Vuoke stood just a few feet from the altar of the church with his best man, they were both dressed impeccably in fine dark blue suits and black shiny shoes. Today was the day. He was finally getting married after waiting for such a long time to find the one. He spied his mother in-law as she hurried into the church with a wide smile on her face and greeting some of her guests. This was how Ochuko would look at this age, he thought. He couldn’t wait to start a life with her.
He cleared his throat and breathed in and out to clear his airway as he prepared himself for the biggest day of his life. The clock struck ten which signified that the wedding should begin.
“Where is she? This is one of my frustrations with women, they take too much time getting ready.” Vuoke complained.
“Man, better get used to it for the rest of your life.” His friend teased.
“Like I ever will!” He said and stared at the clock again.
Ten minutes later, they were all there waiting for the bride to show up, his best man went to stand at the door and soon he rushed back to him with a smile on his face.
“She’s here! She’s here!” He exclaimed in glee. “I just saw the bridal car pull up at the parking lot.”
Vuoke straightened himself and stood proudly, he’d have loved to sit but the church rules were that the groom stands till his bride walked to his side. He was still standing when the door of the church burst open and Amanda rushed in looking apprehensive.
“She’s not here…?” She looked at Vuoke and said breathlessly.
Vuoke’s heart did a summersault, ‘who wasn’t here?’ he wondered. Amanda rushed to her mother and said something to her and her mother screamed in shock. Vuoke ran to meet them.
“Where is she?” He asked. “Where’s Ochuko?”
“I don’t know…we got ready…she wore her wedding dress and then, she told us to give her a minute and I thought she was going to pray, then…all of a sudden, she wasn’t in the room anymore…she’d disappeared.” Amanda said with tears in her eyes. “I thought she’d be here…we thought…that…maybe she…came here…”
“Are you sure…are you sure about this? Stop talking rubbish if you don’t know anything! My God! My enemies! They have finished me…they have destroyed me ooo…” Her mother wailed.
People came hurrying towards them in concern, they listened to Amanda repeat the tale again and looked at Vuoke.
“Where could she be?” Vuoke’s mother asked.
“I…I…have no idea…lemme call her…I’m sure she’s on her way…” Vuoke stammered as he struggled to get his phone out from his pocket. He dialled her number and it said it was out of reach.
“Ochuko! Ochuko don’t do this to me damn you! Ochuko!” He screamed and stormed out of the church in fury while his best man followed suit.
Fred had been stunned to receive the phone call and as soon as he’d dropped the call, he’d raced downstairs and out of his house. He was in his car in no time and soon found himself at the filling station. He stopped the car and opening it, he got out.
Then, turning around, he saw something billowing and white floating towards him, then he realized that it was her. She ran into his arms and he hugged her tight. They made a very odd pair; a man still dressed in his pyjamas and a woman dressed in a wedding gown- hugging each other as though their lives depended on it. You can trust Nigerians to stop what they’re doing and stare open mouthed.
“Take me far away…please…” She cried.
He nodded and broke the hug then looked at her face. She looked like she had cried so hard but then again, she looked so determined, he smiled.
“Yes, let’s go…” He said.
He opened the front passenger door of the car for her and she got in. He helped her push in the full skirt of her gown into the car.
As Fred rounded to the driver side of the car, Ochuko stared at him through the windscreen of the car. She had made her decision last minute and for the first time in more than three years of being in an abusive relationship, she felt peace. She didn’t care if no man came her way ever again and from now on, she resolved not to focus her energy on being in a relationship.
“It’s time to love myself.” She whispered.
Fred entered the car and turned to look and her.
“I was talking to myself.” She said.
“I’m proud of you, I can tell that this is the most difficult decision you had to make but it is a good one.” He said.
She nodded and resting her head against the car seat, she closed her eyes.
“What do you mean the nurse has relocated from this compound?” Lilian shouted.
“Please ma, don’t raise your voice at me.” The man said.
Lilian caught herself and said quickly.
“I’m sorry sir…I didn’t mean to sound that way. I am just so desperate…I’m sorry.” She said.
“It’s okay…” The nurse’s neighbour said and walked away.
Lilian had spent the past two weeks looking for a needle in a haystack, she had searched and searched and found nothing. First of all, she had paid someone at the hospital- a cleaner- to get the nurse’s information from her file in the doctor’s office and the woman had done as she’d asked. With the nurse’s address in her hands, she thought she was going to find her once and for all and get the police involved so that they could make her reveal everything she knew but everything she’d worked hard for seemed to yield no fruit.
“How do I find her now? How do I locate her? Where can she be?” She wondered as she made her way out of the compound. As she passed the nurse’s former self-contained apartment which is now vacant, her eyes caught a calendar in the room which was quite close to the window. Since the window was wide open and had no mosquito net covering it, she could see the picture clearly. It was an obituary picture of an elderly woman.
“Madam Eugenia Ikwe aged 86…hails from Aniocha local government of Delta state. Survived by children, Alphonsus Ikwe, Albert Ikwe, Scholastica Ikwe…” She stopped and smiled.
Scholastica is the name of the nurse and the woman in the picture was obviously her mother. Her lips formed a small smile, ‘when the door closes, somehow, the window opens’ she thought, as she brought out a sheet of paper and a pen from her bag and began to jot down the information.
Chioma walked out of the house with her children, she was carrying her son in her arms. Her husband’s relative closed the door and locked it with a padlock.
“I hope the air-condition was turned off.” She asked.
“Yes auntie…” The girl said.
Just then, Lilian’s husband walked towards them, he was holding the hands of his two children and they both looked very unhappy and quite unkempt.
“Neighbour…” He greeted.
“Good afternoon.” She said stiffly.
