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“I am afraid Mr. Roland Okeke; we have no other choice than to let you go. You made recommen...

“I am afraid Mr. Roland Okeke; we have no other choice than to let you go. You made recommendations to a top client based on fictitious data. Now, the recommendations have lost the company millions of Naira and they are after us. We have a reputation to protect at KPMG, so such an act cannot be tolerated. You are fired,” his boss announced. “But sir, I did not file that report. My supervisor did. I wish he would stand up and defend his own action. Even if I did file the report, he was meant to go through the report before it was sent to the client. I remember arguing with him over that report, yet he sent it to the client, and now I am being fired for fighting to protect the company’s reputation. This is either a big mistake or a terrible cover-up,” Roland shot back at his main boss. He was fuming with rage. “The decision has been made and it is not reversible,” his boss insisted. “Please return to your office and take your personal belongings under the watchful eyes of a security operative and leave.” Roland picked up his things, entered his car and drove off.

“I did nothing but try to protect the company. My supervisor who filed the report is good friends with my boss, so I think they have connived to let me go just to protect my supervisor’s terrible errors. He will make another one and there would be no Roland to be held accountable for his mistakes,” he fumed as he explained the situation to Mary at home. “God will make a way for you honey. You will get another job,” Mary encouraged him. “It is not just about losing my job, but my reputation has been tarnished. I can’t even get a reference letter from anyone at KPMG after all my years of honest and diligent service. This is not fair!!!” Mary moved closer and stroked his hair gently. “You have every right to be angry, sweetheart. I would be mad too. Don’t bottle it up. Let it all go…in the end, you will find a better job,” she said.

The next day, Roland was over at his parents’ house also in Ikoyi. “I can’t even begin to describe the amount of anger in me!!!” He said. “I feel like going there and burning down the entire building.” “Use your anger for good, my son,” his father advised. “Anger can be a wonderful motivator. It can either lead you into the fire or it can fire you up to prove your detractors wrong. I suggest you take the second option, Roland.” “Your father has a point Roland. Going about being angry will not help you. You can always come and work for your father for twice the money you earned at KPMG, so don’t let that worry you too much.” “But it is not about money. My reputation has been dragged in the mud. They should be made to pay for their terrible actions!!!” “Vengeance is God’s, my child,” his mother admonished.

Days rolled into weeks and weeks into months yet Roland was still fuming over his unfair dismissal. He sent in a few applications earlier on and stopped after a few weeks. He hung around the house with his friends and began to drink. He took to staying out late at night in bars too, soaking himself in alcohol in attempt to douse his bruised ego. Besides, he was plagued by a burning sense of injustice that flamed and spit our balls of fire like a raging volcano. “You are going down a destructive path, Roland,” his father warned him one afternoon. He came over to visit and found a discouraged Roland drinking beer around noon. “You are such a bright young man. How can you let one single injustice lead you down this path? You have a job waiting for you if you decide to come and work for me. Why are you hurting yourself and that wonderful and beautiful girl that you have? She will soon leave if you don’t change,” his father warned.  Roland ignored his advice. Soon, he began to avoid Emelda and Toyin and their husbands too.

“How are you coping?” Emelda asked Mary one evening. She had gone over to talk to Emelda and her husband. “I think I am losing my mind. It hurts to see a bright and wonderful young man rot away. I cannot understand why he would allow one blip in his life derail a very bright future. I hardly sleep at night even though I have to go to work in the morning. I barely spend any time in my apartment. I am very worried that he may go out at night and never come back. So, I am over at his place all the time, just to make sure I am there to get the door for him when he comes home. We barely have any meaningful relationship any more. Of course I love him very much but I don’t know how long I can carry on like this. My heart is shattered and my spirit is taking a brutal battery every day,” Mary poured out her heart.

“You are one in a billion, Mary. Most women would have left him by now. I guess all we can do is pray and hope. Roland has never failed at anything in his life, so I guess that is why he is struggling so much with his dismissal coupled with the fact that he was unfairly let go. He hates injustice a lot,” Emelda explains. “But drinking is hardly a solution to the problem,” Toyin remarked. “Especially when his father has offered him a better-paying job,” Mary added. “It is all about ego and injustice. He is stubbornly attached to his beliefs.” “This is no longer about belief. He is being plain stupid. You are not married to him yet, Mary. If you can no longer handle it, walk away. No one will blame you!!!” Toyin said emphatically.

