MEMOIRS OF A BROKEN HEART 8
by Richard Oti
Akin had great pleasure breaking the news to me as we sat in the car headed back to central Abuja city. It felt like an ice-box had replaced my heart. I was cold, and in shock, a little more shock would have been all that was needed for a heart attack. It wasn’t that Chyoma didn’t have a right to move on. But she deserved better. She was the closest thing to my idea of an angel. It felt as if I just began to relive the divorce all over again.
“Congratulations,” I said to Akin. At least, I wanted him to know I wished him well. If he was going to be anywhere close to my daughter, I wanted to be in his good books from now on. Because he was now in a capacity to determine if I would ever see her again or not. I couldn’t imagine Shirley being treated any less than I would treat her. Akin had already shown me that he could treat people like lesser mortals.
Etim tried a few jokes, thinking that was going to lighten my mood. He had heard Akin break the news and knew how much impact it was having on me. Etim was almost like a member of Chyoma’s family, and there was nothing about Chyoma and me that he wasn’t aware of.
“Oga Etim.” My tongue seemed tied. I was dizzy and nauseous all of sudden. “Drop me at City Gate.” I managed to get those few words out.
“Oga, I been wan carry you reach your house,” Etim replied, looking concerned.
“Just stop at City Gate, please. Thank you.” I didn’t want to give Akin the pleasure he would have hoped for. He wouldn’t see me cry, I kept telling myself.
My flames of hope had become a smoke of despair. I had dressed extra-special to the airport, spending extra time to shave, and perfume my body. I was hoping that Chyoma would find me to still be the eye candy she had always admired and that maybe she could see that though we were separated, I had never gone a day without wishing we could be back again. Each day, I remembered our vow, the moment I promised to love her in sickness and in health, for better and even when hell breaks loose.
Our wedding day was beautiful. I stood inside the church, waiting for her to walk in. She had requested that ‘A thousand years’ by Christina Perri be played for that moment because she always liked to tell me how she would love me for a thousand years and after the first thousand years, she would have no regrets, and would be ready for a thousand more. As she walked down the aisle, I couldn’t believe that God had been that gracious to me; blessing me with the most beautiful girl alive. In my eyes, she remained the perfect girl, never looking a day older than when we first met.
The first kiss was magical. I had waited patiently for it. It was the beginning of our thousand years together. I couldn’t wait to leave everyone and everything behind and just whisk her away. I wanted to look into those beautiful eyes all night. I wanted to watch her sleep. I wanted to hold her hands all day and keep her wrapped around me at night. I couldn’t wait to be the father of the children she would bear.
Now, sitting beside Akinyele, all I wanted to do was to sing a sad song, and hope that a good sleep would help erase my memory. Maybe a temporary amnesia would be perfect. How would I live through this nightmare? Did hope and faith still have a plan for me? If I could still tell her how much I loved her, would the Heavens fight on my behalf?
When Shawn and I got home, we both fell fast asleep. I could not comfort him and neither could he do so for me. We were both hurting deeply. He missed his sister. I missed her too. I had never met a little girl so charming. Shirley warmed the atmosphere every time she stepped in. It was magical. As a little girl, Shirley was already learning to be selfless. I watched her several times over the few days we spent. She would do things for Shawn that amazed me. There was nothing too good for Shirley that she couldn’t share with her brother and me. I was blessed to be her father.
“Lala, Brotherly, it has happened,” Akin shouted, “I no fit contain my joy,” he added.
“Baddo, wetin happen nah?” Fred asked.
“Brotherly, e just be like when persin dey drill for crude oil for many years, and then finally, you just hit a gusher. Lala, I asked Chyoma to marry me,”
Akin quickly rushed to his fridge and pulled out a bottle of Andre Brut Champagne; a blend of pinot noir.
“Ehen!” Fred anxiously replied.
“She has agreed. Brotherly, just like film trick.”
“Badoski, kai, I dey fear you.”
