Love In A Photograph – Grace Ochigbo
The music was as loud as thunder; it made the cutlery on the table tops rattle. Neon lights flashed everywhere like police sirens, but much more colourful. The crowd flowed down the long wide hall. The mood of the people swirled in utter excitement. They had been so jubilant, singing the songs played by the DJ while digging their cutleries into wide plates of all kinds of African dishes. The celebration started at noon and had gone on into this evening, everyone cheering like they’d forgotten how to stay still.
Linus was the perfect man for the hour in his tuxedo. It brought something out of him; a self-respecting pride and confidence that had resurfaced. Indeed, looking good translates to feeling great. A smile that shone brightly came off his lips as he walked down the red carpet hand-in-hand with his son. At the front row, he bowed courtly to greet Samson Itodo.
“Such a beautiful time we’re having here, Linus.” The older man said, patting Linus on the back while giving way for him to take a seat.
Linus looked to his side and greeted the noble dignitaries flanking him on all sides.
“Very beautiful event.” They all affirmed his father in-law’s statement.
“DJ, bring it down, bring it down.”
The MC’s voice drew their attention back to the elevated podium. He was a man of about forty years, a little above the medium height, of well-knit frame and dark complexion.
“This is the most crucial time in this party. It is part of the major reason we are here.” His voice rang out in the now still air. “Please, I want us all to make welcome the celebrant, the one we have all come to celebrate with today, Marvel Awuwuojo Atede.”
The crowd jeered loudly as Linus urged his son to walk to the stage. They’d used the last two weeks to rehearse what the little boy would say but the loud cheers from the crowd and the lights seem to be intimidating him now. It was a beautiful sight to watch Marvel move forward to the podium. There was something about him that drew people to him. It didn’t hurt that he was a very good looking chap but it was more than that. He had skin the same colour as his dad and the colour of his eyes were mum’s.
The MC bent to hand over the microphone to him. He collected it with an unexpected measure of calmness. His eyes took in the whole crowd without moving and they knew behind those beautiful eyes there were calculations going on.
“I…” he started, like he wasn’t sure of what’s to followanymore. “…my dad wants me to thank you all for coming out to celebrate with me today.” He glanced at his father and the man’s nod assured him he was on the right track. “My name is Marvel Awuwuojo Atede. Marvel means ‘to be filled with wonder’, andAwuwuojo means ‘the wonders of God’. So you see? There are almost the same name.” Laughter rang amidst the crowd. He didn’t say the words all at once like this, he took his time, pronouncing one word as if not sure of the next. He continued anyway. “I am a miracle child and I thank God for keeping me these three years. Thanks!” He bowed courteously and a loud applause came from the crowd.
Linus got up with pride and walked up to the stage. He picked the boy into his arms and placed a peck on his cheeks. The long weeks of speech rehearsals were not in vain after all.
“Son, if I held this world in one hand and you in the other, I’d take you.” Linus started, staring into his son’s eyes. “I may not show you how much you mean to me every time but always remember I love you, Awuwu. No dollar value can be placed on that.”
He let him down and Ezinne met them halfway to lead the little boy away from the podium, back to a seat beside his grandfather.
“Thank you would not be enough appreciation for your coming here today, ladies and gentlemen. I must say my family and I are honoured to have you.” Linus started, shifting his weight from one foot to another. “I want to start by appreciating Hon. Samson Itodo, the father of my dear wife who had taken me in also as a son.” He let the audience cheer loudly as Samson got up in recognition.
When the applause mellowed down, Linus continued. “With me here tonight are the couple I now refer to as my parents.” He let his eyes find them in the multitude. “For three weeks, this couple nursed me, unaware of who I was and how I got in their farm.”
He talked about how other persons would have left him to fate since he was almost dead anyway, but these ones took him in. Earlier this year, true to his promise, Linus had returned back to that forest in company of his father in-law and his men. The old couple were very delighted to have him come after three years and when he told them the major purpose of his visit, they were astonished for lack of a better word. Linus, courtesy of Samson Itodo, had secured a place for them in the FCT and was asking if they could relocate to the city.
