We arrived a little late at the wedding. Not because we were heeding the “Ghana man time.” My friend Kofi and I had to travel from very far to be there. It was a long journey and a tiresome one at that, to travel from Asamankese to the Volta region. First trudging through a very rugged road and then taking a ferry to cross a lake into Volta to continue. But we arrived to find the ceremony at its most important part.
Getting there at 11:20am, under a blazing sun and in a three piece sweating our gentleness away, we had just made it in time to witness the exchange of vows between the couples. The man of God had given the instruction to the groom to unveil his bride and then to plant the kiss on her lips following the order,” you may now kiss your bride.”
We stood behind the congregation to witness this sacred act which to my disappointment, the groom seemed to fail, although not miserably. I surmised how that he could have let the kiss linger like a sustained piano note till it faded. Alas, what we witnessed was rather like a quick pull on a guitar string that its player replaces his finger to cut short the resonating note. I cast a discomfited look at my buddy who stood beside me with a grin on his face and I reckon he was in retrospect of when he had had his a year ago.
He was married and I wasn’t. His gold wedding ring gleaming from his finger, I pulled him by the wrist to pull him out of the seemingly trance to register my dissatisfaction with the kiss. “Do better then when you have yours,” he said with a grin and turned to watch the couple again.
At 28, he had become the CEO of his father’s businesses. Standing 5′ 6, dark, large and smart with a handsome face to match, I looked like a dwarf beside him. To crown his success was his wife Abena, whom he described as his dream come true.
Raised as the second and an only daughter from quite a well to do family, Abena was the compliment to Kofi’s dignified demeanor, both in grace and height.Though, he beat her slightly in the latter. Beautiful without a shadow of a doubt, it was only an overly over protective and despairingly jealous nature she possessed like a bona fide authority of a local ruler that I couldn’t fathom.Here was a woman who could take her husband through series of questions upon every business trip he returns from. Not strange or out of place. But that she could go sniffing through his stuff for proof or evidence was odd. As he confides in me, he has on occasions had to explain some hair strands that naughtily got stuck to his shirt from a party he’d been to, even with her.
I on my part had sometimes been filled in by the wife herself as she would complain to me, as the best friend of her husband, on the littlest of worries arising from supposed change in attitude of her husband, which were no changes after all. They’d only begun to live together and there were new things she’d learn of him which were perfectly normal. In all such conversations, I’d had to remain quiet and like an obedient child to his mother, listen and assure her of my looking out for him for her. I dared not disagree. I would lose her confidence in me as her husband’s best and truest friend, and then I’d lose those after church Sunday palm soup and fufu.
We stepped out of the church to meet some of the friends who had come before us and had also stepped out to get a breather. We shook hands with the guys. The ladies unhesitatingly spread their arms wide to welcome us into their bulging bosoms for a warm embrace, like it was customary. But they didn’t ward off my friend. They particularly warmed up to him and I have to concede, the guy can turn ladies’ head about, even married.
Maybe, that is why his wife is so in secured. Perhaps for fear that women would easily fall for him, and that one slip from him would lead to series of it, she better play the bodyguard lest she loses him. But that is as far as women’s trust for men goes. Not that Kofi is any saint, but at least I know my childhood friend is human and a man who wouldn’t betray his gem. To avert any childish suspicion from his wife when we should return, I thought to look out for him, as I have countlessly promised Abena. To prevent hair strands from getting too friendly or taking them off of him before we got back.
I was still somewhat lost in my moments of admiration for him when I suddenly remembered to warn him that he watches out for the lipsticks. But my good idea just came too late. Like remembering to give a warning but failing just in the nick of time to deliver. For just then, a lady came up that let her lip collide with his neck leaving a red smear at the collar of his shirt. If it had been a car that had had such impact, Kofi’s would have been dented to warrant much money to repair. But it was too late. The deed was done to leave a red smear there.
To have prevented that dent of a lipstick would’ve saved both of us a lot of explanation and on my part, the pain of seeing myself tortured for answers I would’ve already given a hundred times over. And then watch my friend take a lecture from a sullen wife how he ought to be careful with other women who out of jealousy may be out there to jeopardize their beautiful relationship.She apologized but that could neither wash away that stain which now shone from the collar of Kofi’s shirt like a bizarrely miss attached clerical, nor the inevitable query we’d receive from his wife when we got home. I could almost envisage what would transpire when we got back. “How do we know that it’s not a ploy on the part of the girl whose lipstick it was to cause a stir in our marriage,” she may say. “She must have done it on purpose to get me to fight with him and only God knows what would happen next,” she may add.