“Oh boy, this marriage must happen before this year ends. Show this night abeg make we pop champagne,” Akin replied.
I had barely napped for 30 minutes before my phone began to ring. It took almost all the strength I had to open one eyelid. It was Ndidi calling. I gradually shut my eye back and drifted off again. I didn’t want to speak to anyone. For the first time in my life, I felt I didn’t want to live again. But as my body moved a little, it touched Shawn, and I realized I still had one reason to stay alive, one reason to fight, one reason to hope for the best. I reached my arms and wrapped them around him.
“Mummy,” Chyoma called out happily. “Guess what?”
“You know I don’t like guessing,” Mrs. Frances replied.
“Akin asked me to marry him, and I said – yes.”
“Ewo! Ewo!” Mrs. Frances shouted. “I have to tell your father the good news before he leaves for the airport o.”
“Please don’t, I would do so myself. Is daddy busy at the moment?”
“You know that even if your father is with the president, he will pick up whenever you call,” Mrs. Frances murmured. “There is almost nothing that your father would not do for you. I’m jealous of you o.”
“Haba mummy, Is there anything that he doesn’t do for you too?”
“When you married Mitchel, he wanted to give both of you ten million Naira as your wedding gift. Has he ever given me that kind of money before?”
“But Mitchel didn’t accept it. Because of you, remember?”
“How was it because of me?” Mrs. Frances asked.
“You were the one that said he was marrying me for the money. The moment he heard that, he refused to even collect a dime from you or daddy. I hope after four years, you now believe that he loved me, and was not my husband for the money.”
“Let’s talk about your new husband to be. Please leave Mitchel alone. He is history.”
“Mummy, I need to call daddy. I’d talk to you later,” Chyoma said and then she dropped the call.
“Daddy, how are you?” Chyoma greeted, excited to speak with her father again. “It’s been just over 3 hours, but I miss you so much already.”
“I already miss you too, my dear. But I’d visit soon when I’m In the States.”
Chyoma discussed a lot of things with her father. But she found it difficult to hit the bull’s eye, the main reason why she had called. “Daddy, what would you say if I tell you that I…” A pause followed; it was lengthy and awkward.
“If you tell me what, my dear?” he requested to know.
“It’s Akin,” Chyoma said. “He has asked me to marry him.”
“What was your reply?”
“I said yes. I love Akin, Daddy.”
“I have trained you and Nennaya to trust your instincts and take responsibility for your actions. I really think you might be making a mistake this time, but I have no proof for that hunch. I respect your decision. You have my support, a hundred percent.”
“Thank you, daddy, I love you.”
Akin had had several hours of partying, he had uploaded a picture of Chyoma on all his social media platforms with the caption – my wife, in a few weeks. The congratulatory messages kept pouring in. And so did the insults too, from some of the ladies who had been played by him at some point. He was proud of Chyoma. Who wouldn’t be proud of a fiancée who was that beautiful, and rich too?
“My baby!” Akin said, and then he looked at his watch as if he just realized he should have checked the time before calling. “Did I wake you up?”
“No, it’s just a few minutes past 10. You know I’m nocturnal… the night is still very young.”
“How are you?”
“I’m fine, babe.”
“How’s my little angel,” Akin asked, “is she sleeping?” he added.
“Yes,” Chyoma informed. And they went ahead to talk and enjoy each other’s companionship over the phone.
I had awoken a few minutes past 11:00 pm. The last meal I had was breakfast, I was a little hungry, so I fixed a light dinner. Shawn was still in slumberland. He resembled his lovely sister a lot in sleep; calm, cute and innocent.
The hours of sleep had been refreshing. I felt less bitter and seemed to want to talk to Chyoma and just tell her what I should have told her since the day we had lunch together with the kids after four years of being apart.
I knew she would be awake, so I went ahead to dial her number. “Hey,” I said and waited for a response.
“Mitchie, how are you?”
“I am-,” I kept quiet for some seconds. Was I about to lie? Or the cliché would suffice as it always did.
