“I loved you a whole lot, back then, you know.”
She turned her head quickly to him. He kept his eyes on the road, as he drove. “You never said so.”
“Not in words.”
“How was I supposed to know?”
He glanced at her. “I showed you…” He looked away again. “…and if you had stuck around, you would have heard it.”
“The last time we were together…”
“Yeah, immediately you left, I regretted not saying it back. I waited till I was sure you were home before calling, but you never picked. Then, I sent messages full of…”
When he cast a sharp look at her, she smiled ruefully and said quietly, “That’s what she called them.”
Without looking at her, he asked, “Who?”
She sighed deeply. “I told you I didn’t feel so good the last time I was at yours, remember?”
He nodded. “You had come from the hospital to see me.”
“I thought I had malaria and because I really wanted to see you, I didn’t wait to collect the test results.”
She shrugged and continued, “I planned to stop at the hospital on my way to work, the next day.”
She smiled slightly and shook her head. “But, before I got home, the doctor had called my dad and told him that I was pregnant.”
Slowly and in a detached manner, she recounted all that happened afterwards.
By the time she was done, he had packed in front of the house they had come to look at. As she stared out of the window, she remembered the conversation she had with him about it three days ago.
He had shaken his head vehemently. “I will not live in your grandmother’s house, Bunmi.”
“We can’t live in your house, because it’s too small. Moreover, your mum lives there now too. Grandma’s house is now mine, so…”
He had shaken his head some more. “That’s out of the question. I have a great job and some money in the bank. I can pay for a house for my family.”
“Why pay someone else rent, when we can use that money for something else?”
“I won’t be a kept man, Bunmi.”
That had been the end of the discussion, so they had started house-hunting.
He turned in his seat now, to look at her. “I can’t honestly say I blame your mother.”
When her eyes narrowed, he sighed and held up a hand. “You were her little girl…”
He shrugged. “…only twenty three, while I was twenty six. She…”
“Twenty five,” she cut in.
He shook his head and smiled gently. “Yeah, twenty five.”
He turned away from her, leaned back in his chair and stared ahead. After a while, he rubbed his eyes with the fingers of his right hand, and then exhaled with his mouth.
“Processing all this is still so difficult … My mum… your dad…” He shook his head and sighed deeply.
“I know what you mean. That day in the living room…” She shook her head.
There was silence in the car for about a minute, till he turned to her again and broke it. “Do you know the weirdest thing?”
She raised an eyebrow and he continued, “Even though I was reeling in shock at all those revelations, I still couldn’t imagine not being with you.”
His eyes narrowed and he shook his head. “I called myself all sorts of names, for lusting after my own sister, but…” He shrugged.
She smiled. “You too?”
His eyes widened. “You…”
He broke off and she nodded her head and said, “Yeah, I felt the same way. I still hated you, but…” When he raised an eyebrow, she shrugged. “You abandoned me.”
He smiled. “You got tired of having a holiday fling and dumped me. That was my own reason for disliking you.”
They stared at each other for some seconds and then reached out his right hand to touch her jaw. He whispered, “What happens next?”
Whispering back, she replied, “I don’t know, Kunle. It’s been so long and a lot has changed in our lives.” She exhaled through her mouth and said quietly, “I think we should just take it a step at a time.”
He nodded and removed his hand. “Can we make another deal?”
She raised an eyebrow and he gave a lopsided smile. “I told you that I want all strings attached in our marriage.” Her second eyebrow shot up and his smile got fuller. “I still do.”
She rolled her eyes and shrugged. “No surprises there.”
He turned serious. “I had something else in mind when I said that, but now, I want all strings attached.”
He extended his right hand to her. “Can we see how that goes?”
She stared at him, without speaking, for a few seconds. Then, slowly, her right hand grasped his.
“I offered him some money, but…”
Sade smacked her thigh with her right hand and cut in, “Can’t you see, Bunmi? He’s just a gold digger, just like his mother!”
Bunmi sighed and shook her head. She was tired of the argument. “Mummy, he didn’t want any money from me.”
Her eyes narrowed, as she angled her head to one side. “He didn’t?”
When Bunmi shook her head twice, she started laughing. “He’s even smarter than I thought. He’s looking at the big picture. He knows how much being your father’s son-in-law will change his life, for the better.”
Bunmi frowned slightly, shook her head and clucked her tongue. “Mummy, you’re such a snob! I wonder why I’ve never noticed that.”
She waved her hand dismissively. “I’m not a snob, darling. I know how the society works, that’s all.”
