The woman squatted over the basket for a prolonged hypnotized moment, with her shadow washing over the small face of the crying baby. “I am a terrible mother, I know,” she muttered, staring back into the unstable eyes of the baby in the basket. The tiny legs of the baby in the wooden waterproof basket-like craft kicked in protest as small balls of tears rolled out of her eyes. The sound of rushing water, calm and serene couldn’t begin to sooth the woman’s troubled soul. She had to be brave! Brave for this little soul. The baby’s shrill cry rang out, echoing against the water in a battle of wits.
A tear drop rolled out of the woman’s eye, falling on the baby’s head. She wiped at her eyes. “But you know this is the best thing for you, right? It’s the only thing I can do” the child wailed in response. She swallowed hard, feeling her throat burn from the force to hold back unshed tears. She desired to hold her child one last time. To hold the precious bundle that had been her source of excruciating pain and also undiluted happiness. She longed to hold the trophy that life had bestowed on her after months of continuous hardship; but she feared… she feared if she held her little Atinuke once again, she might not be able to let her go. She might not be able to do the one thing that she had to do for Atinuke’s sake.
One last time! she told herself as her hands moved involuntarily to the crying baby. Swallowing hard, the woman lifted the crying child from the little craft. Atinuke groped desperately for her mother’s bosom, trying to renew the cord of connection that bound a mother to her child. The woman held Atinuke to her chest, making a seat for herself on the dirty riverbank floor, rocking her back and forth as she sang her favorite lullaby – the one that always put her to sleep. Atinuke’s tiny hands clutched her mother, bringing tears to the woman’s eyes as she sang. How was she to let go of her only source of happiness? Her lips quivered as she sang, tears streaming down her face. Atinuke’s eyes slowly drifted close and her mother held her until she was sound asleep, not wanting to let go but knowing she must. She put Atinuke back into the craft, carefully unplugging the tiny hands clutching her cloth even in sleep. There was no stopping her tears. “I love you, Tinu” she sobbed, “mummy loves you” she bent over and gave the sleeping child a lingering kiss on the forehead.
Unable to waste any more time, she lifted the basket and placed it on the river, her heart thudding in her chest. After a long lingering look at the innocent face of her daughter, she let go of the basket, stepping back as her tears came on river torrents. She watched her baby sail away from her, moving with the gentle flowing river. Her bosom ached and she crouched from the pain paralysing her heart. “If you never do another thing for me, God, please protect my baby girl… please…” she prayed, staring at the slowly disappearing craft. She extracted a water bottle and dipped it in the river, filling it with water. She rose and looked at the tiny craft almost vanishing from sight. “May the same spirit that protected Moses be with you, Tinu, till we meet again.” with that, she turned and walked away without a backwards glance.
(Several years later)
“Get up Laura,” Bolatito yelled as she hit Laura with a pillow. Laura squirmed and pulled the duvet over her head. Bolatito yanked on the duvet, dragging it off and Laura groaned, forcing her heavy lids open.
She waited for splits of seconds to allow her gaze focus before she finally snapped. “What?”
Bolatito gasped. “Don’t you know what today is?” she asked.
Laura scowled. “Saturday?” Why couldn’t she enjoy a good sleep? This is what you get for having your cousin be your best friend! It’s even worse that they have to stay under one roof. Laura’s brain was blank for some seconds as she wondered what could be so important that she needed to be jerked out of a well-deserved sleep. It’s a weekend for pete’s sake, she deserved the right to sleep for as long as… All of a sudden, sleep vanished from her eyes and she bolted up speedily like a released parachute. “It is my wedding day” she screamed in sudden realization and practically jumped off the bed.
Bolatito rolled her eyes, grinning. “You for stay for bed dey form sleeping beauty”
Laura’s eyes shot to the wall clock and was relieved that it was still so early in the morning. She stared at her cousin-turned-best friend, grinning at her; she squealed and jumped on her cousin, they both fell on the bed. “Oh Tito, it is my wedding day” Laura shrieked, bouncing on the bed while Bolatito tried to remove herself from the fluffy blanket.
