AUTHOR: OGECHI ALABI
On the day of the white wedding, Funke was fully dressed in her exquisite white wedding gown. She looked so beautiful that her father cried. Nkem was her chief bride’s maid. She was dressed in a beautiful peach dress to go with the colour of the day.
Ebuka waited for his bride at the church alongside family members from both sides. Funke was walked down the aisle by her proud father. Behind her was Nkem spreading her long beautiful veil. Ebuka couldn’t stop smiling when he saw Funke. She blew his mind. When she stood beside him, he told her, “You look amazing. I made the right choice.”
After the church service, everyone filed out to take pictures. There was an order for the photographs to be taken. Then Funke took pictures with her friends especially. Uncle Tobi joined them and they were all excited to see him.
“I was told three of you are married now. Why the rush? I was particularly surprised about Esther, it happened so fast. Is anyone spinning a surprise at me? Will there be a wedding I won’t be invited to?” uncle Tobi asked.
Funke answered, “It is only Nkem left and from what she is saying, she is not in a hurry to settle down.”
“Are you sure? She had a man stay in her room for some days. He even installed an airconditioner for her. Did she tell you?”
“Yes, she did. She isn’t ready to get married yet. Maybe another two or three years.”
“Are you her mouthpiece? She should answer for herself.”
Nkem was shocked uncle Tobi knew about Demian’s visit and stay in her room. Who could have told him? Her flatmate? She wasn’t comfortable with the whole arrangement. Why did uncle Tobi feel the need to know everything about her?
“Cat caught your tongue? We will talk about it later.” He turned to Funke and said, “Congratulations baby. Where are you going for your honeymoon?”
“Spain” Funke answered smiling.
“Romantic. Ebuka knows how you make you blush. Enjoy yourself on the trip. This is your gift.” He handed her an envelope. She opened it and saw two packs of $100 bills. Funke couldn’t move. “I won’t spray you in the hall. I trust you will know what to do with it. I have a second gift at the hall. Ladies, I will meet you on the dance floor.” And then uncle Tobi left.
The reception was beautiful. The gifts given to Funke were terrific. Ebuka and Funke’s parents lavished gifts on them. Funke got a house from her father. Ebuka got a house too. They got cars, household items and many more. Uncle Tobi gave Funke 100,000 units of First bank shares and also shares in one of his companies. She signed off on it in the hall. After she signed, uncle Tobi asked Nkem to sign too. Nkem wanted to see what it was about but uncle Tobi told her she was signing as a witness. She signed but she still wanted to see what she signed but he refused to show her.
Funke and Ebuka changed at the reception and left for the airport. All their gifts were to be stored at Funke’s home until their return. Funke took some of the dollars Uncle Tobi gave her and gave Nkem the rest. She asked her to keep it until she gets back.
Nkem was to leave with Esther and Zainab. Her luggage was still at Funke’s house. She was going to spend the night at Esther’s house. Uncle Tobi stopped her. He asked them to leave, Nkem was to help put Funke’s things together, especially arrange the money sprayed int the hall. She would sleep in Funke’s house.
Nkem and uncle Tobi got to Funke’s house and he asked her to change into something more comfortable. She changed and came out to meet him so they could organise the gifts and money. He told her to get into the car, they were going out.
“Why didn’t you tell me you had a lover?” uncle Tobi asked her out of the blues.
“I don’t have a lover, I have a friend. He is my best friend. We are not lovers.”
“And you both slept together in the same room?”
“He wasn’t well and I was taking care of him. How did you know all this?”
“Does it matter? I don’t want you ruining your life. I am a man and we only want one thing. He will make you get comfortable and immediately you lose your guard; he strikes. He wants the gold between your legs, don’t let him mine it. Don’t be like other girls; you are special.”
Nkem was quiet. She didn’t like this conversation and the boldness uncle Tobi used to communicate. She didn’t concern him about what she did. How was he sure she hadn’t been mined? What was this about? She had a frown on her face.
“Why are you frowning?” uncle Tobi asked her.
“I am not frowning,” she replied.
