Derin washed the dishes her mother had eaten with, and had started drying them with a soft napkin. She couldn't stop smiling to herself. Folu had just been promoted at work, and it felt as though she had been the one who got the raise in status and salary.
She looked at her wrist watch. She had removed it from her wrist and placed it on the kitchen table. The time was 11.AM. They had a date. He would arrive her house soonest. She hurried up with the cleaning and went into her room to take a bath; the second bath that morning. She picked a green chiffon dress and decided to wear it with silver sandals and a checkered blazer. She didn't have the time for the discomfort of high heels. Besides it was a Saturday. Her feet needed a rest from being elevated and pressurized by six-inch heels all week; Monday - Friday.
Folu was already in the living room with Mrs Cole when Derin stepped out. She knew she avoided bringing guys into her house because her mother would raise up hopes of a coming marriage. But somehow, she really didn't mind that Folu was talking with her mom. She glanced at them. He seemed really comfortable with Mrs Cole. By the time they noticed her presence, Mrs Cole said "She never told me she had a boyfriend o. This my daughter ehn..."
Folu smiled as he watched Derin try to defend herself with meaningless excuses.
They had planned to eat at a restaurant in Lekki Phase 1. She was surprised when he passed the Lekki Phase 1 round-about and drove continuously along the express. She decided to hold still. Maybe he wanted to pick up something somewhere first before heading to the restaurant. Or maybe he had changed the choice of restaurant.
They arrived at Royal Estate just after Nicon Town, and Folu took the next turning to the left. Now, she was getting freaked out. Of course he wasn't a kidnapper. She trusted him...but for the sake of a benefit of doubt, she dared to think something funny was going on.
"Please where are you taking us to?" She said finally.
"To see my personal herbalist." He said, expressionless.
She laughed but he didn't laugh back. His face was rock-solid hard and straight.
"Folu, please be serious. Where are we going now?"
He picked his phone up and dialed someone's number.
"Hello," He said.
Derin tried to understand what the conversation over the phone was about.
"Good afternoon Baba. I'm bringing her already. I hope you have the goats and chicken blood ready? Remember you said the ritual should not exceed 1 PM." Folu said.
Derin blinked. He had said everything in Yoruba. The last words he said were translated ago kan losan. It sounded like one of those lines in Africa magic Yoruba which her mother never stopped watching.
She didn't know what to think. The path he was driving on was rather deserted...with thick greenery every where by the sides of the road. She shut her eyes, saying Jesus repeatedly. She picked up her phone but Folu snatched it and hid it in his pocket. Her heart started to beat faster. This was real. Could Folu really want to use her for money rituals? Seriously? Was that why he wanted to be with her despite knowing she was SS?
Then Folu stopped at a house with a black gate and started to honk. He burst out laughing. He looked at Derin who was looking more confused than ever. He could give anything for the expression on her face.
"This is the ritual house." He laughed, as the gate man opened the gate and he drove in. The house was a big duplex painted in cream color. Dogs begun to bark. In a few minutes, a young girl came by the car.
"Is this your parents' house?" Derin asked.
The young girl knelt and greeted them, rushing to get Derin's handbag, and also to check the trunk of the car if he had bought or brought anything. Obviously, that was the house maid.
She didn't need him to respond to her question.
Her heart thumped ten times more, as they walked into the house. She preferred the fright of being taken to a herbalist's shrine, to this. Folu hadn't mentioned it. She had no idea he was bringing her home to meet his parents. She was scared. She was nervous. She didn't know if she was ready for this. She hadn't prepared.
As she sat in the massive living room, her eyes glued to the family portrait hung on the wall of Folu and his parents and his siblings, she heard footsteps...and then a woman in her fifties, light skinned and glowing like a middle-aged woman, appeared before her. She didn't know what to say. Folu had left to get her something to drink from the kitchen so she was on her own in this.
"Hello..." The woman said.
Derin sprang up to her feet, then she went on her knees.
"Good afternoon Ma." She said. Her voice didn't shake surprisingly to her.
"Afternoon. You must be Aderinsola right?"
"Yes I am, Ma."
"Get up, get up. Come and give me a hug, my girl." The woman said. Derin was shy. She went over to her and hugged her. The woman was a representing woman. She recognized the scent of Coco Chanel No 5 perfume anywhere, any day.
Folu joined them in the living room with his father, shortly. As his parents engaged her in different topics and asked her many questions, he couldn't take his eyes off her. She was full of grace and poise. And he couldn't have been prouder.
