On the morning of December 27, business returned to Porto.
“Baby let’s go out. I haven’t sent any money to my people for Christmas,” Solomon said.
Since I had been mostly indoors for the past few days, I didn’t give it a second thought before I took a quick bathe and we went out.
At the large Espirito Banco, there was a Western Union Money transfer office. We walked in and I sat down while Solomon did his business. A few minutes later, he called me to come to the counter where he was sending money.
“We are going to call your mother now.”
“Why?” I asked.
“I want us to send her some money for Christmas too.”
I looked him in the eyes.
“I haven’t talked to her for almost a month. I don’t know how she feels about me now,” I said.
“The last time I checked, she is still your mother. Call out her number for me.”
I called out my mother’s phone number offhand and Solomon dialed her immediately.
“Can you please go out and make the call?” The cashier said.
We walked outside as my mother answered the call. Solomon had switched the phone on speakout mode. I guess he wanted to hear what’s going to happen between my mother and I.
“Good morning Ma,” Solomon said on the phone.
“Good morning to you too, who are you?” My mother asked.
Without answering the question my mother asked, Solomon continued, “I am with your daughter Jennifer here and I want to…”
My mother didn’t allow him to finish what he was saying before raining curses and abuses. I feared such thing would happen and it was the reason I was scared to call her for the past few weeks. I was sure Madam Grace must have called and told them that I ran away with a man.
“God will punish you for running away with my daughter. Do you know how I suffered to raise her?” She continued yelling.
Solomon didn’t interrupt her, he just smiled as my mother cursed and cursed until she got tired and asked what he wanted.
“I don’t want anything Madam. I understand Grace must have called to tell you nonsense about me and how I took Jennifer away. Jennifer is with me here and I am going to tell you this only once. If you want me to send her back to Grace, I will do that right away but first of all, you have to listen to her,” Solomon said as he handed me the phone.
“Mom,” I said and kept quiet. I didn’t know the next thing to say.
“What are you doing with that Igbo man? Grace said he is an Igbo man and that he is going to use you for rituals,” my mother shouted.
“That’s not true mom. It was Grace that wanted to use me to make money. She sends me to the street everyday to sleep with men and give her money. That is what she does here with some girls too. She doesn’t have any Supermarket like she told you. Mom I don’t want to be a prostitute.” I started crying.
“But do you know that man very well? How could you follow a stranger?” She was calm now.
“I know him now and I know he loves me. I will kill myself rather than return to Grace. But that’s not why we called you. He is my boyfriend now and I am going to marry him if he asked me to. We are calling you to send you some money for Christmas. So if you want, give us a name to receive the money and when we finish, you will apologize to him for everything you said against him.”
“Tell him I am sorry. I didn’t know what to do since Grace called us and said you followed one Igbo man. Your father has not spoken to me for a week now. He said it was me who forced him to let you follow Grace. He is here and you can talk to him too,” She said.
Three seconds later it was my father’s turn to throw questions. He wanted to know why I didn’t tell them what Grace did to me. He said he liked the decision I took by running away but asked if it was safe running away with a strange man. I told him I trusted and loved Solomon and that I have no fear of him doing anything to me. When he asked to speak with Solomon, I returned the phone back to him.
I stood in front of him as he answered questions from my father. Some minutes later, my father said he had a driver’s license and could withdraw money with it. He called and spelt out the names on the license before we returned to the bank and sent 100 Euros to them.
That was how I introduced Solomon to my family in Nigeria. It wasn’t the best of introductions and I was scared Solomon could hate me because of everything my mother said to him but when I told him I was sorry for everything, he laughed and said all the curses meant nothing to him. He even said he expected my parents to react the way they did. The incident endeared him to me even more as we held hands like old lovers and walked away from the bank premises. My life had suddenly turned around from a new Street Prostitute to a girl who found the best love of her life in a matter of few days. I couldn’t ask for more, I was more than contented with what was happening to me and it felt like a dream. The truth was that it wasn’t really going to matter what my parents would say about Solomon, I wasn’t going to leave him intentionally. No matter how wise they were down there in Nigeria, I was the one who was with Solomon every day, I was in a better position to tell them whether he was a good man or not.
Solomon was a man who risked his life to grant me my wish of abandoning prostitution. I didn’t know what I would have become if he didn’t show up in my life. I would probably still be standing in the streets of Lisbon, with a handbag full of condoms, waiting for one drunk or rascal to take me away. I would still be standing out there, under rain, gossiping with other girls about how one penis was big or small or how a certain man couldn’t release his sperms on time. I would still be out there, sharing one room with two other girls who didn’t see anything good in me from the day I arrived. I would still be there in Lisbon, living my life with fear of not raising enough money to give to Madam Grace.
At 18 years, I never dreamed of being anywhere near a serious boyfriend let alone sleeping with numerous men. I had hoped that somehow, being the daughter of an Anglican priest, I was expected to keep my virginity for whoever would ask for my hands in marriage. It was the reason why I never allowed my school boyfriend to go past kisses. But then in Portugal, I saw girls who were even younger than I was; all chewing gums confidently while smiling at everything that looked like it has a penis.
On the morning of December 27, business returned to Porto.