The Brotherhood Part 6
They sat at the table in the quiet bar, staring at their drinks but not drinking it. Each man occupied with his own thoughts.
“We need to get professional help, Gbenga. I want my own children!”
They had argued heatedly about it. Gbenga not willing to submit himself to another doctor and Nife, no longer willing to be patient with him. He sighed and took a sip of his drink. Opposite him, Chidi thought about the message the strange man had sent him.
I’ll give you 2.5 million naira, all you need to do is put my money into your account for two months.
Chidi knew that he couldn’t put the man’s money into his account, it would arouse suspicion. But he could devise a method of spreading the money into separate accounts. The man wanted his help to launder money and he couldn’t bring himself to commit such a crime. He thought about the fact that he couldn’t afford the repairs for his wife’s car, so he had given her his. The pressure from his mother was mounting and the cost of footing most of the household bills was staggering. But most of all, was his awareness that he would continue to sink further into debt and lack if he didn’t find an alternative means of income.
Three men seated three tables away from them yelled, clinking their bottles and talking excitedly. The two friends looked away from them and continued to stare at their drinks. Finally Chidi spoke up.
“Have you heard from Ben?”
“Why do I need to hear from him?”
Chidi sighed and picked up his drink. “You guys need to resolve your issue. We’ve been friends for years. Are you going to allow this to come between you?”
“It’s Ben you should be talking to. He’s the one who doesn’t understand or value the friendship we have. After everything I’ve done for him!”
Chidi took a swig from his drink and decided to change the subject. “How’s Nife?”
Gbenga smiled sadly and leaned back in his chair. “Nife…”
Chidi set down his drink and observed his friend. “Why’re you laughing?”
“I don’t know… she wants us to see a doctor.”
“And you don’t want to go, why?”
He stared at the bubbles popping in his drink. “There’s a problem.”
“I have low sperm count…”
Chidi sat up and pushed his drink aside. “What? Are you sure?”
“I’m a doctor, I’m sure.”
“She doesn’t know does she?”
Chidi whistled and sat back.
“Wait, how long have you known this?”
Gbenga shifted uncomfortably in his seat, his gaze on the table. “Three years.”
Chidi sat back up again. “Three years Gbenga! And you didn’t tell her? Why?”
“You know how these women are,” he replied with forced irritation.
He leaned back in his chair. “You have to tell her.”
“She will leave.”
“Then let her.”
“Yes! How can you trap her like that? Let her know what she’s into and give her the freedom to decide whether or not she wants to be with you.”
An awkward silence passed.
“Does Ben know?”
“What did he say?”
“He said I should look for solutions.”
Chidi shook his head. “He helped you to keep your secret. Now I see why you‘re so angry with him.”
“He hit me below the belt.”
“And so did you.” he waved his hand dismissively. “Look you guys will sort each other out. You need to tell Nife.”
“I can’t. This is why I didn’t tell you anything, I knew you would tell me to tell her.”
“I’m not depending on you for money, I will tell you the truth.”
Gbenga’s portly body shook with laughter. “Now you’re hitting him below the belt.”
Chidi shrugged and reached for his drink. “Well, he’s not here to take it.”
“I saw her during the week at a conference, she was driving your car…”
“Yeah, hers is faulty.”
“You need to get her a new car.”
“Well, we are not all rich,” Chidi replied icily.
Gbenga laughed again.
Ben painted long strokes of Bella’s straight hair, it rested on her full breasts. He tried hard not to look at them, choosing rather to focus on the slight brown tint that the sun rays gave it. It was their fifth meeting and he was becoming comfortable in her presence.
“So have you called Faith?” she asked.
He shook his head. “She’s still not picking up my calls.”
“Send her messages then. You know, compose those nice emotional text messages that you guys are so good at doing.”
He laughed. “We’ve been together for eight years, she knows all my tricks.”
She laughed, her breasts heaving with the effort. “You men never run out of tricks.”
Ben breathed slowly and concentrated on her hair. “I have no more tricks for her.”
“But you have more money now, don’t you?”
“I do, but what happens after this job?”
“What if I tell you that I have other jobs for you?”
His eyes flew to her face. “More jobs?”
