In a dimly lit hotel room, Leo closed his eyes and inhaled. He winced slightly but his face soon relaxed and his features smoothened out again. He loved the high that came with the experience. Carefully, he brushed his fingers across his nose and bits of the white substance fell unto the table surface. He raised his head when the door opened, sending in a few rays of light. His eyes blinked rapidly as he adjusted to the brightness.
“What’s this?” He asked, fingering the object his confraternity brother tossed at him.
“That amulet belongs to a rival confraternity.” Victor said.
Leo frowned as he ran his callused fingers across the surface of the amulet. It was shaped like a shield with a carved out symbol of an eye in the center. So, he thought, in the short while I’ve been away, a bunch of hooligans dare to make themselves rivals? His lips formed a cruel smirk as he thought of all the ways to end their pathetic lives or at least make them suffer for their foolishness.
“What are they called?”
“I don’t know, but what I do know is that they’re claiming their territory.”
“My territory.” He snapped.
Never had Orion lost its territory to another and it won’t happen now. Ever since he had taken over from the former Capon who had disappeared in a clash between a rival confraternity a couple of months ago, he had ensured that his reign put fear into the heart of others which is why he ordered the raid the previous night.
“So what do we do now?” Victor shrugged his beefy shoulders.
“I say it’s about time we headed back to campus officially. Inform the guys, tell them to get ready.” He dismissed him.
Slim, feminine hands suddenly ran down Leo’s chest, their owner was kneeling behind him on the bed. He slapped her hands away in irritation. He had forgotten about her presence and wasn’t in the mood for any disturbance.
“Get out!” He snapped.
“B-but I-” The confused girl stammered at his sudden anger.
“I said get out.” His voice was frighteningly calm this time.
The girl stood up and picked up her belongings before dashing out of the room. She didn’t wait for another warning. A few steps down the hallway she nearly bumped into Victor who was heading into his own room. He stopped short at the sight of her and willed his face not to show any expression.
“Did he throw you out again Seyi?”
Seyi looked down to hide her embarrassment. She wasn’t fully clad yet and didn’t have any time to do that before she ran out to escape Leo’s wrath. She still had the bruises to show for the last time she disobeyed him. She pulled up the left strap of her bra and was grateful that she at least had her jeans on. Her shoes dangled from one hand and her blouse and purse were in another. She made an attempt to cover herself up.
“Come, you can get dressed in my room.” Victor didn’t wait for her reply. He unlocked the door and went in, leaving it open behind him.
Seyi thought about it for a few moments and went in after him, closing the door behind her. She immediately turned around so that her back was to him and tried to pull the shirt over her head. It was a very awkward position and she got her head caught in the armhole instead.
“You can use the bathroom.” His amused voice came from where he was reclining on the bed.
She quickly darted into the bathroom and got dressed properly. She came out quietly and thanked him.
For the first time, he let his sadness show. He got up from the bed and walked towards her, stopping just in front of her. His eyes ran over her bruised face which she tried desperately to cover with makeup. She was a beautiful girl with skin that once glowed healthily and eyes that always seemed to hold a secret smile. She used to laugh easily and had a carefree attitude. But now she was almost always silent, her skin had nearly lost its glow and her eyes seemed dim.
“You chose this yourself Seyi but I warned you. I begged you a year ago before you got yourself into this mess. I was ready to give you all my love, care and attention. Anything you asked, if it was within my power I’d have gotten it for you.”
Seyi blinked rapidly but she couldn’t stop her tears.
“I’m sorry Victor.”
He turned away in annoyance.
“Sorry doesn’t change a thing Seyi. It doesn’t change the way you broke my heart into several little pieces and as if that wasn’t enough, you squashed them beneath your feet too.”
Seyi gasped for breath, trying to stop her tears from becoming sobs. She knew what she’d done to him. She knew how much she had hurt him. Victor had always done everything he could to please her and the day he asked her to be committed to him and become his girlfriend she had shut him down and avoided him. She’d always thought Leo was more of her type. He was charming, unbelievably handsome and had class. If only she’d seen beyond his façade and cherished the one person who had been by her side all along.
