Previously on Almost a bride.
At the close of work two weeks later, Ihuoma drove to Eastside restaurant along Beulah road, Lagos, that was her first time on that axis, thanks to her Google map, she was able to navigate her way through. The interior of the restaurant was magnificent, for a few minutes she felt she wasn’t in Nigeria. She sat and the waiter walked up to her with the menu and a smile dressed in a white shirt, black trouser and a black tie. He gave her the menu and she looked through.
“I’ll let you know when I’m done, thanks.”
Ihuoma took her time, she looked through the menu and admired the restaurant too. There were different types of people, young couples chatting away, business men discussing, ladies in groups rattling, she could hear their giggles and whispers. From the table for two at a corner in the restaurant, there was a young man who sat alone with a glass of chapman. Forty five minutes of waiting and Anini hadn’t called or gotten there. She had sent her messages on BBM and they didn’t deliver nor were her calls going through. She decided to send her a voicenote.
“Hi Ani, where are you, I’ve been waiting since forever. Is this the treat you promised me? Please get here as soon as you can!”
After sending the voice note, she saw the young man that was sitting alone walk up to her. She started playing Candy crush saga on her phone.
“Hi, I’m David.”
“How may I help you?”
He explained how she looked like the person Anini had sent to give him the corporate account opening form from his bank. It was until he mentioned Anini’s name that she raised her head. David had asked Nonso, Anini’s husband to help him get the corporate bank account opening form the last time he visited the newly married couple. Nonso told him he would give the form to Anini as she was going to be easier to collect it since she was coming to Beulah road.
“I am here because Anini said she was giving me a treat. I have no idea what you’re taking about.”
“I’ve been trying to reach her and Nonso, all to no avail. I just can’t believe she actually did something like this. Well I am hungry; I have not had the time to eat a proper meal all day. Can we order?”
“Yes please”, Ihuoma replied, smiling to herself.
During the meal, they talked and suddenly David gave a loud laugh, Ihuoma was confused. He asked them to give reasons why the new couples had done this to them, and top of the list was the fact that Love hadn’t been fair to them both and the fact that they both loved poetry. They both had a story to tell and that must have been Anini’s que to hook them up.
“You work at the same hospital at Anini?”
“No, I work at Ripple hospital. I should be joining her soon though, after my primaries. I mean my residency exam.”
That night, Ihuoma got to know that he was a retired banker. He studied banking and finance in school and it was only normal for him to get a job in the industry. When he wasn’t getting the fulfillment that he desired, he decided to monetize his passion. He had always been fascinated about fishes, their habitat and their variations. When the opportunity presented itself for him to start a Fishpond, he did not hesitate.
“It’s not exactly as buoyant as I hoped it would be but I believe it would get better in time.” He concluded.
Ihuoma admired his spirit. It was a big risk leaving the banking sector with all the glory and huge salaries but he took it. Such qualities were rare to come by in men these days. Some men would prefer to stay in their comfort zones and earn salaries for the rest of their lives instead of becoming vibrant employers of labor when the opportunity arises. At the end of dinner that night, Ihuoma was no longer angry with Anini. She had gotten more than she bargained for; enjoyed a good meal and began a beautiful friendship with a gentle, vibrant and ambitious young man. They said their goodbyes only after exchanging phone numbers.
The crackling sound of Anini’s laughter in the background when Ihuoma called her the next morning made Ihuoma to start laughing too. She wanted to give Anini a piece of her mind for deceiving her but she changed her mind when Anini apologised.
“I’m sorry Ihuoma, I planned it with the girls. How was dinner? Do you like him? Gist me na” Anini asked her amidst her laughter.
“It’s too early to be asking these questions Ani. You know where i’m coming from. I don’t want anything serious for now”
“No pressure dear, no pressure at all. Take all the time that you need. David is a good guy, you’ll like him eventually.”
“I’ve heard o, thank you ma. Talk to you later.”
David called Anini the next day to thank her for a beautiful evening the previous day. He liked Ihuoma instantly, it was a connection he couldn’t explain. She was equally happy about the previous night so she thanked him too and that was the beginning of their friendship. David always found an excuse to be “around the premises” and always dropped by to say hi to Ihuoma. She always received him warmly whenever he came visiting. He took her out for lunch on some days and on other days, it was either they went to see a movie together or they would just sit together in a restaurant making fun of couples that couldn’t get enough of themselves.
Ihuoma had always talked about her love for the arts and David wanted to take her to one of such places where art was expressed in all it’s glory. He found such an opportunity when his friend gave him free tickets to an open mic event. He called her up the next day and after beating around the bush for a while, he invited her for the program. He wasn’t sure she would accept it because of her job but he was surprised by her reply,
“Of course, I’ll love to attend. Arts are my only route of escape from this mentally draining profession. I’ll see you there.”
“Ok when should i come pick you up?”
“No need, I’ll meet you there. I’ll drive myself.”
David didn’t see anything wrong in that. She was a strong woman that didn’t depend on any man and that was a plus for him.
David got there before Ihuoma. He was able to reserve a seat for her next to him. She had come straight from work but she was still beautiful. Performances were taken from different people and Ihuoma was excited. When the Mc asked for any other person that wanted to perform, Ihuoma raised her hand happily. She mounted the stage and delievered the words straight from her head;
There was a time when my mind was my prison;
memories of words spoken, my shackles.
