Happy Valentine’s Day!
Enjoy the long read. For you mushy people, hold your hankies. For you who love pics, there’s enough to go round.
Ekene doesn’t celebrate Valentine’s. He believes that every day is love day if you’re in a relationship. And I can’t counter that, being that he has made me feel like I’m in a romantic novel in which he’s the author and I’m the main character.
My time with him has been magical. In my grief, he created rainbows and butterflies. Whenever I wake up and I feel like I can’t handle the weight of losing Peace, I would be consoled by the thought of having to pour out my heart to Ekene.
For the longest time, I have felt like I owed him, and to pay the debt, I took an entire week to convert the downstairs guestroom into a man cave for him. He has never spoken about needing one but every now and then, his friends come over and they drink beers and play games. I feel it would be nice to give them a special space for that.
He’s been away for an entire week and I’ve been managing on my own, with morning sickness and loneliness. I have friends I can always spend time with but I’ve not had the need to ask any of them over or pay them visits. Last week, however, Genesis Ditorusin rang me and told me she would love me to handle the small chops for her stepdaughter’s wedding. She and I had gotten off a wrong foot a year ago over an event I catered to in which the client was dissatisfied with my cooking. Genesis took it out on me and since then we haven’t worked together. Jide tried to reconcile us but she had been uninterested. She claimed she had too many caterers on her repertoire, which was why I was a little surprised that she reached out to me.
“It’s a new year and we should put the past behind us,” she says. “You’re one of the best chefs around here and I’d be honored to have you not only do the small chops for this reception, but also handle the ones for the bigger reception on Saturday.”
“Jide didn’t by any chance speak on my behalf again, did he?”
“No, dear. This is all me. And I also have a proposal for you.”
Opening the backdoor of my kitchen, I stepped out to the sunshine and feel the sun over my skin after a long time of hibernating. I listen to Genesis tell me that she wants me to be the chief caterer for Novocaine Knights. All the big gigs will go to me and for payment, I’ll take a large percentage and they’ll have the rest. If I bring in a client, my percentage will be higher.
I smile to myself. I have always wanted this. To be honest, I got married and became a cliché housewife. I keep telling myself that I’ll open a restaurant but I’ve always felt like it’s not my calling. Not all chefs own restaurants. Not all of them can manage their own businesses. I think I’m one of such people. I even get too lazy to go about looking for clients. Maybe at the end of this, I will learn some skills and know how to stand on my own.
Genesis rang off after I told her we would discuss at length the next day. That evening I got an email listing out the type of finger foods needed at the wedding, and also a contract letter with the terms and conditions for the deal with Novocaine Knights. Before I met with Genesis the next day, I had breakfast with Bobby and he went through the contract.
“It’s all good,” he told me. “No hidden clauses. Everything is straight. I don’t expect Novo Knights to be dubious, though. They have a clean reputation.”
He was hardly eating the meal in front of him. He had lost more weight from when last I saw him.
“How are you doing?” I asked.
He shrugged. “Good. Yesterday, with the help of a friend, I packed Kate and Mal’s things away. I’m giving them to charity.”
“Was that relieving?”
“No. It led me into an episode… The wounds became fresh again. It was hard but I was able to finish it. I didn’t put away everything, though. There are things I can’t let go of.”
He picked a slice of green pepper off his plate and bit on it.
“How’s Naomi’s case going?”
“The man’s family finally agreed to settle out of court. The plan is to hand them some millions and send them off on their way.”
He put the unbitten slice of green pepper back on his plate and picked his glass of orange juice. As he drank, I gazed into his sad eyes. It was hard to believe this was the same Bobby I had been best friends with in school. He was always the clown amongst the tree of us. Jide was the one who took his law studies seriously. But not Bobby. He played around, partied hard, chased girls without shame and lived like life was going to end any moment. He had a ‘no-shaking’ attitude to his existence. No matter how difficult things were, he would say, ‘we’ll get over it’. Even when his younger sister passed, he was able to bounce back quickly.
But he was no longer that guy. Kate died and took away his bounce, leaving him with unresolved issues.
“Are you scared that once the case with Naomi’s in-laws is over, she’ll have no need of you?”
Bobby looked at me. I saw the answer to my question in his eyes but I knew he would not voice it out.
“No, I’ll be fine.”
I placed my hands on his. “I’m here for you, Bobby.”
He rested his other hand on mine, lifted it and kissed it. “I know.”
The days following that were busy for me. I signed the contract with Novocaine Knights and realized that Genesis had tricked me. The chef that was supposed to cater for the huge wedding party on Saturday had without warning, left the country, and Genesis couldn’t get anyone to replace him.