“Because I am cautioning you about men, you are frowning? I don’t want you to waste your life. You have what it takes to make it big in life. To be a decision-maker in the country. To be sought after. I see that but you don’t. I am aware you still sell your produce from the east but you use a proxy. That is smart thinking. Bringing a man to stay in your room wasn’t smart thinking. Staying in his hotel room with him wasn’t smart thinking. After everything, he has gone back. What next?”
“I have a visa and ticket to join him in the US for Christmas. He is my friend and nothing more. This trip will determine where we are headed. He wants to marry me but I am not ready.”
“Marriage will set you back. Why are all of you rushing to get married? I told Funke to wait until she was twenty-seven to get married but she rushed. I can understand Zainab but the rest of you, I can’t. Don’t you want a career?”
“I am not getting married soon. I want a career. I want to build myself. He wants a commitment from me. He wants to know we are together and I won’t be with any other person. He wants assurance. I want to give it to him.”
Read – Key To Love prologue
“Why? Do you want to be tied down? What if you fall in love with someone else? Or are you with him because his family has money? That will be a waste. You are capable of being a powerful woman in this country. I don’t want you to be with a man who takes orders from his mother.”
Nkem couldn’t disguise her utter shock. She asked him, “How did you know that?”
“Nkem, I know everything about you. I make it my business to know and guide you. Go to America and have a wild time with him but make no promises. Let him know your plans to reside in Nigeria and be impactful. He should support you if he truly loves you.”
“I want to go for my Master’s abroad. I want it.”
“You can go. But, you are coming back. If he loves you, he will allow you to build a career for yourself and fulfil your mother’s dream. What she couldn’t achieve, she believes you can achieve them.”
“My mother wants me to get married and then pursue a career. She feels marriage is the best at a young age. But she wants me to marry a man that will allow me to shine.”
“And she feels this guy will? A guy that is controlled by his family, especially his mother? His family regards you as a gold digger. Their trophy son wants to marry a lowlife. The guy isn’t bold enough to have you? He is a weakling and not the right man for a feisty girl like you. You need a real man that has balls. When he is sick, how do you take care of him from Nigeria?”
Nkem stared in disbelief. How did he know all these things? How much did he know? She felt exposed. She had no secret from him. Why was he so interested in her? She felt naked. Did he see them kiss too? What else did he know?
“Nkem, you look worried. I am doing this for your good. If the guy was terrible, I would have stepped forward earlier but he is a very nice guy who is in love with you. I have a problem with his disease and his meddling mother. She wants a wife that will take care of him not one that wants to pursue a career. If you choose to go that way, note this, it won’t last. You are not cut out for a mediocre lifestyle. His parents are very rich, but it will never be enough for you. You crave power and once you have it, there will be no stopping you. Go and have fun with him but remember what I told you.”
Nkem had thought about it many times. She understood what uncle Tobi was talking about. She wasn’t a pushful person but she knew what she wanted to achieve in life. She wanted to make a name for herself. Her name. She didn’t want to achieve that behind the success of a man. Maybe that was why she couldn’t love Demian the way he deserved. Probably she was worried his family would believe she is with him for his money. She wanted to make her own. When she travels, she would iron this out with him. She wanted her independence to be someone, a force. Uncle Tobi understood her perfectly. She had never discussed this with him; how did he know?
As though he read her thoughts he said to her, “Men should be falling all over themselves to be with you. You are beautiful and intelligent. Just be smart and don’t settle. I can bet you, your life is about to change for good. Marriage at this time will destroy it. You are a semi-god but you don’t know it yet. Have I ever deceived you? I know what I see; you are coming out soon. You will be too much for the guy and his family to handle. Remember I said this.”
Nkem travelled to meet Demian. It was a very long flight. It was her first time travelling down so Demian asked someone coming down to fly with her and help her. The lady was in the company of a guy and didn’t seem to want Nkem to associate with him. Nkem refused to take offence. She found her way around. When she arrived at her final airport, she went through immigration and then pushed her trolley outside. She was supposed to call Demian with the lady’s phone but she didn’t speak with her again. As she got to the door, Demian was there standing tall in a winter jacket. It was very cold. When he saw her, his face lit up with smiles. He couldn’t stop smiling as he walked towards her. They hugged tightly. First, she was excited she was in America. Secondly, she missed him and was genuinely happy to see him. It was the same for Demian.
