Traffic on the Trans Amadi industrial layout road is always hectic during the late evenings due to the high number of cars and other vehicles exiting the industrial area.
Amadi left his workplace by 7:15 pm and headed off to Freedom bank located close to First Artillery junction. Before leaving, he had placed a call to Victor Akpan, a buddy of his at Freedom bank, informing him of his desire to see him that evening. Victor was a rich guy who had millionaire parents. Amadi had struck up an acquaintance with Victor at Companion bank training school, where they were sent for training as graduate interns three years ago. When they completed the four month course, Victor got a better offer from Freedom bank and moved on there.
Meeting with Victor was Amadi’s last option of raising money to take care of his valentine expenses. Victor will surely have some free bucks to give out.
Before placing the call to Victor, Amadi had gone to Mr Bolaji Adewale, his branch manager, to request for a salary advance. The man wanted to know why he needed a salary advance so early in the month. Amadi said that he had urgent family matters to settle. Upon further grilling, his excuses didn’t hold much water. The manager dismissed his request asking him to wait till the month’send.
Amadi had sulked and withdrawn N15,000 from the ATM for use in the week.
A quick glance at the fuel gauge indicated that he was running low on fuel. With the low level of his finances, he would have to cut down on the mileage of the car. He branched at Elf petroleum fuel station to top up his fuel tank. After buying 10 litres of fuel, the tiny wad of naira notes in the glove compartment was becoming thinner.
He was a full blown Port Harcourt boy and had lived in the city for a greater part of his life. Had his primary and secondary education at Elelenwon and tertiary education at UniPort. He got an IT job at Companion bank through the influence of an uncle shortly after graduation and had influenced his NYSC posting to Rivers state to enable him continue working in the bank.
After youth service, he was retained and the money started coming in. He had bought his Ra4 2010from the one year advance salary paid to him after training school and then lived the fast life until things began taking a down turn. He was hopeful that Victor would lend him at least N40,000 to salvage what remained of his pride on Valentine’s Day.
The city looked beautiful as the customary red Valentine colours adorned the major shops and supermarkets. Some of them were putting up special valentine discount sales over the weekend. Amadi drove past them disinterested.
When PHCN cuts off power supply at night, the generators from the various houses in the neighbourhood will come on and the cacophony will be heard everywhere. PHCN were not in the valentine mood and hence light supply was cut off on Wednesday night. Amadi drove home from his meeting with Victor to a dark environment. The nine litres of fuel that was in the tank of his Thermocool Generator had been depleted. He had to manage the little that was left over the weekend so using the rechargeable lamps as lighting was the only option.
He was in a sober mood, Victor Akpan had given him only N10,000 after lamenting his own lack of funds.
The absence of electrical power necessitated the use of the battery-powered radio. Amadi tuned his Kchibo 20 band world receiver set to listen to some music. The band was set to Love 97.7 fm. The On-Airpersonality was talking about the valentine season. Amadi quickly tuned the dial to Garden city 89.9 fm, soothing music intermittently interrupted callers calling in to say how they will spend the valentine. Amadi hissed and tried the other stations, they were all presenting programs dealing with valentine; it all looked like a big conspiracy. An infuriated Amadi switched off the radio set.
His phone suddenly rang out. Maria was calling.
“Hello dear, how are you?” She inquired.
“I am fine and you?”
“I’m cool, I called to inform you that I will be coming over on Friday morning”
“What’s the need for coming over? Why not stay in school and use the weekend to read?” he almost barked into the phone.
“Sweetheart, what is wrong with you? You sound so uptight, it is me Maria calling, we are supposed to spend this valentine weekend together. I bought a couple of gifts for you here”
“Oh that is interesting!”
“Amadi please drop this attitude that you seem to have developed recently. February 14th is lovers day and we are meant to relax and enjoy ourselves” she remonstrated with him.
“Ok baby, I will be expecting you” anything to stop her from whining.
Maria dropped her phone and hissed, what had come over Amadi? He didn’t sound like the cheerful guy she knows. Could it be that he had booked a valentine appointment with some other girl and wanted to shake her off? No, she wouldn’t take it lying low! She had to be in Port Harcourt as soon as possible.
She took up her phone and dialed Amara’s number. She would leave for Port Harcourt the next day.
