Mark frowned at her feet which swept the ground, throwing up dust and debris as she ambled along. He loved going out with her but disliked the way she abandoned the skin underneath her heels to the slaps of her loose slippers, sending irksome sound in the air around with every step she took. Mark was ready to do anything to make her stop.

When she gave him a gracious smile, he returned it with a make-believe one-sided smile. Deep down, he felt like yelling at someone.

How could a girl of her upbringing and class allow herself to be smudged by such a flaw.

Gloria was a beauty to behold. Her light skin shown like the moon. Her tall, robust built appealed to him. But his problem was that he repelled everyone including his friends and family with her crazy, riotous steps. If the two of them were the only ones on earth, he wouldn’t bother. But people saw and people talked about her.

Will you stop walking like some crude girl from the 10th century who just got her first slippers ever?’ he had always wanted to say. But..

‘Will you ever stop?’ He said instead.

Her smile froze.

‘What?’

She sat beside him, and wondered what it was he was disturbed about.

‘Glory, I would like it much if you practiced how to walk well, just like a lady should. The way you walk disturbs my sleep..’

‘Ah! Mark, what is wrong with the way I walk?’

‘I knew it. You didn’t know you have got a horrible, horrible steps.’ she averted her eyes, kept quiet for a while and busted out.

‘Did you just say to my face that I have horrible steps? Why, if I may ask, is this coming up after four months of this relationship. Tell me you want to break up with me. Tell me you’ve seen a better girl, a smarter girl, a girl who can cat-walk like a model, ‘ she focused on his eyeballs, and he saw the pain in her eyes. He couldn’t get why she was overreacting.

‘Come on, Glory! Stop being a big baby. You know I have a point here. Who will ever tell you the truth? It’s me! Me! If I didnt, no one would.’

She got up and began to walk away. She kicked a good amount of dust into the air as she walked and made three teenage boys who passed her chuckle.

Mark ran after her.

‘Okay, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that! Not like that… It’s true I would want you to change the way you walk but I didn’t mean to insult you or make you feel bad. I’m sorry!’

He saw she was genuinely embarrassed when she didn’t look back. He felt bad.

All he wanted was to correct her. She was supposed to pick his correction and work on herself.

‘Tenth man gone, ‘ she smiled sadly as she raised a cup of water to her mouth and took a sip; a thing she did anytime she felt like indulging in an endless quarrel with someone. She learned it from her mother. Her mother would sip the water, hold it in her mouth as long as she could, swish it, before swallowing it laboriously.

~~~~

A few minutes later as she stood at her room window Gloria could see Mark standing on the broad path leading to the compound gate. His hands were in his pockets, legs were restless.

She noticed he was torn between leaving and staying. She saw him hasten to the iron gate and knocked again.

A few seconds later, her mother answered the gate. Gloria would rather she didn’t. Her mind was already made up. She watched them talk for a while. Then she saw him take one last look at her room window and hastened away.

‘Let him go mama! One day, the man who will stay will . come.’ she whispered to herself.

Gloria was sure that someday, the young man who would accept her as she was would come and stay just like her two intimate friends, Joy and Grace.

She didn’t learn to walk for them to like her. They liked her as she was and would go anywhere with her without being ashamed. She didn’t see the reason why Mark shouldn’t do the same.

One tthing she didn’t know how to do was cover up or pretend. She would like everyone to see her as she truly was.

‘Be yourself. It’s either they like you or they don’t! Either way, you’ve got nothing to lose.’ she always spoke to herself before the mirror every day before stepping out of the house.

Deception is bad. Pretense is evil. Who are you? Show me your true colour! – read the caption on her door and wall.

She created that slogan for herself to mock men and women, boys and girls who put up appearances, masking some serious evil-smelling personalities in the name of pleasing others and getting what they wanted. She had been disgusted by the fake fraudulent image they all depicted.

Her mother had cried one evening after the eighth man left her daughter. She had held her hand and had looked into her eyes and talked to her as she always did. She was her first daughter and the only single one. Gloria’s two younger sisters had been married off to worthy suitors years ago.

When Mark left, Gloria’s mother walked to her room and took her to the sitting room without a word. Once they sat on her and her husband’s favourite couch, she began.

‘What is it this time, Glory?’ She asked, her face sad.

‘Mama, Mark insulted me. What is his business with the way I walk?’

‘You see why you need to change? This is the tenth man, Glory!’

‘Mama, if he can’t accept the way.I am, then he’s not the right man for me. Period!’

‘I insist you work on yourself to suit his taste. I’m sure he has changed a lot about himself to appear acceptable to you and this family.’

‘Well, he shouldn’t do that! It’s deception. He will certainly show his true colours after the knot is tied. We bet mama.’ Her mother was near to tears. She knew her daughter was difficult.

When she saw her eyes moist and shiny with tears, she went calm and soft. The discussion was important to her mother as well as a positive outcome. She needed to act to keep those tears from rolling down her cheeks.

‘Okay mama. But can I ask you a question?’

‘Of course!’ She said sadly and raised the end of her wrapper to her eyes.

‘Do you want me to be a parcel for this man to open after marrying me only to discover a horrible surprise?’ Her mother stared at the center table for a while.

‘Listen my daughter, there is something you don’t understand about people and telling the truth. Truth scare people away. The more truth they discover about you, the more scared they would become. If a man comes to know everything about you prior to marriage, he would run away. People don’t want to know all the truth about whomever they are dealing with. It could be scary! That’s exactly what I’ve been trying to explain to you. I want you to understand this my daughter. They don’t need to know all the truth, all the secrets. Package yourself. Packaging is important or rather work on your flaws so as to be a better person.’

‘i tthink I would prefer your last statement. ‘Work on yourself so as to be a better person’.’

‘You can cover up your flaws too.’ She glared at her. ‘Those flaws you can’t work on, those that you find hard to correct, cover them up,’

Gloria kept quiet but stared past her mothers right ear at the enlarged photo of her late father. It’s obvious she deceived him. It’s obvious she hid her many flaws.

‘Did you package yourself well before getting married to father?’

‘Ehm…’

‘You deceived father to lure him into marrying you right?’ Her mother smiled sadly.

‘I didn’t deceive your father. I only worked on myself to please him and match his taste. For example, He was a very clean man and I wasn’t such a clean freak. I needed to change for it to work between us. I changed, to please him. The good thing was, it made me a better person.’

‘Hmm..’ Gloria thought her mother was too desperate.

‘I hated eating snails to the extent that I didn’t touch the dishes and pots used to prepare snails. But when I found out that snail was your father’s best meat, I prepared him a lunch one rainy, cold afternoon. Guess what it was? Snail pepper soup!’ she smiled as her daughters eyes popped.

‘What? You were such a chameleon mama’ Gloria couldn’t believe what she heard.’ Too desperate!’

it’s for good, Gloria. I nearly threw up my tongue when I reached home but from that day forward I made up my mind to continue eating snail.’ She looked at him starting back at her smiling. We had a blissful marriage. Never qaurrelled to the hearing of anybody. I w…’

‘I’ve heard you mama. I’ll think about what you said.’. But she leaned towards her in earnest persuasion.

‘I would rather you didn’t think about it but go ahead and follow it. I’m your mother, I won’t deceive you.’

‘It’s okay mama.’ She didn’t want any more tears to those beautiful.eyes. Her midnight sobbing over her father was enough.

‘Do I arrange walking lessons for you?’ she was excited in a childish way.

‘I know how to walk, I only need to improve a little and I’m okay, mama,’ she laughed.

‘No, you don’t. The bad thing about this is that you don’t know how bad your steps are. It’s terrible. The worst I’ve seen so far. If you can change that, you won’t have issues with any man. You’re a beautiful and well behaved girl but know it today that time passes for girls.’

‘I’m 26 mama. Not that old ‘ she eyed her in silence, smiled at the center table and shook her head.