He took her to his vehicle, helped put her luggage in the trunk and then they left for his place.
“My parents and siblings travelled yesterday morning. They called me to tell me they had arrived and I was so relieved. I’m glad you are here.”
“I’m glad I am here too. Excited too. It is snowing.”
Demian smiled. He couldn’t wait to take her to his apartment. They talked on the way to his apartment until they arrived. She was surprised when he drove into underground parking. They entered a lift and stopped on his floor. There was a doorman on his floor who greeted him. He introduced her to the man whom he called Martins. Then he opened his apartment.
Nkem felt like she stepped into a movie. It was a beautiful two-bedroom apartment with a terrace. The view was amazing. She could see the entire city from there. It was a rooftop apartment. She loved it. She went out to the terrace in excitement.
“Come in, it is very cold. I have turned on the heater so you will be comfortable.” She came in. “Would you like to take a bath first? I have dinner ready and I would like to set the table. Are you tired or jetlagged?”
“I slept most of the flight. I will take a bath and then eat dinner. I was too excited to eat. Didn’t like the food on the plane.”
He led her to the room, showed her the bathroom, and left her to set the table for dinner. When she came out, the food was on the table. It looked lovely. He served her rice with plantain and salads. There was a sauce for the rice and different cuts of poultry.
“Wow! I don’t eat that much. This is too much.”
“Whatever is left will be preserved for later. Come and have a seat. I missed you.”
Nkem smiled as she took her seat. She replied to him, “I’m here now. Let’s make the best of it.”
They ate that night. Nkem insisted on cleaning up and properly packaging the leftovers. They sat in the sitting room together and talked. They never lacked anything to talk about. His phone rang and he picked it up. He spoke on the phone for about twenty minutes and then he was back talking to her. She didn’t ask who it was. After a few minutes, Demian told her it was his mother that called.
He decided they watch a movie in the spirit of Christmas. They cuddled up together on the floor rug and covered themselves with a duvet. As the movie was playing, Demian was uncomfortable. He wanted to kiss her but he was scared about how to start. They hadn’t talked about what will happen when she gets here because he wanted it to happen naturally but now he wanted to at least kiss her and feel her body against him.
He stared at her while she watched the movie. After some minutes she could sense she was being watched and turned to look at him. She could see the passion in his eyes. She asked him, “What?” and he bent and kissed her. They kissed for a few minutes before he stopped and held her close. “I really missed you. Let’s go to bed.”
They went into his room. Nkem was scared and it showed. She didn’t want to have sex and she didn’t want to say it. He got under the duvet and waited for her to join him. She stood by the bed. “I won’t do anything to you. That you are here is more than enough for me.”
“I am sorry. I am ready for sex.”
“I just want you with me. You are not sleeping in another room. Come here.”
Nkem joined him in bed. They talked for a bit and then cuddled up. Before long, Nkem was asleep. Demian took out his phone and took a picture of her sleeping. Then he took a picture of both of them. He took position and few asleep.
The holiday was for two weeks. Demian was determined to make every day memorable. He took her to beautiful places. He took her to Disneyland, Niagra falls, fancy restaurants, and Miami beach. She travelled to several states. It was unbelievable for her. She took pictures and had videos of each trip. It was amazing.
She went to visit her uncle. She was to spend a night and come back to be with Demian. He wasn’t happy about it but he allowed her to travel. Her uncle was surprised she was in the US. She brought some food items for him which he appreciated. He wanted to know who she was staying with but she refused to disclose. She told him a friend and didn’t say anything more. The following evening, She asked Demian to pick her up, and he came and stayed in the car. She joined him and they left.
Uncle Amaechi wanted to know who he was. He was upset with her. She told him he was her friend’s brother. It wasn’t adding up. Demian drove from Maryland to New York. It was a long drive but very worth it. They talked. They had only two days before she had to go back. She wanted to see her family before she resumes work.
They had gone shopping on several occasions. He was out to spoil her. She tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen to her. He bought items for everyone in her family. She was grateful. She had even packed in preparation to travel back. The clothes she would use before her trip were in her hand luggage.
