Izuchukwu drove his Toyota Corolla into the parking lot of a popular eatery. A quick dinner; a welcome break from his niece’s cooking. The bitter leaf soup she served him the previous evening had salt as its main ingredient. Ngozi had mentioned, with pride, that she prepared a potful of it. Izuchukwu was certain that Ngozi must have concluded that another generous portion of the bitter leaf soup would be ideal for the evening. For his age he knew he deserved something better. Izuchukwu considered his pear-shaped face in the rear-view mirror before he opened the door—truly, for his age, as his face confirmed, he deserved something better.
Izuchukwu nodded to acknowledge the presence of the doorman. The aroma of freshly baked products filled his nostrils immediately the door was held open for him.
He had a table to himself, and he liked it that way.
“Rice—jollof rice.” Izuchukwu said to the young waiter.
“Chicken or beef, sir?”
“Fried, grilled or roasted?”
Izuchukwu sighed. “Fried.”
“Your food will be served in a moment, sir.”
The waiter gave honour to his word.
As he ate, Izuchukwu found it almost impossible to take Nneoma out of his thoughts. Why?! he mused. Nneoma was taking too long a time to give him a response. A good product, he knew, would do badly in the market when its producer sets an unreasonable price, a price too high for the market—and, when there’s competition? Sadly, Nneoma was doing same—pricing herself too high.
Izuchukwu placed the knife on the fleshy meat. He looked around him. No one seemed to be watching. He dropped the knife and raised the meat to his mouth with his hand.
But, who really waits that long for a woman with three kids? Izuchukwu thought. Yes, his love for Nneoma was still strong. But . . . no, I’m the man, I call the shots! I deserve more: a young wife, a woman with firm breasts; firm breasts—like Ulunma’s breasts. Ulunma, his late wife. Her breasts had been firm, and it grew in size as his child grew within her. Izuchukwu had never ceased to wonder why a thing as natural as childbirth could kill a woman. The holy book had only mentioned pain—with pain you will give birth to children. He remembered his late wife’s face, and the playful way she declined his sexual advances after the baby bump had become more visible. He always consoled himself, fondling her tender breasts while she would reach for his hard member, making him realise that, between a man and a woman, there were other ways to reach that desired height of sexual bliss without a penetration. Izuchukwu had never favoured masturbation, but it did not matter much whenever Ulunma touched him. Ulunma was a bit too religious, else she would have taken him in her mouth.
Izuchukwu dropped the meat and he pushed the plate, and its content, aside. He waited a while for the waiter to show up. As they conversed, his mobile phone began to ring.
“Keep the change.” he said to the waiter. Then he began a new conversation with the one who had called. “Hello, Nneoma.”
“Izu, where are you?” Her voice sounded different.
Izuchukwu remained quiet, thoughtful though.
“I stopped briefly to buy something. I was actually driving home.”
“I just got a call that Evans was rushed to the hospital. I don’t know why, but the neighbour who called me said he is unconscious.” she stopped briefly. “Izu, please, can you come to my aid—I don’t want to face this, whatever it is, alone.”
“Where is the hospital?” Izuchukwu asked, already on his feet. He was quiet but attentive as Nneoma gave him the name and address of the hospital. “I’ll be there shortly.”
“Jerry called shortly after you left my shop.”
“Yes.” she said, and heaved. “When you get here I will tell you more.”
As Izuchukwu walked towards the door, he assured himself that he was going to meet Nneoma because it was the right thing to do, not because he wanted to win her favour.
“Stop! I don see the place.”
He alighted quickly from the tricycle, paid the fare and walked briskly, almost ran, towards the compound where Mr. Ray’s new office was situated. A face-to-face conversation with Mr. Ray came tops in his options. When he had made a call to his mother, she had been elated to hear his voice, and her words revealed that she longed to see him. Jerry wanted to see her too; Evans and Ruth also. But, while he conversed with his mother, Jerry had sensed that she would not let him out of her sight again. And that meant one thing: she, definitely, would not give him the money he needed.
This is my chance to make it big, mama; he whispered after the call had ended. I have to go, anyhow. Jerry did not want to miss the opportunity, not when it came a bit cheap.
As Jerry walked to the gate, a man, in a brown kaftan and a worn-out cap, appeared from a corner. He also walked towards the gate—from the other side, that is. Jerry greeted first.
“Na who I dey find?”
“Ehm, one Mr. Ray. Na the office address wey him give me be this—24 Okoduwa street, na im be this, abi? Jerry said, a bit shaky. He offered the man the piece of paper where he copied the address.
“This na 24 Okoduwa, but no Mr. Ray dey live here. This one no be office building.” Jerry bit his lower lip. He had already recognized that it was a residential building.
He sat on the bed, his back laid on a pillow. His legs were apart, allowing enough room for a girl who wore a short synthetic wig. Her lips tickled the tip of his penis making it leap several times before taking it in her mouth, and bringing it out again—only to resume same practice.
His phone began to ring.
“Sir, Jerry just came to the site.”
He sighed as he dropped the phone on the bed. It was common knowledge that once a client showed up at the ‘new office’, it held only two possibilities, none favorable to them: either the client had found out that he was caught in a fraud or he was at the end of his wits, unable to raise more money.
Mr. Ray pulled another phone close. Then he removed a sim card from its side. Aside that mobile contact, Jerry knew nothing else about him.
The girl giggled. “I guess you’re about to break it.”
“Break it? No!” he said, smiling. “I want to watch you as you chew it.”
Watch Out for Chapter Fourteen…