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THE WEAKNESS OF A MAN: chapter 8

Rally Trade

      I left the hospital and returned to my house. I carefully began to scheme my vengeance to Biodun and his family.  I didn’t need to rack my brains for ideas neither did I lack any. The strange voice whom I termed my blessed but unwelcome companion, supplied every details and solution to all the bottlenecks and it did very promptly.      

       First, I vacated my flat and checked into a small, cozy hotel. Yeye might decide to look around. I learned from the news that the traditional wedding would take place in the bride’s home town and the church wedding, in Abuja.  Within the week I got all the information about the church wedding.  The church, the reception venue as well as the time. I was well informed.  I didn’t prick, I was extraordinarily calm and calculated. I wasn’t afraid. My mind was made up.

“You must teach them all a lesson they won’t forget in a hurry,” the strange voice kept urging me.  “He belongs to you, if not here on earth, certainly it shall be in heaven.  For as soon as you shoot him in the head, the next bullet should hit your own head.  You shall both die and meet your creator who isn’t partial and He will join you two together in holy matrimony.  Right there in heaven, before the heavenly hosts and you shall both be free at last to love each other unconditionally.  That’s the peace you deserve my dear.” It told me one morning and I agreed with it.

        Getting a gun wasn’t a problem at all.  While I was still in jail, and the rumor broke that I was jailed because I’d taken a rap for a guy, a lot of the girls expressed mixed feelings towards my plight.  Some said I was stupid, some openly called me a fool and some admitted I was very courageous.  A particular one told me that if by the time I got out of jail I find Biodun with another woman, she’d advise me to kill him.  She gave me an address where I could get anything to aid me.  Anything at all, ranging from weapons to hired assassins.  I had merely smiled and waved the thought away but I didn’t know the address was still in my brains, stored away somewhere for future use.  It is amazing how much the brain can recall when you are in dire need of information. Or perhaps, my peculiar friend, the stranger within, dug it out for me.  I located the place and bought an automatic pistol for a token.

       I was set.  Time was now finally between us.  I took some lessons too on how to aim a target without missing. Those guys are good. They have everything.  They also give combat training for a fee.  If ever you want to plan anything big, from toppling the government of the day to a civil war or riot or disarming the strongest militant group, any topsy-turvy of any kind, that’s the place to go to.  Looking at the little haven from the outside, you’d never guess the activities that went on behind those beautifully kept flower beds that graced the magnificent huge gates.  Such is life they say. Who could have thought Biodun would ever, I mean ever agree to walk down the aisle with anyone else but me?  Who would have guessed that that was possible, barely a year after I got out of jail where I’d wasted three best years of my life for a crime I did not commit, a cross I carried on his behalf?  Who would have guessed that right now I’ll be planning the death of that same guy I’d gone to prison just to save!  A classmate of mine at the secondary school once lamented that life is “gadagorous”, whatever that meant but it sounded pretty much like it, the ups and downs that characterized our existence. 

      I changed my location again a few days to the church wedding. I booked a single room in a nondescript hotel very close to the church premises, my final destination.  I wanted to keep close watch on the church and the activities going on.  After my first day’s survey, I realized I must be within the church premises before the d-day.  Security will be very tight on that day, it was already tight enough and I didn’t want any loose ends.  Also, I needed to acquaint myself with the environment before the wedding day.  The only problem I had was getting access to the church premises. The deed must be done inside the church, I’d already decided they mustn’t exchange their unholy vows.  The only vows he must exchange shall be between the two of us.  Besides, if I can’t do it inside the church, there was no hope at all of reaching Biodun again. It must be done during the wedding, in front of everyone. 

       Security was almost impossible to beat, not with the many top dignitaries expected to grace the occasion but thanks to my friend, the stranger within, I was able to find the perfect solution again.  I went to the church that Thursday evening and asked to see the parish priest.  It wasn’t easy but eventually, I was allowed to see him.

“Good evening father,” I greeted as I came before the holy man of God. 

“Good evening my child, are you the one requesting to see me urgently?” he replied calmly. 

     The moment I saw him I thought he looked very familiar but when he spoke, I was certain I had heard that voice several times before in the past.

       I was born a catholic and my parents were too. In fact, my father contributed a lot to the growth of the Catholic Church in my village and he was passionate about the welfare of the parish priests that served there too.  It was with great relief that I realized the priest sitting before me was the parish priest in our parish back home when my father replaced the old furniture in the priest’s quarters twelve years ago!  What a sweet coincidence.  Of course, he didn’t seem to recognize me but I must make him know who I am. 

“Yes father,” I said confidently. 

“What may I do for you, my child?” He asked calmly in the usual soothing tone of a man of God. And I thought, “you will help me kill my errant lover sir, the one you are about to wed to another woman”.  I smiled at him warmly as I rearranged my wayward thoughts.  I must give him the false impression that I was stranded and scared and desperately in need of his help. 