“You have four options; tell them that you are very busy with work and do not want to be disturbed, switch off all your phones, tell them that you are broke, or simply leave the city.” David said to Amadi as they drank chilled soft drink with fried chicken at the eatery located opposite Companion bank. It was lunch break.
“How can I tell them that I am broke? You want my swag to go down?” Amadi queried. No, he couldn’t say so, his ego won’t let him announce his broke status to any girl.
“Which one of you guys is giving me a valentine gift?” Melissa said jovially as she walked over to their table and pulled a seat. She was a front counter teller at the bank.
“Your boyfriend won’t like it when he sees you holding a gift from another guy” Victor replied.
“Look, I don’t have a boyfriend, I still dey find fine bobo” she replied.
“Hey Melissa thank God you are here. We are in a kind of fix here, what should a guy give to his girlfriend as valentine gift?” Amadi asked.
“It is up to you. Just surprise her, you know women like surprises. Let it be something big, something that she never expected. You can buy her a valentine hamper, buy her nice flowers and cakes, take her out to a cool location for a romantic dinner, you know all that nice beautiful and heart melting things! “
“What about a guy who has three girlfriends?” David chipped in with a wink at Amadi.
“One guy with three girlfriends? He should divide himself into three places then and spend quality time with all of them!” Melissa said with a laugh.
“But in all of this, what should be the place of the woman, what should she give to the guy?” Amadi asked.
“And why do you think should a woman give? Isn’t it the place of the guy to be providing all her needs? Mellissa queried.
“Love is reciprocal, if valentine is a celebration of love, then the woman should also spend money on her man. In fact valentine is about showing love to the less privileged not splashing money on any woman” David argued.
“I am wasting my time with you guys. You guys are stingy. In fact let me leave and move to more fertile ground” she said with a mischievous sneer and stood up.
“Bye bye and Good luck with your search for a maga!”
“These women are all the same, look at Melissa of yesterday talking to us anyhow” David complained.
“I think she is dating one Yusuf, a federal civil service worker who spends his money on her”
“Leave her jare. How much money do you have at hand for the valentine?” David inquired. They had taken their conversation from the eatery to the office. It was a lazy afternoon and the pace of work was slow inside the banking hall. The customers were mainly at the ATM outside withdrawing cash for use over the weekend.
“N10,000 cash. A very small amount, what can 10k do?”
“You can come up with creative ideas with that amount, shebi you dey expect one girl?”
“Three of them are coming over! I don’t even have the intention of spending anything so I am going to bolt”
“You mean running away literally?”
“Yes, isn’t it a good option?”
David shrugged and changed the topic of conversation.
Maria alighted from the bus at Agofure Park, Olu Obasanjo way, Waterline junction. She stretched her legs for better blood circulation. The three hours journey from Warri to Port Harcourt had left her feeling crampy. She took her luggage and pulled it as she made her way out of the park. The roadside minders were all over her cajoling her to board their vehicles, some were issuing out catcalls.
“Fine girl will you be my Val?” One of them said and hit her playfully across the chest.
She gave him a long angry stare, the man scratched his head and smiled sheepishly.
Maria looked very smart in her tight jean trouser and light green polo. Her sunshade was placed over her eyes giving her the “boss lady” look. Maria was anticipating the meeting with Amara, she would get a taxi to her Amara’s place and then move to Amadi’s house on Friday morning. She wasn’t going to inform him of her arrival, she would simply walk in and take him by surprise.
Everybody in the bank was in cheerful spirits and wearing happy faces on Friday, the day before valentine. The workers were happy that valentine fell on a Saturday, a day when most of them won’t be at work. The bank manager had ordered for valentine decorations to be carried out in the banking hall. Colourful balloons and ribbons with different shades of red were used in the decorations. Valentine greeting cards were exchanged between staff and those who were involved in an office romance had more intimate gifts for each other.
Amadi worked throughout the day with an air of indifference. When colleagues called out to him to inquire why he wasn’t lively and animated like them, he merely gave a mirthless laugh and looked away. It hurt that he was strapped for cash in such a beautiful season.
At the back of his mind he was expecting calls from his girlfriends. He had had a short chat on bbm with Suzzy the previous night. She had affirmed her plan to celebrate with him and he had shied away from giving her a definite response. Maria had not called yet. He was wondered why that was.
