You know what they say about seeing writings on the wall; I experienced it two year ago. I made many mistakes in my life in 2015: mistakes in career decisions, mistakes by following trends and opinions, mistakes in relationships with God and man. I carried over mistakes too, the ones of my childhood and even my parents’ mistakes. 2015 was my year of colossal mistakes. I have come far though; rising above all of my errors, accepting them, correcting many, living with some and praying my way out of one. When I look into the mirror today, I see a tiger; an undefeated champion, a rich and humble woman. I still make mistakes because I’m human but now I accept them with courage and I have learned to fail forward.
Out of all the mistakes I made, the only one that haunts me till date was choosing the wrong man to spend my life with and I guess it would have been the epic mistake of the century if I had not walked away. My mother remained on the war path with me and my father was not speaking to me. My brother, Kasope, said that it was not the fact that I was saving myself future pain that had caused my family and friends to be mad at me. It was simply my timing. I agreed. Anyway, Sope was a great support when everyone turned their backs at me.
On the twenty fifth of April, 2015, I was dressed in an ivory bridal gown with stones glimmering in the lights of the room. I had a Grecian hairdo and my makeup was soft yet it accentuated my beauty. All my friends went ooh and aah as I stared into the mirror. The photographer was clicking away at his camera. He looked away one moment from the camera view to look at me directly.
“Smile please,” he said. I stretched my lips to form a smile that did not reach my eyes.
The photographer looked at me again. “Okay, try to look happy,” he encouraged.
I stared back at him and he sighed. My friends went on and on about how I could be nothing but happy when I looked absolutely divine in my wedding dress and I was marrying a handsome man from a wealthy family.
As we left the hotel room to meet up with my parents downstairs, I took a detour to my husband-to-be’s room. My friends went on and on about how the groom was not supposed to see the bride before the wedding but my chief bridesmaid and closest friend, Fadeke stepped in and asked me to be quick about it. I was about to knock on the door when I heard an argument. It was Charles’ and Tito’s voices exchanging words in an obviously heated moment.
Fadeke shook her head and asked that we leave but I insisted on hearing what the argument was about.
“… on the night before your wedding? How shallow can you get?” I heard Charles shout angrily.
“It is none of your business. And besides she was just in my room for the night, nothing happened.” Tito responded.
All the girls had stopped yammering at this point and we were all listening. Fadeke had her eyes closed. I just stood there speechless.
“Yeah, right. I’m not a fool so please don’t give me that bullshit. I’m not standing with you on that altar. God forbid. You have to get one of the other guys to be your best man.” Charles was saying.
“You have always liked Sade and you are angry that I picked her as my bride. You’ve always been jealous because I get all the girls.” Tito’s voice boomed at her through the door.
“Hey, we both tried to get the girl once, but that was in the past. I wasn’t the one who promised her happily ever after and is sleeping with that tramp. No sanctity in what you have. Anyway, I’m out of here.”
We all scrambled back a bit as Charles opened the door. The shock on his face was of epic proportions as he saw six of us stand outside the hotel door.
Charles looked into my face and said, “I’m so sorry,” just about the time that Tito opened the door wider to see what was going on outside.
He was smiling at me but I stared at him. Fadeke already had tears running down her face.
“You heard everything?” he asked and I nodded.
“It meant nothing and nothing even happened. I got a bit drunk that was all and she brought me up to the room. I didn’t know that she didn’t leave because I was dead drunk.”
One of the girls behind me hissed at his lie.
“How did I ever think that you loved me? On our wedding day, Tito? ”
I had always had my misgivings about Tito and Fadeke knew this but I figured that if we loved each other, we would be able to conquer all issues. I went back into my hotel room leaving the girls outside. Only Fadeke was with me.
“Sade, can you forgive him?”
“My dear, forgiving is not really the hard part right now. I can forgive him but I cannot marry him anymore.”
“What? But you knew that he was messing around before. You suspected, at least that is what you told me but you were going to marry him until this moment,” she shouted at me.
I cried as I paced. My parents were downstairs waiting for me. There were multiple knocks on the door. I thought about how everyone would be affected if I walked away at that minute and how much my parents, who were civil servants, had committed to the wedding. I also thought about my sister who was supposed to be living with me in the UK while studying on a partial scholarship. This was not just about me; I had to think of my family too.
Finally, I made my decision. As I opened the door, my father was already standing outside waiting. He shouted and ranted about getting late to church and also about the cost of the hall that must be vacated at six pm if we didn’t want to pay extra fees. I knew the wedding had stretched my Dad. Thank God for family support towards financing the wedding. My Aunts and uncles pitched in to help him out. Obediently, I went with him to the church. The photographer kept on sighing. It was my parents’ day really. They were congratulated more than I was. As soon as Dad and I got to the entrance of the church, Tito was already standing by the door, rather nervous. He smiled with relief when he saw me and my Dad.