He waited for more details but she looked out of the window.
“I would be very grateful.”
She smiled, her face still turned away. “I know.”
He continued to paint, thinking of how many more jobs he could get from her and how much money he could be making and he smiled inwardly.
She turned towards him suddenly. “Let’s take a break, I’m tired. Jossy will bring your lunch.”
He nodded as she left the room.
Chidi sat at a table in Mama Glory’s canteen, eating a meal of eba and okro soup. He wasn’t particularly enjoying the food but he was famished, he grabbed the sachet of cold water beside his plate and gulped down its content.
“Hello Chidi,” a feeble voice said.
He put down the water and stared angrily at the man he knew had tried to bribe him.
“Leave this place before I…”
He smiled eerily and adjusted the spectacles on his wide nose. “Will you at least listen to me?”
“Get out of this place!” he yelled, saliva spraying from his mouth. The other diners in the room looked at him curiously.
“Does your wife still use that blue 1996 Passat? You need to change it Chidi.”
Chidi’s anger deflated.
“Especially now that she is pregnant. Even your mother needs better care, she should enjoy the rewards of her labour. Don’t you want her to wear better clothes and build her a house? How long are you going to continue living from hand to mouth? Aren’t you tired?”
“How do you know all these things about me?” Chidi asked.
Seeing that he had his attention, he leaned closer to him.
“Take this money, start a good business, resign from Tower Bank and live a good life. You deserve it. You’re not killing anybody, so what’s holding you back?”
Chidi stared at him, unbelievingly.
“Take this money!”
Someone dragged a chair behind him, jolting him into action. He placed his sticky hands precariously on the table and cleared his throat.
“What are you hiding?”
“I’m not hiding anything, I’m just taking what belongs to me.”
“That explanation is not good enough for me.”
The small man sighed. “My partner is not running the business well and I just want to take my share of the profits and investments and leave him with the rest.”
The explanation made no sense to Chidi.
“All right, if you don’t believe me, google JR Construction Ltd. our office is at VI.”
The man pulled out a small card from the pocket of his trousers. “Call me when you’re ready.”
“They want to take everything!” Mrs Ade broke down crying.
Gbenga locked the door to his office and sat by her side.
“Hey… calm down… calm down! Slow down and tell me what’s happening.”
“My husband’s family. They want to take some of his property. They said that since we were only married for one year and didn’t have children that I had to give them some of his money… how can they ask me for that? He’s only been… gone… for three months!”
“What kind of wedding did you have?”
“We had a traditional wedding, we decided that we would do the court wedding after we had the first child.”
It made no sense to Gbenga but he let it go. “I think the first thing you need to do, is to get a good lawyer who can help you to defend yourself. Was your husband rich?”
“Yes, he was.”
“Well don’t worry about it. You’ll be fine, just try to keep your head clear. That means you need to use your drugs, eat nutritious meals, smile more often…”
She smiled reluctantly, wiping her reddened face with her hands.
“You look so much better when you smile.”
She looked at him then down at her hands.
Ben stared at the empty plate regretfully, wishing that the food didn’t finish.
“Madam wants you.”
Ben jumped, Jossy had never spoken to him before and he had begun to think that she had a speech impairment.
But she didn’t reply, she walked away, compelling him to follow her. She led him down the hall to a room beside what appeared to be a mini-gallery. Ben pulled his eyes away from the paintings and looked at Jossy. She simply pointed at the door and walked away.
Confused, Ben opened it hesitantly and walked in.
Bella was lying on the bed. She sat up, her hand supporting her head.
“Come here,” she tapped the space beside her.
Ben looked around, wondering if this was a trick.
“There’s nobody here but you and me. I have more jobs to give you but you must work for me too. So, what is it going to be?”
“I am an artist ma… this is…”
“You’re an artist? You’re only an artist if it puts food in your belly and cloths on your back. You’re suffering Ben, I want to give you a way out.”
“I have a girlfriend ma.”
“No you don’t. A poor man doesn’t have a woman, how can he when he cannot take care of her?”
“I can’t do this, I’m not a gigolo…” he backed away slowly.
“Then get out of my room,” she said spitefully.
Ben retreated hastily.