Kunle was having a hard time processing what Tami had just said to him. She had just said she wasn’t getting married by weekend. “Babe, this makes no sense.” He started. “You can’t just say you are not getting married.”
“Why not?” Tami asked.
He wiped his forehead with a napkin and walked over to inspect the air conditioner to be sure that it wasn’t off. He was sweating profusely. “Tami, we are getting married. It is not a tea party that you can just call off because you have a stomach bug or something. Marriage! Wedding!” he shouted, returning to her. “This is about our wedding.”
“And that is the more reason why I think we need to push it forward. Things are pretty much muddled up for me right now” Tami protested. “I just can’t get married right now.”
Kunle groaned. “Why not?”
“I lost someone I loved.” Tami blurted.
Kunle blinked as he swallowed painfully.
“I lost Justin.” She said, trying to correct her initial statement. She had not thought about the weight before speaking. A second after she realized, she had to backtrack cleverly. But it didn’t look like the damage had not already been done. “Please understand me, Kunle.”
Kunle nodded as he took a seat. “Tami, so…what are you saying to me?”
“I am just asking that we postpone the wedding, that’s all. I am not saying anything out of the ordinary.” She replied.
It started with a chuckle and then Kunle burst into a horrid laugh. He couldn’t control himself as his eyes soon grew wet from laughing so much.
“What’s funny?” Tami asked, pretty infuriated by Kunle’s reaction.
He smiled. “Everything you just said is out of the ordinary and the fact that you don’t realise it is what makes it very funny.”
“Are you trying to be cynical?” she asked, already upset.
He sighed. He wasn’t going to be drawn into a war of words with Tami. Not this night. Not any other night. She was hurting and she needed to let out some steam. He only hoped that she wasn’t going to blow up their life in the process. He inhaled all the things he had to say and exhaled with a smile. “Tami, you should eat your food.”
“I lost my appetite.” She replied, coldly.
Kunle shook his head. “Don’t do this, Tami.” He whispered as he reached for her hand. She folded it immediately, avoiding his touch. “You can’t lose your appetite. You love chicken.” He explained.
“Well, I just stopped loving it.” She said, standing up. “I’ll see you tomorrow at the meeting. I hope we are on the same page. I really don’t want us making a fool of ourselves before our parents.”
Kunle smiled. “You know this sounds more like your relationship and I am just a passenger in it.” He said and paused to exhale. “I didn’t sign up for this, Tami.”
Tami clenched her teeth and picked her handbag. “Goodnight, Kunle.”
“Goodnight, babe. I love you.” Kunle replied.
She nodded and walked out.
Mrs. Ibekwe, Muna’s mom brought drama with her. After Tami dropped the news of a postponement of the wedding, she was having none of it. “Tami? Which postponement?”
“I…we do not want to go ahead with the wedding this weekend.” Tami reiterated. “We have carefully thought about it and it is best we catch our breaths.” She said, in hopes that her foster parents would see reason with her. She had gone ahead to meet them an hour earlier than the scheduled time with Kunle’s parents so that she could inform them of her decision earlier. So far, it didn’t look like it was working.
“There would be plenty of time to catch your breath, Tami.” The older woman continued. “Look here, don’t give our in-laws the wrong impression about us.” She said. “I know how much Justin meant to you but he is in your past now. And I am sorry about his death but you have to get over it and move on quickly.”
“I can’t just get over it.” Tami replied.
Dr. Ibekwe cleared his throat and stared at Tami. “Were you still in love with Justin?”
“What? No.” she replied.
He folded his arms. “Tami, I am not convinced.” He started. “Remember when you broke off with Justin? I mean the final breakup, not all the midseason breakups you guys had.”
He nodded. “Good. Tami, what did you feel after the final breakup?”
“Emptiness.” She replied. “I was empty.”
Mrs. Ibekwe rolled her eyes. “Empty? What is this rubbish you are saying, Tamilore?”
“Madam, I am having a discussion with her.” Dr. Ibekwe said, cutting off his wife. He turned back towards Tami. “Darling, did this feeling go away when you met Kunle? You have to be as honest as possible.”
Tami nodded. “Yes.”
He took a deep breath and walked over to meet Tami. “Move.” He said, making room for himself beside her. “Tami, are you sure about that?” he said, looking into her eyes.