“I knew you would come round.” Tito said with renewed confidence.
I stared at him blankly.
I looked around and saw Charles with the other groomsmen. He looked at me, disappointment evident in his eyes. I looked away from him.
The church warden was about to usher the groom and his men in but I stopped them.
I turned to my Dad. “Daddy, I am so sorry.” I was already shaking.
“Sorry ke? Sorry for what?” he asked alarmed.
“Tito had a girl in his room overnight. The night of my wedding. I’ve had my misgivings and I’ve seen signs of him cheating and he never hid them. I thought that he had stopped his nonsense. I don’t think I can go through with this wedding. I wanted to for your sake but I know that you would not let me sacrifice myself like this.” I pleaded.
My father looked as if he had been slapped. He looked at Tito and back at me but he said nothing.
Tito was in shock himself. Finally, he regained himself and started begging my Father to intercede.
I turned away at this point and I walked away. I could feel the gaze of many behind me but every step I took away brought me some relief but the pain of walking away from a dream overshadowed it and made me run.
Later that evening, I called my sisters but they just kept cutting the line. My mother called me a million times and every time I picked up, she rained curses on me. I stopped picking up my phone.
My Sister, Funky, finally called me back but only to give me details of what each person said. My Aunts were asking for a refund from my Dad since the wedding did not take place, the in-laws where threatening to sue my father and hoped to recoup all the money lost from my family even though they knew that it was impossible. Out of everything that happened, Tito was coming out looking like the victim. He was pitied by all.
My brother, Kasope, called me the next day to ask how I was doing and where I was. He told me about the news online and my aborted wedding featured as the gossip of the day. I needed to get to the house to pick up some of my things and he offered to help me smuggle some clothes and items for me since I was not ready to face my family.
I figured eventually that the best thing to do was to face my family. I was not a thief and I didn’t do anything wrong. The situation at home was volatile. My mother gave me a dirty slap when she saw me. I could see her shake as she addressed me when I tried to explain.
“Mummy, please try to understand. The man was sleeping with someone on the night of our wedding. How am I supposed to live with that? How am I supposed to start with that?” I pleaded as I held my face, still feeling the sting of her slap.
“You just do, Sade. You just live with it. We all live with it. Every woman has her shame but they cover it. Men are like that, didn’t you know? I thought you went for church counselling?” she was shouting at me and I was shocked at the implication of what she was saying. “Apparently, I didn’t teach you about the other side of life. It is not everything that they would use mouth to say oh Sade. I left you naive and see how it has bitten me in the back.”
My Dad had come out to the sitting room where all this was taking place. He looked at me, his eyes mixed with feelings of angry, sadness, frustration and so many other emotions I could not place.
My sister came to me. “Oh Sade, why did you do this? Did you not think of the implications?”
I looked at her blankly. It seems she apparently got the education my mother was talking about because she was on the same page with my mother who was still speaking and spitting venom like a furious rattle snake. I could not understand it.
“I’m sorry I ruined your plans for school. I’m sure some other way will open up. ”
“Who’s talking about me? Look at you. You have no job anymore. You resigned your job so that you and Tito can travel to the UK. What are going to do? How will you support yourself? ”
“Support as how? I live in this house. I will eventually get back on my feet” I said positively.
“Which house?” my mother shouted at me. “Sade, je ki ori e pe, let your head be correct, this is the last time I want to see your leg in this house. You have disgraced this family. You have shamed me. Get out. ”
” Mummy. ” I pleaded. My Dad who stood silently all the while just walked away. I was stunned.
“Funke, what is going on? Help me talk to them. I didn’t do anything wrong. It was Tito that was the cause of this. How was I supposed to start marriage like that; it should be an abomination to anyone.” I wept.
At night time, I was at Fadeke’s place, a one-room self-contained she rented when she had to move closer to her place of work. When Fadeke was at work, I got some time to myself to think about what I was going to do about my situation.
I had not thought beyond walking away. How was I supposed to provide for myself especially now that I had been thrown out of the house? I just embarrassed my family and the in-laws were not nice to me about the whole matter. I had no savings left after using it up for the wedding.