“Hey!” She asked after I had been silent for a while.
“I’m still here.” It had to be now or never. I had nothing left to lose. If I tell Chyoma or not, Akin was going to be her husband in a matter of weeks or months. “I love you,” I blurted out.
That was all I could say. At least, when Chyoma walks down that aisle, or when she gets her first kiss after the vow, she would know that I still loved her. I promised to love her forever. Things changed, but my heart remained the same, I still loved her.
“Mitchie, you know I love you too, right?”
I wasn’t sure I could attest to that with all that had happened with Akin. “Yes, I do.” I didn’t want to be a jerk, at least not on a night that meant a lot to her. I wanted to share the joy with her, although it was not the kind I had hoped for. “I’d do anything-anything you need me to do. Just call on my name, and I’d be there.”
Chyoma seemed to laugh and asked if I was quoting the Jackson 5 hit song – I’d be there. I hadn’t even thought about that. I laughed it off and went ahead to tell her how happy I was for her. To be honest, I was sad. I would have been happier if she was about to wed a more responsible man than me. Someone noble. No guy readily accepts that another guy might be a better man than he is, but I was certain that Akin was not even half the man I had been all of my life.
“Have you guys fixed a date?” Should I be asking these questions? Or do I just go ahead to tell her that in a month of being his wife, she would wish she had never said – yes? I badly wanted to reveal all that Akin had said to me, and done to me. Shouldn’t she know how bad this guy had been treating me? She had never asked. I was the villain, and he the superhero. I decided to keep my lips sealed.
“We talked about a date for the wedding, barely 30 minutes ago,” Chyoma said, “hold on Mitchie,” she added.
While holding on, I thought about Ndidi and the future we could have. A small grin broke out on my face. I won’t lie, as much as I felt so blessed to know her, I wasn’t still sure I wanted to spend forever with her. Maybe time would work wonders between us. But for now, I couldn’t tell. But I was willing to give it a shot, now that I had lost to Akin on this end.
“Sorry Mitch, it was room service.”
“That’s fine,” I said. “back to talking about the wedding date. Remember?”
“Yes, I do. Akin wants us to tie the knot before Christmas.”
“Wow! You have only 4 weeks to do so.”
“Yea, I know. Seems like everything is being rushed, but I understand his reasons. He is afraid that time and distance could play a fast one on the two of us.”
Oh, please, spare me. A better reason would have been that Akin needed to become the son-in-law of the Minister of Foreign Affairs as soon as possible and start eating money. “Yes, I agree,” I said. Was it really in my power to disagree? “So, that means you’d be back in Nigeria, in a few weeks to say – I do?”
“Yes. I should be in the country three nights before the wedding day. I’m planning on having a small wedding. I don’t think It’s something I can’t plan from the US.”
“That’s fine.” As we spoke, I kept thinking about Shirley. I really wanted to make a selfish request. A wish that I would be granted custody of Shirley. Yea, that’s selfish, I know, so I shelved the thought.
I tried to stay in touch with Akin after that night as much as I could. A beautiful text to him once in a while wouldn’t hurt. The taunting and insults didn’t stop, but as long as he was going to have some part in Shirley’s life, I had to befriend him, before he would give my daughter rat poison because he hated me. I didn’t doubt his capability to do such, for a minute.
Dec 16th, 2015
It was a slightly cold Wednesday, the Harmattan was wrapping its arms around the city. I had spent some time with Ndidi that morning. Things were not picking up as fast as she would have loved. It was my fault. I had still held back from her, a lot. The heart doesn’t heal overnight. I know people say – move on like it is the easiest thing to do. Have you experienced a broken relationship before? Ok, that disqualifies you from passing judgment.
I was about to start watching the 5th Season of 24 when my phone rang. Jack Bauer seemed to be my hero. Wouldn’t it have been nice If I could kidnap Akin, and teach him one or two things I had learned from Jack?
