Tue. Feb 13th, 2024

PART 19

 

“How do we celebrate? I will take you out. Let’s spend the day in Abakiliki tomorrow. It is just that your parents would not accept, if not, we would have gone to Owerri to catch some fun”

 

I quickly replied, “They won’t”

 

Chiamaka came with pepper soup and drinks for us. We ate and I packed the plates indoors while Emeka sat with father to discuss my achievement.

 

 

“I am back is with the same proposal I came with before. I have not changed my mind. I want to marry your daughter; she is the reason I came back now. From her Jamb result, it is obvious she will be in the university at the next session. I am proud of her. You can imagine what will happen then. I will be uncomfortable with her being single in the university while hawks will see her as prey. But once they know she is a married woman; they will let her be. I want to do the traditional rites first and then after two years, we conclude the rest. It is just for me to be reassured”

 

“It is not for me to say. My daughter can speak for herself. Call Akwaugo for me”

 

“I came out from my hiding to answer father”

 

“Have you accepted Emeka’s marriage proposal?”

 

“Not yet sir”

 

“Why? What is holding you back?”

 

“Father, I think I should get into the university first before considering marriage. I don’t want anything to stop my education, not marriage or children. If he can wait until I graduate, then it will be perfect. But right now, I want to enter the university first”

 

“Akwaugo, we need to have a heart to heart conversation on this matter. Nda, please allow me to take Akwaugo out and discuss with her. I will not disrespect you in any way once she is with me. Concerning anything stopping her education, I am making a promise to you today, Akwaugo will be a doctor even if it is the last thing I do. I want her to succeed. You can imagine an engineer married to a doctor; our children will be very intelligent. That’s what I want. I want to marry Akwaugo. I will be visiting while she is still going to school. Once she passes the board exam of the country we decide to reside, then she will come over to live with me”

 

“Emeka, tell your father that I said he should come and knock so people will not talk when they see both of you together”

 

 

Amanze wasn’t happy with the decision. “Uncle, I don’t think anything should be rushed until Akwaugo has gained admission. Akwaugo is not sounding like she is madly in love with this man. Let her decide what she wants. Nobody forces their will on anyone especially concerning whom they will spend the rest of their lives with”

 

“Is it true Akwaugo? You are not in love with me?” Emeka asked looking hurt.

 

“I didn’t say so. I only said I needed time. I don’t want to rush things. Once I am in school then we can talk about …..”

 

“I have gotten the message loud and clear. Congratulations Akwaugo. I am genuinely happy and proud of you. Thank you, sir, for giving me a listening ear” he looked at his wristwatch and then said, “I am supposed to be somewhere with my father but I came here first. Let me rush and join him”

 

Emeka was obviously upset. Father asked me to see him off but he declined the offer. He walked out of the house and father urged me to follow him which I did. He didn’t say a word to me; he got into his car and drove away.

 

I came back home and overheard father talking to Amanze. “That is not how to treat a suitor. Akwaugo had said what she desired. If she liked him, she would have tried convincing him to agree to her terms which I know he would agree. Saying she didn’t love him bruised his ego; no man wants to hear the lady he loves doesn’t love him back. That was wrong and Akwaugo hasn’t said she doesn’t love him but I can see she likes him a lot”

 

“I am sorry, uncle. I will go over and apologise to him”

 

“I think you should. He will appreciate it”

 

I walked into the house. Father asked me what Emeka said. I replied he didn’t talk to me.

 

“My daughter, I and your mother don’t want to force you into getting married when you are not ready. What do you really want?”

 

 

“Father, I want to go to school. I want to have an education. He has graduated and is working; why can’t I do the same?”

 

“What you have said is fair but” he sat back in his chair and added, “he is twenty-eight already. You have six or seven years to round up. He will be thirty-five by the time you are through. Why would he want to wait that long to be a husband and a father? If you don’t feel anything for him, maybe you should tell him and let him go. But, I like him. He has shown he is decent and respectful. The reason they are gossiping about you now is because Emeka is a good suitor. He is comfortable, intelligent and respectful. His father told me he rejected the girl they introduced to him when he sighted you. People are aware of this and are not happy that you are having it all. Think about it for two days and get back to me. Amanze try and see him before you travel”

 

I was caught up with thinking about it. I refused to be influenced by those around me. My parents too had calculated the age I would graduate and the likelihood of me finding a quality suitor at that age was slim even though I would be a doctor.

