Abena thinks of a way to escape this mess called home. She looks on her right and on her left and sees her friends sleeping soundly. What is it they love about this place that makes them sleep without thoughts? This is the street. Girls die everyday without any one bothering to find out how. Sandra was killed after going to work in the night. Her corpse was seen in the papers, no one tried to get it from the police for proper burial. How will she end up? Just last week, she was raped by the street mafia, who told her not to get into his bad books. She has been saving herself for her future husband, all that dissipated into thin air when Jamil set his eyes on her.
What had hurt her most was the manner in which he had her; in the full glare of others. She had cried the whole night with her friends advising her to let it go as she has protection her whole stay on the street. She is seventeen, her mother, she was told left her in the kaya yoo (porters) house in Kumasi and never returned for her. She was given to Mma Leila who runs a brothel. The woman gave her her Junior High School education. When she passed, she told her a woman must use what she has to get what she wants so she shouldn’t expect anything from her from then. All she could do to help her was to usher her into the brothel business.
Abena knew then that her stay with Mma Leila had come to an end. She had seen girls being beaten by men they enter that brothel with, she had seen some being killed and disposed of by Mma Leila. She has seen girls smoking marijuana to a point of madness. She has seen some using cocaine, sleeping through overdose and never waking up. She has seen it all. She has even seen girls gang up on men who fail to pay after whatever, sometimes it had gone overboard and bodies of such men were sent to the forest which always has graves. She has seen girls who tried to leave after getting into business killed or poisoned. She, Abena, vowed never to be one of those. She must be someone who will live proudly. So she bolted from Kumasi to Accra. On reaching here, she found out it was not easy to live by one’s self in Accra, the capital city. She had gotten a job as a chop bar server. She was sacked for insulting a man who touched her breast. She also got a job as a drinking bar attendant, she was sacked by the owner who stole into the girl’s quarters and tried to rape her but for the timely intervention of one of the girls who chanced upon them. The man had told everyone she had tried to seduce him after stealing some money from him. That ended her job there. She asked herself over and over again what joy men find in sex. Was it a curse to come into the world as a girl?
By now, she knew some Kaya girls. They ushered her into the kaya business. Here, what you gain is yours. You only have to pay dues to Mma Kasim and sort the boys out occasionally, and you’re safe. You also have to get a boyfriend, then you’ll not have any problem. He will protect you from boys.
“The thing is that I don’t need any boy” she had naively said. They laughed at her and left the matter for later. Lariba knew experience will be her best teacher. And yes, this is experience. Many boys tried but she refused. Lariba had a powerful boyfriend, the right hand man of the mafia; Hassan, so she wields power in the street. She managed to keep all those boys far from her. As fate will have it, Jamil, the mafia himself had set his eyes on her. Lariba had no power over this man, what this man wants, he gets, he has many girls but none had the audacity to be jealous in his presence, not unless you want to be taught a lesson.
In his absence, the girls bicker and fight but never let it get to his ears. Abena had flatly refused him, he sent his guys to get her but Lariba, on a tip off by Hassan had gone to plead on her behalf and had promised him his sex that night. She gave her something to drink and that ended it. When he came, she had tried to get him off, but she had found out to her own dismay that she wanted his touches. It was a mixed feeling, she hated him, wanted him off her, but she wanted him to scratch some itch she knew not existed. The others looked on, not batting an eye. What disgrace, what shame! Are we humans at all? She thinks to herself. The monster had come by the following day with some money. She was told she had become his favourite because she is pure. Whatever that means, she knows not. I must find a way to escape this mess.
She gets up to walk around and sees the many men sleeping, the many women sleeping, the many children crying for attention and the many others crying they are cold and walk through. She knows not what she is doing, where she is going to, or where she will end. She keeps on walking. Until she hears a voice, are you running away from me? That is Jamil’s voice. What is happening? Is her every deed being reported to this man? He takes a walk with her, buys her tea, bread and fried eggs by the roadside. Lariba had told her she is a lucky girl. All the girls he sleeps with get nothing from him. Here, he tells her the laws of the street.
