Welcome to the short story series today we are featuring a New Writer from the Gold Coast with the pen name Comfort Ama Amagyei
THE WEDDING DRESS
I sat staring and smiled back at the image before me. It was none other than my own self, with my mum behind me teary eyed. It had been a long journey, and we were both happy it had come to an end when we least expected. A long journey! Hmm.
‘Lets get you going, the guests are waiting’, she said.
She gently lifted me up, like an egg. The wedding gown I was wearing made it hard for me to move about as I wished, but soon I learnt to survive walking in it without falling as had happened weeks earlier when I was trying it on and learning to walk in it. As I walked towards the SUV that would carry me to the premise where my status and entire life would change, I could not help but look back at all the events that had happened early on.
Back in tertiary school, I was determined to top my class just as in secondary school. I read business administration at Baptist University’s city campus and looked forward to a fulfilling life in the corporate world. Life was good then. With parents who made sure that neither my junior sister nor I lacked nothing, what more could I ask for? I commuted to school from home but I had no problem with that. The only problem I had was with my childhood friends who ensured that they have their ’freedom’ away from home. They never failed to make me realize how much fun I was not having because I was not dating anyone nor partying like they did. I always told them what my mum always told me when I told her of my fear of ending up lonely in the future.” The right person will come into your life when you least expect him to”.
Well, I had no problem taking that in and holding onto it tightly. I had seen in the movies and read in the books of such things happening. I had heard real life experiences of people finding that special one too after not searching so hard, like the ‘one’ would be thrown unto them. Ha, all I had to do was to live my life and hope. Maybe wait.
In the second semester of my first year in school, my family and I moved Afrancho, a fast growing community quite far from school. Unlike Asokwa where I had grown to love, Afrancho was much quieter and less populated. The streets were not tarred and most houses were not completed. The worse thing was that I had left all my friends behind. How I missed them! But moving away also meant that I had to wake up extra early so I wouldn’t be late for school. Most mornings had to be spent by the roadside waiting for a cab or trotro. Sometimes I trekked for minutes along the main road before getting a car.
One fine morning, when I was waiting for a means of transport to school, a car stopped by. Though I had seen that car drive by most days, I had no idea of its occupant. The driver honked on the horn several times but I presumed he was calling out to some other person standing by. After all, it was a busy junction where people came and went as they pleased. And all my thoughts were diffused with the sweet aroma of the porridge seller’s ‘kose’. How I yearned for them! I was amazed, though, when the driver stepped out of the car and walked in my direction. He was a dark handsome young man, in his late twenties. I admired his rich sense of style.
‘Excuse me Miss, don’t you school at Baptist University?’ the he asked. I was startled.
‘Yes I do’, I replied.’ But I do not know you’. He smiled.
‘Please hop in the car before you get late for school’, he said.
I recalled the number of times my parents had warned me not to take lifts from strangers. But this man looked genuine. At least his smile was. I looked at my watch and realized I was running late. Throwing caution to the wind, and forgetting my craving for ‘koose’, I followed the young man into his red VW Passat.
He must have realized I was feeling uneasy so he lowered the volume of the car’s radio. He was listening to the morning news on one of the city’s best radio stations. But I was feeling uneasy because I had forgotten to note his car registration number. What if he drove me somewhere and did something bad to me?
‘My name is Mike Addo’, he said cutting through my thoughts.’ I leave behind your house. I see you by the roadside most mornings having a hard time finding a means of transport to school so I decided to help out. I promise not to harm you so feel free. Anyway I am reading accounting at Baptist. I am in my final year. What about you?’
‘My name is Adwoa Yinkah, I’m in my second year, Administration’, I ended.
There was a moment of silence.
‘You need to wake up early to get transportation to school because it is usually a hard struggle here in Afrancho’, he chirped in.
‘I hear you, thanks for everything’ I replied.
We continued in silence. I could sense we had nothing more to talk about again. He switched on the air condition in the car just to make me comfortable, I presumed. As soon as we got on campus in Asafo, I got down and thanked him again. I could feel him watching me.
A weeks after my encounter with Mike, we bumped into each other at the entrance of the school’s library. It was around 6pm. There were a few students left in the school’s library complex. Mike had two huge books sticking out of his blue backpack. He was dressed casually in a polo shirt with jeans and matching sneakers like the first time I saw him. I admired his sense of style-again. We stared at each other, lost for words before he enquired how I would get home. I shrugged. He offered to take me home. I was glad I saw him.