At the end of my exercise, I didn’t have any answers for myself. So I started cleaning up Fadeke’s house. I found some of my old scripts I had written when I was in secondary school. It surprised me that she saved them. I was not proud of them at that time. I picked them up, dusted them and read. I laughed and cried as as I read on. I enjoyed reading them again; the nostalgia was epic. I cried more for my lost passion, for you see, my thinking back then was that the arts would not put food on the table. At least that was what I picked up from school, teachers, friends and even family. If my world thought that way, I had guessed that they were probably right so I turned to the sciences. Life is so funny that I ended up with a job in a consulting firm after school after all the Science.
Among the pile of old scripts, there was a particular story that I did not finish. After cleaning the house, I decided to finish up the story. I rewrote many parts that I had written with my childish mind and I made it into a beautiful story.
After a week of mopping around and feeling sorry for myself, I decided to go job hunting again as I needed to get my life on track. I read a couple of books that Fadeke had on her shelf; books on mind-conditioning, financial investment, success, motivational stories and biographies of successful people and I decided to ride with the flow.
I made some resolutions. I told myself that no matter what happened from that day, I would never settle for less than I deserved. I would build myself into someone I loved and respected, I would explore my talents and passions and make something of myself and finally, I would be a ‘bank’ both financially, emotionally and every way and my goal would be to invest in others and become an institution of a sort. I told myself that it was doable.
After three weeks of search, I finally got a job as a front desk officer and a sales person at a posh movie house called Entertainment DC in Ikoyi. This was a far cry from my job at the consulting firm. The salary was rather small but I had to earn something. I told myself that I was not settling but taking the time to build myself up. Most of my work at the EDC was in the evenings and on weekends but I had to be at work every day from ten in the morning till eight pm when the last tickets would be sold and I would hand over to another staff. I preferred to be at work by eight in the mornings so that I could catch up on my writing. I also wanted to keep regular working hours so that I could do other creative and strategic thinking because mornings were when my juices flowed. I would write stories on my laptop while at work and then focus on my work from noon. In three weeks, I had written another story but I still had one sleeping on the shelf.
One day, I summed up the courage to give a printed copy of the first one I had polished to the manager of EDC. He collected and smiled.
“So, this is what you have been doing when you come in early.”
“Yes Sir. I really have a talent for writing and I hope that you can help me get this work out.” I told him.
He laughed. “So, you are hoping that this gets published as a book or are you looking to sell the script?”
“Both, Sir. I think that the book is of quality.” I beamed with pride.
He sighed. “I am glad that I finally found someone who shares my passion. Look at that corner. I have written about two books and a scripts and I have been trying to push them out for five years. Go ahead, pick one and take it home. Read it and let me know what you think.”
As I took the bus home to Fadeke’s place, I pondered on my conversation with the manager. It was a demoralizing conversation. I had hoped that he would use the connections at his disposal to help me; apparently he needed help to. But I had nothing else so I had to make it.
I had an issue staying at Fadeke’s place. The landlord complained about my late nights and did not expect Fadeke to continue keeping me as a squatter. After many squabbles with her Landlord, I told Fadeke that I would take over the night shift at work on the weekends and then beg off an hour earlier during the week so that I could get home at nine pm at the latest. This seemed to solve the issue but it stressed me out at weekends and I longed for life at my parents’ house and a 9-5 along with the perks of having a rich boyfriend.
Finally one day, while a movie premier was taking place at EDC, I saw Kunle Afolahan, Temi Adetiba, TV guru Mimi Abudu and a number of celebrities going about. I had thought of different scenario on how I could meet a movie director or anyone in position to help push my stories. I prepared also. I had three books on a flash drive and I had spiral bound them thanks to Kasope who sent me some money. The last book was not finished but I did not want to take chances so I included it after reaching a nice conclusion.
I stood at my desk and watched as they moved about. I decided to target the end of the premier so I waited. Half way into the event, Kunle came out to use the rest room.
“Rest room is that way?” He caught my eye and pointed to a corner.
“Yes, Sir. down that way and a left turn.”
“Thanks.” and he walked down the corridor.
I prayed for a moment and then carried the books and the flash drive waiting for him to come out of the rest room. As I saw a head coming down the corridor, I dropped the books back since I could not think of how he would carry them back into the hall. So, I walked to him and in a shaky voice, I told him about the novels that I had written.
“So, what do you want me to do? Read it to see if it is any good? Endorse it for you? What exactly do you want?”
“Sir, I would like to sign a movie deal if you like the books.”
He laughed and shook his head. “I have to get back in.”
Was that a no? I was shocked for a moment. I had prepared a great speech for this moment but everything flew out of my head when I saw him.
