It was a typical frigid harmattan morning in Abuja. The day was still waiting to break so it was dark when the cab driver pulled up in front of a plaza in Wuse II, which was to be the takeoff point of my friends and I. Our friend was getting married in Delta State, you see, so a number of us were to travel together with a hired minibus.
It seemed I was the first one to arrive but before I realised this, I had seen two women standing a few yards away from the gate of the plaza, just before the car stopped.
“Those may be my friends,” I remember saying to the driver.
“Ah, Aunty…” he replied with obvious cautiousness, “you sure? Those babes, na ashana them be o…”
Ehn? Ashana ke…
I looked at them again, noticing they didn’t have the typical ‘look’ prostitutes are depicted to have.
“Sister,” he said hesitantly, “you sure say this place good so? Call your friend, make we know where she dey.”
I took my phone out of my handbag and proceeded to do so. I don’t remember if she picked up or not or if her number was unreachable. I just know I was still stuck in a dire situation after all said and done.
“Make I carry my bag from boot,” I told him, my heart slowly beginning to fill with apprehension.
We both got out of the car after he popped the lever to open the boot. He took out my suitcase and handed it to me.
“You no want make I wait?” he asked again. “Make day break small…”
I thought hard about it. It was dark and lonely and if he left, apart from those women, it would be just me. Also, it seemed the gate of the plaza was locked, so the option of me waiting inside was ruled out. I desperately wanted him to wait with me but I knew that would require me paying for his extra time. I had no spare cash on me, save for my cab fare. My plan had been to use the ATM as soon as I could find one. Preferably in daylight.
So I turned down his offer to wait with me.
“OK,” he said finally as I gave him his money. “Happy Christmas.”
He drove away while I rolled my suitcase, deciding to wait at the gate of the plaza, whose security lights were thankfully switched on.
So there I was, a thousand and one things running through my head, my pashmina wrapped tightly around me—whether it was to ward off the cold or my fears is open for debate. I hadn’t been waiting for too long when a black sleek sedan pulled up in front of the two women who had been there earlier. I watched them walk to the car, one leaning through the front passenger window. There was a brief exchange before the girls walked away from the car, back to their previous position. The car drove away from them…and pulled up right in front of me.