Always One More Time #12 By Temitope Ogunyinka
From all indications it was obvious Zainab wasn’t okay, at least that was how the two ladies saw it. Audrey kept looking back to stare at the slim woman’s head as Adesewa drove them over to her place.
Zainab had her eyes closed and was singing along to the music playing over the radio.
Audrey tapped Adesewa’s arm.
“I don’t think she’s OK.” She muttered.
“Audrey don’t start. Just let her be abeg.”
Even as Adesewa said it she couldn’t help but stare at her friend through the rare-view mirror. Zainab wasn’t one to express her emotions but with what had recently happened Adesewa hoped she would.
“I know you guys are staring at me. I can feel it.” Zainab opened her eyes. “So what have I missed in Lagos. Is it still the same old thing? No light, terrible roads and all that stuff?”
“It’s still the same.” Audrey replied.
“Okay. Let me know when we get to your place. I need to get some sleep.”
Adesewa and Audrey looked at each-other and left her alone, knowing fully well they would somehow get her to talk later.
Once they got home Zainab crashed on the couch and let everything out.
“She died of bone cancer. Discovered it months before and didn’t see it fit to tell me. Anyway she left me a letter telling me who my real father is and another letter that states if I don’t go to meet my supposed father, I won’t get my share of the inheritance. Story of my life girls.”
Adesewa shook her head in amazement. “Seriously? Your mum doesn’t – didn’t appear to be the kind of person to do all that. It sounds like all this movie plots.”
Zainab rolled her eyes.
“Anyway, I’m going to Ibadan tomorrow.”
“What’s your father’s name?” Audrey asked.
“How do you feel about everything? I would be so pissed if it were me.”
Zainab closed her eyes. “Right now I can’t really say how I feel. I’m in between. Just want to get it done and go back to Abuja.”
“How do you plan on getting to Ibadan?” Adesewa asked.
“You guys nau. You would drive me there.”
Adesewa rose up. “You and who? I have to go to work. Besides, have you researched on this man? How do you know if he’s not dead. It would just be a futile trip.”
Zainab opened eyes. She stretched and yawned simultaneously. “He’s not dead. I didn’t investigate or whatever but I just know; call it a woman’s intuition. So let’s drift from this and move on to you guys’ lives.” She tilted her head to gaze at Adesewa. “Ade what did you say about Daniel? He’s getting married?”
Adesewa’s countenance changed immediately. Her mood turning sour. “Can we not talk about that now?”
“Why? We have to. I want to know what plans you have for him. You can’t let him get away with it the second time. I have a problem with men thinking they can have their way with us and dump us afterwards. We resemble toilet paper?”
“Plans?” Audrey looked at the both of them. “What plans? Don’t forget Daniel’s my cousin.”
“It’s still being processed.” Adesewa replied, ignoring Audrey’s statement.
“Abi you want us to brush Efe up a little?”
“No, because of what? Do we look like thugs?”
“Ade we don’t have to do it ourselves. We can get someone to do it for us. You look stressed out. This thing is really doing you strong thing.”
“Either ways I won’t stoop that low.” Adesewa wrapped her arms around herself. Inside her she was bleeding. How could she be so stupid to let a guy use her this way? It was her friend’s fault as well; if they hadn’t cajoled her into hearing him out. “When I told you guys I wasn’t interested in the first place – you didn’t listen. Now see how it all turned out. I’m so pissed at him. Roughing up Efe wouldn’t do us, or rather me, any good. The wounds would heal but she would still have him. I’m thinking of something more painful for her. Something that would hurt the both of them for the rest of their lives.”
“Gosh Ade you’re beginning to sound like a serial killer.” Audrey said.
“Have you met one before?”
“It’s just the way they behave in the movies.”
Zainab hissed. “Audrey you need a life. Better think of what you want to do with yourself and stop watching movies. Since Funlola is out of Dele’s life what are you waiting for?”
