They were still deep in the discussion when a loud knock at the door caused them to paused and look in the direction of the wooden frame.
“Who is it?” Faith asked, getting off the bed. Of course, she had to keep up with appearance. Those working around the house still thought she was really Grace.
“You sent for me. I’m here. Can you please open up?”
It was Alex. All eyes turned to Faith. She swallowed, looking at the door but being unable to move.
“I’ll get the door”, Grace offered and went ahead to pull it open, “You were fast? She said.
Alex paused upon seeing her. He never for once thought, he would come all the way from the church to see the love of his life in the same room with his soon to be bride. This wasn’t what he wanted. He didn’t need a reason to feel EXTRA guilt on his wedding day. He already felt guilty enough. But seeing her was already worsening his situation, and so he stood there, speechless, staring at her.
Grace would have asked what was wrong with him. But what was the point, when she knew real well, he thought he was looking at the love of his life. What’s worse, Alex had never looked at her the way he did that very moment. He had always looked at her as another one of the many ladies out there. But with Faith, she saw he was really in love with her. Even though he was about to marry another woman. Faith’s best friend.
“Please come in”, she pulled the door wider.
It took a while before he stepped in, as he was still trying to put his emotions in check.
It was after Alex got in he noticed for the first time, Jerry, sitting beside his soon to be bride, “My in-law, good morning”, he greeted.
“God morning bros. Welcome”, he managed to say, when he actually wanted to insult the daylight out of him for not loving his sister, thereby pushing her to make a stupid wish. But he kept his tongue in check.
“Hi, good morning”, Faith greeted, ignoring the fact that her racing heart was getting ready to pop out of her chest, “please…please sit”, she gestured at the chair in front of Grace’s dressing table. But Alex didn’t move to sit.
“The priests are at the church, waiting for us. It’s almost time and you’re not ready”.
“It isn’t as easy as you’re saying it. There are issues we need to clear up first”.
“Like you’re going to need to learn to respect my sister if this marriage will hold,” Jerry couldn’t hold back anymore.
A brief silence followed, and then Alex spoke, after turning around to find that Faith, well, the person he thought was Faith, was no longer in the room with them.
“Jerry, I respect your sister, more than you will ever know. She knows this. And she also knows, love is not part of this arrangement. We are getting married because she wants your parents to not withdraw her finances for school, or deny her of her inheritance. On my own part, I am just ensuring I have no kids out of wedlock. These two things are what we have between us. Did you change your mind, Grace?”
“Well, that completely depends on how our discussion goes”, Faith said, looking from him to Jerry.
“You don’t even look like you have bathed this morning. Are you pulling out of our arrangement? If yes, why wait until the last minute to say so?”
“That isn’t her fault. One can’t get married if she isn’t the one you want”, Grace said, coming up from behind. She had stepped out briefly to quickly get Bridget back in the room, and to tell everyone, especially her mother, not to disturb their conversation. Her mother, very worried, had asked repeatedly if everything was ok. And although Grace would have loved to give her a mild heart attack by saying all isn’t well between her daughter and son-in-law to be, she took pity on the woman. After all, new body or not, she was still her mother. And so she had done her best to console her.
Alex turned to look at her. And again, that pain, mixed with love and admiration was in his eyes. He definitely was sad that he broke her heart. And that she wasn’t the one he was marrying. Well, until that morning as they were about to tell him what was up.
“Faith, I don’t expect you to forgive me. I really wish I could turn back the time. We’ll still be together. But I have to respect the woman I’m getting married to now”.
“Well, I don’t care about that. I’m not the one you should be asking for forgiveness.”
“So you admit you two were in a relationship”, Jerry asked.
Alex sighed. “We actually talked about getting married and having kids together. Is this what I was called here for? Faith is my ex. And I still love her very much. But I have never cheated on your sister. Not even with her”.
“Well, this isn’t about cheating”, Grace said from where she sat beside Faith, “If you will please sit, we will tell you why we called you”.
Alex was reluctant, but he finally sat. Jerry moved to bolt the door before Grace and Faith started to narrate their ordeal since they woke up. Bridget also explained her side of the situation and gave him his options, just as she gave the ladies.
At first, he was skeptical, refusing to believe what they explained. It wasn’t until Faith asked him to try her by asking intimate questions about their past relationship; how they met in camp and all the things they did afterward.
It was during the explanation that Alex understood why Faith seemed off, in talking to him. It just didn’t feel like her. And that’s because it wasn’t her in that body. She was the one in Grace’s.
And when he looked in her direction again, his expression softened. He understood now, why she looked at him the way she did after he stepped in. Even Grace noticed the kind and loving expression he had for her earlier, had shifted to her other self.
It was another one hour of talking for the ladies, pointing out advantages and disadvantages of what had happened and what to do next.
“I don’t know about you two”, Grace spoke up, “But I see the way you look at her, Alex. You’ve never looked at me that way. And I’m almost sure you never will. So I’ve decided. I will remain in this body…”
“Grace, don’t do this”, Jerry interrupted.
