Read last year’s Christmas Story here
25th December, 2016, Enugu, harmattan is blowing a reluctant wind and somewhere a young lady is nursing a heartbreak. Let’s call her Nkechi. That is not her real name. She lives and it is not my intention to uncover her real identity and cause her embarrassment. I will not describe her in detail either except to say she is a little above average height, slender and possess enormous eyes that nearly spoilt her pear-shaped, chocolate beauty. She is twenty-seven, lives alone except from time to time when one of her relations visits her; she manages her hair saloon and earns nearly a lot, at least enough to support a staff of two and to eat whatever she wants to eat, wear whatever she wants to wear and travel to wherever she wants to travel.
In October, she fell in love. The boy is called Ifeanyi. That is his real name (he may come and jump on my back if he is unhappy with his name mentioned here; or sue; or drink water pia). He is one of those Enugu fine boys who do nothing for a living; who live off some rich relation or rich girlfriend or sugar mommy or sustained by gambling and other petty swindling; boys whose CVs contain a fine face, an Indonesian prison record/a British deportation stamp and a sweet voice. Plus a big cassava to say the truth (whatever that means). (Cough. Excuse me.)
Of all the men in Enugu, it was Ifeanyi that Nkechi chose to fall in love with. The signs were clear, although he is everything she wants in a man, tall, cute and sweet voice, he does everything she hates in a man: he gambles, smokes, drinks, swears and hates church. ‘Pastors are only interested in your offering and seeds. They can’t get me.’
Nkechi forgave him all these. ‘He is just frustrated with life,’ she told herself. ‘He would change.’ She didn’t believe herself but she she hung on to the faulty see-saw of a relationship with a conviction that wouldn’t convince a six-year old. He didn’t change. Rather, he was changing her. Nkechi is one of those girls who having tasted the forbidden fruit, turn around to denounce it and term herself ‘secondary virgin’. No more sex till marriage. But she broke her two-year old secondary virginity for Ifeanyi. To make a bad situation messier, Ifeanyi has no room of his own so he takes her to the hotel a place she abhors, she paid the bills and he refers to love-making as fuck.
‘What a sweet fuck.’
‘Love-making; please stop calling it that.’
‘I hear you. Nice fuck sha.’
She would sigh. He would change. He didn’t. He shattered her heart instead. On the 14th of December, she arrived the hotel room she had paid for only to find it locked. After banging at the door for a quarter of an hour, Ifeanyi, naked safe for boxers opened the door. Behind him was a woman naked with mammalian glands the size of a pillow. ‘Oh my God, Ify why?’
‘You came late na. I was waiting for you since 7pm. This is after nine.’
She was crushed. He shut the door on her face. He snapped off the light. She heard the girl laugh and she died.
It was miracle that saw Nkechi make it out of the hotel in Presidential Road, get a keke to convey her to her apartment in Asata without breaking a leg or neck. But she wept a pool of tears. Her cousin who thought she went for a vigil at the church didn’t understand. Did fire gut the church? She wouldn’t talk to her cousin nor touch her phone. Ifeanyi called her twice before sending her this message: ‘Cheap gal like you. You are not even sweet you smelly motherfucker.’ Nkechi died again.
While in the university, Nkechi became friends with this fellow, Paul. She met him in their second year and they have remained tight friends till this moment. He has everything she would want in a guy; he is respectful, humble, considerate and doting. He is equally good-looking and industrious. ‘Honestly you have all that I need in a man but I can’t date you, some people must be your friend.’
‘Don’t flatter yourself; you are too ugly for me,’ he would say. And she would laugh and slap him on his chest. In the university, Nkechi suffered two heartbreaks and in each case, Paul was her refuge, she called him the boyfriend of the boyfriendless and he usually helped her back to herself, with plenty laughter and doting.
Three days after the tsunami, when Nkechi found herself, she picked herself up, picked up her phone and called Paul. When he answered and she heard his excited voice, she began to cry. ‘I will kill him,’ he vowed. ‘I swear.’ Of course he didn’t mean it but he sounded so convincing she felt better.
Paul lives in Onitsha. He, like Nkechi, couldn’t secure a job with his fancy degree; he manages his own business, making a little lot selling ladies shoes in Ochanja Market. He promised to come and spend Christmas with Nkechi, and swore that by the time he was through with her she wouldn’t remember the name Ifeanyi again. She believed him.
