Write My Story (Chapter Four)
Gift Coker entered Charlotte’s room for the fifth time that day. The second time was when that incident happened, the other times were to check on her.
Finally, the girl was awake and not looking much of a threat. She was looking like the young girl she was, with her relaxed hair neatly packed up in a bun – obviously retouched after the incident. The room looked like a typical hospital room from a movie set but it had more space and one person at a time occupied the rooms. The section in the massive private hospital was different from the general facility as this one focused on recovering patients.
Charlotte noticed that the stranger was back and could sense that she intended to cause no arm. She stood about four steps from her bed and sported a huge tummy. Did the woman get hungry with such tummy? Speaking of hunger, she was really hungry and it would not hurt to ask the lady if she could help. She knew she had tried hurting the woman earlier, but now she was feeling better and normal. Her shaking and nervousness were gone – a nurse had mentioned earlier she was getting better as they were reducing.
“Hungry,” she still struggled to get her sentences together and the process hurt too. Her lips had been sewn and were still healing. The tantrums she had recently started pulling off from being stuck to a bed for months was not helping the recovery process. Now that she felt sane and normal, she would only focus on healing instead of getting angry. One of the other nurses during the night shift had whispered to her that it was because of her safety they had bound her to the bed. “…I’m hungry” she groaned as she tried to put her thoughts and words together. “Please help….help with my …myy.” She ended up pointing towards the food left on her shelf.
“Sssh, it aright. I’ll get something warm for you to eat, okay?” the lady said and which made Charlotte relax. They had placed her food far from her because they didn’t want her using her cutleries to hurt herself. When they had brought the food, she hadn’t felt like eating too, but on seeing this lady with the big tummy, something kicked in her.
“What’s your name please?”
“Gift Coker, you can call me Gift.”
Charlotte smiled as she struggled to sit up on the bed. “Gift… I am, mmm, Lottie.”
Gift returned Charlotte’s smile and was internally making double flip at the progress they just made. Talk about miracles!
Charlotte was the daughter of the head international pastor of Praise Ministries, Lagos. The man was called Pastor Tokunbo. He had two wives before he met with the Lord who told him to start up the ministry. The ministry was doing great works for God for about to nineteen years and this type of incidents are not supposed to make it into the 10 pm news as the family already had enough scandals to deal with.
Pastor Tokunbo was blessed with eight children from his wives; one from his first wife, Toyin, named Victor and initially, five from his second wife Brenda. According to some of her children, their mother Brenda was a spoilt child who finally ended up being the worst mother on earth. She was an actress when she was married to Tokunbo, but gave up acting to focus on family.
She had Dayo first then, Olamide, Michael and Linda a girl. At the birth of Linda, Toyin’s womb opened and that was when she had Victor. Brenda loved children but she didn’t know how to keep them, she continued the baby factory after Victor was born, had Charlotte, the sixth child, then Olumide and finally, Jack was adopted.
After the novelty of being a new mother wore off, the ever-bustling Brenda went back to focusing on her acting career all over again, against her husbands’ wishes as he just started his ministry. Received with welcoming arms by her old fans, and new fans joined in; she truly had a natural talent.
She desperately sought the spotlight as the man she had married was more focused on his church than his family also, she left her children in the backstage and remained on the front of magazine covers for one controversy or the other. Having seven children did not make her lose her sexual appeal so she was also paid to be a model and brand ambassador.
This came with mixed feelings from her husband’s church but the masses loved the controversies. Her children, on the other hand, loved her still as a mother but grew up knowing they could not depend on her presence.
The children weren’t stranded for long. Toyin came to the rescue by taking care of them. Brenda loved her children but was not usually around; as an actress, she was too busy running the show to run the house. Charlotte is one of the younger kids often questioned her mother’s love. With the help of Toyin, she was trained up in the way of the Lord and got admission at the age of 15, which had to be tweaked to 17 by her family who couldn’t bear her staying at home, to study in a Private University. She was just shy of 19 during her final year in school when she had the unfortunate episode. According to the records though, she was 21 years old.
“Is that enough?” Gift asked as she fed her new friend, Lottie.
“Yes, it is,” Lottie smiled back at Gift.
They had been making small talk and Gift had explained she had been hired by her stepmother so they could find the person or people who did what they did to her. The police had been futile in their pursuit of evidence and no one was saying anything helpful. Gift begged her to corporate with her when Charlotte told her she was not interested in doing anything. She had to explain the pain her family experienced the days when she went missing and the added one they felt when they thought she had died.
“Has my father come to visit?” Lottie asked as shrugged her shoulder like she didn’t care for the answer but Gift could see through her that her answer mattered a lot.
