A week later, Ryan and Olivia came back, after being summoned by her parents.
Katelyn swiped a hand at the back to smoothen her dress before slumping onto a small couch; beside Justin, who sat in an armchair, with arms crossed over his chest. Olivia stooped over a small
round table at the center, with a coffeepot in her hands. Everything was silent, except for the chirping nightingales on the outside and the gurgling coffee as Olivia poured it into the cups.
She handed Ryan a cup of coffee and sat beside him on the big couch. “Geez, this silence is menacing.”
“You’re not taking coffee?” asked Katelyn.
Olivia ran a hand over her tummy, a habit she’d become fond of lately. “I read it’s not good for me in my condition.”
“Speaking of which, have you decided on when the wedding’s to be? We should aim to have it before lent,” said Katelyn.
Justin held the coffee near his mouth and turned to Ryan. “What do you think?”
“When?” Ryan pressed Olivia’s hand as he did a quick mental calculation. “Err, today is Tuesday, we have three days left. Let’s have it on Saturday.”
Katelyn couldn’t suppress laughter. “Are you crazy, that’s impossible.”
“Well, next week Monday then.”
Even Justin laughed. “Have you been to a wedding before?”
“Yeah, all that’s needed is exchanging vows. The rest is superfluous.”
Katelyn sipped the coffee and cocked her head. “Well, the priest must announce the marriage banns for three consecutive Sundays before you can be allowed to marry.” She thumped the cup on the table
and wiped off her palm the spillage on her dress. “Sorry, this coffee’s so hot. Anyway, that’s already three weeks, not to mention the premarital counseling sessions you’ll be required to attend.”
Olivia’s mouth opened, and her eyebrows rose. “Mo…m, what’s all that for?”
“The counseling is meant to give you guys an opportunity to fully understand what you’re getting into, and the announcing of banns is to allow anyone with any valid reason to object to your
“Then we’d rather just go to the AG’s office and do a civil wedding.”
“No. No. No. The church must bless your union.” Katelyn crossed herself. “There must be a way out.”
Justin ran his fingers through his beard. “I’ll talk to Father Anthony. He’s a personal friend.” Then he turned his eyes to Ryan. “Sorry, I didn’t get what you meant by superfluous?”
Ryan tapped into the knowledge of the canon law he’d learned over the years as a member of the society. “As a sacrament, what constitutes a valid marriage is the exchange of the vows. The rest is
not really mandatory— “
“He’s mad.” Katelyn laughed, draping her arms over her husband’s shoulders. “But I like his optimism.”
Justin chuckled, shaking his head. “Why don’t you guys come up with your plan then we discuss after an hour?”
Olivia leading the way, they ascended a flight of steps to the upper living room. She laid her shoulder against the door and pushed. It opened to the floor to ceiling windows; behind which the
nightingales chirped on the trees swaying across the windowpanes. High-end designer furniture marched the woolen carpet and soft jazz drifted in the background. He’d never been to this part of the
She sat next to him on the big couch just opposite the fireplace. “What’s up? You look stressed out. Did mum say something? She’s just happy for us.”
He mussed her hair. “Not at all, she made a lot of sense. I’m just enjoying the music.”
She stuck her tongue out. “Whoa, I’ve never seen you that absorbed.”
“Thiz music is deep.”
“You don’t speak Mandinka, are you even understanding anything?”
“The better. I guess if I understood that language, my mind would’ve distracted my soul.”
The piece was by a lady from a small country in West Africa. Its solemnity winged his mind to the invisible world, more real than his own existence. Here, no other part of himself existed other
than his spirit. He couldn’t capture in words what he felt because his mind understood nothing. The music only spoke to his soul.
“So, mum and dad would be here any minute. What do we tell them?”
“Oh.” He snapped out of his trance. “Seems we’ll just have to wait until three weeks are over. After the banns are announced.”
She stuck her tongue out. “That was never in question. How about sending out invitations, choosing a venue for the reception, caterers, wedding clothes, the rings… do you even have a best man?”
What the hell! He didn’t see the relevance of all this hullabaloo. Why waste time and energy on things that only threatened to delay their marriage? But he couldn’t speak his mind for fear of
“I guess we just organize for something small— “
“We’ve been staunch parishioners, and he knows us so well, how can he refuse to wed them just because she’s pregnant?” Katelyn was saying as she walked into the door with Justin. “What if I hadn’t
disclosed that fact?”
