In case you missed Episode 1, you read it up here!
Happy Reading ****
Nduke sat there in silence for a long time. She could not believe her ears. Her boyfriend of four years was getting married to someone else, just like that? Questions without answers had tormented her all the while. Her stomach plummeted. She became uncomfortable in his presence. She didn’t want him to see her cry.
” So this was no rumor, it was true.” She muttered and then turned to him “And if you don’t marry her, what is gonna happen?” She finally asked the question that was in her mind.
“Everything will go wrong. But I am not gonna leave you. You will always be my love. what’s in my head is difficult. I can’t really say. I wish I can just vanish with just you.” Inibehe said tearily.
“You’re not a baby!” She yelled.
“You won’t understand what this will mean to my mother.” He retorted.
Nduke was frustrated, it was written all over her face. Inibehe noticed it and held her hands. But she pushed him away and stood to walk away.
“Don’t ever talk to me again.” She said with a painful tone and tried to walk away. But Inibehe held her tight. “I am never gonna leave you, I just want you to be with me till I can handle this.”
“Till when you’ve married her? A wedding date has been fixed for the both of you! lie to me again, deceive me! tell me you have not got your wedding suit ready! lie to me!” She said tearily and pushed him off and walked out of the room.
When she knew that Inibehe was following her behind, she began to strode and then run. He ran after her.
“I beg you in the name of God, just wait!” Inibehe said aloud. But she didn’t turn, she kept running. He ran after her as fast as he could and held her backwardly.
“You’re my life! you’re everything to me. I love you just like Christ loves the church!”
Inibehe said thoughtfully.
“Leave me alone!” she screamed tearily.
But he kept holding her even firmer to his body until he thought she’d given up. He turned her face to his and began to kiss her, she responded after few moments and then slapped his face. “Get off me!” She pushed him away and ran off.
He was weak and tired. He couldn’t run after her anymore. But he walked gently to her hostel. When she knew he was right in front of the house, she locked the door. He sat there begging till midnight. He became cold and walked back slowly to his apartment.
The morning of the graduation came, and Inibehe could not still believe he was leaving London for Nigeria. The news of his wedding to Uduak was announced that morning at the chapel, just after morning devotion. The entire school applauded thunderously and screamed excitedly as they heard of the wedding of their proprietor’s son.
Serena’s heart trembled. She turned to see Nduke and saw her walking out of the chapel.
She ran after her and said, “I am sorry this hurts.” She said shrilly.
“He loves you. I saw it in his eyes when the wedding was announced in there.”
“Go back to the chapel,” Nduke said calmly.
The graduation time was set. There were music, drama presentation, and farewell speeches. Just after Inibehe got his congratulatory letter from the reverend, his brother appeared with his sister, his wife, and Uduak. His heart trembled. His father didn’t tell him that Uduak was going to be in London too.
Uduak ran towards him and hugged him excitedly. Inibehe’s eyes caught Nduke stare at him with pains in her own eyes. He looked guilty as sin. Fury washed away Nduke as pastor Mfon gave a congratulatory message, representing his father the bishop.
The graduation was not exciting for Nduke, her foster mom, lady Irene had called to congratulate her, but didn’t have enough money to attend her graduation in London.
After the congratulatory message by Pastor Mfon, he announced again of his brother’s wedding to Uduak, and even went ahead to introduce Uduak as Inibehe’s fiancé.
Nduke became strong and bold. She managed a glare, hoping he couldn’t hear the way her heart was trying to pound its way free of her chest.
On the night of the graduation, Just after the ordination, a gospel party was thrown at the school auditorium for the graduates.
Uduak, Mfon, Inibehe, and Eno were seated on the same table. They had a sip of the heavens wine over again until it finished and they demanded for another one.
“This doesn’t taste like the Nigerian table wine,” Eno said to Mfon.
“Of course not. My daddy used to buy a lot of this when he visited here.” Uduak said.
Eno stared at her meanly and said, “I wasn’t talking to you. I am talking to my husband.”
Mfon was already tired of trying to stop the bicker between his wife and Uduak, he just gave a loud sigh and shook his head.
Inibehe was searching for Nduke with his eyes in the crowd.
When he finally caught a glimpse of her in the crowd trying to walk herself out of the door, he got up and followed her.
