“You know, I get many calls from people who claim to know me, but none thrilled my heart like the call from you.”
Marian recognised the voice instantly. “Danladi!” She cried warmly. “I mean, Honourable. Or how are you ministers addressed?”
“My name is still Danladi, and I am surprised you are still Marian Okoro. Those Igbo boys are blind?”
Marian laughed nervously. “Actually, it’s Marian Ifechieme. Mrs Marian Daniel Ifechieme. I used Okoro so…”
“So I’ll know it’s you.” He concluded. “How are you, it’s been like, how many years?”
“Eleven years and we meet again, or speak again. I lost your number, and apparently you lost mine as well, because we lost contact.
“Yes, imagine my surprise when my husband told me you were the new minister for works that he had just met with.”
“I met with your husband? Forgive me, I can’t remember the name. I meet so many people it’s difficult to keep up.”
“He is one of the contractors for the Greenland estate. He did the landscaping and beatification.”
“Oh! Ok. Sordid business that estate. The former minister messed everything up, each contract will have to be verified before they can be paid.”
“Ah Danladi, that was why I was calling you. If you can help us, my husband borrowed for that project, he has completed it, and our creditors are at our door.”
There was silence from the other end of the phone.
“Danladi?” Marian asked to confirm he was still on the line.
“I hear what you are asking, but it’s a difficult situation. In order not to be shown the door like my predecessor, I have to do everything by the book.” He explained.
“I understand Danladi. All I’m asking is that you maybe, pay him an advance, or speed up the process. I’m desperate Danladi.” She threw caution to the wind. “I have three children Danladi, there’s no food for lunch for them. No money for school fees when school resumes, if we survive that long. Our rent expires in two months; the bank my husband borrowed money from will fore close on our assets at the end of the month. Help me Danladi.”
“How did your husband make such a mess of the whole situation?” Danladi asked.
“He was assured he’ll be paid before the project was completed.”
Danladi exhaled. “Let me see what I can do. You know if you had married me, you would have lived a life of luxury.”
“I love my husband Danladi. Besides, aren’t you married now?”
“I am, two wives. Still, you would have been the first and only.”
“All that is water under the bridge now, Danladi.”
“Perhaps, perhaps not. Anyway, I have a meeting now. I’ll get back to you.” He ended the call.
Marian cradled the phone to her chest and prayed for God’s favour. Snapped back to the present, she went back into the sitting room to check on her children.
“Did you call the minister today?” Dan asked Marian after dinner later that night. The children were in bed, and Dan and Marian were preparing for bed.
“He called me. He said he would look into it.”
Dan lit up in excitement. “That’s my girl! Tomorrow you call again, did he call with his personal line?”
“I don’t know, but it was a different line from the one you have.” Marian couldn’t explain it, but she felt uneasy about this whole thing and couldn’t share in Dan’s excitement.
“That must have been his official line. Tomorrow you call again. Ah! The payment is near, I can feel it.”
He snapped his fingers and did a little dance as he went into the bathroom.
When he came out a few minutes later, she broached a topic that had been on her mind for a while; “Dan, I was thinking. It’s time for me to get a job again. It’s been over six years, and Adaeze is now in school. I could…….”
“Get a job that you’ll be returning by ten pm. Who’ll be here for the kids when they return from school?”
“I thought of that, and, even if it’s a teaching job so we can close at the same time.”
“No.” Dan refused with a note of finality. “So because this past year has been rough you’re now insinuating I can’t cater for my family?”
“No my love, I was just thinking. My qualifications are just wasting, and……”
“I said no! You just concentrate on getting your ex-boyfriend to pay my company. That’s all I ask of you.” He switched on the television, switched to a sports channel and settled into the bed to watch.
Marian couldn’t believe this was her husband. He had stopped her from working six years ago with the promise that she’ll pick-up when the children are in school. Now the time had come and he was refusing. She was getting restless and couldn’t continue to sit at home, particularly, they needed a second steady income Dan’s business was one that could dry-up for a long while before picking up, and he was still refusing her getting a job.
She was hurt that he was beginning to make it look as though she could take care of the delays with the ministry.
Calming herself, she went into the bathroom for her nightly routine.
Two days later, Danladi called again. She had been on pins and needles wondering why he hadn’t called. Daniel hadn’t spoken to her except to ask if she had called Danladi.
“Hello Danladi.” She answered crossing her fingers for luck.
“I apologise, it’s been work, work, work, and more work. How are you?”
“I thank God. You sound tired.” She observed.
“Trust you to notice. This job isn’t easy. All the rest of you see are the allowances, not the work.” He chuckled.
“I bet the allowances make up for the work.” She quipped.
‘Yes it does. I’ve missed you. Why don’t you come to Abuja, my treat? So we can catch up.”
Marian laughed nervously. “I’m a married woman with three young kids. I can’t just pack up and take a trip.”
“Surely there’s someone who can watch the children for you. Ask your husband, and get back to me.” He offered.
“Ok, but I doubt it.”
“Ask him.” Danladi insisted.
The next day, she flew into Abuja on the midday flight. A car was waiting for her at the airport, and she was driven to a hotel and installed in an executive suite.
The speed with which her husband agreed to the trip amazed her. Almost as if he was expecting it. The children were taken to his cousin’s house; sister Bisi, who was told that Marian had an urgent job interview in Abuja. Daniel drove her to the airport and warned her not to return without a check from the ministry. This whole thing was so bizarre to her and she felt out of her depth.
Her hotel suite was beautiful with a scenic view of the city, her bar and refrigerator fully stocked. The staff had kept bringing food and snacks to her; she feared Danladi’s instructions were to fatten her up. She hadn’t spoken to Danladi after she called him to tell him her husband approved of the trip. Saheed was the one who called with the details of her flight, and the one who met her at the airport, extending the ministers’ apology, and informing her he’ll be with her later in the evening.
She was so nervous; she took a moment to pray. Prior to this whole contract fiasco, she hadn’t been deeply religious. But she found that of recent, prayer calmed her anxiety, and helped her to see straight and persevere.
Mindful of the fact that Danladi hadn’t been to see her, she didn’t prepare for bed. She glanced at the time, past nine, when there was a knock on her room door.