It was my ex-father-in-law calling. I was a little surprised, but since Chyoma was to return to Nigeria that day, I guessed that was the reason he was calling.
“Eclectic Mitchie,” Ambassador Andrew called out, sounding full of the juice of life.
“Daddy, good evening,” I greeted him. It was splendid to hear his voice.
“How is my grandson?”
“He’s taking a siesta. That’s the reward for several hours of play.”
Ambassador Andrew laughed and then went ahead to remind me how every child deserves the chance to play, for as long as time would permit them.“I’m sure you know my daughter is coming in today?” the Ambassador asked, and didn’t even give room for a reply. “Saturday is going to be amazing,” he added.
“Yes, Saturday would be fantastic,” I replied, a little confused why it should be fun for me, of all people. I knew it would be amazing for Mrs. Frances, Akinyele, Chyoma, and now the Ambassador had added his name to the list. But, certainly not me.
“I want you to look your best on Saturday. I’m sending Etim over to your place soon. I want him to take you and Shawn shopping for new suits.”
I couldn’t understand why I needed to wear a new suit for Chyoma and Akin’s wedding. I was only attending because Chyoma had told me several times that if nobody else made it, she didn’t want to look for me. If that was the only wedding gift I could give her, I was determined to do so. “I still have that Dolce & Gabanna suit you gave me sir on my wedding anniversary,” I reminded him. I would have even preferred to appear in khaki shorts and a white t-shirt. What was the deal with looking cute for the wedding? Who fine boy epp?
“Oh, that suit must be old by now. That’s about five years ago. You need something new. You need to look dapper,” Ambassador Andrew said, and went ahead to insist that I had to go shopping.
If this man knew how clean that Dolce & Gabanna suit was, and how I had been preserving it, he would know that in five more years I could still wear it and look good. “Thank you, sir,” I replied. It wouldn’t hurt to shop a little, I thought. I couldn’t remember the last time I had such an offer. I had never even had one before.
“I’d send Etim to pick you up on Saturday morning also. Please, you both should be ready on time.”
Why was this sounding strange to me? “OK, sir,” I replied.
Etim was outside the house at past 5 pm, waiting to take us shopping. “Ete, Idem fo?” (Efik – how are you)
“Idem mi osong,” he replied. (Efik -I am well)
Shawn and I got into the SUV and made ourselves comfortable. “Has Madam Chyoma arrived?”
“By 6 pm sir. But no be me dey go airport. Na oga official driver dey go pick am.”
I wanted to ask him why my ex-father-in-law was having him take me around while someone else would have to pick up Chyoma and Shirley. But it was evident that he wouldn’t be privy to such information. “So, where oga say make we go?” I inquired.
We drove to Ceddi plaza, and I was welcomed like royalty. It was a blank cheque to shop for the best suits, shoes, and accessories for Shawn and me. I took a dark blue plaid Kiton suit and another Black by Ralph Lauren. The prices scared me. I had never imagined wearing a suit worth over a hundred thousand Naira. But now I had two of such being packed for me, with shoes that could pay off half of my rent.
Shopping for the suits had been a joy, but it was not anything compared to the pure bliss I hoped to experience when I could stare at those beautiful eyes and hear that precious voice call out – daddy, again.
That night I spoke to Chyoma. It was the nicest call we had ever had since we got divorced. I couldn’t understand why all this harmony now when it was too late. It reminded me of how we enjoyed each other’s company while we were married; I couldn’t wait to get off work just to be home on time. She would always tell me how much she had missed me and how her heart kept beating for me all day. For what it was worth, I would have given up anything to have just one more day like that. But as they say, you don’t miss the water till it runs dry.
It was the day we had all waited for, not one I had really looked forward to. I had tried to bury my emotions and everything else I could too. But they all seemed to awaken that morning, staring at me with a million eyes. The thought that I had failed my kids ricochet around my mind, as I kept trying to get myself and Shawn dressed for the big day.