“Well sir,” I began in my most convincing tone.  “I need your help.  I am a catholic and I came from my village to Abuja this evening to attend an interview tomorrow morning but on reaching the venue I discovered the date has been postponed until Monday and there is no way I can go back to the village to come back again on Sunday.  I just need a place I will stay until Monday morning sir.”  I explained. 

“Well my daughter, it is very good of you to locate a catholic church when you felt stranded. But right now you cannot stay here.  There is going to be an important wedding event coming up on Saturday.  It involves the son of one of the top presidential aspirants.  We are expecting a lot of very important dignitaries and for security reasons, strangers are not allowed in the church premises right now.  Even the members have been considerably restricted.  But of course, I cannot send you away just like that.  I will send you to another parish.  Please give me your details and I will just make a call to a nearby parish and get you alternative accommodation.  I hope that is okay child?” 

“Yes sir,” I said reluctantly to show him I was not happy with his decision to send me to another parish. It was necessary to let him know I didn’t like the idea of going to another parish so that when he finds out who I am, he’ll feel obliged to let me stay with him.

“You will be fine child, don’t feel so sad.  Let me have your details and the parish you worship back home.  Please cheer up.” 

“My name is Betty Membe, my parish name is St Monica Catholic Church Soba in Edo State sir.”  I said and feigned sadness.  I watched his reaction and I was so pleased when I saw his face suddenly light up in instant recognition. 

“Wait a minute,” he said suddenly. “I was a parish priest there years ago.  Are you by any chance related to Chief Anthony Membe?” 

“Yes. Yes, sir, I am his daughter” I said, pretending to be very surprised too. 

“Holy Mary, oh, then you must know me.  I was there for four years, let’s see, that should be more than ten years ago.  Your father is a good man.  How is he these days?  You must have been very little then.  I always used to come to your house back then.” 

“My parents are dead now.” I said sadly. 

“Oh no, I am so sorry to hear that. When was that?”

“About seven years ago sir.  My dad died first in a car accident and my mum followed a year later.” 

“I am so sorry to hear that my child and I am glad to see you have gotten over it.  Which of the wives was your mother?” 

“The last one sir.” 

“I should know she’ll be the one to follow him. They were very much in love back then.  And you are her only child if I remember correctly?” 

“Yes, sir. But I have four other wonderful mothers and several lovely brothers and sisters.” I said quickly, I didn’t want to go into my family discussion with him.  We must stick to the matter on ground. 

“I am happy to hear that. Well, I cannot send you anywhere else now that I know who you are.  It will be my pleasure to have you here.  But I am afraid you’ll have to stay out of the way until the wedding is over.  I wouldn’t want many people to know we have a visitor at the moment. You do understand the situation, I hope.” 

“Yes sir,” I said breathlessly, I just couldn’t believe my luck.  “I will remain in my room until Monday morning if you want me to. I will stay away from the church completely. I will go and visit the parks or zoo on that Saturday if you don’t want me around.” I said breathlessly but not meaning it.  I’d already decided that as soon as I am allowed access into the living quarters, I won’t leave until I successfully shoot Biodun on the head and watch him die in his pains. 

“No, no it is not that bad,” I heard the amiable priest say patronizingly. He was now so eager to please me that I felt sorry for him.  “You are my guest.” He continued.  “You can attend the wedding if you wish. You are not a prisoner here.  I was only trying to make you understand the situation, let you know what to expect beforehand. There may be restrictions but I don’t think it’ll be that bad.  It’s a good thing my niece is around, you two will get along very well.  You are about the same age.  I’ll have her give you a security pass.  You may not see much of me this period but you must promise to stay a few more days after the interview and we will discuss it.  I know a number of influential people who can help you get a very good job in no time.  We will, of course, discuss this later and I will see what I can do for you.  Your father took very good care of me back then and I feel obliged to help you in whatever way I can.  You are welcome here and do feel free to ask for whatever you want.”

“Thank you very much sir, I am so grateful.”

     I slept peacefully that Thursday night on the soft and cozy bed, in the air-conditioned guest room in the priest’s residential quarters. Even my nosey companion, the strange voice, went on a break that night too. 

        I woke up early that Friday morning feeling very refreshed and sound. I felt at peace too. Perhaps, it was the peace and serenity of the environment that did wonders to my aching soul or perhaps, it was the holiness and the prayers said daily in my new environment that actually did the miracle. I was refreshed and renewed within my spirit; I had a new feeling about everything. I began to experience even a change of mind.  I began to ask myself questions, very serious questions about my decision to murder Biodun. I mean, why continue on this revenge mission anyway? I asked myself silently. I began to see hope shining its rays of light on my paths. It felt like I could see light at the end of the tunnel of my life. The words of the man of God came to me again and I became eager to repent of my initial plans and receive salvation instead. Why not forget about Biodun and pick back the pieces of my broken heart and start all over again?  Why not say to hell with him and move on with my life. There seemed to be a new lease of life in front of me, why not take the opportunity and move on with my life? I considered giving a confession and allow the grace of God to take away my hurt. I almost decided to forgive and forget but the voice wouldn’t let me.

