My Face in Foreign Land

I only wished to satisfy the hunger for adventure that I’ve had for years. All my savings could provide me was a few days trip to Gold Coast. It was not Europe or America as I would have preferred but at least it was beyond the chores of the my country. As usual, I dragged my sister and the story of my very first adventure began.

Caspar guest house provided the peaceful abode we desired. Everything looked beautiful as I had imagined it would. A tour around the guest house would never give us a story to tell about the country. Not that we were hoping for particular events, but some sort of proof to communicate that we breathed the air of that state…something different from our native Land.

That fateful evening, we strolled down the road, busied our mouths as we compared things we saw. I stopped to make gesticulations of a couple I had seen, waddling gaily and feeling nothing but joy. I had no care at that time, none in the world. I couldn’t think more than savor the moment, who would. It was my first time outside my country, so the reason for the sense of satisfaction and happiness. Two cars pulled up just before us. I liked their brands. I took time to stare in admiration. Three guys came out of it. One from the first and two from the last. I was too engrossed in trying to figure out the model of the cars that I didn’t notice them approaching us or maybe I did notice but my brain didn’t process that information then. What would I have done? Would I have pulled my sister into a race away from the strangers whose intentions i didn’t even know or would I have stayed to make friends with the Ghanaian men? If they were anything like Nigerian men, we would appeal to their masculine fantasies and they would make our stay great. My sister tapped me twice. Just then they reached us. I simply composed myself, stretched out my hand to say hello to the first strangers we’d be meeting in our evening walk. The men ignored my offer, lifted me off my feet and into the second car. Everything happened so fast. I was dazed. My sister wasn’t taken. Two of the men sat each beside me. I needed to think. This was no longer a gesture or a pleasant meeting, I was being kidnapped. The car had pulled out before I recovered enough to react.

“Please, what do you want from me”, I said as I jerked my hands off their grip.
“It will be better if you cooperate with us and avoid drama”, the man by my left replied.
“But where in God’s name are you taking me to”? My question was met with silence. I knew then I was in for a big drama. I know I wanted adventure, I never imagined something like this. I quickly surveyed my abductors. I needed to estimate how dangerous they could possibly be. Besides, if I must have a game plan, I must understand the game, my opponents and the rules.

I starred from the driver to the two men beside me…all dark looking men, handsome too. I was impressed. I remembered a common saying amongst us (my siblings and I) when we were much younger, “if I have to be hit by a car, then it must be the kings ride”. I smiled to myself. I wasn’t sure my abductors noticed. The effect was, I became calm. I knew I wasn’t Agbani Darego, the Nigerian miss world, I was certainly a good piece to look at. With a height about 5ft9, I could pride myself as a tall girl. My chocolate skin and oblong face suited perfectly on my slim body. That evening, I was in white shorts, sky blue flowered sleeveless top and a pair of silver coloured sandals. My legs were long and straight…”good African legs”, someone once complemented me. I wanted to flaunt it that evening. I had no bag or purse with me. My sister had so my basics were with her. My hair was neatly packed behind to give me a perfect young look. My dropping earrings complemented the style. I wore very light make-up. My look gave me some confidence. I turned again to stare at the men. They didn’t look harmful. They were all smartly dressed…gorgeously too. It doesn’t change the fact that they just abducted me, a complete stranger. There must be a reason, I thought. Patience would deliver it to me. I didn’t utter a word anymore nor fight them neither did I pray.

After what seemed like a 15 minutes drive, we arrived at a destination. I was dragged out of the car and into a lovely building. Again, I didn’t say a thing. I was forced to sit in a room. Three minutes provided the answer to my unvoiced questions.

