Hauwa stood before her new mistress, Madam Lydia, whose eyes were staring in scrutiny all over her. She asked Hauwa to open her mouth to see her teeth, then to put her hands forward to inspect her fingers; she checked to see beneath her hair to be sure she has no head lice scrawling in there. In fact, Hauwa was taken aback when she finally asked her to take off the gown she was wearing to inspect her body.
She looked hard at her when Hauwa hesitated, and told her she didn’t want any form of rashes brought into her house.
Hauwa noticed her young son, almost about her own age who was working on his laptop, but having heard his mother asked her to take off her clothing, he turned to her direction. Madam was so engrossed in inspecting every part of her that she failed to notice the intense gaze of her teenage son staring at her. Hauwa used her tiny hands to cover up her chest since she wasn’t wearing any bra to cover that up.
Growing up in a very poor family didn’t provide her with daily necessities. Her only possessions were five long dresses passed down from her elder sisters and three briefs which were also passed down.
At the age of fifteen, her parents had pulled her out of their local secondary school in a remote village in Nassarawa, a northern state in Nigeria to start work as a maid in Lagos. In fact, her parents were so thrilled when Mallam Abu, the local trade man returned from Lagos, and announced he found a job for their daughter. They were all excited at this offer, knowing it would bring more income for them every month.
Hauwa is the last of eight children, two boys and six girls; three of her elder sisters have been given in marriage after having to work as a maid for several years. Her elder brothers were also away from home, working in one of the states in Nigeria. Hauwa had no idea where they are as they often moved from one place to another to make ends meet. Hauwa had hoped to finish secondary school and proceed to university with or without her parents help or approval but the future looks unseemly now.
“I know girls like you are always very dirty.” She heard Madams voice but the shame of having to take off her clothing held her from speaking.
Hauwa wanted to cry but fought the tears about to drop from her eyes. Her face was fixed on the boy staring at her and she didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of seeing her in tears. After their faces met, he immediately took his face away.
“Why are you staring at my son?” Madam slapped her back which made her jolt.
“That is your master too; you don’t look him in the eye, OK!” She snapped.
“Yes Madam.” Hauwa replied with her eyes moist. At last, she had given him the satisfaction of seeing how weak she was.
“Get dress.” Madam ordered. “Gloria!” she called out.
Within seconds, a lady walked hastily into the living room. She was dressed in a blue and white uniform.
“Yes Madam.” Gloria stood, straightened with her hands behind her, avoiding looking into Madam’s eyes.
“This is Hauwa; she’s the new maid I talked to you about. I want you to show her what she needs to do and tell her all the rules.”
â€œYes Madam.â€ Gloria said.
â€œIâ€™m going out now, take care of the house.â€ she tookÂ her car keys and her bag, walking towards the door.
“C’mon Edward,” Madam called her son. “We have to leave now if we want to get your games.”
Edward stood quickly, trying to avoid looking at Hauwa. He followed his mother behind and closed the door.
Hauwa pulled the bag with her only possession tightly to her chest
“What is your name?” Gloria smiled at her to ease the fear in her.
“Hauwa.” She trembled.
“Ok Hauwa; my name is Gloria and you will be helping me in the house.” she looked with pity on the young girl.
“Ok madam.” Hauwa replied quickly, almost afraid of her.
“Don’t be afraid Hauwa, Gloria brought her face upward. I am not the madam, okay.” She said softly.
Hauwa nodded, unable to utter any word.
“Come; let me show you to your room.” Gloria said, leading the way.
She led her to the room at the end of the long corridor. It was a medium size room with two beds facing each other. It had a ceiling fan and a wide window for easy ventilation. There was nothing too special about the room, but the best Hauwa had even seen.
“This is your bed and this is mine.” She pointed to the beds. Hauwa was surprised to have a bed all to herself. After all, all her life, she’d had to sleep on the corridor leading to the kitchen, but now in an actual room, and a bed to herself was a great deal to her. And the room has a door; seeing that sealed the excitement in her.
“Have you eaten?” Gloria asked.
“No.” She replied.
“Alright then, let’s start with feeding you and then, all other things will follow.” Gloria smiled at her.
Her smile was soothing and soft. She led her to the kitchen and poured a plate of rice for her with stew and even gave her a piece of meat. Hauwa was overwhelmed with this. She couldn’t remember the last time she ate meat, probably during the Muslim festival where their king had shared ram to every member of the community.
Hours later, Madam came back but Hauwa didn’t have to attend to her. Gloria gave her easy chores to pass the rest of the day with. At night, when everyone was off to bed, Gloria asked her to go to bed while she waited few more hours before she joined her in the room. The bed was very soft and comfortable and it didn’t take long before she slept off.
It’s the dream; Mallam Abu grabbed her tiny body and threw her on his bed. She grunted, pushed and scratched him but he was too strong for her. She had been in Lagos for almost three days, and Mallam Abu still had not taken her to the place of work he promised. He took her straight to his small apartment at Isolo, some part of Lagos state she had not heard of. During the night when Hauwa laid one of her wrappers on the floor to sleep, he had woken her up to come join him on his bed. Hauwa bluntly refused which was when he carried her forcefully from the floor. When she began to scream, he tied a piece of cloth on her mouth. He pushed her on his bed and raped her.
