I’m getting married in September, all three ceremonies will hold in a ten-day window and there isn’t a cell in my body that hasn’t been replaced with nervous energy, I’m so burnt out by wedding preparations that if you say ‘Wedding’ near me, I might just shoot you. Actually, I would slap you. I don’t carry a gun about.
Don’t look at me like that.
I know weddings are supposed to be this joyful occasion every girl has been plotting and planning to perfection since she was in the cradle. I guess I missed the memo, I was probably reading a book or supervising the fryers of dodo in heaven while girly feelings and thoughts were being handed out to the females in my earthly batch.
I didn’t even think I’d get married, never saw myself as the type who’d settle into domestic bliss. It’s so ordinary, this marriage thing, and so very boring. To have the rest of your life mapped out, to know it’s the same face you’d wake up next to for the next fifty years, only that his face gets older and tougher.
Kill me now!
But love; that pesky little bastard grabbed me by the balls. Ok, I know I don’t have actual balls. Please stop rolling your eyes, they could fall off you know. Anyway, I never thought I’d meet a human being like Ugo, an actual person who is magic and laughter and brains and is 100% heart. And he loves me.
Isn’t that amazing?!
I know it’s cliche to say this, everyone says this but I mean it, I really do. I hit the jackpot with this guy, and you know what? I didn’t even place a bet. I wasn’t looking for love when I became friends with Ugo, we had a mutual love for pounded yam and a shared aversion for pounding it ourselves. We ran into each other several times at Nwanyi Mbaise restaurant, always sharing a smile while we righteously attacked our okporoko.
I was relieved when he simply asked for my name, where I worked and my number, the first time he crossed the breath of the restaurant to talk to me. It would have been a shame if a man as handsome as him wasted the brains he was given by coming to ask why I didn’t cook like other women but came to a restaurant instead.
Like me, he had a great love for adventure and travel. He loved to drive and I liked being driven and watching the landscape change from town to town, it was perfect. Well, nearly perfect.
He had to ruin it by wanting marriage.
It’s to please his mother, he says. He doesn’t mind ‘living in sin’ with me, sharing this love that needs no validation from a piece of paper or altars of concrete or in long lists and sips of palm wine. Just two incredibly lucky people sharing a life, but his mother’s heart would break if her okpara didn’t bring a wife home for her to fawn over and boast about in Umudioka town meeting, Lagos branch.
I wonder if my parents think I might have been switched with their original baby at the St Anne’s Infirmary for Women and Children where I was born thirty-odd years ago. They’re used to it now, the daughter who walks two steps away from convention and the expectations of being female.
When I told them Ugo had asked that I be his wife and I said yes, they looked at me for a full minute. Perhaps they were expecting me to burst into laughter and say ‘gotcha!’.
“Ada, are you sure?” my mother asked in her soft voice that deceived people into thinking she was incapable of being fierce. No one never made the mistake of underestimating her twice.
“Yes Mum, I actually am getting married.”
“Are you in some kind of trouble, is anyone blackmailing you?” My father asked.
“Sis, even if it’s nudes, stay strong and call their bluff. Don’t surrender!” my youngest brother added his voice.
I laughed and assured them that this was decision taken after deep thought and I wasn’t under duress and no, I didn’t have a sex tape I wanted to suppress.
I’d rather make money from it first.
“So you’re really marrying that pretty boy?” my father asked when he came to my room that evening. It was his custom to come to my room and talk when heavy issues came up and this was the heaviest thing we’d had to deal with. I was expecting him even before he came.
“Daddy! He’s not a boy and he definitely isn’t pretty.”
“Hian, that one who reminds me of Bobrisky.”
“Daddy! That’s not fair. Ugo is very manly and he isn’t even that light skinned. And how do you know about Bobrisky sef?”
“See this girl o,” he said as he chuckled. “You think I’m old school abi? I know all the latest trends and gossip, I learn about them on Facebook. It’s lit!”
I rolled my eyes in my mind. My father might be woke and hip and saying things were lit, but he would still pull my ear and give me a hard knock on my head, if he thought I was being rude to him.
“Is it going to be a long engagement or a short one?” my mother asked as she walked into my room with my youngest brother in tow. I thought about getting a lock for my door and I remembered I don’t have to live with them for long.
My stomach felt as if it had been burst open. I would miss my family fiercely. They sat on my bed and made me call Ugo and put the phone on speaker as they made plans with Ugo while I went back to reading my novel. The introduction was fixed for the next week and they began to make plans.
I’d had a bad feeling about letting Aunty Rose, Grace and Jemima attend my introduction but I couldn’t find any logical reason for shutting out the three women who had been true to my mother and stuck to her like glue through good and bad times.
They actually wore the same ankara for my introduction ceremony, yes those women made an Asoebi for such a simple gathering. My aunties do not do simple things, they even wore matching sunshades.
The minute I saw them saunter into the parlour after changing from the clothes they had prepared the meal for the day in, I understood why I had misgivings about them.
In the dictionary, beside the words – Extra, Flamboyant and Socialite, you’d find a picture of these three women in their Asoebi and satellite dish gele and plenty gold necklaces.
They got on with Ugo’s mum with an ease that really wasn’t surprising if you knew all four of them. By the end of the evening all four of them were about ready to hold hands and sing kumbaya.
