“He’s getting married.”

I look at my finger, there is no engagement ring there. He didn’t propose to me so how is he getting married?

To who? Where? When? How?

****

The memory of that day is fresh, like yesterday, a day I wish never came. The day all the castles and dreams I had built crashed like a pack of cards.

I wake up that Saturday with all the joy in the world. Fola is coming home tonight after being in London for three months. I really want to host the grandest welcome party for him, the very best man in the world.

My living room looks like a mess from the games night I had had with the girls the night before.

“This is such a disaster,” I say as I pick up the throw pillows.

I always have to clean up after my friends when they visit. Salewa, iyawo olowo would never lift a finger to help and Bena was always too drunk to do anything. It’s such a wonder how I keep them as friends even though they’re both scatterbrains.

I take a few seconds off to stretch and retie my scarf. I am still tired but I know I have a long day ahead. I have to clean up because my cleaning lady cannot come till next week. Then I have to go to the mall and purchase party decor, pick up the small chops and burgers. I still have to get home in record time to receive the cake. I know it’s too much for one person, but Fola deserves the very best I can give, nothing is too much for him.

I pick up my phone and connect it to my Sonos speaker. I need ginger to do all the things I have to do, so I play my chores playlist. You see, I have a playlist for everything, work, chores, cleaning, sex, driving, name it. I like to stay organized, even with my music. So I hit the play button, from Masego’s Tadow to Burna’s Gum Body, all the ginger I need is right there so I get to work.

I’ve finished sweeping and I take a mini dance break before I start dusting. While I’m at it, I hear a knock on my door. I look at the time and wonder who it could be, it’s too early for visitors. I walk to the door and look through the window beside it. I see Salewa and Benazir standing there and speaking in hushed tones.

It’s highly unusual for them to visit together because they’re not that close to each other. I’m the only common factor in their lives, in fact, they have many differences so they hardly ever get along smoothly. They have only been close for a few months.

“Maybe they came to help out.” I say to myself as I open the door.

“Awww, you guys came to help me prepare.” I smile gleefully as they walk in.

They smile back and I notice that something is not quite right. Salewa is not her usual shady self and Bena looks quite nervous. Something is off about both of them and I wonder why.

“What’s wrong with you guys?” I ask them.

“Nothing, are you okay?” Benazir blurts out and Salewa gives her a death stare.

I look at myself from head to toe and wonder what may be wrong with me. I can’t see anything wrong so I tell her I’m okay and ask why she’s nervous. Before she can answer, Salewa speaks quickly,

“It must be all that alcohol she drank last night, she’s still hungover.” Salewa eyes her.

“Yes, it must be.” Bena says quietly.

I pride myself on being the most observant person in my circle so I notice that something is off. They’re doing a terrible job at hiding the problem but I say nothing. I know they’ll spill it sooner than later. Besides, I wasn’t going to let anything change my mood so I let it go.

“So did you guys come to help me set up for the party tonight?” I ask enthusiastically.

“Party? What party?” Bena asks.

Before I can answer her with all the shade intended, Salewa saves her from my tongue.

“Yes we did, we didn’t want you doing everything alone.” She smiles at me.

For the second time, Salewa gives Bena the death stare. Bena smiles and nods in agreement.

“Great then. I’m done with the sweeping, what’s left is the dusting and mopping. Then we can go out and buy the decor. Good?” I tell them my plans gleefully.

“Yeah, we can help you clean up while my driver goes to the store.” Salewa offers his service.

“Your driver ke? That one that can barely speak English? How will he do it?” I laugh.

“It’s not hard Unoaku. Just call the store, place an order, and tell them you’re sending someone to pick up, simple.” Salewa says impatiently.

“But I need to see what I like before I buy it now. How can I just pay and get it delivered? What if I don’t like it? Abeg there’s no need stressing Mr. Taiwo, I’ll go for it when I’m done here.” I tell Salewa.

“Stress Mr. Taiwo ke? Isn’t that why we pay him? Abeg abeg, just order, he’ll go and pick it.” Salewa insists.

“Aren’t you listening? I need to see the options and make my choice.” I remind them.

“Uno they have a website, you can make your choice there and pay,” Benazir suggests.

“That’s true o.” I look around for my phone.

I see it sitting on the coffee table and I reach for it, Salewa does the same. She snatches it before I can touch it and I wonder why.

“Give me my phone joor, I don’t have power for this play.” I chuckle.

“No don’t worry, I’ll order it for you. You and Bena can finish cleaning, you know I’d never do that.” She looks at her nails and blows them.

