In case you missed it, read Episode 1, Episode 2, Episode 3, Episode 4, Episode 5, Episode 6, Episode 7, Episode 8 and Episode 9
The first drops of rain hit my face as I stepped out the car. I grabbed my navy-blue jacket from the backseat.
I looked at the small crowd of people gathered by the graveside, all dressed in black.
Gloria did not deserve the blackness. She had a colourful life, the least we could do was give her a colourful funeral. I grabbed a handkerchief from the car, I promised myself to be calm but I did not trust that promise. I took a deep breath and walked towards my final goodbye.
I walked into the crowd and saw Mrs Damijo standing alone, tears running down her face. Where was her husband? I walked to her and held her. She leaned her head on my shoulder; I could feel her body vibrate with grief. The pastor was droning on about how heaven gained an angel. Did heaven have such a shortage of angels that it had to take mine?! In spite of myself, I could feel the tears starting to build in my tear gland.
“Get away from my wife!”
Mr Damijo walked up to us and I promptly let his wife go.
“I’m sorry for your loss sir.” I said.
“What are you sorry for? You killed her!”
Mrs Damijo gasped. “Don’t say that Solomon.”
I opened my mouth but I had no idea what to say. I turned and walked away. Maybe he was right, maybe none of these would have happened if I had never met Gloria. I did not make her sick but maybe I should have called a doctor instead of being a stupid romantic who thought proposing to her would save her life.
“Mr Jude Adenowo,” I heard my name and stopped. It was the pastor. “We will like you to say a few words for your dear departed wife.”
My wife? She was not my wife. And what was I supposed to say? I killed her with my stupid crazy love?
“Jude?” I heard his voice call again but I could not move.
My eyes snapped open and Doctor Jamal stood over me.
“Jude, come with me please.”
I rose from the chair and followed him. The sun was up and bright, I wondered how many hours I had slept for. I looked at my watch, it was twelve thirty.
“Are you okay?” Doctor Jamal asked.
“Yeah…had a terrible dream but, yes I am.”
I pulled my heavy legs along as I followed him. I couldn’t remember the exact time I fell asleep but it had not been voluntary. I remained in Gloria’s room until the doctor had a guard forcefully remove me. It happened the same way for five days. I would watch Gloria’s motionless face throughout the day until the doctors said I could not stay anymore.
Today was going to be different. Today I had to leave for Finland.
“Doctor, how is she?” I asked.
I asked this question every morning and every morning I got the same reply. ‘We don’t know but we are hopeful.’
“Well, that’s why I came to call you actually.” Dr Jamal said.
Oh God please! “What is it doctor?”
“She is asking for you.”
“She woke up a few hours ago but we had to watch her, she is stable now.”
“A few hours…”
I left the doctor behind and ran to Gloria’s room. I got to the door and stopped. I heard voices inside – her parents. Did they really believe I was the cause of her almost dying? Were they right?
The door opened and I fell into the room. I looked up, Mrs Damijo was staring at me.
“I’m sorry ma.”
“Were you eavesdropping on us?” Mr Damijo asked.
“No! No, I wasn’t. I got to the door and stopped then…”
“Wait outside, I need to talk to my daughter.” He said.
I stole a peek at Gloria. Her face was pale but her eyes still had fire in them. I smiled and she winked.
“Did you hear me?”
I promptly turned and walked out of the room, Mrs Damijo by my side.
“Are you okay Jude?” She asked.
“I’m more than okay, I’m very wonderful!”
“Really? After what just happened? Some people will be embarrassed.” She said and smiled.
“Oh, I’m embarrassed alright, but Gloria is awake. I wouldn’t mind being embarrassed all my life as long as she’s in it.”
She nodded and we walked in silence. Mrs Damijo liked me from the beginning almost as much as Mr Damijo did not like me from the beginning. Was his dislike a result of a natural overprotecting love or was it personal?
“Do you mind if I ask a question ma?”
“Is it about my husband?” She asked.
She caught me off-guard with her question. “How did you know?”
“I was going to talk to you about that, let’s find a place to sit.”
We walked to a waiting area and sat.
“My husband told me you were leaving the country today.” Mrs Damijo said.
“Yes, I am.”
“And you’ll be back when?”
“I don’t know. Except I have a good reason to, I might not be back for years.”
“Hmm.” She said and paused.
“I thought we were going to talk about your husband.”
“Look Jude, whatever you think my husband has done, it’s all because of Gloria. I like you but Gloria is always going to be priority.”
“I know but I am not going to do anything to harm Gloria.”
“I don’t think you will but don’t you think it will better if you both got a fresh start? You’ll be leaving the country, she’ll be coming back home after her NYSC.”