“Could you please, help?”
It was hard to say no to her. She was too sweet and that dimple of hers was distracting. I wondered how her husband didn’t go around carrying an everlasting boner.
So, I said yes and became burdened with the catering for both weddings. Good thing, there was a whole team assigned to me.
However, this morning, the devil decides to get into the details as the truck in which I loaded all the small chops for the day’s wedding party, bound for the venue, gets into a crash and everything goes to waste.
I get an instant migraine over the news. I want to despair but I can’t. Genesis calls.
“We can do without small chops since the main courses are there,” she says.
“It’s already on the menu, Genesis.”
“The wedding guests are not much,” I remind her.
“I know but those finger foods were so special that I don’t think we can whip them together before time. Or can we?”
“We can’t. I had to let some of them marinate overnight. But don’t worry, I can come up with something else. It won’t be up to par but it’ll come close.”
“Please, don’t stress yourself.”
“Okay. Send me a shopping list and I’ll have all you need delivered in an hour.”
I hang up and in an hour, I have the food items at my doorstep, as promised. I also get a couple of extra hands to help. But I had called Noka and Celia over already. Honey’s phone was unreachable.
A frowning Celia drags herself into my house. “I hope there is food sha, because me I’m hungry.”
I laugh, hugging her. “You can relax. I already have enough hands.”
“Then why did you invite me?”
“I didn’t know that Genesis would send people over nau.”
“So you are now on first name basis with her?” asks Noka who is munching on the carrots I gave her to grate earlier.
“Yes, we are.”
“And she’s still fat?”
“Can you stop being jealous?” Celia scolds her.
“We’re all invited to the wedding, though. The guest list is small but she is squeezing us in.”
“How magnanimous of her,” Noka comments. “Tell her I said no, thanks.”
“Jealousy!” Celia teases. “Give me carrot jare.”
I snatch the bowl of carrots from Noka, handing only one to Celia. “This is Jos carrot. We don’t play with it anyhow.”
“So madam, how and you coping with our aboki shunning you and all?” Celia questions Noka. “Any hope for your marriage?”
I expect a snide answer but what we get from Noka is a slow shake of her head. “I’ve not seen him in almost three weeks. It’s Eno who brings the boys home to me after they spend time in her house. I’m tired. I don’t know what else to do.”
She looks like she’s about to cry. Celia puts an arm around her.
“Do you think that maybe I should just let him be and find my way?”
“Are you doing that because you think he will miss you and want you back?”
“Does he love you that much?”
“I don’t know.”
“Noka, if you have chosen to stay and fight for his love, do so. But if you are tired and need to be free, so you can stop wasting your years pining for a man who will never love you, tell me, so that I can ginger you.”
Noka nods. I smile at Celia. Always the friend that looks out for everyone.
“Now, to less depressing things,” she says, “I just discovered that Dara can sing.”
“Yes o! And on key for that matter. I was playing this old Crystal Lewis song with Bebe Winans and homegirl was hitting the notes like wha!”
“I got myself a Beyonce! Give me some sugar!” We hi-five her and laugh at the silliness of it.
Noka also talks about her sons and how they are bonding with their elder brother. I listen to both women, watching the way their eyes light up with pride. I try not to think of Peace or Kate. But it’s hard not to. I see them in the kitchen with us, laughing and listening as well. It will take some time to get over this pain.
“Why does this house smell so nice like this?”
The sound of Ekene’s voice makes me drop the garlic clove in my hand and shrieking, I dash out to meet him. Not minding my weight, I jump on him.
“Shey you want to kill me, you this orobo?” He kisses me. “How are you, baby? This is such a surprise.”
I dump my feet on the floor. “No, you’re the surprise. You’re supposed to come back the day after tomorrow.”
“Well, plans changed. Speaking of which, the last time I was here, you were burrowed under the blanket. What happened?”
And I talk like a running typewriter, giving him details of how my week went. He listens to me patiently, massaging my fingers for no reason.
“So, we’re no more sad?”
I shake my head. He hugs me. As always, he smells like a billion dollars. He has a new perfume on and I don’t care to know the name. I just want to have it all over me when he makes love to me.
I get a gentle kiss, a squeeze of my bum and sweet nothings uttered in a low tone that leave me giggling. His hand goes beneath my top and rests on my waist. I realize how much I’ve missed his touch. Unlike most of the men I’ve been with, Ekene’s palms are soft and always leave me craving for his touch.
“Come, let me show you something.”
