When Yvonne Anenih heard that Alfred Nnajide, the man who betrayed her five years ago in the worst, most-clichéd way imaginable, was getting married in a week’s time, her first feeling was shock, then hot on its heels was a benevolent indifference. It was somehow appropriate that the person who would bring the news to her would be her bosom friend, Cynthia, who was known to all who knew her as CNN, a moniker that arose first from the fact that the letters actually stood for her initials, C.N.N. – Cynthia Nneka Nwadike – and secondly because she really did go ‘beyond borders’ to bring you the ‘world news today’, even more so than the network’s famed anchors, Christiane Amanpour, Anderson Cooper and Barbara Starr put together. When Cynthia reported it, you better believe it.
She was late for the Lenten mass held at St. Matthews – the church both friends attended, and she’d come hustling down the aisle and then the pew where she spotted Yvonne sitting, apologising intermittently as she bumped into worshippers whose legs were in the way.
“You had to get a seat this far inside the pew?” she hissed at Yvonne as she settled her frame on the space Yvonne had reserved for her.
“Perhaps, if you’d come earlier, my choice of seat wouldn’t have been a problem,” Yvonne hissed back at her, giving her a fleeting exasperated look as she dabbed with her handkerchief the sweat on her brow.
The church was filled with the quiet and somber vocals of the choir, clad in their vestments of white and black, and at the wave of one of the priests, the line of the congregation seated in the pew in front of them stood and proceeded to the already-crowded altar section of the church.
“It’s not like I missed much,” Cynthia said in a slightly-defensive tone. She gestured towards the people thronging to the altar, a place that was already a beehive of solemn activity as the priests and knighted parishioners smeared thumbprints of ash on the foreheads of the people swirling around them.
“You missed the sermon, and the communion, and the offering. Heck, you missed the entire service.” Incredulity marinated Yvonne’s tone as she tossed her friend an arched-brow look. It was a look she’d perfected over the years, one that conveyed more than words any emotion that was suited for the moment.
“Yes, but I didn’t miss the real purpose of the service. So, chillax.” She angled her head towards Yvonne’s and said in an even lower tone, “Besides, I was busy securing my Valentine for tomorrow. After the night I gave Yemi, he won’t be in a hurry to ditch me on February 14th, like that rascal, Seun, did last year.”
“Eww, Cee-Cee, not in church,” muttered Yvonne as she twisted her features with feigned disgust. “Have some respect.”
Her friend shrugged and settled back in her seat. Moments later, at the signal of yet another priest, those seated on their pew stood and made their way the altar. Cynthia was behind Yvonne as they moved forward. Then she leaned forward and said, “Oh, I almost forgot. Alfred is getting married next week.”
Just like that, CNN struck. And the world – well, Yvonne’s world, that is – teetered on its axis. Seconds later, she adjusted through her shock and asked, “Oh really? To who?” She actually managed to sound only casually interested, she thought with satisfaction. An observer – or Cynthia herself – would never guess how wounded she’d felt moments ago.
“You would never guess. The guy hit the jackpot. The bride-to-be is none other than Gina Ade-Cole. You know her, right?”
Yvonne did a quick memory search. Ah yes, Gina Ade-Cole – one of all these Lagos society girls, who were famous for nothing but coming from a moneyed family. The Ade-Coles were big and rich, and Gina was a spoilt only daughter who had dabbled in many things all in the name of making a career for herself; fashion designing, television ad model, music video vixen, a trip to Big Brother Africa’s House, even a short stint in Nollywood – none of the career paths ever panned out. When you had the kind of money the Ade-Coles had, Yvonne thought snidely, perhaps it was okay to sift through vocations the way one does when shopping for clothes in a boutique.
And now she apparently had discovered marriage. Who knew how long that would last?
Cynthia seemed to be thinking along the same lines as her, because she was saying, “Nothing ever keeps that girl’s interest for long, and now we’re suppose to believe she wants to settle down as a Mrs? Puhleeze. In a way, they deserve each other. After what that bastard did to you –”
“Cee-Cee, please, not in church,” Yvonne cut in, her tone low. A woman passing them on the aisle had heard Cynthia cussing and gave them an affronted look. “Besides, I wish them well. Honestly. I want Alfred to be happy.”