I stood and began to pace, I could not believe that Gloria’s mother too was in favour of us breaking up. Was this what she wanted or what Gloria wanted? I thought she liked me. I looked at my watch, I had a lot to do before my flight. I had to see Gloria now. It did not matter what her family thought about it.
“I understand how you feel ma, but I need to talk to Gloria now. This thing really is about how she feels.”
I started to walk away.
“Hold on Jude.” I stopped. “Be careful....you have a great life ahead of you. You will meet other girls, okay?”
What was she talking about? It did not matter, I had to see Gloria now before my boss started calling and I had to go to the airport. I walked as fast as I could. I could sense my own desperation, I could sense my fear. What if somehow everything ended with Gloria tonight?
I got to her door, took a deep breath and pushed it.
“Gloria, I need to talk to you…” I started and stopped.
Her eyes were closed. I looked at the foot of the bed and saw Mr Damijo seated reading a book.
“She’s asleep. Don’t raise your voice please.” He said.
My phone rang in my pocket and I grinded my teeth to keep from cursing. Mr Damijo eyed me and I walked out of the room. What was I supposed to do now? I had no assurances on how long Gloria’s nap will be.
I removed my phone from my pocket, it was my boss calling. It was about time.
“Jude, are you ready?” he asked.
“Not quite sir, I still have some stuff to pack.”
“Better hurry up because I need you to come by my place before we leave.”
“Jude, be here in one hour. I don’t want you running late like the last time.”
“Okay sir.” I said and ended the call.
I looked at my watch again. There was no point waiting at the hospital. I walked for the exit. I would pack all my stuff and come back here. I could go see my boss after seeing Gloria. There was no way I would leave Nigeria without knowing I had Gloria as mine, for life!
I threw my passport in the bag and zipped it. I knew I had definitely forgotten some things but it was the least of my concerns at the moment. I had to get back to the hospital. I was already due at my boss’ place but he had to wait. I grabbed my keys and my bags and hurried out of the house. I got to my car and stopped. I looked back at my house; I was not going to be here in months, maybe years. I wanted to go take a last look at it but I did not have that time. I threw my bags in the back seat and sped to the hospital.
My boss had called four times by the time I got to the hospital. I knew I could get in some trouble but answering the call would not help either.
I got out of the car and slammed the door shut. I entered the building and hurried up the stairs to Gloria’s room. I touched my pocket, the ring was still there. Was this the right time to ask her to marry me? What would she say?
There was only one way to find out. I pushed the door open.
“Hey Jude.” Gloria said.
I wanted to reply her but I just stared at her. My mouth went dry and I felt a slight tremble in my hand. She was sitting in a wheelchair beside her bed. What was she going to say?
“Are you just going to stand there like the statue of liberty?”
“Making fun of me? You are definitely feeling better.” I said and moved towards her. “How are you alone in the room?”
“My dad just stepped out.”
“Ah, thank God for that. He scares me.” I said.
“He’ll be back soon.” She said with a grin.
I smiled and moved closer, knelt in front of her and took her hands in mine.
“Hey, both knees are on the floor, if you want to propose, you go on one knee.” Gloria said.
I looked down at my knees and smiled. “I would stand on my head if I could, some people deserve more than a knee.”
“Hmm, I taught you well Jude. Don’t worry though, I will get well very soon and you can propose properly.”
Oh no! she doesn’t know.
“Gloria…” I started to say.
“Don’t worry, the answer doesn’t change. Whether you ask now, next week or next year.”
“No, that’s not true. If you wait till next year, you might get a different answer, I don’t have that kind of patience.”
“Gloria, I have something to tell you.” I said.
The door opened behind me and I heard footsteps enter.
“What are you doing?” It was Mr Damijo.
“Don’t worry Dad, he’s not proposing yet.” Gloria said. “We’re just talking.”
“Isn’t your flight in less than three hours?” Mrs Damijo asked.
“What flight?” Gloria asked. Her smile disappeared.
“Gloria…” I started.
“He leaves for Finland tonight.”
She snatched her hand away from me.
“Hey Gloria, I thought you knew.” I said.
“Oh yes, I was counting down the days to your trip while I was in a coma.” Gloria said.
I turned to her parents and said. “Can you please give us a minute?”
“No!” Gloria said. “Stay where you are.”
“It will be okay sweetie.” Mrs Damijo said. ”Your father and I will be at the door.”
They left the room.
“Every day while you were unconscious, I waited in this room. I swore I would be the first person you would see when your eyes opened and the first words you would hear would be me asking you to marry me. Well, things did not turn out the ways I hoped. First, you did not wake up till today, then I was not told you were awake for hours. I did not mean for any of this to happen this way. I love you Gloria, more than anything in the world.”
