For the upteenth time that morning Kayla looked out of the window, lines creasing her porcelain forehead.
"Do you think it might rain, Crsytal?" She asked her elder sister
"Kayla you really need to calm down, everything will go smoothly I promise"
"How can you be so sure? Have you spoken to planner? Is everything ok at the reception? Are the caterers on their way? What of Kayode? Have you seen him this morning? How is my husband? Is every.."
"Kayla for God's sake everything is fine, you really need to calm down and focus on being the perfect bride. Have you ever seen any frowning brides on Bella Naija weddings" Crystal chuckled, trying to cheer her sister up.
Kayla smiled and tried to relax into her chair and let the makeup artist work wonders on her. Everyone said it was natural for brides to worry so much on their wedding day but something felt different about this one. Kayla couldn't shake off the feeling that something would go terribly wrong. She felt it in the pit of her belly; the caterers were either going to disappoint her or her reception dress would have a terrible tear or something equally horrendous. It just felt like something would put stain on what should be the best day of her life.
You couldn't blame her for worrying so much. It was almost too good to be true that 'Kayla the brick' as she was not so fondly called, was getting hitched. Not because thirty wasn't far off, but because for years she had been like a brick wall, not letting anyone in, not being able to love, or trust, not even trying. The very thought of the touch of a man made her heartbeat race like it was on crack-cocaine, but that was all before Kayode.
Kayode must have been the one that was sent to take away all the pain, the one God sent to comfort and console her, the salve to her wounded heart and bruised ego, the one sent to wipe her tears away and compensate her for the lost years, the misery and finally, the self-loathing. He was a good man. No he wasn't perfect, he had once confessed to her that he had had a somewhat unsavory past but he was a changed man now, one with only two purposes in life; to serve God and to make her the happiest woman on earth.
From the moment they met she knew there was something about him. There was something vaguely familiar about Kayode and it seemed like they'd met in another life, in another time and place. He taught her to love God first and to love herself, something which she was completely inept at. And finally, he had taught her to love a man, at her own pace, in her own way. He didn't push or pressure her like other men did. And those times she pushed him to the brink he kept his calm, unlike other men. She always remembered with warm flutters in her belly the day she knew he was 'The One'.
"Kayla, you've kept me waiting in my car for the last two hours, and now..." Kayode had said
"And now what? I'm saying I've changed my mind, I don't want to go again, don't you get it?"
"Fine. Ok.... I understand I cannot come in because of your parents, at least come out and let me see your beautiful face"
"Look, young man is there something wrong with you? Are you deliberately being obtuse? I'm tired ok? I'll see you when I see you" Kayla had said caustically but an unperturbed Kayode merely chuckled.
"Sweetheart you keep trying to push me away, sometimes you push so hard it hurts. But get this, the harder you push, the deeper in love I fall with you. I'm not going anywhere. I love you and there's nothing you or I...or anyone at all can do about it" he said. Kayla was stunned into silence.
"So yes, you want me to leave, I'll leave. But I'll be back tomorrow... And the day after, and the day after that. I'll wait for as long as you need me to, as long as I have to" He promised solemnly.
Something in his voice.... It wasn't just the words, the sincerity in his voice, the longing, the depth, the uncertainty yet filled with determination. Something touched Kayla at the core of her heart and she knew, this was whom she had been waiting for.
That was twelve months ago. Twelve months of love and bliss. Twelve of the best months of her life, and today? Today was just the beginning of many more beautiful years ahead, with Kayode at her side. What more could she ask for?
"You may now kiss the bride" the Minister finally said.
Kayode gently, yet firmly grabbed his wife, unveiled her and kissed her like he had been waiting to hear those words all his life. There was clapping and cheering from the congregation and his grooms' men teased and laughed at him.
"Kay-babs take am easy o!" Someone chortled.
Kayla suddenly froze.
The party had been fun but it just wasn't the kind of fun nineteen year old Kayla was used to. That had been her first time at a night club.
"Girlfriend you have to live a little" Nkechi, her roommate had said.
"I know.. But these clothes you want me to wear...I just can't NK, I'm practically naked. Besides what if I get cold?"
"No you're not, this is what everyone wears to clubs these days. Ok, let's make a deal, wear the clothes, and take your jacket along just in case you get cold, deal?"
They finally called a truce and headed for the club in a cab. Nkechi had assured her that they would find one to bring them back home whenever they were ready to leave.
Kayla had never heard music at such high volume. The loud music and the crazed crowd almost frightened her but something about the way all eyes were glued to her the minute she walked into the club, taking in her gorgeous face and curvaceous body which Nkechi's dress so visibly showcased, something about the way the people moved to the beats, in reckless abandon, almost as though possessed by the same demon, something about the noise, the tempo, the blinking disco lights, the crowd, the bodies glistening with sweat.... There was something feverish about it all that seduced Kayla and before she knew it she was gently swaying to the beats. Nkechi took her hands and dragged her to the middle of the dance floor and their bodies became one with everyone else's.