“Chuks, what’s this one that you are doing? Are you trying to psychoanalyze a psychologist? Biko, I am running out of time. We have a wedding this weekend.” An impatient Mrs. Ibekwe ranted. “I don’t want Kunle coming here with his people to witness this madness.” She knew her husband could be all shades of extra. He was the reason Tami went into psychology when his own daughter Muna would not study anything related to the medical sciences. At times, she thought Chuks loved Tami more than his biological daughter. She considered it a good thing. The family was united and it was almost impossible to say Tami wasn’t theirs. Except of course, her last name.
Tami couldn’t keep her gaze on Dr. Ibekwe. It was as though he was looking into her soul and wanting her to admit to what he wanted to hear and she was close to saying it…but she couldn’t. It would shatter her if she ever did. She rose to her feet. “Daddy, I just know that I am over Justin and I love Kunle but I just can’t get married right now. I feel I am not in the right frame of mind.”
“My dear you will enter the frame.” Mrs. Ibekwe jumped in. “Do you know how much we have spent already? Do you want to waste the money?” she asked. “Answer me.”
“I’ll cover it.” Tami replied.
Dr. Chuks clenched his teeth. Tami had the money to cover it and they knew it but it was not her responsibility. It was theirs. “Tami, that is not the right way to speak to your mother.” He said.
“I am sorry, Mom.” Tami apologized, exhaling. “I am just under a lot of pressure. Justin’s death was not well timed. Maybe if this had happened after the wedding…”
“It wouldn’t change anything.” Dr. Chuks replied, calmly. “Maybe this is for the best.” He added. “When Kunle and his parents come, we would speak about this matter.”
Mrs. Ibekwe shook her head unable to believe her ears. “So, Chuks, you have agreed to this child’s foolishness? Ehn?”
“Tami, please go and rest. I’ll call you when they are here.” Chuks said, dismissing Tami.
“Go and rest o. Rest very well. Make sure you rest and think about this rubbish before you come downstairs.” Mrs. Ibekwe hurled after Tami as she went upstairs. She immediately brought the fight to her husband. “Chuks, why did you do that? Do you know how stupid we are going to look before Kunle’s parents? This is madness. How is she mourning a dead man up until the point that she abandons her wedding? Chuks, do you know the message we are sending out? We are telling that Tami is settling for their son!” she ranted.
Chuks took a deep breath. “Isn’t she?”
Mrs. Ibekwe took her seat slowly as her husband’s words hit her. She had never seen it from that angle. “Chuks, she is not settling. Justin was no good for her and you know it.”
“We all know it. But does she?” he asked, rising to his feet. “I am scared. I am scared that what we call postponement won’t be for a week or for a month. I am scared that Tami might never marry Kunle.”
“Kunle is a good man. She would be a fool to do that to him.” Mrs. Ibekwe replied. “And honestly, if she does…it would be your fault.”
Dr. Chuks smiled. It was not a surprise for his wife to look for a convenient way to rope him into it. She had solicited his support in trying to convince Tami but he was not one to stick with the conventional approaches to handling matters. This concerned Tami’s feelings and emotions, he wasn’t going to bully her into jumping the broom too early.
“How did it go?” Muna asked, joining Tami in the room from the bathroom.
Tami stared at her. “Don’t you have air freshener or something?”
“Madam, yours is worse. Don’t form saint for me.” Muna replied, climbing into the bed beside Tami. “How did the discussion with Mom and Dad go?”
Tami exhaled. “Predictable. Mom is vexed. Dad is calm as usual.” She said, wrapping her arms around Muna.
“This could be you and Kunle.” Muna said, rolling her eyes.
Tami chuckled. “You know I miss this. Me and you, just laying here and talking about boys, Mom and Dad, getting mad over our crushes.” She said and paused. “Do you remember that time Mom came to teen’s church to rant because you and Fola were dating?”
“Oh shut up. You reported me.” Muna replied, laughing. “You have always been a sly. Fola didn’t like you and you went home to report me.”
“No. I reported because Fola’s brother didn’t like me.” Tami replied. “Stupid boy wouldn’t even look at me because I was too skinny.”
