Ugo narrated his story of how he trained a girl through university with the promise to marry him, but after she left university, the story changed.
I met Cynthia when she was 19. She was hawking fruits. Then, I was an apprentice electrician in a shop near where normally hawked. I remember that fateful afternoon. I was starring uninterestedly at the mill of people. I saw her. She caught my attention. It was the manner she advertised her wares at the bus stop. I wasn’t craving for her fruits that day but the other apprentice and I bought fruits worth N500, our combined daily feeding allowance.
I told her I would be her regular customer anytime she came around. Her fruits were fresh and appealing. My promise was the only way of ensuring the I would see her beautiful face every day.
I kept my promise. I bought her fruits every day she came around our shop; whether I wanted it or not. We became friends.
One day, I saw her crying and frantically looking for something on the street opposite our shop.
I asked, “what is the matter.”
She told me she had lost the N1,000 she had already sold and that if she doesn’t find it, her mother will kill her. She was inconsolable.
I managed to calm her down and gave her the amount she said she lost. She heaved a sigh of relief and thanked me profusely.
“Be more careful next time with your money,” I told her.
We became closer from that day. I had three months left before my freedom as an apprentice. In no time we started dating.
My freedom couldn’t come earlier. With my independence, I had enough money to start my own electrical shop. Things started picking up.
I didn’t want her to hawk anymore so I told her that I wanted to meet her family. I paid the rent for a shop for her mother and raised more money for her to start selling foodstuffs alongside the fruits Cynthia used to hawk.
The passing months showed up another aspect of her. She was restless. She suddenly looked too big for her mother’s shop. She had told me once that all she wanted was to go to school, and that hawking fruits was to raise money to buy her JAMB forms. She already her credits in her NECO and WASCE. Furthering her education was the only thing she wanted to do. But, “there is no money,” she told me.
Her mother was the sole breadwinner after, “my daddy died. My mother raised me and three siblings through school. Two of my younger ones are still in primary school, while my immediate younger brother is in JSS 3.”
I told her to prepare to sit for the next UMTE and that if she passed, I would see her through the university and we would get married. She gained admission into the University to study Mass Communication.
When she was set to go to resume, we had a heart-to-heart talk. She professed her love, thanked me for being by her side and her family. We also agreed to get married once she left school.
She swore that nothing would make her happier than to be my wife and that she was looking forward to that day.
My parents were happy for her preferred for us to get married while she was still at the university. They feared that she might just change her mind later. I allayed their fears and convinced them that I trusted her not to change. They were not assured but they couldn’t stop me.
I saw her through the university. It was easier than I feared because my shop was doing well. I catered for her, her mother and siblings. For me, at that point, I was a part of the family.
I got the first shock during her convocation. She deliberately refused to associate with me. She kept a distance and made it look like she was caught up in the mood of the celebrations with her friends. I couldn’t help but notice that she was particularly paying profuse attention with a man, who looked well to do. She flirted with him and my family and I were invisible. The questions started pouring on me. And I couldn’t answer any.
Back home, I tried to find out what was really going on. I met the same man celebrating with her family. I was shocked. I knew something was wrong when she introduced me to the guy as a close family friend. And she told me that the man was a friend. She promised to visit me at the shop the next day.
She came. With a voice devoid of any emotion, but dripping with arrogance and resentment, she told me that whatever plans of marriage I thought I had with her was off because she could not possibly marry me. She said she didn’t fancy herself living with an illiterate electrician.
I couldn’t say a word. I couldn’t even look at her. My mouth dried up. I felt dizzy. I managed to sink myself in the nearest sofa. I saw her. She was more beautiful than when she was on the streets hawking. But the image before me now was that of a 19-year-old, with a tray of fruits on her head, hawking.
My heart sank. Pain and anger gripped me. I remember the warning of my parents as I remembered when Cynthia feared for her life because she had lost N1000. I remember the preparations for her resumption at the university, how she was not in lack of the four years she was in school.
I didn’t know how I found my voice, but I heard myself asking: “What did you say?”
She was silent.
I continued. “I was not an illiterate when I sent you to school, set your mother up, housed your family, sent your siblings to school. I was not an illiterate when we were dating and thinking of marriage. Now that you are a graduate, you and your family are better than me, I am illiterate.”
Then I heard her voice as if in a dream as she said: “Calculate all the money you spent on my education and what you spent on my family all these years. My fiancé will pay you back four times over.”
The tears just rolled of their own accord down my cheeks. The tears blurred my vision of her. I just sat there teary-eyed, not thinking, not feeling anything. I didn’t even notice when she left the room.
My parents didn’t linger on it. They didn’t even remind me of their initial warning. They simply asked me to forget her. My friends were not so magnanimous. They couldn’t stop teasing me and laughing at my error.
My mother sat me down one evening and said to me, “I hope your friends will learn from your mistake and not bother to send any girl to school because you want to marry her. Marry her and then train her to whatever level you want inside your house.
“The outside world is very tempting. Anything can happen out there. It is life. Stop hurting. You did what you did because you are kind-hearted and wanted the best for her. And she has done what she wanted to do. She might love you, but you are no more good for her.”
But her words couldn’t make me feel better. I kept thinking, “how could Cynthia be so ungrateful. I wish I had listened to my family? But did I really make a mistake trusting her?
A friend suggested that I should curse her and make life miserable for her? Another said I should make sure that the so-called husband repaid every kobo I spent on Cynthia and her family?
My mother’s words still ring in my ears, “leave it all to God, He knows best.” What should I do?