Her eyes opened wide. “Can you imagine exchanging your father’s name for Ifeoluwa?” She rolled her eyes. “Such a common name!”
Leaning forward, she touched her daughter’s knees lightly. “There was a buzz when you appeared at Mama’s burial with your children. No one knew you had them, so that was understandable. Can you imagine how much our friends will laugh at us, when they find out that our housekeeper’s bastard son is their father?”
“Mummy!” She stood, looked down at her mother and spoke slowly. “I hate it when you speak in that manner.”
Sade flung her head to one side and raised a hand. “Oh, come off it!”
Turning back to Bunmi, she raised an eyebrow and spoke, “Is that not what he is?”
Eyes narrowing, she continued, “What term best describes a child made by parents who are not married?”
“You just described Jake and Joanna, then.”
Sade frowned and looked sideways. That’s different, Bunmi.”
She folded her arms on her chest and turned angry eyes at her mother. “What exactly is different about that?” She shook her head slowly, “You once loved Kunle like a son.”
Without waiting for a response from her mother, she continued, “I have decided to get married to him and nothing you say can change that.”
Sade looked at her now and shook her head slowly. “Do you know how difficult it was to pretend that I didn’t know that he was the reason you were sent away? I had to still love him like a son, while my daughter was all alone in some distant land, all because he couldn’t keep his hands off you!”
She took a deep breath, before speaking more calmly. “Bunmi, forget about that will for a second and think about what this means. There are…”
She smiled, as she cut her mother off. “I’m not thinking about the will, at all.” She sat beside her mother again, turning so she could gaze at Sade. “It’s funny you mentioned Tunde the other day.”
When Sade raised her eyebrow, she smiled. “Yes, he is Ambassador Kolawole’s son and all of that nonsense that appeals to you, but I was not even mildly interested in him. I only went on a few dates with him, just to get you off my back.”
She frowned. “The last time I was anywhere near him, he slobbered all over me, in what he thought was a kiss, and tried to grope his way up the hem of my dress, right there in his father’s living room. I was completely repulsed by him and that was the man you wanted me to marry.”
She spread her arms wide and gave a huge smile, “Then, along came Kunle.” She shrugged, still smiling. “I couldn’t keep my hands off him too!”
Turning serious, she stood and said, “Mummy, my marriage to him might last only a year, but I’m going to enjoy every bit of it.”
When her mother raised an eyebrow, she looked her in the eye and gave a lopsided smile and said, “Yes, every bit, mummy.”
Sade frowned and looked away. As Bunmi walked slowly to the door, away from her mother, she said, “I want to have a blast on my wedding day. I want to leave no doubts in anyone’s mind, about how attracted I am to my husband.”
She halted on her tracks and continued, “You want to make sure no one laughs at you, right?”
She spun around, to face her mother, eyes shining in excitement. “Let’s throw a party and give them a show they won’t forget in a hurry. We have less than two months to plan my wedding, so the earlier we start, the better.”
At the look on her mother’s face, she threw her head back and laughed. “No, I’m not crazy. I also know how the society works.”
Heart thumping, he watched her walk down the aisle, on crushed rose petals, to where he stood at the altar. Her hand lightly placed in the crook of Niyi’s elbow, she had eyes for only him, as they approached.
His scalp was clean shaven, but on his jaw, was a little beard. As his eyes widened, she noticed his raised eyebrows. They were full and perfectly curved and she had teased him, in the past, about them.
She smiled. Just like a girl’s.
He looked resplendent in a shiny black single-breasted suit, with a gold hankie on it. There was an embroidered ivory waistcoat over his crisp white linen shirt. She admired the scrunchy knot of his gold silk cravat.
On his feet were a pair of black formal shoes. She had bought them, so she knew they were made of soft leather.
She looked into his face and smiled again. Now, I can wake up to this, every morning.
He found himself smiling back. She looks like a princess.
A thin ivory lace veil, draped over her head, flowed down and covered her shoulders and upper arms, stopping just below her elbows.
Casting his eyes downwards, he noticed that the neckline of her strapless dress had a sweetheart design and just above it was a necklace made of three strings of pearls. It was a perfect contrast to the light brown complexion of her skin. The bodice of her dress was almost completely covered with crystals, which glittered as she walked. His eyes lingered on her chest for a few seconds and continued downwards.
His eyes widened, and then he smiled slightly. Attached below the bodice of her dress, was a corset that ran all the way to the drop-down waist of the dress. It was made from the same lace as the veil, but was lined with a very sheer material, so he could see a hint of her belly through it.