I had often wondered how Kofi could put up with his wife. He always looked to appear content and satisfied. But this unusualness had compelled me to break the boundary of sacred respect for personal matters to ask him what special magic he possessed to be able to put it all under control. He loves her, is what he says and only feels sorry for her and for her over acting.
Kofi isn’t the kind to give his wife reason to behave this way. For his honesty I could vouch for him on any day. To me, she is the one always coming with rakes, spade and axe to break mole hills and heap them up into mountains.
So,with a collar smeared red with lipstick, and a best friend who still was bracing up to face a worried wife of his friend, we began our journey back home after the wedding. Kofi was calm, sitting behind the steering wheel, unperturbed but I was. I feared for my head more than he did his. Or that I feared for his too. He kept assuring me to not worry with such easiness I was amazed. We hadn’t even gone through how he and I were to convince his wife to believe what was already the apparent truth, I thought. But his calmness, on the contrary, suggested that he knew well enough how to convince his wife if it came to it. I began to cool down.
We pulled up in front of his apartment to see Abena his wife just coming from her car with her purse in hand. Kofi turned to me, “She is returning from going to visit her aunty. The reason she couldn’t go with us.” He finished saying, giving me another reassuring look that all was going to be well.
We rolled up the glasses and got out of the car. Abena had stopped just outside of the apartment seeing us coming. Dark brown. Braided hair in bun. She wore a blue straight dress made of satin with a black belt at her waist to compliment the black shoes she wore with heels that would’ve made it more apparent, her height greatly surpassing mine had we stood any close.
Kofi walked up to his wife to kiss her welcome when she backed off throwing her head far behind, avoiding his lips. As she did so, the forefinger of her right hand came just on top of the red stain on Kofi’s collar. She took a long worried look at him and a stern one at me and stomped for the front door into the apartment.
Her eyes had taken a clean scan of her man before he even got close. Had she even missed that stain, and was not acting extremely ignorant, her reputation of having those catlike eyes and sniffing nature of a dog would have been doubted. But even this act proved again her prowess in assessment.
Kofi and I quickly followed behind her into the apartment. Why she hadn’t said anything out there though was a mystery yet to be unraveled.
As I walked just behind the busted hubby, the worrisome wife let out a cry of inquiries, albeit not unsuspected. But the questions and revision of past lectures of how her man ought to be careful were more directed at me than to Kofi. She actually was bellowing things like, “I knew it. I knew this would happen. I should have gone with you but then aunty wanted to see me. Look at that stain like nobody was watching you.” But she meant, “why hadn’t I protected, prevented, warned, reminded, at least make sure Kofi didn’t go as close to any lady as I went with him to the wedding.”
“If this is how girls of affluent families behave,” I sneered at the rain of complaints under hushed murmurs, “then I’m not getting one for myself.”
I could neither defend myself nor throw in some words of vindication for my friend. The torrent of questions was more than my capacity to keep up. It was like being pestered with pebbles and having nothing to shield myself except some helpless arms.
Kofi had stood silent all the while, perhaps rummaging through his mind how to cool her down before we could reason with her. He spoke and called her name, interrupting her then. She responded with a voice almost equal to that of a child trying to talk through crying as a tear tore down her cheek, brown with the makeup she had on.
“The lipstick on your lower lip seems to me fainter than your upper lip. And it wasn’t so when leaving this morning. Have you noticed?” Kofi asked.
I couldn’t well understand what was happening at the moment. But then it all began to add up and I couldn’t still believe it. When did the man I know turn to be Sherlock Holmes?
I took a closer look at Abena as her chin rose from her chest from looking down when she had begun to sob. Our eyes crashed but mine quickly fell to look down her lower lip. I let my eyebrows up with my mouth forming a little “O.” The sound that followed it couldn’t have been mistaken too. Truly, the lipstick there had lost pretty much of its density. Not quite proportional to the upper one, I observed.
“Yeah I have noticed but it’s nothing. I smeared it on my aunt’s husband’s shirt when he hugged me.” Abena began to explain, sounding unapologetic and unrepentant. There is nothing to repent of. It’s only her in-law.
“Yeah I know. It’s nothing,” Kofi said, “so would you believe me if I say what I have on my neck is from just a hug of a harmless friend?”
I saw what was coming. It was going to be a long evening of silly debate between husband and wife. And of how they should trust each other. How they both ought to feel safe and not worry of any foe anywhere. And above all, how they love each other. I wasn’t the one to stay and come between such fine arguments. More harder was to pick sides in such instances.
In the brief silence I rubbed my hand against Kofi’s shoulder. “See you on Monday,” I said and stepped out. I would hear about the rest at work I thought.
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