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Fading || by Stanley Umezulike


HAVE YOU EVER SUFFERED HEARTBREAK? One that made the rest of the world come crashing down. One that sent your head spinning as you struggled with unanswered questions, and fear mixed with pain as you realize that ‘forever together’ had turned to dust.

That was me. But mine was different. It was cruel.

Today, I watched the only woman I thought I could ever love say ‘I do’ to another man. Natasha. I never saw it coming. No signs, no premonitions, no warning. It was as though our love and bond never existed.

Two nights ago, I was inside her, skin to skin, as we made love and whispered sweet words to each other’s ears. And the worst, she made me promise never to break her heart. Today, I watched in horror as a stranger slid a ring through her finger.

Natasha, the woman I thought I knew on a deeper level. She showed me paradise and then burnt it down.

I was stunned when I saw it yesterday on her Facebook post—her wedding invitation. Hundreds of her Facebook friends commented ‘congratulations’ but few friends that knew us slid into my inbox to ask me ‘is this not your Natasha, the woman you celebrated her birthday last month?’ I didn’t reply. What did they want me to say?

This morning, I took a taxi to Deeper Life Bible Church at Ikoyi, the venue of the wedding. I sat on a pew at the back and watched the scenes unfold like a movie. One I would never want my enemy to watch.

Before the wedding ended, I left and waited outside, beside a motorcycle parked close to a tree. I watched as the crowd poured out of the building along with the bridesmaids, the men in suits, and the couple who wore their bright smiles.

I bided my time. The newly wedded finished taking pictures and the bridegroom hurried to greet two elderly couples I guessed were important visitors. Then I took my chance and rushed to meet her.

The whole place smelled of new money. Most of the cars were SUVs, new and with tinted glass. I didn’t need a seer to tell me that Natasha’s husband was super-rich. When I reached her, I took a minute to admire her designer wedding gown. It must have cost a fortune. The kind of wealth she believed I would never give her. My chest tightened as sadness washed over me.

She turned, saw me, and let out a gasp.

“Why?” I whispered as my eyes burned with unshed tears. I had a million questions as my brow furrowed and I struggled to make sense of what was happening.

She opened her mouth to speak but closed it. I stared at her in disbelief. No, this is impossible. My Natasha can’t do this to us.

“I…” she started.

“Honey, your presence is needed here,” her husband’s voice vibrated.

She glanced at me with a look of pity in her eyes. “You need to move on, Desmond. I wish you all the best as you continue to search for a job,” she said and bolted out of my sight.

Her words would haunt me for days. A mockery, perhaps. This explained why she left a graduate of Petroleum Engineering who had been hunting for a job. We’d been together for four years, starting right from when we were both undergraduates in the same University. Natasha studied Theatre Arts and had always nurtured the dream of becoming an actress. I’d been doing contract work for an Engineering firm. It was temporarily. It was now clear that Natasha wanted more. Our hope for a brighter future together had faded the moment she decided to tread on a new path.

I used the next twenty minutes to inquire about the man she married. One of the men in suits told me his name was Paschal. He was an international businessman based in Malaysia. He didn’t fail to add that he was a multi-millionaire, a level Natasha believed I would never attain.

I stood there feeling so small amid wealth and a blatant display of luxury. The pain in my chest matured, and I had no option but to leave and return to the life I left behind.

***

I sat on the couch in my living room reading the day’s newspaper when the doorbell rang.

“Charles, find out who is at the door,” I said to my houseboy.

“Yes, sir.” He rushed and opened the door and I watched as the visitor's shadow loom larger. I rose from my seat and froze when I saw Natasha. I could not believe it. Tears were in her eyes.

“How did you find me? What are you doing here?” I let out.

Her presence triggered painful memories. Memories I’d buried deep in my mind. 

So much had changed in three years. Last year, I finally got a job as a Petroleum Engineer in a new oil company operating in Niger Delta. I now lived in a three-bedroom flat and my life was filled with the kind of peace I’d never experienced.

How did Natasha know all this? Why was she here? My eyes held her gaze and I shuddered. Natasha, once a lady with commanding beauty, now looked withdrawn. I observed scars across her neck and wondered what was going on.

“I’m so sorry.” Her tearful voice was a whisper.

“What are you doing here?” I asked again. “You are a married woman.”

“I didn’t know I married a monster.” Her voice was punctuated with regret.

“I don’t understand.”

“Paschal has been arrested,” she said.

“Who is Paschal?” I had forgotten a lot of things that happened in my past.

“My husband.” Her voice was choked with stifled sobs. “I never knew he was trafficking drugs in Malaysia. Everything he told me was a lie. He is now in prison in that country.”

Tears welled in my eyes. Her words echoed in my mind as I thought of what could have been if the woman I once loved had believed in me. 

“I’m so sorry to hear this, Natasha.” As I was saying this, my pregnant wife, Sheila, joined me in the living room.

“Honey, who is…?” Her eyes widened when she saw Natasha.

Natasha let out a gasp when she saw her. “You, Sheila, I thought you were my best friend. You married my man!”

“No, you abandoned him when he needed you the most. You married a man with Benz,” Sheila fought back.

I stared at Natasha and observed that she was lost for words. I watched as she turned her back and began to walk away. Sheila went back inside but I stayed there as I watched her shadows fading, not just from my presence, but from my heart.



MEET THE AUTHOR:


STANLEY UMEZULIKE is an award-winning Nigerian author. He is the founder of Prolific Fiction Writers Community on Facebook, where he helps fiction writers gain clarity and learn the art of storytelling. Stanley writes intriguing crime fiction, family drama, and romance set in tropical Africa. He lives in Awka, Nigeria. Stanley loves to hear from readers. Follow or drop him a note on Instagram @stanley_umezulike, Twitter @stanumezulike and Facebook at Stanley Umezulike, Author.


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