Chrome told me about it. Not his wedding, silly. He told me about the Valentine note he was going to post on the 14th. And I looked forward to reading it. Because there’s just a few people whose Facebook notes I enjoy reading with relish – Eketi’s when I’m poised to enjoy razor-sharp witticism, Yakadude’s when I’m ready to be bowled over by literary savvy, and Chrome’s when I’m in the mood to ponder on that brilliant mix of somberness and humor, which he does so well. So you can imagine my surprise when I began to read and followed the sweetly-introspective, poignantly-romantic lines of the note; that is, until I remembered it was a Valentine note. Apparently Love turns everyone to mush, even guys as badass-looking as Chrome. When I was done reading, I put down my phone, turned off the lights, got into bed, and slept off.
Only for me to wake up so soon after. Haba! My sleep-wearied eyes fled to the windows, and indeed, dawn had given way its soft colors for the blazing lights of the morning. How is it I’d slept for such a short while? I groused. I know all about longer days and shorter nights, but c’mon! Seriously? This shorter night felt like five seconds too short.
And then I looked around the room I was in. It was my room, but…em…it wasn’t my room. I mean, it wasn’t the room I slept in, the room that was bequeathed to me by my uncle when I arrived his house in Lagos. There was no Etisalat calendar hanging from the wall, or my cousin’s television and DVD set on the table; that table, by the way, had vanished. But I could see my laptop, bags, clothes strewn all over the place, and a bulky valise filled to overflowing with novels I was yet to read. And then horrors upon horrors, the door opened and in walked….wait a minute, is that Heiny? I asked myself. For those of you who aren’t in on the joke, that would be the Chrome-christened name for my cousin, Uzoma Maduwike. But this Uzoma wasn’t the slim, slender, boyish-featured one I knew. This one was taller, bulkier, with a hint of a paunch and well-barbered mustache and beard. My jaw dropped wide-open. Uzoma with a paunch and a mustache?! What is wrong with this picture?!
“Haba! Cuz, you’re not even dressed!” he snapped, his eyes seething with impatience.
My eyes bugged. Gone was the squeaky but mellifluous tenor that sang songs in a tone that angels would kill for; the voice had actually deepened. “Dressed for what?” I managed.
He gave me a are-you-kidding-me look. “Wait oh. So because he didn’t invite you, you’ve decided you’re not going to go? That’s just ridiculous.”
Who didn’t invite me? For what wasn’t I invited? What was he talking about? The questions tumbled through my head like the spool of an audio tape getting fast-forwarded inside a radio cassette player. But before I could start shaping them from thoughts to words, Uzo had started chattering away, darting here and there, whipping out my clothes and shoes, and bossing me into the bathroom. Before I knew it, we’d had breakfast, swept out of the apartment (Did I mention it was a swanky-looking apartment?), strapped on our seatbelts inside a Honda and were soon on our way to –
“Where are we headed again?” I finally managed to get the word in edgewise my cousin’s busy chatter.
He rolled his eyes. Everything might seem strange to me, but I felt the familiar tug of irritation I usually feel each time he does that eye-roll. Nothing like a good slap to set those rolling eyes aright. “We’re going to Ikeja.”
Oh, so we’re in Lagos. That’s a good start, I said to myself. “And what’s happening in Ikeja?”
Those eyes started their upward journey again. My fingers itched. “For Chrome’s wedding, of course.”
OK, I’ve run out of all the expressions that appropriately express startled surprise and shock. But I’m sure you can guess just how stunned I was at that nugget of information. Chrome was getting married?! “To who?”
“You’re kidding me with that question, right?” he shot back, giving me an incredulous look.
My mentation clicked. Oh, of course, Nnamso. But, wait a minute – “You said something about him not inviting me. What was that about?”
“Well, I know you were supposed to be amongst his groomsmen. And then all of a sudden, something happened, and you were out. From the bridal train and the wedding as a whole.”
Now, there are very choice expletives I used at this stage, which I’m not going to disclose, to avoid ruining the saintly reputation I know ya’ll think I have. Finally, I managed to ask, “Why?”
Uzo shrugged. “The details of your falling out are still very sketchy to me. I just returned from a 3-month tour of my debut album in the US.”
I arched an impressed brow. Well, looks like someone’s dreams did come true, huh?