“More than your job?” She asked.
“More than my job, I promise.”
“More than going to Finland?”
I paused. “Are you asking me not to go to Finland?”
She looked away and tears fell down her face. Was I really ready to give up Finland?
“I’m not asking you not to go to Finland. But Jude…”
“But what Gloria? I love you, with my whole being. Do you love me?”
“Of course, I do Jude. I understand that you wanted to propose but you didn’t and I don’t blame you. Maybe it’s not meant to be. Maybe we are just trying too hard to make this work.”
“No, we’re not. I have the ring here, I can do it now.” I dug into my pocket and brought out the ring.
“No Jude.” She said. The tears flowed endlessly now. “Just keep it.”
“Jude, you are a great guy, you will be fine.”
“Jude, we would still talk.”
“No, we can’t end like this.”
“I’m sorry Jude but this is what we have to do. Please go and prepare for your trip.”
“Gloria, I don’t want to.”
“You need to go Jude.” She raised her voice and called. “Dad!”
The door opened and Mr Damijo entered.
“Goodbye Jude, please call me when you land. Don’t forget me.”
“I think you should leave Jude.” Mr Damijo said.
I walked out of the room, trying to see through the tears that blinded me. I stomped out of the hospital. I entered my car and slammed the door. I started the car and headed for my boss’ place.
I would be in Finland in a few hours and I would forget Gloria. I would meet another girl and I’ll never come back to Nigeria.
I would be fine.
My eyes were dry by the time I was knocking on my boss’ door.
“Where have you been?” He asked.
“I’m sorry sir, I had to attend to something.”
“Jude, how serious do you take your job?”
“Very serious sir.”
“I don’t think so. I know if I ask you why you came here late, you would have reasons but when you take something seriously, you don’t have excuses.”
“I’m sorry sir.”
“Do you know how many times this deal in Finland nearly failed? The only reason it didn’t was because I never let anything stop me. Jude, do I need to find someone else? Or are you going to handle it with the same passion and determination with which I did?”
I nodded. “I have a question sir. Do you believe in destiny? Like some things are meant to be while others aren’t?”
“Does this have anything to do with what I’m saying? Where’s this coming from?”
“This deal came together in a wonderful way, everything just worked fine, almost as if it was meant to be.”
He laughed. “Jude, nothing is meant to be if you don’t work it. If we folded our hands expecting things to work, we will be mourning our loss now, claiming the deal wasn’t meant to be.”
“You don’t believe in destiny? Even when you try your best and everything works against you?”
“Jude, this is the only destiny I believe in; if I want something, I will go for it until I get it. If I don’t get it, it is because I didn’t want it enough. Destiny cannot stand against a man who knows what he wants. Now, enough of the talk, we have things to do.”
“Thank you sir for your advice but there is something I really want right now and I’m going to get it!”
“Jude! Do you want to lose your job?”
“Sir, I really want my job too so if I lose it, I’ll get it back.” I said with a smile. “I’ll be back very soon, I promise.”
I turned before he could say another word and ran for the door. I was not letting Gloria go. She was the very thing I wanted the most in the world. Nothing was going to stop me from getting her. Not my boss. Not her father. Not destiny!
I got to the hospital lobby and saw a cart with some beverages, a large card and some flowers on it. I grabbed the flowers and ran up the stairs. If I found the owner later, I would pay them for the flowers. I got to her door and burst it open.
“What are you doing here?” Mr Damijo was the first to react to my entry.
“With all due respect sir, I’m here for Gloria and I’ll like to speak to her without interference.”
I walked to her bedside and dropped on one knee. She propped up on her arm and looked at me, I could tell she had been crying for a long time. I gave her the flowers and she set it by her bed. I removed the ring from my pocket and took her hand.
“Jude.” She whispered. “What are you doing?”
“Gloria, in my short life, I have made mistakes. But I have always prided myself in having no regrets. If I go on that plane tonight without doing this, I would regret it for the rest of my life. You’re no ordinary girl Gloria, I can’t just move on with my life and replace you. I love you. I love you so much, I don’t understand it. And I don’t just love you sweetheart, I want you too. I want you so much, I am willing to take on whoever or whatever stands in my way. We are destined to be together Gloria but even if we aren’t, then destiny would just have to go to hell.”
I knew I was rambling so I paused. She was looking at me, tears running down her face. I could not tell if she understood me or if she was even hearing me but I had come too far to stop.
So I asked.
“Gloria, will you marry me?”
Authors’ Note: Thanks for following the story people. If you liked it, be sure to drop a comment. Or holler on Twitter @LordJoshWrites. Other stories I have written can be found on my blog www.lordjosh.wordpress.com.