“Oh, oh Betty girl, how naïve you are,” the strange voice began almost immediately as I reached a decision. “I was of the impression that you couldn’t wait to put an end to all your misery. Now, don’t tell me I am wrong about my assumption because I know I am not. Do you want to remain miserable all your life? Do you think you’ll have a moment’s happiness knowing that he is married to another woman and not you? Do you imagine you’d be able to bear the many sleepless nights you will stay awake just thinking he could be cuddling another woman instead of you?  You really don’t know what you are up against. You’ll be living in hell for the rest of your life. Now, you seriously must think about it and quickly too, there is no much time left. You must end it all now that you have been given the chance. There is nothing to stop you now, this is what has kept you going. You died that very evening when Otunba announced to everyone the upcoming wedding of his golden boy. How could you possibly think of allowing such a thing to happen? How could you even contemplate letting him go Scot free with such cruelty and betrayal? Oh come on Betty, be wise, this is both unforgivable and unforgettable.” 

“Please go away.” I said, shaking off the crazy voice in my head.  “Biodun is innocent.  I am very sure Yeye deceived him the same way she deceived me.  Maybe she is right after all.  I am a commoner and an ex-convict.  I must let Biodun marry his equal.  I must abort my plans.   I can see a bright future ahead of me.  I’ll take my chances, please leave me alone.” I replied sternly. 

“Shut up.” I heard the voice scream in anger. “He knew all along, he was only pretending to love you when you got out of prison.  He was only buying time.  He only felt indebted to you and he too agreed that the financial settlement would rid his heart of the guilt he felt.  It was a plan they both masterminded.”   

“I don’t believe you.” I cried desperately. I wished so much that the strange voice would let me be. I suddenly felt very tired and in need of peace. I realized I was finally going crazy, besides, the priest’s niece was in the next room and I didn’t want her to hear me speaking to myself. But the strange voice was so annoying and it wouldn’t leave me alone.  What was it trying to do to me? Influence me to kill Biodun? I won’t do it, I concluded obstinately within me. 

“Okay, alright listen,” the voice began again patronizingly. “Let me analyze the whole thing to you.”  It added while I tried to shut it up but it was so determined.  I knew that if I didn’t ignore it I would scream aloud in anger and everyone would know I had a problem, so I let it be. 

“Thanks for listening to me.  I insist that Biodun planned the whole thing with his mother.  He is not a victim, you are the only victim here. Let’s assume his mother deceived him too. It is very possible but that is certainly not enough reason for him to walk out on you the way he did, considering your undying love for him, considering also the love he professed to you.  And there was the pregnancy too.  I mean he should have tried to see you.  He should have found out from you first.  Even if his mother told him about the abortion, he should have at least confirmed it from you. You and I know that Biodun has never been so pliable.  Besides, he had no moral justification to agree to marry another woman without proper confirmation of whatever story his mother told him. Imagine, barely six months after and he is about to marry the same woman he once told you about?  Think Betty, use your brains.  He must have been seeing that girl while you cooled your ass in prison. You were only a pawn that was used. Why did they use you?  Why were you the scapegoat that was sacrificed for the sacred cow? Why did he not remember your undying love?  The out-of-the-ordinary sacrifice you made for him? What other proof or better proof can prove your true love for him.  You have a chance to pay them back and you must take it. You have the chance to deal ruthlessly with all of them. Life for you is finished now unfortunately, but you just can’t go alone.  He was all you had and all you have been living for, right now, you have nothing. Losing him will mean losing your own life and how do you expect to live with that?  Why allow anyone to take him from you?  Now, look at the way you gave your own son away to complete strangers. How do you hope to live with that too? It is over, over as in O-V-E-R!  You will henceforth be a nuisance to society.  Do you know what they do to societal nuisance? No, I don’t think you do, I should tell you. They bury them alive in overcrowded prisons or filthy psychiatric hospitals and leave them there to rot away while the world progressed with no remembrance of them. Now let me ask you, is that the type of life you want? Can you live the rest of your life with me in it? You certainly can’t, just a few days in your life and you are already tired of me. I could constitute a serious problem to you, you know? Why not end it all now, why make things worse for yourself?  It’s the only logical thing to do.  End it now.  Kill him and kill yourself.  You shall also be rid of me.  No stupid rich-man’s-daughter should reap the fruit of your labor while you sit back and seethe, settling for the crumbs. It is plain stupidity, Betty. I am in your head to make sure you never forget that. Can you….” 

