From then on each time Bimbo and Cindy went on their rendezvous, Sandra and I just wished them luck and safe return. Sandra became withdrawn after that conversation. I noticed that she was no longer as close to both Bimbo and Cindy as she used to be. She avoided eating with them, using their body creams or sitting on their beds. I asked her why she withdrew and she said she was just being careful. She said her fear was that the ladies could have been infected with some kind of disease by the men they slept with.
I came back one day to find a fuming Sandra in the room. She told me that Bimbo invited her to come with them to one of their mysterious trips so that she could introduce her to an expatriate that was working with an oil company.
“What? Are you serious?” I asked looking all excited and Sandra shook her head, disappointment registered on her face.
“Why are you excited about what I said? I may do a lot of things but would not turn myself into anybody’s bed-mate because of money,” countered Sandra. “I’m so disappointed in you. What will the Forum members say when they get to know?”
I reasoned with what she said. I said I was sorry and that I just thought it could make an exciting varsity experience.
“You want an experience that can be disastrous to us if it goes wrong? No, thank you,” Sandra retorted. I shook my head and kept quiet after that.
A month after that discussion however; Cindy, Sandra, Bimbo and I were off to a party that was supposedly organized in honor of a retired Inspector General of Police. It was curiosity and my plea that made Sandra decide to go. When we got to the supposed venue, it was to find the place empty except for some Caucasians drinking at the open bar. One of them sighted us as we entered and came over to meet us. Cindy hugged him and he shook Bimbo’s hand. Introductions were made and we all joined the others at the bar. Sandra and I exchanged confused glances and looked around suspiciously.
“Are we too early for the party?” Sandra mouthed and I shrugged. Sandra begged to be excused with Bimbo for a few minutes and Bimbo followed her reluctantly.
“What is it now?” Bimbo asked as they got to a corner of the place.
“Is this not the venue of the party? Don’t tell me we are too early,” Sandra asked as she led Bimbo to a corner of the lobby.
“Relax, girlfriend. Well, there is no party. Those three guys just came into the country to visit Jeff, Cindy’s mate and needed companions for the night and through their stay. They’ll pay in dollars,” Bimbo explained and tried to smile but frowned instead when she saw Sandra’s stony stare.
“Wake up girl, these guys has hard currency and are ready to spend it if you play ball.”
“Do I look like someone who wants play ball?” asked Sandra as she shifted and poked Bimbo in the belly. “Do I?”
“You could do with a little more money,” Bimbo said. Sandra hissed and walked away from Bimbo and came to where we were seated. From the look on her face, I knew she was ready to make trouble.
“This is bullshit,” she whispered into my ears and turned her hard gaze to Cindy who looked away and drew closer to Jeff. Sandra pulled me out of my seat and told me we had to leave. I pulled back and she leaned towards me and said, “Let’s go.”
“Come on Sandra. It’s late,” I whispered back.
“They want us to hook up with these men.”
“Well, they are not married,” was all I could say and Sandra hit me.
“How do you know that? Is it because they are white?” Sandra answered angrily and forgot to whisper and so everybody heard her. Cindy got up, took hold of Sandra and dragged her out of the Hotel.
“What is wrong with you? Did you have to raise your voice like that?” Cindy fumed.
“Please, spare me all that because I’m not in the mood for that bullshit just now,” Sandra said and snatched her hand from Cindy’s grip. She made to walk back but Cindy pulled her back. We came out to join them and I begged Sandra to calm down. She wanted to know why she was not told anything before asking her out.
“Would you have followed us if you were told?” Cindy accused, sounding sarcastic. Sandra said she probably wouldn’t have agreed and demanded to know if she did not have a choice not to do what they wanted her to do.
“Let’s just drop this issue. Do you want to leave as late as it is now?” Cindy asked.
“Yes, I want to leave,” Sandra replied. Cindy went inside and came out later with one of the guys. She told us he had offered to take us back to the campus. Bimbo and Cindy left us there and went back into the Hotel.
Sandra and I were quiet on the way to the campus. We sat in the back and everybody kept quiet. Sandra; who had been all hot and furious, started to feel uneasy. She started shifting in her seat.
“We are so sorry for putting you through this stress,” Sandra said suddenly to the guy. The guy appeared not pleased but managed to smile. He asked for Sandra’s name while reminding us that his name was William.
“Was it really necessary to say what you said at the Hotel the other time? About our being white?” he asked. Sandra dabbed her face with the corner of her handkerchief and picked at an imaginary speck on the seat.
“Well, it just came out wrongly. I didn’t really mean anything by it.” Sandra replied and looked out of the window. It was starting to drizzle outside.
