. She would walk. She couldn’t walk all the way home but she would walk for a long, long time before taking a cab.

The night felt cool. A cold breeze blew from the east, kissing her left arm exposed by her armless gown. It felt nice to be walking in the kind of weather but she couldn’t enjoy the atmosphere. ‘I’m not your customer,’ the statement replayed in her head. So he must have been thinking about her dirty job as she was dancing on his laps, Martha thought. She sniffed and pressed her nose, suppressing the pains that stung inside of her nostrils.

It was the sensation that came when she had too much to think about and was about to cry. She would press her nose and suppress her tears. It would stop her from crying for some hours or minutes depending on where she was or what she heard or what she thought of. When she was at Abeokuta, sometimes pressing her nose helped when she didn’t want to cry at home. When she got to the uncompleted building, she would let her sober emotions take control; her clothing would get soaked with some tears to escape.

A car honked at her from behind. She didn’t mind if she was walking in the middle of the quiet road. The car could knock her down for all she cared. Life was a place of despair after all; she was unlucky since her birth, unlucky with the type of parents she got the first time and the second. Looking back on the road, she realized she was walking on the pedestrian path, her movement wasn’t obstructing the car in any way.

The car slowed down by her side while the driver wound the side window down. She cast her eyes on the man; she hissed while she kept on walking.

‘Hello,’ the man said.

‘Get lost!’ she barked.

The man drove off spitting some insults, which Martha didn’t bother to give any iota of attention to. Then her heavy tears began to fall. I’m not your customer. Officer Uchenna’s voice replayed again in her head. She was crying as she strolled on. She should call a cab and go home and do what she usually does when in a bad moment – curl by the bed and touch herself.

She checked her phone which had been placed on silent since she stepped into Officer Uchenna’s house. Officer Uchenna was calling. She waited until it stopped ringing and she switched it off immediately. She hailed at a cab. I’m not your customer. The thought lingered. Fresh tears threatened to fall from her face. Once again, she pressed her nostrils together harder

****

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Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 12:26pm On Jan 04
Chapter Seven

That night, Martha did not sleep at home. Uchenna might come looking for her, and his face was the last thing she wanted to see. She was sure that her rage would make her cry more if she ran into him at the moment. She wanted to avoid him and give herself enough time and the solitude to think. She had some money to lodge in a hotel for three nights, so she picked a few clothes at her house and lodged at a hotel. She paid for three days. Three days were enough to get over him.

She locked the door of the hotel room and ordered alcohol. The waiter brought a bottle of Johnie Walker that she had demanded. She sat on the bed and gulped the drink like a horse, and it burned her throat. She sighed, feeling the annoyance in her head replaced with a drowsy feeling. The alcohol eased her worries; she gave less thought to how his words hurt her and drank.

She gritted her teeth, remembering what he had said. He had said, 'I'm not your customer,' as if she made him look like one.

She crawled on the cold floor like a cat. She wanted to sleep, but sleep would not come even if she waited and waited like a widow waiting for her deceased husband. Her vision was blurry from the effect of alcohol, and she closed and opened, closed and opened, her eyes many times. She was wearing a camisole while an air conditioner was running in the room. She felt cold and quiver. She folded her legs and placed her chest over her knees, yet, she wouldn’t stand from the floor or wear something better.

She laid on her side, her head over her joined palms. Staring at the wall in front of her, she remembered her room in Abeokuta, the room she shared with Florence. On a night like this, she would be asleep in her room; she would have eaten a meal Mama Ayo had prepared. Then she cringed as if a sudden frosty wave jolted through her body. She remembered what Bishop would do in the middle of the night.

She stood lazily, supporting herself with the bed. She slipped out of her gown, lay back on the floor, slid a hand into herself, and touched herself repeatedly. Then she fell asleep.

She woke up early at two 0’clock in the morning. She was hungry, but she couldn’t think of the best meal or when to eat it. Sitting back on the floor, she was still feeling cold, which made her body shake, and her head pounded from a headache. She steadied herself with the bed stand while getting up to get something to eat.

Looking at her gown on the bed, the events of last night come to her rapidly — the flash of how she started dancing for him and how it had gone wrong so soon. ‘I’m not your customer,’ he had said.

