All her life, she had done things because some superior authority mandated her to do so and because her fate was never really in her hands.
When she had met Abiola, everything she had done with him was because he wanted it not because it was what she wanted to do.
And when she was with Lanre, she had gone through the relationship mechanically, after the first year – the love they shared had dimmed and she was only with him out of habit.
Now, as a woman who was more successful than all the women in her lineage put together, and who had begun to make more money than she ever dreamt she would, she chose not to be ordered around.
Even if it was by the handsome, wealthy and very successful millionaire who was the father of her unborn baby.
She signed the lines on her new endorsement deal, she was now the face of a multi million naira Nigerian skin care empire and millions of naira was going to be paid in her account before the ink ran dry on her contract.
She could be a single mom if she wanted, she did not have to do it with Ayobami.
It was what she had rehearsed over the past week, since he threatened to drag her to the altar if she refused to marry him, and what she intended to tell him when he came over to her house later that evening.
She left the company where her contract had just been signed and in the company of her manager, walked to her car.
Her mother was outside waiting for her when she got there.
“We need to talk.”
Ife sighed, that meant something was up.
“How dare you tell my mother before I told her myself?” He was so annoying and he easily got under her skin.
She had promised herself not to allow her emotions betray her whenever she was around him but she could not help herself with this man, he just had the key to where all her emotions lay.
“You did not seem interested in telling her.” He answered calmly, then as if he hadn’t just caused trouble, pulled her closer to himself gently and buried his nose in her hair. “How are you?” He asked with all the concern in the world.
She tried to pull herself away from him. She was not going to let him touch her into forgetting the situation on ground.
“Ayo, you cannot go behind my back to talk to my mother.” she began to say and then her eyes caught her mother strolling in from inside the room with her Aunt.
“Ife.” Her Aunt called quietly, then she faced Ayo, “Please excuse her.”
Ayo nodded, “Okay.” He said and let her go.
“I will be right back. This is not going away.” She said to him as she was pulled away by her Aunt and mother.
Ayo smiled when she was gone. He was slowly falling in love with her.
He froze, the smile on his face giving way to horror and shock – he was in love! How the hell did that happen?
Ife felt everyone on her team was betraying her and pitching their tents with Ayo. First, it had been her best friend, Amanda, then her mother and now, her Aunt.
“You’re pregnant, my dear. We have to do everything fast. The man has done us good in the family, we cannot act like we don’t know that or we can’t see it.”
Ife gasped as her Aunt began to say nice things about Ayobami. He’d bought them.
With that charm, the smile, the kind heartedness, the sweetness of his soul, he had bought them the way cash never could.
And that almost caused her to smile. He was an amazing man and she knew he would be a good father to their unborn baby.
“…So we have fixed the wedding for next week, since he has money…”
Ife dragged her mind back into the room when she heard that. “Wedding for when?”
“Next week” Her mother reiterated.
“Lailai. Ko possible.” Ife had stood up now and was now proceeding out of the room. She was not letting Ayo do this.
“Ifeoluwa, I am your mother and this is going to happen. I have sent a message to your Uncle, he would be giving your hand out in marriage.”
Ife would have argued further, but she knew better than that.
The looks on her mother and Aunt’s faces told her one thing – her fate here was sealed.
Marrying a millionaire was a lot of things and most of them she was not used to dealing with or reacting to.
Everything she needed or wanted was a phone call away and the whole world suddenly seemed to be doing her bid.
She was Cinderella, her Prince Charming was the wealthy record label exec. and her glass slippers was the millions she was about to stand on when she married the man who was changing her whole life yet again.
But with wealth came hate too. She had realized from notifications dropped in her social media accounts, several blog posts, interviews granted by “anonymous sources” and women she had never met in her life, that she was not the most loved woman right now.
Many people wanted Ayo and she had taken him away from them. They were going to make her pay for it, by showing their ugly faces wherever she went and by dropping subtle threats whenever they saw her.
Amanda was fighting many haters off for her and with the excitement through which she spoke whenever she dealt with yet another rude faceless social media troll, she was not stopping anytime soon.
However, when Detoun stopped by her house a few hours to her traditional wedding, a gift bag in hand and a smile that spoke millions, Ife became worried.
“Congratulations.” She said, handed her the gift bag and walked away without saying anything more.
Ife dropped the gift bag in her hand somewhere in her room and told herself she was not going to check whatever was in it.
“Your Uncle is here.” Amanda announced a few minutes later.
Ife smiled, it was really happening.
She was really getting married to the man she had fallen in love with and who made her heart race the way it had never done.
Ayo was not a man who liked to be caught unawares and so he had put a plan in place for that day.
Gbenro was a man scorned, a man seeking desperately for revenge and a man who would do anything to get what he wanted.
He had calculated his moves and he had been right, the look on his bride’s Uncle’s face when he walked into her house, ready to take his place as her father had been venomous.
The man was taking his time to blackmail him.
So when he joined him where he was standing with Abiola who had asked him a thousand and one times if he was sure he wanted to marry Ife, he knew what Gbenro wanted.
So he stepped aside and listened.
“If you think I would give you my niece’s hand in marriage, have another thing coming. You better be ready to do what I want or the whole world would hear what you did to her father.” He was saying the words slowly, so he could see the threat in them.
Ayo smiled, “What you did to her father you mean?”
Gbenro might be more streetwise than he was and he might have grown up in one of the most dangerous slums in Lagos, but he was not half as intelligent as him.
Guilt had stopped him from re-visiting the day Ife’s father was killed since it happened, but ever since he got her to forgive him, he had allowed his mind take a trip down to that part of memory lane again.
And the trip had been taken not once, not twice, but enough times for him to realize he had been a fool to believe what the traitor who stood in front of him had reported that day.
Suddenly, he had gained the courage to ask the question, What if it was not me? What if the warring brothers had plans to kill each other for real? What if those guns they pulled at each other was not for play? What if one of them had been fast enough to throw the other in the way of his car, watched his tyres crush him and then, conveniently shifted the blame on him?
And because he had excelled in his major in psychology in the University, he had decided not to ask the man, he had chosen to tell him.
And as he had expected, the man had fallen for it.
“What are you saying? You killed him!” Gbenro was getting uneasy and defensive and that told Ayo more about the man’s role in his brother’s death.
He was prepared for this.
“You will give us your blessings, okay?” But he had also been prepared for Gbenro’s reluctance and stubborn reaction and so when the man opened his mouth to hesitate, he continued, “After the Church wedding tomorrow, you would disappear from this town on a long trip. If you don’t or if you try me…” Ayo looked towards the far end of the compound, three tall men were standing there, their eyes hidden beneath dark sunglasses. “Those men would be ready to hand you over to the Police for all your atrocities.”
Gbenro was doing a poor job of hiding his fear now.
Ayo smiled, “Thank you for your blessings.” he said and strolled back to where Abiola was.
Ife had told herself she did not want to check what Detoun brought for her in the gift bag but her curiosity did not let her.
When her traditional wedding was over and she had cleaned off the make up on her face, she sat alone in her room and reached for the fancy gift bag.
It had her name written in gold on it. She opened it, found a white envelope and tore it open.
Staring back at her was the face of an infant that she knew very well.