It was a society wedding. The type where there were a lot of high profile people, no celebrities or sports people, just a lot of old money, a few politicians with old names, and their highly indulged offspring.
It was noisy, but it was a refined sort of noise; well-modulated voices of society matrons in conversation, their exclamations as they met the children of their friends – potential spouses for their children, the deep laughter of men, not too loud, just self-possessed, the way rich men laughed, not the loud, self-conscious cackling often attributed to the obsequious poor. Above the din, the live band played, alternating between old classics and modern sounds.
They were beautiful, Ada thought, these people. The women, with their expensive laces, sweet smelling perfumes and beautiful jewelry, – not the loud, heavy jewels of the classless rich, but subdued pieces of gold, pearls and precious stones that didn’t need to scream to get your attention. The men, with their distinguished airs, deep voices and impeccable manners, and their children, young, beautiful and stylish, with musical voices adorned with the best of British and American private school accents.
Ada had a camera hanging down her neck, but apart from that, she had dressed to fit in. Her hair had been flat ironed to fit into a loose chignon, her peach dress was stylish and elegant, as were her simple jewelry, and she had worn heels, short heels, very comfortable heels, but still heels. The bride’s mother had been emphatic about not wanting a young girl in jeans and a t-shirt, spoiling the aesthetics of the wedding.
Well, they were paying a lot. Ada thought as she took pictures of the bride feeding her new husband some of the wedding cake. Her hair would go back to its natural state, and her feet would stop hurting once she took off the shoes. With the money they were paying, she would have worn a plastic bucket if they had insisted.
She took some more pictures, the bridesmaids, all of them on one table, looking exotic in rose colored gowns, the bride’s mother and her friends all wearing the Aso-Ebi, the official wedding cloth for family and friends, the groomsmen toasting the groom, wine glasses raised, and also people just sitting at their tables. The M.C was saying something, Ada wasn’t really listening, any moment now the bride would toss the bouquet, that was one of the important moments, and her camera was ready.
She neared another table occupied by young people, the guys in tuxedos and the girls in gorgeous dresses in different colors. Two guys were flirting with a striking girl in a red gown. Three other people also sat at the table, a guy and two girls. As Ada raised the camera to take a picture, she realized with a feeling of indescribable panic and dismay that the guy was Eddie Bakare.
He was listening with a small smile on his face as one of the girls whispered something in his ear. Ada watched, a tight knot forming in her stomach, was the girl his current girlfriend? She tried to imagine what it would be like if it were she sitting there, whispering something to him, would he be so attentive? Would he look at her with so much interest? She frowned and shook the thought away. What was her business whom Eddie Bakare flirted with? She raised the camera and took a picture just as he looked up, right at her.
That perfect smile! With the dimples, Ada took a deep breath, trying and failing to keep her knees from going weak. There is no reason on earth why Eddie Bakare should be able to make you feel this way, she lectured herself sternly, you don’t even like him!
“Hi Ada.” He said warmly, standing up to greet her, his eyes travelled from her hair to her toes, taking in her state of dress with undisguised surprise and appreciation. She realized he had probably never seen her all dressed up before. “You look beautiful.” He stated with admiration.
You don’t have to sound so surprised, Ada thought silently. “Thanks.” She said out loud. “It’s just my work attire.” She added wryly, eager to get away. One of the other girls at the table had turned to look at her, probably wondering who on earth she was, and why Eddie Bakare had stood up to greet her.
The girl who had been whispering in Eddie’s ear looked up and smiled at Ada, “Hi.” She said, in a voice that was both light and sweet and spoke of years in a British boarding school.
“This is my cousin, Lola.” Eddie said. “Lola, this is Ada, she is the star photographer at Living Lagos.”
“Only photographer.” Ada corrected, smiling at the girl, she was very young, Ada saw now, too young to be his date as she had assumed. “Nice to meet you, Lola.”
“I like Living Lagos.” Lola said. “I read every issue when I wasn’t living here. It made me feel close to home.”
