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As I write this, I’m behind bars in a sordid prison somewhere in the country. I had to beg one of the wardens for some paper and biro to enable me write my tale.
What is my purpose? To let the world know why I did what I did to Jake. Those who knew us and our relationship, our friendship that dated back to our campus days, had been shocked when they heard what had happened between us.
That with my own hand, I had killed my best friend, my confidante and the only person apart from my mother that I trusted most in the world. Well, my wife used to be on that list. But not anymore. You will know the reason as my story unfolds.
They say opposites attract. This was quite true in my relationship with Jake. Both physically and personality wise, we were very different. Jake was tall, slim built with good looks that could pass for those of a movie star. He also had a vibrant, outgoing personality. I, on the other hand was the quiet type who did not mix much and preferred studying to going out to parties. Despite these differences, Jake and I hit it off as soon as we met. This was how it happened. It was my second year in school and I was having problems securing accommodation. Then, a friend told me about a student who was looking for flat mates to share the apartment his family had rented for him off campus.
I contacted him a few days later and luckily he agreed to give me one of the rooms at a reasonable amount. It was a three bedroom flat a short distance from campus. Shortly after I moved in, another student George joined us. That was how Jake and I became friends. We lived together for the rest of our stay in school in that flat and with time, we became very close. Though quite intelligent, Jake was not the studious type. Infact, he hardly bothered with classes, assignments and tests like I did. He often used to tease me about my serious attitude.
“Guy, you are a real effico; too serious with your books. You should take it easy, sometimes. Learn to relax,” he told me one evening as I sat in my room reading for a test I had the next day.
I looked up at him. He was dressed to go out in a nice T shirt and a pair of designer jeans. He looked great and I complimented him.
“Thanks. I have a new ‘catch’ I’m taking out tonight,” he stated with a smirk, adjusting the collar of his top in the small mirror on the wall in my room.
“What about Trish?” I asked. She was his girlfriend of about six months and I thought he loved her.
“She’s out of town. Besides, she’s becoming too possessive. I need a break,” he noted. Knowing him so well, it was Jake’s way of saying he was tired of a relationship. That was another point of difference between us. His attitude to girls. “Love them and leave them,” he often said, with that mischievous grin of his.
I didn’t share his views and I made that clear.
“I don’t think its fair on the girls. I have sisters too and I won’t want any guy to mess up with them,” I told him. Yet, despite the way he treated them, girls still flocked around him like moths to a flame.
“Well, is it my fault if the girls can’t resist me? I be fine boy now!” he would say, grinning broadly.
“Why don’t you leave those books and come with us tonight? Catch some fun, you know,” he now said, as he made for the door.
I shook my head.
“I need to study for the test tomorrow. You know how tough that lecturer’s questions can be,” I stated, turning to resume reading.
“Alright. See you later then,” he stated as he left.
‘You are lucky. You have rich parents so you can afford to fool around. As for me, I know where I’m coming from,’ I thought as I turned a page in my notebook. Both my parents were teachers and as the first son, they looked up to me to do well so I could help the family later. Thus I had no time for frivolities. I had to succeed in life for my family’s sake.
* * * * *
Finally, school was over and we left for the mandatory youth service programme. Jake and I were posted to different states. It was the first time in years that we were separated. By this time, we were so close, more like brothers rather than mere friends. Jake, who didn’t like the idea of my going so far away tried to influence my posting.
“I will talk to my dad. He knows people at the headquarters and they will have you reposted to Lagos so we can be together again,” he told me one day when I called from my base in Niger State where I was serving.
“Don’t bother, Jake. I like it here. The people are friendly and nice. Besides, it’s just for a year. It will be over soon and I will be back home before long,” I pointed.
He reluctantly agreed and there was no more talk of my being reposted down South.
Jake’s father, who was a business man had a lot of contacts in the business circles in the country. With his influence, he was able to get a job for his son even before the service year ended.
I was happy and a bit envious as well when he called to give me the good news.
“It’s a big company. They are into all kinds of stuff- manufacturing, food processing, construction,” he disclosed.
“Lucky you. At least, you won’t be among the thousands of jobless graduates roaming the streets,” I said.
He laughed then said:
“You know what, Ray? I will like us to work in the same place. I will speak to my dad if he can fix you up in the company. Once he returns from his trip abroad, I’ll talk to him.”
