SILENT CRIES - Episode 7

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - how to process the information, choke him by the collar and demand reparation, here in Lagos, precious oil company job, of lay-offs in the banking sector, her phone was switched off, the party was her bank manager, her suited banking attire.


“What are you doing here!?” Ijeoma screamed.

“Please let me come in, I have to talk to you,” he pleaded.

“You!?” He looked the same as when she’d seen him earlier in the cab but now his face was softer, more like the brother-in-law she’d known. He was James, her sister’s husband. Not knowing how to process the information her eyes were feeding her, her first impulse was to choke him by the collar and demand reparation for all the pain he’d caused her family.

Since she couldn’t do that, the next best thing was to slam the door smack in his face. She did just that but James caught the door with his foot.

“Ijeoma! Please wait!” he begged again.

“Are you James or not?”

“Yes…” he breathed with downcast eyes.

“I knew it! I knew it was you.” She opened the door wider.

“How did you find me?”

“I knew where you lived…”

“Damn you, James! Damn you to hell!” Ijeoma cried hitting his chest repeatedly with both hands till he caught them in his.

“Ijeoma, please calm down… listen to me!”

“Please, shut up! Shut the hell up! Why did you deny it when I called your name in the cab?”

“Ijeoma…I’m sorry but I had to…” He pushed her back into her apartment and closed the door. “I was shocked as much as you were, Ijeoma. I needed time to put myself together…”

James had managed to push her into one of the living room chairs at this time but remained standing. A tense silence ensued.

“Where have you been all this while?” Ijeoma asked in a low voice. Her hands hung between her knees.

“I’ve been here in Lagos…”

“My God! James, you live here? Ngoo waited…she pined for you all this time and you live here in Lagos?!” Pictures of her nephew in his bed during the most recent stay in the hospital flashed before her eyes…Her sister’s depression…The fear in her mother’s eyes…Her own tears.

“Please Ijeoma, you need to relax…hear me out at least…”

She sprang to her feet. “How dare you come here after all these years and tell me to relax?! Why are you even here? What am I hearing you out on? That you abandoned my sister and her child, YOUR SON!?”  Ijeoma knew she was getting hysterical but couldn’t stop it. “How am I going to break this to Ngozi? How will I tell my sister that her long lost husband is in fact alive? That he has lived in this same state all the while she was crying herself to sleep?” Several thoughts ran through her mind at once.

James came to stand before her. “See, I had to do what I did…I didn’t want to but it was the best thing I could’ve done at the time.”

Ijeoma was confused. She hadn't thought there was a happier couple than her sister and James at the time. She’d just gotten into university when they got married seven years ago. A year later Obi had been born and everyone had been overjoyed. He was three, when to everyone’s shock, James had gone missing.

James went on... “Almost four years ago, something happened.”

Ijeoma shook her head vigorously. “What is it, James? What happened?” she cried, perplexed.

James breathed out and turned around. “I lost my job.”

“What?? What are you talking about?”

“You see Ijeoma; two years after we got married, I lost my precious oil company job.”

“What does that have to do with it?” A shiver went over Ijeoma. The talk of job loss was a bit close to home with the recent spate of lay-offs in the banking sector.

“I never told your sister. I kept going out to work for nearly six months afterwards and never breathed a word of it to her. I looked for other jobs, gambled, took to drinking, chased other women. Nothing helped.”

Ijeoma found the sofa. This is only a bad dream. If I shut my eyes, it will go away.

James continued. “The few people who knew, advised me to tell her but I couldn’t face the disappointment on her face. When Obi’s asthma came up while she was still on maternity leave, we had agreed for her to remain at home. So there was no other source of income…”  He looked at her face. “I know what you’re thinking…I wouldn’t be first or last to lose my job but I was very proud! Your sister didn’t know, her behaviour didn’t change, but I became paranoid. I blamed her for my woes and our sickly son for my quickly dwindling savings. Then I blamed myself but still I did not tell her.”

“Oh my God. Oh my God.” Ijeoma kept saying.

“I began to resent everyone. My family, you and your mother, you all boasted so much about my status…”

She could see it was very painful for him, but she wouldn’t let that go. “Leave us out of this.” “Okay.”
He sat down. “The thing was, I was brought up to believe that a man should provide for his family. In those six months, that belief made me mad!” He was crying now, the tears trickled down his cheeks.

“Are you saying…?” Ijeoma started.

James cut in. “I’m not saying I became actually mad but I eventually did something insane.”
Ijeoma's phone began to ring.

-
The phone rang through without any answer. She was still not picking his calls.

“There could be a hundred different reasons. I know she wouldn't just ignore my calls,” he told himself.

