Read Chapter 30 here.
“Here comes the bride, all dressed in white…” Jackie sang as AJ walked into the church with her dad. They hugged. Jackie shook hands with AJ’s dad and exchanged some pleasantries.
“You look stressed,” Jackie remarked.
“I feel worse.”
“And the groom?”
“He’s a few minutes away with his best man.”
When Edem and his friend arrived, they began rehearsal for the bridal procession. Jackie’s eyes got teary as she watched her friend recite the vows, looking into Edem’s eyes. She was happy for her, no doubt; but she couldn’t help being overwhelmed with what had slipped through her fingers a year ago. She could imagine herself beyond happy, staring into the eyes of the love of her life, saying the vows like her life depended on them. If only she hadn’t thrown the ring at him…
She snapped back into reality.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah…was caught up in the ‘what-if’ land for a minute.”
AJ rubbed her arm. “Your time will come soon.”
Jackie nodded and they hugged.
Jackie joined AJ, Edem and his best man as well as the family for dinner. She kept zooming in and out of reality during the dinner. When she couldn’t take it anymore, she excused herself and went home. She took a hot bath and went to bed.
She didn’t notice she was crying until she felt warm moisture on her pillow. She raised her head to see that she had wet the pillow with tears. She turned it over and laid her head on it. She hugged another pillow to her bosom and rocked herself to sleep.
The day before AJ’s traditional marriage ceremony, she slept over at AJ’s house. They had a few friends over for a small bridal shower. When the friends left, AJ and Jackie helped themselves to some cereal as they were hungry. AJ’s mum drove them to bed so they could be well rested for the next day. They slept on one bed reminiscing about school days and fell asleep after dawn.
“Adjoa! Nana Esi! You girls better not be sleeping,” AJ’s mum said as she opened the door to AJ’s room the next morning. She shook them awake.
“How can you still be sleeping? Do you know the time? Hurry up and take your bath. The makeup artist is here.”
“And the hairstylist?”
“On her way. Get up from the bed before I pour water on you!”
The two friends scrambled out of bed. They both knew better than to dare Mrs. Boateng.
Jackie shared snippets of the ceremony on her Instastory and her WhatsApp status. She was helping herself to some chicken nuggets when her phone rang. It was Kwame.
“Hey…how’s the ceremony going?”
“Going well. AJ’s officially taken. Taking photos now.”
“So sorry I couldn’t be there. Work has been crazy these days.”
“It’s fine…as long as you’re coming for the wedding tomorrow.”
“Yeah…what time is it again?”
“Hmm…I’m working tomorrow and will hopefully be done by 3pm. Perhaps I can make it for the reception.”
“Oh okay. Will save you a dance.”
“Please do. Send my regards to AJ.”
“I sure will. Talk to you later, bye.”
Jackie ended the call and finished her eating the last nugget. AJ walked in.
“There you are! Was wondering where you could be and I remembered, ‘just follow the aroma’.”
“Your face, okay?”
They both laughed.
“Where’s my phone?” AJ asked. Jackie took it out of her clutch bag and handed it over.
“Am I trending yet?”
She laughed when Jackie gave her a look.
“Can’t a girl dream? Oh, so you didn’t hashtag the photos? How do you expect people to find them?”
“Madam, I’m not your social media manager. Who cares about the number of likes when you’re with family?”
“I don’t but I do…a little. Trust me, social media has become the universal self-validation reference. It’s funny right, having to sit with and ignore people who genuinely care about you, and yet fretting over the number of likes your post has managed to get from strangers who are just following your life for entertainment. This generation has gone crazy.”
“Says the bride who is checking her photos for likes.”
AJ’s mother walked in and called Jackie to help her out with something. AJ’s phone rang.
“Hey you…so I hear you’re getting hitched and I wasn’t invited? I’m deeply hurt, AJ.”
“I’m sorry, Ekow. I didn’t think you would be able to make it, Mr. CEO.”
“Oh come on, of course I would. Anyway, congratulations.”
“So am I invited to the wedding tomorrow?”
“Sure, you are as long as you’re coming with a gift.”
“I hear you. Can I bring a plus one?
“Huh? It better not be your crazy woman of a wife…”
“Oh nah, not her. Debrah, my friend.”
“Oh you’ve made up with him?”
“Yeah, kind courtesy of Jackie. Can’t wait to see you in your white dress.”
“You mean you can’t wait to see Jackie in her bridesmaid’s dress.”
“And that too. Can’t it be both?”
“You’re so predictable, Dante. Anyway, you can come under one condition: that you and your friend cause no scene. I can’t have my wedding as a typical scene in a telenovela.”
Dante laughed. “I promise.”
“Alright then, I’ve to go. Thanks for calling, Dante.”
“You’re welcome, AJ.”
“Where did you say you were going again?” Cece asked as she watched Dante put on his tux.
“A wedding, Cece.”
“A friend from Motown.”
“From our batch? I haven’t come across any such announcement on our WhatsApp year group page.”
“No, it’s not our batch.”
