We pulled into the hotel parking lot and Ben stepped out immediately.
“Don’t follow me inside.” He said.
I followed him anyway.
“Ben, don’t do this.” I said.
“Exactly, I’m not doing this. Why go into a marriage established on lies?”
“Ben, wait.” And he stopped. “She already called off the wedding once and you talked her into getting married again. This will only look like you set her up for a maximum disgrace. Don’t do this to her and her family.”
He sighed, then shook his head. “I’m sorry Felix, I wish there was another way to do this but there isn’t. I can’t get married to Sharon today. It’s not going to happen.”
I knew I wasn’t the one to blame for the break up but there was no way this story will be told without people raining curses on me. I wish I hadn’t come for the wedding.
Twenty minutes later, I arrived at the church. Several angry ushers rushed towards the car, ready to lambast Ben. I parked the car and stepped out.
The first usher got to me.
“Where is the groom? You are more than thirty minutes late.”
“Excuse me.” I said and stepped away from the shocked man.
I saw Sharon through the window of the car she was in and I pitied her. There was no good way to say this. There was no good time either. There was no good messenger when the message was this bad but I was the worse messenger possible.
As I approached the car, the door opened and Kike ran towards me. And for a few seconds, I forgot about Ben and Sharon. This was the girl for me, I had to let her know before everything went to hell.
“Felix, where is Ben?” She asked.
“I was in love once,” I started. “It was a long time ago and it didn’t end well. You already know with who but I got over her a long time ago. But it came at a cost, women became something to conquer for me.”
“Why are you telling me this Felix? Where is Ben? We are already late for the…”
“Just hear me out, okay?” I said. “I chased women until they fell for me then I let them go. It became easier with time and experience until there was no more fun in the chasing. Then I met you.”
I moved closer to her.
“Immediately I saw you, I knew this was one conquest I would give my life for. I didn’t even know I could still feel anything for a girl, but you woke my heart up again.”
“Kike, I have little experience with this thing but something’s telling me I might be in love with you.” I said and swallowed. That wasn’t so easy to say.
“Felix, look, today has been intense. With the whole drama with Ben and Sharon, meeting you and everything. I can’t tell you I didn’t consider this but I’m sorry I don’t have the same feelings you do.”
“Oh God.” I mumbled.
“I know what you’re thinking Felix. The one time you put yourself out there you got shut down. I know that hurts but what if I’d felt the same way?”
“You don’t.” I said. “Oh God, I’m such a fool.”
“Look Felix, you can choose to go back to your shallow life of dating several women but that’s not who I see in you. Sure, you might get hurt sometimes but when you meet the right person, you will be so glad you took the risk.”
Maybe she was right, maybe she wasn’t.
“Yeah, I’m okay. Thanks for the…”
“Where is Ben?”
“Ben is gone.” I said. “The wedding is over.”
The wedding would be over, I was so sure. I was driving like a maniac and I couldn’t help it. It was possible the wedding wasn’t over though and I was trying to find out. Why was nobody picking their calls? Maybe they were still in church.
I pushed harder on the accelerator. I couldn’t wait to tell the guys what had happened to me throughout the journey, it was the craziest story ever. They were laughing and enjoying a nice wedding while I went through the valley of the shadow of death.
My phone beeped and I slowed down to take a look at it.
“Meet me at Mardino Hotel. Don’t tell anybody I’m here. – Ben.”
I frowned, why was Ben sending me a message to meet him at a hotel? He wasn’t in church? Was he hiding? If this was Ben getting cold feet, I will kill him myself.
I drove as fast as I could, got some insults and curses from a few drivers but I was at the hotel in fifteen minutes. I called his number but it was switched off. What if this wasn’t Ben and it was a practical joke by somebody. I called the number that he’d used to send the message and it rang.
“Mide, where are you?”
“Ben? What’s going on? I’m downstairs.”
“Come up to Room 42.”
I entered the hotel, nodded at the receptionist and ran up the stairs to Room 42. I knocked and the door opened. I entered the room and looked around. Ben was dressed up except that he was barefooted but he was the only one in the room.
