Fit For A Crown - The Returning Story

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Chapter 9

It started out as a mere idea, which popped out of an old note and into his head. It came to him uninvited. At first it seemed vile and he repelled it with every bit of common sense in him. But it came knocking again. Each time the thought revisited him, he toyed with it, rolling it over and over in his mind until it got comfortable and decided to stay there. The more Edwin brooded over this strange idea, the less despicable it sounded.

He confided in only two people about how he entertained thoughts of reconciliation with Stella. His mother was the more indomitable one. She would more readily have embraced someone else: Omore, the lady from across the street, her friend’s daughter - anyone else. Edwin suspected this and came prepared to draw the line, only to find that her concern was of a different nature. While she had no problem offering the couple a second chance, she wondered if menopause was not already knocking on Stella’s door. Had she not aged since the first time they took her as a wife? Had she not lain fallow for too long? Certainly there were much younger fish to be caught from the sea. Her fears over her son’s choice were those of any hopeful grandmother in waiting, yet Edwin was caught off guard by them. It was not an objection that could be readily addressed but he answered by saying he knew the Lord was seeking godly seed and he believed their home would be good ground for raising them.

His second confidante welcomed the idea more readily, saying it was the best thing he had heard since news of the birth of his latest grandchild.

‘I’ve always been too traditional for more modern minds,’ Mr. Aigbe admitted when Edwin bounced his thoughts off him. ‘Even the old schoolers call me old school. If there is one thing Mrs. Aigbe still accuses me of now and again, it is being too rigid. My children tell me: “Dad you should change with the times” and I, in turn, always reply that certain things are meant to remain the way they always were. So I side with Edede on this.’

He stretched out his hand to offer a commendatory handshake, but Edwin did not take it and it was not his mother’s concerns that prevented him from doing so. He had not even spoken to Stella about this yet. The older man’s optimism was contagious, but then so were Oskar’s doubts.

How can you even trust her? Oskar had asked.

Gazing at him intently, Mr. Aigbe seemed to read Edwin’s mind.

‘Oh, but you are not fully persuaded about this,’ he decided as he dropped his hand to his side. ‘Second chances are a big risk and I’m not sure you are ready to take such a step.’

‘Excuse me sir,’ Edwin protested. ‘Only a minute ago you were all for the idea.’

‘That’s because I thought you were sold out on it as well. Your reservations have burst the bubble.’ Wrinkles formed across his forehead and after a protracted silence, he continued. ‘See me. I’m a seventy six year old man. Who is to say that my sixty nine year old wife will not wake up tomorrow and decide to leave me for a younger man?’

At first Edwin was taken aback by the thought. Then he noticed that though the older man’s face was serious, there was a trace of humor in his eyes. Throwing his head back, he reveled in the joke.

‘Ah! Sir, but that’s impossible,’ he declared in between heaves of laughter.

‘Why so, son?’

‘It can never happen!’ Edwin exclaimed, his amusement stalling at Mr. Aigbe’s insistence.

‘How can you be so sure?’

The humor was gone from the older man’s eyes and Edwin could barely manage a smile now. ‘The very idea is ridiculous,’ he said.

‘Is it?’

No response.

‘More ridiculous than the thought of Stella repeating her error?’

Edwin stared at him dumbfounded, not sure where they were going with this. Eventually, Mr. Aigbe was forced to laugh at his consternation.

‘All I’m saying is that you seem to trust my wife more than you do yours,’ he noted.

‘That’s because of what you have built over time.’ Edwin defended his position.

‘Well I hope you don’t think that the likelihood of such an occurrence simply diminished with age. Besides, who is to say she wouldn’t have left me ten years ago or maybe twenty or even a year after we were wed?’

When again Edwin seemed at a loss of how to respond, Mr. Aigbe offered to bail him out.

‘Now you must have guessed what I’m driving at. We both know that neither I nor Mrs. Aigbe would walk away from our matrimonial home. We don’t think of it. We don’t fear it nor have either one of us considered it for even a day.’

‘I never considered it would happen to me, either,’ Edwin remarked pensively.

Mr. Aigbe nodded. ‘So in your case, there has been a breach of trust. I don’t doubt it when you say you have forgiven her, but you can leave her forgiven from afar. Coming back together will require much more.’ He paused. ‘Don’t even consider such a step if you can’t bridge the trust gap. I don’t think either of you can handle another breakup.’

Edwin swallowed hard as the words sunk in. Indeed they could not.

‘The absence of trust makes a shaky foundation,’ the older man continued. ‘You’ll spend the rest of your life being suspicious. It’s not worth your while.’ He looked pensive. ‘If you ask me, I think Stella will also have her fair share of trust issues to deal with.’

