By Nora Vasconcelos
– – –
A strong noise woke Daniel up.
Not sure of what was happening, he ran around the house looking for Adamma, calling hear aloud: “Where are you aunt?” “Where are you?”
Over and over, he called her until he found Addama leaning on the wall of her sitting room, looking scared and with her eyes fixed on the other corner of the chamber.
The fresh aroma of the acacia, the frangipanis, the oranges, and Queen of the Night had come into the apartment, filling it with all those aromas that were floating in the garden, recently washed up by a heavy rain. The same rainfall that had made the air feel cool and nice.
However, there was nothing cool and nice inside the room. Daniel’s dad rested lifeless on the floor, with his head broken in many pieces the same as one of Addama’s precious porcelain vases. They had been given to her as a present by a rich businessman who travelled often to China, and had brought them here, especially for her.
Horrified at the scene, Daniel didn’t know if he should run towards his dad’s body in case there was still something he could do for him, or if he should seek shelter in Addama’s arms. Instead, he did nothing. He remained where he was. Not able to cry, not even able to move.
Then, the police arrived. A ‘concerned’ neighbour who had happened to pass by, had heard some ‘strange noises’ coming from ‘that woman’s house’, as he had reported it to the dispatcher, when he called the police department.
Looking at the blood around the man’s head, they promptly assumed that Addama was the one to blame for such unspeakable act, and they arrested her seconds later, despite the fact that she claimed several times that she was innocent, that some robbers had come into the house thinking they could get some money from ‘the gentleman who came every afternoon to pick his son up, driving his fancy car.’
Before leaving the apartment, Addama saw how a police officer took Daniel, still in shock, to one of the patrol cars, while other officers inspected the body, the shattered vase and the pieces around, as well as the rest of the place.
Handcuffed, she was taken to the precinct where she was thrown into a crowded jail cell in which all those people who couldn’t afford elegant lawyers were put away until a public defender could take care of their cases, along with 15 or 20 others.
The brief freshness that had come from the strong rainfall, just a short time ago, had been overcome by a warm and humid weather which, inside the cell, became a nasty brew of strong odours that made the simple act of breathing, a very painful one.
The hours passed and Addama fell into a semi-unconscious state that allowed her only to be barely aware of the conversations around her, although she was still able to catch the looks of people, inside and outside the cell, who judged her, as her past was well known in all the town. It didn’t matter that she had quit years ago, even before she had arrived to Williams Island, she, for sure, should be guilty of whatever crime she was charged with.
As the night turned into morning, Addama woke up from a very light sleep that had brought pain and no rest to her body. The shock of the events of the previous day had passed and now that she was completely conscious, she had realized that her situation was a serious one. Would she leave this prison some day?
Wondering about her future made her shiver. And yet, she refused to speak when her attorney appeared. Her silence granted her another 24 hours inside that stinky place. It didn’t matter that the people she was sharing the cell with had changed, the rancid smell that came from everywhere stuck into her clothes the same as into her nose.
But the following morning something unexpected happened. Mr. Belonwu came to precinct. The oldest man in the island, carrying heavily all of those years on him, years that people said were close to one hundred, had asked to speak with Addama, and out of respect, his request was granted.
Without knowing what was happening, and handcuffed again, Addama was taken to a separate room, one with a table and two chairs, guarded by two police officers. Inside, Mr. Belonwu waited for her.
She was so surprised that some tears ran down her face.
As she took her seat, the old man asked the guards to leave them alone. Hesitant, the officers granted him, one more time, his wish.
“We’ve never had a chat, girl. Right?” He said while he handed her his handkerchief.
“I’ve come here to listen to you and then decide if I use my influence to help you go free or not,” he stated with a serious voice.
Addama told him all what had happened the day Daniel’s dad had been found death.
As she related the old man the events that had brought her here, her mind went back to those last minutes in her apartment when the rich man, that was supposed to take his son home, had made advances on her, demanding the ‘benefits’ that he was sure he deserved since he was one of the wealthiest men in the island and there was no way she had quit her old job.
Except that she had, she assured him over and over, as the man tried to overpowered her. Then, with her not even realizing how it had happened, as if someone else had taken over her will, she saw her hand and arm swinging the heavy vase over the man’s head.
It was fast. May be no more than five seconds. The porcelain piece crushed her attacker’s skull with an easiness that it might have seem given only to a hammer hitting a nail. Next thing she knew, Daniel’s dad was there, lying on the floor, death in a blink, with his bloody head and the pieces of the vase all around him. Right after that, Daniel came from the other room and the police appeared.
She hadn’t meant to lie to the police about some robbers coming into the house, but when she saw Daniel’s face, she wasn’t able to let the poor boy know that aunty Addama had killed his father, and why. She only confessed this now to Mr. Belonwu because she knew that he was a wise and fair man who would do what was right.
“You have spoken the truth, I can see it in the clarity of your voice and the innocence in your eyes,” he said. “I’ll see that you’re released today but before I go, there’s something else I would like to hear from you…”
Addama smiled for the first time since the incident had happened, her eyes showing gratitude to the man who was going to set her free. “I’ll answer whatever questions you ask me,” she said.
“Why did you leave Mexico and how was it that you quit there both your old habits and your money?” His words let her know that his curiosity was a genuine one, out of concern and not coming from a morbid interest. So that, she narrated him her own story:
“After that rich merchant took me from Nigeria to Mexico, promising me he would make sure that I would live there as a queen, what it actually happened was that he sold me as cheap labour to one of his comrades that had established his business there. A sweatshop was my ‘home’ for 100 days and 100 nights, working 20 hours a day, sleeping on the floor, eating only once a day their putrid food, it was the same everyday until the authorities discovered his underground operation and closed his business down.
“Many people were arrested that day, many others, like me, we had no papers so we were sent back to our countries. The little money and property I had left here in Nigeria, all as a result of my glorious days, helped me go through until I settle down here, in Williams Island, the rest of my jewels, richness and dreams were taken away by those men who enchanted me with their false promises.”
A long silence filled the room before Mr. Belonwu asked Addama why she had never told her story to anyone in the island.
“When there are no physical injuries, people don’t believe you’ve been hurt. They say that it’s your own fault, that you provoked it, that you should have done something to stop it, after all, they assure, nobody was hitting you.
“But when your soul is hurt day after day, you know that you’re been abused, except that you show no bruises. That’s why I never told anyone my story. I came back here and acted as if that had never happened, after all, I knew nobody would believe me…”
“Well, dear,” Mr. Belonwu said, I believe you. And with those words, he left.
Hours later, Addama left the precinct feeling relief because she was free again but tormented for what she had done.
‘Would she ever be happy again?’ She wondered.
(To read the first part of this story you can visit: http://www.obinnaudenwe.blogspot.mx/2015/02/a-desolate-return-from-mexico.html)
* * *
* This story is part of The Crosseover Mexico-Nigeria Project