I drag him to the man cave, stopping outside the door. Going on tiptoe behind him, I cover his eyes.
“Oya, push the door open.”
Without questioning, he shoves the door. Still covering his eyes, I ask him to venture in.
He drags us further in and I let my hands down. I dash in front of him to see the look on his face. And as I guess, it’s indescribable.
“Tomiwa, what’s this?”
“A little something I thought you’d like. It’s your own man cave.”
His eyes give the room a complete sweep before he turns to gaze at me in wonder.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, SM.” I’m beaming from one chin to another.
“I don’t know what to say, Mary.”
I take his hand and drag him around the room to give him a tour. He is silent all through and speechless still when I’m finished. I reach for his lips and kiss them.
“Valentine just got a whole new meaning for me,” he murmurs, pulling me closer. “Thank you, baby.”
“Do you want to pot some balls on the pool table?” I ask with a wink in my eye.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
A rogue draft of wind slaps my face as I step out of the gym. It’s already 7am and daylight hides behind the darkness still. It looks like there’ll be one of those short-tempered showers that fizzle out just as they start. I’m not sure I’m liking this January weather in Lagos that is not so sure of what it wants.
“Excuse me, madam!”
I stop and turn in the direction of the gym.
“You forgot your earphones!”
There’s a hunky guy walking towards me. Perfect definition of tall, fair and handsome. He has been coming to the gym as early as I do since I began here five days ago. I have also noticed that he has eyes for me. Yesterday, when I almost fell during aerobics, he was by my side in a flash. How he had gotten away from the weights he was lifting at the other side of the gym to where I was, before my instructor came to me, remains a mystery.
“They’re not my earphones,” I reply, showing him the white ones I have around my neck which, in some way, have gotten lost between my cleavage.
His eyes rest there briefly and then he looks at my face.
“Sorry, I thought they were yours.”
I shake my head and begin walking away. He introduces himself as so and so and tells me he’s a counselor and life coach.
I simply nod and continue on.
“You didn’t tell me yours,” he mentions. I ignore him. I have seen enough nonsense going on between married folks in that gym in the early hours of the morning to know where this is all leading. That this person wears a ring on his fourth finger doesn’t mean he has good intentions.
I cross the street to where my car is parked. It’s all silent on this side of town but in a short while, the place would become busy and parking the way I did would attract a fine.
I unlock my door and get in, and what meets my eyes is a collection of gifts. There’s also a bouquet of red roses on the passenger seat.
My first reaction is fear. How on earth did someone get into my car and plant these things?
I look behind as if to catch whoever did it. And then it occurs to me that it could be Jide. So, I lift the roses and smell them before pulling out the card attached to them.
You make a man want to fall in love over and again
I love you, sugar lips
P.S: I’m winning this.
I laugh, inhaling the scent of the roses again. Jide and I are in a challenge to outdo each other with love gestures today. We have a theme in mind and our inspiration is Ed Sheeran, one of Jide’s favorite musicians whom I’ve also come to love. The loser of the challenge, as judged by Genesis and Dominic, will get to fly the other person for a weekend retreat somewhere outside Nigeria.
So, with Genesis’ help, I sneaked in six curvy girls into the house last night. They are performers at the Novocaine Nightclub. The plan is for Jide to wake up and find them cleaning the house in panties and matching T-shirts that have ‘Honey’ inscribed on them. When he gets over the shock, they’ll sit him down in the living room and do a special Acapella version of Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud that was played on the night he proposed to me.
Jide thinks he’s winning this but I know I’m ahead. By the time those girls molest him with their tatas and bum-bums, he will throw in the towel and crown me winner.
How did we get from the Amata’s saga to this? Ever heard the saying ‘God works in mysterious ways?’
Well, that was how things went on the day Akintunde was born. If you ask me, I’d say he is our good luck charm. But I know that things were already at play before he came into the picture.
On that day that he was born, I was dreaming about Idris Elba. My medication does that to me. I get all sorts of dreams but it is not every day one gets to dream about Idris Elba, so I’m not complaining. And not just any type of dream, by the way. It’s the type in which he is standing before you, with the sunset as a backdrop and a boyish stare in his laughing eyes, hands on your waist, his breath on your skin, his lips about to do a sweet one on yours…
Forgive my digression. I just had to relive all that hotness.
Anyways, I am rudely jolted away from the dream by a knock on my front door.
I open my eyes. I’m alone in bed. I am certain Jide snuck in beside me last night.
Jiney lets out a shrill scream.
I cuss as I roll out of bed. I go to her crib. She is kicking her tiny legs into the air in anger. Lifting her out, I hurry to the living room to get the front door. Amata is already there, struggling with the lock.
