Diary of a Fusspot (12)

Fusspot 12.

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I was irritated as I heard the incessant knocking on my front door. It was Christy. The last person I expected or wanted to see at this time as I filled in my job applications online.
“I’m busy Christy,” I said cutting her off. I really wasn’t in the mood.
She gave me a sad smile. “I can see that Chinelo.” She paused and looked me straight in the eye. “I know there’s something going on with you Chi and I know you don’t trust me enough to tell me what it is…”
“Christy-” I began but she stopped me and placed a hand on my arm.
“You don’t have to tell me what it is Chinelo. I just wanted to let you know that I’m here for you. If you need help with babysitting or anything, just let me know. You’re my only friend in this neighborhood Chinelo and I just want you to know that I care about you.”
I couldn’t say anything but held out my hands to her and we shared a brief hug. I had judged this woman too harshly, I thought to myself.
“Thank you Christy,” I said in a voice barely above a whisper.
She smiled and left. I sighed. Her honest care and concern was like balm to my soul.
Ike came towards the door as I locked it. He had been having difficulty sleeping at night and there were dark circles under his eyes. He was dozing fitfully before Christy came. The knock must have woken him up.
“Sorry honey, it was Christy. But she’s gone now.”
“What did she want?” he said gruffly.
“Just checking up on me.” I saw the question in his eyes and sought to allay his fears. “No, I didn’t tell her anything. She said I didn’t have to either. She seemed genuinely concerned like a friend.” I tried to reassure him knowing it was me and my voiced opinion of Christy that made him question her ability to keep her mouth shut.
“Humph. Friends. Don’t let people deceive you o Chi. See what happened to me. I thought he was my friend.”
I put my arms around him. “We’ll get through this Ike, I promise.”
He sighed. “Chi, sit down. There’s something I want to talk to you about.”
I sat down with some trepidation. I didn’t want to hear any more bad news.
“We have to sell the house Chi. It’s the only way we can raise some capital to offset some of the costs for the lawyer and even for paying the company back.”
I shook my head voluntarily. Selling the house? That was the makings of my worst nightmare. It would mean that everything that we worked so hard to build had come undone.
“No, Ike. There must be some other way. See, I’m looking for work. I applied today. I’ll find something soon.”
Ike ran a hand through his hair. “Look Chi, I appreciate that really. But we need to be practical. We need quite a bit of money.”
“Ike let’s sell one of the cars then. Please let’s not talk about selling the house except as a last resort.”
Ike sighed again and I felt rather desperate. God, please don’t let us lose our house!
“Whatever you say honey.”
I watched him as he walked back to the room. He seemed a shell of what he once was.
The preliminary hearing was in two weeks. The lawyer told us that the court proceedings could drag on forever and it was only by God’s mercy that he hadn’t been put in jail before the hearing. We needed a miracle. That man who stole this money needed to come back and pay for his crimes.

Ten minutes later, my phone rang. It was Titi. I had forgotten her in the past few days as I was immersed in my own problems.
“Hi Chinelo,” she said without preamble as soon as I picked the call. “There’s something I want to ask you.”
“Yes. What is it?” I said in an even tone. Her voice sounded like it was really important.
“Are you Chinelo nee Mbekwe, and did you attend University of Nigeria, Nssuka in 2007?”
Wow, I thought. She had figured it out before I had an opportunity to tell her.
“Yes,” I said softly.
She sighed into the phone.
“Yes, I thought so. So you came to my house and pretended to be my friend and heard all my secrets just so that you could get back at me because of what happened at school?” She said her voice rising.
I couldn’t believe my ears. Did she know how preposterous she sounded?
“Of course not. Why on earth would you think that?”
“Then why did you not let me know you were the one since we first met. I bet you and your husband have been having a good laugh at my misfortune.”
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. So I waited for her to take a breath.
“Well then, I have had enough of being laughed at. Don’t call me or come to my house again!”
With that, she ended the call.
I stared at my phone for five minutes. Then I decided I needed a cup of good strong coffee because apparently everything that was happening was a bad dream and I needed to wake up.