They created a WhatsApp group for planning the weddings and by the time I checked the group just before I went to bed, I found two hundred plus unread messages with pictures and plans that showed they didn’t really need my input for anything, except of course when I wanted Ugo to officially become my husband.
I chose to have the weddings in September not because I was in born in September, December baby here! Neither is it my favourite month, that’s August, that long, balmy month of the long vacations of my childhood which I spent peeling egwusi and playing with my brothers. It’s because of my favourite song, it’s by Earth, Wind and Fire and the title is September.
If happiness were a song, it would be that song. Its lifted my spirit through the roughest periods of my life, through exams I passed by God’s special grace alone, through bouts of illness I can’t believe I survived, through empty accounts and high-level ‘brokeness’. But the song is losing its magic, I have to listen to it five times before I feel better.
You’d think that with four wedding planners, I’d have nothing to stress me about the wedding, right? It’s crazy how these women want to turn my wedding into an extravaganza to rival any royal wedding and Ugo’s father gave them an actual blank cheque.
So, instead of the simple ceremony at my father’s house in Mbaise, they want a grand carnival at Rockview Owerri with Flavour, Phyno and Zorro performing. I asked them if they wanted to resurrect Oliver De Coque to be there too and Aunty Rose said I might be twice her height but she could still knock my head even if she had to get a ladder to do it.
I will not tell you how they have just hijacked the garden/beachfront reception Ugo and I had agreed on, we’d even found the perfect venue in a beautiful alcove of the Atlantic coastline somewhere in Epe. We were going to have a maximum of sixty guests, mostly close friends and immediate family.
“Do you know how many women attend Umudioka town meeting?” Ugo’s mum asked us when we outlined the plan in her kitchen at Eric Moore.
“One hundred and fifty-three,” she continued.
“And those are just the active members. For your wedding, even the ones hidden deep inside the recesses of Lagos would turn up.”
“But Mum, they don’t need to be there.” Ugo said.
“Bia nwa, what do you know? Anyway leave all that to me.” She said as her face closed and we knew we were dismissed. We said our goodbyes and walked to Ugo’s car. The drive to my house was a silent one.
“I’d have a panic attack on that day, I’d probably run away just like Julia Roberts in the Runaway Bride. While running I’d meet a handsome young monk and tempt him out of the priesthood, we would settle in Enugu and raise a family while you all look for me for the rest of your lives.”
Ugo parked the car, came to my side of the car and opened the door. I came out and went to the backseat where I proceeded to cry on his T-shirt and ruin it with my running makeup.
The real reason I am marrying Ugo is because he has never ever called me dramatic, or thought I needed to tone down my imagination like every other man who’d I let close enough to me had suggested. He actually loved it when I talked in long drags, when I spoke of things he didn’t understand.
“Are you all cried out?” he asked and I nodded.
“No silly monk is going to take you away from me, we’re bound for life and beyond.”
“To infinity and beyond?” I was smiling, he loved Toy Story.
“Yes darling, to infinity and beyond. Ignore their shenanigans, in a few months it would be over and done with.”
“Do you know they kicked me out of the wedding WhatsApp group.” I said as I blew my nose with the handkerchief he handed me.
“What, what?!” he sputtered.
“I told them there was no way in hell I was going to lose enough weight to fit into the size eight wedding dress Aunty Rose was ordering online. They insisted it was routine for brides to work on dropping four dress sizes before their wedding and I told them I’d rather eat sawdust.”
“Saw dust kwa?” he asked and smirked.
“Well, they said they didn’t want my negative energy disrupting their plans. So they kicked me out, me and my negative vibes.”
“You know what, let’s go and see a movie and forget about this wedding for a bit.” He said as he patted my back.
We decided on Aladdin, it wasn’t a tough decision really. I’d loved the cartoon as a child and Will Smith can do no wrong in my eyes, I’d also loved him since I was a child, from his days as the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
I ate shawarma while Ugo ate the pieces of cardboard they call popcorn. Ok I’m jealous, I love popcorn but I am allergic to it, eating it would trigger a reaction very similar to an asthma attack.
We watched the movie holding hands while I sang the songs I had grown up singing and cried with Joy as the movie ended. he turned to me and whispered my name but I was too overcome with emotion to respond.
“Nneka,” he said again with a little more force and urgency.
“I can’t wait to watch you and our children watch this film together on Saturday mornings and sing these silly songs. I can’t give our children magic, all I can give them is numbers and science and with you to give them laughter and the wings of imagination, they’d be the luckiest children in the world.”
I squeezed his hand, the man always knew the right thing to say even though he was also capable of being the most annoying, pigheaded man on earth. I loved fighting with him though and I still want to spend the rest of my life with him.
I definitely don’t want the spectacle Aunty Rose and her gang were planning with his mum, and there was no way in hell I can fit into a size eight wedding dress in three months.
I don’t even want to.
I was silent during the ride home; he must have thought I was still overcome by the film. My father was sitting at the balcony as we drove into the house and Ugo refused to give me a goodbye kiss. He was too afraid of my dad.
After finishing my dinner of yam pottage, it occurred to me that there was only one solution to this quagmire. But would Ugo agree? I got my phone and dialed his number.
“Let’s elope” I said as soon as he picked up the call.
“Babe,” he said with a laugh, “I thought you’d never ask.”