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Lagos, Nigeria : She walked into the hotel lobby not knowing what to expect. Chinyere had given her their room number. Nothing made...

Lagos, Nigeria: She walked into the hotel lobby not knowing what to expect. Chinyere had given her their room number. Nothing made sense to her. She was both excited (that Chinyere was alive) and confused (as to what was actually going on). She could feel some butterflies in her stomach as she knocked on the door. Chinyere smiled when she opened the door. She stepped back to make way for Ayo to come in. “So this is true?” Ayo remarked. “I was shocked to see your number on my phone. I thought your sister was calling me. What happened?” “I am sorry Ayo. I am really sorry I had to put you all through such a painful time. I faked it. The truth is that I knew you were into Gaby. I was thinking you two would jump into each other’s arms if I went out of the picture. That was a bit too much I guess, but it seemed the right decision for me at the time.” “And you even encouraged me to do it?” “Just to find out how you’d respond to that.” “I did have a crush on Gabriel. That I cannot deny, but I could not bring myself to date him in your absence or presence.” “Why did you go over to the office to visit him behind my back?” “I just wanted to see him. Yes, I was not sure what I was doing, but as soon as I had done it, I knew I could not go through with my vile desires or thoughts. I would never do that to you Chinyere. Besides, Gabriel loves you far too much to do such thing.” “Well, I know that now. And I believe you.” “So how did you find out I was at his office?” “Zainab told me. Initially I had told Gaby it was their receptionist, but actually it was Zainab who called to tell me.” “I shared with her what I was going through, and I even made it clear to her I that would never go through with it. I needed someone to voice my innermost tortures to and that is how she treated me.” 

“As soon as she was done telling me about it though, she went right to Gaby’s apartment and tried to seduce him.” “I am shocked, to say the least.” Ayo could not believe her ears. “She actually did?” “Yes. Gabriel told me.” “Now I know never to trust anyone.” “Including myself?” “No. I will always trust you Chiichii.” “I am not sure I have really taken time to thank you for everything you did for Gaby and I after the accident Ayo. Thanks!!! I trust you now Ayo. Forgive my lack of trust earlier. I had my reasons you know.” “You had every reason to distrust me anyway.” “So would be kind enough to be one of my Asebis at the traditional wedding and my chief bridesmaid at the wedding?” Chinyere requested. “Are you sure you want me there?” “Absolutely Ayo. I want you all the way.” “I’d be thrilled Chiichii. Thanks for the offer. I will do my best for you.” “I trust you with that Ayo.” “So when is the wedding?” “We are looking at the next six months.” “It is in Nigeria right?” “Yes.” ‘I am staying back in Lagos. I had an interview at KPMG last week. I don’t know if I will get the job, but I feel like my calling is at home. I will be staying back in Lagos.” “I pray you get the job. You deserve it. The traditional wedding and the wedding will both be in Nigeria. We can’t leave out our families. We want them all to be fully present.” I am all in then.” Chinyere and Gabriel flew back to London the next morning.

Six months later
Port Harcourt, Nigeria: Gabriel and Chinyere were smiling broadly. The reception took place at the poolside of Novotel Hotel. The wedding ceremony was colorful, and the reception was no less elegant. The bride and groom sat with their back to the pool with the numerous guests seated in a beautiful and sprawling set of seats under splendid canopies in front of them. Both sets of parents walked about with pride, introducing their friends and relatives to their in-laws. Music filled the air as guests devoured fried rice, pounded yam and garri, depending on their preferences. “Thanks for coming back to life!” Gabriel said to Chinyere. He had to raise his voice because of the loud music. “I could not stay dead long enough. I missed you so much,” Chinyere teased. More people took to the floor as they waltzed to Sunny Nneji’s Oruka. “Do you mind if I have a word with you?” He asked Ayo. He was tall and clean shaven. He wore a warm smile on his face. His confidence was mesmerizing. “I have a few things to take care of,” Ayo lied. “I will get back to you in moment.” “Okay, I will be waiting.” He looked unfazed. Ayo went inside the hotel, found a quiet spot and took a deep breath. It is okay. Just look him in the eye and pretend to be just as confident, she admonished herself. After a few more deep breaths, she went back outside. She made sure she found something to do to keep her away from him. He was chatting with some guys and girls. She scanned the ‘terrain’ every few minutes to find out where he was.

