Smeared: Episode 7

CLICK HERE TO READ EPISODE 6

Days passed. One, two and three weeks passed and Johnson’s dismissal from the bank on account of fraud become the talk of the office and the town. Some colleagues grieved. Those who disliked him were glad he was out of plain sight. One even said nemesis had caught up with him, finally. Another wished he went to jail.

Donatus wore a long face all day when he realised Johnson was replaced by a yellow skinned lady in her mid-twenties. Because of her short hair, he didn’t find her attractive but vowed in his heart to take her to bed when the time was right.

The other day, he had spoken to Aniebiet outside the office over a couple of drinks to lighten Johnson’s sanction. He agreed Johnson had soiled his name and the image of the bank but an outright dismissal was too much a blow for one man who was still finding his feet.

“Did I hear you say finding his feet?” He looked at Donatus through narrowed eyes expressing his shock as he choked over his drink.

Donatus ignored Aniebiet’s short coughs. Instead, he held Aniebiet’s gaze. “I don’t know how to explain this to you. But you can’t wreck a grown man’s life just like that. There ought to be another way of handling this. Use your influence to fix this issue.”

Aniebiet still wore the folds on his forehead as he tapped his chest lightly. He sipped his drink and dropped the glass on the wooden table. Clearing his throat, he told Donatus he suspected he joined forces with Johnson to rob an innocent man of his money.

“I really don’t care what you think, Aniebiet. When you watched the footage, did you see me in it? All I am saying is you could have lightened his punishment. You wouldn’t have involved the Human Resource so soon.”

Aniebiet straightened his back against his chair and smacked his lips, nodding as though he agreed with Donatus’ rebuke.

“So, what should I have done?” He weaved his hands together, laying it on his chest.

“You would have settled the matter in your office. Suspend him or something. Not an outright dismissal.”

“Aren’t you aware Johnson was interrogated before I involved the Human Resource?” He leaned forward.

“I am”.

“Are you aware he denied everything? He only owned up when the footage from the CCTV told the truth.”

Donatus was speechless. He wondered what got into Johnson, sometimes. He always split personalities. A liar. A cheat. A gold digger. And more. Would one ever believe he was the only son of a renowned pastor in Warri? He was one time a Choir Director before he turned twenty four. What happened to the Church boy? Or was he mad at God for something he had no control over? He felt bad for Johnson. Apparently, all his warning had turned on deaf ears. Johnson was just obstinate. He was a fool. He was headstrong. He was that fly who would get caught up six feet under the ground with no hope of return. Johnson was grounded. No money. Incentives lost. And no ladies. The last time he spoke to him, he mentioned Tricia left the country for France without giving him a hint. “Only Mfon is here by my side.” He could hear his trembling voice. He knew Aniebiet had a point. The deed had been done. Johnson would suffer the consequences.

Mfon held her tongue when she got to hear from Edikan the reason why Johnson wasn’t going to the office. That evening, she had gone to talk to Edikan over a new dress she was planning to buy. She feigned ignorance and pity instead of shock. “My sister, it’s the devil, o. When people see you prospering, they’ll do all they can to thwart your progress. This is the enemy at work.”

“My sister, pray o make our eye no see bad thing.”

She nodded.

When Mfon returned to the house, she went directly to the room. She found Johnson lying at the side on the bed, facing the wall. She tapped him so much that pain surged through his legs. Johnson winced.

“What’s this about you being sacked I hear?”

Johnson rubbed his sleepy eyes and aching feet with both hands. He sat on at the edge of the bed. Dropping his head in his hands, he yawned.

“Am I not talking to you? What’s this about you being sacked? You sit at home all day doing nothing besides drinking, eating and sleeping. Why didn’t you tell me you’ve been sacked?” Oh God! She turned around, and back to him, folded her arms across her chest, and exhaled sharply.

Johnson didn’t say a word. He evoked memories of the week his dismissal letter was handed over to him. He was depressed when he realized his salary would be used to refund the money he collected from Uwem. Nothing would be left for him. And all his incentives, withdrawn. He worried about how he was going to send, in a couple of days, sixty thousand naira he’d promised his younger brother who was studying Biochemistry in Bayero University, Kano. He wondered what would become of him especially now that getting a job wasn’t a gold mine anyone could strike so easily. He told his girlfriends, Tricia and Loveth the latest development. Both hung up on him the moment he demanded for some cash for his upkeep.

He was too scared to tell Mfon. He feared she would run away just like the rest. He’d told her he was on leave for a month, hoping he would get another job before the month was over. He still held his head in his hands.

Mfon stood inches away from him. “Now you play deaf and dumb. Imagine if I ran my mouth about you being on leave before Edikang, this evening. She would have known the man I waste away with is a liar and irresponsible. Well, that’s if she doesn’t know already. What’s ninety thousand naira you couldn’t wait to have legitimately?” She huffed as she gestured with her hands. “Johnson, you had a job. A steady job that reeled income, unfailingly on the twenty seventh of every month. I fix the bills in this house. I cook for you and grace your bed. You bring nothing home. And I do not ask for a dime. Yet you let the spirit of greed take over you. When will you ever have a clean slate and become responsible?”