All of a sudden her nails took her interest. “I can’t force him to love me.”
“Oh please,” Zainab got up from the couch. “I’m going to take a glass of wine and go to my room. We all have serious issues but we aren’t going to deal with them by doing nothing.”
Adesewa watched as Zainab went to the kitchen and came back with a glass of wine and went down the hall. Adesewa hadn’t asked if she brought weed with her, but knowing her friend she knew it was very likely she had. All attempts to make Zainab stop while Adesewa was in Abuja had been futile. I just hope she doesn’t kill herself one day. . .
Daniel had settled that the wedding would be before John’s wedding; which was two weeks from now. His parents wanted the wedding on the same day as John’s, but he had kicked against it. He didn’t want the fanfare and the attention. He didn’t want something big, as John’s parents would want it. He wanted as much privacy as possible, and lucky for him . . . Uncle Eghosa had agreed.
The wedding would comprise of just family and friends. Preparations were already in full swing. Caterers, the event planner and other necessary bodies had been contacted. His mother had seen to that. Efe’s wedding dress was also going to be taken care of; John had suggested Funlola and Efe shop together.
Daniel was sceptical about the both of them being together, he didn’t want Funlola rubbing off on Efe. But he would talk to Efe about her later on.
Everyone was working together to make the wedding happen. His sister had called to congratulate him and promised to show up. Efe had asked her to be her maid-of-honour. Daniel was glad. As the day grew nearer he was determined not to change his mind. His father was all smiles these days. He was glad things were finally going his way.
To keep himself sane, Daniel had taken a day out to hang-out with his friends and flush Adesewa’s crying face from his mind and the pain in his heart.
“Daniel, are you sure you want this?” Dele asked.
Daniel took a swig of his beer. They had decided to hangout at Purple Lake. It was to enjoy his remaining days as a bachelor. Was he sure he wanted to do it? Yes. He was tired of going back and forth and he had never considered Efe in everything. “Yes. Get your camera ready and come and snap pictures of my bride and I. Abi nau Ebuka?”
Ebuka had been quiet all through. Not asking if he really wanted to go ahead with it. Daniel didn’t count it as anything. It was best that they stopped asking. Two weeks from now he was going to be married man.
“Any word from Ade?” Ebuka asked.
He gave a half-shrug. “Nope. She wants noting to do with me and I’m okay with that. I can’t keep hurting her.”
“I told you not to get involved with her again. You were just stubborn!”
Daniel was unperturbed about the edge in Ebuka’s voice. “Well, there’s no need rehashing it. I did it. Let’s leave it like that.”
Ebuka scratched the back of his head. “Mhen everything is just messed up. Now it’s Dele and Funlola. Who would have expected your cousin to be into her?”
Dele slammed his glass cup down on the table. “Any-time I think about it I just feel like roughing up your cousin.”
“Dele just let it be. John doesn’t mean any harm. The one who’s mostly at fault is Funlola, for accepting to marry him. But whatever, did you really love that girl? What is it she has that has you all over her?”
“Forget it. Let’s not talk about it.” Dele replied.
Daniel stared at the two bottles of beer he had emptied. He was supposed to minister in church tomorrow. How had his life taken such a turn? He remembered what John had said to him the other day. Nowadays you practically sneak in and out of church. You don’t really take solos any-more and I heard you don’t attend choir practice as well. What’s the problem?
What was his problem? He had no idea. Earlier on in the year he had decided to change and be a better person. To follow God and not fall into sin. But he had done the exact opposite and now he wasn’t sure he could ever get back this time around. His always running back to God each time he sinned seemed too frequent. This time around . . . He felt there was no going back. His always one more time . . . Asking God for mercy each time he sinned . . . Was over.
Funlola checked herself out in Style magazine; a picture of her and John together and announcing that Senator Ngwube’s son was getting married. This was the first time she would see herself in the magazine and she was thrilled. She read what they wrote about her when she accompanied John to a party his father had invited them to.
