My Grey Haired Groom

I heard a familiar voice talking with the feiry man Ukadi kept at the gate and drew the expensive golden blinds apart for confirmation. My father stood there looking disturbed. I frowned my face a little in annoyance towards him, for not takingg the necessary action to rescue me before dusk the previous day and for affirming that I be kept in Ukadi’s house all through the weekend.

Wearing an exaggerated sad face, I walked into the common room where my father perched in one of the luxury sofas uncomfortably. When our eyes met, he stood up and said in a whisper; “What are you doing here, Amaka? Has it come to this? Do you realize you’re not properly married to him and that sleep over is not allowed?” I stood rooted to a spot surprised at him. Did Ukadi not say to me that he told my father I would be spending the weekend in his family house?

“But father, he forced me here and said he told you I was in his house,” I said as tears rose to my lower eyelid.

“What happened?” it was a command to speak up fast.

“He manhandled me on my way back from school, forced me into his car, drove to this place and locked me up in a room….Did he tell you he took me to his house?” I questioned and listened, my ears lobes enlarged

“No.” he said and I felt his anger boil but this time for Ukadi. I braced up.

“He treats you like an ant father, as if you worth nothing. We all are like ants before him because he feels he’s richer than us,” I looked towards the staira to make sure no one was listening and continued to lay all of Ukadi’s crimes before my father hoping it would bring the marriage plans to abrupt end.

“Dont talk like that Amaka. If he is richer does he feed my family?”

“No father, sorry for that but his actions proved to me that he has no respect for you,” I said forcefully and looked in the direction of the stairs again and wondered what Ukadi and his mum were up to, they were supposed to be downstairs to welcome my father.

“Did both of you sleep in the same room?” He asked after a thoughtful silence.

“No, father.”

“Did he touch you?” He asked looking at me through the corners of his eyes. I bent my head, looked at my entwined fingers as I gently rubbed my right thumb on my left palm sniffing.

“Get your things. Let’s be on our way, I feel very sad about this. We need to be on our way” he said

I increased my sniffing from two sniffs a second to six, rubbed the tears that crowded my eyes off as I flew upstairs before Ukadi and his mum would come downstairs to make my father change his mind with their affluent charm.

As I stepped on the fifth step, I came face to face with Ukadi and his mother who followed behind him like his tail. I waited on the count of ten and tip-toed back to the general room, hid myself behind the giant flower vase close to the foot of the stair to watch the expected drama secretly.

Both men met exchanged greetings while Ukadi extended a handshake and to my greatest amazement, my father reached out for the handshake, grinning like someone whose president of his country paid a surprise visit. I expected a loud brawl capable of bringing the neighbors to Ukadi’s doorstep. Not grins and whispers. Disappointed, I withdrew and hastened upstairs.

My ideal hero on rescue mission was supposed to leave with me in a hurry, rejecting pleasantries in the bid to show off how annoyed he was and of course should rebuff Ukadi’s every offer including to take us home. My father seemed to treat lightly the grave sins Ukadi committed against him and the whole family.

He offered to drop us off in his flashy Acura MDX and my dad jumped to the offer without considering how I felt about the whole thing and when we reached home, everyone treated him like the purest diamond, with all of their teeth exposed in a smile meant to please him, I realized how deteriorated they had turned because of his affluence

I didn’t utter a word but waited for him to leave so I could sit with my captivated family. I needed to tell them all that marriage with a man thirty-three years older than me won’t happen.

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My Grey Haired Groom 3

What do I do to be free from these people; Ukadi and his supporters including his desperate mother. Did he bring me to his house to prove how rich he was? And how well he could carter for me as his wife? Well, there’s no need for such since I didn’t have an eye for his riches.

When Ukadi left the room, it was on purpose; to allow his mum a chance to sit and talk with me and she made very good use of that opportunity.

“I was 14 years old when I got engaged to my husband, Ukadi’s father,” she stopped to allow me a chance to digest the statement and to realize I wasn’t a baby compared to her. And to prove to me that she was more a child than I, when we both first got engaged.

Why did those men have to climb the palm tree only to cut down an unripe palm fruit and then wait for it to mature? Was it not better to cut the ripe one?
I was wrong to think that the girl child engagement had been one of those things the ancestors spat upon as abominable. The ritual had been there, as old as ten decades.

“Huh.” I was disgusted rather than surprised.

“He was a very nice man and still is.” She held both shoulders of mine and looked at me closely. I read what was written in his eyes and it was nothing less than desperation.

“How old was he at the time he married you?” I asked carefully making sure I didn’t make it sound like I was raising the issue of age difference between me and his son.

“What does it matter? I loved him and that’s what mattered. I didn’t look back even for a minute.” She said and looked up thoughtfully with her face all lit up.

“You loved him? You were only a child.” I said and she looked down at her hands.

“Well not right away but before we got married, I fell head over heels in love with him and didn’t look back ever since.” She smiled.

I wasn’t interested in her love story at the moment. My mind was far away at my home thinking of what they’re doing. I wondered how my parents could ever support Ukadi for picking me on my way back to school forcefully and keeping me in his house like a prisoner when I’m not married to him yet. I needed to leave that house by all means.

“So my daughter, stop playing the new age game with my son. Relax yourself and enjoy all the benefits that could come with paying even a little attention to him…..” She blabbed on but I was only watching the movement of her lips.

She paused to listen as if I asked her to, so I could say something important. After listening for a while with no word from me, she continued.

“There were many other girls and he picked you. Think about that my daughter.”

