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Monday, December 14, 2015

My husband became a criminal because of my greed for wealth (1)

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Yes. Everything the title of my story says is true about me and more. In fact, if I say all the things I did just to live the good life, a flamboyant life, my story will not end before the New Year. 
I now know what I did was wrong and I've made so many mistakes in life which I'm paying for right now. My husband is no more with me as he is paying for the crimes he committed and my two children have been taken away. 
As if that is not bad enough, I've been struck by a strange ailment that has defied all cure. My life is a big mess right now and I have no one to blame but myself. And all for what? Just to be on the same level or even higher than my wealthy friends? Was it all worth it?

***
 My tale began when I met Hilary, my husband of ten years. It was at the company where he worked then. I had gone there for a job interview and Hilary was one of those on the panel conducting the oral part of the interview. 

Later, as I was leaving the company, the receptionist told me her 'Oga' (boss) wanted to see me. It was Hilary, who turned out to be the Chief Accountant in the company.
 When I went up to see him in his office, he congratulated me on my performance, saying that he had been impressed by my response to the tough questions I was asked. That day, he raised my hopes by stating I could be among the lucky ones picked for the few vacant positions the company wanted to fill.
Based on that, I looked forward to getting good tidings of a job offer soon. So, you could imagine my shock some weeks later when the names of successful candidates came out and my name was not on it. It was when I contacted Hilary that he told me what had happened. 
 He said my name which was originally on the list had been substituted at the last minute by another candidate who was the relative of one of the directors of the company.

  "Honestly, I tried my best to ensure you got the job but the 'powers that be' had their way. But don't worry, Annette. I'm sure something good will come along soon. So, take heart," he said. Though disappointed, I felt touched at his concern for me. This was a man I did not know showing so much interest in my wellbeing, and in a society where many people have grown selfish and wicked and only care about themselves and personal interests.
Anyway, after that initial encounter, Hilary and I became friends. Back then, he was close to forty, divorced from his first wife whom he said abandoned her matrimonial home when things were rough for him at a point in his life. He had a daughter, Estelle, who was already in junior secondary school when we met. One day, he invited me to his house in Festac Town where I met Estelle who was on holidays from the boarding school she attended then. At 12, she was tall for her age and looked quite mature.
"She's growing fast. She needs a mother around at this time to guide her," I told Hilary as I left his house that day.
 "I know. But getting a woman who would take on that responsibility isn't easy," he stated.
 "Just keep praying. God will answer you one of these days," I opined.
  Not long after that, Hilary informed me that his prayers had been answered and he had found the woman after his heart.
 I remember it was a weekend and I was at home, taking a break from job hunting when Hilary called me to break the news to me. 
"I want to introduce you to her so you can assess her for me as a fellow woman," he said. Later that evening, I went to Hilary's house to meet his prospective wife. On getting there, he was alone in the house. Estelle and the maid had gone to the market to do some shopping, he said as he saw me looking around the living-room.
"But where's the lady you said you want to marry?" I asked, puzzled.
"She's right here, in front of me," he stated, drawing close to me.
"But..." I began to say, then it dawned on me. I was the one he wanted to marry!
 "Yes. Annette. You are the one I want, as my wife and Estelle's mother," he said. Then he went down on one knee and brought out a case from his pocket.
 Inside was a beautiful engagement ring. 
 To be honest, I did not see the proposal coming. All along, I had just regarded Hilary as an older friend and even 'brother' who was always kind and generous to me. Yet, here he was, wanting to marry me. That day, I did not outrightly accept Hilary's proposal but simply told him  to give me time to think about it.
It took me a week to decide whether to marry him or not. Truth was that I was not in love with him, I simply liked him as a person, not as a lover. But he assured me, the love he felt for me should be enough for both of us and that I would grow to love him later. So, based on that and encouragement from my parents who saw Hilary as a mature, responsible man, I accepted him.

  ***
Hilary and I settled down to married life after our wedding. In less than three years, I had two babies, a boy and a girl. My husband was so happy at the births of the children whom he said made the family complete. As for Estelle, she was so excited at having younger siblings to dote on and spoil.
Everything was going well until a few years after our marriage when I met up with Runo, an old school mate and one of my best friends in school. We had not seen each other for a long time after we left school. It was at a meeting of our Old Girls association that I reconnected with her and other old mates of mine.

I was impressed when I saw her. She had become what we call 'a big girl' in our society. She had a fleet of posh cars and lived in a big apartment in one of the most exclusive estates in Lagos, where mostly wealthy foreign workers lived, where rents are paid in dollars. She told me she used to work in an oil company, but resigned a few years before to start her own business.
 "I now do supplies, contracts and other businesses with the government and some blue chip companies," she informed me when I visited her at home one Saturday. I marveled at the beauty and classy look of her home, wondering how she was able to achieve so much at her age.

"Seriously, Runo, I envy you o! This place is like a mini palace," I stated admiringly. "I'm sure even Aso Rock is not as fine as this!" I added.
She laughed and offered me a drink from her well-stocked bar.
As I returned home that day, I kept thinking about what I had seen in Runo's house. Though my husband and I were not doing badly and lived quite well and comfortably, compared to Runo's lifestyle, we were like paupers. 

 I did not even have a car of my own yet Runo had over five state-of- the art cars! Not just that, the rent she paid in her apartment in a month, was enough to build a nice house in the suburbs of the city.
 Looking back now, I think it was from that day that my desire to live the high life like Runo began. I felt that if Runo, who was not even as brilliant as I was back in our school days, could have all those good things and live so well, why not I?

That day, I told my husband that I needed a car as I was tired of walking everywhere or occasionally taking cabs whenever I went out. Fortunately, he said he had had it in mind to get me one so he did not mind. The car he bought for me, a used or 'Tokunbo' model, was not bad, though could not be compared to one of Runo's classy models.

With time, I met some of Runo's close circle of friends and they soon became my friends too. Most of them were single, high flying ladies with so much money to burn, I wondered if they had direct access to the vaults of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

One day, one of them named Lola, who got married not long before we met, invited us to the new home she and her husband had just moved into in the G.R.A. It was a very beautiful place with its own swimming pool, gym, a tennis court and other facilities. As I gazed around in admiration, I wondered what it was like to live in such a house and in such a beautiful and serene environment. I compared it to our three bedroom apartment in the area of the city where we lived and the difference was clear. 

I wanted a house like that too, not minding the fact that my husband's income could barely pay the rent for a boys quarter in that expensive location. 
So, a short while later, I drew my husband's attention to the fact that our neighbourhood was becoming too noisy and we needed to relocate to a quieter place.
"Honey, my friend Lola and her husband just moved to the GRA last week. I think it's time we upgraded to a posh environment as this neighbourhood is getting too noisy and crowded," I said.
"You are right, my Sweet. But those areas are expensive. You know we can't afford it for now. Besides, you know about my building project near Mowe. We will leave here once it's completed," he replied.

 To be continued...

 Note:  Aso Rock or the Presidential Villa, Abuja is the official residence of Nigeria's Presidents

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


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