“So you’re getting married two months from now?” Ireti said to Mowunmi on their way back from a mutual friend’s wedding.
“Yes,” she answered with a wide smile. “My father is fattening up the goats.”
Ireti clapped her hands excitedly. “I’m sure your wedding is going to be the talk of the town. Oh Mowunmi, you are so lucky! I wish I could be you!”
“Don’t worry, your own will come too!”
“Hmm… My creator, do mine too!” she prayed, but Ireti doubted that such luck would come her way, her friend wasn’t half as beautiful as she was.
They walked on in silence as they neared Ireti’s house.
“I hope the wedding night will not be so painful.” Mowunmi said bashfully.
“You’ve already started thinking of the wedding night! Mowunmi!”
“Don’t worry, if what I’ve heard is true, Adegbola is a man indeed!”
“What did you hear?” Mowunmi asked, stopping in her tracks.
“Don’t mind me! I was just talking.” ireti waved her hand dismissively, hoping that her friend would ignore her gaffe.
“Ireti, what did you hear?”
“I didn’t hear anything…”
“Why are you lying? Say what you heard, do you think that will stop me from marrying him?”
Ireti sighed and regretted her lack of discretion. “I just heard some slavegirls at the stream some months ago talking about Adegbola. One of them was talking about how virile he is and how he likes women. She even said…”
“Stop! I don’t want to hear any more.” Mowunmi shook her head in disappointment. “Slavegirls!”
Mowunmi smiled cheerlessly. “I’m the one who asked you to speak. Let’s go.”
Ibironke stared at Fakorede as he consulted the oracle. The room smelt of herbs and stale blood and she felt a presence. Shifting uncomfortably she waited for him to finish his divination and give her the answers she was looking for. The last time she had been in his consultation room, was when her husband Agbeniyi was gravely ill. It had been a dark time, full of rituals and potions and she had told herself that she would stay out of the gods’ way. There was something unnerving about the mystery of the spiritual world.
“Hmm… you say that the bird was alone?”
“Does it look like one of your birds?”
The old man laughed a throaty laugh. “You know the bird, the bird is one of your children. The oracle tells me that one of your children is about to embark on a journey…”
“A journey? None of my children is going on a journey Baba, the only one leaving the house is my first child Mowunmi, she’s getting married soon.”
“Is marriage not a journey?” he laughed the throaty laughter again.
Ibironke shifted uncomfortably again, her face creased in a frown. “Baba are you saying that the dream is about Mowunmi? Is it a bad sign?”
The old man sighed and looked straight in her eyes. “Do you want to hear the truth?”
“I would not have come here if I didn’t want to hear the truth.”
The priest nodded. “If it is possible, let her marry someone else.”
“Ah!” Ibironke sat up. This wasn’t the truth she wanted to hear.
“Yes, stop that wedding.”
“That would be difficult Baba.” Ibironke shook her head from side to side already thinking of the many hurdles to such a plan. What would she tell her husband who was already counting on the brideprice that Adegoke’s family would pay?
“I know, so in that case, know that your daughter will face trouble in that marriage and you will not be able to help her.”
“What kind of trouble is this Baba?”
“I don’t know, the oracle does not tell me.”
“Ah Baba, this is difficult.”
“I know. When the trouble comes, there is nothing you can do but pray that her creator will have mercy on her.”
Ibironke sighed deeply. “Thank you Baba.”
The priest nodded.
“Who doesn’t face trouble in marriage Ibironke? Woman don’t spoil your daughter’s happiness because of what one old man said…”
“So now you think he’s an old man ehn? When he was saving your life you didn’t think…”
“She’s going to marry Adegoke, I’m not going to let you spoil my daughter’s happiness because an old man told you she will have trouble in marriage.”
“Hmmn, Baba Mowunmi, don’t let greed blind your eyes!”
“Are you calling me blind?”
“All you can see is the money, you’re not thinking of Mowunmi. I know you’re already thinking of how you will spend the money…”
“Ibironke!” Agbeniyi got up and stared at his wife.
“I’ve said my piece!” She got up and walked out.
Mowunmi was grinding pepper on a flat stone when her mother came out of the house fuming.
“Maami? Hope there is no problem?”
“There is o! There will be a lot of problem if you marry Adegoke!”
“Ah ah, Maami, what happened?” Mowunmi asked, rising up from the stone.
“I had this bad dream about you and Baba Fakorede said that you will have troubles if you marry that young man.”
“Maami, but Adegoke is a good man…”
“You and your father are the same! I know you’re only thinking of his money, but I assure you if you get married to him, there will be trouble. Baba is always right.”
Mowunmi was surprised at this news, to hear her mother burst her bubble this way was heartbreaking. Why was her mother so concerned about what an old priest said? Why was her own happiness not considered? How could she walk away from a marriage she considered a dream come true?
“I’m sure these yams will be enough for the food.” Lalonpe said to her friend Adebisi.