When his mother excused herself to get something in the kitchen, Folu rushed after her, eager to hear her opinion on what she thought about his girlfriend.
"What is it? Why are you so jumpy?" His mother teased him.
"Tell me, tell me. Do you like her?" He said.
The woman smiled.
"Of course I do. You really took your eyes to the market this time, unlike when you brought that Ope girl home." She said.
Folu pecked her on the cheek and hurried back like a school boy to join his father and Derin in the living room. Shortly after, Derin excused herself and went to help the woman in the kitchen.
"So, what do you think of my parents?" Folu asked, as he drove along the express way. They were going to see a movie, before he would finally drop her off at home.
Derin had opened her mouth to say something but then she shut it.
"What?" Folu said. He noticed she was suddenly quiet.
"I don't know. I don't really like them. Especially your mom." She said.
Derin could almost swear that she heard him hit the brakes so hard that there was a screech.
"What do you mean?" He said. His anger was rising gradually. She could always tell when Folu was getting angry about something.
Then she laughed.
"Pay back. Gotcha." She punched his arm, laughing.
Folu shook his head and joined her laughing.
"You crazy, you know that, right?" He said.
"Don't forget to branch at the herbalist's place o." She teased.
They got to The Palms and then went up the stairs. She went to get the popcorn and drinks while Folu got tickets to see the movie. She felt her phone vibrate about twice. She had turned off the ringer earlier. She reached for her handbag and then brought out her phone. It was an International number calling.
"Hello," She said.
"Hi, Derin." Anita said over the phone. Her voice was shaky. She had been crying for most of the night. It was morning already, and she knew if she didn't talk to someone, she would go crazy, or need the instrument of her husband's trade desperately.
"Anita!" Derin almost screamed. She had missed her friend so much! Derin in the midst of her excitement, could sense that something wasn't right with Anita.
"Are you okay?" She asked Anita.
Anita wanted to talk, but she didn't know what words to convey her bitterness with.
She wanted to tell Derin the depth and diameters of her mind. She was losing it! She wanted to tell her how Benjy had hit her and how he had left the house for days, leaving her with no money. She didn't have a bank account. Benjy always gave her cash, or his own Debit Card for everything she needed to buy. She wanted to talk about how he came home some nights ago, drunk, and how he had hit her again and raped her.
It was rape. Even if she was his wife, he had forced his way on her and put her in so much pain.
How could she tell Derin that her husband had decided to do one last cocaine delivery for a top shot from the United States through his delivery boys, but the top shot had turned out to be the Police as an undercover, and they had arrested the boys. The boys had confessed that they worked for Benjy.
How could she say it to Derin that Benjy had fled the house, the city, or maybe the country, and she had no idea where he was? And how could she begin to ask Derin to send her some money because she was stranded and might have to leave the big house for no where in particular. She had no family, no relatives, no friends...
She wanted to tell Derin. Yes. She wanted to tell her Chief Bridesmaid. The one who had her back before she walked into all the mess. The one who performed the real duty of a CBM; to keep the bride from being stressed out. Derin had warned her. The scene never stopped playing in her head.
Anita found the words, but they just wouldn't flow through her mouth to Derin's ears at the other end of the line.
"Anita, are you there? Answer me. I can hear your breathing. Are you okay?" Derin said again.
"I'm great." Anita replied, wiping a tear which had rolled from the bridge of her nose down to her bathrobe. The beautiful and soft white bathrobe was the one which Benjy had bought her from a very expensive store. It was the same store where she had gone to on the day before, to get household items, and Benjy's debit card, the only thing he hadn't run away with, had been declined.
It was a Thursday morning. Derin's alarm had gone off as usual at 5 AM. She was still joining her neighbor for morning rides to work. She still hadn't learnt to drive. Even if she did, she couldn't imagine herself driving and getting stuck in very horrible traffic from her house to Victoria Island.
She tried to get up, but she was feeling so weak. She was running a high temperature; certainly above 37 degrees. She felt feverish. Her head ached. She didn't know why she was feeling that way. She'd felt very okay the day before, except that she had those constant headaches that wouldn't go away. She had taken Paracetamol, and by the time she went to bed, she felt a lot better.
By noon, Derin was lying in the hospital bed. It was yet another crisis. Mrs Cole had started to cry again, as the nurses rushed into the ward to pierce Derin's veins. As usual, they had to slap her hands repeatedly, searching for a vein to insert the needle.
Mrs Cole was tired. She didn't know when the crises was ever going to end. She had to admit that she feared for her child. Yes. Her daughter always survived the sicknesses, no matter how strong they were. But what if she never came out of this one? What if this was the last one?