I should have preferred being call ‘my granddaughter’ instead, by a woman who was Ukadi’s biological mother.

By the way, what was the use of thinking? I had an answer already. I loathed Ukadi and could pay a lady to take my place.
Wait. So she thought her son did me a favour by choosing me over other gir…children to be his wife?
“Are you aware that I’m forced to be here? Are you part of the plan…..ma?”

I tried to show some respect but I was too unhappy for any courtesy.
She opened her mouth to answer but Ukadi walked in.

“We’ll be going to your house in an hour time. You need to see your family, Im sure they would like to see you,” he said.

I hope Ukadi had not taken control of my life and my entire family!

“After seeing them, we will be coming back here,” he said as he scratched his scalp through his bushy gray hair and then gave the tips of the portion three taps to smoothen it

I jumped to my feet and almost knocked his mother down. She looked on in such a pitiable way that I felt sorry for her. I guessed she thought I had finally arrived and was disappointed to know I was leaving.

Did he just say I was coming back to his house? He should of course be talking to his mother or better still himself. And definitely not me because that would be the last he would be seeing me in his house.

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To be continued…..

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Excerpt from my work Baby Merchants will be posted on Saturday.

My Gray Haired Groom 2

It was very early in the morning when I opened my eyes to find myself in a very cozy bed. I raised my head to see the white satin sheet I was lying on and the soft pillows and throw pillows all over my bed. It seemed he carried me to that room when I slept off on the couch because I couldn’t recall going to that room by myself.

I looked at the tiled floor, it wasnt like the ones I was used to. It was with a high quality and the closet was something to behold. I rubbed my eyes and walked and changed my mind concerning Ukadi. Not that I fell in love with him because of his taste for quality furnitures and beautiful interiors decorations, far from it. I began to think of him as civilized and not as uncivilized as I had always thought of him. I guessed constant traveling had made it possible. If only I would but love him, I might see him with romantic eyes and probably see him as a great package with many goodies inside. For now he is the Ukadi that I used to know.

Nothing had changed as far as my feelings for him is concerned.

I got up and walked to the closet and opened it, it was full of clothes. Assorted types, casual, corporate, party, traditional wears and so on. I tried some of them on and they fitted perfectly.

Did he stuck the wardrobe for me? Really?

I was still trying to pull off my last when I heard a knock on the door.

I quickly pulled off and packed the pile of clothes I scattered on the floor and o the closet and pushed them inside the closet before answering the door.
When I saw him, I recalled the incident of the previous day and my countenance changed.
He forcefully kept me in his house when I was supposed to be with my family!

I sat quietly in the gorgeous chair before the dressing mirror was in his house and he sat on He sat right there in front of me, on the bed close the edge.

“Hope you slept well.” He said

I stood up.

“Please Ukadi, I beg you to take me home. I’m not comfortable here. I feel like you kidnapped me” I screamed and his mum came to the door again. She could pass for a good eaves dropper because she was always there at the door at the slightest argument between us.

“Don’t say that again, you will be leaving on Sunday when I travel back to Lagos.” He said as he got up to let his mum in.
What? Now this? His mum?
“Okay.” I said quietly with a lot of thoughts on my mind.

I didn’t want to talk in front of the his mother because I didn’t want to upset her. From the look of things it’s like she wanted the marriage more than Ukadi.
“Good morning ma.” I greeted nicely to show there was no problem but Ukadi spoke up.
She made a gesture to silence him.

“Nne how are you?” She asked touching my ruffled hair then my shoulder, pulled a short stool from under the bed which I wasn’t aware of and sat facing the gap between me and Ukadi as if she was trying to cover it up and bring us closer.

He continued..

“Mama, I called you here to let you know that Amaka had been behaving somehow ever since the engagement. I have tried to make things work but it seems she was prepared to make my life difficult for me.”

“What is it Amaka?” she asked with her eyes glaring at me and I noticed since I knew her she could be a determined woman.

“My son had been very nice to you and all you do is pay him back in this way?” she said and I kept silent.

“Don’t worry Mama. Leave everything to me. I told her she won’t be leaving until Sunday. I’m proving a point. Amaka you are my wife to be. You are not my girlfriend but my fiancee.”

He took a step to stump away but turned back.

“And long as you have been collecting gifts from me, you must work towards getting married to me. I’ll be coming back next weekend to see your people for our proper marriage rites.” He said with an authoritative voice and I sensed determination in each one of them. First his mum then him

Who on earth forces a very young girl to marry a man old enough to be her father?

I kept silent. No need to talk. It’s pointless. My father would never accept the new development since I had to finish up my SSCE before marriage. That was the agreement. But my fear was if he could use his financial weapon to get everyone moving in his direction. It’s possible in a world full of money mongers. Those whose brain stop working when they see a flash of money can do that.

“Please I need to go home now. I need to go home.”

“Don’t you think this is your home too?” His mum asked gently.

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To be continued….

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Except from my work, My Gray Haired Groom.

My Gray Haired Groom 1

Ukadi and I got engaged to be married when I was 16 and he a little less than 50 with good number of gray hair scattered all over his head and scanty beards.

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 but wise, stubborn 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 wives better.

The courtship followed and was absurd. He tried to woo me and get me 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 cunny 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 togethe and get to know each other deeper as 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 theboy 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.

Hmmmmm..

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 an 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 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 to where I was and stared at me in silent when I started crying.

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Excerpt from My Gray Haired Groom – one of my works – coming Soon

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