The guests were beginning to disperse. It was very late and the party had been a huge success.
And Lola came after all.
Bola watched her from where he stood on the veranda. She was seated at one of the tables that had been set up in the garden for dinner, sipping a glass of red wine, shoulders sagging. She looked exhausted and he had known she would be after all the standing and performing she’d done that night. He studied her more intently and saw her shoulders lift as she let out a deep sigh. Lola was sad and Bola had a pretty strong feeling he knew why.
“If I didn’t know you or have any idea of your relationship with that woman, I’d probably be jealous.”
Bola turned his head and smiled lovingly at his fiancée. “Caught red handed.” He stretched out his arm and she happily rushed into it, laughing.
“Don’t worry, I won’t punish you this time.”
They both fell silent as Otonye joined him in studying Lola.
“That’s one amazing singer you guys have in your family. I’m so glad and honored she agreed to come tonight.”
Bola raised an eyebrow and drew her closer to him, planting a kiss on the side of her head. “Look at you talking as if it isn’t going to be your family in a few weeks.”
Otonye grinned up at him, her flawless fair skin almost glowing in the bright fluorescent light. “Well, I’m not sure my in-laws-to-be would appreciate me jumping the gun darling.” She stuck her tongue out at him and then leaned into his shoulder again, his arm firmly circling her tiny waist. They both watched as Kole approached the table Lola was seated at, walking slowly so as not to startle her.
“You’re not still mad at them, are you Bola?”
Bola didn’t hesitate. “No love, of course not. Don’t mind me and my mumu pride. I was just angry that they hid it from me like I was some outsider. Kole is one of my tightest gees and as for Lola -.” He glanced at Otonye with a mischevious smile. “E remain small make she reach you sef.”
Otonye eyed him and removed herself from his arm, pushing him away. “Oya, go and marry her now.”
Bola laughed and pulled her back easily. “It’s too late. One yellow girl has already caught me.” They both walked back into the house holding hands, to say goodnight to their last guests.
… … … … … … … … … …
She started in her seat and the wine in her glass sloshed, almost spilling on her. She turned to look at him, her free hand pressed against her chest.
Kole wanted to slap himself. He hated that he’d scared her.
“I’m sorry, I’d not intention of startling you like that.”
She waved of his apology off as she set her glass on the table. “It’s fine. I just thought I was alone out here.”
An awkward silence followed. It had been years since they’d last spoken and Kole wasn’t sure how to go about talking with her. He didn’t want to bring up their past because that would just make her uncomfortable even though he understood her actions now and had already forgiven her. He honestly hadn’t expected to ever see her again though, except on television, and had Bola not asked her to sing at the party he just might not have.
“So uh, did you enjoy the party?”
She looked at him and gave a faint smile, but her eyes said what he’d thought immediately after he’d uttered the words. Stupid question. She’d hardly sat down since she arrived and had been singing for over an hour. She didn’t get a chance to enjoy the party.
“I’m just glad Bola and Otonye let me be a part of their celebration tonight.” She pushed her top quality Peruvian weave-on from her face and tucked the pesky strands behind one ear, glancing up at the man in front of her whom she expected to receive hostility from and not the warmth she saw in his steady gaze. Lola looked away after a few moments, unsettled. “Kole would you please sit, you’re making me feel somehow.”
Kole smiled and willingly moved to obey, ignoring the chair opposite her and walking round to the one a few meters from where she sat.
Lola started to protest but held her tongue. She didn’t want him to know how nervous she was. How guilty looking at him made her feel. Neither of them said anything for almost three minutes before Lola summoned up the courage to break the silence.
“How have you been Kole?”
Kole left his intense study of the blades of grass at his feet and looked up at the beautiful woman in front of him. She’d only been a girl when he’d fallen in love with her. A spoilt, arrogant, wanton little girl. The picture of serenity before him bore no semblance to that child. The child who had cut him deeply just for trying to protect her. Kole knew she had changed. He’d sensed it right from the day Bola had brought her to ask if they could play as back-up for her at the party; once he’d sighted her that day, after so long, all the emotions and desires of his heart he had spent their years apart compressing laughed hard at him before skipping out of the box he’d thought they were trapped in.
