My name is Chinyere Okpara. Three months ago, I met a man named Chukwudi Amadi. He was an apprentice, learning how to sell engine oil. How many ways are there to sell engine oil? He told me three things. One, his master was very wicked. Two, he was about to get his freedom and make a lot of money. Three, he loved me and wanted to marry me. When he told me the first two, I nodded along but when he got to the third one, I talked to my legs and ran to my house.
You see, Mama Chinyere, my mother, is a very huge woman with big hands. My cheeks have felt those hands plenty times and I nearly died all those times. Mama had told me never to let any man come near me. I am not a child, I am twenty so it not pregnancy I fear, it is Mama’s huge hands.
Chukwudi is not the kind of person that gives up, that is part of why I know he will make plenty money so he did not stop stopping me on the road to talk to me. He told me he loved me several times, even said I should come and meet his mother but I refused. After some time, he said we can just be friends. I accepted this. But I know that it is all a lie and one day he will ask me for more than friendship.
One month ago, one of my uncles came from Lagos and brought me a phone. I was so happy. I went everywhere with the phone. I took pictures with it, I videoed everything around me, it was the love of my life. Chukwudi was the first person to collect my number. His own phone was not beautiful like my own but he said he was not jealous. He said he had money to buy phone but he was saving it to buy a motorcycle. I did not believe him. So to prove it to me, he said he would help me do subscription of five thousand naira so I could browse whenever I wanted. And to my surprise he did it.
And that was where my trouble started.
Two days after he did the subscription, Chukwudi came running to my house one morning. When I saw him, I was afraid. If Mama saw a boy coming to the house to look for me, I was dead. I dragged him from the front of our house to the corner of the street.
“Do you want my mother to kill me? What are you doing in my house?” I asked.
“I am dead Chinyere, I am dead.” He said.
“The money I gave you, it is for my master.”
I paused and looked at him. “What money?”
“Chinyere, stop playing. The money I used to buy you subscription, it is my Master’s money.”
I could not believe what he was telling me. “So you don’t have money?”
“Of course I have money.” He said. I stared at him, my eyes were very angry. “Okay, I don’t have money.”
“So what do you want me to do?” I asked him. “You stole money; that is your problem. Glo will not give me your money back.”
“Find the money and give me Chinyere.” He said. “If you don’t find money for me, my master will chase me away and I will not be able to marry you.”
I laughed. “So, it is because you want to marry me that you are sweating like eagle that is afraid of height?”
“Chinyere, I need my money back.”
I laughed and walked away. This boy needs a doctor. Thank God I did not even fall for all his pretense. Poor man that wants to marry good girl.
I got back home and went about my business as usual. I did my chores on time and Mama was very happy with me. That morning, for the first time that year, Mama gave me extra fish with my akpu.
I was about to eat when I looked through the window and saw Chukwudi’s big head outside our house. I left my food and ran out of the house.
“Chukwudi, do you want to kill me?” I asked. I was very angry this time. “Leave here or I will call my brothers to beat you.”
“My Master said he’s coming to report you to your mother.”
I gasped. “What?”
“He said, your mother attends his parish and he knows she’s a good woman who will not tolerate a thief in her house.”
I put my hands on my head. “Chukwudi, what did you tell your Master? I did not steal anybody’s money.”
“I tried to explain that you did not steal the money directly…”
“I did not steal the money at all.”
“Well, baby, my master does not see it like that.” He held my hand. “There is only one solution, you have to raise the money.”
“Raise what? Five thousand? My mother does not even have five thousand. Where am I supposed to raise it?”
“What do you have that you can sell?”
“I don’t have anything.” I said.
“You have a phone.”
I shook my head. “It is not possible, I am not selling my phone.”
“Do you want my master to come and meet your mother?”
What kind of nonsense is this? I did not want my phone to go but if his master reports me to my mother, my life could go. No, I was not going to lose my phone. If my mother likes, she can kill me.
“I’m not selling my phone.”
Chukwudi looked behind him and pointed to a man. “That is my master coming to your house.”
I saw the man coming and all my confidence ran away.
“Where can I sell the phone?”
“I have a friend who can buy it.”
I handed the phone to him and he ran off to find his friend. I wanted to cry but Mama will see my tears and ask what happened. I just stood there and looked at the ground, asking myself why I allowed Chukwudi subscribe for me.
Five minutes later, Chukwudi came back.
“Has my master come yet?” He asked.
“No.” I said. “He entered one fish shop over there.”
“Ah, thank God.” Chukwudi said. “I was able to sell the phone for six thousand.”
“Six thousand? Only?”
“My friend said four thousand, I begged him to agree for six thousand.”
He handed me one thousand naira. “I’ll go and give my boss the money now.”
He ran off and I went into the house. I looked at my plate of akpu and my two fishes but I did not have appetite to eat anymore. I sat in front of the food and looked at it. I wanted to cry but again Mama wasn’t so far away.
A knock sounded on our door and I went to open it. I pulled the door open and in front of me stood Chukwudi’s master. The son of Satan had betrayed me. I was dead already.
“Is your mother at home?” He asked.
Before I could answer, my mother came into the living room and saw us.
“Oga Livinus, welcome.” Mama said. “Please enter.”
“Thank you Madam.” Mr. Livinus said and entered. “Is this your daughter?”
“Yes, this is Chinyere.”
Oh no, he was going to report me now. What was I going to tell my mother?
“Your daughter is beautiful.” Mr. Livinus said.
He was rubbing me with oil before he set me on fire. Wicked man.
“Chinyere,” Mama called. “This is Oga Livinus, he sells fish in Asaba.”
“What?” I said before I could stop myself. “He sells fish, not engine oil?”
So Chukwudi lied about that one too? He was apprenticing to learn how to sell fish? Foolish man. But wait, Mama said he was in Asaba, not our village.
“Let me get you something to eat.” Mama said and left the room.
I looked at Mr. Livinus and something came to my mind. I moved closer to him.
“Sir, please are you Chukwudi’s master?” I asked.
“Which Chukwudi?” He asked.
I swallowed. “Chukwudi, your apprentice.”
“I don’t have any apprentice called Chukwudi.”
Two days later, I saw Chukwudi in the market, he pretended like he did not know me and he was using my phone.