Soon, we arrived at the venue of this so-called wedding. The church stood majestic and proud of the fact that it was going to be the host of the impending nuptials. The sun unfurled his gilded beauty upon the dazzling and richly-tailored apparels of the guests climbing out of their posh cars, and those heaving their weights down from okada. The sweet sounds of music pushed its way through the windows and doors, woven by the masterful fingers of someone on a pipe organ. And there was a festive air tightened by anticipation and exhilaration in the atmosphere. Everyone seemed to know why they were there; everyone but me. I looked and spotted Ogechi chattering with Chinwe Duru. Chinwe gave me a beaming wave. Ogechi shot me a look of trepidation that seemed to ask ‘What is he doing here?’ Ben climbed down from a Mercedes with Ola on the other side. Upon seeing me, Ben made to come in my direction, but Ola gripped his arm and muttered something to him. Both of them gave me a look and walked on by. Emem hurried past; she was clad in a flowery gown that had me wondering why she was still living and breathing. A dress that flowery is what I imagined she’d wear…over her dead body.
“Emem, hey, how are –” I called out.
She shot me a scowl and sauntered on.
Haba! What is going on here?
“You came!” A female voice startled me around to face Chinwe Ononuju. She at least was coming towards me with a smile. “You came!” she said again. “What have you – a death wish?”
“I don’t understand,” I answered. “Everyone seems to think I shouldn’t be here –”
“That’s because you shouldn’t be. You were disinvited, remember?”
“Why, for chrissakes!”
She gave me a puzzled look. “What do you mean why? Don’t you know?”
“Ah-ah. It raised such a ruckus. Are you telling me you’ve forgotten?”
“Forgotten what? Just spill it already.”
Her eyes narrowed on me, as though she was trying to determine if it was truly me behind my skin. “Well, you stopped posting that your novel – The Conference – on Facebook for a long time. We assumed it was because you’d run out of steam. We didn’t know you were negotiating a publishing deal. You published and it brought to light some other plots you’d included that we didn’t read.” Suddenly she smiled with a wicked gleam. “And one of the plots was something oh-so raunchy that Chrome didn’t like.”
“Raunchy? Was it about him?”
She chuckled. “Oh puhleeze. You can write whatever you want about him and it won’t bug him. There’s only one person that you mess with and it incurs the dark lord’s wrath.”
Ah. Nnamso. “What did I write?”
But before she could respond, a squalling baby startled us around. Her brother, Edgar had approached us with a fair-skinned tot in his arms. “Chinwe, ngwa, come and carry this your baby,” he said, handing the writhing bundle over to Chinwe’s willing arms.
“Wait, Chinwe, you have a baby?” I queried, feeling as though I was flailing helplessly about in the middle of a turbulent ocean. She nodded. “What year is this abeg?” The siblings laughed and walked past me, shaking their heads as though they’d heard the funniest thing ever. And that the joke had been told by a seriously crazy person.
And then I found myself walking into the church. Everyone was already seated, and I was startled to realize that the ceremony was already underway. At the altar were two figures, one sheathed in resplendent white and the other cloaked in sharp-looking black. The bride and the groom. I spotted a pot-bellied Jojo on the side of the groom. Well, he had that coming. A small gleam caught my eye and I looked to the side of the bride, where her bridesmaids were seated. Eketi was beaming a radiant smile at the poignant moment unfolding. Hmm, some things haven’t changed, it seems.
Then my thoughts took a furious turn. What da hell is this?! If Chrome had a beef with me, why doesn’t he just forgive me?! Why did he have to kick me out of his nuptials? I could see more than half the SARTian group dotting the pews in the church. He even invited Jerry (looking very stuffy in his suit) and – wait, that’s Kaynna, isn’t it? Outrage blossomed inside me. And he had the temerity to disinvite me?! ME! Suddenly I didn’t care that we were in church. This matter was going to get rehashed right now. I started marching forward. Shocked gasps undulated across the room as seated guests saw me walking boldly towards the altar. And that’s when I realized the reverend was just finishing up the words to that part about ‘If anyone here has any reason why this couple shouldn’t be married…’ Oh boy! And they thought I had a reason?! I hurriedly started to retrace my steps. But Nnamso had turned, seen me and emitting a fainting moan, slumped down to the ground. A few squeals erupted. I looked slowly from the fallen bride up to the slowly-turning groom. Ghen-ghen! The black complexion gleamed. The lips bare the teeth in a snarl. The eyes were afire with – is that red?! Wait oh, who was I looking at? Chrome or the dark lord? A piercing scream interrupted my thought processes. And that’s when I saw his hands lifting a gun from inside his suit, the barrel swinging in my direction. Click. Snap. Boom! The bullet singed through the air, racing fatally for my forehead. And just when the connection was about to be made –
I jumped up from bed, suffused with sweat, heart drumming out a rataplan that could supplement as a background sound for a festival dance. And with my awakening came understanding. Knowledge of what it is I’d written in my novel that had affected the future so. I quickly rebooted my laptop, shoved my mouse around, tapped a few keys and recalled the Microsoft document bearing my notes. And erased an entire plot! As I clicked ‘delete’, I heaved a sigh of relief. There. The future has been secured.
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