A colleague in the IT department dropped a valentine greeting card for him and he smiled for the first time that day.
David brought in a packet of hobnobs and they nibbled on it. David was a lucky guy, he had a cool headed girlfriend who didn’t place much value on celebrations. She was engaged to him and they were planning on getting married before the year ran out.
Maria dropped from taxi which she had hired at Amara’s place at Woji and walked into No 32 Peter Odili’s road. It was a Friday afternoon and the compound was quiet. She walked towards Amadi’s flat and proceeded to unlock the front gate with the key in her hand. She stepped in, unlocked the main door and pulled her luggage inside.
Maria sat on the sofa and crossed her legs. She felt at home in her boyfriend’s house. The sitting room was compact and suitable for a bachelor. One big sofa with cushions, three chairs and a glass center table with side stools. A plastic flower was placed on the table. Four decorative portraits hung on the wall, a full portrait of Amadi in a navy blue suit was also on the wall. A customized Companion bank calendar hung beside Amadi’s portrait. An LG flat screen television sat on its stand alongside a dvd player and DSTV decoder. The floor was tiled with cream coloured floor tiles, two ceiling fans hung from the ceiling while four energy saving fluorescent bulbs illuminated the room.
Maria felt a sense of relief as she toured the house, there was no one else in there. She was half expecting to bump into another girl. Everything had remained the same since her last visit.
She needed to take a bath and prepare a meal. The sun was blazing high and the heat was unbearable.
Amadi will come and meet her in his place.
“Hey bro, there is a valentine bash for broke guys holding at Quintex events center tomorrow, it is organized by Treasure fm in collaboration with Ribena ltd. You should go there, the gate fee is N1000, Akpos and Mc Blasta will be performing. You will enjoy yourself there o” David said. It was the close of work and they both were walking out from the bank at 7pm.
“You dey laugh me abi? You want me to go and mingle with secondary school students and broke uniport boys at a low class event? ” he asked with a sneer.
“Ol boy you’d better take my advice, it will do you a whole lot of good!” David said and disappeared into his vehicle.
Amadi walked to his car, got inside the vehicle and drove away. A sudden craving for bole and fresh fish sauce began as he viewed the many joints on the way but he remembered that stack of notes in his glove box was thin so he looked away from the smoky and tempting joints and concentrated on his driving.
The sound of the car pulling up in front of the house informed Maria that her boyfriend had arrived. She lowered the flames of the gas cooker from which she was cooking rice, ran out from the kitchen and dashed inside the bedroom.
Amadi closed the car door and walked towards the gate humming a tune under his breath. He checked the inner right pocket of his suit and retrieved the key. He placed his hands on the railing….
Something was wrong. The gate was open!
He hastily pushed it apart and stood at the door in surprise. The light bulbs were on, from a slight vent in the window curtain, he could tell that the television set was on. Someone was in his house.
An intruder in his home? Maria would have called if she had arrived.
He swung the door open and walked in.
The strong and pleasant aroma of a meal on fire greeted him and reminded him of how hungry he was.
“Who is here?” he called out.
“Who is in my house?” He tiptoed towards the kitchen…
A hand suddenly grabbed him from behind and two soft palms were placed over his eyes. Amadi was startled and was alarmed. His nose caught the whiff of a feminine and familiar perfume scent.
“My God, It is you Maria!”
She let out a loud melodious and ringing laughter. She hugged him tight.
“Maria! How did you get in here?!” He stared at her in amazement. Black short knickers, lemon coloured polo with flowery pattern, long, fleshy and nicely toned legs.
“I have caught you! Oh sweet heart I missed you so much!” Maria pulled him to herself and kissed him in a passionate and suffocating move, everything was happening so fast…
“Tell me, how did you get in here, I locked everywhere, didn’t I?” Amadi asked after he managed to disentangle himself from her many kisses.
“You gave me two spare keys the last time I was here, have you forgotten?” She replied and continued “Sweet heart, I am here for you! I have you all to myself this valentine!!!” Maria declared with enthusiasm. She had taken off his black suit and was loosening his tie.
“There is nothing like Valentine, I don’t believe in it anymore” Amadi said in a flat tone.
Maria dropped the tie and looked at him. It was her turn to stare at him in amazement.
The story continues….
By Iniobong Umoh
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