I was shocked when I heard Ayo had disappeared with the sum forty-million naira. It was a Tuesday morning, and I had started attending to customers who were in hurry to withdraw money before heading for their places of work. Ayo had always hated the banking sector, no doubt, but I never expected him to steal, and also put me in a terrible state of confusion. We had been having sex for over three years now. I wouldn’t say I was seeing Ayo. I first gave him my body in gratitude for his influence over the bank job I got. During working hours, we never talked. We never stared at each other. Both of our hearts always waited for Friday when he would hawk me off to his house to spend the weekend. He never told me how beautiful I was. He never expressed his love. But I knew one thing. He was addicted to me. I remembered a Friday night when I had turned him down. I remembered how mad he was.
Ayo had never said anything good about the bank. There was a time we went out to buy some suits the bank demanded of us. I remembered his lament – ‘I get less than a hundred thousand per month, and the goddamn bank wants me putting on suits worth a hundred and fifty thousand!’
I agreed with him on some of the issues. We looked so fine wearing suits. The bank building we worked in was gorgeous, painting a picture that bank workers enjoyed a paradise. The bank was indeed a paradise with the sophisticated architectural designs. Our bodies in the expensive suits always sweated under terrific air conditions. We were just slaves that would one day be dumped.
My eyes had seen colleagues being sacked under mere circumstances. One being a case of a staff like myself giving a customer more than what was requested to be withdrawn. That mistake had ended Fred’s career. A career in which one worked six to six like a donkey to satisfy the interests of the bank owners.
The police came in briefly to investigate the Ayo scandal. I had to put off my phone in case Ayo would call leading to an implication. Moreover, I was sure none of the other bank workers knew of my affair.
Before the end of an eventful Tuesday of panic and tension, the police concluded that Ayo had an accomplice. Whoever the accomplice was, he or she had come into the bank as a customer, I felt. But when the owners of the bank walked in an hour after the doors were shut against customers, they insisted the accomplice was a bank worker. The branch manager stood up in defence against the accusation and he was fired. I, along with five others that worked in Ayo’s section got fired thirty minutes later.
I went home that day feeling dejected. I just wanted to cry alone in my bedroom. But I met full house. My parents and three pastors were interrogating the twelve year old house girl that my grand-aunt had sent us from the village.
My father wouldn’t even let me pull off my high heels. He insisted I joined them in whatever that was being discussed.
‘Magdalene, have you been sacked from your place of work?’ one of the pastors impatiently asked.
The words hit me like stones catapulted from the sky. I wanted to keep my misfortune to myself. ‘Yes…’
My answer stunned my parents as they both got to their feet.
‘The house girl had been right all along, so we need to take all she says very serious,’ another one of the three pastors said.
I had to embrace patience and put together whatever the issues were about. The house girl had been discovered to belong to a spiritual world.
The house girl claimed she had the power of a witch but had been using hers to save the family she was serving. She claimed there were things that her spiritual eyes saw, which human eyes couldn’t. The house girl gave an instance of some spiritual beings that appeared as humans on the streets selling pure water. Human beings buy the sachet water from these spiritual beings unknown to the human eyes that the water in the sachet was blood.
When one of the pastors asked the house girl why she doesn’t stay in church till the end of services (a habit she was known for), she claimed that in her spiritual kingdom, her sisters were angry that the family always took her to Church and would poison the meat in the stew in the house. She had to leave Church all the time for the house to get rid of the poisoned meats, saving the family.
On my case, she took my mind to the previous day when I had beaten her because she forgot to scrub the floor in my room. She claimed she forgave me the moment her tears dried. But her sisters in the spiritual realm never did and had to drop a pair of slippers in my place of work so that when I wore it, I would lose my job. My mind travelled back to my day’s session at the bank. The high heels I had worn to work had been unfair to my feet and I had to get them off. The moment I got them off, a pair of colourful slippers stared at me from a corner near Ayo’s desk. I never asked who owned it. I just wore them till I got fired that day.
I wasn’t the type who believed in such stories. But this was a confession that had a cobweb attached to the cause of my loss of job.
Before I could place my thoughts together, it was two hours before midnight. Then the pastors, the house girl and my mother had left for the church for a night vigil. The quiet atmosphere that the episodes of the day had caused was alarming. I was letting a flush of air into my head, lying on my bed wearing a nightgown and fighting fear, when bangs echoed against the gate. What happened next was in a speed of confusion. Armed soldiers flooded the house obviously in search of me. They found me, and I was dragged out into their truck. The slaps that rained over my face weakened any pinch of resistance in me. The slap that rained over my face also weakened any defence measures my father intended to take.
Inside the truck were the five other colleagues that had also lost their jobs. It was apparent that they had been treated in the same way that I was. There was nothing to speak about. They were cold against me. We were taken to the barracks. Torture was the only way the soldiers thought they could use to force words out of our mouths on the whereabouts of Ayo.
My colleagues did the unexpected. It was more than betrayal. I never had the slightest hint that they knew about my affair with Ayo. It was concluded that if Ayo had an accomplice, then it was with the lady he is having an affair with. And all eyes had rained on me. This explained the attitude that was put up in the truck while we were being transported to the barracks.
My colleagues were released. Torture stood ripe in front of me. My hair was dragged to an extent that I felt my scalp being torn away from my head. The soldiers fondled with my breasts until they ended up pouring blows on them. One of the owners of bank was around only wishing for my lips to expose Ayo’s hideout.
‘I do not know,’ was my breathe, for my tears had dried.
‘If you were a man I would have your prick nailed to a desk and leave you bleed until you talk. That’s exactly what I would do to Ayo when he is found, except that he will be left to bleed to death. But I think watering your most secret place with pepper would benefit me…’ the bank owner spoke looking straight into my eyes.
‘I want to speak to a lawyer, you imbecile,’ I said in pains. My voice had a tickle effect on him. ‘You will never find Ayo. He is too smart. Just as he used and dumped me, he has used and dumped your organisation!’
The bank owner’s fists smacked my face in response. Even the soldiers were shocked. He ordered the soldiers to give me the pepper baptism.
What I went through was difficult to bear. I searched for death in my unconscious state. I ignored the strength awakening on the inside of me. I was dumped outside the barracks when they realised I was of no use. The bank owners had money and were above the law. And we, ordinary Nigerians, were just too ordinary to sue in defence.
I spent the next five days on my bed in my father’s house. I wouldn’t tell anyone of my torture, including the doctor that had made my room a clinic ward. The pastors had advised my parents to send the house girl packing to my disgust. I wanted to deal with her when I recovered. All the house chores fell on my mother. I couldn’t eat well for the bruises I developed within my throat. Surprisingly, three of the bank owners including the one who was behind my torture visited. They asked for my forgiveness. They said I could resume back at the bank when I was strong enough. They did not leave without giving me a number to call if Ayo should get in touch with me.
I did make a full recovery. I never thought about going back to work at the bank. At the verge of my trying to get my credentials together in a state of another job search, I got a call from Ayo. He used a hidden number. All he left was an instruction.
He said I should get an international passport after which a friend of his would contact me. He didn’t say more. I cancelled my plan of searching for a job, and was set to head for the immigration office.