He seemed engrossed in his discussion with his friends, but he too took a few seconds every now and again to look for her. Ayo made sure to keep away from him. Despite her personal pep talk, she still found herself too flustered to face him. Although most of her confidence had returned since she landed the job at KPMG, she had yet to delve into the waters of relationship. Her last relationship ended badly, which was followed by the incidence with Chinyere and Gabriel. She had been taking her time ever since. The young man looked thoroughly refined and charming. In one of her secret looks at him, their eyes met. She quickly averted her eyes, ploughing her attention into some trivial chore. Now he was sure she was avoiding him. He walked straight towards her. She thought of dashing of towards the back of the building, but that would be embarrassing. She managed a shaky smile. Her hands trembled so she clasped them together and kept moving them as much as she could to mask her wobbly state. “I get the impression you are avoiding me Ayo,” he said straightforwardly. “No. No…Not really. You see, as he chief bridesmaid, I have a lot on my hands. Yes, a lot on my hands.” She desperately tried to obscure her flustered state. Deep inside, she cautioned herself. Stop it Ayo!! “Sorry, I did not introduce myself earlier. My name is Okoro. I am Gabriel’s cousin.” “You already know my name so, nice to meet you.” Okoro stretched his hand and Ayo took it in a handshake. He could feel the tremor running through her veins. “You look beautiful. I promise, I won’t take more than five minutes of your time. Shall we walk over there and have a brief chat please?” “Okay,” she concurred.

The stepped to an area with reduced noise. “I was not spying on you. I have seen you quite a bit this weekend. I had to ask who the beautiful girl is, so Gabriel told me who you are. I understand you live in Lagos. You work for KPMG.” “I guess you will soon tell me my blood group and my genotype,” Ayo teased. She was a bit more relaxed now. “With the way you look…I mean how beautiful you are, I am inclined to think that your blood group is A, and that your genotype is AA.” “Now that is scary. How did you find out?” “I only guessed Ayo. I guessed both because those are my mother’s blood group and genotype, respectively, and she is one of the most beautiful women alive. Since you are in the same category as my mom in beauty, I could not help but guess that you have the same genotype and blood group as her.” She laughed loudly. “Are you always this funny?” “No I am not. I have never been known to be funny actually, but since I set my eyes on you, I realized that the gift of humor actually existed in me. You see, you brought that to the fore.” “I don’t believe you.” “Ask Gabriel. He’d tell you that I am normally shy and somewhat withdrawn, but they say when you meet your sunshine, your world explodes beautifully. I am experiencing that right now.” “You are a sweet talker, aren’t you?” “I am a guy who knows when he has seen a gem. I am looking at one now.” She blushed.  Like a teenager, she found herself shuffling her right foot aimlessly across the face of the floor with her right and left fingers locked together.

“So, please can I get your phone number Ayo?” “Something tells me you already have it.” “You have the gift of a soothsayer? Most beautiful girls do. They can see the heart of their admirers. Well, in this case, I don’t. I wanted to ask you for it personally…respectfully.” “Okay, I will give you my number.” She gave him her number which he quickly punched into his phone. “I look forward to talking more with you Ayo. I work for PriceWaterHouseCoopers in Lagos. We are one of your competitors.” “Are you intending to steal some trade secrets from me then?” She asked jovially. “The only secrets I am interested in are the ones that lie deep within your heart.” “Such as?” “Such as what makes a beautiful girl like you happy. How can I win your trust and friendship? What makes you smile?” “That is what most guys say but along the line, they become something else.” “Not me Ayo. I promise you by mother’s genotype, I will not be that kind of guy.” 

