As I walked down the cobblestone path to the car, I looked back at the house. I had the funny feeling of deja vu and I shivered involuntarily. For a moment there, I thought I’d caught a glimpse of a face at the window.
"Come on Liam!" Nan called out to me from the car. "You don't want to be late to your own wedding do you?!"
I turned back and walked briskly to the car. Matt got down from the driver's seat in a suit identical to mine and clapped me on the back.
"This is it man!" he said beaming at me. "It all begins now!" he said, embracing me.
"Thanks Matt, for everything." I said after we pulled apart.
"Come on, let's go and get you married!" he said getting back into the car.
"About time!" Nan mumbled from the back seat.
I got into the car and as it pulled away, I took another look at the house and the funny feeling washed over me again.
Half an hour later, I stood before my friends and family with Matt at my side as the wedding march started to pump out of the pipe organ. I had been baptised in this church, had taken my first holy Communion on this very alter, then returned here to get baptised again when I understood what it really meant, so it was fitting that I would be married here as well. On the first row, I saw mum dab at her eyes with a hankie and I smiled back at her. Dad stood beside her beaming proudly at me. Nan was on his other side and with a pang, I wished Grandpa could have been here too. Natalie was in the next row with the kids. Next to her were Adele and Bella in their bride’s maid’s dresses. My reminiscing was cut short as she came into view. She looked like a shimmering mirage all sheathed in white lace and satin, gliding towards me. My breath got caught in my throat and my heart started to thud. Looking at her as she came closer on her father's arm, I felt weightless, like I didn't have a care in the world. A feeling of serenity and contentment settled over me and I knew deep down in the core of me that I had come home. I knew that there was nowhere else on the face of the earth I would rather have been at that moment and she was the one I’d waited for all my life. That was why it hit me like a blow when I realised I had no idea who was walking down the aisle towards me!
She gave her father a quick hug and then turned to smile up at me through her veil. I stared at the veiled face intently, willing myself to remember, but nothing came to me. Reverend Harvey, who had baptised me both times, was going on with the ceremony but I scarcely heard a word of what he was saying. Even as I realised that I'd never met this woman before, the feeling of serenity didn't leave me, instead it grew stronger.
When I lifted the veil, honey-brown eyes looked up at me from a face perfectly sculpted from ebony. I studied her exquisite face, committing each detail to memory. The high cheek bones, the slightly large, rounded nose, full lips and dimpled chin. Even the pimple that sat just underneath her right eye. I took in every detail, as if I feared she would soon be taken from me and I would have to search real hard find her again.
“William Auguste Harding…” she gave a little laugh. She knows how much I hate my silly middle name. “I almost can’t believe I’m standing here with you. It feels like a dream, my perfect dream come true! Today, I will become one with my best friend, my mate of heart and soul, my brother.”
Who are you?! Why can’t I remember you?!!!
“I promise you my darling, that I'll be your confidant, companion and help, God helping me. I promise to see through your eyes to your dreams, to fly with you as you fly with them.”
Am I losing my mind?! Why then does it feel so…right…
“I promise to share every moment and challenge and victory and struggle and triumph with you, and to grow old and silly with you…” her voice became husky with emotion and her eyes were glistening with unshed tears. Smiling, she slipped the simple gold band unto my finger.
I woke up with her vows echoing in my mind. I switched on the bed-side lamp and sat up in bed. Absently, I picked up the gold band that lay beside the lamp and turned it over and over in my hand. It had been Grandpa’s ring and after he passed, Nan had insisted I have it for some reason best known to her. I’d told her matter-of-factly that if that was her way of hinting that I was getting old, she could think again. What I hadn’t told her, or anyone else, was that the ring spooked me out badly, and that was because I’d had a very funny dream the night before Nan gave it to me. Tonight, it had been the very same dream all over again. The wedding. The un-veiling. The beautiful stranger. The same weird dream. Only this time, I'd finally met the stranger. She was Nan's new tenant.
* * * * *
As far as starting your life over again goes, I was having the time of my life! I’d spent almost three months in Edmonton, I had 90 credits to make up for in course work and I was bordering on broke. But all in all, life was beautiful and I’d never felt better!