William asked if she was a racist and Sandra hissed and told him to cut the chit-chat and just concentrate on his driving. By this time I was beginning to get angry at Sandra for being unnecessarily rude. The guy was only trying to make conversation and there she was being ridiculous and rude. I felt like giving her a hot slap across her face.
We thanked him when we got to the hostel but he drove off without as much as a reply. When we got into room, I burst into an array of angry words telling Sandra that what she did was childish and wrong.
“You need to stop being stupid. I prevented you from sleeping with those guys. Come to think of it, is that why you are angry?” Sandra said as she undressed.
“You are totally out of it, Sandra. That poor guy agreed to bring us back and you couldn’t even appreciate it,” I countered.
“Is that all?” Sandra asked and turned to look at me.
“Yes, that is all. You really need to improve on your silly temper tantrums. It’s becoming irritating,” I said and went outside to buy a loaf of bread and tin of tuna. I returned to find her on her bed and I sat down to eat. She had slept on an empty stomach, so I left some bread for her because I knew she would wake up sometime in the middle of the night hungry. I switched off the light and got into bed.
Just like life is so unpredictable and the society is always changing, it happened that I came back one day to find Sandra in tears after her trip home.
“What is wrong with you?” I asked as I dropped my books and bag on my bed.
“Alice, I’m finished. How will I ever cope?”
“You better not let Cindy come in here and see you crying like this. Are your mum and Jenny okay?” I asked and moved closer to her.
“Mummy had another crisis and the doctors said I should go and bring thirty thousand naira,” Sandra said amidst wails.
“Thirty what? Where do they want you to get that kind of money from?” I asked; scratching my head.
“I don’t know. May be one of the girls can borrow me,” Sandra replied wriggling her hands and looking at me expectantly.
“Sandra. Have you forgotten how you swore not to touch their money?” I replied.
Sandra burst into another string of tears.
“You really do not have to cry. I think it’s high time we sit down and reason things out,” I said looking serious.
“What are you trying to say?” Sandra asked me.
“Let’s consider what Cindy and Bimbo had been telling us. I think we’ll have the money by the end of this week if we put our heart to it,” I explained.
“God forbid. I can’t. Its prostitution,” Sandra said sternly and shook her head.
“It’s not really prostitution. Let’s try it out. I know you are thinking of what Cindy will say but leave it all to me,” I said further.
“I will sell my body to some useless, irresponsible men because of thirty thousand naira?” asked Sandra as she moved away from my side.
“Yes you will. Do you know what can happen if we do not get the money soon? Your mum will be paralyzed for life. What will happen to Jenny? Do you think I deserve to do it too?” I said angrily.
“You have been paying too much attention to Cindy and her sweet talk,” Sandra said.
“That is not the issue Sandra. This is a way of survival. Bimbo pays her sister’s school fees and Cindy just rented an apartment for her siblings. These girls are not dullards and are definitely not prettier than us. Look at you; despite your short hair, you look gorgeous,” I said and poked Sandra and she smiled.
“I really have to give it a serious thought,” Sandra said and lay down on her bed.
I told the other girls what happened when they came back. Sandra was sleeping then so she didn’t hear what we discussed. Cindy felt very bad and volunteered to borrow Sandra the thirty thousand naira. She said she would have given her the money but the apartment she rented for her folks had left her broke. That was a new chapter in our journey. One thing led to the other and months after that incident, we blended in.
We became popular on our campus. We started making more money than we ever imagined we could have. I began to visit Sean in his hostel with beverages and money but I always avoided his questions on the source of the money. I never took money or my expensive clothes to Aunt Betty’s house whenever I went on semester breaks. Sandra paid her mum’s hospital bill, bought her rather expensive drugs. They later moved from their one-room apartment to a mini-flat which Sandra rented. Her mum was glad, it was a relive to her so she didn’t bother asking where the money came from. This surprised me but I did not blame her, it was the society I blamed.
When Sean finished his secondary education and Aunt Betty complained that she was hard on money, I sent him to South Africa to study medicine with the help of Alhaji Baruwa, a wealthy politician whom I was dating then.
Everything didn’t really go smoothly as our group began to suffer. Members started withdrawing and we began to get labeled by other students. There was even a day that I ran across Austin during one of my visits to the café to chat with a foreign friend of mine. He called me all sorts of names and spat on me. I was so embarrassed to see that many people witnessed my humiliation and saw the laughing faces of some of my course mates. I walked away with my feet dragging in shame and I swore to deal with Austin in a very brutal way for making a fool out of me.