Today will be a good day. I felt it as soon as I woke up, the sheepish smile on my face expanding when I realized that ma’ami was still asleep. She would have woken me up with slaps and insults to go fetch water otherwise. It is part of the reason for my great happiness, today is the last day I’ll have to go through her strenuous early morning routine.
That last thought brings a bigger smile to my face as the reason for my happiness begins to sink in. Today is really the last day I have to fetch water for ma’ami or sweep my father’s compound or wash their clothes. Today is the day before I marry Akanbi and I can hardly believe it.
I’ve looked forward to this day since Anti Asabe got married. I remember that day clearly even though I was only a child. I remember sitting under one of the white canopies holding a chicken bone in my hand and watching every move Asabe made. She was a vision in her purple and gold aso oke.
You could literally see the happiness in her eyes. It was obvious to me because Anti Asabe had never been the smiling type. She had always been stern, the adult that all the children in the compound were afraid of, the one who didn’t have to say a word to get you to behave yourself.
I can hardly remember any other detail from that day but the joy on Anti Asabes face that day has never left my memory. When I was alone with my mother later that night, I told her I wanted to be just as happy as Asabe when I got married. My mother simply grunted and said without looking up at me from the beans she was picking,
“you will have to close your legs to get that”.
I was confused. What did legs have to do with happy weddings?
By the time I was fourteen and my blood came, ma’ami made sure I understood what exactly it meant to close your legs. Every time someone got pregnant in the village, she would drag my ears and warn me not to get pregnant and bring shame to her. I was still slightly confused then though. Why did she think I would get pregnant? I was a skinny scrawny child. I had only tiny buds for breasts. Nobody was interested in that.
Sometimes, I wondered if the gods made me skinny because they thought it was the best way to prevent me from getting pregnant. I silently hated them inside every time a boy leered at my friend’s buttocks and ignored me.
After a few years however, my luck improved and I became quite sought after in the village. I can’t lie, it became a little harder to keep the legs closed at that point but ma’ami did not stop pulling my ears and slapping my newly grown buttocks whenever she felt suspicious.
Then, Akanbi happened last year. He had just moved back from the North with his father. The first day I saw him, I knew he would be mine. However, almost every girl in the village thought the same. You see the thing about Akanbi is that he is a beauty to behold. I still catch myself staring at him for long minutes and wondering how he picked me.
It is funny because I didn’t do anything to make him notice me. I wanted him to but I knew that if my mother found me displaying myself the way the other girls were, she would have my head.
I remember the day he finally said he was interested in me. A handful of us young people had gone to watch a performance by the village drama group. Somehow, on the way back home, everybody else had some other place to go and he was the only one available so he walked me back home.
I didn’t need to be convinced to let him walk me but I let him do it anyway.
“A young woman does not walk alone at night,”
he had said, before adding
“I can’t let you go alone. You don’t know what lurks around in these bushes”.
I let him go on for about two minutes before merely nodding and saying “okay”
When we were almost at my house, he cleared his throat and said
“Abeke, I know today is the first day we have had a real discussion so this might come as a shock but I have been watching you and I really really like you. I don’t know if you know what I am trying to say….I want to marry you”.
My heart was singing wildly all the while he was saying these beautiful words but as my mother’s child, I simply kept my eyes on the road ahead and said I would think about it.
He was quiet after that and it scared me so when we got to my house, I made sure to smile and touch his shoulder when I said thank you and goodbye. The rest is history. I am marrying my Akanbi tomorrow and the best part is that my legs have remained closed till this day.
That is the thing I am looking forward to the most. Finally. I will get to do what I have wanted to do on that soft bed in his bedroom. You can probably tell from the tone of my voice that it has been a difficult thing to keep these legs closed. You cannot even begin to imagine it.
Akanbi’s touch on my skin is like fire all the time. Sometimes, when he touches my neck or puts his hand in my hair, I want to beg him to have his way with me. Aha! I know now why I’m happy. After today, I will no longer have to pretend that he is a nuisance when he touches me. I will no longer have to leave his house in a hurry when he takes off his buba and stretches and I will no longer feel guilty when I lie to him that my back hurts so he can give me a shoulder rub. Ahh. I can hardly wait.
I think I know why Asabe was all smiles that day. I already know I will be smiling like that all through tomorrow because of the thought of what comes after. I guess it doesn’t hurt that my aso oke will also be purple and gold.