Did mention that I proposed to Nene ? Second Post of the year is also written by Nene, i haven’t read it yet, i want to read it at lunch time as i serve it to you..hope you enjoy your meal ^_^
I walk, then I break into a run. I realise I’m running so I start walking again. I want to run, but I have to walk so I don’t draw attention. I’m walking so fast the nail that I used to fix my slippers is ‘chooking’ me. I don’t care. I’m too nervous to care.
Has the place always been this far? Or it just seems so far because I’m nervous? I feel like turning back. I won’t. I’ve planned this for too long. It’s too late to turn back now. He is already waiting for me. He. Eteyen to everybody Ufan(friend) to me. I can’t even stop smiling when I think about him.
I see Eka Affiong walking towards me and I hide behind a tree. I don’t want her telling mama that she saw me. I don’t want to arouse mama’s suspicion, at least not now.
And not in this dress. I drag the dress down. It keeps riding up. This Eno’s dress is so tight it’s almost bursting at the seams.
Eno said I must look sexy when I’m going.
That’s why I wore one of the dresses Chief Akpanudo bought for me, and I fixed my best slippers. I stole some of mama’s vaseline too. Eno said the dress is not ‘fine’ enough, so she gave me one of hers. I’m bigger than her, so the dress is really tight on me. She says this is how it’s supposed to be.
“Where are you going?” Mama had asked.
“I’m going to Eno’s house. She and the other girls are having a small gathering in my honour.” I had replied without flinching.
“Okay. Hurry up and come back oh. You know tomorrow is a long day.”
I nodded and ran out of the house to Eno’s house.
The pairs of slippers at the door showed that four girls were present.
“Asari!” Eno screamed as soon as she saw me.
Ekaette, Umoh, and Anita removed their hands from the iwa they were eating and smiled to acknowledge my presence.
I washed my hands in the bowl beside Anita and then I joined them.
The iwa tasted like wood in my mouth. Was it because of their invading stares, or because I was nervous.
Umoh was the first to break the silence. I knew it would be her. She’s the gossip of the pack.
“Ehen, so how do you feel?”
“How?”I replied, adjusting my blank stare.
“What do you mean how? You are getting married tomorrow. How do you feel?”
“I feel great.”I plastered a smile.
She expected me to say I was sad, that I was miserable, that I hated my parents for marrying me off to a man that was well over twice my age.
I didn’t give her that satisfaction.
I’m approaching Chief’s house so I increase my pace.
The house is impossible to miss. It’s not because it’s painted yellow, and the roof is red.
It’s because it’s the biggest house in ikot-nkebre.
I’m successfully past the house, so I reduce my pace.
I remember the day mama and papa told me I was to marry him.
I had just come back from seeing ufan on my way back from selling iwa.
I knew something was wrong as soon as I entered the house. At first I thought someone saw me with Ufan and told them, or they were upset because I was late.
The candle that lit our scanty sitting room was almost finished and it was dripping on to our plastic table. I knew I would have to scrape the wax later, or get Ansa to do it. Mama sat on the bench, and papa sat on the cane chair. His frail body rested gingerly on the chair.
Mama did the talking. She reminded me of how we were struggling to make ends meet, like I could ever forget.
She had tears in her eyes as she spoke to me. She told me I had to help the family and that I was their last hope.
I knew Chief Akpanudo. He was a very rich widower that papa had borrowed money from. I don’t know how much it was, but I know that papa couldn’t pay back.
Papa’s health was failing so he couldn’t tap wine, and the meagre amount that mama made from her restaurant, and my iwa sales could barely pay for our upkeep and papa’s treatment.
I don’t know the name of papa’s illness but I heard the doctor from the health centre tell mama it is big man sickness.
Chief Akpanudo had come to collect his money and papa knew he could never pay back and so he offered me, and Chief Akpanudo accepted.
My mother was in tears begging me to help my family.
My mother was in tears begging me to help my family.
I’m of age, I would make a good wife.
