There in the makeup seat, primed almost to perfection, but for the stylist’s almost completed touch on her hair, Tania was such a breath taking sight, and I barely notice Peju’s sympathetic glare at my wet frame, especially my hair now a drenched mat on my scalp, nothing a hand dryer cannot repair, I explained as I passed her by the door.
Tania’s face was completed and simply breathtaking.
“Oh my!” Tania gasped sighting me. In a flash she was out of her seat and wrapping me in a towel, barely aware of the stylist’s scowl behind her, who seemed to have sustained a burn from the curling wand. “I’m so sorry. You got drenched.” She was dabbing vehemently at me while I stood there, frozen and numb. My heart sunk with guilt. Could she please stop with the fuss?!
“It’s okay Tania, I’m fine.” I tried to assure her guilt ridden.
“No, no. Look at you, look at your hair. We have just one hour left.” She fussed even more, and my heart broke even more as she helped towel my hair and led me into the room. Had Peju not intervened, she would have borne herself with the duty of drying my hair.
As the dryer blew away in Peju’s hands, Tania crossed to the window, staring glumly into the rain.
“Relax Tania, it’s just nine thirty, there’s still plenty of time for the rain to stop.” Peju comforted reading her mind and somewhere between my dryer whipped hair, I catch Tania return to her makeup seat somewhat frantic.
“I really hope. I don’t want the rain ruining my big day.”
From between my curtained mass of hair, I glare at Tania across and catch her low offered smile, my heart pricked, I knew I couldn’t do this to her.
“Are you okay?’ Peju asked, lifting the now dried mass of hair off my face.
“Well apart from the fact that combing through my wet hair hurts, I am fine.” I lied blinking back unshed tears as she offered an apology and helped style it. I sniffed to keep the tears from pouring, and when I lifted back to Tania, I knew I couldn’t do this as a coy smile and a glint of expectance shone in her eyes, “Are you not going to comment about my look?”
“I’m sorry T. You look fabulous. I was going to comment when I first saw you.” I meant it, but I was too engrossed with my thoughts, that it had skipped my mind.
“Any message for me?”
“Huh?” I was taken aback.
“Bayo, did you tell him I love him?” she prodded.
My God! He loves me, not her.
“Oh! He said he loves you too.” The lie slid too smoothly, except after that I couldn’t bring to face her. If I did, she would easily tell of some hanky panky, for I have never been good at pretence.
“Are you okay?” I jolt as Peju taps at me from behind. Her eyes are too suspicious.
“Wedding, the whole thing, I guess its just getting to me.” I sniffed
“Yes I know.” Tania purred rising from her makeup seat and crossing to me. Her hair now was completed. “It’s such a huge step.” She finished with an understanding look.
“I’m just so happy for you Tania.” My voice breaks as I remember the feel of Bayo’s lips on mine, and I blinked it away immediately. “And I wish you nothing but the best.”
“Thank you.” She whispered taking my hands in hers.
Time passed as we stared at each other, and she held me in a somewhat reassurance. I do not know how long, we were like this, but what I do know is that I would never hurt Tania. In fact, I am crazy to have even considered it.
Though Peju’s gaze raked somewhat quizzically, she pulls me for a hug, sensing my deep need for it.
And breaking from both women, I rushed to bathroom, needing a minute alone.
Now that I knew I couldn’t go through with Bayo’s plan. How could I tell him, and pass the message across to him when the only available phone was only inches beside Tania?! And then a thought struck as I realized the pay phone at the hotel’s reception, and in a flash I was out of the bathroom meeting both Peju and Tania’s questioning glare for they obviously expected me to be dressed.
“I am coming.” I called without any real explanation as I took the flight down the stairs.
The receptionist was nice and she calmly allowed me use the phone as I punched in Bayo’s number I had scribbled on my notepad, all the while looking behind my back to avoid being caught as I spinned it into dial. But there was no response. Panicky, I tried again, mentally willing and begging that he answers but there was no response.
“Thank you.” I muttered to the confused receptionist handing the receiver back to her as I rushed again up the stairs and as I lunged into the door, Peju meets me with a firm glare. “Are you okay?!” She questioned, clearly there was no avoiding this.
“Well you want to know the truth,” I swallowed. “ Apart from the fact that I have a nasty headache and went to get an aspirin, I woke up to a letter from my uncle that he is dieing from an unknown illness.”
My play must have been so believing, for Peju gasped in empathy. “I’m so sorry, so what are you going to do?”
“Nothing” I shrugged relieved that my lie was paying off. “It’s not like missing Tania’s wedding will make him any better, so I will wait till after the wedding and travel afterwards.”