“Don’t worry,” I say to her. “I’ll do it. There’s a skill to it.”
“Good morning,” she greets. I force on a smile. Despite all that has happened, I still don’t like her. She is more voluptuous than I am, possessing the type of dangerous curves Genesis has. I feel insecure over the fact that Jide slept with her without baulking.
I unlock the door and when I open it, there’s a fat, pregnant-looking lady outside. I don’t recognize her.
“She’s my sister,” Amata reveals.
The sister greets and I respond. She throws a sweet comment at Jiney who is still crying and tugging at my breasts.
“Please, come in. I have to feed this girl.”
I leave them in the living room and go to the bedroom where I hook Jiney to a boob and remove her soiled diaper. I hear the backdoor open and close. It’s either Jide or Didi coming in.
Seconds later, I hear Jide’s voice. He is speaking with Amata and her sister. He soon joins me in the room.
“Hey,” he says, looking at my face to read my mood.
“Good morning,” I greet. He lowers to give me a kiss.
“I went to get breakfast…”
I ask him about Tola. He narrates how the whole childbirth experience went.
“When you’re done with Jiney, I’d like you to join me in the parlor to have a word with Amata and her sister.”
I rise up with Jiney still stuck on my breast. “Let’s go.”
I follow him to the living room. We walk in on both sisters arguing. They stop immediately they spot us. Jide and I settle in a two-sitter.
“So, we’re here,” he says.
The sister shifts her weighty body forward. First, she thanks me for taking Amata in, despite the circumstances. She doesn’t know how many wives will do what I did. I give her a tolerant smile. I just want all of this over soon.
She thanks Jide too. He demands to know why.
“For asking for a DNA test and setting into motion this whole thing.”
“I’m not sure I understand you.”
“Amata is married to the devil. Bassey is a very wicked man.”
“Okay?” Jide asks, “He’s violent with her?”
And that question opens a can of worms. We learn how Bassey, while dating Amata, convinced her to leave her high-paying job at Exxon Mobil to become a stay-at-home girlfriend for him. But that wasn’t all. He ensured she cut off ties from her friends and family. The only person she maintained communication with was her sister, who persisted in trying to show her that Bassey was not good for her. Eventually, after two years, commonsense prevailed and Amata applied for an expatriate job in Zanzibar. She was then called for an interview and without Bassey’s knowledge, flew out of the country to honor it.
“Mr. Jide, when you met her in Zanzibar, she seduced you out of sexual frustration and emotional imbalance. I had convinced her to break up with Bassey. I also convinced her to abort the one-month-old pregnancy she was carrying for him, so as to face the new job. But what happened to my advice? Ask her. Bassey followed her there and proposed, and that was the end of the job and the abortion.”
A month later, the duo got married at the Ikoyi registry. Ama’s family was not invited.
“Not even me!”
After the wedding, things worsened for Ama. She depended on her sister for her daily meals because Bassey would disappear for long periods and leave her without any cash.
“Like that, like that, me and my husband fed her until she gave birth. When she gave birth nko? Bassey looked at the child and told her that simple boy she cannot have.”
The family called for several meetings with Bassey which he never honored.
“The one that really touched me, that made me swear for Bassey was when he came to my house early one morning to insult me and my husband, telling us not to meddle in his affairs. He told my husband he could feed him and his entire clan. That day, I swore to do everything to ensure that my sister leaves the idiot. I took her matter to our pastor and even in this my pregnancy, I fasted and prayed. Pastor said I should watch and see what God will do. And God has answered.
“So, Mr. Jide, you are godsend. That restlessness you had is God that put it there. I’m not saying what you and Ama did in Zanzibar was right. What I’m saying is that all things work together for good. Bassey has now kicked her out, abi? It’s all God’s plan. I will take her home and lock her inside and fire prayers on her head until her senses come back, because this is not normal. No! It’s not!
“So, thank you very much, Mr. and Mrs. Jide. God bless you.”
Jide and I are left speechless. We didn’t see the twist in this story. For me, I had concluded that there would be a showdown of some sort between Jide and Bassey, at least, but not this. I don’t know how to react to it, except find relief that the case is now out of my hands.
As I retreat to the bedroom to shower, it occurs to me how much God works behind the scene to give me peace. The night before, I was down in the dumps, unable to see the silver lining, but I wake up to a shining sun. It doesn’t stop me from keeping my Skype appointments with my doctor or from taking my meds. It just makes me realize that I’m not bearing my load alone.