“He has, a couple of times in between travels too.” She assured the young girl who besides being troubled was broken, “everyone in your family has visited, even your friends.” When Lottie looked at her unusually, she rushed on as if she didn’t believe Lottie would not believe her, “You’ve been here for close to four months; undergone various surgeries too.”
“I can tell you how it all happened?” Lottie no longer sounded like a scared little girl, but like the woman, she was becoming.
“That’s right,” Gift smiled, she collected the plate and placed it back in the trolley it had come in. She noticed the nurses passing the room and laughed internally – Dr. Pelumi was taking no chances. “You can start if you want to I am all yours”.
“How is Victor? He hasn’t visited me in a while” Lottie could only remember Victor’s visits because he was the only one who spoke to her during her coma and even days where she was healing. The others, if they ever came around were too scared to talk.
“He is doing great. He should come visiting any day from now. You know he it’s his exam period.”
Silence reigned in the room and Gift felt queasy. She wished she had slowed down on her food earlier but she needed to rush back for this and she did not regret it. When the silence was becoming deafening, she cleared her throat and raised her brows at Lottie.
Lottie noticed her new friend had stopped twitching her fingers on her laps and felt her gaze back on her. She had intentionally stalled; she wanted Gift to calm down, which she had. “Oh, my story,” she said as she flashed her teeth which surprisingly came out better from the incident. It was currently having an unintentional gap tooth from when she had fallen from the stairs initially when she had wanted to escape.
“Yes my dear, your story.” Gift repeated as she indulged Lottie. She knew what she was doing.
“Where do I start from?”
”From the night of the party? Where you met him?”
“You mean young Billy?”
“Yes, the charming and cute guy”. Gift wrote down on her pad, ‘guy = Billy’.
“Oh … that’s true.” Lottie smiled as she elicited past memories before the incident. “That part was not the first time we met. I used to see him around lecture theatres; he was always looking charming and friendly until that night. Our schools were different and we never had the same lecture so we never spoke prior to that night” then she added, “Maybe courtesy smiles and nods. Maybe just that.”
“What happened that night? Who forced you? Who took you there?” Gift pressed. She was trying to put words of different witnesses and accomplices together as the police did not have enough time to do so. Her parent wanted a book written so she could share her ‘testimony’ which she didn’t buy into, but Toyin saw it as a motivational book.
“For others out there,” she had said, “who thinks their stories are done.”
“No one?” Gift repeated stupefied and a little puzzled. There was a major story that was contradicting this one and because she didn’t want to put stories in Lottie’s head she held back the story. Let’s see what’s happening here. “But you were there with someone, people saw you there. Are you sure?”
“Yes, no one,” Lottie answered without blinking an eye. The nurses had finally unbound her and her wounds were almost done healing so even if she scratched, no harm would be done. After a call from her stepmother and promising everyone she was going to work together to make her whole, she was advised to walk around her room, for now, to ease up her stiffened joints if any. With that in mind, she tried and got out of the bed with Gift’s help and began strolling like a slug around the room.
“On second thoughts, Rita and I went there ourselves. Although Rita tried dissuading me from going I had to go.”
“Why would Rita dissuade you from –“
“Actually this didn’t happen overnight,” she motioned to her body which was no longer battered on the outside as it had been initially but now battered on the inside, “it’s been a long time coming,” she said with a smile.
“In what way?”
“Whether or not I had gone to the party, I would have ended up like this.”
When she realized Gift did not understand her statement, she moved to the window facing the view of a private estate. She had never noticed they had another window in the room, maybe because it was behind her bed. She continued as she took in the scenery of moving cars and picture-perfect organized buildings.
“It was not her fault, but Rita had been getting 420 for me.” Gift kept quiet at the new revelation and added to her note. If she acted surprised, then she was not good at her job. Lottie’s disjointed voice continued, “In 100 level second semester, we were about to write an exam and I couldn’t remember where I had dropped or whom I had given my note to. Rita who was my friend from dad’s church came to the rescue some hours before the exam.”
She sniffed and continued, “She told me she could come over to my place later that night and I would read her note. I told her not to worry that I wouldn’t understand because I typically read long hours before I grab something. She told me not to worry that she had a cure for me, and I accepted and told her to do whatever she wanted to, after all, I was going to fail the exams anyway.”
“You read together normally? And you don’t read in public?” Gift asked. This was not what she had been asked to do, she was supposed to write of how a young girl had been abducted, raped brutally and even drugged for three weeks but now the story was getting a twist.
“Yes, sometimes we read together but I prefer reading alone in my room or in a private place.”
