Agonies of househelp
I didn’t know when I slept off in the course of resting till a very heavy lash of wire landed on my back and sent me to my feet in agony.
I rose to my feet immediately and soon saw where the lash of wire was coming from.
My madam stood infront of me looking very mean and angry.
The time was around 4pm in the evening and I was supposed to have cleared the dustbin by then.
“Who are you waiting for to clear the bin?” My madam asked raising her hand very high to unleash another lash on me.
Just then the doorbell rang and my madam held her hand in check.
“Go and see who’s at the door,” she commanded.
I ran to the door and swung it open.
An old man and woman stood infront of the door.
“Are your people around?” The old man asked.
I kept silent a bit confused of what to answer.
I remembered that there were times when my madam didn’t like seeing visitors and often instructed me to tell whom-ever it was that she wasn’t around.
I was battling with my confusion when madam entered.
“Ah daddy,” my madam gasped as soon as she saw them. “Daddy good afternoon, mummy good afternoon,” she greeted immediately.
“Ah my daughter,” the old man replied. “Good afternoon nwam.” He added.
“Please come inside,” my madam invited.
I gave way immediately and the old man and woman entered the house.
“What of your husband?” The woman asked.
“He’s gone to work,” my madam replied.
“And the children?” The woman continued.
“They’re sleeping inside,” my madam replied. “Adaeze!” She called.
“Yes aunty,” I replied and ran to answer her.
“Go and buy drinks,” she instructed handing some money to me.
I ran to a nearby shop and bought the drinks without wasting time.
Then I served it before the guest and went back into the kitchen.
I then carried the dustbin inside a polythene bag and went to dispose it.
I went over to my friend’s compound to call her.
Chidimma was a househelp in the neighbouring compound and we always went together to dispose our refuse.
We gisted on the way as we went.
Chidimma narrated to me of how ruthless her madam was. Of how her madam uses the sole of her high-heel shoe to hit her on the head when she makes a mistake.
She even revealed to me of how her madam’s husband sneaks into her room at night to have carnal knowledge of her without her madam knowing.
All these weighed down on her and she wanted to let it off by confiding in me.
I consoled and encouraged her not to lose hope that things would one day change for the better.
She thanked me profusely for my words of encouragement without knowing that my own madam at home was as ruthless as hers if not more; only that her husband doesn’t sneak into my room.
Nonetheless I acknowledged her gratitude and encouraged her not to lose hope.
Then we disposed our refuse and headed home…
Agonies of househelp
My madam’s parents had gone by the time I came back to the house.
My madam was seated in the sitting room with her baby and children when I entered.
Something about her composure told me that she wasn’t happy but I pretended like I didn’t notice.
I dashed across the sitting room to go into my room but she called me back.
“Why are you coming back now?” She asked frowning.
I kept silent not knowing what to reply.
“Are you not the one I’m talking to?” She asked still looking intently at me.
I remained silent not knowing what to reply.
My mouth opened and closed but no sound came forth.
“Don’t worry,” my madam continued. “By the time you go hungry this night, you will talk,” she concluded.
I stood there ogling at her.
“Will you get out of my sight!” She barked.
I ran into my room instantly without wasting time.
That night, my madam refused to give me food and I went to bed on empty stomach.
Sleep refused to come.
Hard as I tried, I couldn’t sleep.
Hunger pangs kept gnawing at the walls of my stomach and I wondered if I would survive till morning.
I woke up the next morning and went to do my morning work irrespective of the hunger.
I was still doing the work when my madam woke up.
“Are you now ready to tell me what kept you so long yesterday when you went to dispose refuse?” She asked staring at me.
I sprang up from the toilet-floor I was mopping.
“You’ve started having boyfriends outside haven’t you?” She asked.
“No ma,” I replied.
“You will not eat anything in this house again till you tell me what kept you outside,” she continued.
“I was waiting for Chidimma,” I replied.
“How many times have I warned you about that Chidimma of a girl?” She asked.
“I’m sorry ma, I won’t do it again,” I pleaded.
