The Thorny Path to Europe - Episode 2

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They had been in serious search for money from different sources but none of them came up with something tangible. Few people who had the money didn't trust the fact they had to go through Libya. So, they changed strategy and lied to people that they wanted to start a business. And all that ever did for them compelled people to pray for the success of their business. Some even went to the extent of telling them about their own problems, which was a whale beside a catfish.

 When they all gathered at Emeka's house on Friday, Emeka had no option than to involve them in his next plan, a desperate measure . He offered to allow them to be a part of it since they had no other option. Upon hearing the crazy idea, Ade stared at him as if he had just seen a ghost. He shook his head and asked him if their problem had gotten to the extent of going to the lane Emeka wanted to thread.

'Yes?' Ade said as he used the edge of his right hand to hit his left palm.

'Yes', Emeka said. 'Yes, Ade. Yes'.

'No. We don't have to steal to get money', Ade shouted from his side of the bed. 'What are we now? We're not…. No'.

Ade felt happy that Emeka lived in his own small bungalow, which he hurriedly built before marrying Uju.  Emeka’s intended expanding the land and renovating to a business plaza after he built their mansion.

Ade abhorred the idea and wouldn’t be a party to the foolish idea

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. He glanced at Tunde for support because he was very sure that Tunde would counter Emeka’s horrendous idea. Emeka drew nearer and glanced at Tunde, who was now silent as he had his hand placed on his lips. He looked as if he was in a deep thought, which meant that when he was ready he would come with the wisest decision. And most times, when he was silent like that, he had already made his decision but was looking for the best way to tell the person that they were stupid and should never pull that trick on him.

'We do. Brother, we do have to steal', Emeka said. 'We don't have any other option. How many days do we have to do the business?'

'Well, I for one wouldn't be a part of this. I want to go to Europe legally and make clean money', Ade replied, flipping his phone in his hands.  Tunde rose, coughed and paced the room.

'See', Ade said and shifted nearer to Emeka. 'See. The thing is that even if I had the wish, there is no need. Lizzy is ready to borrow me the money. I have no need to join you, people, I'll be fine'.

 

'Your girlfriend… Lizzy?' Tunde asked, stopped pacing, returned to the bed and rose again. 'You didn't tell anyone… She is helping?'

'I want to talk about it after she has dropped the money, but she will help me. We talked about the money a few days ago. We can still hustle for money. We don't need this'.

'Who has hustle helped? Who? No. No. Tell me. Who? I have hustled my life, and now my slippers are wearing. Holes are in it. Brother, nobody wants to help'.

'But Tunde's plan made sense now. That's why I was able to have fifty thousand naira at hand.

Moreover, I've just been trying not to say this again, we can do business with the money with it'.

'You are aware of the last business and how we failed. But I'm not a man to give up easily. I tried to pick other things. I did. Brother, I did. They didn't work. All those people we did the politics of the school together those days. I talked to them'.

Ade sat up and he felt joy flood his heart. He had even forgotten the privilege Emeka had over the two of them. Emeka was a one-time faculty president and he would still have the contact of some top politicians. 'Good. What did they say?'

 

 

'Brother, you don’t want to know what they said. I swear. You don't want to know. At the long run, most of them referred to how I lost money doing an unprofitable business. Some others…Oh! The ordeal opened my emotional wounds afresh. With the recent event, I'm not sure that I can stop brooding over the past years of my life'.

'Tunde talk. What do you feel?' Ade said.

Tunde glanced at them for a while then returned to his side of the bed. He drew nearer to Ade. Ade was sure nothing could come out of his mouth than the reality Emeka needed. There was no way Tunde would accept to be an accomplice in an armed robbery. The only wise thing to do was to give up.

'We have to do it', Tunde said and didn't look away, indicating he was indeed knee-deep into the belief that there was no other way.

'Wow!' Ade grunted. 'Wow. That's… I never expected that'.

'I'm sorry to come up with the most disappointing news of the century, but I feel you have the right to know that there is no other way. For us to be sure that you wouldn't be involved, then you would need to call Lizzy. We would exempt you from the plan. Someone like me, I'm ready to dip my head into the sand to find the gold. I will enter the soak-away to find this gold. I will definitely enter a Lion's den'.

'But...'

'Call her. See, do you remember the book 'the black boy' by Richard Wright?'

Ade blinked repeatedly. How wouldn't he remember the black boy? It was the first book that exposed them to the idea that there were some people referred to as the black and how they were treated. That was the first Novel he would ever finish at a-go. He remembered it.

