2nd February 2012
Val’s side of the story
Driving down the lonely hills of Nsukka after a very extensive research work for my new book, I was very tired and a bit restless as I planned my schedules for the weekend without concentrating much on my driving.
Walking down absentmindedly on the middle of the same road was this young girl with an empty tray on her head. I never saw her on time and almost knocked her down if not for my powerful brakes which screeched the car to stop just hairs breathe away from her.
Out of shock, the tray on the young lady’s head fell and rolled over to the gutter while I rushed out of the car to see if she was alright. She turned to look at me that moment and it was as if the world came to a stop as our eyes met.
Before me was the most beautiful girl I have ever seen. She wore no makeup, she was sweating, her clothes were far from elegant but yet her beauty overshadowed it all. It was as if I was standing before the Nigerian version of Cinderella.
‘’I’m sorry I wasn’t paying much attention but you were equally walking in the middle of the road. Hope you are okay?’’ I nervously asked as I headed to the gutter to pick up her tray. She nodded with eyes filled with tears, quickly collected the tray for me and drew backwards.
‘’I’m sorry for almost putting you in trouble. Forgive me’’ she breathed fluently, surprising me with her English. But before I could say anything further she was already walking down the road.
‘’my name is valentine, can I, can I drop you where ever you are going?’’ I stammered. I couldn’t even believe myself. It was my first time of offering a lift to a stranger. But unfortunately she gave me no reply, neither did she stop for a second.
Hesitantly I headed back to my car and drove away, wondering if I would ever see her again in my life.
Isadora’s side of the story
One hundred, two hundred, three hundred, I counted the money with me for the umpteenth time. It was money I made from the sales of Udara (African apple) I sold at the Afor market close by. I was very lucky to sell the apples on time and was rushing home to prepare lunch for my adoptive family who derived pleasure in abusing me, in finding faults in everything I did.
I wasn’t brought up with happiness like other village girls. I was brought up with daily abuses, stigmatization and curses. I was told that I was an evil child that brought misfortunes to my biological parent’s right from when my mother was carrying me in her womb. I was equally told that six months after I was born, my parents burnt to death in their house with every single property in it and I was found untouched by the fire, laughing hysterically on my baby bed. It was a story I was told a hundred times over and I really had no way of verifying the authenticity.
Yes my head was filled with my childhood memories that I never knew when I started walking in the middle of the road only to get myself when the noise from a screeching tire brought me back to reality.
I soon found myself facing a very handsome gentleman who never scolded me for being in the middle of the road, for almost putting him in trouble. Instead he asked if I was alright. My heart, my soul, my entire body just quivered before him. At first I thought I shivered out of fear but then inside of me I felt something I had never felt before and had to walk away to avoid disgracing myself further.
Valentine was the name he called to me and It kept ringing back in my head over and over. Deep down I felt like chatting endlessly with him, sharing my problems with him but all I could do was to walk away without looking back. I soon saw his car speed away and I couldn’t help but wonder if I was ever going to see him again.
On getting home I ran into my mother who instead of welcoming me back happily for making a quick sale, began scolding me for not sweeping the compound and fetching water before heading to the market, forgetting she was the one that asked me to abandon everything and head to the market to sell her Udara fruit.
I tried to remind her but it only landed me three dirty slaps on my cheek. I was hungry, angry and tired of life. I was nineteen and saw no future before me. I knew all my adoptive parents were planning was to marry me off to the highest bidder. Yes by God’s grace I already managed to finish my secondary school with the help of church scholarship but that was the end. Since then my parents had virtually refused allowing me to go learn a trade or even do something that would help me in future and I couldn’t help but realize that the more I stayed with them the more I was ruining my life. i made up my mind that very day to leave the house, to run away, to run to my future. A very daring decision, a very risky adventure. I had no money with me, no destination in mind, only God and fear in my heart.
I sneaked out of the house later that night and stepped into the unknown.