It is by Grace that we see this day.
Happy Friday everyone. I remember mentioning that Pelleura is now of two sections. Pelleura Business and Pelleura Story. Pelleura Story, which is our normal fiction stuff, kicks off this Friday, and it will come up every Friday. Apologies for making you wait for so long. Below is the first chapter of our new story. I hope you enjoy reading it.
Faith Weds, Not Grace – Chapter One
Faith Okere stepped out from the taxi, paid the driver and hurried down the street. Her destination was the house from which traditional music blasted from mounted speakers.
The narrow street was tight as vehicles lined up on one side of the road. It was the reason the driver of the cab she boarded refused to take her to the house. He explained he could go in, narrowly avoiding scraping against the parked cars. But it would be impossible to reverse and drive out of the street again.
So here she was, hurrying down on foot.
It was a happy day for her best friend, Grace Ede, as it was her traditional marriage ceremony. But it was a not so happy day for Faith, as it reminded her; she had no man of her own.
What’s worse? The guy Grace was getting married to is her ex. The shock, pain, and hatred she felt when Grace announced she had a new boyfriend who happened to be her ex, was indescribable. For a split second, she was sure she was going to kill them both.
Grace’s fiancé, Alex Ezeme, had been in a relationship with Faith since their time as corpers in Ebonyi State. And their relationship grew even stronger after their service year.
They visited each other, spent time on phone calls and WhatsApp. Their love was made in heaven. And when Alex started making mentions of what it would be like to have babies together, Faith was sure a marriage proposal was on its way.
But then, Alex got admission for Masters and Ph.D. study abroad. Uk, precisely. They lost contact for a while. And when they finally reconnected, Faith could tell something was amiss. Alex didn’t sound excited like he used to.
Then one hot afternoon, when Faith was sure the heat of the sun was going to make her pass out, as she made her way home from an NGO where she worked as a receptionist, she heard a message alert in her phone. She took it out to look at it briefly. The message was from Alex. Faith was excited. She pushed the phone back in her handbag, making a mental note to read it after she got home.
When she eventually got home and read the message. She was sure she had seen what would eventually kill her. It read:
Hi, Faith. Please forgive me for sounding so formal. I believe I have lost the right to call you my sweetheart because I have betrayed what we had. I just didn’t know how to tell you all along. I am now in a relationship with another lady. And because things went too fast between us, I did a thing that now compels me to marry her. I do not deserve your forgiveness.
Please, don’t wait for me. If a good man comes along, say yes to him. With so much pain in my heart, I have to let you go.
Faith actually fainted. Thanks to her razz cousin, Phina, who had just started living with her, she was revived. But the following weeks were filled with pain and loss of will to live.
If it wasn’t for her Phina, being the sort that didn’t think men were worth crying for and who talked sense into her, Faith would have been glad to commit suicide. Alex was the man she wanted. No other could really take his place. How did she know? She tried.
On two different occasions, she dated men she thought had some of Alex’s qualities. But the relationships did not survive the first month.
Few months later, Grace, Faith’s childhood friend, who had also been in the UK for studies returned home, saying she was pregnant and the guy responsible was coming over to get married to her quickly.
Faith was happy for her until she asked to see a picture of him and was shown a picture of Alex.
She didn’t know if to cry or scream or cause trouble. But somehow, she was calm. And even though Grace did notice the change of expression and asked what was wrong, Faith covered up the truth by telling a lie.
The lie was, Grace had a handsome man to get married to. But she lost her man abroad and still couldn’t find another like him.
“Wait! Alex left you?” Grace looked bewildered.
No, you idiot. You snatched him from me. Faith wanted to say, but she pulled herself together and answered, “yes”.
“But why? What happened?”
“I guess he found a more beautiful woman”.
“That’s stupid. Our men are just too stupid”, Grace said, comforting her., “But isn’t it odd? My fiancé and your ex-bear same name.
“I hope they wouldn’t be flocking together. It will be heartbreaking”, Faith tried to joke. It worked because Grace laughed.
The reason for her lie was that she wouldn’t be responsible for any break up between her friend and her dream man.
Of course, she should be sad and spend the rest of her days mourning. But hey! This was her best friend’s traditional marriage ceremony and as much as she would have loved to stay at home, she promised she’d try to be in attendance and also, be happy for her friend. Besides, she was the maid of honor.
There was also the fact that she’d love to see the look on Alex’s face when she’d meet with him face to face and let him know, he cheated on her with her best friend.
The music was way louder as she stepped into the compound. Canopies were already in place shielding guests from the hot sun. Caterers went about setting up their serving table and putting together plates needed for each canopy.
The groom and his family were not in sight, neither was her friend.
