If you missed Part 1, you can read it here. Now, to Part 2.
Both Remi and Kayode had been in the same circles since they were children. Both of their fathers were contractors and they were family friends. But, Remi had been in several relationships, which turned out to be unsuccessful, before 2007. 2007 was the year she ended her last relationship, and decided to take a break from dating. In the spirit of embracing platonic relationships with men, she had logged into Facebook one day, to find a pending friend request. It was Kayode. He was working in Berlin and had joined Facebook the year before.
From chatting on Facebook, they eventually graduated to chatting on Yahoo Messenger and also on Skype. The weird part though was that Kayode was very time-conscious and would only chat for 30 minutes at a stretch. They had never had a conversation lasting longer than 30 minutes.
The day after Kayode proposed to Remi, he had made it clear to her that he did not plan on getting married in Nigeria. He wanted them to get married within three months of their engagement, which meant that Remi would have to travel to Berlin for the wedding. She was worried about involving her family in the wedding preparations all the way in Berlin, until she came up with the idea of a compromise: have the traditional wedding in Nigeria, and then the court and/or white wedding in Berlin. It seemed plausible enough, until she presented the idea to Kayode. He had seemed uneasy about coming to Nigeria for “just” the traditional marriage ceremony, as he put it. Remi had ignored his protests and insisted on this arrangement. So, Kayode agreed.
A few days later, they picked a date for the traditional marriage: April 26, 2008. The following week, Kayode had called Remi to drop the news: he would not be able to come for the traditional wedding ceremony. The weekend in question was a very important one for his career. He was up for promotion, and the series of evaluations and interviews that would decide if he got promoted, were scheduled for that weekend. Coming to Nigeria for the wedding was out of the question. At this point, Remi got very angry with him, and refused to speak to him for days. She felt like he was choosing his career over formalizing his commitment to her, and wondered if this was not a foretaste of the life they would share together.
It was during this period when Remi was giving Kayode a much-deserved silent treatment that her parents intervened. Remi refused to change the date of the wedding, asserting that she had no assurance that Kayode would turn up for an alternative wedding date. Kayode, on the other hand, did not see the need for a traditional wedding, and said Remi could come to Berlin for the white wedding.
Mr. and Mrs. Bajulaiye, Remi’s parents decided to step in. In their opinion, it was unwise for their daughter to go all the way to another country to live with a man she was not married to. Her reputation would be forever tarnished, and her younger sisters would have to live with that blemish on their family name. Her father said it had never been done in his family, and his daughter would not be the one to start such a disgraceful trend. Her mother, of course, agreed. So, what was the way forward? What was to be done? A wedding in absentia.
At first, when her parents had suggested the idea to her, she had vehemently opposed it and dismissed it as ridiculous. But, you should never underestimate the power of persuasion especially when the elements of one’s argument seem to be so logical. And in the mouth of a smooth-tongued character who holds the cherished and beloved position of “mother,” persuasion is easy. That was the case with Remi.
Her mother, Mrs. Bajulaiye had pretended to agree with Remi when the latter initially kicked against the idea of a wedding in absentia. But temporary abandonment was just part of the plan. In retrospect, she mused at how her father had completely stayed out of the scheme. But knowing them, her mother was acting with his full knowledge, approval and support.
Her father had acted like he wanted Remi to make her choice independently by using phrases like “It’s your decision,” and “The choice is yours” in conversations with her. So while her father had played the role of the objective encourager and supportive pillar, her mother had done the dirty work of actively convincing her. All this time, Kayode had been conveniently left out of the picture.
Eventually, after weeks of persistent conviction, Remi finally gave in. When the day finally came, the ceremony was conducted with Remi and a large, wood-framed picture of Kayode. Under customary law, she was now Mrs. Remi Coker. But not in Germany. Her visa and green passport still read: Remilekun Sophie Bajulaiye. Now, she was at the international airport in Berlin, and had been waiting for Kayode for more than two hours. Was this a mistake?
“You’re taller than me,” a man’s voice spoke, startling Remi out of her mental walk down memory lane.
