This thing called LOVE – GRACE OCHIGBO
“I won’t believe, if an angel told me, that daddy will let me go stay with aunty Helen. I mean… I mean…” she eased a slight smile.
“I’m surprised too, sis. Well, it’s always been ‘anything for daddy’s princess’ right from time. You’ve always wanted to go there again.”
Unekwu smiled broader now. “Because she would let me ‘do me’. Unlike here that one is forced to stay within the confines of church rules!”
Eneojo’s voice came through as he chuckled lightly. “Bible rules, you mean! Real stuffs. By the way, I hope you get your life back and get back on your feet as soon as possible, sis. The earlier you do that, the better for that punk of a fiancé. Else he would have me to contend with…”
“Punk? Excuse me?”
Eneojo burst in laughter now. “Tell me you still give a damn about that heartbreaker Caleb of a guy, after all he’s done to you?”
“Especially that I didn’t fall in love with him overnight. I was being sincere with loving him. I really love him.” She wiped a lone tear off her face.
“You would be fine, sis. Recess over. Got to go.”
Unekwu nodded her head, ended the call and sat up. She’s had the house help move in and out of her room in a bid to pack her belongings for the journey to Ile-ife tomorrow morning. Once again, she couldn’t tell exactly how she felt. A long time wish was finally coming to pass and it’s as though she’d never wanted it before.
“You won’t believe what that arrogant Mr Ken did!” Vera barged in on her without knocking. She never knocks.
“Your husband, you mean?” Unekwu gave a cynical smile and Vera eyeballed her coldly.
“Unee, we both know he has his eyes on you, and not me. I’m only getting my fair share of his misdeeds because I’m friends with you.”
“So what am I now? A conveyer of bad luck?”
Vera hissed dryly. “Boring comic lines. As I was saying anyway, the idiot ordered through email that I resumed work today, only to leave a note on my desk in the office.”
Unekwu sat up eagerly. “Oh well! What does the note say?”
“I should come to the state headquarters which I did. And you won’t believe what the idiot told me on getting there.”
“Marry me, Vera?”
“Unekwu, I’m just about to break your head if you interrupt me again.” Vera said playfully, hitting the latter’s hand.
“He could say that, right?”
“I’m sorry about your friend’s nullified wedding plans. On a deeper thought though, it could be God keeping her for the right man…” Vera mimicked his voice. “Then I asked him, who is this right man, sir?”
“Uhmm mmm!” Unekwu urged her to speak on
“Me, of course, Vera, he said. Perhaps, you could help me convince your friend that she should get down her high horses and see the obvious. I’m still interested in her.” Vera drew a long hiss now.
Unekwu laughed softly. “Why are you so worked out, girl? Last time I checked, this is no way to convince a friend about a man.”
“I’d rather you stay single than to convince you over Mr Ken, Unee. God forbid.”
I don’t get it anymore. Sincerely. Is this still about the convincing or there is more to Mr Ken and my beloved best friend? Even the birds in Lokoja know Mr Ken as a diehard player and flirt. Characteristics of rich big boy with good looks, huh? I don’t know how he thinks I would fall for his traps like every other little vulnerable girl that has fallen victim, both within the office and without. But then, wouldn’t it have been better to get married to a flirt than have a so-called ‘trustworthy’ guy call off a wedding this insensitively?
That doesn’t mean I’m considering Mr Ken, c’mon.
Moreover, I’m going far away from here to Ile-ife. I should outgrow Caleb there. That’s if love can be outgrown.
“He is not that bad, Vera, and you know it!”
Vera smirked. “The only thing I know, baby girl, is that you need more sleep.”
They both began to laugh like something set the trail.
The laughter was interrupted by the knock on the door. The house help walked in with head bowed and hands locked in each other.
“Mr Victor is here, madam!”
Unekwu gave a concerned look to Vera who only nodded in the affirmative and asked that he be let in.
Yes! Into my bedroom for that matter. I have almost nothing to hide around these two persons, Victor and Vera. We watched each other grow up from infanthood. Victor’s mother was my father’s secretary then, when the ministry was still upcoming. She’s still his secretary now that the ministry has expanded both home and abroad. He’s only 3 years, 8months and 15days older than me. Now you see how accurately we’ve known each other? You already know about Vera’s parents being co-founders of dad’s church. Dad literally supported Victor’s mother in ensuring that Victor attended good schools. Only that he couldn’t go for postgraduate studies abroad like I did. He did his masters degree still at KSU, my alma mata. He’s yet to pursue his doctorate degree. Aside that, every other school was same.
