The next Saturday, Emeka came to our house with his father, two of his kin and a few friends. I was in the kitchen preparing a sumptuous meal of vegetable soup with goat meat and pounded yam for the dinner when I heard my mum welcome them. The soup teemed with sungu, kanda and other little, little fish cut into tiny bits just the way my father liked it. I quickly rinsed my hands and went to peep. My eyes fell on him. He looked more handsome and fresh in his Senator’s Ankara shirt and trousers. I don’t know for how long I stood there looking at him when I felt someone nudge me from behind.
“Hmmm… love nwa nti nti. What are you doing here behind the curtain? Won’t you go and greet your prospective husband” she teased. My little sister had a scary way of sneaking up on people.
“What? I can’t go there looking like this Mabel. I’ll have to change into something suitable”
“Go on then. I’ll finish up with the dishes and set the table” she said warmly.
I quickly went to freshen up and in a matter of minutes I was bending on one knee as I greeted my future fathers-in-law, Emeka and his friends.
“Nwa oma. Acharaugo. Bia nwokem isara anya” one of the elders was saying. My mum informed them that food was ready and as we went to the dining; Emeka discreetly snatched my hand and gave it a tight squeeze, grinning from ear to ear.
The meal was a good one. I heaved a sigh of relief as they ceaselessly complimented my cooking in their Ugwueke accent, some of them even asking for more. When dinner was done with, they went back to the parlour with my parents as I and Mabel cleared the table. I was about to return to my peeping when my mum came rushing to me.
“Ada, you’ve been summoned” I followed her to the parlour.
“Emeka, is she the one?” Emeka’s father asked him, pointing at me.
“Yes Dad” he replied nodding his head gently.
I was asked to go back to what I was doing as they continued their discussion. I went to join my sister in the kitchen.
“Sis, you are really lucky to have Emeka. He is not just handsome; he is everything a woman wants in a man. He is matured, good-natured and he has a good heart, very much different from Sam”.
“Yea, I know” I agreed with her “but I think Sam is a nice guy too. He may be childish and very conceited, but he is a good man. He’s just not my type”.
“You could be right but I prefer Emeka to him” she said in a matter of fact manner
“Shee you are preparing to have a dozen of cute children?” she winked at me.
“Dozen ke? You are not serious. I think I’ll just have four – two boys and two girls” I said dreamily.
Just then my younger brother Andrew came in from the wedding of one of his closest friends. We filled him in on everything and he never stopped smiling.
“Wow! That means I won’t be seeing you often in no time. I’d really miss you”.
“I will miss you guys as well but I’ll be with the love of my life and that’s what matters most, that’s if Dad and Mom will stop their craziness about Sam”.
“I’m sure they’ll come around soon enough especially now Emeka has taken the first step” my kid sister assured me.
“Yea, I agree. Whoa! One gone, one more to go. I wonder when someone will come thief this one here” my brother said jokingly, pointing at my kid sister who threw a playful punch at him in mock anger. We all laughed.
“Nne, your guests are about to go, come and bid them goodbye” my Mum said from the door, startling us.
We went to the parlour and bid our farewells. I walked Emeka to his car.
“You really look ravishing in this your Senagalese…abi Senator” I complimented him. He smiled.
“And you look rather sumptuous in your off-shoulder cultural outfit just like your food”. I laughed. We kissed. What started out as a mild kiss turned into a deep and passionate one. I was pleasantly surprised. We’d never kissed so passionately in the public before. I watched him enter his car and waved at him as he and his train drove out of our compound.
I turned and went into the house to meet my father pacing up and down impatiently, his face a mixture of uncertainly and confusion. I walked up to him.
“Dad, is there any problem? You don’t look too happy for someone who just met his prospective in-laws”.
“Why would I be happy?” he barked “didn’t I make myself clear that you are going to marry Sam. What’s even wrong with you?”
I was shocked. My Dad had never had such an outburst before ever since I knew him. He seemed to realise that I was shocked because he calmed down and spoke more composedly.
“Ada, I’m only doing this for your own sake. I don’t want you or your siblings to experience what I had to go through to reach where I am today. Please, listen to me”.
