One For The Money: The Market
“What is it?”
The runner came sprinting down the hill behind her.
“I seem to have injured my leg.” She seethed between her teeth hoping the stranger would run past and mind his own business. Wrong move.
“Then stop and stretch it. Massage it at least.” A tangible mix of anger and concern poured from his voice. “You just can’t keep walking. It does the leg more harm than good!”
‘Watch me!’ She shouted in her head.
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He didn’t even know Ceria and here he was ordering her around like a little girl. Leymu, as she came to learn his name minutes into the forced first aid, was a seasoned runner. He threw her arm over his overbuilt shoulders that seemed to dominate his overall physique giving him a Jonny Bravo look without asking, making her look twice as helpless. In a few seconds, sitting in a roadside shed he worked his experienced hands around her injured leg focusing on her gastrocnemius muscle.
“I would have made it home you know?” She retorted taking in the pain from the massage she never asked for.
“I bet you would have.” His bulgy eyes shot at her forcing a sneering curve on his pouty lips. “How far from here did you say you live?”
No, this wasn’t the kind of conversation she had planned for. She only meant to take a one-hour fast walk into the rich neighbourhood she never had the honour of living in, and then get ready for church. But her leg revived a muscle pull she had suffered during her indoor workout raining all over her me-time.
The next seven weeks saw Ceria and Leymu gradually warming up and spending every waking moment soaking in each other’s sentiments on WhatsApp in a mother-son chat. Her lending him the ear he longed for followed by endless thanks, cuddles and hugs emojis. And him appreciating her for the streams of wisdom from over the decade and a half she preceded him on earth.
By the eighth week, they were plodding the streets, trekking through jungles and splashing in the ocean’s low tides discussing illegal businesses, her upcoming two-month leave from the family, and the financial desperation their city grappled in. Moments they both wished would last forever.
One of the walks however led them to Kude Waterfront Park on the western end of the coastal city’s island. Mom and son, as they had come to believe they were, had chosen this part of the city in the name of indulging in their rich conversations uninterrupted.
“This would be a good place to sell you.” Ceria joked.
But Leymu, with the last ten shilling coin growing cold in his pocket, processed it differently. He wrapped his large hand across her nape as he did a thicker-than-usual shaft of a barbell and breathed laboriously.
“How long have you thought about that Momma?” He bellowed, swiftly propelling her to face him and then shooting a searching gaze across her face.
Ceria burst out laughing; typical of her.
His face had grown even younger in the absence of the goatee he was so proud of, thanks to his new job. But Leymu didn’t laugh. He didn’t even smile. Instead, a serious vein popped up his temple and his face grew a tone darker.
“Mom, there are body parts buyers sitting in these big black machines parading here as if taking time off from a busy day at the office. You just need to tap at the window, and the face behind it will sort you out.”
Pause. That wasn’t the expected answer. Far from it. But his street wisdom was on another level, astounding to say the least. Just the right amount to close her two-month leave from the family deal once and for all.
That evening Ceria processed all the number plates she had gathered in her mental drawer and promised herself to return to the park the following day. Without Leymu of course. He would be at work and would never find out about this trip. Her target would be five big vehicles, and her job would be done.
The first and second taps bore no good news. The occupants of the vehicles had been startled by her request. They had even offered her money to ‘buy food for the children’. Good offer, but way below what she needed.
The third vehicle though was different. The occupant, a striking gentleman with a West African accent that didn’t match his thin face rolled down the window right at the second tap. He must have been watching her moping around the park hoping she would notice his silver-grey Range Rover.
“Dear, whatever you are selling, I will buy it.” His minty breath waltzed about her face pulling her to himself as their gaze met and locked. Whether the moustache or the lips beneath, Ceria couldn’t tell what exactly made her entire system grow weak. Tremble, as if sugar-low actually.
“I… I…” She tried fighting to break from his invisible web.
“Slide in darling, right behind.” He sang, his lips melting into a charming smile and maintaining a harmless grip on the sterling wheel; the kind that would nurse a swatted fly back to life. “We don’t want to attract too much attention, do we?”The larger-than-usual rear-view mirror projected flawless chocolate skin that would disgrace that of a beauty queen. Click To Tweet
He had a perfectly squared jawbone holding up a celestial nose and calm yet awkwardly brown eyes that seemed to read beyond her future.
She curled the back seat petrified, forcing him to arch his back to see her face in the reflection of the dashboard-mounted TV screen.
“Come on sweetie, relax. There are many things I can do for you. Some with immediate and direct benefits to your family, and others, well, others for both parties. Whatever the case, I must make a profit. That’s just business” Pause. His melting smile resurfaced this time revealing teeth perfectly lined up like little children in a stage performance. Ah, if ‘to die for’ was a person. “So, what will it be dear?”
Ceria floated in waves of hope and confusion in equal measures. This man, a total stranger, was promising to dissolve her money worries, elevate her position in the family and erase her shame, with the wave of his magic wand. She only needed to choose from the options served.
“The second sounds suitable.” She hushed her response hoping never to regret the choice. Whatever the contents of the offer, she figured it would be fair if she and the family she was leaving behind benefited; a bite for her and a mouthful for her family. Then they would not mind never seeing her again. She prayed.
“None.” An unhinged response fled her throat. “Well, with a wrong surname. I prefer my maiden name.”
“Do you love him?” His reflection in the rear-view mirror winked. “Forget I asked.” He quickly corrected himself on sighting the ‘Do you really have to know?’ look on her face.
“But I assume you got the document after marriage so it has his name as the last? Common problem.”
Had this man been expecting her? More like stalking her?
A chill of fear swept her arms leaving a series of goosebumps within sight. She had nothing important to her name but debts to the measure of Sh. 100,000, a couple of stories in her hard drive hoping to meet the world, and a phone that carried more secrets than the Secret Service. Nothing too dramatic to cause mayhem if death came knocking. If anything, the world around her would mourn a life lived below potential, but she would be smiling in peace all the way to the grave.
A pensive nod gave all the answers he needed. He had all the data about her type; broke, heavily owing with a cloud of shame, desperate for a change in life at whatever cost, but never willing to harm a soul. At least not physically.
“I’ll drop you just before the bridge. Ask a motorbike rider to take you to the park across the bridge. Once in, you will find me by the lake.” He chanted the set of instructions before sternly warning, “Come alone.”
The Range Rover’s doors unlocked. Freedom at last. But then his left hand swiftly clasped her left knee, his little finger tracing around it causing her to freeze. A brown A6 envelope trapped between his index and middle finger landed on her lap. He drummed her knee slowly sending an ‘I-own-you’ code up her spine. The melting smile froze into a serious stretch.
“Don’t keep me waiting. It’s not good for business.”
End of Chapter 2