“I know… I woke you up, remember?” Tito managed, catching her breath as she sat up.
Laura sighed and sat on bended knees. “Oh, blessed are my eyes for seeing this day,” she sighed again, grinning from ear to ear with eyes shining with love. “I can’t believe the day is finally here! The holder of the key to my heart is finally going to open the door to dwell in forever”. She grinned.
“Huh… Oshey… poetic mama,” Tito chuckled. “How long did you rehearse those lines?”
“Leave me joor” Laura sighed, grabbing the pillow and holding it to her chest as she stared at nothing in particular with a dreamy look in her eyes. “I am just so happy, Tito”.
“Your dreams are finally coming true, baby.” Bolatito said with a wide smile. “Anyone with eyes would know Deolu is the best man for you.”
Laura grinned, she did not seem to be able to stop grinning. “Yeah, right?”
“Yes! And in a few hours, you’d be Mrs Aderigbe” Tito declared.
Laura’s smile turned sour. “That’s the downside to it all.”
Tito rolled her eyes. “Here we go again.”
“That name is so not tush.”
Tito sighed as she stared blankly at Laura.
“Don’t look at me like that” she snapped, “I would no longer be Laura Johnson, but Laura Aderigbe” she mouthed with a slight grimace. “It doesn’t even flow.” she whined and sighed, as her eyes flashed with determination. “We’d have to tush it up. Make it something different, like… like Laura Derigs…” she twisted her mouth, then suddenly, her eyes brightened up, sparkling with new inspiration. “or better still, Laura Rigs. How come I never thought of that?”
Tito scowled. “No ooo, Rigs nikan ko, rugs ni… what are you rigging?” she chuckled.
Laura’s shoulders slumped. “Can’t I just retain Johnson? It is the in-thing now, you know? It’ll just be Laura A. Johnson”
Tito shook her head. “You are a case” she muttered, folding her hair into a shower cap.
The door jerked open. “Where is our bride?” Tito’s dad called from the entrance and Laura jumped up on the bed, running to give her uncle – Godfather – a hug. Mr Johnson enveloped her in a bear-sized hug. “Oh, my God, look at my baby girl” he pulled back to give his niece a visual rundown. “You look so beautiful, my dear.”
Tito scowled slightly. “But she is not even dressed yet, dad” Tito said.
Mr Johnson grinned. “Well, she has the glow of happiness radiating all over her. No makeover can achieve that” he returned then scowled slightly at Tito. “That’s the glow I’ve been hoping to see on your lovely face, my dear”.
Tito rolled her eyes. “Your hope is wasted on me”
“We’ll see about that” Mark said, turning to his niece. “Oh, my baby, you are now a fully grown woman. How time flies without our notice! It seems just like yesterday when your father placed your tiny form in my hands” she said.
“And by tiny, you mean water bottle size, since she is just little above that now” Tito said, grinning mischievously.
Laura scowled then exhaled. “Okay, I won’t let your snide comments get to me today. Small is the new sexy” It was a long time ago since she let her small figure get to her. With Deolu, she felt so complete. Her 5.1 had never been more right against Deolu’s tall frame. She felt feminine, fragile and powerful all at once.
“That’s the spirit! Finally, you get what I’ve been subtly trying to achieve. I knew Deolu was good for something”.
“Deolu is good for everything durr”
Mr Johnson shook his head at the two women before him, with a smile on his face. “Okay… what do we have here?” Mark Johnson pulled a small wrapped package into view and Laura’s eyes lit up like the fourth of July, though it was the sixth of June.
“Wedding gifts already?” Before Laura could touch it, Tito grabbed it, grinning like the gift was actually meant for her.
“I… I wanted to be the first to give you a wedding present” Her uncle explained, flushing with embarrassment.
Tears filled Laura’s eyes as she blinked. Snatching the gift from Tito, Laura sank onto the mattress and started tearing away the wrapper as her uncle and cousin watched with expectation in their eyes.
