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‘Humiliation drove me into achieving my goals in life’ (1)

As a young growing girl, I knew what I wanted for myself in life, although I come from a very poor family. My dream was to become a lawyer cum motivational speaker but my father wanted me to get married to one tout, Mikky, at a very early age. He wanted me to get married because, according to him, “I am a woman therefore there was no need wasting money on my education since I was going to end up in a man’s kitchen anyway.”
My father only trained me through primary school. Then, my mother took over my secondary school education with the little money she made from her petty trade. However, when I got to JSSS 3, toward our J.S.S 3 examinations I had to stop going to school because my mother could not afford the examination fee. Of course, my father bluntly refused to pay. My mother and I pleaded with him to no avail, instead he rather said that the little education I ‘have gathered’ can take me far in life, but that also depends on me. He never forgot to remind me that he would soon give me out in marriage. “Vivian, my major concern is that you must get married to the Mikky so that he can provide for the family,” he said. My father, a plumber, however, does not really take his work seriously because all he does is to sit in front of the house and drink kaikai (local gin). Also, Mikky doles out money to him all the time so he sees him as the saviour of the family, but all was to get me to marry Mikky. But I made it clear to my father that I will never marry Mikky.
Anyway, since I was determined to further my education and become somebody in life, I decided to look for a job as a cleaner in an office so that I can start saving some money for my education. Luckily, in no time, I was able to get a job. I resumed as a cleaner in an engineering company owned by a wealthy family. In the third week of resumption its Managing Director, Vincent, came asking for a missing piece of paper in his office which he termed as ‘very important’. He also searched for some un-disclosed amount of money which he had carelessly kept on his table from the receptionist who disclosed that she knew nothing about it. “Sir, I don’t know anything about the missing document and the money. Why don’t you ask the cleaner, Vivian? She was in your office earlier,” she disclosed. Fortunately, I was in the next office and immediately I came out and told him I kept both the document and money in his right side drawer. He thanked me and surprising-ly gave me a pat at the back and went back into his office.
From that day, I noticed his likeness for me but I overlooked it. Three days later, just as I was leaving the office after work, he too was about driving out and he offered to take me to wherever it was I was going. “Sir, thank you for the offer but I am sure we are not going the same way,” I said. He insisted, so I obliged him. He drove me home and this became the norm almost every other day. The other ladies in the office began to ask what a sophisticated man like Vincent saw in a mere cleaner like me that they did not posses. To my surprise, weeks later, he opened up to me that he liked me. I made him understand that we come from different social class; therefore, there was no way a relationship was going to work. He disclosed that he was not bothered by class difference, what mattered to him was that he truly loved me.
The first time my father saw Vincent brought me back home in his Land Cruiser jeep, he said, “Vivian, my daughter, who is this handsome, rich man? Anyway, if he wants to marry you then we will forget about Mikky provided he can pay him all the money he has spent on this family. As you know he is a tout.” “Papa, he is my boss in the office,” I informed him, even though I knew I too had fallen in love with Vincent. He bought for me my first mobile phone and I was so excited. He is really loving and caring too.
I will talk about Vincent a little. He is tall, dark and handsome, the only son of his parents. He is referred to as one of the hottest bachelors in town. Well, I didn’t know that because I come from a very poor home, it is so bad that we didn’t even have a television at home. Anyway, his father died when he was 13 years old. His mother took charge of the company until he graduated from the university and took over. However, she is the chairman while he is the managing director. Interestingly, she wants him to marry her best friend’s daughter, Han-nah but he refused. He told me, he does not believe in distinguishing between classes, he likes me just the way I am.
God, I could still remember that fateful day Vincent invited me over to his house so that he could introduce me to his mother. Prior to that day, he told me he wanted me to look stylish and chic so he took me for a shopping. He bought clothes, shoes, accessories and all I will need to befit his status. When his mother saw me, she stared at me from head to toe and asked, “Vincent isn’t this the cleaner at the office? What is she doing here or has her services extended to the house?”  “Mummy, she is my guest. I want to officially introduce my girlfriend to you,” Vincent said. To humiliate me, the first question she asked was, “Who are your parents?” “Mummy, that is not necessary,” Vincent retorted. “Son, I am not talking to you. She has got a mouth, I believe, so let her speak for herself,” she insisted.
With respect, I stood up from the chair to answer her questions. “Madam, my father is a plumber and my mother is a petty trader”. No sooner had I spoken than she burst out laughing. “Son, you bring a girl with no name and intro-duce her to me as your girlfriend? Are you not ashamed? Hannah is the girl-friend you need because her family has got a name. This girl is not in our class. She is only a gold digger,” she emphasized. At that point, tears were already dripping down my cheeks and I ran out of the house. Vincent came and tried to console me. He took me to an eatery just to show me he truly loved me and also to ensure that I don’t go home down-cast. We continued our relationship. He spoilt my parents, especially my father, with assorted gifts and money.
Nevertheless, what really spurred me to go back to school was the day I went on a dinner date with Vincent and three of his friends along with their girlfriends. While they discussed about different topics ranging from movies, politics, foreign affairs and even the Nollywood industry, I simply kept silent. This was because I did not want to disgrace myself since I never understood any of those topics. One of his friends noticed my quietness and said, “Hey Vivian, everyone here has said one thing or the other but you have not said a word. Is there a problem?” I said no. When he insisted and I opened my mouth to contribute, I knew I made a lot of blunders that Vincent had to cover his face in shame as his friends made fun of him.
On the way to my house, he never spoke a word to me. When I alighted, he in a minute reversed and zoomed off. That was the last time I saw him. He stopped picking my calls and when I went to the office the next day, the security did not allow me into the premises. My sack letter and salary were dropped for me at the security gate. When I summoned courage to visit him at home, the gateman told me, he had travelled outside the country and won’t be back for several months.
To be continued next week.

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