“Of course, it’s a crime for you to get your hands dirty,” Bena says sarcastically.

“Well, it’s not my fault I can pay people to get their hands dirty.” Salewa retorts.

“Well we can pay too, we just choose not to.” Bena fires back.

“Please please, I choose to pay. I wouldn’t be here sweating if my cleaning lady was around.” I say.

“Oho, help me tell your friend. Why should I suffer voluntarily when I can pay someone else?” Salewa says.

Benazir frowns at me and I cannot help but laugh. She was on the shorter end of the rope as usual and I couldn’t help but pity her. It’s weird that she and Salewa argue so much because if we’re being honest, they’re alike.

They both have close associations with wealth, one by birth and the other by marriage. The difference is that Bena tries so hard to be average, actually, below average. Benazir acts like she’s synonymous with suffering and I don understand it. Salewa on the other hand, has welcomed her wealth with open arms, she doesn’t ever downplay it. If for anything, she makes sure to remind us daily that her husband’s family is wealthy, which makes her a wealthy woman too.

I go to retrieve my duster and come back to the living room to find them talking in hushed tones again. Immediately they see me, they stop talking but because they’re terrible pretenders, I can tell that they’re hiding something. I choose to ignore it because I want them to talk when they’re ready to.

I remember that Salewa had said she wasn’t coming here today because she was going out with her mother-in-law. You see, she and her mother-in-law are 5 and 6 because her husband, Kene, is the woman’s only son. So as expected, Salewa had to be friends with her if she wanted a peaceful marriage. In fact, it was me who advised Salewa because I know what Igbo mothers are like. Turns out that they have so much in common so naturally, the bond was easy to form.

“Nwuye Kene, I thought you weren’t coming here today? Didn’t you have that thing with your mother in law?” I ask her.

“Yeah that, she postponed till tomorrow.” She says.

We’re in the middle of that conversation when there’s a series of impatient knocks on my door. Before I can even move to the door, whoever it is starts banging on it. I forget the usual procedure of checking to see who is standing outside first. I open the door and Nkem rushes into my living room. I look at her in confusion and wonder what the problem may be.

“What is it? Why were you banging like a madwoman?”

“Uno, Kedu? How are you? Are you okay?” She looks at me for a second before pulling me into a tight embrace. I look at Salewa and Benazir in confusion. Salewa rolls her eyes and shakes her head while Benazir holds her head down.

Nkem is the most dramatic friend (borderline hypocrite) I have. She blows everything out of proportion and acts like the world is ending when something small happens. I am sure she’s being dramatic as usual this time because she wouldn’t let me break out of her hold.

Salewa gets up from her seat and pulls me away from her.

“Leave her alone now. Must you always be so dramatic?” Salewa leads me to sit beside her.

“Wait o, you people haven’t heard?” Nkem exhales, hands akimbo.

“Heard what?” I ask her.

“I’m sure it’s nothing important.” Bena says. “This babe is always exaggerating, don’t mind her.”

Nkem slaps her hands together and laughs lightly before coming to sit down beside me.

“Nwannem,” she taps my shoulders vigorously, “you better mind me o, mind me.” She says.

“What is going on?” I am beginning to lose my patience.

“My sister, what I’m about to tell you eh, I hope….” Nkem is speaking before Salewa cuts her off.

“You hope what? It will not be more than your regular gossip about what is happening in Lagos. Abeg just be going and let us hear word.”

“Salewa, let her talk!” I yell.

I am desperate to hear her gossip because it is now obvious that Bena and Salewa don’t want her to talk. There must be something they all know that they’re keeping from me. It makes perfect sense now, Salewa and Bena have been extremely weird since they got here and now they’re trying to silence Nkem.

Nkem takes a deep breath and begins,

“I woke up this morning o and after praying, I say let me check Instagram, you know, see what is going on.”

Salewa is boiling right now and Bena is distraught. They’re never bothered with Nkem’s gossip so I know it’s something big. Now more than ever, I’m eager to hear her story.

“So I checked my feed and saw what my followers had posted the night before, you know after I had gone to bed. After that…”

“For goodness sake, get to the point!” I raise my voice.

“Okay okay.” She takes a deep breath and exhales. “I went to my explore page and I see the same proposal video recurring. I opened one of them to see who the couple was and why everybody was posting them. Hmmm, my sister….” She pauses.

“Uno, I told you this girl doesn’t have anything to say. She’s just peddling rumors as usual.” Salewa blurts.

“I’m with Salewa on this one.” Bena joins in. “Okay somebody is getting married, big deal? Can we just go back to our cleaning?” She says.

