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Kike slapped his hand away. ‘Don’t touch me like that.’
Wale laughed, enjoying the reaction he was stirring up in her. He closed the gap between them. She took a step backward.
He thrust his hands into his pockets. ‘I’ll let your husband go, but expect a call from me. Maybe we can find a way out of this situation.’
Wale stepped away from the entrance and went to the police officers waiting for him at the gate. He motioned for them to leave. He shot one long glance at Jerry and left the compound.
Jerry’s face was dark with rage as he walked back to the house. ‘Why did you allow him touch you?’
‘What are you talking about?’ Kike followed Jerry into the house and shut the door behind her.
‘He touched your face. I saw the bastard touching what belongs to me!’
Kike rubbed his chest. ‘You have to calm down.’
He pushed her hand away. ‘Why should I? Are you telling me you didn’t enjoy it? He has money. He has the influence. With him you don’t have to suffer. Kike, are you already regretting marrying me? You can-’
‘Go ahead and marry him! He’s had a divorce lately so the path is free. Wale is a big boy. He just opened another branch of his business. He travels in and out of the country at will. Run to him. Let him touch you the way he likes. I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.’
Kike was boiling hot. She stood in front of him. ‘Let’s get something straight here. You put us in this predicament when you started indulging in that fake lifestyle, trying to please people who don’t care one bit about you. Where are those friends now? Not even one showed up. But I’m here. If you want us to get through this together in one piece, you’ll have to put your pride aside.’ She paused, panting heavily. ‘I’ll go finish up with parking.’
Jerry sat down on the floor of the empty living room, staring blankly into space. His daughter, Sharon, wobbled towards him and reached for his laps. He pulled her closer and began to caress her hair. She slept off.
Kike cried few weeks after they moved into the one-room apartment. Water was scare and there was no money to pay the ‘aboki’ who supplied water in gallons to the neigbourhood.
That morning, she joined the other women standing in front of a duplex, waiting for the taps connected to the duplex to start running. Kike stood there fighting back tears that threatened to spill down her face. Her stomach was already becoming rounder by the day. For the first time she regretted allowing herself get pregnant.
How would her family survive? Would she have to come to this place every day to fetch water for the rest of her life?
She remembered how as a child, while her father’s driver pulled out of the compound, she’d see a crowd fetching water from the taps erected outside the building. She felt pity for the children who walked down the street afterwards with buckets on their head.
Would her kids also come here to struggle to get water?
The tears came pouring down her face. She couldn’t stop them this time. Some of the women were looking at her, wondering what what was wrong with her.
The water started running in spasms. Then it stopped and started gushing out. As buckets filled with water were replaced with empty ones, quarrel broke out. Kike stood there, confused.
A dark woman with a threadbare wrapper tied around her waist motioned to Kike.
‘Bring your bowl.’
When a boy tried to push his bucket under one of the taps, the dark woman kicked his bucket aside and quickly placed Kike’s bowl underneath it.
Kike dragged out her bowl when it was full and thanked the woman who had helped her. Tears welled up Kike’s eyes again.
‘Don’t cry.’ The woman said, touching her shoulders. ‘Things will get better soon. I see your husband pass in front of my shade where I sell akara. At least he is trying to do something for the family. My husband is not like that. He is very irresponsible. He sits doing nothing and expects me to put food on the table.’
‘Thank you.’ Kike muttered.
How do you want to carry it?’ The woman asked. She looked at the heavy bowl. ‘You didn’t come with any cloth to put on your head. This bucket is heavy.’
Kike smiled. ‘I can carry it.’
She bent down to lift the bucket. The woman helped from the other side. She didn’t let go of the bucket until it was balanced on Kike’s head.
‘Thank you so much.’ Kike said. ‘Where do you live?’
She smiled. ‘In the same building with you. My husband and I occupy the first room. The taps will be opened again this evening, come with more buckets. I’ll ask my brother to assist you.’
That evening, after Kike served dinner to her kids, she sat on the worn out sofa and gazed around the room, noting the only mattress at the far corner of the room. Her eyes travelled to the other end where boxes were stacked high. Just close to the entrance was her children’s wardrobe and a large wooden table.
Their fine upholstery and dinning set had been sold to pay off the loan on one of Jerry’s bad business deals. The flat screen was gone. The washing machine. Deep fryer. Microwave. All gone.