“He is a good man, he is not a bad person.”
Papa looked drained. He looked like he was ‘sicker’ than he was when I left the house that morning.
No! I will say no!
Apparently my brain and my mouth were not resonating that day.
“I’ll marry him.”
How could I have said no? I couldn’t break their hearts anymore than they were already broken by poverty and shattered dreams.
So I said yes. Yes I would marry a man that I should call sir.
I’m almost there. My heart rate is increasing per second. I can almost see my heart beating through my dress.
Telling Ufan was difficult. He was angry, then very sad, then plain frustrated. His large eyes seemed larger as they transformed from their usual cassava white to tomato red.
My heart broke with each tear that streaked his cocoa brown face.
Eventually, he begged and begged me. And I agreed to meet him. In the place we always go
I’m almost there now. The dress seems a lot tighter than it was a few moments ago.
Chief Akpanudo is really not a bad person. I know because I’ve gone to his house many times. Mama made me. She made me carry hot plates of usung(swallow) and afia efere(white soup). “Show him what he’ll be enjoying.” She had told me in efik.
I’ve seen the way he treats his staff.
He is not overly nice, but he is fair.
He seems very sad, and lonely. A bit scary, and scared of me too. He looks at me in amazement, like he is shocked I agreed to marry him.
I have grown more fond of him than I would care to admit to anyone. Not even Eno, or mama.
I’m not sad. I’m not angry. I know that it’s something I must do.
It is the sensible thing to do.
Mama and Papa can smile again. They will be free from debt, papa will get his treatment. Ansa and Etekamba will go to school. I’m not just assuming this. Chief Akpanudo has promised, and I will make certain that he fufills it.
Mama taught me what to do. She taught me the way to make the afang. She taught me how to pound the usung(swallow).
She taught me how to wine my waist, and change my step when I want something. She taught me.
I laugh when I remember the excitement in Ufan’s voice when he told me of his plan.
“We’ll make it.” He said. “I’ll work day and night if I have to.”
I’m not laughing because I doubt his determination or his seriousness. I believe him. I know he will. He almost swayed me there. But my mind is made up. I know what I must do.
I’m a woman now. A woman of 17 and I make my decisions.
So now, Asari, a woman of 17 who is supposed to be getting married tomorrow is roaming the bushes to meet her lover.
Ufan and I had a plan.
But Asari has a plan.
I’ll see Ufan. I’ll make him touch me. I’ll make him take me, right there in the bushes, on the grass. We’ll use our clothes as a blanket. That way, the grass won’t leave marks on my honey skin. I’ll make him get lost in me. He must.
I will marry Chief. But I will spend this night with my love. We will carve our initials on the trees. We will love. We will play, and we will do it.
And when he loses himself in sleep. I will pick my dress and slip away, like I was never there.
Ufan doesn’t know this, but it is what I will do. He expects me to run away, but I can’t. My parents will die. Ansa and Etekamba will suffer.
He will get a job, we will get married, have children. We will be happy. We will be poor.
If I get married to Chief, we will all be happy. Ufan will get over me. He inherit his father’s small palm plantation. He will make it grow. He is a hard worker. I know.
He will get married. He will have a good wife. He might choose Anita. I see the way she looks at him.
With desire that threatens to jump out of her eyeballs.
She will pester him. She will probe. She will please. He will heal. He will forget.
It hurts to have to leave Ufan, but it is what I will do. What I must do.
I will be a good wife to my husband. I will break free from the shackles of poverty. I will think about Ufan everyday. His skin on mine, his lips on mine, the weight of his body of mine. The memories will haunt me. I will live with it. It is my sacrifice to make. I will help my family. I will help my husband. He will heal. We all will.
I’m there now. He’s waiting, like I knew he would be. I look up and see his arms outstretched, and I smile and walk into them. I hug him tightly and squeeze a little tighter than normal. I take him in. He smells of soap, and palm kernel oil. I know he just had his bath.
“Ufan.” I mutter.
~~~ ~ ~~~