“So our seniors’?”
“Stop asking so many questions, Cece and get some rest. The doctor says you need a lot of rest, remember?”
“Yeah but I’m bored stiff being in this house. Can I join you to the wedding?”
“I’m afraid not, honey. I have a feeling that the moment we arrive, you’ll say you’re too tired and would like to rest. I don’t want to do a U-turn because you want to get back home.”
Cece pouted. Dante faced her and placed his hands on her shoulders.
“I promise I’ll take you out tomorrow God willing, okay? How about that?”
She nodded. He gave her a quick kiss.
“How do I look?”
His phone rang.
“Must be Debrah,” he said, picking it up.
“Hey, D. Yeah, I’m heading out soon. Okay, will meet up with you. Great.”
He hung up.
“Debrah is also going? Is the groom an AKORA?”
“The bride actually.”
“And who’s she?”
“Enough of the questions. I’ve to go. Get some rest,” he said, kissed her cheek and walked out.
Dante and Debrah arrived at the church just in time for the bridal procession. Dante’s eyes followed Jackie as she walked the aisle to the front of the church. She looked stunning in her royal blue dress. He wished her eyes would meet his but they didn’t. He turned away to watch AJ walk in with her dad.
As the ceremony went on, Dante was lost in thought, fidgeting with his wedding band as memories flooded his mind.
He heard a knock on his door. He dragged himself out of bed and opened the door.
“Oh baby! Look at you!” Jackie said as she hugged him.
“Still feeling unwell?”
“Oh…taken some medication?”
“Yet to. Have to eat something first but don’t have the appetite.”
Jackie closed the door and led him to sit down on his lower bunk bed. She opened his refrigerator.
“Can you manage a sandwich and some juice for now?”
Dante laid down on his bed and watched Jackie quickly prepare the sandwich. She poured some juice from a Ceres pack into a glass. She brought the tray and put it on the bed.
“Please eat something.”
She watched him eat, holding hands the whole time. When he was done, she took the medication on the study table and handed it to him. After gulping it down with the juice, Jackie took the tray away and washed the dishes. When she walked to the bed, he had his eyes closed.
“Will leave you to rest a while. Will be back in an hour,” she whispered and kissed his forehead. As she turned, she felt him grab her wrist and pull her toward him. She startled as she landed on his chest.
“Dante! I could have hurt you.”
“Please stay. Don’t want to be alone,” he said softly.
Jackie sighed. After a moment of hesitation, she joined him on the bed and laid her head on his chest, wrapping her arm around his middle. Dante wrapped his arm around her, pulling her close.
“Thank you for being here.”
“Don’t mention it.”
He ran his fingers along her arm for a while. After a few minutes, he could hear her soft even breathing.
She was asleep. Wow, how could she sleep before him? He tried sleeping but woke up about 30 minutes later. He called out Jackie’s name and rubbed her arm. She woke up and turned her head to look at him.
“How can the caretaker sleep and leave the sick one alone?”
“I’m sorry…your chest was so warm. I couldn’t help it. Feeling a bit better?”
She smiled. He lifted his head and kissed her.
“Can’t wait to spend forever with you,” he said.
She tapped his nose playfully. “Me neither.”
“Hey,” Debrah whispered, trying to get his attention. Dante looked at him blankly for a second and blinked.
“You are not here.”
The ceremony was short and straight to the point. It ended in an hour, something both Dante and Debrah were impressed with.
“Don’t you want to see your girl?” Debrah asked.
“I don’t want to approach her publicly like this. I don’t want her new guy getting the chance to punch me just because. Will wait in the car for a while.”
After taking the last of group photos, Jackie noticed Debrah waving at her. She walked towards him.
“Hey. Surprised to see you here. Who invited you?”
“Actually, I’m a plus one.”
“Want to find out?” He asked, giving her his arm. Jackie turned to see if AJ needed any help. She was hugging some aunties.
“I don’t think she will miss you for the next ten minutes,” Debrah assured her. She nodded and slid her arm around his. He walked her to a black Range Rover glistening in the sunlight.
“Hey beautiful,” Dante said as the window rolled down.
“Hey, you came!”
“Yeah, I technically invited myself. Come on in,” he said. Debrah opened the back seat door as Dante slid to the other seat. Jackie sat in the car and Debrah closed the door.
“I saw someone I know. Will go and say hi,” Debrah said and walked off. Dante rolled up the window.
“You look ravishing, Naicy.”
“And you look fine,” Jackie said, stressing on the last word. They both chuckled. He held her hand and gave it a squeeze.
“How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine. You?”
After chatting for a while, Jackie asked him if AJ had seen him.
“No, not yet. There were too many people around and didn’t want to stand around and have your boyfriend see me. Speaking of which, is he here?”
“Nah…he had to go to work. He said he’ll try and make it though. There is a private dinner at six. Want to come?”
“Isn’t it strictly by invitation?”
“Well, I haven’t been invited.”
“Don’t worry; I can sort that out if you want to come.”
“Do you want me to come?”