She brushed a hand through her hair, which was now messy. Why did Officer Unchenna say that? She had only wanted to satisfy him, to move things further as Sophia had suggested. She thought he would love it. Most men loved it, especially the older and pot-bellied men who were as old as Bishop; these men would grin like a toddler and rub their hairy chest when she gave them a lap dance. But Uchenna didn’t laugh or grin. Although he let out a few moans, he turned her away eventually. I'm not your customer, he had said.

She wiped her face with her palm. Uchenna was different from most men anyway. She was stupid to have treated him like one of those men. She still wanted to go out with him to visit the cinema while his hand rested on her shoulders like a name tag on a suit. She wanted to dine while he sat at the other end of her table. Still, she wanted to share a drink at his house. All that had gone like a sandcastle washed away by a flood.

She thought about it again and again until almost 11 am. Then she ordered some food, sat on the floor, ate some pepper soup fish, and drank more Johnie Walker. Thinking about her life was taking too much space in her head. Her head pounded and felt heavy as if she added more weight to her head. When she tried to walk, her legs felt weak like they belonged to a toddler. She wiped away the tears on her cheeks, sniffed, and sniffed more. She drank more alcohol and cried and drank more.

She sighed with her face and eyes wet. She was definitely a piece of something, she thought, something meant for satisfying men and some women, something to hire for sexual pleasure. It all started in Abeokuta, and the stigma followed her even when she thought she had found a place of rest. Maybe she would always be a miserable girl; at least that was how often her foster father made her feel. It was part of her now, her shadow, and it cannot be undone except to cry her eyes out. She drank alcohol and let out her pains through her tears.

She wished she could curl up to someone – maybe, Mama Ayo – and cried on her shoulder and listened to soothing words. But she looked around and realized she was alone with her woes. The hotel’s wall stared back — the pillows, the bed, the door of the bathroom, her gown on the floor. She wailed and covered her face with her palm and vibrated all over like the leather of a drum. She had chosen wrongly. She could have waited and withstood the torment at the hands of her foster father; perhaps, she would escape one day when she would be admitted to the university.
Who told you he is planning to sponsor you in school? She shook her head and cried more. She put the bottle of Johnie Walker on the floor and supported herself on her palms. She began to wail loudly till her face was a mess of tears, mucus, and sweat. The veins of her neck were visible, her skin was moistened, and her eyes were wet. She grew tired and fell slowly over the tiles and slept, slowly sobbing as she tried to catch a little sleep. It would be morning again, and dawn would remind her how shitty her life was. Her small Samsung phone was still off.

She lay on that floor for hours until it was noon. Later, she sat up and turned the phone on. It began to ring almost immediately. She checked the caller on the phone and sighed, brushing her eyelid with her backhand. Sophia was calling. She did not want to listen to anyone now; she would rather be alone and let the darkness of pain envelope her. She was born to morons and had fallen into many wrong hands since her first time on earth. When she came to Lagos for an escape, she was even falling into another wrong hand — Sophia.

Her phone kept ringing, and she stared at it. She would answer the call anyway. She had been indoors for a long time, and talking with someone who knew many things about her woes sounded like a good idea. It was better than talking to hotel attendants who would not ask anything more than ‘how can we help you?’ She answered the call.

‘Baby girl?’ Aunty Sophia said.

‘Anti Sophia,’ she said, switching back to the use of ‘aunty,’ just like the old days when she arrived in Lagos from Abeokuta. She felt sudden happiness, realizing there was still someone to talk to, someone who would listen to her. She was getting close to insanity; her life was messy, blurry. She had got to a stage where she wished that one more sleep would take her away to wherever the dead go, where she would be free from pain, disappointment, and a constant reminder of her past. She needed someone to talk to get her peace back.
‘Yeah, darling. I have been calling you. But your phone is dead.’

‘I’m fine, Aunty Sophia.’

‘You don’t sound so. What’s up with you?’

‘Nothing!’ Martha stifled her tears.

‘I checked your house. You weren’t at home.’

‘I left. I didn’t want to see anyone.’

