“What am I doing here? This should not be my wedding day.” I muttered as I walked down the aisle. My heart was throbbing with fear, sadness and foreboding yet the smile on my face never wavered. I took carefully measured steps down the aisle afraid my legs could give way and I would fall flat on my face. My hand was firmly in my Dad’s and yet even his reassuring grip could not still the tempest in my heart. My life was about to end and no one knew it. They had no clue, none of them did. They couldn’t see beyond the Vera Wang dress that clung delicately to my curves, the décor and the ambience of the event hall.
I looked straight ahead trying to avoid looking at my would be husband. I was too afraid to look at him, afraid of what I might see there. Contempt, Rage or even Hate? I couldn’t be sure but finally we reach the altar and I finally brought my self to look at him. What I saw was totally unexpected. There he was gazing at me with a look of utter love on his face. Why is he looking at me like that, as though I was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. Dear soon to be husband, I never knew you were capable of this much pretense. I thought to myself mentally reeling from the deception.
And then Dad squeezed my hand before releasing it so I could stay beside my husband to be. That gesture was my undoing and like raindrops, a cascade of tears began to fall down my cheeks. My chest heaved but somehow I managed to control it. My groom placed his hands on my face wiping my tears with his palm and planting kisses on my forehead. The crowd must have taken this as a sign of undying love and devotion because I could hear hoots and the clicking of cameras.
If only they knew.
I went through the rest of the ceremony feeling like a part of me was crouching behind the one of the back pews watching shamefacedly as the other part of me said vows that meant nothing, kissed a man who detested her and displayed the certificate that signified the begginning of a marriage that shouldn’t have been.
What do you are doing, that part of me screamed but somehow the din of the instruments and the audience drowned her out.
To say I didn’t know I should not have married Jite would be a big lie. Who else marries a man who hates her? Truth be told, I don’t know why he married me either. He obviously hates me enough to not have gone on with it but for some reason he saw it through. I have one suspicion though. I think it might just be due to plain ego. He once promised me it was either him or no one else; if he couldn’t have me, no one would.
Jite used to be wonderful, you know. Every inch the gentleman. He was the kind of guy that wouldn’t expect you to cook for him just because you were his babe; he was a man who would open doors for you, fight anyone for you and say ‘I love you’ like a hundred times daily. Yeah, he was that kind of man from the first day we met until the day an unborn baby and a cripple came between us.
I don’t know whether to describe how we met as unusual or dramatic. I had been in Game looking for a set of pots. For some reason I had scoured the whole of Lagos looking for a set of nonstick cookware and had frowned upon every brand I saw until that day in Game. There it was on a well polished low shelf; sleek, red, with ornate wooden handles. Just what I had been looking for. I was about to grab the carton, not bothering to check the price, when another pair of hands touched it.
‘Hey, I bought that,’ I said.
‘And you bought it how?’ he asked, fixing me with a piercing gaze.
‘Errrr… I bought it by thinking of it already and as you can see I was standing in front of it about to carry it.’
‘And madam, as you can also see, I was about to carry it too and I think my hand even touched it first.’
‘It did?’ I asked unsettled by his gaze. He had on one of those massive sunglasses that some guys believe look cool. We looked about the same height but because of the advantage my heels gave I decided to stare him down. I needn’t have bothered. Dude was ready to stare back.
‘What kind of man even fights over pots with a woman?!’ I exclaimed exasperatedly.
‘The kind of man that cooks and also appreciates good quality cookware.’
‘But there are other brands here, Mister. Why don’t you just pick one?’ I asked, my eyes already getting misty with tears.
‘No Madam, I want this.’
‘Okay,’ I said, walking away before he could see the tears in my eyes.
‘Hey, you know we can solve this by getting married. That way the cookware will be ours or better still yours.’
‘Oh, jokes,’ I replied, waving him off. I would later learn that phrases like ‘let’s get married’, ‘I love you’ and ‘let’s break up’ were some of the easiest words for Jite to say. They come naturally to him and it’s hard to decide if they are being said jokingly or seriously.