She burst into a raucous laughter. “Of all the things in the world, you swear by your mother’s genotype?” “Yes. I told you she is the most adorable beauty I knew until this weekend. You remind me of her. I could not help but swear by her genotype.” “Is she here today?” “Unfortunately not. She is battling cancer, and doctors have advised her to get as much rest as possible.” “I am so sorry to hear that!” She exclaimed. “Thank you.” “I will be praying for her.” “That is very thoughtful of you. I am sure she would like to meet you. She is in Lagos. I can bring you over sometime.” “That would be nice.” “So we have a date then?” “Not really!” “Well, I thought I could take you to a snack bar and afterwards we could go see my mom.” “Are you trying to use your mother to reel me in?” “Not at all.” “We can cancel everything about the visit until you are ready Ayo. But, I am not sure my mom has much longer to live. I have been dealing with that for a while now. It would make her happy if I came home with an angel like you.” “I will come see her back in Lagos then.” “I will call you.” “I look forward to that.”

Five weeks later
Lagos, Nigeria: Her phone rang but she did not know the number. She was in the habit of not taking calls if she did not know the caller. The number called the second time, but she still won’t take the call. Then, in came a text message. A minute later, there was another call. “Okoro! I am sorry. I did not realize it was you.” “I figured that out so I had to text.” “How is your mother?” “She passed away a week after the wedding.” “I am so sorry to hear that. Why didn’t you call me? At least I could have given you some support.” “Thanks for the thought. It has been rough. That was the reason I did not call sooner. I was shattered. We really thought she’d pull through. I miss her terribly.” “I am very sorry. Do you want to meet up?” “Yes, by all means.” “Okay then, what’s the plan?” “Text me your address, I will come and pick you up,” Okoro offered. They had dinner together at a small snack bar on the Island. On Monday evening when she left the office, he was parked in front of her office building. She had no idea he was coming. “What are you doing here?” She asked. “I came to chauffer you home Ayo.” “You did not have to do that; with everything that is going on with your mother’s death.” “I work on the island anyways. It was easy for me to stop and pick you up.” It became a regular routine afterwards. They spent more and more time together, enjoying each other’s company.

“Are you in love with him?” Chinyere asked over the phone. “I am absolutely in love with him,” Ayo answered elatedly. “I can hear that in your voice. Is he in love with you?” “Completely. I can’t go for a day without seeing him and vice versa.” “That is so beautiful Ayo. I am so happy for you. Gabriel says that Okoro is such a gentleman. He is convinced he is the right guy for you.” “I don’t need to be convinced. I am a big believer.” Even thought they were both madly in love with each other, Okoro had not actually asked her to be his girlfriend. She was sure he was taking his time, so she waited patiently. The next Saturday, she went to the supermarket off her street to pick up some essentials. The doorman greeted her with unusual enthusiasm, and even addressed her by her name as she walked in. She could not quite remember if he had introduced herself to him before. She carried anyways on and walked into the shop. Briskly, she went through the shelves and gathered what she needed. Hugging them in her arms, she headed for the checkout desk. When she got there, the cashier called her by her name. Now this is odd, she thought. “Your items have been taken care of Miss Ayo Akinpelu,” the cashier said. “By whom?” She probed. “If you don’t mind, could you turn around please,’ she requested. Unwillingly, she turned and in front of her were the entire staff of the shop. They stood in a single line from her left to her right.

Bemused, she stared at them. Then, they began to sing her favorite love song, ‘Shake You Down’ by Gregory Abbott. Stunned, she stared helplessly. Slowly, her eyes got wetter by the minute. Then a mascot came out from behind the line. The shop staff continued to sing boisterously. They sang off key, but it did not matter. The mascot walked to her, and then unveiled himself. Okoro removed his face cover and said with a smile, “Ayo, please will you be my girlfriend? You have helped stitch up my heart following the passing of my dearest mother. I would like for us to continue to see each other…more officially from now on.” “You put all these together for me?” “It was a real pleasure Ayo. I’d do it over again for you if I have to.” “Okay, let’s do it over again.” “Alright, you can go outside and come back in to do your shopping.” “It is okay dear. I am thrilled to be your girlfriend. I am blessed to have you in my life.” “No, I am the blessed one!” He took her in his arms and they danced for a few minutes to the tune that filled the air throughout the supermarket. Ayo and Okoro got married two and a half years later. They remained in Lagos and had three children – two boys and a girl. Chinyere and Gabriel moved from London back to Lagos where Gabriele worked with NNPC, while Chinyere started a business importing children’s wears from Asia. They had four children; three girls and a boy.


This story was written by:

Victor Chinoo

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