I hadn’t yet seen Shirley because her mother had been so busy, and I didn’t want to go visit her at home. You can understand that I was trying to preserve my dignity, the little I still had. You don’t want your self-respect putting on wings and flying out every now and then. It might never return again.
“Badoski,” Fred called out, looking at his Friend with such envy and admiration.
“Lala, the day don reach o. Finally!”
“If person tell me say one day you go marry, I no for believe, at all,” Fred said.
“Brotherly, wetin I dey find again?” Akin asked his friend and best man for his wedding.
“Na so nah.. Iyawo mi toh fine gan gan (my wife is really fine). My father-in-law; baba olowo ( a wealthy man), and now, I have endless opportunities too. Wetin again?”
“But how you go take cover all the lie wey you don tell now?”
“Lala, brotherly, leave that one for me. I don cover all that one already. See ehn, after today, we dey enter Calabar tomorrow morning. Na from calli she dey go Lagos, from there America. Before you know, I don join am for America, start new life. I go just claim say I sell everything wey I get for Nigeria to come join am for there. Lala, you no know me yet o. E don tey. But finally, I don dey like the girl well well.”
“Baddo, no forget me o. Na me help you pass.”
“Brotherly, haba. We be mens nah. If I forget anyone, no be you. But for now make we dey dress, time dey go.”
At the Ambassador’s Residence
“Is Shirley ready?” Chyoma screamed from her room. She was wearing her makeup. Nennaya and Ezinne were with her.
“Leave Shirley alone, it’s all about you today, isn’t it?”
“You guys don’t have a clue what is happening today, do you?” Chyoma asked her best friend and sister, who were both looking astonished.
“It’s your wedding day. That’s why we spent the entire night here with you, having a ladies night out, one more time,” Nennaya replied and then walked over to the air-conditioner, adjusting the temperature of the room. “Is there something else we don’t know?”
“I know you might be a little nervous, I’ll be if I were walking down that aisle a second time,” Ezinne said.
“You both don’t have a clue what I mean. Don’t worry, time would tell. I’m so happy. Happier than I have ever been in a while.”
“The house is busy. Cousins, relatives and everyone you want around you on this special day. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t be excited,” Nennaya said.
Etim picked Shawn and me up at about 23 minutes past the hour of 9 in the morning. It almost looked like I was the one wedding, and Shawn was going to be the little groom. My little Pharisee looked so handsome. What would you expect? He was a chip off the old block. Like father, like son, many would say. You can imagine how I looked.
As we drove to the venue, I was reminded of 6 years before then. I had no car to use on my wedding morning. Mrs. Frances would not allow the driver to come pick me up. After I had waited till almost 10:00 am, I had to leave home, and get there with a cab. I’ll tell you one thing; If I had to get there on a donkey, I was willing to do so. All I wanted to do was put that ring on her finger and give her that first kiss. I had prayed and wished for it ever since I met her and knew that I wouldn’t want to spend forever with anyone else.
“Shawn, are you alright?” I asked. He looked somber and a little downcast. I couldn’t guess what was running through his mind. But I knew that he had a little understanding that his mother was going to be marrying someone else that morning. It wasn’t her fault. I was the failure. I was the one who should have fought for her. I was the one who didn’t fight to stay with her for a thousand years.
She had fought off everyone’s opinion of me and their negative rhetoric of how she was making a big mistake to marry me. It was just her father and sister standing by her when the entire world was against our marriage. It didn’t change her mind for one second. Then why did I give her a reason to after 2 years?
I put my arm on Shawn’s shoulder and held him close. “It’s going to be alright,” I said as we approached the venue. “You would see Shirley soon,” I added, believing that would comfort him a little. He had been waiting to see his cute sister again.
You could hear a pin drop in that car. Etim was as quiet too. I had never been with Etim and have him that quiet in 6 years. It seemed the three of us had drifted in deep thoughts. I didn’t know what he and Shawn were thinking, but I kept wishing that Jesus would return that morning as Chyoma was about to say – I do. I just wanted something to stop the wedding from happening. If Akin gave her a lifetime of pain, I would feel guilty for giving her the chance to meet him in the first place. If our marriage had worked out, he would never have had a chance.