I stepped out of the mall few minutes later. I was about to start my car when someone leaned in.
‘Can you open your boot?’
I looked up sharply and it was him.
‘Hey, I’m sorry if I sounded like a twat in there but I was just pulling your legs really. You can have your cookware; all you have to do is refund my money,’ he added, handing me the receipt.
I didn’t even think twice before jumping out of the car to hug him, and I didn’t let go until he started patting my back like I was a baby. That was when the irritation came back full force. I condescendingly pointed to the boot for him to drop the carton in.
‘Can I get a ride?’ he asked afterwards, and against my better judgment, I allowed him. Halfway through the journey, we were already talking like old friends and I think I fell in love the moment he told me he left his car at the mall just so he could meet me. Yeah, that was the cool Jite. Not the one he became after I did what I did.
We prepared for the wedding with so much passion and energy that you couldn’t tell how much Jite detested me. Sometimes I blame him. Most times I blame myself and the rest of the time I blame both of us for going through the charade of getting married.
The day we went to see our wedding planner, I smiled when she asked what the budget was and Jite said just one word.
Jite’s mom had decided her son’s wedding was going to be one to remember and had given us a blank cheque. She had just finished a contract for the federal government and was rolling in cash. We were to spend as much as we wished, she had said as she gave us the cheque.
The wedding planner shifted in her seat.
‘What and what do you want, how do you envision your day?’
I told her we wanted something that screamed money, romance, elegance and class. I pushed away the niggling thoughts at the back of my mind and smiled.
‘Just go all out please, go all the way. Money is not a problem,’ Jite interjected, rubbing my arms affectionately.
And all the way she went.
My friends’ emotions were bittersweet and also tinged with slight doses of envy. I had paid for their bridesmaid dresses and I had also handed a kit to each of the sixteen of them complete with jewellery, hair accessories and even toiletries. In the midst of the oohs and the aaahs I couldn’t fail to see some of what they really felt. It was quite hard for them to get over the fact that I was leaving the singles’ league and in style too. We had all shared stories of our efforts to make the men in our lives propose and they knew there weren’t going to be such stories anymore. That brought a kind of grief. I have felt it before and so could recognize it.
Our theme colour was gold; it dominated the 1,200 capacity hall that was our reception venue. The hall was exquisitely decorated. There were gold draperies, fireworks, table to ceiling high centre pieces, candle holders, and a cozy couch for Jite and I strewn over with rose petals. The dimness of the purple lighting and the coziness of the couple’s enclave gave our reception the perfect romantic ambience that I wished for.
Our faces radiated sunshine, warmth and love. We smiled at the cameras, we kissed at every available opportunity, we both smiled for the guests, for the cameras. We danced for an hour to Lionel Richie, Phil Collins and Marvin Gaye’s songs; our favourite songs. He held me close and we smiled into each other’s eyes. To the world the pictures will show a couple totally in love but within us we know it was all a lie, we know it was a mistake that should never have happened.
The limousine that took Jite and me from the reception was snow white. Mum stood by the door and wiped her eyes. ‘Go well my daughter,’ she said. ‘We miss you already.’ I felt tears roll down my eyes and Jite wrapped an arm around me to comfort me. He kissed my cheek and cooed against my ears. ‘Don’t cry, baby.’ We closed the door, and we watched them wave till we could see them no more.
Jite’s mood went black immediately the limousine moved. ‘Drive us around,’ he told the driver before closing the partition.
I cleared my throat. ‘Jite, aren’t we going to the hotel?’
‘Not yet.’ he grunted, removing his arm from around me and shifting to create space between us.
‘Okay, Jite will you just hold me? I’m cold.’
‘Well, that’s your business. Didn’t you know you would be cold when you chose that dress?’ he asked, pointing a finger to my strapless mermaid tulle dress. ‘I would have thought wearing a dress that accentuates your flat and firm stomach would have given you enough happiness and you wouldn’t even need me.’
‘Jite, please let’s not do this, please make me happy if only for today, please,’ I said, my eyes misting over. Silence. It was as though I was talking to a wall.