Story

And Another One

Welcome to part three of snippets*

Don’t forget, you can get the complete book from Smashwords and the Okadabooks mobile app.

*********

Jim got up early and tried to be as quiet as possible as he got ready and left the house. He was still so ashamed from the previous night. He was not only a drunk but a coward as well.

Although he’d always known it, last night had been a staggering confirmation. He wasn’t sure what but he knew he had to do something. Things could not go on as they had for so many years. He had failed his family and now his health was failing. He’d feel like such a hypocrite if he tried to get sober and make it up to his children now. It was simply too late for that. But he had to do what little he could with the time he had. He had to try.

The door made a silent click sound as he shut it and made his way to his car. Dressed in a clean pair of jeans, a polo shirt and a pair of old sneakers, he got behind the steering wheel and stared ahead. Visions of past failures swarm before his eyes; his marriage, Mike, Sara and even David.

His whole life was a huge mess. He closed his eyes and tried to push back the nasty pain building up around his throat. Soundlessly, he hit his fisted hand on the steering wheel as he tried to stop his rebellious brain from bringing up scenarios of ‘if only’. If only he’d been a better husband, Ogechi might be here today. If only he’d been a better father and revealed the truth at the right time, he would have been growing old with all three of his kids around him,
loving him – All living good and happy lives.

He put the car in drive and slowly started to move towards the gate. The gate-keeper, who had been with them for a long time, wordlessly opened the gate. Neither of them acknowledged the other. Jim felt a searing pain go through him as he realised that that was also how it was between him and David.

He drove aimlessly around town, knowing he had to do something but not knowing what.

He considered going to Bandys, the restaurant and bar was one of the most exclusive in the city and the manager, Nosa was an old friend. One of the very few who hadn’t completely shunned him. He shook his head lightly as a mirthless laugh poured from deep within, he was probably the only person Jim could call a friend. And that was him using the term loosely. He couldn’t even say so much about the people who worked for him, not that he could blame them.

It was almost midday when he turned into the parking lot of the exquisite Bandys restaurant building. Nosa is doing well for himself, he thought as he slid his car into an empty spot.

After a while, he finally got out of the car with a confidence he didn’t feel as he hastily made his way toward the door before his mind could come up with an objection.

“How are you doing today, sir?” Philip, a young waiter asked.

Jim only nodded. He was so weak, he had to concentrate on climbing the stairs that led up to the manager’s office. As they continued to climb up, he held on to the decorated railing, heaving himself up with all he had. He tried to calm his breathing by tracing the intricate carvings on the railing with his fingers.

His vision began to cloud and he heard Philip say something but he wasn’t sure what. He felt himself going under and tried to keep his eyes open. Just hold on, he told himself, hold on. But he couldn’t. He just had nothing left. The last thing he remembered were Philip’s arms catching him as his hold on the railing gave.

****

Jim stirred and his eyelids fluttered open, he immediately squeezed them shut. Too bright, he thought, it was too bright. He shifted a little and his hand shot up to his head as his head hit a hard surface. He felt someone standing over him and talking but the voice sounded far away.

Slowly, his head began to clear and he recognised the voice as Nosa’s. His eyes slowly opened and Nosa’s profile came into view.

“Jim, are you awake? Here, drink this.”

Jim shook his head and tried to move his head away but his head suddenly felt like lead.

“It’s water.”

Nosa made sure Jim had a firm hold on the glass then helped him sit up. He passed him two tablets which Jim gladly gulped down. Pain killers were like a constant friend of his, although recently, he’d felt like he needed something far stronger, his head was really banging right now.

“How do you feel?”

He gave the glass back to Nosa who placed it on the table. “What do you think?”

Jim looked around at Nosa’s nice office and he felt his face heat up in shame. Nosa had made a life for himself but what did Jim have to show for himself? They’d both had the same number of years and the same opportunities all those years ago. His hand felt cool where it rested on the leather sofa and it sent shivers of regret up his spine.

Nosa sighed and sat back in a chair which he’d pulled close to Jim. “Well your foul mood is back. That’s got to be good news.”

Jim laughed bitterly and soon he began to cough. As the coughs subsided, he turned to see Nosa unaffected by his coughing bout.

“What do I need to be happy about?” Jim croaked

Nosa handed him the cup of water and collected it after he’d taken a sip.

“Let me think about that.” Nosa replied sarcastically, “You have a steady income, you have your own home, a car, 3 kids. Do I really need to continue?”

Jim shook his head dejectedly as he rested it in his hands, “Oh my God, Nosa, I’ve really messed up. I’ve messed up real bad.”

“Nothing is so bad that God can’t change it.”

“God?” His head came up with a snap. “You speak to me about God at a time like this? Where has He been all my life?”

“Exactly where you left him Jim.”

So Jim, what exactly do you want? We’ve been friends for so long that I will always try my best to be there for you but you have to understand that I also have my life now. Ebike has never forgotten the kind of trouble you got me into all those years ago. She won’t be happy to hear that I still associate with you.”

Jim couldn’t help but smile at the mention of Nosa’s lovely wife. She was definitely a feisty woman. The smile disappeared as other memories from that time came to him. He didn’t want to think of that time.

He struggled to his feet and stood before Nosa, who didn’t offer to assist him up. Jim didn’t mind. They understood themselves like that.

“I need some money.”

As Nosa handed some money over, he clasped Jim’s shoulder firmly, “Jim, count your blessings and reprioritize your life. You can be better.” He shoved
him toward the door.

“Don’t come back till you’re better.”

****

Michael shook the other man’s hand, relief flooding him, then he turned and watched as the women were led into the waiting bus. Some of them had visible bruises, others had tattered clothes but they were all alive and that’s what mattered. A pair of headlights pierced the night darkness in the distance and the man nudged him, “We have to hurry”.

©Ọrẹolúwa Matẹ̀milọ́lá 2021 All Rights Reserved

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