“One night, Roland dangled home from the bar with another jobless friend. His friend Idika was married. He too had lost his job under unfair circumstances. “I wish I could pee in my former boss’ office,” Idika said. “Hahaha!!!” Roland laughed. “Not just in his office, I wish I could pour the damn thing all over that evil man. People like them should not hold such highly-placed offices. They are a disgrace to the tenets that we are supposed to uphold in the field of finance and accounting,” he said. His voice was heavily laced with anger. “If I met that man in the bar, walahi (honestly), I would pour my beer all over him. You know I like my beer, but if I am willing to sacrifice it on anyone, that means they are evil,” Idika declared. “I would not waste my precious beer on my former boss. I think my pee is what he is truly deserving of,” Roland insisted.

When they reached Idika’s building, they both walked upstairs and knocked on the door. “I am not sure that wife of mine will open the door for me. Please come with me, so that if she does not let me in, I can walk back to your apartment with you,” Idika had suggested earlier. He banged on the door with relentless energy. After a prolonged knocking session by the two of them, Idika’s wife, opened the door and poured cold water on them. She quickly closed the door before they could react and shouted from the inside, “Go and sleep in the bar useless man!!!” “Let’s go,” Roland urged Idika. They slowly negotiated their way down the stairs, falling a few times in the process. As though they had no cares in the world, they dangled up the street chattering happily away as they walked.

“I don’t know what else to do, Chinelo,” Mary said. She was on the phone with her sister. It was past midnight and she was still up waiting for Roland to return. “You can’t continue like this. At first I thought he was a wonderful guy…I can’t see how he would give up on life just like that - because he lost his job unjustly. Assuming he was not living in his father’s building, what would he do? What if his parents were no longer alive, or not as rich, who would he turn to. He needs to snap out of this rut, else, you should be on your way out of the relationship,” Chinelo suggested. “I know he is a great guy inside, but he is allowing alcohol to win for now. I am sad, yet I have not given up on him,” Mary answered. “For how long are you prepared to wait then?” Chinelo asked. There was a knock on the front door. “I will ring you back tomorrow, Chiichii,” Mary said as she headed for the door.

“Thanks for letting us in!!!” Idika said as Mary held the door for them to come in. “You can come in,” Mary said. They dangled in. “Do you need something to eat or have you eaten outside?” Mary asked. “Food would be great, please” Roland said. “My wife threw me out for the night, so is it okay if I spend the night here?” Idika asked. “If Roland wants you to stay, then that is fine by me,” she answered as she walked to the kitchen. “She is awesome!!!” Idika said to Roland. “I can’t believe she is offering us food this late. Most women would beat you in the head with a stick.” “Or throw cold water on you,” Roland remarked. They both laughed. “Don’t mind that girl…I will show her pepper when I get home in the morning.” “Be careful how you go about that else, you might end up under the bridge. She pays your bills now, you know,” Roland remarked. “She can’t do anything!!!” Idika bragged.

Mary appeared with two plates of pounded yam and two plates of bitter leaf soup. She served them water to wash their hands before they began to pounce on the food. She set drinking water beside them as they ate. “This is great, Mary. Thanks for the food,” Idika thanked her profusely. “We should come back to your place every night!!” He continued to run his mouth. At this point, Mary decided to speak. “Roland, I am going back to my apartment in the morning. I have made egusi and vegetable soups for you. You will find them in the freezer. There is stew there too. I don’t know when I will be here again. I want you to know that I still love you because I have seen the wonderful man inside you. Even when you are drunk, you have never been rude or violent towards me, but alcohol has snatched your life away from you. I can no longer go on like this. I am not leaving you yet, but I am not coming back to your apartment soon either. I need a break from all this. If you decide to let one single sour experience define the rest of your life, then I don’t want to be a part of it going forward. However, I know that the wonderful guy who cares about others…the guy who loves with passion and care; the guy who goes the extra mile for others; the guy who came to surprise me in Awka all the way from Lagos, still lies within you.

“I hope you let that guy come back to life and begin to live life again. I have not given up on you because I love you deeply. Out of that love, I have made a sudden decision to step away from our relationship for a while, because staying up all night waiting for you and doing everything you want does not help you. Instead, it encourages you to keep on living the pathetic life you have chosen. I know you are capable of changing. I will be praying fervently for you. I doubt that I would ever stop loving you. It hurts me to step aside now, but you have left me no choice. I am going to the bedroom. I have made the beds in each of the guest rooms for you two. There is water in the bathroom too in case you choose to shower. I will probably be gone by the time you wake up in the morning. Remember, the choices we make in life do not affect us alone…they affect those who love and care about us. I hope you think about me when you make your decision as to whether to change or not in the morning,” Mary said with eloquence. She was fighting back tears as she headed for the bedroom. Her words pierced Roland’s heart as he sat there and watched her walk away with a ball of pounded yam in his hand. “My wife throws cold water and your girlfriend throws sharp words,” Idika said to him.

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