Wedding plans did not affect her work much. She and Femi had given the job out to the foremost event planner – ElizabethR Events. They trusted the professionalism of the company and only interacted as necessary for scheduled updates. Quite unlike many brides, Funke is not a control freak and would take her wedding day anyhow it comes provided it came with Femi and their loved ones. This is a typical trait of the Akinde Family. Femi would often tease that their Guzape family home should be renamed Love & Tranquility Villa, as he loved to escape to visit his would-be in-laws anytime he wanted an escape from his Maitama apartment. Femi was welcomed with open arms from the very first day he visited and Mr. Akinde took him in like a son. His wife, Morenike, would send the driver to Femi’s house with groceries on a weekly basis, a bowl of jollof rice, jars of different soups and wraps of fufu. Femi would often tease her that her ministry was directly waging a war against his fitness destiny. It was a huge temptation to return from gym on Saturdays only to find Wasiu, her driver, off-loading food into his home.
Back in Lagos, Bisi Alao, had intensified her schemes to get Kemi Coker involved with her son, Femi. She would send expensive gifts to Kemi’s office in Femi’s name and whenever Kemi expressed concerns that Femi would not talk to her nor reply her messages, Bisi would assure her that men do come around. Otunba Alao walked in on the duo on a warm afternoon, and overheard such a conversation. He exchanged warm pleasantries with Kemi and excused himself to go rest upstairs. He was bothered at the length to which his wife would go just to keep Funke away. He had these thoughts rummaging his mind as he laid in bed, when Bisi walked in; still the beautiful, brilliant, and passionate woman he has always loved.
“Honey, why are you doing this?” Otunba asked with unmasked curiosity.
“I want the best for my son.” Bisi replied.
“Does this include his happiness?” His brows furrowed.
“Yes, his long-term happiness.” She went ahead of his thoughts and responded in advance.
“How do you mean?”
“I know you think I’m evil. But you will remember that I was a graduate of nursing before I proceeded to do my MBA and diversified into the oil industry. I know how these things go. I don’t want my son to marry someone that will make him a widower. I love my son.”
Otunba drew close to her and held her hands. “I don’t think you’re evil, sweetheart. I know you want the best for us and have given us your very best. Come on! Look around. We have this family because of you. You made me. You made our sons.” Otunba took a deep breath and proceeded to select his words carefully. “You will make our grand children as well. Femi is not happy. If we manipulate him, we become witches as scriptures say. Why don’t we support them and pray for them? What if Funke were to be our daughter? Would we be happy that she is treated this way by another family? This is not our legacy, Bisi. We are a kind family, nurtured with love. You nurtured us.” Otunba took another deep breath as her silence encouraged him to proceed. “Please, my love, let us support our children in love and prayers. Funke is our daughter now. None of them will die. We will beseech God.”
“Hmm….” That was all Bisi had to say in response to her husband’s sermon.
“Thank you, honey.” He embraced her. “Thank you, God will honour you. You will raise our children in good health. We will not mourn any loss. Let’s just trust God, ehn? That’s what we started our lives on, that is what we will continue to do.”
“Oga, Oga Wasiu carry food come again o. Make I serve some for you?” Ali accosted Femi as he turned his ignition off and alighted from his vehicle.
“You’ve joined them, abi?” Femi teased and handed his duffel bag to Ali. “You’ve joined mummy to militate against my destiny. You people want to kill me with food. I rebuke all of you.”
No, sir” Ali laughed. “I can quickly make pounded yam. The vegetable smells really delicious. Or do you want Eba?”
“The only thing you should be pounding right now is your books, Ali.” Femi retorted.
“Oga that one no enter now. Hahahaha…na awaiting result I dey. We don write WAEC and JAMB” Ali replied in like manner.
“Sha make sure you pass if you don’t want me to pound you into yam. You should even start going to the gym sef. I won’t allow you grow a belly under my roof. Oya, let’s make light eba and watch Arsenal trash you. I’m hungry sef.”
“I talk am. I just sabi say you gars dey hungry after carrying those heavy things. But sha, na Chelsea go trash you sha o, Oga”
“Go make the food, my friend, let me do the laundry before match starts in an hour. You pay me a thousand if Chelsea beats Arsenal.” Femi retrieved the duffel bag from him and proceeded to the laundry room.
Truly proud of how far Ali had come since he met him at the airport and began to live with him, Femi wore a wide grin as he loaded the washing machine. It would be his delight to see him gain admission in the coming session. His phone vibrated in his pocket and he picked it to see that it was his mom. “Dear Jesus!”, he muttered under his breath as he mentally prepared himself for the ensuing conversation.
“How’s my favourite son doing?”
“I’m fine ma. How are you mom?” Femi asked with uneasiness, praying the conversation was over before it started.
“I’m fine o. Your father and I are good. Fola is also doing well, just that I don’t know where he went to eat rubbish that his stomach is disturbing him and he decided to come pack himself in my house, stooling all over my bathrooms.”
