By Mr Ben
Damilare Peters arranged the pay-slips on the desk. The end of every month felt like a jackpot for him. He had a lot of debts to settle and a few things to purchase. He hoped he would have enough left to get him by before he received another paycheck. He considered himself lucky to have gotten employment in Hopewell Dental Clinic as an Accountant. His paycheck was the double of what his peers earned. The nurses strode into his office without knocking, followed by the receptionist.
“Don’t you girls ever knock?”
“The Accountant,” Adanne sat on his desk.
“Accountant, accountant, how you dey now?” Ibinabo settled on a chair in front of the table while Sikemi took the other seat.
“Where is our pay slip?”
He searched her face. The receptionist never wasted time. She was always direct and straight to the point. He liked her, but his height might be a problem. She was at least three inches taller. He knew several girls who didn’t like dating men shorter than they were. He had seen her ogle at the CEO on more than one occasion. He was shorter than her too. If she liked their boss, maybe she might give him a chance.
Sikemi stared back at him puzzled. His intent gaze made her uneasy. Was he interested in her? He wasn’t that bad. He had a good physique, but too short for her liking. He was from her tribe and that was a plus. She was interested in their boss. If only he would notice her. The man had been acting beside himself lately. She had a feeling that he was sort of depressed. She wished he would confide in her. Who was she anyway? His employee, she wasn’t even his friend.
“Have you noticed Oga’s mood swings?” Adanne tapped her on the shoulder.
She looked up at her and nodded.
“That’s true. He is being kind of cold and unapproachable lately,” Ibinabo chimed in.
“May be he is stressed up,” Adanne reasoned.
“Abeg, abeg, take your pay-slips. Don’t turn my office into a gossip center,” he distributed their slips. The nurses chuckled, collected their slips and headed out.
“Oga has turned to stone cold Steve Austin,” Damilare said casually.
Her confused look made him to laugh, “Who is Steve Austin?”
“Steve Austin now, Wrestle Mania…”
Her clueless gaze remained on his face, “I don’t watch wrestling matches.”
She eyed him and got to her feet.
“Steve Austin is mean, cold, powerful, six feet, broad shouldered, fair, six pack, steel-like stance, emotionless and strong.”
“So, our boss is Stone cold Bassey Etim?”
“Exactly, without the height, muscles and you know.”
She started to laugh.
“I was there when he lashed out at Doctor Sylvester.”
“What happened?” she sat back on the chair, eager for news.
“If words were swords, Dr. Slyvester would have had severe cuts all over him.”
“Ouch!” She placed a hand on her chest.
“A broken heart does nasty things to a man’s mind.”
“But, I thought he was over his ex-girlfriend,” she raised an eye-brow.
He shrugged, “Maybe something or someone re-opened his old wounds.”
“I guess we are in for a repeat episode of what happened when they just broke up a year ago.”
“God help us,” she leaned against the chair and folded her arms across her chest.
He drove homewards, despite the storm; he navigated his way into the Government Residential Area. He thought of eating catfish pepper soup for dinner after taking a hot bath. A hot milky beverage would make him to relax and send him off to Slumber land. He had not been sleeping well and it was affecting him physically and mentally. Two houses away from his place, he saw a group of people gathered at a corner and shouting at a man, a woman and a young lady. They stayed closed together, drenched and shivering. What was going on? Should he find out or head home? He didn’t like getting wet in the rain. He drove off and stopped in front of the white house. He changed his mind and got out of the car. He approached the crowd and recognized many of them. Most of them lived on that particular street.
Most of them lived on that particular street.
“Uncle Bassey,” she tapped him on the shoulder.
“What are you doing out here? Don’t you know you can catch a cold?” he eyed his neighbour’s daughter.
She pouted her lips.
“What is going on here?”
She moved closer to him, “This man, his wife and daughter, have been living in that uncompleted building down the street. The people in the area want them to live.”
His brows creased in a frown. What was their business? “Nobody has a say in this matter except the owner of the building.”
“The sister of the land owner is the one leading the protest.”
“Witchcraft,” he said under his breath.
“They said they don’t have anywhere else to go, but, no one is listening.”
He sighed and approached the stranded family.
“Doctor Bassey…” someone called him from the crowd, “Please tell them to leave or else I will call the police.”
He ignored the person and addressed the family, “Good evening.”
They stared back at him blankly and cringed.
“I live in that house over there,” he pointed at the white house, they followed his gaze, “It is raining, let’s go in… least you catch a cold or something worse, then, we can talk.”
They exchanged glances and looked back at him.
“Please come with me,” he beckoned at them.
They followed him immediately, but, with caution. The crowd watched them and dispersed, but, Chinyere followed the doctor and the strange family. He led them into the building and returned to get his car. He parked the car inside the compound and hurried into the building. He met Chinyere by the stairway.
“Not now, not now,” he dashed off.
She stamped her feet on the ground and watched him leave. She wanted to know why he took the family home. What he did was very risky. He didn’t know them from Adam and they were inside his house. She decided to confront him in the morning. She dragged her feet and returned to her flat.
Bassey led the family into one of the guest rooms.
“Do you have anything to change into?”
They shook their heads.
“Okay, I will be right back,” he hurried away and returned with a pile of clothes. He dumped them on the large bed, “This…” he picked up a
tee-shirt and a pair of black trousers, “It belongs to me…” he sized up the man who looked like he was in his fifties, “I think this will suit you,” he gave it to the man, “The blouses and skirts are for my younger sister, she spends her weekends here sometimes,” he looked at the woman in her forties and the young lady in her mid-twenties.
