HOW A ‘HANDYMAN’ STOLE MY GIRLFRIEND (SHORT STORY)
Eight months ago, my life was as close to perfect as anyone could ever hope for. I had a superb job working remotely as a computer programmer and I was dating a wonderful girl, Ifeoma, who worked at a government ministry in Umuahia.
I have always been the cerebral kind and used most of my spare time, which was spent at Ifeoma’s flat at the outskirts of Umuahia, reading and updating my IT skills.
I’d never really seen the need to get my own place because as an only son, I thought it better to stay with my parents at their duplex close to the GRA in Umuahia. That was until Ifeoma and I got serious.
Since I was practically living with Ifeoma,* I contributed to her household expenses but did little else. This was in line with how I was brought up. My parents always had hired help to do the house chores, compound maintenance – in fact, pretty much everything. As a result, I neither knew how nor did I have the desire to do anything around the house.
For instance, there was no running water in Ifeoma’s flat. Water was bought from commercial water tankers and stored in her tank in the compound. The options were to use her surface water pump to send the water to her second story flat or haul the stuff upstairs in plastic jerrycans. She once complained that she found it hard to do the pumping, especially when a generator was needed due to power outage from the public utility company. I told her to hire help.
Then I saw one guy doing the task the next day when I looked down from her master bedroom window. I assumed she’d taken my advice. Even when the pump developed a fault, the same guy used the jerrycans to fill the drums in her flat with water.
I often read or worked on my laptop far into the night and woke up late but Ifeoma was an early riser. She would clean the flat and have breakfast ready before 7 a.m. when she left for work.
However, anytime I woke up early or on weekends, the ‘water lifter’ guy was around – taking out the gas cylinder for a refill; fixing faulty electrical stuff; doing carpentry jobs like repairing the screen door in the living room, changing locks and replacing cracked table tops.
Ifeoma’s handyman was dedicated and knew his stuff, I thought. A regular jack of all trades, he was! However, I kept well out of his way. I mostly worked in the bedroom to avoid interruptions by her guests, so that wasn’t hard to accomplish.
Due to the amount of time I spent sleeping during the day, Ifeoma often prodded me to get up and “stop lying around like a pregnant woman.” I ignored her. She said she loved me because I was easy going but wished I could be more active.
“What is it with women and men who do manual work?” I thought, shaking my head.
The first time I wondered if something was wrong was the day I saw Ifeoma and her handyman cooking. I came to take water from the fridge and the guy was chopping some vegetables. They were clearly having fun working together. I grabbed the bottle of water and dashed out of there. But I didn’t bring the matter up with Ifeoma. There could be nothing between them, I reasoned. It was too ridiculous to contemplate.
As an IT guy, when I’m working on a project, I get so caught up in it that I hardly pay attention to what’s happening around me. So basically, I wasn’t much fun to be around when I had a deadline to meet and for long, Ifeoma respected that.
But she was not just sitting and waiting for me to be free and give her attention. She was going over to her neighbour in the flat opposite hers to watch movies, listen to songs and relax. She told me this herself but I wasn’t keen on meeting her neighbours or joining in their ‘fun,’ so we didn’t discuss the subject further.
Then one day, for no real reason, Ifeoma demanded that I should be waking up early to take her to work in my car. I offered to give her a transport allowance but she refused.
Next, she insisted that we should eat dinner together every day. Due to my heavy work schedule, I grab a bite when I can but I don’t set aside time specially for meals.
“We hardly do anything together,” Ifeoma complained. “We’re living together but are we really together in our hearts?”
“Hey, you know I work very hard and my job pays extremely well.”
“But money is not everything,” she moaned. “I prefer someone like Chuks who can spare time for me and do the things a man should do for a woman.”
“Chuks, the handyman?” I asked incredulously. “How can you compare him to me? And what does he do for you but menial jobs around the house?”
“What you call menial jobs are the things that show the presence of a man in a house. And you don’t know how sexy it is to see a man busy, doing physical and strenuous work.”
That was it! I’d had it with Ifeoma! Our people have a proverb that says, “Mma nwoke bu ego,” meaning the beauty of a man is money. But in spite of all the money I gave her, Ifeoma was talking rubbish. She wasn’t happy that I wasn’t working up a sweat lugging stuff up the stairs for her, preparing condiments for her cooking and using hammer and nail around the house.
So I gave her an ultimatum.
“I demand that you fire that your handyman. I will not be your houseboy. Tell me how much you need to hire all the help needed around here and I will provide it.”
Ifeoma did not respond. To show her I wasn’t joking, I moved back to my parents’, confident she would come to her senses.
But days turned into weeks and I didn’t hear from her but I held my ground. I didn’t consider the quarrel serious though. I felt we could get back together anytime. As a result, I did not hesitate to travel to the UK for a six-month course funded by my employers. My plan was to surprise Ifeoma upon my return with expensive gifts from my trip abroad and an engagement ring.
When I eventually got back, I realised that it would be unwise to show up at her place after a 7-month separation. We had not contacted each other the whole time. In the first month I could have reached out to her except that my pride wouldn’t let me. But once I started the course abroad, my schedule was too overloaded to try. I also didn’t want the distraction our reconciliation might bring.
I, therefore, decided to first call at Ifeoma’s office. She wasn’t there. One of her colleagues disclosed that she’d been unwell in the past few months and might be home. I thanked her and sped off to Ifeoma’s compound.
When I knocked on her door, a teenage girl I’d never seen answered. When I said I’d come to see Ifeoma who lived there, the girl pointed to the opposite door and asked me to knock there.
It took me some seconds to process what that meant. Maybe she had switched flats, I thought.
But the scene that met my eyes when that opposite door was opened knocked the breath out of me. Ifeoma was wearing a Lycra gown with a clear baby bump underneath.
“Hi” she said with a smile, as though she had not stabbed my heart with a knife.
“You certainly don’t waste time,” I remarked wryly, after a moment of speechlessness.
Her smile broadened. “Please, come in!”
I declined the invitation and stormed off.
Later, I learnt from a mutual acquaintance that Ifeoma married Chuks, the guy I thought was her handyman, one month after our separation. Whether that means they were romantically involved while I was still in the picture I do not know.
I also learnt that Chuks was a graduate of Biochemistry with his own soap making business.
Furthermore, I learnt that Chuks had been Ifeoma’s neighbour all along and was helping her for free. He was the neighbour she visited while I worked and she gave up her flat to move into his after they were married.
What a sneaky guy! If I had known we were in competition over Ifeoma, I would have been more invested in the fight. And let no one tell me I opened the door for him by leaving. I am convinced he knew what he was after all along. He was worming his way into Ifeoma’s heart with his too much availability and “helping for free” ‘cause, let’s face it, no one does anything for free these days!
Ⓒ Edith Ugochi Ohaja
*Writing this story should not be taken as an endorsement of cohabitation by yours truly. I only support godly dating and living together after marriage.
You may also like the following related posts: