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Friday, 17 March 2017

The Wedding Day --by Nickz

          Desmond had been certain there was nothing like love at first sight but everything changed immediately he walked through those doors. He was sure that was what he felt the very moment he spotted the tall, light skinned beauty leaning on the counter at Crunches eatery. He had walked in for lunch break with James, his right hand man and colleague and froze for a fraction of seconds when his ray of sight beamed at the counter. James had noticed immediately and teased Desmond for refusing to “hang the player’s boots” at the age of 29. If only his friend was aware of the unusual reactions in his body chemistry. Desmond was sure a ribbon was pulled lose in a love chamber somewhere in his chest.

          At the counter, James placed meal orders, enough to refill the energy he expended while attending to many grumpy customers at work. Desmond was beside him but his attention was far from the nicely displayed meals under the glass cover. He was keenly staring in her direction, the way one did while admiring the intricacies of a piece of art in an exhibition. “Pally, what’s your order?” James’ question conjured his soul back into his body, causing a mild startle on his composure. “Jay, this babe has charmed me!” An excited Desmond replied James. “You see that babe, she’s my order,” Desmond added and started moving towards his center of attraction, leaving James behind. James would have sworn someone was controlling his friend with a remote controller.

         Sharon was just picking up her tray of fried rice and chicken from the counter when Desmond made his move. She strode majestically across the hall, reached a table, dropped her meal and took a seat, unaware of the handsome young man trailing her steps. Desmond was not thinking straight. His judgment was clouded and he had no idea what to say or do when he got to the lady. Would she find his approach obtrusive? Maybe he had to think of something smart. Suddenly, he paused himself, made a 180 degrees rotation and walked back to the sales girl at the counter. It would look more reasonable joining her table for lunch with his tray of food. That way, it would look like he was just a fellow customer exercising his free will of choosing any table in the hall. In few minutes, he was heading back towards her table with his lunch in hand. This was going to be exciting.

          James had picked a comfortable position a couple of tables away from that which the lady sat. He had never seen Desmond act like this. He was well built, handsome, earned six figures and didn’t have any difficulty winning a lady’s attention. In fact, it was the reverse that usually bothered Desmond: the ladies always strived to get his attention. He was usually the medal. Now, he was the athlete pursuing the prize. Somehow, he was nervous for Desmond and was ready to jump to his rescue if she was the psychotic and slapping type. But from what he was observing, Desmond was doing fine. They were having a conversation already. He could see the pretty lady looking up from her meal and smiling at him. Now, they were shaking hands. This was going to be the most thrilling lunch break he’d ever had. He took another sip of his Smoove and swallowed down with relief.

          When Desmond arrived at Sharon’s table, there was a ball of nerve in his throat and his heartbeat was far from regular. What if she was expecting a date, her fiancĂ©, or husband? Somehow, he flipped on his confidence switch and took the seat opposite his medal. He wasn’t going to mess this up. Maybe it was his lucky tie, maybe it was just fate; she was still silently focused on her meal. She didn’t protest.
          Step one was successful. Now, he needed to get a nice opener; one that wouldn’t sound desperate or present him like a pervert. This was where most men failed. Ladies despised being bugged. He didn’t want to present himself as a playboy neither. He was Desmond Essien. He was really interested in her. He was not going to fail. Casually, he threw her a smile and a “hi” to acknowledge her presence. She responded with a “hi”, barely looking up from the piece of meat she was cutting. Desmond opened his plate of salad and started eating. It was necessary to mind his business for the first few minutes. That was the desperation eliminator move. He could write a book on How To Approach Women but in spite that, “fieldwork” was still a heart-pounding yoke. Without directly looking, he could see the plastic beads necklace sitting on her neck and the well tailored ash gown she was wearing. It had a neat round edge that curved across her shoulders and the small pieces of fabric attached on both arms, which barely passed for sleeves, exposed her gorgeous arms. There was something about the tone of her skin that made him wonder if she was human or celestial. He was sitting before a stunningly beauty lady.

          “Please pardon my interrupting you but this is important to me. My younger sister—eerr—her birthday is coming up next week and I have been contemplating on a gift to get her. This beaded necklace you’re wearing, I uhm—it looks elegant…got a touch of culture, you know. I think she’d appreciate a gift like that. She’s kinda fashion crazy. You know a place I can pick up something like this?” His expression, his gestures and his tone conveyed the message in a very honest and jovial manner even Margaret Thatcher would have been moved. She had dropped her spoon and paid apt attention to him all the time he was speaking. She had met thousands of men in her life but none had the boldness and openness she just witnessed. She was pleased by his compliment too. He was not like the regular bunch of wanton guys that usually greeted a strange lady with, “Hello beauty.” He looked cultured and responsible. He deserved her attention.  
          “Oh, that wouldn’t be a problem. Beads are beautiful when combined with the right dress. I know a place I can refer you to and your sister would always cherish you for getting her an adorable gift.” She replied with a glint of smile on her painted lips. “You sound so sure.” Desmond couldn’t help adding. “Yeah, because I’m a fashion designer. I run a fashion shop. I made this necklace.” Jackpot! His lucky tie was working again. Sharing mutual interest was a big advantage. He would exploit the common ground till they established a firm connection. They almost forgot they hadn’t introduced themselves properly. “I’m Desmond Essien, Customer Care Unit at GTBank. Nice meeting you Miss…” He stretched out his hand for a handshake, expecting her to fill in her name simultaneously. “I’m Sharon Ejiroh, Marketing staff at DailyWatch Newspaper. Fashion design is my private business. Nice meeting you too.” She took his hand with a real smile.

