“Mowunmi, bride of Adegbola!” Agbeniyi said to his daughter as she approached her family house.
“Father!” she answered with a smile and knelt beside him.
Agbeniyi blessed his daughter and took a good look at her. “They’re taking good care of you over there. I can see that your cheeks are fuller.”
Mowunmi laughed. “What of my mother?”
“She’s at the backyard, still sorting out all the things your in-laws brought. I must say that they really outdid themselves!”
Mowunmi smiled and got up. “Let me go and see my mother.”
Ibironke was examining tubers of yams and sorting them out. She was surrounded by two of Mowunmi’s siblings, Morountodun and Olumuyiwa who were helping with the sorting.
“Egbon mi!” they said affectionately and ran to her.
Mowunmi was glad to see them and produced some fried bean cake which she had wrapped in leaves. They ran into the house to show it to the others.
“Maami.” She greeted her mother, kneeling.
“I thought you wouldn’t greet me.” She teased, still busy with her work.
“I’m sorry, I was distracted by my younger ones.”
“So, how is married life?” Ibironke asked, looking at her for the first time.
Mowunmi had come home, planning to talk to her mother about her marital problems but she saw that her mother was already expecting to hear something unsavory, she was still unhappy that she had chosen to go ahead with her marriage to Adegbola. Telling her that there was already trouble would only give her reason to gloat.
“All is well Maami.” She replied with as much confidence as she could muster.
“We give thanks.” Ibironke said, turning away to continue her work.
“How is your husband?”
“He is fine.”
“And your in-laws?”
“They’re also doing well.”
Ibironke nodded. “Thank you for not putting us to shame. They brought a full pot of palm wine.”
Mowunmi nodded in response. “You taught me well.”
At this Ibironke stopped what she was doing and faced her. “Mowunmi,” she sighed. “I know that I’ve not been kind to you in the past weeks but it’s only because I’m scared for you. Baba Fakorede is never wrong and I’m just angry that you chose to marry that man despite my warning. But I wish you all the best in your marriage, you’ve been a good child and my prayer is that very soon you too will become a mother of good children.”
“Amen.” Mowunmi replied solemnly, tempted to tell her mother what was uppermost on her mind.
“Maami!” Olumuyiwa came out of the house with a frown on his face. “My sister won’t share the bean cakes equally!”
“You fool! Are you age mates? Take what she gives you and say thank you to her!”
The moment passed and Mowunmi went back home with her burden.
Mowunmi and Ireti were on their way back from the market.
“So will you continue selling beads in the market?”
Mowunmi laughed. “No. I’m sure my husband would not allow it, not to talk of my in-laws.”
“Hmmn, my friend you are lucky. No more sitting in the sun! You’ll only be strolling into the market on few occasions.”
Mowunmi smiled, it did feel good not to have to sit in the sun on market days anymore. But her friend was unaware of her troubles, the kind that couldn’t be said.
“So how is married life?” Ireti went on, oblivious of the shadow of sadness that clouded her friend’s face. “I’m sure that you eat big pieces of chicken often.”
“I know! And on the days that you don’t eat chicken, you’ll eat goat meat, or big chunks of smoked fish. Oh I pray that a rich man will marry me too! See how beautiful your dress is! Who made your hair? It is so beautiful!”
Mowunmi laughed again, her friend’s amusing imagination of her new life was a relief to her burdened heart.
“So my friend, when will you tell me about the wedding night? Was it as painful as they say it is?”
Mowunmi smiled, thinking of what to say.
“It’s me Ireti o! Don’t try to be coy.”
“It’s not really…” she was going to say that it hadn’t been painful because she had no idea what it felt like but knowing her friend might ask for details she decided to go with the general assumption.
“Ei! Did you cry?”
Mowunmi had cried throughout the night, unable to believe her bad luck.
“Yes.” She replied.
“But are you enjoying it now? You’ve been married for some months and I heard that it’s only painful for a while. I heard that it’s very sweet. Is it true? It’s true right?”
“Ireti!” Mowunmi snapped. “Do you want me to tell you everything that’s going on between my husband and I?”
Ireti was surprised at her friend’s outburst. She had looked forward to tales of her intimacy with her husband.
“Don’t be offended.” She replied quietly and walked away.
Mowunmi watched her walk away and wondered how she would make it up to her or explain her irrational outburst. Ireti had done what she would have done if she were in her shoes.
“What did you cook?” Adegbola asked his wife as he sat down and removed his cap.
“Pounded yam and egusi soup.”
“Did you cook it with the goat meat I gave you yesterday?”
