There was no light, mosquitoes swarmed in through the hole in the net screen door. The stench of sweat and dirty clothes in the little ‘room and parlour’ could not be mistaken. It was rank. The room was illuminated by the dying light from the kerosene lantern which was sitting on a now abandoned television set. It had not worked in ages and it doubled as a stand for candles and when there was enough money to buy kerosene, the kerosene lantern. The fumes from the generators nearby and the fumes from the lantern were choking. The evening breeze helped a bit but it could only do so much. The curtains had been pulled up to allow a little fresh air in from the window, if the air could be called fresh. The room was rank. Eva sat on the tattered sofa and nestled the baby against her breasts, rocking herself back and forth and hoping to the heavens that he would sleep. She tried whispered softly into his ears “nne biko, my love i know it’s hot ehn, but baby’muo I need you to sleep for a while ehn?”. She tried to croon love songs so he would sleep. Love songs she heard when she was in a completely different place. A place she called home. She had to turn Eba because Alfred would soon be home and after a long day at Mile 12, he would eat and like a savage beast he would take her. She would lie there enduring his heaving and humping, thinking of a place far far away from this place and when he was done she would wipe herself up. He always spilled himself on the inside of her thighs, as if to avoid a mistake he had made earlier on. Weeping only earned her more physical pain, for the more she wept the harder he drove into her, slapping her into submission. She had learned to be strong, to take herself to a time when the world was bright and colourful. She had her whole life ahead of her and then like the lights going down on a stage, all of the light was snuffed out.
Armed robbers had entered the banking hall. She could hear them from the backroom where she was. The fear in the air was palpable, everywhere was still save for the voice of the leader whose voice was booming in the main hall, he was giving orders and threatening that anyone who made the wrong move was going to end up dead. She heard them asking for the branch manager. “who be Evelyn Adebanjo? No be she be branch manager abi wetin dem dey call am?” she felt the tremor in the pit of her belly, fear coursed through her veins. She prayed and supplicated as she lay on the floor of her office. Clutching the furr of her rug she bit her lips, she felt the chill run down her spine “Jesus Jesus Jesus” she kept repeating the words like a chant. Her toes were cold all of a sudden; she shook off her heels, thinking that if the need arose to run she would be ready. Morbid thoughts flashed in her head, if the thieves came in now, if they shot her in the head. She knew she was not going to try to be heroic; she was going to give them the key to the vault. She needed this to be over. She thought of her 16 year old daughter, her driver was supposed to have gone to pick her from school. She hoped to God that Kabir had not gone to pick her yet or that for some insane reason they were delayed. Her head was spinning, the thoughts that coursed through her head, the innocent customers. She wondered for a fleeting second if this was an inside job, if this had to do with the hundred gold bars in Chief Fowowe’s safety deposit box her thoughts were interrupted by a sudden nudge of the table under which she had crawled “Madam bank manager.... na you we dey find since oh oya commot for dia con carry us go vault”
She crawled out and led them down the stairs to the basement where the vault was. With shaky hands she held out the keys to the man who brought her down here. She heard him being called “O.C”, in a ‘profession’ like theirs you could hardly use your real name.
“Which one should I open sir?” With a quavering voice and fear all over her face, she was told to open box 315. At the sight of the gold bars, O.C could not control himself; he let out a loud whoop of celebration and took off his mask and called out to his mate.
“nna, why you con commot you mask nah? You dey crase? You no see sey dis woman dey here?”
O.C as if realizing that Evelyn could recognize him turned around, faced her and said “ that one no hard nah” He lifted the pistol he had put down in the vault and with the purposeful focus of a crazed cold hearted thief, pulled the trigger.
The bullet went straight to her head, as she swooned and in that last minute when the life ebbed out of her, she thought of her daughter, how she had no one in this world. Evelyn’s last thought on earth was that Eva would pull through, because she had raised a strong independent daughter, she let go and allowed the cold grip of death take her.
Nobody told her how she was related to Alfred, she was made come live with him in this hellhole. Her life, her dreams, her hopes, gone. Her mother, her best friend had been gone for almost 2 years now. It had been two of them from the beginning. Relatives came from nowhere, all wanting to help and after the burial they all said she could not go back to their home in 1004 flats. She was to go with “Uncle Alfred” he was the closest blood kin to her mother.
She stopped calling him “Uncle” the first day he grabbed her breasts.
“Come here, you this akunna kuna, daughter of an akunna kuna, why are you pretending that it’s not ashawo that your mother was doing to get all that money?”
Eva thought something in her had died the day her mom died, but she knew that her old self no longer existed the first day Alfred lay astride her and spread her legs apart. He was always sweating, like a dirty pig, with his putrid touch; he would grab her young breasts. Thrust after thrust he killed the old Eva and planted his seed. Nothing was said about her education. He hurled insults at her and violated her daily, but the more she thought about her past, the stronger she became.
She thought about the locket her mother had given her on her 15th birthday. Inside the locket, written behind the picture of Evelyn and Dapo and their baby daughter Eva was the passcode to the account being held in trust for her till she was 18.
She would be 18 in a few weeks, she would take Damien and turn her back on all this. She would build her life again, because her mother had raised a strong independent woman.