Faith looked at the time. It was only 1:44 PM. The invitation card said the event would start at 2:00 PM sharp. It could only mean, the groom and his family came earlier and traditional procedures were ongoing with Gracie’s family.
As if confirming her thoughts, loud arguments erupted from within the sitting room. Faith ignored them. She wasn’t there for their arguments.
She took out her phone and dialed Grace’s number. Grace picked at the second ring,
“Faith, where are you nau?” came the question.
“I’m in your compound o babe, wondering how to get to you without passing the sitting room. It seems like your in-laws to be and your family members are fighting world war 10”.
“Go jor. You’re just exaggerating”, Grace laughed, “Oya come over to the back of the house. The kitchen door is open. I’ll meet you there”.
“Awesome. I’m on my way”.
The next few minutes met her at the back of the bungalow. Grace, true to her words, was already at the kitchen entrance waiting for her.
There were lots of cooking activities and Faith wondered if it wouldn’t be better to help out. But Grace thought needing company was way more important than cooking. After all, there were so many people already handling it. She dragged her best friend to her room to get ready for the day too.
There were 3 other ladies in the room; one was Grace’s distant cousin, the other was a friend from their neighborhood and the third was a friend of another friend. Faith exchanged greetings with them before sitting on the bed. The ladies had fun telling one story after the other as they got the bride dressed. One of the ladies added finishing touches to her make-up, and she was soon ready to be married.
While they waited for the elders to finish their negotiations, the ladies left the duo to attend to other things around the house, leaving the door wide open.
Faith would have been happy to join them, but Grace held her back, saying she needed company and a real friend to talk to.
“What’s wrong with you?” Faith asked after she noticed for the first time, her friend’s sad expression.
“I’m really scared and tired of this marriage activity stuff you know”, Grace admitted.
“What? Wait!”, Faith sat up straight, “you’re tired of a marriage that hasn’t even started? Or are you referring to the activities surrounding the event?” Faith knew she would be happy if she didn’t go through with the traditional. But she had to be careful not to mention that.
“Everything!” Grace threw her hands up in frustration, “I want to tell you how I feel but I don’t even know where to start”, she explained when she saw Faith’s raised brows.
“Ok. Just start from anywhere”, Faith encouraged, wondering if her once good boyfriend was now a monster, ”Is he the violent type and you’re scared of the beatings waiting for you? Is he cheating on you? What about his family? Do they receive you well?”
“Phew!” That was Grace, “I had forgotten how active your imagination can be”.
“But you’re the one who’s putting me in suspense here. And you wouldn’t tell me what the problem is”
“That’s the point, Faith. I can’t tell exactly what the problem is. You wouldn’t understand. I really just wish I was in your shoes, free from all these marriage and wedding bruhaha”.
“Well, I can dash you my shoes and take yours, because sincerely, I need a man in my life. A committed one too”.
“I can dash you all the wedding preparations, my gowns and the wedding itself”, Grace laughed.
Faith shook her head in disbelief, “well, let’s keep wishing. It just might come true”.
And what exactly is this wish?” one of the ladies that helped dress Grace earlier, stepped back into the room, holding two plates of Ukodo on a tray. Apparently, she brought food for the ladies to eat up before the elders were ready to call on the bride.
“Ah, nothing”, Grace waved it off, “I was just wishing I was in Faith’s shoes and wouldn’t have to put up with all the hectic preparations for marriage and all. And Faith here is wishing she had a man she was getting married to”.
“Oh!” the lady, young, ebony, tall and shaped like an hourglass, chuckled, “interesting wishes. So how exactly did you make these wishes?” she stepped forward and placed the tray on the dressing table.
“Ah, very simple. I’m tired of all the stress. Keeping up hasn’t been easy. I wish I’m in Faith’s shoes, very single and having some peace of mind”, she laughed.
“And your faith?” the lady asked, her eyes observing.
For a split second, Faith wondered why this celebrity model figure was interested in their wishes. Or was she one of those kinds of friends who would then go behind their backs to tell everyone she was wishing for her friend’s husband to be?
What’s worse, they’ll then call her a bad friend who may be capable of husband snatching.
“Don’t worry about my wishes. It really doesn’t mean anything. Besides, we were just joking”, oh! They would never really know how serious she was. After all, even though she was sad about the fact that Alex betrayed her, she still hadn’t gotten over him. She wished she could tell Grace the truth. She wished the table would turn around and she’d end up at the altar with him.
But well, those were wishes, and she never ever wanted to be the reason for her friend’s sadness.
“But you did make a wish”, the lady insisted, “It doesn’t matter if you were joking. You see, I’m a writer and I love to use real-life scenarios in my story. There’s this particular scene I’m working on just now and it fits with what you ladies are talking here. Please, I just want to know how you said it, so I’ll know how to write it”.