“Alright. Bring the food.”
Mowunmi set the food before him and made to leave. “Are you leaving?”
“I thought I should leave you to eat your food in peace.”
“Aren’t you eating?”
“I’m not hungry.”
Adegbola sighed. “Come and sit here.”
Unwillingly she sat by him and he held her hand. “Mowunmi, if I say that you have not been patient, I would be lying. Thank you for being patient, thank you for keeping my secret. But I must beg you to continue being patient with me…”
“Till when Adegbola? I’m tired…!” her voice choked with tears. “This morning your mum looked at me strangely…”
“How did she look at you?”
“She looked at me as if she was angry with me, and I know why. We’ve been married for six months and there’s no sign of pregnancy. How can there be when we’ve never…”
“Don’t worry, I’m doing something about it…”
“What are you doing? Adegbola don’t let the world give me a name that isn’t mine!”
Adegbola held her face in his. “Look at me.” reluctantly she did. “I am not an impotent man. I just can’t tell you to ask the other women I’ve been with. I will sort it out. I promise you, hmmn? Smile.”
Mowunmi looked away.
“Hmmn Mowunmi, sweet as honey, graceful like a dove, the keeper of the key to my heart…”
At this Mowunmi smiled.
“See your beautiful teeth! Let’s eat together.”
She shook her head. “I’m really not hungry.”
“Eat with me!” he urged, pulling her close.
She shrugged. “Alright.”
“When we finish eating, will you massage my back?”
“Did you strain your back today?” she asked, massaging the small of his back where he seldom complained of pain.
“When do I not strain my back? I have to provide food for my beautiful wife.”
A fly perched on Adegbola’s nose but he paid it no attention. His thoughts were on his recent state of impotence. Mowunmi was tired of trying and stiffened every time he moved closer to her. He wasn’t sure how much more she could take and he knew that people were already beginning to get concerned about her flat stomach.
For this reason, he had come to Alaran. It was a border town and its large market boasted of all kinds of goods. Various people came to this market to find uncommon products and artisans. He’d first heard of it when his cousin the King received a visitor from the town. He had brought wooden sculptures as presents from its reputable market.
He looked ahead and saw a section of women who sold herbal concoctions. He looked sideways where he had left Oni to bargain with a cocoa merchant. It would only take a few minutes. He dashed to an elderly woman who was eating a large kolanut.
“Good day mama.”
“Good day. What do you need?”
“A concoction for…” he looked around nervously.
“There’s nothing we’ve never heard of in this place. Say what you have to say.” The elderly woman said with slight irritation.
“What happened is that my manhood is…”
“You can’t get it up?” the elderly woman said with a grin that made Adegbola frown.
“Yes.” He replied grudgingly.
“That’s what you didn’t want to say?” she reached for a small clay pot. “Drink this for the next seven days and see if it won’t rise up.”
Adegbola looked at the pot and dared to ask what the elderly woman had put it in the concoction.
She clapped her hands in amazement and told her colleagues what the young, handsome man had asked.
Oni looked around for Adegbola, wondering how long it could possibly take for him to ease himself. He saw him standing afar off, holding a clay pot. Why would his friend be purchasing an herbal concoction? Worse still, why would he lie about it? He looked back at the cocoa merchant and tried to smile.
“What you want to pay for our produce is too small.” He said to him.
“I knew that he would change his mind once he saw you.” Oni said to Adegbola of the cocoa merchant, as they walked into their village.
“I have a charmed tongue. People must do what I say.” He teased.
“Is that why that old woman and her colleagues were laughing?”
“What old woman?”
“The one you went to meet at Alaran market.”
“What are you saying?”
“I saw you holding a pot Ade! Why are you trying to bamboozle me? It’s me, Oni!”
“Oh is it that small pot? I heard that those women sell good herbs for pregnancy, so I decided to give it a try.”
“Is that what you didn’t want to say?”
“Well, now that know, stop disturbing me.” Adegbola said irritably.
“Since when do you need herbs to get a woman pregnant? Do the thing often enough and hard enough and she’ll get pregnant!”
“Oni,” Adegbola laughed. “You need to get married.”
Adegbola took the last of the concoction and winced at its bitterness. Mowunmi eyed him from the corner of his eyes.
“It’s not working Adegbola. Let us tell someone about this!”
“Mowunmi that’s not the solution. If we tell people they will tell us to do what I’m doing. Please just be patient!”
“But how come you didn’t know about this before we got married.” She queried.
“Because I stopped sleeping with the slavegirls after the accident that happened before we got married.”
Mowunmi sighed and looked away.