“Somebody ke? It’s not just anybody o, it’s Fola!” Nkem screams.

My heart stops beating for a minute. I’m very confused right now. I ask myself what is going on and why Nkem is saying rubbish. How can she say Fola is getting married? How? I refuse to believe it, so I ask,

“Fola? Which Fola?” I chuckle.

“What kind of question is that? Your Fola now, Fola Wiltshire.” Nkem says.

I laugh loudly. This is the funniest joke I have heard in my whole life.

“Nkem you’re actually mad.” I laugh hysterically.

“He’s getting married.” Nkem insists.

I look at my finger, there is no engagement ring there. He didn’t propose to me so how is he getting married?

To who? Where? When? How?

For some reason, no one says a word. Benazir isn’t laughing, neither is Salewa berating Nkem for cracking such an expensive joke. The whole room is unusually quiet so I look at them. They’re neither laughing nor surprised nor shocked at what Nkem has just said. Instead, Bena and Salewa look at me sadly while Nkem’s eyes are full of pity.

There’s turmoil in my mind, this is definitely a lie, it cannot be true. So I ask Nkem to show me the video, it must be a mistake, maybe the person in question bears a resemblance to Fola.

She takes her phone out of her pocket and before we can say Jack, Salewa snatches her phone.

“Is something wrong with you? Haven’t you done enough?” She yells at Nkem.

“Ahan! What is your own now? Didn’t you hear her ask me for the video?”

I care less about their exchange of words. All I want to see is the video, to prove to Nkem that her eyes deceived her and that my Fola didn’t propose to anyone. I look around for my phone but I cannot find it. Then I remember that Salewa took it from me earlier on. I demand my phone but she refuses to let me have it. All she says is,

“Uno, you need to calm down, take it easy.”

“Give me the damn phone!” I scream at her.

She refuses to budge so I ask Benazir for hers. Bena hesitates and I see Salewa encouraging her not to give in. I look around for it frantically but I don’t see it. My eyes catch it safely tucked away in her pants and I rush for it. Bena tries to stop me but she’s no match for my desperation so I get it out of her pocket.

I unlock her phone and open Instagram immediately and I see the recurring video. I click on one and I see it with my two eyes. Fola, my Fola, is on one knee, in front of a woman I have never seen before professing his love. I didn’t hear his exact words, all I remember is him wearing her this huge engagement ring and her pulling him up into a long kiss, a kiss that tortured me, that tortured my very existence.

I want the ground to open up and swallow me, I want to die. Words are not enough to express my despair. I’m heart broken. No, I’m shattered. I want to disappear, I want to die. My friends are saying random words of consolation. But I cannot hear them. My head is too hot to process anything they’re saying. I only want to know why Fola would choose to do this. We were good together. We were the best lovers in the world. Why would he betray me like this? All these thoughts sent memories rushing down. I remember the first day I met Fola. A day, I wish now, never came.

49 Comments on Strength Of A Woman- Prologue

  1. Nkem is a terrible friend! How tf do you break that type of news in such a manner?

    I can bet that Fola was actually going to show up at her house that day, all ‘Babe,I feel jet lagged…the flight was tiring yen yen’ and act like he didn’t just propose to someone else the night before. After Lucifer, fear Yoruba men!

  2. Fola must be dumb. Because how can you have a girlfriend in Nigeria and then let your proposal to another woman trend on the Internet? Na wa!

  3. This one pained me o. See how she was preparing to welcome this man, not knowing he was doing rubbish outside. Men will disgrace you!

  4. God will not let any man make my enemies laugh at me. Because you cannot tell me that Nkem is her friend. She was so eager to break the bad news. Tufia!

  5. This situation is dicey o. I think she should hear Fola out before concluding.
    Enjoyable read by the way. When is the next episode out?

  6. I hope she kidnaps him from the airport, give him razor cuts all over his body and then lace his wounds with fresh pepper. Let her do it for three days and then send him back to his “fiancée”. He must be mad!

  7. Nice piece. Kind of my story.
    Men are terrible and in the end they’ll twist the whole story and make it look like it was your fault.

    What’s the forward for the lady?
    Would Fola eventually enjoy his new found love?
    Would he live happily ever?
    Would the lady find true love?

  8. OK so I don’t support her friends holding back to news from her since she will eventually find out. It’s better it came from them than that big mouth Nkem. If I were the one, I might not trust them again because they could hold something that sensitive away from me

    • Well, to be honest, the situation was dicey. I think they wanted her to have a soft landing. That’s why they were stalling. They couldn’t have just dropped the bomb like that.

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