Oh, my God! “ Valentina exclaimed throwing both hands to her face at once as Love elegantly strode out of her spacious closet in the flowing purple dress. “Love, this is beautiful! I love it!”
“I told you, didn’t I?” Love said smiling from ear to ear, and then she spun in the dress to show off the more.
“Babe! People will faint tomorrow when they see you in this,”
“My dear, I expect nothing less,” Love replied as she stood before the mirror. Valentina got up and stood behind her, admiring the reflection before them. “But it feels a bit tight here,” Love admitted, tugging at the waistline.
“Really?” Valentina asked. “Didn’t you try it on back at Titi’s store?”
“No,” Love replied. “You know I had to rush back here after you called about the emergency with the shoe delivery. And by the way, Titi said if there was anything uncomfortable about this dress all I had to do was call and she’d be here ASAP,”
“Hmm,” Valentina muttered touching her chin. “Maybe, now would be a good time,”
“Never you mind,” Love replied. “It’s not as serious.”
The bedroom door swung open and Chiazor dragged herself in.
“Heeey!” They called back as she went straight for Love’s freezer at a corner.
“Sorry I took so long. Lord! Am I exhaused, or what?” Chiazor called now taking out a bottle wine to help herself. “There’s no way I could leave that Event hall until everything was in place – even till the last flower petal. You girls know I specialize in perfection.” Now holding up her glass, she turned only to freeze at the sight of Love. “Oh, my…. Girl, where did you get that dress? It’s gorgeous!”
“Thanks, Sweety,” Love replied her oldest friend, smiling.
“But wait a minute!” Chiazor suddenly called peering with one hand on her hip and looking serious. “Love, but this wasn’t the dress you had Titi-Coutour make for your birthday, if I’m not mistaken here,”
“You’re not,” Love replied turning to her. “You won’t believe this crazy story. So…..I saw this lovely thing hanging right in plain sight when I went over to get my actual birthday dress. Girl, but it was like this dress was calling out to me : “please, please, wear me!” And so I told Titi I wanted it,”
“Just like that? I see,” Chiazor muttered dryly. “And so what happens to your other dress?”
“Guuurl, who cares?” Love playfully called. “I’ll wear it to your engagement party next Saturday,”
“Nice,” Chiazor replied and then sank untothe large bed, crossing her legs before taking a sip from her glass. “I like this,”
“I know,” Love replied facing her reflection again. “Titi said it belonged to some woman from Ikorodu who’s wedding tomorrow morning. She actually sketched it up for Titi-Coutour to make,”
“Say what?” Chiazor spat out, almost choking on her drink. “Love!”
“You heard her,” Valentina replied throwing her a smirk. “It’s for someone’s wedding reception,”
Love turned and faced Chiazor.
“I offered Titi triple the amount of what the original owner paid to have this dress made, and she eagerly complied without hesitation. Who says money doesn’t work wonders,” she explained before flashing Valentina a wink. “Come to think of it, Valentina – who would think someone from Ikorodu can possibly think up something so lovely? Isn’t that place like some local fishing village, or something?”
“I actually thought it was some rural community for elephant hunters and ritual killers,” Valentina added.
“Oh, my goodness!” Love exclaimed in humour. “That’s too much a compliment from what I imagined.” At that, both ladies giggled loudly.
“Be nice, you too!” Chiazor called making a face. “And for your information, Ikorodu is a very commercial town and I’ll have you know a good number of my best clients reside there, mind you? I’ve been there several times and it’s a far cry from what you both describe,”
“Whatever!” Love teased with a dismissive wave.
“And wait a minute!” Chiazor called trying to comprehend what she had previously heard. “But what about this bride-to-be? This is still her dress and it’s her big day tomorrow,”
“Not my problem,” Love dispelled with a tone. “And by the way, Titi said she would handle her,”
“And how’s she supposed to do that?”
“She said she would send the Ikorodu woman another dress to compensate for her “unfinished one,” Love replied and then faced Valentina again. “Who says money doesn’t talk?” Then they both giggled again.
“No! No,” Chiazor called, shaking her head. “Babes, this is so wrong in so many ways,”
“And last time I checked, I didn’t ask your opinion,” Love retorted now facing her. “You know what, Chiazor? Maybe, for once, you could at least pretend to be happy for me, or is that just too much to ask from you?”