‘I understand, my dear. Uchenna told me everything. He said he has been calling. You didn’t pick. You even switched off.’
‘I don’t want to talk to him.’

‘I know that, and I have told him he acted immaturely. But for you, baby girl, you can’t hurt yourself because of that. You can’t let it hurt you so much,’ she paused.

Martha began to sob.

‘Stop, please. I beg you, please,’ Aunty Sophia said.

‘It’s hard. I’m tired of everything.’

‘Please, don't hurt yourself the more. Where are you so that I can come?’

Martha told her the address of the hotel. Then she spent the next couple of minutes thinking about her life from now onward. She wouldn’t work at Rendezvous anymore or fall in love with a man like Officer Uchenna again. It would take one more man like Uchenna to remind her that her life was wretched before she lost it again and maybe forever. She would still live and work in Lagos. She would instead become a waiter or a house-help and live with the little that comes from it.

What if Uchenna comes and asks for forgiveness and promises to sponsor your education?

She shook her head, placed her hand on her forehead, and drank a little more Johnie Walker. She was still wearing the same camisole from last night, and she hadn't eaten anything more than fish pepper soup. Her stomach rumbled for some minutes, and her throat felt itchy. She yelped and heaved, as her stomach wanted to turn up its content. She vomited on the floor at the foot of the bed.

Someone was knocking, and she tried getting up. Her strength was like that of an aging tortoise, and she struggled to get up. Her body ached and felt cold. She was wearing just her camisole, and she wished the person on the other end wasn’t a man.

‘Come in,’ she muttered.

Aunty Sophia walked in, saw the mess, and shrieked. ‘My God, what have you done to yourself?’ Aunty Sophia said, not as a question, but as a declaration to no one in particular. ‘You have been crying, ’ she added. She walked into the bathroom to fetch a mop and some water. Then she helped Martha to the toilet. ‘Please, clean up,’ she said.

She came back into the bedroom and began to clean the chunder. After that, she stood by the bathroom door, watching as Martha prepared for bath and wearing an expression of ‘you should do it, or you will force me to do it for you.’

Martha sniffed and stepped into the bathtub, immersing her body in the water. She felt different as if she had been awarded a gift. With Aunty Sophia standing at the door, she felt like she could still move on with her life and that all wasn't lost. She still had people she could count on.

After the bath, they sat in the bedroom. Aunty Sophia turned on the TV, which was airing Papa Ajasco. Martha sat still beside Aunty Sophia like an obedient baby in the company of her motherly sister.

The smile on Sophia’s face amused Martha; Sophia seemed ecstatic than the comedy show, and she tapped Martha’s shoulder many times to call her attention to scenes they were watching together. Sophia was older, bigger, and immensely happier on this night. She had added weight in the short time they had spent away from each other. She was still a fine woman — fine for the kind of job. At Sophia’s age, Martha did not want to work at Rendezvous anymore. She looked at Aunty Sophia’s hands and her face, imagining how many men she had spent her life with. Had any man ever asked to marry her?

That night, a strange thing happened when it was time to sleep. Martha was the first to lay on the bed. When Aunty Sophia joined her, she lay on the bed behind Martha and hugged her. It was the first time they slept like that — like sisters. It felt awkward at first when Aunty Sophia extended her hands over Martha’s waist. Martha remained still and wondered what her guardian was trying to do. They stayed that way for some time, Martha frozen, and it only eased when she felt the woman behind her was breathing rhythmically to the tune of sleep. Martha slept with a smile spread across her face. But Sophia had to leave in the morning, promising that she would check on Martha again.

The day continued, and loneliness descended on Martha again like a heavy blanket. She had planned what to do – to sit in the room and have breakfast, to spend all day behind the television, eyes fixed on some Nollywood movies. By night, she would go out to see how busy the city could get even at night. She might sit in a restaurant and eat and see how different it would be to eat alone and drink Uchenna’s choice of wine. Maybe, or maybe not, she started watching the movies that were aired on the TV in the bedroom until evening.

By evening, she had her bath, walked out of the room, and sat by the pool. She watched as people swam and chatted and played. No one treated her like a slut. No one talked to her about spending a night with her if she would accept a certain pay. She laughed at the couples playing with the water in the pool.

