Extract from Easy Money © Stina Hemming
Leah Simon, an attorney from one of the toniest law firms in New York, was far from home. She sat on the dirt floor of her cinderblock cell in a pool of her own menstrual blood in the hot and humid Nigerian night, hours outside of the capital of Lagos. It was the first day of her captivity, and Leah stared stoically into nothingness. A sound near the roof of her concrete prison startled her. She looked up at the small opening in the wall, near the roof illuminated by the lights of the compound. In the near darkness, she saw the outline of a lizard scampering along the beam and then out, under the corrugated tin which served as the roof. Bugs and lizards regularly moved freely through this “window” crawling up and down the cinder block walls and across the dirt floor. This lizard was larger than usual. But the lizards didn’t bother her, in fact she hardly noticed them anymore. Once in a while, a lizard would scamper across her mat and over her legs, but the lizards were the least of her problems.
Leah resumed her trance like stare, mouth slightly open with a small string of saliva dripping down the side of her chin. Her soiled and rank clothing, still damp from the sweat from the sweltering heat of the day, clung to her 5’10” frame. When Leah was taken four days earlier, her captors had taken her cell phone, jewelry and watch and given her a Niqab to wear over her beige pant suit and white shirt. The Niqab was unbearable in the heat of the day but comforting during the cooler nights.
Leah’s long blonde hair was matted with blood, her own and the blood of her colleague, Ray Reynolds. The cuts on her face were healing, but she could barely breathe through her broken nose. Her jaw hurt like hell when she opened and closed her mouth. She feared that her captors had broken both her nose and her jaw. She pushed that thought out of her mind. What difference did that make? She needed to escape.
Getting her period was just bad luck. At first, Leah had improvised and used her padded bra as a sanitary pad. That had worked for about a day, and then not at all. She had no idea that her body produced so much menses. When her bra failed, she had thrown it, blood-soaked, into a corner of the cell behind the door. The bugs and lizards feasted on it. She reckoned that she would bleed for another day or so, and then her period would be over. She was past caring about the blood which pooled beneath her on the basket mat where she sat. Hopefully, she would be so disgusting that no one would come near her.
Leah slept fitfully, falling in and out of sleep, tossing and turning on the hard dirt floor. Suddenly, she heard footsteps crossing the courtyard towards the door of her cell. She sat up and pushed herself into the corner. It was too late for the daily visit from her captors to clear her shit pail and bring her water and food. That time had long passed. Leah focussed on the door as the lock and chain on the outside of her wooden was removed. As the door slowly opened, Leah felt an involuntary shiver run through her body. It was Oni, the one she feared the most. He stepped into her cell and grunted and pushed the door shut behind him. Then he lit up his cellphone and flashed at Leah, quivering in the corner.
“I will take you as one of my wives even though you are a nonbeliever,” Oni said, and Leah felt the wetness of warm urine on the ground under her.
Leah shrieked in her head. Hit him, fight back, scream, scream. He’s going to hurt you. But she did not scream, she did not fight. She barely made a sound, only calling out in pain when he pulled her violently from her sitting position in the corner and pushed her onto the floor. He pulled her Niqab over her head and then, recoiled in horror as he saw the bloodied crotch of her beige slacks. He staggered back against the closed door and then in a rage, charged at her, kicking Leah her wildly and violently, his sandaled foot hitting her thighs, pelvis and stomach as the light of his cell phone flickered surreally against the walls.
But when Oni stepped forward to give Leah one final kick, he slipped on Leah’s blood falling on his back. As he struggled to get up, his hands sticky with Leah’s menses, a muffled scream emanated from his mouth. He screamed at her, “Bitch, you will die,” and stormed out of the hut, leaving Leah in the dark. Stunned, she wrapped her arms around her knees and pulled them up against her chest and started rocking back and forth, staring trance like into the darkness. A deadness settled in her body as she waited for dawn.