Richie stood before a multitude of more than 200 people. These people consisted of friends, family, and clergy who had seen him grow into the man he had become. He was about to make a vow to his bride Liz. Liz had manipulated Richie’s mum to push him to make the vow to live by her side until death did them part.
How they reached here was beyond his understanding. He looked at her and thought back to two years ago when getting married was not on his list of goals for the next few years. It was not one of the things that he thought could happen in his life that soon. Let alone Liz becoming his wife.
He knew he would be a family man one day, but he did not think it would be at this age. Neither did Richie know who it would be with. For him, life was one step at a time, and he did not realize this step to marriage would be this soon.
In his life plan, ages 25 to 28 were his years of planting, watering, and cultivating his dreams—years of focusing his energy and self towards building a life for himself.
Like every normal human being, Richie wanted a good life. One with abundance. The abundance of joy, peace, love, money and everything that makes life healthy and satisfying. Well, there are shortcuts, but shortcuts are never as safe as compared to the long road. Besides, he had all the time, energy, and drive. Why not enjoy every step of the way?
This voice was distant like he was dreaming. Perhaps he was dreaming. Richie was in his world of trying to retrace the steps that led them to this day. A world that only he could go to.
The voice couldn’t stop. It came back again.
“Richie, I come up again, do you take Liz to be your lawfully…”
Oh! So it was happening. He so much wanted it to be a dream. He needed someone to pinch him so that he could confirm his touch with reality.
Liz had already said her vows. It was Richie’s turn, and the pastor had called him severally. This was the second time he was calling him.
The congregation had their eyes on Richie. What on earth could be more important to think about on this day? A day when one is getting married to the love of his life?
Well, maybe there was something more important to think about. Something that only Liz and he knew because Liz had confessed to engineering the whole process that led to that day. Playing her cards well every single day, she mentioned how she learned how much influence Richie’s mother had on him and used that to her advantage. Maybe his mum, too, knew. Richie wanted to believe that someone would know their 27-year-old son more than anyone, courtesy of the years of raising him.
He had repeatedly spoken about his life plan to anybody who qualified as vital to him. It was a song that he joyfully sang whenever he was with friends and family. What more important was there to life other than focusing on how to maximize one’s years here on earth? To him, there wasn’t.
Up to the age of 26, his mother was very supportive. She always encouraged Richie to keep pushing himself and avoid girls. Yeah, that’s what she said.
Her speeches would go like this, “Richie, you have grown to be a very good person. One of the blessings I count when counting my blessings. Your plans are good and if you keep on it, you are going far.”
When Richie thought it was over and they could talk about other things, she lightly added, “but keep girls at bay as of now,” with a soft laugh.
These conversations were sometimes very uncomfortable, especially when they ended like that. However uncomfortable, the point usually got home.
He knew it was a ride-or-die situation with his mum and that she would be on his side until the end. However when he clocked 26 things started changing.
Had he known Liz was behind this sudden change, he could never have stressed himself the way he did. He certainly could not have kept the distance that he did.
Mum withdrew. She started calling him less, and the mother-son conversations that mostly encouraged Richie to keep on with what he was doing started reducing. The shift could be heard in her words too, she said, “you know you’ve now grown. You are not young anymore. When will you come with your girlfriend?”
Though gentle, this was not as gentle as it sounded. To him, this was such a sudden change in perspective. It also sounded like they had been having different conversations before. To him, it started to appear that his mother was entertaining these thoughts because he needed someone to talk to. He once asked her about this because it felt very uncomfortable on his end. “Why the sudden change of thought mum, weren’t you the one encouraging me to keep on pushing, and life would give way?”
Mama had a way of making it so natural. “It’s only natural for a mother to yearn for grandchildren.”
“I think the time will come, but not now,” Richie replied.
“Son, I know. But I just want you to know that it’s natural for a parent to see their children settled.”
As much as Richie tried to probe, it was evident that she wasn’t telling him why she had changed. So, he left it there and made his own conclusion. Richie concluded that the mother-son relationship connection had gotten weaker with time and with this conclusion, Richie kept his distance.
