ARRANGED MARRIAGE - Episode 2

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog. London, at her apartment, I had Parkinson’s disease, drug addicted low-life, phone number, British citizen.



TRUE LIFE STORY

“How much money does she want?”  I asked Chijioke. “Two thousand Pounds,” Chijioke replied. “What? After the initial six thousand?” He nodded sullenly. I could not bear to see him suffer. Besides, I could not bear the thought of being dislodged from my anchor at a time when I needed him the most. My exams were coming up at a furious pace, so I needed some stability. I raised the entire money for him. For a while, Imogen was gone. Then one weekend, I told Chijioke that I was spending the three nights with my girlfriend, Laura. Laura is from Delta state. Although she was born in London originally while her parents studied in London, she was raised in Asaba. She and I are still best friends to date. She is a happy and incredibly funny girl.  Her sense of humor is classic. I wanted to study with her, so I opted to spend the entire weekend with her in her apartment in St. John’s wood, Northwest London. By Saturday night, David, a quintessential English guy she had been flirting with back and forth showed up at her apartment.

Laura was smitten to bits with David. She had given him signals that she was into him several times, but he appeared blind to her signals. It happened that he was just playing hard to get, I guess. Of late, Laura had started avoiding him at college, so he decided to pay her a visit. Laura was out to get him in the sac that night. She had a way of being very forward – something I could never do. I had to live for East London to allow them work through the night unperturbed. I got off the train station at Stratford and walked briskly towards the house. It was winter, so I was clad in thick, heavy woolen sweat coats that weighed down on me. As soon as I entered the building, I freed myself from the burden of that coat and hung it on the wall in the lobby. I heard a characteristic weird noise upstairs. It was unmistakably Chijioke’s voice.

This was no ordinary noise. I could tell he was in the arms of another woman. The moaning got louder as I neared the door to the room I shared with him – the room I had paid rent for dating back several months. My legs weakened severely as I climbed the steep stairs. Even before I unlocked the door, tears had begun to stream down my face. My hands began to sweat profusely as they quivered like a skyscraper rocking under the spell of a massive earthquake. My heart thumped with intense ferocity against my poor lungs that took a real beating with each passing second. He moaned even louder. I could hear other words he uttered only in bed – words I had come to believe existed between he and I alone. It was almost though I had Parkinson’s disease as I attempted to unlock the door. Shaking feverishly, I managed to slide the key into the keyhole and squeeze with the last ounce of strength left in me. I pushed the door open and flipped on the light.

David and Imogen lay naked on the bed. On the small table next to the bed were specks of cocaine powder, which I believed were leftovers after Imogen had snorted some. “What are you doing?” She asked me brazenly pulling the duvet over herself and Chijioke. “Honey what is she doing here?” She asked Chijioke. “I thought it was over between the two of you!” She continued to yap away like a singing parrot. “What is going on here?” I managed to ask through a deluge of tears. My voice was barely audible. Every word I spoke was riddled with searing pain. I sank into the chair behind me. I could no longer stand. My weight had suddenly become too much for my knees to hold up.

Shamelessly, Chijioke searched around for his pair of trousers. “Turn off the light and get out!” Imogen yelled at me.  This was a room for which I had been paying for. I wished I had the strength and will to reach out and whack her hard in the head. Chijioke jumped into his trousers, got off the bed and began to drag me to my feet. “Let’s talk outside,” he offered. “Talk about what? Just tell her to get off our bed. I bought that mattress. I pay for this room. Tell her to get out now!” I shouted at the top of my lungs, mustering every strength that was left in me. “And he is my husband!!!” She shouted. I was stunned to say the least. To my shock, Chijioke threw me out of the apartment. Before I could say one more word, he yanked me out of the room, staring me in the eye. He looked like a different person at that moment – a cold blooded killer. I saw a side to him that I had never seen before. He was viciously ruthless.

He tossed my bags and clothes out in the open. “I need the utensils in the kitchen. They are mine too,” I said sobbing like a child. I hated my parents at that very moment for sending me to London. It felt like my early days in London all over again. Chijioke picked up my utensils and hurled them at me in the open. A blustery winter wind swept across the area with unforgiving chills. The contract for the room was under his name, so there was nothing I could do. I picked up my things under the freeze of the winter. I called his flat mate and asked if I could leave my things with him. “I am sorry Ada, what happened? I am working tonight, so I am not home,” Ifeanyi explained. I told him that Chijioke had thrown me out for some drug addicted low-life. “I wish I could be of some help, but I am not home tonight,” he reiterated. He was a nice guy. I knew he would have helped. In his absence, I hauled my things behind me through rare heaps of snow towards the nearest bus stop at Stratford. The train lines were already shut down. With every step I took, tears plastered my face and cold winter breeze peppered my hand and face.