“Is Sharon in the bathroom?”
“She’s at the church.”
“Did they send you home because they decided to do this wedding without the groom?”
“There is no wedding Olumide.”
I chuckled, then laughed. “You are kidding, right?”
“Yeah, I’m kidding.” He said. “I’m in the hotel room because it is halftime, I will go back for the second half as soon as the Pastor blows the whistle.”
Ben sat on the bed and I sat next to him.
“There’s no wedding?”
“Look man, it’s a long story. I wanted you to bring the car here, I’m taking a trip.”
I could not believe what I was hearing. “Ben, there’s no wedding?”
“A lot has happened today man. One day I will tell you the story but just give me the keys to the car, I will drop you wherever you want then I’ll be on my way.”
“There’s no wedding?”
“No wedding.” Ben shouted. “I don’t know the woman I am marrying Olumide. Do you know how scary that is? I’ve been with Sharon all these years and today, this morning I just found out who she really is.”
“And who is that person?” I didn’t know what had happened but I was getting angry and it wasn’t at Sharon.
“Do you know Sharon lost her virginity a long time ago?”
“Oh, I’m surprised but so what?”
“She lost it to Felix’s father.”
“And she didn’t tell me about it. All these years, she didn’t tell me about it.”
“And how did you find out.”
“She told me today, right after she called off the wedding.” Ben said.
“She called off the wedding?”
“She did, then I convinced her to go ahead with it but now I’m calling it off.”
I dug my hand into my pocket and brought out the key to the car. I threw it on the bed.
“Ben,” I started. “You are my best friend in the world but I have to tell you this, you are the biggest fool in the world. You are going to lose a woman you love because she’s not a virgin?”
“That’s not what…”
“You are going to wake up tomorrow and you will regret this and you will feel like killing yourself but you won’t. So you are going to live with it for the rest of your life. You will find another girl who will have the misfortune of marrying you because all your life you will continue to wonder, what if I’d married Sharon.”
I walked towards the door.
“I’m still your friend, so call me whenever you get back from your stupid trip. But if you think Sharon will take you back when you return, you’re even a bigger fool than I thought you were.”
I walked out of the room and down the stairs. My body was vibrating from the several emotions I was feeling at that moment. I pitied Ben because he was making the biggest mistake of his life and he thought he was doing the right thing.
I wanted to see Kike.
I stepped into the reception and I saw Sharon stepping out of car, still in her wedding dress. She ran up to the door and I ran to meet her.
“Hey Olumide, where have you been?” She didn’t wait for a response. “What is Ben’s room number?”
“Forty two.” I said.
She ran past me and up the stairs. I looked at her as she went, what was she doing?
I looked back at the door and Kike stood there. I wanted to run to her but I just stood there. She walked towards me, slowly, almost as if she was trying to take as long as she could to get to me. If I still had the ring, this would have been a perfect time to propose to her. I didn’t know if it was seeing Ben lose the love of his life, but I just wanted to put a seal on what we had.
Maybe I didn’t need a ring. Maybe I should do this.
She stopped in front of me and smiled.
“Welcome back.” She said.
I had to do this now before I lost the courage.
I dropped on one knee and her smile disappeared and for the first time I got scared. It was too late to stop, people were already looking.
“Kike, I’ve had the craziest of days. I’ve been cheated by cops, I’ve endured lewd jokes from other cops, I’ve been accused of kidnap, I was almost raped in jail and my best friend just canceled his wedding. But even on the dark days like the one I’m currently having, I see you and there’s a sudden brightness.”
“Olumide…” Kike said.
“I know life is not always going to be fair, I know things won’t always go the way we plan but I want to wake up every morning knowing that like the Sun, you will always be there lighting up my life. Kikelomo Roseann Ibiyemi, will you marry me?”
She pulled me up to my feet, why was she doing that? She put her arms around my waist, looked up at me with a smile.
“Kiss me.” She said.
“Is that a yes?”
“Kiss me and find out.”
