Previously on Almost A Bride.
He didn’t look happy to see them and neither did they. The last time he saw them together, it didn’t end on a good note. Jacob had dated Lala a couple of months back and the experience had left her with a broken heart and he knew it. Lala met Jacob at a youth seminar where they were on the same team. He wasn’t exactly the take your breath away kind of guy but his impeccable speech and smartness could send a girl to cloud nine. He was the leader of her team and they only had a formal relationship. When he called her a day after the seminar, she was surprised. She was even more surprised when he asked her out to lunch. He was a smooth talker and so it wasn’t difficult convincing her to go on a date with him. That was the beginning of a beautiful relationship, or so it was meant to be. Their relationship grew and was the envy of all. She heard stories about him from outsiders but she didn’t pay attention to them. Some said he was a player while others said he was up to no good, but all that didn’t stop her. As long as he loved her, that was all she needed. During the course of the relationship, Lala got pregnant for him. When she told Jacob that they were expecting a baby, his countenance changed immediately. He denied the pregnancy vehemently and this hurt her badly. She wasn’t ready to bring a child into this cold hearted world without a father, so she decided to abort the baby. She couldn’t bring herself to tell her friends what had happened because she felt she was a disappointment. It wasn’t until she was almost dead on the operating table due to post abortion complications that she asked the doctor to call Ihuoma. Ihuoma was burnt and angry inside when she heard the whole story but she had to fake a smile for Lala’s sake. Ihuoma called Anini and together they visited Jacob in the office. They had thought the shouting and embarrassment they dealt Jacob that day would make him sober but here he was, trying to rope another lady in. Truly,a leopard doesn’t change its spots.
“Hi ladies”, he replied looking away. Ihuoma couldn’t restrain herself, all the anger turned into words as she rained curses on him.
“So you are here again? You want to send another lady to her early grave abi?”
Anini was next in line “You piece of human waste, how heartless can you be? Haven’t you had enough?”
The curses didn’t seem to have an end. The straw that broke the camel’s back revealed itself when he tried to defend himself. Lala who had been quiet all the while, was disgusted by his utterances. She picked up his wine glass and emptied it on his sparkling white shirt. They took their leave and the lady he was trying to have a conversation with hurried after them. Inside the car, they tried to console Lala who was in tears. She remembered all she had to go through to recover from the emotional and physical damage done to her just because she loved somebody who didn’t give a hoot about her. The event of that night had stirred up buried memories and she couldn’t fight back the tears. Dona who ran after them was silent all the while. She was just observing the whole scenario quietly but deep down, she was grateful to these 3 lovely women who had rescued her from the claws of Jacob. She smiled to herself as she knew it was only the beginning of a long lasting relationship.
Ihuoma woke up by 7:10 a.m the next day. She had only 50 minutes to arrive at the clinic and she hadn’t had her bath. Chinedu was going to be by her gate, blaring his car horn by 7:30 and she had to be ready by then. He had been picking her up to work for the past 5 weeks and it had really helped her. It all started when her car developed a fault and it had to be brought back to life at the mechanic’s. It was on a 2 weeks sabbatical leave and she had to find an alternative means to work. Chinedu had been her co worker since she started work at Ripples Hospital but it wasn’t until one of her late nights at the hospital, all in a bid to escape traffic, that she met him. He was a senior colleague that doubled as a senior registrar at the state Teaching Hospital. It was on one of such nights that she discovered that they lived in the same estate in Surulere. A few trips to and fro the office and they found out that they had a lot in common. They both loved Maxwell, the musician and they chanted his tunes most of the time on their way from work. They both loved to party and have fun so much that when it came to hospital matters, their manner of expertise dazed their colleagues. They became so fond of each other that she waited patiently for him to ask her out but it never happened. He kept sending mixed signals and she decided to take the ones that appealed to her, she wouldn’t let what happened to her and Femi repeat itself. On a good day, he could ask her out to lunch and in her dating book, that was a plus. On some other day, he would ignore her and snob her but she would term it as him “having a bad day.”
