By Prisca Sam-Duru
“Good afternoon sir”, I greeted the tall lanky man as he made his way to his office.“Good afternoon nne, but that sir is too much, just call me Victor, what about you?” “Sir, I’m Cecilia”. “Such a sweet name, oh! Ceecee, please come over and sit down.. em…Joy, go get her a bottle of soft drink or Ceecee m, would you prefer beer?” “Oh no sir, soft drink is okay”. “Joy you heard her, hurry up with that”, Victor said with so much excitement.
“Em..this is a spare parts shop, are you sure you’re in the right place? “Well sir, I…” “I said just Victor… relax okay?” “Thank you sir, sorry sir, I mean Victor. Yes, I know, I’m from Security Life Assurance and I..” “Just how much do I need to put in” he interrupted still smiling. “I know you’d get commission for getting a new client besides, a pretty girl like you can never go empty handed”.
That encounter marked the beginning of my intimacy with Victor. He became a part of me as well as one of my richest clients. In fact, his likes did me much good during my Youth Service.We wedded in Lagos and I was disappointed that my childhood friend Tony missed out of the celebration. 5 months later, a relative informed me that Tony had travelled out of the country. We never spoke or heard about each other again.
On settling down with Victor, I discovered he wasn’t as rich as he flaunted himself to be. He had enough actually but was extravagant in spending. Friends and strangers had swell times whenever he went to his usual joint. Most often, he came home drunk.
Of all his short comings, Victor didn’t seem to me like a womaniser and that was a sort of relief because, I dreaded contracting HIV.
“Honey, why not put off the TV so you’d have enough sleep… you know our appointment with the doctor is for 7.30am”.
“Don’t bother about me go ahead I’ll be fine. Besides, I’m not cut out yet for those useless checkups”
“Honey”, I called with tears in my eyes. “It breaks my heart that you seem unperturbed about our…” “You talk as if our condition is worst than that of everyone in the entire universe”, Victor said, feeling less concerned.
“I can’t believe you said that. This is four years of marriage without a child. Mama is at the village, planning a second wife for you and here you are, watching television. I’d be surprised if it wasn’t your idea in the first place.”
Suddenly, Victor sprang unto his feet and rushed towards me like an angry lion. “Go to sleep woman, now! or I’ll be forced to do something catastrophic.” My husband did something more than catastrophic that moment because I woke up in the hospital the next day as a result of just one blow on my neck.
That wasn’t the first time Victor beat me up and each time I reported him to my mother, she begged me to endure and counseled me on how to show him more love, that way, according to her, he’d change. I made sure I did my best, just to show Victor that I was the best woman for him yet the battering continued. I couldn’t muster courage to go to any Non Governmental Organisation that handled violence against women for fear of what our people especially my mother-in-law would say.
Victor turned out to be a monster. He was the exact opposite of Tony whom I missed so much at that trying period. If only he was around, his counsel would have made the difference.
Tony was such a rare companion that right from age 3, and perhaps, before then, we stuck with each other as though, life would cease if we stopped being friends.We attended the Universal Primary Education (UPE) schools in Festac Town, Lagos and spent every moment together. Although, Tony was smarter, I was somehow, brighter than him in terms of academics. Yet, we covered up for each other.
Fate continued to smile on us as we graduated from Primary school and were posted to Ojo Government College , Lagos. At first, our classmates thought we were cousins because we were so attached to each other that we couldn’t have another relationship. But on discovering we were just friends, they became jealous and hated Tony especially, for acting like the dog in a manger.
We were however, heart broken when I gained admission into the University of Calabar while Tony spent almost 3 years, struggling to get into any higher institution.
Although he visited me as often as he could, there existed huge distance between us. Whenever there was holiday, I made sure we had precious moments together. My friends on campus accused me of being a pretender with regard to the type of relationship I had with Tony. They swore I lied when I confided in the three of them that I was still a virgin.
“That’s the whitest lie I’ve heard in my entire life”, Uju said. “You think we’re so stupid as to believe that a friend of almost 20 years hasn’t…”, “hey, that’s okay” I cut her short. “Tony is not like that. I’m telling you that he has never even kissed me before. The closest he’s done is to give me a hug and of course, a peck.”
“There you go girl” Vera said with disbelief written all over her face. “For crying out loud babe, this guy passes the night in your room whenever he visits and you claim he…okay, hold it there, what do you guys do at night?”
My conversation with my friends that evening got me thinking all through the night about my friendship with Tony. Why hasn’t he made a move on me? Could it be he doesn’t fancy me for a lover or what?. Anyway, I refused to confront him on the issue since I was bent on remaining intact for whoever turned out to be my husband. I however, secretly wished it was Tony.
Sometime in our10th year in marriage which remained childless still, we had an argument and Victor sent me on another admission to the intensive Care Unit of the usual hospital he took me to and it took me two weeks to get back on my feet. He bought me a new Jeep and promised never to beat me again. I never waited for that promise to be kept. I left him for good when he least expected.
Few months later, I bumped into an old acquaintance of Tony who told me so much about how he fared in Dublin.
Surprisingly, Tony called me and sympathised with me. “What about a visit to Dublin”… Oh sorry just for a week or two if you want…and hey, that’s for old times sake…ok?
I listened with tears of joy in my eyes. Disturbed by my silence, Tony explained that he suggested the trip only to enable me get over my break up with Victor. To that I agreed and was overjoyed when I was granted six months visa after I submitted necessary documents to the British embassy.
I arrived Dublin and Tony was unable to hold his excitement on seeing me right there at the airport.
I marveled at the transformation that had taken place in his life. He appeared more handsome than I knew him. I hardly settled down that first night, when his actions proved he had waited so long to have me.
He accused me of dumping him for someone else while I accused him of never asking. It was unbelievable that Tony was not married after all those years. What or who was he waiting for? The supposed one week trip dragged on and about a month later, I took ill and Tony took me to a hospital were I was instructed to conduct some tests. I did and results showed I was few weeks pregnant. It was unbelievable. “After 10 years with Victor who was certified okay to procreate?. My God, what is happening?” I asked unsure whether the doctor was right. Alas, he was right as my baby girl arrived seven months after Tony and I went to the registry. About a year and two months later, my baby boy followed.