“It sounded unbelievable and I recall Iya Seyi bursting into tears of joy.”
The audience exclaimed “eyaa”.
“Thankfully, they agreed to move and today, they look just like sweet sixteen. Just look at them…” the camera light shone brightly on the wide smiles of Iya Seyi and Baba Seyi. “Please, help me celebrate my parents. My newest name is Oluwaseyi, for your information.” Linus said aloud and the applause rent the air even more as the couple got up to wave.
Everyone saw how a smile came from deep inside to light Linus’ eyes and spread into every part of him.
“Please permit me again to recognize a woman dear to our hearts.” Strings from the keyboard came up louder now and people couldn’t wait for the next words to come off Linus’ lips. “When the bible said ‘there is a friend that sticks closer than a brother’, it was referring to this lady.” Linus glanced with smiling lips. “She is a true friend. Please celebrate Mrs. Ezinne, my wife’s bossom friend. She’s here with Iheanyi, her husband.” He waited for the applause to die down before continuing. “And Zeezy, I want you to know that whatever your heart desires are, God would meet them.”
Ezinne screamed ‘Amen’ loudly from where she sat. And as though those last words were a sign language, she got up and headed towards the door at the side of the hall.
“I think we can close here for tonight?” Linus teased
Displeased murmurs and grumblings came from the audience. He smiled. It was a sign of bliss. The bliss that only Abba could give a man. The door to his right side flipped open and Ezinne walked back in gently,
Linus looked above the Ezinne’s shoulders and suddenly, he was back in the ward room, the male nurse leading him out while he sang the last line in Ed Sheeran’s photography – their love song. He sobbed loudly and tears flowed like water down a fountain as he held the door knob.
“Nurse Yusuf!” the jerky tone of the female nurse attempting to cover the dead body of his wife with a linen turned their attention. “She just moved her hand.”She cried
In a blur, Linus was back at his wife’s bed, not minding the unbelief written all over the nurses’ faces. He stopped sobbing and sang even louder.
“We keep this love in a photograph
We made these memories for ourselves
Where our eyes are never closing
Hearts were never broken
Times forever frozen still.”
Few minutes later, he heard the door open behind him and then the doctor’s voice. The male nurse must have gone out to call him but that wasn’t an issue because, not only did Ajuma’s hand move, she had forced her eyes open. She blinked, closed her eyes, opened them and blinked again.
“Wait for me to come home
Wait for me to come home
Wait for me to come home…”
Linus continued singing, watching Ajuma overcome the lose connections in her head. Giving her a hand, she slowly pulled herself up to sit,
“Linus!” her weak voice called out. “You are home?”
“Yes, baby! I am home.” Linus squared his shoulders, holding her gaze. “I knew you couldn’t die. That’s not what Abba promised me. Abba always keeps His promises. He assured me He’ll help whenever I call him.”
“Abba?” Ajuma raised an eyebrow.
“God! Our loving father.” Linus cleared her confusion and she smiled.
Linus rubbed her hair. “Welcome back from the cold hands of death, A-jay! We won.”
Now, with Ajuma’s face to the podium, her dark long hair flowed down her back as she walked behind Ezinne. Her dress was simple, clean lines, cream with shining crystals. Linus got off the podium and approached his wife as she moved slowly and gracefully. Looking into her eyes, he knew all the beauty of the universe could not even hope to compete with these. The clicking of her heels added rhythm to the soft classical music that played continuously without pause – their song, photograph. Linus stared at Ajuma as though struggling to keep his head at rest with the reality. This was his wife. The wife Abba brought him back to and her back to him. She was as gorgeous as Abba’s spirit he’d seen in his encounter. All men may have been made in Abba’s image, but Ajuma Itodo? She was Abba’s masterpiece.
