By Deborah Osadjere
When Christopher got to work that morning, he was surprised to see his boss at the conference before him. He felt weak at his knees but tried to pull himself together. Four past eight! That was the fifth time he was coming late to a conference for that week. He thought he did make it this time. 8 am seemed to soon these few days.
Christopher worked as a Secretary at BB Complex Ltd and one could say that he loved his job. You could tell from the way he comes to work in the morning with a smile on his face and a gentle good morning to everyone he sees on his path down to the swift operation of his position in the Company.
As he drew his seat to sit, he could feel 32 eyes on him. The eyes of his boss, more piercing. Most of his colleagues knew he was an early bird, but this recent changes: they couldn’t understand it.
The director, George Bridge cleared his throat and said, ‘shall we proceed.’ It wasn’t a question and was not intended to be; his Staffs knew what to do. George you could say was a stern man, pushing to get what he wants and wanting what he can get but he loved industriousness and appreciated his employers that way. Chris did not know what exactly was his faith by the end of the day but he knew he couldn’t say ‘I am sorry, Sir’ again.
Down the kings & kings street, in the four bedrooms flat at house 4B, Jane was pacing up and down the sitting room, her face in a distressed expression, her head aching; she was thinking too much. Solutions that she didn’t know if it was the right thing. But she had to do something. She turned like a snake ready to strike as she walked to her bedroom. The clock on the mantle read 5 pm. It’s two hours before her husband got home from work. Dressed In a jean pants and a fitting shirt with a black sneaker to match and a black hand bag, she headed out of her apartment and got to the junction; waved down a taxi and she was off.
It was quarter to 6 pm. A time when people will be coming back from work, a time when there was traffic starting up, a time when bars was gaining some customers before it gets to its brim. The Mug Bar was no exception to the crowd scenario. It was a place where people liked to stroll to; it had an air for eating, romance and gambling as well.
In a corner of the bar, a man sat there, wearing a clean shaved and ill-looked face. He kept glancing at his watch every now and then. He was getting irritated; he hated time wasting or at least he hated being delayed. He looked towards the door as he reached for his bear to take a sip. His face lit up with a smile. She was here.
Jane walked towards his table and drew a sit for herself as she said, ‘hello, John’
He moaned, ‘you’re late’
‘I was delayed,’ she challenged. And she was actually delayed; it took her much time with her heart to decide to come here tonight.
John reached for his bag sitting beside him and brought out an envelope which he stretched out to Jane. He said, ‘the instructions are inside. I don’t like please’ as he stood up and left her. Left her with a confusion, left her with a sadness, left her with a regret.
Christopher got home and nudged at his door bell. It opened and his wife reached for his bag as she gave him a hug, ‘how was your day?’ he nodded. But it was a ‘fine and not fine’ nod. Jane could see that something was wrong with her husband.
He didn’t wait for her to ask. He sighed, ‘I was fired’ and he gave her the letter to read which she didn’t look at. ‘God is still faithful’ he said and walked to the bedroom.
‘Faithful?’ she didn’t know when she said it out loud but she went on anyways, ’there is the house rent to pay, there is Claire’s school fees to settle, there is the water bill coming up and guess what? There is bearing any food in the house!’ The bang of the bedroom door reported his answer.
If there was anytime Chris needed some quiet and support from his wife, it was now and Jane knew that deep down in her heart. But fear and weakness took over her. She had lost her job two months ago because she refused to have an affair with her boss. A matter that Chris in his Christian faith had told her to let go. As for her, she would have dealt with the man. Now, she had just borrowed a hug sum of money from her ex-boyfriend because she knew her husband’s salary wouldn’t be able to pay the house rent before the Landlord came harassing them, as well as other expenditures, but she didn’t know that it would be this worse. Fired!
X X X X
‘THIS MONEY IS NOT A CHARITY. YOU ARE TO PAY IT BACK ONE MONTH FROM NOW WITH MY INTEREST OF $400. I DO NOT ACCEPT PLEASE.’
She folded the paper again and placed it in the envelope she had brought it from and placed it on the cupboard beside the bed. She wasn’t just afraid of the consequences of not paying back the money but there was something else; John was her ex-boyfriend. What madness drove her to do such a thing. But there was the other inner mind comforting her that she did no wrong. ‘you just wanted to help’ it told her.
Her phone rang on the mantle. She wasn’t interested in talking to anybody. The call was persistent. She picked it up surprised to see her hands shaking. It was Maggie. ‘hey, girl.’ Her voice was happy,’ how did it go.’
