The girl was sitting at the end of the bed, her long legs folded under her. She was shivering terribly and sobbing, much to Tega’s irritation. But she took the moment to take a good look at the girl. She was a child, as expected and not more than fourteen. She was also definitely beautiful. Even her sorrow couldn’t dampen that fact. Her face was round with a pointed chin; her lips were well shaped and full. But her most attractive feature would have to be her eyes. They were slightly slanted upwards at the end, with long black eyes, that were now wet with tears. Her irises were dark brown, a color that would possibly shine if she smiled. Too bad I’ll never see them that way. Too bad it all belonged to the captain now Tega thought. She reached under her mattress and drew out a weed she’d rolled earlier then reached for her lighter.
“I’m going to leave this place” the girl said suddenly just as Tega was lighting the weed. She stopped midway and blinked at the girl. The girl was staring her; fear very evident in her eyes. Obviously she wanted to sound determined but she was failing miserably.
“I’m not going to sell myself to any man” she cried, shaking her pretty head “No matter what Hemel does, I won’t. My uncle is a police man, he’ll find me. I’ll escape” she cleaned her eyes with her palms and sniffed.
Tega had tried to escape once before and she had ended up in a cold, iron tank filled with rats. She didn’t bother telling the girl; if she wanted to escape she should try. So she simply stared at her and took a drag of her weed. That was the way they always came in here. They were always filled with hope that they’ll be found one day by their relentless loved ones. Tega felt like she must have had that hope once, she couldn’t remember and somehow it irked her. She had probably been this innocent once, probably been this hopeful once but all that has been ripped away from her.
“I’m only thirteen” the girl declared, leaning forward a little, she didn’t ask Tega her own age probably waiting for Tega to tell her. Tega ignored her and leaned back on the wall, concentrating on her weed.
“What part of Nigeria are you from?” the girl asked her, still sniffing. Did she think this was a courtesy call Tega thought angrily.
“My aunty sold me” she said feeling quite chatty even if she had a mute audience. “She lied to my parents. She’s a witch”
Tega thought of her own step father, over the years she had run out of names to call the bastard.
“I have a little sister at home” she had started rubbing her arms though it was summer, it could still be really cold for newcomers. “Her name is Lucy. We used to go to school together. She had a red school bag, my own was blue. Every time, she’d be crying that she wants a blue bag like mine. Before I left I gave her my own and I told her that when I get back I collect it back” she was smiling now, though her eyes were filled with tears again.
“You see why I can’t stay here. I need to go and collect my bag” she didn’t make lick of sense but she didn’t seem to notice. She was like a caged animal, she knew there was no hope but she’d rather grasp at shadows, she didn’t want to face her fears.
I should feel something for her Tega wondered how come I don’t? The girl caught the look in Tega’s eyes and went on her knees, crawling towards her. She held her hand.
“See eh, the guard where I was been held” she whispered. She was shivering badly now, the uncontrollable clatter of her teeth made it difficult for her to talk “He…he said he was going to help me escape. That I should sneak into his room tomorrow and he’d show me the way out. He even said that I don’t have to pay anything” she was nodding now “Yes, that’s what he said”
How naïve, How stupid can you get? Tega was getting angry again.
“But even if that one does not work. That captain, the one they’re taking me too. I’m sure I can beg him” Tega had no doubt about that “I’ll talk to him. If he helps me home, my parents would pay him”
Tega knew she had two choices; she could fuel this girl’s hope, she could tell her things that she wanted to hear, give her encouragement where there was none and let her see the real world for herself or she could just tell her the truth. It was a battle between the tiny good in her and the big cruelty in her. It was a contest between ten years of innocence and seventeen years of sick contamination. However it was a lost battle; she knew that already, because somewhere inside her she didn’t want to help this girl. She didn’t want to sugar coat the suffering that lay ahead of her. She was angry at the girl for been this innocent, she hated that hope in her eyes, hated her for having something she couldn’t dream of ever experiencing again.
“My parents would pay him big money” she was saying “I’ll tell him to…”
Tega laid a hand on the girl’s, stopping her midsentence.
“Listen to me and listen very carefully. Once you are in the Deuren, you are in the Deuren. The captain; your afenemer, is your worst nightmare. Tonight, you’d be raped. Not once, not twice, not until you lose count. Not by one person, not by two. You’d be tied up and bent into positions you didn’t even know you could take. You’d be whipped and tortured because some sick fuck likes it that way” she saw the light of hope in the girl’s eyes start to die, she felt pleased and for one sick second she felt worse than Hemel. She wanted to stop, she really did but she couldn’t. Years of bottled up anger and pain were already erupting and there was no one to take it out on, except for the easy target in front of her.
“And it won’t last for only a night. No, you’d pass through this torture till it becomes a part of you, every single day you’d be shaped into their toy. Your soul, your will to live would be practically screwed out of you. Hemel would break you, for every strength you show he’ll intensify the pressure, till you become his puppet. Go to the police, you’re dead. Try to escape, you’d wish you’re dead. The pain would drive you insane” Tega, herself would have gone insane if not for a single memory she hung unto.
“But they won’t let you go crazy. No, Hemel would make sure you have a steady supply of drugs to keep you moving but not enough to OD on. As for your parents, they won’t find you because I’m sure they’ve been told you’re dead. And believe me by the time this night is through, you’d wish you were”
Tega was shaking violently by the time she was done, her breathing was hard, and she opened her mouth slightly to take in more air. She kept her gaze to the wall not wanting to look at the girl. Why did I do that? What the hell is wrong with me?
