The counselling and assignments helped us to go through the weeks and understand ourselves better. I discovered my strengths and weaknesses, and my partner’s. Without it, Aaron and I would have slept together, no doubt. It went to say in the multitude of counsel, there indeed was safety.
Before we knew it, our wedding was less than two weeks away, and our final assignment was in our possession. I couldn’t wait to see what it was and as we hurried out of the church office, I read it to Aaron.
“Share your deepest fears. And your darkest secret.” I stopped walking. “Are they trying to break us up?”
Aaron chuckled. “How?”
I shrugged. “I don’t want to know your secret.”
“I want to know yours.” He took my hand. “Come. I know the perfect place to share fears and secrets. The beach.”
My fiancé was one of a kind. I wasn’t dressed for the beach, and neither was he, but we stopped at a restaurant, bought some food and drinks, and headed there.
Being a Sunday, it was full, but we found a clean, clear area, rented a huge umbrella, a table and two chairs, and got down to our task.
I took out the food from the bags. “Who’ll go first?”
“Ladies first, of course.”
“I don’t have any secret.”
The fried rice and roasted spicy chicken smelt good, and I busied myself with it to hide my insecurity. Aaron was an accomplished man. I’d met his parents. They’d been married for over forty years, and made hundreds of millions of naira from their shipping, and oil and gas businesses. With their three sons, Aaron being the second, and a daughter, who was older than the boys, anyone would want to be a part of this family.
My greatest fear was they would never accept me. Though they seemed nice, and didn’t talk about my non-existent family, I was afraid.
“Yes?” Aaron stopped my hand on its way to my mouth with a bite of chicken. “What’s your greatest fear?”
“That I will die and not make heaven.”
He laughed. “Be serious.”
It was just too sensitive. These were issues Aaron and I should have discussed long before now but our relationship had been a bit queer. Me from down the ladder, and him not a talking person…amidst battling a sexual urge that seemed never to go away.
I exhaled. “I have many fears, unfortunately.” I pressed my lips together. “I don’t want to die like my mother.”
Aaron squeezed my hand. “You won’t. You don’t live like her.”
I cackled. “I do sincerely hope not. Her two husbands left her.”
“That must be hard on you. I know I won’t leave you anyway.”
I sneered. “Amen.”
“What kind of “amen” is that?”
I breathed in. “I fear you will.”
“God forbid. I love you. And I know I want to be with you. No matter what we go through together, I am loyal.”
I wanted desperately to believe all of it. “Amen,” I whispered.
“And I say amen too. Now, tell me your secret.”
“I don’t have any.” I shuddered. “Well, only one. Maybe not a secret, but something I’d wanted to tell you for a long time.”
I stole a glance at him. His brows were relaxed, like he didn’t feel the tension. I took his second hand, food ignored.
“You remember the night we met? I told you my mother was sick, and I needed money for her medical bill?” He nodded. I held his gaze. “She wasn’t sick.” I swallowed. “She was dying. The hospital sent her back home to die.”
It was one of the most difficult things I had to accept. I fought tears but they dropped all the same. Aaron held on to my hands, and I couldn’t hide my shame.
“We couldn’t afford any treatment. She had a leg wound which she’d tried to treat at home for months. The antibiotics prescribed by the time we took her to the hospital were too expensive. She died of tetanus.”
I tried a smile but the deep furrow on Aaron’s face did not change. “I came to the hotel that night just to get some money to give her a few last good days. She was a hairdresser, and she and Salome had not worked for months. I was in school.” My lips trembled. “I know I was a horrible person. To go out like that just for money to buy milk for a dying woman. And a nice dress.” I sobbed.
Aaron pulled me over to sit on his laps. “Ssh. You are not a horrible person, my love.”
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