Leke was worried. He wasn’t broke, but his financial capacity was almost back to what it used to be. He had spent so much energy giving Titi a false impression of who he was and now he couldn’t keep up with his own inventions. All he really wanted to do was make her happy, he knew she genuinely loved him but would love be enough when she discovered his true worth? Could Titi handle the truth? He honestly didn’t think so. Titi won’t find out. Or would she?
On the other hand was what he had done to Jeffrey. He was genuinely sorry that his greed had soiled the name of another but he wasn’t willing to give up all he had acquired or have his career tarnished because of the truth. Jeffrey seemed to be doing well with his business and was excited about his new life. Why spoil everything because of a guilty conscience?
As he pondered these things, there was a knock on the door. It was Titi.
“You look surprised. Did you forget I was coming?” Titi asked entering the house.
“Sorry, it’s been a busy week for me.”
“You look tired.”
“I am.” Leke said meaning it. He slumped on to the sofa and closed his eyes, Titi was the last person he wanted to see. He was certain that she had come with another reason to spend money he didn’t have.
“Have you had anything to eat?”
“No.” he didn’t even have an appetite.
“I brought you some stew, I thought you might be too tired to cook a proper meal.”
Leke smiled in surprise, she hardly cooked for him. “I must have done something right.”
Titi laughed. “Because I cooked for you? I woke up feeling good, so lucky you!”
After they had eaten. Titi brought out her tablet and turned it on.
“Are we watching a film?”
“No, I want to show you the new designs the interior decorator came up with.”
Leke’s countenance fell. “New designs? What happened to the old designs?”
“She came up with something much better and I love it.”
As she swiped the screen and went from one picture to the next, Leke grew angrier.
“So how much is this going to cost?”
“A few hundred…”
“A few hundred thousand naira silly!” Titi laughed, oblivious to Leke’s uneasiness.
“Titi! I’m tired of all these expenses, can’t we see each other and not talk about money?”
Titi opened her mouth in shock, completely thrown off by Leke’s outburst. “I wasn’t going to ask you for money. It’s all on me…”
Leke sighed, feeling suddenly deflated. He had misjudged her and said things he shouldn’t have. “I’m sorry, I just assumed…”
“Is something bothering you Leke?”
“No… I’m just tired… I’m sorry.”
Titi gathered her things together. “I’ll mail you the designs, please choose the ones you like so I can conclude with the decorator.”
“You’re leaving?” Titi had stood up. “Babe…I said I’m sorry, I’m just under a lot of pressure.”
“Yeah, I heard you. I think I should give you some time alone.”
“No, I don’t want you to leave.”
“I’ll mail you.” she said and left.
Leke slumped back on the sofa feeling worse than before.
Jeffrey sat with his elbows on his knees and his hands intertwined. He sighed and lay back on the bed and sighed again. True to Augusta’s predictions he was going into debt, most of his customers were owing him and they seemed to be unwilling to pay. His goods were almost exhausted and he didn’t have enough money to restock. To think that he would fail at this again was depressing.
Augusta came into the room with a bundle of clothes and dropped them on the bed. She saw her husband’s countenance and frowned.
“Are you okay?”
“’Hmmn.” Jeffrey murmured.
Augusta looked at him again and decided it was best him to leave him in his sour mood. She herself was tired from cleaning, cooking and looking after the children.
“You know we have to support these men anyway we can.” She remembered what the nice lady at Jeffrey’s boutique had said.
“You don’t look okay. Are you sure you don’t want talk about it?” she tried again.
Jeffrey laughed dryly. “I already know what you’re going to say.”
“Ah ah…” Augusta was beginning to regret caring but she took a deep breath and tried again. She left what she was doing and sat beside him. “Don’t assume for me. Talk to me Jeffrey, please…”
Jeffrey honestly couldn’t remember the last time Augusta had shown this level of concern or not been sarcastic. He looked at her, she seemed to be genuinely interested in what was bothering him.
“I’m going into debt. Most of my customers are owing me and they don’t want to pay.”
Augusta felt the familiar surge of anger and impatience with her husband but for once decided not to give it expression. “How much are they owing you?”
“Close to five hundred thousand naira.”
Augusta promptly took a deep breath in. “Jeffrey…”
“I know, you said so.”
She sighed. “Do you know where to reach them?”
“Yes, I don’t give strange people credit. I’m not as stupid you think.”
Augusta eyed him. “Don’t test my patience any further.”
“I’m sorry…” Jeffrey whispered. “I know you’re disappointed in me.”
“I’m sorry too. I should have been more supportive.”
She got up. “Let me have the addresses, their numbers and the amount of debt of everyone who owes you. I’ll get the money.”
Jeffrey laughed. “How do you intend to do that?”
“Leave that to me.”
“Augusta what do you want to do?” Jeffrey asked seriously, sitting up.
“What is more important to you? What I want to do or your money?”
“I’ll get you their numbers.”
Rotimi glanced at the announcements again as he picked up the microphone. He breezed through the announcements, cracking a joke here and there and flashing his best smile. At the end of the announcements, it was time for him to invite the first timers.
“Alright, it’s that time when we specially welcome those who are coming to church for the very first time. So if it’s your first time in this assembly, kindly rise to your feet and come to the front. C’mon church welcome them! Give them a resounding applause! Shake them if they’re sitting close to you.”
The choir sang a welcome song and he smiled, more people were coming to the church. He glanced at the faces of those who were coming to the front and he saw her. She was older, bigger and fairer but it was definitely her. The images from that night suddenly flashed in his mind, the eyes, the screaming, the beating, the child’s laughter, and the blood.
Rotimi began to cough, literarily choking on his memories. The music stopped and he heard the frightened voices. He felt hands on his arms and waist.
“Rotimi! Rotimi!” Kayinsola cried
The last thing he heard before he blacked out was the beating of his own heart.