'What has that got to do with anything? I don't see the relevance here'.

'Richard Wright had to steal because he wanted to migrate to the North'.

'He didn't steal'.

'Of course, he did. He did steal. How come you forget it so soon? He stole and left the part of the town'.

Emeka cracked his fingers. 'There is no other thing we can do than to accept this fact. This country- its policy, its people, its culture- they are like… Erm… Erm… Using a straw to drink a mug of beer. They are like electricity. If you stay too long with it, it will suck you dry'.

'Yes. Nigeria, Nigerians would suck you dry', Tunde added. 'You will lose your creativity, your money, sometimes your life'.

 

 

Ade looked about to be sure that he wasn't having a nightmare.

'As I said, call this girl', Tunde said. 'Call Lizzy. Tell her that you need to pay the money tomorrow that Jude suddenly changed the day for payment'.

Ade knew that Lizzy would quickly send the money if she learnt that they were going soon and was aware of the fact that Tunde wasn't a fan of Lizzy because she rejected his booty call.  When he first met her and they became friends before she met Ade, he wanted to have sex with her but she refused. And that alone had made him angry. Before he plunged himself into trying to sleep with her she had shown a measurable desire to around him. So, as he told Ade, he didn't see a reason for her rejection. And he couldn't get angry at Ade because he was in university when all these happened. So, when Ade later flaunted her as his girlfriend, Tunde felt bad.

'I will call her. You just have to learn to trust people. You really do'.

'Please, I trust myself and God', Tunde said.

'Call her already', Emeka said. 'And put it on speaker phone'.

'That's bad', Ade said as he began to make the call to Lizzy. The dial tone rang.

'It's ringing'.

'Speakerphone. Put it on loudspeaker', Emeka said again.

'Any need?'

'You earn trust', Tunde said. 'This is the cap for your trust. I want to put it on. I want to have a

reason to trust her'.

When the phone rang for a while and she didn't pick it, he wasn't rattled. He was sure that she was surely not near her phone. Emeka and Tunde watched him as if the world was watching the stage for his favourite artist, Tu Face, to climb the stage.

'She probably isn't near her phone'.

'Brother, you shouldn’t put your trust totally in people. You've worked with us very well and know that there are ways things can be done. People betray. That's our nature. We betray'.

Ade refused to reply to them as he redialed Lizzy's number. Then an idea struck him and he felt he should present it to them. 'By the way, Emeka what do you feel?' Can't one of us stay back while the other person gets prepared to come?'.

Emeka sat up and looked at their different faces. 'Tunde should answer for himself. Brother, what do you feel?'

'Ade has a very good idea. I'll take my seventy thousand and add it to… How much did you say you've gotten?'.

'Fifty'.

'I will get it. Find more money', Tunde said and snapped his fingers. 'And I'm out of this country'.

'Ahan. Tunde why will you think in such manner?' Ade said and redialed Lizzy's number. He hated the fact that he had always had to play the second fiddle to Tunde. He didn't see anything bad in Tunde sacrificing his position to him. 'I'm your younger brother. I still have the zeal and energy'.

'That's what you think?' Tunde said. 'I'm also young. In the line of friendships, you're my age mate. I'm just two years older than you. Nothing more'.

'Emeka, tell him the truth. Something is happening here. Tell my brother the truth. I know you have it in you. Tell him Lizzy has betrayed him'.

'Brother, let me stay like this. Our people will say, 'the tortoise said that trouble is it's own; that's why it carries trouble on its back'. There are various things that shouldn't be accepted in this life and interfered in. A brotherly discussion should be one of them'.

Ade dialled Lizzy's phone again. He was truly worried this time.

'You don't need to stay back', Tunde continued. 'We'll even have the chance to cover each other's back. You're my brother, I'll hold on to the belief that the only reason you will betray me or stab me behind is out of fear or ignorance. But for other people, the reason they would betray me is because of the cruelty of their heart'.

The connection tone sounded, making Ade's heart flip.

'Ade', Lizzy's raspy voice resounded in the phone. Ade edged forward, while Emeka laid back and stared at the ceiling. Tunde vigorously shook his legs. Tunde seemed about to cough because his face had the same redness that always appeared whenever he was trying to muffle his cough.

'Lizzy, please there is a big problem. That money. The man just hinted us that we have to meet him on Friday to start final preparations. You know what that means'.

 

 

'Ah! Lizzy shouted. 'I'm in serious trouble. I have just three fifty here'.