“I’m just about to interrupt a ladies’ evening out.” Victor called out from the door.
“Especially that you are these particular ladies’ handbag.” Vera responded.
Unekwu only smiled shyly.
She’s not seen Victor since the evening he walked her out of the rehearsal room. Inasmuch as Vera had told her that Victor was at the hospital over and again, only that he came those times she was unconscious or sedated, she didn’t want to be too forward.
Victor walked over to touch her cheek. “How are you, beautiful bride to-be?”
I mean, can you hear it?
Can you hear what he just called me?
Why do I feel like Victor deliberately enjoys picking on me?
He’s been calling me this name since I told them about my saying a final ‘yes’ to Caleb’s marriage proposal. That was several months ago, on the second year anniversary of our relationship. I kind of feel he’s been insensitive by calling me that name right now, considering the situation on ground. Well, it’s Victor and I’m not going to make a mountain out of it. He owes me a payback for how I scattered his rehearsal the other time too.
“You should be at rehearsal!” Unekwu said almost underneath her breath.
Victor nodded in the affirmative. “Yes. I’ve given everyone a break!”
“For real? Victor! This project is due in less than two months and you can afford the luxury of a break?” Unekwu sounded unbelieving.
Victor sighed. “It’s not been same without you, Unee. I’m sorry I yelled at you that way. I didn’t know you were already ill-spoken to by Caleb earlier in the afternoon. It was just getting frustrating that the sponsors were on my neck, yet we seemed not to be moving an inch. I’m sorry I judged you wrongly, dear.”
“What is all these one, abeg?” Vera interrupted. “Love proposal? Abeg, abeg, abeg!! You guys shouldn’t replay a line from your numerous scripts in front of me, because I am not interested.”
The thing is, Vera is the odd one out among us. Grossly anti-social; not as though I’m that social myself, but boy, I’m an expert when placed side-by-side with Vera. Vera and I have our own similarities though, like we both love colour black. Weird for ladies, right? Victor always said so. Is it his ‘loving’? and you that’s laughing at me now, is it your loving too?
“I’m leaving town, Victor. I guess someone must have probably told you. My mum, especially.”
Victor nodded his head painfully. “Yes, I heard already. And that’s why I came.”
Unekwu’s eyeballs popped out. “Don’t say it’s to stop me from going. We both know how important this is to me.”
Victor smiled. “No… no… I mean… not really. You need to go… I know. You should! I came for something quite different. Slightly similar though…”
Vera raised her eyebrow. “Are you OK, Victor? You have been behaving rather weird since you got here. And don’t tell me it’s about missing Unee cos I’ll miss her much more.”
“No. Yes. OK. Fine. I want to take you somewhere.” He stammered, ignoring Vera’s accusation.
“Somewhere where?” Unekwu’s curious side was getting the better of her now.
“Well, we will know when we get there.”
“OK o!” Vera got up. “Let me be on my way o.”
They both laughed.
“You can join us. Right, Victor?” Unekwu motioned for confirmation.
“Of course. Yes. Why not? It’s not a secret. It’s just for memories, sort of.”
Vera smiled coyly. “Nah! If I must come see Unekwu off early tomorrow morning, I must be heading to elder Williams house right now. You know how it is?” she winked.
Unekwu smiled broadly. “Curfew things. You are impossible, Vera. Be gone already!”
Vera stole a peck from her forehead and dashed out through the door.
“You will wait downstairs while I get dressed, please.”
Victor nodded in the affirmative. “Oh! Yes. Sure!”
He walked out, closing the door quietly behind him.
Vera stared as her mum turned the cassava flour gently in the pot. It’s a mixture of pleasure and absentmindedness and Vera could perfectly relate. In fact, she can guess why her mother was cooking oje abacha today.
“So, where is he now?”
Her voice startled the older woman, so much so that she almost let go of the handle of the pot she’s holding on to.
“Oh ójó!! You scared me, Vera!”
Vera smiled. “I wonder why you haven’t noticed me since, mum. Well, I understand. By the way, where is dad now?”
“He’s in Akure, the last time he called about an hour, thirty minutes ago. He must be closer now. I need his favourite ready before he gets here.” She sounded somewhat excited.
Vera smirked and turned to leave but was interrupted by her mother’s question.
“How is your friend?”
“She’s traveling to Ife tomorrow, mum. I don’t even want to think about how my life would be without Unekwu around.”