~~~~

Early iin the morning the next day, Mark was about to bring the gate. Gloria’s mother went noughts. How could someone knock on someone else’s door in such manner?

‘Who is that person that wants to pull my gate down? Where are your manners?’

She saw Mark standing there like a chick beaten by the rain.

‘Mark, is everything alright?’

He mumbled his greetings and walked to the house. He knew Gloria didn’t receive men in secret places so he sat in the sitting room and called her three times.

‘If you don’t come down this minute, I’ll come up to your room. Glory!’ Her messy head and her make-up free face appeared through the transparent beige curtain before the entrance.

They looked at each other in silence.

‘What do you want?’

‘I’m sorry for what I did yesterday. I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t know it could bring such pain to your heart. I’m sorry.’ He said as he approached her.

‘What do you want me to say, ‘ she walked past him to the kitchen. He followed but stopped when she scowled at him. She saw her mother in the kitchen. Gloria was sure she was there to eavesdrop.

‘What are you doing here? she asked. ‘Go back to that nice young man. You don’t know what it takes a man to pay an early morning visit to a lady.’ she whispered to her.

‘Yeah, right!. I’m not surprised to hear that from you, mama!’ She left the kitchen and walked back to the sitting room.

“As you can see, Mark, my steps have not changed. Do not waste your time with me. I’m not going to change tomorrow either., when you are done with sitting in my parents favorite spot, you can .go home. I’m not for your kind. ‘ he looked at the red lather couch as she began to walk back to her room in exactly the same disgusting manner.

He ran after her, took her hand and knelt down. Gloria’s mother stood right behind him as if she flew there .

He brought out a ring, and Gloria’s mother smiled on her behalf. She was ready to say yes on behalf too but Gloria smiled at the ring. No man had ever proposed to her.

‘Gloria, you have nothing to hide and that’s what I like about you. If you accept to marry me, I’ll learn to walk like you, ‘ the three of them laughed but her mothers laughter turned to a sob. Gloria wore the ring and hugged him right.

‘I wish I could change how I walk just for mama to be happy.’

They both laughed.

‘Don’t worry. First you’ll teach me how you walk, then we will learn how to walk like your mother. She will coach us. Me and you!

~~

Mark didn’t learn how to walk like Gloria but he pretended he had seen a change. He thanked her for changing for him. It took Gloria’s mum six months of daily training to change her daughter’s steps for good – that was a month after their Wedding.

THE END