Hi everyone, I'm sorry for the lateness. Been in and out of working on so many things. Thanks a lot!
"I haven't done this before, Anita." Derin said, in response to Anita's question. Well, it was more like a statement not a question...perhaps, a rhetorical.
"Come on, it's a small wedding. I'm not inviting the whole world. Besides your role is to majorly take photos with me and make them look good. And to hold my purse, and attend to me. And of course, to catch my bouquet." She laughed.
Well maybe being Chief Bridesmaid wasn't bad after all. She would get to make new friends. Her old ones from University were scattered far and wide around the globe. The ones she had grown up with had either gotten married or moved towns. She had to admit she didn't really have a life since she started work. She hardly had time to hit the clubs, especially when she closed from the office at around 7 PM sometimes and had to go through another set of hours in traffic. By the time she got home, she was always too tired to go out to party. And before she could blink, it was Monday again. The vicious cycle of life, literally.
"Okay. It's fine. Are you going to have a train? Have you started preparations for dresses and halls and everything?" Derin asked.
"Well, I'm not doing the train thing. Waste of time and money abeg. Besides I just want a quick wedding before Uncle will change his mind and run to Canada." She laughed.
Derin laughed too.
"I also don't want to stress you out..."
"Please, don't offend me, Anita. What's that one supposed to mean now?"
"Oya, no vex..." Anita said, holding Derin's hand.
"No wahala. If there's anything you want me to do just tell me. Have you arranged for your dress?"
The HOD walked into their office space and Anita got back to work immediately. Obviously, the man had achieved his purpose. He wanted them to get back to work.
Derin crossed the road, with two plastic bags fully stacked with traditional fabrics for the Aso-ebi. The color Anita had chosen was purple and the material was organza with beautiful sequins.
Derin had decided to help with the mobilization and distribution of the Aso-ebi. Anita was busy at the tailor's place, testing her wedding dress. She had asked a friend coming to Nigeria from the USA to help her buy a dress she had seen online. But when the dress arrived, it had come too big, probably two sizes above. So she needed to do the proper adjusting and fitting.
Anita promised she would be ready by 2.30 PM, around the time Derin would be through at the market, and that they would meet somewhere so that Derin could hand over to her the plastic bag containing the quantity of Aso-ebi for Anita's neigbours and relatives.
It was 3.00 PM.
Derin called again for the umpteenth time. Anita was still not picking her calls. Finally, she picked that last call. She apologized and said she was busy at the caterer's and decided she would ask her fiance to meet up with Derin. So Derin had no choice but to wait for Anita's fiance. His name was Benjy. She had actually never met the guy before. Anita always said he was busy with work and business, even as they were caught up with the wedding preparations. Derin had only spoken to him over the phone once.
She was on her second bottle of Coke when someone called her phone. She looked at her watch. It was 4.00 PM already. She sighed.
"Hello..." She said, although requesting to know who it was, by the tone of her voice.
"Derin?" He said.
"Okay. I'm at Marina now, just beside UBA. Please meet me up quick."
"Okay...but how do I identify you?"
"Arsenal jersey, blue faded jeans. Just call my number when you get here."
Before she could reply, he had ended the call. Derin hissed as she grabbed the two bags of fabrics. She shook her head in disgust. They had wasted her whole day and he still was being arrogant!
She saw the guy right where he said he would be. Arsenal Jersey, faded jeans, and dark shades on. She walked down to meet him, trying to hold the bags that were already giving way, due to pressure.
"Hi. I'm Derin." She said, panting, and trying to catch her breath.
He smiled, taking the bags from her and leading her towards the car park where he had parked his car. He was walking really fast, making it difficult for a tired Derin to catch up.
"Please slow down. Can't you see I'm really tired?" She grumbled.
"I'm sorry. I'm actually rushing somewhere. Benjy just asked me to help pick up these for him." He said.
Derin stopped suddenly. It was more of a halt.
"You're not Benjy?" She asked, startled.
"No. Don't you know Benjy?"
"Er...well I haven't met him. I'm Anita's friend."