Then she strolled around the hotel. When she looked at her image on the window of a car, she realized her neck was lean, and her face seemed like that of someone who just recovered from an illness. Perhaps this was the reason no one out of the men around the pool had come for her. She looked sick. This was the sad truth about her job as a stripper. She must always look good; if she were not looking the best, she would not get any business.

Waiting for the night, she had imagined her life outside the wall of Rendezvous, how life would be if she decided to quit now and become a doctor. It would be hard. It wasn’t easy to earn enough money by working at Rendezvous. She learned later against what the other strippers had made her believe at first; they’d told her she could meet rich men and become rich through them. But she had found the truth. Nothing was certain or as sweet as it was described. But sometimes, Uchenna took her around Lagos traffic, and she saw other girls running at cars and struggling to sell items on the road; she accepted it was preferable to work at Rendezvous. It was better to work under a roof than running under the hot Lagos sun every day, where people ignored the hawkers like they were statues. She took pride in this fact, and momentarily ignored the other demons in her life.
The day grew to night steadily. She had spent her day waiting for the night, and the peace that came when everywhere was dark after most people had closed at their work and gone home. That night, she danced deliberately in her room when a song was played on the TV. No man was asking her to dance. No one was placing a naira note on her chest or rubbing a palm on her butt. She danced because she felt like it. The song was her favourite back then in Abeokuta, P-square – Do me, so she danced effortlessly and for the joy of it. She was joyful, and she decided to have a little fun for the night.

To ease the boredom, she decided to visit a club that night. She wore a black hoodie and a pair of black jean trousers. She pocketed her hands into the hoodie. She walked a reasonable distance before she took a bus heading to a club. She hadn’t been there before, but she had heard the girls at Rendezvous talking about it. She was going to see what it felt like to be a visitor at a strip club just like she had felt the first time she was at Rendezvous – free, innocent, curious, and confused. She knew she wasn’t going to feel exactly like that anymore, but she was going to try anyway. Maybe that would help her decide to quit or not to quit. Maybe that would settle the stupid ideas that disturbed her that she was meant and would always act as an object of entertainment. Maybe after this, she would be able to challenge her foster father, bury her past, this ugly story.
The club was bigger than Rendezvous, sitting gallantly in a street corner where eyes could quickly notice it. Inside, the lights changed intermittently from blue to red and red to blue. A TV was displaying porn, and the disc jockey performed his job at a corner.

Martha tried to feel like a stranger. She couldn’t pick out faces, and she wasn’t looking for one either. She just wanted to enjoy her night, to feel what it was like to be a viewer and not the one dancing on the pole like a slutty monkey. She looked over the crowd and especially at the stage and the strippers. They were her point of interest. What was their life outside this place? Do they have ambitions that meet what their parents would appreciate? How many of them have parents they could call their own? Perhaps many of them were orphans, abandoned, and displaced. She dismissed the thought. She had friends who were strippers and who lied about their lives to their parents. Did they have a lover who knows the kind of job they do? No, of course. No sane man would keep with this kind of work, more reason she should find her escape.

The song soon changed, and she found this new one irresistible; she tried to remain firm but for only a few minutes. Her feet were moving, and her lips pushed apart to sing along with Sound Sultan, Kokose. She opened the head of her hoodie and did a few dance steps before she remembered she was here only to watch. She covered her head again.

Then a feeling of dejavu overcame her. A young man was standing to her right, and she tried not to look up from her hoodie-covered head. But it was apparent now that the man would not stop looking no matter how well she pretended not to have noticed him.
‘Hello,’ the voice said. ‘Martha?’

The voice was the one she remembered. It was different, though, so she turned and tilted her head up forty-five degrees to see the man’s face. No. Wait. No. it can’t be. Although the light was low, she could still recognize him. He now had a beard, and he was taller than her. He was smiling, but it was not much different than the cute smile she used to know. He was that young boy who would back her on their way back from school in Abeokuta. He was the boy who would slide under her blanket when she was sleeping in the parlour, and they would tickle each other; whoever won would leave the blanket for the other. It would lead to one begging to get under the blanket again, and the game would continue. A smile spread across her face; she moved closer to him, slow and short steps at first, then she flung her hands around his neck like she was holding onto a lifeboat.

