Since the sun was always so hot these days. The early morning cold should have been a source of comfort for Valerie Ete. But it was not. She shivered in it, as she took weak steps through a narrow bush path that led to only God knows where.
Not even her slender hands, wrapped around her frail frame, could keep the cold away.
Her hair, untidy and very dirty, could pass her across as deranged. Her clothes, ripped in several places, didn’t help matters.
Her once light chocolate skin was covered in so much dirt, as she hadn’t come across another river where she could bath or even drink from.
After three days in the wild, Valerie had come to consider herself no different from the sand, rocks, grasses, trees and even animals.
She was dealt mercilessly by the cold every morning, and the sun every afternoon. Night was always a terror.
She plucked fruits from trees to eat. However, the last time she saw a fruit good enough for eating, was the morning of the day before.
Hunger stabbed at her stomach. Her head grew dizzy by the minutes.
But she was not always like this. She had a family once; one that cared for her. And being born with a silver spoon, she lacked nothing.
Her father, Mr. Ete, was a business man who owned five petrol stations in Warri. And her mother, Mrs. Ete, was the proprietress of Living Brains College; one of the biggest secondary school in Warri.
Valerie was not an only child. She had a brother, Victor, who happened to be her twin. They played together, as much as they fought the hell out of each other. But all the same, life was good.
The day life stopped being good was the day Valerie got her WAEC result from her mom’s school. She and Victor had just turned eighteen.
That faithful day, Mrs. Ete wasn’t going to be in school to collect the results. She had to make a trip with her husband to Bonny Island for a very urgent business conference.
Mrs. Ete had instructed Valerie to get the results from the headmaster, before she left.
The trip was to last two days and half, and Valerie didn’t really care about the WAEC results. She used her time watching TV and visiting friends. After all, her dad was already putting plans together to send her and Victor abroad for further studies.
However, on the third day, she rushed to the school to get the results. Hers was fair enough, with Bs and Cs. Victor’s was better. Only As.
She was alone with Victor that evening, awaiting their parent’s return, when they got a phone call instead.
It was bad news. Mr and Mrs. Ete got involved in a terrible accident that ended their lives on the spot. A tanker, they learnt, lost control and ran into their car. The force with which impact was made sent the car rolling roughly, down the steep hill the road was built on.
Causes of death were broken necks, damaged spinal cord and head injuries; all sustained during the terrible fall.
The wailing that followed the news broke them down for days. But they didn’t care. For they would have loved to join their parents in the after life. What was life going to be without parents to look up to?
Uncles and aunties, as well as distant relatives and well wishers came to pay their last respect and help plan the burial.
It was a sham of a burial. Relatives were mostly after what they could get for themselves.
A week after the burial, father’s brother, Uncle Greg, and sister, Aunty Mary, stepped up and offered to help run the petrol stations and school.
They promised to make reports weekly, of the businesses, and also pay money into the children’s accounts for upkeep.
It was a ruse. All they needed was access to the business. And because both kids were more interested in getting on with life and furthering their education, they granted access.
In the first six months, money was paid into their accounts, monthly. But it wasn’t enough to process visa applications, let alone pay for tuition and general upkeep while studying abroad.
So they resulted to a local university, DELSU.
It wasn’t more than six months later, they realized what great mistake they made.
Their Uncle and Aunty, made no more reports and neither did they pay anything into the children’s account. They simply bribed all legal parties involved and took over the businesses.
The children were poor and without food or money for upkeep. All they had was their father’s house. Education was rolled to the background.
It is possible, Uncle Greg somehow came across the house documents and sold it off, rendering the children homeless. Then he offered them shelter, after failing woefully to convince them that all he had done was for their own good.
If only their mother was not an only child. And if only their maternal grandparents were still alive, she and her brother would have found succour with them.
Having no other choice, the Valerie and Victor moved in with Uncle Greg. Another mistake, they realized too late.
Aunty Fome, Uncle Greg’s wife, didn’t welcome their stay. She could only tolerate them by turning them into house girl and gardener. They played other roles too, including running errands, babysitting their cousins, a boy and girl of 7 and 5 years old respectively.
They were mostly dressed in poor clothing and school was no longer an option.
They were abused, time and again.
A year plus went by, but they stayed, because they needed the food and shelter.
Then one day, Victor decided to speak up. He was Nineteen, man enough, and he felt the need to protect himself and his sister from his Uncle and witch of an Aunt.
He accused Uncle Greg of not only stealing their inheritance, but of also selling their home and then turning them into slaves in his house.
He announced this to everyone who cared to listen, the neighbors and passersby included. Uncle Greg was enraged. He dragged Victor into the house and beat him up until his pulse stopped.
Valerie cried, kicked and fought her uncle who thought she was useful to him alive than dead. He dragged her into a spare room in his mansion and had his way with her, every night.
