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  She unzipped the black protector bag to reveal a long lacy white dress, evoking memories of the day she popped into the posh boutique on Allen Avenue to try dozens of gowns before settling for this classy off-the-shoulder number with its fitted bodice and flowing layered skirt. Finding a headpiece suitable enough to support the matching veil had proved a harder task – sparkling crystals or fragrant flowers?

A coin toss as suggested by the shop assistant had helped her reach a verdict, and as she placed the diamanté tiara on her head they had both agreed Obiageli Eze had chosen the perfect bridal regalia, complete with glamour and grace, and right now, in front of her bedroom mirror, she released a deep sigh. She had waited fifteen long years for this date – November the 17th, the day she could finally say “I do” before God and man without any stress or baggage. She always seemed to suffer the consequences as far as their relationship was concerned, although her man seemed somewhat oblivious to how much she had been forced to endure. She had dreamed of donning a wedding dress for years, and this was her moment. She held the silky material towards her chest, breathing in the crisp fresh smell as blasts from her colourful past echoed through her mind.   

Obiageli and Ayo’s paths had first crossed at a high society Lagos party where she had served as a hostess to earn extra cash for university. She was young, single, and by no means looking to mingle, especially after the breakup of her two-year relationship with her university sweetheart. The cheating toerag had dumped her without the slightest show of remorse, and Obiageli had sworn to give men a wide berth for as long as possible; as far as she was concerned they were all filthy swine with dicks for brains. She was determined to obtain her degree in Banking and Finance, and sustain a lucrative career after graduation. Woe betide any bastard who stood in the way of her life. And then came Ayo, ticking every box she had long ignored. Oil merchant. Government connections. Highly intelligent. Devilishly handsome…for a silver fox. His heart had beaten rapidly for the tall light-skinned sizzler in the black ushers’ uniform who had led him into the main hall, but Obiageli had been polite yet reserved as he shamelessly flirted with her.   

“Thank you sir, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to meet you for a drink next week,” said Obiageli as she coyly fluttered her long lashes, praying this persistent guest would chase someone his own age. “I’m very busy at school with my final year assignments, and I already have a boyfriend. He won’t be happy if he hears about his girl accepting invitations from other men, even if it’s just a casual meeting.”   Ayo chuckled and shook his head with a twinkle in his crinkly eyes. His intuition told him she was fibbing, and as a man used to getting what he wanted he would not let her slip away that easily. Sources at Unilag confirmed the jealous lover she had professed her undying affection for was indeed non-existent; everyone on campus still gossiped about the fight they had witnessed with amusement the day Obiageli walked into her room to find Ibe pounding away at her promiscuous room-mate. Ayo had confronted her with this information and she finally gave in, secretly vowing to ignore him immediately after their drinks date.

Several more dates followed, and the campus forums wasted no time circulating gossip of an anonymous 400-Level student secretly dating a ‘silent millionaire’. She could barely make head or tail of the snide remarks until the truth hit her like a bombshell: (a) It hardly took an Einstein to figure who the student was (Tall, light-skinned, final year, part-time usher, big fight on campus…), and (b) Ayo Adetokunbo was married. Married? She had gone berserk upon hearing Ayo was someone else’s spouse, slamming down his desperate phone calls and promising to chop his rotten adulterous penis off if he ever approached her again.   

Obiageli slowly slipped into the pristine gown, taking care not the rip the delicate petticoat underneath the skirt. She had always imagined she would spend the rest of her life with a man who was young, handsome, and single…well, one out of three was probably not bad given all the men her age she had dated prior to Ayo had been stingy losers who only showed interest in her limited student funds whenever they were not fantasising over what she looked like naked, or indeed how good a lay she was. Ayo was mature and experienced, exactly what she needed, and his pleas gradually pacified her following the shock revelation. By now she had fallen deeply in love, a forbidden passion so intense she could hardly resist, and as she had already come too far it was too late to turn around despite the signs and warnings from family and friends, most of whom she fell out with on account of her dangerous liaison.   

“Obiageli. Obiageli. Obiageli. I know you hear me call you three times, so I’ll say it loud and clear.” Chinyere never minced her words whenever she spoke her mind, and her cousin with the questionable morals was not exempt from her fury. “A boyfriend who is hardly a boy himself, and a married one for that matter? Are you out of your tiny little mind? The man already has a family, and you’re breaking them up. How will you live with yourself if they find themselves with two addresses and two sets of parents rowing with each other? I don’t care if he no longer loves his wife, what the two of you are doing is wrong, or you wouldn’t be dating in secret. Polygamy is out of the question because you know our doctrines forbid it. Look at you – sleeping with a married man when only six months ago you nearly clawed Ibe’s eyes out when you caught him in bed with Bimbo? You’re such a hypocrite.”   

“Mind your own business!” Obiageli stood from her single bed in the girls’ hostel, her eyes flashing fire. “Hate to break it to you, but me and Ayo are in love, and he is going to leave that old hag eventually. Just because you’re pushing thirty and still single doesn’t mean you can judge me, you jealous bitch, so if you don’t have anything better to say, leave.”   