Ada smiled, there was something likable about the soft-spoken girl, but she was eager to get back to work, the girl in the red dress was now looking daggers at her, probably because one of her beaux was giving Ada a speculative look.
Even as Ada was thinking of a quick getaway, Eddie was already doing the introductions. “This lot,” He waved in the general direction of the table, “Are some of my unsavory friends.” He smiled at her. “I have a lot of those.”
There was a chorus of halfhearted waves and hellos from the rest of the table. Ada echoed them with the same level of feeling. “I have to get back to work.” She told Eddie, “See you around.” She added, with a smile at Lola.
Eddie nodded. “I’m sure we’ll see each other before you leave.” He said. “You look really lovely.” He added, even though he had said so before. Ada smiled uncomfortably and made her escape.
Later, after she had followed the bride and groom as they stopped by almost every table, to greet and thank people, and took pictures of them with all their friends and relatives, she found a place to sit and rest her legs. There was still music playing, and people were dancing, but there would be no need to get up again until the new couple was ready to leave.
She felt, rather than saw Eddie walking towards her, his bow tie undone. Too much dancing? Ada wondered. She had seen him on the floor with his friends earlier. She hadn’t known he could dance like that! Watching him dance she had found herself trying very hard to remember why she didn’t like him, and being unable to come up with any reasons. And now, with his tux so casually undone, she couldn’t imagine any girl not liking him.
He was holding two wineglasses, and a bottle of wine, he handed her one of the glasses as he dropped onto a chair beside her.
“You must be tired,” He observed as he poured her some wine. It was clear and sparkly, and she took it without argument, it was about time she had a drink anyway.
She nodded in agreement. “I am.”
He studied her face. “Have you eaten?” He looked concerned.
Ada shook her head, she had been too busy to eat, but now that he had mentioned it, she felt the dull pangs of hunger in her stomach.
Eddie was already signaling one of the waiters, this one was carrying small dishes of peppered snails. “I’m sure you’ll like these.” He said, picking up one of the dishes. “Funmi Savage, one of the girls at my table, ate enough of these to feed an army of elephants.” He laughed. “She swore they were too good not to eat.”
And that means I’ll like them? Ada wanted to ask. Instead, she dug into the snails with relish, too hungry to argue. They were fantastic of course. She found herself silently thanking Funmi Savage, whoever she was, for eating so many snails and yet leaving some for her.
“Do you do weddings often?” He asked suddenly, his eyes going to the camera still hanging around her neck.
She nodded. “I get about one a month.”
“It looks like really strenuous work.” He said with a small frown. “With all that walking around for hours,” He studied her face for a moment. “Do you like it?”
“I like photography.” She replied.
He nodded. “But not necessarily wedding photography.” He observed.
She shook her head. “I like scenery, nature and people.” She told him. “That’s what I’d really like to do all the time.”
“So why do you do this?” He asked.
This was the sort of artlessness that his type eventually displayed, Ada thought dryly. They didn’t understand that people would work for money, because they had never had to. Why else would she do it, when she didn’t particularly like it, if not for the money?
All her resentment for people of his kind suddenly rose to the surface. They didn’t have to do anything they didn’t like, they just coasted through life in luxury, with the assurance that nothing and nobody would ever take it away from them, they could have anything they wanted, and do anything they wanted. It was annoying.
She glanced at Eddie, was he different? His father had a good reputation as an exceptionally hardworking man, as did he, but the money that had established the family fortunes had come from corruption, from a grandfather who had profited from mismanaging public funds in the 70’s.
He didn’t have to work. He only did because he enjoyed it. What had he ever done to deserve that option? Nothing at all, except having the good fortune of being born into a wealthy home, that good fortune that he seemed to think gave him the right to condescend to her and ask her why she did work that she didn’t like.
She remembered just a week ago, when they had all gone out for dinner to celebrate the ‘Living Lagos’ nomination for the TRANSCEND awards, he had come alone, but one of the girls at the exclusive bar had soon picked up his scent. She was one of his type, young, beautiful, with the all-important foreign accent, she had hung on to him all night, being polite only to Sophie and practically ignoring Ada, Oliver and Fadeke. Those were his people, ultra-privileged, ultra-entitled and ultra-selfish.