“Go on, continue.” She urged.
“She came over to my place that night and we started reading. I tried for close to two hours and nothing. I don’t know if it was the fear of failing and what would happen to my good grades or because I was already tired of school even though I had just started.” Lottie turned back and looked at Gift who had been listening intently. Her legs were already on fire from standing too long. She wished she could turn back the hands of time to make her change some of her decisions. She felt used and empty, like the life in her had been wrung out.
“Why didn’t you tell anyone this?”
Lottie scoffed as she laughed bitterly, “No one in my house had anyone’s time. Everyone was busy with either the church or their life. I was too busy with my life as well, so …“ But really, what would have happened if I had told them I wanted to stay from school for a while first, would they have listened? She had been studying Industrial Chemistry and right now, she felt she had wasted four years of her life studying something she couldn’t even remember she had picked to study.
She used her hand to pat her hair, which was already in place. She used to do that whenever she was nervous and she smiled from the act because it showed that she could still be normal.
“Well, that was when I reminded Rita that she had told me about a cure. She teased me, then brought out black nylon from black nylon, in another black nylon. I was already wondering, “What’s so hideous”, and she said “tada!” lo and behold, it was Mary J. She later told me I was outdated that it is now called 420 and that hers was special.”
“Mary J….” Gift murmured as she scribbled something down, “Marijuana right?” Lottie rolled her eyes at her sluggishness in getting the meaning.
“Rita told me it was her own mix of various drugs; such as Concerta and the likes, and that they work for her. She relayed stories of how it had helped her brain become photographic; that when she smokes or inhales it and picks up a book, her brain becomes photographic. She swore she could concentrate while on it for long period of time. Truth be told,” Lottie laughed, “I was stunned and perplexed initially. All along I had been thinking Rita, even though wilder than me was also a brilliant and God-fearing student who was devoid of social vices. I can say the fear of having a carryover pushed me and that was how my intake of drugs started but looking back, I think I just wanted to do something different from what I had heard and been taught. I started experimenting, a lot.” She concluded.
“Waoh, Charlotte, I am the first person hearing this side of the story. Everyone thinks you were induced without consent.” Lottie just stared at her and struggled with her inner demons. She gripped her mattress with strong arms and began rocking back and forth, as involuntary tears dropped off her cheek and splattered on her laps.
Silence reigned again; both women were lost in their thoughts. Gift was wondering how she was going to report to the Tokunbos that they knew nothing of their precious daughter. No wonder after running blood tests for the drugs in her system they found some they couldn’t pinpoint.
“Why didn’t you tell someone about it,” Gift asked the umpteenth time. Lottie was obviously tired of being asked that question and didn’t bother concealing her look of incredulity.
“You know my parents?” Gift nodded. “You then you should know what is expected of me and what shouldn’t be spoken about. Well, no one guess so even if I started showing slight signs during holidays spent at home, I no one knew anything.”
“Alright, I would give you that. What about your step-mother? From what I have noticed, she is the balance in your house.”
“No.” Lottie stopped rocking, “No, I would have brought shame to her.”
“But just the two of you would have known and from what I know –“
“I said no!” Lottie’s eyes looked wide now, “You know nothing about my family.” She hunched her back and continued, “No … No…you do not …. Don’t know anything!” she said as she struggled to gather her sentences together.
Gift decided to push Lottie a little, “But isn’t this shame much grander?” she asked as she spread her hands to their environment.
“Nooo …,” all her fears and nervousness that she thought she had overcame came crashing through her. She kept on wailing “Noooo” in a deep guttural voice, rocking her body back and forth on the bed. Of a sudden, she stopped, raised her head to lock her eyes with Gift. She smiled and said in a flat voice, “I actually liked it. I loved every minute of it. No one could steal it away from me – the peace and all.” Then her voice went to being high pitched. “However, look at me now! They just keep taking!”
Aware of the nurses standing outside by the observation window; ready to come in at the sign, she moved back this time around and warned.
“Calm down Charlotte, you are shouting again.”
“I! am! Not! Shouting!”
“Tranquilizers,” her eyes drifting from the door to the bed, “don’t let us go through that again. Calm down Charlotte.” Nice, Dr. Pelumi had already joined the nurses. He was making a countdown to zero and was already on six. Facing Charlotte she pleaded calmly as she dreaded being made to witness her being cornered like an animal. “The nurses are outside already. Calm down and we don’t have to deal with them. Charlotte please let us have this peace.”
Lottie dropped her arms in surrender but her eyes spoke volumes. Turning towards the window once more, Gift smiled at the medics and mouthed, “She’s calm”.
