Four Months ago………
Abike Oladare scowled at her mother’s back as they walked to the market. The woman was in so much in a happy mood which seemed to irk Abike at the moment. She was busy studying for the upcoming GCE examinations when her mother had come into her room and insisted that they both went to the market. Her mother never disturbed during her study hours. What is so special about today?
Abike was still busy being angry with her mom, when she realised that they weren’t in just any market, they were in the market of the rich, the market of the expensives. Those who came here were mostly chiefs or the oba of Aregun village himself. Abi’s dad’s a chief but they never really came to these expensives except to purchase clothes for ceremonial occasions like christmas, birthdays, or marraiges or whatever ceremonies. It was freaking february. Abi’s birthday is till July, christmas is far far away, so what’s all this for? Abi wondered.
“Abike mi, what do you think of these?”
Abi blinked at her mother’s words. Did she just ask me what I think of these expensive red beaded bracelets? They weren’t just any bracelet. They were what she had seen some ladies wear to woo the king or their husbands-to-be. This was common with most chosen marraiges. That is, marraiges where the wives are chosen for the men, so the wives-to-be are required to look their best. And these beads, these particular ones Abi was staring at, were the most sought for for such occassions.
“What’s this about mom?” If Abi was frowning before, now she more than frowning!
“What is this about? Abike miiii. Shebi I told you yesterday night that you have been chosen by the king. I want you to look extremely beautiful for him tomorrow.” Her mother was really grinning, and speaking proudly, her voice quite loud, so that people could hear about her daughter’s ‘achievement’.
“You are to be his wife my darling.” Bisola Oladare, Abi’s mother said. All smiles.
Abi was all wide-eyed. Her mom sounded hysterical. Yes, her mom told her something last night, but she was busy studying, hadn’t heard what she was saying. So, she had just said ‘yes ma’ to whatever it was she had said.
“Abike!” Bisi snapped her fingers to her daughter’s face, bringing her back to earth.
“So, what do you think of these?” Bisi asked again, having gotten her daughter’s attention back.
“What do I think? I think this is stupid!”
Bisi couldn’t reply her daughter. It was her turn to be surprised. Abi had never been rude to her. Never.
Abi continued all the same.
“You can’t possibly expect me to marry that man!” She said with disgust written all over her face. King Ogunjinle was a rotund man of sixty-five who looked eighty with his various crooked yellow teeth. The man already had eleven wives, and here she was being picked as the twelfth wife to a fat, ugly, pot-bellied, highly irresponsible man. Thinking about his features plus his age made her want to gag! She’s only nineteen for goodness’ sake!
“Are you okay Abike! Most girls in this village are dying to be in your shoes and you are here complaining.”
“Then let them be! Let them be! I’m not ready for marraige! I want to go to the university, set a career for myself, before thinking of any sort of marraige. Even if I wanted to marry, it will never be to someone like that. Over my dead body!”
It was the most absurd thing ever, and a nightmare. Being a very intelligent girl, she had been picked by a charity organisation which came to establish some schools in the village. They had persuaded her parents to enroll her in school. She was admitted into JSS One, her primary education neglected, due to her age―she was sixteen then―and her brilliant brain. Being educated had always been a great joy to her. She wasn’t like most Aregun girls who took marraige as a priority or as their breakthroughs in life. Only few girls like herself regarded education important. And now she has been chosen for marraige? No way!
Bisi didn’t raise her voice back at her daughter. She just paid for the bracelets and neck wares and dragged her daughter by the hand, as they went back home. Passers-by were beginning to become ‘stands-by’ and she didn’t want to be the gossip of the village.
On their way home, Abi was doing some thinking for herself. She was imagining ways she could escape this debacle. She’s to see the king tomorrow, so she had to look for a way to stop this today. It musn’t pass today. No plan seemed to pop up. She could say no, but she knew her no would be useless. The king was like a god. He gets whats he wants, and no one dare speak against him. It was probably why her parents had conceded. They knew whatever they said or did against the king’s wishes would probably bring trouble. There’s got to be a way. Abi thought immensely. Then, the bulb sparked!
“I will marry him mom.”
Bisi stopped on her tracks to what she just heard. She thought she heard something else, and asked to confirm. “What did you say?”
“I said I will marry him. You are right, I should be lucky. I mean, I’ll be the envy of every girl in this village. He called for me, I didn’t try to woo him or anything, yet he chose me. That’s rare isn’t it? So, yeah, I feel lucky and loved.” Abi said in the most cheeky and overwhelming tone she could feign, batting her eyelashes like she meant what she said.
“That’s my girl! I knew you would come to your senses.” Her mother smiled like she had won a lottery as she spoke.
As they continued their journey home, Bisi chatted about how the wedding would be, going all ‘hoo’ and ‘ahh’, while Abi was busy plotting her escape. She had decided that the only way to free herself from the dilemma of being bethroed to the king was by running away from home, from Aregun village. She would go far away, where nobody would find her. Maybe to the city.
That was the only way.