LIGHTHOUSE - Episode 9

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Nigeria's Leading Fictional Story Blog - Wedding, Church wedding, Traditional wedding, Ashebi, Lincoln Continental, Parents, Compound, Twist, 1960s, Christiana by Prince Nico Mbarga

“Ifunanya!!!” Chikamso shouted. He had found Ifunanya lying on the floor. Frantically, he lifted her into a car and instructed one of their drivers to rush them to hospital. He held her hand and spoke to her throughout the drive as the driver weaved through thick Onitsha traffic. She was quickly examined by a doctor and a team of nurses while Chikamso and the driver waited impatiently outside. Chikamso rang his parents to inform them of the situation. By the time Umunna arrived at their house, the gateman informed him that Ifunanya had been rushed to hospital. His heart sank into his stomach. He called Chikamso in a panic to get directions to the hospital.

“How come the ashebi uniforms have not arrived?” Chidera yelled at her tailor over the phone. Her stress levels had reached a fever pitch. Her traditional and church wedding ceremonies were slated for the same day with the church wedding taking place in the morning and the traditional wedding coming up in the afternoon, serving as reception for the church wedding. After several debates, she and Emeka had finally agreed to have both wedding ceremonies on the same day to afford their friends and family members coming from afar to witness both events in one trip. The ‘D’ day was just a few weeks away and there was still a lot to be done. 

“They will be ready tomorrow,” the tailor explained politely. “They should have been ready two days ago! If they are not here by tomorrow, I will lock you up,” she yelled impudently at the tailor. “I promise you, they will be ready by tomorrow.” “They better be!” She hung up and rang the caterer after which she called the cooling van company, and then, the car rental company. She had insisted on a 2014 Lincoln continental, which Emeka paid for. There were just a few available Lincoln continentals in Enugu, so Emeka was forced to pay a hefty price for one to make Chidera happy. 

Nneamaka, the girl from Shoprite woke up with a massive headache. She had seen Emeka in her sleep for the umpteenth time last night, and he was still tied over a burning flame. She knelt down despite her headache and began to pray for Emeka. Her schedule at Shoprite had been hectic of late, leaving her with little time to relax or pray. She was due to arrive at work in less than two hours despite having worked into the early hours of the morning. “God, please save this young man. Why do you keep showing him to me? It is time you set him free from whatever is holding him captive,” she beseeched God. “Worry not, for his case is settled,” a voice said to Nneamaka. Her eyes sprang open as she scanned the room. She was the only one in her room. His case is settled? How? She thought. “God, if that was you, let your will be done,” she said rising to her feet to prepare for work. 

“Chidera, what makes you think you can outwit the one who brought you onto this path?” Nneka asked peering into the mirror. She could see Chidera running around in a mad frenzy as she labored to stage a spectacular wedding. All the while, Nneka had been in Awka, closely watching Chidera’s moves while she was led to believe that she (Nneka) was in London. “Less than three weeks to go abi (right)? And you think everything will turn out according to your plan? You have bitten off more than you can chew, Chidera,” she declared with a malicious smile on her face.

“Mr. and Mrs. Okoye, there is nothing to worry about. You should be able to see your daughter, Ifunanya in a moment. She is pregnant,” the doctor announced. Ifunanya’s father stared coldly at Umunna first. They were all in the lobby waiting to see Ifunanya. “It…it…it is not me, sir,” Umunna was forced to answer in a stammer even though Ifunanya’s father was yet to utter a word. His eyes spoke volumes. “Can we see her now, please?” he asked the doctor, ignoring Umunna for the time being. “Yes, please come with me,” the doctor replied. 

“I am really sorry papa and mama. Please, could everyone step outside for a moment? I would like to talk to you, papa, mama and Chikamso,” Ifunanya requested. The doctor, the nurses and Umunna stepped out of the hospital room. Umunna was deeply troubled. He did not know how to handle the situation. Which of those men might be responsible for Ify’s pregnancy? What do I do now? My God, I don’t know what to do! He thought to himself. His mind was running helter-skelter. 

“In case you are thinking that Umunna is responsible for my pregnancy, that is not true,” Ifunanya began. She went on to tell her parents and brother what she had been through over the past months following the end of her relationship with Emeka. “The truth is that I don’t know who is responsible for my pregnancy. I am very sorry for letting you all down. Umunna tried to stop me time and again, but I lacked the will, discipline and self-love to dig myself out of the hole I had dug myself into. I don’t know what next for me now, but I can’t let Umunna carry a burden that is not his. Please forgive me,” she pleaded with them. 

“Of course you know we will always be here for you, my child,” her father answered without delay. “Always…always my child,” added her mother. He brother sat beside her and took her right palm in his palms. “Everything is going to be alright,” he whispered. “Of course we are disappointed as humans…yes, it is saddening, but we will do our best to support you the best we can. You will always be my child and I will stop at nothing in caring for you…your mother and I will stand by you, okay?” “I am so ashamed daddy!” “You cannot go back to self-pity, Ifunanya! I won’t let you go back there again. Enough of that. There is nothing to be ashamed of!” Her father’s voice was laced with red-hot urgency. Ifunanya gazed at her family as tears began to cloud her vision. 