“Asantewa you think you can hide from me”, a new guy said as he entered into the room.
“Maybe there’s a mistake somewhere sir, I am not Asantewa”, I replied.
He chuckled, obviously not believing me. He ranted furiously of all the atrocities I, or rather, Asantewa committed against him. He accused me…she of absconding with his 7,000 pounds. I tried fruitlessly to explain that I wasn’t Asantewa. He wouldn’t listen to anything I had to say. He was drinking as he spoke.
Hmm, I began to shiver when he shattered his glass. The fury in his eyes could burn down a building. Did I mention that I was already rid of the lustful thoughts I had earlier. I couldn’t move. I wasn’t tied, at least not yet. The presence of four men in the room was enough to confine every part of me to a stable spot. I couldn’t even protest anymore. He punched the door severally, I was thankful it was the door not me. I gathered every ounce of strength left in me to stand. A grave mistake on my part and the reason for this story…my night mare.

He pounced on me almost immediately, bringing me down on the bed, ripped my clothes and bruised all my internal organs, thrusting forcefully with fury. I don’t know what was more painful. Was it the fact that he sexually brutalised me or the fact that he did so at the amusement of his friends. Was it the way he sobered up after few minutes and wouldn’t even look at me again as he asked his friends to take me away or was it the fact that they took me away in torn clothes almost naked? Did I cry? How could I. Yea, I screamed severally pleading while he cursed as he screwed me but I didn’t cry. I couldn’t cry. Even as I was dragged away, I couldn’t cry. I was lost. I couldn’t feel me. You know that moment when you are not even sure you are alive…transfixed. They dumped me where they picked me, close to the guest house. I couldn’t stand on my feet so I slumped and woke up in the hospital 38hours later. I still couldn’t alter a word. My brain failed me. It couldn’t analyse what happened or initiate the next line of action. Life seemed still except for the drama of events I saw each time my eyes closed. A steady movie.

My sister had reported to the nearest police station. She was also able to memorise the number of the vehicle I was bundled into. The owner was tracked down and my abductors apprehended. Yet I was not avenged. My oppressor was royalty. His family’s franchisement showed their connection with the government. The police apologised to me on his behalf. According to them, he produced evidence of things I did and pictures to back them up. My sister also produced my international passport and school identity card to prove that I was not Asantewa. It was too difficult for the police to swallow. The picture of Asantewa revealed me. Ghana denied me of justice. The first tear since the incident came down my checks during my flight back to Nigeria as the words “Ghana denied me justice because of a royal prince, Prince Charles” formed in my head. Will I fight? I lacked the zeal. Besides, how? If I was the daughter of a prominent Nigerian, maybe Prince Charles would have been brought to book. All I did before leaving was drop a note with the police for him.

“You stepped on me with your might and ignorance,
The dust you raised shall shut your sight and furtherance.
Your peace is gone away and joy will remain far.
Your arms are tied with the stroke of hurt of the innocent.
Wallow in torment within and out as you resolve the mystery of my face you see in a foreign land”.

Home didn’t lighten me. I had gone from cool to drool. I coiled into my shell and the part of me I didn’t know existed came alive. I began to detest being in the midst of people. As much as I could, I stayed alone. I wouldn’t discuss the event or have a normal chat. My mother employed the services of a counsellor. School would resume in two weeks. I was psychologically unbalanced. I wrote the words I left for Prince Charles countless times in my journal. I heard the name Asantewa severally in my head. The psychotherapy didn’t bring me out of my new shell neither did it restore my status as the family chatterbox. At least it reminded me that I still existed on earth though I wasn’t sure about life. It didn’t stop me from writing the words on the note I left with the Police nor erase the name Asantewa from my memory.

Four weeks after school began, I had visitors. I was in the class room alone in my thoughts as was current with my new trend. When I felt up to it, I walked into the Pavilion in my department. Lo, there stood two men talking to some girls. They recognised me as soon as I entered, I did too.
“Yaaaaaaaaaaaaah”, I screamed and fainted.