I closed my eyes and kissed her. Okay, I didn’t understand sign language at all but that was a definite yes. She pulled away from me and looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“What?” I asked, grinning like a three year old in an ice-cream shop.
“The ring?” She asked.
“Oh, I’m sorry. It was stolen by a policeman’s daughter. The one I was accused of kidnapping.”
“That happened for real? I thought you were just quoting a movie.”
“But hey, here’s something.” I removed the bracelet I had on and put it around her wrist. “Call that a placeholder.”
“I love you Olumide and even though I want to stand here and enjoy this moment, my friend needs me.”
“Oh God, I totally forgot about Sharon.” I sighed and said a little prayer for the poor girl.
Olumide was wrong, I would totally forget about Sharon in less than a month. She hurt me, hurt me too much. There was no way I could get back with her. Olumide, the self-righteous idiot could call me a fool all he wants, he wasn’t the one feeling the pain I was feeling.
I picked up the car key and walked towards the door. I had no idea where I wanted to travel to but I just needed to leave town. And as soon as possible.
I got to the door but a knock sounded on the door before I could open. I smiled, why did he come back? Wasn’t I his foolish friend?
I opened the door and stepped back in shock. Sharon stood in front of me, still in her wedding gown. And worse still, she was smiling.
“Hi Ben.” She said.
I could not believe what I was seeing.
“Can I come in?” She asked and entered before I could respond. “Please sit.” She said.
“Sharon, I don’t think I want to talk.”
“That’s awesome, I don’t need you to talk, just listen.” She said.
“I’m not going to change my mind.” I said.
“Just sit down and shut up.” She said.
I sat on the bed, leaned against the wall and waited.
“Felix was my best friend, he was a little more than my best friend, we had feelings for each other. He never said anything and so nothing happened. I was a good girl, that’s what everyone thought but my mind wasn’t so good. I read a lot and I’d read a lot of novels, many of them too graphic and I knew way too much. The problem was, I was curious. I couldn’t talk about it but something inside me always wondered.”
She had my attention now even though I was afraid about where this was going.
“One day Felix invited me to his house. It wasn’t a big deal, I’d been there a lot of times. He served me some juice but he laced his own drink with alcohol, I didn’t know this. His Dad sent him on an errand and I mistakenly took his alcoholic drink. It didn’t take a lot to get me drunk. His Dad came in and I flirted with him. He flirted back and everything I had repressed in me came out. I honestly can’t recall who made the first move but we ended up on a bed.”
I swallowed, this was too much information but I couldn’t open my mouth to tell her to stop.
“By the time my back hit the bed, I wasn’t so sure about what I was doing but it was too late. He didn’t listen to my pleas for him to stop. Once my virginity was gone, I just lay there, there was no point resisting anymore. After everything, I left the room and found Felix in the living room, crying. He knew what had happened and that was the end of our friendship. I didn’t tell anybody about that day and Felix didn’t either. That is the story of how I lost my virginity.”
She looked at me, I don’t know what she wanted me to say. I could feel tears gathering in my eyes so I tried as much as possible not to blink, I didn’t want those tears falling.
She moved closer to me and I shrunk back.
“Ben, I know what I did back then and I know what I did to you. Every day for years I relived that day until I told myself it was enough. But every day since you asked me to marry you I have relived it again. That is what happens when you walk into a huge mistake with your eyes open. I don’t know what you’re feeling now but I know for sure you still love, I can tell. If you walk away today, you will relive this for a long time and it will hurt as much as it does now every single time. I love you Ben, I’m sorry for lying to you. I am so, so sorry. I woke up this morning wanting to get married to you and I still want to.”
She lifted my chin so I looked directly into her eyes.
“If you change your mind, I will be at the reception downstairs for the next one hour, waiting for you. It’s not too late to get married Ben. It’s not too late to have everything we dreamed about.”
She stood and walked away from the bed. She stopped at the door and looked back at me, she smiled then walked out.
Olumide was right, I was the biggest fool in the history of foolishness. Oh God, deliver me from foolishness. I jumped out of the bed and ran for the door.
