After I said yes, everything that followed was all a big whirlwind!
As soon as I accepted Lekan’s proposal, he’d been so loud and excited that the commotion had drawn Dolly to the living room. She’d been so ecstatic and overjoyed herself, that she’d called our parents, who had only just arrived Ibadan that night. Those ones were equally overjoyed, with my mother singing praise and thanksgiving songs. Following that call, Lekan had called his own parents, who had only just arrived the U.S. for his father’s annual medical. Their excitement had been more about the fact that their son was finally getting married, and less about his choice of bride.
“I just thank God Lekan has finally decided to settle down! Congratulations.” his mother had said, when the phone had been handed to me.
Translation: cat, dog, monkey, divorcee mom…it didn’t matter which of these Lekan had picked. All that mattered was he’d picked!
At a little over midnight, Lekan finally left, and I took the opportunity to call Adun.
“Did I wake you?” I asked tentatively, knowing fully well that my nocturnal sister would be wide awake.
“You know you didn’t.” she’d answered. “So…I hear congratulations are in order. Mom told me.”
“She sure didn’t waste any time!” I mumbled under my breath.
“I’m kinda surprised though. I never really thought you two had much chemistry. I guess I was wrong.” Adun had said, in her usual matter-of-fact way.
“Well, I guess so.” had been my own answer.
But I knew that she knew that I knew she was right. While it was true that Lekan and I couldn’t set a house ablaze with our passion (heck, we would struggle to even light a match), I knew that it was only a matter of time for that passion to grow. It had taken our mother almost 40 years to fall head-over-heels in love with our father. But I sure as heck wasn’t going to wait 40 years to be as madly in love with Lekan, they way that I was with…
Getting over Jimi would be hard…probably even harder than the first time. But it was something I had to do…for my sake…and the sake of my marriage.
I spent the whole of the next day, Sunday, helping Dolly pack and settling her into the car that had been booked to take her to Ibadan. We hugged tightly as she left, and I knew that, despite all her shenanigans and desperate behavior, she loved me dearly…as did I. A whole lot had happened between us, but at the end of the day, she was my sister…my flesh and blood. There was no way I could hold anything against her for long.
Monday came, and I deliberately didn’t wear my ring to work. I didn’t want to have to make an official announcement without telling my son first. But in order to break such serious news to Rire, I knew I had to have the support of his father. So even though I’d dreaded having to face him again, especially so soon after all that had recently happened between us, I had no choice but to swallow my dread and face the music.
Upon getting to my in-laws’ house on Monday evening, the first person I went looking for was Jimi. I found him in his studio, working on a drawing. His eyes lit up when he saw me, but he said nothing, obviously waiting for me to be the one to break the ice.
“I don’t want you hearing this from anyone else, which is why I’ve decided to tell you this myself…” was my opener. “Lekan and I are getting married.”
Jimi looked at me, his face expressionless. After what seemed like eternity, he nodded. “If that’s what you want, then I’m happy for you. Congratulations.”
“Is there anything else?” he asked.
“Rire.” I answered. “I’m going to need your help with Rire. I have a feeling he might struggle with the news.”
“Done.” he answered, turning back to his drawing, and effectively ending our conversation.
Later that night, as Rire tried to settle back home, after being compulsorily away for almost a week, I broke the news to him…and he’d been devastated.
“You’re marrying that guy?!” he had exclaimed, close to tears.
Rire and Lekan were not the best of friends, and he had never seen the news to address Lekan as anything other than ‘that guy’. They were not enemies; no words had been exchanged and no official complaints had been made about the other. But they were clearly not friends.
“Yes, Rire!” I’d tried to cajole my son, who was only a few months shy of becoming a teenager. “Aren’t you happy mom is finally getting married? Do you want mommy to be lonely forever? After all, you were happy to accept Clairice as your step mother, so why is this such a big deal?”
He’d said nothing in response, but had instead sunk into a deep sulk, giving me the silent treatment in the days that followed.
“Don’t worry, I’ll talk to him.” had been Jimi’s curt response, when I complained about what happened with Rire.
It hurt me to be so formal with Jimi. It also hurt me that he had become so formal with me as well. The whole thing was indeed painful, but there was very little I could do about it.
True to his words, a few short days later, Rire seemed less antagonistic about the idea, and even started engaging Lekan in conversation. He even got him to divulge the genesis of the nickname, Lekushe. I couldn’t have been happier that the two men in my life were finally getting along!
