Fatihat was on her way to her office from Gift’s school and got held up in the traffic on Agidingbi road.
“God, the traffic in Lagos can be so frustrating.” She muttered under her breath.
“Sorry, mum. It will soon start moving, I’m sure.” Gift flashed her mother a toothless grin.
“Thanks, baby. How was your day?” She pulled playfully at her braids.
“It is okay. I’m catching up gradually, thanks to my private teachers and to you. I love you, mum.”The little girl said solemnly.
“I love you too, baby, anything for my little girl. It is moving now.”Fatihat laughed as she lifted her foot from the break and started moving forward. She tried to move cautiously into the second lane as it was faster but a commercial bus came out of the blues and overtook her. It scratched the side of her car as it was getting away and the conductor even hit the roof of her car, cursing her.
“Get out of the road, useless woman.” He glared at her as they drove away.
Fatihat was speechless for a moment as she stared after them in shock. She followed them at neck-breaking speed as she made a call on her phone. “I will teach this son of a bitch not to joke with a woman next time he came to this world.” She swore under her breath as she overtook cars and finally caught up with them as they turned into wempco road. Fatihat crossed them and pulled up in front of the commercial bus to the driver’s consternation.
“Is this woman crazy?” The driver swore angrily as he matched on the break abruptly and all the passengers lurched forward.
“You better take it easy, driver. You don’t know the kind of person the woman is.” One of the passengers cautioned as the conductor jumped down and started swearing.
“Who are you, self? Take your pangolo car and get off the road.” The conductor’s voice trailed off as Mopol car pulled up behind their bus. The officers came down and rounded up both the conductor and his driver.
“Look at what those idiots did to my car.”Fatihat fumed with rage as she showed them the dent and scratch on the side of her jeep.
“I’m so sorry, madam. They will be severely dealt with.” The head of the mopol team, Mr. Akuruka by the nametag on his chest, apologized profusely and joined his mates where they were already torturing them.
“Sorry oga. Na..my..lane..She…dey.” The driver panted as he did frog jump and screamed each time the cane descended heavily on him. The conductor was in a worse condition and he begged for mercy as he hopped along. The passengers got down and started dispersing one after the other, cursing and swearing under their breath.
“Madam, do you want to press charge against them?” Mr. Akuruka came back to ask her again.
“I want to talk to them first.”Fatihat walked to where they were still doing frog-jump beside the road, closely followed by her curious daughter. Their bus had been moved to the side of the road to prevent further traffic jam.
“Madam, I’m …” pant, pant, “sorry.abeg, forgive me.” The driver went on his chest on the hot ground with sweat dribbling down his face.
“I will forgive you but you will pay for the damage you did to my car.” She said firmly as she watched tears filled the blood-shot eyes.
“Abeg, madam. I just dey come out for the first time today, na the reason wey I dey in such hurry. Have mercy, abeg. My bus don dey mechanic place since last week, I just comot am dis morning and I be family man. Abeg, have mercy ma.”He rolled on the floor before her, begging and pleading with tears.
“Let him go, mum. He is a stupid old man.” Gift told her mother, holding tightly to her hand.
“Stand up. You are free to go.” She hit him lightly with her shoe and he scampered to his feet.
“Thank you ma. God go bless you and your sweet girl.” He ran for his bus with his slippers under his armpit.
“Oga, you go leave me here.” The conductor cried in horror but his boss did not spare him a glance before he leaped into his bus and drove away.
“Madam, forgive me abeg. Have mercy on me.” He lifted his hands up to her as she approached and he froze as if he had just seen a ghost. “Aunty Fatihat?”He called in a hesitant voice She looked down at him without a flicker of expression.
“Is that a trick, young man?” Her voice was cold as she stared down at him.
“I’m Yusuf Ali, your step-brother. Have you forgotten you left us behind in Kaduna? You can’t remember?” A note of despair entered his voice as he saw the chance of relating to his privileged sister melting away before his eyes. She frowned as she noted the resemblance between him and her father at last.
“Yusuf Ali? How about your siblings? What are their names?”
“I don’t know where they are at the moment. They are Bilqis, the twins, Ismail, and Isiak and little Aisha.”His voice was sad.
