I know you’re supposed to be reading Fish Brain Vows but I’m shifting it to tomorrow and bringing you the second part of Caught Up.
Enjoy and I promise back to back episodes of Fish Brain Vows.
Read Previous Episode HERE
I wasn’t upset about what she said but it was the way she said it that got me worried. The way she flared up made me feel like she was hiding something from me. I refused to be drawn into another fight so I got up and pulled her into a hug while apologizing. She pushed me away. “Look, I have to go. Its 7pm and Jenson’s mum will soon be back from church. Work on your jealousy issues Tunde.” With that, she left the house while I looked on at the closed peeling grey paint on the door.
After two weeks of keeping the fight I had with Jovie to myself, I discussed everything with Jenson when he returned home one evening and he echoed my fears. “You sure se no be man find am the work?”
“Na man but she talk se na her Uncle.”
We were both silent for some time and I knew Jenson was thinking the same thing I was thinking: Jovie was probably cheating on me. I mulled over the thought before Jenson spoke.
“You don hear of this Immigration aptitude test?”
“Yea but dem say na for those people wey apply since na. You bin apply?”
“Yes na. abi I tell you that time se na me and Chidi bin apply. Na him even tell me sey dem go soon do the test. Na him Uncle wey de work for dia tell am.” He scratched his hair before continuing.” Me I de apply for anytin o. Four years after graduation with no job no be beans.”
“Abi. I no know why I no apply sef. Omo, I tire o. Now wey Jovie don get work, e go hard o. the small small recharge card wey I de send am no go mean anytin again.” I yawned and stretched on the worn out grey couch before returning to my thoughts.
Things between me and Jovie only got worse when she started working. She hardly answered my calls and when she did, she constantly talked about one Adam guy like that. So one day, I went to her office to surprise her. I closed my recharge card stand by 11:30 am that day and went to Victoria Island, where her office was situated. I bought her a plate of rice and a bowl of ice-cream from an eatery but the sun melted the ice-cream so I drank the entire ice-cream liquid in the bus before getting to her office. I had also taken a small bottle of body spray-precisely Body Fantasies- so that I will spray it before going into her office. I had to smell clean in spite of the hot weather and car fumes.
I was directed to her office; She shared it with two other girls but she wasn’t in it when I got there. I met a fat black lady in the office who introduced herself as Debbie.
“I did not know she won’t be in the office. I wanted to surprise her.”
Debbie smiled, exposing her gap tooth. “She just stepped out for lunch with her friend, she will soon be back. You may sit.”
“Thank you Debbie.” I settled into the leather couch close to the window. True to Debbie’s words, Jovie returned a few minutes after I had settled into the couch but she was not alone. I heard the sound of their laughter from where I sat. It was Jovie and another voice, a male voice. She sounded so happy and the sound of her laughter made me remember Minna, how she used to laugh in careless abandon. How she used to laugh whenever she was with me. I can hardly remember her laugh that way with me these days. She walked into the office without noticing me but when she did, I did not miss the look in her eyes. She wasn’t expecting to see me and she did not entertain my surprise. I noticed her now bleached skin, I also noticed that her hair looked unusually straightened and made her small head even smaller, I noticed her red nails and excess make-up but above all, I noticed the man with her.
At this juncture, I want to put it to you that I am not gay and will never be but the guy with her that day was handsome. I no de trip for guys but this guy was tush from his head to toe and the masculine scent that accompanied him filled the entire room, overpowering my body spray. I can bet he wears Pampers because guys like him don’t use the toilet and maybe he has a nanny or maids that wipe his ass and brush is Colgate teeth. He wore a black and white striped shirt tucked into a black trouser length, exposing a thick leather belt. His shoes were as spotless as his smile. He towered over my 5 foot 7 and shook my hands firmly with his stupid perfect hands. He looked like he walked out of a billboard picture and this made me instantly hate him.
“Tunde this is Adam, Adam meet Tunde.” Jovie said in a forced English accent.
“My pleasure” Adam said. He turned to Debbie and gave her the KFC nylon bag he had in his hand.
“ Chai! Oga Adam, you know what I love!”
“Debbie don’t start abeg.” The two laughed in a familiar way before Adam turned to Jovie again. “Will see you by four, right?”
“Yea.” She added quickly. He left with all his intimidation while I stood in the middle of the office like a misplaced piece to a puzzle.
“Can we see outside?” Jovie said to me.
“Yea, sure.” We both walked out of the bank into the blasting sun. I pulled out my handkerchief to wipe of the sweat and the low self-esteem that hung conspicuously on my face. “Babe, how na? How you de?”
“ What are you doing here Tunde? Do you want me to lose my job? Do you know that Debbie is my supervisor and that she could query me?”
