“Hei, mama I am finished!” Ezinne freaked, flapping both hands and stomping across her mother’s bedroom floor, “I am finished! what do I do, mama what do I do?!” she panicked.
Mrs. Okoye said nothing. She sat at the edge of the bed, bouncing her right foot worriedly, her head dropped in jumbled thoughts.
“I have to cancel the wedding—”
Her head jerked upwards, “Isi gini?”
“I’ll just call him and end everything,” Ezinne pressed on, gesticulating with her hands.
“You will do no such thing!”
“I said you will do no such thing!” Mrs. Okoye reiterated, poking a finger into the air, “ah ahn! what do you mean? You want to call off a wedding with somebody that has wiped away our tears, our poverty—”
“But mama, I cannot marry him like this—”
“You should have thought about that before going to open your legs for that boy, you should have thought of that! Ezinne did I not warn you about Chibuzor?” She began to tug at her earlobe, “Ezinne did I not warrr—n you?” she dragged her words, and Ezinne dropped her head in guilt and began to toy with her nails, “I warned you! But love will not allow you hear word, as if anybody marries for love these days, see!” she waggled a finger at her daughter, “don’t spoil my happiness, Ezinne don’t spoil my happiness o! If you don’t want to enjoy your life, me,” she slapped her chest, “I want to enjoy this life!”
“But mama what will I do?” Ezinne cooed, slowly lifting her head to look at her mother.
Mrs. Okoye regarded her up and down with disgust and hissed loudly before proceeding to adjust her wrapper. She sprung up from the bed towards the door, grasped the doorknob, and paused to look over her shoulders at a crushed Ezinne who had not shifted her gaze from her, “You better shut your mouth,” she sternly warned, “nwa na-enweghị ekele!” then marched out of the room and banged the door.
“My guy!” a spirited Ebuka lauded, slapping Dafe a handshake, “The Mudiaga 1 of Urhobo Land!”
“My broda,” Dafe rose to his feet and, with their hands still clasped, went in for a one-armed hug.
“The Mudiaga 1!” Ebuka patted his shoulder as they leaned away.
“My broda,” Dafe calmly responded, sitting down.
“Guy,” Kunle greeted Ebuka, extending his hand to him.
Ebuka shook it, “bless you, my broda,” then returned his focus to Dafe and folded his hands on his chest, “Guy you dey marry o, you like this,” and the three men roared in laughter, “no be joke! Dafe, Dafe wey we know,” he regarded Kunle.
“Hey, waiter!” Kunle beckoned to the server, “Bring one Hero here,” then said to Ebuka, “bro, sidown.”
“I go sidown!” Ebuka agreed, lowering himself to the chair, “no, the thing shock me,” he was effusive.
“Guy, I’m in love.”
“Obviously! very obviously!!”
“Guy no be lie, I’m amazed. I bin no know say dis matter go reach like dis. But wait o, una don…?”
Dafe shook his head.
Dafe nodded, smiling proudly.
“Ah ahn!” Ebuka exclaimed, glancing over at Kunle, who was watching them in amusement and sipping sparingly from the tumbler in his grip.
“Guys,” Dafe raised his hands and shifted to the edge of his seat, “Every man gets to a point in his life where he is ready to build his world around one good woman; Ezinne is that good woman for me—”
“Thank you,” Ebuka nodded to the waiter placing a bottle of chilled beer and an empty glass before him.
“—I love her,” Dafe continued to the nodding of Kunle. Ebuka reached for the beer on the table and began to pour it into his glass, “—And that’s why I’ve been able to wait this entire Year.”
“So, not even once?” Kunle asked.
Ebuka drank from his tumbler in a large gulp.
“No,” shrugged Dafe.
“Wow!” Kunle replied.
“I mean, yeah, of course romance, foreplay but it has never gone past that,” explained Dafe.
“Hmmn!” Ebuka remarked, placing his tumbler down on the table, “Guy, you try! I no go lie, I no fit do am, I no fit!” he emphasized, and Kunle chuckled, “Date a woman for over one year, without tasting? Mba nu!” he shook his head vehemently.
Dafe chuckled and reached for his drink, “The marriage is in a few days anyway, so I can say it has been worth the wait.”
“We are happy for you,” Kunle said matter-of-factly.
“Yeah,” Ebuka concurred, “happy and proud.”
Kunle lifted his glass in the air, “To Dafe and Ezinne.”
Ebuka picked his tumbler up, “To Dafe and Ezinne, the Mudiaga 1!”
