Peju kept checking her phone more frequently than I had ever seen her do.
“Babe, you can’t wait to see the guy?” I teased.
“It is just some few more hours, and you are Mrs Peju Phillip Idowu forever, please stay calm,”I advised.
“If you do not mind, I need to take that phone from you and let the make-up artist finish her work,” I said taking her cell from her.
The speed at which Peju snatched the phone back was alarming.
“Is everything okay?” I asked with a crease of worry etching across my forehead as every scenario of a wedding gone wrong flashed through my mind.
“All is well, just a surprise I am pulling for Phil today,” she said nervously.
I plopped down into the seat beside hers.
“Girl, let me into this surprise,” I pleaded.
“Not on your life. You wait and find out,” she said her eyes twinkling with excitement.
“Great, a gentle reminder that we are no more on the same part,” I sulked trying to blackmail her.
Peju read through my act and shrugged her shoulders.
“Try something else to make me feel guilty, into telling you,” she said looking me in the eyes.
“Make sure you catch that bouquet of mine,” she commanded more than advised.
“You must be next in line,” she demanded.
“You believe in all those myths?” I snorted in my usual unladylike manner that I was not proud of but displayed in moments like this.
“I do and you should. Perhaps the guy, wherever he is would show up soon,” she joked.
“I can’t wait for you to get married,” she gushed much to my annoyance.
“No please don’t go that route. As much as this wedding has done its number on me and I have thawed to the concept of marriage. I am still not in a hurry to relinquish this freedom or heart of mine,” I argued.
“I hope you recognise love when you see it,” she grumbled.
“Remember our deal,” her eyes brightened as she challenged me.
“Oh no,” I groaned.
“Peju not today, must we go over that your crazy deal?” I asked as I had all but forgotten about it.
“It’s not crazy but a challenge to open your heart and eyes to love again, besides you get a ticket to travel,” she argued relentlessly.
“I refuse to be baited Peju. You don’t play games at love. It just happens,”I said snapping my fingers.
“And you of all people know that. It is not some cold, calculated business deal,” I chided too vehemently.
“Andrew is out of it,” I announced.
“No, that might have been a possibility, but I realised you wouldn’t go there,” she said sardonically.
“Smart girl, then you should know that I am neither desperate nor in a hurry to walk don’t the aisle, no pressure please?” It was more of a question than a statement.
“No pressure,” Peju said meekly.
I looked at her suspiciously. It was strange for Peju to give in that way but I shrugged it off.
“Time will tell and just for the benefit of your doubt. I am not closed to marriage entirely. So girl, allay your fears that I would die an old maid. If I have to, I aim to be a happy one,” I said tongue in cheek.
Peju rolled her eyes. “I hope you eat your words today,” she boasted.
“Something I should know about?” I inquired.
“No,” she shook her head.
“Nothing, but when we walk down that aisle today may whatever the firm reservation you have crumble completely and all you’ll ever want after that is to walk down that aisle too,” she prayed.
I was not going to argue with Peju. It was futile especially when she got into those her campaign modes.
We all wowed Peju when she got into her gown. She was a vision of a perfect bride, radiating with beauty and elegance. Frank Osodi had outdone himself with her gown. While I wanted to take the credit for name dropping, I had to give it to Peju for going ahead with him.
Tears pooled in my eyes, and I willed it not to fall and make a mess of my makeup.
“You are beautiful,” I choked. I could not be happier for Peju today.
“I hope Phil will be able to wait as you walk down the aisle to him. I want to capture the moment he sees you,” I whispered dreamily.
“Please don’t make me cry. I can’t ruin my makeup,” Peju begged.
We all laughed, but there were not a dry eye in that room as we dabbed our eyes and walked to the car.
The organ started the wedding marching song and as Peju walked in I caught my breath.
I could not believe how I found her. She was beautiful in a way I had never envisioned. I swallowed hard and could not wait for the ceremony to be over. I was one lucky man and seeing her walking towards me only confirmed it. I vowed to make her the most happiest t and fulfilled woman alive God helping me. Peju deserved the best.
It could only have been five minutes, but it seemed it took a lifetime for her to get to where I was. As I removed the veil and she smiled at me, it took all my willpower not to hold and kiss her before the Minister gave us the instruction.
Every other word was blurred until I felt a sharp nudge at my back. It was the best man. He used his eyes and nodded to the Pastor who was staring at me disapprovingly.
I wondered if he could read my thoughts but it was not that he had to repeat the wedding vows.
“Do you take Peju Phillips to be your lawful wedded wife, to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do you part?”
“I do,” I responded as I scolded myself for allowing my mind to wander and not pay attention.
The minister asked Peju the same question, and her voice came out in the sweetest melody I had ever heard.
We exchanged our wedding rings, Peju and me, Phil Idowu became the lawful husband of the prettiest girl in the whole world.
The moment to kiss the bride was finally here and I got lost in it, till I heard the Minister cough in the background and I reluctantly relinquished my bride.
As we faced the church and people came around to congratulate us, all I wanted was to take my wife out of the church, and we continue our business without the crowd. I don’t know if other men before me felt this way on their wedding day but the party was just a torture I had to keep smiling through, collecting the slaps on the back by the men and boys with remarks on how to take it easy tonight.
Now that proves one thing I was not the only one thinking that way.
I could not have been happier as the officiating Minister announced to the church.
“We present to you the newest couple on the face of the earth. Mr and Mrs Phil Idowu. How did he know that? There were a thousand other marriages worldwide going on at this very minute? Why did they always say that at every wedding? Was it to make the couple feel good or the usual wedding proclamation?
A thousand strings pulled at all corners of my heart and stomach. I was jittery with excitement. Finally, I had the MRS to my name with a guy I was so in love with and who worshiped the ground I walked on. Life could not be more fulfilling that it was right now. I was living my dream of life, love, laughter and luxury.