‘How can you say that?’ Edwin objected. ‘The infidelity wasn’t mine.’

‘Precisely,’ Mr. Aigbe argued. ‘In this case, you were the saint and she was the sinner. Now you are prepared to begin on a clean slate. Starting afresh is a big risk - and I don’t mean only for you. Have you considered that this move makes Stella vulnerable to reprisal? How can she be sure that you would not use your remarriage as a platform for revenge?’

‘I wouldn’t even think of such a thing.’ Edwin replied with indignation.

’Ah but remember you are the one on the pedestal. You can probably do no wrong. If you choose to misbehave this second time around, it would seem justifiable. No one would blame you, after all, she set the precedent and it would only make the scores even. You should be ready to relinquish that big advantage and walk with heron level ground.’ He took a minute to catch his breath and then added. ’Give yourselves time to rebuild your relationship without fear of breach or backlash from either side. And son, if you and Stella pull this off, in forty four years’ time - the Lord keeping you both - you’ll have a more fascinating story to tell than Mrs. Aigbe and myself.’

The single-bedroom flat which the real estate agent found was the only one that was yet unoccupied of the six adjoining flats in the compound. With the ever growing population, Arese knew that it was not long before this apartment was snatched up by a new arrival to the city. Situated in a mildly populated area, the flat was modest and affordable, and well suited for the present need. Arese had known Stella for a while and understood her own urgency, so she was not surprised when the latter received news of the vacant flat with elation. Stella was relieved to be finally getting a place of her own and when Arese took her over for sighting, she liked it immediately. Hugging the agent, she accepted the terms without any fuss.

‘I knew you would come through, my dear.’ She chimed. ‘Lock it down as quickly as possible.’

As Arese handled payments and other housing modalities, Stella headed for Edwin’s. Given all the support he had rendered during her court battle and afterwards, she was determined that he should be the first to know how quickly she was bouncing back. She grew increasingly excited as she described the place to him in full detail including its proximity to commercial spots, the spacious front yard and the inbuilt kitchen furnishing.

’I haven’t told anyone about it yet, not even Otas,’ she concluded. ‘Now I don’t want to make it sound more luxurious than it really is, but I’ll fix it up in a few weeks and then you can come and see it.’ She paused, unsure of what to make of the lack of enthusiasm from his end. ‘Of course I’ll have to find somewhere else to set up my studio. The flat is too small to accommodate it, but it is cozy and will be my permanent home. My sis and her hubby have been wonderful, but I think I’ve stretched their hospitality to its limit and I can hardly wait to move out.’

Edwin finally spoke. ‘Did you say your permanent home?’

‘Well at least for the next twenty four months,’ she clarified. ‘I’m paying two years rent in advance, so no one can challenge me or ask me to move out prematurely like what happened with the last house.’

‘Stella, I’m going to challenge you.’ His voice was piercing and she balked in surprise.

‘Why? At least see the place before you complain. Or is it the location you have an issue with?’

‘Oh I don’t need to see it. I believe you when you say it’s a great place and I’m sure its fine where it is, but I want to offer you something much better.’ Edwin smiled. ‘No, I don’t have another vacant apartment up for rent, but I do have a vacant place in my life which I would like you to fill.’

She stared at him. Was he courting her? She had a mild feeling that he might be because he had hinted at it once before, but she was almost afraid to assume.

‘Of course if you are ready to occupy,’ he said, adding another piece of clarity to her puzzled mind. ‘Then you wouldn’t need that permanent home anymore because we’ll be sharing mine.’

Stella treaded softly, as she tried to understand him once and for all. ’Are you suggesting we give ‘us’ another chance?’

‘That’s my proposal,’ he replied. ‘I’m asking you to come back home. It’s where you belong. Of course if you accept, it would be a good idea for you to remain at Otas’ place until we re-do our ’I do’s.’ ’

A calm and easy silence followed, which neither felt the need to break. All that needed to be said for that moment had been said. The change in Stella’s expression showed she was ready to take Edwin up on his offer long before she voiced her acceptance of it.

But even in her euphoria, Stella knew there were daunting issues to be tackled, least of which was letting her little sister know she would have to put up with her for some additional months or explaining to her agent-friend why she would not be taking the vacant flat anymore. While Otas was extremely agreeable, Arese was not impressed by the change in plans.

‘This does not make my work easy,’ she declared when Stella spoke to her. ’You better have a good reason for backing out after payment has been made to the landlord.’

‘Edwin and I are getting hitched again,’ Stella attempted a simple explanation.

Arese looked lost. ‘Edwin? Who’s Edwin?’

Stella shot her a sharp look. ‘Edwin, my first husband - you remember him, don’t you? You were there when we tied the knot?’

‘Yeah and I was also there when you untied it,’ her friend protested.

