Tolu stood in front of the dress mirror and adjusted his tie. He was getting set to meet with Ebika for a dinner date. It was the fifth dinner they were having in the four weeks they’ve been together. He had learned fast that he couldn’t meet up with the demands of the kitchen and so he had chosen one of his favourite restaurants where they could be served and treated right. He didn’t have to worry about the dirty dishes in the sink anymore, or cleaning the kitchen.
If Ebika wanted to be entertained, he was equipped for that. He would pamper her as he should have done back then. He would treat her like the queen she was. It was her right to be treated right by him. His only regret was letting go of fresh home-made meals. Eladebi took pride in cooking for him and the children. She hardly subscribed to eating out. He had also gotten used to having his meals at home until he decided Eladebi was no longer an interesting companion during meals.
He shook his head. Were things so bad with her? He had no answer for the question that filtered into his heart. All he could say was that he was with Ebika and would make the most of it. The feelings he had for her were genuine and he would explore it as much as he can to secure his happiness. Eladebi was getting to understand that now. He finally told her the truth about the state of his heart towards her and his affections for Ebika when her calls and text messages won’t stop coming in. He told her he had moved on and someone else was in his life now. Her reaction had been a deep sigh. She sent a message after that to tell him the usual since their separation: she was praying for him.
He raked a hand through his hair. Her resilience baffled Tolu. Her never-say-die spirit caused him moments of guilt. She had even offered to bring the children to see him, but he declined. Though he missed them greatly, he couldn’t stand bridging the gap just yet. His emotions were still raw where they were concerned. He hoped they would understand too. His relationship with Ebika had sailed smoothly so far. It was time to dissolve the marriage between him and Eladebi. That way, she would stop being hopefully, especially with his plans for dinner that day.
A smile curved his lips, wiping off the worried lines that gathered there. He dipped his hand into his pocket and cradled the jewel box he had purchased the day before. He brought it out of his pocket and clicked it open. In the middle of the box sat a golden engagement ring. He was ready to pop the question. Excitement flowed through him like electric currents. It was the first time he would be doing that. He didn’t ask Eladebi to marry him. They just agreed it was the right thing to do considering the situation they were in then.
His smile grew wider.
Everything was turning around for him. He had fallen in love again, in fact more deeply than the first time, and he was fortunate to fall in love over and over again with the same woman.
He slid the box back into his pocket. He would ensure that the evening was one of Ebika’s best in her life.
He applied his hair cream to his hair and combed it to a fine sheen. He winked at his reflection. “You are the man.” He said. He picked his car keys and left the bedroom. Just as he prepared to step into his car, the gateman ran to the gate at the loud honking from outside the gate. Tolu watched as he confirmed who was at the gate, then he pushed open the gate.
The red car that drove in belonged to Christopher. His excitement seemed to vanish with the evening breeze. He shut his car door and waited for him to alight.
Christopher alighted and made his way to him. Tolu refused to close the distance between them. He stood where he was, right beside his car with his one hand resting on the car and the other in his pocket.
“Hi, Tolu.” Chris greeted with a smile.
“Hi.” Tolu answered, forcing his lips to smile in return.
Chris’ eyes swept over him. “Is it a wrong time?” He inquired.
Tolu sighed. It wouldn’t be a lie if he told him it was, but his relationship with Chris had gone beyond that level; notwithstanding their disagreement about a month ago. Chris must have the same thick skin as his wife because he also didn’t give up the calls and messages even when he didn’t reply his calls, nor acknowledge his messages. It was no big surprise that Chris visited the house. He knew he would soon show up to follow up his ignored calls and messages. He looked into the eyes of his friend now.
“It’s okay. I have some time to spare.” He replied coolly.
Chris looked towards the house. Tolu didn’t rise to the bait. Inviting Chris in would elongate whatsoever he wanted to say. It was better to let him feel he was delaying him. When he didn’t make any move to invite him to the house, Chris sighed and started out with why he was there.
