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Monday, May 29, 2017

Heartstrings (7)



"So, Ma," I began. "Becky and I have decided to have our engagement and traditional wedding in two months time and the..."

 "Hold it there, Demola!" my mother cut in abruptly.  "Both of you can't just pick a date yourselves! A proper Yoruba boy like you should know better! There's a procedure to these things. It's not just you two getting married but two families coming together. So, both sides have to meet during the introduction and decide on a date. We've not even done that and you're already talking about the main marriage ceremony. What's the rush?" she queried.

"He's afraid Aunty Becky will run away again,"  Shalewa, who was sitting at the dining table browsing on my laptop, chipped in. If looks could kill, my kid sister would have been dead meat from the angry look I threw her way.

"Keep quiet! Who asked for your opinion?" I said.

"Don't mind your sister. You know she has always had a sharp tongue."

My mother had arrived Lagos from Abeokuta, our hometown a few days before for a visit. Becky had come over to the house and I had introduced her as my fiance.

Our engagement had happened about a month earlier when I had proposed to her.

 "I'll love to be your wife Demola," she had said  then, her words filling my heart with joy. I was in a hurry to make her my wife but obstacles were cropping up that I had not expected...

 My mother was talking.

"Besides, before the introduction,  I need to study her for sometime, make sure she'll make a good wife for you," she said.

"Mum, is that really necessary?" I told her. "You said she was a nice, well behaved girl when you met her."

She scoffed.

"Looks can be deceptive my son. You're blinded by love so you won't see any flaws in her." She paused.
"So you'll have to wait for sometime before your father and I will approve this marriage."

"Ah, Mum! How long will that be?" I grumbled.

"I'll let you know when I'm satisfied with her."


Seeing the displeased look on my face, she added testily: "If you're not okay with it, then go ahead! Plan your marriage ceremony yourself because I won't be a party to your marrying someone I barely know!"

I grudgingly conceded then, knowing no amount of arguing would make her change her mind. But I felt a bit resentful that at thirty one years of age, I had to get approval from my parents before I could marry the woman I loved.

But that is our culture for you! There was nothing I could do about it but obey or I would lose Becky. I had waited for her for years and I was not about to give up now.

   ***
So, I waited impatiently while my mother did her 'Operation Snoop Around' to find out things about Becky and her family background.

 Then, about five months later when I was nearly going mad with anxiety and impatience, I got a call from my mother early one Sunday morning.

I had gone out with Kefe the night before and as usual, had overindulged in 'liquid contents' so that morning, my head ached badly as if all the carpenters in Lagos were pounding away in it and I felt like death.

"Hello!" I said irritably, still lying prone on the bed, my unfocused eyes unable to see the caller ID.

"Demola, don't tell me you're still asleep by this time? It's nearly 7 am! Are you not going to church?"

I groaned with pain as the strident tone of her voice added to my misery. I put the phone some distance away from my head as I slowly sat up.

"Eka ro, Maami*!" I greeted her, wondering what was so urgent she had to call at such an ungodly hour.

"Anyway, I wanted to find out if you have decided on the colours for the aso-ebi*," she said. "I think it will be nice to have three different aso-ebi so our family can dress exclusively in one while. .."

At her words, the terrible hangover and groggy feeling all seemed to miraculously melt away like dew under the sun and I no longer felt any pain.

For my mother calling and discussing about aso-ebi was her tacit way of giving approval for my marriage with Becky!

"Yes!" I thumped the air like a marathon runner who had breasted the tape after a long, difficult race.

I got up from the bed, eager to go break the news to Becky. I was heading to the bathroom to take a quick shower when I remembered my mother was still on the phone.

"Demola dear, are you still there? You've not said anything to my suggestions."

"I'm ok with whatever you want Mum! If it's ten aso-ebi you want for the ceremony, I'm fine with it!" I said eagerly...

 ***

From that moment, our plans began in earnest. Then, the day finally came when Becky and I officially became man and wife in a colourful and well- attended ceremony. To me, it was like a dream but looking at my radiant looking bride smiling at me and looking so beautiful, I knew it was real...

Seven months later
I placed my hand on Becky's stomach and caressed it slowly.

"I can't feel anything. Why's it not kicking?" I said.

Becky laughed.

"I'm just three months pregnant, dear! Babies don't kick at that stage," she said as she held my head to her still flat tummy.

I raised up my head and grinned at her. "I can't wait for my boy to come so we can play football together!"

She sniggered at me.

"You and football! Anyway, what makes you think it's a boy? I've not done a scan yet!" she said, smiling.

" I can feel it," I said, moving up so I could gaze into her eyes.

She cradled my face in her hands and said: "Are you happy? "

I nodded. "Very. I never understood the term 'marital bliss' till now. Each day spent with you is like Christmas! " My head lowered and I kissed her lightly on the mouth. "To think you denied me all this happiness for years," I said a bit accusingly.

She caressed my cheek lovingly before saying: "I'm so sorry sweetheart! I promise to make it up to you!"

"You sure do! Infact, you need more than one lifetime to make up for it!" I declared before my lips met hers in a hungry kiss that deepened with each passing second...

About two weeks later, a Saturday morning, I was in the parlour watching a sports programme on TV when Becky's phone, which was on the centre table rang.

"You have a call Sweetheart!" I called out in the direction of the kitchen where she was.

A short while later, her head popped round the kitchen door. " My hands are greasy with oil. Help me answer it, dear," she said and disappeared back to the kitchen.

I picked up the phone which was still ringing.

"Hello!"

"Good morning!" a male voice said cheerfully. "Can I speak with Becky?"

"Who's this"? I asked warily, wondering if it was someone from her office.

"This is Lanre speaking..."


To be continued


*Eka ro, Maami' means 'Good morning, Mother' in Yoruba language

  *Aso-ebi (translation: cloth of the family) refers to the matching fabrics (or uniform) worn by family members, friends and well wishers at a wedding ceremony, birthday parties and other social events to denote unity, support and solidarity with the celebrants.

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