“Wake up Hauwa.” Gloria gently tapped her.
“Please Mallam, hi kada wannan (don’t do this). She said in tears. Kana mini ciwo (You are hurting me).
“Wake up.” Gloria called louder.
Immediately, she stood up, pulling her wrapper over her body. She struggled to steady her breathing to reduce the swelling emotion in her chest.
“Please, don’t let him touch me again.” She said in tears, hysterical.
“Who? Gloria asked, confused, looking around her.
“Mallam Abu.” She answered, fearfully.
“Oh dear, you’ve been dreaming; there’s no one here.” She tried to assure her.
Hauwa took a moment to look at her surroundings and sure, Gloria was right, there wasn’t anyone here, it was just a dream.
Gloria looked at her in pity; what could have happened to this young girl to make her scream in her sleep? She asked her to go back to bed and her heart ached for Hauwa and also for herself. She knew there was something about this young girl and only time would reveal that.
It’s been several months since Hauwa had been working with Madam; she’s come to understand that people like madam are ruthless, cares for no one except for herself and her son was no exception. He behaved like he owned the whole world. Madam rarely stayed home; always out on one occasion or shopping, but Hauwa was glad about that, at least, it would reduce the amount of beatings she received each day. Madam never failed to correct with a slap each time she wasn’t pleased with her.
Edward on the other hand is a pervert. He sits on his laptop everyday doing some despicable things. Several times, Hauwa had caught him watching pornography clips on the internet and even tried some acts on himself. Since knowing about this, Hauwa avoided going into his room or clean it when he was home.
Gloria became a god-sent to her; her pleasant nature assured her each day that everything would be fine. Hauwa opened up to her about her family and what Mallam Abu did to her. She’s learnt to trust Gloria during these months; in fact, she treats her like her sibling; gives her little or no job to do when Madam is out and asks her to go to bed early enough to catch a good night rest. Her life here compared to the one she lived in Nassarawa can be liken to a palace.
One night, Hauwa laid in bed wondering what Aunty Gloria was still doing; she always had one work to finish every night, and Hauwa felt bad going to bed while she slaved away; so she stood up to go search for her. She checked the kitchen but she wasn’t there, she went to the laundry room, the living room but there was no sign of aunty Gloria; then, she noticed the door to the basement was open. Although she had been warned never to go down thee, but she’d seen aunty Gloria go in there several times. Hauwa quietly walked down the stairs leading to the basement; she switched on the light and to her surprise, it wasn’t just an empty room, it was a proper bedroom, with wardrobe, TV and every necessity you want in a room but it was empty. There was another door, she walked towards it but stopped suddenly when she heard a humming coming from there; she was sure it was Aunty Gloria’s voice. She hesitated for few seconds to go in there but then, succumb to the temptation and went ahead to open the door.
Hauwa was shocked at what she saw; Aunty Gloria bathing a well-grown man in the bathroom. Aunty Gloria jolted when the door opened and having seen it was Hauwa, she shouted at her to get out. Quickly, she took to her heels and ran out of the basement and back to her own room. She was shaken in fear; the loud voice of Aunty Gloria was enough to scare her. She sat on her bed for several minutes afraid to go back to bed. Now, she understood better , sometimes during the day, Aunty Gloria will suddenly leave the kitchen and go into the basement, also, in the evening, she does the same thing and every night while she tells Hauwa to go to bed, she would walk down to the basement. Hauwa wasn’t sure if Madam knew about the man in the basement, maybe, it was just Aunty Gloria secret which she has just found out.
An hour later, the door suddenly opened, Hauwa jumped up quickly from her bed, staring at Aunty Gloria.
“I thought I told you to go bed young lady?” she looked straight at her; this time, her usual smile was gone.
“I’m sorry ma; I was only looking to help you.” Hauwa trembled.
Aunty Gloria let out a faint sigh and then, sat on her bed, seeing how scared Hauwa was.
“Alright, sit.” Her tone was much calmer.
Hauwa obeyed without hesitation.
“I’m sorry I scared you,” Gloria said, watching the expression from her eyes. She saw that her eyes were asking questions.
She inhaled deeply, “The man downstairs is Mr. Williams, the (Oga)boss of this house.
Hauwa opened her eyes wide. She had never met the oga before, although she had been confused when she hears madam tell Aunty Gloria to take care of oga.This has often baffled her but she always put it off.
“I know you are confused, Gloria cut through her thought. Oga had an accident three years ago which led to the stroke, so since then, he’s been confined to the basement.” She said sadly, “You see, Madam kept him there away from everyone and I have since then bathe him, fed him and care for him. “She looked up at Hauwa who was tongue-tied.
“I don’t understand Madam at all; I have been living here almost since little junior Edward was born, and have seen how oga has been the best man to her and her son. He worked so hard to acquire all these properties to take care of his family and at the first chance, Madam just left him to his fate” She said, feeling sorry for him.
