I was 10 minutes late for my doctor’s appointment. *Dr. Sam Akpan was going to scold me again, today. For the last one year, I have being experiencing these panic attacks, been on medication and checking my blood pressure regularly. Dr. Akpan had booked me on specific days for my check ups and he was never happy when I come late or don’t show up.
“Good Morning, Dr. Akpan,” I said running into his office.
He looked at me through his glasses and smiled.
“*Tola, you always come late so I have given up on complaining,” he said while staring into his case files. “Well, you are lucky; I still have some case files of patients to visit before your section. So, just lie down and relax. I will be back soon, today is public holiday, so I have more time” he added.
“Okay, Dr. Akpan”, I giggled. He tapped me on my shoulder and walked out.
As I lay down on the bed in his office and began to stare at the ceiling, I remembered the first time, I visited Dr.Akpan’s office with *Emeka, last year. I remembered that visit vividly, how I cried when Dr. Akpan diagnosed my medical condition and how Emeka wrapped me in his hands and comforted me.
Emeka and I met, in my 300 level at the University of Ilorin. He had come to visit his cousin who happened to be my course-mate and one of my study partners. My best friend, *Mercy and I got to *Ike’s hostel room on time and when we walked in and noticed he had a guest. I briefly introduced myself to Emeka and focused on our study plan.
I was shocked when Ike called me the next day that his cousin wanted to talk with me and after much convincing I finally agreed to hang out with them and that was the beginning of our relationship. We were both in love with each other, we were the envy of our friends and both families loved each other.
Emeka was working in a big audit firm in Lagos and was very comfortable. He wanted us to get married as soon as I graduated but I wanted to get a job first and my father insisted that I go to UK for my masters immediately after my youth service. The eighteen months away from Emeka was a tough time for us but we did handle it as best as we could and pulled through.
I started working in a bank immediately I got back to Nigeria, and our relationship was still perfectly in order as I had believed. We rarely spent time together due to work schedules and hassles of Lagos life but we communicated on phone or via blackberry chat. We barely talked about marriage. We only did when our parents ask when we are going to give them grandchildren. Our responses always remain the same, “Soon, Mum. Very soon, we promise” and then we smile.
Two weeks after, I went to visit Emeka at his house, I was beginning to get worried because we had not spoken about marriage plans since I got back from the UK and since we both loved each other, it was time to celebrate our love in marriage.
“Eme, (I usually called him that) so when do we plan to get married? We have not talked about it in a while”, I said.
He came towards me and sat by my side.
“Baby, I have being thinking a lot about that of late and I want it to happen this year,” he said and I smiled.
“But” he concluded and paused. I stared into his eyes wondering for just those seconds what the excuse would be.
“I am expecting a promotion in the office in two months time and it comes with a better pay. So, then I can give you the wedding of your dreams” he smiled. I was not pleased. I had told him from day-one of our relationship that I do not feel so comfortable relating with large crowd and don’t want a elaborate wedding, just with family members and few friends was fine with me.
“Eme, but with both our incomes we can afford a beautiful wedding and adding the support from our parents, we will definitely have a big wedding,” I said.
“I know. I really want this promotion. It will make me happy, boost my career to become a partner someday and with you beside me what more can I ask for in life,” he said.
“Baby, please understand” he pleaded.
Well, I thought two months was not forever that I could wait and with Emeka’s position I could someday resign from my job when I start having kids. Then, I nodded in approval.
I had not seen Mercy in a while we had promised to visit the salon together that weekend to have a makeover. I had stopped by at her house at Surulere on my way to VI. Mercy lives alone because her family was based in the east (Enugu) and we have been best friends, from university and even after. I allowed myself into her house because I had her spare keys.
“Mercy, Mercy, Mercy”, I called out. I heard sounds coming from the bathroom and walked toward that direction when I saw Mercy throwing –up.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I am fine”, she replied while cleaning her bathroom.
“You don’t look too fine, dear” I said.
“Babe, I swear, I am fine. It’s just something I ate yesterday that I think it’s disturbing my tummy,” she said. And we headed off to the salon.
It was one of those quiet Sundays, I had just closed from church and was not in the mood to rush home immediately and I decided to visit Emeka at his parent’s house. He had called the day before that his Dad had requested he come see them at the weekend. His parents love me especially his Mum, so I knew it would not be offensive if I visit them unannounced. As I drove into the compound, I noticed more cars in the premises but since Emeka’s was a politician it was not a surprise to me.
“Aunty Tola, good afternoon,” *Ada, Emeka’s little cousin greeted me. She was very close to me and I already warmed up to her as my younger sister.
“My little bunny” I said while giving her a hug.
“Where is everyone?” I asked.
“They are in the big living room, I think Daddy has some visitors,” she said.
“Okay, let me go greet them before going upstairs,” I said.
I had just opened the door and was about kneeling to greet Emeka’s Dad when I noticed my best friend, Mercy, sitting on the couch with her parents. All eyes were on me, it seemed that they were either pissed off or confused at my presence there but my first guess was that I just ruined a surprise for me.
Keeping my cool, I decided to walk out, then I heard Mercy sobbing. I was still watching everyone in the room, now confused, especially seeing Mercy crawling on her knees towards me. Then it hit me something was wrong.
“Tola, Tola I am so sorry”, she said, panting. “Please, forgive me, I did not mean to hurt you or anyone. Please, forgive me,” she kept repeating those words.
“Forgive you about what?” I asked.
Emeka was still sitting down, hiding his face like he could not watch the drama unfolding.
Mercy cried louder and I was beginning to get angry.
“What going on here?” I screamed.
“My dear”, Eme’s Mum said. “Sit down, my dear. Come, sit here” she beckoned to me.
I walked towards her; she held my two hands and started by telling me all my good qualities and how I was a daughter to her.
“Mercy, came to tell us that she is pregnant and that Emeka is….’ she had not finished her sentence when I started screaming, I knew already what she wanted to say.
“No, no, no,” I cried. I could not believe what I just heard. Everyone began to apologize to me all at once, like I just had a tiny injury that will heal soon.
Mercy’s parents had come to inform Emeka’s family that there was no way she was going to abort the pregnancy because it was a taboo in their village and Emeka must marry her. I felt it was already a signed deal and I was there wasting my time. As I headed out of the house, all Emeka said to me was, “Baby, I am sorry. Please, forgive me.”
Their wedding was set two months later, I received several calls from Emeka, Mercy, his family and friends, begging me to forgive and forget and also pleading that I attend the wedding, which I did.
It was an awkward situation, I was so uncomfortable see them sitting at the front of the altar. Then it happened, it was during the exchange of the marital vows, when the priest said, “If there is anyone where you know of any impediment why this couple should not be joined together in holy matrimony should speak now or forever holds his or her peace.”
My legs were up; I imagined walking towards the altar or out of the church. There were thousands of eyes feasted on me, I could barely breathe, the church was quiet and the only sound in the church came from the heels of my shoes as I ran out and never looked back.
“Tola, Tola, Tola,” I could hear my name as I opened my eyes it was Dr.Akpan.
“Sorry, I took so long. A lot of patients to see,” he said. And as I sat up, the tears began to drop again.
*Please note in order to protect my friend and others involved in this story I had to use fictional names.