The Truly Married Woman (2)
'Do you mean you are going to wear these?' she asked.
'Yes,' Ayo replied simply.
'But, my sister,' she protested, 'suppose you had an accident and all those doctors lifted your clothes in hospital. They will see everything through these.'
'I never have accidents,' Ayo answered, and added, 'Ajayi says all the Hollywood cinema women wear these.'
'These are awful; they hide nothing, you should be ashamed to wear them,' the jealous girl said, pushing them angrily back over the wall to Ayo.
'Why should I want to hide anything from my husband when we are married?' Ayo said, winning the argument and moving happily back to her own kitchen.
The arrangements had to be made quickly, since time and the tightness of the corset were both against them. Ajayi missed his normal life, particularly his morning cup of tea. He borrowed a lot of money to pay for the music, the food, and the dresses that Ayo and her sisters would wear on the wedding day.
The day before the wedding, Ajayi's uncle and other relations took a Bible and a ring to Ayo's father. They took with them two small girls carrying on their heads large gourds, which contained things like pins, small coins, fruit, and nuts. These were traditional gifts to the bride from the bridegroom, so that in future arguments Ayo could not say, 'This terrible man has given me neither a pin nor a coin since we got married.'
On arrival at Ayo's father's house, the small group passed it first, pretending to be uncertain, then returned to it. Ajayi's uncle then knocked several times. Voices from inside asked for his name, the name of his family, and his reason for coming. He told them. Half an hour of discussion and argument followed. Was Ajayi's family good enough? Ajayi himself was waiting at home, but his relations enjoyed the argument and pretended to be frightened. At last Ayo's father opened the door. It should now be clear to Ajayi's relations that this was a family that was proud, difficult, and above the ordinary.
'Why have you come here?' asked Ayo's father.
Ajayi's uncle answered:
'We have come to pick a red, red rose
That in your beautiful garden grows,
Which never has been picked before,
So lovelier than any other.'
'Will you be able to take good care of our lovely rose?' asked another relation.
Ajayi's family replied:
'Such good care shall we take of your rose That many others will grow from it.'
They were finally allowed into the house; drinks were served, the gifts were accepted, and others given. For thirty minutes they talked about everything except the wedding. All through this, Ayo and her sisters and some other young women were kept hidden in a bedroom. Finally Ayo's father asked what brought Ajayi's family to his house.
'We have heard of a beautiful, obedient woman known as Ayo,' said Ajayi's uncle. 'We ask for her as a wife for Ajayi.'
Ayo's father opened the bedroom door and brought out Ayo's sister.
'Is this the one?' he asked.
Ajayi's relations looked at her carefully.
'No, this one is too short to be Ayo.'
Then a cousin was brought out.
'Is this the right woman?'
'No, this one is too fat.'
About ten women were brought out, but none was the right one.
'It was a good thing we asked to see her,' said Ajayi's uncle, turning to his relations, 'or we could get the wrong woman.' The relations agreed.
'All right,' said Ayo's father. 'Don't be impatient; I wanted to be sure that you knew who you wanted.' With tears in his eyes he called Ayo out from the bedroom, kissed her, and showed her to Ajayi's family.
'Is this the girl you want?' he asked.
'This is the very one,' Ajayi's uncle replied with joy.
'Hip, hip, hooray,' everyone shouted, dancing in a circle round Ayo as the music started. And as she stood in the center, a woman in her mid-thirties with slightly grey hair, in a ceremony that she had often seen but had stopped dreaming of for herself, Ayo cried with joy, and her unborn child moved inside her for the first time.
The next morning the women of her family helped her to wash and dress. Her father gave her. away at the marriage ceremony in church, a quiet wedding with about sixty people present. Afterwards they went to Ayo's family home for the wedding meal. At the door one of Ayo's old aunts met them and gave them a glass of water to drink from - first Ajayi, then Ayo.
'Do not be too friendly with other women,' she told Ayo, 'because they will steal your husband. Live peaceably together, and do not let the sun go down on an argument between you. And you, Ajayi, remember that a wife can be just as exciting as a mistress! And do not use violence against our daughter, who is now your wife.'
By now everyone had arrived, and they went into the house for the European part of the ceremony. The wedding cake (which Ayo had made) was cut, and then Ajayi left for his own family home. Later he returned for Ayo. The women cried as they said goodbye to her.
'When it comes to the true work of a woman - having children - nobody can say that you are not enthusiastic,' said Ayo's mother through her tears.
Ajayi and Ayo visited various relations on both sides of the family and at last they were home. Ayo seemed different in Ajayi's eyes. He had never really looked at her carefully before. Now he saw her proud head, her long neck, her handsome shoulders, and he held her to him lovingly.
The next morning, as his alarm clock went off, he reached for his morning cup of tea. It was not there. He sat up quickly and looked. Nothing. He listened for Ayo's footsteps outside in the kitchen. Nothing. He turned to look beside him. Ayo was there. She must be ill, he thought, all that excitement yesterday.
'Ayo, Ayo,' he cried, 'are you ill?'
She turned round slowly, still lying down, and looked at him. She moved her feet under the cotton bedcover, getting comfortable. There was a terrible calm about her.
'No, Ajayi,' she replied, 'are you? Is something wrong with your legs?'
'No,' he said. He was alarmed, thinking that all the excitement had made her go a little crazy.
'Ajayi, my husband,' she said, 'for twelve years I have got up every morning at five to make tea for you and breakfast. Now I am a truly married woman, you must behave towards me with a little more respect. You are now a husband and not a lover. Get up and make yourself a cup of tea.'
- THE END -