Benue State, Nigeria
“I need Star! Last card!” Ada said as held her cards close to her chest and watched the other players closely to see if any of them had the requested card, she locked gaze with Ebuka who was the person after her. Looking at his cards thoroughly and squeezing his face in annoyance stretched his hands to get a new card from a stack of cards.
“I go market” he said.
Grace was next in line, after staring at her cards as if she could change them she also picked a new card
“I go market” she said.
Precious who was the last person to play smiled at Ada and said “pick two” as she placed a star card with the number two on it.
Ada picked two cards as was ordered and winced when she saw she picked two cards with the number fourteen written on them, adding this to her card which was a star and had the number eight on it, she was sure to lose if anybody should win the game now, since she picked two cards, she automatically missed a turn and Ebuka without wasting time placed a card with the cross sign printed on it and the number two “you ma pick two” he said with a grin to Grace who did as she was instructed.
Precious turned to Ada “pick two” she said as she place a card with the ball sign and had the number two on it, Ada reached out for the cards and almost cried when she discovered she picked two Whots cards that each had the number twenty on them.
There was no way she was going to win this game she thought. Ebuka did not have any card that rhymed so he picked another card from the general market. Grace followed suit. Ada’s heart was racing, maybe she could still win after all, she turned to Precious who like the others got a new card. Smiling, she dropped her card of ball that had the number fourteen on it.
“Oya general market everybody.”
They all picked a card and she played another card of fourteen but this time with a triangle shape on it.
“Another general market” she said and they all got another card.
She played one of the cards with the number twenty on it.
“I need star” she said smiling at everyone.
Ebuka played a card with the star sign but with the number one on it.
“Hold on” he said to Grace.
Precious looked around and was grinning, she was about to play her card when the horn of a car distracted them, they turned to see that the driver was an unfamiliar face. He came out of his car and pointed at Ada.
“Is your mother at home?” He asked.
“Yes she is inside” she replied.
It was secret to neither her nor her friends why different men came to find her mother every day.
“Should I call her for you?” She asked politely.
“No need for that” he replied and then dipping his hands into his pockets, he brought out some notes and handed to her.
“Why don’t you and your friends go and buy something for yourselves. Your mum and I can settle ourselves”
Looking at the money in her hands, she grinned at the nice stranger.
“Thank you sir” and ran with her friends to the nearest kiosk to get some sweets.
Since they knew that the stranger and her mother will be busy for a while, they decided to stroll to the river and watch people.
The advantage of living in Wadata is the fact that the river Benue was not far from you. They walked through Wadata market and headed to the path where fishermen stood to mend their net or count their catch. Soon they were at the bank of the river watching all the activities going on. Ebuka spat into the water.
“Why did you do that?” Asked Grace
“I heard Mama Rose telling her children that if you spit at the bank you will see tiny fishes in the water”
“That’s a big lie” Precious said as she also spat into the water and the little fishes came rushing.
“It’s just by luck that it happened this time” she continued as everyone was looking at her.
“I am hungry, Ada let’s go and buy fish with the remaining change and the last person to reach will have the smallest share.”
They all started running even before she could complete her sentence. Soon they were munching on fried fish and heading back to their house. They all lived in the same compound that consisted of single rooms while the tenants shared a bathroom and toilet. Cooking was done in front of your room since no kitchen was made for them. All the tenants were single mothers who made a living by prostitution and because of this their children were often left to their own devices whenever their mothers were entertaining guests. Sometimes when they were bored, they peeped through the windows to see what was going inside and they often practiced what they saw amongst themselves whenever they were alone and since Ebuka was the only male amongst their clique, they shared him.
“It seems Mr. Sweet is still around, his car is still outside” Ebuka pointed out.
“What should we do now?” Grace asked since they had nowhere else to go.
All the other mums went out to visit customers and at such, they had to remain outside until their mothers returned and opened the door for them.
“Let’s just seat under the tree” Precious suggested and they did.
“When I go to America I will build a big mansion that will have plenty rooms” Ada said while the others burst into laughter.
“What’s funny with what I said?” She asked staring at them like they were crazy.
“You are always talking of America, how will you get there?” Ebuka asked.
“The same way every other person does, you guys should watch and see. I will soon leave all of you here in Nigeria” she replied.
“Fine we hear you madam America” Grace said.
“You think I am joking? Fine, let’s bet” she fired back as she stretched her pinky.
“If all of you are not afraid, let’s bet”
They ignored her and burst into another round of laughter. She was so furious at them, she burst into tears.