Now it was too late because if she should even consider being with Victor, Leo would skin her alive. He really could do it. She now knew that he was nothing more than a beast; the worst kind.
Back on Campus
Adaeze and I returned to our hostel after ensuring that the injured girl received medical attention. The doctor had asked us to return, promising to give us a call when she woke up. Ada didn’t understand why I was so concerned about the girl’s health and safety but it was because her situation was very familiar to mine. Although it was two years ago, the memory was still fresh.
It happened in secondary school when I was in SS1. I often attended the extra lessons for candidates preparing to take the JAMB exams. It wasn’t my turn to take the exams, not for another two years but my parents always encouraged me to prepare early and bought the past questions booklets to aid my preparation. A friend of mine, Olamide, in SS3 was also preparing for the exams so I usually tagged along with her. Many of my other friends thought I was being too enthusiastic about my studies.
Within our group of about thirty students, many of us were from the same school while a few others came from nearby secondary schools or they were private candidates. One evening, my transport fare was stolen and my friend didn’t come that day, I followed a small group of five students to trek home. That was the first time I spoke to him. I didn’t even know his name. All I knew about him was that he was a senior at school, almost always showed up late to JAMB lessons and sat at the very last seat at the back.
We were down to three who were headed in the same direction and conversation was flowing. I realised he was actually funny and easy to talk to. When it was only both of us left, we continued in a light air of companionship.
“What’s your name? I can’t believe I haven’t asked all this while.” He smiled at me.
“My name is Precious, what’s yours?” I asked, turning to smile at him.
“Leonard, but I’d like you to call me Leo.”
“Leo it is.” I grinned.
I was brought back to reality when Ada held my shoulders and gave me a rough shake.
“What?” I asked as I shook my head slightly to focus.
“You spaced out. That’s what happened.”
“Sorry.” I sat up and focused on what she was saying.
“I said the doctor called, she’s awake.”
The girl sat on the hospital bed looking healthier than the last time we saw her. An empty plate was on the table beside her along with a half-filled cup of water.
“Hey, how’re you feeling?” I asked as I took a few steps into the room with Ada close behind me.
“I’m much better. The doctor told me what you two did for me, thank you very much.” She smiled.
I noticed there was a slight cut on her lip which made her wince after smiling.
She was a pretty girl with almond shaped eyes and a round face. She was dressed in jeans and a lacy top.
“My name is Sade.” She offered.
“I’m Precious.” I replied.
“Adaeze.” Ada nodded.
“Can you tell us what happened?” I asked gently.
She looked away and fiddled with the hem of her top. Her mouth twisted slightly and her brows crumpled together.
“I was attacked.” Was what she simply said.
“What kind of attack?” Ada asked.
“There was a raid that night.”
“I know we were in it too.” I said. She still wasn’t telling us everything.
“Some… stupid guys …” She trailed off and her eyes watered.
The doctor walked in at that moment requesting a brief check-up. By the time he was done, Sade was silent.
“You were saying something before?” Ada prompted.
“It was mistake, it was nothing.” Sade said in a low voice.
Ada glanced at me, both of us thinking the same thing. She doesn’t want to talk anymore. And we couldn’t just force it out of her. I sighed and shrugged at Ada.
“You’re sure you don’t want to tell us anything? It’s the least you could do after we helped you.” Ada said as she folded her arms across her chest.
Sade didn’t respond.
I gestured towards the door and Ada rolled her eyes.
“Well, we’re leaving now but here’s my number.” I said as I wrote it down on a piece of paper and handed it to her.
I wasn’t too sure she would call but at least she could reach me if she wanted to.
Later in the evening, Anna and Nafisa returned to the room.
“Where’ve you guys been?” Ada asked immediately they stepped in.
“Aren’t you aware that there was a gang raid on campus yesterday? I heard they even broke into the hostels.” Anna asked.
“Of course, who doesn’t know?” Ada rolled her eyes. “That doesn’t explain why you two disappeared.”
“We stayed over in one of the staff quarters.” Anna replied casually.
I frowned as Ada and I exchanged a glance.
“How did you guys get into the staff quarters?” Ada asked exactly what I had been thinking.
