Uchenna’s palm felt numb from holding the tumbler. He took a sip from the glass, but it didn’t soothe his senses anymore, the drink had gone warm.
He pulled his weight forward, placing the tumbler on the table in front of him.
He had just spoken with Pearl, he almost could not believe it!
She called him, after so many Years of silence. But it was not the kind of call he would have wanted, he had thought she was happy, believed completely that she was.
Their breakup had been sudden and dramatic, and she kept away from him all that time.
He felt somewhat disappointed that her exit had not been worth her while, but he didn’t know the details of her situation yet. She promised to call him at another time to explain better, Uchenna wondered what exactly “explain better” could mean.
Pearl. He really did love her. He could still remember the day he met her like it was yesterday.
The Year was 2000.
He bounced into the registry of Lagos State University feeling very happy with the world.
He had passed the Joint Admission Matriculation Board examinations, and although he didn’t make the cut-off mark he needed to study Medicine and Surgery which was his preferred course, the University offered him admission to study Microbiology and he didn’t mind that at all. He was glad.
“Uchenna Daniels!” His name echoed over the Public announcement system.
He turned around and hurried to the window where the voice was emanating from.
A middle aged woman sat at the desk behind the glass. She smiled up at him and he eagerly handed over his documents to her.
“Thank you for making my job easier.” She said, impressed by Uchenna’s neatly stacked papers.
She began to process his papers and minutes later, handed him the finished work “Adeleke hall room 12” she informed him.
He thanked her, taking his documents from her.
He went eagerly away in search of his assigned hostel.
In the evening of that day, Uchenna and his new roommate Ochuko, decided to take a stroll around the campus, so as to get acquainted with their new environment.
They were walking past the parking lot when Uchenna heard his name called out loudly. He turned around and recognized the lady from the registry.
“Good evening Ma” he called out, walking over to middle aged woman.
“How are you? Hope you have settled in?” She asked.
“Fine Ma…” Uchenna’s voice trailed off at the sight of the tall girl standing besides her.
She had a caramel skin tone that glowed under the setting sun rays. Her eyes were slanted like that of a cat’s and her lips sat full on her ovally shaped face. He thought she was so beautiful, the kind of beauty he only saw in the magazines.
“This is my niece, Pearl” the woman was saying, Uchenna heard her, but he was too engrossed staring at the girl to give the woman a response.
“Guy!” Ochuko nudged his arm, jolting him out of his absorption.
“Oh, Ok!”. Uchenna grunted out, regaining his composure. His mouth was filled with cotton and he was sure those were butterflies he felt in his stomach.
Pearl smiled at him. She looked all the more prettier with that smile.
“Hello” he said exuberantly.
“She will show you around the campus” the middle aged woman went on “If you are okay with that”
Okay with that? He thought to himself. He was ecstatic!
“Yes ma, Thank you ma”. he said keenly.
The woman got into her car and drove away.
“Pearl, meet my friend, Ochuko” . Uchenna introduced his companion, suddenly remembering his manners.
She politely shook Ochuko’s hand with her eyes affixed on Uchenna.
Ochuko exchanged glances between the two of them. “Baba, make I dey go. We go jam for room.” He said and began to walk away.
Uchenna and Pearl couldn’t be concerned about him at that moment. They had found each other.
“You’re ready? Lets go.” Pearl said and they took off walking into the start of a new relationship.
They were inseparable. They could not stay hours away from each other. They had to be together, doing everything as a pair.
Uchenna’s academics suffered. He spent most of his time with Pearl, drooling in love.
The efforts he managed to make with his academics were jeopardized by the lecturer’s who wanted his woman, and he was not going to stand by and let them have her, so he guided her like a mother hen guiding her chicks.
He rented an apartment off the campus and moved into it which suited them even better. Pearl would spend most of her time there with him.
Then she got pregnant.
“Uchenna, we can’t keep this pregnancy, my education, my life” she tearfully reminded him day after day.
But Uchenna did not mind. She was the woman of his dreams, he wanted her to have his baby! He didn’t have the money to grow a family yet, but he was willing to figure things out.
“Please babe, let’s keep this baby. My parents will look after the baby till we are done with school. They will pay your fees and sponsor your education to any level you want”. he pleaded.
When he saw that his pleading and cajoling wasn’t getting to her, he resulted to coercive means, determined to make her see things his way, but she wouldn’t have any of it. Her mind was made up.
Reluctantly, he gave in.
One Saturday morning, he took her to a private hospital in Surulere. He sat in wait while Pearl went in to see the doctor.
Half an hour later, the doctor emerged from the theater.
“It’s done” He said blankly. “The twins are gone”.
“Twins!!!!” Uchenna screamed, throwing his hands up on his head. “Ahh!” he cried. He flopped unto the seat behind him, hating himself for letting this happen, and resenting her too.
“We will have other kids when we are done with school” he rationalized out loud, trying to calm himself down.