“Somebody has to do it.” She finally replied his question with a small smile.
He nodded slowly. As if he understood, Ada thought, still resentful.
“Are you done yet?” He asked. “Or almost done, I could wait and take you home.”
She gave him a level look. “You don’t have to.”
He raised a brow. “I know I don’t have to.” He laughed. “I want to.”
“Why?” She asked. “I’m not one of your… friends.” She glanced over to where his companions were still sitting at their table, laughing and having a good time. She shrugged. “Don’t worry I can manage on my own.” She spared a glance at his face. If her unfriendliness puzzled him, he didn’t show it. “Thanks for the wine,” She continued, “and the snails, but I really have to get back to work now.”
He studied her for a long moment, his face retained the expression of easy amiability, but his eyes looked as if they were trying to bore into her mind, to read something there, her thoughts perhaps. Ada looked away, maybe it was the wine, but sitting so close to him while he looked at her like that was doing things to her head.
“You don’t like me very much,” He stated finally. “Do you?”
It must have been the wine, because, in her right senses, she would never have said what she said, but she had drained her glass, and courage was unlimited. She kept her chin up. “No, I don’t.” She replied flatly.
“I wonder why,” He said, more to himself than to her. He shrugged and got up. “Alright then.” He said pleasantly. “Enjoy your work.”
She watched him go with a small, petulant frown. She ought to have felt satisfied that she had put him in his place, but all she felt was childish and ashamed.
It was dark when she finally got home. She had gone along as the new bride was taken to her husband’s family house, and her feet washed before she entered, to show she was no longer a member of her old family, but coming to her new one without the dust of the old one clinging to her feet. She took pictures, and more pictures, until she could hardly stand, then finally it was over and she called a taxi to take her home.
She was tired, and all she wanted to do was rest, and yet somehow Eddie’s face kept creeping up in her mind, as if some roguish voice was whispering his name in her ear, causing her to keep thinking about him.
Why did I tell him that I didn’t like him? She wondered as she let herself into her apartment. She could have just laughed off the question, or said something flimsy and flirty, like most girls would do. She sighed. He shouldn’t have asked her such a question in the first place, and she suspected that he wouldn’t have asked if he didn’t already know the answer.
That thought made her frown as she kicked off her shoes and turned on the lights. Had her behavior towards him been so bad, so abhorrent, that the only conclusion he could draw was that she didn’t like him? How did that make him feel?
Suddenly she felt horrible. He hadn’t done anything apart from being courteous to her, and now she had probably succeeded in alienating him. She wondered how it would affect her in the long run. Would he just avoid her now? To be frank, she wouldn’t mind that, being around him had been affecting her in ways she didn’t want to think about, so if he left her alone…”
The sound of the doorbell shattered the silence in her apartment, interrupting her thoughts and causing her to yelp in shock. It was almost eight in the evening. There was absolutely nobody, nobody who would be ringing her doorbell.
Except him! The feeling of déjà vu caused her to shiver, as the idea that it could be him hovered in her mind. She discarded it almost immediately. It was only in romance novels that men would keep throwing themselves at walls a woman built around herself, until either they or the walls broke, and this was no romance novel, it wasn’t even a romance.
The doorbell rang again, more insistently. She hesitated. If it was him, what did he want? What would she say? She stole a quick glance around the living room, the shoes she had kicked to a corner, the camera bag dumped on an armchair. It’s not him, she told herself, it’s not him, but somehow, as she walked to the door to look in the peephole, she knew what she would find.
He rang the bell again. Ada took a deep breath and unlocked the door.
He had taken off the jacket, but he was still wearing the shirt, though some of the buttons had been undone. When he saw her, the glowering frown on his face relaxed a little. She could see that he wasn’t drunk or tipsy, but there was no smile this time, no dimples, he just looked very, very determined.
“I think you should tell me why?” He said firmly.
“Why what?” Ada asked uncomprehendingly. He gave her a challenging look. “I think you should tell me why you dislike me so much.”