By Nnachetam Calista Chinonye
I was about saying my wedding vows to my wife-to-be when Lara stepped into the Church. She looked breathtaking in that knee-length orange gown. My eyes followed her till she sat down graciously behind Jide, my colleague from work. Our eyes meet for a second and I was taken back to the very first time I saw her.
Lara and I were high-school classmates. The first time I saw Lara was in JSS2, when she was introduced as a new student. Standing in front of the class, our eyes met, and I could see how nervous she was. I gave her a small smile which she returned.
I was a brilliant boy and had been topping my class since primary school. So, imagine my shock that term when I found out the new girl topped the class ahead of me. I was angry, shocked, and honestly a little bit excited to finally have some competition. Since we always scored the highest grade, we were constantly chosen to represent the school at competitions and events. This enhanced our friendship and made us best friends. In our last year of Secondary school, she became the Head Girl, and I, the Head boy. On the day of prom, I asked Lara to be my girlfriend, to which she agreed.
Lara was admitted to study Mass Communication in Kwara State University (KWASU), while I studied Computer Science in Lagos State University (LASU). Our relationship was long-distance. We shared everything with each other, withholding nothing from the other, and tried our best to make it work. I told Lara everything—well, almost everything except that I have the Sickle-cell trait, just like she does. I could not bring myself to tell her as she always vehemently kicked against having a future with anyone who was AS too. She had watched her sister live with sickle cell and it was an experience she didn’t want to ever go through or put a child through.
On the night of her graduation in 2007, I proposed to her. With love in her eyes, she accepted.
I will never forget how shattered she looked when she found out two months later through a discussion I was having with my father on the phone that I also had the trait. There was nothing I did not say to make her stay with me. I brought in mediators to plead with her, even told her that we would adopt a child instead– all to no avail.
Weeks later, Lara deactivated all her social media accounts and relocated to Jos. She told me to move on and stopped returning my calls. I didn’t hear from her for another four years.
It wasn’t until two months ago that I stumbled across her new profile on Facebook with her newly wedded husband and their son. With shaky hands, I sent her a quick ‘Congratulations’ and was very surprised when she replied. We talked for a while, catching up on the lost years. She told me she got married a year earlier. I told her I was engaged and invited her and her family for my wedding.
I honestly did not expect her to show up at my wedding, let alone, without her husband, but here she was. I looked at her one more time and could clearly see the sadness lurking in her eyes. If I did not know her better, with the smile plastered on her face, I would have thought she looked happy, but the slight quivering of her lips gave it away.
She gulped back her tears, stood up, and quietly mouthed ‘congratulations,’ as she left. I stayed rooted to the ground even though what I really wanted was to run after her.
Nnachetam Calista Chinonye
is a student of English and Literary Studies
at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.
She is a book lover with keen interest in how stories shape the world.