Some nice gentlemen had made sure their glasses stayed full all night and at some point Nkechi casually mentioned she was going "somewhere" with one of them. Two hours later and still no Nkechi, it finally dawned on Kayla that Nkechi had abandoned her. Her heart began to race and she suddenly felt frightened and exposed. Tripping over her feet a couple of times, she made for the exist, in a hurry to return to the safety of their tiny room.
Her plan had been to get a taxi and head back to the hostel. At 4am It was pitch black outside, and Nkechi had not been right about the numerous taxis that would be waiting just to take them home, in fact there was hardly anyone outside besides herself and a couple who had hands all over each other in a far corner. Kayla looked at her watch and shivered slightly as she put the jacket on and hugged it tightly around her. She made to cross to the other side of the road when she heard the footsteps behind her. She immediately knew something was wrong but just before she could decide whether to run or not a calloused hand was clamped tightly over her mouth.
It was then Kayla made to run but before she could she was propelled up in the air. Her captor carried her with ease even as she frantically trashed her legs around, trying to shake him off and break free. Kayla screamed at the top of her lungs as she noticed they had strayed rom the road and were now entering into a small bush. When her captor was confident that they were well away from the road where no one could hear her piercing screams he dumped her unceremoniously on the ground. As her body hit the ground Kayla yelped in pain and fear, yet she immediately struggled to get back on her feet. It was a feat she was about to win when a deafening slap hit hard across her face, splitting her lower lip in two, immediately causing it to seep blood. Kayla fell back to the ground.
"One, word and you're dead" the shortest of the men said, bringing a gun a few inches away from her nose. Kayla felt her bladder loosen as urine ran down her thighs.
Though in fear, beyond her better judgement Kayla made to get up again. Her mind registered a few things; although it was too dark to make out their faces she could see that the three men were young and sturdily built, they were going to rape her, they might also kill her, this was not how she had planned to lose her virginity, this was not when or how she had thought she would die.
Her attempts at breaking free infuriated the huge one who had carried her and once again he did not hesitate to hit her. This time however he didn't stop at just one slap. Her beat her till the fight was out of her and then as she lay almost lifeless on the ground he tore open Nkechi's flimsy tube dress leaving her full breasts bare and exposed.
It was then the one in the corner who had been silent all along finally came forward, with lust-filled bloodshot eyes he descended upon her and with a grunt gruffly pulled away her pant. Shivering feverishly and hopelessly resigning herself to her fate, Kayla's eyes filled with tears as she heard the huge one say;
"Be fast about it, we need to get out of here.... She's all yours Kay-babs".
As 'Kay-babs' tore into the most delicate fabric of her being, Kayla felt like her soul was being pulled apart in two pieces and in unphatomable pain she was blinded by a flaming red light. Not long after Kayla passed out.
Kayode noticed his bride stiffen in his arms as she pulled away from him, looking at him as she would a stranger. There was something in her eyes; shock, fear, apprehension...revelation? But in a split second it was gone and on her face was a blank stare as they made to descend the alter.
That morning Kayla had woken up with the unshakable feeling that something would go wrong, but never in a thousand years would she have thought this would be it. Kayla had never thought that one day she would find the monster who stole her innocence, her joy, her youth. The one who sapped her life of every bit of joy and happiness for years, the one who made her spend years plotting the best ways to end her own life, who made her bitter every morning to see that she had lived to see another day...
God obviously had a strange sense of humour. How could that devil be her Kayode, her best friend, her life-saver, her love, her husband. Dear Lord, how? Yet as her heart ached and twisted in pain and confusion she saw the nineteen year old who had been left to die alone in the bush wounded, bleeding, cold and naked. And she heard her say;
"Sinners may become saints, yet even saints still have to pay for the sins of their past."
In Kayla's spirit she was torn between love and hate and she felt almost too weak to move as memories of the hurt and pain came flooding through her. But almost immediately a divine calm descended upon her. Had the nineteen year old girl not lived? Had Kayode not changed and become a good man? Had he not given her a new lease on life and given her a reason to want to live again? Had he not taught her love and taught her to love? Had she not just, barely a few minutes ago vowed 'for better or worse'? Had he not sworn undying love to her, and her to him? What then was love if she could not forgive?
Even as her heart ached, she intertwined her hand with his, drew closer to him and looked lovingly into the eyes of her husband as they walked up the aisle. Their family and friends cheered loudly and threw confetti and rose petals at the beautiful newly wed couple who's future held so much hope and promise.