          James was fascinated. If he had thrown a bet, he’d have lost everything. Desmond was the man. He just earned an extra feather of respect from him. Watching the two of them was like watching two interesting people on a date. The only problem was that he and Desmond had run out of lunch time by ten minutes. As much as he regretted, he dialed Desmond’s number to draw his attention. He could see him pull out his phone from his pocket, only to place the call on “busy”. He decided to text him.
          Desmond saw the text buzz into his phone. He knew it was time to leave with James and he had to wrap it up. It was easier to get her contact now he had promised to get a gift from her shop for her sister. If only Sharon knew he was the only son of his parents. Gladly, she handed him her private business card. He was intrigued. He was mad over her. He would call her tonight. It was not a promise; it was a solemn oath.


          Today made it eight months since the Crunches encounter with Sharon Ejiroh. They were together again but in a different setting, for a different purpose. There was an elderly man standing between them, wearing a white collar and making small sounds as if clearing his throat. A lot of family and friends were seated behind them, ready to witness the beautiful exchange of love vows and solemnization of matrimony. James was standing behind Desmond, occasionally dabbing off imaginary sweat from his forehead. He was gladly playing his best man role and smiling more than necessary. One of the bride’s maids got his attention and he wasn’t going to let that slide. He learnt from Desmond that everything was possible.
          It was time for business. The Reverend Minister with the collar—was an elderly man who looked like he was in his 70s—didn’t look so much excited like the anxious couples, probably due to the fact that he had welded more couples in his lifetime than he would care to number, or just for the purpose of conveying the weight of the journey they were about venturing into. He was about reading the marriage vows for the couples to repeat. Sharon gently took a deep breath to relieve her tension and be ready to take the oath that would permanently change her status.

         The Minister cleared his throat again and adjusted the small booklet in his right hand while raising the mic to his mouth. He looked unusually uneasy and there was perspiration on his wrinkled forehead. Sharon suspected he had reading challenge. But that wouldn’t be true because he usually read the bible with them during marriage guidance classes. He usually looked better than this. For the third time, the Minister cleared his throat. Finally, he started with Sharon, reading out the first line, which demanded the couple to fill in the name and proceed with the vow.
          “I…” He read. “I, Sharon Uzoma Ejiroh,” Sharon filled in. “Do…do so…solemnly swear…” He stammered out the second line and Sharon sensed all was not well. The minister was an energetic and fluent-speaking old man. He never stammered. His face looked distressed like he was out of breath and might need help. The congregation murmured in discomfort as he gave a slight cough and started repeating the vows afresh. While he was at the second line, the unexpected happened: the mic and booklet dropped from his hands and he frantically grabbed his chest, obviously in severe pain. Within seconds, he slumped on the terrazzo floor and the faint murmurs escalated to a chaotic uproar.  

          Some choristers from the choir box rushed down to the fallen man, forming a small cluster around him. The couples, Desmond and Sharon were still standing, completely awestruck by the unceremonious twist. Sharon didn’t cry but she could feel hot beads of tears rolling down her eyes. She was sure her makeup was ruined but it didn’t matter anymore. Why today? Her chief maid held her by the waist and guided her back to her seat. Desmond was too stoned to move. This couldn’t be real. He was hallucinating. It was James’ gentle grip on his arm that brought him back. “Sharon!” He rushed towards his wife-to-be and sat beside her, trying his best to comfort.

          A small crowd of church officers and choristers had circled round the slumped minister and started praying vigorously before a man from the congregation rushed forward and broke through the circle. “Jesus Christ! Stop praying and call an ambulance! This man has a cardiac arrest and needs urgent help.” He penetrated the circle and knelt beside the man on the floor. He checked if he was still breathing but there was no sign of that. He had to perform a CPR. After applying several compression to his chest, there was no sign of resuscitation. In times like that, he wished he had a defibrillator in his car. Now he had to do the mouth to mouth. He almost lost hope after several efforts but miraculously, the old man choked and came back to life. He needed hospital attention.

          It took ten full minutes for one of the junior minister to restore decorum in the church. The elderly minister was on his way to a hospital. He would be fine. The congregation had finally stopped murmuring and pacing about and took their seats. Few members had left already out of panic. “Praise the Lord!” The junior minister said, trying to sound cheerful. The congregation responded faintly, uncertain if God was still in the sanctuary. He apologized for the unexpected interruption and assured that the marriage ordinance will proceed as he would officiate. He called on the couples to step out again for their vows.

          To say Desmond was happy would be an understatement. He was jubilant. Sharon was now his wife. He was kissing her before the altar. The congregation was applauding. The gloomy ambience had been swallowed by joy. It was still a day of celebration. There was dancing and noise of happiness. “I will never lie to you again sweedie. I’ll love you forever.” He whispered into her ears while dancing. Sharon smiled and pressed another hug into his strong frame. Now, they were holding hands and dancing out along the aisle. A love story had just begun.