‘Ayomide?’

‘Martha’

They held onto each other, not releasing the other nor saying more words.

‘Ayo’

‘Math’

It was true that two years could do a lot to someone. If she had thought of going back to Abeokuta when she was in Lagos, somehow it would have to do with this boy and his mother. He looked like Bishop now, especially because of the height and the beard, but Martha understood he was different from the old man. She admired this younger version of Bishop. She liked the beard and the deep and throaty laugh that came out of his mouth just like Bishop. She held to his neck and shut her eyes briefly.

They would start what they didn’t finish under the eyes of their parents. Fate was playing to their tune. Was he studying engineering already? Has he forgotten his promise to buy a big teddy bear on her eighteenth birthday? Her eighteenth birthday was in the past now, but she would take it.
When they detached from the hug, Martha’s eyes were holding a kind of ardour that could melt the walls of any man. With the manner, Ayo was gawking back at her face, her chest and down to her thighs, it seemed his walls were long melted, and the liquid form had gone far away beyond retrieving. He grabbed her hands, saying, ‘we need to do a lot of talking,’ and walked towards the exit.

Yes, Martha thought, I need to remind you some of the things you said when we were young.

****

Thank You for reading today.

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Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by IamHadeh: 8:12pm On Jan 09
8

Ayo and Martha walked into a restaurant and took their seats. They were sitting opposite each other, bottles of vodka sitting on the table. Ayo then surprised Martha when he said, ‘Mum would be happy to see you.’ He must have thought meeting Martha was big news which all the family members in Abeokuta should hear about, but Martha thought differently.

Martha felt a sudden nostalgia. She shook immediately as if cold water was poured down her spine. The smile, which had been on her face when they came in, vanished. She wasn’t going back home soon, she thought, not now. She tried to smile again, but it came as a mere simper.

‘Why did you leave in the first place?’ Ayo asked.

Your dad, Bishop, wasn’t as nice as you think he is. He forced me to have sex with him, and he would have done that for as long as he wished.

She wished she could say that, but she didn’t. It wasn’t the appropriate time to tell the truth of what Bishop did. She was still entangled with a job she wasn’t proud of. The end to that job was imminent, she believed, she was not going back to Rendezvous. It would be better if she moved to a job she could at least tell her family about. But it would be hard to find a good job, or would Aunty Sophia help now?

Ayo put the bottle of vodka to his mouth and gulped twice. ‘I don’t need to ask you if you are doing good… Just look at you,’ he said without waiting for her response to his last question.

She smiled. Coming out of her self-imposed solitude, she might look better to someone who last saw her three years ago, but this wasn’t her best. Her eyes were sore, and her body was frail for lack of proper food. She had only eaten another plate of fish pepper soup and Johnnie Walker. Moreso. Ayo was looking nicer too; he was more handsome and with beards now.

‘So what happened, how did you just disappear?’ he asked.

‘Please, Ayo.’ Maltha said with eyes that were begging. ‘I don’t want them to know you found me. Not yet. I want them to know, but not now, not this way.’

He frowned, waiting for her to explain more.

Martha just nodded as a sign asking if he understood. He hesitated before he nodded. With a warm smile, she extended her fingers to touch his left backhand, which was on the table, and petted it.

‘Thank you,’ she said.

He smiled once more. He turned his palms upward, and she placed hers on the warm inside, feeling the lines touching hers.

He began to talk about things Martha had missed when she was away. He was studying civil engineering at the University of Lagos. He had just resumed for the new academic session, and he was planning to have fun in a bar when he saw her. Bishop had bought a car, Florence was now a fine athlete in her school, and Mama Ayo cried for days when Martha left.