“Not when someone’s about being cheated off the most important day of her life,” Chiazor fired back.
“Chiazor,” Valentina stepped in. “Just see it this way – the winner takes all.” At that, Chiazor paused and threw her a blank stare.
“Did you confidently just open that thing you call a mouth to spit that nonsense, Valentina?” Valentina’s mouth fell open. “Love, I know you’ve done some crazy stuff, but this….this is the most coming from you,”
“You know what? Enough!” Love let out raising a hand. “Chiazor, you know why I called Valentina to check out this dress and not you? Because she’s not the killjoy that you’re being right now,”
“Babe, Valentina is your P.A. You literally pay her to agree to everything you do. She would jump in front of a speeding truck if you asked her to,” Chiazor retorted to Valentina’s astonishment before downing the last of her drink. “You know what? I hope you sleep well with your conscience tonight. Happy birthday in advance!” Then she got up and stormed out of the large bedroom, slamming the door shut behind her.
“Thanks for nothing, Miss Black heart!” Love called after her. “Can you believe that one?” She vented facing Valentina, who took her by the hand.
“But you should know Chiazor, by now,” she said. “She never holds her tongue, and there’s the wine too,”
“Whatever!” Love retorted. “She can choose not to attend my party tomorrow if she likes – I don’t care. It’s not everyday a girl turns twenty-six,”
“You don’t mean that,” Valentina replied.
“You know what? Can we like forget her already?” Love asked and then faced her reflection again. “Babe, I don’t know, but it feels like this dress has gotten tighter all of a sudden at the waist,”
“Oh,” Valentina muttered. “Maybe, we should call Titi after all,”
“Good idea,” Love said. “Do that.” Then Valentina walked to the bed and picked one of Love’s phones which laid beside her blue cosmetic bag. She dialled a number and waited.
“She’s not answering,” Valentina said.
“Then call her again!” She insisted. “It’s just some minutes past eight tonight. Keep dialling until she picks. With how much I pay her, she’d better come running here – even if it’s midnight and her house is on fire.” At that Valentina kept on dialling while Love struck a dramatic pose before her large oval mirror and smiling. “You just wait and see, Valentina. Tomorrow, I’m so going to stand out.”
“Happy birthday, Love!”
“Aww! Thanks, Kiki,” Love replied rushing to embrace her former nemesis from Social Media. It took them over three years before they finally began getting along.
“And your dress! Wow!” Kiki mentioned in admiration. “It’s beautiful,”
“Thank you. I know, right?” Love replied. “By the way, I hope you came with a gift,”
“Of course,” Kiki said and then opened her red purse which matched her dress. “Who would forget your love for presents?” She took out a rectangular parcel beautifully wrapped up. “Here you go. Happy birthday, dear,”
“Why is it so small?” Love asked, looking serious.
“Excuse you? That’s expensive,” Kiki stated raising a finger. “Very expensive,”
“Girl, don’t mind me,” Love said giggling and then accepted it. “Thanks so much, Kiki,”
“You’re welcome, Love,” Kiki replied smiling and then she glanced around at the other guests in the hall. “And this is a lovely party,”
“I know, right?” Love asked as she took her hand. “So, you get a drink first and enjoy yourself,”
“I will,” Kiki said and then strutted off into the crowd.
“Valentina,” Love called to her friend whom stood not too far off with a drink in hand. “Would you be a dear and drop this with the others presents?”
“Of course,” Valentina replied as she took the gift and hurried off; and then Love sashayed down the busy hall to mingle with the other guests. She could feel eyes on her with every step she took, and why shouldn’t they stare? Today was her day, and just as Love had always taught herself to be – she was Queen!
Food and drinks flowed through non-stop, and the music was kept at an upbeat tempo – and Love made sure to hire the most expensive DJ in Lagos.
“Happy birthday, Love!”
Turning, Love opened her mouth in surprise at the sight of Chiazor, clinging to the arm of a tall dark man in a dark suit.
“Chiazor? Henry!” She called out embracing her best friend, and then she and Henry exchanged pecks on both cheeks.
“Happy birthday,” he called.
“Thanks, dear, I’m so glad you came.” Then she faced Chiazor. “And….I was starting to think you weren’t coming anymore,”
“Are you crazy?” Chiazor asked with a raised brow. “After breaking my back to pull this party off? And you know my business comes first, and with these photographers and influential guests present here, who knows?”
