As they all worshipped and adored Ukadi, I retired to my room, slumped on my bed face down and thought of what to do. From all indications, I was losing ground with a rocket speed. Not one person from my whole family saw things my own way.
Shortly, my brother walked to me with a swollen pocket which he dipped his hand into to bring out the money Ukadi gave to him.
“You must return it.”
“You joking right?”
“I’m serious Ugo.”
“What are you? Insane? You know I’m not that foolish. It’s free money. Cool twenty thousand naira. You know I won’t.” he said.
“I said you must return it because I’m not going to marry him.”
“You’re just being childish. You’re not a child Amaka. You’re almost seventeen.”
“I know how old I am. And I know also I’m wiser than all of you chasing his money.”
“I didn’t ask him for it. He handed it over to me. What was I supposed to do? Rebuff his kind gesture?”
“It’s because you didn’t know what he did to me.”
“What did he do?”
“He bundled me into his car on my way back from school on Friday, took me to his house and locked me up all through the night.”
“Mother said he saw you with a boy and you know you did the wrong thing. You’re betrothed to him. You shouldn’t be keeping a boyfriend,” he said still looking at the money.
“Ukadi told you he saw me with my boyfriend?”
” He told mother so she could advise you.”
“Just now, and mother told me,” he said as he returned the money into his pocket and after held his pocket as if the money was going to vanish if he didn’t.
“And you believed the boy was my boyfriend?”
“What else will a girl and a boy be doing walking home on a Friday with hands on the shoulders?”
“Emeka is just a walk home friend of mine and my school mate,” I almost shouted. ”
Put a girl in his place. You have many girls going in the same direction as you every day. Get rid of Emeka.” he stood to say this and I saw his seriousness.
“Can’t understand why all of you believed him without hearing my own side of the story. I feel so bad right now.” I sighed.
“Don’t be Amaka.” he lay next to me. “Nothing is ruined yet. You still have an opportunity to be nice to your husband to be.”
I thought about the phrase ‘husband-to-be’ and flinched at its reality.
“You’re not listening to me? I said…”
“Amaka! Amaka!” My mum called and judging by the sound of her voice, she had been given a fat sum too, fatter than Ugo’s sum.
“Your husband is about to go! Come see him to the car,” she said.
First off, Ukadi is not yet my husband and my father knows because he had not collected my dowry from him. Secondly, it’s not right for me to see him off after all he did to me.
I got up to show respect to my mum but by the time I reached there and saw them all laughing at his jokes, with my father throwing his legs up and clapping as he laughed, I sighed and withdrew
“Go see him off! Now!”
And I went. Obeying my mum was a must.
When he handed me a bag full of items, I felt like kicking his flashy car in disgust but I didn’t. It would look very childish. The child in me wanted to do certain things.
I threw up a thank you as if I must, stormed to the visitors receiving area, where my father was sitting smiling as if everything was okay. I sat forcefully and watched Ukadi smile at everyone and everyone waved him bye with smiles. He beeped his horn stylishly and my brother hailed and praised him.
“Amaka my daughter, ” my mother began when Ukadi had gone out of sight. “that man that just left is a good man. If you miss marrying him, I don’t know if you’ll ever get someone like him again.”
“Mama Ugo don’t talk like that. He’s not the only good man on earth. There are better men than him. Don’t think the future of our daughter depends on him. He is human and humans can fail. I want you to always remember this.” my fathers finished with her and turned to me, “Amaka my daughter listen,” I looked up sharply at him hoping he would say something different and pleasant.
“Ukadi and his people will be coming next week to fix a date for the paying of dowry.” My father said and I stood up to confront him.
“Father, I’m not going to marry him.”
My mother folded her hands on her head out of anxiety brought them down before saying to me, “You won’t disgrace me before my fellow women who are already thanking God for giving me such a good son-in-law.”
“Keep quiet woman!” Father said to her. “Allow your daughter to say her mind.”
“Why my daughter. Why don’t you want to marry him again after one year of accepting him?”
“I never wanted him. You people have always pushed me to him. I don’t like him.”
“Forget about likeness and love. It will come when you start living together as husband and wife.” my father said.
“Father! I don’t want to marry him.”
My mum stood up and stormed into the house. Took her head-tie and stormed out as she was tying it around her head.
My father called her back.
“Where are you going?”
“Oh, I’m going to buy foodstuff for cooking.” I knew she was going to see mama Nkechi, her closest friend. To tell her about the new development so they could join hands to talk me into changing my mind.
“Isn’t it too early?” father asked
“Not really, there is nothing in the house.”
“You have any money left on you?”
“I’m going to use the money Ukadi gave to me.”
“Do not insult me, ” fathers eyes were red, ” go keep his money you purse, go inside my room and take some money from my wallet.”
I was amused. The problem with my father is that he had no courage to stand before Ukadi and say his mind as a man. He would be saying one thing behind but once he saw Ukadi, he would be thrown off balance by his charm and turn to the exact opposite. If only he could stand like a brave man.
“I want you to think about what you just said now, my daughter. In the next four days, we will sit again to talk about this. Whatever you say, will be final. I can’t force you to marry someone you don’t like.”
“Thank you, father,” I said got up, genuflected and joined my siblings who were itching to see what was in the bag Ukadi handed to me.