TIMES OF LOVE…

A funny feeling crept up the back of Harry’s neck, the kind of feeling he always got when he was excited about something.
He followed Atimma and stood just behind her. “I love You. It’s just that I am not buoyant enough to marry you now. Give me sometime my darling.” He said huskily, laying his hands on her shoulders.
“What if I decide to give you the money for our wedding? I can afford it.” Atimma said. Her tone was sharp, her manner indignant, and her eyes sparked like a hammer on an anvil as she stared at Harry directly in the eyes.
Harry nodded and sat gently on the bed.
“And after marriage, we are going to survive on my okirika business?” He paused and said in a painful whisper. “Give me time. You won’t like to stay here in a one bedroom after our wedding.”
“I will. We can start from here. I can’t wait any longer!” She said with a contemptuous curl on her lips.
“Are you sure about this?”
She defiantly turned her head and met his gaze.
“Yes I am. I am doing a good job Harry. I can support you without anyone knowing that the money is from me. We’ve dated for four years already, I will be thirty by July, how long should I wait more?” She turned away, looking at the picture frame of her and Harry on the wall.
She sat down and lowered her head.
“What if we plan the wedding for next Year? By then I will be fully settled. I mean I will have a good job by then.”
Atimma shook her head in disgust. “What is wrong with giving you money to come marry me, pride? Will it take away your manhood Harry?
I said I will assist you. I will cope! I am doing a good job. My salary can take care of you, myself and your mom.” She yelled angrily.
Harry moved closer so he could sit beside her. ” You have to understand me.”
Lowering her head, she said softly, “I think you never wanted to marry me. You’ve been using me for four good years Harry?”
He eased back away from her and stood up.
“Okay, Fine! let me prove you wrong, bring the cash, let’s plan our wedding.” Harry said loudly.
She turned her head and gave him a small smile.
“When should we plan on seeing my parents?” She said in a slow delight.
“Next weekend. I will inform uncle Ettete and my mom.”
Atimma nodded in approval and hugged Harry tight to herself. “Finally, we are going to spend the rest of our lives together my love.” She said in soft whispers.
Harry took her into his arms and kissed her softly on the lip.
She gave a short laugh and said in a teasing tone, “Mr and Mrs Harry Edet in few months right?”
He laughed. “Soon baby.”
She knelt beside him and chuckled. “I just can’t wait to get married to you Harry.” He glared at her but said nothing.
She cuddled close to him, closing her eyes until she slept off in his arms.

Harry’s head drifted backward to rest against the cushion chair. His mother came out of the kitchen with a tray of palm oil rice and sardine in a small saucer.
“You didn’t inform me of your coming, I would have made afang soup with lots of
Mfi and Okporoko.” she said, as she dropped the tray on a stool.
Harry smiled a bit, and then took a spoon from the tray, stared at the food for a while and then spooned the rice into his mouth continuously.
“I know you eat good food in the city.” His mother said excitedly.
“No food is as delicious as yours, no matter the amount of money used in making it.” Harry said. He took the sachet water from the tray, tore it with his teeth and gulped it down.
“I will be getting married soon Mama.” He broke the silence.
In confusion, his mother blinked her eyes, disoriented for a moment, and then her eyes widened on Harry. She sat up quickly.
“I thought you said your business isn’t moving too well, getting married is expensive.”
“She will sponsor our Wedding.”
“God forbid!” His mother exclaimed. ” A woman cannot lend you money for her own bride price. Do not ever let what happened to Etubom Idung ette happen to you o.”
“She is a good woman mama. She loves me. I love her too.”
“If she cannot wait for you to make your own cash, and marry her honourably, then yak aka.” She said angrily.
“What different does it make Mama? I mean she sponsoring our wedding, and I giving her the money back in future. I can’t lose her.” His gaze slid down to her shaky legs.
His heart slammed into his gut, and he quickly stood and turned his back to her. His voice was low when he said, “I will be seeing her family by next weekend. I just came to inform you first. I want to leave Ikot Akam before sunrise tomorrow.”
He walked out of the sitting room into the bedroom.
Later, a single lantern lit the dimness of the room. His mother walked slowly towards him. Harry was sleeping soundly when his mother’s hand lightly touched his shoulders.
“Bring her to me for my blessings.” She whispered.
His brow arched, and he gave her a soft look.
“She will be here a day to our introduction. She is always busy at work.”
“What does she do?”
“She works with an oil company. She is hardworking mama.”
She chuckled. “how long have you known her?” she asked softly.
“Four years.”
“Then she really loves you. If she has been with you all through these while.”
“She does. A woman like Atimma is rare mama.” Harry whispered.
He swung out of bed and hugged his mother tight.
“You will love her.” He whispered to her ears.
***********
Few days later, Harry visited his mother with Atimma. They were all excited.
Atimma had brought expensive wrappers and clutch purses for Harry’s mom. After sometimes of exchange of hugs and Pleasantries; She knelt down respectively and handed the Gift items to Harry’s mother.
“Oh my dear. You’re the daughter I never had. sosongho!” she said softly.
Harry’s face was filled with joy and excitement as he watched the favorite women in his life prepare him food in the kitchen.
“His father died when he was nine.”
Harry could hear her mother telling Atimma from the sitting room. Then there was a loud laugh afterwards.
He knew that he had made his mother and Atimma happy.
He muttered something under his breathe and laid his head on the couch, waiting for the food to be ready.