‘Well we are tying it back,’ Stella’s reply was firm. ‘Our separation is over. We both agreed it didn’t work well for us.’

‘The separation didn’t work? What does that mean?’

‘It means we are ending it and coming back together.’ Stella eyed Arese and then scolded her. ‘Wipe that look of your face. Not everything is meant to make sense and you cannot be more baffled than I am.’

She bit her lip. It would be futile to try and unravel all that the future held, right now. There was a time for everything; much of which would unfold only in later years.

With the idea evolving from a mere thought into a strong consideration and then a deep-driven conviction with plans for the reunion underway, Stella could not help wishing that people would mind their business. Not that she expected everyone to understand what she and Edwin were doing, but she wished they wouldn’t attempt to mount so much pressure on them. She heard they were even placing bets on how long it would last this time.

Oskar warned that if these two persisted in getting back together, he would not grace the occasion. It was nothing personal, he explained, it was just that he had since lost confidence in them as a couple and could not bring himself to believe in them anymore. Accusing Edwin of being naive, he argued that there were strong reasons why they became exes in the first place. It had failed once, so what was to be expected the second time? Edwin wrote off Oskar’s outburst as the natural reaction to their deviation from his mental script, while Stella summed up her frame of mind in an emotion-laden memoir to herself:

The wedlock was a wonderful thing. I had lived in anticipation of such a day for years. Actualizing that long-cherished intent to proceed to one’s marital home is a dream come true for many young women. Such was my experience. It left me ecstatic and the jubilation overflowed to those who also expected it of me.

The separation on the other hand was not something we hoped for. That a match, supposedly made in heaven, would turn sour on earth and became a hellish confinement was too painful to accept. It started long before I moved out physically. Edwin and I cared for each other but did not know how to live together. My eyes wandered and it was only a matter of time before my mind and then my whole being followed. I’m not sure which was stronger, the pain of this second experience or the joy of the one that preceded it.

This reunion is another matter entirely. It is the strangest phenomenon of all and an alien experience, not only for me but for others who have heard of our plan. Not many share our persuasion and fewer still offer a fitting response. As we seek to bridge our rift, there are those who are for and those who are against us. People are running a vehement campaign out there, in hopes of swaying others to their side. They leave no room for neutral ground as though the final outcome of our decision depends on which viewpoint garners the most votes.All these, to me, are poor deterrents.

The birth of a human life is divinely designed as a miracle of nature. It is the natural disposition to nourish a new life and watch it grow. The maturing of youth, the ageing of the elderly and the burying of the dead - these have all been set in order in the course of creation. It is one wonder to give life to what never existed, but to bring to life what has already died; that’s what only Jesus does. It’s His prerogative. Convinced of this, Edwin and I have shut out the noise coming from those wailing over the demise of our marriage and ridiculing the possibility of a new future.

The fluidity of Stella’s emotions flowed freely through her pen. The only uncertainty she expressed was how best to go about rebuilding the relationship now that both minds were made up. The courtship of two young ‘birds’ experiencing love for the first time was a far cry from that of those recovering from a heart - and home - break. She dared a bit of fantasy, penning thoughts of Edwin winning her heart all over again and adoring the ground on which she walked. She filled the pageswith musings of being swept off her feet and smothered with whirling emotions that left her giddy. She wrote of a perfect love and a perfect marriage. Yet amid the goose bumps that erupted from her head to her toes, she paused and chided herself for having her head in the clouds. Her experiences had taught her better. With a wry smile, she flipped over to a blank page and changed the stroke of her pen.

He is no romantic. Though I’m aware of that already, the plainness of this second proposal has reminded me of his down to earth character. I crave some more sensitivity as we go forward. Still, after all these years, I’m reminded that not everything was wrong with our first romance and we have begun to recall the things we did right before the little foxes crept in to spoil our love-vine.

Stella wrote with an unusual fluency that evening. She skipped dinner, not because she felt withdrawn, but because she could hardly keep pace with the overflow of reminiscences, hopes and dreams that poured out from within her. Several pages in her journal filled up quickly. Only there, on ink and paper, could she blend her fantasies and realities together so well that it became difficult to tell which one was which. Like switching from a foreign language to her mother tongue, the experience provided a sweet release for her most sensational thoughts.

It was dark and the house was quiet when she finally emptied her emotional reservoir. Edwin called and she answered the phone, teasing him about being up so late. She still had not fulfilled her promise to show him her little book. With the intensity of tonight’s thoughts, she doubted if she ever would. Closing the journal, she placed it aside and soon forgot about it as they slipped into a mixture of deep talk and sweet nothings - a conversation that would extend way past midnight and gradually bring them along the path of reacquainting with each other’s uniquely odd ways.

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