Telling Papa and Mama Jay was hard. But even though they were both emotional, they’d been happy for me.
“Folabomi! My daughter-in-love! The daughter from my heart. I have held you down for too long!” Mama Jay had tearfully said to me. “It breaks my heart that, very soon, you will leave us finally. But I’m happy for you. This is what we have been praying for, and God has finally done it!”
But as sad as she’d been, that hadn’t been a deterrent for her getting excited about planning a huge, society wedding for me. She and my mother had joined forces, and for ladies who had spent the better part of 13 years hating each other, they were now almost inseparable, talking on the phone pretty much everyday…planning.
Yep, before I could even spell my name, my wedding was in full-on planning mode.
The weeks soon turned into months, and Mama Jay and my mother were in fever pitch. In a conference call with Lekan’s parents in America, the parents had decided on a December wedding. All my protests about having a wedding right smack in the chaotic Christmas period fell on deaf ears. Apparently, the more festive the better!
Mama Jay actually engaged a wedding planner for me, after my 5th attempt to circumvent her questions about what venue we’d be using. At that point, I had no idea! The only thing I knew I had maximum input with / responsibility for was in the selection of a wedding gown. But even that was a drag for me. Adun, Bimbo and Lilian had given me truckloads of bridal magazines, but looking at the pages was physically giving me a headache, an anomaly for a shopaholic like me. I was clearly overwhelmed.
My colleagues were another thing. The day I decided to wear my ring, almost the very instant I drove into the compound, the rumor mill got wind of the diamond sparkler on my finger. The whole office, male and female, went wild! I hadn’t realized I’d been pegged as a hard core spinster, despite the fact I already had one marriage under my belt. They were happy for me, I knew that much. So, instead of fixate on how annoying their attention and flattery was becoming…I consoled myself with the fact that they at least cared.
One person who hadn’t been as excited was my brother-in-law, Seyi.
“You mean you’re marrying Lekushe?!” Seyi had exclaimed, surprised. “I thought my brother was getting ready to come back for you. I have never, ever, seen Jimi as passionate about anything as he was that night he almost killed me. The man is in love with you. Even a blind man can see it.”
“Jimi and I are not good together…” I answered what I’d already been using to convince myself.
Seyi had thrown his hands in mock surrender, laughing. “If you say so, Fola.”
Yes, I did. I did say so!
Lekan’s father’s medical test results were not as great as they could have been, so he had been urged to stay back for a more intense round of treatment. It was agreed that they would return shortly before the wedding, the date of which had been fixed for December 28th, exactly a year after my brother, Niyi’s wedding. Upon their return, we would kickstart the Introduction and other festivities. But that did nothing to stop the planning and discussions between Mama Fola and Mama Jay. Everything went on in full speed.
Every single time I set foot in Mama Jay’s house, she was on the phone with my mother, talking about one detail or the other. If it wasn’t the venue (which they’d eventually chosen, with input from Adun and Remi, Lekan’s sister), it was about colour choices, fabric choices, or vendor choices.
“Fola, I’m not sure about this orange and cream idea. It’s too dull! Your mother and I think you should go for yellow! Yellow will pop, not only with the lace, but the décor as well!” Mama Jay would say this week, only to say the following week”. “Who on earth suggested yellow?! You young people of these days! Why you decide to go for such wild and flashy colors, instead of simple, classic pastel colours simply beats me! Whoever heard of yellow for a wedding?!”
Who knew that planning a wedding was bound to induce short term amnesia?! Clearly not me! And my mother was no better. As this was the very first wedding she was actively planning, having been detached for Adun’s and absent for my first, she had immersed herself in it full throttle.
In the end, and for my sanity, I caved and agreed to their suggestions of hiring a planner.
The only person more excited than my mother and Mama Jay…was the groom himself. It was like Lekan forgot my name; everywhere he went, everyone he introduced me to, and even when talking to me sometimes, it was always ‘My fiancée this, my fiancée that.” Fiancée had become my new name!
“I wish we could just speed through the months!” he lamented in September. “You don’t know how much I’m dying to have you!”
And by ‘have’, I knew he didn’t mean my company. He meant my bed.