“Mr Essien helped us out.” Nafisa shrugged.
“What the hell are you two doing near that man?” I asked.
All three girls turned to look at me in surprise. I rarely spoke, let alone cussed.
“Well, since you’re so concerned about us and our whereabouts, he offered his place when he found us running. Apparently, he was assigned to monitor the Fresher’s party; like we need any monitoring,” Anna rolled her eyes. “And when all hell broke loose he helped get us to safety.”
“What did you guys think?” Nafisa threw up her arms. “That we stayed the night for another reason?”
“Well what were we supposed to think with that man’s reputation?” Ada asked.
“Whatever.” Nafisa waved a hand in the air as if she brushed away Ada’s words. “I heard it was Orion that was on campus last night.”
My blood went cold. It was Orion? The same gang that we were warned about just yesterday morning.
“That’s bad, really bad.” Ada said quietly. She looked deep in thought.
“I heard that their leader is ruthless.” Anna chipped in. “He also has a really strong liking for the ladies if you know what I mean.”
“Where do you guys hear all these things from?” I asked. It was like I never seemed to know what was going on.
“You need to have the right sources of information.” Nafisa shrugged.
“And you can’t have that when you rarely talk to anyone.” Anna added.
“Why do I need to do that when I have you guys?”
Nafisa laughed and shook her head.
“Trust me when I say information is necessary for your survival.”
“And that brings us to your first task.” Anna cleared her throat. “You have to make a new friend. Don’t give me that look.” She held up her hand when I opened my mouth to protest. “We’ve noticed the way you walk by yourself all the time and how you’re always cooped up on your bed when you don’t have lectures or fellowship. Come on, just give it a try.”
I sighed and studied the faces of my three roommates. They had no idea why I was like this. I couldn’t help it and a year of therapy hadn’t gotten rid of my fears either.
“You never know who you could meet.” Nafisa winked.
I raised an eyebrow at her in annoyance but she just laughed it off.
“We expect to hear feedback.” Nafisa said as she walked towards her wardrobe to pick out fresh clothes. They were both in the same outfits they wore the previous night.
Later that night, I was restless. Their observations about me were absolutely correct. I avoided interaction and kept to myself. Sylvia, my therapist had encouraged me to start over in a new environment. But I had no idea it wasn’t going to be as safe as I hoped. I remembered Sade and how I found her lying on the floor looking bruised and battered. When she mentioned something about guys, I just knew it was as I had suspected.
It scared me to know that if I wasn’t careful either, history could repeat itself. As I closed my eyes, my mind was filled with images from the past.
Two years ago….
When Leo and I walked a distance, I realised I was drawing nearer to my street. We’d spent the entire walk, talking and getting to know a bit more about each other. I couldn’t believe that such a guy attended the same school with me yet I’d never spoken to him before. Our school was populated with a lot of students though so I guess it was normal.
“I bet you’re a smart cookie. Straight A’s student.” He teased.
I was slightly embarrassed because it was actually true. There was no way to deny it so I just played it down a bit.
“Trust me when I say school isn’t easy at times.” I turned to look at him and nearly tripped on a rock as we passed by a vulcanizer’s shop.
“Watch your step.” He said, grabbing my arm in a swift motion.
His grip was very strong and when he let go, I found myself rubbing my arm which hurt.
“Did I hurt you?” He asked, coming closer to look at my arm.
“It’s fine, nothing serious.” I brushed it off.
But later when I got home, I found that that part of my arm was slightly red and throbbed in pain. I lay a cold, damp cloth on it to relieve the pain and fell asleep with it. When I woke up the next morning, it had begun to bruise.
I was slipping in and out of consciousness, fighting a battle with sleep. I was tired physically but my mind was still active. The sound of Ada’s voice cleared sleep from my eyes.
“Are you sure about this?” She murmured and I realised she was on the phone.
“Zach, this is dangerous.”
“I know but I’m scared for you.”
“Okay, just be careful. This guy is crazy.”
“I will. Good night.”
I heard her sigh and roll over on her bed. After a few minutes, I fell asleep too.
To be continued