There was always power in spoken words:
“Walk erect, sit straight
Be quiet!!! Don’t ask so many questions.
A woman’s place is in the kitchen”
“Education is for the man,
Go, learn to sew, cook, and cradle the baby”.
Yet all this I did and still am labeled a slut,
A slut for daring to question the status quo
For daring to follow my dreams.
Tired of being told who to be and who not to be.
Tired of trying to please
Tired of this hurt
Tired of trying to be perfect.
Why must i be the one in the kitchen?
Why can’t I drink beer with the men and discuss politics?
My place is where I want it to be,
Doing what I want to do.
No longer do I have to grind peppers with my hands, on my knees to show
how worthy a woman I am.
No longer do I have to talk with my eyes cast down to show respect to a
No longer do I have to think that because the thing between my legs are round
and his long, that I am less.
I am no longer the little girl too afraid to speak up!
I am no longer the young woman trying to belong.
I am ME. Unapologetically me
I am a woman, a proud woman.
David was stunned by her performance. He saw another side of her that he hadn’t seen before. He knew she was outspoken; but that feminist part of her, he had never seen. He was quick to return to reality to applaud her just as she returned to her seat.
“How was it? I was very shy on the stage”
“You did great dear, it was marvelous”
“Did you like it?
“Of course. I loved it”
He had lied and he knew it. What was he to do? Tell her that he didn’t like it? That he didn’t like her feministic tone? That he didn’t like feminists? His idea of a typical wife was; submissive,obedient and depending. He practically believed that women were meant to be seen and not heard. He never envisaged a future with a woman that would always have an opinion whenever there was a topic on ground. While growing up, his parents were always at logger heads before they eventually seperated. During their arguments, his mum always wanted to have the final say even though she was wrong 80 percent of the time. Their divorce left a sour taste in his mouth and he vowed never to marry a feminist or a strong willed woman. The pains he went through as a result of their divorce left an indelible scar in his mind and he prayed to never allow his children go through such.
On her 29th birthday, she woke up like a princess. She was one step closer to 30 and in this part of the world, her marital clock was ticking. Twenty nine years on earth and she still learnt lessons everyday. Despite the troubles and the pain she had gone through, she had a lot to be thankful for. The calls came in, the display pictures on bbm changed and the personal messages all carried the same updates, “Happy Birthday Ihuoma, GGMUB, WULLNP, TDFW” those acronyms she would never understand. She went to the hospital that day and her colleagues sang and wished her all the best. David organised dinner for her at Golden Gate restaurant where they hosted a few of their friends. She recieved a lot of gifts and she thanked them for coming. David dropped her off at her house and asked to come in for a while.
Ihuoma didn’t mind. She had thanked him for the greater part of the journey to their house. David had done a lot for her and she was really grateful.
“Ihuoma, sit down. I have something to tell you.” He was sitting right in front of her, their eyes locked together. He clenched his teeth and continued, “You are a very beautiful woman. You are strong, vivacious and outspoken. You know what you want in life. It’s like your life is perfect and I wouldn’t want anybody to spoil it.”
He took a brief pause. Ihuoma couldn’t believe what she was hearing. It was happening on her birthday. Ihuoma refused to believe it was about to happen. She had seen it in movies, people being proposed to on their birthdays but she never thought it would happen to her. Her mother would be so proud of her. She didn’t have to hit the big 30 before she found her hubby. She was ready, she had been waiting for that moment all her life.
“I think we need to end this relationship. It’s not going anywhere. I’m not up to your standard. I would never truly complement you. I have a warped mindset of what my future wife should be like I think I need to re-orientate my thinking before getting involved with you. ” He waited for Ihuoma to say something or better still do something but she didn’t move. He swallowed the saliva in his mouth and continued,
“You are perfect in your own way. I’m the one with the problem. I would not make you happy in the long run. I think we need to end this now.”
“You think we need to end this relationship?”
Those were the words she could mutter. That was not the proposal she was expecting or maybe it was a birthday prank. But she wasn’t seeing any smirk or smile on his face. I think I would never truly complement you? Why was he thinking for her?
“What problem are you talking about? Did i ever complain to you about anything? Did my friends tell you anything? David, why do you want to embarrass me like this? Why this? Why now?
“No, I never meant to hurt you Ihuoma. It’s something i’ve been thinking about for a while now. I don’t want you to start another year of your life thinking that something good will come out of this relationship.”
Ihuoma got up and walked to the door and opened it.
“Get out! Get out of my house. I never want to see you again.”
Her temper was rising. She used to have a terrible temper in the past but the last episode landed her a slap from her mum and it gave her a new perspective. She had done a lot to control it but at that point in time, she could feel it rising. She was very angry. David was still trying to apologize but it only made it worse. She practically pushed him out the door and shut it behind her.
She took one look at the apartment and screamed. She tore up the cards and kicked the gifts away, injuring herself in the process. She didn’t want to call anybody or talk to anybody. She sat on the floor under the Chinua Achebe painting in the sitting room, buried her face in her laps and cried herself to sleep.
To be continued…