No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening again. Joy banged her hand on the steering wheel in frustration. “What is this?!”
She stared at the phone in her hand – Monique was now calling 5 minutes after sending her the picture without any response from her. She let the phone ring as she was carried away by a rush of emotions.
Who was this woman? What was this picture truly about? Was Yao really married? Like seriously?! For all this while?!
The questions were too many for her head to process on its own. *Ping* She received another message from Monique – Where are you, Joy? I’m calling you but you’re not answering, R u ok???
She knew Monique meant well, but just then she didn’t think she could talk to anyone just yet. Wait – she cast a glance at the man sipping from a teacup at the terrace – there was one person who she could speak to,
She stepped out of the car, her trembling hands finally settling as she closed the door before walking purposefully towards the restaurant.
Gino, the head greeter, smiled at her in the foyer, but she barely acknowledged him with a small wave of her right hand as she stalked toward the terrace.
“Oh hi there beautiful.” Yao was getting up to greet her with that smile that would turn her knees to jelly on any fair day…obviously not today. His smile faltered when he noticed the look on her face.
“What’s wrong, Joy? What’s with that look on your face?”
She took a deep breath before pulling out the chair and sinking into it a second later.
“I just got a message from a friend of mine, and I don’t know exactly how to handle it. I’d have gone off to try and figure it out by myself as usual, but I think I’ve got too much riding on it this time to misread or mishandle things.” She paused again, taking another deep breath before bringing up her phone to show him the picture.
“Yao, what can you tell me about this?”
[T Minus 12 Hours]
For the first time in months, Joy couldn’t sleep. Her wedding was just tomorrow and she couldn’t calm herself down for a single minute! She knew she was supposed to be the cool, calm and collected type under most situations, but today was Her Day!
Monique was fast asleep on the other side of the bed, with Rose camped out at its foot in the sleeping bag (she’d lost the Rock-Paper-Scissors match this time), just as if it were one of the sleepovers they’d had together since they were little.
Instead of dressing up in a hotel, Joy had wanted them to keep it all low-key and cosy so they’d stayed over after the Engagement at her mother’s house. She felt a small pang of sadness just then at the unbidden thought of her late father. The retired Colonel would have been so happy to walk his only daughter down the aisle the next day. Wiping the solitary tear trailing down her cheek as she snuggled deeper under her duvet as she thought of every single step that had led her to this moment. She finally yawned as the first bits of sleep crossed her eyes, accompanied by her final thought.
Almost can’t believe that tomorrow I’m going to finally become Mrs-
He stayed silent for the next few minutes, trying to start to answer about 2 or 3 times before falling silent. The cold feeling of dread continued to sink icy fingers into her chest, but she resolved to stay silent until he spoke finally.
He first leaned forward across the table to take a hold of her hands, but she reflexively pulled them away. He sighed and leaned back in the chair again.
“That was, or rather is, a complication I would have liked to let you know of myself first. That is a picture of Iris and myself. That was one of our pre-wedding photographs.”
The words hit her like a piledriver in the chest, but almost automatically the analyst in her took over, maybe in a reflexive attempt to shield her from the pain of his words.
“’Is‘, Yao? Not a ‘was’? What do you mean by ‘Is’?!”
“Iris is my wife of the past 4 years. My estranged wife, to be precise.”
“You know you’re going to have to explain that further, right?”
He ran his hand over his head, taking a deep breath before continuing.
“We got married because we’d gone out for long and she figured it was about time. I didn’t have any objections to it at that time so I went ahead with it. Too late to change anything, a year down the line we finally realized what a colossal mistake it was that we had made. And now we’re just glorified roommates. She does what she wants and so do I. We spend most of our time keeping up appearances – I show up for her family programmes and she represents at mine; we fill the forms as Mr. & Mrs. but it’s hardly true. In fact, we haven’t even shared the same bed for over 2 years now.”
With every word that tumbled out of his mouth, the incredulity Joy felt grew by leaps and bounds. This felt like a true-to-life Mexican Telenovela for goodness sake! I guess I’m the Maria de Whatever in this piece though, she thought almost amusedly.
She steadied herself before speaking again. “So what do you want me to do about this now, Mr. Adjetey?”
He reached for her hand again, and this time, she didn’t pull away.
