Ukadi and I got engaged to be married when I was sixteen and he was a little more than fifty, with a good number of grey hair scattered all over his head and scanty beard.
I hated the arrangement but could not escape the engagement partly because I was only a child whose parents expected to depend on them for expression of opinion in such matter- either to agree or disagree, and strongly because my whole family thought he was a good and wealthy man- a girl’s bright future depended on getting married to good and rich suitor like him.
I was young, wise and defiant. The third child among my six siblings and yet Ukadi chose me over my 19-year-old sister who was more beautiful, collected and humble. I blamed my robust built and escalated maturity which sold me out as ripe and attractive.
During the engagement, Ukadi agreed to avoid all manner of going all the way with me to allow more time for me to reach eighteen which was the minimum age my father could allow before collecting the dowry and handing me over as Ukadi’s wife.
It’s funny my father didn’t think the age difference between me and him was any problem. When I pointed that out for the second time, he told me older men took care of their lives better.
The courtship followed and was absurd. He tried to woo me and get me to fall in love with him but it was ineffectual since I didn’t care a hoot about him and his pouring gifts and any time he narrowed his eyes at me to register his love, my spleen nearly busted with hate for him. I didn’t love him a bit and that was a big problem to start with.
I told my mum how I felt and she stated I would start loving him when we spend much time together and get to know each other deeper as a married couple.
According to her, love was not the sole recipe for a happy marriage but also respect, tolerance and understanding. She said I would fall in love with him with time.
I waited for that time but it didn’t come.
Ukadi tolerated my defiance alright and accommodated my pure hate for him, probably thinking I would change with time. But, his leniency paved way for firmness when he saw me and a 17-year-old boy one Friday afternoon walking home from school. We were laughing loudly at one of the boy’s jokes and the boy’s left hand was on my right shoulder when he drove along unexpectedly.
The wolf in him came alive before my very eyes and I discovered the real Ukadi. He man-handled the innocent boy when the boy tried to defend me not knowing he was my fiance. He introduced himself as my husband and warned the poor boy seriously not to go anywhere close to me ever again. He then bundled me into the rear of his car and sped off.
I was speechless. He was a strong man and possessive of me but that was foolhardy considering his age. He shouldn’t fight over me with a boy whom he could father.
When we reached his house, he gently shove me to a luxury couch and talked to me for hours during which my eyes were glued to the exotic wall clock in his well-decorated living room.
“Amaka, I don’t like what you did today,” he said gently.
I kept silent and he warned me never ever to get involved with boys or else he would show me his other side.
That very utterance was a mistake because I hated him the more.
As he kept talking non-stop, the clock kept ticking away, and when the time said 5 pm, I spoke up for the first time since we entered his house.
“It’s getting late. I need to go home. My mum will be worried.” I said.
“They all know you’re here,” he said in unpolished English.
Surprised, I shifted my gaze to look at him, but all I could make of him was his grey hair, fat wrinkled face and the corners of his lips where a good amount of saliva had accumulated and almost dripping.
Within me I made up my mind, I would never marry Ukadi. I knew my family won’t stand by me because of all he had lavished on me, but I’d rather run away than be the wife of the old man.
“I have to go now?” I said.
“No,” He said gently.
“What? It’s dark already.” I shouted and his mum came knocking at the door.
“Bring down your voice! I will take you back home on Sunday.” He stood up, walked to the door to talk to his mum. When he came back into the room, he locked the door and went to the TV set.
“You can’t keep me here! I’m not married to you yet remember, take me home now.” I threw up my words at him. He paused, walked back to where I was and stared at me in silent when I started crying.