“Oruka ti dowo na, di ololuferemu, ko se ni to le ya yin titi lai” sang Yetunde as she danced into Tolu’s room. A smile lit at the corners of Tolu’s lips, it was obvious that Yetunde Alabi is excited about the forthcoming wedding as much as Tolu Badmus, the bride was.
There was a palpable excitement in the air. Yetunde was more excited than any of her friends simply because she would be the chief bridesmaid. She had lobbied for the position even before Chude proposed to Tolu. Somehow, Yetunde knew that the only place Tolu and Chude’s relationship was headed, was the altar.
Tolu had met Chude one sunny afternoon on her way from lunch. She never was one to go out for lunch (she considered it a sheer waste of money) instead she enjoyed the packed rice and fried turkey delivered to their office by Kems Kitchens. But the last delivery on Friday had upset her tummy so much, she vowed to steer clear for a while. It had resulted in her stooling uncontrollably. She had to dash to the nearest pharmacy to buy talazole, much to the dismay of the attendant who tried to make her change her mind. “Why not try another better drug madam?” the pharmacist had said. “No ma’am” retorted Tolu, “talazole is all that works for me” but truthfully, Tolu didn’t want to spend a fortune all in a bid to stop stooling. To her, the pharmacist only wanted to make some more extra cash from her.
When Monday came, Tolu had to psyche herself to go to a nearby restaurant and give her stomach a treat. She had always considered it a waste of money whenever some of her colleagues go out to lunch. Why waste so much on food when you can always get a cheaper alternative, so long as the stomach is full, the cost of food is inconsequential. She quietly walked into the restaurant and chose a corner table that can seat only 2 people. She ordered her food and ate quickly. She had a report to submit to her boss immediately after lunch and she didn’t want to be late.
She hurriedly ate and left the restaurant, muttering under her breathe never to return there until pay day. The food was small compared to the “huge” bill she paid. Just as she rounded the bend that leads to her office, her small purse fell and as she stooped to pick it up, she felt strong hands brush her sleeves as the neatest set of fingers picked up her purse. “May I” the gentle man said as he straightened and handed her purse back to her. She was caught between surprise and fear. How come he was directly behind her as she bent to pick up her purse? Had he been following her? Was he a stalker? How did she not hear his footsteps? Loads of questions rummaged through her mind..
But her manners took the better of her.” Thank you sir” she said. “Oh, it’s nothing. I just happened to be around when needed” he replied.
“By the way, my name is Chude Obi. I work at Gibson global. I am a trained HR consultant” he stretched out his hand for a handshake. Tolu firmly gripped his hand and introduced herself too. They exchanged complimentary cards and Tolu hurriedly left the scene. She got to the office in time to send the already prepared report. Her boss was a no nonsense iron lady.
After work that day, she got home and as usual went over the happenings of the day. It had indeed been eventful. Then she thought about the gentle man she had bumped into. He isn’t what ladies call tall, dark and handsome. But he exuded a charm no one can overlook. Well-manicured hands, tall, caramel colored skin, eyes that looked as if it can see into your very soul, trim mustache, a broad shoulder and oh, the diction. Tolu had always been a lover of good diction and when a man has a good command of it, she is easily won over.
She had to pinch herself from fantasizing about him. “Maybe he has even forgotten about me” she thought. And here she was day dreaming about him. For what it was worth, she actually would love to see him again, she felt drawn to him in a certain way. She had him on her mind as she fell asleep. She even dreamt about him. She woke up to find herself smiling and holding her pillow tight. She got up and started laughing at how stupid of her to see him in her dream.
She dressed for work the next day, bid her parents goodbye and headed to the junction where she would join the staff bus to Victoria Island, where her office was. She got to work and thumped away at her keyboard. She was eager to finish up her major tasks before lunch break. Tolu knew she should eat the Kems kitchen rice and turkey but the thought of seeing Chude again made her go to the restaurant. She hurriedly ate again and left. On her way back, she walked slowly back to her office and occasionally looked over her shoulders to catch a glimpse of someone who looked like Chude. But she never saw him. She finished the last two minutes’ walk to her office with a frown. She had so much wanted to see him, even if it’s for a minute.
