Jules had never liked the dark. It always reminded him of all those years when his late father locked him up in his wardrobe as his punishment for doing something wrong. Seeing a wardrobe or being in the dark always reminded him of that period in his life.
Being in the dark. He’d once been in the dark, currently in the dark after being in the dark for so long. He sat up on the bed and rubbed his face with his palms. He was so tired. Tired of all the subterfuge, the nonsense of living in her house.
He sighed deeply and stood up. He’d known what he was going into when he agreed to be her boy toy. For 14 months he’d been struggling to find a job. Not that there weren’t any offers but they were mostly either low paying or beneath his status. He’d nearly agreed to become a messenger and receive the lowest pay ever in his life when his childhood friend, Ohene, from way back when he used to live at Nima told him of a Hajia who needed a driver who would be discreet.
The arrangement had been that she would pay him handsomely only if he kept his mouth shut about her little affairs. He’d agreed to do it and had begun to crush on the beautiful woman. He’d through a conversation struck one Sunday morning after the new temporary beau in her life had stood her up for the second time, informed her of his interest in her. She’d confided in him of how lonely she felt being the third wife of an oil magnate. He’d decided to strike a deal with her of being her beau so long as she helped him with his pending rent issues.
She’d eagerly accepted it and provided him with accommodation. The very day she handed over the keys to the house he was residing in now was the day she took her car from him and employed a girl this time to be her driver. Aside from the 4 bedroom house, she’d given him, he received a monthly stipend of 5000 and clothes from any of her 3 boutiques. All he had to do was to visit her shops online, select the clothes he wanted, and use her card details to pay. The catch was that he couldn’t go out, to anywhere.
The day he stepped foot out of the house was the day he converted his day job into a 24/7 one since she liked “servicing” anytime she fancied. That’s how come he’d been living in her house for 4 months of enforced quarantine from all friends and the little family he had. She had hacked his phone and told him he couldn’t communicate with the outside world. Everything he wanted to eat, wear, sip, exercise with, watch etc was at his disposal except for freedom of movement out of this house.
Then a chance watching of news, something he hardly watched, made him realize the real reason why she’d given him that irresistible offer and prevented him from ever stepping foot from the house. His sister, Anita, was her driver and she’d wanted to prevent the two siblings from ever knowing. A reporter interviewing motorists who had been caught violating traffic rules had interviewed Hajia and the driver in her car was Anita! Hajia always drove the car herself to the house and the only time he’d asked why she didn’t come along with her new driver, she’d told him to focus on satisfying her and brushed his inquiry aside.
His current question was how his sister had become her driver and why the subterfuge. Did Naa know he was Hajia’s former driver? He’d tried to hide this from her for months. He’d told her how honest his new madam was and not like the regular madam bosses his konkonsa (gossip) sis had learned from the various grapevines she liked listening to. She’d admonished him to make sure he never fell into his madam’s snare. A snare he’d willingly fallen into. Now here he was with her, whiles his sister was also with her. What was going on?
He looked at the time on his phone. It was past midnight and Hajia had not returned. She’d been with him all day but left to meet some clients of hers. She’d told him to prepare food and wait for her to return to continue all the delicious things he’d been doing to her. Watching the evening news and seeing her probably on her way to one of her boutiques had made him lose appetite. He’d tried calling her but she’d ended the call after his first “hello” and refused to pick the subsequent calls.
Then a thought came to mind. What if he left now? It would mean losing all the benefits but with his sister working for the same woman, it would mean there would be money. He could still get some money to take care of his needs. He turned to look around the room. He would miss this house…so much. He’d come to love every nook and cranny because this was the sort of house he would love to build if he could afford it. He walked into the walk-in closet and grabbed a duffel bag, started packing. He carefully folded all the clothes because they all belonged to him. No way was he going to leave even a handkerchief behind. What if she brought in another guy to use his things?
15 minutes later, he walked to the front door and took a cursory look at the house he was leaving behind. He would miss this place. He finally remembered something. He rushed to a corner of the bedroom. Anytime Hajia came to visit she always brought wads of money for him to count for her. He’d always hidden a few bills and overtime had made quite some amount. He’d transferred half of his monthly allowance from her into another account and sent the rest into his yellow saver account which he hadn’t told her he had. He’d done these to make it impossible for her to easily get access to his money.
He pulled aside the sofa he’d used to hide the false block and checked to see if the loose tile was there. iIt was. He quickly pushed it aside and pushing the block in, pulled out the rubber safe he’d saved the money in. He finally smiled He could rent a smaller apartment and use the rest for business.
Without a further look back, he walked out and locking the door behind him, pushed it underneath the welcome rug in front of the main door. He walked to the gate and paused for a second. What was he doing? Leaving meant no more monthly allowance, free clothes and feeding. Something he’d grown used to these few months. He ran his palm across his face again. He really wanted his freedom but at risk of losing all these benefits. He sighed and sighed again. Without another thought, he went to the security post to remove the keys for both the gate lock and padlock. Hajia had refused to employ a security man because she’d wanted to avoid too many people knowing his business.
What she’d told him though was that she’d hired a couple of the people around to monitor and report his movements to her. He knew if they checked and realized he wasn’t inside playing music loudly as usual, they’ll call and inform her. That had happened 4 times already and this 5th time he knew that was the end. Finally, finally he was free. He opened the gate and stopped. What was he doing? He felt like screaming with frustration. Argh. He held the bag tightly and locking the gate behind him, pushed the keys under the gate. He didn’t know how Hajia was going to open the gate. Frankly, he didn’t care. He quickly walked to stand a few houses down the street and flagging a taxi got in.
Some meters away, Anita sipped from a bottle of wine she was consuming alongside some cheese. She looked over at Ohene.
“I heard the gate open but Hajia didn’t tell me she was on her way here.”
“Why don’t you ask her?”
“Naa, not necessary. If it’s her, I’m sure she’ll want to concentrate on my brother till morning.”
“When are you going to tell him about us?”
“When are you going to tell him that you made sure Hajia kept him her prisoner so that we could get married without him demanding huge sums of money from you before allowing us to do so?”
“I still feel bad that we did that to him.”
She snorted. “My brother has only cared about money. That’s why he went into this in the first place when driving was something he’d have never dreamt of doing. With another employer paying less, he wouldn’t have even bothered.”
There was silence.
“Do you think Hajia will tell him?”
“Maybe she will, maybe she won’t. By then, it would be too late, we will still be married.” She smiled and kissed briefly on the lips.
IN THE TAXI, 20 minutes away, Jules was wondering how to inform his sister that he’d been kept a prisoner all this while. He didn’t know he was still in the dark about certain things.