The Wedding Guest (Part 1)

Ironically, I loved weddings, and marriages; the events of my recent divorce did nothing to dampen my spirits as I stepped into the foyer of the Grand Luxury Hotel. I’d wanted to arrive earlier but my work schedules were bent on keeping me busy till the last minute. We — I and my partner, Jude — had a tough criminal case to handle. It involved a man who killed his boss because he had found out the boss was having an affair with his wife; the wife was very remorseful of her acts, and the man, well, only God could save him from the gallows. I hated losing, and I wouldn’t start with that one.

True to its name, the hotel represented luxury in its grandest visage. I immediately fell in love with its Victorian outlook, which was rare in Nigeria. As I walked the length of the lobby towards the reception area, I could not help but appreciate the marble floors (obviously of the highest quality), the high columns, the walls which were painted in hazel, and the chandelier, just exquisite. It was a paradise for travellers.

Destination wedding! That was what I was here for. Africans had a knack for copying almost every western culture, and although I loved weddings, this was the height of it. How can you have a wedding in a hotel and arrange accommodation for the 150 guests? Even the church ceremony will be held in the hotel! Incredulous, that is what I say. But I could not  say that to Lanre Peters — whose daughter was getting married to the son Bartholomew Umeji, one of the biggest names in the world of Nigerian law — I came to ease off the stress of fighting with my ex-wife in the law court for 14 months. The money was theirs to spend.

The receptionist, when I approached her was a tall, dark girl with a face meant for fashion magazines. Her hair was braided with blue attachment, and she showered me with an ample smile.

“Good afternoon sir. How may I help you?”

“Afternoon lady. I’m here for a wedding. Can you please check —” I was cut off midsentence by tap on my shoulder. I swiveled, and faced a short, stocky man.

He wore a brown suit which were a tad big for him; he was almost raising his shoulders to prevent the jacket from sloping down his arms. It reminded me of my first suit, my elder brother had given it to me when he went to the university. I always looked like a monkey in a jacket whenever I wore it to church — which was the only place I ever wore it to.

The man was grinning ear to ear. He took my hand and pumped it with so much force that I feared it would just fly off the socket. He was incredibly strong.

“Hello, Mr. Martin, right?” he inquired. When I nodded in assent, he continued, “I’m Tunde, Chief Peters’ personal assistant. He wants me to escort you to your room. He says he would be with you shortly.” As I turned to thank the black beauty at the reception and follow the short man, I saw something that hit me in the solar plexus. My wife — ex-wife — was coming out of an elevator with a young man in tow. From their mannerism, it was obvious that they came here as a couple. It was just what I needed, another reminder of what that singular act had cost me.

Whether by sheer luck or because she was too enamored to care, she passed me without even a sidelong glance. This wedding was turning into something else I never foresaw. And as if kismet was intend on ruining my life, Tunde went to the exact elevator the came out of. Alright Fate, I thought, show me what imbecile I was for my actions.

Inside the elevator, the short man turned garrulous. He went on and on about how happy he was that I was a guest at the wedding. He also informed me that he and his son were great fans of mine. Sweet, I thought, so I’d gathered so much fame to have fans?

“My son — Bola — is a third year law student, and he already wants to go into criminal law. He practically idolizes you. I can’t tell you what it means for him to get your autograph. He promptly fished out a book of mine, ‘Discourse on the Criminal’ and also a pen from the briefcase he was carrying.

An autograph? You’ve got to be kidding me! I’d never done much to garner fame — just win some court cases. As it turned out, that was enough to make you famous in some circles. Dutifully, I signed the book, and using the opportunity, I asked him about something that has been niggling at me.

“How do you guys plan to forestall gate-crashers from attending the event?”

“That’s easy. The entire hotel has been booked for the whole week. Both families made sure that the only guests in this hotel are those for the wedding, including the twenty or so people from the media,” he idly replied, still beaming at the autograph. Did my signature have so much effect now?

That put things in a new — and utterly sickening — light, my ex-wife was a guest alongside the hunk she was with. A round of applause for Fate, she had totally hoodwinked me. I decided that I would have to stay out of her way as much as I could. It wasn’t that hard, was it? Out of so many people, it couldn’t be that hard to avoid her, right? The ping of the elevator brought me out of my musing as we had reached the appropriate floor — 109.

“Here we go,” Tunde announced, as he lifted my traveling bag, “Your room should be just about the corner. It says here…” He looked at the tag again, “… Room 501.”

We walked about twelve yards and located the room. “Well, thanks very much for the help,” I said, “I can take it from here.” He smiled again, and thanking me for the autograph once again, waltzed off towards the elevator. I waited for the elevator to start downwards before swiping the keycard on the door and going in.

...To be continued...

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