“She’s way out of your league man. Don’t bother yourself.” Joe had said to me.
“What do you mean by she’s out of my league?” I asked, nearly offended by his good natured jibe. “She’s not the queen of England, is she?”
“She’s too hot for you and she’s a small girl.” He said.
“That has never stopped you before? Why should it stop me? Do you have two heads?” I asked.
“Let me put it like this…” He began to make gestures, one hand up and the other down. “She’s way up here, you’re way down here.”
I laughed, in spite of myself.
“I’m serious. Its like comparing Nigerian League to the English Premierships; Super Cup to UEFA Champions League; Enyimba vs. Manchester United. Hope you’re getting the picture?” He asked.
That was the conversation I had with Joe many years ago when I first laid eyes on Veronica. We were having lunch at an eatery when she walked in. It was love at first sight for me. She was such a beauty! Tall, slim and she carried herself in a way that made me think of her as fit to sit by my side as my queen when I’d built my business empire.
Of course, it was no easy task. I was thirty six then, a mere graduate who had been in and out of jobs by choice. My true calling was business like my fellow Ibo brethren. We are known for our enterprising ways and high business acumen in Nigeria. My education was just an icing yet to be spread on the cake which was still very much in the oven. I had always been one with lofty dreams of wealth and grandeur. The nine-to-five kind of life was not for me and I told anybody who cared to listen. I had worked in two first generation banks in Nigeria and I realized that I’d forever count other peoples money if I didn’t get out as quick as possible. I used the years I’d worked as a banker to establish numerous business contacts that I hoped to fall back on when the time was right.
So when I approached her at that day, she gave me a look of disdain that could have torn the heart out of any man. I wasn’t dressed badly. In fact, I’m always well dressed. I wasn’t deterred in the least anyway. She was still in the University then; 200Level in Business Management in University of Lagos. She rewarded my persistence by giving me her number and after several outings, I asked her out. I made it clear from the on set that I was a hustler with potentials and I would do my best to see she never lacked anything. She seemed ok with that.
Our relationship kicked off on the third month after we met. That was on August 7th, 2003. It was a beautiful relationship. I loved her deeply and she grew to love me, I believe. She became my companion and confidant. When the money started rolling in, I lavished her with gifts like a doting father would on his only daughter. I am the indulgent type so when there were a few indiscretions on her part, I overlooked them. Looking back now, I probably shouldn’t have. Those were warning signs.
She graduated early 2005 and I bought her a Toyota Corolla as a gift. On the 15th of July the next year, I went down on one knee and asked her to be my wife. She agreed and we were married by December. We spent our honeymoon in the Bahamas. An all-expense paid trip sponsored by one of my business associates, Mr Hu Pei.
The first two years were bliss. I lived with a smile on my face everyday. I’d never had it so good before and my business continued to blossom. By this time, I had impressed on Joe to leave where he worked to come work with me and he agreed immediately. Steadily, we built an empire that profited us both. I was making more money than I could count and more than she could spend. I took on the financial burden of her family without a second thought.
Bliss gradually receded after several failed attempts at conception. I spent millions visiting fertility experts in Nigeria and around the world. Oddly, we were told nothing was the matter. My sperm count checked out; her womb was in pristine condition. I continued to encourage her, pamper and promise her that I wouldn’t look outside for a solution but I felt her become distant. She would sit up on some nights and just weep. I’d stay up all night comforting her. We met pastors who prayed for us; went through all sorts of therapies but nothing changed. She continued to withdraw from me emotionally. Soon after, she stopped accompanying me on business trips. She wanted more time alone, she said and I obliged.
When she brought up the idea to open a mall, I was happy. I had refused to let her work for anyone as I was more than capable of providing all she needed, or so I thought. She didn’t like my line of business as such so she wouldn’t come on board. I am into automobile spare parts and I’m a massive importer. I have a chain of shops all over Nigeria. I had already constructed a massive ultra modern building I wanted to use as spare parts shop at Ajah. She wanted it for her shopping mall so I instructed the contractors to modify it to her taste. It came out beautifully so I opened an expense account for her to travel around and stock it. In six months Sidwell’s stood; a massive building of many facets having in stock almost every conceivable thing for sale. I had remarked at the opening ceremony that perhaps, someday it would become a fierce rival to Shoprite.
With her new business up and running, she lit up once again. She was passionate about it and I had no doubt that she would make something big out of it. However, it strained our relationship even more. I was always away on business trips and now, so was she. I began to wonder if I had done the right thing. There was a time when we didn’t see each other for three straight weeks! Each time I came home from one of my trips, my empty palatial home in Lekki stared right back at me as she was always away. The phone calls were less cheery, perfunctory and a bit mechanical. She was always busy and I was getting frustrated. Even when she came back home, she wouldn’t allow me touch her. She was tired, she would always say. Our passionate sex life waned and I began to wonder if she still loved me at all.
Joe in the mean time, was having the time of his life. He had so much money now as my vice president and he indulged in almost everything money could provide. He had a fleet of cars and had sent his wife and children abroad. He had an endless stream of girlfriends at his beck and call. He even tried to set me up a number of times to get my mind off the problems at the home front but I refused to stray to that kind of lifestyle. I kept believing that Veronica would eventually come around and things would go back to the way they were.
By this time, my mother had become so angry with me for depriving her of a grandson that she started refusing my monthly cheques for her upkeep. She would send her maid to return any cheque I sent. After so many failed attempts to make me see reason on why I should have a concubine since I refused to take a second wife, she resigned herself to fate that she wouldn’t see a grandson from her only child. My father died when I was much younger and after his death, she pretty much raised me on her own, never sparing herself to see I had a great education. She was an enterprising woman who sold textiles and I’d say I got my strong business acumen from her. My paternal uncles had sent delegation after delegation to beg me to reconsider as I was not getting any younger but I sent them back each time with a larger cheque than the last time to silence them and it left them confused. I’m not even 45 yet and its not like I’m not worried. I am, but I wanted kids with Veronica, only Veronica and I didn’t want her to feel pressured.
Things got to a head when I received an anonymous phone call one day. It was a fresh saturday morning in November. I’d just returned from a trip to China. I had spent a week there meeting with my suppliers. Veronica had left the house quite early to the mall for the day’s business. I was having my morning coffee that Edet, my man servant had served me on the patio while going through the day’s papers when I received a call on my mobile. The caller’s identity was hidden.
“Is this Mr William Uchendu?” the voice asked, sounding heavily accented and muffled.
“Yes, that is correct. Who am I speaking to please?” I replied, wondering who the person was.
“I know you are a good man. But you have a bad wife.” The voice continued.
“Who the hell is this?!” I roared in anger.
“You wife is having an affair. I think you should deal with that.” The muffled voice with the accent continued calmly, ignoring my earlier outburst.
“I know you love her. Check it before it ruins you.” The phone clicked and I realized my anonymous caller had hung up.
“Hello! Hello!!” I yelled into the silent phone that refused to speak back. In a fit of rage, I threw the phone across, smashing it to bits against the wall.
My body shook as I broke into uncontrollable tears…
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