Chinyere promptly did as she was told, slamming the door behind her, but even her cousin had to admit she had a point. Ayo may have slowly but surely captured her heart, but her life as a mistress was a burden and with time she yearned for more. She grew wary of sleeping in her lonely bed while his wife provided him with comfort in his own home. She longed to call him on the phone before 9PM, and was often sleep deprived in the morning due to those midnight chat sessions. She often felt like yelling the truth when he introduced her as a friend to his own acquaintances. Her past record with men had taught her the road to love was not all snogs, champagne, and rose petals, but this?

A frustrated Obiageli had tried calling time on their affair several times upon realising their routine of dates, dinner, and sex would never progress to the next stage, and on every occasion he never accepted her decision, refusing to move on without her as he no longer loved his wife. Why was he still with her? Excuses, excuses, excuses…   

“Honey, you know I’d love to marry you, but my relatives won’t understand our intertribal relationship. They’ll need time to come round…”

    “Oby, you know I love you, but my wife has just lost her mother. She needs me. Let’s wait one more year at least… ” 

 “Obiageli, I’m sorry, but my children are aware of the situation at home, and it would kill them if I brought in another woman so soon. Maybe if they graduated first…”   

“Are you fucking serious? I’m too old to be a father again. How can you be so selfish?”    

Selfish? Selfish? Obiageli tightened the dress’s corset until it accentuated her slender waist. She had waited years for Ayo to make an honest woman out of her as her biological clock ticked louder by the minute, and she would never have aborted their precious bundle of joy, even if Ayo had refused to marry her. After refusing to accept her pregnancy Obiageli had turned around and left his office with tears glistening her eyes. If he truly loved her, why did he want to murder the seed he had planted and was growing inside of her? This time it was well and truly over, and a good riddance it was, too.

Her Catholic parents would never forgive her for bringing shame to the family, and she was sure to become a laughing stock within her circle of friends who had never approved of her older secret lover, but it was still a risk Obiageli had to take; she needed no-one else as long as she had her child. She remained alone without a soul to turn to for comfort and advice until went through a painful miscarriage. It had broken her heart, but it  was time to move on, a decision which did not go down well with her married ex-lover who demanded to know what she was playing at when he heard of her budding romance with Simon, the engineer she had casually bumped into during her lunch break at Mr. Biggs a few month after her miscarriage.   

“Found someone already? I guess you didn’t really love me,” he snapped when he called her at work. “Did you abort the baby so you could fuck someone else?”   

“Who the hell do you think you are?” Obiageli could hardly mask the venom boiling within; had Ayo been in front of her, she most definitely would have wrung his miserable neck. “Not only are you never going to leave the woman you say you’re unhappy with, but you denied our baby. You abandoned me when I needed you most, and for your own information it wasn’t ‘the baby’ – it was our baby. Do you understand me? Our baby. I was alone when I lost him…that’s right, lost. Not aborted, because even after you treated me like shit I still wanted to give birth to our baby. Our beautiful baby I’ll never see, and it’s all your fault. I was alone while you were playing happy families with your wife and kids, but here you are spewing rubbish after I’ve finally washed you out of my hair…seriously? What exactly have I gained from sneaking around with you for eight years when most of my mates are in proper marriages? Think you have the right to judge me? Hate to break it to you, but after everything you put me through I have every right to fuck a virile man, so do your worst.” Ayo expressed incoherent curses through his end of the call as the cruel remark sank in, but his angry ex was past caring. “Go back to your wife, and leave me alone. It’s not the first time I’ve said this. The only difference is this time, I mean it.”   

Did he have a nerve or what? And to think he had called her selfish. Comparing Ayo’s sexual prowess to her new man’s stamina was below the belt, but at least she had finally put her foot down, allowing her to break free and breathe a sigh of relief, and Simon was a refreshing breath of fresh air – caring and attentive, the type who held his woman in his strong arms all through the night as she lay next to him contentedly, a far cry from Mr. Wham-Bam-Now-I’m-Off-For-Round-Two-With-Wifey-Back-Home’s insensitivity. The same fuddy-duddy who blatantly refused to accept she had moved on, and like the devious snake he had always been, he cunningly attempted to worm his way back into her life.   

“Oby, I was so selfish, I know. I’m sorry I broke up with you after you told me you were pregnant. I don’t know why I said those things, and I’m sorry you had to go through that nightmare alone. I miss you everyday, and I really want you back. It will be different this time, I swear. I really do love you, please don’t say no.” Almost as an afterthought, Ayo delivered the cherry on top. “Do you really love that replacement? What do you really see in him?” He moved closer until Obiageli could feel his warm breath on the nape of her neck. “How does he make you feel? Is he anything like me? Can you honestly say you don’t still love me?”    

