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"Five." I started counting, after putting the small pack of Hubba Bubba inside my ankara bag.


Mama looked at me.


I looked back at Mama.


"Barawo (thief)!" Sanusi shouted at me.

"Let's go!" I shouted at Mama and quickly crawled under the wooden table in the middle of the shop before I found my way outside.

Mama ran ahead of me and I caught up with her the moment we got close to the market gate, escaping from the shop owner's two sons, Sanusi and Ahmed, that were chasing us.

Oh God. Why did they catch us?

As we ran farther away from the market, Mama began to slow down before she stopped.

"Miriam wait!" Mama shouted from behind, causing me to slow down. "Can we stop? I am tired."

I stopped running and turned around to see her few metres away from me, she was panting as she stood with hands on her knee.

I was the fatter one between the both of us and yet she was the slower one. But there was no time for pity now.

"These boys will catch us soon!" I replied and looked up to see the two boys catching up behind my younger sister. "They're coming, let's go!"

I quickly moved closer to her and grabbed her arm. She stood upright in tiredness while I was grabbing her and we continue running to look for a hiding place.

There was only one reason why we ran. We were thieves.

Five minutes ago, we just stole a small pack of Hubba Bubba from a middle aged woman we knew, mama Sanusi's shop, at the tail end of the market. We were still dressed in our school uniform even though we closed from school 2 hours ago. But we were busy doing what we did best; stealing.

We were known as the 'rebellious orphans' because we were fond of stealing from shops and if anyone saw us near their shop, they would keep a big eye on us. Our secret was that one of us distracted the shop owner and the other one stole. Then when it was time to escape, the one stealing will count from one to five before we abort.

Unfortunately in this last shop, the owner's first born son, Sanusi caught me picking up the Hubba Bubba while Mama was talking to his mother.

Right now, we had to escape or else... trouble. Real trouble. The people in this town not punish thieves lightly. Male or female, young or old, they did still used the same punishment for all.

It was so ironic that a 13 year old girl like me was running away from two boys that were my sister's age or even younger. I could just simply knock their heads and send them back home. But these boys were too stubborn, even to their seniors like Mama and I.

Mama was ten years old. Her original name was Matilda but I called her Mama for short and I was the only one that called her that.

It was and has always been just the two of us against the world. We didn't have anyone to take control of us and we enjoyed every moment we stole because that was the only way we could feel rich again.

"This way!" I directed Mama to the empty street beside us as we were still running.

We took the left end to the empty street with empty big houses around. Big houses owned by rich men in Abuja and Lagos who showed up only during Christmas or Sallah period. Once we got to the end of the street, the road was empty and we stopped running. There was no way ahead of us as and all we were staring at were bushes. Really long rough bushes.

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