She went to have a sip of the dark rum she’d used in baking her birthday cake.
She gulped down the last sip of it and threw the bottle on the sandy floor. He was right behind her, but she wasn’t aware. A sudden cold wind gusted on her. She held herself together and strolled toward the school beach side. It was lonely and cold, but the dark rum kept her warm. She couldn’t think of anything else but Inibehe, the picture of him appeared in her head. She stared at the waters, the way it unfolds itself and scattered into the sands, running toward her. She was not aware that Inibehe was right behind him.
“Nduke….” He called out her name so gently she felt an inexplicable need to cry. She knew it was him, the sound of his voice skipped her heart. He looked like a man ready for a confrontation.
“I won’t let you go, I promise. Don’t be sad.”
His voice ran like a caress over nerves stretched too tight. She fought an urge to throw herself into his arms.
“There’s a storm coming in, you have to stand with me. You have to stand with me in this storm because there will be no umbrella.” He hugged her backwardly, her scented body lotion thrilled the moment.
Her hand lifted to stop him, but he held them tight and began to kiss her again.
Inibehe knew it might be the last time he was going to kiss her that way, so he kissed her even deeper and more passionately that she felt the impact when he released her lips and took it back like he was never going to let it go.
As they sank into the white sand by the beachside, she told herself that she was going to forsake her ego and be with the love of her life. His presence still managed to take a lot of hurts and sad feelings away at the moment.
He cried when she took his hands to her chest. “Make love to me for the last time.” She said. He flashed her grin and her heart stood still. How was it possible to feel so enervated, yet so completely aware all at that same time?
“I won’t make love to you. Let’s get married here and now.”
“How? No pastor to bless us.”
“We are pastors, we were ordained today. God is here already. Let’s make vows. look…” He brought out a necklace that had a picture of him inside a tiny frame. And showed her the one that had a picture of her inside a closed tiny frame too.
Ridiculous tears stung her eyes.
Inibehe hung the necklace that had his picture on it on her neck. It was a gold necklace with a diamond pendant of their faces in it. He took her hands and cut her fingers with a tiny blade.
“Ouch!” She exclaimed painfully. He licked the blood in her hands without seeking for her permission. He then cut his hands with the blade and she licked his blood too without hesitation.
“I will love you forever.” He said with so much passion.
“I will love you forever too.” He withdrew his hand slowly, trailing it over her skin. It began to rain softly, and then the wind driven rain began to beat them. He began to giggle, while she laughed. But there was still sadness in her eyes.
“I can’t believe I did this.” He said. “I just wanna prove to you that I can’t ever love someone else.” He said, staring at her as if he were trying to see past her words, to read her thoughts.
They didn’t make love. He couldn’t just do it. He felt he was taking advantage of her body simply because she would let him. They hugged themselves in the rain until the icy cold ran through their spines.
He’d dreamed about her, her remarkable eyes, but he’d only pictured them filled with sadness that nearly matched his own.
He woke up in the middle of the night and thought of Nduke. He knew she wasn’t sleeping too. In the instant, he took his mind to the beach side, where they’d been a few hours ago.
When he noticed that someone was sitting by the bed, he turned to see who it was. It was Uduak. She’d left the room she was given at the guest quarters to come stay with him. She was reading a bible. Inibehe was amazed when he saw her.
“What are you doing here?” He asked, and sat up slowly.
“You left us at the party and didn’t tell me where you were going, that was disrespectful. You walked in here drained in the rain. I saw you from the quarters.” Uduak said softly.
“You have no right to be in my room simply because you and I are getting married. Get out!” He yelled at her.
“I didn’t come here to inconvenience you, I came for us to pray together for our upcoming wedding.”
“I do not have what to tell the lord about the wedding. If you have what to say to him, do it. But not here. The school chapel isn’t far from here, go there.” He pointed to the door.
He watched her face change to a confused state.
Uduak reached for her umbrella and stood to walk out.
“May the Lord forgive you for disrespecting his princess. No man has ever done that,” she said girlishly.
“Get out of my room. Proud brat!”
“I am proud to be the Lord’s child.”