“I see you’re on your way out.” He said. “I really want to apologize for barging into your home two weeks ago…I am really sorry. I just got depressed and…I guess I still am.”
“It’s okay.” She said quickly.
“You guys are heading out?” He asked.
“Yes, we’re going for a birthday party…” Chioma’s eldest daughter said.
“A birthday party?” Lilian’s eldest son said.
“Yes, and it’s going to be fun. Come with us!” Chioma’s second daughter invited.
“Stop it dear, you don’t know if they are going somewhere else. “Chioma chided her daughter.
“We were actually going to err…the restaurant down the road to eat lunch. If they really want to go, they can go with you guys.” Lilian’s husband said.
“Yay!” Chioma’s second daughter rejoiced.
Chioma made a mental note to give the young thorn in her flesh a spanking of her life when they got home.
“No, please take them to the restaurant…please.” She said quickly.
“It would be nice if they can go with you guys. The boys have been gloomy since their mother left and they miss her terribly.” Lilian’s husband said.
“If they miss her, why don’t you take them to her?” Chioma said, trying to avoid taking the kids with her.
“Please take them…” He said. “I am sure they will have fun with your kids.”
“Yes mom, please…pleaseeee…” Her eldest daughter begged.
Chioma gave her a stern look and the girl composed herself and nudged her younger sister to do same but she didn’t listen.
“Mummy, they should come with us. The party is for everyone right? That’s what Chika’s mummy said. She even told us that she didn’t invite enough people because she doesn’t know a lot of people here in Lagos because they just moved here.” Her second daughter said.
Lilian’s sons quickly left their father and walked to stand by Chioma’s children’s side.
“Listen, we can’t take them with us.” Chioma said to her daughters. “After the party, we’re going to visit err…auntie Angela and after that, I have church choir.”
“But you don’t attend church choir practice anymore.” Her second daughter whined.
It took the grace of God for Chioma not to slap the girl’s head off. Chioma plastered a smile on her face and said to Lilian’s husband.
“I’m sorry but I can’t take your kids with me. I didn’t tell my husband about this and he might get upset. Moreover, I have a dozen places to go after the party and I don’t want to wear them out or get you worried about them. Perhaps next time.” She said.
Lilian’s husband nodded, his second child began to cry. Chioma turned around and made her way to the front of the compound where her car was parked and her children followed closely behind.
Bisiola stared at her phone and groaned in agony.
“It’s two weeks Emem! Two weeks!” She yelled.
“Two weeks since what?” Emem asked, flipping through a bridal magazine.
“Two weeks since Fred walked out on me.”
“Oh, hasn’t he called you since then?”
“Haven’t you been listening whenever I speak to you? I told you that he hasn’t called me or even texted.”
“Perhaps he’s busy.”
“Busy with what? I am his girlfriend, he should contact me.”
“I guess you got him upset with your attitude the last time he was here.” Emem said.
“What did I do wrong? I was just trying to protect my relationship like other women would do. He pays too much attention to that riff-raff woman, Ochuko.”
“Didn’t he tell you that Ochuko was getting married? Give the lady a break! I’m sure she’s so in love with her boyfriend.”
“Spare me the lecture! Even if she loves her boyfriend, she obviously is into Fred and she wants him for herself. I won’t be surprised to find out that they are together right this moment.”
“Why don’t you save yourself the torture and call Fred?” Emem suggested.
“Doesn’t that make me weak?” She asked.
“Of course not! You asked him to leave your house and I’m sure his pride was wounded. I think you should call him and ask for his forgiveness. Men like it when women apologize.”
“Do you think so?”
“Are you going to let Fred slip away because of your pride? If you ask me Bisiola, Bruce spoils you too much and that’s the reason you think the whole world is at your feet.”
“Is it not?”
Emem smiled at her.
“Call Fred and apologize…then, you’ll get your boyfriend back. Remember he’s supposed to take you to see his parents, don’t blow it!”
“You know what? Sometimes you talk like you actually have sense. I remember that a few weeks ago, you were against our relationship.”
“Well, let’s say that I put myself in your shoes. I understand that you want to have what many women have and that is, a complete family and Fred’s your best bet.”
Bisiola flashed a smile at her friend.
“I’ll call him right now and I’m going to turn on my sexiest voice.”
Emem giggled. Bisiola dialled Fred’s number, it rang but he didn’t answer. She called his phone again. This time, he answered.
“Baby…I miss you…you win!” She purred.
“Can I call you back Bisiola, I’m in the middle of something?”
“C’mon Fred, it’s been two weeks and I’m being the bigger person here by calling first.”
“Can we talk later? I am in the middle of something.” He said again.
“Talk later? Where are you? Are you at home? In the office? Have you moved out of your parent’s place?”
“Yes, I have…” He said impatiently.
“How come you didn’t tell me? Give me the address, I’d love to come. I want to cook something special…”
Suddenly, she heard a female voice in the background.
“Fred, I don’t know how to turn on the water in the bathroom…” The female voice said.
Bisiola’s eyes widened like saucers, she screamed.
“Fred! You whore! You male prostitute! You have a woman with you abi? Is that it? How dare you Fred? How dare you?”
Fred hangs up the phone.
Bisiola stared at the phone in her trembling hands, Emem gave her a worried look.
“He’s with another woman…and I swear, I swear on my life and on the life of my child that I would kill any whore who tries to take my man! I swear!” She shouted and jumping off the bed, she hurried to her wardrobe and began to pull out clothes.
“Wait…Bisi, what are you going to do? Are you sure he’s having an affair? Please think this through.”
“Don’t you dare stop me or talk rubbish, Emem. Today is today! Fire for fire! I am going to find Fred’s house and when I get there, I will destroy everything in sight and set that good for nothing woman, ablaze!”
To be continued….