At that, Love laughed out while Henry simply shrugged.
“My goodness!” Love exclaimed. “You’re so Ibo. All for the money,”
“Whatever, babe,” Chiazor replied rolling her eyes. Then she turned and gave a beckoning gesture. “Buchi, bring that here, please.” And immediately, Chiazor’s younger cousin approached with a large wrapped up gift, and with the way he walked, it was clear how quite weighty its content was.
“Oh, my God!” Love exclaimed in delight.
“A little birthday something from Henry and myself,” Chiazor said before flashing her fiancé a smile.
“Oh, you two!” Love called as her gift was placed on a nearby table. “It’s so heavy. What’s in it?” She curiously asked.
“I guess you’d have to unwrap and find out,” Chiazor replied, and then Love gave each of them a hug.
“You guys are the best,” she said. “Thanks so much. Oh, and Chiazor, be sure to mail me your bill for all of this tomorrow,”
“I will do no such thing,” Chiazor bluntly stated shaking her head to Love’s surprise. Then she gestured with her hands. “All of this is also my birthday gift to you,”
“Oh my……Chiazor!” Love was overwhelmed now holding her chest. “This is too much! Come here” Then she pulled her friend into a warm embrace while Henry stood by, smiling at them both. “And here I was yesterday thinking you were the biggest bitch alive,”
“Idiot!” Chiazor called back laughing. “You are the bigger one.”
“Really, Chiazor. I’ll never forget this,” Love said. “Thank you,”
“And have I mentioned how gorgeous you look in that dress?” Henry asked and Love blushed.
“You’re sweet, Henry. Thank you,” she softly replied while Chiazor quietly rolled her eyes.
“Excuse me, miss?”
They all turned to see an eager photographer. His height seemed not to surpass their shoulders. “Could you all stand together for a shot? And please, Celebrant, you stand in the middle – Wow! That dress!”
“Oh, of course!” Love eagerly agreed stepping in-between for a pose. She recognized the photographer from one of the biggest fashion magazines in Lagos. They let him take a number of shots. “Now take me alone,” Love said already striking another pose while her friends stood apart. Love never tired of having her pictures taken. “I can’t wait for these to get out on Social media,”
“Of course, she can’t,” Chiazor dryly muttered to Henry’s hearing as they each picked their drinks from an approaching waiter.
“You won’t let this go, would you?” Henry lowly called to her and she faced him.
“What’s wrong is wrong, Henry,” Chiazor said. “You know I always say it as it is,”
“But last time I checked, you told me the designer had it all handled,”
“And that makes it fine?” Chiazor asked. “Look, Henry, I love Love a lot but she just can’t help making everything about her. That’s how she made my last birthday her own personal Project Runway Show, and don’t be shocked next Saturday when she hijacks our engagement party.” At that, Henry burst out laughing.
“Your choice of words, Chiazor! Hijack?” He said. “You should have been an activist and not an event planner, you know?” Giggling, Chiazor turned to reply him.
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT!!”
At that, nearby guests turned to see Love suddenly rush for the hall entrance, holding her dress in hand. Then she threw herself on the tall figure in the Navy blue suit and everyone watched them kiss passionately.
“It’s a lie!” Valentina approached with surprise also written on her face. “Is that…”
“Seye? Yeah,” Chiazor answered.
“But I thought he wasn’t in the country,”
“He wasn’t,” Henry said. “At least, not until this morning,”
“He asked us not to tell Love last night,” Chiazor explained. “He wanted to surprise her,”
“You guys!” Love called out in excitement as she approached them now, clinging to her boyfriend’s bulging arms. “Look who decided to surprise me,”
“Seye!” Both Chiazor and Henry called in unison, exchanging a glance in the process.
“What a pleasant surprise!” Chiazor acted.
“Yes,” Henry played along. “Surprise!”
It was much later in the afternoon now and Love’s party turned out to be much exciting than planned and she would want it no other way. Every who-and-whom in the Social media influencing business and Fashion industry was present, not forgetting the personalities in other branches of the Nigerian entertainment industry. No doubt, this party would be the talk once it hit the media.
