The next day, one of the major soft-sell magazines in the country had the blazing headlines; “Billionaire Samuel’s daughter rejects engagement proposal from business magnate.” Bayo was furious when he saw the magazine. He brought the magazine home and dumped it in front of Funke. “What is the meaning of this?”
Funke looked at him wondering what had gotten him so upset. She picked up the magazine and saw the caption. “Oh my goodness!” She lamented.
“She can’t continue doing this. This has to stop. Let her know that I give her 3 months to make up her mind or else…..” Bayo said in anger as he allowed his sentence to trail off.
Funke asked her husband to sit down in a bid to calm him down. “Please seat down, Olowo ori mi (my crown).”
Bayo sat down still upset. Funke scooted close to him and took his hands in hers. “I know you love Shalewa so much and you want the best for her but don’t you think, we should give her a chance to decide who she wants to get married to.”
Bayo looked at his wife, shock written all over his face. “Funke, you did not just say that, did you?”
Funke gesticulated as she tried to explain. “She says she is not in love with Tunde and that we are forcing her to get married to him against her will.”
“Okay? So tell me. Who is she in love with?” Bayo said as he stood up and put his hands on his waist. “I want to know.”
Funke was quiet and unable to look at her husband’s face.
“I thought as much.” He said. “She is only in love with herself.”
“But you know that is not true.” She said looking up. “She has had relationships in the past but they were all after wealth.”
“And Tunde?” Bayo asked as he searched his wife’s face for an answer.
Funke stood up with a deep sigh.
“Go and talk to her.” Bayo said with finality as he pointed towards the bedrooms.
Funke tapped the door to her daughter’s bedroom once and let herself in. Shalewa was already in her night wear and about to get into bed. She smiled as her mum walked in. “Hello mum.”
“Omoshalewa, why are you doing this to me?”
Shalewa looked at her mum with a confused look. “I don’t understand what you are saying.”
“I am tired of this back and forth between you and your dad. Did you see the headlines of that wretched soft-sell magazine?”
Shalewa sighed. “Yes mum, I did. I wonder who is feeding those lousy reporters with tales about me.”
“That is not the point right now, Shalewa.”
“I have heard you mum. I will do what you and dad want. I will accept Tunde’s proposal.”
Funke was shocked. “You will?”
“Isn’t that what both of you want?”
“It is not about what we want. It is about your happiness. That is what your father and I are after.”
“I know mum. I know.”
Funke hugged her daughter. “I know you will be happy with Tunde and make us proud grandparents.”
Shalewa rolled her eyes behind her mum’s back as she left her hands hanging by her side.
Funke stood up from her daughter’s bed excited. “Your father will be happy to hear this.” She said as she kissed her daughter on the forehead.
Preparations began in earnest for an introduction of the two families. Two weeks later, Tunde’s grandmother and a few of his family members were welcomed in the home of the Samuel’s. A date was fixed for the engagement four weeks away. The engagement ceremony was done with pomp and pageantry. The pictures of the couple and their families were splayed in newspapers and soft-sell magazines for weeks; each one in a bid to outdo the other with details of the ceremony. It became the most talked about engagement party of the year and no expense was spared.
Shalewa, even though looking beautiful and expensively adorned; knew that she was getting married to fulfill her parents desire. Friends and family congratulated her and told her she was very lucky to have a handsome young man. She smiled back a response to each one refusing to utter words.
Bayo Samuel informed his family that the wedding ceremony of his only daughter would be a destination wedding. He asked Shalewa to pick a destination of her choice and began to make preparations towards it. It was agreed that the wedding would hold six weeks after the engagement.
Three weeks to the wedding, Shalewa went to her neighbourhood shopping mall one evening to get some groceries. As she walked down the aisle of the departmental store, she noticed someone staring at her. She was used to stares especially from admirers by now and with her recent highly publicized engagement, she knew her popularity had been moved one notch up.
“Hi, you are Shalewa Samuel, right?” She heard someone behind her ask. Of course, I am. Who does not know me in town? She looked up to give a nasty answer and suddenly gasped; her hand flying to her mouth.
“Akin Savage?” She asked; not believing her eyes. He nodded and they both embraced each other in a tight hug refusing to let go.
“Where have you been? I waited for your letters but got none.” Shalewa asked.
