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Laura had had to play mother hen to her siblings after they lost their parents to a ghastly road traffic accident a few years back, even though she wasn’t the eldest. Now she wonders if she would be able to be there for her elder brother, and younger sister, who though in her adolescent years remains before them all, the baby of the house. She, like her elder sister who had been married for three years now, would be getting married today, at what many in this clime will consider the “overripe” age of thirty-five. The journey hadn’t been easy.

Who would’ve thought she would see today? If someone had told her that she’d be getting married today, even six months ago, she’d have shoved the thought aside with the wave of the hand. She couldn’t complain about how it came to be though, as it put many to shame on her behalf. Laura had heard from a colleague that once when she had taken leave off work for a day, another lady assigned to some other task within the office, who was asked to come and take her place at the front desk declined, stating that such position was only for the unmarried. It was really painful for her when she heard that, especially coming from someone who on a good day shouldn’t and couldn’t match her, brains and beauty put together, save for the fact that benevolent spirits had been kind enough to help the one crack her nuts, something she appeared not to appreciate with her lack of humility, unkindness, and unfaithfulness to her husband.

If she hadn’t lived to witness this day, she’d have continued to ask and wonder if anything good happens to the good and pure at heart. She knows she couldn’t claim purity but at least she tries to the best of her abilities, to follow in the steps of MOTHER MARY, only to have misfortunes clamber over themselves in her life. No sooner had a cause to be joyful surfaced than it was bombarded with several other events that would make her regret the good.

When, six years ago she got her present job, it was pertinent that she woke early, seeing that she lived at the other extreme of the state so as to be at work in time. Her former teaching job wasn’t paying as much as this was, with other perks from grateful and appreciative clients helping to make her earnings appreciable, while other opportunities though better paying were either exploitative in nature, or required that she compromised her principles. The joy of getting the job and working at such a prestigious organization, however punctuated many times by muggings early in the mornings or late in the night on her way back, atimes when she could even be the only person at the bus stop, or on the street on her way to the bus stop, or with some others who could only watch while she was been robbed or ran for their own lives or safety. After buying expensive phones many times to replace the ones stolen from her, she eventually resorted to buying the cheap ones without extraordinary features, as she wasn’t the kind of person to lay that burden on others, like many other girls would. Infact, she had no man to lay such a burden on. Gladly, in all her encounters, which many sometimes involved a crew she may have encountered before, she was never raped, though she couldn’t tell if she ever came close to been molested in such a manner.

She had support through that ugly period that spanned several months, from the one through whom she got the job in the first place. Though higher up in the organogram, he was more than a friend to her, even helping her with soft loans when she was cash strapped, but she was particular not to encourage him to begin to have amorous thoughts towards her, even the one time when he appeared to broach it, she was quick to extirpate from his mind any inkling of the possibility of such becoming a reality between them, he appeared to her, hurt at the time even maintaining some distance, but she did little to bring him back thinking it was better that way than to allow some situation, a distraction in the office occasioned by an amorous relationship between them, for which both of them, or one of them might be hurt, which might lead to either of them losing their job, something she couldn’t even begin to fathom a hereafter from or for, considering that at the time she’d become ATLAS for her siblings, except her elder sister who was now married but wasn’t contributing as much as could help reduce her burden. Her parents must’ve had the foresight in building a house before their unfortunate demise, or else the cost of rent in one of the fastest growing metropolis in the developing world, would’ve seen her consider prostitution, even with her job in a bid to make ends meet. It had been the dream of her late parents that their son become a catholic priest and she was doing all she could to ensure that that dream became a reality, that on the other hand was costing her an arm and a leg.

It was this friend at the office that encouraged her to make friends with people in her area, who were mobile and left very early, at about the same time she leaves for work, and if possible go back home with them. She did resist the idea initially, but eventually had to succumb after, for the umpteenth time, she was again mugged leading to the loss of several personal items, identification and ATM cards, as well as her phones and considerable cash meant for the payment of her younger sisters’ pre-university examination fees, which totally devastated her and knocked her off balance.

She met a married banker in church, who seemed reasonable enough, he looked the good man and after several days of commuting with him, to and from work, they became fast friends, and much later a close confidante for her. One Friday night, she called him to find out if he’d finished for the day, so she can come over for the usual trip back to the other end of the state, before they split to their different destinations, he told her he still had much to do but that she could come, but will have to wait till he was done. She elected to go out with her friend in the office to while away time at a fast food joint, before going to join up with the banker much later. He still wasn’t ready when she eventually got there, and by the time he finished it was already very late into the night, of which he told her that it would be best if they spent the night at a motel, rather than attempt to risk their lives driving all the way to their side of town notorious, not only for the activities of armed bandits but even that of rogue policemen who sometimes are more dangerous than the robbers, or worse still be caught in the crossfire between the two groups. She didn’t need much convincing, so after some light dinner at an upscale restaurant, they lodged at a nearby motel.

She hadn’t discussed any conditions for her having to be in the same room with him, she simply expected him to be mature and not want to take advantage of her, but when he started to touch her that night she didn’t protest, infact a part of her wanted it. She hadn’t had sex in a long time, especially after her last boyfriend had sex with her on the night before his wedding to another (as she got to find out much later), so when he came on top of her she just laid limp and let him have his way. The mixture of pain and pleasure sent spasms through her, enough to want to make her hold him, but she stopped herself, making only movements that made his thrusts into her easy and less discomforting for either of them. There was no kissing, cuddling, or even a looking at each other in the face, though they could both clearly see each other in the dark room, and when he was done he simply blurted out an “I’m Sorry”, turned to his side and slept off. She couldn’t say if she’d just had one of the best sex of her life or she’d just been raped, the lines were blurred to her, as she went to have a warm water bath. Her body still shook with convulsions like she had when she came several times under him, though it felt it must be as a result of the cold ambience by reason of the overactive air conditioner, and the change in temperature under the warm water from the shower. She meant to cry, and she did, only that there were no tears.

She hardly slept that night, and once dawn was beginning to set in and she could hear the sound of vehicular movements outside, she left the motel, without a word to her fellow occupant, headed to the nearest bus stop and took a bus to begin the long journey home. She had some consolation in the fact that she wasn’t going to work, as it was a Saturday. She promised herself never to cast her mind back to the event of that night, and as for the banker, that will be the last he would hear from her, though she knew they’d probably see in church.

She came to, after the team making her up asked her why she hissed loudly. They’d been jolted by her “mtcheeeeeew”, fearing they had done something wrong, without knowing she’d been deep in her own thoughts. She apologised, and assured them that all was well, and they continued to turn her into something her husband-to-be will find difficult to recognize, when he lifts her veil.




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