Uduak walked out of the room without looking back. She was proud, arrogant but gentle. The brothers in church called her ‘the holy bitch’. Being the only daughter of the most popular ash bishop Ebebe Ekpeyong gave her the power and authority to dare and command. She was privileged and could walk away with a lot of misconducts without being asked questions. The only man she was going to bow to was Inibehe, but he was not ready to accept her humility.
She was shaking as she walked in the rain back to the guest quarters.
Inibehe could not sleep anymore. He took his raincoat and took a stroll to Nduke’s hostel.
He knocked on the door just once, and it clicked open immediately. It was like she was expecting him. Her eyes were filled with tears.
Inibehe sensed there was more going on in her heart; The pains of separation.
She hugged him tight.
“My flight is 9 am in the morning.” Inibehe broke the silence.
Panic edged her voice up an octave. She was shaking and he had to grip her arm to prevent her from getting out of his arms.
Her eyes were wet and wide, dark orbs.
“You’re still getting married to her?” She broke out in tears. The smell of alcohol flew out from her mouth. She was obviously shaken.
Inibehe was mute. He couldn’t say anything to her anymore. A horrible thought skated through her mind. She pushed him off and walked to her bed.
“I should have known you were not meant for me before I made that odd with you. You’re getting married to someone else. ”
A loud rumble of thunder made her scared like she was going crazy.
She began to tear her clothes apart, then her brassiere, and then her panties. “Make love to me for the last time!” She said softly.
Lightning flared, making her freckles stand against her pale face.
“We can’t do this anymore.” He whispered.
“Do it now!” She yelled at him. He became embarrassed. He began to unbutton his shirts, while she rushed to his lips.
The rain showed no sign of slackening.
Frustration hammered at him, matching the rhythm of the rain.
They made love staring at each other’s eyes. He had noticed the sadness in her face again, and he wished he could kiss them away. The room was as silent as a tomb, only the sounds of their moans were heard for a long time.
As the sky lit again, he knew it was time to leave London.
Uduak and his sister rolled his luggage and to the car, while his elder brother pastor Mfon waited in the car for him. He walked reluctantly toward the car, while he stared at Nduke’s hostel from afar. His heart was broken and he couldn’t imagine how Nduke felt.
Arriving Nigeria was not a thing of joy for him.
The bishop and his entourage had waited patiently for them to arrive, and when they finally did, he’d welcome his children with a delightful heart.
“We have to pay a visit to Prophet Nathaniel Edem my mentor, he just returned from the U.S yesterday, and he would like to meet you and your fiancé,” Bishop said to Inibehe, holding his hands in excitement. But he said nothing to his father. They all walked behind him like his escorts, but he led the way to where the cars were parked.
Prophet Nathaniel’s edifice was as big as Bishop Cosmos’ edifice. They were both influential and wealthy men but one person submitted to the other.
Bishop Cosmos took Nathaniel as an earthly god. His prophecies were real because he believed he heard directly from God.
“My father…” The bishop greeted the prophet, almost prostrating, just as he walked into his large sitting room with Inibehe and Uduak. He was seated on a royal stool that looked like a throne. He had grey hairs and grey beards. Pastor Nathaniel was a fine old man in his mid-seventies with an umber toned skin.
“Bishop Cosmos, welcome to my home. Have a seat please.” He said softly.
It was only Uduak and Inibehe who followed him behind, the rest of them were seated in the car.
“What do I hold this visit, Bishop?”
Prophet Nathaniel asked.
“My second son Inibehe just graduated from Missionary school, he will be getting married in a month time.”
Prophet Nathaniel shook his head as he listened and watched the bishop introduce his son and Uduak.
The Prophet stared at Inibehe for a long time like someone was whispering words to his ears about Inibehe.
“But his soul is already tied to someone else. I am seeing a strong bond with another woman.” He said.
The bishop glared at Inibehe and took away his eyes immediately. He was upset, it wasn’t what he wanted to hear.
Uduak’s face turned red, she sagged suddenly with terror. She was embarrassed. She put her face down.
“What bond man of God?” The bishop asked in a confused state.
“He knows what I’m talking about. He is already married to someone else. I am seeing it in the spiritual realm.” The prophet said and then turned to the bishop.
“Why did you send him to the missionary school? He is not supposed to be there. I warned you when he was seventeen, but you still took him there.”
“My wife insisted.” Bishop retorted.
