He who findeth a wife, the bible says, findeth a good thing. I found her on the streets of Manchester peddling her ‘crown jewels.’ She was a prostitute and I was a bible tottering born again Christian. It was the perfect match. Okay, so I was love struck after giving in to temptation twice but Christ’s most ardent disciple was Mary Magdalene. Guess what her profession was. So if Christ never judged her, or the other one who he saved from being stoned to death by pricking the conscience of her prosecutors, then who was I to judge Sheila? Not to mention she was the prettiest being I ever set eyes on and I blindly refused to believe her docile demeanour had anything to do with merely wanting to please a customer. She was not cut out for this. This girl was meant to be someone’s wife. My wife?
‘Why are you doing this?’ From the moment I negotiated a price in the streets, before we made it to the hotel room, that question played around in my mind. I finally let it out after the urge that harassed me for weeks had been killed in a climax. She was already standing by the mirror, putting back on the skimpy, tell tale, clothes of her trade. It was still early evening. Prowlers would still be about and she could definitely bag a couple before the morning came.
She froze in mid action, her fingers stuck to her chin where she had been dousing talcum powder. Through the mirror it was her reflection that stared back at me in a puppy dog look which made her more endearing.
‘You haven’t told me your name.’ I added. She relaxed into a smile and carried on applying her make up like I had just pressed ‘play’ after ‘pause.’
‘Didn’t yo mama tell you never to ask a lady her age and a whore her name?’
‘I like you and God loves you as well. We don’t see you as a whore.’
She turned round to look at me, with a smile of mischief playing around her lips.
‘I am sure you mistook me for a sex education teacher that needed payment for her sessions.’
‘Hey, its okay. For what its worth, thanks.’ Her expression went sullen. She grabbed her bag and was out of the door before I could shout her to wait. She had vanished from the face of the earth by the time I threw some clothes on and ran outside.
It was for the best I decided, to keep me away from the devil’s path. But thoughts of her would not vacate my mind. She needed to be brought into the light I decided, I would just go there and preach to her, nothing more.
I found her after three days of searching; in the same spot I had first met her. She showed no sign of recognition, beckoning in the very same way she had the first time.
God she was fine, but, strictly business this time around. I whipped out my bible and encouragingly she gave me an ear until a car pulled up. The driver leaned out, leering at her. I wanted to break his neck.
‘You working honey?’
‘No she is not!’
‘What, yes I am!’ I had managed to make her eyes blaze. What right do you have to interfere in my affairs? She began to walk round the car to the passenger side.
‘But I was here first!’ That stopped her. She looked at me, I looked at her.
‘Do you want me tonight sweetheart?’
‘Yes.’ The driver had forced my hand. I planned then to pay for her time then preach instead of what she would have expected.
‘Are you getting in the car or what?’ The driver revved his engines impatiently.
‘No darling, I am with him.’ She had chosen me. He screeched off.
‘So why have you been wasting precious time with all this God talk. Come along love.’ She trotted away. I was going to call her back, that I was going to pay her to listen and we would not be needing a room, when my gaze fell on her well rounded buttocks, accentuated by the mini skirt, rising and falling with every step. I followed. No harm in spreading the gospel in a hotel room. She gave me no chance to catch my breath as soon as I had secured the door behind me. Save for her G-strings, every other clothing and jewellery she had had on formed a pile at her feet in a flash. I wanted to tell her to put her clothes back on, that this was not why I had come to seek her. Then she climbed on the bed, walking on fours like a cat stalking prey and looking at me all the while in the most sensual manner. Dear God I just had to get my money’s worth.
‘Right, so what is your name?’ I had only just climbed down her body, still very much covered in the sweat of copulation. I panted out the question, wondering how she could still look as fresh as morning roses.
‘Sheila.’ She answered curtly, gazing at the ceiling.
‘Is that your real name?’ She looked askance at me. Take it or leave it. I took it.
‘Why are you doing this?’
‘What do you care? You just want to fuck me like every other man.’
‘I really care, believe me. And God cares as well...’
