After driving like a crazy person down the express way and receiving insults from other motorists for flying down the road like a bat out of hell, I got to Nena’s house. Kehinde’s directions had been surprisingly easy to follow. I knew the way to the house from the town market, so at least I wasn’t too bad with directions. As I got out of the car with the box of Nena’s shoes in one hand, I was tempted to lay flat on the ground and kiss it. I had never been so happy to see the cream-coloured walls of Nena’s family house.
The devil’s plan to keep me from this wedding did not work!
I went around to the boot of the car and got Alex’s luggage. It would be easier for him to get it from my room when he got back from the hospital.
You mean if… the pessimist in my head hissed.
I pulled the box and struggled with both shoes and luggage in either hand as I walked into the house, expecting a battalion of people to accost me, asking why I was just arriving. The first person I saw was Nena’s mum, who spotted me just as I was about to climb the stairs. Now, Nena’s mum was a ‘hugging screamer.’ The extreme type. Whenever she saw someone she liked and wanted to hug, she would start to scream her excitement. Impressive vocal chords, one of the many things Nena inherited from her mother.
“Aisha! Is this you? Where have you been?! I’ve been asking Nena about you! She wanted to go mad yesterday when she thought something had happened to you. We’ve been expecting you, my dear!” At this point, I was still trapped in her extremely tight embrace.
“Aunty, it’s good to see you. We had issues along the way. I hope she’s fine now,” I said, making what I hoped she recognized as a conscious effort to free myself.
“Yes o! Taye’s brother…er, Kehinde called to say you were close by.”
“Oh ok. Let me go and see her. Is she in her room?”
“She’s dressing up in my room. Let me take your things to her room. Both of you were supposed to stay there.” I handed her Alex’s luggage and my handbag and took the shoes with me to see Nena.
I pulled myself up the stairs, yawning all the way. There were so many people upstairs; most of the girls in the bridal train and a few of Nena’s aunts were standing outside Nena’s mother’s room. I figured she had prevented them from seeing her until she presented herself. They all had on their beautiful champagne-coloured dresses, with faces beat to perfection.
As soon as they saw me, the noise erupted.
“You’re here! Nena has been waiting…!”
“Oh my God! Aisha!”
All these noisy girls sef. It wasn’t like I had died and come back to life. Why were they screaming anyhow?
“Aisha, go in. I’m sure Nena would let you see her. No one else is allowed to go in, so we’re waiting for the bride to make her grand entrance abi exit,” Ify said, rolling her eyes.
I remembered how Nena had told me Ify literally didn’t let her sleep until she told her she could be part of her bridal train. The girl just had something about her that made me want to charge at her whenever I saw her. But today was not her day. I made my way to the door and opened it and I sauntered in.
“Didn’t I say no one should enter this room!?” Nena shouted, with her back to me.
“Calm down, Bridezilla.”
She turned sharply on hearing my voice, and almost at the same time, I caught a glimpse of her wedding dress in all its glory. I had seen Nena wear this dress before; I was with her when she bought it and we had chosen it as the best out of the three she had liked initially.
But there was something about it today. Maybe it was her hair as the curls fell softly down her nape or her face that seemed like it had been moulded with the finest of clays. Whatever it was, it made her look perfect. Really perfect. I was too stunned to speak for a few moments.
She noticed that I was staring and waited for a comment. When one didn’t come immediately, she got impatient and said, “Talk now!”
“Nenadi, you look stunning!” I said, still trying to take it all in.
“Really? Are you sure the hair doesn’t make my head look funny?”
“Oh shut up, Nena. You look perfect. Well, almost perfect,” I said, trying my best to hold off the waterworks and bring out the shoes at the same time.
Curse my overactive tear glands.
The same shoes that had made me feel like I was spending a holiday in the valley of the shadow of death, I went on one knee and put the pair on her feet. The fight with my tears became even more brutal after that.
“Aisha, don’t even start! If you cry, I’ll cry!” Nena said while fighting to keep hers in as well.
Nature won in the end, much to the despair of Joe, the makeup artist, who kept on scolding us for making him redo his ‘masterpiece’. After seeing Nena looking so stunning and the way her eyes lit up when she told me she had been so worried and how much calmer she was now that I was here, I knew the hell I had been through to get there was worth it. According to Olaf, some people were worth melting for. At that point, I felt like I had been panel-beaten a couple of times. That had to fall into the same category as melting. Right?
Much later at the wedding reception, after I had bawled my eyes out as I watched Nena’s dad give her away and watched her become one with the man who had loved her so hard for so long, I stood with my glass of wine in hand, giggling as I watched Nena and Taye have their first dance. The look of contentment on her face was precious. After all the petty quarrels they had employed me to settle in the past, they had actually made it down the aisle. I remembered how Taye had begged me day and night to convince Aisha to go on a date with him. I milked him dry before I even thought to tell Nena there was a guy who wanted to take her out. I giggled as I remembered my evil exploits. I knew Taye would take care of her. I had drilled him back when I noticed their relationship was becoming serious and laid down some serious ground rules. When I was done, he learned that there would be very serious physical and maybe even spiritual consequences if there was ever any tomfoolery on his part. Yes, I was that friend. But Nena never had to do any of that, I always laid down the rules by myself in my relationships and none lasted as long as Taye and Nena’s.