“Jovita Mbakwe are you insane? Do you realize that it is me you are talking to? You went for lunch with that chipmunk and your supervisor did not query you but seeing me will get you a query?” I swallowed my anger when I saw her eyes glistening with unshed tears. “Look, I’m so sorry I shouted. I…I did not mean to, my love. Baby please don’t cry. We are outside.” She nodded slowly and spared me a smile. I handed over the package I had bought for her and she grinned. “So will you tell me who that Adam guy is?”
She laughed and tapped me on my shoulder.” You ehn! Seriously, he is nothing to me. He is my boss and is not even in my department. But he is my birthday mate and I guess that’s why we are close. He promised to get me an iphone 5 gold for my birthday sha so, when you see it, don’t start shouting o. He just likes being nice to people. Shey you saw when he gave Debbie stuff nau”
Wait o, this girl think se I be fool?
I was so upset but I shielded my anger with a smile.” So if chipmunk gives you a phone now, you will collect it?”
She frowned before answering my question. “Tunde what nau? I told you since last week that my phone is bad and till today you haven’t fixed it!”
“But I told you that the phone needs flashing and I don’t have the equipment for it!”
“Ehen, so why are you now complaining if someone gets me a gift, ehn?” her voice had risen and people began to look at us.
“Look, reduce your voice” I said in a whisper. We stood under the sun for some time and different thoughts ran through my mind. I held her left hand. “ Baby please, don’t collect that phone from him. I will get you the phone myself. I promise you, before April 24th, you will get that phone from me.” her eyes told me she did not believe me but she smiled nonetheless. I did not believe me either. We both smiled and I looked at the expensive chain wrist watch she wore. It was the first time I had seen her wear it and I looked sternly at it. It must have cost a fortune . “Who is this from?”
“Oh… that? It’s a Hublot watch. Designers.” she laughed nervously. “My dad gave it to me.” I shook my head in sadness but before I could say another word, I noticed something else. The chain wrist watch had shifted from its appropriate position to her forearm and what I saw shocked me! Jovie had a tattoo at the back of her wrist.
” Jovie!!!!” I exclaimed.
She pulled her wrist from my firm grip.”I did it for you Tunde. Can’t you see the inscription is ‘baby’? That is what you call me nau! I…I… wanted to surprise you!” Her face was red and she was on the verge of tears again. I was speechless. This was not Jovie at all. “Look, I have to go now. Later!” she walked away and I stared at her swaying hips, wondering how many men shared those enticing hips with me.
As the days rolled by, I began to think of ways to make money and the frustration of coming up with no fruitful ideas pulled me into depression. I and Jovie had worked things out after she swore to me that she wasn’t cheating on me and I chose to believe it. See, you guys won’t understand; what I had or have with Jovie, is like a life jacket. Having her in my life made me feel normal, planning for our future gave me hope that the storms in life will pass and things will be okay. At least, that was what I thought until the 15th of March 2014…
The day began normally. It was sunny in Lagos and a neighbor had invited me and Jenson’s mother to a wedding but I refused to go. Weddings can be very depressing and pretentious: two people borrow money and spend it all in one day and then live in debt till God knows when. I’m not saying it is the same thing for everyone but that was the case of my neighbors. Anyway, Jenson on the other hand prepared for the Immigration aptitude test and left with Chidi in the wee hours of the morning. I went to my recharge card stand and left when I heard of the fracas in Stadium. Chidi and Jenson did not pick my calls and this got me extremely worried. When Jenson’s mother returned home it was worse. She cried and prayed and by 9pm on the dot, Jenson walked into the house looking dirty and worn out.
The questions flew out of my mouth. “Guy, wetin do your phone? Wetin happen na? You no gree-“
“Chidi Odimba don die!” he sat on the floor, held his head in his hands, and burst into tears.
“What? Which Chidi?”
The whole house fell silent and Jenson’s mother searched for her phone and called Chidi’s mother. When she confirmed the news, she let out a wail which drew neighbors out of their homes.
“Mama Smokes no cry abeg… at least Smokes no die for this matter” one of the neighbors said.
Another said; “Chai! See how people pikin dey die like fowl! Nigeria na wa! Abeg no cry again.”
I sat at the corner of the sitting room and watched my neighbors cry for someone they hardly knew. i still don’t understand why they cried and made all the comments but it made me cry too. I thought of Chidi Odimba and his ways of yabbing me, his wayward years in school and the fact that I was only his friend because he was Jenson’s cousin. The annoying thing about all these is the fact that Chidi was already working as a teacher in a public secondary school and loved his job but I guess like we all, he wanted a better life.