“Are you sure?” She asked.
“Yes. I am.”
And then passing Tania with a stiff smile, I again disappeared into the bathroom with my bride’s maid dress in hand. For a minute, I catch my reflection in the mirror and stopped stunned. There looking back at me was a ghostly form, deep eyes darting with terror. My hands shook terribly, and with a mere look at them, I willed for them to still but they wouldn’t. And not until after deep practiced breath did they finally start to ease.
Shaking off every last bit of physical trembling, I wash my hands, turn off the tap, and quickly dressed with a light make up on before plunging out of the bathroom with a feigned stiff smile.
The next time I emerge, it was in lavender brides’ maid dress, similar to Peju’s and we both gasped in unison at Tania’s breathtaking sight. The dress was beautiful on her, come right out of a story book and every inch Tania. At this juncture, thoughts of eloping had dissipated from my mind. Tania deserves this happiness, I was thinking, when the clock strikes eleven, and I feel my heart spill in my throat. Only forty-five minutes away from the wedding. What if Bayo had fled, we were to meet at Ocean view in ten minutes from now. What if-
“Hello!” Tania snaps right in front of me, her gaze bore down on me motherly. “Are you better now?” She asked and I am momentarily taken aback, only quickly learning what Peju had informed her.
“Oh yes. Yes I am much better.” I lied.
“And how do I look?” She asked ever being the narcissist that she was, as though our expression had not been all the confirmation that she needed.
“You look gorgeous love.”
“Thank you.” She squealed doing a three-sixty spin for us, and stilling on Peju’s demands as she dabbed a little powder on her face, and brush off some invisible speck down her chin. Perfect! She said.
By now the sky had lifted and the sun was out again. Tania thrilled about it and soon all three of us were giggling like school girls, as Peju handed the smiling stylist her camera to take some shots. She gladly did, with a smile of satisfaction on her lips all the while.
Tania had sent for her driver, and shortly after, he arrived, a swift knock notifiying his presence. Everything and everyone was set, the train, the entourage as promised by Tania’s father. Tania had always wanted a dream wedding and her father Col. Ajayi readily allowed her indulgence. As the bride was led to the car, I stole a moment, promising to be back soon as I returned to the hotel room. Hastily, I dial Bayo’s number again and curse at the same unchanged result. Now out of thought, and frantically pacing the floors, I started to stick my fingers through perfectly coiffed hair, only remembering that Tania needed us to be perfect for her big day.
Now crashing into the edge of the bed, a restless uneasiness had taken over my mind as I began to rock back and forth. My stomach tightened in knots as waves and waves of fear rolled over.
Bayo needs to know of my changed plans, he needs to know!
I launch on my feet again, conjuring a million and one possible reasons for Bayo’s unavailability, and hard started to dart again to the phone, when Peju appears by the door, literally breaking in.
“Aren’t you coming?”
I flinched at the unexpected presence. My hand instantly flew to my racing heart as if to steady it. “You scared me.”
Her brow rose with curiosity. “Who are you calling?”
“My sister.” I all but slumped. “I am trying to get her to my uncle at least until I show up.”
“Everything will be okay.” Peju assured as she took me in a hug and led me down the stairs.
Down in the car, thankfully, Tania was too occupied with her own thoughts, she barely realized our arrival or my unease on our drive to church.
Each seemed in a world of her own, except Peju whose gaze clashed with mine every now and then, offering me a supportive stare. If only she knew the cause of my jitters, perhaps she wouldn’t be so supportive.
As the limousine pulls behind a line of cars in what was obviously a thin traffic, I muttered a short payer, asking that Bayo would come to his senses and against our plan will show up instead at the aisle, waiting for his bride. A couple minutes later, still stuck in traffic, I am equally as restless as the bride. But as the car starts again, relief stole into my face almost matching Tania’s.
In less than five minutes, we made it to St. Claire’s catholic. The wedding party was there already and each’s face relayed their joy as we arrived. Col. Ajayi was waiting by the church’s entryway, a proud beam on his face as he readied to walk his child down the aisle. Everything seemed in place, all awaiting the bride. I heaved a mighty sigh of relief as I sight Bayo’s car, a black polished car amidst the fleet.
And out of sheer relief, I started to jump out of the car following Tania, barely missing stepping on her long white train which earns me a dangerous scowl from Peju.
Behave Olaide! I mentally chide with a jerky smile as I made to the rest of the wedding party, briefly commenting on their gorgeous looks, and well out of Tania’s earshot, as I passed one of the girls, I had to ask the most pressing question. “Bayo has arrived right?”
“Yes.” She confirms and only now do I start to breath.