Justin slouched on the big couch on the opposite side. “Honey, the priest didn’t refuse, just said it will take longer coz she’s expectant. I’m going to talk to him right away.”
She directed a smile at Olivia and Ryan. “Sorry for my outbursts,” then kissed Justin’s forehead. “Maybe I’m overreacting. I leave it for you to handle with the priest.”
Justin passed a hand round her waist and kissed her. “Don’t worry, it’ll be fine.”
Ryan had no intention of cheating on Olivia, but just looking at how her parents had made up after what happened, he hoped she too would be able to forgive him if such misfortune were to befall
them. Justin and Katelyn’s sparkling eyes expressed a longing for each other. No doubt, the old folks were in love again.
“So, have you come up with any plan?” asked Justin.
Ryan jerked his head in their direction. “Um, we were thinking of just organizing something small, where only close friends and relatives will be invited.”
Justin struggled to suppress laughter but failed, evoking a burst of general laughter from everyone. “Okay, the wedding planner is on the way, just give her whatever information she wants. I’m
going to talk to Father Anthony and see how soon we can have the wedding.”
When Justin and Katelyn had gone out of the room, he took Olivia’s hand in his. “A wedding planner?”
She tittered. “I kinda suspected dad would make this a big event. I’m the firstborn and his favorite daughter.”
“Goodness me, I don’t like big crowds.”
She clasped her hands together over her belly. “Better get used to it. Um, I can’t imagine the priest is reluctant to wed us just coz I’m pregnant.”
“That’s not even him. According to the canon law, we were not supposed to have sex before getting married,” he said. “Our case is considered fornication.”
“Of course, not just the canon law but even from the bible.” She furrowed her forehead. “But it was our first time to have sex and we’ll always be faithful to each other. Can that be called
fornication when we want to solemnize such a union?”
Ryan lowered his eyes. “Knowing your dad as I do, he’ll be able to convince the priest. He always gets whatever he wants.”
“Our dad, not my dad.”
It is our first time to have sex and we’ll always be faithful to each other…
He loved her innocence and vowed in his heart never, ever to betray her trust. But her utterance just made it so difficult for him to carry out his resolve to tell her the truth before they got
married. Would she not faint if she learned he wasn’t a virgin when meeting her? No, he’d rather not say, than risk hurting her. After all, he wasn’t obliged to tell her anything. It was
always good to say the truth, but not all truths were supposed to be said when there was no need.
A faint line appeared between her eyebrows. “Looks like you’re hesitating to tell me something.”
“No, it’s nothing.”
“Lemme decide for myself. Tell me before I also confess my little secret.” She looked in his eyes. “But I’ll only tell you if you promise not to give me up, regardless.”
What could it possibly be? For a moment, crazy ideas ran in his mind that he even forgot he’d been her first.
He cracked his knuckles. “Go first, what is it all about?”
“See, you’re already annoyed.”
His breaths quickened. “No, I’m not, just tell me.”
“Okay, several guys tried to hit on me at Campus but I never paid attention. But there was this guy, Richie, whom we became close.”
“You still call him Richie?”
She looked at her fingernails. “You know him?”
“No. What’s his name? Richard or Richie?”
She rolled her eyes. “Um, Richard. But everyone used to call Richie— “
“Did anything happen?”
She rubbed her shoulder. “Like what?”
“Did you guys have sex?” he asked, massaging the back of his neck.
She shuddered. “What? Can’t believe this is coming from you of all the people. Yes, I have loved before, kissed, and even had sex before I met you, but only in my dreams. You burst my cherry and
you very well know it. How can you speak of— “
He slid his tongue in her mouth and started kissing her. “C’mon babe, have you lost your sense of humor?”
She eased away and wiped her lips with the back of her palm. “Go away, stop messing with my mind?”
“Sorry, that was an awful joke for sure. You almost beat me up.”
She put a finger on his lips. “Ah, stop it. You’re making me blush. It’s your turn. Tell me everything I need to know.”
“I also want you to promise you’ll take me regardless of what I say.”