She smiled at last. “Get up. Let’s go home.”Fatihat dismissed the mopol officers with a generous tip each, thanking them for their time before leading him and her daughter to her car.
“Is this your car, aunty?”Yusuf sat beside her, looking around the big car with undisguised wonder and admiration.
“I’ve owned it for three years. What are you doing in Lagos?” she asked casually as she pulled into the road.
“I came to work.” He shrugged.
“As a bus conductor?” She raised her eyebrow at him.
“Yes, ma.”He wriggled his fingers nervously, feeling the enormous gap between them. She gave a short humorless laugh.
“Will you please call me fatihat the way you used to when we were at home and drop the inferiority complex?” She snapped angrily.
“I’m sorry, Fatihat. You are very lucky, you don’t even know the definition of poverty.” His voice was quiet.
“I’ve had my shares of misery and poverty since I was a baby. Thanks to your mother. Where is she by the way? Where are your siblings?” she asked curiously.
“It is a long story, fatihat, one that will take a long time to narrate.” He glanced into the back seat and saw the little face staring intently at him and listening to them attentively. “That is my daughter, Gift Abeeb. Gift, meet my brother, Yusuf Ali. He is my father’s first son.” Fatihat introduced them casually.
“Good afternoon, Uncle Yusuf.”Gift said shyly.
“How are you, fatihat Ali junior?” He smiled at her, feeling self-conscious in his dirty jean shorts and smelly, dirty t-shirt.
“We will soon be home. We will have plenty of time to talk but we need to get you a decent clothing first.”Fatihat branched to a men’s boutique on her way home.
He bought a set of new clothes for the first time in his adult life. Who would have thought such good luck would befall him when he woke up in his crowded room this morning, he thought as he gave a silent thank God.
“Do you smoke?”Yusuf asked in obvious shock as he joined his sister in the study room hours later. He has taken his bath, eaten and changed into new black jeans and t-shirt. He was still thunder-struck by the size of his sister’s house. He kept telling himself to wake up if it was a dream. Now he regarded her with silent suspicion as he sat opposite her and watched her flicked ash into the ashtray before looking at him.
“Are you surprised? I used to smoke other things apart from cigar but I’ve limited myself to just this. Don’t you as a bus conductor smoke worse things than this? That is why you, guys are always behaving like lunatics.” She said with a small smile.
“It is a rough world that we live in. I’m a man and you are a woman. Decent women do not smoke. They are called karuwas.”He told her with obvious disapproval.
“That is in Kaduna. This is Lagos and I don’t care what people called the likes of me. I’ve stopped caring a long time ago.” She grinned at him.
“What do you do for a living? You are barely twenty-five if I remember well” He asked in a voice, barely above a whisper.
“In other words, how do I become so rich at such a young age? I will tell you when you have finished answering all my questions.” She told him without malice.
“You want to know what happened after you left home, right? I will tell you.” He answered her unspoken question. She listened in silence, smoking one cigar after another, thinking it was really nice having the freedom to smoke without the fear of her curious daughter breathing down her neck.
“After daddy’s death, most of his properties were taken one after the other by his relatives until there was nothing left for us to survive on. Mum has always been a full housewife. She withdrew us from our schools to a government school but she couldn’t even afford that and our schooling becomes occasional. She blamed us for our father’s death and the bad luck we brought to her.” He gave a harsh bitter laugh.
“Couldn’t she start selling something at least? At least I helped her sell ice-water back then before I left.” She said matter-of-factly as she flicked ash in the ashtray.
“Oh! She tried her best. We continued with the ice-water and she added few petty things to it but it was simply not working. Eventually, our house rent expired. Fortunately, she has met husband number two by then at the garage where she sold wares. Mallam Garba was a mean miser, womanizer,and a miserable drunkard.” He said with open disgust.
“So what was the attraction to him?” she asked in a puzzled voice.
“He was good looking and he has money. Anyway, they got married and we joined his first wife and his children in their big empty house. It was then the real nightmare began. He was mean and wicked. He beat mummy every night, after the initial attraction ware off. He doesn’t give a hoot about us and mum neglected us most of the time just to please him. By then, I was old enough to go out and work in the market for money to feed my younger ones. After a while, Bilqis joined me too. Together, we tried our best to take care of our three younger ones. After two years, she left him and we moved to a room apartment in sabo – gari.’
