I was living in my father’s house when I met her. I didn’t have a job. I was laid off at the onset of Covid and I’d found it very hard to get a new job.

I found her during one of my job searches.

I was directed to her office and after talking to her for a while, she requested to see my CV. After going through, she asked what was the reason for my layoff.

I told her, “Covid.” She sympathized with me. She told me, “I will hand over your CV to one of our directors.

“I will personally follow up on it to ensure something comes out of it. Be hopeful.”

We exchanged contacts.

A week later, I called to check how far with my CV. She said, “I’ve given it to the director I spoke to you about. I told him good things about you.

“He said he’ll try his best because of me. Just remain hopeful. Things will change for you.” From that day, I called often to check on the progress.

At some point, I told her, “I’m sorry if I’m pressuring you but my situation has called for that. Please forgive me.” She said, “Don’t worry. What are friends for? I will do my best.”

We became friends because of the constant checkups on her. One day she invited me to her house.

One day, she invited me to her church. One day I realized something was building up between us. She said, “I’m not a small girl, you know that.

“I’ve lived a life before. I have my three kids here as evidence of my past life. Usually, life doesn’t go as planned but we keep moving. He takes care of his kids.

“He’s the reason I own this house. It’s not altogether bad but sometimes I yearn for companionship.”

I told her, “It was my plan to get married before I’m thirty but life happened. It’s not too late though. I’m ready to start over again.” That day I got to know her age. She was five years older than I am. She asked if that would be a problem.

I said, “Age is just a number. What’s important is what’s in the heart.” She asked, “You think your family wouldn’t have problems with you for dating a woman like me?

“Five years older, with three kids?” I said, “I don’t know about that but I trust my parents. If it gives me happiness, they’ll support me.”

We started dating and not too long afterward, she called to tell me that her director wanted to see me. She said, “It’s about the job.

“Be at your best. I believe in the end, you’ll be alright.” I met the man—a very considerate man. He said, “There’s an opening.

“It doesn’t fit your qualification but I believe it’s something you can do if only you are ready to learn.” I told him, “I’m ready to learn.

“In fact, I’m a fast learner and once I’ve learned, I wouldn’t need any supervision again.”

That’s when I landed a job as an operations officer in a manufacturing company with my banking background. I celebrated with her that day. I said, “I owed it all to you, thank you. She awed and she congratulated me.

The job was in a different facility and in a different location but commuting from my father’s house every day to my workplace was going to be tough.

I didn’t have enough to rent a place. She said: “Dear, I live here all alone. It isn’t right but you can come live with me here in the meantime. As soon as you find your feet, you can move.”

I took the offer. She was my girlfriend so why not? A month or so later, I told my parents I was moving to the company house. I said it was temporary until I find my own place. I packed everything and went to live with her.

That was when things started changing. I had to wake up at dawn and help with the kids. The last one is only five so I have to bathe him and set his food up for him to eat before school.

When I come home in the evening too, I will help them with their homework, make sure they don’t watch the wrong channels and when it’s time to sleep, I will make sure they go in and sleep.

I didn’t have complaints until I realized that this woman had left all the work to me. On Saturdays when I’m washing my cloth, she’ll go in there, pack all her clothes and that of the kids and add to mine.

She’ll say, “Just run them through the machine for me. I will come for them and hang them myself.” I will finish washing and she’ll be nowhere to be found so I had to go and hang them myself.

She left all the utilities for me to pay and left all the cleaning of the house for me. In the night, she’ll jump on me and if I dare complain of tiredness, she’ll accuse me of cheating.

I’ve been doing this for the past nine months. I’m supposed to save and move out of her place but currently, I still don’t have much because of all the things I have to pay out of my salary. Even her car, she takes fuel from me often.

At first, I thought to myself, “It’s fair because I don’t pay rent.” Now I wish she took rent from me.

Recently, she has started talking about marriage. She has started talking about how I’ve been a lot of help since I came into her life and all.

She asked: “When do you intend for us to get married as promised?” I don’t remember when I promised marriage but if I said from the beginning that I was going to marry her, now I don’t want to marry her. I’ve seen enough and gone through enough to know she’s the wrong girl for me.

Maybe she has realized my cold feet attitude towards the marriage plans so she has started drumming home all the help she has ever given to me. “Remember I’m the reason you got a job.

“Remember I’m the reason you have a comfortable place to stay. You men don’t remember the good things women do for you when you find your feet.

“You don’t have to forget because you’re still enjoying the goodness that came into your life because of me.”

I want to leave but as I said, I need the right financial muscle to be able to leave. I’ve thought of going back to my parents’ house but that will also come with a lot of inconveniences.

If anything, I should go back home as a man who has his life together and not a man returning home because he couldn’t be his own man.

I’m in a fix now. The longer I stay here the longer I give her the impression that marriage between us is imminent.

She has been a lot of help so I don’t want a situation where things will end badly. If it has to end, it has to end well.

I need help out of this situation. How do I tell her that marriage isn’t possible and still continue living in her house?