For the umpteenth time I saw her staring at me from where I sat at the choir stand, playing away on the keyboard with my nimble fingers which I think God created especially for the purpose of glorifying his exalted name.
Nedoo was worshipping with us for the first time I was most certain for she was the type that could be spotted among a million. I should’ve noticed if she’d worshipped with us even once. I couldn’t have missed those dark slit-like eyes that gazed at me under long lashes.
After service, Nedoo walked up to me, smiled expansively then introduced herself.
‘Kaun.’ I raised a hand to her and she shook it warmly, almost reverently.
‘You’re the musical director?’
‘Yes.’ I smiled smugly. ‘And today is your first time here, right?’
‘Right.’ Nedoo’s eyes widened with surprise. ‘Do you always know when someone is worshipping here for the first time? The congregation is fairly large.’
‘If that someone is pretty like you. Yes.’
‘I don’t know that, Kaun.’ Nedoo’s eyes shone brightly at the compliment.
‘Don’t tell me you’re hearing that for the first time.’
‘No I’m not. People tell me that all the time, but a Music Director has never been one of them.’
I grinned broadly. Nedoo wasn’t only pretty, she was smart like hell.
‘So what brings Nedoo before the Music Director?
‘Nedoo wants to join the church choir, please.’
My heart danced Swange at Nedoo’s request. What was she saying please for? I’d have said yes to anyone who asked to join the choir even if they couldn’t sing a note. As the Music Director of a not so big church, I couldn’t afford to be picky. But Nedoo’s voice was music itself, having her on the choir would be an asset.
Just within minutes of meeting for the first time, Nedoo and I began bantering like age old chums. I realized we’d quite in common. She was an avid reader, so was I. Both of us had the ear and voice for music, though hers was a mezzo soprano, mine a baritone. We were going to be fresh men in Bensu after a week or so. With this, I felt like I already knew Nedoo as much as I know me. I reckoned she felt the same way about me too because, though she didn’t as much as say so, her eyes did. They gleamed with affability and something akin to ardor.
Nedoo was different from all the other girls I’d encountered. When she looked at me, it wasn’t with the sympathetic eyes I’d by now become inured to. With her, I wasn’t just an invalid strapped to a wheelchair. I was a friend, a soul mate, a confidante and everything. I didn’t feel dependent and burdensome like I felt with others. Nedoo was ever ready to help and eager to please.
While with Nedoo I felt happy and larger than life itself, I couldn’t say same about her family. Thought the Hamation’s weren’t exactly uncivil, they lacked the warmth and affection possessed by Nedoo or was it just where I was concerned? Perhaps so, only I didn’t dwell much on this disheartening possibility.
Three years later we were in our final year and still an inseparable pair; always together, in school, in church, everywhere. The bond between us grew even stronger over the years and it seemed like our very existence depended on it.
Though I hadn’t popped the big question yet, everyone supposed I did and couldn’t wait for the big day. On the flip side of the coin, it was glaring to me Nedoo’s family didn’t share the same good wishes and it didn’t seem like they would give their blessing for the much anticipated union. This I was quite sure of. There were also those times I feared I was perhaps deluding myself about the possibility of getting hitched to Nedoo. She was a great friend, yes. But that may be all that there was to it.
I didn’t quite understand why Nedoo burst into tears when I eventually asked her to marry me a week before our finals. It was my birthday and we were having a quiet time together at my place. She’d been in high spirits until I proposed to her. Was that why she was crying? I tried to console her but like the Niobe, she refused to be consoled. It felt quite strange trying to make her feel better when I didn’t exactly know why she was crying in the first place. I was so perplexed she was crying. It would’ve made more sense if she’d rather hurled a truckload of invectives at me.
‘I need to go home,’ Nedoo said after having a good cry. But that wasn’t an answer to my question. She left me that night as befuddled as never before. Nedoo began to avoid me afterwards. A couple of times I arranged for us to meet but she rather stood me up. On Sunday, none of the Hamation’s was in church either. That was when it registered. So much for thinking love is magical.