With shaky hands she brought her weed to lips and took a drag. When she exhaled she felt a little calm and turned to the girl. She had stopped shaking, she wasn’t even sobbing again. She just kept staring at Tega but Tega had a feeling she wasn’t seeing her. Tega removed her hands from the girl’s; it was uncomfortable since the hand under hers was now stone cold.
“Lie on the floor” Tega finally said “Try and get some sleep, you would need all the rest you can get” With that she stretched out on the bed and faced the wall; giving her back to the girl. She blocked the girl out and smoked until the THC knocked her out.
She woke up when they came for the girl but she didn’t turn, because she didn’t know what to say to her. And she definitely didn’t want to see her face; knowing that she contributed in killing her. She expected the girl to cry and scream when the matron came, but all she heard was a quiet “Please”
“Please, Tega” a hand touched her back. The hand was ice cold, but it left a stamp of heat on Tega’s skin “Please help me”
Tega heard the matron laugh. She heard them drag the girl up; she didn’t make a sound while they left the room.
“The dead can’t help the dead” Tega whispered “The dead can’t help the dead” she repeated and closed her eyes.
* * * * *
Tega’s afenemer came an hour later. She hadn’t been herself throughout their whole engagement, much to Melder’s irritation. The little girl with lovely brown eyes had haunted her. She could still feel the imprint of her palm on her back, and it made her feel uneasy. Last night she’d been happy to crush the girl’s hopes, now she couldn’t help feeling like a snake. I should have been better than Hemel she thought to herself as she walked into the Deuren. She counted her daily pay and headed for Hemel’s office. She thought of ways to make amends with the girl, there wasn’t much to do in the Deuren but it wouldn’t hurt to hold her hand when she returned from the Captain’s. She could help her through her nightmares; they could both help each other in surviving. And for the first time in so many years, she felt a ting of elation and looked forward to seeing the girl again. She entered the monster’s office and dropped the money on his desk. He picked it up and counted; a hundred and fifty euros.
“How is my dear friend, Melder? Hope you took care of him?” Tega gave a curt nod and turned to leave the room.
“Tega” Hemel called “Your sister won’t be sharing your rooms today”
“Why?” she asked before thinking better of it. But Hemel didn’t get angry, instead he smiled. “Oh, she took a dive into the canal and didn’t come back up”
Tega started and felt like she was the one that had gone inside the icy cold lake “That’s not possible, she’d freeze to death”
“I think that’s the least of her problems. Turns out she couldn’t swim but I guess she already knew that” his pale eyes stared into hers, unfeeling.
“Waste of money though” Hemel continued like he was talking about a bad spare part “But the captain paid well, enough to get me ten of her. Seems he enjoyed her very well before she decided to turn into a fish”
Tega’s senses started whirring. She stopped seeing clearly, the ringing in her ears increased and her lungs seemed to have collapsed. She didn’t want to believe what she had just heard.
“Her schoolbag” she said stupidly “She needs to get her school bag”
Hemel only raised an eyebrow. She swallowed and slowly backed out of the room. She felt like she was walking in a trance, she stumbled a few of times and grabbed the dirty wall for support. Her stomach clenched. The girl was dead. A horrible thought entered her head.
I hadn’t even asked her, her name. Her stomach clenched again and she emptied it in the corridor, almost slipping on her vomit as she staggered to her room. She couldn’t breathe, no matter how hard she tried.
“Oh my God” she breathed, tears blinding her “Oh God, what did I do?” she screamed.
Her words echoed in her head and believe me by the time this night is through, you’d wish you were dead.
“Oh my God, did I kill her?’ The wall she’d built all these years to block her emotions came crashing down and they assaulted her. Guilt hit her like a sledge hammer forcing her to her knees. Misery overwhelmed her, why didn’t I help her?
Tears and snot were pouring down her face now; she dropped her head in her hands and cried like never before. She didn’t care if the others heard her wails, she only needed to get the agony out or she’ll burst from it. She cried at the hopelessness she felt and she screamed for her lost innocence. The pressure in her heart kept rising; she thought she was going to have a heart attack. She needed to get away from here and away from the pain. She rushed for her weed but her unsteady hands couldn’t wrap a joint. Screaming in frustration, she dropped it and went for the needle under her mattress
“Calm down” she warned herself “Just calm down” her heart was beating painfully in her chest. She took a rope and tied it around her upper arm. She flexed her fingers watching for the vein inside her elbow to pop out. It did and she pushed the needle, unflinching into her skin. She jerked as the drug mixed with her blood. Her screaming stopped as everything around her started to blur.
Her mother was dancing, and her brother rushed over to join her. It was a picture that would forever live in her memories. Tega has never been this happy in her entire life. Her mother called out to her.
“Tega, come and join us” she said holding out her hand. She took her mother’s hand and went into her embrace. Her mother twirled her around then pulled her back into her arms. They both swayed from side to side; clinging to each other.
“Remember that I always love you, Oghenetega” her mother had whispered in her ears “Always remember that”
“I remember, mammy” Tega sobbed in her damp room in this distant European country. “I remember”
No matter how bleak life was, there was always someone who loves or loved you out there in the world. And that was all that mattered, that is the only way to survive. She knew that, only she hadn’t told the girl with the beautiful brown eyes