Nnamdi ignored the part of him that said maybe she was angry with him and wanted nothing more to do with him. There must be something else. He had not talked to Ijeoma since the party incident. He had tried to call her but never seemed to be able to hit the green button each time. However, today at work after his conversation with Tochi, he had managed to press it but the call didn’t go through; the network was busy or her phone was switched off. One hour passed in which he kept staring at his phone on the table. He had been trying since with no luck and now he sighed. That was all he did: call, no reply, sigh, scratch his head, sigh, stand up, pace the length of the room, sigh, sit down and do it all over. He battled the temptation to get into his car and drive over there. Was she with someone else? According to Tochi, the man at the party was her bank manager going overboard with unwelcome advances.

He called again. She didn't pick as before but this time he managed to send off a text message. He felt like someone was playing a game with him as the guy who always got something wrong. He still couldn’t explain to himself why he had been so angry when she had kissed him. Maybe she'd done it to annoy her manager but he had really enjoyed the kiss. He could still feel it even days after; he even remembered the stray strand of hair that had brushed against his face when they kissed.

God! He needed to talk to her. He knew though that this time there was no beating about the bush. They both spoke their minds or forgot it. It was all or nothing. Thirty minutes later, he was still sighing and pacing. He picked up the phone and decided to try again. As if on cue the slideshow he had put as his phone’s wallpaper changed to the only picture he had of her. Ijeoma sleeping, a smile on her lips. He sighed once more and began to dial.
-
His doorbell rang. He knew she was the one even before he got up from his chair.

“She has come, God she has come.” He banged into a stool in his zest to get to the door in record time and cursed. He opened the door and there she stood looking very beautiful, prim and proper in her suited banking attire. She looked like she just got ready to go to work instead of after a hectic day at the office.  “Hi,” she said, “May I come in?”

Every cell in his body screamed for him to refuse, talk with her right there, close the door and run back into the house.

Instead he said, “Sure, come on in.”  He wasn't as happy as he thought he would be. That was because it wasn’t Ijeoma shrugging off her jacket right from the door, it was Bola.  Straight away knew he would regret that decision; more and more he felt like some unknown force was playing a game with him.

Both stared at the phone, and boy was it a tense moment!

“Well? Answer it,” he gulped.

“No I'm not going to. I want to know what you did.”

“You don't even want to know who your caller is?”  Ijeoma snatched up the phone and checked the ID. Her stomach plummeted when she recognized it but she wouldn't allow herself to be deterred.

“Look, don’t change the subject.”  James remained silent and she summoned all the firmness within her, “James, what did you do?”

“Ijeoma I... It was... I had to… for the sake of my family. I borrowed money…” He was stammering in anxiety, nonetheless his eyes held a mysterious glint, one too dangerous for comfort.

“That doesn’t sound too bad,” she shrugged, regaining her composure.

“Ijeoma, stop interrupting me please, just listen…” demanded James. “At first it was from the bank but when their payments came up, I couldn't make it. And the last thing I wanted was for them to start sending letters to my office or the house. I had to find somewhere else to get the money. Look, it was my only choice; either that or the bank would sue me or Ngozi would find out. I wanted none of that to happen.”

It began to dawn on Ijeoma what might have happened. The suspense was driving her insane. She wanted to wring his neck to get the truth out, but simply gestured for him to continue.

“I had been gambling heavily, losing a lot of money, but still hoping for my big win. Luckily the owners of the place agreed to loan me money in advance to pay off the bank. I would then owe them...wait before you say anything!” Seeing Ijeoma was about to talk. “I now know I was stupid, but then I was like a man possessed. I won a little sometimes, and it felt good at that time because I could pay off some of the debt, I could buy stuff for your sister and pay my son's bills. It felt like I was working again, like I was a man...” He leaned back with a faraway smile on his face.

Without warning, she sprang from the sofa, towering over him. Ijeoma’s mind raced a hundred ways and her heart pounded with seething ferocity. This was too much too bear. “Of all people James, you should know better than to stoop so low. How could a man in his right mind abandon his wife, and don’t let me get started about Obi. You allowed yourself to be sucked into gambling? As a man, my dear in-law, family must always come first, regardless of any financial woes you may have incurred.”

He stood abruptly, fuming “What would you have done in my shoes? Gone to church to pray for your debts to be cleared in an instant?”

“You abandon your loved ones and you stand before me expecting pity? So now, have you paid off your debt? HAVE YOU?!” Unable to control her thoughts, the damage was done as the bile spilled out.

STORY CONTINUES... CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 8

                                           CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 6

Written by:
Ikpo Henry Chigozirim

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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog: SILENT CRIES - Episode 7
SILENT CRIES - Episode 7
Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - how to process the information, choke him by the collar and demand reparation, here in Lagos, precious oil company job, of lay-offs in the banking sector, her phone was switched off, the party was her bank manager, her suited banking attire.
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Moofyme.com: An African Literary Blog
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