Laura was happy to take me in for a few weeks. I ruined the rest of her plans with David when I showed up at her place again after ringing her up to say that I was coming. What a friend she is. She explained my situation to David, who was very understanding. A few weeks later, I moved back to my former hostel. “You can stay here for as long you want, you know,” Laura persuaded me, but I wanted my own a space – room to cry and console myself the way I alone knew how. I contemplated murder over and over again. I wished I had the will to put a bullet through Chijioke’s brains. Somehow, I managed to carry on, falling and picking myself up each day.

Back to Oxford Street…
As I watched Chijioke walk along Oxford Street with another girl, I wondered if it was over between him and Imogen. That could not be. He needed to be married to her until he got his citizenship, and I knew he was still years off the required length of time before he qualified for that. I walked a bit closer to them and began to take pictures of them with my phone. I guess I was inspired by the burning desire to get back at Chijioke. He had his hands all over her and sometimes his lips, and I caught all that on camera. The next morning, I made a quick trip to the house I once called home in London. I was not sure if Chijioke had gone to work, so I rang up Ifeanyi first. Thankfully, he was at home sleeping. I apologized for waking him up and asked if he knew whether Chijioke was at home. “No,” he answered. “I saw him leave for work when I was coming in earlier,” he answered groggily. “What of Imogen? Is she home?” “Yes, why?” “I need to see her. Please could you let me in? I promise, I won’t fight with her,” I pleaded with him.

Imogen was surprised to see me at her door. Her belly was bulging out like Mount Kilimanjaro. Chijioke had put her the family way. She had a stick of cigarette hanging dangerously on her lips. I felt a pang of pity for the unborn child that was smoking and snorting cocaine through her mother’s additions. “What do you want?” She shouted reaching for her phone, perhaps to call the police. “It is okay, Ifeanyi reassured her. She says she has something very important to discuss with you. I am here, she won’t harm you,” Ifeanyi reassured her. “You can stay over there, Ifeanyi, so I can chat privately with Imogen,” I explained. “We will leave the door open,” I added. Imogen still looked uncomfortable, so I spoke calmly, keeping my distance to make her feel safe.

“I wanted to share a few pictures with you. I think you should know a few things. With your pregnancy, I think you deserve to know the things I have to tell you,” I began carefully. “If you tell me your phone number, I will add you to my contact list and send you some pictures on WhatsApp.” She peered at me cautiously. “I am not sure I want to give you my number,” she answered. “Then, would you look at these?” I handed her my phone. “Just flip through and see for yourself. Chijioke hurt me a lot and he is hurting you too. He cares only for himself. He is sleeping with another girl. He will have you out there the moment he becomes a British citizen,” I explained. I could see anger walk through her face, and then a wave of tears began to cascade down her face.

“Can you send me these?” She asked. I nodded. She gave me her phone number and I sent her the pictures. Imogen had a nasty temper. I was sure she would not spare Chijioke. “I have been meaning to ask you,” I said to her as I got ready to leave. “Were you with him all the while he was with me?” She nodded. “I’d come over and sleep with him while you were at college. He said he felt sorry for you, that was the reason he had not kicked you out. He said your relationship with him was over and that he was helping you with accommodation until you found a place of your own.” I felt even more anger rush through me. “So, how much did you ask from him for the arranged marriage initially?” I asked. It felt like everything Chijioke had told me had been a lie. I wanted to get to the root of the matter. “Just two thousand Pounds. I like the guy, you see, so I did not ask him for much. Besides, I had the intention of sticking with him. It was not entirely arranged even though that was the starting point. Along the line, I fell for him and let go of money, so I did not ask him for much. I only took money from him because I needed to support my…you know,” she said subtly referring to her cocaine addiction.

I walked away from that building for the last time with a sense of relief. Somehow, I was happy things did not work out between Chijioke and I. He never loved me. I was his toy and ATM machine until he felt he had found a ticket to becoming a British citizen, then he ditched me without looking back. Some weeks later, Imogen filed for divorce from Chijioke. The very thing he had been seeking with intense desire and greed – British residence and then citizenship – eluded him. His visa expired shortly afterwards; just weeks before he was to qualify for permanent residency. He was bundled out of the country while Imogen went on to live off the government. Her son, Brady was taken away from her shortly after his birth because of Imogen’s addiction. She is currently undergoing therapy with a view to getting her life back on track and her son too. I hear Chijioke is hustling in Lagos, looking for a means to make his way back to Europe. I really don’t feel sorry for him. As for me, I recently met another guy. I am still watching him like a hawk – we’ll see what happens. As bad as my relationship with Chijioke was, it gave me so much strength that I feel I can stand on my own anywhere, any day! What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

The above story was narrated by Ijeoma Mba (actual name withheld) and was edited by moofyme.com editorial team. Ijeoma loves to read stories, writes a few herself and is a fan of moofyme.com.


THE END

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: ARRANGED MARRIAGE - Episode 2
ARRANGED MARRIAGE - Episode 2
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog. London, at her apartment, I had Parkinson’s disease, drug addicted low-life, phone number, British citizen.
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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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