‘Oh shut up about God.’ It was the only other time I ever saw her angry. She jumped out of bed and slipped into her clothes like she had slept through the chiming of her alarm clock.
‘Sheila...’ I sat up, a tad confused. She had listened to me out on the street.
‘My money.’ She was not in the mood for any speeches. She was not in the mood for me.
Deflated, I picked my trousers from the ground, took out some notes and pressed them in her outstretched hands. She headed for the door, not bothering with make up this time. The very next few seconds would determine my future. For if she had not stopped at the door to look at me in the manner of a homeless child robbed of her last coin before she sauntered out of sight, I would not have risen from the bed to the balcony to watch her walk away and I would not have seen her knocked down by a van screeching too late to avoid a collision. The driver did not stop.
For shock, I honestly cannot remember running down to the stairs to her side. I do remember feeling awash with gratitude for whoever had called the ambulance that zoomed into view just as I reached her unconscious body.
‘You know her?’ In the heat of the emergency the medics had allowed me into the ambulance with her. Now one of them looked up from resuscitating her. I had a feeling I was not going to be allowed far if I could not give a good enough reply.
‘I am her fiancée.’ I do not know why that popped out of my mouth but it seemed natural at the time. That confession affected my actions for the next three days. Maybe I was trying to affirm to the hospital staff that I was who I claimed to be or maybe I really felt overwhelming love for this call girl that hovered between life and death. Whatever it was I played the part, spending every free second at her bedside. And getting whatever she needed. The moment she woke I was there.
It took two more weeks before she was ready to leave. In that time I bathed in the praises of the nurses, telling her just how lucky she was to have someone like me. She smiled weakly in response every time, and, as soon as she could, petered me with kisses at every opportunity. Bliss.
She invaded my home and inevitably invaded my life. I nursed her in my bed, cooking what she wanted. The highlight of my day at work was when I closed to run home to her. Soon she could move around the house without aid. We celebrated with a bottle of wine. There was to be no sex, not anytime soon. The doctor had warned her to give it a break for at least a month.
What struck me as odd was that no one had come to visit her in hospital and no one anywhere was looking for her. Neither was she bothered about some relative somewhere agonizing about where she had vanished to. The girl was alone in the world. I had her to myself and now she had me. Perfect.
The healthier she got, however, the less hold I felt I had. She stopped paying attention to my stories; I was now the only one laughing at my jokes and too often she replied with a nod or an uninterested grunt when I asked how she felt.
‘Is there a problem darling?’ She had been quiet, looking out of the window as I had been trying to engage her in a conversation. She did not turn around to acknowledge my question.
‘What do you really want from me?’
‘Tell me what you want from me. Why are you doing all this?’ Then she turned around. She had just taken a shower and looked casual in one of my big sweat shirts that stopped at her thighs, showing off her smooth long legs. I learnt she was particular about how she looked most times, using her spare time to do her manicure and her toes. She had left out make up and her frazzled hair fell over her shoulders giving her a look that stopped my heart beating.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Why am I in your house? Why are you looking after me? Why do you care?’
‘Isn’s it obvious?’ I could feel she was overwhelmed with all I had done for her. I was about to do even more. ‘I love you Sheila.’ I did not know what I expected of her reaction. She turned to the window again, as cool as if I had just told her the sky was actually blue.
‘Okay.’ It was hardly the right response to a declaration of love and I might have taken a hint from that at the time. But I did not care. It would do for the time being.
She recovered, being her old jovial self again and I thought nothing more of it. I thought nothing of taking her along to a get-together party I was invited to by an old friend and goodness, was I proud of her. She dazzled everyone and made me the envy of nearly every guy around. That is until Goni grabbed my hand, whisking me off to a corner of the room to talk in private.
‘My God, Thomas, I know that girl. You say she is your girlfriend? She comes to my hotel you know.’
My friend managed a highbrow hotel in town. Sheila might have gone to meet some of her customers there. All that was yesterday. Not worth mentioning.