At the end of the day, He had many people vying for his attention until he left. I did not get to give him a book. I almost burst out in tears. All the stars left. Someone I did not recognize at that time came back to say he forgot something. I put my despair aside and helped him search for his missing wristwatch around the area he sat. Eventually we found it.
“I am so grateful. Thank you so much. This is one expensive wrist watch. Let me give you a tip.” he said, bringing out his wallet; gratitude written all over his face.
“Sir, I was just doing my job, please no need for a tip.”
He was adamant.
“Sir, let me tell you want you can do for me. I am a writer and I have written a few books that I want to publish or possibly sell the script. Since you are in the entertainment world, perhaps you can read and advise me on how I can get people like Kunle Afolahan to see me.”
He laughed. He asked for just one book. I did a quick round of ‘Eeny, Meeny, Mini, Moe’ and picked one. After he left, I realized that I gave him the uncompleted one. I sighed. Since I was trying to get his opinion, I did not worry too much about it.
A month later, I got another job as a personal assistant to an actress. I got the referral through the manager at EDC. It was the biggest learning experience of my life. The actress called Stephanie was just two years older than I was and I struggled at first with the issue of respect because of the actress’ excesses. She was what some people would call ‘crazy’. She kept odd hours and kept company with people that I would be afraid to have around me. I also did weird errands and I watched her build a fake life. However, I had resolved in my mind that my boss was my boss and I was there to serve her. If I was not comfortable about a situation I could speak up or resign.
One day, she called me on the phone and spoke in her usual foreign drawl.
“Sade, I need you to come meet me at Lekki phase 1,” she sent the address by SMS.
I wondered about where I was going to because I usually met her at an apartment in Ikoyi.
I got into the house and I saw a very homely stead which was very different from the Ikoyi apartment.
“Welcome to my abode.” She said smiling. I looked confused. I was just hoping that this was not one sugar daddy’s hideout.
“This is where I come to do my creative work. I’m myself here. It is my hideout oh so just know. I brought you here now because I see that you can be trusted, so please keep this trust.” she finished.
“This is great. I like the ambience. It suits me better. Hopefully I can get work done from here too I hope.” I said, astounded.
She laughed.” Well, intermittently, we still have to be at the other apartment. That’s where my office is and that’s where I entertain also.”
I saw a whole new side to the Stephanie. She had a strong work ethic and was into many activities that I couldn’t keep up. I saw why she needed me and I tried to meet those needs. I also made her my role model, picking up many good habits from her. Sometimes, I worked so late that I didn’t bother going to Fadeke’s place till day break.
I realized also that I didn’t have time to do my own creative work or market the ones I had done. I expressed my concerns and desires with Stephanie and she asked to see what I had written. Two weeks later she asked why I had not finished the last one. I gave her the printouts of the part I had just completed.
“Are you that you want this story out?”
I looked at her. “Yes, sure. I need it to go out. ”
She stared at me, “but the story is not complete yet.”
“The completed part was what I gave you the other day.”
“That one? That was the part that you made up. The real story must be interesting. ”
I was a bit confused. What was she talking about?
“Look, I don’t want to beat around the Bush. I know it’s the story of your life. Many things tally. Of course I see some humor and fiction in it but I know that it’s based on your life story. ”
She continued. “Besides, my brother Charles knows you well and he was even the one that insisted I picked you for the job even without experience of working in entertainment or as an assistant. Charles Mbagwu is my brother. Surely you know him. ”
I was dazed. I had never seen Charles around Stephanie. In fact I had not seen him since the wedding that never happened.
“Charles has been dying to see you. I just didn’t want anything to disturb your work. Anyway, I would prefer a complete story. I see you going places and that has to get into the story. It’s incomplete so hold on. However, your first story is also nice, a bit naive but we can work together to get a book and movie deal even in the shortest time possible. ”
I was shocked and I could feel my heart best so fast.
I got challenging news and good news later that day. Fadeke called to say that she was getting married. She had been dating Adeniyi for ten years but it became a long distance relationship after five years. She had been working her papers to join him in Canada. They had secretly done the court wedding to help process her papers. This was something even her parents didn’t know. Finally, her paper work was completed and she was to travel in three weeks. This left me under the rain and sun; no shade. I was excited for her but I cried. Fadeke was my safety net apart. If she left, I would have just my brother, Sope, who did all he could when he could. Sope also helped to complement my Dad’s salary to care for the other siblings and general house bills.
I tried to meet her landlord to take over paying rent from Fadeke. Before I could even submit my request, he told me vehemently that he did not want me in his house. I often wondered why he was always negative towards me and Fadeke finally told me that the landlord was a family friend of the Masha family and he was present at the wedding that never took place.
To be Continued!!!