“But why are you doing this?” Hauwa asked; she couldn’t understand why she had to pick up madams mess. Why she had stayed for these years, taking care of a disabled man.
Gloria smiled. If I had gone at the first chance I had, that man would have died.”
“But, what’s the point of living in that state, even his wife does not care for him, why should you?” Hauwa asked. She knew she was going beyond her boundaries. Since, she got to the house; she had always restrained herself from speaking, knowing how she’s been often told about her loud mouth.
“Oga is very nice; he is so different from Madam. Gloria realised Hauwa is only a child and some things might be difficult to understand. She thought maybe if she told her about her life story, she would understand the things much better.
“I had a son once,” She started to say. “he was very sick with leukaemia; every day was a struggle to keep him alive and the worst, I had spent all I had on his treatment, so I went out to look for a job which I got. The salary wasn’t great but I get to take care of my son. He was living with my sister while I worked here to earn enough money for his treatment. After several months of battling with the sickness, and not enough money to give him the treatment he required,” Her face filled with sadness. “One day, I was so sad and angry at every thing; I started to cry and shout at God while in the kitchen. I couldn’t understand why God would allow such a thing to happen to my son knowing how I have struggled all my life with no one to take care of him, except me. I was broken in tears and didn’t know Oga had come into the kitchen; there wasn’t supposed to be anyone at home during this time; I was so engrossed in my suffering that I didn’t notice.” She stood up and walked quietly to the other side of the room as her mind went back to past.
Oga came quickly to me and lifted me up from the floor, he told me everything would be fine and asked me to stop crying. That day, oga went with me to see my son in the hospital and paid for all the required procedure he needed to get better, he paid everything.” She smiled briefly.
“He was there for me when no one was. Two weeks later, I lost my son, he was only fifteen and I lost him to the cold hands of death.” She made no attempt to wipe the tears pouring down her cheek.
Hauwa felt a sharp pain in her heart. She sat there in disbelief, staring at her.
Gloria wiped the tears coming down her face and walked back to Hauwa.
“You see Hauwa, even though I lost my son, Oga still did something for me, he tried his best for my son and to that, I am deeply grateful. Since then, Oga remained very good to me; although he was not able to save my son but he saved me. I was losing myself, I was almost going insane when I lost my son, I wanted to die but Oga was there for me. He would come early from work and take time to speak with me. He encouraged me that life was still worth living. He told me I had to be strong for myself. So you see, I cannot leave him now, not after all he did for me, I can’t. She said firmly.
“I’m sorry about your son,” Hauwa said. I am so sorry….
Aunty Gloria looked at her with the most soothing smile and then, walked to her wardrobe and brought out an envelope.
“Here, she gave it to her. Open it.”
Hauwa was surprised, but she did. To her surprise she found an examination form in the envelope.
“I have always caught you sneaking into Edward’s room to read some of his school books, especially the ones with entrance to the university. You have talked several times on furthering your education once you save enough and each time you talk about school, your face always lilted up in joy.” She smiled at her.
“Aunty, this is an entrance examination form to go to the university.” Hauwa said, shocked and confused.
“Yes, I want you to fill it and take the exams.”
“But how, I mean, how?” Hauwa asked, confused.
“You leave that to me but trust me, you will go to the university. God will bring all your dreams to pass, he will cause you to excel beyond your own imagination.”
Hauwa was in tears; she never expected this. Although, she’d been sneaking to read textbooks and entrance examinations books in Edward’s room but her furthering was only a dream and never thought it would come to pass. Even now, she had no idea how it would happen, but seeing Aunty Gloria’s determination gave her strength and assurance.
“Now young lady, go to bed; we’ll talk more tomorrow, okay. She smiled and walked to her own bed.
Hauwa was filled with shock; she lay quietly on her bed, holding the envelope to her chest. That night, all she dreamt about was being in the University.
Several weeks after this; Hauwa had been studying day and night for the entrance examination; As Aunty Gloria assured her, she gave her daily plan on when to do her chores and created enough time for her to study without being caught. Hauwa was glad for this; being a very intelligent student herself, she made sure she studied very hard and learned quickly.
One day, she was having her shower in the afternoon, when she noticed something strange creeping through the bathroom door. For weeks now, she’d alway suspect someone watching her in the bathroom through the door hole, but had thought she was only imagining things. But this day, she was definitely sure someone was there. She had thought the event with Mallam Abu had made her paranoid so she took some measures to make sure nothing like that ever happened again.
She left the water running, and put her towel around her; then, she noticed a small tube coming through the down part of the door, it looked like a lens tube but couldn’t make it out. Immediately, she took the broken glass they use as a mirror in the bathroom, and forcefully opened the door. There, she saw Edward with a camcorder in one hand and the lens tube attached to it. He stood there frozen, staring in shock at her, seeing the glass in her other hand, he carefully withdrew backwards.
“What do you want?” She shouted at him.
Edwards was mystified.
She knew the boy was up to something but couldn’t make out his plan until now.
“You want this!” she shouted, pointing at the towel wrapped around her tiny body. “Or do you want this?” She pointed the glass at him.
Just then, the door opened.
To be continued.
© Circlesoflove 2013