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THE VALLEY OF DEBT- EPISODE 1

‘Sweetheart, I just got back from the hospital. I am pregnant.’

Jerry turned to stare at his wife, his face suddenly turning pale.

‘Did you hear what I just said?’

He looked away and gently placed his briefcase on the bed. Kike can’t be pregnant. This must be a joke. In fact, this is impossible.

His wife left the entrance and came to stand in front of him. He refused to look at her face. What he wanted so badly was to be alone to process this news. Why won’t she just leave him to think. Searching for something to distract him, he began to unknot his tie.

She held out a piece of paper. ‘The test result.’

Jerry stared at the paper as if by touching it, he’d contract an incurable disease. When he finally took it from her, he exhaled and sat on the edge of the bed. Then he stood up and began to pace the room.

‘I thought you registered for family planning. What about the money I gave to you?’ He flung the paper aside. ‘This is not supposed to happen!’

Not after two children. Not when he was faced with financial responsibilities that wanted to choke life out of him.

‘Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I had to use the money for something else.’ Kike announced, her face drawn.

Jerry grabbed her shoulders. ‘How could you? Where do you want me to get money to take care of another child. I’m still trying to raise money to pay our children’s school fees and you bring me this sad news? What did you even use the money for?’

Kike didn’t say anything. She kept her eyes on the floor.

‘Is it not you I’m talking to? What did you use the money for?’

Kike’s eyes were smarted with tears as she looked at her husband. ‘I had to pay for the materials I ordered. I asked for some money but you said you didn’t have any. I want to start selling Ankara.’

Jerry stamped his feet on the ground. ‘Which business have you ever done that made sense? Ehn? Two years ago, it was bags you sold. The rusted bags are scattered at one corner of our wardrobe. Last year, you bought foodstuff to sell and shared it with the neigbours when it’s not like you are father Christmas. The fairly used clothing business you ventured into, your creditors have still not paid till date.’

Kike flared up. ‘Stop talking to me like that. I’m trying my best!’

Jerry clenched his fist, ‘I can see how well you are trying. The issue is I don’t have the funds to take care of this nonsense you have in your womb. Find a way to get it out.’

Kike stood there, stunned. ‘Are you asking me to abort our child?’

He raised his hands. ‘Did you hear that from my lips? If you like, run to the Pastor, I don’t care. What I’m saying is, whatever is growing in your womb does not belong to me.’

Kike slumped down into the chair beside a mirror that hung on the wall. Jerry changed into a t-shirt and knickers and walked out of the room.

‘Where are you going to?’ Kike asked as she followed her husband out of the room. He didn’t respond.

‘If you will just stop drinking and hanging out with those friends of yours, we’ll have enough to take care of this child!’

Jerry turned towards her and crossed his arms. He opened his mouth to say something but stopped himself.  Sharon, his five year old daughter jumped down from the dining chair and ran to him asking to be carried. He pushed her aside and stormed out of the house.

Kike stood at the veranda watching her husband pull a glossy black Toyota Venza out of the compound.

How she had pleaded with him not to buy that car but he had been adamant.

‘Can’t we get a smaller car for now?’ she had suggested. ‘I don’t even think we need another car for now. We can still manage this Honda until we get some things settled. Honey, there is so much we need to buy at home. Our kids need new books and bags.’

He hadn’t listened to her. He’d taken a car loan and given her the Honda. She remembered the day he brought the car home. He’d invited his friends and asked a caterer to supply pepper soup and fried chicken. Kike had been mad with rage as she watched them eating and drinking until they could hardly walk. Twenty-thousand naira had gone that day just for celebrating the arrival of a car he’d have to pay through his nose.

Jerry drove down the street sweating profusely even though the air-conditioner was turned on. The loud music from the car stereo couldn’t stop the fears that plagued his heart.

He had less than ten thousand naira in his account and it was just the second week of the month.

How was he going to survive the rest of the month?

The maintenance for the car was sucking up his salary badly. Just two days ago, his mechanic requested for forty thousand naira to fix an issue with his car. There was still the car loan to be paid. The suits and shoes he’d ordered, he was yet to complete payment for them.

There were other bills screaming for his attention. 500,000 naira for house rent which would be due in a couple of weeks. 100k for the wristwatch he ordered from his friend. There was another 200k he’d invested in a business deal that turned out badly. Then there was this 300k he’d been owing his friend for two years now. Wale was already threatening to involve the police. And now, Kike had announced she was carrying his child.