‘Goni, before you say another word. I know she used to be a prostitute and I am not going to hold it against her. We did not all have the privilege of been raised properly. It does not make anyone better than her. Look at her, does she look like a prostitute?’
She was intently listening to some guy telling a story across the room but as we turned to her she caught my eyes and gave a cheery wave.
‘For my sake, Goni, keep that information to yourself.’ I patted him on the back, leaving him still gaping, stupefied speechless, to join her.
After a week of living the perfect life, I felt it was time to make things permanent. I had saved a bit for this very day and on my way back from work I stopped by H.Samuel’s to get a ring. The moment I touched the door knob to enter the house, however, I knew something was wrong. The eerie silence confirmed it.
‘Sheila!’ No answer. Her things were still there, giving me some sense of hope. So I sat down to wait. I jumped at every sound, expectant. By the time I heard a loud knock on the door it was well into the night. I rose slowly, my legs heavy. That had better be her.
‘Hello.’ She casually pushed past me to the chair I had been seating in for nearly five hours. ‘What have you been up to? And why do you have that look on your face?’ She asked. I was very angry but awash with relief. She had just taken me through five hours of how empty my life would be without her.
‘Where have you been? I have been waiting for you since I got back.’
‘Just out to see friends love. Got tired of staying in. Did you miss me?’
‘You could have left me a note.’
‘Yes daddy...what’s that in your hand?’
I looked at my hand. It was the little H.Samuel bag that housed the ring. I had held it all that time. I should have waited, given her some story or simply said it was nothing, at least until I had probed her enough. But I fell on my knees, just as I rehearsed in my mind a million times.
‘Sweetheart you have come to mean so much to me.’ I pulled out the ring from the bag and stretched it in her direction. I could have just offered her a deadly spider for the way she shrank back.
‘Tom, what is this?’
‘I want you to be with me forever.’
She got up and walked around me, keeping a distance. I stayed on my knees twisting my neck to hold her gaze as she arched her way to my left. This was not going to plan.
‘Are you sure about this?’ Her voice had gone hoarse. She regarded me like one in the presence of an alien, not knowing if the strange being was friendly or hostile.
‘I have never been more sure of anything in my life.’
‘Okay,’ She whispered, tiptoeing forward to make me the happiest man in the world at that hour. The ring slipped seamlessly into her finger. I rose and squeezed her in a hug, not caring that her grip was less enthusiastic.
One month. It was a month that night, since her accident. That meant she was free to ply her ‘trade’ again or...be with me (if you know what I mean).
We had just clambered into bed when she turned to me with that puppy dog look.
‘I have something to tell you.’ Her voice was sad. I sat up to listen, not fearing anything major. She looked at me and the light came into her eyes. I think she changed her mind, leaning over to kiss me instead. Now how do I describe the sex we had that night? She gave and gave and gave, bringing all the skills of her erstwhile trade to play, taking me to places I never imagined existed. I don’t know why, but the whole session felt like she was repaying me for all I had done in the one way she knew how. What I did not know was that she was planting a yearning which no one would be able to fill. I slept off with the widest smile on my face. Life could not have been better.
The next morning I woke up alone in bed. The session had gone on well into the morning so the sun was well up by the time I managed to open my eyes. I was very late for work so I focused on cooking up an excuse for the boss. Sheila might have gone to the shops or something. Her absence was not something to worry about. I freshened up, left her a note and dashed out.
For being late I was forced to stay back at work two extra hours. I bided my time knowing what awaited me at home. If every night was going to be like last night then my life had just been transformed into heaven. I felt pity for everyman on earth. Sheila was exclusively mine now.
The door keys were still in the flowerpot where I had left them for her. Could it be possible? It was. The house was exactly as I had left it in the morning. Sheila had not returned.
I sat in the same chair I had waited for her last time and I sat there until the first light of dawn broke through the curtains. Something was terribly wrong. Something bad had happened to my baby. With that thought I sprang into action. I called work to let them know I was dying of leukaemia that might vanish in a few days, put on the news in case there was any breaking story that Sheila might be in, then called every hospital and police station within the locality. Nothing. she was not at her usual spot where I had picked her up the first time and no other call girl would give me information about her or they did not know. I remembered my prayers then, imploring God to keep Sheila safe wherever she was and bring her back to me.