“Hahaha…He’s your baby now. Maybe he needs some breast milk with the oral rehydration therapy” Femi teased as the conversation got lighter. He relaxed a bit.
“He should go suck his father’s breast.” Bisi observed a moment of silence. “How is Funke?”
The silence at the other end of the phone was palpable. Femi thought of the many possible ways he could respond without getting things heated up.
“Femi are you there?” Bisi asked.
“Funke is fine, ma.” Femi replied softly.
“Oluwafemi, I’m sorry for my actions. I was just being a concerned mother. I guess I was driven by passion.”
“M-m-mo-mom, no, that’s that’s that’s okay…” Femi stuttered as he became overwhelmed with emotions.
“No, that’s not okay.” Bisi continued. “If you guys will not be coming to Lagos anytime soon, I could just come spend the weekend with you folks in Abuja, you know! Some bonding, some of those good roads and restaurants you guys brag about.”
“Come on! Mom. We will be glad to host you.” Femi was still in disbelief “Wow! Thank you, ma”
“I love you, my son. Extend my love to Funke.”
“Wow! Love you, mom”
“Femi Alao” Otunba picked the call in a very relaxed manner.
“Hello dad! Is mom okay?” Femi asked in urgency
“We are all doing fine, and we are only bothered by the anxiety in your voice. I will recommend that you take a deep breath, son, and regain composure, lest you hyperventilate.”
“I just received a call from….”
“I know. I told you we will handle it. She is right here by my side, we are having wine and wondering what you look like when you panic with your biceps and beards.”
“Stop teasing me.”
“Stop panicking and go about your day”
“Thank you, Dad. Thank you so much. I don’t know what you did, but thank you.”
“Go make your woman happy, son. I am making my woman happy and you are intruding”
“Goodbye son, my love to Funke”
Femi looked at the screen of the phone. It was no dream. Just like that and hostilities are gone!
“Thank you, Jesus!!!” He screamed with his might and Ali came tumbling from the kitchen.
“Oga, wetin happen? Arsenal score?” The look of terror on the boy’s face made Femi realize how loudly he must have shouted.
“Don’t worry. Food don ready?”
“Yes, I don serve am sir. It’s on the table. Hope all dey okay sir?”
“Oh yes! I received some good news.”
“Toh! I sha reason am say match never start sef.” Ali clasped his hands “we thank God o. more good news sir. More good news.”
“Thank you, Ali.”
Wedding preparations moved into top gear. T’s were crossed and I’s were dotted. Elizabeth R events had cleared reservations at Fraser Suites for friends and families, flying in from Lagos, the UK, and North America. For the groom and his men, a reservation was made for the three-bedroom deluxe penthouse. The bridesmaids got the same, while the bride was isolated in a two-bedroom deluxe with her hairstylists and the renowned make up stylist, Bimpe Onakoya. The couple were well aware that the Alaos were enough and capable of making it a society wedding, but what they underestimated was the size of the Akinde family and how so closely knitted, that the extended family functions as a single unit. Cousins flew in from everywhere. Guzape hills had a resident caterer for a whole week because Morenike Akinde figured out that the kitchen would be grossly overwhelmed. Meals were directed to the caterers, while every other domestic staff worked together in cleaning and organizing. The Akindes insisted that Otunba and Mrs. Alao stayed in their home as their guest and not at the hotel. What was meant to be a wedding, became a couple’s vacation. The men would go golfing and playing all day, while Morenike went fashion shopping with Bisi, introducing her to all her friends, and treating her to some Abuja cuisines.
“It’s like you will return to Lagos without me o.” Bisi said to Otunba as she joined the men to watch the news. “This Abuja feels like home. I don’t feel stressed.”
“This is why Abuja people do not like to have you Lagosians around.” Otunba returned the gesture “You will introduce Lagos stress and traffic to the city.”
“Who is you Lagosians? What are you?” Bisi rubbed her husband’s beard.
“I’m Nigerian. I don’t know what you people are talking about, but I know that I’m ferrying you back to Lagos with me. I can’t allow one Abuja small boy to start winking at my wife because his godfather made him a senator” Otunba replied.
“Ko je je bee!” Mr. Ayinde interjected “He dares not. We will gouge out his eyes and return such a senator to the village.”
“Please don’t let my husband stress you, my friend” Morenike emerged from the kitchen with two glasses of smoothie and handed her one. “See them eating suya and wine after dinner. They will soon grow bellies on us.”
“Women stress over everything. It’s just suya. Wine is healthy. Reservatrol abi what do you people call it? Mr. Ayinde replied.
“Resveratrol, baby. And it’s not in that champagne that you people are drinking” Morenike winked at him.
“We will buy them treadmills.” Bisi took a refreshing sip of her smoothie.
“Awesome! Great idea for a birthday present. With waist trainers” Morenike exclaimed.
“Sounds like a plan” Bisi and Morenike clicked glasses.
“See conspiracy right before our eyes!” Otunba Alao and Mr. Ayinde looked at each other in disbelief.