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Ifeanyi and James stepped into the church as the early mass was winding down to an end, and they stood in the back, listening to the priest, Tobi, drone on in a dull monotone broken occasionally by a louder ‘Lord’ which tended to rouse the sleepy congregation. Eventually, a rousing, final ‘Amen’ was chorused and the small fold began to throng out of the church, eager to shed their piety in order to take on their individual days.
Ifeanyi wryly observed the church members as they trooped past him; he wasn’t a steadfast catholic, didn’t regularly attend church, and couldn’t remember the last time he’d been to the confessional. James and his wife, Julianah, were the Catholic faithful in their clique. Aidee was Protestant, along with Chinyere, and had managed to get him to go to service with her at one of the New Generation churches she attended, where the worship was remarkable more for its pomp than any actual religious ritual. Aidee had grudgingly favoured a Catholic wedding service instead of a Protestant one, as a bid to impress Ifeanyi’s family.
“You two career men are not allowed to be here, in church, away from your offices, on a weekday, at the same time,” Tobi drawled as he approached his friends, his simple white robe billowing slightly in the morning air.
James chuckled. “Hey! I’m a boss! I can do whatever I want.” At Tobi’s pointed look, he sighed with a smile. “And I’ve got the day off.”
“Well, my extended leave is still on,” said Ifeanyi, “what with this month supposed to be my wedding month and all.”
Tobi looked at him. “These things happen. Have you and Aidee made a decision about the situation?”
“Yes. In fact, we’re all here to follow up on the decision we made.”
“Yea, the girls are outside in the car park,” James said.
“The five of us are on our way,” continued Ifeanyi, “to attend to some wedding details, to restructure some stuff, and we just dropped by to know the church’s schedule for our new date.”
“Your new date,” Tobi echoed.
“Yea, the holiday after March Twenty-Eighth. We have pushed the wedding forward to Easter Monday.”
“Easter Monday,” echoed Tobi again.
“Yes, nothing can go wrong then,” James said with a chuckle. “Jega and his people certainly can’t mess with the day after Christ rose from the dead. Baba God go just vex.”
Ifeanyi, ever astute, cocked his head at Tobi. “You don’t seem too pleased to hear this, Tobi. What’s wrong?”
The priest paused, but only for a microsecond, before he said with his characteristic frankness, “So you two are definitely going ahead with the wedding then?”
“Well, of course we are,” Ifeanyi said with a startled laugh. “That’s what people do when something interferes with their wedding date. They reschedule and go ahead, full throttle.”
“Not people whose wedding plans have been interfered with twice.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“That perhaps you should consider that there are powers-that-be trying to tell you something about this event that is supposed to mark the beginning of the rest of your life.”
The comment hung in the air, pregnant with meaning.
Then James intoned, “If Jules should hear this, she’ll attribute it to the witches in Ifeanyi’s village.”
Tobi gave him an arch look, before deadpanning, “I’m not an advocate for the witches in Ifeanyi’s village.”
“So you’re saying…” Ifeanyi began.
“That heaven knows something you don’t, and is using two wedding date cancellations to speak to you, to illuminate your mind on this.”
James chuckled to take the sting off his words as he said, “All this long grammar just to express your disapproval, eh Tobi?”
“No. Not my disapproval. My doubt.”
“Your doubt.” It was Ifeanyi’s turn to reiterate.
“Yes. Look, Jerry, it’s not my place to tell you what to do. As your friend, my duty is to support you in your decisions, especially one as lifelong as this. But the thing is, especially because of the gravity of this, I’d be failing as a friend if I didn’t point out how this could be a mistake.”
James shut his eyes momentarily, as he braced himself for the storm. A man did not try to get in the way of another man and his woman, and not expect to get singed by a lightning flash.
“You’re saying I might be making a mistake?” Ifeanyi queried quietly.
James’ eyes flew open and he turned to stare at him. Tobi was looking at him too. There was no rancour on Ifeanyi’s face.
“I’m saying,” Tobi replied, in the manner of someone carefully weighing his words, “that instead of rushing headlong into an Easter wedding, perhaps you should – you and Aidee should – take a moment to breathe and think on the real reasons you want to get married.”
“I love her, Tobi.”
“People like to think that love conquers all. I’ve been a priest long enough to know that love is not the superhero we make it out to be.”
“That’s a good one,” Jams interjected, clearly impressed. “Who said that?”
“I did. Just now,” Tobi returned.
Ifeanyi made a sound that drew their attention back to him. His expression betrayed his struggle to untangle his emotions, a shifting compound of sadness, irritation and amusement. Then he turned to James and said, “What do you think?”
James hedged, suddenly uncharacteristically serious, before saying, “I think that if you have to ask me what I think, then you have some serious thinking to do.”
Ifeanyi shook his head. “Every time you do this, say something without actually saying anything, it makes me wonder what you’re doing in the banking industry.”
“In my next life, I’ll seriously consider your recommendation for me to be a lawyer,” James rejoined.
The three men shared a short, awkward laugh, one which died as fast as it spurted to life, overcome as it was by the undercurrent of disquiet and doubt eddying around them.
Then Ifeanyi blew out an explosive breath, before running a hand over his face, and said, “I can’t believe I’m about to do this.”
“Wait – here? Now?” James squeaked then, looking panicked.
“What better time to get it over with,” Ifeanyi said, before turning to walk out of the church.
Tobi started after him, patting James on the shoulder before gibing, “Don’t worry, old friend. I’ll say a prayer for you, for Julianah not to squeeze” – his gaze dropped tellingly on James’ groin – “too tight for being a part of this.”