“Hey, girls!” Love called as she approached the table where both Chiazor and Valentina sat. Chiazor’s hand was never without a glass.
“What’s up?” Chiazor asked as Love grabbed a seat and sat opposite them.
“Seye has been acting strange not too long after he arrived,” she said. Then they all glanced not too far off where he stood conversing with Henry.
“Really?” Chiazor asked. “Why do you think so?”
“I don’t know,” Love said. “But I think he wants to propose. Chiazor, do you know if he mentioned anything to Henry? A hint? Something….”
“Really?” Valentina let out as her eyes flashed open in excitement.
“Well, I don’t know for sure,” Love shrugged. “But why else would a guy suddenly be giving his girlfriend the run-around on her birthday? He definitely has something on his mind,”
“Or… he probably wants to break up with you as well?” Chiazor blurted out before sipping on some more champagne. At that, both Love and Valentina turned to her and she instantly smiled. “Ladies, come on! I’m just playing,”
“Babe, we never can tell the difference,” Valentina replied shaking her head.
“Whatever,” Chiazor said raising her hand. “Listen, Love, this life is short. If you feel Seye’s hiding something, then corner his ass and get it out of him,”
“You know, Chiazor? You’re right,” Love said getting to her feet. “I’m going to face this squarely and find out what Seye’s keeping from me,”
“Good,” Chiazor called. “Because now might be a good time,”
“What?” Love muttered, a bit puzzled.
She spun at the sound of her name just as Seye approached.
“Hey,” she called back, freezing on the spot as she stared up into his eyes.
“I’ve been wanting to talk to you since I got here,” he said to her astonishment.
“Then why have you been avoiding me all afternoon?” She demanded. “Or did you think I wouldn’t notice how…..”
“Babe, can you like just shut up and let the guy talk?” Chiazor called from her chair before raising her glass to her lips. Then Seye chuckled and took Love by her hand.
“You know I love you so much, right?”
“And you’re the primary reason I push myself harder each day, so I can give you the world if you demand it,” he said before sticking his hand into his jacket pocket. “I have something for you,”
“Oh, my God!” Love muttered as her heart almost skipped, then she briefly turned to glance at her friends. Seye took out a small red box and she froze. “Seye?”
“Open it,” he urged and he complied with trembling fingers – and then Love looked up at him with questioning eyes.
“A key?” She called, and then Seye immediately threw a thumbs-up at Henry, whom had been behind the control board with the DJ and Sound engineers. Henry pushed a button and a large picture was suddenly projected unto the large screen for all to see.
The deafening cries of shock and excitement instantly filled the entire hall.
“Happy birthday, Love,” Seye called as her eyes and mouth stayed open in shock at the sight of the black Mercedes G-Wagon.
“I don’t believe this,” she muttered with glistening eyes., then she threw her arms around his shoulder and rewarded him with a most passionate kiss. The crowd applauded now. “Thank you, Seye! Thank you! Thank you! I love you so much.”
“Hmm!” Chiazor muttered as she crossed her legs and gently applauded with her glass in hand. “Like wrapper, like dress,”
“Huh?” A puzzled Valentina let out facing her. “What does that one mean again?” She inquired, watching Chiazor refill her glass.
“He enjoys creating a show almost as much as Love does,” Chiazor replied. “They’re so meant for each other.” Then she indulged herself while Valentina simply shook her head.
“Girls, did you see what Seye got me?” Love asked facing them now. “Isn’t he the best?”
“He sure is!” Chiazor called back raising her glass.
Where is it?” Love asked Seye. “I want to see it!”
“It’s Parked right outside,” Seye replied and then she grabbed hold of his hands and rushed for the exit in excitement.
“Come on, guys! Let’s go!” She gestured to her friends, but most especially, the photographers. There was no way this was eluding the cameras.
It was about thirty-five minutes later when Love elegantly strode back through the entrance in her flowing purple dress, and no doubt, the photographer’s never had a dull moment taking as many shots possible. With the beaming smile on her face, it was obvious the new vehicle outside had totally made her day. Love could not wait for her birthday to trend all over social media.
“Love!” Valentina called as she pushed through the crowd. “Excuse me. Love! Hey, Love!”
