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Monday, November 30, 2015

'I married into money yet I'm so miserable' (3)

By the time I met Chief Cyril, he already had eight children- four daughters and four sons. He had two wives none of whom he said lived with him.
 "The eldest stays abroad most of the time while the younger one has her own place in town," he told me. 
 At the time, I wondered why he chose to live like a bachelor instead of having at least one of his wives with him. It was much later that I found out the reason.
 Soon, I wrote my final papers and graduated. For the NYSC, I was posted to Lagos, to serve in Ikorodu town which was a surprise to me as I thought I would serve in another state, having lived in Lagos most of my life. My mother wanted me to change the posting so I could be in the city of Lagos but I refused. It was the first time, apart from school I would be away from home, totally on my own and I liked the feeling of independence it gave me. I however, visited home regularly to check on her and my siblings.

  I was at our house on one of such visits when Chief came to see the family. It was not the first time he did that. Since the day of the quarrel at the factory when he had given us the money for my school fees, he had become close to our family and often visited. That day, he sat for sometime chatting and asking questions about my experiences as a youth corps member.
 Later, he sat with my mother in his car talking for a while before he left with his driver. I wondered what they were talking about but I did not think much of it until a few days later when I was about to return to my base at Ikorodu. 
 She called me into her room and said:
 "I know this must come as a surprise to you. It might even shock you. But the truth is Chief is interested in you!"
 "But Mum, what's surprising about that? Chief has always been interested in my welfare and that of the rest of the family since we met him at the factory," I pointed, giving her a quizzical look.
 She smiled and shook her head.

  "No. That's not what I mean," she said. Then drawing closer to me on the bed, my mother added:
 "Chief wants to marry you. He told me about it the last time he was here."
 She was right. I was not just surprised, I was dumbfounded! I just stared at her, my mouth agape like some of those actors in those Yoruba home videos on TV.
Then I found my voice.

  "Mum, is this a joke or what? You can't be serious!"
 "My dear, it's the truth. Chief wants you as his wife," she restated.
 "But he can't be serious! I mean he's old enough to be my father. He's even older than you and Papa. Besides, he already has wives and so many children. What does he want with a girl like me?" I argued.
 "Well, you'll have to ask him that when you see him. I'm just reporting to you what he told me," she pointed out.

  "And what was your response, Mum on hearing about the proposal?" I queried.
 She shrugged.
"I told him its not my decision to make. That you are old enough to decide what you want. You are grown up now, no longer a child. All I can do is guide and advise you as a mother," she said.
I sat pondering her words for a while before speaking.

  "Well, it's not going to happen. Chief has been very good to me and this family but I can't marry him. How can I marry an old man like that, with grown-up children some of whom are even older than me? My friends will all laugh at me!" I stated, getting up from the bed.
 I left the room and went outside our compound. I stood by the gate and idly watched people going up and down the street. A neighbour and friend Betty strolled by and stopped for a chat. 
 "I'll visit you in Ikorodu one of these days," she said as she walked away.
 That night, I could not sleep much as I kept mulling over what my Mum had told me. I always knew Chief liked me. But I thought I was more like a daughter to him as he had said a couple of times. So, why this marriage proposal now, I wondered, turning on the bed.
   A tycoon's bride
  About two weeks later, a Saturday, I was at the backyard of the corpers' lodge where I stayed, washing my clothes when I was told I had a visitor. Thinking it was Betty, my friend from Lagos, I went outside the gate. It was Chief, sitting calmly in the back of his car.
 He smiled on seeing me and invited me to join him in the car.
 "What are you doing here, Chief?" were the first words I spoke on entering the car.
 "To see you, obviously," he replied, still smiling at me.
 "But you should have called first. I would have prepared something for you," I said. 

  "No need for that, my dear. In fact, I want to take you out. So, go inside and wear something nice, ok?" said Chief.
 He took me to a nice eatery in town. We sat in the secluded booth on the first floor section and it was there that my journey to my present life began. That day, Chief proposed formally to me, stating that it had always being his desire to marry me from the beginning. What made him wait, he said was my education as he wanted me to finish school first.

  He waved all my objections aside, such as the age gap, his wives, wealth, numerous children etc.
 "I'm a High Chief in my community as well as an African man. I can marry as many wives as I want as long as I can take adequate care of them," he argued.
The benefits of the union to me would be immense, he pointed out- my family would kiss goodbye to poverty for ever, my younger siblings would have the best education money could buy, I would live in the lap of luxury and immense wealth for the rest of my days and I would never have to worry about money anymore, my mother would no longer have to struggle so much to raise my brothers and sisters and so on...
 It took me a week to decide whether to marry Chief or not. 
 "I knew you will make the right decision," said my mother when I went to see her in the city. "Chief is a good man. I know he will take very good care of you and you won't regret marrying him," she said, hugging me.
 Chief was very happy when I called him to break the news to him.

  "Alice, you have made me a very happy man!" he said, sounding pleased. 
  At least he was happy. As for me, I felt neither joy nor sadness. Looking back, I believe it was a sense of duty to my family that informed my decision. I had watched since I was a child how my mother had to work so hard to feed the family and take care of us. Our father was useless and had shirked his duties in the home for as long as I could remember. 
 'At least, my Mum can rest now from all her struggles,' I thought as I tried to convince myself that I had done the right thing by marrying Chief.
 Eight months later, at the end of my service year, the traditional marriage rites were done and I became a millionaire's bride...

To be continued...

Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.

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