“Now, ladies and gentlemen, I want you all to celebrate Abba’s gift to me; the wife of my youth and the mother of my child. The love of my life and the life of my love.”
People giggled out loud.
“Yes. She’s the life of my love.” He winked and the laughter from the audience came out louder. “You all know our stories. God brought us back to life and to each other.” Linus led Ajuma onto the podium and waited for the cheers to go down before talking.
“We put our love in a photograph and made memories for ourselves, but we forgot to hand over the photograph to Abba, our creator and the one who is love himself.” He held her gaze now. “But after the horrible experiences we both had, we know better, isn’t it?”
Ajuma grinned broadly.
“Three years later, I am here to renew my vows to you, Ajuma Itodo.” Linus’ voice was subtle, slowly caressing her mind as it had been that night at the camp and for several minutes, they completely forgot the crowd.
“I married you with my eyes and soul on that day in London town.” Linus caught Samson smile on his seat and he got down on his knees in front of Ajuma immediately. “It’s meant to be Marvel’s third birthday, yea?”
The audience rumbled “Yes”
“Pardon me. Today, I want to marry my wife again.” He returned his eyes to Ajuma. “I want to marry you with my heart and every future dream. I want to have all of you, see all of you, the joys and the sorrows, and I want to stay here forever and a day more, cos Ajuma, you are home… my home”
He looked at her and it was as if every ounce of breath left her lungs.
“Linus Atede, I am in love with how you love me.”She managed to find her voice.
From his kneeling position, Linus stretched a small-sized framed photograph out to her and she collected it before pulling him up to his feet.
“We keep this love in a photograph, baby. Only this time, we will hand the photograph over to the photographer, Abba, the source and sustainer of our love.”
They stared at each other in an odd way, as if it were a silent argument. Their glances battled each other, until tears arose and they found themselves crying. Ajuma leaned in, so her forehead rested against Linus’. In that moment, he slammed his lips to hers and nearly knocked all wind from her lungs.
The audience cheered on.
Thank you for coming on this ride with me once more. I am sure you enjoyed it. The original idea to write this story started out as a challenge – a personal challenge. While traveling that afternoon, I challenged myself to write a story everyday for two weeks (never done that before) so I knew it’s going to be a little difficult considering several factors. One thing I must be quick to admit is that I didn’t write this story.
Now you’re wondering, huh?
There came a point I couldn’t account for the direction the story was headed anymore. God took over the writing. All the initial draft I made was thrashed by thealmighty and with my fingers, He brought out this masterpiece. So my first appreciation goes to Abba father, Emmanuel and Abba’s spirit for concept, insight and ideas. Abba, I recognize and celebrate you greatly.
I also thank my parents. They were quick to understand my passion for writing and have continued to support me. My mother reads my work. Lol. I couldn’t have asked for better parents, dad and mum. Thank you.
And to my best friend. While he teases me that I am a yahoo girl, sitting and typing on my laptop all the time, he supports me massively. He sent me a lot of data and airtime, ensuring I don’t have any challenge with both writing and uploading on the blog. I appreciate you, life of my love.
I want to thank Ayoade Adeyanju for coming through with the cover design on such short notice. I appreciate you.
To Peter Onuh, my friend turned fan and accountability partner on writing this story, thank you, sir. When I asked if he could be a check-and-balance for me so I can meet up with my target for completing this story, he joyfully accepted. And mehn… he can push o. Haha. Thank you so much, Peter. You were just the perfect ‘pusher’ I needed.
I appreciate Ed Sheeran for such a beautiful song. I love the lines of the song, the rhythm, the sounds. Everything about the song, I love so much. Once, that song was on continuous repeat on my phone, soon became my ringtone for a while too.
Finally, I appreciate you my dearest reader. Thank you for reading, for sharing, for commenting. Thank you for enjoying reading this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Thank you for staying safe this pandemic period. God’s got us.
Watch this space for more stories to come.
Love and light!