Read Chapter 34 here.
AJ entered Jackie’s room in search for something. She noticed Jackie’s phone screen light up. She picked it up and gasped when she read the message. What was she to do? Tell Jackie when she was about to be married off? Nah that would be disastrous. But was she expecting this message? Was that why she was anxious and kept asking for her phone? What was going on?
She dialed Dante’s number. He picked up at the first ring.
“Ugh…ugh, this is AJ. What the hell were you thinking sending Jackie this message on the day of her marriage ceremony?”
“Oh damn, it was today? It must have escaped me. She was the first person that came in mind for me to tell. Just needed her support.”
“Stop it, Dante. If there’s one thing you and Naicy have in common, it’s your poor creativity in lying.”
Dante sighed. “Have you told her?”
“In the middle of the ceremony? To what end? Do you want to ruin the one good thing that is going to happen in her life right now because you crave for some feminine comfort? How selfish can you be?”
“AJ, look at the bigger picture here. Jackie is getting married to someone she doesn’t love…”
“Who told you she doesn’t love him? Did she tell you that or are you just assuming it?”
“I know it, okay? Marriage is a big deal…she can’t walk out later when it has dawned on her…”
“Yep, coming from the expert spouse that you are,” AJ chipped in drily.
“I made that mistake and God knows how much I’ve paid for it. She doesn’t need to go through that.”
“You could have prevented all that trouble if you had pulled the plug after your absurd impromptu proposal to that sneaky…”
“Respect the departed soul, AJ.”
“Oh she’s gone? Sorry, it didn’t really register. But it doesn’t change what I have to say. You could have not married her and we wouldn’t be having this conversation now.”
“Come on AJ, you talking to me right now isn’t helping matters. Are you intentionally holding me off so Jackie goes ahead to marry whoever it is?”
“His name is Julius and yes they are getting married. Did you think I’d run off and give her the phone so you can convince her not to go ahead with the marriage?”
“If you couldn’t rescind your proposal to Cece because you are a man of your word, why should Jackie go back on hers?”
“It was a mistake and I’ve learned my lesson.”
“Then perhaps it’s time she learned hers…on her own terms.”
“If Jackie finds out you held out on this information, she won’t be happy with you.”
“Whatever…I’ll deal with Jackie myself. Was she expecting a message from you? Did you contact her a few days ago?”
“Um…I’m not sure I…”
“It doesn’t even matter. Now, go bury your dead and leave the living to move on with their lives!” AJ said and hung up. AJ shook her head and found what she came into the room for. She put the phone down. She picked up her hand fan and walked out of the room.
Her eyes met Jackie’s when she stepped out. Both faces broke into smiles.
Jackie’s heart began pounding as Julius slipped the ring onto her finger. Oh gosh, this was happening. She was getting married! Was she up for this? Was she doing the right thing? Was Julius really the one?
She looked up at Julius who smiled broadly at her. He looked so happy. She smiled back. Help me not to sabotage this, Lord, she silently prayed.
After the ceremony, Jackie went to her room and sat down. She removed her heels and wriggled her toes. She took her phone from the top of the dressing table and swiped the screen. Her hand began to shake as she read a couple of messages Dante had sent her not too long ago. She opened the door and found one of her cousins chatting with some guy. She asked her to call AJ for her and closed the door.
AJ was helping herself to some grapes when she was told Jackie was asking of her. Oh no, she knew. Ah well, she was bound to anytime soon. She wiped her hands with tissue and walked to her room.
She entered to find Jackie pacing. Her cousin attempted entering and Jackie told her to excuse them. She closed the door.
“What the hell, AJ?!”
“Um…what have I done?” AJ asked innocently.
“This isn’t the time to play games with me, AJ. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Tell you what?”
“When, how, why? Did you expect me to interrupt the ceremony so you can find out your ex-fiancé’s wife just passed? So that what? So you’d grieve for him while you’re being declared man and wife?”
“Damn it, AJ! You could have come up with something! You should have told me!”
“Were you expecting this message from Dante? Did you know she was dying?”
“I knew the cancer was back but I didn’t think she would drop dead this soon.”
“But seriously, what would you have done with the info if I had told you? Rejected the ring, walked out of everyone seated outside?”
“Marriage is a big deal, AJ. If there was chance for me to be with the love of my life…”
“I asked you countless times if you were ready for this and you said yes! Why then would an ex’s message be significant here?”