‘’By the time she met husband number three, I’ve scraped together enough money and I came down to Lagos with a friend of mine who was orphaned. I guessed that was the biggest mistake I ever made.” He said solemnly and she gave him a questioning look. “That was the last time I saw my siblings. The first book-haram war broke out few weeks after I left and I was told mum escaped with her husband who was a tanker driver, so he traveled a lot. The last I heard about her was that she was in Jos with another man.” He said with a brittle laugh.
“So what happened to your siblings? Did they escape? Where are they?” she asked anxiously with something close to dread.
“I don’t know what happened to them but they were not killed. Bilqis took Aisha and went to god-knows-where. The two boys, Isiak and Ismail disappeared as well and nobody knew their whereabouts.I went back sometimes after the war died down finally and what I met was a half-fallen, crumbled house that was deserted and isolated with no sign of my younger ones.” His voice ended in a dejected whisper.
“So how are you so sure they were unhurt in the war and had just disappeared?” She demanded bitterly.
“There was an old woman who was a co-tenant in the compound we lived in. She survived the war but lost her whole family. She was the only occupant in the half-fallen house when I got there because she has nowhere to go and she was the one who told me they were able to escape, alive as at then.”He said with a shrug and they sat in silence for some time.
“It is so sad. Do you still stay with your orphaned friend in Lagos?” She broke the silence after a while, bending her head to light a cigar and blew the smoke gently into the air.
“I sleep anywhere the night met me. My friend lives in a room where there are about fifteen other occupants, so it is usually suffocating and inconvenient for everybody.”
“That means nobody will miss you if you don’t even go back. What exactly do you want to do if given the opportunity? Do you want to go back to school or train for a job?” She asked casually.
“I would love to go back to school, I’ve always wanted to read law but it is a while since I’ve left school and I don’t know if I can still achieve that.” He said with a self-conscious laugh.
“You can be anything you want to be if you want it badly enough. I and Josephine went back to school about some years after we’ve dropped out. We would be University graduates by next year. It is never too late to be anything you want to be. All you need is the time and opportunity. I will give it to you on a platter of gold, provided I’m getting a dividend and profit for it in a few years time.” She gave him a frank look.
He stared at her in disbelieve, then to her amazement, he went down on his chest in gratitude. “Thank you, fatihat.God blesses you abundantly. None of us deserve anything at all from you, considering the way mum treated you. I am very grateful and would forever be in your debt.” Tears filled his eyes.
“Please stop embarrassing me, stand up.” Her voice was annoyed.
He sat back on his seat, then took a deep breath. “It is obvious you are rich and you are not married. How did you manage it, fati?” He asked with sincere curiosity.
“I will fulfill my promise and tell you how I got to where I am today.” she sat back and put her legs on the table.
“Hey, pretty girl. Are you okay?” A friendly voice penetrated her numbed mind and she opened her eyes slowly to see the lady bending over her. She was clad in white short with a highly transparent white tissue top which left nothing to the imagination. She was a few years older than she was.
“Hi.”Fatihat smiled at her. The lady returned it.
“I’m Josephine bob. What is your name?” She asked in a curious voice as she bent down beside her. She continued watching the young lady, bending beside her as she thought of a name; she was through with being Fatihat Ali. It was time she fights back life for being so cruel to her.
“I’m Delilah Smith but you can call me Lilah.”She adopted the name of a character in a movie she watched so long ago and the character happened to be a female assassin.
“Why were you sleeping on the roadside? It is dangerous and very risky.” Josephine said with obvious concern.
“I’ve been homeless for months. I have no money; neither do I have a relative. I’m virtually alone in this whole world, isn’t that great?” She said bitterly, choking back tears. “I can relate to you, girlfriend. Get up and let’s get going.” Josephine stood up and pulled her to her feet.
“I feel so weak.” she staggered to her feet and the older girl held her up at her waist. “Don’t worry. I will take good care of you. We will go and see a doctor about your health.” Josephine told her briskly and she nodded in silence.