And the three friends laughed, clinking their glasses.
“Babe?” Dafe called as he opened the door to their apartment, “baby?”
He followed her voice into the kitchen, “Hey,” he cooed, walking behind her.
Ezinne emptied a bowl of peels into the trash can, then turned around and smiled up at him, “I was just putting those away.”
He sent his arms around her waist, and hers went up to his neck.
“I missed you,” he said.
She smiled, feeling his breath against her face, “How was your night with the boys?”
“Good, but not as good as being back here,” he kissed her lips, “with you.”
She smiled against his face, and he pinned his forehead to hers, “You’re ready to be Mrs. Dafe Eseoghene?”
She chuckled, “Yes.” Then gazed at him thoughtfully, “I don’t deserve you.”
He shook his head, smiling.
“I’m serious,” she insisted, “You are too good for me.”
“Ssssshh!” he placed a finger to her lips, “You are just perfect for me. Mrs. Dafe Eseoghene.”
She chuckled, and he did, too, engulfing her in a tight embrace.
That night, while Ezinne snoozed deeply away, Dafe was awakened by the urge to pee.
He trudged into the bathroom and stood over the toilet. As he emptied himself into the bowl, he remembered the cufflinks he had purchased earlier that day, along with the jewelry he gifted Ezinne, and he realized he hadn’t seen the cufflinks since. So he flapped himself dry and walked back into the room, heading straight for the dressing mirror.
He searched the top of the dresser, the wooden drawers, and underneath the table, but the cufflinks weren’t there.
Confused, he planted his hands on his waist and glanced around searchingly, wondering where he could have dropped them. Feeling desperate, he walked to the waste bin – it must be in the paper bag that carried the jewelry, and Ezinne might have mistakenly disposed of it.
As he rummaged through the bin, he glanced behind at a sleeping Ezinne. Satisfied that his rustling had not disturbed her sleep, he grabbed the wastebasket and went back into the bathroom. I would find those cufflinks before going back to bed!
He set the plastic bin on the sink and began to shuffle through the garbage of mostly squeezed papers, used wipes, pencil peels, and empty packs. And at the bottom of the trash sat the bag he was looking for.
The melodious singing of the choir filled the large Catholic church. Drums echoed, streams of pianos’ vibrated, and the Cabasa rattled, all to the nodding of the fancily dressed guests.
Ladies posed stylishly for selfies on their Snapchat App. The men sat buried in their phones, fingers punching away at their keypads. Mothers commanded their children in hushed tones, relatives from the village huddled together, and the nursing mothers openly breastfed their hungry babies.
More guests trooped into the half-filled church, and the strong-willed children ran down the church aisle and in between pews.
Outside, Ezinne sat in the back seat of a black SUV, grinning into the camera of her friends as they bustled to get a selfie with her through her wound-down window.
Her chief bride’s maid stayed beside her, watching in amusement and periodically leaning in for a shot.
Dafe and his groom’s men hung on the other side of the church, chatting and laughing heartily, except for Dafe, who appeared to zone out every now and then, forcing smiles whenever tapped back to reality by Emeka and Kunle.
Mrs. Okoye could be seen gallivanting down the church aisle in her expensive purple lace and Gele, with matching silver shoes and purse, seeing to the arrangements and seatings of everyone, including Dafe’s parents, who were sitting at the front pew.
Suddenly, the singing stopped, and a new song began. Everyone turned their attention to the end of the church and awwed as two little girls dressed in matching lilac dresses with flower headbands placed in their dark gelled hair began to march down the aisle, dropping red petals to their left and right-hand sides as they went.
Cameras flashed, and lips grinned.
Another set of girls followed, marching in the same rhythm.
A little groom and a little bride appeared, and people gasped at how adorable they looked, especially the little groom who, in his little black tuxedo, held tightly to the hand of the reluctant, almost crying little bride.
The crowd giggled, cheering them on while their chaperone guided them to join the flower girls at the front pew.
The groom’s men emerged, lining up at the corner of the church, and the bride could be seen walking into the church with her entourage of bridesmaids.
As Mrs. Okoye, alongside her friends, aligned the bride and her train in a straight line, the choir changed their song to a special song dedicated to just the groom and the bride.
Everyone stood to their feet, with cameras trying to capture the bride in her flowing white dress, holding her bouquet of flowers and grinning behind her veil at the end of the church.
Ezinne’s father took his place beside his daughter, grabbed her arm, and smiled lovingly at her.
Dafe and his groom’s men began to march forward, and the mothers signaled Ezinne and her train to do the same.
