‘If our sister dies, you will be in soup,’ Alister said and then hung up
What have I gotten myself into? I wondered out loud as I started to dial Abraham’s number. The line wasn’t connecting but I kept on dialing.
I did not bargain for all this rubbish. How can Alister call to threaten me? I only wanted to help and my help should not land me in trouble.
Frustrated now with the bad network refusing to connect, I start to get ready for my emergency trip to Lagos. Alister had asked me to come. As I packed, I allowed my mind to reflect back on how this problem started.
I was sitting outside my Beauty Shop one morning when a car pulled up in front of me. When the door opened, I was surprised to see Abraham step out of it.
‘Rosaline, good morning,’ he greeted.
‘Hmmmm, Oga Abraham,’ I hailed him, ‘good morning.’
‘What’s up?’ He asked.
‘Nothing o. Business is slow these days’ I replied, moving to get an extra chair for him to sit.
We exchanged more pleasantries and then from one topic to the other, we began to talk about his new line of business. Abraham said it pays him more money than his former trade of buying and selling.
Well, one doesn’t hear good news and let it go. Besides, his talks got me curious and I asked him what this new line of business was, and when he opened up, I was like, ‘ha! really?’
Abraham had told me he was now a travel agent. I laughed so hard, tears escaped my eyes. I told him straight up that I didn’t believe him because, in truth, how many persons in Nigeria have the money to travel?
Abraham tried to convince me not to think that way because he had a lot of customers and also, his customers get jobs overseas even before they travel.
‘You mean already made jobs wait for them? My eyes mocked him.
‘I know what you mean… Prostitution and all these hard drug businesses. Is it not?
‘No oh. These are legit job offers, Rosaline.’
‘hmmmm, I don’t believe you anyway’ I insisted.
‘We get job offers like maids, teachers, minders, electricians, plate washers in restaurants, those who will clean gutters and so many others,’ Abraham said in efforts to convince me to give it a try.
‘Anyway, I’m not interested sha. I am married with children and even if my business has not grown well, I still prefer to be my own boss’ I said
‘Ok then. I guess it’s time to be on my way,’ Abraham got to his feet, “but if you know anybody that is interested, let me know and I will give you some percentage of the profit’ he said.
I nodded; a bright smile on my face because of the words, percentage, and profit.
After Abraham driven off, I found myself pondering hard on his offer and our general discussion. Was it really possible to get a job overseas while still in Nigeria? And a genuine job at that?. I shrugged, shaking off the thoughts as a customer approached to buy some weavons. I had a business to run. The abroad jobs could wait.
‘I am so tired of this country’ Calister told me one Friday evening. She had branched at my shop on her way back from the school where she taught.
‘Why? What happened? I asked, after attending to a customer.
‘Our school director just laid off some teachers. I’m one of them,’ she sank on the plastic chair, sad.
‘Oh no, what happened?’
‘She said we were too many teaching the same subject and she couldn’t afford to pay all of us anymore.’
Oh dear. I felt her pain. In a country where jobs are scarce, losing the one you have is terrible, ‘I am so sorry, Calister,’ I sat by her
Calister is my childhood friend. She had been working for a private school for more than four years. Despite the fact that she was underpaid, she had continued working because she had not been able to get another job since her youth service.
‘I am so sorry,’ I repeated, patting her hand
‘It’s okay for now. I just have to look for another job, but it’s not going to be easy. The jobs in this country are for those with connections.”
‘Why not join my business’ I offered. I had a beauty shop and Calister was an expert in braids.
‘ I can’t. I need a white collar job. All these small braiding jobs here and there don’t really pay.’
‘Ok oh.’I resigned, wondering how long she would last before she began to beg for money. I had once told her to open a business but she had refused, telling me that she was not cut out for business.
By the following month saw Calister still jobless and even more desperate.
She came to my shop to lamented about her house rent expiring soon. She pleaded that I help her with some money. I gave her what I could.
‘Thank you, my friend. I really appreciate’ she said, relaxing a bit.
‘I wish I can get a teaching job abroad. I do see all these adverts online with the good salary but I don’t really know if they are genuine, you know? She bit her lips, thinking.
‘Yes, they may not be… Wait a minute!’
