My name is Regina but most people call me Gina. I grew up in a family of 6. I was the youngest child and was usually doted upon by my parents and brothers as i happen to be the only female child.
I wasn't exactly born with a silver spoon but my family was quite comfortable. My Dad worked in a bank as the manager and my Mum was a textile merchant. She was quite popular in the town where we lived because most people gets to her shop before they find their most suitable aso ebi. Most times after school, i go to my mum's shop. She usually doesn't like me coming to the busy market, even though she had quite a spacious shop but i prefer going there just to see the way my Mum relates with her customers.
I was a very beautiful girl. Fair in complexion, chubby cheeks and moderate in height. I was just 10 but i looked 15 already. I was in my first year in high school (JSS 1). I enjoy people passing comments at my beauty anytime i walked with any of my brothers. Maybe this is one of the reasons i really love hanging out at my Mum's shop because hardly will anyone see me and won't compliment my beauty. On many cases have i received cash and gifts from my Mum's customers. My Mum usually gives me an obstinate look anytime she sees any of her customers giving me gifts.
I can remember one of such occasions vividly.
I had just finished my First term exams. It was the festive season and my Mum's shop was flooded with customers. I went straight to her shop from school because i know i'd probably be the first person to get home.
"Good afternoon sister Joyce" i greeted one of her shop attendant. She was arranging some new clothes on the shelf. My Mum had just gotten back from one of her numerous trips to Dubai.
"Afternoon my dear. How are you?". She looked at me and smiled.
"I'm fine Sister Joyce". I replied and went to drop my school bag in my Mum's corner. I also went to the toilet to have a change of clothes as i wouldn't like to get my school uniform dirty.
As i got out of the toilet, i bumped into one of my Mum's customers.
"Oh, I'm sorry" i apologised immediately.
He was just coming out of the Male toilet. He looked down at me and smiled.
"It's okay". He touched my cheeks and said "Fine girl"
I smiled sheepishly. Then he dipped his hands into his pocket and brought out a One Thousand Naira note. "You are so pretty. Use this to buy sweets ehn"
I collected it and bent as i said "Thank you sir".
I didn't know my Mum had been watching us all along.
Immediately the man turned back, she called me to her corner which had an office table and chair with some drawers.
"What did that man say to you? She questioned immediately. I could see she was upset but i pretended as if i didn't know why.
"He said I'm pretty and gave me N1000"
"And what did i tell you about collecting gifts from strangers"
I kept quiet and looked down.
"Now, go and return that money"
I looked up at her and saw she really meant what she said.
"Don't but Mummy me. The man is still checking out some clothes. Go and meet him and tell him your Mum asked you to return it". She said undauntedly and started checking her log book, leaving me sad and confused. I didn't understand why my Mum would ask me to return such a gift. To me, the man was just complimenting my beauty or is it a crime to be pretty? Nevertheless, i couldn't disobey her so i walked timidly to where the man was. He looked at me and smiled, waiting for me to talk. I couldn't find the words easily.
"Are you okay?" he asked me
"My Mum asked me to return your money" I said and handed the money back to him. I was expecting him to get angry and maybe request to see my Mum but instead he smiled and said "It's okay, i understand".
He collected the money and put it back into his pocket. I walked away feeling so down but the comment i heard him say to the woman he was with brought a smile to my face.
"She's such an obedient girl. Many girls her age would have kept the money instead of returning it"
Few years later, life took it's toll on me. I didn't know it was the beginning of a major turn around in my life. I could remember that fateful day vividly like it happened yesterday. It was a Sunday evening. One of my brothers, Femi had just arrived from school the day before. My Mum was so happy to see him after almost 6months he left for school. Femi was my Mum's favourite probably because he's the first child. I could be referred to as my Dad's favourite because of the way he dotes on me. My Dad usually is busy during weekdays 'cause of the nature of his job. He usually spends more time with us during weekends.
We had just finished eating dinner this fateful evening and Femi and i were in his room gisting. My other brothers, Felix and Ayo were with my Mum in the small section we use as the dining room. Dad was listening to the National news on TV. Femi and i were the closest in the house. I do enjoy the stories he tells me of his school anytime he comes back home. I was preparing for my final exams in high school and i had planned to apply to study in his school. I didn't care he'd be graduating in less than a year, i was already obsessed with the school.
Femi was still talking when we suddenly heard Dad raise his voice. At first, we thought he was reprimanding either Felix or Ayo. I signalled to Femi to stop talking for a while so we'd be able to catch a clue of what is happening in the living room. Femi got up from the chair he was sitting on and moved close to the closed door. He put his left ear on the door to eavesdrop. Suddenly, his countenance changed, he demonstrated for me to keep my voice down. Suddenly we heard foot steps. Femi, out of fear and anxiety whispered to me, "Hide under the bed Gina.......hiiiiiide!"
I was confused but i obeyed and squeezed myself under his bed. Immediately i got in, i saw two legs barge into the room. I was shaking right under the bed
"Who were you talking to?" asked an husky voice, the man behind the voice had obviously been on drugs. I kept my cool and tried to control my breath.
"I......i.......i was on phone with......a fr......friend" Femi stuttered.
"Ehn ehn. Are you sure?".
I could feel the prying eyes of the man scanning the room for a sign of life somewhere. The only thing i could see was the mouth of his gun. It was aiming at me under the bed, that if he should mistakenly pull the trigger, i'd be long dead. The guy moved towards the edge of the bed. I could still feel his prying eyes. My heart was beating heavily, i could almost hear it. I was also praying he will believe my brother's lie.
"Where is the phone you were calling with?".
The question almost made me choke on my breath. I have never met an armed robber before but i could have never imagined they were this smart. I could see Femi's leg shaking. That question must have hit him the same way it did me. Neither of us could remember when last we saw his phone. At last, he got over the shock and brought out his second phone which had been in his pocket all along.
"This is the phone"
The man with the husky voice scoffed and asked Femi to put his hands behind his head. I'm sure he probably pointed the gun at him. He led him out of the room and shut the door. I was still in shock, i was shaking and was so scared to get out of where i was.
I could hear a man who had a similar voice with the one that was in the room telling my Dad to go bring out one particular money. I could remember collecting a briefcase from my Dad 2days earlier when he returned from work.
"That must be what these men want" i thought.
"But......but.....the money isn't mine. Please, you can take anything you want but please don't touch the money please" i could hear Dad replying.
I heard a thud and my Dad groaned in pain. They must have hit him with something hard.
Few minutes later, i heard foot steps. My Dad led the robbers to his room to get the briefcase. I heard another voice which sounded different from the other 2 i heard earlier. The voice sounded quite normal, unlike the voices of the previous two.
"I knew you were going to bring the money home" the voice said.
My Dad must have recognised the voice.
"Vincent???" he retorted "I can't believe you can do this. The company trusted you"
The guy named Vincent gave an hysterical laugh.
"You weren't really expecting me to let go of such a big amount of money easily right?"
I could imagine my Dad's facial expression. He'd have given him the kind of displeased look he gives me when i cook a salty food.
The next few minutes were silent and i could guess the man called Vincent was discussing with the other man. I could feel the tension in the atmosphere from where i was hiding. They led my Dad back to the living room where the rest of my Family was, with one of the men, probably the one who came to Femi's room. I couldn't place a finger on what was going on any longer till i started hearing gunshots. I counted and it was 4. I covered my mouth to prevent them from hearing my sobs.
"Are you sure this is all of them. Nobody left" one of the men asked.
"I'm not sure how many children he has but I'm sure these are all of them" Vincent replied.
"Okay.......Capo!" one of them called "Get the bag and let's get out of here"