On our way home, he started a conversation. This time, I loosened up and spoke freely with him. We had a good laugh about school stuff. He offered to take me to my doorstep. I could not say no. I enjoyed his company. We exchanged numbers and kept in touch till the end of the school year when he completed. I saw him almost every morning when he was washing his dad’s car and in the evenings when he was feeding his dogs. They were German shepherds and they frightened me a lot. But he always said they would do me no harm.
My parents got to know him. My dad said he was a nice fellow.
Mike suggested one Saturday that we should go see a movie premier on campus. My parents amazingly said I could go. It surprised me that my overly strict dad had given me the chance to go out with a guy he barely knew, but I was thrilled since this would be my first date ever!
After hours deciding what to wear and leaving my room a mess, I put on a cream doll dress with brown flat shoes and a matching brown handbag. He wore a pink shirt and blue denim with some nice sneakers. We looked good together, at least, the stares we got as we walked through town said so. Though the sun was shinning brightly, the smile I carried on my face was brighter. The premier was set to start at 5pm but we decided to get ice cream after getting our front row tickets. Afterall, we had over an hour to the start of the premier. At the ice cream parlour right opposite campus, we bumped into my distant cousin, Ralph. Ralph was the same height as Mike, but a bit darker like myself. He had changed though, with his huge muscles drawn in his body hugging shirt and a very funny moustache. He gave me the mischievous smile I had always known and I ran to him like a little girl.
Unknown to me, he was a very good friend of Mike. Mike was amazed that I knew Ralph. I got so excited when I saw Ralph because I had not set eyes on him since he lost his father – my uncle, and relocated to Tema with the rest of the family from Kumasi. Blindfolded with excitement and other emotions, I forgot to introduce Ralph as my cousin but hugged him tightly instead. I got lost in thoughts and lost track of time.
Ralph finally tore me away from him and said jokingly, ‘Make sure you don’t squeeze the life out of me Iron Lady’.
We all laughed heartily, I however failed to notice the jealous anger in Mike’s eyes and that he wasn’t himself. Mike did not enjoy the movie premiere as much as I did, and after walking me back home later in the night, something just did not feel right. I inquired what the problem was, but he just said he was stressed out. I thanked him for the day and went straight to my room. I tried calling to make sure that he was home and safe but he did not pick up. I went to bed with a troubled mind.
Many days passed and then it was time for him to go to ‘Ho’ for his national service. That was about 7 hours away from Kumasi by bus. It was as if there was a cold wall between Mike and I but he always insisted that there was nothing wrong. Despite this, I missed him terribly.
Three months after Mike left, I never heard from him again. He would not return calls or messages. He blocked every channel I could reach him through. Even Ralph could not get through to him. And since he had no friends that I knew of, I ran out of options to get in contact with him. I did my best to leave him behind and live my life like I had done in the past.
In my second year, I met Kwabena Ofori, a service personnel who doubled as the IT lab assistant, he was a fine gentleman and very punctual. Word had gone around that he was a “player” based off the news from where he used to be. That wasn’t my cup of tea as I loved the way he made me feel special whenever I was around him. He allowed me to be myself and not fake a personality. He adored me! Or maybe that was what I thought.
What we had did not last long enough though. There was just one leaven that corrupted the otherwise fine gentleman. I could not bear that he never accepted how dark I was. He never failed to let me know how he favored slim, tall, fair women too. Though I was averagely slim and tall, he made a joke all the time about how hard it would be to find me in the dark should there be a power cut. This was because I was dark skinned. The irony is he is darker than I am! Most people found what he said amusing, but I did not. I then wondered if his keen adoration early on had been just an act. I spoke about him with my mum. She kept smiling all the while as I was pouring my heart to her, and she just said one thing I will never forget.
She said: ‘God loves us for who we are, not who we should have been. If his love is genuine, he should be concerned about who you are on the inside and not the outside’.
I just knew what to do – leave Kwabena to continue his search for a fair dame. He agreed in a heartbeat. He also gave me one ‘friendly’ advice – to do ‘something’ about my complexion. I was disgusted!