“Phew!” Faith sighed, the chuckled lightly, “well, since Grace doesn’t appreciate her shoes, I wish I’m in her shoes”, she finished, pouting.
“Ah awesome”, the lady clapped in excitement, “But you weren’t dramatic about it”, she pointed out, smiling mischievously.
“I don’t need to get all dramatic for a playful wish”, Faith forced a smile.
“Oh yes!” The lady laughed, even though she saw through to Faith’s sadness, “You two should better eat up quickly. From what I observed in the sitting room, discussions are rounding up and you will soon be called to finalize before you go out to greet your guests”.
“Oh! That was fast”, Grace said, reaching for one of the plates and started to eat up, “Please you’ll have to help me redo my makeup after this”, she pleaded with the lady.
“Sure. Let me attend to the others first”, she walked out of the room.
Few seconds passed before Faith reached for her own plate of food, “That lady is weird”, she said, taking the first spoon.
“Ah! Come on, she was only getting a line for her story. She owns a blog where she really writes interesting stories. Some are real-life related and others are fiction”.
“Oh! Maybe she’ll title her new story, “The Chief Bride’s Maid Who Wished For The Groom.”
“Hahahahah…” Grace couldn’t help laughing, “You’re just acting up over nothing”.
The ladies spent time gisting and laughing until the model returned with the other ladies. “They want to Identify their bride”, she announced happily. They all got dressed, one after the other, and went out to the in-laws who shook their heads, saying, this is not our bride.
And when the real bride arrived, they were glad to say, “yes, this is her”.
Activities went on smoothly for the rest of the day. Faith was actively involved and when she eventually locked eyes with the groom, he was shocked. It was much later, at the close of the event; he stopped her as she was making her way out of the compound, ready to head home.
“Yes? What can I do for you?” she pretended like she didn’t know him.
“Faith, I’m really sorry about all these. Believe me, you were the woman I wanted to marry”.
“But you’re married to someone else. And that someone is my best friend. I expect you should be fateful to her, even though you were not to me”.
“Sweetheart it isn’t what you think”.
“Don’t call me that. You’re a married man now. My friend bears your name. Good night, and congrats on your marriage today”, she left without turning back.
She was on a bus, still on her way home, when fresh tears found their way to her eyes, then down her cheeks. What she didn’t know, was that she wasn’t alone. The celebrity model look-alike lady was on the same bus with her, although she had changed into casual jeans and t-shirt. And from where she sat, she observed Faith with keen eyes. She knew a heartbroken woman when she saw one. And Faith was definitely heartbroken.
Could it really be because of the man Grace married today? Was the wish she made back in Grace’s room true? Was that why she was reluctant to repeat it, for fear of being caught? And she remembered seeing Faith and the groom talking to each other when she was about to leave the house earlier. She had expected it was a casual talk. But with Faith crying here, it was possible she knew the groom, Alex, very well. And it was possible the duo had something between them.
She decided it was best to let the heartbroken girl cry. But as soon as she got home, she would carry out her own investigations.
Faith was obviously not thinking when she branched at a wine shop just before she got home that night. She had bought a bottle of hot, without caring about the name or brand. She just wanted to drink to stupor.
Phina, her cousin, was taken aback when Faith took out the bottle from her bag and waved it carelessly, saying she was going to have a fun night.
Yes, Phina was one razz girl who loved alcohol like her life depended on it. But Faith? No way. She was the reverend sister who tried woefully to always set Phina, who happened to be five times her junior, on the right part. And so it was weird seeing her cousin struggle to pop the bottle open. And then pour into two tumblers.
“Are you ok?” Phina asked instead when Faith offered her one tumbler. Yes, she loved alcohol. But not when she was studying hard for her finals in business school. She had a lot of studying to do and she didn’t want anything to dull her senses.
“I’m great! Can’t you see that?” She forced a smile.
“The only thing I see is my cousin seriously heartbroken and pained. I told you not to go for that marriage”, she pointed out, “But you wouldn’t listen”.
“Stop acting like my mom, Phina. If you don’t want a drink, just say so”
“Well, I don’t want to drink. My final exam starts tomorrow, and I still have a lot of studying to do. Good night cuz,” She started towards her room, “be careful with the drink. It’ll knock you off.”
Faith waited until Phina had disappeared into her room before taking the first glass. She choked, coughed, hit her chest and cried out. She wasn’t used to hot drinks. But then, hadn’t she seen and read and watched a lot of people drown their sorrows in alcohol?
She didn’t care if the following day was Grace’s church wedding, and she was to be the chief bride’s maid. After all, she had purposely left her chief bride’s maid gown and accessories at Grace’s so that if she didn’t turn up for the event, they could find someone else to replace her.
This night was her night. And she just wanted to drink away all the pain.
To Be Continued…
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