“It is enough! I have heard you, now stop.”  I yelled when I couldn’t take it anymore. “I will kill him.  I will do it, even if it is only to be rid of you.  My mind is set and my plans perfect.  Everything is in order now, only time is all I’ve got to wait for and Lord knows I am patient.  I hope you are happy now” 

“It is for your own good.” The voice said slyly. “Trust me, I am only here to help and guide you. You’ll find me to be a friend.” The voice told me stubbornly. 

“Thank you but I honestly need to nap now.” 

“Fine.” It said simply and vanished like a light switch suddenly turned off. My mind became blank again.  I couldn’t help but admit the strange voice was right.  There was really nothing to live for anymore.  I have given away my son and my word that I will never come back for him. I know I cannot live with the knowledge that I have a son somewhere who thought the strangers he lived with were his parents. I must protect the woman; I made her a promise and I cannot fail her now. She must have told her husband that she gave birth to twins. I cannot go back now and claim my son; I must keep to our agreement. I cannot hope to live with the fact that my son now belonged to another woman. It is true, life is over for me now and Biodun must come along too.  We are in this together; we’ll make the exit together. 

        The countdown was abnormally pleasant.  I had no inkling it would be so sweet to count days, then hours and then minutes and seconds to the end of one’s life.  It was simply a privilege and I took the opportunity to atone for my sins. I had enough time to ask God to forgive me all my sins as I forgave everyone that had hurt me. I prayed for forgiveness for the suicide and murder I was about to commit. Thou shall not kill, so says the holy book but there is no sin that is beyond forgiveness if you truly seek it. I am sure I will get forgiveness from God, otherwise, I know He will perform His miracle and make Biodun come back to me. Otherwise, we’ll both die and become the modern-day Romeo and Juliet, only our story will be slightly different.  I am the only one still in love.

        The sun rises each day from the east and begins its slow but deliberate journey through the vast sky, blazing down its scorching rays on millions of souls, souls laden with pain and agony. It goes on recess and sets in the west, giving the moon its turn. But it begins its slow and deliberate journey yet again when the moon has had its turn, while agonizing souls remain in anguish, waiting in pain and hope, waiting for a brand new day that may or may never come. But hope keeps us alive, hope gives us the patience to wait for another day, a good day that will bring us our expected miracle. The pains we have to bear, the burdens we must carry and the hopelessness we must live with. Yet nothing compares to the pain and agony of treachery from a beloved one. There is no pain greater than that and no greater drainer of hope.

     They say love is the cousin of hate and when they replace each other, it is doubled.  In the event when hate replaces love, it is often very fatal. The narrow path that leads to caution is shut and you can’t get out even when you want to. You become blind to reason or forgiveness or common sense.  You are driven by a strong urge for revenge, a strong, powerful force that continues to rule your world until you fulfill your heart’s desire to see the traitor suffer the pains you have suffered.  It is madness, it is crazy but it is without a cure. And yet we ask, even when we do not have the answer, we continue to ask the short, simple question. Is love really worth it? 

      I asked myself the question miserably for the umpteenth time and for the umpteenth time, I couldn’t find the answers to placate my mind. I had learned too much about love. I knew too much and it became my undoing, now, I must pay for admitting too much love into my heart.

     I also asked, Is it a good thing to now condemn all I have believed and lived for because of the treachery of my partner? There must be a second chance somewhere, why don’t I find it rather than condemn my soul to perpetual ruin? I asked, even more miserably. 

“If at this point you still have doubts, it means you have not been following me.” The voice began again, finding its way stealthily into my mind but I was too weak to argue.

    Saturday morning came at last, with me barely able to remain sane. I couldn’t even consider a change of mind, the voice didn’t let me.

     I didn’t see much of the priest and I had no interest in his niece. I had enough trouble battling with my tormentor, the voice, to have any time for anything else.  She didn’t seem to have any interest in me either, we were only just polite to each other. She must have noticed that I wanted to keep to myself.  Of what use was making new friends anyway when you have barely a day or two to live.  But on that Saturday morning she was unusually friendly and generous.  I accepted the dress and hat she lent to me for the grand occasion of Biodun’s marriage.  I particularly loved the heavily feathered hat because it provided a shield for my face so that most part of my upper face was well shielded from an onlooker.  I had my own costume for the occasion but I preferred her hat to mine. I decided also to wear the dress she gave me in the pretense that I had nothing good to wear just to avoid suspicion. And when she noticed that the hat she gave me covered most part of my face, she gave me another one but I rejected it. She wanted us to showcase what she called our beauty but I wasn’t interested in that considering my mission to the church. She thought I was too shy, she even teased me about it but I smiled to myself, wondering how she’d react when she eventually watched me in action in a few hours” time. 

       Everything worked in my favor so much so that I began to believe I had God’s blessings for the action I was about to take.  Or how else was I to look at the positive and favorable turn of events? I mean, it was like God gave me His blessings and permission to punish the Adebabas’. It was as if everything was predestined.