Days later, I met him at Ababio Express, a hypermarket near Asokwa with a fair lady. He was lost for words when we met, but I said nothing. Now that he had gotten what he wanted, it was time for me to do same.
In my search for love, I had sidelined my academic pursuits. It was time to go back and make them my priority again, I reasoned.
Soon I was in my final year and having a hard time with my project supervisor. Dr Anaba was a principled man. That we all knew. But I never imagined that he would make things near impossible for me. After submitting the fifth chapter of my project work to him and seeing him cancel everything I toiled to put up, with him telling me to start the project from the scratch on a hot Wednesday afternoon, I got fed up with school and cursed the founders of tertiary education. I decided to go to my Nana and have a hearty chat with her. She lived in Krofrom, a suburb not too far from where I school. Three blocks to my Nana’s house, I met Elisa, a girl I used to play with whenever I was on holidays at my Nana’s. She had grown!
We sparked up a conversation with some old memories we had both shared together and I felt so relieved. She was training as a nurse in one of the renowned Nursing training colleges in Kumasi. It was a welcome delight to realize she still had her keen sense of humour. She invited me to her elder sister’s wedding the next weekend, and since I had nothing planned on my schedule that day I gladly accepted her invitation.
At the wedding, which was held at a popular hotel around Asokwa, where I formally lived, Elisa, my friend and tour guide for the august occasion made it a point to introduce me to everyone present. I caught the attention of her cousin, Joe. He looked very familiar. He drew closer and engaged me in a hearty chat like he had known me all his life. Later I remembered that one of my childhood friends, Obaa Akua, had introduced me to Joe years back in secondary school. He however failed to make me out. I couldn’t blame him though, I had actually put on weight and looked curvier than I used to. As soon as I got home, I got in touch with Obaa Akua. Our conversation gradually and inevitably maneuvered to her secondary school sweetheart, Joe. Obaa, as she was affectionately called, did not hesitate to give a detailed description of what was left of her relationship with Joe.
“That scoundrel just disappeared after playing with my heart. He did same to three girls in my school.” she ended.
I had heard much more than I bargained for. As I bid Obaa goodnight, I put all she had said about Joe in mind and to heart.
Joe and I started on quite a good note, but I was still very careful. Like all the men I had met, there was mutual respect and no need for intimacy like was done by the youth in our era. This made me respect them more. But truth was that, I never stopped thinking about Mike. Sometimes, I unconsciously compared all the guys I had met later to Mike. I never figured out why he left without communicating, but I had hope that someday I would get the answers I so earnestly sought. But finding these answers, as well as the whereabouts of Mike got harder by the day and Ralph was not in the country to help me out either. As was typical of him, Ralph barely called home. Yet still, I held on to what was left of Mike in memory and prayed to meet him again.
I was blessed to do my national service at United Bank of Africa, in Kumasi, the Adum branch to be specific. Not only would I get a free means of transportation, (my dad works at the regional medical stores also located in Adum) but also get the opportunity to enjoy nice healthy meals at lunchtime. My mouth always watered when I thought of the many fine places I could eat nice meals like fufu, beans with gari and fried plantain, and jollof rice, just to mention a few. All jokes aside, I never imagined that working in the corporate world was so demanding. My duties at work was to assist………. Sometimes when meetings were held at the workplace which included my boss, I could go home as late as 9pm. I finally understood why my dad was not in a good mood sometimes when he came home from work. Whenever it was time to go for my allowance, I was elated! The feeling that comes with earning money you have worked for is just amazing. But words cannot describe how you poor feel when you spend all the money before the month ends too.
Due to my hardwork and diligence, my boss, Mr Darkwa offered a beautiful opportunity: that of being mentored. He made me understand that the experience I would gain would make me an asset wherever I would go. What he said sounded reasonable so I took that opportunity. For starters, the salary would not be as huge as that of the other workers, but it would be enough to get by. I was glad I took that chance. After a year, I was sent to one of the branches in Sunyani. That was the first time I was moving away from home. It hurt, but I knew it was for my own good. Moving away also meant I missed one less, because Joe and I were over. He had displayed traits of a Christian who wanted to stay chaste but his actions were a blatant betrayal of all the values he professed to uphold. He had no love or respect for God and his word too. That was a big NO for me. We split up amicably.
