“I know you are sorry Freddie. I can feel it in your voice. I also know that you don’t really mean those promises. You are going to go back right into her arms. I have been in this game for too long. But you can have her, I don’t care. I am never coming back to Port Harcourt, so I am giving you all the freedom that you need. I hold no grudges against you. You are free to marry her. But we can never be together.”
Though I couldn’t see his face, I could sense his disappointment.
“Omalicha, how could you say these? Are you abandoning your work at the office because of one mistake that I made? Please, you have to reconsider.”
This part got me surprised. Well, Omalicha was full of surprises.
“I applied for a transfer to our company’s branch in Lagos. As we speak, I am house hunting. Once the weekend is over, I shall resume. Have a nice life Fred, and please don’t ever call my line.”
“Atta girl!” I almost clapped. When she had broken the connection, I peeled myself from the window and decided to rush back to the mirror, but I couldn’t. My dress had gotten stuck on something sharp on the floor.
“Shit!” Omalicha was going to know that I’d been eavesdropping on her.

Without warning, she pushed the door open and stepped outside the bathroom. Her light brown eyes twinkled with surprise.
“What are you doing here?” She raised a brow.
“Um…” I licked my lips while thinking of a good answer.
“You were listening to my conversation right? You are such a terrible liar…” she rolled her eyes. Did this mean that she wasn’t mad?
I knew what I’d done was wrong, but I was just curious.
“I am sorry okay? I just don’t like people keeping secrets from me.” I apologized.
She shrugged, “Well, you now know why I am in Lagos. I just couldn’t share the sordid details with you.”

“I am so sorry for the way I talked to you on phone. I had no idea that you were going through a break up. I should’ve been kinder with my words. I should’ve been more considerate. But I wasn’t.”

“It’s alright Ego. I couldn’t tell you because I was embarrassed. All my life, people thought that I was the one who could get her shit together, but they were wrong. My life is in a perfect mess, all because I loved the wrong man who betrayed me and slept with my friend. I guess that’s my penance for betraying you.”
I sucked in some air; maybe she was right, maybe not.

“Don’t say that. There is no excuse for bad behavior. I am happy with the decision that you took. That man doesn’t love you as much as you love him. He doesn’t deserve you. Please put on your best at this dinner party, you could meet a man of your dreams,” I winked.
Omalicha’s loud laughter rang in the room, almost bursting my eardrums. Yes, she was a loud laugher.

“Well, I am not in the mood for another relationship. Let me just focus on rebuilding my life from the scratch. Lagos is a big place with plenty of opportunities. I am glad to be here. I do not regret anything at all.”
I smiled and grabbed her arm.

“You’re not house -hunting anymore. Now that I know your true purpose, you’re going to live with me. Is that okay?” I really felt sorry for Omalicha; I had been too ungrateful with my own life. I had been too focused on her career achievements to notice that she was deeply hurting. Her family was gone, and the man that she had loved had broken her heart. I couldn’t turn her away.
Tears stung her eyes and dropped on her artificial lashes, “You’re too kind. You are always the one with the good heart. Thank you cousin. Asking me to stay with you means a lot.”

I nodded and pulled her in for a hug, while she wept on my shoulders.
When we pulled apart, she wiped her eyes and pointed at the mirror.
“We have to get things moving over here. Time is upon us now!” When I stared at my watch, I realized that it was 1P.M.
With Omalicha’s help, my dress was delivered from a miniature nail that pinned it to a spot. I moved towards the mirror and carefully burrowed into it. My heart raced as I felt Omalicha’s slender fingers lifting my hair, so she could work on the zip.
A tear rolled down my cheeks as I stared at my reflection…

“I don’t know the right words to use in describing you.” Omalicha shifted back and pulled out her dress. It was perfect on me. It seemed the designer had my body size in mind while creating this outfit.

“You’re going to pay me for picking the best dress for you,” she teased. I chuckled and turned my eyes back to the woman in the mirror. I felt confident in the dress. I felt bold and beautiful. I was truly at a good place in my life.

The dress was a hundred thousand. Next, we were going to take the shoes and head for a salon where I would be made over. I planned to share some of the money with Omalicha, or perhaps I could buy her a dress. Her birthday was coming up in a few days.

“Time for the shoes…” Omalicha pulled the door open.

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Omalicha had dressed simply, and I didn’t bother her. She wasn’t in the mood for a party but she had to drive me to Yinka’s company because of my dress. The first thing I noticed when we reached was this; there weren’t many cars. The whole place seemed like a dead zone.

“Are you sure we are at the right place?” Omalicha quickly turned off the car.

I nodded, “Yes, he told me that the party would take place at his company.” I was quite certain about this.

“I doubt it. Or perhaps we came too early…” she pushed her side open and stepped out.

I quickly grabbed my phone and made ready to call Aurora, when I heard someone call my name. Coincidentally, I heard my cousin screaming. I held my breath, and quickly tossed the phone aside, hoping that we weren’t in any kind of danger.