"Oh, I see. I'm not Benjy. I'm his cousin. He asked me to help pick up these. He's busy somewhere."
Derin looked at him again. She was about to say something but decided against it.
The guy saw her making a call as he walked down to the car park. She was trailing behind him. He laughed. She was calling to confirm if Benjy had actually sent him. Maybe she thought he was a kidnapper.
He put the bags at the back seat of his car and then got into the driver's seat. Derin smiled and said bye, then started to walk down to catch a bus. He was actually in a hurry but he felt bad seeing her leave like that. He caught up with her and pulled over for a short while before the angry honks started to go berserk on him.
"Get in, let me give you a ride." He said.
Derin shook her head. It seemed like deja vu. That was the same situation in which her relationship with Tobi had started, with him asking her to hop in.
"I'm serious. You look so tired. Let me drop you home or something." He said.
Derin knew she was fagged out. She decided to get in the car.
The ride was silent, except for the endless chatter of radio hosts on one of the local radio stations.
"I'm sorry...I don't mean to pry, but are you a lawyer?" He asked.
"Yes. Why?" She replied.
"You look so familiar. I can't remember where we met." He said.
She rolled her eyes. She couldn't believe guys still used that line.
"No, no..." He laughed. " Come on, if I wanted to flirt with you I have hotter lines than that."
She laughed too.
"I'm serious. I know you from somewhere."
"Are you a lawyer? Maybe it was University or Law school, or NYSC." Derin replied.
He was quiet, trying to think.
"Did you receive an award at your call to bar ceremony?"
She nodded, trying to know what he was getting at.
"Yea...." She dragged.
"I knew it. I can't remember your surname but I know I met you then. I bumped into you and your wig fell off. Don't know if you remember me." (Footnote: Episode 01.)
"I'm sorry...I met so many people that day. Can't even remember..."
"Hmmm...well, with a fine girl like you, there's no chance of you remembering people like us." He said sarcastically.
That made her laugh. She began to open up and somehow, she began to feel free with the stranger.
They talked and laughed till he got to her neigbourhood and dropped her off at her gate. He wanted to come in to say hello to her mom but she didn't permit him. She didn't want to draw any men close and give her mom unnecessary ideas. Her mother thought every male friend was a potential husband.
"Thanks a lot for the ride....er..." She realized she hadn't asked for his name.
"Folu." He replied.
The wedding was going to hold the next day. Anita had decided to hold the engagement and white wedding together in one day. Derin teased her that she didn't want to waste any time before travelling back to Canada with Benjy.
They were lodged in a hotel which was not too far from the church and the Events center that they had rented for both the engagement ceremony and the wedding reception. Anita's house wasn't big enough to accommodate her close friends and cousins. It was filled already with her aunties and uncles that she hadn't even met before. So they'd decided to stay at the hotel. Benjy was staying at the hotel too with some of his friends.
By 11 PM, Anita decided she had to force herself to sleep. Her other friends and cousins had gone back to their rooms. Anita and Derin shared a room. They had all been gisting and taking photos earlier. After they left, Anita had complained to Derin about Benjy's bachelor's eve, and that she wasn't particularly comfortable with the idea that he was partying the night before. She had called Benjy and Derin had heard them have a small argument over the phone. Anita had yelled at him and said something about asking him to act like an adult. Then she ended the call and removed her sim, and then went to sleep.
Derin couldn't sleep. She was bored. Anita was a fast sleeper. In less than twenty minutes she was already snoring. Derin couldn't believe Anita was a snorer! She looked too pretty and posh to even sneeze, let alone snore. She hissed and tried to shut her eyes. She couldn't. Her phone beeped. It was Folu.
They'd been talking very often, since the day he dropped her home. She liked him...as a friend though. He was really handsome and absolutely focus driven. But she had set up walls too thick around her heart, and she was sorry she couldn't let down her guards for anyone. She couldn't stand being hurt again. She just couldn't.
"What's up Folu?" She said. She pulled the duvet over her chest.
"Hi Pretty. Were you about sleeping?" He asked. His background was noisy so he had to talk very loud.
