I turned the key and the car came alive. I waved goodbye to the infectious river of love. I thought about what Andre said as we drove into the City.
Tomorrow all these opportunities could be gone and I’d be left with nothing. You think she will stay? You must be dreaming. Without a steady job no one should start a family in this Island. You could be in big trouble.
I had a stern reply for him as I got closer to his stop. “Since you know that this roller coaster is not permanent, why don’t you slowdown in your spending and save money to invest in a business and later start a family? You can cut down on the girls you support,” I said, as he laughed softly. “And, and, take Lyn seriously. You know she cares about you.”
He looked at me thoughtfully. “You are getting smart, you know. That’s exactly what Big Mama told me.” He squinted, “Hope you two aren’t up to something.”
“Like hell we spend all our time talking about your nefarious activities, Mr. Big Shot. You are some project,” I said then paused, measuring my next few words. “I mean it though; I’m getting embarrassed by it.”
He backed away, “You’re ashamed of me?”
I smiled but became somewhat serious. “Yeah, of course. When I was in Greenland I was a rough kid, but I have changed. You are a bad influence. If you don’t change, I will stop coming around you because birds of same feathers, like they say, flock together. I don’t want people thinking I’m an irresponsible person. I need a good reputation to succeed in business.”
“Jeez.” He wasn’t really angry. “Okay. I’m going to adjust a little bit if that makes you happy.”
That’s what I liked about Andre. He wasn’t arrogant. He liked to be the best of himself. Like I said, he was smart.
I suddenly remembered. “And by the way you still owe me four hundred. I will need it to pay for the lease when we find a good place,” I said as a matter of fact.
He scratched his head. “You really want to get the property for business? Remember what I told you about dreams in Hunger Republic?”
“Don’t start. It’s Hunger Republic for you, but Paradise for me. And don’t change the subject. Mr. Big Shot, since you have started training girls in school by getting into their pants, you can now pay your depts.”
“Is it because of four hundred that you have stopped smiling?”
“When you give it to me, I can smile all you want.” I bared my teeth at him as we stop in front of his nice apartment.
“But you don’t really need it. Why are you being nasty?” he smiled mischievously. “I like this new cut-throat attitude about you. You are getting smart and ruthless.”
“I ,” I wanted to speak when the phone rang. It was Prince. When I picked up, his voice sounded like someone that has been crying.
“What’s the matter?” I felt sad. My heart raced.
“It’s Julia. She doesn’t want me anymore.”
“Oh, my God. What happened? I thought both of you are going to meet your uncle today. Didn’t she come to your place?”
“She came.” He sniffed. “She came to advise me not to get married until I can support a family.”
“Are you serious? She must be stupid.” I trembled; Andre placed a hand on my shoulder as if to say ‘calm down’. He took the phone, and put it on loudspeaker so both of us could hear what Prince said.
Prince cried, “She has a diamond ring. She is getting married to some other guy.”
My heart seemed to stop beating as he sobbed over the phone.
“Why don’t you come over,” Andre said.
“Let me talk to her,” I said.
My hand shook as I retrieved the phone from Andre and searched for Julia’s number.
Andre came to my rescue. “Calm down.”
I started to cry. “But why? How did you know that it would end up this way?”
He wasn’t gloating in victory; he never did. “Over 60% of the girls in Bonny University can’t graduate without the support of some male friends who supplement what their parents could provide. There are some whose parents didn’t send to school, but are there at the mercy of male benefactors. It’s all about security and not love. Few may be fortunate to find security in love, but most will hope to find love in security. Loving someone today without the guarantee of ending the austerity isn’t feasible, not when you have siblings and aged parents to care for. What do you want Julia to do? Marry Prince?”
I was at a loss for words.
“It’s going to kill him and end his Music career.”
“But she can at least wait?” I mustered the courage to speak at last.
“Maybe, maybe not.” Andre said looking me squarely in the eye. “It’s about survival. At least she is getting married, and not turning into prostitution. The increase in number of prostitutes today is not as a result of increase in sexual desire, but poverty. Period. Prince, you and I graduated from Bonny University, but we do not have regular jobs. Do you know the number of people out there who would be glad to have just a meal in the next twenty-four hours?”
“So you support prostitution. You support this loveless life.”
He became angry. “Why don’t you get it? I am a Civil Engineer and teach toddlers. You think I am happy that I have to wipe children’s noses and rock them to sleep? I should be working with cement, bricks and metal, not kids and napkins. You think I am happy running helter-skelter looking for little opportunities here and there? Or you think that Julia is happy leaving Prince? Go talk to her and see what you get. More tears than Prince can ever shed. She could be in greater pain. We don’t even know if the guy is bullish or violent, but she has to eat, cloth and have the support she needs.” He calmed a little. “I don’t need to support anything for it to exist.”
Faintly I said, “But, but love and happiness.” My resolve was breaking.
“Many of these young women do what they do today because of poverty. Yes, there are so many greedy and foolish girls who want to live wild and gamble away their existence, but there are thousands of girls that just want to survive. Do you know how many girls Big Mama has helped out of the street? Her foundation has helped over a hundred girls graduate from school and start a business. Those girls now have the opportunity of a good and esteemed life. But many have been left with but one choice: Love or Security? Most will choose security any day.”

That was how Prince lost Julia. She chose money. Money counts for everything when people can barely earn a living. The society is fast changing. Love now counts for nothing. No wonder there is so much unhappiness, divorce, infidelity and low achievement. I would choose love over money any day, anywhere, but Andre had a point.
Although I didn’t quite agree with him, we didn’t argue further. I was tired of fighting. I felt I had no local standing in the matter. I was well-provided for by my parents and on my way to building my business. I could provide for my family someday without having to compromise love and happiness.
This incident almost killed my love affair with Cush Island, especially when I talked with Julia. Andre was right again. She cried more than Prince did, because she loved him.
She disarmed me when she said, ‘I suffered in my parents’ house, and you still want me to suffer in my husband’s house? My children will not starve and go on rags like I did. Even if he maltreats me, he cannot kill his children.’
She decided to sacrifice happiness with Prince for her well-being. End of story.

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