But I have so much I want to say and no one to speak to. My friends are all shaking off the loss of Peace and Kate from their system and it would be wrong to bug them with my troubles. So, later that day, I visit Genesis and unburden everything on her shoulders. She listens to me until I’m done expending myself and then shares with me stories of the difficult times she has faced with Dominic.
“Whether from within or from outside, your troubles never end in life. People look at Nick and I and envy us because we’re billionaires. I can’t complain. I feel blessed, but we’re not immune to our own special troubles. We don’t let them keep us from moving. We find a way to rise above it all.” She takes my hands. “Your bipolar disorder may never completely go away, Honey, but you will keep kicking it in the ass, getting better with each kick.”
She picks a bowl of chicken salad she has been served by the housekeeper. I had declined and asked for only a glass of water.
“So how is your sex life, though?” she asks.
“Almost two months of not doing.”
She drops her jaw. I explain to her that the dry spell came when we lost our friends. “And since then, it’s been one thing or the other.”
She wanders off in her head and returns to me with the Valentine challenge. Dominic, who has just joined us, is called to weigh in on the idea.
“Why didn’t you ever suggest this for us?” he asks his wife.
“It just came now. So, are you ready to help this beautiful couple recapture their honeymoon?”
“Honey and Jide are always in cloud nine. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“You sure know how to spoil things, oga.”
“Okay, I’d be honored to be on the panel of sexy judges,” he responds, his eyes twinkling at his wife. When he walks away, Genesis draws closer to me.
“I’ll help you win it.”
That night, I present the idea to Jide and he is all game. “I even want to go on a vacation sef. I’m exhausted. And it would be so good for us. It would restore everything the loss of our friends took away.”
But as we lie to sleep and he tries to touch me, I pull away. I find it hard erasing the details of what Amata shared with me about the sex they had.
We continue with our normal lives as the days pass, both of us lost in work. I even forget about the challenge until Genesis calls and reminds me of the girls she is sending over.
Sitting now in my car, I giggle to myself because I know how much of a whore Jide can be and how he’s having fun with the girls presently.
I start the car and my radio goes on without me touching it. I yelp and take my hands off the steering. Jide’s voice comes on in laughter from the speakers.
“So you sent half-naked girls to seduce me, abi?”
I exhale. “You’re so annoying, Jideofor.”
I search around to see if he’s in the vicinity.
“It’s all good, though. We had an awesome time. Didn’t we, girls?”
“Yes, Jideofor,” comes a chorus from female voices.
“You heard that, Erhinyuse?” He laughs. “But I love you, baby. And this is for you. Enjoy.”
He goes off and Ed Sheeran comes on with Lego House. I start to bump my head as I drive onto the street. Seconds after, I’m singing at the top of my lungs.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
As has been their tradition for years, Dominic waits at the airport to pick Seyi. The latter had traveled on a three-day business trip and was returning just in time for Lexus’ wedding. It’s a quiet day at the airport but not too quiet for a man to welcome his girlfriend with roses and balloons.
Dominic is amused by the scene. The girlfriend seems a little embarrassed by the gesture, and just as it is about to get interesting with the man going down on one knee to propose, Seyi makes his way out from the small crowd of commuters, to Dominic.
“You won’t believe that I’ve not bought my tux yet,” he mentions, hurrying ahead of Dominic.
“This is not a tux wedding,” Dominic answers. Seyi stops. “Tonbra insists that we must not wear tuxedos.”
“But don’t worry. I got you covered. I asked Genesis to pick something for you from the place she got my blazer.”
Seyi sighs in relief. “God bless your wife.”
They continue without speaking until they get to Dominic’s SUV.
“On the matter of wives…how is Hauwa?” Dominic asks as they both secure their seatbelts.
“Hauwa dumped me.”
Dominic fires up the car.
Seyi starts to laugh. “Long, funny story. The thing is I’m not even taking her seriously. I invited her for this wedding and she must come, even if I have to abduct her.”
“So, I invited her for the annual charity ball organized by the gentlemen’s club, which was awesome, by the way. You missed.”
“I got her a Versace. Badass number like that! The finishing on that gown is superb.”
“I don’t even want to ask the price.”
“I also got her a set of diamond jewelry and a pair of Zanotti’s. I had them delivered to her and next thing, I’m getting a call. ‘Seyi,’ she said to me, ‘I appreciate all of this but I’m not the type of girl you dress up to fit perfectly into your world. And I’m going to be bought by your money either. Let this not repeat itself.’ And she hangs up.”