“Thank you,” they chorused.
“When you have all taken a hot bath, please join me at the dining,” he retreated and found his way out.
The man held hands with his wife and daughter. They were grateful to God for rescuing them from the angry crowd. They had been terrified because they had nowhere else to go that night. The uncompleted building had been their abode for several months. God had sent them an angel and they were grateful.
He dished the hot steaming catfish pepper soup into four different bowls. He placed the bowls on a big stainless steel tray and carried it out of the kitchen, a step at a time. He navigated his way to the dining and placed the tray on the wooden table. He looked sideways. Where were they? He returned to the kitchen and poured hot milky chocolate beverage into four large mugs. He placed the mugs on a plastic tray and carried it to the dining. He arranged each mug beside each bowl and took a seat. Should he go and call them or wait? He raised his head and glanced at the wall clock. It was past eight. He heard footsteps and turned his head. The dark chocolate skin slim elderly man, about five feet seven inches, approached him. He looked better now that he had freshened up. The red tee-shirt and black trousers was a little bit big for him, but, it wasn’t that noticeable. His wife followed. She was darker, shorter, slimmer and the clothes she was putting on made her look like a clown. He averted his eyes and tried not to laugh. Their daughter walked behind them. Her chocolate brown skin was complimented by the brown fitted blouse and white ‘A’ shaped skirt. She was taller than her parents, probably his height.
He lifted his eyes and met her watchful brown gaze. She was pretty. Her straight dark brown hair graced her shoulders. Was it her real hair or a hair-extension? Women and their weave-on were like inseparable twins. He tore his gaze away and leaned against the wooden chair. They all took their place at the dining and started to eat. The hot soup warmed his body and chased the biting cold away.
“My name is Bassey Etim; I am a Christian and a Dentist by profession. Welcome to my home,” he sipped at the hot liquid.
The elderly man cleared his throat twice, “Oluwatomisin Philips is the name. Thank you for…” he coughed and met Bassey’s encouraging gaze,
“Em… we are grateful.”
He nodded with understanding, “You are welcome sir.”
“Jesutofunmi is my name.”
He turned to look at the man’s wife.
“We are strangers, yet… you accommodated us. God will bless you,” her eyes smarted with tears. Her husband reached out for her hand and gave it a light squeeze.
“I am Oluwagbemisola.”
He directed his eyes at the young woman.
“I am the only surviving child of my parents. Thank you for helping us.”
They ate in silence for a while, each lost in his and her own thoughts.
“I… I was a business man,” Tomisin finished eating and pushed the empty bowl away, “I dealt in the import and sales of exotic cars here in
Lagos. I brought my best friend into the business and…”
Bassey snorted at the sound of the word ‘best friend’. It seemed best friends all over the world were dealing with their friends mercilessly.
Tofunmi noticed the young man’s angry expression. It was truly a wicked world if his best friend had also hurt him too.
“He took over my business in less than a year. He stole all my customers, manipulated my investors and rendered me penniless…” Tomisin had a lost look on his face.
Bassey pushed his plate away and picked up his half-empty mug of milky chocolate drink. He was beginning to feel very irritated. Why were
people so wicked?
“I couldn’t pay the loans I took at the bank. They claimed my houses, cars, properties, everything was taken from me,” Tomisin’s voice shook.
Misi stopped eating. She could still remember everything that happened to her family like yesterday.
“We… no one… not even family… relatives… friends… no one helped, no one came to our rescue,” tears spilled all over Tomisin’s face.
Bassey’s stomach tightened with pain. He placed the empty mug on the table and swallowed hard.
“I… I lost my children. One after the other, to sickness and hunger…” Tomisin began to weep. His wife started to cry too, “Here we are… no way forward…” he sobbed. His daughter covered her face with her hands and cried.
Bassey pressed his lips together. He breathed out loudly and held back the tears threatening to burst out of his eyes.
Tomisin looked up at the young man through blurred eyes.
“It is going to be all right. God has not forgotten you,” Bassey’s voice turned hoarse.
Tomisin nodded in agreement. He had not lost his faith in God.
“You can all stay in my house for now. We will put our heads together and think of a way forward.”
“Thank you,” Tomisin whispered. His heart swelled with gratitude.
“Thank you sir,” both women chorused. God had sent them help when they least expected it.
Bassey pushed the chair backwards and got up, “Have a goodnight,” he smiled at them and left the room.
Tomisin held his wife and daughter’s hands. They bowed their heads and said a prayer of thanksgiving.
Bassey could hardly sleep that night. The Philips family situation lingered on his mind. He called his parents and told them about the Philips. They decided to donate their old clothes. They promised to send it through his younger sister the next day. He called his sister the moment they hung up and asked her to sort her wardrobe and bring everything she wasn’t wearing or using to his place the next day. He also called his brother and asked him to start looking for any vacancy in his place of work. He hoped to get Misi somewhere to work before the end of the week. He would also discuss with his parents about employing Tomisin and Tofunmi. They would be able to start afresh and move on with their lives. He had seen the sign board of a two bedroom flat for rent along the street where his clinic was located. He would check out the place on his way back from work the next day. He had learnt early in life that it was good to be good. One never knew when one would also need help. No man was an island. He felt a bit relieved and at peace with all the plans he had made. He turned on his side and closed his eyes.
So, in this special Valentine’s series, what happens next between Bassey, the Philips and his seducing neighbours? Find out in the next episode tomorrow. Thanks for reading and do click on our ads.
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