(My heart beat)
Seven weeks later, Femi was busy dancing away at Bolu and Jire’s wedding. The wedding in Lagos was bigger than she had expected it to be. There were dignitaries everywhere and even the Nation’s vice President was there. She wore the Aso-ebi reserved for Sisters of the bride and the Minister had proudly introduced her to everyone as his extra daughter.
She felt so warm and included by Fiyin’s family, everyone had treated her well, including his grandparents who were very excited to meet her. The staff from the Hospital acted like she was their long lost friend and she almost wished the day would never end. The food was excessive and there was even a chocolate fountain to hers and Amanda’s delight who ran from her little bride duty to hide behind a table and drink plenty of chocolate with Femi.
The party ended around 9pm and Femi was exhausted. Instead of going home with Fiyin though, who still had a lot of things to deal with as best man, she handed Amanda to Seun and hitched a ride with Tiwa, who she now had a better relationship with. They weren’t friends but they were going to be.
When they got home, she got down to open the gate for Tiwa when she saw a strange man lurking by the gate. She was scared and ran back but he called her name. “Femi, is that you?” He asked, amazed.
“Do I know you?” She could see him, the security light of her Uncle’s compound was on. He looked vaguely familiar but she couldn’t say where she knew him from. He was neatly dressed, well-muscled, with a tough face that had scars.
“You don’t…..remember me?” He asked haltingly, moving closer to her.
Just then Tiwa came out of the car with a fire extinguisher, “Oga, move back before I bash you head!!” She screamed.
“Wait! Wait! This is me Femi, I’m your brother! Don’t you remember me?” He asked, spreading his hands, distressed.
“Nifemi! Nifemi!” Femi screamed, shocked and Tiwa lowered the extinguisher but did not drop it.
“Yes, it is me Nifemi!” He said happily. He looked at his little sister and realised how much she had grown up without him and the grief of it, the past nearly choked him. He did not know if he should hug her or just shake her hands.
She made the decision for him when she threw her hands around him lovingly.
“Femi, where’s your head?!” Tiwa shouted. “That man could be a killer for all we know!!”
Femi looked at him again and chewed her lips. “Why did you come this late?”
!I’ve been looking for you everywhere. It’s a long story but that’s my car over there.” He pointed at a range rover parked opposite the house. “I came since morning but you weren’t home so i decided to wait till you got back. I did not want to miss you again.”
Tiwa rang the bell to the house till her father came out and sighting Nifemi proceeded to question the young man until he determined the young man had no evil intentions then he invited him in.
Inside, Nifemi explained that after he ran away from home, he had fallen in with a bad gang and started robbing and taking drugs. His body was a testament to these. In the clear light, they could all see the scars and tattoos all over his body. Eventually, he had been arrested, sent to jail where he came in contact with a woman who handed him over to an NGO that handled young criminals in prisons.
He was never taken to court or sentenced, he was just a guest at the Nigerian Prison. There, with the encouragement of the NGO, he wrote his WAEC papers, came out in flying colours and learnt how to make shoes.
When he was released after 4 years, he was rehabilitated by the NGO and empowered to start his own business. Now, he was a big time shoemaker and when he mentioned his brand name, they gasped for it was quite popular in Nigeria and Femi realised even Fiyin had a few of his shoes in his closet, they were beautiful and expensive.
He told them how months after first running away from home, he had gone back home to check on his sister and had been told by the neighbours that a relative had taken her. Since he didn’t know his mother’s relatives all that well, he had found it pretty hard to find them and later, when the drugs had taken over him, he didn’t bother searching anymore.
Only, in the last few years after prison had he renewed his search efforts and as soon as he made some money, he had started searching for her all over again. He had received a report three days ago about where she worked and lived hence his presence in their house. When he got there and Adelaide had answered the door and told him Femi wasn’t around, he had waited, refusing to leave until he saw her.
