IVORY SANDS

They said that girls dreamed of their wedding day all their lives. Not Mojolaoluwa. She stared into the full length mirror in her hotel room and almost couldn’t recognize her face. It was her wedding day, and she had got the face beat of the century. Face beat was the term used to explain what professional makeup artists did to your face to turn you into another person. Most girls had their faces beaten every time they had a party, went on a date, or somebody got married, but Mojolaoluwa was not most girls. The luxury of a face beat was reserved exclusively for her wedding day. She thought she looked beautiful, like an exotic flower that only Archangel Michael could name because it only grew in the garden of Eden. Her wedding dress, a beautiful mermaid dress that did everything to accentuate her generous bosom and voluptuous curves, was designed by an award winning fashion designer that was her fiancé’s cousin. Her red bottom shoes were on the bed, she would never understand the craze for Louboutin shoes, but Tolu had insisted it was the way to be married in style, and Korede had ordered custom made jewelry for the perfect finishing touch, but she hadn’t dreamed about her wedding day until her first bridal dress fitting. That was when it dawned on her that she was going to be married. There was a part of her that thought that because it had happened once before, something would go horribly wrong and the bubble of their relationship would burst, leaving them to go their separate ways. So she waited, almost perversely thinking that if she expected it, it wouldn’t hurt as much as if she didn’t, because the other time it had hurt so bad. So she had had no dreams of a wedding when she knew she was in love with Korede, not when he first told her he loved her and he would die if she left him, and not even when he bought her the BMW for her 30th birthday, even though that was one day she knew she would never forget.

She had been at her tiny office, her other colleagues too, because they stayed late when it was somebody’s birthday, and drank the alcohol they couldn’t drink during work hours. Idowu, her right hand man in the office, had brought two bottles each of red wine and Irish cream, and there was still an abundance of cake. She had ordered two dozen packs of small chops because it was their usual celebratory office delicacy, but the packs were all gone now. Her office people loved small chops, they’d argue that too much cake could kill, but there was no such thing as too much small chops. They joked that it was a fabulous balanced diet, because each pack came with one piece each of grilled chicken, peppered gizzard, fried and tasty, creamy spring rolls, samosa, couscous, and maybe a dozen bite-size puffpuffs. Mojolaoluwa enjoyed it too, but she wasn’t a big fan of small chops. She preferred chocolate cake and Irish cream.

They kept the drinks to chill in the office fridge and waited for the boss to leave, everyone pretending to be so busy they didn’t know it was time to go home. As soon as Madam left, the reception became the party venue, loud music blaring from the smart TV. It was an unforgettable sight, ties were loosened and shirts tucked out with their sleeves rolled to the elbows, hair let down to cascade down the shoulders. Carelessly tossed jackets made a colourful baby mountain on the pink couch, and everyone was laughing and talking at the same time. Mojolaoluwa whipped out her phone. These memories had to be documented. Theirs was a small publishing firm, with a staff strength of only 15. The born-agains had left at the stroke of 5. They had eaten small chops and cake and had no interest in alcohol, and so they felt no need to stay behind. The front desk lady was a married woman whose husband ate his dinner hot and prompt at 7, so she had to run. That left Idowu, the three gorgeous girls from Marketing, Dada from Accounts, one guy from the Graphics department and Juliet, the office assistant. She was always present at every office party because she would clean up after everyone had left. Mojolaoluwa watched them, loving every minute of this office party, wishing she could lose herself in the moment and not think of anything else. These people were real, they were here. They had taken the time to let her know she was special and least she could do to show appreciation was to be here with them, not lost in her head.

But she couldn’t help thinking about Korede. He hadn’t called her all day. He had sent her a text message at noon to say that he was really busy and he just wanted to check up on her. Just that. No happy birthday. Well, she was also too busy to reply messages from errant boyfriends who were too busy to remember their girlfriend’s birthday. The reception clock said it was 6 o’clock now. He usually called around this time to make sure she was home, or at least on the way. She decided to call him.

“The number you have dialed is temporarily unavailable,” said the automated voice on the other end of the line.

She decided to stop thinking about him. She had concluded a long time ago that it was pointless to worry about boyfriends. They did as they pleased, and she would do as she pleased. She bit into a thick slice of chocolate cake. Kola, her client-turned-friend whom she’d never met in person, sent her a huge chocolate cake. There was another one from her cousin Biodun who lived in London, and yet another from her boss. It had been a good day, and it was an even better evening. These colleagues didn’t stay back to watch her moon over a boyfriend who clearly wasn’t mooning over her. She took another sip of Irish cream in a conscious attempt to shake off the gloom. She suspected Idowu had a thing for one of the girls from Marketing. Her name was Moni. She smiled as she watched them dance, Idowu grinding his hips against her backside in tandem with the music, his hands holding her hips in place, the girl all smiles. She couldn’t wait to tease him about it tomorrow morning. She watched him excuse himself to receive a call. He walked past Mojolaoluwa, who was sitting close to the door. He came back in a minute later, and beckoned to Mojolaoluwa to follow him outside.

