ANNIE

When they got to the venue of the place, Annie couldn’t help but observe that she had passed this particular place in Victoria Island several times during the day when she job hunts but had never really given thought to what the place was. She noticed that while the “bouncers” searched the bags of the other girls at the gate, her bag wasn’t searched. Terry tipped the guys and they both went into the compound. It was nice. It had a pool side on the far right with little groups of people sitting, drinking, smoking and chatting excitedly. She noticed that in the little groups, there were girls her age or younger who were scantily clad in two piece outfits or simple body con gowns, their makeup was too much and sort of overly exaggerated for a simple sit out. The men on the other hand looked more composed, mature and smelt of wealth. Of course, the smell of their perfumes spoke volumes. She watched Terry moving from group to group, exchanging pleasantries, taking a drag of smoke from shisha pots and laughing out loud at a joke or two. Then he returned to her side and led her to a flight of stairs she hadn’t noticed before.

It was concealed by some pot plants that were neatly lined up and the beautiful leaves which spread out like palm fronds had concealed the fact that the stairs actually led to the main entrance of the bar. The sight that greeted Annie when they finally reached the top of the stairs was intriguing. Unlike downstairs where there was a mixed crowd of men and girls, up here was a different sight to behold. The setting looked like a coven for females only. The population of girls against that of the men there was ninety against ten. Annie was rooted to the spot she had to draw Terry back.

“Terry, what is this place?” she asked trying to be audible above the loud music
Terry smiled and answered without looking at her, ”A bar obviously”

Annie wasn’t convinced but she followed him anyways and as they walked to the end of the large room, she couldn’t help but notice that most of the girls had on cheap perfume and some had none at all which caused the place to have a mixed smell of cigarette, alcohol, cheap perfumes and body odor. Just like the others downstairs, they were scantily dressed with too  much makeup and they were dancing with so much effort to the overly loud Nigerian mix tape playing. And because there wasn’t enough men to go round, the few men that were present,; mostly Indians, Lebanese and few Nigerians had this confused crease on their foreheads as they struggled to decide on who to focus on amongst the five or more girls gathered around their table, sharing their drinks and competing for attention with seductive dance moves. Annie could swear she felt piercing stares on her back as she walked with Terry to the end of the room and it made her wonder if these girls saw her as a competition or a bad omen.

………………

The room Terry took her looked like the VVIP section of the place. There were a few people there unlike the other side but Annie still wasn’t comfortable. Terry noticed and suggested that they move to the pool side instead which she gladly agreed to but first, she needed to use the rest room.

………………..

The rest room was packed with girls; all of them at the mirror adjusting either their clothes or their makeup then one of the girls started talking about a man who wanted to take her home for fifteen thousand Naira. Immediately, the other girls exclaimed in amazement and one said,
“Babe you lucky o!”
The “lucky girl” sounded reluctant “erm, him no be my type”
The others shouted again and they all started talking at once. One said,
” You no get sense o! You know how much dem they give us for here? 5k or 8k still, you dey complain”
The “lucky girl” whined, “But him no be my type”
“Hmmm, hungry go catch you!” one said maliciously
Another said, “Abeg, give me the man if you no want”

When Annie came out of the rest room, she looked at the girls from the side of her eyes and noticed that they looked envious. The “lucky girl” sighed and shrugged as she said,
“Ha! make I go meet am o! Before dem steal am from me” then she left

Annie quickly left the rest room too. She was ashamed of what she had just heard.

………………..

As the waiter brought their drinks, Terry started the same conversation he always emphasized on whenever he saw Annie.

“So, you still haven’t told me what you want to do yet Annie. How else do you want to help yourself? I’ve told you the money is good”
Annie wasn’t convinced “Terry, I can’t do what those girls are doing. They look so desperate competing for attention from men who didn’t even look interested. And I feel like I’ll be really exposed if I’m here”
“So you think you’re better than those girls?” Terry asked with one brow raised
“I didn’t say that Terry. What I mean is, I’m a private person, if I’m gonna do this, then it has to be private.”

Terry dragged on his cigarette and blew out the smoke before saying,

“Okay, this is what I’ll do for you. There’s this other place my friend manages. It’s a strip club but they have a private boot for high paying guests. I’ll hook you up”
Annie was shocked “Seriously Terry, you want me to strip?!” she asked
Terry was exasperated already. What does the girl want for Christ’s sake. “Yes Annie! But in a private way! You want privacy don’t you?”
“Yes but, must I strip? It’s the same thing as what these girls do!” she struggled to keep her voice low

Terry scratched his head and said, “Look Annie, I’m only trying to help you. This is what I do; I hook girls up. Your rent is due, you’re broke and jobless, your family can’t help you, you can’t get a bank loan cos you’re not even sure of when you’ll pay back not to talk of having people to stand as guarantors and all that shit. You’re twenty six, you’ve got the body of an eighteen year old, you’re sexy as fuck even if you don’t know it, you can help yourself  and this is the only way I can fix you up Annie. Take it or leave it.” he finished, sipped his drink and stood up.

Annie felt reality like a sharp sting. She thought of any possibility at all of  a change but none was readily available. Terry had refused to lend her any money. According to him, he would rather teach her how to fish than give her the fish. Though, his way wasn’t the only way but it was the only available way she could get a quick solution to her current situation so she stood up and  called out to Terry who had walked to the far side of the pool.

“I’m in” she said
Terry smiled and as he walked towards her, his smile broadened into a laugh and he said, “Trust me, we’re gonna be rich! Lagos isn’t ready for us!”

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