About half an hour later, she asked Umunna to come in. Her parents and brother stepped outside. “I am sorry, Umunna.  I am deeply sorry. I feel like I have let you down time and again. I don’t think you have to stick around any longer. I have to sort out this mess by myself…I guess with the help of my family,” she said emphatically. “I am happy to support you, Ify,” he countered. “I…I still love you,” he added. “I can hear doubt in your voice for the first time, Umunna and that is okay. This is a real mess. I don’t see…I really don’t see how I can let you take responsibility for an act you did not commit. You are a wonderful man, but I have to…” She began to cry again.

“You have to what, Ify?” He asked. “I…I don’t think we should continue to see each other.” “How do you mean? Of course, I love you, Ifunanya!” “Umunna, you need to take some time to think this through. In the meantime, I think…I am very sorry, but I think we should let go for now.” “But I want you!” Umunna protested. “And the child too?” “I will…we will get used to him/her. We will work something out. I really love you, Ifunanya.” “I believe you, but not in my present situation. I can’t let you place such burden on your shoulders. You are still studying for your master’s and you are working so hard at it while still looking for a steady job. What would your family say? How would they view me? Would you tell them that you are fathering my child from another man? Whom I don’t even know? I…I slept with multiple men over the past two to three weeks, just like I have done in the past number of months, so I don’t even know who to think of now as the possible father of the child I am carrying. I don’t even remember the men I slept with, because I was drunk most of the time. Is that what you are going to tell your family? Come on, when you marry someone, you marry their family. In this case, I don’t think your family will ever accept me, and I can’t blame them. I have myself to blame. Umunna my dearest, I think we have to end this now…Please let go! Please!!!” 

Umunna watched her through teary eyes, while she cried irrepressibly. It was a case of being too close, yet, too far. Umunna did not know what to think. Some of the things that Ifunanya had highlighted had occurred to him while he waited outside. “I don’t know what to say. I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go. I wish…” He began to speak but then, he stalled suddenly, completely bereft of words. He stared painfully at her, reached for her hand and took it in his. Then, he placed his hand on his head and began to stroke her hair. After about a minute, he leaned over and smelt her hair. Whiff of her perfume filled his lungs. He raised his head in tears, still not knowing what to say or day. He took another look at her and she at him. He looked away for he could no longer watch her cry. He dragged himself towards the door and trudged out of the room, while Ifunanya looked on in pain.

Eighteen Days Later…
Oyolima!! Welu ya, welu ya! (Beautiful!!! Dance on!)” The crowd bellowed as they cheered Chidera’s mother who was dancing energetically. The church wedding had taken place smoothly and a huge crowd was already converging on Chidera’s parents’ compound in readiness for the traditional wedding/reception. Her mother was overjoyed – her first daughter was getting married, and to a worthy young man who was well accomplished. She bent over and twisted her waist as though she was dancing 1960s ‘Twist’. “Christiana bu enyi m nwani yeye!!! (Christiana was my girlfriend yeye!!!)” The loudspeaker rocked through the compound, echoing through the entire village as Prince Nico Mbarga’s evergreen song entertained guests. Chidera’s mother had been a Twist lover in the 1960s, so she dug into her past and rolled out astonishing moves. Guests could not help spraying money on her in appreciation of her dance moves. 

“Emeka and his family should be here now, what is keeping them?” Miranda asked. She and other ashebis were in Chidera’s room putting last minute touches to plans for the long-awaited party – Emeka and Chidera’s wedding reception and traditional wedding. “I am getting worried. He has not taken my calls since after the church service. I hope he is fine. Please, could you call his parents? They are more than one hour late, actually,” Chidera complained to Miranda. 

Nneka arrived at Chidera’s parents’ compound smiling. She tucked into a corner with her husband and awaited the unravelling of Chidera’s day. Intermittently, she would pretend as though she were applying makeup, rummaging through her purse and tapping her face gently with brown foam while staring in the mirror – the evil mirror. In reality, she was watching Chidera in the mirror as she began to go through a lot of stress.

“What do you mean by the statement that you don’t want to marry her anymore?” Emeka’s father asked angrily. “I did not force you to marry her and your mother did not force you either,” he continued. “You brought her to us and asked us to accompany you to see her parents for the marriage rites and after all that, you want to smear our family name? How come you did not pull out of the marriage before the church wedding this morning?” He asked Emeka. He was visibly angry. “We did not sign the wedding certificate, papa. The priest said we should come and sign it on a later date. In reality, we are not married, yet. I am not stepping onto her father’s house for the traditional wedding,” Emeka insisted. “Are you crazy? What are you talking about? Why the sudden change of heart? Her family, a part of our family and friends are already there waiting and you are here saying you no longer want to marry Chidera? Do you realize what you are doing?”

“Papa, I don’t love her. I have no idea what happened to me. I don’t know what has happened to me in the past several months. I don’t even think I know who Chidera is. It is as if I woke up and found out that I was getting married to her. I can’t do it. Ifunanya is the one I truly love. Where is she? How do I reach her? What happened to her?” Emeka replied emphatically with worry and confusion written all over his face.

Written by:
Victor Chinoo  

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LIGHTHOUSE - Episode 9
Nigeria's Leading Fictional Story Blog - Wedding, Church wedding, Traditional wedding, Ashebi, Lincoln Continental, Parents, Compound, Twist, 1960s, Christiana by Prince Nico Mbarga An African Literary Blog
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