She wasn’t really surprised to see Korede, all 6 feet and 2 inches of him, a tired smile on his lips. She wasn’t expecting him, but she wasn’t surprised. There was a part of her that didn’t think he forgot that it was her birthday today, especially as she had been dropping not-so-subtle hints all of last week. Idowu excused himself, no doubt to go back to dancing with the girl from Marketing.

“Happy birthday Mojola mi,” he said, enveloping her in a hug. “You didn’t think I’d forgotten, did you? How could I forget? I was just so busy, I wanted to call but there was no time.”

“Well, I didn’t know what to think. Your phone was off.” She sulkily replied.

“I’ve been on the road all day, Mo. I’m tired. Work was crazy hectic, and there was something else I had to organize for Mummy K. I’m sorry” he told her, planting small kisses on her neck.

She remained silent, not wanting to add to his already long day, but she didn’t see how a busy work day and running an errand for his mum was enough reason to ignore your girlfriend on her birthday. And how did he call Idowu, when his phone was switched off?

“Idowu told me there was a small party going on, you want to stay?” Korede asked her. “To be honest I’d rather you picked up your bag and we went home. I’m exhausted.”

Silence.

“Mo, you look like you want to murder me and hack my body to tiny pieces, and I’m sure you have every reason to be mad at me, but please can we just go? Please?”

“Fine. Let me at least spend ten minutes with them and say good night to everyone.” She pulled out of his embrace.

“The least you can do is pop in and say thank you.” She told him over her shoulder.

She didn’t think he would come in, but he did. She watched with narrowed eyes as he flashed his charming smile at the girls from marketing and shook their hands. He chatted with the men, while she took slow sips of Irish Cream. Then she said her thank yous and good nights, while Juliet helped her take the left over cake into the car. Idowu made her promise to bring chocolate cake to work tomorrow, and then they left. She silently let Korede take her hand and lead her out of the office premises and into his car.

“Are you hungry?” Korede asked her a few minutes later. She shook her head. They were out of the street where her office was situated and he was driving towards the Total petrol station on the next street. Thankfully there was none of that killer traffic in view. “Well, I’m starving,” he said. “Let’s stop at that Chinese place you like and order take out. By the time we get home you’ll stop being angry with me and maybe you’ll love me again” he playfully pinched her thigh. She only smiled a small smile. She wasn’t ready to be friends just yet. She didn’t understand the way he was behaving as if a birthday wasn’t a big deal.

He pulled into the car park of the quaint little Chinese restaurant that had become her favourite place to eat Chinese cuisine in Lagos. It wasn’t just the food and the ambience that were the endearing factors. Eight months ago on a certain Thursday evening, she had met Korede here. She smiled at the security man and took out her phone. She would sit in the car and respond to birthday messages on Facebook while he went to get his take out. He didn’t know it yet, but she had no intention of sleeping over at his place tonight.

“Mo?” her name was a question.

“I’ll wait for you here” she told him.

“Please come in and help me decide what to order” he begged in the tone he knew she never refused. She rolled her eyes. It wasn’t as if she was interested in food. He was the hungry one, yet he needed help getting fed. She didn’t understand it at all. She reluctantly opened the door. Korede took her hand as they walked into the restaurant. He didn’t stop and take a table like someone who wanted to eat. He kept taking purposeful strides to the back of the restaurant that led to what people called the VIP section because it was more private, even though the restaurant didn’t label it so. She silently followed him, and visibly jumped at the chorused shout of “Happy birthday!” Her baby brother Olu was the first to hug her. Behind him Korede was smiling, all traces of the fatigue he complained about completely erased. Everyone was here. Kobi, Amaka, and Shola her friends from church. Her cousin, Debola. Her best friend Tolu, and her fiancé Ikenna. Korede’s day one niggas, Tope, Dayo and Shaw. Two of his best friends were name sakes, so they called one of them by his surname just for clarity. There were hugs and more hugs, and finally she stood facing a grinning Korede. He had acted like her birthday wasn’t a big deal, but he had secretly put all of this together and in this moment, she didn’t think it was possible to love him any more than she did right now. There were no words needed, but her eyes told him how much this meant to her, and his responding hug let her know he knew.

It was a lovely party, and she couldn’t have wished for more. There was another monstrous chocolate cake, because he knew how much she liked chocolate cake, Korede had said. Just when she thought she would burst from happiness, he took her hand again and led her outside, to see something. She saw it. Shiny and red and beautiful, with its black leather seats and shiny paneling. Mojolaoluwa wordlessly buried her head in the crook of his neck. This man, who promised not to stop showing her that he loved her until she believed him, had gone and bought her a car. It was a BMW , but it could have been a Ferrari for all that it meant to her. She’d been given the whole “I love you” talk before. She’d even been proposed to, and she said yes, only for the guy to tell her three months later that he wasn’t sure he was cut out for permanent commitment. But Korede really made her believe again. He seemed to really love her. They had their own fair share of bad times, but he was an extremely thoughtful and loving partner, and she was grateful for that. She didn’t know where this love was going, but it was proving to be one beautiful ride. And whenever the ride was over, she would tuck the memories into the most precious compartment of her heart, and not harbour any resentment for him or what could have been.

To be continued…

Written by Urigi