Remi turned around to come face-to-face with a black man. She was taller than him, and it had nothing to do with the four-inch beige wedges she was wearing at that moment. Even without her shoes, she was still a few inches taller than this man. The curiously thin straps of her sandals wrapped themselves around her ankles and then disappeared under the hem of the long ankara-print dress she wore. She wore absolutely no jewelry, save for two gold hoop ear-rings. Remi was what Nigerians would call a “yellow paw-paw,” even though her skin was the color of freshly-roasted yellow corn. Without the burnt bits. She had an oval face, which was considered attractive, with deep-set wandering eyes. And when this man found her, those eyes were wandering all over the airport lobby. Remi was 29.
The man on the other hand had a very forgettable face. Armed with a calm demeanor, which typically betrayed no emotion, he was often thought to be cold-hearted and detached. Quite far from the truth. He was physically fit, not unlike most men his age – he was 31 – but he had chubby cheeks, which reminded one of a child who had not shed his baby fat. He had always had those cheeks. He wore a black and white check long-sleeved shirt, with a red and blue striped tie. Black pants and black leather shoes completed the look. That this man was black was a fact that could not be missed. They were both standing in a space predominated by white men. And in a sea of white, black stands out. But this man’s blackness was not the same shade as charcoal. No, it was the color of cocoa beans, the hue more accurately described as “dark brown.” However, since black is a more convenient term, this man was black. His name, as you might have guessed by now, was Kayode Coker.
In all their conversations, it had not occurred to Remi to find out how tall he was. She had a natural aversion to short men, but Kayode did not look short in his pictures or on her computer screen. Plus, the last time she saw him in person was when she was 13. Had he been wearing heels too? The thought was laughable.
As soon as Remi recognized Kayode, she ran and hugged him. She hugged him, wrapping both arms around him, resting her head on his right shoulder. He just stood there with one arm draped across her back, the other hand still in his pocket. When she finally pulled away from him overcome with so much emotion, all she managed to say was, “We’re wearing the same colors!” as she wiped a few tears from her eyes.
Kayode confirmed the truth of her statement by looking again at the red and blue pattern of her dress, which matched the red and blue of his tie.
“You’re right. How was your flight?” was his reply, as he offered her his handkerchief.
“Oh, fine. Thank God.”
Within a few minutes they were on their way to Kayode’s parked car. Remi’s mind was full of questions. Her initial meeting with Kayode did not go as she had imagined. She had hoped there would be more hugging, some caressing, a good deal of tender words and some kissing for goodness sakes. He had never tried to be romantic over the phone or during their chats, but yet she expected that he would know that was the right thing to do at this first meeting. He was her husband, wasn’t he? But Kayode had offered her none of these things, and she still did not know why he had been so late in coming to pick her up. Since he did not volunteer an answer, she took it upon herself to find out.
“Kay, I don’t want to sound ungrateful, but why are you just coming? I’ve been here for 2 hours. I tried calling your phone lines, but–”
“I got held up at work and I couldn’t leave early,” was his gruff answer, as he hauled Remi’s 7-piece luggage set into the back of his car. “And what did you pack in here? The whole of your father’s house? You’re going to have to get new stuff.”
“No, it was not only my father’s house I packed in there. I also packed a few danfo buses, an okada and the whole of Balogun market too! At least three of those bags contain gifts for us. Wedding gifts from relatives, friends, you know … people who came for the wedding. Our wedding!” Remi retorted angrily.
“You might have to get rid of some items. My place isn’t very spacious and–” Kayode continued, as if he did not hear her protests.
“No way! I am not getting rid of anything. For the love of God, I just travelled all the way from Nigeria to come here. We haven’t even left the airport and you’re already bossing me around. Do you know how difficult it was for me to reduce everything I own to just a few bags? You have no idea how much stuff I had to give away, and even throw away. Things I have acquired over the last 20-something years, just because I got married. And you’re here giving me a stupid excuse about the space in your apartment. Why didn’t you tell me that before I came, ehn? All my things are going into that house. Every last one! Nonsense!”
Remi got into the front passenger seat of the car, fuming. Kayode finished putting away the luggage in the trunk and sat in the driver’s seat. His face betrayed no emotion. No anger. No pity. Nothing. With his eyes glued to the steering wheel, and without turning to Remi, he said:
“For the record, I am not your husband because we are not married. That ceremony you people had in Nigeria is of no consequence to me, whatsoever. You are still Remi Bajulaiye and I am Kayode Coker. Until we are married here in Germany, please do not refer to me as your husband. Got it?”
Remi did not answer. Her heart was full but her mouth refused to cooperate. She just turned away from him, her body trembling with sobs. She was convinced that she had married a monster.
– to be continued –