He was on his knee. The stone on the ring he stretched out to me shined brightly in the almost dark room. I need not to be told it was real diamond and very costly too. Friends and family cheered. They kept oohing and aahing. I saw the smiles and excitement on their faces. My eyes strayed back to him and I could almost touch the love radiating through him. It was so sincere and so thick that it would be hard to rip it through with a knife. His smile was genuine and his eyes was a canvass of vague emotions but of all, I saw anticipation more clearly. It was painted in bold red strokes so endearing my heart shattered in pieces and breathing was the last thing on my mind. Their shouts of joy coupled with his own too-strong emotions made me feel as if dehydrated. The thickness of the atmosphere was overwhelming and like a cold thief who had no other mission but to kill, I felt its hands curled round my neck choking and cutting the little breathe I could manage off.
The pain in my chest doubled. The heat coursing through my body became unbearable. Not bothering with the message it would send, I removed my blazer and fanned myself with my hand. Maybe they thought I was so shocked and pleasantly surprised by the proposal and it made me speechless, my friends and sisters changed tones and went “aaawwww”. He was just on his knee, smiling like a contented cat and waiting for me to answer his question. The scene made my head throb badly, the noise did not help either. I wanted to scream for them to shut up and go home to whatever they go home to. I wanted to shout and tell them there was nothing exciting about the whole thing. More, I wanted to kick him in the knee and spit on him. I wanted to tell him to go to hell with his ring, I was not interested in spending the rest of my life with him. I wanted to tell him I dated him only to make my family happy and my friends get off my back. I wanted to tell them all that I was happy being single and I would never be a happy married woman.
I wanted to say a lot of things but I could not. How could I refuse to get married to the only man that had paid attention to me in the last five years after the birth of my babies? How could I say no to a man who loved my twins as if they were his? How could I break my mother’s heart and cause my friends to wonder if I was alright? How could I explain to the world why I had refused such a good man? I took the bottle of champagne they had opened already to toast to my engagement and gulped it down. Maybe they could not see my distress and thought it was comical, everyone began laughing including him. I wanted to scream for them to stop but I could not. Too many were at stake for me to say my mind. I could hear their judgement already
“You are fool. You know how many girls would die to be in your shoes at the moment?”
“How could you let such a good man go? How could say no to such an angel?”
“You should be glad he wanted a woman with two kids. Trust me, no man will ever glance at you after this. You are going to die a lonely maid”
“Were you high on cheap drugs? You better go and look for how to beg him to come back to you”
“You brought bastard kids and now you are refusing to marry a man that accepted to marry you despite that? I disown you as my child”
“Toni, you need to see Pastor Laolu. You need to see him o, so you can be delivered. This is the work of the devil. I am sure Mama Nkechi has a hand in this matter. She has been jealous of your relationship because her daughter is busy sleeping with everything that looks like man. You need deliverance o” (said amidst hot tears).
They would never understand if I said no. How could they understand that I could never love a man. They did not know my innocence had been forcefully taken from me and I had an unwanted pregnancy to double my pain and shame. Everyone thought my invisible boyfriend had absconded after the news but no one knew the misery I lived in day after day. I had been scarred and no man looked the same to me again. They would not understand my decision but would judge me nonetheless. I should take the high road and damn all consequences but I was not feeling so brave. I gulped more alcohol and sighed heavily. Tonight, I would make them happy. Tomorrow, I would wish it never comes.