The thought of it still left a sinking feeling in my stomach, but I reckoned it was because no other man had ever crossed that line before…no man but Jimi. Somehow, and it hadn’t been easy, but I’d managed to convince Lekan to wait until our wedding night. And with just about three months until D-day, I was hopeful that would be what it would take to unseat Jimi from the position he still occupied in my heart.
Seeing Jimi was still hard. I still couldn’t look him in the eye, or have a decent conversation with him either. He had made no attempt to be anything but cordial and civil with me. Besides the normal pleasantries, all we talked about was Rire; who was picking him up, when and where he was to be dropped off, how his grades were, who needed to be at which school function, etc. We were now the best of co-parents…and nothing else. And I mourned the loss of his friendship.
I almost sank into the ground the day he walked in on Mama Jay, myself and the Planner looking at a pile of varying qualities and colours of lace for the aso ebi. While holding 6 yards of Swiss lace, our eyes had met, and for the first time in ages, I had seen a flash of emotion on his face…a mix of anger, irritation…and hurt. I’d quickly averted my eyes, and he was gone just as abruptly as he’d shown up. Mama Jay had looked from me to the door through which he’d exited, and she let out a deep sigh. But like the pro she is, she quickly got right back to business.
But for every time I mourned the loss of what Jimi and I had, I made more of an effort to draw closer to the man who would soon be my husband. And even though I was far from feeling love for him, I was glad that we at least were making progress.
Which is why I wasn’t prepared for what happened that fateful Thursday night, in the beginning of October.
It was 11:15pm, and I’d been surprised to find Lekan standing in my door way. He never visited this late, and I couldn’t understand why his face looked like stone.
“Babe, are you okay?” I’d asked him.
Without saying a word, he brought out his phone, and hit the Play button. And I got the absolute shock of my life!
“He was here last night. Jimi. He spent the night?” came Dolly’s clear and distinct voice.
“Yes, he did.” I froze, as I recognized my own voice.
“Folabomi…you’ve fallen in love with him again. I can see it in your eyes.”
“I never stopped loving him. Jimi has been the love of my life for 17 years. But last night was a mistake. I can’t be with him.”
“Why not? You love him, and he clearly loves you!”
“I can’t do that to Lekushe. He is a great guy, and he has been so good to me. He loves me in a way that I’m not sure Jimi ever can.”
“But is that enough? Do YOU love him?”
“I like him. I like him a whole lot. And I know that I can grow to love him…The love I have for Jimi overwhelms me. It doesn’t make me think straight! With Lekan, it will be a love that I can control…not one that will control me.
When the recording had stopped playing, I looked at him, stunned by the realization that Dolly…my sister…had betrayed me!
The remaining episodes of Sister, Sister will now be published on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
You can catch up on Fola’s story here:
- Sister, Sister 1: Calling Me Mrs.
- Sister, Sister 2: The Odd Family
- Sister, Sister 3: Floating On Air
- Sister, Sister 4: The Many Wives of Jimi
- Sister, Sister 5: Russian Roulette
- Sister, Sister 6: So Much In Common
- Sister, Sister 7: An Unlikely Pair
- Sister, Sister 8: Longing For Her
- Sister, Sister 9: The Return
- Sister, Sister 10: The Catastrophe
- Sister, Sister 11: Not Working
- Sister, Sister 12: Sham of a Marriage
- Sister, Sister 13: Invisible Strings
- Sister, Sister 14: Rehab
- Sister, Sister 15: Fall From Grace
- Sister, Sister 16: Reset Button
- Sister, Sister 17: Available…Unavailable
- Sister, Sister 18: Paradigm Shift
- Sister, Sister 19: Living a Lie
- Sister, Sister 20: Not That Kind of Girl
- Sister, Sister 21: Name Dropping
- Sister, Sister 22: The Banker
- Sister, Sister 23: One Chip
- Sister, Sister 24: A Mess
- Sister, Sister 25: The Matchmaker
- Sister, Sister 26: Promise of Fidelity
- Sister, Sister 27: Hole In My Heart
- Sister, Sister 28: Charmed
- Sister, Sister 29: Last Minute Snack
- Sister, Sister 30: Disrespectful
- Sister, Sister 31: Force of Gravity
- Sister, Sister 32: Settle For Less
- Sister, Sister 33: Sweet Talk
- Sister, Sister 34: Breathless
- Sister, Sister 35: Consolation Prize
- Sister, Sister 36: Intoxicated