By Adeola Nissi
“You must he out of your mind”, Dad said with unconcealed disbelieve and rage.
“Oh no, I am not mad papa, in fact, I am very normal. There is no way I would marry this man” I said forcefully, with silent finality, expecting everyone to accept my resignation. My face is as hard as granite.
Alex hooted in mock laughter which was soon replaced with a frightening snarl but I was past feeling intimidated. “You would pass for a talented drama queen, only that I doubt if your looks is good enough for a royalty position. Stop pretending as though the prospect of marrying me does not sound tantalizing to your ears. Is that not your ultimate goal in the first place? I know that marrying me is the dream of poor wretched village local champions like you who are seeking to change the weight of their purse with my money” he hissed through clenched teeth.
I swallowed and smiled bitterly. “You can insult me Corper but it would not change what I have just said. I have no interest in marrying someone who thinks of me as nothing but a prostitute to be used for sexual satisfaction”
“He called you what you called yourself” The senator’s wife said in anger.
“Don’t you dare insult my daughter, you witch” my mum retorted.
“Perfect” Alex yelled suddenly. “Since it is evident that none of us is ready for the bondage of being married, and she obviously won’t flush the thing out, the best thing is to give you money. I would write you a cheque enough to change the status of your family and give your child a good life”
I smiled painfully as the pain I felt increased several degrees. “Now you want to pay me. That certainly makes me a slut, doesn’t it? I don’t want your money Corper” I said forcefully and turn to walk out of the choking room before I suffocate.
“And where do you think you are going?” My dad boomed, stopping me in my track. “I think that pregnancy is beginning to affect your brain. Come back here this minute” he roared.
“As I said, the only option is marriage. No one in my lineage has had a child out of wedlock and it would not start with me. She is pregnant now but must definitely give birth to the child in her husband’s house”. Dad faced me with a stern glare that had me squirming a little. “If you won’t agree to this marriage, you can very well forget about being my daughter because I would disown you” he roared.
I gasped as his words registered. “Papa”
“I mean it Amara” he said sternly and if I still knew my dad well, he was not kidding. Mum did not even have a say because dad silenced her protests before it even left her mouth.
“Don’t bother saying anything woman” he said to her. “When I disown her, you would follow her.”
Real pain and feelings of betrayal bubbled up and tears rolled down my hot cheeks.
“You either marry this boy or pack your things out of my house along with your mother. I won’t have a disgrace in my family”.
I was sobbing now. If it were up to me alone, I could let it all go to hell but I definitely would not let anyone suffer for the mistake I foolishly made with my eyes open. I was vaguely aware of Corper Bello pacing the length of the extremely large sitting room. The Senator and his wife seemed to have gone mute. Corper Bello’s eyes caught mine and he stopped pacing, glaring at me with more anger than I have ever seen in anyone in my nineteen years of experience. His hands were squeezed very tight and all I could see were veins scattered all over his still too handsome features. I vaguely thought that he would march towards me and punch the child out of my tummy and my hands instantly went to my tummy, trying to protect my baby; if anything, he looked angrier. Instead of feeling fear which would be expected, my anger matched his and I thought I would fly into pieces due to excess bottled up anger. Well, anger was definitely better than the feelings of hurt and betrayal, I told myself.
I swallowed hard, wishing I could swallow my tongue as well. “When is the marriage taking place?”
I stare at my fragile self in the massive full length mirror and I almost start crying again but I sternly steel myself against it. I have just spent the longest one week of my life, mostly crying myself to sleep. I have not eating enough to keep an infant alive and as I stared at the mirror, I looked ghostly and spent. I knew that I was not an exceedingly fair girl but I looked white and pale, with my eyes deep in their sockets. Ever since I accepted marriage to Corper Bello, I have not set my eyes on him, and I can only be grateful for that miracle. Though, we were made to stay in one of the boys quarters in the mansion by the Senator, I wished I was back in my peaceful and happy village, either going off to the stream or fetching fire woods. I should actually be writing my WAEC. Fresh tears coerced down my cheeks as yet another dream died; the dream to get married to a man happily; a man who I loved and who loved me in return. As fate would have it, I am not only getting married to a man who loathed me and saw me as nothing more than a dirty village slut, I am also marrying a man who was not ready to accept or father my unborn child. The time ticked and my heart beat accelerated, moving at the same pace as the seconds-hand of the clock.
In a few minutes, I would no longer be Amara Peters, I would be Amara Bello. This filled me with so much pain and I had to grab a nearby table to keep my weightless form from falling. I had imagined marriage to Corper Bello over and over again in the past, while he wooed me and made me feel like the most special woman on earth in the village. I had imagined us living happily ever after like in the fairy tales. Never did I think that we would be getting married for all the wrong reasons, with so much hatred and pain.