“What is it?” Love called back, turning away from the elderly male well-wisher. He was a multi-millionaire whom had offered Love the world, just as long as she spent a weekend with him on a Caribbean island. But Chiazor had strongly put her friendship with Love on the line if she did indulge this man, for she did find him repulsive. For as far as Chiazor was concerned, Nigeria’s money was what fattened this pot-bellied man’s bank account and she had no respect for such a person. Valentina raised the phone in her hand to view – it was Love’s.
“It’s Titi-Coutour on the phone,” she called.
“Why is she calling me now?” Love frowned in reply. “She had more than enough time to reply my messages since last night. What does that unreliable thing want? In fact, tell her I’m way unavailable at the very same party she refused to attend,”
“Love!” Valentina called all serious, covering the phone’s speaker “Trust me, babe. You should take this call.”
Love had to excuse herself from “Chief” and take the phone from Valentina.
“Titi?” She called. “Give me one good reason why I should talk to you. Lord knows I shouldn’t… “
“Love, please bear with me. It’s not my fault,” the frail voice replied. “I just regained consciousness about an hour ago,”
“What?” Love called out as she tried avoiding the noisy crowd and loud music. “What do you mean you just regained consciousness? What happened to you? And why do you sound like you have cotton wool stuffed in your mouth?”
“That is because I have cotton wool stuffed in my mouth. Three of my teeth are gone!”
“Titi?! A perplexed Love called as she finally escaped into the quiet restroom. “Titi, please communicate with me because I don’t understand you right now,”
“Love, I was attacked in my store last night o!” Titi said from the other end. “My doctor said I’m not supposed to talk for at least a week, but I just had to call and tell you everything. Thank God my sister was able to sneak my phone into the ward,”
“Ah!” Love exclaimed. “Attacked? How is that possible?”
“She tracked me down all the way from Ikorodu,” Titi explained despite her muffled voice. “You should see my store, Love – everything damaged! YEH! My mouth hurts from talking already,”
“She?” Love asked. Who is this she?” She was already getting impatient as she began pacing about the restroom. “Titi, please talk because I have a party to get back to, mind you?”
“I’m so sorry, Love,” Titi responded over the phone.
“Sorry for what?” Love asked frowning.
“She was going to kill me if I didn’t tell her,” Tito replied. “Ah! My jaw! Those Ikorodu girls are so savage, oh,”
“Titi!” Love snapped.
“She wouldn’t stop beating me until I told her what happened to her dress,”
“What?” Love was shocked now. “Wait a minute, who are…..” Suddenly, her phone got snatched from behind her, and as Love spun to face this daring person….WHAM!!
The heavy slap landed right cross her left cheek.
Staggering backward, Love gasped out in shock as she looked into the most terrifying glare she had ever seen. “How dare you? Do you know who I am?” But her question was simply replied with a second slap. WHAM! “Oh, my face!” She cried out hitting the wall now.
“So, you’re the bitch who decided to ruin my wedding for me, abi?” The terrifying woman in braids barked to a now stunned Love still holding her cheek. “That is my dress you’re wearing, you high class thief!”
“Oh, my God!” Love exclaimed, then she shoved her way past this furious woman, racing for the bathroom door only to be disappointed as she tugged at the knob. Locked!
“Get back here!”
Love yelped in pain at the sudden strong grip on her expensive Brazilian weave, then she felt herself being dragged back. “Where do you think you’re going, eh?”
“SOMEBODY, HELP ME!” Love desperately screamed now. “Get your filthy hands off me, you ghetto specimen!” Then Love tried hitting her attacker but her strike was blocked.
“Too much money dey do you, abi?” The infuriated Uju vented to her face. “Good! Because you don buy my market today!” Then she shoved Love’s face against one of the bathroom mirrors, shattering it in the process. Shrieking out in both fear and pain, Love dropped to the floor as blood trickled down her face from the large gash above her right eye now. “You rich bitches! Uju called down at her. “You think you can walk over anyone with your fat cheques, isn’t it? You people think you can always get away with reaping from someone else’s sweat, eh? Well, you have messed with the wrong one today!”
“Stay away from me!” Love cried out, crawling away but only to be dragged back by the hem of her dress. “Leave me…..”
“Where do you think you’re going? I’m not done with you!” Uju let out with fire in her eyes. Then she picked a large piece of the shattered glass and pointed it down at a horrified Love. “You ruined my day,” she stated with much hate. “And so I’m going to destroy yours!” At that, she charged at Love who screamed out in horror.