God help me. I think she’s changed but father abeg, don’t let me fall mugu to the same person twice!
Kole studied her face and could see plainly all the guilt and regret she struggled with. He wanted to assure her that he wasn’t the least bit angry or bitter. He reached out to take her hand, clenched into a small fist, from the table and looked at her again as he held it firmly in both hands. Her eyes were glistening.
“Lola, I’ve been very well. God has kept me hon.”
As soon as he said that Lola burst into tears. Kole loosened his grip on her hand and stared at her with wide eyes, confused. He wasn’t sure if it was what he said that was responsible for her reaction or the fact that he’d used the abbreviated term of endearment he was fond of referring to her with in the past.
Lola heaved out heavy sobs, making Kole more and more uneasy. “I’m sorry-I’m so so sorry. God, you must hate me…”
Kole desperately wanted to hold her and reassure her of how impossible it was for her to be any farther from the truth but he stopped himself. He wouldn’t bring unnecessary turmoil on top of his head, not again. God had helped him heal before but this time, he was sure he’d get a divine slap. Tears didn’t mean she wanted him back anyway.
“Lola, calm down. It’s okay please, you know very well I can’t possibly hate you. You were young-.”
“I was an idiot jare!”
The vehemence with which she said it almost got Kole smiling but he advised himself. “Agreed. But I’m almost certain you’re not an idiot anymore.” He looked into her eyes, past the runny mascara, the smeared eyeliner and the dribbly nose and smiled at her; permitting her to see all the understanding and forgiveness in his eyes. “Won’t you free the past hon?”
Lola looked at him and shook her head. She’d messed up so bad. “If you weren’t such a gentleman you could’ve used me however you wanted.”
Kole leaned forward in his chair and touched her face, tracing the path her tears left on her face with his index finger. “My dear, that wasn’t me being a gentleman. I’ve lived in Lagos a long time; if it’s sex that was scratching me, clubs and red light zones are plenty you know.” He shifted back and let his hand drop to his knee. “Besides, I told you I wanted more than pointless sex from our relationship…and so did God.”
“And I insulted you both and walked away.” Lola looked at him with an expression full of anguish and regret. “After that day I felt each monster I permitted to use and damage me would somehow spite you and the God you valued more than me.” Lola shook her head and tears fell again but she remained quiet. “I was such a harlot Kole. A filthy, ungrateful harlot and I don’t deserve you. I never did.” She said it with so much pain in her voice Kole thought she was going to bawl again. She just bent her head really low till they were almost on her knees, weeping silently.
Kole abandoned his chair and moved to kneel in front of her, gently lifting her face with both hands.
“It’s in the past Lola. I forgive you. God forgives you. Just let him know how you hurt and how much you want to change-.”
“Oh I have!” Lola’s head speedily shot up and her countenance changed instantly.
Kole was taken aback. The excited way she said it, still with her puffy eyes and all, all but melted his heart. “I’m so glad to hear that Lola.” And he meant it like he’d meant nothing else before. His hopes were up. Maybe they could start again…
“I’ve changed Kole. I really have! I’m not the same person that hurt you, I promise you I’m not!” Her eyes were pleading. “I know I was really messed up but I’ve quit all that. Have you heard my new album?”
Kole shook his head. She paused and gave a shy smile then.
“I dedicated it to God-for the first time in my entire career-for saving and changing me and-.”
Kole looked at her, waiting. She cleared her throat.
“-and I dedicated it to you. You were always so patient and kind to me, despite all the terrible things I said about you being beneath me and hindering my progress and being gay because you wouldn’t sleep with me.” Kole almost laughed at that one, remembering. “You were the best and first real example of Christ’ love I ever got and I’m sorry I didn’t value it when I had the chance.”
Kole remained silent for awhile. Then he got up, dusted the grass from his trousers and stretched out his hand to her. “You think you can value it this time?”
Lola’s eyes glowed with so much joy and relief. As she placed her hand in Kole’s, her smile was all the answer he needed.
To be continued…