The car came to a stop inside the Whitewalls Tents and Events venue, Wuse II. I spent the first minute looking around. I couldn’t believe what Chyoma’s and her team had done to this place. It looked like… I wish you were there. It’s hard to explain. There was this beautiful wedding arch decorated with brightly colored flowers. And the man-made lake; It just left me breathless. The path through which Akin and Chyoma were to walk was carved out with dahlia and rose flowers. There were about a hundred and twenty chairs, arranged 60 a piece, facing the beautiful altar. The opposite side of the lake was where the reception was to take place. The roundtables had been neatly arranged. How could she plan all these in 3 days? My head was spinning.
Walking away from the car, with Shawn’s hand in mine, I headed towards the sitting area. There were a few people there already. Etim quickly showed me a woman who was dressed in aso oke. Her gele stretched towards the heavens and the tribal marks on her face had been covered with Mary Kay Foundation. “That’s Akin’s mother,” Etim whispered to me. He went ahead to inform me that the person beside her was his brother also. He had flown them in from Lagos and lodged them in an exquisite hotel. He had to live up to the status he had created for himself. His father wasn’t there I was told, but a few other relatives had been around too. I kept wondering how a woman looking that innocent could give birth to a piranha-like Akin. It had to be his father’s genes, I thought.
Shawn and I made our way to the front row. The first and second seat. I also reserved the third for Shirley. The people began to arrive one by one. Each time I looked back, I saw a new face. After a while, I looked back, and I saw a few of our friends in church. The ones that knew when Chyoma and I began our relationship. I was wondering what they were doing there. They were closer to me than they were to Chyoma, why did she invite them? That was none of my business. Well, I was about to make it my business. I had planned to walk up to them when my ex-father-in-law arrived in his Rolls Royce Phantom. Mehn! The glasses were tinted. His security aide first got off the car and then opened the back door for him. The first person to drop off was that little girl who holds the key to my heart.
“Shirley, baby,” I screamed out, not caring who was looking or listening.
“Daddy,” she responded and began to run towards me. I didn’t stand and wait. I started to move towards her too. Up in the air, she went as my hands touched her. My lips on her cheeks, and hers on mine severally. I had missed her so much. She was gorgeously dressed in a Jenny Packham designer frock. Her hair was styled in the dutch braid. “Shawn,” she screamed as her eyes met his. I don’t know if he had been overwhelmed with emotions, but he hadn’t shouted back, he just kept walking towards us slowly. When he arrived, his eyes were watery. I let his sister down and gave them a little space while I went to welcome the Ambassador.
“You are welcome, sir,” I greeted and smiled at Ambassador Andrew. He looked 10 years younger, and a lot happier.
“Thank you, Mitchel. You look superb in your suit. I’m glad you are here. It’s a big day you know, a very big one.” This man has begun with his big-day-talk, I murmured.
“Thank you, sir. I wouldn’t have looked this lovely if you hadn’t been generous enough to let me shop on your account.”
While we were talking, a senator who had been around walked up to us, to greet Ambassador Andrew.
Amb. Andrew quickly introduced me. “This is my son-in-law,” he said and smiled with the corner of his mouth.
“Your ex-son-in-law,” I whispered to him immediately. It was not a good day to be making such mistakes. But the Ambassador acted like he had not heard me. He did the same thing when another government official walked up to greet him. I decided to chill and just ignore everything. What was the difference basically?… Take away the ex, what you have left would be son-in-law.
As I walked back towards my seat, I saw my cousin. This was irritating me now. Why would Chyoma invite my cousin? Haba! It was embarrassing enough for me to be there with the kids, dressed like I was the one giving out the bride. Now, my friends were there and my cousin. I just kept a straight face like I hadn’t seen her and walked back to my seat. It’s better I play Ray Charles, and act like I didn’t see anybody. After a few hours, it would all be over, I imagined as I sat down.