Jackie buried her face in her palms. At least she was grateful that the wedding wasn’t happening the next day but two weeks later. She had some time to think and figure things out.
“Do you understand the phrase, ‘hurt people hurt people’?”
Jackie looked up at her.
“What has that got to do with me?”
“If you can’t even tell, then we have a much bigger problem on our hands, Naicy. Dante hurt you…”
“…much more than you care to admit. He broke you and you haven’t fully healed from that and guess what you’re doing? Hurting the guys who come into your life.”
“Uh huh, first there was Kwame…”
“Are you kidding me? Kwame was an insecure little boy!”
“I agree but you are not entirely blameless in that case because part of you was still on standby, hoping that Dante would come back.”
“That’s not true.”
“Stop lying to yourself, Jackie! Even Dante knew that.”
Jackie opened her mouth to speak but found no words.
“You gave Kwame every reason to be insecure. For crying out loud, Kwame really loved you! And now there’s sweet Julius. Whenever I go on my knees, I pray that he doesn’t get bruised in this Dante and Jackie heart game.”
“AJ! Whose side are you on? You’re making it sound like I’m an inconsiderate heart-playing cheat!”
The door opened.
“Nana Esi, your food is ready. Come and eat with your husband,” her mother said.
“Yes mum,” she said and with one last wary look at her best friend, left the room.
“Hey, are you okay?” Julius asked softly when he noticed his new bride was quiet and looked sad. He took her hand and squeezed it. She nodded and looked at him.
“Gosh, are you crying?”
When she shook her head, a tear fell on her face. He wiped it with his thumb before she got the chance to.
“I’m sorry…I’m just a bit overwhelmed. That’s all.”
“Oh, please don’t be. Your life isn’t going to change drastically. The only change would be that I’ll be there showing you love every day,” he said with a smile. She smiled back and kissed his cheek.
“I love you.”
“Love you too,” he replied. “Now eat before I finish it.”
AJ’s phone rang. She picked it.
“Oh-oh. Is something wrong?”
“Why do you ask?”
“You called me Edem. That only happens when something is wrong. Please don’t tell me Dante appeared at the ceremony.”
“Worse. He sent a text that Cece has passed.”
“For real or a hoax?”
“Does it even matter? How dare he do that?”
“That guy is a prick, no doubt. So how did Jackie take it?”
“She found out after the ceremony and she was mad at me for not alerting her.”
“We just had a heated argument and I feel bad about it. She made sure I was happy during our ceremony and I’ve made her feel anything but happy during hers.”
“If it is from a genuine heart, I’m sure she’ll appreciate it soon. Just give her some time to get over it.”
“Yeah…I’m glad the wedding isn’t tomorrow. We have some time to sort this out before any more damage is done.”
“To Julius. He doesn’t deserve to be sucked into the drama of Jackie and Dante’s unbreakable love!”
“Calm down, you sound stressed.”
“I am stressed! Dante is doing what he knows best: messing with Jackie’s heart and mind. He manipulates her to give up on anyone good that comes into her life with the hope their destined love would come to pass while he enjoys the haven he has. Unbelievable.”
“Should I go and punch him for you?”
“That would be one of the best love gestures ever, Edem.”
“So what’s going on now?”
“She’s eating with Julius. I can’t imagine what act she’s putting up now. Gosh, he’s making her lie to him right at the beginning of their reunion. I hate that guy!”
“Remember when he had you on his team?”
“I know, right? I wish I could go out for a while and calm myself down but I don’t want to leave her alone. She needs someone to steady her confused mind and make her see reason.”
“I agree. Just be there for her. Don’t be too harsh but do press the right buttons gently.”
“I’ll try. I miss you, honey.”
“Yeah, love that more than my name now. I miss you too. Coming home tonight?”
“Yeah, I am. Thanks for checking in. Will call you if something comes up.”
“Which I hope it doesn’t. Take care, babe.”
“You too, sweet. Bye.”
AJ came out of the room and met Jackie’s mum.
“Adjoa, have you eaten something?”
“Not yet, mum.”
“Oh, please come and let’s get you served.”
Jackie turned her head as AJ walked past and their eyes met. She looked away and smiled at Julius.
Oh my dear sister…
Dante’s mind was in chaos, He kept fidgeting with his phone to keep himself from exploding from all the emotions bubbling inside him. As he scrolled down his Instagram page, he noticed his hand was trembling lightly. He paused when he came across a photo of Jackie in her kente dress seated next to one not ‘bad-looking’ guy. Damn it, so she really was married. Just when he was a free man again. Karma had really kicked him in the butt this time.