The next on my plan for the day as I searched the crowd for the face. It could only be me planning a coup d’etat while smiling my joy to the whole world and hoping my coup bring more smiles and seal a perfect day.
I bent to arrange Peju’s flowing gown and on coming up, my eyes met with those eyes. I could never forget. I wondered if I was hallucinating and how possible it was for him to be here. I shook my head to dispel the slight dizziness I felt. I had taken paracetamol this morning like a boost for my day. I was at the height of fatigue and looked forward to going to my bed at the end of the day and staying that way until Monday morning.
I stilled myself and gave a pep talk. You will be alright just hang on till the end of the day. All you need is rest. I busied myself attending to Peju’s gown while the crowd came around to congratulate the couple.
“You’re alright? Wale the best man who flew in from England asked in his British accent.
The first thing that came to my mind was in my mother tongue “Mo wa alright o! she mo ya were ni?” Meaning – I am alright do I look mad?
Instead, I smiled and politely responded, “I am good.”
The picture session went on there after we left for the reception venue. I was still hanging in there.
“Hi Lana,” I heard and turned to the voice. I could never forget that voice. It had been in my dreams for years.
I had often dreamt what it would be like to see him again but all that disappeared when I found out he was married and I worked hard to forget him, but the treacherous heart continually betrayed me.
I took a look at him and the realisation of all that I had lost in my moment of foolishness and came crashing over me. I prayed for strength and hoped this would be the closure that I needed.
“Hi,” I smiled confidently, a far cry from what I felt inside, but I could not afford him to find out how much walking away had cost me.
“You look great and more beautiful,” he complimented which I unashamedly enjoyed.
“ Shouldn’t that line be for your wife? I asked sarcastically angry that he was flirting with me while married. Perhaps he thought I did not know. My gaze went to his finger and was surprised that he wore no wedding ring.
“ Hopefully one day she would be my wife,” he said looking into my eyes in a bid to read my thoughts with that voice that was weakening every resolve to be mad at him
“ So you are now polygamous?” I asked irritably.
“Polygamous?” he repeated the world like one who was slow in comprehending the meaning of the word as a mirror of confusion clouded his face.
I was tired for the cat and mouse game and went straight to the point
“Hows your wife?” I asked not that I was interested in knowing but to pass on the knowledge that I was not in the dark.
“ My wife?” He asked again this time with frustration as he put his hands through his well-cut hair.
“Your wife, remember” I snapped my finger before his eyes to jog his memory if he had lost it.
Bode took my hands and pulled me to the other side of the hall as we took the exit. I followed without any resistance not without looking back for Peju and Phil.
“Not to worry, Lana, I doubt your services as maid of honour is still required,” he chuckled reading my mind.
“I have taken permission already he quickly added
“Peju knows about this? I asked bewildered.
This must be her surprise, I summed up. It was all coming together for me. The subtle hints, the phone checking, the jitteriness, lack of concentration all because she was planning something for me.
I refused to let the tears fall freely, as it pooled in my eyes. I was assaulted with a myriad of emotions tugging and pulling me from different tangents
“Does Peju know you are married?” I blurted. The futile length my friend had gone for me. Only if I had opened up and told her the whole story but not relieving the pain and shame, I felt was my way of dealing with the situation. If you don’t talk about it, it would not be real and just go away like it never happened.
“Married?” he asked,doing it again. Why did he repeat every question.
I wanted to get angry, but I just stood there looking at him. I felt the weariness and fatigue but spoke to myself to hang on. I would sleep it through later today.
“Yes Bode, married and so you know, I met your wife four years back,” I said triumphantly glad it was in the open.
The look of confusion was back as he ran his hands over his hair again exasperated.
“ Lana, I am not and never have been married. Where did you get that information?”
“ I did not get the information I said I met her. I am not making this up or repeating news from the grapevine,” I hissed getting upset now.
“ You met her?” He asked looking more confused.
“I came to your house to tell you I was sorry, and wanted us to be back together but I met this lady at your house who claimed to be your wife, and she was wearing a wedding ring,” I summarised and winced from the pain I was surprised I still felt.
“ When did you come to my house?”, he asked looking very upset.
I found out you were back from your training in England, got your number from your friend but decided to come by myself rather than call.
“Describe who you saw,” he winced with a pain that shocked me.
“She is average height, fair in complexion, petite I had not finished when he blurted, “Lola, my cousin.”
We stood staring at each other as another fresh wave of realisation washed over us.
First, we had lost time by my own action and kept apart by someone else mischievousness, and we had another opportunity before us if we wanted to make use of it.
I was so fatigued and wanted to sit down.
The whole weight of what I had lost and now to gain was before me.
I should be happy but I was numb.
I should smile, but my mouth would not form the smile.
I should be excited but why was my heart indifferent.
I wanted to lie down, yes I wanted to sleep.
Bode got on his knees like what he did some over five years ago. I could hear the words but was I dreaming why were the words the same why was I not able to respond to him. To tell him I was ready to spend the rest of my life with him.
He brought a ring out which was exactly as I had seen it in my dreams. I tried to lift my hands so he could slot it into my finger.
Why was my hand slow?
He picked it himself and put the ring on my finger.
I tried to speak as tears fell but my face was dry.
I decided to move from where I sat, but I was too weary.
A pain shot through my chest and darkness engulfed me. I reached out to the air trying to hold on to something as I felt a weight pulling me to the ground. Then coldness crept into my body and a sense of peace I had not felt before came over me as I succumbed to sleep, my eyes closing against my will.
As I walked towards the blazing light ahead, why were there so much shouts behind me and why was it getting fainter as I walked away.