The first week I was here, I’d stayed in one of the bedrooms in the main house until some furniture had been moved into my - what do I call it? Apartment? Whatever. Then I’d decorated it just the way I’d dreamed of it being, right down to my potted plants. Small wonder I was broke, at least until I sorted out the paperwork for my grant. My landlady was the sweetest person in the world and I love her to bits! And mind you, that’s not just cos she happens to be Grandma to the most gorgeous man alive. She kinda reminds me of Mrs Weasley from the Harry Porter movies, fussing and scolding and watching out for me to the point of distraction! Most nights, I would go downstairs and have dinner with her and sometimes, he would join us. Somehow, he seemed closer to her than he was to his parents or his sister. I’d never met any other member of the family but I picked up on it, more like intuition or something. Dunno what you call it, I’m doing a Ph.D. in Engineering not psychology! I loved watching them together, they sort of clicked in a way I’d never been able to click with the adults in my life, especially my parents. I doubt they both knew how much it meant to me that they let me into their “circle”. After all, I was just some student from a little town in Manchester they had probably never even heard of. Don’t even bother mentioning my native hometown, Ejisu! Accra is about the only thing they know about Ghana. And maybe Malaria!
So, here I was, without two cents to rub together literarily, but I was happier than I'd been in a long, long time. And that also had nothing whatsoever to go with a certain gorgeous Grand-landlord. Honest! There was a knock on my door and William poked his head in. Talk of the devil. More like think of!
"Hi!" I said. "Your shift ended early today!"
"Actually, was on the night shift and I’m not on call today."
Well, my sexy grand-landlord was no Hollywood star, he was a doctor. He was an attending physician at the Royal Alexandra Hospital. The man sure was full of surprises.
"kk. Care for a coffee?" I asked.
"How do you take your coffee? Hope it's black cos I haven't got any milk!" I said going to fill the kettle.
"Really?!" he said sounding like he thought I was kidding. I could imagine what he was thinking. He'd walked in on me unpacking my very large shopping and it must have looked like I was having a laugh.
"Well don't look at me! Blame the cheerios!" I exclaimed defensively.
"Errr I’m not sure I follow..." he said taking a seat at one of the high stools in my little kitchenette/dining area.
"Well," I said grabbing the boxes of cheerios and stuffing them out of sight in the shelf above the sink. “They were going at three for the price of two, I couldn't resist!"
"O-Kay" he said looking like it was far from okay.
"You still don't get it do you?!" I asked and he laughed.
I continued to stack my shelves as I explained.
"Well, by the time I got to the checkout, my shopping came to $25.60 and my budget was $25! So you see, something had to go!"
He continued to give me the look that said he was trying hard not to look at me like I was bonkers!
"Well, the cheerios were an irresistible bargain!"
He laughed again. "Of course they were!"
"Alright, just say it! I'm an idiot who doesn't even have any milk to eat the cheerios with, but what does it matter!"
"No you're not! I think you would make a shrewd business woman in another life!"
“Yeah right!" I retorted and we both laughed.
"Coffee is served!" I announced pouring the boiling water into two of my mis-matched set of mugs. I’d found them at a garage sale and even though they were old and chipped and one of them was missing its handle, I loved them cos they were mine.
"Hope you got a bargain on the sugar!" he asked and my hands flew to my mouth.
Damn! I knew I had missed something! He simply laughed at me.
"Come on, I’m sure Nan won't mind if we nick a bit of milk from her." he said getting up.
"And sugar." I said feeling like the world’s biggest idiot.
“Yeah and sugar.” He chimed in.
“And maybe coffee too.” I muttered.
“Yep. Coffee too.” He said. “You really would make a good business woman!"
“Yeah right!” I scoffed.
"What are you doing Saturday?" he asked as we finally drank our coffees. I'm off and I'll be hanging out with Adele and the rest of the gang.”
Even though I’d found out that he wasn't married like I’d thought, my darling Mark Petersburg look-alike wasn't up for grabs. I’d heard quite a lot about this Adele and my intuition told me she was the one. Oh well, a girl can't have it all! It was good enough just to see the guy every other day, plus I had a picture of me and him on Facebook which was still garnering comments and likes. What more could a girl ask for!
"We’re going to see The Buddy Holly Story. It will be fun, it’s a dinner theatre.” He said.
“Huh?!” dinner what?!
“Trust me, you’ll love it!” he said smiling.
