You are about to witness an innovation in creative writing. This is one story that will be told by seven different writers; a classic display of creativity and spontaneity at its best. The story about to be told is an inquest into the mystery of the Poisoned Chalice. It’s as mysterious to me, as it is to you. Hence, we got OLUBUNMI MABEL to unravel the first chapter of this mystery.
Doyin stared longingly at Hassan’s picture on her Samsung Galaxy Tablet. Who could have thought that love would find her when she needed it the most? When she was about to give up on love, when she was about to sing the ‘all men are the same’ chorus.
Doyin, 33, had never experienced the wows of love until she met Hassan four months ago. Her story had always been the love turned sour one. After her fifth break up with Segun, she began to wonder if a curse was working against her love life. There was no reason why she shouldn’t be married at 26, when she had all that a lady should have- beauty, brains, virtues, and a lucrative job, not to talk about her parents being wealthy.
Though her friends kept telling her the reason for her failed relationships, but she didn’t want to agree with them.
“You open yourself up to these men too much, they take advantage of you and milk you dry! Imagine you giving one of your cars to Segun, that useless guy. You’re not smart! These guys only use you to satisfy their needs, but you’ll never learn,” Kate, her best friend had said angrily to her after Segun jilted her.
She feared Kate was right, but she was just being her. She didn’t know how to hold back her things from the guys she loved. That was her weakness, her vulnerability. She loved too much, loved with her all. And it bothered her why she always ended up with struggling guys, those she was richer than. Opposites attract, right?
All the five men she dated left better than she had met them. Two of them she lent money to boost their businesses, another two she helped to secure employments with the influence of her father, and Segun, the last man, she helped his ambition to have his PhD in the United States. He stopped calling her and even stopped picking her calls three weeks after he got there.
“Have you learnt your lesson now, Doyin? Will you listen to us now? What manner of man will not take advantage of you when you keep acting like Bill Gate’s daughter?” Folake said.
Kate and Folake were her two intimate friends. Kate was married with a child, while Folake was engaged to be married to Uche, in a month’s time. Doyin almost lost her mind when Segun jilted her, but for the presence of her friends.
“There’s nothing to learn anymore, because I’m done with men! I’m done with love! It’s not for me. Is it a crime to help the men I love? I’d rather not love, than hold back my things from the one I love. I just can’t do it,” Doyin replied, wailing.
It was exactly a month later that she met Hassan at Folake’s wedding. He was one of the groom’s friends. He was a very funny guy. Doyin struggled not to laugh at his jokes at the reception. He was tall, fair, and well groomed. He dazzled in his white native attire. Doyin didn’t care about his handsomeness. Men are evil, no matter how good looking they appear. It even seemed like the more handsome they are, the more useless they tend to be. She was done with them!
She heard his friends say things like, “Hassan, we want to attend your wedding!” “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself? All your friends are married with children, even Uche has joined the clique.” “Hassan, you’ll be 40 soon. Don’t come to my house if you’re yet to be married by then.”
Hassan observed that she was the only one who was not laughing to his jokes. When he tried to engage her in a conversation immediately after the wedding, she snubbed him. Men are useless. All of them!
The following day, Folake called her.
“Flakky, aren’t you supposed to be enjoying your honey in the moon?”
“It’s because I want you to enjoy your own honey in the moon very soon,” Folake replied.
“What do you mean?”
“Hassan requested for your phone number, and I gave it to him. He said he wants to make you laugh, that you were scowling at him at the reception.”
Doyin frowned. “Why would you do that? You know my resolution about men. I don’t want to have anything to do with them, you know it. They are….”
Folake cut in. “I have a good feeling about this. Hassan is a great guy. He’s 37, and I’m sure he wants to settle down. More importantly, he’s nothing like those idiots you dated. He has his own money. He runs two petrol stations in this city, and he lives in his own house. He’s a big boy o. There’s no reason why he’d treat you the way others did. Please, consider the fact that I’m calling you in the middle of something.” She giggled.
Doyin laughed. “But for that. He said he wants to make me laugh, not that he likes me. They are two different things.”
“I think he wants more. He wouldn’t have asked for your phone number if he doesn’t. You know how men are.”
She shrugged. “Let’s see what he’s got. All I know is I won’t let any man play on my intelligence anymore.”
“Hassan wouldn’t do that. Uche trusts him.”