She is not to say anything when she sees people stealing from others or she will get into trouble with thieves. She is not to insult any boy as that can cause her gang rape. She is to sleep at her place and not to walk around in the dark. Jamil is still saying she can get away with everything because of him but should be careful to maintain her respect.
Abena laughs over the matter, what respect can one maintain on the streets of Accra? He holds her hands and her impulse forces her to pull it back.
“I really like you Abena, just think about it. Now it is late so let’s go back to my place then you can have some rest.”
“No, no, no, take me to my spot. Lariba will worry if she gets up and does not see me”
Fortunately, he says nothing and leads her back. So yes, she cannot run away during the night. She must find a way.
Just when the mosquitoes start having pity on her in her quest to sleep, Lariba wakes her up, something about the storekeepers wanting to open their stores. She gets up, goes to visit the white house for 50pesewas, and baths for 50pesewas. There is nothing anyone can do on the streets of Accra for free. Even urinating is 20p. it’s a horrible place where money is concerned. She grabs her pan and hits the road.
Her first customer for today happens to be a very pleasant woman. She enquires as to what a beautiful Asante girl like her is doing porting. Porting is supposed to be for our sisters and brothers from the north. They are stronger. A southern girl like you should not join in. Abena thinks of telling her, on a second thought, leaves it be. She takes her 2 cedis and thanks her. She wonders though what Lariba will say to the woman’s opinion on porting and laughs. The second person heaps so many heavy things on her head, takes her all around Tudu and gives her one cedi for her trouble. She complains and the old Ga woman heaps abuses upon abuses on her verbally. “onny3 aye s))mi, ony3 aye gbemi, do you think money grows on trees? Greedy girl!” She feels shy of the many eyes this woman is attracting to the scene and leaves before it is too late.
The third is a man like a boy, about thirty years old, fairly handsome and speaks little. After his things are packed in his car, he asks how much he owes. Abena says 2 cedis and the man gives her 50 cedis and says keep the change. What? She turns to go but he gives him his number to call him later. Abena thanks him and leaves. Her fourth is a woman who is only interested in reaching her destination on time, pats with 5 cedis, sits in a trotro without saying anything. Her fifth customer is a girl who is more or less her age, rude and bossy. Abena watches as she commands sellers, insults other buyers and shouts on her to follow. Somehow they get talking and she realizes that beneath the attitude is a very kind girl. She is going to school and needs someone to watch over her father. Her father happens to be a famous actor. He has never married but brings many women to the house. He has promised never to bring women to the house anymore because it disturbs her. She asks her to come with her to her house so she can cook and watch over him as she goes to school. She will pay her handsomely.
Abena is hesitant but goes any way to have a look. She realises the man in question is Ofosu Brobbey, 35 years old, dark and very attractive. She has been a fan of his since she was little. If Samantha is 17 years old then this man gave birth when he was 22. This is the hottest gossip ever. Does everyone know your father has a child?
“Yes, everyone knows. Haven’t you seen me in newspapers and on television before?” she is clueless, that’s it then but she is sure she watches television more than many people, strange.
“How about giving you one thousand cedis a month?”
What? Was the surprise answer
“Okay, let’s make it a thousand five hundred and that is as far as I can go.”
Not wanting to throw her pride into the gutter, she says:
“That is fine by me, when do I start?”
“Will call you, I can see a phone with you, on Monday. I will talk to my father about it then you can start. Now let me send you to Accra.”
On reaching Accra, Samantha pats with 200 cedis. Abena feels as though she is on cloud nine. She has almost 260 Ghana cedis in a day. She thinks of the man who gave her 50 cedis and calls to thank him. He requests to take her out. She readily accepts.
The man turns out to be a gentleman. He pulls her seat for her and pulls the tag off her dress. He obviously knows she got it to impress him but says nothing.
After eating, which he ordered, he takes her to his car and tells her there is one more place to go to. On reaching a barrier she asks to urinate. When she gets out of the car, she sees the policemen going to the car. She watches from the bush as they argue with Dan. They forcefully open the trunk of his car and bring out a human head. They arrest him and she runs into the bush.
