My world rocked the moment Alfred went on one knee and popped the question.
“Samantha, will you marry me?”
My ears rang. My head reeled. I gripped my fork with all my strength till my knuckles whitened. I looked around the table and watched my parents startled faces. They all froze, listening in silence as Alfred went on and on about how my love completed him and how nice my family has been to him.
By the time, he finished his eloquent speech, tears were already dripping down my eyes. I knew it was too sudden. Three months was too short for a man to propose. It was too short to get to know someone completely. Yet, I knew enough to know that I loved him. Enough to know that my heart yearned for no other but him.
“Yes, yes! Yes! I will marry you.” I said, laughing and crying as he slipped a huge green sapphire ring on my middle finger. Then,he pulled me in for a hug. I held on,pressing kisses on his face. My hand ran along his back. I didn’t hear my parent’s laughter or claps. All I saw was Alfred.
My eyes roamed over him. The way his navy blue blazer hugged his broad shoulders and the way his black tie knotted at the base of his neck. I looked up to his face. The full black beard against his fair skin. I watched his lips stretch into a smile. I watched a long jagged scar lined the side of his chin stretch as he smiled.
I ran my fingers over the scar. I felt him shudder. His face shone in love and joy. I remember that scar so well. I remember the very first day we met.
It was on a rainy morning. I was stuck in the traffic on my way to work. I gripped the steering wheel of my salon car and muttered curses at the government, the bad roads, my chief consultant, my stupid ex and everyone else who has made my life difficult.
It was in this mood that I looked out the window and saw a crowd of people clustered around a compressed range rover car half buried in a tree trunk by the side of the road. Shattered glasses littered the floor.
I wanted to drive past but something urged me to stop. Flinging open my car door, I grabbed my telescope and first aid box from my back seat and rushed to the scene. Pushing past the thick mob of heads surrounding the bruised car, murmuring,
“Oh God.. Chi m o…
It’s like he is dead. No, he is not…
Ekwensu ajo ka! The man don die.”
Opinions rose but no one raised a finger
Some were smacking their hands. Others were sighing. I fought my way to get to the car. He was sprawled against the steering wheel of his car. Blood sipped from his ears and nose.
I reached for his neck and checked his pulse.
“Don’t die, please!” I muttered beneath my breath. My breath froze in my nose as I waited. Then, I felt it. A faint vibration of his pulse. Hope glowed in my heart.
“Move back!” I shouted. My voice pierced the idle chatter around me. “I need to get this man to the hospital now!”
I pulled his arm around my neck, my left arm went round his bleeding side. He was losing too much blood. Three men walked up to help me. Alfred’s breath labored.
“Fast!” I shouted. Pressing my hands over his bleeding chest. We were losing him. I could feel it. His eyes fluttered and held mine.
“He… Hel…help me…” he said before he slumped against me and drifted into unconsciousness.
I don’t know what it was exactly. Perhaps it was the reflex response medical oath inculcates in all doctors or it could be the throaty baritone sound of his voice that pushed me into action, I can’t tell. In five long strides, the men dropped him in the back of my car. My blue gown was drenched in his blood. My white lab coat, soiled.
How I made the 40 mins ride to Avana hospital in 10mins still baffled me. In the next three weeks, we battled for his life. Three weeks of intensive care. Three weeks of endless prayers. Three weeks of rooting for a stranger I didn’t even know his name.
Three weeks later, he came back to life. His scars began to heal to reveal a chiseled masculine frame. His pain ceased and his handsome face glowed.
Friendship grew from the stem of gratitude.
“I owe you my life, Samantha,” he would always say.
So, the first time, he kissed me. I wondered if he was kissing the woman in me or he was kissing his idea of a savior. I wondered if he felt the kind of desire I felt deep within me. Weeks became months and our passion grew.
So, the night, Alfred popped the question was the happiest day of my life.
Two months later, the marriage preparations had began. I wanted a big wedding. One everyone would attend– Alfred’s family, my family, my friends especially my best friend, Benita, who was doing her master’s in Canada.
A day to my wedding, I arrived at the airport and waited till Benita’s flight arrived. In the long drive home, I filled her in on my love affair with my man. She was happy for me. Screaming that it was awesome that I finally let myself love again after my last heartbreak.
Love hasn’t been fair on the two of us. When Benita was in Nigeria, I was always there to wipe her tears when her lovers pierced her heart. And she was there for me when Kunle dumped me on our graduation dinner in the middle of the damned dance floor. Benita had charged at him, her fingers clawing over his face. That night, curled in her bed, we cried and drank and threw our cares to the winds. She told me that no matter what Kunle or another person did, she would always be here for me. And she was true to her words.
So,my finding love again was a big deal for her. She was all smiles but then, I saw her eyes dim. I watched her twist the diamond ring in her finger. Tears shone in her eyes.
I pulled the car over and took her in my arms. I knew she was still mourning her fiancé. A guy that had left over five months ago and hadn’t called her since. She did not know what to think. We have talked about this a million times over the phone.
“I am sorry for ruining your joy.” she whispered. Tears rolled down her eyes. “it’s just that I miss him so much.”
“He will come back, Beni, trust me.” I said,wiping her tears with the edge of her gown.
“When? When Samantha? I don’t know what to do. His baby grows in me!”
Shock rocked me. My eyes fixated on her belly. It was hidden behind her blue maxi gown. I reached towards her. My hand slide across her bump. Her tears dripped to me hand.
I pulled her in my embrace.
” You will be fine, Beni. We will pull through this together.I am here for you.”
Ten minutes later, we drove through the large gold gates of my father’s compound. The place was abuzz with activity. Mum was organizing the servants carrying the kitchen utensils. The gardeners were cutting the flowers. Father was drinking with some friends by the poolside. Their laughter bellowed in the air. I searched for Alfred.
My eyes roamed from the gigantic pillars that held my father’s massive duplex to the car park that seats beside the gardens.
He was not in sight. Then, I sensed him behind me. Joy rose in my chest. His arms wrapped around my body from behind. A smile broke across my face. I didn’t need to turn before I knew it was Alfred. I could smell the airy scent of his cologne.
“How is my angel getting ready for our big day?” he whispered in my ears.
I turned. A smile dancing in my lips.
“Alfred, I want you to meet Beni…”
” Benita! ” Alfred completed. His eyes reeled in shock. The flowers he was holding slipped out his grip.
“Freddie!” Benita whispered. “Impossible!”
Her voice trembled. She staggered. Staring from her diamond ring, to Alfred, then to me.
“Why, Freddie? You left me. Left our baby. Why?” her hand rubbed against her swollen belly. Tears dripped from her eyes.
I stood there, stunned. My breath froze in my nostrils. Benita and Alfred. No… No… Pain gripped my heart.
“Benita, You’re pregnant?” Alfred murmured as he dropped on his knees. Disbelief shone in his eyes as he stared at her bump. His voice trembled as he spoke.
“I am sorry. I didn’t mean to. Everything changed the day I came back to Nigeria. I had an accident. Samantha saved my life.”
“What about me, Freddie? What about our child?”
Alfred’s shoulders drooped. His hands held his head.
“What do we do now?” I whispered. Fear clung to me. I felt him slipping from my grip.
Alfred looked up. His eyes roamed from me to Benita.
“I don’t know,” he whispered. “I love you both dearly.”
Aunty Carol, please advise me. What do I do? What should Alfred do? Do we go ahead with the wedding? What happens to Benita’s baby?
READ ALSO DEAR AUNTY CAROL
WRITTEN BY CHIOMA NGAIKEDI.