“I am not seeing a pastor in him Cosmos. There will be problem, serious problem at where he will serve. This woman right here is not his.”
“God forbid,” Uduak said clapping her hands away.
The prophet turned to her and said, “He is not yours. He is someone else’s soul mate.”
“So what can we do to make things right? I want him to marry her and take over one of the churches.” The bishop said, he was looking bothered.
“Let me get my anointing oil and wish them good luck. The message God sent to me is what I passed across.” He said boldly and walked away, then appeared with a bottle of anointing oil. Inibehe, Uduak and the bishop knelt before him, he placed the olive oil on their forehead and began to mutter words of prayers..
“God change things around…”
Inibehe’s mind had traveled far to London. He became restless as the prayer was going on. Uduak hung her hands across his shoulder as the prayer was going on. She’d expected him to take it off as usual, but he didn’t. He knelt there with her hands on his shoulder.
“Oh God, thank you…” She whispered.
After such a long prayer, Inibehe had thought his love for Nduke was going to reduce and his likeness for Uduak was going to increase. But nothing changed.
The prophet handed the anointing oil in a bottle to Uduak.
“Uduak, after your wedding, break this bottle at the entrance to your house and tell God to take away every strange woman and cut off the bond from Inibehe.”
Uduak collected it with a grateful heart. While Inibehe stared at them like it never concerned him. He wanted to leave there to the house. Find himself a bed, and lie there thinking of his faraway lover.
Uduak will break the olive oil and pray with all strength to the lord, She will tell God to take away the strange woman and break every bond she’d had with her husband.
That night, after Inibehe rested and tried to have dinner, his father talked to him again about the strange woman.
“If there is a woman, let her go. Make your mother proud. Her soul isn’t at rest until you marry Uduak.”
Talking of Lady Valerie’s soul being at rest, Inibehe saw her in his dreams that night; she was wearing the blue rocky pyjamas he’d bought for her on her fiftieth birthday.
“You will grant my heart desires my son and make me rest well.”
Inibehe had wondered why getting married to Uduak meant so much to his late mother.
Nothing changed. He still saw himself thinking of Nduke.
He’d wanted to dial her number that night, but he didn’t.
He removed his sim card from his phone and began to eat it. He strolled downstairs and handed the phone to his personal driver Faro. “I dash you. Tomorrow you will take me to the nearest slot to get a new phone and a new sim.” He said boldly, he didn’t wait for Faro to tell him thank you.
He was not himself for a while, until the next morning, where he woke into a new dawn with a mindset that wasn’t approved by his heart. It was his ego. He listened to it more than his heart.
But he didn’t remember the necklace around his neck; It seemed invincible.
Windswept against the house, rattling the bank of windows with a mournful howl. Inibehe thrust his hands into his pocket and brought out his new phone. Not that there was anything to see, apart from the prewedding pictures he took with Uduak. He was at his new apartment at shelter Afrique; the beautiful mansion his father built for him alongside with one of the biggest churches in Uyo.
The Opulent house was as silent as a graveyard. The compound had been designed like a British house, and with a privacy In mind. Thick stands of evergreens sheltered the house and the outbuildings from prying eyes.
Alongside the house, a jeep and a driver was given to him too.
“You have made your mother and I proud.” Bishop Cosmos said as he gave Inibehe the car keys.
Running his hand through his hair, he wondered what Nduke was doing at that moment. He gazed into the dark, richly paneled office he had in his house. The scent of old cigar smoke lingered in the dark burgundy carpeting and the expensively upholstered guest chairs.
The room lamps seemed like it wasn’t working. As if the bulbs were taken out of it, and it stayed there in the darkness. Inibehe knew just how the lamp felt; like him, what brightened his life had been taken away from him, he thought. He could almost feel Nduke’s presence with him in the room. He strode to the ornately carved serving table, uncorked the heavy lead crystal decanter and poured himself a snifter of the very expensive brandy he’d secretly bought from London. He hated brandy, he hated alcohol, yet it seemed oddly appropriate at the moment.
He lifted the glass in mocking salute to his imaginary Nduke. “One love my heart desire.” And he swallowed a healthy dose of the thick syrupy alcohol. Instantly, liquid fire seared a path straight down his throat. He managed not to choke.
There was a delicate knock and Uduak went inside the room without waiting for his response. Her gaze went straight to the glass in his hand and her worried expression deepened.