“Sorry for your stupid self!” She snapped…
Agonies of househelp
Madam didn’t give me breakfast that morning and by noon I was disoriented.
My tummy was on fire and the hunger pangs in my stomach had increased ten folds.
Madam handed her little baby to me around eleven o’clock that morning.
I carried the little baby from that time till around four in the evening on empty stomach.
Even the pap I was to give to the baby, I drank half out of hunger.
I needed to quell the pangs in my stomach and any edible could do.
Madam woke up around 4.30pm in the evening and collected her baby from me.
She didn’t even mention anything about giving me food and this piqued me.
I didn’t know what to do.
I just sat in the kitchen deep in thought. I had no money on me so I couldn’t think of buying food. So I just sat there hoping that a miracle would happen.
Around five minutes past five, madam called me and gave me N200 to go to a nearby supermarket and buy bathing soap for her.
I took the money and left immediately.
There was a woman selling freshly prepared Okpa along the road and the sweet aroma of the woman’s Okpa suggested new ideas into my hungry mind.
Before I knew what was happening I bought two wraps @ N50 each and sat at one corner of the road to devour it.
The Okpa was very hot yet I ate it quickly and hungrily.
When I finished, I bought sachet water and augmented the Okpa and my stomach returned instantly to normal.
Then I started thinking of a believable narrative to tell my madam…
Agonies of househelp
I concluded to tell her that I got to the supermarket and couldn’t find the money again which after looking for it everywhere I couldn’t find it.
I knew the story may not go down well with her but I had no other option.
There was no way I could tell her that I used her money to buy Okpa out of hunger so I had to tell her somethingelse and face whatever consequence that would emanate.
Madam was sitting in the sitting room with her baby when I got home.
“Where is the soap?” She asked immediately.
“Let me tell you what happened ma,” I stammered nervously. “I lost the money on the way ma so when I got to the supermarket I couldn’t find it again ma.”
“You lost which money?” My madam queried.
“The soap money ma,” I replied.
“You must be very stupid,” she barked. “Come closer and open your mouth!”
I guess my madam had suspected rightly that I used the money to buy something to eat so she wanted to confirm or disprove her suspicion.
With trembling legs I drew closer and opened my mouth.
Madam lay her baby gently on the cushion and smelt my mouth.
“Ohoo,” she exclaimed. “So you used my money to buy Okpa?” She asked. “And you had the audacity to lie to me that you lost the money?”
Madam descended on me with all the fury her muscles could muster.
When her hands started aching her, she reached for her wire and continued.
I cried out in pain and agony but madam continued undaunted.
A white woman living in the opposite compound was driving by and overheard my voice and stopped to check out what was happening.
She was a lawyer and worked under one Human Rights Commission.
Without knocking she swung our door open and saw my madam red-handed flogging me with a piece of wire…
Agonies of househelp
“Jesus!” The woman screamed and my madam froze with shock.
My madam wasn’t facing the door so she hadn’t seen the woman enter and therefore didn’t know that the woman had seen her flogging me with a long piece of wire so she was shocked by the sudden and unfamiliar voice.
“I’m gonna report this to the Human Rights Commission!” The woman barked with foreign accent and stormed out of the house.
My madam stood rooted to the spot for some minutes visibly shaken.
She didn’t know whether to go after the white woman that just stormed out of the house or to continue flogging me from where she stopped.
She stood still totally confused.
I stood still too not wanting to infuriate her with any sudden or unplanned movement.
She turned abruptly and walked into her room.
Around 3pm in the afternoon, the white woman returned with some police officers to arrest my madam.
My madam called me and asked me to look after the house that she was going to be back in a jiffy.
The woman examined my hands and legs and noted the scars all over.
Then she left with my madam and the police…
My madam came back later in the night with her husband.
I guess her husband must have bailed her that evening from police custody.
That night, I overheard her husband talking to her about the way she treated me.
He advised her to take things easy with me and stop attracting public eyes into his family.
My madam kept silent and uttered no word.
She reduced her aggression towards me and took things easy with me.
But then her change of attitude was not to last very long and the next day soon marked her return to aggression and brutality…