'That's good, really good. Edumare will bless you'.

'Good in what way? I still need one fifty'.

Ade was happy and saw a smile of gratefulness on the lips of Tunde. Tunde opened mouth,  shrugged and laid back in the chair. Ade rubbed his hands together. 'You don't need to find everything. I'll remember this. I swear to God. I swear. I'll never forget you. Baby, if love is a crime, for you I'll forever love to be wanted. You're my African queen'.

'You don't need to forget me because I'll be beside you'.

'Beside me?'

Emeka sat up and frowned, while Tunde stopped shaking his leg and scoffed.

'Yes. We'll find the work and money together', Lizzy said.

'What's together? In what way?' Ade said and could feel the warmth of fear coursing through his mouth.

'I'm looking for money to complete this money to meet up the five hundred'.

'We're saying the same thing. You don't need to find the whole money. We will find the remaining parts ourselves. I, for example, have fifty thousand here'.

'Fifty thousand? Since all this while. With the way you said this man wants the money, are you sure that you won't be left behind?'

'You are the one not getting me. Three fifty plus fifty is Four hundred. I'll find a hundred thousand and the money is ready'.

'You are surely not also getting me. I'm looking for money to make five hundred so that I'll go with you. I'm going'.

'For what?'

'For...What?'

'Yes. For what?'

'You're asking me for what?'

'Why will you go?'

'I have to...'

'This is not right'

'Go. I've to'.

'Your parents are rich'.

'And so what? I'm tired of this dependency. I...'

'Stop all these', Ade shouted.

'I've to go to Europe too'.

'Lizzy'.

'Ade, you're not even happy for me…'

'Happy? How will I be? I had…You made me have hope'.

'That I'm no longer dependent on my parents'.

'Shut up and stop this rubbish. I trusted you'.

'I told you I wanted to be free of my father'.

'Just get off...'

'But I need the man's number'.

'Get off'.

Emeka gestured for him to disconnect the call. He repeatedly slid his hands across his neck and mouthed, 'Kill it'.

'I've got to go, Lizzy. Thanks for nothing'.

'The number'.

'You're....'

'Kill the call', Tunde yelled. He hated people that betrayed others. Ade couldn't crumble into the ground. He was sure that he might die from heart attack because he had never been given any bad news like that in a long time. He inhaled loudly and Emeka rubbed his back and that broke his emotional wall. He burst into tears. There was no way he would allow himself to go into the turmoil of believing that she was truly trustworthy. He cried freely and didn't mind that Tunde and Emeka were present.

'She promised. I had hoped'.

'Brother, man fails us. This is life. Man… Nigerians are just the ones that we've been discussing.

They can't be trusted anymore. My people will say that ' a fish that doesn't swallow other fishers doesn't grow fat'. We need the money. So, are you in? I'm so sure that with two million we can the thing need'.

'Are you kidding me?'

'I'm very sure that we would meet no obstacle'.

 'Are you really sure that the money is two million naira?'

'It's no joke, brother. I heard him talk about it', Emeka shouted with all his strength, the excitement could be seen written all over his face.

'Lower your voice', Tunde said but couldn't get himself to stop smiling.

'Let me shout', Emeka shouted as he jumped. 'Europe, your father'.

 Tunde seemed exhilarated at the mention of the amount. 'Then, we have to make plans. Rock solid one. Ade, you should be in now. Get over Lizzy and let's move on. If you don't give her the phone number, I want to see how things will go for her'.

'See, let's find other means of…'

'Brother, I'm not by chance pulling your feet. I'm as serious as the dead'.

Tunde sighed and heaved as Ade opened his mouth to tell them how he still believed that they had better means of going about the making of money. Then, he gestured to Ade that he wanted to say something. 'I hate to do this. But tell me what can a man do? Have we not tried? See our father is still the one in charge of our welfare. Is it supposed to be so? At this age? No. No. It's unrealistic.  We would soon have wives. Look at your Lizzy, she is ripe for marriage. However, you, her fiancé is soaked in your garment of poverty. Although you won't be stuck with anymore, what of the new relationship you will enter'.

'But that's not a cause for...'

'What's not a cause for what? This money isn't constant. It's not as if we are taking stealing as a profession. We only need this one to become better'.

'That's right', Emeka affirmed. 'God knows that I can't continue stealing. We can't just get the right amount needed to escape this jungle, and that's why need to do this'.