“Yes, it should be enough. Were you able to get those big crayfishes?”
“Yes, they’re in that basket, under the smoked fish.”
“Alright, thank you.” Adebisi replied cheerlessly.
“Your face is dull, I hope there’s nothing wrong?”
Adebisi smiled and shrugged, there was nothing she could do about her unhappiness about her son’s marriage.
“Adebisi, talk to me! What can be so bad?”
Adebisi sighed. “I don’t know what my son sees in this girl. There are other girls from better homes, more beautiful and respectable, but my son settles for a poor farmer’s daughter. I’m sure that girl charmed my son, because it’s so unlike my son to make such a decision and do it without my blessing.”
“Hmmn.” Lalonpe said. “Adegoke has certainly changed. Ever since he recovered from the accident, he’s been reserved and more mature than he was before. But that doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t heed your advice.”
“Did he fall on his head? Does he have to make foolish decisions because he fell down?”
Lalonpe laughed. “So now you can talk? I remember how you were praying for him to survive last year.”
“Lalonpe that is not the point. I have already thought of the perfect girl for him to marry, not that naïve, wretched daughter of a nobody.”
Lalonpe smiled. “Let him do what he wants to do. he’ll get tired of her when she has the first child. Then you can convince him to marry the girl you want him to marry. But if you tackle him now, you will only succeed in making him loathe you. Is that what you want? Let him do what he wants, and wait for him to be to be tired of the farmer’s daughter.”
“Hmm! Lalonpe!” Adebisi smiled widely and slapped her friend a high five.
Adegoke was on his farmland. His slaves were working hard on harvesting the yams and he was happy with the outcome. His future in-laws would be impressed with the bride price they had asked for. His joy wasn’t complete though, he looked afar off, towards the hectares of land that he coveted, the ones that belonged to Agbeniyi. He knew that getting him to agree to sell them would be a great feat but he was already working on trapping the poor farmer who would find it difficult to refuse his request.
Shame would make Agbeniyi sell the land, how could he refuse someone who was going to turn his daughter’s life around?
It was the wedding night, and Mowunmi and Adegbola were in the room prepared by his mother. It was time to consummate the marriage and the bride was nervous, it would be awkward to be naked in front of a man. Adegbola had anticipated this night for a while. He had imagined how beautiful her skin would be beneath her clothes and now it was time for him to see it. He pulled her close and smiled.
“Don’t worry, I’ll do it gently.” He said as he loosened her wrapper.
Mowunmi stiffened as her wrapper came undone, she could feel the air on her thighs.
“Relax.” Adegbola teased, satisfied with her modesty.
Laying her gently on the straw bed he began to run his hands down her thighs. Her skin was as smooth as he had imagined, he couldn’t believe how well groomed the daughter of a poor man was. Mowunmi was trembling slightly, aroused, yet nervous. This was what it felt like to be with a man.
Minutes passed and Adegbola began to shift on top of her uncomfortably. She could feel his body tense up and she wondered if something was wrong. He shifted again and dropped his hands from her body. Sliding off her he sighed sharply.
“Is it over…?” she was confused.
Adegbola didn’t answer her.
“Are we not going to …?” Mowunmi was confused, her mother had told her what was supposed to happen. She had felt no penetration, there had been no blood. Was it over?
“People are waiting …” She tried again. He was acting as if he was unaware of all the people who were waiting for him to show them the stained white cloth.
“This has never happened before!” Adegbola said to himself.
“What…?” Mowunmi was beginning to get nervous. She sat up and pulled up her legs to cover her body. “What’s going on?”
Adegbola couldn’t face her. “My thing is…”
“Is what?” Mowunmi asked, now scared.
“I don’t know what is happening, it’s not coming up.”
“Ehn… pull it up…”
“I can’t just do that… I don’t know how to explain it…”
“Ah! Please explain it! Are we not going to finish what we started?”
Adegbola exhaled sharply. “We can’t finish it if it doesn’t come up…”
“What does that mean?” Mowunmi turned him around to face her.
“I can’t finish it…”
“What are you saying?” she slapped his shoulder. “Lie down, I will help you to pull it up!”
“It can’t come up.” Adegbola said softly.
“Ehn! I’m in trouble!” she said alarmed and grabbed her wrapper, tying it around her chest. “Are you saying you’re impotent?”
“Mowunmi, calm down!” Adegbola said with slight irritation. “This has never happened. I assure you, I’m a complete man. We will try again later.”
“But what are we going to do about the cloth now?” she pointed at the white cloth that lay on the straw bed.
The crowd cheered when Adegbola showed the white cloth stained with blood. The bride had been a virgin. Plans were immediately made to send a full pot of palm wine as was the custom and the celebration intensified.
“Just give me some time, I assure you I am a complete man.” Adegbola said with feigned confidence, sitting beside her on the straw bed.
Mowunmi wiped the tears that had fallen from her eyes. Her mother had said that there would be trouble, and this was it.