Tito’s gasp mingled with Laura’s as they unraveled the most beautiful jewelry Laura had ever set her eyes on. The silver costume which looked like an array of silver stones dazzled in the daylight, shimmering with extreme beauty.
“Oh my God! Its so beautiful” Tito gasped in awe.
Laura stared speechlessly at the jewelry, fingering the stones until it blurred out of focus. Her eyes filmed with tears and spilled over as she stared from her uncle to the jewelry in her hand. “It’s… perfect” It must have cost a fortune. “Oh uncle” shooting out of the bed, she hugged her uncle tight. He might not know the gravity of his gift, but she did. She knew just what his support meant to her.
“It flows perfectly with my wedding gown” Laura exclaimed, jumping out of Mark’s arms with extreme excitement as she gazed at the jewelry again as though she was just seeing it.
“Yeah… I noticed that” this was nothing in comparison with what she had gotten for her wedding. This was all shades of beautiful.
“Alright alright! Get up girls and get into the bathroom, take your bath and lets get down to the business of getting you married.” Mark Johnson said like an army general. “We’ve got no time to lose” he muttered, shooing Laura as he made to the door, jewelry in hand. “I’d get everything ready for your makeover”
Laura grinned. She loved the sound of that. No artist on planet earth could rival her uncle’s makeup skills. He had been doing her makeup for so long, it would be a sin to have another person touch her face on such an auspicious day.
“Baddest daddy ever” Tito hailed.
“Don’t try to excuse yourself, young lady, after her, you are next in line, who knows, you might be able to win yourself a man today”
“Well, I hope love’s elixir is in the pancake mixture”
“I’m working on it”
Laura looked at the father-to-daughter banter with a small ache in her heart. She was feeling a little tongue-tied today, with so much emotions whirling around in her. she would miss this.“Oh, G.daddy”, she fondly called. “I would miss sleeping in the same house as you” Laura moaned, half-hugging her uncle.
The rapport she shared with her godfather, living and sleeping in the same house as he… she didn’t have this sort of rapport with her father. Often times, she took advantage of the striking resemblance of her father’s twin and pretended her uncle was actually her father, but then, when self deception was out of the window, she was always faced with the reality – her uncle is everything her father isn’t.
“Uhmmm… No waterworks now, sweetheart” Mr Johnson said affectionately, his eyes unusually bright. Men don’t cry, he told himself sternly. “Off you go, you two. If I stay here, you’ll be walking down the aisle in your nighties” he turned to leave.
Tito chuckled. “Would make an unforgettable sight”. Laura grinned at her uncle’s departing back and turned to Tito. Laura squealed, hugging her cousin tight. She was just too overwhelmed with joy. It’s finally happening, she is finally getting her happily ever after!
“Yeah, this is cozy” Laura and Tito turned to see Jane – Laura’s twelve years old sister – standing at the entrance with a digital camera trained on them. “What do we have here? It is our beautiful bride and her equally beautiful bestie – make that cousin” she declared and the two ladies grinned at the camera. “Say hello to the camera”.
“Hello to the camera” they chorused, waving at the camera with great smiles on their faces.
Jane rolled her eyes. “Dry” she muttered before her face broke into a childlike grin. Jane was the only one in Laura’s immediate family present for her wedding, no thanks to her father. “Do you see that?” Jane continued. “She has the lovey dovey glow on her face. Her cheeks are puffed up like Mummy Bola’s oily puff puff”
Laura’s smile faded. “And what would you know about lovey dovey glow, Jane?” she asked and Tito grinned.
“Oh ho” Jane moaned. “I should not have said that” she murmured under her breath.
“No, you shouldn’t” Tito seconded.
“Jane? What have you been filling your twelve years old brain with?” Laura asked in a motherly tone, arms akimbo.
“Nothing asides my books, ma’am. Ok… it was nice meeting you” she said scrambling out of the door.
Tito laughed heartily and Laura turned her bewildered eyes at her. “There is nothing funny about that” Tito only laughed more and pushed Laura towards the bathroom.
“We have a wedding to catch, mummy. Let’s take our bath”
Laura frowned. “Sounds like we are bathing together”
Tito grinned. “Yes, we are” Laura turned with a displeased smile. “I’m going to help you wax” Tito explained with a large grin.
