It wasn’t as if they didn’t know it was going to happen; they had known for a long while. It wasn’t as if they weren’t prepared; for them to have known meant they were prepared.
Still it hit them like a tornado; winds, rain, a shaking, a loosening, an eruption, and they knew that life would never again be the same.
They went through the motions like ghosts, invisible, letting the lawyers handle the ugliness. And when it was all over, all that was left to do was the signing.
‘I think it is best if you both signed in a room with each other present,’ Adun’s lawyer said to her while she stood by the window and thought of their wedding day. It had rained as they said their vows. It didn’t stop either as they sat to sign their marriage certificate amidst the cheers of friends and loved ones.
Now the lawyers were asking them to repeat the process. This time though, there would be no cheering. There would be no Papa to smile at her with pride, no Mama to dance to music only she could hear in her heart, no Cecile, her bridesmaid to make happy noises with her tongue, no Dele, Supo’s best man to bellow out ‘Congratulations’ a dozen times in one hour…
This time, instead of ushering a new beginning with their signatures, they would be putting an end to beginnings and hope and love.
Adun’s lawyer’s office was on the topmost floor of one of the few excuses for skyscrapers Lagos had and she continued to look out of the window as he described the rest of the proceedings to her. Below them on the streets, people were going about their normal lives and Adun wondered if she would ever know normal again.
‘I rather Supo not be in the room when I sign,’ She interrupted the lawyer before continuing her observations of the going-ons on Broad Street.
The lawyer reluctantly acquiesced. Two and a half months of working with her had taught him to know better than to argue with her. What Mrs Adebiyi wanted, Mrs Adebiyi got so he swiftly changed the subject to other matters.
Still, and in-spite of all the ways in which he had tried to prepare her, when the day for the signing arrived, Adun lingered and the lawyer found himself largely frustrated.
‘Is Supo here?’ She asked as she sipped from a glass of water someone had thoughtfully put on the table.
‘Yes,’ her lawyer responded. ‘He is here but in another room.’
She nodded as if she expected nothing less. The pen she had been given by the lawyer to sign with was one of those expensive types that Supo would have loved. In all of their 14 years together, Adun had never seen her husband use an ordinary pen. He would rather not write. He would rather not sign…
‘Has he signed?’ She asked.
‘I told my secretary to call me once he walks out of the room with his lawyers and so far she hasn’t so I am guessing that he hasn’t signed. But I am sure he will be done any moment from now.’ Adun’s lawyer said with a smugness that made it seem like he had seen this happen too many times and he knew exactly what the outcomes were.
Adun wanted to wipe the smugness off his young face. She wanted to tell him that Supo would not sign and be right about it. She wanted to tell him that Supo loved her too much to end it all with an ordinary pen. This might just be a job for you, Mr Lawyer but this is my life, she wanted to say. You will go home tonight, eat the dinner I and my husband are paying for and put us out of your mind forever, but we will never forget you. We will never forget the symbol of our end.
She wanted to tell him all these things but she couldn’t. All she could do was twirl the pen with her fingers and wonder if someone had at least given Supo a good pen.
As if he knew he had touched a raw nerve, the lawyer suddenly uncrossed his legs and leaned forward towards his client.
‘Look Mrs Adebiyi…’
‘Ms. Carson’ She corrected hotly.
‘Sorry. Look Ms Carson, I know this must be extremely difficult for you but it took us a while to get here, and forgive me for seeming so crass but I am ready to stop the bleeding that comes through those doors every time you and Mr Adebiyi walk in. I know it might sound cliché but I want the best for my clients and this divorce while there has been no contest, no arguments, no exchange of cruel words, has been the most painful I have ever had to deal with.’
Adun’s eyes filled with tears as she looked at the young man sitting in front of her over.
‘How old are you?’ She asked.
‘I will be twenty-seven in a few weeks,’ he replied.
Twenty-seven and already so jaded. Twenty-seven and so ready to help her give up on a marriage that was more than half his age.
‘Are you married?’
‘No. But my mother jokes that I have been through more divorces than Danielle Steel so I might as well be married.’
‘You should get married for real,’ Adun said and the lawyer laughed.
He looked a like a boy when he laughed, Adun thought to herself watching him as he threw his head back and laughed from his belly. He reminded her of another boy from a while ago. A boy who she had been able to make laugh no matter what. When did she stop trying? When did he stop laughing?
She looked at her lawyer and hoped that when he got married, it was to someone who lived for making him laugh.
She drank the rest of the water before speaking.
‘I would like to see my husband before signing if you don’t mind.’
Later the lawyer would wonder what had happened in those thirty minutes he and Mrs Adebiyi had spent ruminating over the divorce papers.
He had led Adun to the room where her husband was as she asked and all heaven had broken loose. Before he and the other lawyers could say ‘Divorce’, the couple were in each other arms, weeping out apologies and promises to be better for each other. There was talk of counseling and their children, ‘how happy the kids will be,’ Mr Adebiyi had said. Upon which his wife responded with a cheeky smile saying ‘Think of how happy your bank account will be!’ and the fifty-something year old man had laughed like the boy he once was, the boy he could only be with her.
Supo’s lawyer had stormed out of the office angrily but Adun’s lawyer had nowhere to go. It was his office after all so he had waited the couple and their make-up out. They finally walked out of the conference room hand in hand without giving him even a backward glance and all the questions he wanted to ask had stuck in his throat like a fish bone of confusion.
It shouldn’t have bothered the lawyer all that much. After all his firm still got paid and he had received a promotion but when God made nights, it was so you could wonder a million miles to morning where you had gone wrong during the day. So it was that he spent many nights trying to understand.
When he finally found the courage to call and ask Adun why she had changed her mind, her secretary told him over the phone that she was away on a second honeymoon.
A couple of years later, the lawyer would find a girl who lived for making him laugh. They would get married and be happy for most of the time. The few times they were sad, he would think of the Adebiyis’ and wonder if they were still together. He hoped so and because he hoped happiness for others, happiness always found a way to return to him.
He would never sign divorce papers.
Photo Credit: Simi Vijay
Song of the day: Michelle Branch – Find Your Way Back