      Dorothy, the priest’s niece was so excited about the wedding. I could swear she was more excited than the bride herself. She was all out to showcase what she called her beauty, which, unfortunately, wasn’t much, but she had the confidence of a reigning beauty queen.  She was so sure she’d meet her Mr. Right that very day, a very handsome and rich guy. She was determined to hook any guy that tickled her fancy. It took her almost two hours of changing from one outfit to another and the application of one make-up or the other before she was finally convinced she was okay. I watched her in amazement and pity, knowing she wouldn’t get her chance at the end of the day.

        We hurried off to the church early upon her insistence; she wanted us to get a good and advantageous position of seat where we could easily be seen by many.  But as soon as we entered the church auditorium, I got rid of her. I didn’t want to be seen or recognized before I got the chance to carry out my mission.  So while she sat at the front row near the choir, I took the last one behind the choir stand.  I gave her a vacuous smile when she teased me again that I was too shy. I didn’t want any further association with her or the priest. How wrong she was, she wasn’t to know yet that I was only protecting her and the priest. 

    No sooner had we taken our seats than invited dignitaries began to troop in and Dorathy vehemently resisted every attempt to depose her from her seat.

    I watched the turnout of people quietly from where I sat and I couldn’t help but think that nothing much would have changed on Biodun’s side if it were him and I who were getting married today. The guest list would have been the same.  I could see the sleek and expensive cars as they deposited the countless guests as I looked through the big windows.  I saw Biodun arrive in a state-of-art Jeep and God, he looked so handsome in his neatly cut tuxedo.  My miserable heart went out to him and for a moment I resisted the urge to run out to him.  I fought my shameless urge determinedly and told myself I must end it all here today.  

    Reality hit me then and I realized I still loved him and I cannot let another woman have him. It became clear to me then that we both had no future together on this earth? I am an ex-convict, what is the likely hope of becoming the wife of the most powerful presidential aspirant’s only son when there were better and very well groomed and more suitable girls for that prestigious position?  What a smear I’ll be on the impeccable, immaculate and spotless image of a man like Otunba Adebaba Adeniyi. It is only a fool like me that would make such a sacrifice without first considering its implication. It was a misplaced love right from the very beginning and I didn’t realize it. The likes of Abiodun Adebaba Adeniyi shouldn’t bother with people like me, people unknown in their world. And I was foolish enough to think my sacrifice would catapult me into that realm. Biodun and his classy mother were way too sleek to recognize such a sacrifice, let alone appreciate it.  Speaking honestly about it now, if not a fool like me, what other category of human would so blindly throw away her own life and future to save another person’s own? I mean, who but a fool in love would so completely and willingly give up everything for someone else simply because of that foolishness deceptive madness called love.  Didn’t they say that love is for fools?  What made a commoner like me dream of attaining the position of a daughter-in-law to the president? A position only plenty of money and affluence would guarantee. And whatever made me think I’ll have the same kind of love my parents had anyway? And to think of the very person I decided to fool around with, my God, a man far above my social class and status.  What was I thinking? I was very stupid to think I could fill the vacuum our the different status placed between us with going to jail in his stead? I was so stupid not to know it’d only make things worse. Water finds its own level, I have only myself to blame now for what happened to me and I will have myself to blame for the rest of my life if I don’t do what has to be done right now. This is my chance and I have decided to take it.

     A stretch limousine pulled slowly to a halt in front of the main entrance to the church.  It caused quite a stir as everyone peered to get a good view. The cameramen were not left out in the action. The commotion that followed was enough for me to break free for a moment from the annoying voice in my head. I stretched forward too to see who would alight from the Limo and behold, it was the bride herself in all her glory and glamour. She stepped out gracefully from the car and took majestic steps towards the church entrance, accompanied by her entourage.  Only then did it finally and blatantly occur to me that the strange voice, though sometimes very annoying, was right indeed. The differences between the bride and me became so glaring that it became a turmoil in my mind as I watched her step into the full auditorium. I considered our situations and I couldn’t help but ask myself who would have been my entourage to start with? I had no one. How many friends and family members and well-wishers would have graced my arrival and ushered me in if I’d been the bride?  Is it my family that discarded me like a piece of an old rag many years ago?  Or the friends and well-wishers I do not have now? The futility of my union with Biodun and the inequality of our status and symbols became so clear to me and for the first time, I truly understood Yeye’s point of view. I knew I would have arrived alone and alighted from the exquisite Limo all by myself and perhaps, walk down the aisle all alone and hand myself over to the priest.  It would have caused an embarrassment to the noble family of Otunba Adebaba Adeniyi. Or perhaps, I would have had to hire the whole bridal train, hired parents, flower girls and everyone else.  Of course, I am a lone wolf, perhaps, Yeye envisaged this early enough.  She must have, after all, she is a well known society lady, one of the best players for that matter.  She wasn’t the type to miss the smallest details when it comes to matters such as this. 