He was laughing as James retorted, “Oh you’re so going to hell for that, Father.”
The men moved through the church premises and approached the women, where they stood conversing and leaning against Ifeanyi’s Honda. James’ Mercedes was sedately parked beside them. As they drew closer, the women perked up; Chinyere reached for the backdoor of the Honda, opened it and slid inside. As far as she was concerned, the business of the church proceeding had been taken care of, and it was time to move on to the other things on the schedule.
“Good morning, Tobi,” Aidee and Julianah chorused.
“Good morning, ladies,” the priest returned.
“So, we’re all good now for Easter Monday?” Aidee said, glancing at her fiancé.
“Aidee, we need to talk,” Ifeanyi said instead.
“We do?” Her brow furrowed, and alarm sparked in her eyes. For a bride-to-be, she was beginning to acquaint herself with trouble at every turn. “What is it? Is Easter Monday not good? We can always wed on the Saturday before it. They can’t re-fix elections on that day too. I mean, this government might be crazy, but they can’t mess with a Christian holiday weekend. So Saturday or Monday is fine by me…” She was talking fast, and could not understand why a sliver of presentiment was snaking up her spine.
“No, Aidee,” Ifeanyi interrupted gravely. “We need to talk about us.”
In the silence that followed, Chinyere opened the car door and stepped back out. And Julianah shot her husband a quizzical look he refused to meet.
“About us,” Aidee repeated uncomprehendingly.
“Yes. And what it means for us that two dates we’ve fixed to get married were ruined by the elections.”
“What are you – that doesn’t mean anything…” A mirthless laugh gusted from Aidee. “I mean, I told you we didn’t have to reschedule this last date. We could have done what my friend, Josephine told me her friend did. They simply moved their party to Ghana, which is where they plan on getting married. A location wedding isn’t so bad.”
“Of course it’s not. But this all makes me wonder which one you’re more interested in – the wedding or the marriage.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I proposed to you a year ago, Aidee. A whole year ago. Most people would have gotten married, at the most, six months down the line.”
“But we are not most people –”
“Why exactly is that? Because I’ve got more than enough money to turn out a wedding that’d be the social event of the season?”
“For an entire year, it has been all about the perfect wedding with you. The fanciest wedding. The biggest wedding. The wedding everyone will talk about. The wedding, Aidee. Not us. Us! The actual people who should matter.”
“But we do matter. You matter very much to me.” She stretched out her hands to cup Ifeanyi’s chin. Consternation was etched on her face as she hastened to add, “I love you, Jerry. I love you very much.”
Ifeanyi unclasped her hands from his face. “I know you do. I just have to wonder if you love me enough, or if that’s enough.”
“What are you saying?” The words escaped Aidee’s mouth in a gust of exasperation and dread. He turned her head to stab a furious look at the other men. “What is he saying?” James didn’t meet her stare. Tobi looked stoically back. Comprehension began to sink in, and she turned back to Ifeanyi as she said her next words, feeling her whole world begin to topple like a row of dominoes. “Are you breaking up with me, Jerry?”
A heavy silence followed, one that was underscored by the sounds of the morning eddying around them. Five people tensely waited for the answer to the question, while the sixth stared, understanding slowly saturating his mind.
“No, Aidee,” he said slowly. “I’m not breaking up with you. I want to marry you. Right now.”
“This wedding is supposed to be about us. Everything else was supposed to be details. But we let the details get in the way. Well, here’s our chance to reclaim it for us. I asked you last year to marry me. Well, I’m asking you again. Aidee, will you marry me…right now?”
“But…I don’t…are you insane?” she burst out.
“Our friends – our families… What about our guests?”
“We have our friends and family right here.” Ifeanyi gestured at the other people standing, gaping at them. “They’re all the guests we need.”
“And you want us to get married in these clothes?” She was incredulous. “My wedding dress…we don’t even have a cake…no flowers –”
“Details, Aidee. Details.”
“Where’s this coming from, Jerry? Why the rush?”
“There’s no rush. There’s just an understanding that heaven knew something I didn’t, and is illuminating my mind with it.”
Behind him, Tobi smiled.
“I don’t understand, Jerry –”
“Then understand this: I love you. I want to marry you. So will you marry me…right now?”
There was a moment when Aidee wanted to say no to the ‘right now’ part, when she wanted to put her foot down and insist on a proper wedding, on all the trappings she’d envisioned for her big day. That moment however fleeted past when she looked into her fiancé’s eyes and realized what he’d been saying: that their journey on two people becoming one should be about those two. Everything else was just details.
“Yes, Jerry,” she husked, her eyes suddenly misting over with tears. “Yes, I’ll marry you right now.”
For several moments, they punctuated that declaration with an embrace, before turning to face their friends. James brought out the box of rings he’d been toting around in his capacity as the best man. Chinyere and Julianah took up positions on either side of the couple, and Tobi stood regally in front.
And he began: “Dearly beloved, we are gathered right here to celebrate the union of Aidee Erhime Agoreyo and Jerry Ifeanyi Chiemeke…”
QUICK QUESTION: If you’ve enjoyed this series, then I have a question for you. 🙂
After hearing Tobi’s doubts on his marriage, was it truly Ifeanyi’s intent from the onset to wed Aidee right then and there in the church’s parking lot, or had he intended to break up with his fiancée?
Give us your answer with reasons, and the commenter of the most satisfactorily correct answer wins a N1000 recharge card of any network.
Thanks, guys, and do have a Terrific Tuesday.
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