I liked the idea of our working together but I didn’t have much faith in my getting a job in such a big firm.
‘Afterall, jobs don’t grow on trees these days,’ I thought to myself as the call ended.
So, you can imagine my surprise and excitement when he called to tell me two months later that I had been invited for an interview in the company.
I was speechless for a while before I exclaimed:
“But I didn’t apply! How come they are…”
Jake laughed at my confusion.
“Is this not Nigeria? With the right connection, you can get anything you want.”
The job, he explained was for the post of a sales representative. “It comes with a car as you will be moving around a lot,” he stated.
“A car? That’s great! But Jake, you talk as if I already have the job. I’ve not even done the interview yet,” I noted.
He laughed again.
“That, my friend is just a formality. The job is already yours!”
We had just a month to go before we passed out as corpers. The thought of starting work as soon as we finished the youth service filled me with great joy. No endless job applications and rejections, no roaming the streets searching endlessly for jobs that did not exist with its attendant frustrations and sufferings…
I silently thanked God for giving me a great friend like Jake. And I promised myself that I would work really hard at the job so that I would not disappoint him and his dad that had so much faith in me.
Two months after our passing out, I resumed work at the company. Everyone, including my parents were surprised that I got a job so quickly after graduation.
I told them about Jake’s role in it and they were very impressed.
“He’s a good friend. Such friendship is rare these days so don’t take it lightly,” my father said. He promised to call Jake and his father and thank them for all their support.
* * * * *
My job involved marketing some of the company’s products. I had to move around a lot and the official car I was given helped in that regard. With time, I began to travel outside Lagos to other states where we had distributors of our products. I loved the job as it enabled me travel and see new places, meet new people. I preferred it to an office job where I would be sitting at a desk all day.
It was during this period that I met Grace. She was the younger sister of one of our biggest distributors in the city. She was a final year student at the university and had come to spend the long vacation with her sister.
I liked the girl as soon as I set eyes on her. It wasn’t just her obvious beauty alone. There was just something about her that I found so alluring.
But despite the way I felt about her, I had not been able to speak to her about my feelings. It wasn’t that I was shy with girls or something. I just felt the time was not right.
I always looked forward to going to the sister’s shop on business as I knew I would see Grace.
Just seeing and looking at her made me happy.
I was on my way there late one afternoon when I ran into Jake at the car park in the office. We were in different departments so we didn’t see that much at work. But we made up for it at weekends when we hung out together.
He had closed for the day and was heading home.
“My car suddenly developed problems. Battery problem likely. Guess I will have to take a cab home,” he said after we greeted.
“No need for that,” I said. I intended closing as well once I had finished meeting Madam Betty, Grace’s sister.
“Come with me and I will take you home later,” I offered.
Grace was alone in the store when we arrived.
“Sister just stepped out. She will be back shortly,” she explained.
She served us drinks while we waited. I noticed Jake looking at her in a speculative way and my heart fell. I knew that look quite well. It was the sort of look he had whenever he saw a girl he fancied and wanted to sleep with.
‘Please, not this one,’ I thought as I looked at Grace. She had a new braided hairstyle which made her look even more pretty.
When the woman returned, we sat to discuss business. I could not concentrate though. My eyes kept drifting to the front of the store. Jake was there, standing and chatting with Grace. I saw her laughing at a point and I became worried. What if she fell for Jake’s charms? Very few ladies could resist him. He was my friend but I didn’t want her to get involved with him as she would only get hurt in the end.
We left shortly after. On the way, Jake kept talking about Grace.
“Such a pretty girl. I’m thinking of inviting her out next weekend,” he announced.
“What?” I exclaimed, turning from the road to glare at him.
“Why do you look so surprised. You should know me by now. Once I see something I like, I go for it,” he said.
I could not bear it any longer and I decided to be blunt with him
“Jake, leave her alone,” I blurted out.
He turned to me, surprised.
“Why? Don’t tell me you like her too!” he said.
“Jake, that’s not the issue now. Just don’t mess with her, that’s all I’m saying,” I implored.
“Well, it’s too late for that. I want her. And I’m going to have her no matter what you or anyone says,” he stated firmly.
I grew angry at his words. For the first time since we became friends, I wanted to punch him in the face…
Will Grace become a source of conflict between the two friends? Watch out for the exciting details next Saturday!
•Names have been changed to protect the narrator’s identity.
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