He hit the steering and let out a curse.

How do I get out of this mess?

There was only one solution right now. He would drink to forget about his problems. He’d stagger out of the bar, get into his car and drive into an electric pole. A stranger would find him dead. How great a relief that would be.

He turned off the ignition and sat there, oblivion to the loud music coming from the bar.

Freedom, his heart screamed.

He could hardly breathe. He clung to his chest as darkness spread over his heart leaving a trail of anguish coursing through his body.

He longed to be hit by a bus, to drive right into the comfort of a trailer. He’d be crushed in seconds.

Wale. Gbenga. Ben. Landlink Credit Limited. They’d come to get him but none would find him. He’d be gone. Free from their grip.

Jerry shook the thought away and got down from the car. The bar was crowded and the night girls hovered around the customers. Ladies with bleached skins in skimpy dresses met him at the door flirting openly and trying to get his attention. Usually, when he came with his friends, he’d smile and pull out five thousand naira and sometimes ten thousand to give to them. But today, he wanted to be alone. They disappeared when he shot them an icy glare.

Jerry gulped one bottle after another. He became so drunk that he didn’t recognize his car when he got to it. He staggered to the back of the building and vomited. As he took a step forward, he slipped on the vomit and landed right in the middle of it.

It was daybreak when he awoke. He tried to sit up but his head ached badly. He reached for his pocket. His phones were gone. When he got to where his car was parked, he met only an empty space. Alarmed, he thrust his hands into his pocket for his car keys. His pockets were empty. His wallet too had disappeared. He rushed to the bar. It was locked. There was no one in sight.

Jerry placed his hands on his head. ‘Oh God! Now I know you hate me! Just kill me!’

He ran back to where he parked his car and stood there for a long time.

‘Oga Jerry, you dey okay so?’ One of the waitresses carrying a carton of beer asked as she dropped the carton in front of the bar.

‘My car is gone. My wallet. My phones.’

She looked at him pitifully. ‘Eyah. Ndo eh. People wicked o. Sorry sir.’

‘Where is your Madam?’

She yawned. ‘Madam don go sleep. Me sef I dey go house. I just come drop beer.’

Jerry sighed in frustration. ‘I don’t even have any money to go home. Did you see anybody driving my car out of the bar?’

She shook her head. ‘I no see anybody o. Maybe you fit go tell police.’ She reached into her bra and brought out two rumpled 500 naira notes. ‘Manage am. Na wetin I get be this.’

He thanked her and wobbled towards the road, his shoulders slumped and his eyes filled with tears.

When he got home, Kike was dead worried. Since they got married, he’d never stayed out all night. She screamed for explanations but again he wanted to be alone to attend to his miserable life.

‘I got drunk and couldn’t find my way back. My phones have been stolen okay? Please call my boss and tell her I’m sick.’

Kike drew back the curtain and looked out. ‘Where is your car?’

Jerry battled between telling her the truth and sticking with a lie. ‘I left it with the mechanic.’

Depressed, he entered the room and jumped on the bed without removing his shoes. He closed his eyes but couldn’t sleep. From the living room, he could hear his wife talking on the phone. She came into the room and sat down on the bed.

‘Aunty Patricia said you can take all the time you need. But when you get to work, you should go straight to Alex’s office.’

At the mention of Alex, Jerry’s eyes popped opened. ‘She said that?’

Kike nodded. ‘Who’s Alex?’

‘The Head of Human Resources Department. But why would she ask me to see Alex?’

Jerry tried to stand up from the bed, but the pain at the back of his head stung him hard. He fell back to the bed. When he tried to sit up again, his wife pushed him back gently.

‘Rest dear. You can find out tomorrow. Besides, your sister owns the company. I’m positive it’s something good. Maybe it’s a raise.’

Jerry smiled dryly. ‘I hope so. How did she sound on the phone?’

Kike removed his shoes and set them aside. ‘She sounded normal. Relax okay? I’ll make you a cup of tea.’

He grabbed her hand. ‘I don’t want a cup of tea. Just stay here with me, please.’

Kike noticed his hands were trembling. She wondered if there was something Jerry wasn’t telling her. She slide into beside him. He wrapped his hand around her waist and pulled her closer.

Kike looked at him. ‘Honey, are you okay?’