That was it. She met Hassan at a Sharwama joint in the evening of the following day. He looked so cute in his Jean shorts and blue T-shirt. He came in his Prado Jeep.
“I’ll make sure you laugh your heart out this evening,” was the first thing he said to her when he saw her.
He was true to his words, because she couldn’t resist his good sense of humour. Doyin realised that she hadn’t laughed like that in months. After one month of friendship, Hassan asked her out.
“If this isn’t going to lead to marriage, we better not start it. We are not kids. I like you, I think we are good together,” he told her.
Doyin couldn’t believe her ears! Marriage? None of the guys she dated ever spoke seriously this way. More crucially, Folake was right. He was nothing like those idiots. He didn’t care that she lived in an exotic apartment, had two posh cars to herself, ran two big boutiques, and had wealthy parents.
She believed that Hassan was a compensation for all she had been through with men. He was a sweet man, he showed her the good side of love. He wasn’t perfect, he could be impatient at times, but he was good enough for her. He said he was still single because he didn’t find a lady he connected well with. Most of them were after his money. Good! Both of them were perfect together. No one was after the other’s money.
Doyin placed the Tablet on her chest. She loved him. At last, she was getting married at 33. Their relationship was three months old and it seemed like they’ve known each other for ages. They’ve met and were accepted by each other’s families. The introduction ceremony was successful, and wedding date fixed for the following month.
It was Saturday morning, she got up to prepare for her outing with Hassan. They were going to check out ‘All About Weddings’, the most famous wedding shop in the city. At 10am, he came to pick her at home. The radio played as they drove on.
“Ouh, ‘Happy Lovers’! I love this program,” Hassan said, turning up the volume of the radio.
“Yes. They invite relationship experts and counselors who address real life issues, some of which are heartbreaking. I…”
The presenter’s voice echoed in the car, cutting Hassan short, “A lot of lovers plunge into marriage without the knowledge of their genotypes. It’s rather unfortunate. Even the literates aren’t left out. In this present age, sickle cell anaemia should have been a thing of the past, but it’s one of the illnesses we are still battling with in Africa. Genotype compatibility is a very important factor to be considered by lovers before walking down the aisle. It’s…”
“Doyin! This woman is referring to us! It’s so funny how we are preparing for wedding without even knowing our biological compatibility. There are many intending couples like us. I know my genotype is AS. You?” Hassan asked.
Doyin’s heart raced. “Don’t laugh at me. I don’t know mine,” she replied, trying to conceal her anxiety. What if she was AS too?
“I won’t laugh at you because you already begged. Make sure you do it on Monday, we can’t do things blindly. I know we are compatible. It’s just for us to know.”
Really? What if they were not? Would he cancel the wedding? Because she was not ready to let go of him.
They didn’t get the wedding gown of their choice, so they decided to return the following weekend as ‘All About Weddings’ promised new arrivals during the week.
Many thoughts clouded Doyin’s mind while she awaited the result of her genotype in the lab scientist’s office. She didn’t know her genotype because she had no reason to find out, except for now. What if she was AS too? That means her prince charming, Hassan, would stop being hers? It was better imagined. Nothing would stop their marriage. NOTHING!
The sound of the closed door and the lab scientist’s white coat brought her to the present. Her heart skipped when the young man extended the result to her. She opened it in good faith and shaky hands. Genotype: AS, Blood group: O positive.
No! There was no way she would show this to Hassan. Something must be done. Should she ask the lab man for help? To alter her result? That would be a professional crime. She wouldn’t want to be the reason his license would be revoked. Would he even do it?
What would she do? There must be a way out. She and Hassan were perfect together. How would she let go of a good man after all she had been through because of genotype incompatibility which might not even spell doom for them? Not even at 33, not when the wedding date had been fixed.
While she was still thinking of the way out, her eyes fell on the stack of forms on the table. Perfect! She prayed the man would walk out of the office so she could pick one of the forms. He didn’t go out, but stood up to look through the window because there was a bang outside. This afforded her the opportunity to pick a form, which she later filled at home.
Hassan was so happy at the result. Their wedding would hold, and it did hold on the fixed date. Doyin couldn’t have been happier. She knew all would be well. She believed her first two kids would be healthy, after which she would stop having more to prevent the risk of having a sick one.
THE POISONED CHALICE Chapter 1 was written by OLUBUNMI MABEL
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