"Well, I'm not sleepy. Anita's slept off. I'm bored." She whined.
"I'm bored too. Do you wanna come for Benjy's Bach eve?" He asked.
She thought about it for half a second.
"I'll come pick you up. Be ready in three minutes. The club is just by the end of the road." Folu said almost immediately.
Derin started to move her body to the beats of the song that was playing as soon as she walked in. She realized she hadn't partied in a really long time. The DJ was making a lot of sense with his choice of songs from Patoranking to Davido and P-square's Personally.
She recognized Benjy as he came towards her and Folu. She'd gotten to meet him a few times now. He was drenched in sweat, and his breath was filled with alcohol.
"Derin baby. You look so hot!" Benjy said. Derin smiled, looking at Folu. She knew Benjy was more than tipsy.
"Thanks." Derin yelled above the music.
Benjy whispered something in her ear, then he held her waist, asking her to dance. Folu grabbed Derin's hand and pulled her away.
"Your cousin is high. He asked me if I wanted to see him strip!" Derin said, as she sat beside Folu.
"He's always like that. I'm sorry on his behalf."
Derin smiled, nodding, and sipping her drink.
Folu and her were talking when all of a sudden they heard noises from the other end of the club...then bottles breaking and lots of shoving, and raised voices. They rushed towards the point of attention. There was a fight. A guy was hitting Benjy and was about breaking a bottle on his head when some other guys intervened. Folu later told her that Benjy had some business problems with the guy. He had supplied the guy somethings which had turned out to be something else...and the guy had tracked him down to his party. Derin understood immediately what Folu meant.
"Does Anita know this?" Derin asked.
"I don't know. And you're NOT going to tell her." Folu said, passing his command across with stern eyes.
Derin hugged her friend, just as soon as the make up artist had finished up on Anita's face.
"You look so beautiful." She said to Anita.
"Thanks dear." Anita responded, smiling and looking at her face in the mirror.
Derin didn't know what to say. She wanted to tell Anita about the fight that had happened at the club. She wanted to tell Anita everything Folu had told her last night. Folu had made her promise not to tell Anita, but Derin couldn't hold such information in.
Yes, it was quite too late. The wedding was in about an hour. Anita was not going to cancel the marriage just because of what Derin had to say.
Derin couldn't hold it in. She pulled Anita into the bathroom so they would be alone.
"What is it?" Anita said, holding her head tie so it wouldn't move or shift.
"I need to tell you something."
Derin sighed, then she held Anita's shoulders.
"Benjy is a fraudster. He's a 419. And I heard he's a drug dealer too." Derin let it out.
She wanted to say something but she held it in. She turned around and headed for the bathroom door.
"Are you kidding me? You're not going to say anything?" Derin said.
"He doesn't do that any more. It's his past. I know about it. He's a legit business man now." Anita said.
Even Derin could see that Anita wasn't convinced by her own words.
"You're a lawyer. You should be able to tell these traits...Are you sure?" Derin asked.
Anita looked at her coldly.
"You're my CBM. Your function doesn't extend to prying into my business." Anita said sternly, and walked out of the bathroom.
The wedding had turned out more beautiful than had been planned for. Anita looked angelic in her silver french lace and blue wrapper, and her head gear. Her make up was flawless. Benjy had sprayed endless dollars on her as they danced at the engagement party. The guests hadn't seen enough of dollars till the white wedding reception when he practically and literally showered dollars and pounds over Anita.
She was the envy of all her friends and cousins. Derin had even over heard Anita's cousin talking to another person, and claiming that Anita had used juju charms to attract and keep Benjy.
With each spray of money, Derin couldn't sweep away the thoughts that filled her mind concerning the source of his money.
The time for throwing the bouquet came next. And obviously, she caught it. Anita had actually targeted her. Yes. Anita's cousin...the one whom Derin had overhead saying that Anita charmed Benjy with juju. The cousin had been the one who caught the bouquet. Derin began to feel bad. Perhaps she shouldn't have said anything about Benjy to Anita. She didn't want to lose her friendship. It was one of the very few friendships she cherished.
*Survived the Shoah