Mrs Williams picked up a food flask and rinsed it in the sink.
“You will be fine. The more reason why you have to bring a man home, Vera. It’s about time you…”
“Not now, mum!” Vera raised her voice and hand simultaneously, as though stopping her mother with both. “This whole love, relationship and marriage thing is overrated. I mean, you all felt I was wasting time, seeing Unekwu was getting married and I’m older than her. I don’t care, mum! Really, I don’t! Moreover, the marriage just got cancelled, leaving my friend heartbroken. Is that what you want me to get into?”
Mrs Williams took in a deep breath, cleaning her hand with a little towel.
“You see, my dear, because plane crashes everyday doesn’t mean we shouldn’t engage air transportation. Because people die from automobile accidents everyday doesn’t mean we should walk all our journeys. So my dear, because marriages break, fail and get called off everyday can never mean real love doesn’t exist. If you keep your heart open, you would find that one person that would lock you in his forever… and a day more.”
Vera swallowed. “I don’t know, mum. This whole thing gets scarier by the day. Look at you, mum…” she hesitated. “Look at the way dad treats you. This is synonymous to modern day humiliation. You had a master degree before marrying him, mum… but you cannot work. He feels he makes enough to sustain us all. He’s never around for us. He’s on his way back from Lagos to travel to Kano the day after tomorrow. This thing called love! Is this all there is? Or does it get weaker with time?”
Mrs Williams tried to show no expression on her face. Her daughter just hit her with a truthful challenge and she’s never going to bring down her husband before her. Never.
“You see, my princess, adults are somewhat complicated. What you see may necessarily not be what it is. Your dad and I are fine and perfect for each other. I may not be working but I lack nothing. Plus, I have more than enough time to take care of you…”
“Mum, is that what it is or what you tell yourself? Mum, I know you.” She searched for something in the older woman’s eyes. “I see how you stare at working class ladies of your age in church. I see how, in the women fellowship, you hate to always ask your husband for money to make any contribution. I see some of your write-ups in your room. I know how you so love to lecture in the university. Does marriage… and this thing called love take and swallow one’s life and dreams as well?”
“No daughter, never. On the contrary, it completes one’s life. Love makes you see the part of you you’d probably never seen before. It opens up the new and exciting you. Marriage is sweet, especially now that it’s to a man of God.”
Vera laughed sarcastically, and walked away. Mrs Williams watched her closely, hurt by the deep truthful confrontations. Suddenly, she stopped and turned back.
“You may like to tell dad and every man out there that marriage is their first ministry, work place, office, career, or whatever they do. He may be most successful and influential outside, but if we in the home cannot feel his impact and presence, mum, if we can’t feel him, then he’s failed… woefully!”
She climbed the stairs, leaving her mother staring into thin air while pondering over her last words.
Victor held onto Unekwu tightly as she jokingly hid herself away from a huge and scary figure in the painting in front of her. She’s been laughing so much and having the fun of her life in the past hour and that’s some sort of fulfilment to Victor.
“Look at that one!” she pointed towards the left hand side of the large and beautiful hall and ran off to touch it at the drop of a hat. Victor hurried after her. “Oh my God! This is so beautiful. Look at her hair. If not that it’s pinned to the wall, I would have bought it.” Her hand slipped down the face in the artwork.
Victor touched it too. “Really? You have some millions to spare and you are not sponsoring our film projects?”
“Don’t be a weirdo jare. I’m talking artworks, you are talking film.”
“Nah!” Victor started. “I’m not talking film. I’m talking money!”
“Isn’t it film you need the money for? Moreover…”
“Well, well, well… see who we have here…” a voice interrupted from behind.
Unekwu turned in the direction of the voice immediately. A curvy fair lady walked majestically in her direction. Her hair neatly parked and held to the side by a glistering silver pin which shone even brighter by the beautiful lightings in the arts centre. She’s on ankara pants with a loose chiffon dress and black heels. She’s beautiful, Unekwu could tell.
“Yeah! You may not know me. But I know you…”
Unekwu kept a curious face on her while Victor got slightly irritated by the intruder’s actions.
“I’m sorry about what happened to you. Believe me, I am really sorry.” She bit her upper lip.
I should probably get used to this… this sort of harassments. The, ‘you don’t know me but I know you’ stunt. Many thanks to Caleb, I have my name and my father’s name on all blogs on social media. Well, there’s no need flogging a dead horse anymore. I’m only smiling at this lady for courtesy reasons, and she had better be brief with her pity party, sympathy, sarcasm or whatever she’s doing in front of me right now. I can like to easily lose my temper at times.