“You haven’t been picking my calls, Tolu.” He said. “Are things that bad between us?” He asked, flashing yet another smile.
Tolu’s expression dulled. He looked away from Chris. “No.” He croaked. It wasn’t the entire truth, but he wouldn’t tell him that. He still didn’t want him to interfere in his relationship with Ebika. His eyes went back to Chris. “Listen, Chris, I know you mean well, but I know what is best for me. Ebika is my life and I can’t change how I feel because you have taken it upon yourself to tell me how wonderful Eladebi is.” A muscle in his jaw twitched as he spoke. He tried to soften the harshness in his tone with a smile but his lips refused to cooperate.
Chris smiled, seemingly unaffected by his harsh tone. He was a man on a mission and he would deliver the message he had for Tolu even if he barred him from his house and office.
“Tolu,” he started in a friendly tone. Let him hear, Oh Lord, he prayed in his heart. “I don’t want you to see me as an enemy. I don’t want you to think that I don’t have your interest at heart. We’ve been friends for years, and I love you like a brother. I would not want you to make a terrible mistake.”
Tolu’s nose flared at that. Chris raised his hand to stop the words that were just on the tip of Tolu’s lips. He was certain they were not compliments.
“I’m not trying to paint Ebika as a bad person. In fact, she is a victim because I know she is not aware of your marital status.” Chris challenged. Tolu’s eyes went straight to his feet. His earlier bravado was nowhere in sight. A knowing smile curved Christopher’s lips. “You’re not just hurting one person, Tolu, but two. You’re hurting Eladebi, who is your lawfully wedded wife under God and the law, and Ebika, who is unsuspecting of your secret.”
“She will forgive me. I know she will. I want nothing to do with Eladebi. Ebika is the one I want to spend the rest of my life with.” Tolu informed him in an unsteady voice.
Chris gave a nod. “You have said that over and over again. I really want to believe Ebika will forgive you when she knows what you’re hiding, but that’s not why I am here. I just want you to know that you’re destroying someone’s self-esteem. You’re putting her down and chewing her out. Think of the damage you’re doing to your wife: physical, emotional, mental and social damages. You think she is so strong and she won’t break. She is holding on by a thin thread. What about your children, Tolu? This love you feel for Ebika is it worth giving up the love and respect of your children. Can you withstand their hatred and disrespect for life? Above all, Tolu, think of God’s words on this. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the almighty God. Eladebi’s strength is in God. Don’t wait until He fights for her. Fight for her and the love God blessed you both with. Fight for your children and the future God has designed for you all. Had I known is the father of I don’t care.” He placed a hand on Tolu’s shoulder and patted it lightly. “Do the right thing, Tolu.” He turned away and walked briskly to his car.
For several seconds after Chris’ departure, Tolu couldn’t move. His heart thumped loudly in his chest. The words of Chris kept replaying in his head. It was just like a song.
Fight for her and the love God blessed you both with.
Fight for your children and the future God has designed for you all.
Do the right thing, Tolu.
Do the right thing, Tolu.
Do the right thing, Tolu.
He placed his hands over his head. “No! I won’t listen to you, Chris. I won’t allow your words enter my heart. I will marry Ebika, and love and cherish her forever.” He said out loud, his eyes shut tightly. He repeated this a couple of times until he felt a hand on his elbow. His eyes flew open, staring into the worried eyes of the gateman.
“Oga, are you alright?” The gateman asked.
Tolu dropped his hands, and then he straightened his suit. “Yes, yes, I am fine.” He answered with a straight face. “Go and open the gate.”
The gateman nodded and went to do as he was told.
Tolu’s mind was preoccupied with Christopher’s words as he drove down to the restaurant. His enthusiasm for the evening had fizzled out. He was almost not looking forward to it. He thought of calling Ebika and putting off their date, but he couldn’t. He was already late as it was and couldn’t disappoint her further by calling off the date.
He drew into the parking lot of the restaurant and took his time getting down. The bright light of the restaurant seem to hurt his eyes. He looked across the road instead where people moved up and down, vehicles moved down the road. He suddenly felt like the burden of the whole world was on his shoulders.