Cynthia shot her a look, as though she was trying to gauge the level of sarcasm in her words.
“I’m serious,” Yvonne said with a small laugh.
“Right.” She stretched out the syllables of the word as a strong expression of her skepticism.
“Seriously, I’m serious.”
“Repeating the word ‘serious’ won’t get me to believe you, you know.”
“Well, believe what you will.” She came to a stop in the queue that was forming before the priest that had signaled them. “It’s been five years now. I’ve moved on. And I’m fine with the fact that he’s moving on.”
“Well, if the talk about town is true, then he’s been moving on several times and quite well since you two broke up.”
“Stop, Cynthia.” Yvonne chuckled again. “Stop trying to get me riled up. I’m genuinely happy for Alfred. And I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. You can’t be. You’re supposed to get really mad. Alfred was the love of your life, for heaven’s sake!”
“Well, I’ve got a new love of my life.” She waved the fingers of her left hand in Cynthia’s face. A gold band gleamed dully on the ring finger. “My husband. You do remember him, don’t you? Obiora, the man who has provided a home for me and our son for the past five years?” Her sarcasm was present and thick this time.
Cynthia made a scoffing sound and looked away from her, focusing on the priest as he approached them. Yvonne knew [pullquote]Cynthia made a scoffing sound and looked away from her, focusing on the priest as he approached them. Yvonne knew what her friends thought about her relationships. In their opinion, Alfred had hurt her deeply; she had started dating too quickly after the breakup; and Obiora didn’t hold a torch to Alfred in the looks or charming personality department. In the days after her relationship with Obiora became public, her friends had protested it. Yvonne, what do you think you’re doing? Are you sure about this? If you’re going on a rebound, at least do it with someone hotter than your ex. [/pullquote]what her friends thought about her relationships. In their opinion, Alfred had hurt her deeply; she had started dating too quickly after the breakup; and Obiora didn’t hold a torch to Alfred in the looks or charming personality department. In the days after her relationship with Obiora became public, her friends had protested it. Yvonne, what do you think you’re doing? Are you sure about this? If you’re going on a rebound, at least do it with someone hotter than your ex. The reproach had come fast and furious, but she wasn’t bothered. And when, a month later, she announced that she was getting married to Obiora, the protestations turned into an uproar. Now, five years later, she had moments when she wondered if they’d been right. When the service was over, the two friends walked out into the bright morning sunshine. They both had their jobs to get back to, and their workplaces were on the same side of town in Lagos Island. Yvonne, who didn’t own a car, had to ride shotgun with Cynthia. As her friend pulled her Honda into the traffic of Yaba, she looked out her window, and her mind trekked back down memory lane, back to the day when Alfred broke her heart. His betrayal hadn’t even been original. It happened on the night that was their engagement party, a lavish ceremony thrown by one of his friends in his palatial apartment. She had walked in on her fiancé screwing Stella, a friend of hers, against the wall of the storeroom; she’d thought the room was the guest restroom. She still remembered the look of rapturous delight that was etched on Stella’s face as Alfred ground up against her and the strength of her taloned grip on his shoulders as they both grunted in their pleasure. It was Stella who saw her first. Her eyes fluttered open, settled on her, widened with shock, and a gasp trembled through her lips. She attempted to push Alfred away from her, but he resisted. Then she hissed Yvonne’s name and he stiffened, before slowly turning around until he saw her, saw the stark emotions of hate and misery chasing themselves on her face, a clear indication that the engagement – and relationship – had just come to a screeching end.
But that was five years ago. In that time, she’s had a son, made a family and formed a new life for herself. That all-consuming hurt that threatened to overtake her from that day was now nothing more than a twinge. Alfred was getting married, and she was fine with it. Really, she was. Besides, today marked the beginning of Lent, a purgatorial season that was about a lot of things, one of which was to let go all ills and anything that would hold her back to the bitterness of the past. She had forgiven Alfred, and she was fine. Really, she was.
“Hey, girl, are you okay?” Cynthia’s voice pulled her from her reverie. “You look a little lost.”
She gave her a bright smile and said, “I’m fine.”
To be continued in the next issue of GoWoman Magazine
Image Source: The Grio