Two weeks passed and still no sign of Chude. She had started to forget him; maybe he didn’t like her as much as she expected or alas, even married. By the third week, her tad totally let him the thought of him out of her system or so she thought until her phone rang. The voice on the other end was so hot it could melt butter; she knew it was none other than Chude. He was only calling to check up on her and invite her for lunch the next day if she would be available. She quickly accepted the offer and after he hung up, felt she had accepted too quickly without any restraint. She didn’t want to appear too easy.
She carefully picked out her outfit for work the next day, wanting to create the right impression. Lunch went well and she found out he had been out of town on a business trip for two weeks, and only just got back. They had many more lunch dates after that and even dinner dates. He became frequent at her home and her parents loved his aura. Her friends met him too and prayed he was the “one” they had been praying for.
Exactly six months after they met, Chude proposed marriage to Tolu in the presence of her parents. “Oh yes, yes, yes” she responded, smiling and crying at the same time. Her parents hugged them both and prayed for them. Chude had been all she ever wanted in a man. God fearing and supportive, always knowing what to do or say, dependable, the man after her heart. Two weeks later, Chude and his family came to do the customary introduction ceremony with Tolu’s family and the wedding date was set.
They set the weeding date for four months away and all hands were on deck to ensure a smooth and unforgettable wedding experience.
“Iyawo” called Tolu’s mum, jolting her out of her reverie. “Your wedding planner is on the phone, she says she can’t get through to you on your line”. Tolu took the phone and had a brief discussion with the planner. She wanted to confirm the cake tasting time. Yetunde also needed her to convince the other ladies not to make her own style of dress as she wanted to stand out. To which everyone in the room laughed. Yetunde had a way of amusing people; she was the official clown amongst Tolu’s friends.
And the wedding day finally arrived, it was a huge success. A particular highlight was the exchange of vows at the church. Both of them had written their own personal vows, pledging to love and cherish themselves, through thick and thin. Forsaking all others and cleaving to themselves alone, this got some eyes tearing up. Especially the bride’s mum.
The weather was beautiful, everyone had such fun. It was obvious the bride and groom were so into each other. Lots of “oohs” and “aahs” on every one’s lips. It was a romantic setting and the décor was out of this world. There was no doubt on everyone’s mind that the union will last forever. Or will it not? What could possibly go wrong?
Chude and Tolu went on an all-expenses paid trip to Dubai for their honeymoon. It was the best moment of their lives. They were back after eight days as they had both taken only two weeks from work. They planned to use up their remaining leave days at Christmas.
One thing Tolu craved for was to experiment all the things she had heard married people do, like feed themselves while they ate; bathe together, go hiking, sleep cuddled up till morning and a host of others. She was only disappointed because Chude got tired more often than necessary. He was a kind of kill joy but she was too elated to bother.
Exactly two months into their wedding, as they got back from church. Tolu went into the kitchen to fix lunch when she heard Chude let out a loud scream; she rushed to the living room to find him sprawled on the floor holding tight to his chest. She held him to her bosom asking him what happened. He couldn’t speak but just held onto his chest. She quickly took her phone and called his doctor who told her what to do before he got to them. Twenty minutes later, as doctor Ibrahim arrived, Chude passed out from the excruciating pain.
The doctor resuscitated him and with Tolu, helped him to the car and drove to the hospital. When they got to the hospital, Chude had to be placed on drips and monitored closely. Tolu could swear that the doctor and Chude exchanged a glance that seemed to have a lot of meaning. Tolu was asked to excuse them as the doctor needed to examine him some more. She was invited into the room few minutes later and asked to sit. It was time to know what had happened to Chude
“Chude has a terminal disease.” Said the doctor. “What!!” screamed Tolu and she felt dizzy all of a sudden. Then she ran to her husband’s bedside and the look on his face halted her. It was obvious from the way Chude lowered his eyes that he knew about his condition way before this particular incident. But how could she not have known, thought Tolu. They had done series of tests before the wedding…”oh! All they did was HIV, Hepatitis and genotype test” Tolu muttered under her breathe.
“Chude, how long have you known?” asked Tolu. Chude couldn’t answer, he simply closed his eyes; he didn’t know what to say.
“I thought you knew, Tolu” chipped in the doctor. “ I insisted that he tell you before the wedding. Chude told me you had discussed it and were both okay with it”
The doctor explained that it was first diagnosed three years ago. He even reminded Tolu of their last visit to his hospital before the wedding.