The crowd went wild with excitement. There was whistling, cheering, and flashing of cameras – both the professionally hired cameras and the personal camera phones of friends and family members.
They marched to the center of the church amidst the choir’s beautiful singing and the supportive cheering and gazing eyes of the onlooking guests.
Dafe slightly bowed to Mr. Okoye, and Mr. Okoye shook his hand and placed Ezinne’s hand into his; the crowd went berserk with excitement.
He stepped away, and Dafe took his place beside Ezinne. His groom’s men went behind in obedience to the directions of the mothers and aligned themselves beside the bridesmaids’ in one straight line.
Ezinne began to feel nauseous. Her stomach stirred, and she squeezed her eyes to suppress the growing knot in her throat.
Dafe looked down at her, tightening his jaw, “you’re ready?”
She opened her eyes to look at him, forced a smile, and nodded fervently.
“Go, go, go,” her mother nudged them.
They began to march, hand in hand, step to step, smiling lips, all to the cheering of the crowded church.
As they approached the altar, their train of groomsmen and bridesmaids dispersed to the pews, and the couple marched forward and stopped face-to-face before the Priest.
“Dear friends and family,” the Priest began, and the crowd sat down. “We are gathered here today to witness the Holy solemnization between Ezinne Joyce Okoye and—”
“Why?” Dafe muttered, but Ezinne heard him. He had been gazing at her, smiling up at him, and he could not believe how she could smile like that.
“Hmm?” she needed to be sure she heard him right.
“Repeat after me,” the Priest said, but his words sounded like a distant echo.
“Why did you lie to me?” Dafe’s gaze was stern and seeking.
Ezinne’s brows furrowed into a frown, and the congregation went quiet, waiting for Dafe to recite after the Priest.
“What are you talking about?” she questioned, probing his eyes for answers.
Dafe frowned. He pursed his lips to suppress the anger expanding in his chest. He had spent the last two days hurting, hurting, and trying to comprehend, trying to understand, why. Now standing at the altar and staring into her brown eyes, he could not believe she had lied to him all this while. He would not take those vows until she gave him an explanation, and it better be a reasonable one.
“I found your report, in your envelope, tucked away in the trash can,” he said and watched the color fade from her face, “You’ve been lying to me?”
“What is going on here?” Mrs. Okoye asked, walking quickly up to them.
Dafe’s parents followed and joined them at the altar. The crowd began to whisper amongst themselves, and the Priest watched the couple in utter amazement.
Phones were pulled out, and the recording began, not minding that the conversation was inaudible.
“Dafe,” his mother began, but Dafe kept his eyes locked with Ezinnes’, “No sex. You said no sex yet, was this all a plan?-the plan?”
Warm tears bounced down Ezinne’s eyes. Her lips quivered, and she shook her head slowly, “I’m so sorry—”
“Don’t tell me that!” Dafe yelled, and the crowd exclaimed! “answer my question! What did that report mean? I want to hear you say it!”
Mrs. Okoye began to fidget. She threw her hands over her head and rolled side to side at the approaching crowd, shame gripping her every being.
All efforts by the altar boys to deter the congregation from approaching were met with steady shoving for a better view and flashes of cameras.
Dafe’s parents stood still, watching Ezinne, waiting for a response, as did the fixated Priest.
Ezinne buried her face in her hands and wept speechlessly.
“What is he talking about?” Ezinne’s oblivious father queried, worry creasing his forehead, “what is going on here?”
Dafe’s eyes reddened with rage.
“I’m so sorry,” Ezinne repeated, “it was all a mistake.”
“A mistake? Please explain to me how you could have an abortion, and damage your womb when you and I were not even having sex—”
“Chimo!” Mrs. Okoye grabbed her head, and the guests roared with exclamations.
“Blood of Jesus!” “What?” “Breakfast, ei go reach everybody” “What is happening!” “God forbid!”
“Is this true, Ezinne?” her father demanded, shock gripping his heart.
Ezinne looked to her left and right, with mascara tears running down her cheeks before looking back at Dafe’s face, “I am so–o sorry!” she stuttered.
Her bouquet rolled out of her hands to the floor, and the people continued to chant noisily. She packed her flowing dress by the hem and dashed blindly through the crowd. Her bridesmaids and family followed her in hot pursuit as the cheering crowd instinctively gave way to the running bride.
Dafe’s groomsmen came for him and began to lead him away from the chanting crowd and the loud wailings of Ezinne’s pleading mother.