The first Car arrived. It was a white limousine carrying Akinyele Olaoluwa Opeyemi Solarin. I didn’t forget… you can add Judas Iscariot to the list of names. Akin got out of the car. I heard people say – wow. It seemed like he had built his upper body a bit more. The suit fitted and Akin actually looked handsome. His hair had more grease than usual, and almost like a lady, he had a pretty smile. He seemed happy.
Fred got off the car too. Fred didn’t turn heads like his friend, Akin. He looked rather outrageous in a suit and a little timid too. You know, he had that kind of face that fits a kaftan, and not an Italian suit. I’d like to call it the ‘alaba face.’ They both walked down towards the altar as soft music played in the background. I tried cheering and arousing the crowd as he came closer. I wanted him to see that I wasn’t his enemy. It was all a show, at least one that was done in Shirley’s interest.
Then the next car pulled off. It was Chyoma. I quickly stood up, and so did everyone. The door opened, and for a few seconds, it seemed time stood still. We were all waiting to see the face of the most beautiful lady in the world. My heart and soul. The mother of my children. She got off the car. The veil was covering her face, but I could see right through it. I could see the beautiful lips, lightly coated with a light reflecting plumped shine lip gloss. I could see her eyelids polished with mascara. I could see those beautiful eyes that looked like living wells of love. I could see her ears and the diamond earrings dropping from each end. I could see it all even if no one else could see beyond the veil.
Her wedding dress was a line floor-length cathedral patterned gown. Lacey on some ends and had so many shiny stones that glittered attached all over. I couldn’t see her shoes as the gown caressed the lush green grass. It was beautiful.
Don’t tell me it was too late to fight one more time. Don’t tell me, this was the end, that my wick-of-hope was finally about to go off in a few minutes. It was a solemn moment for me. Marry me by Train began to play over the speakers as Chyoma’s father walked her down the aisle. I thought I would have been man enough to cheer her on, but I quickly had to turn the other way because the tears wouldn’t let me mask my emotions. Each step she took reminded me of how she walked down the aisle to the sounds of Christina Perri’s ‘A thousand years.’ As I kept fighting back the tears, I realized that a little hand slipped up mine and squeezed it tight. It was Shirley. It was as if she understood how I was feeling.
As Chyoma walked up to our row. She stopped, and for a moment turned toward the kids and me, and then she smiled. Was I losing my defenses? I was hoping I could make it out of the wedding in one piece, but at that point, I wasn’t sure anymore.
The pastor kicked off the wedding ceremony with a prayer; one that was heartfelt. Then he proceeded to give his opening remarks. If I tell you I heard anything he said, I would be lying. My mind had drifted off, as far as I let it, and it was still sailing further. Then he preached a short sermon which lasted for about 15 minutes. But to me, I could have said it was nothing short of 2 hours. I wished it would last even longer, so that maybe by the time he was done, Chyoma might have changed her mind about the wedding.
It was time to exchange the vows. The preacher asked if there was anyone in the crowd who had a strong reason why the wedding shouldn’t proceed. My hand had never itched me that much. I wanted to raise it high to the heavens, jump to my feet and shout in Akin’s face – you don’t deserve this beautiful woman. But the headlines would read the next day – jealous stupid ex-husband crashes the wedding.
While I was still thinking, I heard the noise at the back, turning to look, there was a finger shot up in the air. It seemed a few people were trying to persuade whoever-the-woman was to put her finger down. In a few more seconds, another finger was up a few rows behind. Then a third. Then my father-in-law too. Then Shirley, and of course, the little Pharisee has to always join his ‘siamese’ twin. It was incredible.
Akin looked dazed and confused, but Chyoma looked calmer than I would have expected. My ex-mother-in-law was already screaming at the back. Nennaya and Ezinne had to help take her away before she would have a cardiac arrest.