Once done, he would lock her up and go away. and in addition to her punishment, he brought her food, once a day.
When Aunty Fome asked, why he had Valerie locked up instead of allowing her tend to the kids and clean the house, he would say she was under punishment for being a witch.
This went on for the rest of the year.
However, the truth of his lust and sexual adventures were soon uncovered by his wife. She had woken up one night and went down to the kitchen for some cold water, when she heard muffled cries.
She followed the sound to the room Valerie was confined in. It was louder now, and she could hear a male grunt.
She tried to open the door. It was locked. Panic took over as she tried to think who could be in there molesting the poor girl.
Then she remembered. Her husband was not on their bed when she woke up.
She didn’t go back to the bedroom. She switched off the lights and stayed in the shadows, listening and closely watching the door.
About 30 minutes later, the door opened. Her husband emerged and locked it again. He hung the key on the wall beside the door, something his wife hadn’t noticed before, then went up to bed.
Fome was enraged. Her husband was molesting his supposed niece, under her roof.
How could he stoop so low? He had taken their inheritance and sold their home. He killed his nephew and now he violates his niece?
She confronted him after she went back to the bedroom, but he beat her up, warning her to mind her own business and stop entertaining stupid ideas.
It was the first time he laid hands on her, and she wasn’t having any of it.
The following day, she packed a few things for herself and the kids. But before leaving the house for good, she went to the wall where her husband hung the tiny key.
She took it and opened the door. Poor Valerie was already in a very bad state. Very thin from malnutrition, dirty from being un-kept and almost loosing her mind for being locked up in the dark and enduring rape after rape.
But Aunty Fome made her an offer.
“Come with me. Let’s leave this house together. And my husband will never harass you again”.
Aunty Fome was bent on going far from her husband before serving him divorce papers.
A far place meant safety from Uncle Greg. Aunty Fome’s offer was the light at the end of the tunnel she was trapped in. And without a second thought, she accepted.
They left the house together, before Uncle Greg returned.
Valerie was happy to have escaped her Uncle’s inhumanity, even though Aunty Fome continued to use her as a servant.
For Valerie, it was better than being locked up and raped every night.
She spent one whole year with her aunty, reaching the age of 21, before she met her nightmare again.
Aunty Fome’s brother, Elvis, had come to visit. However, his eyes wouldn’t stop following Valerie all over the place.
She noticed it and she liked the attention. But Valerie was totally unprepared for the devilish plans that filled his thought.
One fateful day when his sister was out with the kids, Elvis unleashed his desire. He grabbed Valerie to her bedroom and began to forcefully undress her, ripping her gown here and there. She fought back, but her strength was no match to his.
He first took her at the table, after bending her over and forcing himself in. Then he took her on the titled floor, inflicting injuries and pain.
He had his way repeatedly, that afternoon, before going to his room and falling asleep on his bed.
Valerie cried. She remembered her Uncle Greg and how he came for her every night. Then she knew, Elvis was not done with her yet. He would come again, everyday, and have his way.
“Nip it on the board”, She whispered. Those were her father’s words to her whenever there was something troubling her. “You are strong, my Val”, he would say, “So whatever troubles you, nip it on the board. Pin it there so it doesn’t bother you again”.
She wiped her tears, had a bath so as to scrub his scent and semen off her skin and vagina. Then she changed into another clothes. She packed a few personal stuffs and some from her aunty’s, along with N10,000 cash she found in Aunty Fome’s drawer.
Once her bag was set, she dropped it in the sitting room before going to the generator house to get fuel, and the kitchen to get matches.
The next 10 minutes found her in front of Elvis’ bedroom. She took the knob, turned it and pushed gently. The door opened, revealing Elvis snoring away on the big bed.
She tip-toed in, poured the fuel on the curtains, around the bed, the drawer and wardrobe.
She walked back to the door and took the key from the door mouth before lighting a match stick and throwing it in.
“Good radiance”, she whispered, as the flames roared to life, jumping up to the wardrobe and spreading fast.
Valerie closed the door then, put the key in the keyhole and turned it. Lock.
“You won’t harass me or anyone else, ever again”. She said before rushing to the sitting room. She carried her bag and left the house and then the compound.
A good thing it was a personal house. No neighbors. They would have seen the smoke from Elvis’ room window in time and stopped her from leaving.
Valerie knew she had no place to go. Her best bet at survival was to find work soon. But definitely not in Warri. Her Aunty would come back to meet her burnt house and roasted brother. She would report to the police and a manhunt will follow.
She found her way to the park, quickly, and boarded a bus going to Lagos.
She had heard so much about the grandeur of the city and how so much opportunities could be found there.
To be continued…
©Karo Oforofuo. July 2017. All rights reserved
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