Tania was locked in a deep embrace with her father in what was obviously a final father-daughter time before claiming her husband’s name. Both were pretty close, and it is clear how such joyful occasion was tearing at both’s heart. Tania nodded mutely as the Colonel whispered into her ears and moments after still holding on to him she kissed him on the cheek, before parting. As expected, her eyes were misty and Peju had to ensure she hadn’t ruined her face. I curtsy at the colonel as I claimed position on the queue right behind Peju. I had seen the colonel earlier when I went to get the rings.
A slow hymn started from the church as they’d been informed about the bride’s arrival. The grand organ blasts a rapturous sound as we started before the bride and her father.
As we enter, my eyes are in keen search for one in particular. And sighting him in a distance, my heart missed a beat, especially leaving me breathless at the dapper form in shiny black tuxedo. Bayo couldn’t be any more beautiful.
Please look at me, I prayed, but his gaze was directed to one -his bride. My heat squeezed in pain, as in with each agitated step, it further sinks in despair. Please look my way! My heart screams for one who would barely spare me as little as glance. As we near Bayo, his face was expressionless and slowly, they eased for a gentle smile all for Tania again.
Surely this isn’t the Bayo that had professed his love for me barely two hours back, the voices in my head reeled back and forth as I try to merge this Bayo with that one from hours back. And then in a flash, realization dawned, knocking the air out of me as I know I had been played! I catch myself in time as I stumble into, Peju’s dress, an act that earned Peju’s fierce glare, not to mention the crowd’s sudden attention. I am mortified. But neither hurt in comparison to Bayo’s cold stare too quickly returned to his bride. Pain cut deep into my heart, and in a haze I lead the party to our seat behind Tania, willing for the ground to open and swallow me up.
For a second, Bayo’s gaze grazed mine as the Colonel handed Tania to Bayo. Regret flashed in those eyes, but soon disappeared almost as instantly as it came, it could pass for my imagination.
In slow easy breaths, I settle into one of those pews, aiming at taming my frantic mind. Get a grip Olaide, else you’ll end up with a nervous breakdown. Worse, an heart attack! I am unprepared for Peju’s vicious attack when she turns to me gripping my arm. “Are you sure you can handle being here?!”
I blinked her tone and words seeming to have varying meanings.
“Yes I can. I will just go over to my uncle’s once we are done.”
“No, stop it!” she berates. Her voice though a whisper, carrying enough moral authority. I must have posed a scary sight, for her grip and stare soon softened. “Stop lying to me, there is more.”
And then without second thoughts, the lies roll off all too easily. “I’m scared, marriage scares me. And now that my wedding with Femi is drawing near, it scares me even further.”
Peju’s gaze couldn’t be any softer, and her eyes relay understanding this time. “I know, we’ll talk about it later.” She promised and turned her gaze back ahead willing me to do the same.
I barely catch a word of the priest’s sermon as my mind trailed a different course. What would life be without Bayo my one true love? Will I really let this happen to me? Would I let Tania take what’s mine, while I settle for Femi out of pity and debt?
My gaze jolt up as they begin to exchange vows, Tania first, each words a venomous course through my veins. And on Bayo’s turn, my heart bled, each rendition of love puncturing deep into my soul.
Oh Bayo, he’d taken the knowledge of my love and hurt me! How can I possibly survive this?
Briefly our gazes merge, and something crushes in me as he lifts Tania’s veil, his soul piercing look at her leaving me in a furious flutter. My breath had started to grow shallow, and I bite back a whimper for a vital part of me only now shriveling.
Now unable to endure anymore, swallowing back a wave of nausea, I start to push from my seat, now mentally dashing out of the door when Leke, Bayo’s best man from beside me, passed his program whispering into my ears that I turned to last page. I obeyed, very well conscious of Peju beside me. Thankfully she was well riveted at the scene ahead to notice anything else.
My heart thumps as I thumbed over to the last page and read it. The statements were written in tiny strokes; one would have to strain to see it. He knew about Bayo and I, and he had played Bayo’s sense of reason. It was far too late for us, and we were both to live with the secret.
I find Leke’s gaze as I look up. His eyes weren’t condemning as I expected. Instead they were laced with remorse, pain and a deep sense of apology and strangely, I find solace in them. And even further solace when he reclaimed his program and with his pen wiped out the already dim note.
Again, I turn to Bayo, except this time, with a shallow sense of forgiveness. I know now that his love for me was real, that he’d truly intended on eloping as planned, had Leke not steered him into doing the right thing.
That however, wouldn’t stop my ache. And as the priest pronounced them man and wife, I watch the couple seal their promise with a kiss and I sniff back unshed tears, knowing that I had lost my man forever…