As I watched them look into each other’s eyes, I was reminded of how much I wanted someone who would just get me and be happy with me. I wasn’t girly like Nena or desperate for affection or any of that, but I just wanted someone who was always on my team.
You have Alex, you know.
I had felt some kind of chemistry with Alex during the trip, or maybe it was all the near-fatal experiences making me confused. But even then, I had caught myself a number of times looking all over and worrying about him all day. Alex and I would make an interesting pair. With his charms and good looks and eccentricities and my –
“Hey, road buddy.”
I started out of my reverie and turned to see behind me Alex looking incredibly handsome in his dark suit.
“Hey you. Don’t creep up behind me like that again abeg.”
“If you weren’t so lost in thought, you would probably have noticed me coming up to you.”
“There isn’t a halo around you though. There’s no way I would have noticed,” I sallied.
“You have to argue though.” He took a step to stand beside me as he joined me to watch Nena and Taye as they swayed in and out of tune to the music. “Taye and his lack of dance steps… I guess some things never change. ”
“Ahan. Michael Jackson! You that knows how to throw down!” Then I threw my head back as I laughed.
He paused and cocked his head to the side, feigning surprise. “Aisha, but you should know now. You don’t remember how all those senior girls used to queue to dance with me back in school? ”
“Queue? Only Senior Ola used to die for you, and only God knows why! ”
“That’s not how I remember it o. And which one is only God knows why? Oh, good. Everyone is going to dance. Come and experience what kept Ola coming back for more.”
I laughed as I let him pull me to the dance floor.
We danced and laughed as we watched other people dance, and we laughed some more as we watched each other dance. This was the cycle until it was time for the slow dance. He held me daintily with his arm against the small of my back as we moved back and forth to the rhythm. The feel of his body against mine had me feeling tingly all over.
“How is your arm?” I said with my head resting on his chest.
“Oh, the doctor said it was fine. I woke up just as soon as we pulled into the hospital. We might need to go back for that hunter’s sedative though. Best sleep I’ve had in a while.” He chuckled lightly as he spoke.
“You better be joking. I thought you were dead at a point. Three straight hours of sleep! Who sleeps like that!”
He chuckled again. “Were you scared?”
“More like relieved,” I teased. “Your meat would have been perfect to help my gastric situation.”
We both laughed as we kept on reminiscing over what had to be the worst road trip in the history of road trips. The music, Alex speaking directly into my ears, his scent – they were all conspiring to fan the flames of my growing attraction.
“Don’t worry, we’ll get back at them soon enough,” he suddenly said.
“We?” I said, lifting my head to look straight at him.
“Yes, Aisha… We.”
The phone rang and Taye picked it up and saw Aisha’s name across the screen.
“Baby!” he called out. “Nena! Aisha is on the phone for you.”
“Oh, I’ll be right there. I just put Tobi down to sleep in the living room.”
“Yeah, I’ll be quiet,” Taye said moments before he handed the phone over to Nena upon her entrance into the room.
“Aisha! My sweetheart, how are you?” Nena gushed into the phone.
“Iya Tobi! I’m fine,” Aisha responded from the other end. “Why did it take you so long to come to the phone?”
“Someone has to put your god-daughter to sleep while you’re busy touring the globe, don’t you know?” Nena’s words were laced with sarcasm.
Aisha giggled. “How is she doing? I’ve missed her o.”
“She’s fine. Still looks like me.” Nena chuckled. “So wait, you haven’t missed me? That boy is teaching you bad things o.”
“Don’t be jealous. You know I miss you almost as much as you miss me,” Aisha said, laughing again.
“How is your trip with the boo going joor?”
“It’s been lovely. That’s actually why I called.”
“What happened?” Aisha could sense the concern in Nena’s voice now.
She said, “Well, nothing really o. Just that one of the fingers on my left hand now has a new dress code.” She wondered if Nena could ‘hear the smile’ that was plastered on her face as she said that.
“Huh? I don’t understand…” Then Nena broke off her words before exploding, “Wait! Aisha! Did Alex propose?!” Te volume of her voice increased with each word.
“YES! It took you long enough!” Aisha had to take the phone away from my ears so she wouldn’t be deafened by her friend’s screams. Alex was grinning and blushing at the same time on the bed beside her as he overheard from the phone’s speaker Nena screaming the news to Taye. Aisha could hear her too, even with the phone away from her ear.
“Taye! Taye…! Taye, come! Alex proposed!”
She ended up waking Tobi on her own.
Written by Nky Otike-Odibi, tweets @Nky_Otk and blogs at legalwatchmen.blogspot.com