“It’s not about me, Dante. It’s about AJ.”
“Uh huh but it’s you inviting me and not her.”
“Do you want to come or not? I’ll be fine with either honestly.”
“Okay, sure; I’d love to be there.”
“Great. Come and say hi to AJ. I’m sure she’ll love to see you.”
They both got out of the car and walked to where the newly wedded couple were, still exchanging pleasantries with guests. AJ’s eyes widened with she saw Dante.
“Congratulations, AJ. You’re such a beautiful bride.”
They hugged. “Thank you, Dante.”
He shook hands with Edem and said his congratulations as well.
“Let’s take a photo, shall we? Where’s the selfie stick?”
Kwame walked in, looking around. He spotted the newlyweds and then Jackie. The smile on his face vanished when he saw Dante with them, happily taking selfies. Dante took over the selfie stick and took selfies with AJ and Jackie. Jackie noticed him and waved him over. He waved back but stood where he was. Jackie walked towards him.
“Missed the ceremony but glad you could come,” she said cheerfully, with arms raised in anticipation of a hug. He hugged her briefly and drew back.
“Are you okay? Have to rush back to work?”
“You would want that, wouldn’t you? So you could hang out with your ever dearest.”
“What are you talking about?”
“Why is he even here? Did you invite him?”
“No, I didn’t; I’m not the bride and he’s here because he and AJ are friends regardless of our history.”
“Sounds rehearsed to me.”
“Come on Kwame, for anyone to cause a scene here, you were not even on my list.”
“Oh I’m causing a scene now? Do you feel embarrassed by my presence here?”
“Of course not…that’s not what I’m saying. I’m only saying there’s nothing to be upset about. We’re all here to celebrate with AJ, that’s all.”
“Jackie, come and let’s take more…”Dante stopped himself a second too late. He waved at Kwame. Kwame ignored him.
“Please let’s go and see AJ. You can leave afterwards if you want.”
“Oh I can leave? So you can have the leeway to be with him, am I right?” Kwame said, raising his voice.
“Naicy, is everything alright?”
“Yeah…I’ll be with you in a minute.”
“I’ll just leave. Looks like the happy picture is complete without me anyway,” Kwame said and turned to leave.
“Come on, Kwame, don’t be like this.”
“Will pass by the dinner reception. Is he going to be there too?”
“I should think so,” she said quietly.
“I see. Send AJ my regards. See you,” he said and left. When she turned, Dante was walking towards her.
“Is everything okay with him?”
“I wonder. He’s not happy seeing you here.”
“Who cares? Let’s go and take more photos.”
Debrah joined them as they took more selfies and snaps.
The dinner reception was a lovely one. The décor, lighting, floral arrangements exuded a sense of fascination. AJ and Edem were smiling throughout the dinner. There was no doubt the two were in love and eager to start their lives together.
Everyone looked on as AJ and Edem did their first couple dance. Jackie kept looking around for any sign of Kwame but couldn’t see one. She sighed as she picked up her glass and drank. After the reception was closed, AJ tapped Jackie and took her hand.
“Shall I have this dance?” She asked, pulling her up. They held both hands facing each other.
“Thank you for being part of this important day in my life. You’ve been my friend and confidante since the day we met and now, no better word suits who you’re more to me now than a sister. I love you, Naicy.”
“Love you more, AJ. And you’ve been more than a friend to me. I’m so happy that you got to marry the love of your life.
“Soon and very soon, that will be your story too,” AJ said.
After dancing a while, it was time for AJ and Edem to head off to Mariott Hotel to spend the night. The friends hugged and the couple left. Jackie was checking the cost from her location to her home on Uber when Dante walked to her.
“You’re still here? Thought you left long ago.”
“Nah…not when you haven’t given me your last dance yet,” he said, pulling her up on her feet.
“Is Debrah here too?”
“Nah, he left with one lady who was all over him. He’s definitely getting laid tonight.”
“Good for him.”
The song being played changed into a soft slow one. He held her by the waist and took her hand in his.
“This should have been us a year ago and once again, I’m sorry for messing that up.”
“Shush…enough with the apologies, Dante. A year has gone by and here we are. Let’s leave the past behind and focus on the future. Or better yet, enjoy the moment.”
She leaned her head on his shoulder as their bodies moved in tune with the music.
“Back at the church, I couldn’t help but reminisce on our times together back at the university,” Dante started.
“Which one? When you were tickling me and I bumped your car into someone else’s bumper?”
“Oh yeah, you totally freaked out! Did you think you were going to jail or something?”
“Don’t laugh. That was my first motor accident. I was traumatized, you know.”
“I could tell. But I’m glad you’ve gotten over it.”
“Jeez, are you saying you haven’t sat behind a wheel after…you know…”
“Nope. Accra roads are not for amateurs.”
“Oh Naicy!” He kissed her forehead.
“I have a question: just in case Cece…dies…hypothetically,” he quickly added when Jackie gave him a wary look, “would you still be with Kwame?”
© Josephine Amoako 2018
Read Chapter 32 here.