    Wouldn’t it be a good idea to walk away and let Biodun live his life?  I asked myself again sadly.  I was so confused. A part of me kept urging me to get up and leave. To go away, leaving everything behind me.  To go back to that woman and claim my son back plus the ten Million Naira.  To go and apologize to her and her husband and beg them to forgive me.  The money was certainly enough for me to better myself in life, why throw everything away.  The money was more than enough to launch me into the society, the exclusive enclave of the high and mighty.  It was a lot of money and definitely more than enough to make me become somebody, to change my status of a nobody to a person to be reckoned with.  This was the final moment, my last opportunity to walk away. I still had enough time to save myself from eternal condemnation.  I still had the time to walk away and leave everything behind me. 

“You cannot walk away from this Betty. You cannot pretend that this never happened.  Biodun is going to be an integral part of your life for as long as you both shall live.  He is a popular figure and the mere mention of his name will amount to a thousand stabs in your heart. You will forever wish you had made good use of this opportunity. Your son will always remind you of him every second of your life.  I am psychic Betty and I can see your future, it is bleak with a capital B.  It is full of sorrow, regret, and unhappiness.  Do what you have to do while you still have the chance.  If you lose this chance, it shall be you against your conscience and you will also have me to contend with.  I will be there, reminding you of this day, tormenting you for not harkening to my advice. And I must tell you, I am already losing my patience with you. I never anticipated you’d be this daft. I mean, why can’t you handle the simple task of making up your mind once and for all?  Why are you dancing to the left and the right when all you need is to be at the center?” It said angrily but I ignored it this time.

      The ceremony, as expected of every such ceremony of the super rich, was graced by the crème de la crème of the society. What else should be expected? People like Yeye are known for typically glitzy occasions such as this one. The ladies were well adorned with precious materials from head to toe. You could see the desperate crave to outdo one another in the display and exhibition of their gladrags. I felt nauseated by the grandeur around me and I was certain that this kind of life wasn’t for me.  I have no wish to be like them, I have never had any real interest in such a crazy parade of fashion consciousness or craziness. It merely irritated me.

     The ceremony was about to begin.  Everyone was now orderly seated and the officiating priest promptly took his position.  Even the groom was standing in his position, his back turned toward me. The First Lady too was conspicuously absent and so was Biodun’s step mother. It was obvious that their rivalry was still on. The bride was now being walked gracefully down the aisle by her father, a pot-bellied man in his late fifties. I must admit she was a beauty and very well groomed too, right within the limits of what plenty of wealth would produce. They walked past the choir and involuntarily, I twitched in anxiety but they matched on in determined strides with no notice of me. 

     Biodun stood upright near the priest, his handsome face clearly expressionless. His best man stood beside him, beaming with smiles. I could not recognize him.

     The handing over of the bride was done swiftly with the proud bride’s father beaming with smiles of fulfillment as he returned to take his seat beside his equally smiling wife. A bridesmaid materialized from somewhere and the wedding proceedings began with a brief prayer by the priest. 

    The first reading was taken by the vice president, who represented the president, while the second reading was by Otunba himself.  I didn’t quite get the actual books because I realized I was getting very nervous by the minute. All I could remember was they were done intermittently with hymns in between. 

    I grew more tensed with each agenda as we got closer and closer to the appointed time when the glorious and inevitable question would finally be asked. I tried to remain calm, waiting patiently for the time to come when I would finally avenge myself.  And fighting hard to hide my face from being recognized before time and my anxiety and nervousness from being noticed, I waited, seething with anger, envy and jealousy at the same time.

“Ladies and gentlemen, is there anyone in this congregation who think that this couple should not be joined together in holy matrimony? Let such a fellow speak now or forever hold your peace.” The priest announced eventually. 

     My heart revolted in quick successions. It was the moment I have been waiting for. The moment I let them know and feel my presence. A momentary uneasy calm swept through the large church auditorium, giving it the silence of a graveyard. Everyone waited with bated breath as the priest allowed time for any aggrieved fellow to oppose to the union. I hesitated for another second, it is now or never, I told myself. I felt a strange power surge up within me and I braced myself for the task ahead of me. I was surprised to note that all the anxiety I felt moments ago disappeared suddenly. I felt so calm and so unafraid. There was such calm and silence in the large hall that you could have heard a pin drop but surprisingly, it gave me strength and guts. 

“Yes!” I announced as I got slowly to my feet, my action and statement breaking the silence abruptly.  I could hear low hushed whispering and I noticed the confusion on the priest’s face as he stared at me in utter disbelief and confusion. I maintained a dead pan stare on my face as I watched him.

“You have misunderstood the question my child,” he said quickly, sensing the commotion that was brewing, trying desperately to stop it before it erupted. 

