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Monday, November 30, 2015

'I married into money yet I'm so miserable' (2)

It was the beginning of the new session at school. The day I was to return, my mother had given me some money, promising to send my school fees and money for other expenses later.
 Two weeks later, I had to go home when the money with me ran out.
 I met her at the shop, looking dejected, sitting with her right hand on her jaw.
"My dear, you are welcome. How's school?" she asked as I walked in.
"Fine, Mum. But what happened? You are looking so sad!" I stated.
 My mother sighed.
 "Hmm. It's that your father again o!"
  "What has he done this time?"I queried. Just then, a customer came and after attending to him, she turned to me.
 "Last week, I was able to get some money which I planned sending to you at school. I remember putting it in my suitcase in the bedroom. But yesterday, when I went to get it to send the money to you, it was no longer there. I asked your younger ones if they took the money but they denied knowing anything about it," she said. 

 It was later, she added, that David, my younger brother, an SS2 student had told her what happened when everyone had left the house.
 "He was sick that day with malaria so he could not go to school. He said your father came when he was alone in the house and had gone to my room. David said he had come out counting a large amount of money. I believe he took the money. I've not seen him since yesterday. Hopefully, he will come home today so I can confront him about it," she stated.

  I felt bad hearing what my father had done, though I was not surprised. He had done worse things in the past. He was a man who could not be trusted.
 We waited for him for two days and when he did not return home, Mother and I decided to visit him at his work place. At that time, my father worked as a security man at a factory that manufactured plastic products at Ogba, Lagos.
 He was not at his post when we arrived. 

  "He has gone to eat at a 'joint' down the road," a colleague informed us. He gave us seats and we sat down to wait for him.
 He returned about thirty minutes later, looking surprised to see us. As soon as my mother set eyes on him, she pounced on him.
  "Where's the money? Ole! (Thief)!" she shouted, seizing him by his shirt collar.
  "Woman, behave yourself! What are you doing here and what money are you talking about?" he demanded.
  "You are asking me as if you don't know? Where's the N80,000 I kept in my bag in the room? Give it to me now or..." she threatened. 
 "Why are you asking me about the money? I don't know anything about it. I..." he said, but she cut him short.
 "Stop lying Papa Alice! David saw you taking the money so bring it now!" she demanded.
 "Alice, you better talk to your mother else I will deal with her o! Tell her to leave me alone!" he said.
 I spoke up then.
 "Papa, part of that money is for my school fees so bring it so I can go back to school as I have already missed so many lectures."
 But he kept denying taking the money while my mother continued shouting at him to return it. The altercation soon drew the attention of some of his colleagues and others around and soon a small crowd had gathered. My dad's boss, on hearing the commotion, came out and took us to his small office at the security post. After questioning my father for a while, he finally confessed to taking the money. He said he spent it on drinking and had gambled with the rest.

  "I also gave part of it to Mummy Vicky," he said, referring to his concubine. On hearing what he had done, I began crying. I ran out and stood by the large gate of the company, weeping bitterly. How could my own father do this to me, I thought as the tears rolled down my cheeks. What was I going to do now? How could I go back to school without money, I wailed, crying profusely with my hands on my head.
 My mother who was still visibly angry came to join me. She was consoling me, with some other people around when a black SUV drove to the gate.
 The security men all sprang to attention as soon as they saw the vehicle and its occupant.

 Meeting Chief Cyril
  Chief Cyril, the owner of the factory had come for his monthly meeting with the management and to check on things. He must have seen me crying and lamenting at the gate of his company for he sent for my mother and I on getting down from the car and enquiring from my father's boss what the problem was. 
 When I told him I could not return to school because my father had drunk away my school fees, he was very sympathetic to my plight and told us not to worry.

  "I'll do something about it. Just wait here for me," he stated, before walking briskly inside the office with his entourage in tow.
  Later, an assistant came with an envelope which he gave to my mother. Inside was a large sum of money, much more than my father had stolen from my Mum. His business card was in the envelope as well.
 We were so happy at the unexpected gift from a total stranger and wanted to go inside to thank him but the assistant said he was too busy to see us.
 "He's in a meeting at the moment. But he said you can call him later on phone," the man said.
  On getting home later that day, I called our benefactor on phone and after speaking with my mother for sometime, I thanked him profusely for his help.

  "Sir, without your help, I would have been stranded at home, unable to return to school. Thanks so much for your assistance. God bless you, sir," I said enthusiastically.
 "You are welcome, my dear. Just let me know if you have any problem at school. And take care of yourself," he stated before hanging up.
 "Such a good man. He didn't know us yet see the way he helped us," my mother said happily, before adding:

  "As for that father of yours, it's only God that will judge him. Imagine drinking and gambling away his own daughter's school fees! What kind of man does that?"
 "Ma, don't worry yourself about my Dad. What matters now is that I can go back to school. I'm so happy!" I said, going into the room to pack.
 That was how Chief Cyril came into our lives. After that initial encounter, he would call me in school to monitor my progress. He also sent me money regularly, 'so as to reduce the pressure on your mother,' as he put it.

  Infact, for the rest of my stay in school, Chief was the one responsible for nearly everything including my school fees, feeding and accommodation in school.
 "I'm doing this for you because I see you as an ambitious young girl who wants to better her lot in life. I want to do the little I can to help you realize your dreams," he said one day when I had gone to visit him at his office. 
 "Thank you for all your help, sir," I said gratefully.

  "It's alright, my dear. You see, I have three daughters who are your age mates. They are in higher institutions too. If they had a tenth of your drive and ambition, I will be a very happy and fulfilled man. But all they do is party, shop and spend my money as if I have a money tree in my back yard!" Chief stated wryly.
 That day, he told me a bit about his family and personal life. Back then, I simply saw him as a family friend and benefactor. He also treated me like a daughter and was really good to me. But things changed between us after my graduation...

To be continued...

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.

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