When Martha’s turn to say she was up to, she didn’t start her story from the beginning when she left home. It would interest him to know how she had left, but she wasn’t going to tell him how she stole money and followed the advice of a total stranger. She wasn’t going to open up about it all just like that. She bowed her head, eyes scanning the restaurant as if she could find things to say about her disappearance. Telling Ayo how she climbed the poles at Rendezvous would not make him clap. She couldn’t tell him she had an encounter with two young boys, which landed her in a police cell. It would only make Ayo advise her to visit the nearest church for rigorous deliverances. It was better to keep the truth, hide it completely. Harder and harder, she foraged for lies to tell him. She glanced at the bottle of vodka, and then she looked around the restaurant, at the people talking, but not at his eyes until she found something to say.

Ayo glared at her.

‘I wasn’t happy with my real parents,’ she lied, ‘I wanted to go out on my own and earn some money and become a great woman.’

Ayo was silent as if finding it hard to believe. ‘That’s strange,’ he said finally. ‘You have us. You have a family that loved you.’

Martha smiled at his innocence. If he really knew the things Bishop made her pass through almost every night, he wouldn’t have said that.

‘I think I will beg for forgiveness. I was angry at many things. I want to pay my real parents back.’

‘How?’

‘I have been working at a club. The pay wasn’t bad.’

‘And you think that would sustain you. You once wanted to become a doctor.’

‘No, it’s not forever. I will be going back to school soon. Then I will come to see our parents. But please,’ she traced the lines of his palm with her fingers, ‘give me some time to prepare.’

‘I still can’t believe you left deliberately,’ he said. ‘It seems weird. Just like that.’

‘I was angry.’ She sighed.‘Or maybe, you can say stupid, but I know what I can’t handle anymore. Just keep this meeting a secret till I’m ready to come home, please.’

He was quiet for some seconds as if doubting her, and then he said, ‘OK. You can trust me. I’m your brother.’

Martha remembered how they lived together as siblings. He was his brother after all; he used to say that. They played all sorts of games. She remembered they would act ‘daddy-and-mummy,’ where one behaved like a father figure and the other as the wife. They played the ‘carrier game,’ where one would back the other person. When they were young, he used to carry her on his back, and she would place her head on his sweat-soaked school uniform. Whenever Florence did not follow them to school because of illness, they returned home late. They waited back at school and played. Martha played basketball or danced to entertain her friends, and Ayo always played football with his friends using ‘monkey post.’ Together they returned home to cover up for one another, telling Mama Ayo how they had to wait and perform some extracurricular activities.

‘Look at your cheeks,’ he reached for her left cheek over the table, ‘like puff-puff,’ he said.

Martha smiled, ‘and what is this on your chin, Bin Laden,’ she said, touching his beard.

He cackled.

‘Really, I’m so happy to see you,’ she said.

‘I don’t know how to express myself. I have been waiting for this day to come. I just know I will see you again,’ Ayo said.

Martha felt the affection was mutual between them. It had been here all along, but at their present age, it was stronger. Sitting with him gave her an extra delight than it used to be. She was in a good company of someone she could trust. She could make jokes about herself and laugh hard. She could hit him playfully, mount on his back, or call him pet names — AY. She would not tell him about Bishop’s atrocities, though. Bishop was his father, and he was expected to love him unconditionally as an obedient son. She would not create a situation where he would need to choose between the love he had for her or their father.

They ate and talked. Then they walked out of the restaurant, ice cream in hands. In one swift motion, he bent with his back turned to her. ‘Let me carry you like the good old days,’ he said.

Martha giggled. She helped him hold his ice-cream.

Ayo carried her on his back like when they were in Abeokuta. At first, he staggered. ‘Oh my God,’ he grimaced. ‘You have become a lot bigger.’

Martha laughed.

Ayo lifted her thighs upon his back. ‘You are heavy,’ he said. He carried her on, panting and walking down the road. They laughed, a loud guffaw.

This was the perfect welcome-back Martha could have wished to get after the mess she’d been through in the past three nights. The veins of her neck vibrating with fresh vigour, a tickling excitement washed over her like a child stepping into a warm-water-filled bathtub. She deserved to be this excited all the time, to have this kind of feeling that made her forget what time it was or the type of job she did. It was these kinds of days she prayed for. The time seemed to have stopped, and she was giggling heartily. She wished the moment could last forever. But when she briefly shut her eyes and Ayo wasn’t talking to her, she remembered Bishop and Officer Uchenna and the intimidating walls of Rendezvous. She swallowed saliva.

