Freda had her nearest future sorted out. Out of school, done with national service, retained at the company for her impressive work ethics, a marriage proposal from her university sweetheart. Her life was running smooth.
And to make her white wedding dream come true, her mother’s best friend living in the States invited her over to spend some time with her so they could shop for her big day. What else could she ask for?
Kevin her fiancé, wasn’t amused about the fact that they would be apart for some months. But Freda was able to convince him that it was just an effort to make sure they had a memorable ceremony. And besides, she was the one paying for the dress and the accessories, who was he to complain?
So up in the air she went, her brain cataloguing everything she had to do and get to sparkle her big day. She was on cloud nine; where building castles in the air was allowed. She met her auntie’s (yeah, every friend of the parents automatically becomes an auntie and uncle) son at the airport. He was a gentleman by all standards and made her feel welcome instantly. They had had a brief encounter when his mother brought him along many years ago for the holidays. They were both very young and the memories were quite faint. But they hit it off as if they had been in touch since then.
She arrived at her auntie’s home and she was received warmly. The three of them chatted for a long while, catching up.
“Cudjoe, can you believe Freda is about to get married? You should sit up. You’re not getting any younger, you know?” She said in a lighthearted tone but her message was loud and clear. He laughed it off but he excused himself to his room not too long after.
When Freda retired to the guest room, she quickly contacted her parents and then her husband-to-be. They chatted till she dozed off.
The next day, Cudjoe drove his mother and Freda around town as they went window shopping. Freda noticed that he kept stealing glances at her in the rearview mirror. She thought his actions to be flaterring in the beginning, but when he winked at her, a red flag waved in her mind. The gesture was harmless in itself but what she sensed behind the wink made her cringe. She shrugged the uneasy feelings away.
It was an interesting time, doing the window shopping with her auntie. They were able to gather more ideas for her wedding. They got magazines to flip through and make choices. Even Cudjoe offered some nice suggestions.
But the days that followed, she had to go with Cudjoe alone as her auntie had some business to attend to. She didn’t see the need to worry because after all, Cudjoe was like a brother, right? And he was fun to hang out with.
And fun he was. After a few rounds, he’d suggest they watch a movie or get lunch or ice-cream. He made it his mission to let her have a good time. And a good time she had.
They would take selfies from time to time and during one such moment as they were goofing around, he leaned in and kissed her cheek and his phone captured it. She was stunned and she looked at him for an explanation. He shrugged as if it wasn’t a big deal.
“It’s just a kiss on the cheek. Don’t freak out as if I did something serious. Just a brotherly kiss. No big deal.” Well, he was right. It wasn’t like she hadn’t done worse with her fiancé. She let it go.
She spoke with Kevin every day as she updated him on her progress. He sounded uncomfortable when she informed him she had been hanging out with her ‘cousin.’
“There’s nothing to worry about, honey. He’s like my big brother. He’s been very helpful. Even if you don’t know him well to trust him, then trust me. I won’t let him come between us,” she assured him. He seemed convinced and she felt relieved.
After spending about three weeks with her auntie, Freda and Cudjoe had built a rapport that they felt comfortable discussing about almost anything. She asked him why he was single, a subject she had been wondering about.
“Well, I haven’t found the right one yet. Many of the ladies these days are superficial. When the fun runs out, so do they.”
“Well, you can come back to Ghana and try your luck. I can’t promise you won’t run into the superficial kind back home especially with you being a Yankee guy and all.”
“Yeah, I know. But I don’t have to worry much about that now because I think I’ve already found her.”
“Oh you have? Do you have a photo of her?”
“Yep. You wanna to see it?” she nodded, curious to take a look. He took his phone and opened the gallery. He tapped a photo of the two of them and showed it to her. She scowled.
“I don’t understand.” He kissed her before her words ended. The shock on her face was unmistakable. When he leaned in again, she stopped him by placing her hand on his chest.
“I’m engaged to be married, Cudjoe.”
“I know but I’ve feelings for you, Freda. And I believe it’s mutual.” When he kissed her again, she resisted.
“Don’t fight it,” he whispered against her lips. Freda couldn’t believe this was happening. When he kissed her again, she didn’t stop him and she didn’t know why. She could have but she didn’t.
They ended up on his bed and before they both realized, it was over. Just when they were both dreading what they had done, the door burst open and there stood her auntie.
“What is going on here?!” Her heart jumped into her tummy, seeking refuge.
“I can’t believe you, Cudjoe! Freda is your sister for crying out loud! Get out before I hit you!” She hit him with a pillow on his way out. Freda began crying out of shame.
“What were you thinking, Freda? You’re about to get married. Why would you do this?”
“I don’t know what came over me. I’m very sorry.”
“Cudjoe has dated more girls than I can count but I didn’t think he’d see you as his next target. Maybe it is my fault. I should have warned both of you. I am sorry.” She comforted her till she emptied her tear glands. She left her alone and she heard him shout at Cudjoe for the next ten minutes. She heard him say something back and then stormed out.
Freda felt so ashamed that she couldn’t raise her head properly to eat her dinner that day. Cudjoe tried to apologize but she wouldn’t hear it. She was supposed to spend two months but she left the following week. Her auntie promised to handle the shipment of the things they had ordered for.
Kevin could tell something was wrong with Freda since she got back but she would brush it aside. She’d just say, it was the stress of the wedding planning getting to her.