“Great” Laura sighed in resignation, surrendering herself for the torture ahead. But then, she would endure hell, just to look perfect for Deolu.
Chris shook his head, adjusting the collar of his shirt. He stared ahead at the man before him. “With the way you are grinning, I think you would soon be the newest toothpaste face”
“I tell you” Wale seconded.
Deolu grinned further. “It’s not everyday a man wears his own wedding tuxedo.” he glanced at Chris – his best man. “I don’t know why it took me so damn long to do this”
Wale chuckled, “you were scanning the market”
“Or I was looking for the right woman. Laura is more than I expected in a woman” Deolu said with a smile.
“Knowing your terrible expectations in a woman, Laura is definitely more” Chris chipped.
“Like you are not worse. Maybe this would give you the green light to get your player ass off the market and find yourself your own Laura”
Chris rolled his eyes. “You sound pathetic”
Deolu smirked. “No, dumbskull, I sound like a man who has found love. Love is a beautiful thing. You, on the other hand… sound like you’re jealous?”
“Woah, cut it out guys” Wale chipped, staring from the groom to the best man with a funny look on his face.
Chris blinked, ignoring Wale. “Of what? Of you? ”
Deolu sighed heavily. “Maybe you’re so worried Laura would take your place in my heart and I won’t have time for you anymore.” Deolu gave Chris a brief pat on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, no one can take your place in my heart, sweetheart.” Deolu grinned.
Chris exchanged looks with Wale for some seconds, before bursting into laughter. “I don’t think I’ve heard so much crap in my whole life”
“Marriage don dey play with hin brain” Wale added, laughing uncontrollably.
Chris laughed. “I tell you”
Wale was about to say something when the door opened.
“Now, that’s one handsome groom?” a lady walked in, grinning from ear to ear as she ignored everyone but Deolu. The eyes of the men twinkled with appreciation, staring at the beauty that just entered. Adorned in a glamorious flowing gown, fit only for a queen, Teju looked like something out of an exquisite fashion magazine. The brazillian weave-on she had on, flowed down her shoulders, accentuating her oblong face so perfectly.
“Wow, Teju, you look amazing” Deolu complimented with a grin.
“Like a well seasoned jollof rice. Someone might mistake you for the bride, ma’am” Wale inserted, grinning foolishly at Teju. Chris shook his head as he shrugged on his jacket.
Teju blushed scarlet. “Except, the bride would be dressed in white” she muttered though she obviously loved the compliment. “And of course, as the best friend of the groom, my dressing game must be top notch” she grinned with feminine pride.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I am the best man” Chris chipped.
Teju glowered at him. “And if the world weren’t so rigid, I would be the one in suits, not you” she returned.
Deolu shook his head. “I always feel ten feet tall when you guys start your raucous bestie drama over me” he said, grinning.
Teju smirked slightly. “You’re a catch, that’s why Laura is so lucky” Teju noticed absently that Chris wasn’t his usual witty self. The incorrigible flirt was way too quiet, today of all days. Discarding the brief thought, Teju drew closer to Deolu, straightening the collar of Deolu’s shirt with a twinkle in her eyes. She looked extremely happy. “I’m so happy for you, Dee, God knows you deserve all the happiness you can get”
Deolu had never felt happier. “Thanks Tee”
“You know, we could double? You are in a gown and I’m in a suit. Let’s just get married too” Wale said grinning widely.
“In your dreams” Teju rolled her eyes. “C’mon. Finish up, guys, you don’t want the bride arriving the church before you.” She swiped her hands lightly over Deolu’s shoulders. “I’m gonna go assist your mum with her gele” she said, kissed Deolu’s cheek and left.
“Your mum probably thinks she should be the bride” Wale said dryly.
Deolu snorted. “My mum thinks anyone asides Laura should be the bride. Fortunately, I’m not an obedient child” he said, with a grim nod. He stared at his reflection in the mirror. Yes, I’m ready for the rest of my life.
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