The door opened and I quickly dried my eyes as my mum entered. “Ama, you need to get dressed my dear” she said softly.
I nodded vigorously. All I want to do is flee, run as fast as I can until the world looked normal again. As I stood, I noticed my mum holding a white silky satin material in her hand.
“I was able to get you this” she explained shakily. “It is not a proper wedding gown but it would serve. It was all I could afford” she said softly.
I blinked. After staring for some seconds, I shook my head. “I am not getting married mama, I am being sentenced to life in prison” tears dropped. “I can’t wear this. It should only be worn for a happy occasion; this is not a happy event. I am not destined to be happy”
Mum pulled me into her arms and hugged me tight and I felt her tears. “Oh, my daughter. If it were up to me, you won’t marry that useless boy. I hate seeing you sad, I want you to be happy Ama” she said tearfully and pain sliced through me again.
I pulled out of her embrace and without looking at her, went to my sack of clothes. I removed the only gown I had and shook it. I looked faded but I didn’t give a damn, after all, it is a sitting room wedding, which only had our two parents in attendance as witnesses. I slipped the gown over my head and the once firm and fitted gown fell loosely around me, due to the fact that I was not eating.
“You should eat something Ama, if not for yourself but for the baby’s sake, please” she pleaded. For the past few days, the only way she was able to persuade me into eating was by using the ‘baby’ tactic. I have done all I possibly could to avoid my dad all week long, and I have managed thus far, because I was not ready for another level of insults.
I heaved a sigh and walked out of my room, for the first time, all week. Mum forced me to eat something but I couldn’t manage more than five spoons of rice because my appetite was definitely on zero level and I was exceedingly nervous.
I walked beside my mum towards the mansion at the exact time that we were supposed to be there. I felt nothing at all. I was almost like a zombie on display. I saw the small altar setting in the large sitting room and my heart raced when I saw someone that looked like a pastor in suit, standing by the altar. I saw the Senator and his wife as they climbed down the stairs. There was no sign of Corper Bello and I silently prayed that he would not appear. My dad was already seated and I quickly took my eyes from him. I sat down with my mum squeezing my hand.
After waiting for twenty minutes, Corper Bello finally showed up and I swallowed hard immediately he entered. It would have helped if I was not so awfully aware of him and stupidly in love with him. But despite all, when he entered, I felt the sudden change in the atmosphere as his perfume drifted to my nostrils. He looked very angry and tense because his veins were pronounced; even more pronounced and visible than they were a week ago. He looked as though he had spent hours running.
Corper Bello did not spare me more than a glance which did not last for even a second. He marched towards the altar like a sacrificial lamb. “Make it as fast as possible Pastor, I need to be out of this place in five minutes” he said authoritatively.
Mum urged me to my feet and my legs almost gave way as I looked ahead like someone who was about to face the firing squad. I walked on stiff legs until I was beside Corper Bello who was completely still, glaring at the pastor. The pastor moved uncomfortably, staring at us in horror and sympathy.
“Do you Alex Bello, take this woman Amara Peters, as your lawfully wedded wife, to love and to cherish, in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, in lack and in plenty, till death do you part?” the pastor asked unceremoniously.
“Yes, I do” Corper Bello answered instantly, without wasting time.
“Do you Amara Peters, take Alex Bello, as your lawfully wedded husband, to have and to hold, in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, in sorrow and in confort, till death do you part?” the pastor asked me.
The word ‘sorrow’ stuck to my head as the world crashed around me, and I knew deep down that I was totally destroyed, about to face a life full of sorrow. My mum squeezed my shoulder, reminding me that I needed to respond. I swallowed. “Yes” I squeak.
“Where is the ring?” the pastor demanded.
“What ring? Is it necessary?” he growled.
“Here it is” the Senator’s wife declared, magically producing two rings. The pastor gave one to Corper Bello and said, “Repeat after me…”
“Is that necessary? Can’t she just put it in her fingers?” his voice rose a notch and I stood stock still. Without waiting for the pastor’s approval, he took my left hand forcefully and slipped the ring into my fourth finger. He took the other ring from the pastor and put it on his own finger. “Is that all?” he growled.
The pastor’s face showed disgust and total disapproval. “By the power vested in me, I hereby pronounce you husband and wife” he said. “You may now kiss the bride”
“That is irrelevant,” Corper Bello hissed in annoyance and left the altar. “What do I sign” he asked impatiently. The pastor brought some documents to be signed and he signed hurriedly, while I scale through shakily. When everything was duly signed, he straightened and looked at me with full force anger. “Satisfied now?” he growled. “Someone would bring you to my house in the evening. I hope you can handle being my wife” he said and marched out of the room without a backward glance. I placed one stiff leg in front of another until I got to my room where I cried myself to sleep. Before sleep enveloped me, it occurred to me that this was just the beginning of my tears and sorrow.
…to be continued