By – Ọgọ Akubue-Ogbata, Priceless Books (c) Oct 1st 2009;
336 page Hardcover 5.5 x 8.5; ISBN 978-0-9560142-1-4
336 page Softcover 5.0 x 8.0; ISBN 978-0-9560142-6-9
“We have all experienced pain and struggle in our life’s journey. We have stumbled, bled, cried and ached in our hearts. We cannot control what happens – all we can do is control how we respond to what happens. This story will make you realise just how fortunate you are and inspire you to take the next step now.”
Nkiru was not one of those brides who expected marriage to make a woman perfectly happy henceforth – no, she was far too sagacious for such propaganda – but when she walked down the aisle, she couldn’t help thinking, for a moment, how much reality now differed from her dreams.
For starters she had always imagined that her father would give her away, her own father rather than Uncle Josiah, the warrant chief, whom she had only seen twice in her entire life – once when he came to Enugu to ask Eze for a huge loan (cursing and swearing when he was turned down) and briefly at the funeral. For years she had pictured her mother and the Perm Sec sitting side by side on the front pew, her mother dressed in a Christian Dior skirt suit and an oversized feather hat. She had expected Nonso to be chief bridesmaid (Nonso her blood sister rather than Susan from the checkout counter at Leventis). Nkiru had also taken it for granted that she would have the finest ceremony money could buy – an extravagant gown from Trudy Lee, wedding rings from Goldsmiths and a choker necklace from Asprey & Garrard at the very least.
Nkiru had expected to feel young and light hearted inside, fervent not tense. Although grateful for the simple white frock her mother-in-law had paid for in fortnightly instalments and the silver earrings Ejimonye’s sister had willingly lent, although she bared her top teeth in a Duchenne smile throughout the longwinded ceremony, she felt a sense of loss also, wished that her past was a lot less complicated than it actually was…
The day was quick. When it was time to pose for photographs in front of the church building, Nkiru noticed that most of the guests
were Ejimonye’s invitees. Apart from Aunt Dubem and her brood, Uncle Josiah and a handful of paternal cousins, her family members were conspicuously absent. The moneyed elite who flocked around her father in his hey days were also nowhere to be found. Whereas the church hall had been scantily populated, the reception venue was well packed. But the party wasn’t lavish by any standards. Rather than a ten tier royal iced fruitcake with a miniature Caucasian couple perched on top of it, a three piece sponge cake sat covered in so-so fondant. They’d hired a local DJ rather than a live band and, to prevent rapid depletion of provisions, stationed food and drink rationers at the buffet table.
If there was one thing that surpassed Nkiru’s expectations, one thing that did not disappoint, it was her choice of a husband.
Ejimonye looked dashing in the three piece suit he’d won for his graduation ceremony at Lincoln University and when he said his
vows his voice had broken in places, buckled under the worthy weight of love. When they danced for the first time, embraced as
man and wife, he hummed in her ear, laughed in her face, brushed imaginary confetti off her hair. When he made the groom’s speech afterwards he said the words ‘my wife and I’ with irrefutable pride.
As they greeted guests he kept his arm around her waist, leaning some of his weight on her body to show that he already depended on her. Yes, without a sputter of doubt he was everything she had always imagined her man to be, but was she right for him; could she keep her own part of the bargain, could she love him unreservedly?
Before she left, Dubem suddenly pulled Nkiru aside and feigned a close embrace.
“Remember what I tell you?” Dubem whispered in Nkiru’s ear as they huddled together.
“What in particular, Aunty?”
“Do you remember what I say before you marry?”
“Yes.” Nkiru said.
“Well, I am going,” Dubem sighed, “as you make your bed so you will lie down. Marriage is not easy. Keep your eyes open. Inugo?”
“Thank you for coming, Aunty. Greet Uncle for me, please.”
“Oh yes, I will. He wanted to come but feeling unwell. Send us more foodstuff and medicine, you hear?”
“I will do so, Aunty.”
“Remember the money you promised to send.”
“I will send money, Aunty.”
“Alright, bye-bye oh Nne. Greet your fine husband for me.”
Nkiru walked Dubem and her children to the exit and instructed Ejimonye’s teenaged cousin to flag down a taxi for them. Nkiru waved as her aunt boarded the taxi, thinking how much of a coincidence it was that the wedding had taken place in February
1961, on the very same day Northern Cameroon separated from its hinterland to merge with the Sardauna province of Nigeria. Life was about choices after all, about partnership and sacrifice. So, without a backward glance, Nkiru returned to her husband’s side determined to make her marriage marvellous, determined to be the wife he wanted her to be.
They spent their wedding night at his family home. In a guest room stacked with boxes of meticulously wrapped presents and
basins of surplus jollof rice and cubes of fried beef. Much to Nkiru’s surprise, Ejimonye, having taken too much drink at
the wedding reception and exerted himself with vigorous dancing, collapsed on the bed in his three piece suit and swanky brogue
shoes. At one ‘o’ clock in the morning, whilst a few family members laughed hysterically upstairs, she removed her wedding attire and wiped her makeup off with cotton balls heavily soaked with deep pore cleanser astringent. Lipstick would have sufficed in Nkiru’s opinion but Lydia had insisted on eye shadow, pancake, blusher, mascara and all manner of fancy face-paint. After she’d brushed her teeth and slipped on a satin nightgown, she carefully undressed her groom, stripping him of everything save for his bright, white, underwear. Then, equally exhausted, she lay beside her husband on the lumpy bed and listened to his tempestuous snoring.
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