Jesus, how did things get this bad?
There was no privacy. The only meaningful property she owned, a red Honda Civic, had been put up for sale but she knew it would be swallowed up in another debt payment.
If she decided to look for a job, who would employ a pregnant woman?
Her phone rang.
Her heart pounded as she answered the call.
‘Kike, I didn’t mean to embarrass you the other day. I was just pissed that Jerry put you in such a difficult position. I’ll never do anything to hurt you.’
Kike left the sofa and settled on the cold cemented floor and rubbed her swollen leg. ‘It’s okay Wale. Thank you for giving us some time. I promise we’ll pay back everything we owe you.’
‘How are things over there?’
Kike sighed. ‘Bad. We’ll pull through.’
‘I heard Wale has moved you to a shack. Kike, I want to send some money to you. Listen I don’t have any ulterior motive. I just want to help.’
Alarm shot through Kike’s mind. She wanted money so badly. The foodstuff Rebecca had brought for her could barely last the next two days. She had to register for ante-natal at the clinic. Her kids must resume school the following term.
Could Wale mean what he said? She didn’t want to believe him. The leopard never changes his spots. She had seen what he did to some of her friends in the past. She had just been lucky not to fall for his sweet talk. Wale would want something in return. She knew that.
‘Wale, I really appreciate your help but we’ll be fine.’
‘I’ll be travelling next week to the US for a business convention. What do you want me to get you?’
Kike smiled sadly. ‘Wale, don’t get anything for me.’
‘I know you are trying to be careful. But trust me, I have no intention of taking you away from your husband. I really care about your welfare and your kids.’
Kike wiped the tears from her face. Her eyes stopped at the food her kids were eating. The groundnut oil had finished and she had used the remaining palm oil to prepare concoction rice.
‘Forget it. .’
‘Kike, send me your account number. Please. You don’t have to tell Jerry.’
She let out a deep breath. ‘Thank you so much. I’ll send it now.’
Kike’s phone beeped just as Jerry stepped into the house.
Her eyes widened. Wale had sent her a hundred thousand naira.
She didn’t know she’d been smiling until she saw the curious expression on Jerry’s face. The smile disappeared.
‘What’s that? Jerry asked.
Colour drained from Kike’s face. She shrugged and threw the phone on the sofa.
‘Nothing. Mary was asking why we’ve not been coming for the home bible study and then she said something funny.’ She saw that her story wasn’t convincing enough. ‘You know, every time Mary tells me the story of how she punched you and took that sniper from you, It always amuses me.’
Jerry didn’t smile or respond. He just kept staring at her.
Kike decided to change the subject. ‘How did it go with the ibo boys? Did they buy the suits?’
Jerry touched the empty bag. ‘I could only get one hundred and twenty thousand from them. They couldn’t give me anything more.’
‘Those suits were expensive. Didn’t they see the label on them? This is not fair’
Depressed, Jerry sat on the edge of the sofa and clenched his teeth. He wished he could give part of the money to his wife but Gideon has been calling him all day for his money. When will this be over?
Kike bent over a pot of rice and dished her husband’s food. When she took the plate to him, he stared at it disgustedly.
‘Did you give me money for meat? You better eat what we have.’
He pushed the food aside and reclined on the sofa. ‘I’ve lost my appetite.’
Angry, Kike took the plate away and poured the rice back into the pot. Her children were jumping on their father and their screams got her agitated. As she raised her head to reprimand them, she saw Jerry reaching for her phone. Alarmed, she went quickly to where he sat and took the phone from him.
‘Honey one minute please. Mum called earlier this evening and I completely forgot to return her call.’ She chuckled. ‘You remember mum’s favourite quote right? Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise. I have to call her before she sleeps off.’
Jerry sensed she was hiding something. Why had she been fidgeting since her phone beeped?
He had problems of his own. Most of the job applications he’d sent out had brought no response. The only interview he’d been called for, he had told the truth: He had borrowed money from clients behind his boss and it had backfired. They didn’t call him back. He’d taken a job as a bricklayer but the pain he experienced every night was nothing compared to the gradual dwindling of hope he was feeling.
Had he been deceived that Christ could indeed help him? What about the peace he’d been enjoying since he met Christ? The desire to know God, to get into a deep intimacy with Christ.
