Father was silent, he didn’t move much. His eyes were down, hands were crossed and his feet supported his walking cane against the table. He would look at me from time to time as if to ensure that they wouldn’t be disappointed. Mother who was constantly eye-communicating with me, telling me to cross my leg, smile a little more with my eyes, swirl my ankles towards the right angle, had her hands on father’s shoulder and had that smile that she only put on in a situation like this. It was quite credible, the image we gave. A wealthy family with healthy relationships between the members and a well brought up beautiful and educated daughter.
I wasn’t eager to meet him. My parents had praised him so much that it could only mean one thing: He should be a total catastrophe. My parents were too proud of all their lifetime achievements to praise someone that much without being sardonic.
“My in-laws!” a rather bubbly looking woman exclaimed from what I supposed to be the kitchen. The smell of okra stir-frying in palm oil came along with her as she brought us some kola nuts and palm wine in a tray.
“Nwam, shift small ó!” she said to me, pointing to the edge of the tiny brown suede couch. There was reason for mother to be happy now, as it was impossible for me to dare uncross my legs although I had no space left to swirl.
Once she was sat down and breathing heavily like she had just ran all the way from the neighboring village, she turned her head to look at me, examining my face and my body for a brief moment before exclaiming “Omalicha nwa!” in her very high pitched voice in which you could hear her excitement. She stared at me as if she had been waiting all her life for the day she would meet me.
Mother smiled politely at her as to thank her for the compliment because you see, if the daughter is beautiful, it’s only because she once lived in the womb of a stunning woman. As for father, he just nodded his head as to confirm that yes, the women in his life are beautiful.
That was when he came out from the room. The first time I ever saw Edochie. Walking slowly behind his father like a little boy shying away from the guests. He had visited my home with his parents “more than a dozen times” according to mother but each time I was at the stream. Whether this was true or not did not matter. My family was the only likely one in the village to bend traditions like this. If Amaka and Chinwe had heard that my family visited the groom-to-be’s home, they would have screamed “tufia” and crossed their arms closely to their chest.
Mother and father immediately stood up, almost in synchronization, extending their arms to greet them.
“It’s good to meet you my son” mother embraced him as he stood still with both arms glued to his sides.
In reply, he mumbled a quick response in such a little voice that I only knew he had said something because of the sound his lips made as he opened them.
Was father so eager to get me out of the house that he had arranged my engagement to an illiterate? We sat in his parent’s moderate sized, lime green living room for about an hour and although most of the time, it was only our parent’s voices planning the traditional ikwu aka (introduction), whenever Edochie was asked a question he would nod or smile but wouldn’t dare to look at me.
I could tell that father was slowly opening up and being more of his usual self. He laughed loudly with his husky voice, he was laid back on the chair with both legs wide open and one swinging from side to side and when he’d point at something or someone, he’d use his walking cane to do so.
Edochie’s mother just gaped at me while smiling, which was rather exasperating and although I tried to avoid any eye contact with her, her eyes still followed my face anywhere it turned. She finally looked away at her son, called him to go near her and when he bent down, she whispered something in his ears. He slowly crossed by the table, making everyone push their legs in, came in front of where I was sitting and opened his palm right in front of my face like there was a gift in it.
I couldn’t help but realize how tall he was. He had on a dark blue shirt that faultlessly adorned his smooth dark skin and his shiny white teeth. He smiled. It was contagious. His dimple carried my eyes all the way to his eyes… I was quickly taken out of my little world when someone cried out “ifuna-anya “! It was no other than my lovely mother-in-law to be. Her exclamation was followed by a shrill laugh. I gave my hand to Edochie, and he led me out to the compound.