Once again, she put on her ratty wig, black, patent stilettos and her faded, safety pin-held mini skirt. She sprayed on some cheap perfume, picked up her handbag, heaved a sigh and stepped out of the room ignoring the mirror at the end of the corridor. She couldn't bear to look at the sleazy spectacle she had become.
Lost, broken, abused and.so alone.
She'd gotten used to the hisses, snorts and scoffs hurled her way every time she walked down the street,
Like the other girls, she'd learnt very well how to brave it.
"The road's unusually quiet tonight." she thought to herself. "Many of the girls probably took the night off." She wrapped her arms round herself as the chilly night breeze swept past her ruffling her flimsy blouse.
A chauffeur driven, overweight lady in a posh car scowled at her as she drove past.
"Yeah," Maggie muttered under her breath. "I hate my life too."
Suddenly, a car screeched to a stop beside her.
In a hurried blur, a police officer jumped out, pinned her hands behind her, grabbed her neck and hurled her into the car.
"Get in, you useless piece of trash!" he bellowed. "We're rounding all of you up tonight and locking you up where you belong."
"Oh my God, that's why the others stayed homestupid, sillyNoABSOLUTELY silly, silly, very silly me. How come I didn't put it together sooner?" she thought anxiously.
Her begging and pleading fell on deaf ears and were replied with salacious ridicule and sarcasm.
Twelve days seemed like twelve weeks. No food, no lighting just a jug of dirty water to drink from and a bowl for convenience. The cell was dingy and smelt of rat dung and vomit. Her stuffy cubicle at the brothel was extreme paradise compared to this, she thought.
Unexpectedly the door opened, and a huge man with a pot-belly that reminded her of her mother's cauldron filled the doorway.
She hadn't thought of her mother in ages. After their mother died, her father had abandoned his children with relatives who abused them. She had run away after being starved for days for an offence she did not commit. No one believed her.
But Sylvia did. She took her in and taught her the art of surviving as a street girl. She was the only one who had believed in her enough to offer a way out of her hopelessness. At least now she could afford a decent meal from time to time.
Now Sylvia was gone. Died of AIDS. She just kept coughing up blood and losing weight. Maggie shuddered at the memories.
A big bang on the door jolted her back to reality.
"Is this the girl you told me about?" the superintendent bellowed.
"Yes sir!" said the officer pulling her to her feet and thumping on her back with his baton. "We picked her up last week. Word must have got out that we were clearing the street because it was pretty quiet that night."
Maggie looked up slowly at the superintendent's face expecting a look of contempt but strangely and saw something she'd never seen directed at her before. Compassion.
His lips were stiff. No smile. His stance? Intimidating. But his eyesthey made her feel like he understood where she was coming from. She saw compassion.
"File her biodata and picture immediately." He blared as the officers scurried around in obedience.
Maggie's heart sank, her shoulders sagged. Cases like hers were typically forgotten and abandoned indefinitely.
He took one step forward and snapped his fingers.
"Done it?" He asked.
"Yes sir!" They chorused.
"Release her!" He said.
There was a brief hesitation and absolute silence as her cuffs were removed.
He glared down at her.
"You! Don't let me ever, ever set my eyes on you on the streets againDo you understand me!" He barked.
Her "Yes!" was barely audible as she curtsied to show her gratitude.
"Go, take a bike home and clean up. You should treat yourself with more respect. You're worth far more than this low life you're living you know." He handed her a N200 note and a little handbill with an address where girls could be trained in a craft for free.
"But sir, she a prostitute..she should be locked up!" An officer protested as the others muttered their agreement.
The superintendent spoke with his back to them.
"I want anyone among you who has never patronized them or does not have a friend who patronizes them to take one step forward."
No one moved.
The Superintendent turned around and looked at their faces, his point had been made. He cleared his throat and marched on to attend to other issues while Maggie walked out free.
Tears rolled down her face in torrents. After years of judgment, abuse, pain and disregard; she'd been shown something she hadn't known for a long time. Mercy, forgiveness, compassion and hope. It felt differentand very good.
She took a bike smiling through her tears to the addresson the handbill.
Inspired by John 8:7.
Help me not to judge and add hurt and insult to wounds that other have.
Like Jesus, help me to be intolerant of sin but full of love and compassion for the sinner.
Help me so I never forget that it was grace, Your grace, that saved me and made me everything I am. I'm not better, I've just found grace.
Help me to offer hope, love and life to people around me especially those who do not know You or have never been given a chance to know and come to You.
Once awhile remind me and help me understand that if not for You, if I was wearing Maggie's shoes, I'd probably be no better.
Keep me in awe of what Your cross, blood and life have done for me.
In Jesus' name,
Adetokunbo love sharing her faith through her stories and srticles. A medical doctor by profession, her hobbies include writing (of course!), singing, solving logic puzzles and creating christian paper craft. She is happily married to her best friend, Olumayowa.