Femi felt a whole other level of respect for the brother she had missed when she was younger. He wore his scars well but he had learnt from them and grown. She could not believe how much he had achieved despite their horrible upbringing and his experience in Prison. Before he left that night, she made sure to tell him how proud of him she was and how much more she would like for him to be in her life.
That night, after telling Fiyin over the phone of her incredible day, she said a long prayer of thanks to God for keeping her brother safe. She slept a sleep of true peace and she realised when she woke that her brother’s disappearance had caused more upheaval in her life then she ever knew. Now, he was back and he was fine. Everything else would work out fine.
Tiwa sat in her mother’s kitchen three months later and could not help but smile as her mother lectured Anita about what to eat, in what portions to eat and how to cook throughout her advancing pregnancy. Anita was already 6 months gone but was barely showing at all. Since she had always been big, it was hard now to discern a pregnancy under her flowing gown.
On the counter in the kitchen, Femi also listened for their mother had called all of them for the lesson she said was very important for all three of them. While Anita kept rolling her eyes, Femi paid serious attention like she was going to write an exam and Tiwa saw she was actually writing things down and she started giggling.
One dirty look from her mother quietened her and she just smiled. As she listened, she couldn’t believe what she had missed out. She had always resented Femi and her mom their constant kitchen meetings and when Anita had joined them, she had started having problems with her sister-in-law.
In the past few months though, in a bid to make it up to her family for what she had done, she started staying at home more often and joining Femi and her mom in the kitchen for their tete-a-tete. She didn’t really have to cook, she didn’t enjoy that. But she cleaned up and she laughed, she talked and she learned.
She realised now that she had spent so much time being angry and trying to prove she was above and beyond everyone that she had made much more enemies than friends. After everything with Femi, she had decided to turn a new leaf and going through her relationships brought her to the shattering realisation that she had no solid friends loyal anywhere.
She had snatched and dated her former best friend’s boyfriend turned husband, she and her roommate who used to be close friends had become cat and rat, in the hospital where she worked, she was well respected but detested and at home, she had an awkward relationship with her family.
With her brothers, she would say their relationship was okay but she knew they didn’t find her dependable and when in need, they would go to Femi first. She knew her mother loved her but had always felt she loved Femi more. And with her father, she knew he was proud of her and her achievements but he was disappointed in some of her decisions-including the decision to get an apartment- and he could not understand how she came by her headstrongness as he was sure no one on his or his wife’s side of the family was that stubborn.
In the past few months, she had gone out of her way to make better relationships with everyone around her. It hadn’t been easy. Fiyin had doubted her apologies and had kept his distance from her, even banning her from entering his office alone. Other doctors had also refused to give her the benefit of doubt and it was surprisingly, the nurses that gave the first opportunity.
Imelda had been pleasantly surprised by her apology and they had made up. Eventually, she had worn the forgiveness of the other doctors especially Jire who had been the one to encourage better relationships between she and the other doctors.
She had fought with Seun over Fiyin after she met Femi at the hospital and had since tried to repair that relationship as Seun was one of the few people who actually seemed to like her. Of course, she had received Seun’s forgiveness and along with Jire, she had been made to feel comfortable in the hospital again.
Of course, she wasn’t 100 percent mended. She still had issues with looking down on people, she still didn’t understand why her mom needed to have meetings in the kitchen, she wasn’t willing to return home to please her father and mostly, she still felt a little pain in her heart when she saw Femi and Fiyin together. Sometimes, she couldn’t help hoping that Fiyin would realise he made a mistake with Femi and run back to her. Hopefully, Femi would still forgive her when that happened. If it happened.
However, looking at the way Femi was seriously taking down everything her mother was saying on paper, like she was already pregnant, she had serious doubts that her actions would blow over so easily.
She started laughing to herself when she heard the bell ring. It was Sallah celebrations everywhere so there was a public holiday, hence why Anita and the guys were around. Although, at the moment, the men including Nifemi who visited regularly now, were at the backyard playing their own definition of basketball.
