GONE ASTRAY: Episode 1 – The End

Episode 1

I’m from a deeply religious family, my parents have been very strict in raising us. Growing up in the house of Mr and Mrs Imasuen was hard enough. My dad is a typical Benin man, strong, commanding and intelligent. He hardly tolerates any nuisance. He handled us with an iron fist.

We had strict rules, and whoever disobeyed was severely punished. My parents are also very religious people. We are devout Catholics, no one in my house was permitted to miss a mass, even if you were sick, it better be ebola, else you must be in church. I was quite active too, i was an altar girl.

My life revolved around 3 places, school, home and church. I dare not step out of the house for a minute. I attended a girls school, so boys were off-limits. Mom and dad took every little opportunity to remind me that as the last born and only girl, i was so precious to them. They wanted me to grow into a decent woman, who would make them proud. I was everyone’s pet. My elder brothers Osas and Ighalo were always there for me. Though 4 and 2 years older than me respectively, we were best friends.

At 16, i was a shy, easy-going princess.
I had developed quite well for my age. I had a slim figure, at 5ft7, I had a fairly good height for a lady. My gentle dark eyeballs reflected my light African skin. I was a beauty to behold, and mum always reminded me of that. She had warmed me repeatedly never to go near boys, whom according to her were “wolves” waiting to plunder and destroy my future.
Dad kept a tight leash on me.

Every Friday he would drive me to church practice, and pick me up when I’m done. Other kids made fun of me for being a “daddy’s girl”. I protested and declared that i was old enough to find my way to the church. Hence dad agreed that Osas should take me instead. He gave us a stern warning ” you must never divert on your way to church!” Little did daddy know that Friday practice in church would be the beginning of me, going astray.

Friday came as usual, i got dressed for church practice. Osas and I strolled along to the church. This was the first time I’d be going to church practice without my father looking over my shoulder. Osas, although being a man-servant who attends practice always, never went with my dad. He always came up with one excuse to leave earlier or later than us, or to drag behind long after dad picks me up. At 20 dad trusted him a little more than me. He was a student in uniben, so there was little dad could do to monitor him. We got to church about 20 minutes before practice time, and we parted ways. Osas went with his fellow-man servants, while I eft with my friends Ruth and Hannah.

Ruth and Hannah were the only close friends i have, we attend the same secondary school, and attend practice together. They were about my age too. Mum knows them very well, and had banned me from associating with them. Both of them were very popular in church and school, for entirely negative reasons. Ruth in particular always filled my ear with stories of her rich boyfriends, most of whom had either just returned from Malaysia or Italy. She had a lot of expensive stuff to showcase every week. She spends her weekends in highbrow hotels in Benin city. She once showed me pictures of herself in kada plaza, somewere in Benin city, with Mr-Coded one of her Malaysian friends. I do not even know were kada plaza is in benin. Ruth knew how to have fun, she had an exciting life going for her. I’m often left to bemoan my own lonely little life, in the cell my parents had created. Hannah did not have the same freedom as Ruth, her parents were just like mine. But unlike me, Ruth knew how to get around her parents. I knew she had a boyfriend, a man-servant. I guess i was the one always left out. I kept thinking about her boring my life was all through the practice.

The day’s practice went by pretty fast, we were done and ready to leave. It was about 4:30 pm, so i was heading towards the gate hoping to meet Osas somewhere along the way. I was quite confused when I discovered that only a handful of us were heading home. Others, including my friends were hanging around. Even Osas was nowhere in sight. So I turned around, and went back to the church compound, to search for him. I know dad would be furious if i returned late. On my way back, i sighted Ruth from afar, deeply involved in a conversation with a guy. His name is Ehis, he is a little older than us. He was a tall, dark skinned handsome guy. I have seen him around a lot of times, he was a popular face. I stood far from them for a while, hoping that the conversation will end soon, and Ehis will leave. I don’t like being around him. There’s a certain way he makes me feel, i get nervous whenever he came around. He had this soft gentle and sweet nature, whenever i spoke to him. He doesn’t fail to remind me of how beautiful i was. He had his way with words. Most times, after practice i spend my entire night thinking about him.