“And I loved her for it. But things get interesting when we go for the ball. Hauwa walks in there and she becomes fish out of water. You know as people dey do at such events. Fake and real British and American accents, snobbish attitude, everyone bragging about their Ivy League education and where they’ve been around the world…”
“And it was all new and overwhelming for Hauwa. Then the worst was that we were put on a table with three of my exes.”
Laughing, Dominic skids past a slow-moving vehicle on a double lane just outside the airport’s tollgate.
“Three of them, Domi. One was married and she was there with her husband but it didn’t stop her from trying to kill Hauwa with her eyes. And as if that wasn’t bad, they landed on her like vultures when she told them she was a midwife. One was like ‘are midwives now professionals?’ Another went, ‘is midwifery not an ancient practice?’ Can you imagine! They made her feel like she was coming from the Stone Age. The only one who was interested in what she did was the married one but she was asking Hauwa for a repertoire of her patients. She was like, ‘who and who have you worked with?’ If you see eye when I cut am ehn!”
“After the ball, as we were heading home, Hauwa told me not to invite her for that type of thing again. I said it was something I was used to and I couldn’t stop being that person. She insisted that she was not interested in my social life. I asked if it was too hard to adjust a little to make me happy. Na there kasala burst o. Hauwa gave me the lecture of my life. She said she wasn’t going to pretend to be another person just to fit into a crowd she did not like. She went on and on and in the end, she said she was done.”
“I told her I didn’t care. I loved her the way she was. But she didn’t listen. I think what upset her most was that I made a donation at the ball on her behalf. It pissed her off. She accused me of trying to make her feel inadequate.”
“Did you do it to save her from embarrassment?”
“Yes. Everyone was calling huge amounts. You know how they do.”
“I think you did wrong there. No one is obligated to make any donation at those balls. Table payment is enough donation, so Hauwa didn’t need to impress anyone.”
“I know. And I screwed up. Anyways, I’m not taking the breakup seriously. I’ve been bugging her with calls and messages. She still dey vex but I know say she go calm down. Today, however, she must come for Tonbra’s wedding.”
“Take it easy on her, though. You can also get involved in her world. Have you ever asked her to show you what she does daily?”
“No. I’m not going to be looking into people’s wives privates.”
“No fall my hand, Shay. You’re out of practice with women. Shape up fast and make a decent woman out of Hauwa.”
Seyi doesn’t argue. They talk business as they drive to his place. Dominic drops him off and heads to the late Eva’s home which now belongs to Lexus and is the wedding venue. There’s a beehive of activity going on but Dominic wades through it and ends up in the bedroom assigned to him and Genesis. He meets her lying on the bed, lost in thought. Without meaning to, she strikes a sensual pose that magnetizes Dominic.
He rests on the bed, relaxing on his back.
“What’s wrong, madam?”
She turns her eyes on him but he’s not sure she’s looking at him. He snaps his fingers; she comes to.
“What’s on your mind?”
“The wedding, and how I may be missing something.”
“I’m sure everything is covered.”
“It was so easy to organize. The rush I get from doing big weddings is not there.”
“And you’ll get that rush on Saturday. Relax, baby.”
Her lips stretch into a smile as she digs her fingers into his beard. “You’re handsome.”
He takes her hand and kisses the tip of her fingers one after the other. A knock comes. Iya Idaya calls out to Genesis.
“The door is open.” She sits up and Iya Idaya walks in, tailed by the trio of Zoe, Zach and Trinity.
“I want to take my bath,” Iya Idaya announces. “Let them come and stay with you?”
The toddlers already make themselves comfortable in the room. Trinity and Zach aim for Genesis’ box while Zoe seeks her father’s attention.
“Sometimes I feel too old to be having kids,” Dominic says, as Iya Idaya exits the room. He lifts Zoe onto the bed.
“Well, I’ll soon want another one,” Genesis responds. “And no IVF this time. We’ll keep trying naturally until the baby comes.”
Genesis leaves the bed and slips into a long, shapeless gown.
“I have to check on Lex. She was having cold feet earlier.”
She shuts the door and takes a tour around the house to ensure that everything is going well. She checks on Lexus in her bedroom but doesn’t find her. When she tries her number, she discovers the phone is left beneath the pillow. Genesis asks around but no one has seen Lexus. On instinct, she steps outside and follows a path that leads her to Eva’s grave. There, she spots Lexus smoking a joint.
Genesis hikes up her dress and steps on the verdant lawn that has been trimmed and treated for the wedding. To her left is the spot designated for the ceremony. It is decorated in the wedding colors of purple, burgundy and orange, a combination put together by Lexus that has turned out lovely.