Life was good in Sunyani! The city was neat and had less traffic than Kumasi. I loved the clean air and easy access I had to fresh fruits and vegetables. I rented a small apartment in Berlin, one of the city’s suburbs. It was a quiet place, just like Asokwa, how I missed that place and all I had back there – my family, pets and Mike. It was amazing why I still remembered him. I remembered his smile, how he would be nervous while I was around him and how he would try to pretend to be busy at nothing.
I had never stopped looking for him. I did my best to find him via the internet but to no avail.
One evening as I was going through the feeds on my facebook page, a nice wedding picture by one of the many photography pages caught my attention. The bride and her bridal train were clothed in traditional kente. It was a sight to behold! I decided to go through the entire album since I had nothing important doing that night. I was so in love with the picture of the bride, but how familiar the groom was, also caught my curious inquisitive eye. It made me feel uneasy. I decided to look up the album for the groom and his men, to have a better view of the groom and to cast my worst fear away. To cut a long story short, the groom looked so much like my Mike. I was certain because I could never forget Mike’s face, especially when he smiled. And his unique way of dressing, I could behold it all in the groom. Unfortunately for me, the album had just a picture of the groom and his men from a distance since the page was made to show several brides and grooms in traditional African wear and the groom in question was in a tuxedo.
Fortunately though, the bride was tagged in most of the pictures. Her name was Alice Addo. I decided to spy on her timeline to know if she had earned the title of becoming my rival. She had no pictures of her man on her timeline. I felt that was strange. It made me think her man was a player and wanted to dwell in secrecy, away from the preying eyes of women he had toyed with. I sent the bride a friend request and she accepted in a heartbeat. We had no mutual friends, so I had to use her nice traditional wedding gown to start a conversation since she was online. I asked of her designer and so forth, just to have a hint of her man. She was a free being and opened up instantly. Within an hour of chatting, it felt like we had known each other all our lives. When she heard I was in Sunyani, she got thrilled, much to my surprise. She chirped on and on about wanting to see the place and tour the Brong Ahafo region. I told her she could come anytime with her man. She thanked me profusely. I smiled, both physically and with an emoticon. We exchanged phone numbers and agreed to keep in touch.
After having a series of raids on our flat by some armed men, the managers of UBA decided to move all their members of staff to a safer residential facility. We were previously living in a single room apartment and had to share some facilities. But our new two-bedroom apartments made us wonder if the raids were a blessing in disguise. I decided to invite Alice over since she was dying to come. She stated she would be coming with her beau and his cousin. I could not wait and commenced feverish preparations for my equally expectant guest and her company. I sometimes stopped between chores to wonder what I would do if her man turned out to be my Mike. Well, I could survive if he only tells me why he left. Then everything would make sense, I assured myself. But part of me prayed it would not be him. I prayed for strength.
One hot Saturday in July, Alice called to tell me that she had arrived with her man and his cousin at Tanoso, a town which was a few kilometers from Sunyani. I directed them to the SSNIT building and told them to wait there for me patiently. It took me fifteen minutes to drive there in my VW Golf car. I was dressed for the occasion. I would not let the chance to meet my Mike once again pass me by. When I got there, to my surprise, there was no one who bore the semblance of Alice or her man. I called her phone several times and she told me the other car they were coming with had developed a fault and that she was helping the guys tow the car to the nearest service station. She promised to get there within the next twenty minutes. I would not let anything ruin my day, I assured my self.
Twenty minutes later, a bright red SUV drove gently and stopped in front of the SSNIT building, opposite where my car was parked. I could see a woman in the driver’s seat. Her features were as that of Alice. My heart missed a beat. We both got out of our cars simultaneously. She smiled. It was her! We walked towards each other and embraced like old friends. I just kept praying she would not notice how I trembled. I led the way to my new apartment in Berlin. She admired my place and said she would like to stay there forever. I smiled and thanked her for her flattery. She went on to tell me of the accident that had nearly occurred when the car of her husband’s cousin had a flat tire on the highway. She then paused to call and confirm if they had been able to fix the car. They had, and were treating themselves to some nice drinks at the Berlin Inn. My heart started galloping. That place was very close to my house. Was it nature drawing Mike and I together again? But he is married! My transparent self gave me away as I battled with myself. Alice noticed and asked whether I was alright. I told her I was just worried for the guys. She smiled and her cheerful self assured me all will be fine. She suggested we join the guys for some drinks before eating the meal I had prepared for them. I agreed but trembled inside. I forced a smile.