Sharon almost Dara.
I looked at my watch, I was a big fool for thinking he would show up. It was two minutes before my one hour ultimatum was done. I was struggling to keep myself from crying. I was getting stares from everyone who came in or went out of the hotel. I couldn’t blame them, I would stare at me too. Kike and Olumide had been gone for about forty five minutes and I was left alone to my misery. Was there any point waiting for the two minutes? I stood, gathered my gown exposing my barefoot and walked towards the door.
The door slid open as I approached it, I left the building and walked towards the car.
“Oluwafunmilayo.” I paused, only my Dad called me that.
I looked and saw him and suddenly the floodgates opened. I ran to him and cried my eyes out on his shoulder. He held me without a word for about a minute then pulled me away.
“That is okay. Let’s get you a drink in the restaurant okay?”
He removed a towel from his pocket and dabbed at my face.
“Thank God for waterproof makeup eh?” He said and I laughed. “Wait, are you barefooted?”
“Yes Daddy.” I smiled and he shook his head.
We got to the door of the restaurant and he stopped and looked at me.
“Things may not go the way we planned but if we trust God and are patient, things turn out even more beautiful than we expect.”
I smiled. “Pastor Daddy.” I hugged him. “Thanks Dad.”
He kissed me on the forehead and held my hand.
“Okay, let’s go get that drink.” He said.
The door opened and I gasped.
“Oh my God Dad.”
“More beautiful than you expect, didn’t I tell you?”
Kike stood in front of us, she carried a basket of flowers and handing me a bouquet. The restaurant had been rearranged to allow a path down the middle. At the end of the path was Ben. His handsome face even more radiant than I ever imagined. Olumide and Felix stood behind him. My mom and my siblings, Ben’s parents and his sibling stood, all of their eyes on me.
‘Here comes the bride’ was playing on someone’s phone as my dad walked me to the front. This was more beautiful than anything I ever imagined.
“Alright dear, go become a missus.” Dad said and joined my Mom.
I looked at Ben and smiled. I could barely see through the tears clouding my eyes.
“Who did this?” I whispered to him.
“I did.” He said.
“It’s incredible the things you’d do when you’re in love.” He said.
I rushed to him and hugged him very tight. I was never going to let him go.
A heard someone clear their throat in front of us and I released Ben. I looked up the person, I didn’t know him.
“Hi Sharon, I’m Pastor Michael, I will be joining you today.”
I smiled and looked at Ben. He shrugged.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are gathered here today to witness and celebrate the love that Ben and Sharon have for each other.”
Oh yeah, that was what this wedding was about, wasn’t it. The love that I and Ben had for each other. I looked at him when he said his vows and I looked at him when I said my vows, he loved me. That was all that mattered, not future and certainly not the past.
The story of Ben and Sharon happened exactly one year ago. I’ve lived the story with them as they told it, you have lived the story too, I hope.
I cornered each of them to give me a few words today on the anniversary of an incredible day. Here’s what they said.
Rejection hurts I tell you but after Kike, I couldn’t go back to meaningless relationships. I stayed single for so long I wondered if I should just go and become a priest. But three months ago I met a girl. Let’s just say, my mom is about to become very happy with me.
Our wedding didn’t have as much drama as Ben and Sharon’s, thank God. But by the time I calculated how much we spent on the wedding, I wished I had a restaurant wedding too. Who am I kidding, wishes aren’t horses. Oh by the way, I never got that ring back from the girl. Traggic.
Would I do it the exact same way if I could do it all over? No. I wouldn’t give my virginity to a pedophile and I certainly wouldn’t hide anything from my fiancée. Except that I am currently hiding something from him. I am pregnant. I’ll tell him tonight at our anniversary dinner. Yay.
Don’t mind my big tummy, I promise to start working out tomorrow. Put the blame on Sharon, she did this to me. Tonight’s our anniversary dinner and unlike one year ago, today has been calm, no surprises. But something tells me I should get ready, I won’t get through today without a surprise. God please, let it be a good one.