Marriage life had just began for Atimma and Harry.
They got married at Saint Peters catholic church in Ikot Ntuen.
Linda, her best friend had missed the church wedding. She was supposed to be her maid of honor; But Atimma wasn’t angry, she walked down the aisle delightedly in her white, Pearle beaded dress.
Atimma felt Harry’s eyes on her as she walked down the aisle. She would have enjoyed the walk along with her father, or even her mother, but they had died many years ago; since when she used to be a teenager.
At the moment the priest had joined them in matrimony, and the congregation applauded, Harry stared at the ring on his fingers, as if measuring it’s bigness compared to Atimma’s own.
He took her chin and her face to his and kissed her, while the church screamed in excitement. Atimma smiled shyly and hugged Harry tight to herself.
After the wedding reception party ended, Harry and Atimma got back home that night with joy in their hearts.
****
Tto weeks after their wedding, Atimma resumed work at the company, while Harry traveled to Lagos to buy fairly used clothes for his shop. And it went on that way…
Linda, Atimma’s best friend visited them for the first time after their wedding.
“Your wedding wasn’t big like I expected.” Linda said shrilly as she took a sip of the coca cola drink she was offered.
“Harry and I wanted it low.” She replied softly.
“Na waooo, and you people still packed into this your small one bedroom flat after wedding, not even a two bedroom in an estate in town.” Linda said with her usual straightforwardness.
“Well, Harry and I will move out when we have enough cash. We spent a lot at the wedding.”
Linda laughed out loud, clapping her hands and throwing them into the air.
“Atim, how much does Harry even have? He doesn’t even have money for common introduction, talk of wedding. You and I know too well that your whole money was used for that wedding, and that Harry’s kobo was not there.”
Atimma frowned and looked away.
“Don’t let that bother you. It’s my money, he is my husband.”
“Okay o. I just want to let you know that Oga Seno isn’t happy that you got married without his consent.” she said earnestly.
“What consent? He is a married man, I am married now. Is that why he stopped replying my greetings at the office? He should go to hell!” Atimma said angrily.
“Is it after you ate his money that you just realized he is married huh?”
“I was single then.”
“But at least Harry was still your bobo.”
“Stay off Linda! Leave me alone.” She yelled and stood to walk away.
“I am not condemning you. It’s just that I am sad that you left wealth to settle in this ghetto with an okirika seller.”
Atimma angrily grabbed Linda by the hand forcefully.
“Get out of my house!” she yelled as he pushed Linda to the floor.
“You’re jealous that I am married and you’re not!”
Linda stood up gently from the floor, she gave a sneering smile as she wiped the back of her denim gown.
“You really think I am jealous of this poverty stricken place? Why do you think I refused to be your chief brides maid Atim? I could not bring myself so low in those cheap Taffeta you had wanted me to wear. Who envies this kind of life you’re living? I will rather remain single, dating rich sugar daddies, than be married to a man who can’t afford my bride price.” She paused and then walked stylishly towards Atimma.” I mean you married yourself!”
Atimma pushed Linda out of the house. Her heart was hammering in her breast like a wild thing, while she felt like it might burst her body any moment.
“Never ever you come here anymore!”
Linda was frightened, it was the first time she saw her best friend in such mood.

Heavy raindrops had just begun to Fall.
Atimma stepped out of the elevator in her leather suit and pant; She was struggling with piles of files on her hands, she held them firmly as she walked gently on a long corridor that led to her office.
She heard footsteps walking behind her, she knew who it was. The smell of his perfume was familiar. She wanted to run, but took hurried steps instead. She knew in her heart that he was following her. He was glancing down at her when she was downstairs, her eyes caught with his.
Atimma got to her office, she threw the files on her table, breathing heavily.
“Happy Married life.” A voice came from behind her.
“Thank you sir.” She said in a shaky tone, not looking directly at his face.
“Why have you been avoiding me since after your wedding?” He seated himself on the overstuffed chair and propped his long legs on the table, falling off Atimma’s wedding picture frames. She lowered herself and picked them one by one, setting it well on the table.
“Handsome man!” He exclaimed, as he carried the picture frame gently and stared at it for a while.
“thank you.” Atimma said in broken whispers.
“The rains are here, I miss you in my arms.” He said, as he placed the picture frame gently on the table.
“Thank you. I am married now Seno.”
He chuckled, and then stood up immediately. He started to walk around her path. She raised an angry gaze at him. “I am grateful for all what you did for Me; For this job, for contracts, for promotions and for the car…”
“The car you gave to your husband.”
“It is my car. It is our car, what I own is his too. He comes to pick me after work with it.”
“So you married a man who had nothing. You left me for a man who had nothing!”
“You’re married Seno. You never wanted me to settle too?”
“Not that way Atimma!” He yelled, then paused. His voice softened now. ” I told you to give me time, Susan refused to grant a divorce. I couldn’t do things that way. I invested in you because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.”
“How do you always manage to make up these lies?” She demanded, finally looking into his eyes. “You and your wife are fighting for a divorce, and yet she is Pregnant. And yet you two go on vacations and trips. You think I’m a fool Seno? While Harry was out there, dying for me, showing me true love, I cheated on him with you.”
Seno Casually leaned against the wall, his entire attention focused on her. She felt the heat of his gaze, and looked away.
“So, he is the good guy now?”
“He has always been the good guy.” She retorted.
Seno smiled slowly and nodded painfully.
“Susan and I were almost ending it. Until you left, you changed. I stopped loving her, because you stole my heart.”
“I had given your heart back to you, take it, and go back to your wife. Whatever we had was in the past. I love my husband, I will manage with him, until it gets well.” Her anger died, as he sat down gently on a chair.
“I didn’t realize you were such a good woman. I know you more than he does. you will come back to my arms. But if there is anything he can’t do for you, I am here, always loving you enough to help.”
The telltale sign of her humiliation showed on her flushed cheeks.
Slowly she raised her gaze to his, and she had the feeling that she was drowning in those penetrating eye.

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