Jane sighed, ‘he gave me the money but….’
‘I told you he’d give you!’ Maggie was screaming from the other end. ‘you told your husband?’
‘I can’t! he will never forgive me.’ Saying it, she couldn’t forgive herself either. She felt weak, soft, vulnerable; regretting listening to Maggie, regretting her decision to go to her ex for her need. It made her feel terrible.
‘Of course, he will. You just have to tell him the truth.’ She said. ‘it will pass.’
‘Tell him that I slept with him a week to our wedding 6 years ago or tell him that it was an accident. That I went to say hello and give him an invitation to my wedding that evening and got drunk because I trusted him?’ her heart tightened. ‘Maggie, I should never have listened to you.’ She said and hung up.
It was a trial time for her. Her heart tightened. It was actually an accident but yet her conscience pounded at her. She was drunk yet conscious. She should have said ‘no’ to John that day, but did she?
John was her boyfriend right from year one in college but she did not love him as she thought she did. And after two years in the relationship, while she was thinking of telling him the truth about her feelings, she met Chris at the school cafeteria. He looked strong within and gentle and kind by the way he talked to her, and yes, he was. And he was also handsome. He had his hair growing over his forehead and a hidden dimple when he smiled. It was love at first sight and boom! She broke up with john. It pained john. She could see it in his eyes when she told him but he couldn’t hold her back.
They were still friends non the less but they were friends with underneath bitterness.
Now that she was in need, there was john for her rescue but she feared that john would tell her husband what happened that evening if she failed to pay the money. She could see her 6 years ‘home building’ came crashing down.
X X X X
It’s been 2 weeks since Chris lost his job and he’d been trying hard to get another. Submitting CVs from one Organization to another, searching online for vacancies and praying. He was trusting God for a miracle; he had never stopped trusting. He was a lover of God or at least believed there was God and tried his best to know Him better. A thanks he owns to his late Grandmother.
Their rent had expired two days ago and he wondered why the landlord had not come. It was unusual for that man not to come crashing down on his tenants for his money. He got up from his study and walked to the bedroom. He was looking for the house agreement file. He had to be sure that the date was correct. He stooped down and opened his bed side cupboard and pulled out the files one after the other. The file wasn’t there but he had kept it there. He walked over to the other side of the bed and pulled the drawer. He found it and just then Jane walked it. It was like she saw a ghost.
She didn’t say anything, couldn’t say anything. She felt her heart beat fast. It was finished.
Christopher had opened the file and the date! It was just two days ago stamped paid. He looked at his wife and then at the file. He sat on the bed. Perhaps his eyes were cheating him, he checked the previous pay, 10th October, 1998. He looked at the first paper, 10th October, 1999. There was nothing to decipher again. He knew his wife was also bankrupt. He needed answers.
‘Where did you get the money to pay for the bill.’ He wasn’t smiling
‘I …..I ..it was… I got it from Maggie,’ the lump in her throat wasn’t making things easier for her.
‘Maggie wouldn’t have $16,000. Or does she?’ his eyes narrowed.
‘I .. I can explain.’ she stammered. She opened her mouth to say something but couldn’t.
Chris was patient. He was waiting.
‘I collected the money from John’ she said. It was more of a whisper.
she also did not know why. At least not from John of all people to borrow money from. ‘I wanted to help. The…. the house rent was coming up and we’d be thrown out the house if we don’t pay the rent and your salary…. I know how hard you try buy you couldn’t have been able to raise the money for a year rent with that money.’ She paused. ‘I … I was just trying to help’
Chris just sat there wondering whether he was angry. He had the right to know, even though his wife was trying to help. He had the right to know. Then something occurred to him. He looked at jane like a hurt and injured wolf, ‘did you do it?’
jane shock her head in the negative. She was helpless, she felt helpless. She though again about that night, then thought about Maggie. Maggie has been her friend since college and she was the only one she had told the incident. She had to relieve her conscience, pour out her bitterness in some way. But now she didn’t know if she hated Maggie or hated herself more.
Chris was now a wounded lion. ‘answer me!’ he shouted. ‘did you do it?’
‘No.’ she said, ‘I did not do anything!’ the room was a shade of grey and flashes of dark and day came to her eyes…… she fainted.
X X X X
Far in the middle of Princeton avenue in New Jacksons Estate, John was bent on getting revenge. Not the one that would kill jane. No. but the one that will make her heart bleed and she’d wished she wasn’t alive. He had never forgiven her for leaving him. He took up his address directory and searched for Jane’s house. It was two hours’ drive from his house. He looked at his watch, four past eight. Good timing! Both birds would be at home. He’d give them a bitter surprise. He grabbed his car key on the glass table at center of the room, opened the front door and headed for Kings and Kings Street.