Alice offered to drive us there in my golf. She was a good driver and had a good sense of direction too. When we got to the Inn, another SUV, a black one this time could be spotted amongst the many cars parked outside the Inn’s short fence. Alice opened her arms to embrace a man who was dressed in a polo shirt and jeans with grease on his trousers. As the man approached us, I felt weak in the knees. I held onto the car’s bonnet for support.
But something caught my eye when the man, her husband, drew closer. It was something I had failed to notice in the picture. He had part of his left incisor chipped off! Mike never had that. His teeth were ‘whole’, if I should put it that way. I sighed and it was so loud the love birds stopped hugging and stared at me. I managed a fake laugh and told them I had had enough of the display of affection. They all laughed and Alice introduced us. His name was Mark Addo. Mike, Mark…where did the difference lie? My!! Such coincidence! But how could someone possibly look so much like another person and actually bear the same surname and same letter forename? So many thoughts ran through my mind. I would ask Mark later if he knew any Mike.
Mark led us to a lone table perched in one corner of the Inn. The fancy lights above us made the place fancier. There were two bottles of stout on the table, all drained. No one was at the table though. Alice asked of Kwaku, a man I assumed was Mark’s cousin and he said he had gone outside to receive a call. I felt at ease now, knowing that Alice’s husband wasn’t my Mike. But part of me felt sad that all my attempts to see Mike had gone down the drain. I opted out of the beer ring and ordered for a medium bottle of water to refresh my soul, I had just put myself on an emotional roller coaster. I couldn’t help but tell Mark what had been gathering in my thoughts.
‘You really look like someone I know’.
‘Really?’ he replied while chuckling. ‘Who is he?’ he asked with a wink.
‘He was a very…’
‘Charley the fitter fool paa, he say make we add GHc100 on top. He think say we share money for bank eh?’ a voice boomed from behind, making me unable to finish my sentence.
I dropped my bottle. That voice!! Thank goodness the bottle was plastic.
Now everyone stared at me. I didn’t know what to do – turn around or vanish.
Like a mechanical doll, I turned around and couldn’t believe my eyes!
‘What are you doing here?’ his voice thundered
‘Where have you been all this while?’ I replied, with tears in my eyes.
I arrived at the reception for the wedding on time. Seeing so many cars parked outside the premises with the room filled to capacity made me teary eyed. My groom was waiting outside, with his groomsmen. He smiled when he saw me approaching. As I got closer, he held my arms and knelt before me. My heart missed a beat. Was he running from me again? No, he had promised never to do that.
‘My dearest Adjoa, I forgot to tell you something’.
‘What is it Kwaku?’ I replied
‘I forgot to make a promise to love you always and never to run away from you. It’s just like running away from my own shadow. I promise to love you till death do us part’
“Hey be a gentleman and take the lady from under the scorching sun before she gets baked!” I heard his father shout. I couldn’t say a word, but the onlookers laughed heartily. I finally managed a giggle.
As my man and I marched into the beautifully decorated room, Tracy Chapman’s Open Arms played in my head. I had sung that song for comfort so many times. There were tears in my eyes and in Kwaku’s as well. It had been a long journey for him too.
He had traveled outside the country right after his service to further his education, in order to forget his ‘heartbreak’. He tried to forget me, thinking I was interested in my cousin Ralph and not him. After learning the truth about the relationship between Ralph and I he felt very stupid. But shame had not permitted him to get in contact with me. And he did suffer as much as I did. But he changed his name along the way from Mike Addo to Kwaku Awuah Addo because he got tired of people mistaking him for his older cousin Mark. Well, they managed to fool even me. He had been looking for me like I was. Now we had found each other. It still is funny to remember how we cuddled all evening following our re-encounter at the Berlin Inn after hugging me tightly when he saw me. I could not decide between both of us, who had missed the other the most.
Well I had him now, and I had no intention of letting him go. Neither did he. Guess who was happiest that day? Alice! She never stopped telling others how her wedding dress had united two lost hearts.
Author: Comfort Ama Amagyei