I added links for some of the outfits so you can see what they look like.
“What happened to you?” the make up artist gasped. I had tried to hide the bruising on my neck with concealer but I obviously didn’t do a good enough job. My eyes darted around but everyone was busy chatting or doing their make up. Thankfully she didn’t ask me loud enough for everyone else in the room to hear.
“Nothing happened.” I told her in a clipped tone that I hoped conveyed I didn’t want to talk about it.
She made a noise at the back of her throat that let me know that she did not believe me but thankfully she didn’t press the issue. Instead, she retrieved concealer from her kit and applied it to the bruises that I hadn’t hidden properly. When she was done she tackled the dark circles under my eyes.
I hadn’t slept at all. When I closed my eyes, I could still see the blood on my hands, I could still taste the metallic tang. I could still see my hand plunging into his back, once, twice, thrice. I shivered at the horrible memory. I should have called 911. It was self-defense. I did what I had to do. The police would have understood that right?
It was too late now anyway. I had run away. All I wanted to do was wash the horrible memory off me. I ran to my car and I sped home. I was doing well over the speed limit and I don’t know how I made it home without getting stopped by the police or getting in an accident.
The first thing I did was jump into the shower clothes and all. The scalding hot water burned but it was soothing. It was like I was in a trance as I watched the dark blood run down my skin and clothes, turning a lighter color as it mixed with the water and went down the drain.
When I got out of the shower, I peeled the wet clothes off me and dumped them in the trash can. Then I drove straight to Mansfield. My anxiety level steadily climbed upwards the closer I got to Mansfield. I had 6 mixed calls from my mum and 3 from my Dad. They had also left several texts, that I hadn’t bothered to read.
I sighed with relief when I pulled up to the house and saw that the lights were off. Meaning no one was up. I was thankful for that. All I wanted to do was sleep in my childhood bed and pretend the entire night hadn’t happened. But sleep eluded me. I replayed the horrible scene in my mind over and over again. The thoughts of the things I should have done crowded my mind. I should have let it go. I should not have gone there. I should have called the police.
I lost count of how many times I threw up last night. My entire body hurt, coupled with the sleep deprivation, I was beyond exhausted. Thankfully, the makeup artist knew what she was doing.
All my bridesmaid were staying at a hotel but we had decided to all get ready for the traditional wedding at my house because it was closer to the venue. We were all in the living room because it was the biggest room in the house. There were 13 of us in total. My five bridesmaid, my mum, my aunties and cousins and two of Fehi’s aunties. Femi’s aunts had volunteered to come over and help us with the gele, the brocade head tie that went with the aso-ebi. (the bride is in the middle in the picture)
When my make up was done, I headed to my room with Fehi’s aunts and they helped me put on my outfit. I was draped in beautiful coral beads. They were plaited in my hair, hung from my neck and hands. I was even given a beaded clutch to go with my outfit.
When they were done, my neck felt heavy, but I looked beautiful. “Thank you so much.” I said to them.
“It’s no trouble. You are family now.”
There was a knock on my door and my mum came in. “Could I please have a moment alone with her?” she asked Fehi’s aunts.
The women gathered their things and left. It was the first moment alone with my mum since I accused her of cheating on my dad last night.
I had avoided her all morning because I couldn’t deal with her being upset with me at the same time I was dealing with what I had done last night.
“You look beautiful, honey.” my mum said with tears in her eyes. I was relieved to see that she wasn’t mad at me and I rushed to her and enveloped her in a hug.
“I’m so sorry mum.” I said as I embraced her. “I shouldn’t have said this things. I was just so upset. I thought you were cheating on dad.”
My mum waved her hands dismissively. “It’s okay honey. We should have told you. But that doesn’t matter right now. What matter is that my baby girl is about to get married.” She choked up towards the end of the sentence.
“Mum, please stop cry. You’re going to make me cry.”
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” she said as tears continued to stream down her face, “I’m just so happy for you.”
There was a knock on the door and Katie stuck her head in, interrupting us. She glanced at my mum and scolded her, “Debra! You ruined your make-up! Go down to Jessie, she’ll fix it for you.” Katie was in bossy mode. Turning to me, she smiled and said,”There’s someone here for you.”
My mum and I headed downstairs. As I walked down, everyone turned to look at me and compliments rang out. I felt like a princess and I forgot about all the shit that was weighing on my mind. It was the first time anyone had seen me in my full outfit.
“Look who’s here.” Tricia said in a sing-song voice when I got to the landing.
It was two of Fehi’s groomsmen with a wrapped gift and a letter. They were already dressed in their traditional outfits.
He had written the letter in his native language, so his cousin, one of the groomsmen, read it out to me.
He read it out his language first. I didn’t know what it meant but it made tears well in my eyes. When he translated it to English, the tears fell.
“My beautiful Noelle. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me. You are kind, beautiful, smart, loving. You make me a better person and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you.
There was no dry eye in the room. All the women were sniffling and the groomsmen who had delivered the gifts looked like they were ready to get out of there.
Fehi’s cousin handed me the wrapped box. Everyone crowded around me as I opened it. Inside was a beautiful pair of diamond earrings. There was a note in it that simply said ‘For tomorrow’
I gasped when I saw it. “Oh my God! We were at Tiffany’s last month and I saw this. I mentioned how it would look lovely with my wedding dress. It was an offhand comment. I can’t believe he remembered!”
“That’s so sweet!” someone said.
“You’re so lucky!” Someone else said.
I didn’t know who was speaking because at this point I was bawling. They all thought it was tears of joy. It wasn’t. I was crying because I didn’t deserve Fehi. He had warned me. He told me to drop it several times, but I didn’t listen. I was stubborn. Too stubborn for my own good.
“Noelle! You’re going to ruin your make up.” Katie admonished. I guess she had assigned herself as the make up police.
“Yeah. You’re ruining my hard work.” Jessie, the make up artist said teasingly.
She brought out her tools and began touching up my face.
“All right people. Start getting ready to leave. We need to be out of here in 10 minutes?” Katie said, taking charge. We were already behind schedule.
Everyone wiped their tears away and the bustling began as we all started to gather our things.
Suddenly the air was pierced with sounds of sirens. A feeling of dread climbed up my spine.
“I wonder what’s going on out there. I hope it’s not a fire or anything.” My mum mused.
I bitter laugh escaped. I wanted to tell her that wasn’t a fire truck, they were police sirens and they were coming for her daughter. Her daughter had done a very bad thing.
The sirens grew closer until they were directly in front of our house. The flashing blue and red lights streaming through the open blinds seemed to be mocking me. There were at least 4 cop cars in front of the house.
“What the hell is going on?” Katie asked loudly.
There was a sharp knock on the door. Katie was closest to it and everyone looked at the door as she swung it open. Standing on the doorstep were two officers with their guns drawn.
One of them looked confused. He was probably wondering why a group of white people were dressed in traditional up in traditional African attire. The other shorter one looked unfazed and bored. He was the one that spoke first, “We’re looking for Noelle Keller.”
I didn’t say anything. I couldn’t find my voice. My heart raced and my breathing became labored.
My mother’s protective mother hen instinct kicked in. She grabbed my hand and said in a sharp voice, “This is Noelle, and I’m her mother. What can we do for you officers.”
The officers walked in and the shorter one said as he walked towards me, his hand reaching for the handcuffs on his side, “Noelle Keller, you are under arrest for the murder of Cole Haywood.”