“You’re taking alcohol on our wedding eve?” She asked with a disturbed tone.
Inibehe had forgotten the next day was his wedding, It just occurred to him that he was getting married the next day to a girl he’d hated from childhood.
“You’re not supposed to be here until after the wedding. It’s a taboo. Get out…”
“What’s going on here? A pastor isn’t supposed to have alcohol in his house. it is sinful.”
“Don’t pull a scene here, just get out. We will meet tomorrow in church.”
“No, I won’t!” Uduak said tearily and walked slowly toward him. She glided forward, letting her soft fingers linger against his skin in subtle invitation. Her perfume mingled with the scent of brandy.
“I have loved you since we were teenagers.” She kissed his forehead.
“Tomorrow we will be getting married.”
All Inibehe heard was Nduke’s voice, all he saw was her face on Uduak’s body.
He held her face with one hand and began to kiss her.
Uduak became excitedly surprised.
“My 28 days fasting has worked, thank you, Jesus!” She muttered. “This is incredible, you’re kissing me.” She tried to mutter some words while she responded to his kisses.
“I am in love with a girl in London,” Inibehe said tipsily.
“We definitely don’t want to stir up a lot of negative talk here. Don’t ever say that to me again. The lord has taken her far, far away from you.” She said with a frown.
Inibehe ignored her rebuke.
Uduak couldn’t help but hug him tight to herself.
“Tomorrow, you will be my husband.”
Her hand lingered against his skin. As she gazed at him earnestly, all he saw on her was the picture of Nduke. He couldn’t miss the subtle invitation in her eyes. poised, confident, experienced, Inibehe was sexy, intelligent and attractive.
“I have to sleep well. Tomorrow we shall meet in church and then we shall tie our own bond.” He watched the subtle sway of her hips as she left, closing the door behind her. But he’d only imagine Nduke in her, all he saw was Nduke.
Looking at her perfectly fitted wedding gown, Uduak’s mother, Mrs. Ebebe stared at her daughter in admiration. She was proud of her.
“I see love in your own eyes, I see joy. But I do not see love in his own eyes.” Mrs. Ebebe said inquisitively.
“He loves me, mama, he tells me that all the time.”
“Prophetess Nene was right then. She finally bought his heart for you. We should go back to complete the tying of your souls together with the holy padlocks so that he can love you forever.”
“He does mama.” She retorted calmly before they moved to the church in the bridal convoy.
It was an exclusive wedding, the church auditorium was filled with influential guests from all over the world; mostly bishops and pastors. The church was lighted with chandeliers and expensive decorations. It was a big wedding.
Inibehe’s best friend Laurel was his best man, he’d come from Jamaica for his friend’s wedding.
“Guy, I know the woman you love has no money, no name, no clout, no connections. The woman you’ve finally chosen for a wife is a hoyden. I have met her once at ministers conference at Lagos. She can’t be compared to Nduke” He said with a sincere tone.
The image of Nduke had brought smile to his lips, even as the memories of her refused to vanish.
“Did my dad tell you of this wedding?” Inibehe asked.
“Nope. your elder brother called me a few weeks ago, sent me a ticket cash and said I was going to be your best man. I tried calling you to find out why this sudden unexpected wedding. Your number didn’t go. I just had to come. Now I am here. mehn, why didn’t you call to say I was gonna be your best man?” Laurel asked.
“I don’t know. You know this isn’t what I want. My family’s agenda has always been the ministry, married to whoever mom gives you and then back to the family business which is going back to the ministry.” He said as Laurel helped him button his suit.
Laurel skidded to a halt when he spied the brandy snifter. “I thought you hated brandy?”
“I need to have more of that before I walk down that aisle,” Inibehe said as he poured some of it into a glass and gulped down immediately. Laurel looked at him amazingly.
“Oboy! what happened to you? I need that too.” Laurel said and got the glass from him, he poured his own drink and gulped it down his throat too.
They sat down and talked about London and Nduke for a long time without remembering what day it was. Their conversation was interrupted by Inibehe’s phone. When he saw that it was his father calling, he remembered that he was getting married that day.
Uduak had almost cried when she waited in the car for so long and didn’t see her groom.