Genesis dashes towards the spot and fixes a rogue ribbon sticking out of the gazebo erected for the bride and groom. She also notices a flower out of place and puts it right. Done, she walks to Lexus.
“Getting high before the wedding?” she asks.
Lexus points her half-smoked joint at Genesis who declines with a shake of her head.
“Eva and I were the most dysfunctional mother and daughter. We used to smoke a lot of weed.”
“Is that what you’re doing with her now?”
Lexus chuckles. “She jokes.”
“Still having cold feet?”
“They’re now frozen. Maybe it’s the weather.”
Genesis picks out a tiny twig off Lexus’ styled hair.
“Or maybe it’s just you coming to deal with the fact that you’re giving someone your entire life.”
“I know.” Genesis gathers her dress. “May I?” she asks permission to sit on Eva’s grave.
She settles beside Lexus. “Tell me how you’re feeling.”
“I don’t know. I’m just not feeling this whole thing. Is that normal.”
“Very. Most of the couples I’ve worked with passed through this.”
“And did any of them drop out of the wedding?”
“Drop out,” Genesis repeats, chortling. “Yes, dear. I had this guy that I caught with his ex on the morning of the wedding in his hotel room. He said he couldn’t go through with it. I had to announce to his fiancée and everyone that dude was no show.”
“Were you mad at him as the wedding planner?”
“Of course, I was upset that all my plans were to waste. But I’ve been in the business long enough to know that many people get married for the wrong reasons.”
“I love Kasi. I want to do this but I don’t know if I can be a wife and do wifely stuff. I’m freaking out here.”
Genesis doesn’t say anything for a few minutes. Both of them sit silently as Lexus smokes. To their right, the wedding party area, marked by two long tables and a dance floor in the center, is canopied by an arrangement of strings of tiny blue lights. They are almost invisible during the day but when night comes and they light up, they give the feeling of having thousands of stars hanging over the guests.
“I always give free advice and romantic ideas to couples that come to me. And when they try them, things go great for them. But do you know that the same ideas don’t work for your father and I? For instance, today is Valentine’s and we haven’t gotten each other anything and neither of us is bothered because we have our way of doing things. No one marriage is similar to the other. It all depends on the individuals involved. Tonbra, you fought to have this wedding go your way. You should do the same to have the marriage of your dreams. Love Kasiobi your own way, not by a script from somewhere.”
“You think two of us will do well?”
“You’ll do great, darling.”
“Eva, you heard that? Mommy says we’ll do great.”
Genesis laughs. “Mommy?”
Lexus looks at her in admiration. “You’ve been more than that to me, Gen. You’ve been there every day, supporting me. It’s always good to know that there’s someone I can always go to. Thank you. And just so you know, I fucking love you.”
“Oh Lord.” Genesis’ eyes burn with tears. She rubs her fingers over them. “I love you too, sweetie.”
She hugs Lexus and leaves multiple kisses on her cheek. “Oya stand up, throw away that weed, let’s get you dressed for your big day. Gosh I’m high from secondhand smoke.”
Lexus laughs. “Me, I’m coasting.”
Genesis drags her up and back in the direction of the house.
“Happy Valentine’s Eva!” she shouts. “I’m pregnant, by the way!”
Genesis stops. “You’re kidding me!”
“And you were smoking?!”
“You’re seriously pregnant?”
“And you were smoking?! What is wrong with you?!” She smacks her. “But seriously, you’re pregnant?!”
“Oh my God!” Genesis holds back a shriek. “Does Kasiobi know?”
“No. I’m telling him in my vows.”
“Oh lord, oh lord, oh lord…” Genesis packs a fistful of her dress and covers her face with it. “I’m so going to cry today.”
Lexus tugs down the dress. “Don’t naked yourself because of baby blues. Let’s be going, aunty.”
She links arms with her and they hurry towards the house.
∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞ ∞∞∞∞
It is only a few minutes before Lexus walks down the aisle and she is set to go. Surrounding her are married women. They all lay hands on her and bless her wedding. This is Genesis’ way with every bride she has worked with. She finds that apart from the spiritual blessings that come with the act, the brides always get a boost of confidence to face the day.
Lexus is not acquainted with the women who have laid hands on her but she is grateful to them, nonetheless. After the prayer session, Genesis introduces them.
“This is Honey, Celia and then Mary, who is in charge of the finger foods today and the food on Saturday.”
“Thank you, ladies.”
They each give her a hug and leave with Genesis. Lexus is left with the makeup artist who puts final touches on her face. Wura is also there.
