Richard unzipped his travel bag and took out the small box. He placed himself infront of her knees and asked her again. “Adesola Aisha Shodeke, will you please be my wife?”
Although seeing the ring seemed to have shocked her, she didn’t answer him. She had his other hand in her hands and her fingers were stroking his wedding band. It didn’t take him too long to figure out what was going on in her head.
“Sweetheart, Eniola is my past. I want you to be my future. I’m sorry I am proposing like this. I planned to take you somewhere special tomorrow because someone like you deserves nothing but the best.”
“I…. honestly… don’t know what to say. I didn’t know you were planning to ask me. I mean, I don’t want us to rush into anything.”
As soon as he took his seat next to her, he made his own question known. “You still love me, don’t you?” Desola nodded, determined not to say those three words this time.
“Why can’t we be together then?”
“Okay, I will marry you, Rotimi.”
Richard scooped her into his arms. In between saying,‘Thank you’, he kissed her.When they hugged, she nestled her head in his chest and whispered as low as she could, ‘I love you.’
I just don’t know if you love me too, she thought.
When Richard left the room to tell his brother-in-law the news, his wallet on the bedside table caught her attention. It was new, grey-black leather, rather than the brown and gold zipped one she’d seen with him. She picked it up expecting to see a picture of the twins in the sleeve pocket. Instead, a picture of a younger, ravishing Eniola with Richard in a photo booth beamed back at her. The doubts that Desola had fought with for a while came flooding to the surface in gushing torrents.
As arranged, by Alhaji and Richard, their nikkah wedding happened three months after he proposed. It was on the morning following their traditional ceremony. Alhaja wanted her only daughter’s wedding to be the talk-of -the- town but the men had other ideas. Alhaji insisted on sending his first daughter forth, the Islamic way. A quiet nikkah ceremony at his local mosque.That was his key condition, reluctantly accepted by Richard before he left the country. Desola agreed that the wedding should be as low key as possible.She just couldn’t fathom why Richard didn’t seem keen to celebrate their union. She wished he’d asked her friends, Ife and sister Grace to come down from London. She wished he’d brought the children with him to witness the day they would never get back. He promised her they would have a church wedding in London.
On the night of their nikkah though, he seemed almost as keen as her when they eventually arrived at his house in Lagos. Her mother-in-law and the rest of his extended family left them to spend the night in different areas of Lagos. The newly-weds were due to leave for London the next afternoon but yet Desola wanted to unpack one of her bags. She wanted to leave a tube of cream or two behind in the home he spent his childhood in to make it smell and feel like her own home. She was trying to decide which nightwear to change into when she noticed her husband’s figure at the back of the house. He was crouched next to what looked like a headstone to her. She moved closer to the window.
When they drove into the compound, she’d seen her father-in-law’s grave. So she knew whom this headstone belonged to.
The woman she feared she would never be able to hold a candle to. The woman she feared her husband would rather be returning to London with.
Seeing him outthere like that reminded her of Monday morning, when her sister was plaiting her curls into neat corn-rolls. A Thousand Years by Christina Perri playing on her laptop had reduced her to an emotional wreck. She’d been unprepared for Fausat’s questions. Her sister wanted to know when Richard first told her he loved her. Desola told her the truth before she could stop herself.
“Are you sure it is wise to marry him when you don’t know how he feels for you?” “Anyway…” Fausat continued, “I’m sure he loves you. Why else would he have asked you to marry him? Just be a dutiful wife to him. He will figure out how he feels in time.”
Desola showered. She was lathering pinkish moisturizing lotion on her body when Richard walked in. She grabbed her dressing gown from the bed and draped it around her body as fast as she could. The wide grin on his face told her he’d seen everything.
“When a lady is in the room, you are supposed to knock,” she told him with a forced pout.
“Well, you are my wife now. If I had knocked I would have missed the feast you have laid on here.” His eyes strayed from her body to the nightwear she had draped on top of the duvet spread. “I hope this is just for my eyes only, Iyawo.”
“I wanted to look beautiful for you.”
“You already look beautiful to me.”
He closed the distance between them then cupped her chin with his palm. “You are amazing. I’m lucky to have you.” He kissed her, hungrily at first, then more passionately. When his hands started to undo the belt of her dressing gown, she pushed at his chest.
“Calm down, you are acting like it has been more than a year.”
He laughed. “Yeah it has been more than a year. A year, three months and eight days to be precise.”
She had to laugh then. He scooped her up and carried her to the bed. When he lowered her unto the bed, she promised herself that if she didn’t let his wife’s ghost in, her presence would never weigh them down. They would create a rock-solid relationship. It didn’t bother her that they wouldn’t be jetting off somewhere expensive for their honeymoon. Richard had explained he was simply too busy with work to go away. It didn’t matter to her that his late wife had enjoyed not one honeymoon but two. She had him at last. That was what mattered.
Later, when his breathing had steadied, she put her head on his bare chest. “I love you, Richard.”
She waited for something in return; anything to lessen the blow of the silence.It took a while before his head moved from its spot on the pillow. His eyes didn’t meet hers as he kissed her on the forehead.