Moments later when he walked into the recovery room, she smiled up at him. But he couldn’t bring himself to smile back. He had just lost his babies, and he didn’t find that funny.
They agreed not to talk about the events of Saturday any more than they already had, it was traumatic for Uchenna. They wanted to move on, and so life as they had known it continued.
A few months passed by when Uchenna found out Pearl was communicating with her ex boyfriend, Amadi. In her mails, she assured him of her readiness to marry him, if only he would ask her to.
Uchenna was broken.
“Pearl, who is Amadi”. he had asked her one evening.
“Oh, that’s my friend from Port Harcourt” she replied flippantly. “How did you know about him?”
“Don’t worry about it, I saw his name on your Facebook page”
“Oh yeah! we are friends on there”
He nodded, smiling sadly. He loved her, he was smitten by her, so he was going to ignore it all. She loved him, he assured himself, it was him, not Amadi, and so he stayed.
All would crash around him five years into the future when he would come home from work to find all her stuff gone from the apartment they both shared.
In the days that followed, he worried about Pearl. She was suffering, he could tell. He added her number to his WhatsApp contact list, and on her profile was a photo with three kids, he could tell that there were hers. They had her looks.
She called him as promised and with a regretful heart, narrated to him the thorns in her marriage. Labanj beat her up all the time, once she said, he kicked her in the face while she was eight months pregnant with their third child.
“Why are you still with him” Uchenna asked angrily over the phone.
“Hmmmn, Uche this is not America, I can’t just leave, besides, I need to try to make it work for the sake of my children”
“If you die nko? Who will look after your children then?” he said rhetorically.
“I will not die, God will not allow it”
“Hmn, na whao!”
“Do you know he has not paid my bride price to this moment? we were married only in Court.”
“So what are your parents saying about all these?”
“They are not happy, they’ve asked me to come back home. He hasn’t even been to my hometown, not even once”
“That’s terrible. How about money, is he taking care of you and the kids?”
“Barely. My major problem right now is going about with the kids. Having to do school runs and go around with the three of them is so hard without a car”
“Hmmn, I can imagine” he remarked
“Let me call you back, I think he just got home” she said and quickly ended the WhatsApp call.
Uchenna began to nurse plans of ways he could help her out.
Their calls were constant, but they were always sad calls, she was unhappy and had a lot to complain about. Her husband wouldn’t touch her and she missed sex, she told Uchenna she missed the way he made love to her, and wished she was his wife and not Labanj’s. Uchenna acted oblivious to that statement.
He saved up money and sent it down to her to buy a car so she could move around with her kids.
She told her husband about the money, she told him it was from a contribution she had joined a long time ago. He was happy and seemed proud of her. His behavior improved immediately towards her. He began to spend more time with her and the kids and for the first time in many Months, he made love to her.
Pearl reported this development to Uchenna and he was glad to hear her sound that happy.
Her husband made her to understand that, it was wiser to use the money to complete the house he had already started building for them, than to buy a car at that moment. The priority should be to own their home first.
Pearl couldn’t agree more and so she gladly handed over the money to him.
But after a while, he began to drift back into his old ways, he would hit her over every disagreement and started to stay out late into the night. She didn’t understand why, she had really thought things were finally fine with them.
One night while he was fast asleep, curiosity led her to go through his phone. She went straight for the WhatsApp chats, and there she found out that her husband had used the money she had given him to rent an apartment for his girl friend and he furnished it to taste.
She couldn’t believe it. She shuddered in shock as she viewed the photos the girl sent to him, thanking him and reassuring him of her love.
Tears roamed freely down her cheeks. Her husband woke up to find her with his phone in her hand, she was too perplexed to move. He snatched it from her and turned over to his side, hissing himself back to sleep.
She knew at that moment that she couldn’t do it anymore, she was done. The next morning, she relayed the events of the night to Uchenna, expressing her desire to leave Nigeria for the United States and he promised to send her some money to get passports for herself and her kids.
He told her that she could file for asylum once she got to the States and assured her that he would help her in getting visit Visas for her kids.
The plan was set in motion. He had to help her. She may have left him cold and shattered Years ago, but she didn’t deserve the life Labanj had subjected her to. No one did. He felt pity for her, devoid of any desire to rekindle the romance she kept hinting at.
He had watched his mother suffer similar fate in the hands of his father so Uchenna had no tolerance for men who maltreated their wives, more so, Pearl.
He sent her the money she needed and was mentally preparing for her exit when her son took ill and was put on admission.
Labanj said he had no money for the little boy’s treatment so Pearl used up the money that was meant for their passports to pay for his hospital bills.
Uchenna soon became weary of her situation. He wanted her to take a step away from Labanj, but soon realized that all Pearl did was to complain.
She was never really going to leave him. Uchenna resolved to continue to assist her financially but refused to further get involved in her emotional situation.
And so, he continued to be her friend, and nothing more.