The Senator’s son in the company of his beautiful wife-to-be, Funlola Abe, looking stunning in a white midi Bandage dress with Red heels. It’s no doubt that the Ngwube men have good taste when it comes to women. Sources say the up-coming wedding is going to be the talk of the year.
The phone calls she got from family, ex-colleagues and haters were alarming. Everyone congratulating her on her engagement to John. Some where annoyed she hadn’t told them earlier about her relationship with him but she shifted their minds away from it by offering them VIP invites.
She took her eyes off the magazine when she heard her door open. She looked up to see Audrey scowling down at her. Funlola restrained herself from rolling her eyes at her. She was tired of her room-mate’s attitude to the wedding. Audrey never stopped venting her anger on how much she was against it. They hardly spoke to each-other and when they did, they were headed to an argument. Funlola tried as much as possible to be cordial with her and not be in the same room.
“Hi Audrey what’s up?”
She placed both hands on her wide hips. “I want to know why you’re doing this.”
The corner of Funlola’s mouth quirked up. “Doing what?”
“Don’t act stupid. Why are you getting married to my brother? Is it money you want or what?”
Funlola dropped her legs from her bed to the floor and got up. “Audrey what did I do to you? Why do you hate me so much because your brother wants to marry me?”
“Because you break people’s hearts! You are a cheap girl jumping in and out of men’s bed. You rejected Dele’s offer to marry you and now you accept my brother’s proposal? You have gold-digger written on your forehead baby. That’s why I can’t imagine my brother stuck with you. You would make his life miserable. You must have bewitched him or something!”
Funlola held back laughter. “Bewitch him? Are you al-right at all?”
Audrey squinted her eyes. “Don’t be cheeky or rude here. Call off the wedding! Give him one excuse or the other. Maybe my brother has fallen for all the antics you’ve been pulling on him.”
“He didn’t fall for anything you think I did. Why not ask your brother why he wants to marry me. Ask him yourself and stop coming to accuse me over nothing. I have to get ready for church.”
Audrey gave a mirthless laugh. “Church?! Like seriously? You this cheap prostitute wants to go to church? You think God would give you redemption from all the men you have quarved in your life? Babe get real.”
Funlola gritted her teeth. This babe is trying me o! “You know I really don’t understand why you’re up in your brother’s business. Shouldn’t you be trying to make Dele fall in love with you?”
I hit a spot abi?
“You think I didn’t see you eyeing him all the time we were together? You think I didn’t see the desperate messages you sent asking him to give you a chance? Audrey give me a break from all your attitude. You can ask your brother why he wants to marry me and why he invited me to church when he comes to pick me up.”
She went to her door and pulled it open. “Please leave so I can get ready.”
“You think this is over? We shall see.”
Audrey hissed and walked out. Funlola slammed the door shut and went to get ready. She had perused her wardrobe for what to wear, deciding on a black high-waist skirt and a custard-yellow camisole with a royal blue jacket. She was pissed even when she got into John’s car an hour later and didn’t utter a word to him.
“Okay? What’s the problem?”
She folded her arms and looked out the window at a man buying something from the small shop opposite the road
He turned the car-engine off and shifted to face her. “There’s obviously something wrong. I can tell from your body language. Talk to me, Please.”
Funlola kept her back to him as she spoke. “It’s your sister. She came to my room this morning to accost me. Claiming that I bewitched you.”
“What? Why would she say that?”
“Because she thinks I’m a gold-digger! She doesn’t want me to marry you.” She turned to face him and pointed at herself. “I’m not the one that told you to marry me. I didn’t ask for all this wahala!”
John looked into her eyes and Funlola turned away from his gaze. “I’m sorry about that Funlola. I would talk to her. Don’t let her ruin your mood.”