The car horn blared again and Ihuoma knew that if she didn’t get to the car immediately, public transport would be her ticket to work that morning. She got into the car and gave him her usual innocent smile that could break down any china wall of anger. His chubby face couldn’t hide his dimple when he smiled. Being tall and fair, he would be a typical take home to “her” mama, kind of guy. The fact that he was Igbo, was the icing on the cake. Ihuoma day dreamed about the day that they would be married. Her bouquet of flowers would be filled with fresh red and white roses and she would wear a cathedral veil. He never really put a name to what was going on between them but she silently prayed it would be in her favor. As she powdered her face, looking into the car mirror she could see he looked worried.
“Nedu, what’s wrong?” “Nothing Rita… Sorry, Ihuoma. I’m fine Ihuoma.”
This was the 3rd time in 2 weeks he had called her that name. Rita was the name of his ex-girlfriend. When she asked about the relationship and what caused their break up, he always gave surface answers. He claimed that they had irreconcilable differences and they had to go their separate ways. He never really said much about her but he always reiterated the fact that he was over her. That was all the assurance that she needed. The hospital wasn’t as busy as it would be on a normal day. School had resumed so the children were back in school and the parents were at work. A few patients came for their monthly check up and some others for mild illnesses. Ihuoma decided to visit Chinedu in his office. He didn’t look happy to see her but she was happy to see him. Ideally, office romance or in this case, hospital romance was unethical coupled with the fact that he was a senior colleague and she was just a medical officer but Ihuoma couldn’t care less.
“Nedu, why are you frowning now?” She said, rolling her eyes at him.
“I’m not frowning its just work issues, that’s all”, he replied.
Ihuoma was not satisfied, she wanted an answer, “Which work again? Are we not working in this same place? Lighten up joor.” Chinedu managed to fake a smile. “Let’s do lunch this afternoon and I promise you’ll feel better after”, she persuaded. He nodded in agreement and she danced her way out of his office like a little girl.
The fried rice at the hospital cafeteria was soggy as usual. Complaints had been made to the customer service hotline displayed on the food counter but it appeared that they were only there to receive complaints and nothing more. They ate in silence and from time to time she would catch him looking at her and she would blush. She always enjoyed when he did that, it was a calm look.
“When are you going to see your parents Nedu?”
“Over the weekend, probably on Saturday because of traffic. Why do you ask?”
“I wanted to follow you to go visit them.”
Chinedu put down the fork and looked hard at her. “You can’t follow me.”
“Why can’t I follow you? They don’t like visitors or what?”
Chinedu wasn’t having any of it, “You just can’t come and that’s final.”
“What’s all this Nedu? I can’t come to your house, I can’t visit your family, what’s the issue? I’m not just anybody Nedu. If we are going to get married, we might as well start…” Chinedu interrupted her, “Wait a minute, get what?! Who told you we were getting married? Where are you getting that idea from?”
Ihuoma was confused, “So what do we call this thing between us? Are we friends? Siblings? Or what?”
“I can’t marry you Ihuoma. I’m still very much in love with my girl friend Rita. She’s perfect in every way and I don’t think I can love another woman that way.”
“But I thought you were over her?”
“I thought so too but its not easy. We were supposed to get married at the end of the year but stuff happened. I hurt her really bad, I cheated on her. My family is still pleading with her, I believe she’ll come around.”
“So you were just using me eh Chinedu? I just happened to be the girl available to soothe your hurt ego abi?”
“I don’t mean to hurt you Ihuoma but I’m just not ready for another relationship right now… ”
Ihuoma took a deep breath in and stood up, “It’s okay Chinedu Okoro, I totally understand.” She smiled and went back to her office amidst his calls for her to come back.
On her bed that night, sleep eluded her. She starred at the ceiling, counting the squares in it. Chinedu had done the expected and she wasn’t surprised. She knew it would happen someday but she just hoped it wouldn’t be so soon. She wasn’t angry with him, she was angry with herself, for being so gullible and insensitive to the signs. Thinking about it, he never really showed any sign of affection towards her, she only saw what she wanted to see. Never in her wildest imagination did she think that she would be a rebound chick. She curled up on her bed and covered her face with her pillow, allowing it to soak her unending tears.
To be continued…
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