How ironic that he wasn’t looking forward to his date with Ebika. It used to be Eladebi before. He would prepare to stay out than to be in her company.
You love Ebika. Your discomfort is as a result of what Chris said. It’s not about you. It’s about Chris’ stubbornness. He doesn’t want you to be happy. A voice whispered in his heart.
He sat up straight. Yes, Chris is the one making me uncomfortable, and not Ebika. I will go and have a good time with her, he told himself. He pushed a smile through his tight lips and got down from the car. He moved with more confidence this time.
Ebika was already waiting when Tolu arrived. Her face was drawn in a deep frown. He rushed forward and took her hand.
“I’m so sorry, Ebika.” He apologized. “I was delayed.” He added.
Ebika eased her hands away from his. “Delayed? You should have called me.” She bawled at him. “I’ve been here for almost thirty minutes now. Is this the love you feel for me? Is this the way you want to treat me? How are you different from the person I broke up with?” Angry words spewed out of her mouth.
Tolu drew away from her as if she hit him. He opened and closed his mouth. He couldn’t believe his eyes or ears. Ebika’s eyes were spitting fire. He stared at her.
“Tolu, stop staring at me like that. I accepted you because I feel you were better than my ex. If you start treating me this way, I’ll not be happy I didn’t get a fair deal after all. I love you and you know it.” She stood and gave him a light hug.
Tolu’s eyes remained surprised but he returned her hug. “I love you and you know it too. I just got delayed.”
Ebika flashed a smile. The smile lightened his troubled heart. He felt his world become right again. Ebika loved him. She was only angry because he was late. He would not do the same thing she did. He would not compare her to Eladebi. Eladebi would have won the round of comparison because she would never have reacted that way to him. He would not think of the numerous times he kept her waiting and instead of confronting him, she was concerned for his safety and well-being. The times he had given reasons for his lateness, she had accepted it without reading him the riot act. He would only think of this time with Ebika and what he planned to do. He would think of ways to love her so much that she would forget about her ex. At least he had scored a point in their last date when she praised his generosity and told him her ex hardly gave gifts. Tonight, he would score the greatest point.
He took his seat in front of Ebika and commended her look. She basked in his compliment, eyes sparkling. He was once again drawn to her. She was a beautiful one, and he wanted that beauty to be with him for keeps. He ran his eyes over her red-laced off-shoulder blouse. Her hair fell around her neck. A necklace adorned her delicate neck. He touched her cheek lightly.
“You’re the best thing to have happened to me.” He commended.
“Thank you.” She said in a musical voice, fluttering her lashes.
“I have a big surprise for you.” He told her.
“Really?” She inquired, eyes glowing.
Tolu touched the tip of her nose. “After the meal.”
Ebika couldn’t quell the excitement that bubbled within her. She couldn’t even eat so much. Tolu took his time eating. He kept giving her teasing looks. Her heart was full. When she felt she would explode she touched Tolu’s hand.
“I can’t keep it in again. Please tell me the surprise.”
Tolu gave a hearty laugh. He set down his fork. “Don’t you want dessert?” He asked instead, his eyes dancing.
Ebika held his hand in a grip. “Tell me, tell me, Tolu. I can’t stand this excitement anymore.”
“Okay.” Tolu agreed. He pushed his chair back and went on bended knees. Immediately he did this, Ebika jumped up, covering her face.
Tolu pulled out the box from his pocket. “Ebika, make me a complete man. Be my better half.”
“Yes!” She shrieked in delight. “Oh, yes, Tolu. You don’t know how much I’ve waited for this.” She stretched her finger and he slid the ring into it. She flew into his arms after that.
People around the restaurant applauded them. Congratulations flew from all angles. Faces beamed with smiles. Ebika had the biggest smile. He had a smile too, but he just didn’t know why his heart was twinging instead of rejoicing.
I guess we should say congratulations to Tolu and Ebika.The journey to forever has started.