Kike quickly deleted the credit alert text and dialed her mother’s line. It rang a few times but she didn’t pick it up.
Kike couldn’t sleep that night. Tears trickled down her face as she crouched in the darkness. She had lied to her husband. She had been such a bad representative of Christ.
Please forgive me. Help us Lord. There is no money. There is barely any food in the house. I am a pregnant helpless woman. Jesus, don’t leave us like this.
A hand touched her shoulder. Kike turned to find her husband sitting at the foot of the mattress.
‘Get it off your chest. Why are you restless?’
Kike’s pulse raced. She sat up and leaned against a pillow propped up behind her.
‘Wale called.’ She wished she could see Jerry’s face in the darkness. ‘He sent me some money.’
‘Jerry, I’m sorry. I didn’t want to send him my account but he insisted. I took it because I needed money for my ante-natal. The foodstuff has almost finished. I didn’t know what to do.’
Jerry felt like a large piece of rock had landed on his chest. He could barely draw breath from the pain shredding his heart to pieces. His throat was dry and tight. He stood up, defeated and went to the other side of the mattress with the children between them.
Kike sat there and wept. She knew she’d hurt him and she wondered if he was ever going to forgive her.
The next morning, Jerry didn’t eat the miserly sweet potato pottage she prepared for him.
‘I’m sorry.’ She hugged him from behind. He pulled her hand away and turned to her.
‘Someone told me about a dry cleaning job. I want to check it out.’ Jerry said, his eyes cold.
Kike’s eyes became watery again. She reached for him but he stepped back and left the room.
Jerry walked with quick strides, each step fueled by determination to take his rightful place in his family again.
‘Lord, I’m angry.’ He said, as he walked down the street. His stomach rumbled from hunger. ‘I messed up but I’m willing to make things right. Can’t you see my sincerity and just deliver us from poverty. God, are you listening?’
I will never leave you nor forsake you so you can boldly say, The Lord is your helper.
Someone called out from behind him.
He turned to find his neigbour, the akara seller, motioning for him to come. He went over to her. She grinned and dropped hot balls of akara into two opened pages of a newspaper. Then she placed the smeared paper in a black nylon bag and gave it to him with three loaves of bread.
‘Greet Mummy Jide and tell her that my brother will come and help her fetch water this evening.’
‘Thank you so much ma. God bless you.’ Jerry said and turned back home.
Hot akara and bread. What better breakfast would he have asked for.
Kike was surprised when her husband entered and dropped the akara and bread on the mattress. When she saw what it was, she grinned knowing where it had come from.
‘Our neigbour gave us this.’
Sharon and Jide pushed away their plate of potatoes and jumped in excitement as Kike unfolded the smeared newspaper. The sweet smell of the bean cakes made her stomach growl. She pulled her children close. They dug into the meal and in silence ate hungrily. Jide stood with his hands folded, watching them. His eyes were wet.
Kike raised her head. ‘Join us. You don’t want to miss this.’
He shook his head. ‘Enjoy. I should get going.’
Kike grabbed his hand. ‘You must eat.’
She tore out of the loaf of bread and placed a ball of akara in the center of it. Slowly she folded the bread around the akara and rose to her feet. ‘Open your mouth.’
Smiling, he chewed slowly, his stomach opening up like soil at a downpour after a long drought. He took a few more bites and wiped his hands on a napkin.
‘I have to go now.’
Jerry pulled his wife to her feet and cupped her chin in his hands.
‘Kike, I’ll take care of you. I promise.’
She smiled. ‘I know and I’m sorry for taking that money. Sweetheart, we need to stand together united.’
He rubbed her arms softly. ‘Have you noticed we’ve not prayed as a family in a while?’
Kike nodded. ‘We are bringing Jesus back to the center of this family. I’ve missed the bible meetings in Mary’s house.’
Jerry kissed her. ‘How would I have survived without you.’
Kike squeezed her face. ‘Your mouth is smelling akara o.’
Jerry tickled her. ‘I’m almost late for my appointment. I love you.’
‘I love you too.’
She pulled her phone from under the pillow and blocked Wale’s number.
A couple of months later, Kike’s Honda was sold. A buyer had paid a million naira for the car.
Joy flooded Jerry’s heart after he paid off the money he owed Wale. As he came out of the banking hall, he dialed Wale’s number.
