Love and Romance Stories

Feliz Navidad!

The only prayer on my mind was that this Christmas should fly by. Yes, let’s get back to the normal routine please. There’s no need for the whole theatrics and noise about this season. It’s practically the same with every other time of the year. Well, almost the same.

Except that during Christmas, my mind prefers to dwell in the past. Try as much as I can, I usually find it hard to extricate myself from the tides of bitter emotions and heart wrenching memories that flood me. That’s why I would prefer this year’s Christmas to speed by. Let’s get back to lovely January, or better still, skip to April. I love Aprils.
I guess you might be wondering why I am hard on Christmas; I won’t really call it that. It’s more of… the fact that Christmas reminds me that had things gone well five years ago, by now, I would be happily married. Now, I’m neither happy nor married.
Five years ago! Time is really trudging along. But not as fast as I would have liked. At thirty-three and with a mom like mine, I certainly should be looking for a wife. Only, I don’t want a repeat of previous events. Not at all.
My phone rang. It was Chioma—the one person I preferred not to see or hear from again.
“Hi Chioma,” I answered. My voice was hollow even to me.
“Hello Uche,” she greeted. She was still scared of me after all these years. And she should rightly be. She continued, “How are you?”
“I’m fine, thanks. What about you?”
“I’m all good.” Silence stretched. I made no move to fill it. I could hear her breathing, and perhaps contemplating on how to say whatever it was she wanted to tell me. “I’m inviting you to my son, Ikenna’s naming ceremony,” she finally blurted out.
So that was why she called? I guess there was no way I could rid myself of this woman in this life despite all she has done to me; these are the things you get when you care too much, to the point of feeling responsible for her.
“Uhmmm… When is the ceremony?” I shouldn’t be asking this. What I should be doing was ending the call.
“This coming Sunday, at my parents’ place.”
“I will be there.” Then before she would commit me to another scary stuff, I clicked off. Why was I so soft-hearted? Why can’t I, for once, say no to Chioma? Does she have my mumu button?
There are some things that people believe to be true for all people, but sadly, I’ve seen that I’m totally different. At least, in this case. People believed that when someone hurts you, you should cut the person off, stop any form of communication with the person, or even better, hate the person. But that didn’t work for me.
There is no way I can ever hate Chioma, not even after she so cruelly shattered my life.
I was to marry her on 27th December, 2013. Everything was ready; everyone was eagerly awaiting wedding of Obinna Umeh, the youngest billionaire in the South East. But things turned out wrong. I was at the altar, eagerly waiting for my bride, with smiles stretching from ear to ear. Only she didn’t appear. For more than two hours, she was nowhere to be seen. No one had found her either.
Then she called me, apologized for making me wait, and then ultimately telling me that she couldn’t go through with it. She was in love with someone else, she said, and didn’t want to leave him.
“If you really love me, you’ll have to understand me, Ikenna,” she had said. What kind of gibberish was that?
When she ended the call, I smashed my phone in rage and stormed out of the church, with everyone looking consternated. My brother, who was also my best man, was hot on my heels and inquired about my abnormal behaviour. I then told him that Chioma had just shirked me. Quietly, he informed the whole congregation, and they dispersed, with sighs and exclamations.
Then came the pity. Everyone was against her and were consoling me. But my main concern was: why did she do that? Wasn’t I good enough?
I had met her just before she went into the university, and had fallen for her instantly. I was a budding businessman then, but I managed to train her in school—for five years! Why didn’t she tell me this all this time? And she had claimed that she loved me? What a fool I was!
Well, it doesn’t matter anymore. I was done with love, and all its attendant issues. I focused all my energy on my business and with much luck, I became a billionaire. At age thirty-three. Without a university education.
Now, this weekend, I have to attend her second son’s naming ceremony. Incredible! At least, it wasn’t on the 27th.
Let’s see how it goes…
“Welcome, Uche. Thanks for coming,” Chioma greeted as she flattened her breasts against my chest. God, she still could affect me, after all this time.
