“Stop this, mama. I can’t listen to this anymore. Stop it!”
“You stop it!” Her mother snapped, springing to her feet. “I can’t believe how ungrateful you’re being. So many single girls of your age will jump at this opportunity.”
“Then go and offer it to them. I don’t need it, I don’t need you to order my life, and I certainly don’t need any man, let alone a mother’s boy like the one you have described.”
“A man who respects his mother is to be admired, so don’t go shooting off your mouth. Any woman will tell you those men on good terms with their mothers will treat their wives well. And don’t tell me you don’t need a man either, every woman needs a man! Yes, I said it.” She added at Dunni’s sharp glare. “You think because you’re in America you’re spared? You better wake up and smell the coffee or is that not what your American friends say? Or are they not all married, or with their own men? Why will your case be different?”
Dunni got slowly to her feet. The headache was now a full blown hammer thudding behind her eyes. She wanted to crawl into a dark place and just cry.
“Mama, I won’t stand here and listen to more of this. I am going to the kitchen.”
“Dunni, Dunni, how many times have I called you, Dunni?”
This was a favorite tactic of her mum, calling someone’s name several times as a way to assert authority. Dunni stalked past her and then stopped. Her father had just walked into the doorway. He was still in his pyjamas and they hung on him.
“What is going on here?” he asked, “I heard your voices from my room.”
“Talk to your daughter o,” her mother said turning to face both of them with a triumphant look on her face. “Dunni doesn’t know when people want something good for her.”
“Do you know about this?” Dunni asked her father.
He sighed, shut the door and went to sit on the bed Dunni and her mum had vacated.
“Please sit down, both of you.”
Her mom sat on the only armchair in the room and Dunni sat beside her father.
“Did you?” she repeated.
“Did I know that your mom discussed you with her friend? Yes, I do. Is it so bad that we both want you to get married and settle down with your own family?”
Dunni expected it to hurt more than it actually did, but as she looked at her father speak, all she felt a gritty knowledge that he was being realistic. Though she didn’t know they would go as far as arranging a marriage for her, it wasn’t as if this was the first time it was being mentioned that they’d want her married sooner rather than later.
“But Dunni, we haven’t been making these plans all this while you’ve been here while keeping you in the dark. If you must know, I told your mother a couple of days ago about your plans to move back to Nigeria and it was only then that she went ahead to agree to her friend’s request and arrange for you to meet the woman.”
“I’m meeting the woman?” Dunni asked.
“Yes. And let’s get this straight,” he continued, over her mother’s mutterings. “We’re not going to force you to marry this man. But it would be great if after seeing his mother, you make the effort to meet and get to know him as well, that’s all.”
Dunni looked away from him and stared at her twisting fingers, feeling self-pity wash over her. She prided herself on her independence and the ability to achieve what she wanted. Really, she had expected to get married before now, it just hadn’t happened. It felt so shameful that her parents had to find someone for her. She shook her head and exhaled.
“Now, don’t feel bad my dear. You did say you were planning to come back to Nigeria soon anyway. This only makes it easier for you. We respect that you’ve achieved a lot professionally, but you have nothing more to prove. Don’t you trust we’ll only choose someone we feel is worth our precious, accomplished daughter?”
Dunni looked over at her mother whose only sign that she was still part of the conversation was a shaking knee. Her head was bowed and so Dunni could not see her expression to know what she was thinking.
“I want to see you settled with your own husband and children before I die, and as we know, that may not be long now,” her father said.
Dunni looked at him, her mouth dropping open in speechless shock. Her mother burst into noisy tears, with harsh prayers interspersing her sobs.
“Baba Dunni, how can you say that? God forbid bad thing. I reject it in Jesus name.” She went on for a couple of minutes, rejecting the wishes of her enemies and calling on anyone to help to plead long life for her husband.
Then she turned to Dunni, “Why are you so stubborn, eh? Do you want to kill your father for me? Don’t we deserve our own grandchildren?”
In the end, Dunni gave in. She knew when her mother crossed from genuine fear to wanting to get her own way but she didn’t mind, not now. She listened as her mother quickly wiped her tears and began to praise her friend who Dunni was to meet that evening. She would be the perfect mother-in-law, her mother raved, so sociable and generous, and she did not pry in the son’s life. As for the potential husband, his name was Tunde, and he was from one of the foremost political families in Ilorin. Dunni bit her lips as her mother listed his very impressive achievements. Tunde had a great job, a position that paid him so well that he could afford to travel abroad anytime, sometimes going along with his mother. With his mother dreaming that he would go into politics, Dunni stood the chance of one day being the wife of a governor, or even the first lady of the president of the country.
She sniffed when her father got up and left them, assuming everything was settled. She had agreed to have a discussion with the prospective mother-in-law and to meet the eligible bachelor when they got back to Ilorin. Anyway, that was what she told her mother. Dunni stood up and finally pulled the dressing gown over her pajamas. In her mind, she plotted.