“I want you, Joy. I want you, and only you. My relationship with Iris is over – in fact, it has been over for quite a while now. We’re only currently together because of her dad – I’d brought up talks of a divorce earlier this year but he’s a politician and she’s been worried that were we to split too close to the elections, it could affect his chances for retaining his seat.”
“I need you, Joy. Just give me a little more time to sort all this out and I can finally divorce her and we can be together, please.”
She didn’t know what mattered more just then – the skipped heartbeats his words were inducing, or her sudden embarrassment at the growing number of other patrons who were trying too hard to pretend that they weren’t eavesdropping.
It was well and truly too much for her now, and she felt the need to get away from everything once more. She got up from the table, shaking her head.
“You are married, Yao. As much as I love you right now, I have never been – and will never be – the reason for breaking up any marriage, if not a home. I deserve a man all to myself whom I can never share with any woman. Maybe you should have another few earnest talks with your wife to figure out where your priorities truly lie. As for me, I think I need some time to think. Please don’t call me until I call you.”
With that, she beat a hasty retreat out of the restaurant before the dammed up tears broke their bounds.
Never let them see you cry, Strong Woman she told herself as the first hot tears sped down her face alone in her car.
[T Minus 30 minutes]
Uncle Gyamfi cradled her arm in his as they both stepped up to the red carpet. He’d smiled so brightly when she’d stepped out of the jet black Audi A4 sedan that she almost didn’t notice the solitary tear that rolled down the corner of his eye as he did. She knew he was remembering her father – his twin brother – and how proud he’d be of his daughter this day if he’d still been alive.
She felt her heart do its fluttery thing as she cast a look down the aisle to see her groom with a wide grin on his face.
Today, it’s finally perfect.
It had been 2 weeks straight and she hadn’t heard a peep from Yao. Surprisingly, though, she was glad of the gap in communication. It had afforded her the opportunity to more critically assess their budding relationship – and boy was she surprised by the number of subtle hints she’d overlooked in her rose-tinted eyeglasses. Like how she’d never been to his house, or how he’d never really spoken much about his family to her before. Or the idle habit he had of rubbing his ring finger just about where a ring would be when deep in thought, and of course – the phone incident at Ada.
The time apart, however, assured her of 2 main things – firstly, that she really loved the roguish but dignified gentleman; and secondly, that there were too many question marks that didn’t add up.
So just as her dear departed father had taught her at his knee a lifetime ago, she decided to tell God about it.
I’ve run ahead of you Lord, right into several walls head-on as a result. This is too much for me. I’m sorry for putting me and my desires first in this matter. I know you have a Perfect Will for me that even concerns the man I should marry. Please, Lord, reveal it to me and help me make the right decision. No matter how long it takes, I will wait on You. In Jesus’ name I have prayed, Amen.
And in the true fashion of answered prayer, He did.
2 weeks turned into a month before the bouquets of flowers and little packages of perfumes and jewelry that appeared routinely at her workplace started to dwindle. He’d probably gotten the message though with each package being returned unopened to his firm by the end of each day. By the end of the second week of the second month after their last meeting, she received the last package and as if she had known it would be the last, she’d decided to open the note attached to this package.
At last, she smiled.
[T Minus 2 minutes]
She heard him repeat the words the pastor prompted and as each word rang amplified through the eaves of the quaint wedding chapel, she felt a Peace of such depth descend upon her that she just could not stop smiling and sending up a silent prayer of thanks.
Thank you, God. It really is finished now, and a new chapter opens from now on. Your blessing makes me rich today, and You add no sorrow to it indeed.
“By the power vested in me as a Minister of the Gospel in the country of Ghana, I pronounce you husband and wife. Dr. Akorful, you may now kiss your bride!”
Fiifi stepped forward and hugged her once, before planting a single kiss on her forehead. That, she’d expected – not the hand he placed in the small of her back afterward as he tilted her chin upwards to plant a soul-searing kiss on her lips!
“Sure! Sure! Sure!” She heard her mother, Aunty Connie, exclaim embarrassingly in the front pew just behind them.
But she couldn’t really care less just then. Mrs. Joy Akorful had finally found her level, despite being an ‘Intimidating Woman’, and boy was it an awesome feeling.
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