‘I just got out of the bank. I’ve paid every single dime I owe you including the hundred thousand naira you sent to my wife.’
Wale hissed. ‘You are a very proud man. That lady does not deserve you.’
‘Stay away from my wife!’
‘Poverty stricken fool! I should have had you locked up long ago. Kike was the reason I gave you more time but I know you. In a matter of time, you’ll be homeless. Kike will leave you and come running into my arms. I hope you don’t jump into the ocean when you discover that I’ve taken her to the altar. You covetous idiot!’
‘God bless you Wale. Thanks for-‘
‘Your father! Shut up. God punish you.’ He ended the call.
Kike laughed when Jerry told her about his conversation with Wale. The kids had gone out to play with the neigbours and Kike was sitting with her legs stretched out. There was a bible and notepad beside her on the bed.
‘Thank God for Jesus. The cross makes the difference.’
Kike cleared her throat as her husband glanced at the page of the bible she had been studying.
‘There is something I want to tell you.’ Kike said.
He placed the bible back on the bed and gave her his full attention.
‘Rebecca called me shortly after you left for work. The admin officer of her mum’s crèche has resigned. She needs someone to take over. I spoke to her mum later today. She offered to give me the job immediately. ’
Jerry stared at her protruding stomach. ‘You are far along in this pregnancy Kike. I don’t want you to work. You don’t need this stress with the baby coming. I know the dry cleaning job is not paying me so well but it’s enough to get us by.’
Kike rolled her eyes playfully at him. ‘You’ve forgotten you still have more than a million naira to settle.’
Jerry smiled sadly. ‘Do you have to remind me?’
Kike pinched her husband’s face. ‘I’m sorry. I can handle this job dear. Rebecca’s mum wants me close by. You know how she sees me like her child. Please let me support you.’
Jerry held her hand and closed his eyes. He began to mutter words of prayers. Kike joined in the prayers.
‘The Lord shall supply all our needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’
‘Blessed be the God of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. He called us blessed. We remain blessed.’
‘We are enriched in everything to all bountifulness. For this Lord we give thanks.’
‘And my God is able to make all grace abound towards us that we, having sufficiency in all things may abound unto good works. Oh Father, we have a sure word of prophecy. We trust you Lord.’
Jerry stood up and began to dance round the room.
In my darkest time, you became my light.
With your healing arms you redeemed my sight.
Jesus, the Son of God, I believe in you, I believe in you.
Jesus, the Son of God, I believe in you, I believe in you.
The next morning, Kike received a call from her father. They were in town and wanted to pay them a visit. She faced her husband with fear in her eyes. What would they say when they discovered the kind of life they lived.
Jerry hesitated. ‘Let them come. We have nothing to hide.’
He brought out a thousand naira from his pocket and gave it to her. ‘This is all I have for now.’
Kike took the money. ‘Thank you.’
He held her shoulders. ‘Someone told me about a public primary school around this area.’
Kike closed her eyes. ‘Oh God.’
Jerry touched her chin. ‘This is only for a while. I promise we’ll get through this. Our kids will go to good schools. I’ve already spoken to some friends. They are helping me push for a job opportunity in one of the banks. Please trust God with me.’
When Kike’s parents arrived at the house, Kike’s mother gasped as she looked around the room. Her father frowned and sat on the torn sofa.
‘Kike, what happened? Why are you living in a place like this. Jesus!’ She stared at her daughter’s stomach. ‘You are pregnant for goodness sake?’
‘Where is your husband?’ Kike’s father asked.
‘I’ve called him. He is on his way here.’
Sharon and Jide were at a corner devouring the biscuits and pastries their grandparents had bought for them.
Kike’s mother had tears in her eyes. ‘You look malnourished. Why didn’t you tell me? All the time we’ve been speaking on the phone, you mean, you’ve been living here?’
Kike couldn’t look at her mother’s face. She was relieved when Jerry entered the room. Immediately he saw her parents, he prostrated on the floor. He stayed on there until his father-in-law pulled him to his feet.
Kike’s mother was furious. ‘Jerry, what have you done to my daughter? Was this how we gave her to you?’
Kike’s father touched his wife’s shoulder gently before facing his son-in-law. ‘Let’s talk outside.’
When they left, Kike’s mother sat beside her daughter. ‘Jerry lost his job?’