Josephine bob lived in a room apartment in Fadeyi, along ikorodu road. She was a tall, slender, pretty girl with slight curves at the right place. She was an inch taller than fatihat who was on the petite side and could be described as beautiful, even at a glance. She was a street-walker and didn’t bother to hide her profession from her young friend.
Fatihat spent the next few weeks, getting back to health and learning how to make her next move into the world. She learned to smoke anything that is smokeable, drink, watched pornography and violence film and to party like tomorrow would never come. “I’m going to paint Lagos a very bloody red.”Fatihat told her friend on her first night at a private party.
That was exactly what she did. She turned into a sex freak and a very ruthless hawker.
“I hit my first million before I clocked twenty-one.” Fatihat told her half-brother whose jaw was hanging open.
“Oh ,lord! How did you do it?” He stammered the question at her.
“Josephine is my guardian angel and I owed all that I have to her. She taught me to take precautions and chose my defense mechanism in case I find myself in a tight corner. I chose to use a gun. I have always been fascinated with the cold metal that can take one’s life in a minute. I learned to use it and to carry it whenever I went out on the street. Our job is a highly risky one, there are men who will do horrid things to you to satisfy their pervert urge and may or may not pay you a dime afterward. I was not ready to take a chance with any man and earned myself the nickname the ‘bad girl’” She grinned at his horrified expression.
“So you can use a gun?” He asked in simple amazement.
“I can use it and have used it. I become very rich when I met Michael Cross. He was the head of a notorious armed robbery gang and I joined the gang. It was hell on the wheel and I enjoined the ride to the end!” She said with a smile, filled with memories.
Michael Cross aka the Ironman sat in a corner of the ballroom, nursing a glass of drink and feeling bored. He was a good-looking man in his early thirties, tall and wealthy. The 7 for all mankind designer sky-blue jean he wore with a white Hugo boss t-shirt plus the gold Rolex wrist-watch around his wrist spoke volume about his wealth.
Ladies moved within his proximity, displaying their wares and trying their utmost best to catch his attention but he didn’t even see any of them. He stared unseeingly into his drink and thought about his next operation when a hush fell on the occupants of the room which was followed almost immediately by the uproar of “the b-a-a-d g-i-r-l”.
He looked up and stared in awe at the prettiest girl he had ever come across in his whole life. She wore a black cap-sleeve, a low-cut A-shaped gown that clung to her slender figure and end in the middle of her thigh.A Long expanse of smooth fair legs ended in a pair of knee-length, solid high heel stilettos boot. He realized with a shock that she wore no bra beneath the clingy material that moved over her fair skin as she moved elegantly towards the dance floor with a cigar stick dangling from her rosy lips.
Desire shot through him like adrenalin as he watched her and he felt his palms sweating. She was in the company of another pretty girl but she was the Centre of attraction as she danced with virtually every man in the room, leaving them panting with desire for her and their women green with envy. He was intrigued, challenged, amused and aroused by this beautiful wild stranger and was about to approach her when she strolled over to where he sat.
“Care for a dance, handsome?”She held out her slender hand to him while the other hand dropped the half-smoked cigar into the ashtray in front of him. The music had turned to a slow number and he got to his feet.
“You care for another stick?” He lit one for her before she answered him and slide it between her moist lips.
“Thanks, handsome.”She moved easily into his arms, fitting snugly against his body and he nearly trembled with desire.
“I hope you know what you are doing?” He whispered fiercely into her ear, his fingers roaming her bare spotless back.
“What am I doing, handsome? Tell me your name.” She moved deliberately against him as she blew smoke into the air behind him and he almost groaned out loud.
“Michael Cross. Who are you, bad girl?” His hands came up her side and his thumbs teased her rosy nipples.
“I’m Lilah Smith.” She smiled at him, her fingers trailing lightly over his arms.
“What is your price, pretty? Please tell me.” He pleaded in a husky voice and she told him.
“Let’s go please.” He practically whisked her out of the ballroom to the receptionist to book a room and she collected her pay immediately they got into the room. It was the best mind-blowing sex he ever had in his life!
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