He lifted his head and his gaze fell on a photo of Cece and his heart missed a beat. She really was gone. She had loved him more than he deserved and now she was no more. She had made sure to leave a part of her behind to be remembered by. A part of him always resented her for how she manipulated him into marrying her but he would always be grateful to her for their daughter, Kwansema. He had done his best to show her love during her last days but he still felt guilty of not doing enough for her.
His phone beeped.
So sorry for your loss. Can’t imagine how you must be feeling.
Jackie began typing, ‘I wish I could be there for you right now’ and then deleted it. Instead, she typed ‘My condolences, Dante.’
Anyway, congratulations. You look beautiful in the photos.
When is the wedding, tomorrow?
Nah…next two weeks Saturday.
Oh okay…enough time.
Yeah…how did Cece die? In her sleep?
No…I need someone to pour my heart out to. This is all much. Can we meet?
Jackie froze for a second. It was a harmless request, right? Just comforting a friend grieving over such a loss.
Yeah sure. Will confirm when I’m free. Take care of yourself, okay? Everything will be fine.
Thanks, Naicy. I appreciate it.
Jackie looked up when the door to her room opened. It was AJ. She put the phone down.
“I’m sorry about earlier. Didn’t mean to take the joy out of the occasion. This is one of the most important moments in your life and I don’t want to spoil the memory of it.”
“So…just to be sure, there will be a wedding next two weeks Saturday, right?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean in the light of…the latest development, your heart is still with Julius, right?”
“Yeah…of course.” There was a pause. “Well, a lot can happen in two weeks…Cece not being in the picture anymore changes everything,” Jackie said and buried her face in her palms.
“If I had waited just a little longer…”
“You do realize he’s a father now, right?”
“Are you ready to look after someone else’s child?”
“It is Dante’s child. After all that we’ve been through, I wouldn’t let a newborn baby be an obstacle in our love life.”
“But he’s not the same guy you fell in love with back at Motown, Naicy. He has changed. Both of you have. Even if you found a way to be together, you would realize you are two different people now and have to make time to know each other again.”
“Which I would have no problem doing.”
AJ sighed. “You finally have a chance to start over with a guy who adores you, Jackie. Don’t mess this up because of Dante. He had his chance and he blew it. Let him tend to his wounds and concentrate on his child.”
“Of course. As I said, a lot can happen in two weeks. Have to go. I’m having dinner with Julius’ family. Thanks for being here with me. I appreciate it. Will talk soon, okay?” Jackie said and hugged AJ. She took her clutch bag and left the room.
“This isn’t good. I have to make sure she makes no contact with Dante until she gets married,” AJ tut-tutted.
Mrs. Biney couldn’t stop crying. The baby was also being fussy.
“Could you please control yourself a little bit? You’re rubbing off your grief on the poor baby,” Hon. Biney said, trying in vain to calm the little one.
“My only daughter is gone and you want me to control myself?”
“I know it’s hard but at least, she left us with a grandchild. We need a clear mind to know what to do next.”
“It’s all his fault. If he had managed to convince her to terminate the pregnancy, she might still be alive.”
“You don’t know that for sure, honey. Cancer is unpredictable. It claims a life away when you least expect it. And where is Dante?”
“He has gone home. Now, he would be free to pursue that Jackie woman and live his happily-ever-after while my daughter gets buried six feet down!”
“That will never happen. If he thinks he can go scout free and live his life after ending my daughter’s, then he’s about to receive the shock of his life. Are you sure he has gone home?”
“That’s what he said.”
“Do you still have your spy on standby?”
“Let him keep an eye on him, okay? I’ve a funny feeling he’ll meet up with Jackie soon.”
“I almost forgot! He told me Jackie was getting married today to…guess who?”
“Why would I care?”
“What, Julius from Scanad that I got fired?”
“Yep, that Julius.”
“Oh so he liked her all this while, huh? No wonder he got the boldness to tell me off. Hahaha, what a shock it would be to him when he finds out Jackie is a reckless home breaker. Now, this is getting interesting. Please let your guy keep an eye on Dante.”
“Sure, let me text him right now,” she said and took her phone.
Hon. Biney made a face and touched the baby’s nose and cooed softly.
© Josephine Amoako 2018
Read Chapter 36 here.