“Chiazor, don’t you think you’ve had one too many already?” Henry asked as his fiancé put down her glass of Champagne.
“Or you mean am I just getting started?” She asked back and that got Henry shaking his head.
“What ever am I going to do with you?” He asked as he let her playfully stroke his chin.
“Kiss me, Henry,”
“Has anybody seen Love?”
They both looked up to see Valentina as she approached the table.
“No,” Chiazor answered. “Last time I checked, it was your job to keep tabs on her,”
“Don’t tell me she’s still in that bathroom,” Valentina said before hurrying off with her heels clicking loudly after her. “It’s time to cut the damn cake!” She called out, and both Henry and Chiazor had to laugh out at her frustration.
“Anyways,” Chiazor called to Henry. “You won’t believe it but three people asked for my card today. Apparently, they loved what I did with this place,”
“Awesome!” Henry said playfully. “I see much hope in your future,”
“Gosh!” Chiazor just had to let out. “Will you ever quit being so dramatic?’
“Not whenever I’m around you, babe,” Henry confidently stated and that sent a sudden sensation all through Chiazor, and then she gently stroked her fiance by the chin. “Where were we? Oh, yeah! Now kiss me, Henry.” Henry chuckled at the remark and then indulged her.
“You know I love you, right?” Chiazor said.
“Not as much as I adore you, babe,” Henry said as he gazed into her eyes.
The loud scream suddenly came into everyone’s earshot in the large hall. Even the DJ had to get the music to a halt
“Valentina!” Chiazor called out before getting up and rushing off, and then Henry took off after her. “Valentina, what is it?” Chiazor called out as she rushed in through the restroom doorway, and then the sight before her made her jump in horror. “Holy Mary, Mother of demons!” She cried out now clinging to both Valentina and Henry’s arms. “Love! What happened to you?”
On the toilet floor half-naked and whimpering was no one but Love, hugging her knees to her chest with her face still bloodied. Her treasured dress was nothing but countless shreds around her now.
“My dress,” they heard her mutter as she trembled allover. “My beautiful dress is ruined”
The curious spectators increased at the toilet doorway now as Love’s friends rushed to her aid. Seye had pushed his way through the crowd at the nick of time, and then Chiazor had insisted he take off his jacket to conceal Love’s bare skin.
“Love!” Seye bellowed in both shock and fury. “Who did this to you?”
“Oh, Seye!” A tearful Love sobbed as her friends helped her to her feet with the jacket concealing her bare fair skin now. “She almost killed me. She ruined my dress. How can people be so wicked?” Then she sobbed harder while Chiazor and Valentina exchanged stares. No doubt, they both had an idea what had happened.
The shutter sound was heard from the doorway and they all turned. Then another followed, and another. The camera flash lights were countless now.
“Seriously?” Chiazor called at them in a sudden rage. “How inconsiderate can you vultures be?”
“Are you all mad?” Seye suddenly exploded. “I’ll kick your bloody asses if you don’t put those cameras away” Then he charged at them but Henry was quick to retrain him while Love’s friends helped rinse the blood off her face.
“Okay, people!” Henry called at the curious guests. “Nothing to see here! Get moving!” Then he hurriedly ushered them away from the bathroom.
“Love, who did this to you?” Seye demanded.
“She’ll come back for me if I talk!” Love let out. It was obvious she was in complete shock as she trembled all over. “My dress! My beautiful dress!”
“I know, dear,” Chiazor responded, trying her possible best not to roll her eyes, as she stroked Love’s hair. “Everybody here knows. Let’s just hope this mess doesn’t go viral come tomorrow morning.”
At that, Love burst into a new splash of tears as she then fell into Seye’s arms for comfort, while Valentina threw Chiazor a stare, but she couldn’t be bothered. “Valentina, I think we should find Love something to wear, and then get her out of this place now,”
“Yes! Please do,” Seye eagerly agreed as he stroked his sobbing girlfriend’s hair, and then both ladies hurried out of the bathroom while Love cried harder now. Then Chiazor stopped and threw her friend that brief blank stare which read a big “I warned you.”
“Happy birthday, Love.” She muttered and then walked out of the bathroom.
COVER PHOTO MODEL : GIFT MGBAME.