“What is happening? It is not that she is watching a movie. Did a head just pop out of the trunk of that man’s car? Oh, no, no, I might be getting hysterical, was that man going to use me for money rituals? Where was he taking me to? What made him choose me? And I thought he might like me. So he was feeding me fat for his kill”
She left her hand bag with her phone in it in the human-parts car. She runs into the forest, just when she thinks she can go no further, she sees a road and hears the sound of a car. She rushes to the road side and stops the car. The car passes by without a second glance from the driver. She knows it is dangerous to pick up strangers at odd hours but she considers this attitude too much. What is so scary about her that a man will fear? Then again, all the armed robbers who lure innocent citizens with innocent women have overdone themselves. Before her mind conjures thoughts of being abused by armed robbers she hears another car approaching. She stands in the middle of the road to stop it. The man driving gets out and slaps her. She cries out but tells him she needs the help. He feels sorry for the abuse and picks her up.
“So what is an innocent girl like you doing on the Kasoa highway at this time?”
“Kasoa Highway” is all she can say. I am going to Accra.
The man drops her at UTC at 4am. She rushes to her spot and meets Jamil sitting there with Lariba angrily shouting.
A slap greets her and another slap asks her where she went to. She tells her ordeal but all she gets from Jamil is more physical assault.
“Whore! Whore! I thought you were different. So you wanted to go sleep around with fancy men and leave me here?” And more beatings followed. Lariba stands with the other girls, some happy, some amused, some a bit sympathetic and others trying not to bat an eye for fear of an evidence in the gossip slipping by.
After he calms, Abena has both eyes hiding deep behind her swollen cheeks and eyebrow. She looks like a battered boxer. Lariba tends to her wounds. Under no circumstance must she take this to the hospital. Lariba hires a kiosk for the day for her. It costs ten cedis. She goes to work; comes back, gets hot water to clean the wound and cleans it with some spirit. She gives her some painkillers to ease her pain. All Lariba is doing is to make her better, but Abena feels worse.
She feels broken, humiliated and brutalized.
“What more bad things does she have hiding in her future waiting to bath her in shame?” she asks Lariba as if she knows the answer. Lariba advises her to keep away from other men as Jamil is utterly possessive and jealous when he likes someone. The fact is he has had so many of them in the past, they give birth and he loses interest. So if she likes, she can get pregnant. Abena laughs, a laugh which hysterically turns into tears which Lariba tries to stop with no success.
With her phone gone, she needs to get to Samantha’s house before Monday but can’t go there with all her bruises. It is Thursday, she hopes by Sunday she will be well enough to go there. On Saturday evening, Jamil comes to abuse her sexually again. He looks obese, his breathe stinks and his hands are more than metals when they are on her skin. She just hates him so much but has no way of doing away with him. She clings to the sheet she lies on for dear life the whole time he is on top of her. The determination at this stage forces her to go to work. On reaching the store she normally works for in the morning, she sees Samantha standing there. She smiles when she sees her but the smile fades after seeing her bruises. She takes her to her car and insists that she tells her what happened. She skips the sexual abuse and tells her bits of it. She was beaten by a thug while she was asleep. Samantha throws away her pan and takes her home.
Her room is like that of a princess. White sheet on a huge comfortable mattress, she has her own bathroom. She feels this is surreal, she asks Samantha,
“What if your father doesn’t like me? Maybe we should wait until he sees me before I get comfy”
Samantha laughs and tells her everything is all right. Her father has seen her picture and has ‘okayed’ it. She was shown around the house. The kitchen is to die for. Cooking has always been her passion. She was always helping at the Kitchen of Mma Leila’s hotel. She wanted to be a Home Economics student when she thought she could go to the secondary school. Seeing an expensive kitchen forces her to show off with one of her favourite dishes. Samantha eats until she can eat no more. She never knew that Banku and Okra stew could taste this good when prepared at home.