“Geez! It was a prank!” Omalicha screamed.

When I finally looked up, I saw Yinka walking towards me with Aurora and Charles. While Yinka and Charles carried placards, Aurora carried a tray of cupcakes and balloons. She had a mischievous smile in her eyes.
Tears pelted down my cheeks as I read the placards.

“I am sorry!”This was written on Charles’ placard.

“I love you baby. Please be my wife…” This was written on Yinka’s placard.

With Omalicha’s help I was able to get out of the car. Why would Yinka choose his company as a proposing ground? It all made sense now. I hadn’t been paying attention! Why had Aurora given me the keys of the car? She had been planning this engagement along with her brother this whole time.
Charles was surprised to see Omalicha. I prayed that these two wouldn’t make a scene that would ruin this perfect moment, because I had already forgiven them.

“When I realized my mistake after dumping you at the hospital, I felt terribly guilty. My shame was worse when I heard that Nora had been the one that had tried to blind you. I had been impatient and inconsiderate. I am deeply sorry for all the pains that I have caused you…”Charles paused and ran his eyes over Omalicha.

“She knows, I told her everything. Seeing that you are sorry for what you did, I bear no grudges,” Omalicha said to Charles.
He threw his placard on the ground and rushed towards me. Charles submitted himself by kneeling. I was touched by his show of remorse.

“I was madly jealous when I realized that Yinka was in love with you. But being without me also thought me a great lesson; to value what we have. You are a very good woman. You have the kindest of hearts. My cousin is a good man and he will treat you well. I promise never to come between you two. I have done enough. I just didn’t want to have a broken relationship with Yinka. The only way to get to his heart was through you…please forgive me…” he collected the folds of my dress.
I inhaled deeply and stared at Yinka and Aurora. I already had love. I knew that Yinka’s family had already accepted me. Why keep a grudge in my heart?
I grabbed Charles’ face between my palms and stared into his eyes.

“I forgive you Charles, and for everything. But you need to work on yourself. You need to learn how to love. That is the only road to your happiness.”
He was sobbing like a little child, and even as I held his face in my hands, I could feel his pain.

“My mother had walked out of the marriage when I was twelve. She remarried after two months. I hated her for abandoning us with my father, who later married a very callous woman who’d maltreated I and my siblings. I hated women. I came to see them like objects, to be used and disposed at will. But no matter what I did to you, you were always there. I just felt hollow. I realized that the problem wasn’t from the women I had slept with, but from me. I am prepared to change.”
I was stunned. I and Omalicha were both touched. Charles had never opened up to me like this.

“It’s alright. I forgive you. But you need to let it go. Your mother’s actions cannot dictate the way that you live. Just let it go…” I dropped a soft kiss on his forehead and wiped the tears on his cheeks away. Charles thanked me for it and rose to his feet. He nodded at Omalicha and walked away quietly, wanting to give I and my prospective some privacy.
Yinka tossed his placard without warning on the ground and swept me into his arms.

“I am sorry for tricking you like this. I know this is fast, but I know what I want. You are everything I want. From the first time that I’d set my eyes on you. I knew that my life would never be the same. Please marry me…” his voice was full of emotion. His words were kind and beautiful.

“Beg for it!” I wriggled out of his hands.

“Please don’t do this, he is a good man.” Aurora’s face was sad and confused. I wished she knew that I was joking with her brother.

“Please my darling, do not break my heart,” Yinka fell to his knees.

I inhaled deeply and closed my eyes. All the elements of nature were here to bear us witness. The wind was circling us. The sands beneath our feet were burning. The clouds were travelling very fast. All I could see as I closed my eyes was Yinka’s lovely face. He was the only man that loved me for who I am. He didn’t try to change me. He respected me. He was the kind of father that I’d wanted for my children.

“I love you Yinka. I accept to be your wife, now and forever…”

Gently, he pulled out a sparkling diamond ring from his pocket and slipped it into my finger.
I heard Omalicha and Aurora clapping and cheering. I also heard click sounds from their cameras. I thought of introducing Omalicha to Yinka right away, but that would ruin the moment. She was going to be my maid of honor, so there was a lot of time to do the introductions.

“When are they going to kiss already?” I heard Aurora’s voice.

“Mind your business sis!” Yinka called back as he rose to his feet.

When he pulled me into his arms, I didn’t question his action. I felt safe in his embrace. Our hearts beat as one. We were meant for each other. He was the perfect gentleman and I, his Lady.
“I want to rip this dress apart and make love to you…” he whispered.
I bit my lip as I imagined it.
“Right now?” I asked.

“I wish, but I will only come when you are ready.” He pulled away from the embrace and stared into my eyes.
The only thing that was on my mind was a kiss. This time, I would be the one to initiate it. I leaned forward and dropped my lips on his’. It was the perfect kiss as our lips melted in perfect desire. I had found my love.

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