Kike had an ushering gig. It was paying five thousand per usher and the lady who got the contract had asked her to find three other girls. She told me not to tell Mama, but she had asked one of her friends to come, Linda, and she wanted to know if I was also in.
Now, the thing about an ushering job is that it’s not about the money. Usually there’s a uniform and it’s usually nice and the girls sometimes get to keep them, but it’s not about that either. It’s about the men you will meet and end up with.
Yes, you will usher guests to their tables. Yes, you will carry trays of food if the event organisers don’t have caterers as well, and yes you will be insulted by an irritant who’s had too much to drink, or an ageing woman who just doesn’t like the look of you. But at the end of the day, when the party is over and only the people in the know are left, you will be paired up with a man, or two of you or three of you will be handed over to him, and you will follow him to his hotel room and in the morning the five k they paid you to come and usher will be nothing compared to the money in your bag.
As Kike told me about the ushering gig and filled me in with all the details meant to entice me – it was at the Ikoyi Boat Club, the celebrant was a senator, the vice president might be there – all I kept thinking was ‘my little cousin is becoming a bigs girls o.’
I was broke, and being broke is the devil’s hold on me, so I agreed to be an usher. Don’t look at me like that. Johnny had been away for three weeks and he hadn’t replied any of my text messages. Mama was yet to tell me that her Uncle China was ready to see me or my twin, and I don’t have a job. It was a job, as an usher, other things notwithstanding, and I have school fees to pay and hair to do.
The day of the ushering job came and we did plenty kurukere to make sure the other girls didn’t who what we were up to. I was feeling particularly guilty about not telling Mama, my babe, but truth be told, she’s not every man’s cup of tea. I’d been keeping a lot of secrets from her of late. I hadn’t told her about running into the London boy again at Eko Hotel, or for that matter how I disgraced myself. But hey? Abi?
Anyway, we arrived at Ikoyi Boat Club and the lady who was in charge told us all to line up while she inspected us one by one. She looked every girl up and down and I swear she was sniffing as she did so. She stopped in front of one yellow girl I’d never seen before and she dug her fingers into her crotch.
“What is this?” she asked. A look of irritation had spread over her face. “Pad? You can go.”
She stopped in front of me and I prayed she didn’t do me like she’d just done the girl she summarily dismembered.
She looked me up and down like three times then she asked me what my name was.
“Juliet, ma,” I said. She wasn’t young o!
She inspected my body over again, and even though her hand was not stuck between my legs, it felt like she was violating me.
“How old are you?”
“Twenty two, ma.” It was a lie. But the younger is always better in such places.
“Twenty two. And you are a student?”
She looked at me as if she’d discovered something that gave her doubt.
“Oya, stand here,” she said and she pointed in from of the row of girls.
At the end of her inspection, Kike, I, and another girl had been singled out by the madam. During the party, it slowly became apparent why.
Now, I watch a lot of Nollywood movies but I’ve never once believed any of the fantastic things that happen in them. Things like a girl being arranged for a ‘big man’ and the man turning out to be her dad when they see each other for the first time in his hotel room, but what happened at the ushering runs was nothing short of that.
The madam, her name is Yumbo, Aunt Yumbo, told the three of us who she had selected, that we were going to follow one driver to one man’s house. She told us not sleep there o, because the man hadn’t paid for the entire night. She gave us ten k each, for our cab fare back, and told us the man would give us five hundred dollars each.
Being with Kike gave me some comfort but I still felt a bit apprehensive when the Mercedes-Benz S Class climbed the Third-mainland Bridge and headed out of the island.
We eventually arrived at a big house with a big gate, somewhere in Ikeja GRA.
Uniformed guards opened the car door for us and we were politely led into the big house. It was a big house! The biggest I’ve ever entered that’s not a Hotel or an office or a church.
The house was empty and cold, thanks to invisible ACs that we couldn’t even hear, and dark because no normal lights were on, only dim lamps here and there.
A servant asked us to please wait and he went off to call his oga, one can only presume. As we waited, I got the idea to take a few pictures, and I now wish I didn’t. I was clicking away, and my camera phone flashing away, when non other than Ibrahim descended down the majestic staircase.
I wanted to enter the ground, but I felt even worse for Kike who had told him she was going to fellowship, which was why she couldn’t see him that night.
Oh, have I not told you before? Ibrahim is ‘I didn’t know you were an ashewo like that.’ Kike’s fine boy. But, what was he doing in a house like that? Did he not leave in VI?
I looked at Kike and she had shrunk into a pensive, remorseful thing. Her eyes and hands pleaded as tears streamed down her eyes. The boy stopped and looked at us then his rested on Kike. He looked pained.