9am Christmas Day, Nkechi was waiting for her heart-healer Paul. She stood in front of a book shop, trying not to look back hence she got tempted by a Templar or a Brian Tracy. She kept dialing Paul’s number but he wasn’t answering it. He had told her he was on his way more than two hours ago. But she wasn’t worry. If Paul says he would do something, he would do it–d
Someone hugged her from the back, almost knocking her fancy phone from her. ‘Pau-uul!’ She squawked with joy. He lifted her off the ground. ‘Oh, drop me, drop me, you naughty big head.’ He did but only after swinging her round three times, so that when he did drop her she was so dizzy he had to support her.
‘You evil!’ She hit him. He laughed.
One minute in Enugu and he was already making Ifeanyi sound like a cry from a distant clan. They boarded a keke. ‘I am not going home yet,’ she said.
‘I am taking you to you to a gift shop. The gift I will get you will blow your mind off.’
Paul took Nkechi to Shop Husband. It is in Enugu, that is all you need to know about it. It is most likely to be abused, so I will keep its localtion secret. Only women with special needs are allowed entrance into the shop. Like Nkechi. The shop is actually a mall of six storeys. The tagline ‘You are a step away from your better half’ leaves little room for doubt as to what they sell here.
‘You will get the man of your dream here,’ Paul told her. ‘It is costly, but I will pay.’ Nkechi didn’t fully understand but she believed her best friend.
At the reception, Nkechi and Paul met the kind and beautiful sales woman in her middle age. ‘We want to buy one,’ he told her.
‘She already has you,’ the woman said.
‘She said I am not handsome enough.’
‘He is too short,’ Nkechi said. They laughed. Her heart was pounding, pounding, pounding. Her forehead was beginning to gather beads of sweat.
‘This is the door,’ the woman pointed. ‘There are six floors. In each floor are husbands for sale. Make your choice from any floor. If you choose your man from any of the floor, pick up the phone and call me by just pressing the green button. Don’t be too choosy. If you are not satisfied with the husband in offer at any floor, move to the next floor but know that you are not allowed to return to any floor. The door shuts permanently. Once you leave a floor you have rejected the husband materials there forever. Understood?’
Nkechi nodded. ‘Good luck.’
She turned to Paul who kissed her on the cheek. Nkechi stepped up the staircase and began to climb, her head soft like mutton with anticipation. At the end of the stairs was a bold inscription on a board, beside the telephone.
‘The men here have jobs, they don’t smoke nor drink nor swear.’
Wow, better than that loser Ifeanyi. But Nkechi didn’t settle for this. She decided to see what the next floor has.
Second floor: ‘These men have jobs, don’t swear nor smoke nor drink. They are very good-looking and tall.’
Hmmm. These ones here completely butcher Ifeanyi. The prick. But better men lie ahead. I will check. She climbed the next floor.
Next floor: ‘The men here are tall and handsome, have jobs, are kind, don’t smoke, drink nor swear. They are funny like crazy.’
‘Wow. Like seriously? This is too much.’ She nearly settled for this floor, she already picked up the phone but on a wiser thought, she dropped the phone and decided to climb another floor. Why settle for the third floor when you have three more floors?
On the fourth floor, this inscription met her: ‘The men here are God-fearing. They are very rich, funny, love kids, cook for their women and extremely good in bed. They are super handsome.’
Oh Jireh, this is the bomb! But she was sure the next floor had better men to offer. Up she went. On the fifth floor, she read: ‘The men here are romantic, funny, love kids, are generous, are very handsome, very rich, famous, hardworking, funny, kind, love cooking, great cooks and powerfully excellent in bed.’
Nkechi knew this was the best. What could possibly rank higher than this? She couldn’t fathom. All the right adjectives are here. But this is the Shop for husbands. This floor had already blown her mind, but trust the last floor to blow her heart of heart. She ran to the last floor. She stopped shocked when she read the inscription:
‘You are the 8,789, 679th woman to come to this place and leave empty-handed. There are no men here, just a proof of the insatiable beings you people are. Have yourself a merry Christmas. Olodo.’
Her world turned sharply, jolting her. Her legs became plastic, her nostril narrowed. Someone began laughing in the background, a voice full of ridicule and scorn. And he sounded so much like Ifeanyi.
Nkechi finally died.
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