     At that point, recognition hit Yeye and she jumped on her feet unconsciously, she couldn’t control herself.  She must have reacted without thinking because she stood up, looking so dumbfounded and confused. I watched her from the corner of my eye, not shifting my gaze from Biodun. I saw Otunba trying without success to pull her back into her seat. I remained standing as I pulled back the net that shielded my face from everyone’s view. I wanted everyone to see me clearly; I wanted them to remember my face for a long time. 

“I understand you perfectly well father. I am so sorry but this is my mission in this church. There isn’t any interview. The man you are about to wed belongs to me. The whole story about an interview was all a lie to gain entry into the church auditorium today. This man is my husband and I have a valid marriage certificate to authenticate my claim.”  I said boldly, my eyes not leaving Biodun’s surprised gaze. He was a bit confused too.  I could tell he was trying hard to decide what to do next. 

“Do you know this woman that claims to be your lawfully wedded wife?” The priest asked, very embarrassed. 

“I…. I….” he stuttered bemusedly but before he could get a reasonable statement out, Yeye roared. 

“What is this? What rubbish is this?” The embarrassment was too much for her to hearken to Otunba’s attempt to make her quiet. She made to step forward, fighting Otunba’s attempt to pull her back. 

“Who sent you here young lady? Who paid you to disrupt my son’s wedding?” She demanded furiously. 

“Sit down,” Otunba muttered to his wife in clenched teeth, pulling her roughly down as he spoke.  His bloodshot eyes vividly expressed his suppressed anger but he remained deliberately calm on his seat, spectating like everyone else. 

     Yeye’s action increased the murmur considerably, it also sprouted the security agents to alertness, and they were now very ready for action. They didn’t scare me.  Thanks to democracy, they wouldn’t dare take the laws into their hands by shooting me in the presence of all these people. And they couldn’t stop me either. This was my show and Lord knows I was ready to play it to my satisfaction. 

     I ignored Yeye and Otunba, they weren’t my problem. The priest must give me an opportunity to present my certificate. I saw both disappointment and regret on his somber face as I waited for his response. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for deceiving him. I waved the thought away without a second thought. I wasn’t there to feel sentiments for the priest, I was there to right a grievous wrong against me.

 “Wouldn’t you permit me to present the certificate father?” I asked nonchallantly when I noticed he was at a loss of what to say or do. He gave a quick and furtive look at Otunba and when he didn’t get a clue, he turned to the confused and dumbfounded congregation and when he realized too that they were probably more confused than he was; he faced Biodun in search of a clue.

    The gorgeous but obviously empty witted bride was still at a loss as to what was coming. She managed to comport herself with a dignified gait of a woman of class. 

“Let’s see the certificate,” Biodun told the priest. It was meant to be a whisper but the aid of the microphone the priest held made it possible for the entire congregation to hear him.

“You may present the certificate then,” he said after a moment’s hesitation. I saw the disdain in his eyes but I didn’t care.

     Since I couldn’t tell whether his disdain was meant for me or Biodun, I ignored him.  I gave Biodun one final glance before I bent to retrieve the certificate from my handbag.  He still looked very confused and I was surprised at him. He knew we were never married and I wondered why he asked the father to give me the opportunity to present my certificate. Perhaps he did it to humiliate me but I doubted it. There was a strange look in his eyes but I couldn’t decode it. It all looked strange to me because at that point, I would have thought he would have been able to guess what I was up to. I half expected him to ask the security men to throw me out. I didn’t expect the reply he gave. Perhaps, the shock of seeing me face to face again and at his wedding for that matter paralyzed the sharpness of his brains. Well, he had it coming.

     When I got up, I had my pistol in my hand.  Absolute silence descended upon the crowded auditorium when I raised the pistol and without wasting a split second, I pointed the gun at his forehead and instantly there was a sudden uproar as every one docked for cover.  I wasted no time at all in squeezing the trigger, sending a bullet flying in his direction and in that split second, I saw a resigned look in his eyes before he went down. 

     We went down together. Someone had the bravado to dive at me, sending me down and making me miss my initial target of his forehead, preventing me too from shooting myself as I had initially planned. The fully loaded gun flew out of my hand as I hit the tiled floor and a massive hunk of flesh landed on me, pinning me face down to the hard cold floor. I was surrounded in seconds.  I could barely make out someone’s hand picked the gun through the dozen pairs of legs that surrounded me as the heavyweight on my back slowly eased itself off me.  Someone else was shouting orders while yet another person spoke quickly into a walkie-talkie, requesting for an ambulance immediately. There were lots of wailing and shouting every where as secret service men tried desperately to clear the chaos in the auditorium. There was heavy commotion as people fell on each other in their rush to get out fast but strangely, I felt so much at peace with myself where I was, lying face down on the cold floor. I felt renewed. I felt born again. I felt very happy that I had at least stopped the unholy knot from being tied and glad too that I had killed him. I was ready and willing to join him in heaven or in hell. I knew the penalty for murder was death by firing squad and I was ready for it now. 