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Diary Of a Fusspot (11)

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I cut the phone and tried to edge my way past Christy into the house. I was holding Anna in my arms.
She tapped my arm. “Not now Christy,” I snapped. She was taken aback.
“Look, I’m sorry,” I said apologetically. “There are a lot of things I need to do right now.”
She smiled sympathetically. “Chinelo, I did not come here to trouble you. I’m just concerned. You seem to have a lot going on.”’
For a brief moment, I was about to let my guard down and tell her was happening and how helpless I felt. But I mentally shook it off.
“Yes, you’re right. I have been pretty busy lately. But everything is under control,” I smiled.
“Alright,” she said giving me a disbelieving gaze.
“I’ll see you some other time.”’
I sighed and let myself into the living room. And then I sat down on the sofa and my eyes began to water.
Then I got up. It was no use crying. I had to brace myself for what was coming. Ike needed me. He would most certainly need me.
With stoic resolve I went to prepare dinner thinking that I may not have time to prepare my elaborate dinners once I started working full time again.

That evening when Ike came in he looked bedraggled, worse than I had ever seen him. He looked like…someone who had lost hope. It was heartbreaking.
I was almost afraid to ask him anything.
“It seems like I’ve been properly framed,”’ he said bitterly. “How could I have been so stupid?”
“It appears that my deputy manager has been siphoning money from the company into another account but traced everything back to me. He took leave about a month ago. We’ve tried to contact him but he seems to have left the country and we can’t reach him anywhere. He’s just disappeared.”
I couldn’t trust myself to say anything.
“I was really so stupid Chi. I let Andrew do a lot of things, gave him a lot of responsibility. I let him handle so many clients accounts, not knowing he was stealing money. I trusted him.”
For the first time since I knew my husband, he looked like he was going to cry.
I went to sit by him and held his hands and for a long time that’s all we did. Hold hands.
“What do we do now? What are our options?” I said softly.
“I’m being charged with conspiracy to commit fraud. There’s going to be a hearing in a few weeks. I don’t know what’s going to happen then. But for now, I’m out of a job, although we still have our savings…”
Then he looked up at me with some alarm. “They might freeze my accounts. The lawyer said that was possible. We have to get the money out of there.”
Suddenly tears began to stream down his face and I held my husband. How could I be expected to be the strong one, me the weak fussy anxious woman that I was? My heart was breaking as I held him.
What were we going to do? Where was God in all this?

Diary Of a Fusspot(10)

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I found time to tell Ike after dinner about Titi and her problems. He had gotten a lawyer that day and he seemed a bit optimistic. They would have a meeting the next day.

“The truth is my defense,” Ike said between forkfuls of rice.

The Bible did say the truth would set you free. I hoped it would set my husband free.

He was sympathetic when he heard of Titi’s plight.

“That poor woman,” he said between forkfuls of rice. He put a hand on mine. “I wish I can tell you what to do now, whether to report to the police or something. I think you should encourage her to stay away from her husband for a while.”

I nodded in agreement not sure what to do. My world seemed so uncertain and unsure.

“At least we could keep praying for her.”

Prayer, that’s all I seemed to be doing these days.

I picked the baby up and rocked her while I distracted myself with the television.

 

The next day I sat at the edge of the sofa nervously waiting for Ike to call and tell me about his meeting with the lawyer. My phone rang and I flew to pick it. It was Titi.

“Hi Chinelo, I need to talk,” she said.

She wanted me to come to her house. I didn’t want to leave Anna alone with Christy for the second time in one week(she would start asking questions) so I took her with me.

Titi looked a bit better than the previous day but was still a little wan. Her husband had come home last night and had tried to hit her again but she had threatened to call the police and he left.

Titi looked at me squarely and said: “Enough is enough Chinelo. I want a divorce.”

She then proceeded to give me details of her marital history. Their marriage hadn’t always been like that. She had met him while we were in school. His family owned an oil well. He had convinced her to drop out and promised to take care of her. While they were engaged, he hit her once after an argument but apologized profusely for it. She believed it was a mistake but the beatings continued after the wedding. And they got more protracted and more violent. They had a son and she stayed with him because she loved him and her son.

This was the first time his beating had landed her in a hospital though.

“But Chinelo I love him. And what about our son? What do I do?” I shook my head because I had no answer.

“Maybe you should get away from him Titi, at least for a while,” I said repeating what my husband had said.

She broke down, sobbing. And I cradled her in my arms till she fell asleep. I left a note for her telling her we would talk more later.

As soon as I got into my driveway, I saw Christy standing in front of my house, her hands on her hips.

“ Madam, where have you been?”’

Before I could answer her, my phone rang. It was Ike.

“It’s bad Chi,” he said without preamble. “Very bad.”