Muna smiled. “He was shallow. You are the most amazing person in the world.” She replied. “That’s of course, after me.”
Both ladies laughed. A lot had changed since their teenage years. They had blossomed into the finest ladies but one thing remained intact, their love for each other.
“Kunle is one of the good ones, Tami.” Muna said, breaking the tiny silence that had ensued after their brief reminisces.
Tami turned to her. “I know.”
“Then why are doing this?” Muna asked.
Tami swallowed. “I killed Justin.”
Muna was confused. “What do you mean?” she asked as she sat up, pulling Tami up to her face level. “He shot himself.”
Tami was already in tears. “He came to see me.” She started.
“Justin came to see you?”
Tami nodded. “Yeah, he was at my house that night. He came to beg for forgiveness. He wanted me to take him back. I told him that I couldn’t. I told him I was happy with Kunle and that he should leave. He said he’d kill himself.” She said and paused to wipe her tears. “I thought he was being Justin. It was not the first time he’d threaten me to get me back. I always fell for it and just the day I shouldn’t have fallen for it to save his life, I let him go. I told him to die.”
Muna swallowed. “I am so sorry, Tami.”
“I told him to die and he actually went to die. Muna, I’d never forgive myself for killing him.” She replied, as she cried.
Muna drew her close for a hug. “I am sorry.” She whispered into Tami’s ears.
Silence was underrated. Amina had spent a great deal of her time alone in the room. The other girls had gone with the matron to the cinema and had come back bearing tales of how the man killed the thugs and ran off with the woman in the end. The girls upset the serenity Amina had previously enjoyed before their return as they spoke about the beauty of the movie they had just seen.
The movie had filled their heads with ideas that some ‘actor’ would come riding in on a stallion and rescue them to a better life. In reality, maybe their ‘actor’ was Miss Tamilore Oni who had rescued them to a better life. They really didn’t want to return to the turmoil of the North. As they went on chattering happily about the good part of their trip, Amina listened to the excitement in their voices and wondered how she had not been able to recover hers. They were fed the same food, they had drunk of the same waters and had been taken on the same walks. She knew some of these girls feigned their happiness, but wasn’t it safer to feign happiness than to remain in a box in…in her box?
Amina did not like life much since the insurgents came and raided their lives. They had planted seeds of unhappiness and she was finding it hard to see a glow. Where did these girls find their spark? Deep down, she hated them for being able to move on without her. They had comfortably left her behind.
“Girls, let’s move to the dining hall for lunch.” Mrs. Jacobs said as she arrived in their room. “It is Jollof rice and chicken for lunch.”
The girls hurried out, nearly knocking the matron over at the mention of Jollof rice and chicken. That was one irresistible meal. The only person who could resist it was Amina as she remained still on her bed.
Mrs. Jacobs smiled. If there was anyone to put up a resistance, it would be Amina, so she was not surprised. “Would you like me to bring your food here?” she asked.
Amina nodded. “Can I use a fork and knife like Madam Oni?”
Mrs Jacobs chuckled. “Of course. I’ll get them for you.”
“I am sorry about your loss but this wedding will go on.” Chief Olugbile said after listening to Tami.
Dr. Ibekwe cleared his throat. “Sir, our daughter is going through a very complicated phase and we think it would be wise if we let Tami and Kunle talk about this.”
“I am sorry but do you have ties with Governors, Ministers, Business men and successful people?” Chief Olugbile started in an old-fashioned calm tone. He then raised his voice. “Because if you do, you will understand how difficult it is to get an audience with them, talk more of getting them to grace your child’s wedding, only for you to call and say your son won’t be getting married this weekend because his fiancée lost a long-time boyfriend.”
Dr. Ibekwe rose to his feet. “I do not have friends as Governors, ministers and maybe politicking thieves but my daughter’s wishes would be respected.”
“If this marriage does not hold this weekend, it won’t hold at all.” Chief Olugbile retorted.
“Dad, that’s not possible.” Kunle said, cutting in.
Mrs. Ibekwe sighed. “He speaks!” she said, rising to her feet. After eyeballing Kunle, she shifted her gaze to his father. “Look, Chief, sorry about your friends o, but we have friends too and our daughter and your son are the ones getting married so I am sorry if they say they are not ready this weekend, then they are not. We are not going to force them.”