Dr. Pelumi threw his hands up in exasperation.
“Thank you, Lottie,” Gift said as she moved to hold her hand. She begged her to continue the story as time was no longer on their side.
“Okay,” she said as she patted and adjusted her hair that fell out of place during her outburst to the back of her ears as she continued. “I began experimenting all the way down to 400 level second semester. All the while, Rita had been my supplier. Then she mentioned she was going for a short summer vacation to meet with her siblings. I don’t know, maybe Australia or so…”
“It’s Canada.” Gift confirmed.
“Oh. How did you know that?”
“I have interviewed everyone but you. So….tell me all Lottie.” She squeezed Lottie’s hand to reassure her.
“We had an argument and I was brooding when she invited me to the party.”
“An argument? What was it about?”
Gift caught a glimpse of guilt in Lottie’s eyes before she turned away to stare at the window behind her bed with eyes like glass.
“I had told her to take me to where they deal the drugs. She was not comfortable with my request and mentioned things like I was a pastors daughter and all, I shouldn’t be seen in places like that. Then I shamed her by asking if taking the drug was godly and she flared up!” She was still puzzled as to why Rita went all loco on her that day.
Shifting her gaze back to Gift she continued, “She flared up saying it was not written in the bible that one should not take drugs; saying it only said not to enter into an ungodly place. We argued on and on until I threw Psalms 1:1 at her; Blessed is the man that walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful. That was when she quieted down and looked at me shocked. I was blackmailing her, she knew and I knew it wasn’t good but I had gone past caring. Her mother was a deacon.”
“Charlotte, as your friend, I am telling you to stop this. I know I am at fault for starting this with you, but you have to stop it. You should be able to live without it for a month. No one would supply it to you when am gone!” Rita said.
Charlotte walked briskly; from one end of her room to the other. Her hands kept patting her hair and she was almost pulling at it. Why didn’t Rita understand she needs this crap?
“Then take me there. Take … me … there …” Charlotte pleaded.
“It is not right Lottie, anything could happen to you!” she lamented. Rita wished she had not placed herself in such a situation, “I wish I knew another place, but this place is just filled with different people.”
“Why can you go and I can’t? Charlotte demanded.
Rita responded quickly, “No, Charlotte, you are not like me.” Charlotte saw the sense in what she had just said but she longer needed her sense, “Let’s not do this. Just try and abstain for the time I’ll be gone and we’ll continue when I’m back like nothing happened”. Then she smiled, “Isn’t that okay?”
Did she not get that she is already too hooked to give it up for a week? “No, it’s not okay. The house and holiday would be boring! Exams; so much work in the fellowship that I won’t have time to read. I work for God! I need this to work for me too!” Charlotte stopped pacing about and faced Rita while nervously placing her hands on both sides of Rita’s face. “Truly, Rita, they are my next best friends after you. I need them, just show me where, better still take me there, so I can get them myself”
Already bending, Rita blinked at Charlotte, “We might regret it.”
“Even if I do, I won’t put it on you”
“The place is dangerous.”
“Are we going or not?” Charlotte smiled as she smelt victory. She dropped her hand and skipped over to where her handbags hung. “Which one do I take?”
“You won’t take anything while we’re there?” Rita asked, still concerned on the fool’s journey they were embarking on.
“Nooo…. C’mon comes and helps me select a bag. I can’t wait to see this place!” she ran back to where Rita was standing and pulled her to her bag stand. “You worry too much Riri. I’ll be wearing jeans and T-shirts with a face cap. No one would even know I am there.”
And that was how that night started out to be. Me, a young girl, trying to please everyone, including God, because of the pressure they themselves can’t see they have placed on me. I can still feel the thrill and eager steps I took as we were heading out. I was oblivious to Rita’s reluctant movement and long looks when we were in the cab heading to the house. It wasn’t a club, it was a house; I can remember clearly.
To this day, I don’t blame Rita, she warned me and tried protecting me, but, nope .., I didn’t listen”. Lottie looked at Gift with sad eyes and repeated herself in a low voice, “I didn’t listen.”
She looked down at Gift’s pregnancy, “Can I touch it?”
“Sure”, Gift smiled falteringly, then remember what she knew about Lottie that she herself doesn’t know, her smile became bold “Sure you can”.
Charlotte placed her the flat of her palm on Gift’s swollen abdomen, she smiled in wonder and looked at Gift in the eyes, “Don’t lose her please, I beg of you”.
Shaken and tired, Gift nodded in agreement.
“Urmmm, I need to use the toilet?” Gift walked out of the room as she Charlotte gazing into space with a faraway look.
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