She let out a sigh. “I don’t intend for that to happen PJ. You should know me by now. If she wants to be a bitch, excuse my language, I would give her my other side. I just needed to let you know what’s up.”
He nodded. “I appreciate that you opened up to me. At least we’re getting better at communicating with each-other. After church I have a surprise for you. Don’t ask me what ‘cause I’m not going to tell you.” He started the engine and drove. “You look beautiful by the way. You have a way with colours and fashion and knowing what suits you.”
She smiled. “Thank you.”
She shifted her leg and hit something. Curious to know what it was she bent low and picked the nylon up with it’s content in it. “What’s this?”
“What’s what?” He had his eyes on the road. Funlola took in his appearance then. He was looking all GQ in his grey suit and blue shirt with a button left undone at the neck. His masculine cologne suddenly filling her senses. She quickly shifted her eyes back to the nylon in her hand and pulled out a book. She burst out in laughter after reading the title.
“How to please women: The art of sex? PJ!”
He swerved a little when she mentioned the name of the book. He had forgotten to take it out of his car. He remembered last night but had been too tired to go to his car; procrastinating it.
He pulled at the collar of his shirt. This is so embarrassing. He didn’t dare look at Funlola as she kept laughing.
“PJ is trying to get his groove on!” She teased. “Wow! I’m actually flattered that you’re reading up. You have sooo much to learn!”
He stretched his hand out to her and held the steering-wheel with the other. “Could you please hand the book over to me?”
“Funlola nau . . . Please.”
“No. Why are you embarrassed PJ? We are going to be married soon. I even want to read the book and see if the author knows what he’s talking about.”
He looked at her briefly and returned his eyes on the road. “It’s a she. The author.”
“What?! She’s a lesbian?”
John chuckled and shook his head. Gradually he was getting to know when she was teasing. He dropped the matter and focused on driving. She was right. They would be husband and wife in a few weeks and he had to get over his shyness.
Church was better than he expected. Though he couldn’t say the same for Funlola. As soon as they entered the church she became withdrawn. They didn’t seat next to each-other ‘cause he had to sit in-front with the ministers. But ever so often he looked back to find her staring, lost to what was happening, or she was playing with her phone. He felt something tug in his heart for her. Pity. Compassion. She looked like a lost and confused little girl that didn’t know the way.
God she doesn’t know You yet . . . God please let her have an encounter with you. Open her eyes and heart to receive You. Please God . . . I don’t know the plans you have for her, it’s still hidden from me, but I trust You. I know I’m not following my own instincts or selfish purposes. And that’s why I know You have great plans and I leave her salvation up to You. Please do what only You can . . . And help me be a good example to her; of your faithfulness and love.
John felt peace in his heart as soon as he finished saying the prayer in his heart. He knew God had heard him and so he let himself focus on the service. After the service he would introduce pastor George to Funlola to Pastor George and from there he would show her the surprise he had for her. He smiled. It was going to be a good day.
Efe was having a hard time choosing a wedding dress. John had suggested his fiancée and her go ahead and get their gowns together. Efe was surprised at the woman uncle John had chosen to get married to. She was completely out of his league; she was outgoing, funny, beautiful and not a church girl. Efe knew uncle John would have liked someone that was very committed to church, but it was obvious Funlola wasn’t.
She looked at the matching shoes and bag Uncle John had gotten for Funlola amongst other things. Daniel told her Uncle John had taken her on a private shopping spree to a boutique that was owned by a friend of his.
Daniel had warned Efe about Funlola. Telling her to be careful. She’s very promiscuous and materialistic. She isn’t a very good person.
“So what do you have in mind for your gown? Something to show off the sexy curves you have? Or a ball-room gown?” Funlola asked, jarring Efe from her thoughts.
“Erm – I really don’t know . . .”
She uncrossed her slim fair legs and gaped at Efe. “You don’t know ke? Babe this is your wedding! You have to choose the right gown to have your husband drooling over you as you walk down the aisle.”