“Dad, if you really love me and want the best for me as you claim, you would consent to my marrying Emeka” I replied him.
“No dear, you have to marry Sam, he will guaranty you a good life and future. You will never have to work or suffer”.
“On the contrary Dad, I would love to earn my own money and not depend on my man. I’ll never consent to being a housewife or anything close to it. If you don’t want me to work in your firm that’s okay by me, I’ll just look for job elsewhere” I stood my ground.
“No!” he said furiously “you will marry Sam and that is final” he turned to leave. I finally lost it.
“Dad! What’s this with Sam anyway? You know, I’ve tried to understand you but I just don’t get it anymore. About two years ago, when I came back to Nigeria to introduce Emeka to you, you were all smiles. We got engaged right away. In fact you and Mum wanted us to get married immediately but we decided to a least finish school and stand on our own first. I wonder what is wrong with the same person you approved of for me two years ago now” I was frenzied; tears were rolling freely down my cheeks. He looked at me. I could tell by the sadness in his eyes that he didn’t like what was going on. He slowly gathered himself and went upstairs while I kept crying. My mother and siblings came to console me.
“Don’t worry dear. I’ll talk to him. Its okay” my Mum consoled me.
That night I couldn’t sleep. I rolled from one end of my bed to the other end. I was restless. I kept praying for the morning to come. Finally around 4am, I slept off. It was like I hadn’t slept for 10 minutes when my alarm clock started buzzing annoyingly, indicating that it was already 5am. I dragged myself out of the bed to the bathroom to pee when I heard voices from my parents’ bedroom. I remembered instantly that Mum promised to talk to Dad and hurriedly tip toed to their bedroom door to eavesdrop, that’s when I heard it all.
“Darling, you went quite overboard yesterday. First, you threatened her and yesterday of all days; you couldn’t even keep your cool ten minutes after your prospective in-laws drove out before bursting out on your daughter. It’s just too much. I think we should stop this”.
“Nnem, I apologise for the way I reacted yesterday and I know that I owe our daughter one too. But you understand why I have to do this. We are in great debt and you need to upgrade your beauty clinic to international standard by purchasing the latest techs. You are also aware that our two children are still in school overseas and you know how costly their tuition fee is not to talk of other miscellaneous expenses, but all these can be attended to if Sophia get married to Sam. His father will invest in your clinic and our debts will be settled” he said.
“I’m well aware of all that but we can’t sacrifice the happiness of our daughter. The initial plan was to see if she could at least like Sam before we cajole her into marrying him but the love she has for Emeka is too strong. You saw how she broke down before you and honestly I really like Emeka for her. Please, Dim, let’s reconsider this. We can always find a way out of our current predicament. Our children can transfer to good schools here in Nigeria and we can use the money from the Forex business to settle our debts. My clinic can wait for awhile”.
“That’s another thing” there was a little silence, then he continued “I was informed yesterday by my PA that Liberty Reserve has been shut down. My account is empty”.
I was shocked. How could they keep so much from us? Do they think we are still kids? For Christ’s sake we are adults, we could contribute, no matter how little to lessen the burdens on their shoulders. After a long pause, I heard my Mum shout.
“Oh my God, what do we do? We are done for!” I couldn’t bear it anymore. I rapped on the door. There was a little hesitation and then the door swung open. I stormed in.
“Dad, how could you? How could you keep all these from us? For crying out aloud we are a family and no matter what we stick together. No matter what we stay together, we suffer together. I don’t know why you hid all these from us for so long. Did you think we couldn’t handle it? How come you still see us as kids?”
All the while I talked to him, he was quite. I went to my mother and consoled her, reassuring her that all will be well.
“If you’ve been eavesdropping, which is a very bad attitude on your side, I guess you heard everything and I presume that you understand why you should marry Sam” he said calmly.
I looked at him incredulously. I believe my Mum was amazed as well because she shook her head and said.
“No darling, we are not going to stand in the way of our daughter’s happiness. We’ll find pull through this. We will” she said confidently “Sophia, could you please excuse us for a while?” as I was about to leave she said “hey, no eavesdropping”. I nodded and went out. As I left I could hear them arguing.