Suddenly Tolu remembered the doctor asking Chude in her presence if he told her and she remembered Chude laughed and said sure, and that she was fine with it. It was actually the doctor hoping he had told her the truth. When Tolu asked Chude about it later that evening, he had said the doctor wanted to know if he had told her he wanted to start a family immediately and also that his desire to have four children….they both laughed about it and carried on with the wedding plans.
Tolu loathed him at that instant. How could he do that to her? How does one hide such a secret from the one we profess to love? How would they move on from this? What was she to do? Different thoughts rummaged through her head. He had lied to her, deceived her into marriage. She couldn’t take it anymore and burst into tears. Sobbing uncontrollably, she ran out of the hospital room. Doctor Ibrahim ran after her so she would not do something crazy to herself.
Chude knew at that moment that he had just lost the most important treasure in his life. He wanted to tell her but he loved her too much to want to lose her. And he figured if she knew, she wouldn’t want to go ahead with the marriage and even if she did, her parents won’t allow it. He silently prayed to God to come to his aid. Hoping it wasn’t too late.
Doctor Ibrahim caught up with Tolu at the entrance of the hospital and begged her to stop. He didn’t want her running blindly onto the road and getting herself hurt. She stopped in her tracks and turned to face him. Collapsing on his shoulders, she cried even more, her shoulders shaking sporadically from the sobs. Passersby stopped to look and some simply moved on; at hospitals, crying people are a normal sight. After a few minutes, she calmed down a little and the doctor led her back to his office and the told her everything she needed to know.
Chude had discovered a small lump under his armpit one day. At first he thought it was a boil but when after three weeks it showed no sign of improvement, he went to the hospital to have it checked. He did series of test until a biopsy showed that the lump was malignant melanoma, a particularly fatal form of skin cancer. He got the lump removed and thought everything was okay, but a year after, the cancer had spread to his lung. And he had been on drugs and radiation therapy ever since. According to the last oncologist, Chude had less than eighteen months to live. Which means he should die in less than eight months?
Tolu could not take it anymore. She took her phone and called her friend Yetunde to come take her home. She wanted to be far away from the hospital and especially Chude as far as she can. She could see her world crumbling right in front of her. How can her marriage that had only just begun suddenly be coming to an end? Whom had she offended? How could God let this happen to her? She prayed endlessly and served God faithfully…What was she to do?
“This is terrible and an unjust, how could he have gotten married to you knowing his condition?” retorted Yetunde.
“You cannot continue with this madness friend. I reject being a widow barely a year after wedding for you oh” “Have you told your parents?”
“No, I don’t even know how to start telling them” I find it a hard pill to swallow myself” replied Tolu.
“Well, you just have to. Thank God you are not pregnant yet, it’s not too early to find a way out” said Yetunde.
“But I love him Yetunde, with all my heart and soul” “I know he deceived me by not telling me the truth about his illness but I cannot think of a life without him” replied Tolu
“Then when he eventually dies, won’t you live without him? Be wise dear friend, you don’t want to saddle yourself with the responsibility of taking care of an ailing and dying man so early in life. You have to let go and move on. Even God will understand that you do not have a choice in this matter” Yetunde replied.
Yetunde did not want Tolu to delay telling her parents of the news. She drove her to Tolu’s parents’ home and was even the one who broke the news to them. As expected, her parents didn’t take the news too kindly. Tolu’s father ranted and raved, about how he was going to make Chude pay for the deception. Angry that he allowed them to have wasted so much on a wedding that would end soon.
Her mother just sat down staring into space. Searching for answers or for a small voice telling her all will be well. She was angry at Chude but also felt sorry for him. She understood why he did what he had done, and silently prayed that somehow, the whole news was just a mistake and all would return back to normal. Tolu was their only daughter and this wasn’t how they had envisaged her marriage.
Chude lay down on the hospital bed feeling sorry for himself. He also hated himself for the deception. He wished he could turn back the hands of time. Replay his life over again and go back three two years. Wished he had not met the most caring and fun to be with lady called Tolu. Wished he had not fallen in love with her and wished above all, that he had simply told her the truth.
Doctor Ibrahim came in and broke into his thoughts. He knew what his patient must be going through. Physical pain from his illness and a heart wrenching pain from his actions. He simply checked to see that he had taken his medication and quietly left.
Chude’s parents were not happy at turn out of events. They rebuked their son for it but pleaded with the Badmus’ family to forgive him. They pleaded with them to allow their daughter stay married to Chude and weather the storm with him.