In the background of all this was Liz. Everything started when she attended Richie’s 26th birthday party. Richie and Liz did not know each other before this party. Richie had invited a friend who in turn invited Liz. So she attended the party because they had a common friend.
Like how every other acquaintanceship starts, theirs was not any different. A simple greeting here, a concerned call there, and after a short while, the two were having deep conversations about life, plans, and everything. For Richie, these were just conversations and nothing more. Besides, he needed someone to share with about all that was going on in his life.
One day, in the middle of a conversation about Cardi-B and Offset, Liz asked what Richie thought about marriage.
“Liz, I think marriage is serious and requires a higher level of seriousness and readiness.”
More and more probing about what he meant by what he said made him open the door to his soul on everything.
The acquaintanceship grew into a very close friendship. Their conversations happened daily. Calls, WhatsApp, and texts kept them in touch.
One day, in the middle of their conversation, an issue relating to their parents came up. Suddenly, Liz was speaking like a preacher. The conviction in her voice was very obvious. She insisted that one ought to listen to their parents even if they were adults.
Mum, on this side, is asking for a “friend,”. Liz, on the other side, is a friend who insists on Richie the importance of listening to one’s parents and heeding whatever they say. Liz was the closest girlfriend that Richie had at that time. A friend who was a lady; the type of friend mum could have been asking for.
To avoid all the questions from mum about bringing a friend, Richie bowed to the pressure, and they one day walked to his home for dinner.
After a few pleasantries, his mother said, “I am glad you brought your beautiful friend to see us.”
After dinner, Richie’s mother invited her to visit whenever she was around. A few days later, his mother commented about Liz in ways that left Richie wondering. “Some beautiful babies are sure to come.”
Though Richie was left with questions, he let them slide.
After a few more of these interactions, it was evident that Richie’s mother had gone beyond seeing Liz as just Richie’s friend. This is because one day, she looked at Richie sternly and said, “Liz is well-bred and from a good family financially. I think you’ll have to marry her.”
Again, he was left wondering if his mother was serious. Richie asked if she was serious, and you know how African mothers can be. Sadly, there was no other way, only her way. Especially because of the strong bond that Richie used to have with his mother and the love and respect he had for her. Though he was an adult and he could have set a boundary from this influence, Richie had never said no to his mother. It was her way or the highway. This phrase was more practical in his home than in any other home.
A few months later, they were planning a traditional wedding and a church wedding. Money was not a problem since Liz’s family was loaded. Everything was rolling, and fast forward, here they were at the final planning visit before they got married.
Richie had visited Liz at her parents’ house and on leaving, he went to the washrooms. He took some time before getting out because he was admiring their bathroom. A chance that Liz took to have a chat with her friend Anna. “The plan is going on well. Neither Richie nor his mother seem to realize that I am behind all these changes and sudden marriage intentions in the family. Thanks to you and your manipulation skills bestie”. This conversation goes on for a few more minutes. All this while, Richie was eavesdropping on the whole conversation as Liz explained how she had manipulated both him and his mother. It broke his heart but they were too far along for him to stop the wedding.
Richie was only physically present at the altar. Deep down, he was grieving a life he knew he may never get a chance to live and grieving his close relationship with his mum. He didn’t know whether to be hopeful that with the affluence of her family, maybe there would be a way for Richie to pursue his dreams or that it was gone forever.
All of a sudden, courage surged within. For a moment, Richie felt like there was something he could do to turn things around. A ray of hope, though he was afraid. He knew that this was the only time to change this situation. He would disappoint a lot of people, but it was necessary.
Richie smiled and brought his focus back to the altar. He looked at Liz and said, “I am not going to lie. I don’t want to do this and you know why. All this is happening because of a plan you made with Anna and not a genuine love of two people who love each other and have decided to live the rest of their lives together. I am sorry. I can’t marry you.”
He walked out and left everyone talking as his mother ran after him to find out what he meant.
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