She suddenly smiled from afar when she saw his car entering the church premises.
“He is here” the people around her whispered joyously.
As Inibehe alighted from the car he smiled. He’d been twenty-two years when his mother told him he was going to marry Uduak Ebebe. He’d taken it as one of his mother’s wishes, but it didn’t occur to him that she meant it.
“You will love her as your own and take her as your wife.” So today, even in a hurry he’d remembered every single word his loving mother said. He’d granted only one wish she’d wanted, and that was getting married to Uduak, loving her was something he never thought of.
When he was almost at the podium, he turned back for one final look to see if he was going to see Nduke.
A moment later, Uduak walked down the aisle in the arms of her rich father. She was obviously happy.
Inibehe stared at her as she walked down to him, she was beautiful and attractive, but not like his Nduke. He’d wished it was his Nduke who was walking toward him. He’d already imagined what she would have looked like, a fairytale princess in her dreadlocks.
When Uduak smiled at Inibehe with that open, innocent smile, he stopped thinking about Nduke. He made up his mind to get her off his heart and replace her with his lawfully wedded wife.
When Bishop Charisma asked, “Is there anyone who doesn’t want this marriage to hold?” There was great silence that only the sound of ceiling fans was heard from the large crowd.
Inibehe had wished that Nduke had stood up to claim him as the man who had promised to love her forever and no one else. But the time had passed. By the time his thoughts were over, he exchanged marital vows.
There was an edginess to his voice that bellied his casual slouch when he said: “Yes I do.” He knew in his inner mind, that at this time, the mouth speaks not what the heart thinks. He was lying and he knew it.
Though noon, the gray sun offered little warmth as Uduak and Inibehe danced into the reception hall. It was a large hall, filled with people. Inibehe had wondered where all these people came from. When he saw that Celebrity wedding presenters and video men were there, he knew that Nduke was going to see him on television. Her heart will be broken and she will cry all through the night thinking of the vows he’d made to Uduak.
Uduak forgot to inhale when she knew she’d finally been joined together in holy matrimony with the man she loved. But Inibehe’s face had not changed; right from church, there was no single smile that appeared by mistake. Embarrassed, he forced himself not to look away when the flashlights from the photographers twinkled on his dry face.
“Oboy, smile a bit, it’s your day,” Laurel whispered to his ears when they were about to cut the huge, tall classic 15 tiers cake Uduak’s mother ordered from the French bakery. Inibehe hadn’t paid any attention at the event. He was tensed, bittered and heartbroken.
“Congratulations my darling inlaw.” Eno hugged Inibehe as she held his hands and walked away, out of the crowd of people who were presenting gifts to Sifon who was the chief bridesmaid and Laurel the best man. Laurel had fallen in love with Sifon, but when he recalled what Inibehe said about the family agenda, he took his heart off her. They had exchanged phone numbers, Laurel wasn’t sure if this was going to work out. They’d better be good friends instead.
“I know what’s in your mind, in your heart. Follow it, whatever you did today was to impress the family. Your elder brother and I were fortunate to have loved each other, even when we married by proxy. I tried to let your mother out of our life affairs when we finally got married, I really tried.”
“I am hurt,” Inibehe said, bursting into a soft cry.
“Don’t be. Do what makes you happy, no matter the barrier. Life is once. You can make a mistake in every other aspect of life, but the mistake of a life partner isn’t what should be experienced.”
A stinking feeling settled over him.
“Why didn’t you say this to me since? We sat together in the car when we’re going to Essien Ukana for her introduction.” Inibehe said.
“Your brother was seating right next to me. Of course, you know he wouldn’t have been happy to hear me say those things to you.”
Inibehe’s gaze shifted away to where Uduak stood. She was smiling and hugging guests. He exhaled and winced. More than anything, he wished this conversation wasn’t taking place.
“We will be leaving for America in two days. Your brother will tell you. May the Lord Jesus dwell with you.” she whispered.
“Mommy see…see.” Her two-year-old daughter Mimi who was the little bride appeared in her white barbie gown, she showed her mother the bead that fell off from her dress.
Inibehe carried her joyously, turning her around playfully. It was the first time he’d smiled for the day.
Uduak stared at him from where she stood, and thought in her heart, that Inibehe was going to be a good father.
Author: Vicky Bon Uzor