Artwork by Chelsey Tatum
On Friday nights at the bar, as usual we always had lot of customers; men in expensive clothing’s came and decorated themselves with mother’s sales girls who dressed in scanty and revealing dresses. They always had lots of make ups on, and heels which gave their legs a more slender and catchy look. Whenever they arrived, mother would dress up in a catchy way and seat at a corner, the big men as they were called would walk up to her one by one to give her a lot money. She always made me seat by her side in a tight trousers and a singlet. I always frowned my face whenever I sat by her side until one Friday night when she said to me:
“You fool, have you seen the status of the bar? Ravishing! You had better be smart in the world and make fast money.”
“I don’t feel like being here, I don’t like all these” I said
Mother smiled, and used her hands to pat my cheeks
“Stop acting as if you are still a child, at least you know what it means to be bedded by a man, if not for what you see, the bar wouldn’t run; all thanks to John”
I looked at her with tears streaming down my face, and ran out to a dark corner outside the bar.
“What a poor child! She has faced little at such tender age” Mum said aloud when I took off
It was already a year and half and mother and John boy still ran the bar like a brothel, after all it was, since men came into the bar to take young girls out. The girls were around the age of 18 to 25 as I had seen in mother’s register on the table. One day, John had rushed into the bar and told everyone to close up and hide all traces of “their business ” apart from the crate of beers which he told us to sell to customers . Kelechi, one the girls had been hospitalized; she had followed one of the men from the bar, and was bathed with acid by his wife who had suspected that husband was having an affair; the angry wife beat up Kelechi, and poured acid on her at the front of a hotel where she had waited for the two lovers to get down of the car. Her husband ran away, and he was still in hiding while Kelechi was in the hospital.
“The police may soon begin to investigate us, so we need to be prepared, Kelechi is an orphan who worked at the bar as a sales girl for you, and you never knew of her outings with the man she was with. That’s what you would say if you are been questioned” said John to mother.
“Yes, I have heard you; I would also inform the girls” mother replied.
Kelechi was around the same age as me, I had known her when I found her at the dark corner around the bar, and it was through there I had found her; she was crying when I met her.
“What’s wrong? Why are you crying” I asked
Immediately, she used the tip of her top to wipe her tears, afterwards she stood up to leave. I held her hands tightly and asked her again because she young girl like me.
“My mother just died in the village, and my father died some years ago” she said
I felt sorry for her, and comforted her as she told me of how her Uncles had seized all her fathers’ properties, and how one of them had given her to someone who later brought her to John and then to my mothers’ place. I was ashamed to apologise for my mother’s actions in her life, so I promised to help her find a way out of the bar. The girls lived outside the bar with John; he had a place where each of them lived. Kelechi and I planed ways for her escape; it was unfortunate that she was now at the hospital.
Mother addressed the girls in the evening about the situation at hand; later on that day, John told mother that Kelechi had died. Afterwards, they both called all the girls to a corner; I guessed they were made to take some sort of oath never to spill the truth if they didn’t want to pass away. That evening, I wept, Kelechi had always been like the sister I never had.
The next morning, the two policemen came over to the bar and asked mum some questions, afterwards they looked round the bar and asked some of the girls some questions too.
It was a month after Kelechi death, and her body had been sent to her village; the bar was still running with all its illegal activities and the man’s wife who had poured acid on Kelechi was a free woman walking about the town. The incident wasn’t on the newspaper and the man who Kelechi had been with, still came to the bar to drink and play around like nothing had happened. Everything was taken care of; the value of life was demeaned.
Adapted from the collection of my short story