The burial was planned quickly because of the circumstances surrounding his death. We all went for his burial even though I wasn’t a member of the family. When I told Jovie I was travelling, she cried and said she will miss me but did not see me off to the park even though it was on a Saturday. I did not make a big deal out of it because Jenson was still in shock and I needed to be there for him than whine about my girlfriend.
After the burial, we were all spent of crying so Chidi’s cousin and Jenson took to smoking weed behind the pit toilet in the family house. The night was frighteningly dark and the butt of their cigarettes looked like fire-flies shining in the dark. I used my Nokia torchlight phone to locate them because Chidi’s mother wanted all of us to eat together. When I got to the scene, Josh- Chidi’s cousin- told me to turn off the light and join them in their meeting. He was a few years older than Chidi and spoke in a fake American accent.
“Dude, we were jus’ talking about ya.” Josh said.
“What about?” I asked.
“Jenson, you tell him. I gotta take a piss. ‘Scuse me.”
Jenson said nothing as Josh walked away to the other side of the clearing near the toilet.
“O’boy, I think se dem deport that guy from America,why e still dey form for here?” I asked, laughing.
Jenson took a drag at his cigarette and took my phone from me to check what time it was. “ E get wetin I wan tell you but na between us.” He sounded serious and I strained my eyes in the dark to look at his face.
“What kinda deal?”
He took another drag before answering. “It’s a deal Chidi told me the morning before his death. It was supposed to down before his death but…”
His voice trailed off and it seemed like an eternity before he continued. This time, he looked at me. “You know se this Immigration tin don make me know se our situation no go change soon. Instead of change to better tin, e go de worse and we gats look for ways to make our life better than this. Four years and still hustling no be small matter.” He exhaled before he continued. “There is a bank on Surulere, where Deji works. Deji is a close friend of ours but I don’t think you’ve ever met him.”
“Is he offering you a job?”
I scratched my head in frustration.”What’s with the suspense Jenson?”
“He wants us to rob the bank.” He looked in my direction and repeated what he said even though he knew I had heard him the first time. “Deji wants us to rob the bank with him. Everything has already been planned out and we have inside men for the job.” When I did not respond he continued. “ Are you in or out?” When I said nothing, he laughed a little and I thought it was a joke but his next words had me hooked. “It is 70 million naira deal. See ehn, I don tire to find work. My mumsy de suffer, to de sell that garri dey drain am plus she de hypertensive.”
I turned on my torchlight and flashed the bright light on his face. “Guy wetin nau?!” he shouted.
“ I wan see the face of the person wey dey talk this kain nonsense! I wan see your face Jenson!” I said in an angry whisper. I turned off the light and walked away.
We returned to Lagos and never repeated the conversation we had behind the pit toilet. I tried as much as possible to avoid Jenson and I think he did same because we hardly saw each other during the day. He went out in the evenings and returned in the mornings and this did not bother me until I saw him give his mother a huge sum of money to keep for him. As much as I had my grudge against him, I worried for his safety and prayed for him.
Jovita and I tried to see each other more frequently and I was grateful to God for the miracle. She told me Adam was on transfer and my happiness knew no bounds. We actually planned a small weekend together in Le Chateau Hotel in Victoria Island. I contributed 30% of the money while Jovita contributed 70%. I was happy to have her all to myself even though her long weave, fake lashes and plastic nails made her look like someone else. On Saturday morning, after a passionate row of the most amazing sex in our lives (I did not say this, she did), we stayed in each other’s arms and it felt like heaven to me.
“Baby?” I called as I cuddled her from behind
“Yes darl” She replied in a purr. I loved it when she sounded that way. It gave me courage to ask her the question that troubled my mind since we arrived.
“Baby, where did you get the money to pay for the hotel room, room service and all that?”
I felt her body stiffen and relax in my arms before she answered. “I am being paid at work nau. I am one of the best marketers in that bank and I have a good commission for that.”
“Yea.” She turned to face me with her sexiest grin. “And there is nothing wrong with spending on my boo” my heart fluttered when I kissed her full on the lips, pouring all my love into her. When we stopped kissing she smiled again and I laughed.
“You are the most precious thing in the world.”
“You too, boo.” She stopped smiling and looked into my eyes. “Babes you said you will get me that phone before my birthday right?”
I tried to keep smiling but it did not work. “Babe you know I can’t-“
The light in her eyes dimmed even though she still wore her smile and I saw something else replace it. I could not catch what it was until later. “It is okay love. don’t worry about the phone or anything else.”
It was on my way home on Sunday that I realized that what I saw in her eyes would have told me she will get that phone, with or without me. I should have broken up with her after that day but there is only one Jovita for me. I had to talk to Jenson. I had to tell him to count me in.
To Be Continued…