“Well done Betty, you have done well.  Everything will be fine now and I am glad to inform you that henceforth, you’ll be rid of even me, my job is done. Well done and goodbye.” The voice whispered to me and I found myself smiling and feeling very cool and fulfilled.  Yes, the deed was done at last and I was free at last. It was a great relief. 

      Someone grabbed my hands roughly and placed them behind my back and immediately, I felt the cold touch of metal on my wrist as he slammed shut a pair of handcuffs around my wrist. It is finished, I am vindicated at last, I told myself with a grin. I wasn’t scared any more, I didn’t feel the uncertainty I felt moments ago. I was very conscious of what would happen next and I had no regrets at all. I was ready for it.

      Later, I heard the unmistakable wails of an approaching ambulance blaring down its sirens and within minutes, Biodun’s body was taken away in a stretcher into the waiting ambulance.  I couldn’t lift my head from the floor to see his lifeless body because someone had put his heavily booted leg on my head, pressing it down with tremendous force.  But I heard Yeye crying and yelling.  I also heard Otunba cursing indiscriminately. Their pain gave me so much satisfaction. It eased me of mine. 

     Later on, after the ambulance had driven away, a big fat hand lifted me completely off the ground with a tremendous force that was equal to that of an erupting volcano.  It released me mid-air and as I landed on my feet on the hard floor, I staggered back, trying to get my balance but I couldn’t. I fell back into the empty plastic chair behind me instead. The chair gave way to my sudden and unexpected weight and it went crashing down, sending me crashing down too, back on the ground.  And for the first time since it all began, I experienced real fear. I jumped to my feet quickly as I saw a gorilla-like man approach me. I had thought I had been lifted off the ground by a forklift but as I faced the giant, I knew he had lifted me and not a forklift. For a moment I thought I was standing face to face with the legendary incredible hulk, only he was now wearing the Nigerian Police uniform.  My legs buckled from fear and I fell to the ground again.  I remained on the floor, too paralyzed by fear to make another attempt to stand up. 

“On your feet,” he roared as he made to grab me again but I stumbled to my feet quickly.  Even though I knew my life was over and even though I wasn’t scared of death, I’d gladly avoid being grabbed by those thick fleshly hands for the second time in one day. I staggered to my feet and watched him with fear in my eyes. 

     The church hall was almost empty now.  As I walked towards the exit, led by Mr. Incredible Hulk and the dozen police and secret service men, I could see people glaring angrily at me. Some said obscene words to me while some others just stared ominously at me but I didn’t give a damn. My head felt unbelievably lighter now and my mind too, I was free at last. I have been relieved of all my burdens. That was all that mattered to me. 

     I walked on gracefully without acknowledging the people or hostility around me. This might be the last air of freedom I breathe, why bother about them?  I should as well enjoy it while it lasted.

    We encountered Otunba outside the church. He was discussing with another man whom I later realized was the commissioner of police.  He stopped talking abruptly as I got through the huge double doors of the church cathedral. I watched him while he walked up to me with the unsteady strides of a man who had only just received the worst blow of his life. 

“He was my only son,” he bemoaned upon reaching me and I was tempted to feel sorry for him. “The pride of my life,” he continued sadly. “The reason for my joy and happiness, the hope of my future, my beloved son and you uprooted him from the surface of the earth right before my very eyes. Huh, I will not only deal with you, but I will also do it without any mercy.  I shall spend the rest of my life killing you slowly but it will be very painful.” He said as the single tear slide down his cheek. 

“Welcome to the club sir,” I began but Mr. incredible hulk raised his hands to stop me.

“No, please, let her speak.” Otunba said quickly.

“I am not afraid of you,” I began.  “Neither am I scared of whatever you wish to do to me. Go ahead, I am not afraid to die.  I am a dead person already.” I said boldly, meeting his fixed stare. 

“Aha. Death? Death is not the worst thing that can happen to a person.  I will show you worse things than death.  I will personally see to it that you beg for death instead.” He said and turning sharply away from me, he said, addressing the commissioner.  “She is all yours now.  The I.G. will communicate to you the treatment she must get. Take her out of my face before I take the law into my hand.” He cried angrily. 

“Yes sir.” The commissioner said and saluted.  “You heard him, take her away now, she is V.I.P, you know what that means.” He told his men and they took me and pushed me roughly into the waiting police car. We drove away with the speed of a lightning, blaring the sirens and flashing the lights.  Indeed, I am V.I.P, I thought as we went.


http://www.leisuretimeread.com

Elizabeth Izebere is a prolific writer who prefers to write under the pseudonym Liz Brey Humphrey. She is a Nigerian. www.leisuretimeread.com is her brain child.

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