‘I can’t carry you for long, you are too fat,’ Ayo said.

The brief moment of thought elapsed out of Martha’s mind, fading as quickly as it’d come.

He put her down on the sidewalk by the roadside. He was exaggerating his breathing as if he had just stopped running a sprint.

‘Come on, stop. I’m not that fat. In fact, I’ve not been eating,’ she said.

‘It’s better that way,’ he said. He leaned on his palms which were on his knees. ‘Serious, I’m happy to hear that. It could have been worse if you are eating.’

She punched him playfully on his shoulder.

‘How is my little sister?’ she asked.

‘She has been coping without her big sister,’ he took his ice-cream and licked. ‘She is a big girl now.’

Martha licked her ice cream. She stared at the sky. She remembered Abeokuta when Florence was still a baby. When she became a member of the Ajasin’s, the family members were just three. It included Mr Ajasin (the Good Samaritan and a bishop in his church), his wife, and their first son, Ayo. Things were a bit smooth for everyone. It was six years before there was another addition to the family, a girl; they named her Florence. Martha became a big sister and things got busier for her in the house as she provided some sisterly responsibilities. She had backed Florence sometimes under Mama Ayo’s close watch. She washed Florence’s clothes, babysit her, and taught her how to handle her toys and carry her first walking steps. She did everything with joy. She was almost seven, and being a sister to Florence was the second thing she enjoyed doing at that age if she put dancing aside.

Dancing had been inside Martha. By the eighth year of her arrival in the house, Martha realized she had a strange love for music. Although she had the voice that was useful in the choir, her body wanted to expound this peculiar feeling. She danced. She would dance when Ayo tapped the metal pole on their terrace. Her dancing steps were different among the choir. They would stop and watch. She danced at home to the song on the radio while Ayo would hail her.

‘Where did she learn to dance like that,’ Bishop would ask.

‘Leave her alone,’ Mama Ayo would say, mopping the table with a piece of cloth, ‘I know she would like to dance by the way she wriggled in my hands when she was a baby.’

She remembered those events, and a heavy feeling overcame her.

She sniffed. ‘I wished I had stayed,’ she said. ‘Sometimes, I feel like I have lost my way to Lagos, and I can not… may not find my way back.’

‘Well, many of us don’t admit we made mistakes. But you are admitting. That’s a reminder to always make wiser decisions in the future,’ Ayo said.

‘You don’t understand.’

He was looking at her as if he wanted her to say more. But when she didn’t, he continued. ‘Maybe it’s time to come back home so that you can go to school,’ Ayo said. ‘Your WAEC is good. Or have you been able to find what you are looking for in Lagos? Are you even sure your real parents are here?’

She smiled. That was a blatant lie that she didn’t think about thoroughly. She shook her head. It seemed stupid to say she was looking for her parents, but it would seem ridiculous to tell him how his father violated her. She hadn’t found what she was looking for in Lagos. The real thing she wanted was a degree in medicine at the University of Lagos. She had her WAEC certificate with her in Lagos, and all she needed was enough money. She would wait for as long as it would take. She heard that studying medicine would take six or seven years. She sighed.

Martha looked at the sculptor by the roadside. Although it was dark, she could see through the moving cars’ headlights. The sculptors were made into layers of giant books arranged over one another like a staircase. Flashes of light from moving vehicles illuminated the area again and again. Another statue of a girl reading was sitting on that of the books. At the top was a sculptor of a graduating student raising its hand in the air. She thought about telling Ayo the reason she left home — what Bishop did. Maybe his reaction would be calm, and maybe he would be happy that she left before it got worse.

‘I don’t know when I will be going back,’ she said eventually. ‘I like Lagos now. It will be hard to go back.’ She smirked and tapped her feet on the ground.

‘A lot of beautiful things happen and exist here, just like bad and difficult things. In Lagos, everything, good or bad, is beyond typical,’ he said.

She laughed. He stared at the other side of the road, and Martha’s eyes followed his gaze. A man was opening the house door for a pregnant woman, supporting her by holding her waist.