But with time, she was able to put the sour experience behind her and became herself again. About three weeks to the wedding, she fell ill. She wanted to buy drugs from the chemist store hoping to get better but Kevin insisted she went to the hospital.
She thought it would a malaria diagnosis at worst but she was hit with pregnancy news. What?!
“Oh no, we should have waited,” Kevin said, anxious about how to break the news especially to Freda’s mother. She was one of the outspoken advocates for morality in church. But Freda wasn’t just bothered about that. When she first heard the news, the first thought that struck her was that, it was Cudjoe’s. Tears filled her eyes.
“Oh no, don’t cry. We are going to get through this…together,” Kevin said, trying to comfort her. He had no idea what was going through in her mind.
Freda confided in her best friend and the first question she asked was, “Did you sleep with Kevin?”
“You know, I have. That is not…”
“I mean, before you left for the States.” “Yeah, I think so.”
“Then you don’t have a problem, Freda. As you said, Kevin thinks it’s his and it could be his. Why are you worrying yourself?” “What if it’s not? I don’t want us to start life together on a lie.”
“Well, the milk has already been spilt, my dear and there’s no point in crying over it. Let’s pretend you never did it with the Yankee boy and let’s think about how to tell your mother.”
“I have a bad feeling about this. Something tells me it’s Cudjoe’s.”
“It’s just the voice of guilt playing on repeat. Ignore it. You have a good man who is madly in love with you. Don’t let this five minutes out of line cost you everything.”
“What if it already has?”
“The ball is in your court. You decide where it goes.”
Then came the breaking of the news. As expected, Freda’s mother was furious. She scolded us for an hour, reciting all the Bible verses she knew about fornication. She didn’t forget to mention how disappointed she was in them. Kevin felt sorry and apologized profusely. Freda was caught up in her own fears to care.
She decided to take her friend’s advice and just go with the flow. As long as Kevin believed the baby was his, she was good to go.
But her woes were not over. Apparently, her mother in her frustration called her best friend in the States and lamented to her about what a disappointing child her daughter was. Her friend out of worry, confronted Cudjoe telling him about the pregnancy.
Freda’s heart leaped when she received a text message from Cudjoe out of the blue. She had ignored his calls when she returned and after a week or two, he stopped trying to get in touch with her. Why now?
Is the baby mine? was the brief but loaded question.
Oh no, her mother had just ruined everything for her. She quickly typed, No, it’s not and don’t try contacting me again. She sighed in relief when he didn’t reply. Maybe he would just back off. If she said it wasn’t his, then he didn’t have to worry about the responsibilities attached. But she was wrong.
About a week to her traditional marriage ceremony, Cudjoe appeared out of nowhere in her home. If it was a dream, she wanted to wake up…immediately but no matter how hard she pinched herself, the image of Cudjoe standing in her living room never left.
He claimed he just came for a visit but Freda knew better. She tried to avoid him as long as she could but she found out how that was a mistake. Kevin came over to the house without informing her and the two guys met.
“Oh so you are the guy who helped my lady around when she came over?”
“Yes I am.”
“And what brings you here?”
“Just came for a visit. I hear the big day is around the corner.”
“It is. I hope you’d be around for the ceremony.”
“Oh, I’m counting on it.” Freda was eavesdropping behind the kitchen door and she knew she was finished. After Kevin left, Freda decided to face the villain in her story.
“What are you really doing here?”
“Oh so now you want to talk, huh? Is it because your fiancé passed by? Are you scared that I will spill?”
“Is that why you are here?”
“I just want to know if it’s mine, Freda.”
“It’s not. If it wasn’t, do you think Kevin would agree to marry an infidel?” “How can you know for sure?” “I am the one carrying the baby. I know.” “I wish I could believe that.”
“So what are you going to do? Wait around till I deliver and have a look at the baby’s face to see if there’s a resemblance? Well, guess what, newborn babies look like everyone!”
“We can always have a DNA test.”
“For what? What is it that you want? If it were yours, are you planning on taking him away from me so you can raise him in the States? Are you even ready to be a father?”
“I’m not sure but one thing I’m sure about is my feelings for you, Freda. I didn’t say that the last time so you’d end up in my bed. I really meant it.”
“If your feelings are genuine, you’d let me go so I can be with the love of my life.”
“You don’t have feelings for me?” “Feelings come and go. I never had such feelings for you so you just take a breather; the feelings will soon disappear. But you need to leave.”
“I’m sorry but I’m not leaving.”
“I’m getting married and you’re not going to get in the way of that.”
“I know we really bonded when we were together and if only you’d be brave, we could go to the States together and make it work.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t love you and for the last time, I’m getting married!”
The traditional marriage went on smoothly with Cudjoe lurking in the background like hovering ghost. About four days to the wedding, Freda began bleeding. As much as it was disheartening, her mother couldn’t help hide her delight that the product of her sin was being flushed out. Cudjoe was crushed.
“I’m sure there’s no more reason for you to stay,” I said to him as I was being whisked to the hospital. Unfortunately, it wasn’t a miscarriage. But Cudjoe didn’t need to know that.
Two days later, he flew back home with the lame excuse of an emergency back at home. Freda was relieved beyond words.
The wedding ceremony took place and it was a lovely one. Two months later, she received another text from Cudjoe.
So I hear the baby didn’t flush out after all. Just giving you a heads up. Might touch down soon.
Oh mummy, not again! What was she to do?
© Josephine Amoako 2016