“I have to”, She insisted, “He will never love me, but he loves her, and she still gets to bear his child”, she turned to her friend, and then Alex, “You two go ahead and get married. It’s going to be difficult fitting into a new life. But I guess we’ll just have to find a way to help and support each other”.
“Well, one person has spoken. What about you?” Bridget looked at Faith, whose hands were already rubbing her belly.
“I wasn’t involved in the process that brought about this pregnancy”, she said, eyes fixed on Alex, and then Grace, ‘But I’ll love to have it, and I will love a second chance to be with Alex”.
Bridget smiled broadly, “awesome choices ladies. Now to the man involved. Do you agree with this arrangement, Alex?
Alex sighed, getting to his feet. He didn’t know what to make of his feelings. Was he happy? Or was he confused?”
Sure, he dreamt at night that he was getting married to Faith, instead of Grace. And although he was happy in his dreams, something was off with Faith.
He woke up asking himself what was wrong with him. The whole of the night, he mourned what he and Faith used to have. Seeing her at the traditional triggered a lot of emotions he thought he had buried. And it was for that reason he treated Grace badly the night before. He snubbed and acted like she had pointed a gun at his head and asked him to marry her.
Grace deserved better. After all, they were both drunk when they got involved with each other and it was his suggestion, even though she agreed to it.
“I am almost speechless because, as much as I’ll love to be with the woman of my dreams, I’m still going to be with her in the body of the woman I was to marry; a woman I can’t say, I’ve treated very well. A mistake was made that led to all of this. And through the entire process, I’ve been nothing but an ass to her. And now, here she is, sacrificing her body and entire life, even her family, so I can be with the woman I love. I feel ashamed”, he looked down, “and all I can say to you, Grace, is thank you. I really don’t know how to repay you. But I will”.
“Just take good care of my friend, and my baby”, Grace managed a smile. Her eyes were already moist, “And ensure you both give me my inheritance money” she burst into a short laugh. The others laughed too, even though none of them was with a dry eye.
“I will take care of our baby”, Faith reached for Grace’s hand and squeezed. Grace squeezed back and smiled at her.
“And I’ll always check on the both of you”.
“Phew! Ok”, Jerry cleared his throat, “Now that you’ve given me a new sister, where do I start from? What do I do? How do we go on with this wedding?
“Well, you don’t need to tell anyone what has happened”, Bridget said, then looked at Grace “you will need to be by her side a lot, especially with the family, so they don’t throw things at her that she wouldn’t know”.
“I understand”, Grace nodded.
“So, from now on”, Bridget really looked excited, “You are to be called by the names you’re known by. Or, you can visit the court in the new week and file for a change of name”.
“We will take care of all that”, Alex said, looking at Jerry. Grace’s brother didn’t look happy. But he nodded anyway.
“And what about your parents?” Jerry asked Faith. He needed to start getting information about the new family his sister was going into. And he was going to ensure he was by her side every step of the way.
“I was actually born out of wedlock. I had just my mom. But she was involved in a car crash the year I finished school. Just before service. And she made me promise to move on with my life. That was the day before she died at the hospital.”
“Oh! I’m sorry about that”, Jerry sighed, rubbing his head, “what about Uncles? You have any?”
“My mother’s brothers. Yes. I’m just not close to them. I do have a cousin though, that I’m close to. Phina. We’re almost like sisters and she will smell foul from a mile away. The best we can do is bring her in on this”.
“Sure”, he agreed.
“Before all of that, people”, Bridget clapped her hands in excitement. We have a wedding to attend. And from what I see, time is far spent”.
“What is the time?” Alex asked, hands in pocket.
“11:55 AM. We need to get ready and we need someone to go ahead and let them know, the bride is on her way”.
“I will do that”, Alex said, “after all, I’m returning to the church.”
They had a few more discussions before they dispersed, but not without Alex giving Faith, now Grace, a tight hug. And then he moved to hug Grace, now Faith. “Thank you,” he whispered.
Grace nodded. Her smile broad. Faith couldn’t hide her excitement either. Now it was time to bath and prepare for their big day. Faith couldn’t help though, worrying about Phina. Her cousin was rugged, very open-minded and always just wanted to catch fun. Yeah, she was open-minded. Faith should relax, knowing her cousin will accept her new relative without too much stress. But hadn’t they watched a movie that played out almost the same way her life had now turned out? Phina freaked out about the movie and went on to say she would never be open to body swap.
Faith sighed, as she looked at her old self, Grace, smiling broadly at the man that was her husband just the night before. Sure, life isn’t a bed of roses. And true, they couldn’t tell the kinds of challenges they would encounter. But the ladies never forgot the words of one of their favorite teachers back in secondary school, Mr. Esien. He had always said, “Life cannot be rushed, because perfection cannot be rushed. Anything good takes time to build. So do not ignore the rule that says, “Make the most of each day as they come. And you will see your small drops have made a mighty ocean.”
The End of Part One, Look Out For Part Two
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