“Of course, nothing can make me change my mind. The only thing I’d have had a problem with was if you were not chaste. But I’m happy to be the one who got you out of the celibate life--”
Good heavens! Sweat spread on his brow. He nearly told her the truth before she spoke. It was indeed his lucky day. Even before he opened his mouth to speak, the door flung open, and Rose came
running to congratulate her.
“I’m so happy for you.” Rose kissed her hand. “When is it to be?”
“Thank you. We’ve just started with the plans, but very soon.”
Then, the other house helps also came in to congratulate her, pushing a trolley with a big chocolate cake on it.
Mademoiselle Gloria, as she was called by the whole household, came last and embraced Olivia, tears welling in her eyes. “My little girl, I didn’t know I’ll one day see this day. It’s just
the other day I was changing your diapers!”
“She’s grown so fast!” said another.
“I’m so happy.”
“We wish you happiness.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” said Olivia, easing herself from Mademoiselle Gloria. She moved past her to embrace each. “Thank you. You’re so kind.”
One of them rubbed Olivia’s belly.
Olivia smiled. “How did you know?”
The house help hid a smile in her hand. “Everyone knows.”
Olivia cackled and put a hand on the house help’s shoulders. “You guys have eagle’s eyes. It’s barely a month.”
They all laughed.
She moved around, touching cheeks and pressing hands with all of them.
“What a surprise!” Olivia moved to the trolley. “Thank you so much.”
“Welcome. We’re so happy for you.”
“Wow, whose idea was this?” Olivia carefully lifted the slice of chocolate that had been carved in her own image. “I’ll keep this.”
“I came up with that,” said Rose, smiling.
Natasha, David, and Carol ran in, screaming past the bubbles and balloons floating and drifting in the air. The house helps stacked unopened presents, wrapped in smooth shiny wrapping papers in one
corner of the room. Silk laces had been carefully tied around each parcel. The children loomed over the trolley which held the cake, filling their mouths with the icings and sweets.
“When did you guys plan all these?” Olivia turned to another trolley being pushed in, carrying drinks and surrounded by brightly colored bowls that were filled with sandwiches, popcorns, crisps,
Katelyn also came back, accompanied by a tall fat lady with a round stomach that reminded him of a hippopotamus.
“Meet Anastacia, the wedding planner your dad talked about,” said Katelyn.
Olivia offered her hand. “Glad to meet you.”
Ryan made a slight bow and waved.
Though happy, he felt a little awkward. His reserved personality never gelled with the publicity stunt on display.
About two hours later, Justin returned.
He sat next to his wife with a bowl of crisps in his hands. “So, everything is set, we’ll have the wedding before ash Wednesday.”
“That’s in three weeks.” Katelyn turned to Anastacia. “I hope we can work with that time.”
Ryan felt exceedingly happy and important for the way Justin and Katelyn treated him with dignity. They consulted him in every detail of the wedding and whenever the two couldn’t agree on anything,
Justin would simply say, referring to Ryan, “He’s the boss, we go by what he says.”
But he could tell they did this more out of respect than really seeking his guidance. And so, he abandoned himself to their judgment and agreed entirely to everything they suggested.
“Honey, I know you’ve always wanted to see the Eiffel Towers. I choose France for your honeymoon but you guys feel free to go somewhere else,” said Justin, picking a crisp to his mouth.
“Oh, daddy, thank you. That’s where we’ll go.” Olivia scurried to her dad and embraced him. “You’re the best dad in the world.”
Katelyn teased, looking at Ryan. “What if he doesn’t like France?”
“I love France,” said Ryan, eyes still wide open.
Justin asked, gesturing at him. “So, what do you choose for the procession, a horse-drawn wagon or vintage car?”
Ryan had still not yet recovered. “Ah, we can do either.”
Justin looked at his daughter. “This is a once in a lifetime event, you better make it memorable.”
“I’ll go with the horses. Unique and stylish,” said Olivia.
“What do you say?” Katelyn looked at Ryan.
How could Ryan object to anything? He was in complete shock. Just going through the events of the wedding day and what these would cost astounded him. But thank heavens, money wasn’t an issue here.
Being part of Justin’s family was the best thing to have happened to him, ever.
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