This would be the fourth time I was looking out from my window into the night. The room was dark save for the rays of moonlight that filtered in, illuminating it. It was a quiet night with the chirping of crickets the only sound heard. Swallowing hard, I summoned the courage to finally do this. To escape. Ever since I woke up to this strange town, everything about my life changed. I have waited patiently for this night, the men had partied so hard with drinks that they forgot to stand guard for the night. By the time anyone woke up, I will be very far from here.

Slowly, I lifted up the window, the hinge squeaked loudly. I panicked and let go immediately causing an even louder noise. I crept back to bed immediately. What a failure I was yet again, this wasn even supposed to be hard. Suddenly, flashlight started advancing towards the room I slept in. I shut my eyes tight but my heart kept beating so fast, I would be caught tonight. Oh no. Hugging myself tight with my knees curled up to my stomach and my arms wrapped around my shoulders, I stilled myself. The heavy footsteps I won forget for they have traumatized me from the very first day I saw myself here, stepped into the room. I felt the beam from the flashlight survey the room quickly. Perhaps he was checking who sneaked in or out. Then he stopped as the flashlight stopped on my face. ”Did my fluttering eyes give me away ”, I thought. He advanced towards me and my heart, beat even faster. Then I heard his old rusty voice.

”What were you doing by the window? ”

I stilled, unable to answer nor open my eyes. His voice grew even colder.

”What? ”

As I was about to open my eyes and respond, I heard that tiny sweet voice I couldn miss for she had consoled me and helped me adjust into the new life I found myself in. She was responding, not me. ”How come ” I wondered.

”I was only cold Sir, just like everyone else. The window was open so I had them shut close ”

Not quite believing her story, I felt the beam from the flashlight scan the room yet again.

”You were cold? ”

I felt the flashlight settle on me, this time I knew for sure it was me for she said I looked cold too. Hearing her say that, I raised my knees even higher to my chest and tightened my grasp on my shoulder. After some time, he humphed, stamped his feet and left the room. Only after he had left the room and I couldn feel any bright light did I heave a deep sigh of relief. I opened my eyes to see her staring down at me.

”Oge! For how long are we going to keep having this conversation? ”

”Thank you for saving me Ola but you really didn have to do that. He could have punished you ”

She sighed and came to sit close to me, she looked at me for sometime and smiled.

”Why are you smiling? ” I asked half smiling myself.

Somehow I knew I have always wished for a sister but being here with Ola made me feel like the Universe answers prayers, but in a weird way. After all, we were both prisoners of fate. She was my soul sister and we shared a certain bond that was beyond friendship. We appreciated each other for the hope we shared.

”I remembered the first time you walked into this prison of a hostel, you were scared out of your mind. You could barely talk or even make eye contact. Now look at you having the courage to actually attempt escaping. None of the girls here have ever tried that, not even me ”

My chest tightened, I remembered waking up in a boat in the middle of nowhere with no idea of how I got there. The last thing I remembered was having a heated argument with a man who I couldn make out his face anymore. I woke up to a forgotten identity.

”Whats wrong? ”, her face grew with concern.

My brows furrowed in sadness and tears started to well up in my eyes. She pulled in closer, gently pushing my hair behind my ears, she wiped the tears that flowed. She looked into my eyes and I felt a sense of belonging once again, for in this eyes I knew she shared in my sadness.

”I will help you ”, she said

”You will? ” I asked half laughing with tears still in my eyes.

”Its about time anyway. I mean just two months ago, one of the girls went missing. I heard from a group of girls how they saw an old man come here yesterday and had a meeting with the manager. Few moments later a girl was dragged into his car. The two men shook hands. ”

”What?! ”

”Oge, I think these people are trafficking us ”

My heart beat even faster. It was enough that they meted such cruelty towards us but selling us off illegally without our consent was the height of it. I wondered for what purposes some of us were being sold off for. The thought scared me even more. I pulled her hands and held them with mine.

”We need to escape from here and soon. ”

”We need a good plan ”

We spent the rest of the night deliberating on a perfect plan to escape. I felt bad we didn involve some other girls but Ola said few was safe. She believed we needed to escape successfully first, then go to the police for help. I reluctantly agreed but had little faith that the police were going to help. The system is corrupt.

* * *

Few days later, we agreed on a plan. News spread about the senator who was visiting. The manager took the whole affair seriously and so personal. He believed that the coming of the senator would bring so much fortune to his business and hostel. He made sure everything was perfect. Ola who heard the news first for she worked in the kitchen while I worked with labour and sanitation, told me all about it and thought it a good time for us to escape.

Our hostel wasn like the normal ones, we weren girls who came to study nor to learn. We were simply victims of circumstances who got sold off for money and had to work ourselves out to gain our freedom, some never got their freedom, if not all. I was told the old lady matron who guides us was brought in here when she was a younger woman. Her husband saw her as a curse for she couldn conceive. Nobody really got free from here. Now we were being sold off again to slave away or do whatever the new owner bids. The thought of that unsettled me.