A frown marred Johnson’s face the moment his hands fell to his laps. “Mfon, watch your words before you get it hot from me. If you cook for me and I mesh my body with yours on this bed, the other bedroom, in the bathroom and in the sitting room, is something wrong with that? Or do you want it in the kitchen, directly on the hot plate?” He looked at her with mocking eyes. “Didn’t I tell you it’s over between us? Who ran back to my arms, my bed and my…?” His eyes travelled down to between his legs and back to her eyes. He didn’t see the tears welling up in them waiting to fall the next minute. “Now you stand before me to talk about a clean slate and being responsible.”

Mfon’s heart pounded when Johnson stood to his feet, padding across to her. Her heart sank at his clenched fist. Her feet wobbled under her as he pushed her to the wall. The back of her head hit against it. Her eyes blurred from the pain. “Johnson let go of me.” She struggled to free herself as he spread her arms apart. Her voice sounded sore.

Johnson gave a derisive laugh that made her shudder. “Of course, I will. I don’t intend to keep a slut in my house and life forever. He trailed his tongue along her chin, and bit her neck. Mfon sealed her lips and eyes as she struggled to set herself free.

“Did I raise any alarm when Aniebiet met us doing the very thing that brings you to me?”

When she didn’t reply, he slapped her hard across her face, making a booming sound.

Mfon saw a billion stars caress her eyes.

“Answer me, bitch”.

“No, no, no.” She began to cry. “Johnson please, you’re hurting me.” She desperately wanted to soothe her burning cheek with her hand which was beginning to hurt at the shoulder but Johnson would have none of it.

“Oh, does it hurt? I thought your feelings were grounded. Did you have a hint your boyfriend fired me?”

Mfon swallowed. Her heart stopped. “It’s a lie.”

“Your opinion. Aniebiet ordered for a close examination of the CCTV footage leading to an investigation to construct a possible image of the suspect. That’s how he found out. That’s how I lost my job, and you throw it in my face like I am the worst sinner on earth. I hate you, Mfon. I hate you.”

He made to hit her again but regained control of himself. Turning her around, he pushed her to the bed. His breath was jagged. Mfon threw her face away but he demanded she tilt her face to him. “Listen up, Babe, this thing between us ends for real. I’m fed up with you, your food, your money and your… He stopped, and surveyed her from head to toe.

Mfon had fresh tears in her eyes. Her courage and strength deserted her as she laid on the bed looking up into Johnson’s eyes as the words poured hot as fire burning her self-esteem to ashes. Johnson was right all along, but she had been nothing but a blind fool. She made a mental calculation of leaving the following morning. Unknown to her, Johnson had a plan.

“I’m sorry I hit you.” Johnson said with a small smile.

Mfon gazed at him with shock. He still had that handsomeness that melted her heart. And the look in his eyes made her blood hot. But this time, she reasoned she wasn’t going to be overtaken by her feelings. She wiped the tears from her eyes. She nodded slightly. “Could you please get off me?”

“Not yet, my dear. Not so fast. Now you know I’ve lost my job. I can’t possibly take care of you.” He drew his fingers on her bare thigh back and forth.

Mfon let out an audible sigh. Did Johnson ever take care of her? She meant to pour the question in his face but shook her head instead.

“Before you run off finally, I need you to be here for a month while I find another job or another woman to replace you.”

“No, it won’t happen. You must be joking.” Her face grew tight as she thought about another grueling four weeks with this beast looking into her eyes without flinching. “In fact, it can’t. I’m returning to my apartment after work, tomorrow. Didn’t you just say this thing we have should end for real?” The thought of staying one second more lit a fuse in her. She dug her fingers in her palms as she looked into his eyes, unafraid. She expected another slap for protesting. In fact her mind was ready for it.

The slap didn’t come. Instead Johnson took a place beside her. “You’ll stay, my dear. His eyes were pinned on the accent wall.”

“I won’t.”

Johnson got on his feet, turned around and looked down at her eyes which were wide open. He recognized the fear in them. The tears had dried up already. “Then get yourself ready to be raped by three friends of mine.” He watched her jerk and swallow hard in fright. He loved the fact that he was conquering her with fear. Smiling sardonically, he bent down, and laid his hands on her shoulders. Mfon averted his gaze. Her body trembled. “Donatus had always had his eyes on you. Okon once said he liked how your breasts moved as you walked. Timmy..that one adores your lips.” He grinned. “This is a perfect opportunity for them to feel your skin after which I’ll crown it all. The bottom pot tastes the sweetest, right? I know how you like it”. He tipped her chin and turned her face to him. He liked the fear that grew in her.

Mfon saw the mocking stare and smile drawn on his lips. “What?”

“Yes, I make the rules. Be a good girl.” He raked his fingers through her corn rows. I didn’t say you should stay forever. Just one month. Say yes or…”“Fine. One month. Just a month, Johnson and this madness between us is over.” She cursed him in her heart. Aniebiet didn’t trouble me this way. God, what have I done?

“Good girl, now I’m hungry. Please, serve dinner.”

Episode 8 comes up next Wednesday

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