A copy of the gold embossed wedding program in his right hand,he held Oto,his fiancée in the left.They were at a booth in the ever bubbling Barcelos.Her blood red French tips drew patterns on his chinos encased thigh sending delightful shivers down his spine.He couldn’t wait to have those shivers escalate into a full blown fever.The wedding day was the next Saturday and then—the night!
Oto’s velvety voice glided through his reverie.She was asking him a question.
”I’m sorry darling”,he said his eyes roving all over her face and settling on her crimson,full lips.
I said,”Do you…uhm…ever get anxious about next Saturday and if we are…uhm… right for each other?”
Nfreke paused for a second,a funny look crossing his face ,and with two hands cupping her face ,he said “Never darling!–I know you are the one for me and it feels so right to call you Mrs Oto Nfreke Udosen”.
To this ,Oto smiled–a quivering smile of relief.She didn’t need him echoing her fears.
Nfreke was the kind of man who watched Desperate Housewives with her.She would protest occassionally that watching soaps like that made him look like a sissy,but he would adamantly say that he would watch anything as long as he could be close to her.He was in love with her that way,pride and chauvinism forgotten.She loved him also,but when ChooChoo called her on the phone last week,her heart still thudded in that all too familiar way.She had to know if Nfreke was the “one”.She couldn’t just go ahead and marry him,with her still feeling so strongly for ChooChoo.She had tried to hear from God ,but it seemed God was leaving this one up to her.If only she had more time to be sure,but Nfreke wont hear any of it.He wanted her and he wanted her now!She reveled in the fact that she could be loved so much,especially when it was obvious,the adulation wasn’t completely reciprocated.She’d always thought she’ll marry Adonis with overpowering male cologne and a swag to go!
By Thursday,when Nfreke had a giant bouquet of roses and lilies delivered to her house,she had begun to feel she was ready to be Mrs Udosen.The bouquet was so large that all Oto saw when it was brought in through her door was the splash of red and white–she couldn’t see that anyone was carrying it.As she brought it close to her nose to smell its fragrance,she saw that a letter was attached to it.Every word of it seemed to burn out whatever doubt she still had left.The paper seemed almost scorched!
But by the morning of the wedding day ,the feelings of uncertainty returned with even greater strength.She just stared at everyone;unable to lift a muscle to do anything.She hadn’t slept well the night before.People milled around her in their twos.There was the make-up lady and the hair lady.The facials lady and the wedding dress fitter.She needed to hear Nfreke’s reassuring voice and when he called just when she was getting ready to hide someplace where nobody could find her ,she hoped she would hear something significant that would tip the scales eternally in his favor.His voice was as soft as ever,but she felt no better after the ten minute conversation.
ChooChoo called her soon after Nfreke dropped to wish her happiness in her new life,and the familiar stirrings in her heart as she listened to his baritone was all she needed to sink further into her quagmire.
“You will make me proud today”,her father had said when he woke in the morning.She had just stared at him ,her fingers shaking uncontrollably.
And now,the make up lady was saying,”Do you want the gold shadow or the mauve one?.The gold will bring out the shape of your cat-eyes”.
She had cat eyes?,she thought.
She sat there hugging herself,her hair swept up in a high updo with a dozen ringlets cascading down her face.She feared she would look like a Barbie doll whose owner had abandoned it–what with this cloud of ringlets and her sour pout!
“We’re going to be late” ,her father predicted,gathering up his cap and phone and shooing her mum out of the room.They arrived at the sprawling church building just in time for the start of the mass.
“Here comes the bride ,all dressed in white”,the purple robbed choir sang,as her father walked her down the red rugged aisle.She recognized many faces,but some just blurred into one big giant face,as they turned back to watch her.She wondered if they could feel her tension.
Nfreke had gone out of his way to impress her.He looked quite handsome today,his soft eyes regarding her in a mix of naked caring and longing.How could she possibly hurt such an angel of a man?
When she reached him,he held her hand in a firm grasp,his fingers caressing the insides of her palm in bold ,new ways.She turned to look at him and his eyes turned almost liquid.He grasped her hand even tighter.
“Dearly beloved”,the priest began.Her mind was faraway.The words seemed a distant echo.She was rudely brought back to the present.The priest was asking Nfreke.Do you ,Nfreke Nathan,take this woman,Oto Marie,to be your lawfully wedded wife,………..?
The time had come.She feared that Nfreke knew.She looked up at him,her eyes searching his face for some understanding.
The priest had finised his recital and all eyes were turned to Nfreke for his answer.Oto’s mouth was dry,her hands wet.I cant do this,she thought.
She heard a collective gasp.
Nfreke had answered “No,I don’t”,in a small,feeble voice,his eyes looking at hers sadly.
All eyes turned to Oto.
When the faint suggestions of a smile tugged at her lips,the priest could only stare with his mouth open!