She stood up, went into the sitting room and opened the door to Amanda, whose smile froze a little around the edges when she realised it was Tiwa who answered the door. Behind her stood her dashing father, looking extra handsome in casuals.
“Hi Tiwa” Fiyin said, bestowing on her a smile she hadn’t seen in months, and suddenly she wondered, had he changed his mind? Had he realised that she suited him more than Femi ever could?
His “Femi is home, right?” penetrated the fog in her mind and she smiled and nodded her answer. “Yes, she’s in the kitchen.”
“Thanks!” He said as he and Amanda made their way to the kitchen like they had been there several times. Which they had in the past three months. She followed quietly behind them and was able to see the smile that overwhelmed Femi’s face when she saw them. Hmm, the girl can actually be pretty sometimes, she thought to herself.
Amanda hugged Femi and greeted her mother and Anita, kneeling down in her pretty pink gown like a well-trained Yoruba girl to her mother’s delight who hugged and kissed her. She then started singing James Blunt’s all of you as her father got down on one knee in front of Femi.
“….all of me, loves all of you, loves your smile and all your edges, all your perfe……” she sang in her beautiful baby voice, eyes closed in concentration as Mrs Ademola and Anita put their hands over their mouths in pure delight while Femi burst into tears when Fiyin opened the small box containing a beautiful diamond ring.
Femi Olaosebikan, I love you, you complete me, fill me up, add to me and strengthen me. I love how you make me laugh, how you make me feel younger, how you hold me, how you cherish my child and I know I will never be whole again until you are fully and permanently mine. So, will you marry me?” Fiyin proposed earnestly.
And for one moment before Femi answered, Tiwa closed her eyes and prayed desperately for Femi to say “No”. When Femi’s scream of “Yes!” rang out, she knew it was over. Somehow, Femi had triumphed and as Femi started crying, she didn’t know when tears filled her own eyes and she also started crying.
Fortunately, as the newly engaged couple embraced each other and Amanda, she noticed that she wasn’t the only one crying as her mother and Anita were also in tears. Thinking she was crying tears of Joy, her mom rushed over to hug her. But she was crying tears of loss and hopelessness.
“Don’t worry dear, your time is coming. Be happy for her and God will also celebrate you, trust me!” Her mother told her quietly so no one could hear and she realised she hadn’t fooled her after all. She smiled and nodded her head and held unto those words, genuinely wanting to believe them.
She hugged Femi and wished her all the best, she also embraced Fiyin, accepting that this time around, she had lost him forever but nonetheless wanting him to be happy. When she got to Amanda, the little girl gave her the flowers she had been holding, flowers that had originally been meant for Femi and she kissed the girl’s cheeks in gratitude.
The men, hearing the screams and tears came inside and laughed at the crying women. Congratulations, hugs and embraces quickly filled up the kitchen and her mother brought out two bottles of wine which Demola and kunle opened and poured for everyone except Amanda, who got fruit juice.
Her father shared a few words to express his joy and happiness at God’s love and grace to his family, he encouraged the newly engaged couple to love one another and be faithful and admonished Nifemi, Tiwa and Kunle not to take too long in bringing home proper partners.
Tiwa made up her mind that she was going to celebrate those two even if it killed her, she was going to be happy for them like her life depended on it and she was going to pray for them as much as she would pray for herself.
“Femi, I know it has taken us a long time to get here but I want you to know I am happy for you, I am excited you have found someone who loves you and cherishes you and that is what is most important. Fiyin, you are a good man, you are special, one in a million, I should know. So, I wish you both all the best and I hope you have a long life of joy and happiness. To Femi and Fiyin!” She said as she raised her class.
“To Femi and Fiyin!” Everyone echoed as they raised their glasses while Amanda raised her fruit juice and caused everyone to laugh.
(My heart beat)