Chyoma had requested the pastor give her the mic. She had something to say.
“Akin, do you know the first woman who opposed our marriage? ” She asked him.
“I have no idea who that is. I’m sure Mitchel hired her or something,” he responded, angry, breathing heavily.
“That is your aunty, Mr. Tai Solarin’s daughter.”
Akin didn’t know what to say.
“How ‘bout the other man who lifted his fingers after she did?”
“I don’t know him,” Akin replied, he was a little more mellow now.
“That’s the HOD of Business Administration, University of Lagos. You don’t know him too?”
I had no idea that Ambassador Andrew had investigated Akin. Akin was not even related to Tai Solarin as he claimed. They just shared the name. So, he had no idea who the lady was. And because he never went to the University of Lagos, he had no Idea that the man who had raised his hand was a long-serving professor of the Business Administration Department and former Head of Department.
I quickly adjusted my neck tie. I didn’t want anything to disturb me from enjoying the drama. How did Akin think he would get away with deceiving Ambassador Andrew? For the first time, it made sense to me. I kept wondering if everyone had drunk the ‘be stupid’ syrup and had lost their sense-of-reason.
“My father has in his possession right now, documents that prove you never went to Yale School of Architecture as the résumé you sent to my dad claims. How long did you think you could lie to me and get away with it?”
Akin just stared at Chyoma in disbelief. I liked the look on his face. It seemed like he was watching a horror movie.
“I realized you vilified Mitchie with every opportunity you got. You lied that Mitchie took your phone, and that was why you couldn’t call me when I got to Sierra-leone. How ‘bout the barrage of insults you sent to him severally? I know about everything you slime of a man.” Chyoma broke into tears as she spoke. Akin tried to put his arms around her. “Take that filth off me, she screamed into the microphone. Now, I’m almost certain that the little girl with emphysema is also a lie. How would I have spent the rest of my life with a serial liar? Just how?”
At this point, everyone was standing. Not knowing what to expect next. This was a high-profile wedding. The cameras were still rolling, and the journalist had their hands full.
Then Chyoma walked up to me. I was hoping she wanted to apologize for not listening to me all-the-while. “Mitchie,” she said, in a sweet tone.
Suddenly, it seemed the picture began to fit. Chyoma had planned to do this to Akin already. That was why my ex-father-in-law had been saying it was going to be a fantastic day. I turned to look at him, and he was smiling.
But I still couldn’t understand why my friends and my cousin were invited too. Why the suit shopping too?
“We’ve only spent two out of a thousand years together. We still have 998 years to go. Each day of these four years without you was like living without a part of me. I know that I could be a loudmouth sometimes. But you’ve always been everything I have ever wanted. Mitchie, I’m sor-”
“Shhhhhhhhh! I quickly stopped her. I’m sorry I didn’t fight hard enough. I didn’t pray long enough. If there is any regret I have in my life, It’s letting you go. I was not there when Shirley started the first day of school. I have not given her the chance to introduce her father to her friends.”
She just kept looking at me with a spark in her eyes. “Will you-”
I quickly realized what was happening. Now I understood why the new suit, my friends and cousin being there, and my father-in-law’s awkward joy. So, I quickly composed myself. “What are you trying to say?”
Chyoma laughed, and then she smiled. “Will you re-marry me and spend the remaining 998 years of your life with me. Will you give me your heart one more time? Will you wake up with me in the morning and spend all day with me again. Will you be my husband once again?”
I leaned forward and kissed her on the lip. It was like our first kiss, magical in every way. I like to have fainted. I could hear the crowd cheering and screaming. The kids walked up to us, and we just kept hugging and crying. I had waited for four years for that day, and God had been so gracious to me. Akin had been very kind too. Who would have believed that he helped plan my wedding?
Fight for love. Divorce hurts them kids and wreaks much havoc. Love your wife like Christ loves the church… Stay together!
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Story Written by Richard Oti.
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
November 11, 2017
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