It is a cold Wednesday afternoon. The rain never seems to end here in Lancaster. Tiny little unending drops that just have a way of messing up your entire plans. Oh well! I would just stay home again today and feast on McVitie’s Ginger nuts and a tub of Ben and Jerry’s Cookie Dough.
That has been my pattern for 3 days now since Chukky delivered his ‘news’ to me. I have been locked up in my accommodation here in Bailrigg crying my eyes out. Life has begun to lose meaning gradually. Everything seems so unreal. A week ago, I could not wait to be through with my Masters and head straight back to Naij. Now, I just want to disappear. I look out of my window and see couples laughing along, sharing an umbrella, looking like they have no care in the world. I smile to myself. A bitter smile because I know too well that they are all deceiving themselves.
That was how Chukky and I were back in Unilag. We met during Diploma in 2003. We both wanted to study Law desperately. I ended up with MassCom but Chukky was lucky enough to get into Law. Our relationship began as soon as we saw eachother. As ridiculous as that sounds, it is true. I’ve never believed in fronting or forming or ‘long tin’. I see it as pointless. He never asked me out formally. We just ‘went with the flow’.
We were so happy.
Within two months of meeting him, I had met his mom, his dad, his 3 aunts, and his 2 sisters. They were such an amazing bunch. They made me feel so welcome.
Chukky’s parents were extremely godly and born again. They used to attend MFM on Olasimbo Street near 2nd gate and it was on one Sunday morning that Chukky suggested we went to Church together that I first met them. I remember that morning like it was yesterday. Chukky called me a bit earlier than normal that morning to wake me up. I automatically assumed we were going to the Redeemed Church in Jibowu, Yaba close to school which was ‘our Church’. He used to pick me and my friends up in Moremi on Sunday mornings from his BQ. But that Sunday, he walked down and told me he felt that would be a good opportunity to meet his family who usually drove down from their Festac home every Sunday to Yaba for the 7 am church start at MFM. I had planned to wear a very fitted beige knee-length dress I got from ‘Talk2Me’ in Surelere the previous day with some chocolate brown high heels and a very Mac-ed up face.
As soon as I heard ‘MFM’ and ‘family’, I turned my room upside down in search of my longest skirt, which was not that long, and the only size 10 TM shirt I owned, instead of the usual 8 I wore in order to accentuate my small waist. I also wore flat pumps. I wanted to make a good first impression. I needed my friends for moral support so I begged Lara, Bola and Nkem, my best friends right from our Vivian Fowler days, to come with us. Nkem insisted on going to her church, St Leo’s, as she is Catholic but Lara and Bolade obliged. The four of us then walked all the way from Moremi, through ISL, to 2nd gate and then to MFM that morning.
After church was over, he made the introductions.
‘Mom, this is my very good friend, Ireti’, he said with pride. I knelt down to the cold floor right there in church. I got a few puzzled stares. Some girl in my block who attended MFM too and knew us smiled knowingly and walked briskly away. She knew the drill.
‘How are you, my dear?’ his mom asked pulling me close into a hug. Bent on impressing them, I replied ‘Odima’ They burst out laughing and said ‘You try, my dear, da alü’. And that was I became a part of the Chibueze home
Chukky, like the rest of his family, was born again. I was not particularly overly religious. I believed in God. I still do. But that did not stop me from listening to my Tupac, Nelly, Destiny’s Child, JayZ, Tuface on a reg. That also did not stop 11:45 from being my usual destination on a Friday night along with Lara, Bolade and Nkem.
Chukky drew me to God.
The changes I made were first because I wanted to impress him. I gradually dropped the whole clubbing thing. I still wanted to go. But just so that we do not fight, I stopped. I also reduced my ‘worldly’ songs. I stopped saying ‘shit’. I stopped wearing short dresses. I was no SU. But I became what Chukky had in mind for a girlfriend. I did it with joy because I wanted him to be happy. It seemed to work because Chukky would flaunt me everywhere we went. I was his ideal ‘nwunye’- a perfect bride.
With time, I started enjoying the whole thing. I started reading my Bible more without being prompted by Chukky and I started praying of my own accord outside the usual morning ‘Thank You Lord for this morning, ok bye’. I started fasting too. I was growing as a Christian and I was loving it. Chukky, too, was loving it.
I spent my entire 5 years in university making Chukky happy. I would be a liar, however, to say he did not reciprocate. He made it clear that I was ‘trying’ and he encouraged me. He bought me gifts ‘just because it was beautiful day’. He would take me and the girls on regular all-expense paid trips to Silverbird to see the newest releases. He would listen to all my ranting after a bad day with patience and then offer his two-kobo. He would oblige in my request to learn the Igbo language although he really did not care if I knew the language or not. He was good to me and I was not about to take him for granted.
All my friends were envious of us. I knew it. It made me happy though. I walked with so much pride everywhere I went. Sometimes, he would let me drive his car and then he would depend on his friends for transportation. That really ticked the girls in my block off. Their boyfriends never did such. Even the friends I know cared about me were still jealous. None of them had been able to sustain a relationship for that long. We were the envy of both my friends and his. Males and females envied us. Lecturers knew us. The lady who sold stuff in the shop on campus knew us. We were the ideal couple. Or so I thought…
I was of the opinion that Chukky and I had the perfect relationship. As perfect as it gets, really.
That was until Chukky travelled to Jand in ’09 for his Masters. I never liked the idea of him going without me since I already planned to do mine too. I wanted us to go together. But he was in a hurry. My parents were not financially ready as I had two siblings doing Masters abroad. Tola, my older sister by just a year, was in the US doing her MA in History whilst Bisodun, the oldest of all three of us was doing his Masters in Jand too. He was in LSE, London which means things were super expensive so as the last child, I knew I was to be the sacrificial lamb. My parents had explained this to me. I understood. I considered myself lucky to have parents who could not only afford it but also love me enough to want to spend so much on my education so I certainly was not going to push it.
Chukky, however was adamant. He refused to defer his admission to Lancaster till 2010 like I did. I felt hurt. But only because I was going to miss him. We had always planned our lives together. We even served in Abuja together. It was going to be the first time in 6 years that I would spend without him. I dreaded it. But I was already practising being a Proverbs 31 wife who builds her husband so I knew I had to be his helper and support his plans. To me, Chukky was not a boyfriend, he was not a fiance. I saw him as he would be in 2011-my husband. Yes, we were engaged to be married and were planning towards next year.
The proposal is etched in my memory. I can never forget. Of course, I took it as given that he would propose to me. Come on, we had been together for 6 years! But I had imagined him taking me to a cinema and ‘WILL YOU MARRY ME, IRETI?’ appearing on the screen while everyone cheered on as I screamed ‘Yes!’Or even something along the lines of how Majid proposed to his girlfriend in Silent Scandal. Watch it here from 3:50
Or we being in a restaurant and he having organised with the staff to bring me a meal with my ring somewhere in the food. I was expecting something romantic and cheesy like that.
Nothing could have prepared me for how Chukky went about it. He proposed to me after NYSC ended in the presence of my parents and Bisodun, my big brother. He came to my house to see my dad to ask him for my hand in marriage! He directed the whole conversation at my father and eventually ended it with,
‘Please sir, can I have Ireti’s hand in marriage?’
I was shell shocked. Even my dad was shocked but he managed to mutter a half bewildered half amused ‘yes’. It was then Chukky walked up to where I was seated in the living room, went down on one knee and asked,
‘Ireti, will you marry me?’