Akin took a step back, held Shalewa at arm’s length as he admired her.
I did not know what to think. I assumed you forgot about me.” Shalewa said pouting her lips in mock anger.
“How could I forget about you, Shalewa? I thought about you day and night.” Akin said.
“I asked my parents if they could reach you but they were also at a loss and could not give me an answer. I was heartbroken, Akin.”
Akin held Shalewa’s hand and kissed it. “I know, my love. I was too. Let us go to a café so we can talk.”
Akin walked out of the departmental store with Shalewa’s hands in his. There was a café in the shopping mall and they took a table for two in a private corner. A waiter took their orders and returned shortly with two glasses of chapman.
Akin smiled as he looked at Shalewa. “You are still as beautiful as you were fifteen years ago.”
Shalewa blushed as she hit Akin on his arms playfully. “C’mon, you have not changed. Still teasing me like you used to then.”
Akin sighed as he held her hands on the table. “Shally babe, I never forgot about you.”
Shalewa smiled as she remembered the name Akin called her when they were younger. No one had called her that in the last fifteen years.
Akin continued. “How could I? You were my first love.” He caressed her hands with his fingers as he looked into her eyes. “I wrote maybe a thousand letters but they were never delivered. Do you remember that my parents and I left for the U.S together?”
Shalewa nodded as she listened intently.
“They wanted to help me settle down before returning to Nigeria. According to my mum, on their return six months after, your family had moved out of the neighbourhood and left no forwarding address. I asked my mum to do everything she could to help me find you but all her efforts were futile. Two years after, my parents relocated to the U.S. I only come to Nigeria on visits. So what have you been doing with yourself the last fifteen years?” Akin asked.
Shalewa shrugged. “We moved out of the neighbourhood. My dad’s businesses started doing very well and he made sure he sent me to a good university. I concluded my postgraduate program a few months back.” She said smiling.
“Wow, congratulations! You definitely did well for yourself. So, you married now?” Akin asked looking at her fingers.
Shalewa’s smile faded immediately. “Engaged. The wedding is in a few weeks.”
“You don’t sound excited.”
“Why? You love him, don’t you?”
Shalewa took a deep breath. “No, I don’t.”
Akin was surprised. “So why are you getting married to him?”
“Because I have been unlucky with men. Every guy in my past has been after dad’s wealth. Tunde has proved not to be one of such and dad feels he should marry me off before I lose him.”
“I’m sorry about that.”
“What about you?” Shalewa asked. “Are you married now?”
“Well, I wouldn’t say I have been unlucky. I have had my fair share of ladies but none has been able to strike the right chord in my heart.”
“Why? Have you been so hard on yourself?”
“I don’t think so. I just haven’t been able to get you out of my mind even after fifteen years.”
Shalewa blushed as she looked away. “Akin, it is complicated.” She said sighing.
“I don’t understand. What is complicated?”
Shalewa looked at him. “You know, I never forgot about you as well. I kept on hoping this day would come. I even went as far as searching for you on Facebook but the search was always fruitless.”
Akin caressed Shalewa’s face with his fingers. “I’m sorry you went through all that. I don’t do social media. Never been a fan of any of the platforms. So, you getting married to him?” Akin looked at her curiously.
“I don’t love him. I never had but no one seems to understand. They all say I would grow in love for him but I haven’t been able to. Akin, you were my first love. We were young but I loved you and sincerely, I think I still do.”
“You think? That means you aren’t sure.” Akin teased.
“Oh, come off it, Akin.” Shalewa hit him playfully.
“I love you Shalewa. I have always done and will do forever”.
“So what do we do?”
Akin answered getting serious. “I think we should just take this one day at a time. First, I would like to see your parents again. I have missed them.” He said smiling. “Just maybe, we would be able to tell them about the future we discussed together many years ago.”
Shalewa raised her eyebrows. “No, not today.”
Akin burst out into laughter as he pointed in her direction. “I got you there.”
“Oh Akin, will you ever be serious for once?”
“Nope, remember that was one of the reasons you fell in love with me fifteen years ago?”
Akin signaled to the waiter, paid the bill and dropped a generous tip. Shalewa stood up as Akin put his hand on the small of her back. They walked out of the café together smiling.
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