“My instincts never fail me. I was right about you, now tell me all about you” And this starts a vibrant friendship between employer and employee.
“My father is on location. He will be back on Monday to take me to school.”
The two enjoy themselves until Abena goes to bed. She finds out she cannot sleep as she had hoped. She thinks of Lariba, she had been through some verbal torture when she left the last time, what will be happening to her now? Will she be alright? She looks at the watch hanging on the wall, it says 1am. She forces her eyes shut. She needs to wake up early, clean the house to keep her job. Amadu is the gate man for the Brobbeys. He looks well fed and satisfied. He tells her, when Samantha goes out, that she can be a bitch but what subdues her is to see people sad or crying. Her father barely has time to stay in the house let alone bother anyone. He is the sweetest man he has ever seen. She just has to do her job and she’ll have no problem with any of them.
Samantha tries to persuade Abena to go shopping with her but it does not work. She fears she might be spotted by the awful Jamil or some of his spies. Samantha takes her measurement and buys many things for her. Abena is appalled at the quantity of the clothes she brings so asks how much they cost.
“Nothing, actually, I went to see one of my father’s friends. She owns a boutique; these are some of her rejects. She might be paid by my father. These two, I bought somewhere for special occasions.”
Abena thanks her and serves her. Somehow, every food she prepares, Samantha finds delicious.
As she prepares breakfast for the lady who is going to the university, she sits on the table to wait for the oats to be ready; she feels a shadow cast on her, looks up and there stands the actor in all his glory. She stands straight, greets, apologises and bows her head in shyness.
Mr. Brobbey laughs and asks her to be herself. He stretches his hands and she takes it with her head bowed. He continues laughing until the table turns; he passes air and this time, Abena laughs while he hides his face. He later joins in the laughter and says, “I am human after all, you must be Abena, nice meeting you finally, I am Ofosu Brobbey”
Like I don’t know, who will not know that? That person must be living on this earth as a frog. She thinks “Nice meeting you too Mr. Brobbey” she says so she doesn’t look like a crazed fan.
He helps her set the table, something that makes her feel so odd. She sits and waits for Samantha to come down for breakfast after all her things have been parked into the car. Some people are really lucky, she is taking things that she has never seen before to school. After breakfast, she is asked to go and change. She is coming with them to Kumasi.
It rains throughout the journey. They reach Kumasi at 12pm.
They take Samantha to her hostel; West End Hostel at Ayeduase. She has another girl in the hostel with her. Two in a room Abena is told. They bid her farewell at 3pm. Father and daughter shed few tears and Samantha asks Abena to take very good care of her father after giving her an expensive phone as a gift.
“Press one to call me and two to call Daddy.” Abena receives a hug from Samantha. Something she is new to.
On their way, Mr. Brobbey stops at Linda Dor for them to eat and buys her some fruit juice. They reach home at 7:45pm. Abena asks if she should prepare something for dinner. Mr. Brobbey says he’ll rather drink. He asks her to join him. The drinking goes overboard and she forgets how she got to her room in the middle of the night, she goes back to sleep.
Abena wakes up not knowing for certain whether it happened or she is hallucinating. After seeing the man, she realizes that it is something that might have happened; sex with Mr. Brobbey. She tries to stay away from him as much as she can but the man will not agree. He talks to her every chance he gets, calls her when she escapes to her room, soon, she forgets of the ordeal.
Three months later, she realizes that she is gaining weight, having series of illnesses but she pays no attention. She trips and falls and loses consciousness. Mr. Brobbey sends her to the hospital only to be told she is three months pregnant.
He brings her home worried. This is going to be a scandal, Mr. Brobbey thinks.
Whose baby is this? Is it for Jamil or Mr. Brobbey? I do not know for a fact that he slept with me. Jamil on the other hand certainly did many times.
Mr. Brobbey goes straight to his room as Abena does same. She thinks through this and realises she cannot stay here. She must leave before Samantha gets back. But where will she go to? Jamil will kill her but her pride will not allow her to stay in this house. If she packs her bag, they will certainly know, so she wakes up the next day, prepares breakfast and tells Amadu she is going to the market. She picks her 4500 Ghana Cedis; the accumulation of her salary, which she keeps under her bed and leaves for cape coast.
