When the plane landed at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport in Rome, Anike didn’t know whether to be grateful or fearful. Surely, she couldn’t just raise an alarm at the airport. She decided to bid her time to see what was intended for her before making a move.
She followed Aunty B docilely until they completed all the immigration formalities. They retrieved their luggage and headed for the taxi rank. Aunty B hailed a taxi and spoke to him rapidly in Italian. Anike didn’t understand a word. The man nodded and they got into the cab. He started the engine and turned to the road.
‘You have to be very careful with your passport. Once you lose it, the police can arrest and deport you. Or worse still, throw you in jail and believe me, you do not want to spend time in an Italian prison.’ Aunty B said at length.
Anike nodded, clutching harder at the little green book.
‘Better still, let me keep it for you.’ Aunty B stretched her hand.
Anike hesitated a moment before h anding it over. Maybe the woman meant well after all, Anike thought.
Anike looked out of the window at the road. She noticed that they seemed to be driving away from the city. A couple of minutes later, her exhaustion overwhelmed her and she fell asleep.
She woke up much later when Aunty B shook her, calling her name. She didn’t know how long she had slept. The taxi had stooped in the front of a big stone house. The house was surrounded by little outhouses, at least a dozen of them.
It looked like a village of some sort to Anike. Aunty B told her to grab her bag and follow her. She said something to the driver who nodded again and sat down on the grass. Aunty B led the way to the front door of the house. Anike noticed that Aunty B was carrying just her handbag, she had left her travelling bag in the taxi.
‘You forgot to carry your bag.’ Anike told her.
‘I didn’t,’ she replied, ‘I have some deliveries to make in the next village. I’m going to drop you here for a couple of days. When I get back, we’ll get to work on your admission.’
They got to the door and it opened before they could knock.
The woman that opened the door smiled. She was white, very thin and had on an halter neck top and a pair of shorts. She waved them in and started a conversation with Aunty B. It didn’t even sound like Italian to Anike. The woman
spoke slowly with a lot of gesticulations, as if to ensure that she was understood. Aunty B was also speaking slowly, struggling with whatever language it was to reply. They got to a sitting area with sparse furnishings and they sat down.
Anike looked around while the women continued their conversation. The room was big and had many chairs but no sign of a television or a sound system of any sort. The floor was bare and looked beaten, just like the chairs.
‘So Anike,’ Aunty B said, ’I’ll be leaving now.
The white woman got up and went to an inner room.
‘Just behave yourself and do whatever you’re asked, okay?’ Aunty B said, standing up.
‘Yes ma. You’re coming back in two days?’ Anike asked.
She nodded. The white woman came out again and handed Aunty B a fat roll of money. ‘She needs me to buy her some things on my way back. As soon as I get them, I’ll head here.’ She explained to Anike.
All three of them walked to the taxi and the driver jumped into the car when he saw them approaching. He fired his engine and drove away as soon as Aunty got into the backseat. Anike waved as the cab approached the sunset.
‘Come.’ The white woman said and Anike
followed. They went back into the house where she showed Anike a room. There was a bunk in it. A girl was asleep on the lower bunk. The woman pointed at the upper one. Anike understood that she would be sleeping in it. She nodded and the woman turned to leave. Anike carefully dropped her bag so as not to wake her sleeping roommate. There was nothing in the room except the bunk, a table in the corner and a small box by the bed, presumably her roommate’s. Anike climbed into the top bunk. She was hungry. She sat on the bed with her legs dangling on the side and tried to think of the day’s events. She remembered being scared on the plane, when she discovered her destination. It must have been an honest mistake on the part of Kunle’s mom. Or she had, in her excitement, heard the wrong thing. Italy does sound like England, she told herself. Or doesn’t it? She looked outside the window, it was already dark.
The bed beneath her creaked and Anike glanced down. Her roommate was awake. She got up and stretched without saying a word. The girl was white and Anike didn’t know if she understood English or not. She said hi but the girl didn’t reply. She barely even looked her way. She slowly took off her clothes and dropped them on the bed. She opened the small box and brought
out a little dress. She changed into the dress, straightened her hair and sat down on the bed to wait. Anike watched the girl’s actions with interest. She wondered why someone would sleep the afternoon away then dress up to go out at night. She heard footsteps coming towards the room and a moment later, the door opened.
The white woman that opened the door earlier came in. She beckoned on the girl on the lower bunk and the girl followed her out. Anike could hear voices coming from the sitting area, mostly male voices. She felt her stomach growl. She had to eat something. She climbed down the bunk with a resolve to find the white woman. As she put her feet in her shoes, the door opened again and the woman came in.
‘I’m hungry.’ She told the woman, rubbing her belly. If she doesn’t understand the language, she should understand the gesture, Anike thought.
The woman beckoned her to follow. Anike followed obediently. She was led outside the house through the backdoor. They entered one of the outhouses where a man was waiting.
Anike wondered what this was about. She had thought she was being led to food. The woman pointed to the bed, the only furnishing the room had and Anike sat down as far away from the man as possible. The woman turned on her heels
and left. The man got up and approached
Anike’s end of the bed. He stood in front of her.
‘Me,’ he said, poking himself in the chest, ’Vieri, your boss. You work for me but I take first.’
Anike didn’t know what he was talking about.
She gave him a blank look. He pulled her to her feet. He took a step back and leered at her.
Anike put her arms across her chest. Why was the man looking at her like that? She wondered.
As if he wanted to eat her up. He started to unbutton his shirt and Anike suddenly understood. She made to run but he anticipated her move and grabbed her. Help me God, she thought desperately as the man bent her over.
To be continued…