"Sure!" I said. It really would be good to make friends and let my hair down for a change like Ama had been banging on about. I’d found out the hard way that being a research student was way different from being an under grad and that I wasn’t going to have friends within a week of being at Uni. For starters, there were very few research students in my department and we were all working on different things with different professors and our paths didn’t cross often or long enough to really make any bonds of any kind. I missed my friends from back home, especially my best friend, Ama. We’d both grown up together first in Kumasi and then my family had moved to Manchester a year and half after hers’ had moved. She was the only one I’d told about applying to Alberta and she had understood the need to breakaway even before I really did. For all her eccentricities, and she has a lot of them, she had her head screwed on tight and she was usually the grown-up of the two of us.
"Great! I'll pick you up at four on Saturday then!"
"Rightio!" whatever this dinner-thingy was, it was sure to be better than spending the night on my own!
* * * * *
"Gotta run Babes!" I said stealing a peek at the clock at the bottom of my screen. I’d been skyping with Ama for the better part of two hours and as much as I missed her, it was time to hit the books.
“Where are you running off to?!” she asked wiggling her eyebrows at me. “ Hot date?!”
“Come on Chale, gimme gist!”
"Got course work to finish up."
"Don’t be such a geek!" she retorted. "Which one is course work again?! Are you not supposed to be creating a robot or finding a cure for cancer or something!"
"Err, news flash, I'm still just a student and I've got 90 credits to make up for."
"You're such a bore! You've been there barely 3 months and you're already spending all your time studying! No wonder that big fat pimple is getting fatter and fatter!”
"What?! Is it bigger than it was yesterday?!" I asked patting my face frantically.
“Perks of being a boring geek!" she retorted.
I scrambled off my bed where I'd been skyping with her and went to the dresser to examine my face in the mirror.
"Shouldn't you be asleep?" I asked. "It’s almost 2 am over there!" the bloody thing did look bigger!
"Whatever! So, what's new with your sexy landlord?" she asked. Again.
“What?!” I returned to my laptop, still poking and prodding at the pimple.
“Your sexy landlord! And stop pinching it, you’ll just get an ugly spot!”
"He's not my landlord!" I said for about the millionth time that evening.
"Irrelevant! At least get a picture!"
"And I haven't even seen him since..."
"Since when?!" she pounced when I trailed off.
"You know what? I really have work to do and I have to go.”
"You start talking now Chesca or I’ll…."
"Love you Ama, talk to you later." I said.
“Francesca!!!” she exclaimed sternly and through the thousands of miles separating us and hp’s Gorilla capacitive touch screen, I could still feel the glare of that look!
“Ughhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!! Okay, don’t bite my head off!”
I sighed in resignation. I could as well just get the whole thing off my chest. She wouldn’t let me have any peace until I told her anyway!
* * * *
"Hey guys! This is Frankie!" I said when we met up with the others that Saturday afternoon.
"This is Matt, Rajesh, Bells and Adele."
"Nice to finally meet you!" Adele said hugging and air-kissing her. “You can call me Del.”
“It’s actually Bella, but never mind him!” Bells popped in, taking her turn with the hugs and air-kissing. “We've heard so much about you!"
The guys just stood and stared at them awkwardly. Girls!
"Pleased to meet you guys too!" she said.
"We should hang out, just we girls." Bells was saying. "You know, properly welcome you to Edmonton, show you all the nice spots.”
“Yes, we totally should!” Adele added.
Matt cleared his throat. “Ladies, are we gonna see the movie or what?!”
“Don't be such a kill joy!” Bells chided him.
“What are we seeing?” Adele asked.
“Where are you from?” Raj managed to add.
“Come on! Let the girl breathe! What's with the 50 questions?!” Bells had assumed the mother-hen role. Classic!
“What...?!” Raj spluttered. Poor dude!
“Girlfriend, ignore the guys. They like to think that...”
Bells linked her arm with Frankie's and dragged her off with Adele on her other side. I smiled, happy that my friends had taken to her instantly.
* * * * *
“Okay, what was so bad about him introducing you to his friends?!” Ama asked. “They sound like pretty nice people to me!”
“Of course they are!” I exclaimed.
“So what was the problem then?!”
“It wasn’t anything to do with them, it was…”
“Girl, you are supposed to be the smart one, but right now you’re not making any sense!”
I sighed. “I don’t really know what happened, how a perfect day out with lovely friends turned into a marshmallow situation!”
Ama gasped dramatically. “Marshmallow?!”
Marshmallow was Ama-gibberish for a really messy and awkward situation.
“Which one of them squashed the marshmallow?!” she asked. If I hadn’t been so upset, I would have told her not to be such a drama queen.
“Was it Matt or Raj?!” she asked.
I sighed again.
“Okay, this is what happened…”