 

 

Though still sceptical, Ade allowed himself to be drawn into the darkness of their plans. He glanced at the wall and saw a wall-gecko. His late grandmother had a belief that when one was discussing in the presence of a wall-gecko, one was surely going to fail at it. But he couldn’t share his superstitions with them especially with Tunde, who was beginning to have disbelief in everything supernatural.

And within a few seconds, they were already making plans on what to do. The two of them would be returning to Emeka's place on Sunday afternoon, where the plan would be finalized, and they would move to the operation.

Ade tried to rein his anger till he dropped Tunde at home; however, when he drove out of the compound, he winded up the car and yelled. He couldn't stay in the house and see Tunde's face because it would remind him of how he didn't agree with Tunde's way of life. His plan was to roam about till the steam of anger cooled off. But, Lizzy's call came again repeatedly and he knew he had no other option than to stand up to her and let her know how much she had offended him. He had to just show her his mind and probably break up with her. He returned home when he discovered that he didn't have his wallet with him.

As he locked the gate behind him and returned to the driver's seat, his mother dropped from a bike. They had suggested to her severally that Ade should drive her to and fro her shop, but she adamantly refused, claiming that her children are not some mere men. She believed that if they took her to her shop, traders around would notice that they didn't have a job. Winding down the glasses of the car, Ade had to wait for her out of courtesy.

'Ade, where are you going?' She said the moment she got to his side.

'Ah… Ahn. Mummy, when did I begin to tell you where I'm going'.

She mimicked him in a way that would have made him laugh on a normal day, shook her head and grumbled about the way he and his brothers had been acting weird of recent.

'What weird?' He called after her as she walked towards the smaller gate.

'I don't know. Something is wrong with you people and you're not talking'.

'There is nothing'.

'Are you sure?'

'See, Mama. I have to go'.

'Are you still with that Lizzy girl?'

'I thought you didn't like her'.

'Yes. I don't like her behaviour but I like her. I've agreed to like her since you like her. I'm not the one marrying. I can only advice you. Especially with this person that they said is killing men and putting their penis in their mouth'.

'Ah! Mama, that's gross'.

'Forget gross. All I'm saying is that try to maintain the one you've gotten. Don't go about jumping from woman to another. Do you think I came home to probe you, it's because I forgot my phone?'

'As usual. Mama, don't enter me. I have to go'.

'What's enter?' She asked and stared at him perplexed. On a normal day, that was something that would have prompted him to pull her legs but that wasn't a normal day. That day was the day he got his heart smeared. He had been stabbed in the chest upfront and the assailant still stroke his cheek as if she was staring into the eyes of a baby.

'I have to go. I'll back soon'.

'By the way, you've not oiled this gate still'.

Ade shook his head and drove off. When he drove into Lizzy's compound, he felt intimidated again. The compound was huge and had a conspicuous garage that had several sophisticated cars that always made his father's car look like a toy. The marbles on the floor crunched under his feet as he got down. She rushed towards him, looking all fearful. She dragged him through the other side of the house to her room. He wasn't sure her parents were around and even if they were, he wasn't rattled by their presence. All he needed was for them to break up immediately. It took him a great deal of effort to remain calm and not yell at her.

'Ade, please give me the number'.

'What number? You backstabbing girlfriend. I came here to break up whatever we thought we had. I just wanted to do you the courtesy of doing it face to face'.

'You want to break up with me because I want to progress? I thought you said that you would be with me till the end of the world, that my success is yours?'

'This is not something to support. Not on earth or any other place. This is backstabbing. You should have intimated me on the fact that you would also love to be a part. I wouldn't have had hopes from your side'.

 

 

She burst into tears.

Read " Don't! Look Closer " by the same author ( Akíntayo Akinjide )

. 'Do you like the way I'm living here? I want to stop depending on my parent'.

'Tell them and get away from them'.

She kept crying. 'Don't you think I have tried?'

'Stop crying', Ade said and touched her.

'Don't touch me'.

He rose and pulled her nearer and hugged her. She had to progress too. On a normal day, he would have been happy that she made the right choice, but she made this choice when he had built his hope on her promises. She cried into his chest and kissed him.

'The phone number', she mumbled.

'I'll give you. I'll take you to him'.

Ade knew at that instance that he had no other choice than to forgive her and follow Tunde and Emeka on the robbery. Their plan was good. Any plan Tunde suggested or had an input in was always good. And that was the reason; he wanted to learn to be free from Tunde, to see if he could make the right choices without being around Tunde. They would steal the money and pay and leave. Nothing could disrupt their plan.

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