‘Where do you stay?’ she asked.

‘I stay very near, Akoka.’

He reached for her left hand and held it, and without saying a word, led her back to the club where they left a while ago. They spend the rest of the nights there watching and drinking.

Later that night, Martha’s night was spent awake thinking about flowers, butterflies, a cup of tea in bed, the difference between kissing in public, and kissing under the duvet. She wanted to enjoy every second of her days now with him. The thoughts kept rolling on her mind that she fell asleep late.

They often met after that night. They met at restaurants, the roadside, but many times they met in Ayo’s hostel. It was a small but comfortable room with a kitchenette and a bath.

As the days progressed, they wanted to catch up on many things they used to do in the past. So, they met often. They would start brightly, talking about any topic like their days in secondary school. (Martha loved dancing, and she would squeeze her face when Bishop said her dance was ungodly). They played card games.

One day, when he asked her to go back home, her laugh seized.

‘When will you go home to see mum and dad? I didn’t call them because I want you to do it.’ They were inside his room in the hostel in Akoka, and he just popped the question as usual.

Martha wished she could escape through the ground in such a way that he would look around and find out that she had disappeared. A moment passed, as though her silence could answer him. She wished she could just ignore the question, and Ayo would stop suggesting the same thing she wasn’t ready to do. So, she said, ‘I need to prepare, and I want to surprise them. They should be very, very happy to see me. This place to Abeokuta is not a short distance.’

Ayo was sitting on the bed, and Martha taking comfort on the only couch in the room. He was checking a construction sketch on a paper, but now his eyes were on her. ‘This place to Abeokuta is just two hours.’

Martha looked away at the wallpaper with the image of the famous Hip-Hop legend Micheal Jackson covering the larger part of the wall next to the bed. She thought about how the man in the poster holding his crotch could stand on his toe so easily. She stared at Ayo, and she saw that same seriousness in his eyes, the determination that if she wanted to return home, she could stop making excuses.

‘We could get home in the next three hours if we follow a night bus,’ he continued.

Martha smiled. She had come to Lagos through a bus left early around 5 am, but she was not ready to take that again. She was not afraid of night buses, but she needed an excuse to remain in Lagos and prepared her life for the day she would go back to Abeokuta. She wanted it to be grand; on such a day, her foster father should look up at her and grimace. He should shed a lot of tears and beg her to forgive him. If she returned now, it would be tagged the return of a prodigal daughter who had done worse with her life after departing. This daughter had done many unmentionable things before she turned twenty.

‘I will go home soon,’ she said.

Ayo was silent afterwards. He joined her to play cards and to talk about life as a student. Some of his male friends came later. They all watched movies on his Dell laptop until Martha left at 7:30 pm. It was close to the time when ‘business’ thrived at Rendezvous.

The days passed on gradually, Martha and Ayo proving to be a specimen in any romance. They were siblings and admirers and crushes and lovers at the same time.

One day, while returning from work, an awkward encounter happened. Martha and one of the strippers at Rendezvous were standing by the roadside. It was getting dark, and they’d taken a bus that stopped them where they would board another bus. A figure caught Martha’s attention a few distances away. Of course, it was her Ayo. She could always recognize him in the dark. Martha called him. When he came, they embraced, Ayo, lifting her off the ground.

Martha’s partner, who had never seen her with such adoration in her eyes for a young man, asked her, ‘who is the handsome guy?’

Martha looked at Ayo’s face beside her. Ayo pocketed his hands. He was wearing a teasing smile, with an expression that said, ‘this is your mess, deal with it.’

‘My brother,’ Martha said, and Ayo giggled.

The next day after that, she wore a maroon coloured dress that showed her curves and cleavage when she visited him. Ayo couldn’t keep his eyes off her body. It was Martha’s turn to tease him.

‘Will you keep your eyes off me for some minutes?’ she asked.

‘Let’s go eat something,’ he later suggested, and Martha agreed. He wore a white shirt and an unbuttoned black jacket.


****

Thanks for reading today's episode. Next update is on Monday.

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Re: An Escape To Rendezvous by Hardes(m): 8:18am On Jan 23
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