How could Obiageli ignore her history with Ayo who once again worked his wicked way back into her arms and bed, promising on his life – for the hundredth time – to make her his wife? All that stood in their way was his youngest daughter’s wedding the following year. Typical. Simon was heart-broken, and Obiageli felt guilty as he was in fact a wonderful man with a heart of gold who could have had any girl he wanted…and he had fallen for her, an ungrateful bitch. As the years passed, several potential love interests continued to approach the still-unmarried Obiageli. There was Ikenna, the radio DJ who had serenaded her at the end-of-year ball her workplace had organised, but he was too loud and outrageous for her tastes. Emeka, the film actor who constantly fought off attention from female admirers, was also turned away when he approached her. Even Ibe had rekindled his interest upon hearing his university girlfriend was still single. Over her dead body. Obiageli hated herself immensely as she questioned the feelings she fought with every time she rejected a man in favour of Ayo. She was a smart, driven, independent career woman who still attracted desirable suitors. Why was she unable to break the spell Ayo had cast on her? It could only be love, and no other man would do. As simple as that.    

An oval sapphire sparkled on her ring finger as Obiageli smoothed down her immaculate dress, casting her mind back to the afternoon Ayo’s long-suffering wife had burst in on her after hearing rumours about the shameless whore spotted around town with her husband and paying frequent visits to his office where the grapevine ran rife. Most of Obiageli’s colleagues had taken sides with the poor woman as the latter hurled fiery insults and unsavoury remarks about ‘husband snatchers’ reaping where they had not sown. Security was hastily required to tear Obiageli away from Ayo’s wife who seemed to possess the strength of ten men as she punched, scratched, and spat at her rival. The bank staff were less than sympathetic towards their colleague; she had brought it all on herself, and it served her right. Part of Obiageli was weighed with guilt and shame as her wounds healed, but the rest of her had beamed with glee as the exposure of those clandestine meetings meant it was now out in the open and no longer had to hide.

On the day the divorce papers were finally signed, she popped open a bottle of champagne which she drank alone in her luxurious duplex. She already had it all – her own house, a plush car, an enviable bank balance – all she needed was her man, and when Ayo finally thrust the long-awaited ring into her palm she was close to cartwheeling across her living room, even if it was far from the romantic proposal she had envisioned. Where was Ayo’s enthusiasm? Would it have killed him to at least smile if he was about to put a ring on it at long last? Not that she cared much at that point – Obiageli was to become Mrs. Adetokunbo, and all that mattered was the ceremony, the certificate, and the confetti.    

Obiageli stared at the wedding dress in her reflection deep in thought as she fastened on the old vintage-style pearl earrings Ayo had bought for her 30th birthday. This was the morning her sapphire was to be teamed with another rock, hopefully a huge diamond because she was worth it, but instead of picking up a bouquet, Obiageli reached for the copy of Hello! Nigeria her neighbour had excitedly slipped under her door the night before, and this morning as she frantically flicked through the glossy pages yet again she cringed with anger. Maybe she was crazy, but she had worn the dress in case she was dreaming, and the glossy spread in her hands proved life was anything but a fairy tale despite the princess-like gown she had been dying to wear for ages.    

Libby Thomas, Lagos’s highly-rated party planner, had duly pulled out of organising Obiageli’s big day, and it was no secret why she had made the decision. As a woman whose husband had left her for a younger home-wrecker five years prior, Libby sympathised with Ayo’s ex and refused to coordinate the other woman’s wedding. Obiageli had been furious with this decision, but if she wanted that ring on her finger fast there was no time to stew. At 38, she was getting on fast with no time to waste. The party planner drafted in to replace Libby had been adequate… and a traitor. Obiageli peered at the pages, instantly recognising the party arrangement in the magazine pictures, and bristled with rage.

Everything was an exact replica of what she had planned – same colours, same furniture, same flower arrangements, same settings…same everything. Everything except the bride. Men were filthy swine with dicks for brains. Filthy lying swine. Grabbing the dress with both hands she tore away at the fine fabric, pearls and ribbons flying everywhere, and stamped on her tiara furiously before she collapsed in a heap on her bed, hot bitter tears streaming down her face as she read the article for the umpteenth time:  

“Model/actress Sarah ‘Sekara’ Kanu has tied the knot with Lagos-based oil merchant Ayodele Adetokunbo in a ceremony held at the Ikoyi Marriage Registry after a whirlwind romance. Only a few guests were present, but family and friends were invited to celebrate with the newlyweds at a reception held at the Cassa Grande hotel. It is the 60-year-old Adetokunbo’s second marriage following his high-profile divorce from his ex-wife eighteen months ago. Sekara, 25, met her husband after they were introduced by mutual friends at an awards ceremony, and the stunning bride’s slinky wedding gown cleverly disguised the three-month pregnancy they both announced in front of the delighted crowd. Speaking to Hello! Nigeria at the reception, Sekara stated it was the best day of her life, and is looking forward to becoming a mother in her marital home…”

© 2017, Tami Okoro Dedeh, All Rights Reserved


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