“We are not laughing at you na, we are just playing with you.” Precious said as she wrapped her arms around her as she continued to sob.
“Oya stop crying. You know what? Stop crying and I will tell you how you can go to America.”
Immediately the tears dried up and she looked up.
“How?” She demanded.
“I don’t really know… but you know Julie right? That girl that is very fat and don’t know how to read in class?” Everyone chuckled at her description of Julie.
“Well her brother who lives in America is around, we can go and ask him after school tomorrow how you can travel to America.”
That did the trick as a smile appeared on Ada’s face. At that moment the man who gave them money for sweets stepped out, walked into his car and drove off without uttering a word. They rolled their eyes and started laughing.
Ada couldn’t concentrate on what the teacher was saying. It was the last class for the day and soon they will accompany Julie home to meet her brother. She was so excited, she was smiling to herself.
“What’s so funny that’s making you to smile?” The teacher asked with a cane pointing at her.
That brought her back to reality.
“Sorry ma” she replied and dropped her gaze to her desk. Once the final bell rang, she was so excited she almost leap out of her chair.
Moses was stretched out on the couch thinking about his next steps. He needed to tread carefully. This was the first time he was being given such a sensitive job. Though he must admit, it has been a long time coming and he knows for a fact that he had worked his butt0ckz out to get where he was right now. Like everybody, he had wanted to go overseas for greener pastures but to no avail. He ended up in Lagos, being a pick pocket and doing other side jobs to make ends meet. It was not until he picked the pocket of the wrong man that he realized how risky that job was.
He couldn’t remember how or why but somehow the man who he had earlier stolen from traced him to his house, that’s if you call where he was staying a house since it was a container that he lived in. He was at home that faithful evening going through everything he had stolen earlier when the door was forced open. His heart did a somersault and he could already see all the bad things he had done in his life flash in front of his eyes. He couldn’t even move and was rooted at the floor where he had been sitting.
“Who are you and what do you want?” He asked trying to sound like he was not afraid but he voiced failed him because it came out almost like a whisper. The man ignored him and squatted in front of him while he went through all his stolen items on the floor and found what he was looking for, a black wallet. The man picked his wallet, opened it and check all its contents was still inside before he turned to his direction.
“How do you want to die? Fast or slow?” He asked in the iciest voice Moses had ever heard in his life.
“Please sir, I don’t want to die, take your wallet in short take all the money I made today, please just let me live.” He begged.
“And why should I do that? Do you know you caused me an appointment because of your little game huh?” The man replied and brought out a knife to study it.
At this point his heart was almost bursting and he leapt to his feet. He wasn’t going to let some stranger kill him without at least a fight. He was still shaking while on his feet but he was prepared for whatever was to come.
The man looked at him and smiled and rose to his feet. Moses who had been too scared noticed something he had missed earlier, the man before him was a giant and he knew this because at six feet two, he was taller than most of his peers but this man made him looked like an average height person.
The man kept studying him and smiling.
“What?” He asked in his still trembling voice
“I’m impressed… You seem to be wasting your talents doing this silly job, come and work for me and I will make you a real man” the man said.
This man must be mad. First this man storms into his house, then he threatens to kill him with a knife and now he wants to give him work. Its official I picked the pocket of a psycho, Moses thought.
“Am okay with my job, now please leave.” He replied.
“You don’t get it. I did not offer you a job. I gave you one. You either work for me or die” the man replied in his icy voice.
He could tell this man meant every word he just said “Just what exactly is this job?”
“That shouldn’t be your problem” He replied.
This man must really be crazy Moses thought. He began searching for a way to escape, there was no way be was going to remain in this room with this lunatic.
“I think it’s time we leave” the man said, breaking into his thoughts.
That’s how he was led out of his container and introduced into the world of smuggling.
He started out doing petty jobs for the stranger whose name he discovered was CJ, no one knows his full name and even those that were curious were too scared to ask. Soon he rose through the ranks and that’s thanks to hard work and CJ backing him. He also trafficked drugs for the highest bidder.
As a matter of fact it was because of that he was in Nigeria, he had smuggled some into the country and he was also to scout young talents like himself and take back to Mexico. He had found some persons who he thought could handle the job but he needed to be sure, he will have to put them through some series of test and pick only those that scale through.
He was still lost in his thoughts when his sister accompanied by two other girls walked in and greeted him. He replied and was about to leave the room, so the girls could be comfortable and he could continue with his thinking alone.
He noticed that as he stood up the other two girls started acting funny and he wanted to see what was making them act out when his eyes locked with one of the most beautiful faces he had ever seen.