Abeiku Hagan wasn’t at his productive best today. He had been lost in deep thought all day. There was no way he could focus on the quarterly report he had to prepare for his partners. And who could blame him? He was going to be best man for a wedding in a month’s time and he was in love with the bride.
They had grown up together-the three of them. Every one of them was unique: Nii Nortey Nortey was the confident go-getter, Abeiku was the easy-going, laid back one, and pretty Sedinam Zormelo was well, Sedinam. They had all lived in the Dansoman SSNIT flats, until recently, and their mothers were good friends who cooked together, washed together and basically raised them together. Abeiku couldn’t remember a time when they weren’t friends. He had fond memories of them running up and down the stairs, playing one game or another, and trying to sit still at Sunday school. They had attended the same primary school and the two boys had doted on Sedinam and fiercely protected her throughout their time in school. Abeiku was the only one who had a sibling- an inquisitive little sister who had a knack for reading people perfectly. The other two were the only children of their parents and the three of them, over time, had formed an enviable bond.
They spent their birthdays together every year except when they were in secondary school (SSS). The boys had gone to Presbyterian Boys’ School, Legon and Sedinam to Holy Child School in Cape Coast. They wrote one another letters every now and then, sharing their experiences- and Sedinam’s letters were always addressed to both boys. Nii Nortey became the SRC President in his final year and Sedinam, the Protocol Prefect. Abeiku was the only one who didn’t take on a leadership role, he was just active in the school’s basketball team.
Sedinam was your classic tomboy until her second year in secondary school. Until then, she was comfortable in shorts and a basketball jersey, jostling the boys over her fair share of the fried yam they were sharing, or racing them to the car park. She could also play a mean game of basketball. She blossomed overnight and became a real girl right before their very eyes. She began to wear dresses and preferred not to run. She could still fight for her fair share of the food, that was mainly because she was usually the one doing the cooking. She forced them to learn how to cook too- even though it was pretty basic things like frying an egg or boiling some yam.
Both Sedinam and Abeiku gained admission into University of Ghana to study Economics, and Nii Nortey got a scholarship to study Mechanical Engineering in the Netherlands. The day before Nii Nortey left was a very sad one because they had never been apart for longer than three months, and now they were going to be apart for four years. Nii Nortey pledged to keep in touch via Skype and to also write them a letter every month, at Sedinam’s insistence. She had believed that letters were more special than e-mails and Skype. The four years passed by rather quickly, and before they knew it, they were graduates.
They had all changed. Sedinam now looked like she lived on the cover of a fashion magazine. She definitely knew how to effortlessly balance classy and fashionable. Abeiku had also matured and now sported a moustache. He was working on a start-up business in delivery and things were going rather well. The day they met Nii Nortey at the airport, they discovered that he had shaved his head and now sported a goatie, with some signature dark glasses. It was almost as if Nii Nortey had never left, because from the moment he landed, they couldn’t stop chattering about all the things they had been up to.
It was Araba, Abeiku’s little sister, who made him realize how he felt about Sedinam. She walked into his room, uninvited as usual, and sat on his bed. Then she offered her unsolicited advice. ‘Abeiku, you need to tell Seddy you are in love with her before some guy comes to snatch her before your very eyes. And don’t even start with ‘Araba, I have no idea what you are talking about.’ You and I both know that you are in love with her, and me thinks she loves you too. You will thank me one day. As a matter of fact, you owe me!’ and with that, she waltzed out of his room.
After Abeiku had laughed his head off, he began to think about it. His heartbeat began to quicken as he thought about the possibility of marrying Sedinam. She would make the perfect wife- she was one of his best friends, she was stunningly beautiful, she could cook AND she liked sports! And the more he thought about it, the more he realized that she might have feelings for him too! She had cooked for him every single day of their stay in uni, even on days when they had an exam. And even when he asked her not to, her reply was always ‘Who is going to feed you then?’ He was the only one she had a special name for- she insisted on calling him Kuku because everyone else called him Abeiku. He kicked himself for not realizing this all this time and silently thanked God for Araba’s perceptive self.
He resolved to tell her about it over the weekend, because he was going to do some business in her area and had already promised to pass by her house for her mother’s legendary fetri detsi* with tilapia and banku. As fate would have it, Sedinam’s name flashed on his phone screen. He picked up the phone call with joy in his voice. She hurriedly told him that she was on her way to his house to tell him something very important. She threw her bag on his bed the instant she got there, and sat on the tiled floor cross-legged. Her hair was held up in a ponytail and he could see that her eyes were both excited and worried. ‘Kuku, Nii Nortey asked me to marry him. I was too dumbfounded to speak and he told me to think about it and that he would ask me again. I drove over to your place the moment he left. I don’t know what to say. Unbelievable, right?’ Abeiku, with hardly any time to recover, smiled and did what Seddy would have expected him to do- he embraced her, told her he was happy for them both and promised that things won’t be awkward with the three of them.
Nii Nortey didn’t see the need for courtship. He explained to Abeiku, ‘Chale, I have known the girl all my life. What difference will courtship make?’ It made sense to Abeiku. A week ago, he was also ready to marry the same woman. Their mothers were undoubtedly excited and got to work, planning the wedding of the century. Nii Nortey had just been given a promotion in his company and had a whole lot on his plate. He delegated Abeiku to help Sedinam plan the wedding, saying ‘You and I have the same taste anyway, bruv!’ He had no idea just how similar their tastes really were. Abeiku, being the entrepreneur that he was, had a lot more time on his hands and could afford to go cake tasting, dress fitting and souvenir sampling with Sedinam. He was in effect, walking around with the woman he loved, planning her dream wedding to his best friend. It doesn’t get any more twisted than that, does it?