I had just remembered Abraham and the fact that he said his clients get genuine jobs.
I told Calister about the travel business Abraham was into. She was so excited that she asked me to call Abraham and find out more because she was interested.
I called Abraham and we made an appointment to see him the next day.
The next day, Calister told Abraham about her predicament and how she wanted a teaching job overseas.
On his part, Abraham assured Calister that it will not be a problem, as he had already helped several people. This was good news for Calister. She was full of smiles.
‘But you will need to pay five hundred thousand naira,’ Abraham dropped the bomb on her happiness.
‘What!” Calister and I shouted, as we never expected him to ask for such a huge sum.
‘We will need to get your international passport, a visa, and ticket. We need to pay our contacts for the teaching job also,’ he explained.
‘But this is too much. How will I get such amount of money?’ Calister cried
‘Don’t worry, just source for the money. You can even borrow. It will be worth it’ Abraham assured her.
‘How?’ Calister wasn’t convinced that getting 500 thousand naira was going to be a walkover.
‘Your salary for two months will take care of paying back the loans. Don’t you know you will be paid in foreign currency? Abraham reasoned.
We talked some more about the issue before getting up to leave.
As we made our way home, Calister and I discussed the whole thing and I could see that she was really interested.
She told me that she would tell her elder brother, Alister, to help with the money and as soon as she started working, she would pay back.
Well, at least it sounded like a plan. But before we parted ways, I asked her to think carefully about the decision again.
About a week later, Calister called to tell me her brother had agreed to give her the money on two conditions. The first was that she paid him in bits after she had worked for three months. And the second condition was that he wanted to see me first before he gave her the money.
Alister gave Calister the money after seeing me and asking some questions. He told me that he did not know this Abraham, but he was entrusting his sister’s welfare to me.
I laughed and told him that she was an adult and Abraham was not a fraud as far as I knew.
Before the end of that month, Calister’s international passport was done and visa issued. Abraham had secured a teaching job for her in Bahrain to be a private tutor for a family with five kids. The salary was good. Calister and every one of us were happy.
The day Calister traveled, Alister and I saw her to the airport. It was agreed that her travel should be kept a secret till when she had started working, so none of her other relatives knew that she was traveling.
Calister promised to send me some things as soon as she settled down as we hugged and she boarded the plane. And that was the last time I heard from her.
Only for Alister to call now and threaten me, saying, “If our sister dies, you will be in soup.”
His voice kept ringing in my ears as I boarded the bus to Lagos. Alister had told me to come and see Calister who just landed in Lagos airport two days ago and was rushed to the hospital.
I wondered what had happened to her as I reached for my phone. I had sent a message to Abraham’s phone as he wasn’t picking earlier. And since there was no reply, I called again. This time he picked.
‘I got your message. What happened to Calister? He asked, not letting me say anything.
‘I don’t know. I am on my way to Lagos to see her. I will meet you at your office after I finish with Calister.’
‘Ok. No problem’ he said, cutting the call. Abraham had moved to Lagos after Calister traveled.
A little over 5 hours later, I’m in Lagos, entering into the Alister described to me.
Alister and some people I didn’t recognize sat in the reception and immediately he saw me, he got to his feet.
‘Come and see my sister! Come and see what you have done’ he shouted at me
‘What did I do? I was really confused now.
‘Just come and see’ he dragged me to Calister’s room.
I entered the room, looked at the bed and almost fainted. The person on the bed was not Caliste. It was a skeleton.
She shrunk beyond recognition, and in a coma with life-saving gadgets all around her.
‘Wh…what happened to her? I could barely speak
‘Ask yourself. This was how I saw her. As soon as she landed and saw me, she lost consciousnesses’ he replied.
I quickly called Abraham and filled him on what was happening and he promised to come to the hospital but he never did.
The next time I called, his phone was switched off.
I stayed with Calister in the hospital for one month, praying that she should not die. God answered my prayer. She regained consciousness in the following month.
After she came out of the coma, and was really stable I asked Calister what had happened to her and she narrated her story.
I was met at the airport at Bahrain by a chauffeur carrying a placard with my name on it. I introduced myself to him and he took me to the place of my destination.
