April 21st, 2013
Walking into that common room on Sunday afternoon was one of the most mind blowing experiences of my life. The bare and basic room had been transformed into a vision of peach and gold loveliness, with organza and tulle draping and rice lights criss crossing the normally stark ceiling. The guest chairs were draped in romantic peach, and the most gorgeous white, peach, gold, and red floral arrangements adorned the tables.
“Wow!” Ebika marveled, as we took our seats.
I was too mesmerized to even respond.
Looking around, as the other guests took their seats, I realized it wasn’t as big a party as I had feared it would be. Apart from Diana’s 4 siblings, and their spouses, and their Uncle and Aunt who had been their caretakers in the UK, there in attendance were their Pastor and his wife, another couple from their Church, Ebika and I, Diana’s doctor, and a few other members of her medical team. I counted about 26 people. I felt momentarily sad that I was the only one representing the groom’s side, and I felt a deep emptiness without Idara. She is…was…my only ‘family member’ here in the UK, and having her here would have been a given. It suddenly hit me that I had possibly lost her as a friend…forever…and that thought made my heart hurt.
But I didn’t have long to think about that, as Lionel Richie’s Three Times a Lady started playing, and, in the arm of her older brother, Jacob, Diana was led into the room. My eyes immediately filled with tears. She looked beautiful in a white gypsy dress, with her natural hair adorned with a large red rose fascinator. But the real beauty shone from within, as her smile, her beautiful smile, lit up her face, and indeed the entire room. But she had eyes only for one person. Her groom, who stood at the other side of the room, dapper in his black tuxedo, and smiling at his bride. He too had tears in his eyes. Looking around, there was hardly a dry eye in the room…and we hadn’t even started the ceremony yet.
The sermon was short and sweet. Their Pastor gave a beautiful talk about love and agreement, and it resonated deeply, even for me. Soon, it was time for them to exchange their vows, and their self-written personalized vows brought more tears in the room.
“Diana…on this day,
I give you my heart.
I give you my promise,
That I will walk with you,
Hand in hand,
Anywhere our journey leads us,
Living, and learning, and loving,
“Phillip, I promise to be your lover, your companion, and your friend,
I promise to be your partner in parenthood,
Your ally in conflict,
Your greatest fan,
Your comrade in adventure,
Your student and your teacher,
Your consolation in disappointment,
Your accomplice in mischief.
This is my sacred vow to you, my equal in all things…All things!”
And then they had their first dance to a medley Stevie Wonder’s My Cherie Amour, Anita Baker’s Sweet Love, and 2face Idibia’s If Love is a Crime. As they danced, it was clear that to them, they were the only ones in the room, as they whispered, and laughed, and cuddled. It was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
All in, it was a beautiful, beautiful ceremony…beautiful couple, beautiful music, beautiful food, beautiful company…everything was perfect.
Alas, after two hours, it all had to come to an end, as that was the limit Diana’s doctor had permitted. We left the newlyweds to retire to her room, and we all dispersed. The day was still young, so Ebika and I decided to go to the West End, which was a 20 minute walk from the station.
“I might as well drink away my sorrows!” Ebika laughed, a bit too cheerfully, as she ordered a Margarita, when we were settled in a popular bar. “After tomorrow, my life could change forever!”
Even though I was tempted to give her the usual platitudes of how she should have faith that everything would be okay, I didn’t want to give her any false hope. So, I chose not to talk about tomorrow’s appointment, and instead chose to gist about rubbish. We had laughs reading the latest gist on the popular Nigerian blogs, and even trolled through Instagram. When we were done with that, we proceeded to people-watch in the bar, and had a field day with the different characters that walking in and out of the bar, and prowling around Leicester Square.
By the time we left the bar, we were high on laughter, all worries temporarily set aside. We laughed and gossiped our way through the train ride back to Hammersmith, and as we walked to our flat from the tube station.
But all our laughter ceased, when we saw the person sitting on our doorstep
As he saw us approach, Demola rose to his feet, and for the first time, he didn’t look like the suave, smooth man I had met once, or seen on Instagram. The man standing there looked like he hadn’t had a wink of sleep. His hair looked uncombed, and his otherwise well groomed goatee looked rough, and was specked with several gray hairs.
Without a word, Ebika rushed into his arms, and they held each other, out there in the cold April evening. I was touched beyond words. When I told him about Ebika’s condition yesterday, he had said he would be on the first flight out…but I hadn’t quite believed him. I just felt I had to do the needful and let him know, but I hadn’t held much hope that he would actually come. But here he was…he had truly taken the first flight out.
I know that his presence will be enough to make whatever outcome tomorrow brings, a whole lot more bearable for my friend.