SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING BLUE, SOMETHING BORROWED… (Part 4)

Saturday was a good day to get married. A heavy rain that was unusual for February had fallen the previous night, and in the early hours of the morning, the rain had stopped. The sun was out and everything had that washed-out brilliance about it. The air was clear, colours seemed more vivid, and the sky was an azure colour that was highlighted by the soft glow of the morning sun. The enlivening atmosphere and the purpose for the congregation at the church also seemed to vitalize the attendees of the wedding ceremony, as evident in the extra sparkle in the smiles, the frequent bursts of laughter and the flash of pomp in the well-clad appearances of the people eddying about in the church’s surroundings.

Yvonne didn’t seem to be in such high spirits as she stepped out of the passenger side of Obiora’s car. She was still wondering why she decided to attend the wedding. It was a query she’d been nagging herself with several times since yesterday night when she suddenly made the decision. Why? What was she doing here? Was she trying to prove a point to herself, to perhaps test her determination to remain fine in the face of the advent of Alfred’s marital bliss? Or was there a deeper, unexplored reason driving her here with the intent of resolving the past?

“Mummy.”

She turned just as Nkemjika clutched at her fingers with his chubby fist. The boy’s eyes flickered over the unfamiliar surrounding with the kind of uncertainty that made his mother’s heart clench with need – a fierce maternal need to hold him close and shield him from whatever turmoil that lurked in the present or future. She’d do anything for her son; she’d done it before and she’d do it again. It was her calling as a mother.

“Mummy, where are we going to sit?”

“Inside, dear,” she said, giving his fist a small squeeze. “We’ll find a good place to sit when we get inside the church.”

The car door slammed and there was a beep as Obiora locked the car electronically. As he walked around to where they stood, Nkem said imploringly to Yvonne, “Mummy, please carry me…”

Yvonne stared with horror at him, at his small shod feet planted on the moist ground, and then at the shimmering blue of her dress. “Uh…er…Nkem…” Damn! Just when she’d made that pretty speech in her head about doing anything for him.

“Nkem, can’t you see Mummy is wearing a fine dress,” Obiora cut as he came to stand by them. “C’mere, son. I’ll carry you.” He bent and scooped the boy easily into his arms.

Yvonne gave him a grateful look as they moved toward the church building. Everywhere around them, people were laughing and exchanging boisterous pleasantries. Obiora nodded a hello at an acquaintance from work; Yvonne waved at a friend she saw last several months ago. When Cynthia spotted them, she hustled over, her piquant features wreathed with a wide smile. She acknowledged Obiora and Nkem, and then pulled Yvonne a few metres away from them.

“You came,” she said.

There was a question in the statement, and Yvonne answered it, “Yes, I came.”

Cynthia cocked her brows. “What are you – a glutton for heartache?”

Yvonne chuckled mirthlessly. “Cee-Cee, don’t start. I told you I’m –”

“Fine, yes, you’ve said that so many times this past week, I’m starting to wonder whether you’ve re-christened yourself ‘Fine’.” Then she said in an officious-sounding falsetto mimicry, “Hi, I’m no longer Yvonne Anenih. I’m Fine.”

This time, there was humor in Yvonne’s laugh. “Abeg, leave me, Cynthia. I need to get back to my family.”

“Speaking of families, did you hear about the conditions of Alfred’s marriage to Gina Ade-Cole?” From the way Cynthia’s eyes were dancing, Yvonne knew there was a CNN broadcast waiting to be revealed.

“No, I didn’t. What are they?”

“Well, apparently, Oga Ade-Cole himself had Dear Alfie investigated and knows about his philandering past. So he made him sign a pre-nup first of all, and then warned him that at the whiff – as in, if he hears pim” – in emphasis, she put her thumb and forefinger a hair’s breadth apart from each other – “of any cheating rumours or past affairs becoming a scandal, Alfie Boy will be kicked out of the marriage faster than it takes him to unzip his fly.”

She laughed at her witticism, and Yvonne joined in reluctantly. She didn’t know what to do with this bit of news. She wasn’t sure how she should feel about it. So she simply didn’t go there.

The two friends chitchatted for a bit before parting ways. Yvonne went back to her family and they joined the throng of people filing into the church. Soon, everyone was seated, the buzz in the church was reduced to a muted stir and the bridesmaids, the groom and his train were in position beside the officiating priest at the altar. Yvonne felt something tighten inside her when she glanced at Alfred, taking in how good he looked in his customary well-tailored black suit, an attire which gave him an air of cool elegance.