‘Yes. It won’t have been this bad if he hadn’t gotten into so much debts. I’m sorry I didn’t tell you.’
She squeezed Kike’s hand. ‘It’s okay.’
Kike relaxed. ‘There are days mum when I fell into despair. There were times when I felt I couldn’t go on but then I learnt to talk to God about everything. When those emotions overwhelmed me, I took them to him and I found peace. But it’s not been easy.’
Her mother didn’t say anything for a while. ‘The year your elder brother was born, your father got into serious debt that almost killed him. He’d invested so much money into a business he was convinced would make him rich but something happened along the way and it crashed. It was the most difficult time of my life. For three years, we lived from hand to mouth.’
Kike’s eyes widened. ‘How come you didn’t tell me?’
She smiled. ‘I remember we lived somewhere in Mushin. This room is even clean. You should have seen where we lived. The roof was almost gone. The toilet was a mess. There were many days we slept hungry.’
Kike’s mother sighed. ‘Faithful God. He brought us out. There was a verse that stuck with me all those years. It’s in Psalm 9:10. And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you Oh Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.’
Tears ran down Kike’s face. ‘Oh mum, you have no idea how much these words mean to me.’
Mother and daughter hugged and rocked from side to side. ‘You are a strong woman Kike and I am so proud of you. But please don’t keep serious issues like this from me. I am your mother. I love you.’
Kike wiped the tears as she sniffed. ‘I love you too mum.’
She stood up and waved her finger. ‘First of all, we are getting you out of this hole.’ She helped Kike to her feet. ‘We got some things for you. They are in the boot of the car.’
Outside, Kike’s father and Jerry sat in the jeep, engaged in a deep conversation. When they saw the women appear from the narrow passage, they got down from the car.
The neigbours were peeping from every corner and talking in whispers. One obese woman who’d barely said a word to Kike since they moved in was now grinning broadly. Their eyes were fastened on the boot of the jeep.
Jerry and the driver took the food items in. Kike’s mother distributed sweets and biscuits to the neigbour’s kids. Jide, Jerry’s son, grabbed the loaf of coconut bread from the back seat of the car and ran into the house. His sister also followed with a pack of Hollandia youghurt.
That evening after Kike’s parents left, Jerry leaned on the sofa and watched his children sleep. They had nearly finished the coconut bread and the hollandia yoghurt can was empty.
He helped cleared the mess from the mattress and washed the dishes while Kike distributed some of the gifts to the neigbours.
Chores completed and distribution done, Kike sat with her husband on the sofa.
‘Do you remember one project your father made me invest in about four years ago?’
Kike shook her head. ‘You’ve invested in deals too many to count. I can’t remember.’
Jerry chuckled. ‘I’d completely forgotten about it. It was one of the reasons dad stopped by the house.’ He paused. ‘I was given a cheque of two million naira.’
Kike jumped, her hand folded on her chest. ‘Are you serious?’
He smiled. ‘The investment yielded a million and five hundred thousand naira. Your dad added extra five hundred thousand naira.’
Kike leaned forward, her heart bursting with joy. ‘Dad also gave me five hundred thousand naira.They said if we need more, we should let them know.’
Jerry’s eyes were flooded with tears. He made no attempt to wipe them. ‘That’s not all. Your father called one of his friends in Abuja. The man is a big shot in the telecoms business. We have fixed an appointment for next week.’
Kike touched her husband’s cheeks tenderly. ‘God came through for us.’
‘I’m just so overwhelmed right now.’
Kike went into her husband’s arms. ‘Who is ready to sing unto the most high God!’
Jerry laughed loudly. ‘I am ready!’
Kike began to hum a tune. Her husband tapped his feet slowly, shaking his head to the beat of the song.
Over and over, again and again God is faithful
Over and over, again and again, through it all He’s made me able
To stand and survive, to come through alive
When it sure looked like I couldn’t win.
Jesus is with me, so I claim the victory,
Over and over again.
Iyanu was born two months later. A healthy and beautiful baby girl.
I hope this story encouraged your heart as it did mine. We must in every situation be persuaded that God is able to do all He has promised.
It doesn’t matter what you are going through right now. One thing is certain. If we allow the knowledge of kingdom reality consume every part of being, we will walk in great measures in the fullness of God.
…Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 ESV
We have a sure word of prophecy.