“Yeah, thanks,” I growled. I was then lost in greeting and exchanging pleasantries. The air was rife with the festivities, and inside of me, I preferred the white colours of my bedroom.
Then I met her husband, the man she preferred to be with than me. He was much younger than me, closer to her age of twenty-three. He stood over six feet tall with a body of magazine models. As we shook hands, I looked directly into his eyes, but there was no animosity there, only in my heart.
The ceremony commenced, out in the compound. I just stood there, with my mind off into painland. Can’t this ceremony move any faster?
“When will you forgive her?” her elder sister, Ngozi, asked. I didn’t notice that she had sidled up beside me. The last time I saw her, she was with her mother, talking animatedly.
“I don’t think I understand what—”
“Please, stop it. Both of us know that you do understand me. Why are you carrying what happened for this long?” she said, anger creeping into her voice. She always had a quick temper but balanced it with sound judgment.
“Why can’t you leave me alone?” I hissed, “You don’t understand how it feels to—”
My next words were cut off by a piercing scream, it was the scream of a child. Someone pointed towards the main building. A huge inferno had erupted in the kitchen of the bungalow. I looked around, people were too shocked or scared to make any moves. Then Chioma shouted, “My son Ugonna is inside there!”
Before thinking about it, I flew into the building, into the burning furnace. Inside, the billowing smoke was too thick to either see through. It was harder still, to breath. Using my foreknowledge about this house I’ve visited for so many times in the past, I pinched my nose with my left fingers as I felt my way around the house.
I heard his voice again, coming from the kitchen. I hurried towards there. Touching the walls, I felt the kitchen door and went in. He was huddled in a corner beside the kitchen sink. I carried him with both hands and promptly turned back before the gas cylinder blew up.
As I approached the door, the ceiling caved in in front of me and barricaded my exit.
I was trapped, and was losing both air and time; the boy was already unconscious. In a flash, I had an idea. I waved some cloud of smoke out of my sight as I found the pestle and hammered a window with it. It shattered on the third thrust and I carried the boy out, squeezing and turning myself to prevent him from being hurt.
Outside, I carried him to his mother, who was a nurse. She his shirt and applied CPR—cardiopulmonary resuscitation. After a minute, Ugonna coughed and woke up. Everyone cheered. That was when I noticed the shards of glass sticking out of my shoulders and my arms; a large one was stuck menacingly inside my right thigh.
I limped to a seat, sat down and allowed the nurse to do her work, without any other tool except her son’s torn shirt. She had no problem removing the ones on my shoulder but when she pulled the one inside my thigh out, it took all I had in me not to shout out in pain, and perhaps clobber her. Then she tied the shirt around my thigh and thanked me profusely.
“Oh Uche, you saved my son! I don’t know how to thank you,” she cried. The truth was, I didn’t know when I leapt into the building, but I kept that to myself. Her husband came over, took my hand and shook it with gratitude. He need not to talk. He was so happy he couldn’t speak.
When the atmosphere was calm again, and the fire put out by the people around (the emergency firefighters were alerted but they were nowhere to be found), Ngozi walked over to me, and smiled.
“I guess I shouldn’t have worried about you,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I asked. I wasn’t about to play another of her word games.
“Seeing the way you saved her son, I can say that you are well on your way towards forgiving her. Only a heart of love and forgiveness can do such a heroic thing.
Was that true? I had thought I had forgiven her, but thinking about it now, I could see that I had simply locked her out and had allowed the pain to rule me. I had not thought about her without the pain she caused me. Maybe it was time to let go; maybe not. But seeing her sister’s faith in me made me resolve to forgive and perhaps forget.
As she looked at me, waiting for my reply, I merely nodded. There were too many emotions on the surface, I couldn’t risk talking.
“Merry Christmas, Uche,” she said as she waltzed off.
“Merry Christmas,” I said to her retreating back.
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