He answered my prayers two days later. Sometimes I really wish he hadn’t.
I jumped at the ringing phone as I had been doing since Sheila disappeared. And as the other phone calls, it was someone else, killing my spirit instantly. But it was Goni and he was frantic.
‘Thomas, Thomas, I have seen Sheila.’
‘What? Where? Where Goni?’
‘Quick, you have to come now. Meet me outside saint Christopher now now.’ He hung up.
My hands shook as I replaced the mouthpiece in its cradle. Goosebumps broke all over my skin. Saint Christopher was a hospital two blocks from the hotel where Goni worked. What had happened to my girl? How bad was it? And God why? Why was she so accident prone?
I paid the taxi driver as he pulled alongside the hospital. As soon as he stopped I was going to sprint inside.
‘Thomas.’ Goni was there he promised. He spotted me as I got out of the car.
‘Where is she?’ I asked, trotting through the automatic sliding doors.
‘Wait, where are you going? She is not in there.’
‘What?’ I allowed a little hope nudge my confusion.
‘She is back at my hotel. Come with me.’ I could not read his expression, and I could not come up with any reason why Sheila might have gone to Goni for refuge if she wanted to leave me. And why had she been hiding? She had a lot of explaining to do.
We walked through the plush lobby, Goni nodded at the overly friendly receptionist while I looked in all directions for signs of Sheila. He reached his office and turned the keys in the lock. Had he locked her inside?
‘Is she in there?’
He raised a hand to indicate I be patient. There was no one in his office. He closed the door, then picked up the remote control to a large screen telly at one corner of the room. Just what was he playing at?
‘Goni, where is Sheila?’
‘Shhh, now listen, you must not tell anyone what I am about to show you now. It is top secret and the hotel might be closed down if it ever gets out. I will certainly go to jail. I just could not hide this from you.’
‘I am no snitch Goni. Now please don’t make me ask you again. Where is Sheila?’ I was going to throttle him if he made me utter one more word.
‘Right, brace yourself.’ He pointed the remote at the telly and it clicked to life. It was some kind of CCTV unit with goings on within a dozen mini screens. It was all in black and white.
‘Every screen is for a room. From here we secretly monitor what is happening all around the hotel.’ He explained. I looked from the screen to his face. He caught my eye. ‘Room 231.’
Every mini screen had a digital number tag. I searched for the one with “231” and gasped. My legs wobbled and I fell to my knees. It just was not possible.
‘Is that Sheila?’ The question raised doubts in my head and I suddenly got the urge to find out for myself. I picked myself up and dashed out of the office.
‘Thomas...’ Goni must have sensed what I was up to. ‘No, come back here man.’ I raced up the stairs to the second floor. I could hear his chasing after me but a bulldozer would be hard pressed to stop me now. Room 231 was easy to find. I was expecting the door was locked but it opened when I turned the knob.
‘Thomas, no!’ He probably had the same expectations as well and, I am sure, was horrified when he saw me disappearing into the room.
There are defining moments in the life of a person, an occurrence or experience that completely transforms ones character. One of such moments was seeing Sheila in bed with three men. They were all stark naked and drugged stupid, barely conscious. The ground was littered with used condoms, dispersed clothes, cigarette and whisky. The strong smell of weed hung over the room like a cloud. Two of the men were on either side of her while the third was curled up between her wide open legs, using her thigh as a pillow. He reacted to the noise of my entry, stirring and repositioning himself closer to her private part.
‘Thomas, lets go man.’ Goni grabbed my hand. I vaguely heard him saying something about keeping it to myself, as he let me out into the night wind. I don’t remember crying but there would be dried tears on my cheeks in the mirror. I left town two months later. There would be subsequent call girls, even prettier ones, but I went to them, did the business and left, not bothering with converting them. I guess some things are the way they are for a reason.
I never saw Sheila again.