He kissed her forehead and pulled her closer until he could feel the warmth of her body against his cold chest. ‘I’m fine.’

‘If this is about the car loan, everything will be fine.’

He wished he could believe those words. Kike would scream if she knew all the debts he had hanging on his neck. Why can’t all these troubles just go away? If someone could just settle all his debts, he swore he’d never take another loan in his life.

When Jerry got to work the following day, the quick glances from his colleague disturbed him. Something was wrong. He dropped his bag on his table and went to Alex’s office. His heart panted with every step he took there. Alex saw him and reached into his drawer for a letter.  He gave it to Jerry and returned his attention to his laptop.

‘What’s this?’

‘M.D instructed me to give this to you. Please sign that you received a copy of the letter.’ Alex said without looking at him.

Jerry didn’t take his eyes off the HR as he opened the letter. His eyes settled on the content and his heart dropped.

He had been fired. His own blood had asked him to leave the only place that’d footed his bills for years. Why would she do something like this? He had worked for five long years with her. This was pure wickedness.

He froze when he got to the second paragraph of the letter and immediately shame swept over him.

He went straight to the M.D’s office.

Patricia hissed when he entered her office. ‘What do you want?’

‘Patricia, I know I was wrong, but please forgive me. You are my sister. You should understand.’

The M.D raised her finger. ‘I am not your sister! We are cousins but that doesn’t mean our blood is exactly the same. I cannot have a brother like you.’

‘Please, don’t fire me. Where do I start from?’

‘You didn’t think about that when you started borrowing money from my clients and refusing to pay them. What is wrong with you? Why are you so covetous? Just yesterday afternoon, another man came here with a police officer to arrest you. See, I don’t need people like you here!’

Jerry went on his knees. ‘Please, I promise it won’t happen again.’

The fifty year old woman clapped her hands. ‘Jerry, leave my office abeg. At least I tried. I have paid the money you owe my clients. I’ve worked so hard to build a reputation for myself and I’ll never allow anybody destroy it. If you like, go and report me to your father. If they decide to call a family meeting, I will boldly tell them how you almost ruin my business. I don’t play with my clients especially not with someone like Alhaji Ibrahim. Get out!’

When Jerry stepped out of the M.D’s office, he bumped into Frank, the loan officer of a credit and investment company owned by one of Patricia’s high clientele.

‘Frank, what are you doing here? It’s good to see you again.’

Frank moved away from the receptionist’s desk. ‘Let’s just say I came to market my services and to see this beautiful receptionist whose heart I have stolen.’ He winked at the receptionist who rolled her eyes at him. ‘Actually, I came to see the M.D for something important.’

Jerry moved closer to him. ‘It’s just that I was about calling you and then to see you right before me is a great surprise. Frank, I want the money I’ve been investing in your company for the past 5 years.’

Frank thrust his hand into his pockets. ‘There is a letter waiting for you at the office.’

Jerry panicked. ‘What letter?’

‘Information reached us that you have been laid off.’

‘What does that have to do with the investments I’ve made in your company.’

‘Everything my dear brother. Please stop over at the office and see Yemisi. You’ll find the breakdown of your expenses and how we invested your money. Remember you’ve not gone half way with the car loan payment. There are also some emergency loans you took that you’ve not finished paying for.’

‘What emergency loan? I can’t remember owing any money apart from that of the car.’

Frank tapped him on his shoulder. ‘We have everything stated in the letter. The details will greatly refresh your memory. I’m not sure there’s anything for you bro. But just see Yemisi. She’s in charge of your account.’

Jerry went down the staircase slowly. For one moment, his mind went dark.

The others will come after him demanding for their money. Wale was still easy to deal with but Gbenga was a terror.  He’d shoot his leg if he didn’t pay up by the end of the month.

As he reached into his wife’s car, excitement surged through him. He knew what to do to break free. The excitement disappeared and was replaced with a deep fear. The fear dissipated and left behind a trail of pain that tightened his abdomen.

This will soon be over, Jerry muttered under his breath.

***

To be continued. On Monday.

Read: Lekki Sisi full story

Who will marry you?

To love and to hold

10 thoughts on “THE VALLEY OF DEBT- EPISODE 1”

  1. There are men like Jerry everywhere. They live flamboyant lives with borrowed monies. Yeye….

    I always love your stories. May God bless your pen.

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