Folu dashed into the hospital, almost an hour after Mrs Cole told him what happened. He had been trying to speak to her all day but she wasn't answering or returning the calls. He felt very worried. Extremely worried. So he had called her mother who had told him that Derin was having the crises.
He was scared as he looked at her. For a moment, he didn't know if he had made the right decision to want to be in her life and marry her. He was a young man; under thirty. He didn't want to be a widower early in life. What if she couldn't hang on and she passed away?
As soon as Mrs Cole saw him, she begged him to stay with Derin who was now asleep, while she went home to prepare food for her. Folu hugged the confused and panicky woman, and then after she had left, he sat on the couch beside Derin's bed.
When Derin woke up, she saw Folu, and almost immediately, tears begun to well up in her eyes. She hated that he saw her like this. She looked so vulnerable and weak. She didn't want to be that kind of woman for him.
"Hey..." Folu said, standing up and walking towards her. He cleaned the dropping tears with his fingers, and kissed her forehead.
"Folu please leave. I don't want you to have this mental picture of a sickly me." She said.
"Of course you know I'm not going anywhere." He said, gliding his fingers over her face.
"I think it's bad. I have pains in my back. Really bad pains. My legs hurt, my joints are killing me. And my chest hurts to." She said. "I've never felt the back pains. It hurts so much!"
Folu didn't know what to say.
"You'll be good." He said.
"I don't know...And I don't care." She said. She coughed. Folu saw it too, before she could hide it. The blood in her handkerchief was quite much.
"When did the cough start? Do you always cough?" He asked.
"It happened a few times. But not together with the pains in my back." She replied, almost like in a whisper.
"You see why I told you it didn't make sense dating me? I always get sick. It's stress enough for my mom. I don't want to put you through this." She said.
"Derin, please, save the strength you have for something else. Stop talking." He replied, looking at her with so much fear, as he squeezed his mind hard, for what he could do to make her feel better.
Derin had fallen asleep again.
He grabbed his car key and blazer and walked out of the ward.
When Derin woke up, she didn't see anyone. Her mother wasn't there. And Folu had left. She waited for about thirty more minutes, then an hour, then an hour and thirty minutes. But Folu hadn't come back. She reached for her phone. She still had about 4% battery life on it. She dialed his number. It went on ringing for about three times but he didn't answer the calls. Derin ended the call and smiled. She was hurt. She knew it wouldn't take long before Folu took off, just the way Tobi had. Her walls of jericho had succesfully been broken down, and now, all of her heart was exposed to the harshness of hurt. She understood perfectly. It wasn't his fault. He had a wonderful family and she didn't want to polka dot his happiness with bits of sorrow here and there.
She didn't care if she died. She didn't care if she didn't survive this crisis. There was no point. She was still going to die anyway, someday. She shut her eyes again, trying to stop herself from crying, when she heard her door creak open. She looked up to see Folu walk in.
"Folu?" She said, in unison with her heart.
He looked at her, then came closer and hugged her.
"How do you feel?" He asked.
"I don't know...I'm just tired and in pains. I feel really weak." She said, her voice weak with weakness.
"I'm scared to sleep. What if I don't wake up?" She said, and then she coughed again, and two more times, with blood spilling on Folu's hand.
"I'm sorry." She said, trying to clean his hand. "I'm fed up, Folu. I'm tired of this thing! I just want to have final rest! I can't keep being sick or living on drugs." She started to cry again.
"You're not going to die. I promise you." Folu said.
"Don't promise things you have no control over." She said, her voice really tired.
"Look, I went to pray when I went outside. And I told God He has to strike this deal with me. I want you to be my wife, and He won't take you away from me, because you have to marry me, and live with me, and have my kids first." Folu said.
Derin stared at him.
"You're silly." She mumbled.
Folu sighed, then he dug his hand in his blazer pocket, and brought out a small Princess cut ruby stone engagement ring. He took in a deep breath, then he held Derin's left hand.
"This is proof that you're surviving this crisis. You have a job being my wife, so you can't die on me." He said. He slid the ring in her fourth finger.
Derin hissed. She eyeballed him, although she looked very tired.
"Is that how they propose in your village?" She said.
Folu laughed. He was glad she was still her spoilt and proud humorous self. He went down on one knee and looked at her as she lay on the hospital bed.
"Will you marry me?" He asked.
"I want to sleep now.If I wake up, I will marry you." She replied.
*Survived the Shoah
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