“Thank you, young lady. Unekwu, I guess we still have some parts of this building to check artworks.” Victor held onto her and tried to walk off.
“Angelina et al. The most beautiful girl from California – that’s…” she hesitated, “that’s what I think anyway. Mind you, she’s not the crowned Miss California but in my sight, she is. Can you see the carefully lined full lips, like a ripe pumpkin.”
Unekwu watched on, with deep admiration, as the young lady described the artwork she’s been admiring and considering to buy. One question lingered in her mind through it all and it spilled before she could stop herself.
“How come you know so much about this work?”
The lady smiled. “I drew her!”
Unekwu’s ears fanned out in shock.
“Yes. This place was opened in beloved memory of my late parents. I have many more drawings here. May I show you?”
“Of course!” Unekwu smiled at victor before following her.
Victor dragged his foot after them. For some weird reasons, he’s not comfortable with the lady’s presence.
Chenemi calmed her raging heart as she dialed Victor’s number again. He’s not in the house and no one seem to know his whereabouts. She wanted to see him. In fact, she must see him. There’s something rather important and urgent to talk about.
She almost threw the phone away as his number reported switched off for the umpteenth time. She thought of another alternative. Going home was not part of them. Having an idea pop in her mind, she waved down a taxi.
“Thank you for the explanations. I’m sure Victor who doesn’t appreciate artworks before now must have learnt so much. Isn’t that so?” Unekwu sought confirmation.
Victor nodded in the affirmative, feeling a little embarrassed.
“It’s the little I can do, Unekwu…” The lady’s face gradually turned morose. “It wasn’t an intended venture… Love just happened between us.”
Unekwu gave the ‘I-don’t-understand-you’ expression.
She swallowed. “I’m sorry you are going through all these pains. It’s just that… I mean, only that… that… Caleb got so unsure about you after we met few months ago… I didn’t know he would delay to this point before telling you!”
Unekwu’s looked the lady from the crown of her head to her heels, like she was sizing her up. “You mean? Come… you are saying… you?… you…” she couldn’t say more as her feet starting staggering, and she knew she needed to excuse herself as soon as possible. She started moving her in the direction of the exit which was also the entrance.
“I’m sorry, Unekwu…” the lady called out to her.
“Please keep it to yourself and stay away from her.” Victor thundered, scaring the living daylight out of the lady before running after Unekwu.
“Wait. Unee… Wait!”
I can hear heavy thumping on the tiled floor from behind me. Victor must definitely be running after me. He’s even asking to wait. Wait? How is that possible? What just happened is just a typical demonstration of ‘wining and dining with one’s enemy’. For real. I’ve been having so much fun in here. Little did I know I was having fun with the paintings of the girl that made Caleb call off our wedding.
OK! I won’t cry. I promise. I’ll try to get to the car before this one tear drop off. My eyes are cloudy already, I can’t even see the road.
“Watch your way, lady!”
Unekwu felt an angry arm land on her shoulder. She just bumped into someone at the doorway, but that doesn’t justify the physical assault. Victor was panting as he caught up with her.
“So this is where you are, Victor? It’s because of this husband-seeker aunty you put off your phones. This aging aunty…” The lady that just entered the building turned to face Unekwu. “You couldn’t keep your man long enough to marry him, now you are running after another’s man…”
“Chenny! Are you out of your mind?” Victor yelled.
Chenny gave a sarcastic laughter. “Oh! You call it being out of my mind? You call standing up against forces that want to steal you from me as being out of my mind. Anyway, for your information, aunty Unekwu…” she touched Unekwu’s shoulders and the latter shook, letting her tears fall freely now. “I knew, all along, that you and your father were forcing that Caleb of a guy to marry you. Thank God the veil tore. Caleb too young to marry aunty like you. Same applies to Victor. So it’s not going to work here…”
Victor pulled Chenny out of the way by her hair, almost throwing her to the floor in the process. Unekwu hurried out of the hall, straight into her car. She cleaned her tears with the back of her palm just so to be able to see the roads while driving. More tears. She wiped her face again. Suddenly, she noticed Victor running towards the parking lot. She ran her frustrated mind over a lot of things before stepping on the accelerator and driving off before anything else. Tears, more tears clouded her vision.
It’s funny that you could know someone for years but still discover something you never noticed before.
To be continued on Wednesday.
Sorry guys, I forgot today was Wednesday. Lol…
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