Certainly not a demure princess.
Her dress was an ivory-coloured ball gown and the bottom had folds and layers and was so full, that he wondered how she was able to move so gracefully.
The toes of a foot peeked out and his smile grew wider. Blue nail polish? That’s a first.
She appeared a lot taller than usual, so he was sure that her strappy ivory sandals had high heels.
When his eyes travelled back to her face, they were only a few steps away from the altar and she looked amused.
Immediately her father placed her right hand in his, she looked up to him and without moving her lips, whispered, “You can pick your jaw back up.”
His attempt at stifling the laughter that threatened to erupt, resulted in a snort that had her father look sharply at him. Both men stared at each other for a few seconds, before Niyi gave a short nod and turned away.
He turned back to Bunmi and she smiled, before giving him her bouquet of white roses. Confused, he looked at it, then back at her.
She smiled again. “I love you.”
Tears sprang to his eyes and he quickly blinked them back. “I love you too, baby.”
With his head held high and the bouquet in his right hand, he walked to his seat. His face was expressionless, but inside him, several emotions clashed.
Over two months had passed since he found out the truth, but in his mind, Kunle would always be his. So, it felt somehow wrong, giving out his daughter to the man he had always thought of as his son.
His exchange with Bunmi, on the other hand, filled him with a lot of joy.
I’m getting my princess back.
His only regret was the fact that in a year, these two would be separating.
Listening to them exchanging wedding vows, he looked intently at Kunle and smiled, when he heard a little tremor in his usually confident voice.
A lot can happen in a year.
“…Till death do us part.”
Sade shifted uncomfortably beside Niyi, causing him to turn his head in her direction. While the priest’s voice droned in the background, he smiled slightly, transferred the bouquet to his left hand and slowly inched his right hand across the space between them.
She looked down at his hand and slowly returned her eyes to his face. She held his gaze for a few seconds, before turning back to the altar, at the sound of loud applause.
Niyi sighed deeply and turned just in time to see Kunle drop a chaste kiss on his daughter’s lips.
Issuing a challenge with her eyes, Bunmi stared at her new husband. Her lips opened slightly and he lowered his eyes to them. She moved closer and tilted her face upwards. With his right hand he pulled her even closer, lowered his head and their lips met. Soon, the priest’s persistent and noisy throat-clearing, as well as the standing ovation they were receiving, forced them to break away from each other.
Embarrassed, she curled up her hands behind his back and slowly, let her arms drop to her sides.
I’m in trouble.
He let out a breath from his mouth, as they stared at each other.
So, we still have this.
“I present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Kunle Ifeoluwa!”
Kunle beamed at her, extending his right hand to her left shoulder. Turning slightly, he drew her closer, till she was nestled against him, her left arm around his waist. Together, they smiled at the cheering congregation.
Wow, she’s all mine.
Only for a year, the voice in his head mocked.
When they entered the bedroom, they stared at the king-sized bed. The golden brown ornate carvings on the headboard were very impressive, but it was the red rose petals, scattered all over the white sheets, that got their immediate attention.
A three-night stay in the luxurious hotel suite was a wedding gift Niyi had insisted they accept, since they had refused to go on a honeymoon.
A champagne bucket, in black glass and with gold handles and footing, was placed on a small glass stool beside the bed. Inside it, two bottles of champagne were chilling on a bed of crushed ice cubes, and beside it were two crystal champagne flutes.
Bunmi walked closer to the bed and traced a finger on the gold trimmings on the edge of the pillow cases. Soon, head bent, she picked up a petal and rubbed it between her fingers, before letting it drop back on the bed. Slowly, she turned to Kunle, who had been staring at her. He walked closer and stood before her. Extending his right hand, he removed the ivory bejeweled comb on the left side of her head and dropped it on the bed. Her hair, was swept to the side, and held in a loose chignon beside her right ear. A few tendrils of hair escaped to the nape of her neck and when he reached out his right hand to touch one, her eyes widened slightly.
Not looking at him, she whispered, “I need to get out of this dress.”
He smiled gently. “Let me help you.”
Slowly, she turned away from him, presenting her back to him. Her dress was cut low at the back and a lace ribbon crisscrossed the entire length of the top half, holding it together. When he found the knot at the bottom, he held his breath as he worked on getting it loose. Slowly, he exhaled, cringing inwardly at how clumsy his fingers suddenly were.