When they got home, they made dinner together. They ate and chatted. She had uploaded pictures of her trip on her social media but never posted pictures of both of them. Demian had seen it and was unhappy about it.
“Nkem, what is wrong with me that you can’t love me?” Demian asked her.
“What do you mean?”
“You seem ashamed to be connected with me.”
“Why would I be?”
“I thought your coming here will help us bond but I was wrong. When we are together, we have fun. But you select pictures of just you and upload them on social media. Nothing about me on your social media.”
“Demian, it isn’t that. People will ask questions I can’t answer especially family members. I have pictures of us together and it is for my consumption.”
“I have told you before and I am telling you again I love you and I want to be with you. This trip was for us to get closer and we did. But why hide me?”
“Demian, it is your family that is the problem. I don’t want them to believe I am a gold digger. I want to make something out of my life before I can talk about falling in love. You have spoilt me on this trip and I appreciate but I can’t live off you. You have to let me find my way. When I am established; we can talk about love again. Then I can flaunt you.”
“You can flaunt me now. I will not stand in your way. I will wait for you to be established before we tie the knot but I want us to be together. I want to be exclusive. I don’t want to be worried that you are dating or involved with someone else. I have not dated since we became best friends. I have been with another woman. It is because I believe if you love someone, you will sacrifice for the person including ensuring the relationship works. If my family knew you, they wouldn’t be surprised we are spending Christmas together. I want them to know you and your family.”
Read – Key To love epilogue
Nkem could see the sincerity in what he said. Yes, if it has been declared they are together, it will be accepted. But now she was here; she couldn’t do that.
“You haven’t answered my question though,” Demian said to her.
“What was the question?“
“Why can’t you love me?”
“I do love you. You are my best friend. What I won’t tell my friends, I tell you. I share everything with you. What else do you want?”
“I want you. The whole of you. I am a jealous person; I don’t want to ever share you with anyone. I want to make you my wife and be with you forever. I want to make love to you and then we both become one. I want you to know I am always there with and for you. I want you to be the mother of my kids.”
Nkem could hear the sincerity and it was messing with her emotions. She shook her head and said “Not now. I want towork for some time. I have a plan and you know it. Nothing can disrupt that plan not even love. Getting carried away will make me filled with regrets later in life. Let us take it a step at a time.”
“But I want to make love to you now. I want you so badly, I have wanted you since the day I met you. Why can’t we…”
“I am not ready. Please. If we do it now, I will crave it when I get back and we live far apart. I might cheat on you. Would you like that? It might be December we might get to see each other again. If we have lasted this long, why can’t we just wait?”
Demian wasn’t buying it. She didn’t love him enough to give him her body. He decided never to ask again. He enjoyed the time they spent together, he didn’t regret it. He decided he would not make a fuss anymore.
The day she was to travel back to Nigeria, Nkem was sober. She was quiet and appeared sad. Demian felt the same. He told her the apartment wouldn’t be the same without her. He was in the kitchen preparing snacks she would go with since she didn’t like the food on the plane. She came behind him and hugged him. Demian was surprised. He turned her over to face him. There were tears in her eyes. He wiped them off and hugged her tightly.
“I will miss you so much. December is so far away.”
“You know you can come anytime you want, you have a two years visa.”
“I’m working. I can’t just leave.”
“I know that. We will figure something out.”
“Will we continue to be best friends? I don’t want to miss out on that.”
“I love you. You are my everything. I am willing to wait. I will wait until you are ready. I won’t force you, I want you to desire me as much as I desire you.”
She kissed him. He was surprised. They kissed for some minutes. He held on to her. He didn’t want to appear desperate but he wanted her to stay. He wanted to be with her. But he couldn’t stand in her way. She had mapped out her future. He could see she desperately wanted her life to matter and he had promised to support her. He couldn’t let her dreams die; that would be selfish.
At least she was showing emotions she had never shown. She was holding on to him and he felt loved. He wished he could make love to her at that moment. He wished he could show her how much he loved her. He would wait, there was no rush. They had their whole life ahead of them. She said she needed two years after her service so she could go on sabbatical leave for her Master’s. She can school in New York and stay with him. They could live together. She would be ready then. He would wait.