The street was serene. There were few cars coming down the street and then you could see few persons walking here and there. By the way they walked; they were headed to their houses. John took a sharp bend and slowed down two blocks from their house. He drove into their packing lot and alighted. He walked up to the door looked at the address and sure that it was house 4B, he rang the doorbell. Shortly after, his face was curved in a smile that you would think he had seen a congratulatory message.
Jane stood transfixed at the door way. She wanted to believe that she was still in her faint state.
‘Hello, Jane.’ He said, mockingly
‘Wh… what are you doing here.’ John could barely hear her. ‘It isn’t up to a month yet. Please I will give you your money’
‘Have you told him.’ He said
‘Told me what?’ called Chris coming towards them
‘Nothing Bae,’ Jane quickly said. ‘He is just a friend.’
‘I know who he is.’ Retorted Chris. ‘Told me what.’ He repeated.
John snorted. ‘You wife wasn’t satisfied with you so she came to me and we had fun.’ He enjoyed the anger and shock on Chris’s face and most especially the horror on Jane’s face. They can die for all he cared. Before he could say much ado, he was down on the floor. He did not curl like a rattle snake; he was up to strike back. Chris held his arm and gave him a kick in the guts which sent him retaliating back like an earthworm stepped upon. He was wedged by a car behind him. Who could have though that Christ-a Christian as he carries himself could have such wolf inside of him? He moved towards John. His anger was beyond sorry. Jane herself was just seeing this part of her husband and she feared for her life.
John held his hurting stomach, ‘You are not man enough to provide for her that’s why she keeps coming to me. I am the better man.’ He climbed his car, reversed recklessly, and drove off.
When Chris turned back, jane was on her knees. ‘I am sorry. It’s not as you think. I…I went to his house to invite him to come to our wedding as my friend. Then he gave me a drink and ….and I don’t know what happened. I got… I … I was drunk.’ She sobbed. ‘Bae, I was going to tell you. Please forgive me.’
Chris was shocked. He paced up and down. He could feel his anger coming up again. He felt like smashing something, hitting something. Jane betrayed him. He turned and looked at her.
‘it’s been what? 6 years with a 4 year old daughter and you had kept all this away from me? You cheated on me!’
Jane shock her head.
‘You have betrayed me, Jane.’ He bawled and walked inside.
To jane, her world has fallen.
Maggie sat beside her. Her eyes were swollen and red. She had cried all through the night and Maggie had come as soon as she had called her that morning. It was still early. Jane had narrated all what had happened over the phone though her voice was husky and she learnt that Christopher had not slept in the house. Maggie did not know what to do or say to her friend. She felt guilty in a way. But jane was most thankful that their daughter was with her grandmas than to witness these happenings.
‘He will come back home,’ said Maggie. ‘I am sorry, jane.’
Chris was before the interview Panel at LifeBuoy inc. it was an insurance company and a big one at that. It was located at the middle of Arena city. He’d never thought that he would work in this place one day but here he was and they were asking him……
‘When would you be fine to resume, Mr. Christopher?’
‘On Monday, 18th,’ he said professionally.
‘18th.’ Said Ben, the head of the Panel and they shock hands.
Chris had left the house that night and for three day he was with his friend, Jerry who still worked at BB Company. Jerry had found the answer to all Chris’s lately behavior at the company before he left. Pressure from the house rent to his daughter’s schools fees down to his need to provide and many more. He pitied his friend. Running away from home was not the solution and Chris knew it but he found it difficult to believe that jane could do this to him and what’s worst, keep it away from him for so long. She was still close friends with john even after their marriage. The thought stabbed him. But then forgive. He had to forgive. He was thought to forgive. By his grandmother, by his pastor, by his bible; he knew it would be difficult.
‘If there is any among you who have not sinned, cast the first stone,’ he recited.
The door bell of house 4B rang. Jane opened the door. She looked unkept and pained, but she felt alive and yet faint at the sight. She hoped for the better but was set for the worst.
‘I had the right to know.’ Said Chris standing at the door. ‘I do not hate you but yet I have not forgiven you.’ And he walked inside.
Claire ran to hug her father who knelt down to receive her. ‘I missed you, dad.’ She said with a gracious heart and a wide smile.
Chris held her tight and said in his heart, for Claire’s sake, I am here.