When the cue was given, the church became quiet as the diminutive figures of the little bride and ring-bearer tottered down the aisle, followed by the flower girls, who spread out fistfuls of confetti on the ground as they moved. Then the man seated behind the pipe organ tapped its keys and the sonorous strains of ‘Here comes the Bride’ began to resonate all over the church. The people got to their feet as two figures, one resplendent in white beside the other clad in embroidered agbada, started down the aisle. The bride and the father of the bride. An inaudible sigh of pleasure soughed through the crowd as they took in the bride. Gina was a shade under 6 ft tall, and she looked elegant in the white silk wedding gown with its full skirt that appeared to shimmer as she moved. When she came abreast of where the Anenihs sat, Yvonne could see, through her veil, her cheekbones which were so high and sharp you feared they might pierce her skin. Her mouth was a scarlet slash and a row of milky pearls were curled round her slender throat. Yvonne had always prided herself on her own good looks, but observing Gina Ade-Cole’s beauty up close sent a hot sluice of jealousy trickling inside her. At the thought of this glamazon spending marital eternity with Alfred, the trickle turned to a ripple.

The father and daughter duo glided on until they got to the altar. Then there was the ceremony of handing over the bride to the husband-to-be. Alfred was beaming a smile as he took Gina’s hand in his.

That smile that made her heart catch the first time she saw him at the bank eight years ago, Yvonne thought as the priest started his ministerial drone.

That smile that he’d bestowed on her the day she told him she loved him, after he said the words to her.

That smile that was hers the day he asked her to marry him, and she said yes.

That smile that had lived with her for all of the past five years.

She turned in her seat to face her son, Nkemjika. The boy was beaming that smile now. His was a childlike version; a wide grin that expose his missing front teeth. The gap was an open, trusting door to the world; innocent, sweet, vulnerable.

Everything his father must have been once.

She turned back to the altar to watch his father take a stand beside the woman he was about to wed. Suddenly, she felt her chest tighten; it was as though a steel belt was being fastened around the region. She couldn’t breathe.

Alfred grasped Gina’s hand. The steel belt tightened.

She glanced at Nkem again. Nkem. My own. She’d given him that name, and there was a reason she’d chosen it; because it didn’t feel right to share the miracle that was her son with a man who wasn’t his real father. A man who she respected and admired, but couldn’t love. Her gaze traveled up and settled on Obiora who was seated on Nkem’s other side. He was watching the altar, and she took in his strong profile. Obiora with his dependable character. Obiora, her saviour. He had rescued her from heartache when she dumped Alfred, and from shame by marrying her hen they both discovered she was pregnant with Alfred’s baby. She never loved him, not then, not now; after five years, she could finally admit that ugly truth to herself.

It didn’t mean she loved Alfred either.

Her gaze swung back to the couple at the altar and icy fingers of loathing wrapped themselves around her heart. No, she wasn’t fine. After five years, Alfred still had the ability, it seemed, to upset her life, all the while getting a good bargain in return. She wasn’t fine with that.

“If there is anyone here,” the solemn words of the priest cut into her thoughts, “who has any reason why these two should not be married, let him speak now or forever hold his piece.”

A silence that was total – and somewhat fatalistic – descended in the church. The bride and groom stood tense and expectant. Yvonne shot another look at her son, and up at Obiora. This time, he was looking at her, and their gazes caught and held. The ice inside her crystallized and her resolve must have shone through her eyes, because Obiora’s widened with fountaining horror.

“Yvonne…” he gasped, “wait –” He reached toward her, his hand outstretched, to clasp her arm.

She jerked away from him before his fingers could fine purchase and got to her feet. A shocked gasp instantly rippled across the church and startled faces swung in her direction. The wedding couple turned too, and when Alfred saw her standing, he was visibly shaken. Yvonne rested a look on him for a full second, then turned to her son and said in a low tone, “Come on, Nkem, let us go.”

“Where are we going, mummy?”

“To someplace else, just you and me, baby,” she cooed. She took his hand, lifted him up into her arms and walked out of the church, leaving behind an instant outbreak of subdued murmurs, and the voice of the priest trying to quell the din with the words: “In the absence of any objections…”

THE ENDwedding-rings

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5 Comments

  1. Anu

     /  March 12, 2013

    Walter and Suspense*phew* good read as always 🙂

    Reply
  2. Lovely

    Reply
  3. nik

     /  March 12, 2013

    hewu. walter igaghi egbu mmadu.
    phew. real close to what i thought would happen. i like it that she made a point by carrying that child then, trust us with our tongues, it has started wagging already.

    Reply
  4. Yemie

     /  November 15, 2013

    Whew!! Thank God for little mercies, thought she was gonna squeal. Lol! Don’t know which is worse though, cos actions speaks louder than words but that’s if the bride’s family caught on; which appears doubtful at this point.

    *Speaking in a Gypsy’s voice*, Walter, i gaze long and hard into my crystal ball and I see you going places. Your imagination’s vivid to say the obvious. Great job!

    Reply

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