Richard sat on the white, high-backed, plastic chair on the veranda, stretching his injured foot forward and making it parallel with the ground. Leaning back, he gazed at the dusty roadside of his streets watching half-mindedly as vehicles passed by, each of them almost slowing down to an halt to pass the huge pothole directly in front of his house, which was now filled with murky, brackish water after the heavy rain last night. Same old, same old. People were strewn across the streets. There were a few in circular groups, with an active member gesturing wildly and others listening intently in different standing positions. Others were passing by, running errands or heading to places. Richard glimpsed a lady passing by. She was pretty, but not pretty enough for him to make a pass on. Nah, not on this injured leg.

Like other guys his age Richard also wanted a girlfriend to share warmth and affection with, just not the money part. Can’t that just be scraped out of the list? The last girlfriend he was in a relationship with had ran him dry. Real dry! Sola, his EX-girlfriend (and thank God for that…) had been a beast in everything, including in wiping out any money that was not hers. Especially his! If she hadn’t been so demanding during their courtship, Richard was certain that on some space in the internet, the words “net worth” and his name will be connected in the same sentence.

Their relationship had started out so well, she had been so perfect. Or so he had thought. Sola had been good, he’d give her that. She hadn’t come outright demanding for millions, no. She began by wheedling him of airtimes and data plans. He activated monthly subscriptions for Sola daily. Richard was sure she turned on her hotspot for her community. But he loved her and she was sweet and so when Sola started exacting for bags, shoes, clothes and makeup, he gave his money to her even when his bank statements were flashing a blinding, full-on red light. Afterall, its love we’re talking about. Soon, Sola used every moment of their hangouts to show him social media posts and stories of her friends’ birthday surprises. She’d gush and “awwwn” dramatically, specifically pointing out that their boyfriends organized those surprises. Subtly, she’d drop a soft reminder that her birthday was in a month time. Richard could only give fake enthusiasms as he watched her so called friends on her iPhone 12 pro (which he got her, no, which she made him get her) crying softly while opening boxes and boxes of gifts, he watched cringingly as the camera moved back and forth to display other items; portraits of the celebrants, wigs, shoes, bags e.t.c. and Richard could mentally see Sola hands splayed out, going back and forth just like the camera and gesturing to all those gifts. He was shocked when he saw one of her friends in particular (or was it two?) drawing out rolls of one thousand naira notes from a gift box. What was happening in the world? Richard knew that no matter the number of statuses and stories Sola showed him, he could never organize any kind of surprise…he was filthily broke! And with the way things were headed he wouldn’t even have any dime to even buy a birthday card. And so Richard did the necessary, he broke up with Sola. Even though she begged him not to and later even threatened to kill him. He thought she had been joking until she entered her room and appeared few minutes later with a pestle. He was shocked to say the least; he had not waited to see if she intended to pound something, he knew it was most likely him. He had run…fast, dashing his foot on every stone on her casted pathway. He never did understand, for the life of him why Sola lived in that slum, even with all the money she coaxed from every human that crossed her path.

Now his foot was contusioned, and he hadn’t stepped out of his house for the past few weeks. He knew Sola’s birthday was in four days. He had heard rumours that she had started dating another guy he knew from college. Richard only had pity for the guy, someone’s bank account was about to be drenched smoke- dry. He could only be grateful it’s not his. The same young lady Richard caught a glimpse of before his thoughts overtook him, passed by. This time she glanced at him and greeted, smiling enticingly. Not today devil, I am not about to get singed again. Drowning the noise of the streets, Richard closed his eyes and rested his head on the wall behind him, hunting for sleep.

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