What made him decide to put an end to all of this was when he accompanied Sedinam to the Pistis showroom to have her gown fitted. He was meandering his way through the beautifully clad mannequins when the shop assistant asked him to come into the dressing room because Sedinam wanted his opinion on whether or not her tummy looked big in the gown. He laughed and replied ‘Seddy, you have been fretting about your tummy since first year in university, and yet you have one of the flattest tummies on earth. I am sure you look just fine.’ He was glad that her back was turned to him when he entered or else he would have given himself away. She looked absolutely gorgeous. She was in an off shoulder ball gown with a chapel train. The gown was made of tulle and had lace embroidered at the ends. Some strands of her hair were out of the loose bun she had tied it in, and they seem to slightly touch the tip of her shoulder. She was smiling at her reflection. Even without makeup and her hair being slightly unkempt, she looked like being a bride came to her naturally. She turned and asked, ‘Well, what do you think of my gown?’ ‘I love it’, he replied. He didn’t add that his heart was aching at the thought of her pledging to be someone else’s wife in such a lovely dress.
That was when he decided that he had to tell her. He knew it was crazy and he didn’t even have a plan of exactly how it would play out. All he knew was that he had to tell Sedinam the truth before she walked down the aisle. She had to know, he owed her that much. When he asked his sister’s opinion, she told him to tell her. She made it clear that being silent about it won’t make the feeling go away anyways. But she also warned him that confessing those feelings would come with consequences- for all three of them, and that he needed to be prepared to face them. ‘You might lose all this’, she gestured poignantly at his laptop screensaver. It was a picture of all three of them at a family friend’s wedding. All three of them were laughing and the photographer had captured the moment perfectly. It was a beautiful picture- the boys were in white shirts and black bowties, and Seddy was in a lime green halter neck dress. It was one of his favorite pictures.
He didn’t want to lose the friendship. He didn’t want to be a ‘home wrecker’, but he also thought that it would be the greatest form of betrayal to stand beside Nii Nortey on the wedding day, with all this in his heart. Two days later, Sedinam stomped into his office, fuming. ‘Can you believe that they spelt my surname wrongly on the wedding programme? How hard can it be to spell Zormelo? Zor-me-lo! And this is even after I had taken my time to painstakingly spell it for them. Unbelievable! Wait- Kuku, are you okay?’ He took a deep breath and began to speak. ‘Sedinam, I need to tell you something. I am in love with you and I don’t know how I am going to live with you being my best friend’s wife. I know it is crazy, and I am not asking you to leave him for me or anything. I just had to tell you.’ Sedinam didn’t say anything at first, she was just looking down at her hands.
Until she began to speak, Abeiku hadn’t even realized that he was holding his breath in anticipation for what she was going to say in reply. He noticed that her lips were quivering, the way they did whenever she was close to tears, and he instantly felt like pulling the words back into his mouth. Araba was right- there was no way that things would remain the same after his confession.
‘Seddy, I am sorry. Forget I ever said anything. I just-‘
Sedinam had held her hand up, as if to silence him, and if this had not been such a serious moment, he would have made a joke about her bringing her Protocol Prefect traits into the conversation. He clearly wasn’t ready for the words that came out of her mouth next.
‘It was always you, Abeiku. It has always been you. I can’t remember a time in our SSS days when I wasn’t in love with you. I thought it was some sort of a crush, I thought it would go away with time- it didn’t! I kept hope alive that maybe things could work out between us but I also didn’t want to ruin the friendship we had with Nii. I didn’t want him to become the outsider.’ Abeiku was dumbfounded. He had expected a number of things, tears yes, a slap maybe, or knowing Sedinam, even a lecture, but not a confession of her own.
He wanted to embrace her, or at least hand her his handkerchief to wipe the tears that were streaming down her face. But she wasn’t done. She just sat there, her eyes fixed on some imaginary object like she was recollecting something of some sort. She began to speak again, this time a bit more softly than at first, ‘Remember that night I told you about the proposal? I actually came to you to ask for permission to marry Nii. I know that I didn’t put it that way but the whole time I was silently screaming at you to tell me not to say yes to him. I was hoping that you would tell me that you had always loved me and that it would be a mistake for me to marry him- but you didn’t! You gave me your blessing and broke my heart in the process.’
She began to raise her voice. Now, she was clearly upset. With every sentence, her voice did a slight crescendo. ‘Why did you wait until now, Kuku? How can you sit there and say I should forget that you ever said this, when I have been waiting all my life for you to say this? How on earth do you expect me to vow to be another man’s wife, with you watching, especially with what I know now? How am I going to spend my life being someone else’s wife, raising someone else’s kids, that someone being our best friend, mind you?! How am I supposed to forget that you love me too? How am I supposed to-‘ She gasped and covered her mouth with her hand, ironically the hand with Nii Nortey’s promise ring on it.
Abeiku whirled around and instantly felt sick in the stomach. Standing at the door, looking like his world had just come to an end, was his brother and best friend Nii Nortey. Neither Abeiku nor Sedinam had heard him come in, and they didn’t even know how much of the conversation he had heard, but it was obviously enough to do some damage. Nii Nortey just turned around and headed back outside. Sedinam screamed his name and ran out after him. Abeiku just sat there, unsure of what to do- whether to run out after his best friends or to give them space- with his laptop screensaver, the one of the three of them laughing without a care in the world, silently mocking him.
Fetri detsi- okro soup, made the indigenous Ewe way
Part 2 can be found here!
Photo credit: Pinterest
©Maukeni Padiki Kodjo, 2014