I woke up at the school’s clinic hours later. My sister and mom were by me. My sister had recognised my visitors and alerted the police. I learnt later that my visitor, Prince Charles and his friend had been searching for me. My note had disturbed the prince so much that he hired a detective to solve the mystery behind the facts he knew and my claims…the seemingly impossible twist to his clear cut truth. Off course, the data gotten from my school proved my visibility and connection to the citadel of learning. There was also the data from the airport, assenting to my claims of arrival at the foreign land. Though Asentewa was yet to be found, her place of birth, family and name was confirmed of Ghana. Prince Charles could hardly live on with his curiosity that came with the findings. So he took the trip to Nigeria, to the school, to my department. It is true the private investigator reported his confirmation of my dwelling place, the prince took his leap to my secondary location. Like most royalties in the world, his apprehension didn’t last more than the minutes of his interrogation. He surfaced at the school clinic seeking audience fruitlessly. Days rolled by, precisely five days before he emptied his soul. I granted him audience or rather summoned up courage to put up with his presence. As anyone would think, he was full of apologies. His bewilderment was evident in his incoherent speech when I gave him a reply.

“The heavens has granted an unceasing story,
A tree has been planted.
Whether or not it grows or dies,
Heaven and earth shall have its fill”.

He got the tale in the riddle I told him, I was pregnant. His expression became bleak. The words that followed didn’t make any sense except that he pleaded that I allow the child live. I gave him no reply. I couldn’t say yes or no at that moment. How could I consent to having a child for my ‘dreaded monster’? Why would I go through stress, pains and sacrifices for him? Yes, the child committed no crime but academic work don’t go easy with a child. I walked away from him.

My story had become a breaking news at the department. Some students thought me pitiful, others thought me lucky. Funny, some even thought I was undeserving to carry the child of such a handsome, rich Ghanaian prince. Stories sprouted. One of the stories that sprang up had it that I smartly seduced the prince and made it look like I was raped. None of them bothered me as much as the fruit inside me. I knew what religion says about my condition, I also believed that God is just.

Prince Charles fell back to my mother. He accepted his crimes and apologised. He knew no explanations would justify his actions. My mother forgave him, I did too. Whether from my heart or not, I did say he was forgiven. The monster turned into an angel because like Oliver Twist, he wanted more. The traditions in most part of Africa are similar after all. A royal child shouldn’t be born out of wedlock. He spent the next two months building a relationship with the cold me. My coldness towards him did not deter his pursuit. He turned me into the envy of all. He did what most ladies admired…became my chauffeur and showered me with presents. No matter what I did or said to him, he kept his cool. My heart turned towards him when I noticed the attention he drew in school. I grew jealous of girls who came close to him with the slightest excuse. Therefore, I began to look at the man who would inevitably, be a father to my child and possibly a husband to me.

Formalities were met and the wedding fixed. Traditions were fulfilled in Nigeria and Ghana as well. The ceremonies drowned his desperation to find Asantewa. However, at the reception, after the blessings in the church, I had a special visitor. Everyone in the hall became quiet as Asantewa entered. I was surprise too. She looked every inch like me. She walked up to me, no one stopped her neither did I.
“You must be Ifeatu, the Nigerian”, Asantewa greeted as she gave me a handshake. She looked forlorn, sick.

“We indeed look alike. I am sorry for everything you went through. I hope this offers the explanations you may require”, she said as she handed me her diary.
“Life is finishing for me. I have paid my dues”, she continued. “I hope you find joy with my face you share. I’ll go heartily because another me is given to Ghana today. If you can, look kindly upon those I shall leave behind. If it can be so, I will protect you from where I will be”…and she left.

I sat down in tears on her sick bed four days later. I had read her diary. I understood why she did the things she did, the money she took and the reason for her disappearance. Her heart was full of love and her life sacrificial. She had donated one of her kidneys to save a life when the remaining one became vegetable. I wanted to save her, I got tested. Though we were the same physically, our internal organs deferred. She died smiling in my arms while I wept.

“Heaven made one, two in different lands.
With different bloods we lived in the same body
Is there another me in yet another land?
My heart will remember as I lived
How I came to be of a different land
Was it the creator’s script?
Or do all have their faces in another land?
May the world learn the story
Of my face in a foreign land”.

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