“Lex?” Wura calls. “I have this to tell you.”
“I’m listening,” says Lexus, clinging to her flower bouquet.
Wura clears her throat and begins to sing Patoranking’s Wedding Day to her. An excited Lexus sways to the music and together they leave the room, dancing. For the pleasure of the few people left in the house who are yet to join the waiting crowd outside, Wura and Lexus entertain until they step into the open air.
“You daddy is waiting for you,” Wura informs Lexus, dabbing her face. “And gosh! He’s so hot today. He looks ten years younger.”
Lexus follows Wura’s stare to where Dominic waits nearby.
“Dude is dying his grey hairs. He doesn’t know he’s old.”
Lexus hands Wura her bouquet and walks up to her father. Engrossed in his phone, he is not aware of her presence until she speaks. When he lifts his head and looks in her direction, he loses poise.
“Wow.” He clears his throat. “Tonbra…”
He seeks for words to express himself but can’t find them. “Would it be okay to just say you’re breathtaking?”
“And that I’m proud of you?”
She nods again.
“And that I love you so much?” his voice breaks.
She nods the third time.
“Evangeline wouldn’t have missed this for the world. Look at you – all grown. Right under my nose.”
Lexus spins around.
“I have something I kept over the years.” He opens his blazer and takes out a small handcrafted card, the same one Lexus presented to him on her eighth birthday, when she met him for the first time. He had been around when she was just a baby but that day had been their first real meeting. The memory was etched in Dominic’s heart, together with the heartbreaking message in the card.
“Dear daddy,” he reads. “Today is your birthday. Tomorrow is my birthday. I will see you for the first time but you will go away. I will miss you. Please, don’t go.”
Lexus grins. “Yup. That was all me.”
“I was a stupid father when I had you, and I made terrible mistakes along the way but I’m grateful that you gave me a chance to redeem myself. Now, I want to beg in your own words, please, don’t go. Stay around, have your kids here, watch me and Genesis grow old. Don’t go away.”
Lexus reaches over and hugs him. It is the first time he is expressing the pain they both have faced over the loss of their loved ones.
“I’m not going anywhere, daddy. You know that.” Lexus straightens out his lapel just as her bridal song comes on. “Would you do the honor of walking me down the aisle, handsome?”
They walk to the wedding ground and step on the custom-made rollup carpet that illustrates the milestones in Lexus and Kasiobi’s relationship.
“Whose idea was this?” Dominic asks.
“I’m going to have pleasure stepping on Kasiobi’s head.”
Both of them titter as they make their way to Kasiobi and the minister. After placing a peck on her forehead, Dominic leaves Lexus with Kasiobi. The lovebirds face each other as the ceremony kicks off.
Sitting beside her husband, Genesis captures every moment with a smile that finds it hard to leave her face. Sometimes, her eyes glisten up. Sometimes, laughter erupts from her. When she turns her gaze to the crowd and catches Jide’s arm around Honey, Mary whispering into Ekene’s ear, Seyi trying to steal a kiss from Hauwa, Mahmud ogling his wife without shame, her pride swells.
But no emotion beats the sense of fulfillment that comes with knowing that her favorite couple in the world is finally taking this huge step.
Days later, if you ask her about the best wedding she’s ever planned, she would mention the name Kaslex. For her, the magic didn’t start when the guests started trooping in or when Lexus walked down the aisle with her father or when she let slip while saying her wedding vows that she was pregnant, leaving Kasiobi stunned for a long time, or even when they shared their first kiss as husband and wife.
No, it began three years ago, when she spied the duo kissing under the huge tree that separated the Ditorusin mansion from the guesthouse. There had been something fresh and magical about the kiss that stirred an emotion in Genesis. It was in the way they looked into each other’s eyes when their lips parted. She saw love that was hard to find in the world she lived in. She saw friendship. She saw trust. She saw lovers that were willing to do anything to make each other happy.
It was on that day she got the calling to venture into the path of ensuring that couples who came to her had their happy endings. If not for a lifetime, then at least, for one day.
She felt her husband’s hand slip into hers. She looked at him but his eyes were on his daughter.
“Best Valentine’s gift ever, Genesis Raymond. I feel blessed. I owe you one.”
She smiles. He winks.
He has no idea that it is she who feels blessed. He had taken her from a shameful lifestyle and made her a princess. He doesn’t owe her anything. He is a gift that keeps giving.
“I now pronounce you husband and wife,” the minister declares. “Kasiobi, feel free to kiss your bride.”
Kasiobi lowers his lips to Lexus’, and well… we all know how that ends.