I paced around the room for sometime thinking of what to do when we finally escaped. Ola mentioned I was good with her hair so I thought maybe I could become a hairstylist until I could save enough money to record a song. I loved music. I sat down on the bed smiling. Something in me told me the plan was going to work. I waited for my friend to come back so I could tell her all about my plans. She already told me of her desire in fashion and how she had always loved fashion but don really get to work on it as she was sold off by her step mother after her father passed on. I always finished work earlier than Ola. So this particular night, I wished it was not so. I was so excited as I sat on the bed waiting.

After waiting for almost an hour, the smile on my face soon faded away, She was always back by this time.

Where was Ola? I wondered,

I stood up and thought of going to the kitchen to go find her but that was forbidden else I might be punished. I decided not to panic and to wait another thirty minutes and if she wasn back I was going to find her no matter what happened.

My hands grew sweaty, my chest throbbed from anxiety. I feared the unknown. Ola was supposed to be back over an hour ago but she wasn . ”What if something had happened to her? ” I thought. I stood up, my legs barely carrying me and prowled the hostel in search of her. The kitchen was dark, they all seem to have retired for the night. Then the big question hit me.

”Where is Ola? ”

I started running around searching for her and crying. I refused to think that she had been sold off. Then I heard a loud scream, I looked out from the window and saw my dear friend Ola being whisked away to a waiting vehicle. My heart shattered into a million pieces. She wasn moving.

”Is Ola dead ” I thought in fear. I started screaming.

”Ola! ”

The men who had carried her limp body away looked up and at that moment I didn care anymore. I screamed even louder.

”Ola! ” ”Ola! ” ”Ola! ”

My bosom choked with tears as I called out. The car sped away as I watched through blurred vision. Some men came to drag me to my room and I couldn protest, my legs felt weak, my voice strained and from the background I could hear the manager shouting that I should be locked and punished for disturbing the peace of the hostel. At that point, I didn care. All I cared about was my dear friend, my dear sister, Ola.

Realization hit me after spending two days in the hostel cell. They don care for any of us and this could happen to me too. I dried my tears and decided to escape like we had planned. I told the manager I was ready to serve my punishment and he agreed to set me free on the condition that I serve my punishment right. I was assigned to four different chores, woke up first and went to bed last. That became my routine for the next three days. The senator arrived the next day.

The air was thick with celebration. Everyone but me grinned from ears to ears as he was being welcomed. I kept scouting the environment looking for loopholes in the security. This proved to be really difficult. Ola wouldve known what to do, I thought. When the hostels two security men seemed to be distracted, the senators security men got even more serious. They complimented each other. The day progressed but somehow at the back of my mind, I felt hope. So I waited. They got distracted again and almost same time, the others were called by the senator. I slipped out immediately making way to the gate. I felt blood rushing through my every vein in excitement and in fear. I was finally leaving. But what if I get caught?

Suddenly I heard voices making me to stop right in my tracks and hide behind an suv jeep. I was almost at the gate, I pondered if I should make a run for it regardless if they saw me or not. I decided to make a run for it but my decision came late as two men stepped out carrying wrapped gifts. They were headed straight my way, so I decided against making a run to the gate but to hide properly. I watched them put the gifts in the car in front. Then I heard one say ”I think we should load the less important gifts in this trunk and the important ones in the senators trunk ”

One walked to the suv jeep and came to the back where I had hidden. I already moved to the side so he doesn see me. He opened the trunk wide and the other asked him to help him carry a big bag which they wanted to load to the senators suv.

Was this a divine intervention?

My first instinct was to hide inside the trunk and I acted on it immediately without thinking. I was very fast with it as I used whatever I found in the trunk to make myself inconspicuous. My heart beat so fast when the two men approached the car. They barely noticed I was there as they loaded the car with whatever they carried and closed the trunk. I sighed in relief and it felt kind of comfortable. I mean, the car had a spacious trunk, and for some time I was happy thinking of how I would listen to know when we reached a police checkpoint to start screaming but I got worried. ”What if the police wouldn care or couldn hear me? ”

Few moments later, I heard loud voices enriched with joyous laughter approaching the vehicle. I could make out the voices especially the old rusty voice and the staffs of the hostel, then an old but soft and gentle voice which I guessed was the senator. I heard the voice thank the men for their hospitality. They chanted his name and I heard excited screams scatter around which I realized must have been that he sprayed wads of cash to them.

Afterwards, I felt the engine start and the car started to move. At first the gliding was smooth then later it was if the car was vibrating as it started on throwing me around from side to side every time the car swerved on the road. After all, who would need seat belts inside a trunk, right? The whole thing felt like someone put me inside a washing machine, set up ”heavy-duty ” and turned it on and later on put the machine inside a rollercoaster car and sent it away.

This continued until the car slowed down and I heard some chatter. It sounded like a police checkpoint. I tried screaming but it sounded muffled instead, I tried banging but the loads restricted them. I focused on the muffled screams instead but the car started moving again. At that point, I knew nobody but myself was going to save me.

Where were they driving to ?

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