“Who is saying ‘they are not ready’? Is it my son or your daughter?” Mrs Olugbile asked.
“We are not ready.” Kunle replied.
Chief Olugbile removed his cap and relaxed in his chair. “Olakunle? Do you want to disgrace me?”
“Dad, this is our decision. Please respect it.” Kunle replied. “Tami and I are well aware of what we are doing. It’s a hard time for her and it’s not sensitive of us to jump into the wedding regardless.”
“So how long would this waiting period be? One week? Tami, would you marry him upper week?” Chief Olugbile asked.
“Tami and I would discuss it, Dad.” Kunle interrupted again.
Mrs. Olugbile scoffed. “Kunle, are you people hiding something from us? Because you are not letting her speak. Is this relationship over?” She said.
“Mom, she is my wife to be. She is not in a good place and the only reason we called this meeting is so that we could inform you about our decision.” He replied.
Tami took a deep breath as she wiped her forehead. She had sent rubbles across both families with her decision. As if the tension in the room was not enough, her phone rang to disturb the awkward silence that followed Kunle’s last words. It was her PA. She had told her not to call except something very important happened. Definitely something had happened. “I’m sorry I have to take this call.” Tami said, answering her phone.
“Tami, you have to get to the hospital on the foundation’s road fast. Amina just stabbed herself.” Her PA reported.
Tami stared at everyone in the room as she hung up. “I am sorry, but I have to go. It’s urgent.”
Chief Olugbile laughed and then turned to Kunle. “This is a disgrace. She wants to leave a meeting that we are having because she has decided to push the wedding forward. Kunle, why are you embarrassing us?”
“Tami, are you alright?” Kunle asked, ignoring his father.
Tami shook her head. “Amina just stabbed herself.” She replied.
Mrs. Jacobs was sweating profusely as she tried to explain. “I…I don’t know why I didn’t think about it. She told me that she wanted to use a fork and knife to eat just like you. I was so stupid.”
“It’s okay, ma.” Tami replied as she stared at a sleeping Amina.
Kunle watched Tami as she stroked Amina’s long hair and smiled faintly. He was in love with her and there was really nothing that could change how he felt about her. She had a pure heart. Her beauty shone without effort. She was kind and selfless. She subdued herself in others and often did forget that she needed saving too.
“She’ll come around soon.” The Doctor said. “I hope you are also getting some rest, Tami.” He added.
Tami nodded. “Yes.”
“Yeah right.” Kunle said before he could stop the words from falling out of his mouth. He was being cynical in his response.
“Thanks, Kunle.” Tami replied with a smile.
Tami’s PA walked into the room. “Tami, we have a little problem. Some press people heard about Amina and are asking questions. They have called me several times in the last hour. They want a comment.”
“They want me to put a kid out there because she slashed herself?” Tami asked, not taking her eyes off Amina.
Mrs. Jacobs exhaled. “I’ll take care of it. They are coming after us.” She said and walked out with Tami’s PA.
Kunle walked over to Tami and massaged her shoulders. “I am sorry about my parents.”
“You have nothing to be sorry about, Kunle.” She replied. “Absolutely nothing. It’s okay they are angry but they are just going to have to understand that this decision is ours and ours alone to take.”
Kunle nodded. “I’ll go and speak with the matron. She feels bad.”
“Alright. Thank you.” She replied.
Kunle kissed her forehead and walked out.
“Where am I?” Amina asked as she woke up. Her head was hurting badly. It was as though she had hit it against a tree.
“Certainly not where you hoped you’d be.” Tami replied with a smile. “The doctors say you are lucky to be alive.”
Amina frowned. “I don’t want to be alive.”
“I know.” Tami replied. “And today too, I don’t want to be alive, but here I am and there’s really nothing I can do about it.”
Amina turned away as tears rolled down her eyes.
“Amina, I am sorry about what you have been through and I wish I could take it all away.” Tami started.
“You can’t.” Amina replied. “You don’t know anything about it.”
Tami blinked. “Would you at least let me try to know how you feel?”
Amina turned to her. “How? How am I to let you know? You don’t know my life. You don’t know me.”
“I want to know you.” Tami replied. “Would you come live with me?” she asked.