“Stay married to a dying man?” Retorted Tolu’s father “Never!! That will be over my dead body. He did not even allow Tolu have a say in the matter. Mr. Badmus had spoken; and that was it.
Five days later, Tolu went back to see Chude at the hospital and stopped at the door in shock. The man lying on the bed was not the one she had gotten married to. He was a shadow of himself, he had greatly emaciated. She went into the room and sat opposite him just stared at him. She didn’t know what to say, Chude also was lost for words.
Finally he broke the silence. He had so much time to think of everything and was willing to take whatever decision the family reached.
“Forgive me Tolu; I know I have hurt you in ways I cannot even find words to explain. I allowed my selfish interest becloud my judgement. I should have come clean before the wedding; but I felt so energized by your love I thought somehow God had heard my cry and healed me. I wanted you so much I hid the truth so that I won’t lose you. But that is exactly what has happened, the truth is out now and I will lose you”.
“Please don’t allow your disappointment of me to cover that heart of gold that you have. I know I do not deserve to be forgiven; but please Tolu, please..”
Chude broke down in tears and wept soberly. Tolu also couldn’t bear the sight of him weeping bitterly and knelt by his bedside, sobbing uncontrollably. They were like that for over 10minutes and just held on to each other.
“I forgive you Chude. I do not know if I would have gone ahead and married you if I had known the truth then; but it doesn’t matter now. I swore to love you for better or for worse. I guess this is the worse part. And we will go through this together. I promise you it won’t be easy but I will help to make your last moments as memorable as possible.”
Tolu’s parents would hear nothing of it. They threatened thunder and brimstone.
“He is going to die soon anyways, I won’t leave him dad, I will stand by him till he breathes his last” with that said, she stormed out of her parents’ house and vowed to keep them away from Chude.
Yetunde concluded that Chude’s family must have used voodoo to brainwash her into standing by her husband. They all treated her like an outcast and told her she knows where to find them once she changed her mind.
Chude was discharged a week later and rested only three days before resuming back to work. He never missed his appointment at the hospital. He started preparing for any eventuality, since the oncologist told him he had about eight months during the last examination.
Then he remembered that the oncologist said that if a surgery was carried out again, the tumor had a chance to be removed and he could live. But he was given a 50-50 chance. He told Tolu and it renewed their faith.
They booked another appointment and the facts were laid bare. The oncologist told Chude that once melanoma invades an internal organ like the lung, the invariable outcome is death; usually within months—without immediate treatment. Even with treatment, the outcome was guarded. Only few of all melanoma patients with lung metastases are alive twenty months after surgery.
Chude was warned to rest well for the surgery and desist from strenuous tasks. He went for his church’s mid-week service and he heard a scripture like he had never heard it before. Romans chapter 10 verses 10 “ For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved”.
Chude didn’t follow his doctor’s recommendation as expected. Even Tolu thought he had gone crazy but later had to encourage him as he confessed to good health. He took a month off to strengthen his body for the treatment that he knew would most likely be a grueling ordeal. He went on long walks, he ate healthy foods, and he meditated on that scripture alone. He also spent a lot of time picturing himself as healthy and visualizing good strong blood cells destroying the cancer in his body.
Two months after, Chude was ready for the surgery. He felt sure it would be a success. The chest X-ray was repeated to document the size and location of the tumor before starting treatment. But instead of the large cancerous lesion in Chude’s lung, he saw…nothing. The doctor did the X-ray again to be sure there had not been a mistake and still saw nothing. During his month of meditation and healthy living, white rings developed around his skin tumors, causing what doctors call a halo sign.
But Chude knew God was at work. God had given him a second chance at life and love again. He was healed and didn’t even have to undergo a second surgery. What was scientifically impossible; God made possible.
Tolu could not believe it. It was indeed a miracle and her faith in God was strengthened even more. His parents thanked God for giving them back their son.
Tolu’s parents heard the good news and received it with mixed feelings. Happy that Chude was alive and well but ashamed because they had deserted him in his time of need. Yetunde only called, she could not bring herself to face Chude after all the hurtful things she said.
On the day of the thanksgiving celebration, while in her room to change into her second outfit; she couldn’t help but wonder what would have become of her if she had left Chude alone only to discover he wasn’t going to die after all. And she knelt down and lifted her hands to the heavens and thanked God, for helping her make the decision to stand by her man, no matter the obstacles and deceit. It wasn’t easy for her, but it paid off at the end of the day.