She gets to Elimina and asks around for a cheap room. She gets a wooden structure for three hundred cedis a year and starts selling rubber bowls. She takes rubber bowls from Accra and takes roasted fishes to Accra for sale. In her ninth month, she delivers a set of twins, a boy and a girl. It seems her eyes are deceiving her, the boy looks so much like Mr. Brobbey and the girl is her carbon copy. The old women who live around help her tend to her children until they are three months old. This is probably one thing Ghanaians can be noted for; their hospitality, all old women see young people as their children and vice versa. She is so grateful for their help.
Meanwhile, Samantha looks for Abena without success. She feels the poor girl might have encountered some problems. Amadu says she was alright, she just fainted the previous day, was sent to the hospital and discharged the same day, but her father can’t seem to look straight into her eyes any time Abena’s issue comes up. What she doesn’t know is that Mr. Brobbey has hired private detectives to look for the girl for months. Some have gone to Kumasi, Tamale, Wa, Bolgatanga, he knows she will never go to the central region because the girl knows no one from that area. But the detectives assure him that if the girl is in Ghana, they will find her.
Abena gets a nanny for her children so she can work to support them. She brings her fishes to Accra and sends back her rubber bowls not knowing the eyes that follow her. She even accommodates Mr. Lamptey who claims he is a tourist wanting to camp there for a few days.
After a hard day hawking, Abena baths and gets her children ready for bed. She raises her eyes only to see Mr. Brobbey standing in front of her. Now her eyes are deceiving her. She closes her eyes and opens them only to find him standing there.
“Were you that scared? Did you not trust me? Was I that monstrous? I was a bit shocked, but did you think I’ll run from my responsibilities?”
Abena sits shivering. She is ordered to pack her things and come with him to Accra. Abena says no. Mr. Brobbey tells her of the reality on the ground. If the media gets wind of this, they are going to fry him. His career will go down the drain. He doesn’t know about what he feels for her and considering her age, he doesn’t know about marriage now but time will tell their fate. Abena is worried about what Samantha will say but he tells her Samantha already knows. The lady knew before she even told her that something had happened. It is here that she learns that the genius was actually 21 years old. She is my elder brother’s daughter, he died when she was young and I have taken care of her since. Her mother travelled abroad after leaving her with my brother, the woman never returned. No one knows what has happened to her. She only looks young.
When Samantha sees Abena, she jumps and hugs her nearly to the ground, hurling insults at her playfully. “Why couldn’t you tell me about this? Are you comfortable being the victim of circumstances?” were among the many questions.
“Daddy must marry you whether he likes it or not”
Abena cannot sleep. She dreams of Jamil always. Sometimes, he finds her and beats her up, sometimes he comes to the house to claim paternity of her children. She becomes so lean that everyone asks what her problem is. Mr. Brobbey takes her to the hospital but the doctors say she is healthy. Abena finally breaks down and tells Mr. Brobbey everything.
The man looks at her in shock. How can such a young girl go through so much? He thinks this is even more sympathetic than most of the sympathetic movies he stars in.
He goes for the paternity test and relieves the girl of her fears. The children are his. He arranges for her to be taught at home to write the Nov/Dec exams.
Lately, he does not know what has come over him, even when he is on location, he yearns to see Abena and his children. He cannot say that he is in love but he certainly feels something more for her. May be it is the case of close trees eventually joining roots.
Two years later, Abena passes her exams with distinction. Mr. Brobbey sends her to the United States of America to offer Nutrition. At the airport, he forcefully puts his promissory ring on her finger and she can’t help laughing and hugging her family before boarding the plane. She thinks of the change she wants to cause on the street and prays that God keeps Lariba and the other girls safe until she is in the position to get them out of there. It’ll be well when it ends well.
Amoafowaa Sefa Cecilia © 2014.