The next day, Poju walked into her office and plopped her bag on the chair, her attention on the file placed prominently on her table. It had been a long night. Her eyes were puffy from lack of sleep. “Thank God for makeup.” She whispered to herself. “Otherwise….” Settling Ify in the shelter and reassuring her of her freedom was not an easy task. She was cagey and afraid. It took a lot to calm her and reassure her but finally she calmed down. Poju didn’t regret one bit despite the weariness she felt. Saving one out of the many out there was worth it.
Picking up the topmost folder, she settled back into her chair. She had a lot of catching up to do if she wanted to leave early. Perusing the file, a light knock on her door caused her to look up. Standing in the doorway was Ovie, the chairman’s son. Poju swallowed the sudden lump in her throat and squeaked a come in. Rearranging folders on the table to give her trembling hands something to do, she uttered the first thing that came to mind.
“What do you want Sir?”
He smiled and strode into the room radiating confidence and presence.
“Is that the way to greet good morning?” He said sitting down on the opposite chair, placing his hands on her table.
She looked at his bulging biceps and gulped. “I am sorry Sir. I am just surprised. After all you hardly come to this part of the complex so early in the day”.
He smiled, his white sparkling teeth gleaming. “So true but a little bird told me about a young girl called Ify and the situation involving child abuse advocates.”
She gasped. “Who told you?”
“Seriously…… I was with Mr. Abe last night and he gave me the high points.” He leaned forward, the laughter gone from his voice.
“I want to help. I want justice and medical attention for Ify. What she has gone through is very traumatic physically, emotionally and mentally. She needs professional help.”
Poju looked at him, her jaw dropping.
“Close your mouth. Don’t let flies in although you still look beautiful ” He winked. Then his tone became serious once again. My best friend’s cousin went through something similar. I was helpless then to be of help but now…….” His eyes became flinty.
“I have the means, financially and otherwise. I am an advocate for justice for any form of child abuse.”
She saw the passion in his eyes. The truth. “He really is serious” she thought. Was the answer to Ify’s pathetic cry in front of her? Will Ify have the help she needed? She squelched the thought of that little girl that cried for help a long time ago and prayed for a helper. She looked at him. He smiled gently at her.
He nodded at her and clasped her hands on the table. She looked down at the twined fingers. Dare she hope?? Working together?
He smiled and she smiled back. It was going to be fine.
Ify sat on the cushioned chair her hands tightly clasped together. It was clear that the little ten year old was frozen with fear. Her experience with adults had not been a pleasant one and she felt no one….well except for Miss Poju who had listened would believe her story. After all it was unbelievable anyone could treat his own blood that way.
The motherly looking matron, a human right activist smiled gently at Ify. She understood what was going on in her mind. “My dear don’t be afraid. No one will hurt you. Just tell us what happened. We all care about you just as Miss Poju and Mr. Ovie here. I can assure you, you are safe. Your uncle won’t be able to hurt you anymore.”
At this, Ify started crying and slowly but hesitantly she relayed in details all that had happened to her from the time her aunty had brought her from the village to the city two years ago. She had been staying with her poor father, her mother having died when she was four years old. She told them how excited she was when her father informed her that she would be going to be staying with her aunty in the city. She had been so excited. Her aunty had promised her father that she would continue her education- something they had been believing God for. She had been shocked when coming to the city, she was sent to hawk. All her enquiry about school was rebuffed and many times with a curse and a thrown shoe. She had learnt to keep quiet and accept her fate. Her cousins went to school but she was sent to hawk kokoro- a corn delicacy instead. Her voice broke when she told of the first day the assault started; she just had her bath after having a muddy fall as she was running after a customer in the traffic. Her uncle after molesting her when she was alone in the house apologized but then it became a regular trend in the middle of the night accompanied with beating during the day. She told of how her aunty tried initially to enquire about the scars on her body and how her uncle had shouted at her and lied to her aunty that she was clumsy and always tripping over things. By this time there was hardly any dry eye in the room.
Poju was weeping profusely, her heart breaking while Ovie held her hand, his eyes suspiciously wet. The legal representative and the human activist were wiping tears with their handkerchiefs.
Poju wrapped her arms around Ify as her voice dropped to a whisper, her shoulders shaking as she sobbed. Mrs. Peters and Mr. Ojo stood and moved to a corner with Ovie conferring in hush tones as Poju comforted the little girl.
“This man has to be made to face the wrath of the law.”
“Agreed!” Ovie replied through clenched lips. Mrs. Peters acquiesced. “Ify also has to undergo a medical evaluation as well as rehabilitation. She has been seriously traumatized”.
Ovie glanced towards the opposite side of the room where Poju rocked Ify on the couch. His eyes softened as he took in the scene. His heart throbbed a strange rhythm as he watched Poju comforting Ify. He looked back at Mrs. Peters and Mr. Ojo and his eyes became cold as his resolve hardened.
“Whatever it takes, I will bear the cost. I want this man to face the full wrath of the law. I will foot any bill including her medical evaluation and rehabilitation.”
“Are you sure?”
He strode back to Poju and Ify whose cries had reduced to occasional whimpers. He stooped before them and held Ify’s hands looking into her eyes.
“Ify, you are safe. Miss Poju here and all these other people will ensure your uncle pays for what he has done to you. Miss Poju and I will be by your side all the way. “
“Yes Sir”. She replied
He embraced her and Poju in a bear hug.
“All will be well. I assure you that.” He looked at Poju as he said that. She smiled and ducked her head, her face warm, a a little surprised at the warmth she saw in his eyes, her heart beating faster.