(For a better experience, read while listening to James Paget’s “The Hero Within”. Available at: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0gC0WlU0NtM)

[Command Center]

The small group was mostly seated, save a few pacing about as they tried quietly to contain their anxiety and excitement. Several pairs of eyes watched the large flat screen TV; the performance was about to begin.

[Region 1, Blue Violet]

Brigette leafed through the files Agah her deputy had left on the oak table from yesterday. Her quick scan done, she pushed the pile away as there was nothing of interest or urgently needing her attention. She was thinking of heading out to grab a cup of coffee when the door opens and Agah walks in. He has an envelope in his hand with the emblem of Regional Head Quarters.

Her heart skipped a beat. They’d been expecting a dossier from HQ. As if reading her mind Agah lingers on hoping she’d open the mail. And with trembling hands she does, unsealing the envelope and there it is, the signature page of the treaty. A Regional Treaty to Combat Violence against Women and Domestic Violence. All parties had ratified.

She blinks, trying hard to stop the tears that had formed and would soon run down her cheeks. She couldn’t and let the tears flow. Agah looked at her with a knowing smile. It had been a long and hard struggle to get here.

[Region 2, Forget-Me-Not]

The exchange of gunfire had stopped. It was more than 20 minutes since the last shots were heard coming from the premises. Yelewo speaks into his radio, giving his men orders to approach with caution. He could hear stifled cries from a building a few feet away to his left at the western end of the premises.

Sanni and three others dash to a door, pause briefly and burst it open. The sight: more than 20 young women, scantily dressed, huddled, most in their late teens and early twenties. The shrieking cries of babies could be heard from an adjoining room. Sanni was sure his colleagues would find similar numbers of women and babies in other areas within the premises.

Many of the women had been lured/kidnapped and trafficked hundreds of miles from their countries to this baby factory. They were sex slaves. Yelewo and his men with the support of Interpol have just taken out this branch of a violent crime syndicate.

[Command Center]

Signal failure; a pause in the news feed. “It’s happening”, someone said softly. More persons were pacing now. Two regions had delivered, four were left. Six regions, six blooms, one bouquet. The performance wasn’t complete if any failed. That was the general thinking.

Still to go…

Region 3, Gillyflower – Girl Child Education; Region 4, White Lilac – Child Marriage; Region 5, Yellow Daffodil – Gender Wage Gap; Region 6, Blue Salvia – Better Working Conditions for Pregnant Women and Working Mothers.

(A bouquet version of this narrative is available at: Once Upon a Month – Six-One)

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