I was so deep in my thoughts that i did not notice Ehis walking towards me. “Hey” his sweet baritone voice jerked me back to reality. ” wow you are still around, how come? I immediately looked down, trying to gather words to reply. I knew what to say in my head, but the problem is that my head had been disconnected from my mouth. I only stuttered a few words, only God knew if he understood me. I had barely finished a sentence when I heard my name from nowhere. Osas and Ruth ran towards me, exchanged greetings with Ehis and informed me that we would be leaving much later. He said he had other things to attend to. I was almost furious, I knew dad would so mad at me. Ruth noticed my indignation, and quickly intercepted, “cant you see everyone is still around?Come on let’s have fun”. Before Ruth finished her sentence, Osas was already on his way out of sight. I resigned to wait. Ruth, Ehis and i walked towards the church hall. Ehis tried to grab hold of my hand, i quickly moved my hand away. He didn’t say anything…

The three of us eventually walked to a secluded part of the church. It was a building under construction. It would serve as accommodation for the parish priest once it is completed. I have never been inside the building before, i only see it from a distance. It was quite neat inside, not as littered with nails and plank as i would have thought. The planks were neatly arranged on pieces of blocks to form a kind of bench, it was as if it was a regular meeting point. I sat down comfortably, on one of the make shift benches, Ehis sat beside me. And Ruth sat on a different bench, at the other end of the room. She immediately brought out her phone and started playing temple run. Ehis focused all his attention on me, he communicated in a way that made me feel more comfortable with him. That was the day i got to know that he too was a student at uniben. He told me a lot about himself, and was genuinely interested in me. He asked about my family, and why he has never seen me around after practice. I managed to find words to explain my parents attitude to him, and how much i missed going out. He understood how boring my life was.

After much talking and encouraging me, Ehis told me i wasn’t the only one with strict parents. He assured me that his parents were once like that, but he found a way to cope. He told me he could help me handle my parents.
There was a long pause in our conversation, all the while i was looking at the floor. Ehis moved alittle closer, held my hand with one hand, and began to speak in a gentle and captivating voice. “Ella, you are the most beautiful girl I have ever known, i think about you everyday, but i have never had the chance to tell you how i really feel about you” he pulled my chin, looked straight into my eyes, and whispered softly ” Ella, i love you” i felt as if my heart was going to burst, it was beating so fast. No one has ever told me that before. The whole world stopped before my very eyes. I couldn’t say anything, i didn’t even know what to say. I just know that i spend my night thinking about him too, he didn’t seem like the “wolf” my mum described. I was so lost in my own thoughts, i barely noticed when he brought his phone out, typed in something, and put it back in his pocket.

I was still lost in my thoughts and fantasies when Ruth’s phone buzzed from the other side of the building. She sprang up from her sit, and told me she was going to ease herself. When she left, it suddenly don on me that Ehis and i where all alone in that uncompleted building. I became a little scared inside. Today would be a day that changed my whole world.
We both turned around, and behold it was the catechist. He started walking menacingly towards us. I hid behind Ehis, and buried my head in his back. I was deeply ashamed. Reality had struck me. The catechist is a friend of our family, he and my dad were in the harvest committee. He has always praised my dad for having well-behaved children. I knew i was in big trouble, there was no way i was going to get out of this, at least not without some lashes from my father. The catechist tried to snatch me away from Ehis’s back, but we kept turning him in circles. He grew angry, and slapped Ehis. Ehis stood motionless, holding his face in his palm, as the catechist snatched me from behind him. ” you LovePeddler, ashawo, so this is your mission in church abi?” He lifted his hands, and aimed a slap at my face. I shut my eyes tightly, anticipating the sting from the slap. It never came. After a few seconds, i slowly opened my eyes, and looked up. Ehis had intercepted the slap, he held the catechist’s hand in the air as they struggled. Ruth hurriedly walked into the building, she was shell-shocked when she saw Ehis and the catechist. I could see the disbelief in her eyes as she held her mouth in her palm. She beckoned on me to follow her, and bolted away. As i took the first step towards my escape, the catechist shouted “will you stop there” i froze. He let go of Ehis, and grabbed hold of my hand. “I ll take you to your father personally, he must know that you are now a LovePeddler” he taunted. At this point, tears began to roll down my cheeks, i fell on my knees pleading and sobbing, promising never to repeat this mistake. Ehis joined the begging but all to no avail. He dragged me out of the building, all the way to his motorcycle, order me to climb on, and zoomed off, to my father’s house. I was shedding tears all the way, i know my father will be at home at this time. How bad can this get? I kept wondering as tears flowed freely.

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