A husband that doesn’t love me? “I know the wedding dress is important but it’s a small wedding; not large like yours.” Efe heard there would be celebrities and big dignitaries.
“So? A wedding is a wedding.” She rose up from her seat, not bothering to pull down her gown that was way up her thighs, and came to sit next to her. “Look at that one there. It would look good on you.”
Funlola signalled to one of the sales rep at the Bridal boutique and asked if they could bring three different gowns. Efe stared at it on her body once she had put it on. The last dress was a princess-like and did justice to the curves Efe had acquired when she had her daughter. It was an off-the-shoulder organza lace wedding dress with ruffle beading sequins. It showed off her flat tummy. It felt wonderful to see herself in it. It was dawning on her then that she was really getting married.
“You look so beautiful.” Funlola told her.
“Would you like to try some more gowns?” The sales rep asked.
Efe shook her head as tears filled her eyes.
“No. I know you would think I should try some more, but I feel deep within me that this is the dress.” She felt tears form in her eyes. Thoughts of her mother rushing to mind. She wished she could be there but God knew best.
Funlola patted her back. “It’s fine dear. You would blow Daniel’s mind away with this dress. It’s time for me to find my dress. I have a couple on my mind but -”
Funlola’s voice drifted off as Efe wondered how Daniel would look at her. She wiped the tears from her face with shaky hands.
Zainab alighted from the vehicle and walked pass the gate into the confines of the church. From the music flowing from the building, it seemed like there was a service going on and Zainab didn’t know how long it would take for them to finish. She had to see him now and not a minute later. She walked into the church in her Jeans and cropped top that had no intention to cover the piercing she had on her belly-button.
She took her seat at the far back even as an usher signalled for her to come forward. She wasn’t interested in doing so. Instead she signalled for him to move close to her.
“Sorry I’m looking for Eghosa Phillips.”
The man frowned. “Pastor Phillips?”
Eh? Pastor? Are we talking about the same person?
“Er- yes Pastor Phillips. Is it possible to see him then?”
“Yes, but after the service.”
Zainab thanked him and he went on his way. Everything was strange. Had her mother really messed around with a pastor? Her mother so principled and put together had a past that dumbfounded Zainab.
A man stood in the front and asked everyone to rise as they shared the grace. She heard them utter a few things then one by one people started walking towards the door. a few people looked in her direction but Zainab wasn’t bothered. She got up and walked down to the front. She made eye contact with the usher she had seen earlier on as he pointed to a dark chubby man. He wasn’t exactly handsome. So what did my mother see in this man? He was conversing with a young couple carrying a little girl. He gently played with the little girl’s small hand.
“God bless you . . . “ She heard him say once she was close.
“Pastor Eghosa Phillips?”
The man turned around and Zainab almost gasped when she saw his eyes.
“Yes, my dear. How can I help you?”
Zainab was waiting for him to gawk at her admiringly like all men did. When he didn’t she was impressed.
“Yes you can help me. The way you never helped me twenty-eight years ago.”
His eyes narrowed. “Excuse me?”
“You remember Samira Baruwa?”
She saw recognition flicker in his eyes.
“Well, I’m her daughter and I was told you’re my father. Isn’t it wonderful?”
His brows drew together.
NEXT . . .
Zainab and Audrey had agreed to follow her there. So the trio walked into the reception hall together, the two ladies at either side of Adesewa. Just like Charley Angels. Attention was gotten very well. She spotted the couple seating at their designated corner. It had been a month plus since she last seen him. Her throat clogged up with tears that threatened to fall but she bit the inside of her cheek to prevent that from happening.
No tears today Ade. Keep it together!
As if aware someone was staring at him his eyes found hers. His mouth fell slightly open and his eyes widened. He gawked at her; drinking in all of her.
She stopped a waiter passing by her and took a glass of champagne from his tray.
She raised the glass in salute to Daniel and took a sip of the amber liquid.