It was a huge house fit for a king. As I waited for the owners in the sitting room, I looked around me and observed the pictures on the walls. They looked like a nice family. I could see they had five boys and no girl. I already saw myself working in such a beautiful place and earning so much money.
The door of the room opened and a lady walked in. She looked me over and introduced herself as the mother of the house.
‘My name is Mrs. Surithat, and my husband and sons will be home shortly. Come, let me show you to your room,’ she said.
‘Thank you’ I was happy, as I followed.
She showed me my room and left as I began to unpack my things. I was tired and hungry from my journey and needed to eat and rest.
Before I finished unpacking, I heard a knock on my door. It was Mrs. Surithat calling me to come to the kitchen. I met her there and was surprised to hear her tell me to start cooking.
‘I am sorry? I asked, looking uncertain.
‘My family will be here soon, you need to help me start cooking.’
After some thoughts, I obliged. ‘After all, I was hungry too and maybe she needed help’ I thought.
As soon as we finished cooking, the whole family came in. They were five boys as I had earlier noticed with the youngest about nine years old and the eldest around 18 years. As soon as they saw me, they got quiet and looked me all over. The mother introduced me to the father and the boys.
After that, they barely acknowledged my presence and I wondered how I could teach these rude and seemingly unruly boys.
I didn’t know I was in for the shock of my life.
I served them the meal and barely had anything left to eat. I never knew boys could eat so much. As soon as I got to my room to try and take my bath, the eldest boy knocked on my door. I opened the door to see him carrying piles of clothes which he dumped on me.
‘Wash and iron these for me,’ he said.
Before I could utter another word, he had gone. I seethed with anger. What did he take me for? I fumed inside as I went downstairs to report to the mother.
But I found the husband and wife in the sitting room drinking tea. I told them what had just happened and they laughed.
‘Why are you laughing?’ I was starting to think something is not right.
‘But that is your job’ they said.
‘No please, I have come to teach not wash clothes’ I insisted.
They laughed hard at me. After they recovered, the wife stood up and walked toward me. She told me that her children are in school already and needed no teacher and that what she had requested for from Africa was a maid.
I stood in shock as she continued.
‘I spent so much money for the agency to get me a maid and now that you are here, I intend to get my money’s worth,’ she said.
That night, they took away my passport and my phone. I could not believe my eyes and the fact that this was really happening to me. I knew I was in a fix and there was nobody that could help me.
From that day, I was locked up inside the big house. I cleaned and washed. I cooked and slaved away with barely enough food. I was never allowed to be idle.
Soon the boys came home with their friends and made me wash even the clothes of their friends. I tell you, I was a slave.
Rapidly, I began to lose weight because of little food and many chores without rest. I was made to clean the house every day from the top to the bottom. I never slept for more than four hours a day doing one chore or the other. I fell ill and they brought some drugs for me but still made me work.
I knew I was going to die if things continued like that. And when it became clear that I was gradually dying and these people didn’t care, I began to look for ways to escape. I didn’t care that they still held my passport, I knew that I just needed to get out of that house.
That fateful day, as the boys left for school with their mother, I decided to end the slavery. I looked through the window and waited for the mailman to arrive. When I saw him, I smashed the window with a chair and jumped out running straight to him. With the little strength I had, I narrated my story to him and he quickly called the police.
I was taken to the police station and interrogated. I stayed at the police station for three days as they arrested my supposed employers. My passport was retrieved and the couple was tasked with buying my return ticket back to Nigeria.
I was allowed to call my brother to inform him of what had happened and for him to be at the airport to pick me.
As I boarded the plane to Lagos, I felt so much joy at being free at last.
How could I have fallen into this trap? How could I have embarked on this journey in the first place? A journey to Neverland?’
I sighed in peace as the plane landed in Lagos.
As soon as I saw Alister, I was overwhelmed with grief. He could barely recognize me and I was ashamed of myself. I never knew I had fainted and had been in a coma and hospitalized until some few days ago…
Her story brought tears to my eyes. Abraham was actually a fraud then. He and his contacts had taken so much money from the family abroad and sold her friend to them to be a slave.
After staying in Lagos for two months, Calister was discharged. Alister took her to the East to stay and recuperate with her parents for some time.
However, Alister made sure that I paid for the hospital bills. He told me to be glad that Calister had not died.