 

Many men in my village preferred to marry girls between the ages of eighteen and twenty – three. After this age, you become a prayer point. My parents wanted me to marry close to home. I desired it too but not this early. I felt Emeka was moving too fast and I wondered why. Why couldn’t he wait for when I am settled in school? I was worried I would be stopped from studying further after getting married. I couldn’t trust any promises made now he is pursuing what he desired. He sounded serious and wanted me to make it but I was still sceptical.

 

Amanze went to see him and they made up. He brought him back home and greeted my parents before he left. He didn’t ask after me. I also didn’t say anything or even call him. I didn’t want to give the impression I was desperate and father had asked me to take two days to decide what I wanted.

 

Chiamaka avoided giving me any advice. She told me to follow my heart and in all, I should think about what is best for me. I should weigh the pros and cons of early marriage. That was all she said before they left for Abuja. I was on my own now. I had to decide if I wanted this or not.

 

Finally, I told father I liked Emeka very much but I wanted to look out for my best interest. I told him Emeka can only come to formally ask for my hand in marriage

 

 

when I have entered the university. And we will have an agreement I will finish university no matter what.

 

“Is this your final decision?” father asked me and I said yes.

 

My father called Emeka’s father immediately. He entered into the room to talk to him. Mother looked at me and asked, “Did you pray before taking your decision”

 

“Yes, mother”

 

“Good. Your decision has wisdom. It could only come from the holy spirit”

 

Father didn’t say anything after his call with Emeka’s father. We continued life as usual. With Chiamaka and Kosi gone, mother had resumed fully to the market. She was there from morning until evening while father stayed at home, attended to visitors, settled disputes, and talked to some children who had been reported to him by their parents. He counselled them. He was never idle and I was very happy.

 

Emeka didn’t call me for a week. I decided to swallow my pride and call him but he didn’t pick up. I tried several times and even dropped messages but it felt like I had hit a brick wall. I felt bad. I didn’t expect this type of reaction from him. I decided to go back to Enugu.

 

Auntie and uncle were to travel out of the country. I decided to stay and watch over her business for her in Enugu. She was having a lot of complaints. The driver was to pick me up in the morning and take me home in the evening. I needed the distraction.

 

I had only been in the warehouse for three days when I saw all the lapses there. Auntie Nneoma left everything to the supervisor who was milking her without her knowledge. I took inventory of all that was supplied. I stood with the supervisor to confirm. Then I took a daily inventory. The man was unhappy. I crosschecked what was sold with what we had left and I noticed a shortfall. I was upset. I sat down with the cashier and told her she was the only authorized to collect cash and will be held liable for any shortfall. She took a seat close to the door. I also moved the security man to the exit door. Without a receipt, the security won’t let you pass. She must crosscheck what was sold against the amount before issuing a receipt.

 

 

I got a call from auntie Nneoma very early one morning about a week after I had made changes to the shop. She asked me how it was going and I said it was fine. I took her through all I had done so far and the changes I had made. I told her how much we made daily and how the bank picks up.

 

“How much did you say you make a day nwam?” she asked again.

 

“N520,000 sales every day. I went to the retail shops around and gave them on credit to collect our cash every Friday. Chinelo suggested it and is in charge of it”

 

“So why is Ejike complaining? He has called me every day telling me you want to crumble my business”

 

“I don’t know but the other workers don’t seem to like him. They are co-operating with me”

 

“I will tell him I authorised all the changes you have done so far. What of the salon?”

 

“It’s working well. But auntie, Chinelo suggested something. The stylists and braiders are misbehaving and would spend the whole day on one customer or two. She suggested they be placed on commission so they will also go marketing. In the end, they stand to make money for themselves and also for the business”

 

“Who suggested this?”

 

“Chinelo”

 

“I have underrated that girl; she seems to have a good head on her shoulder. I will speak with them tomorrow and then make it official. Thank you nwam, you have done a good job”

 

The supervisor couldn’t cope with me being in the warehouse and threatened to leave. He was shocked when auntie Nneoma called us in the office and said to him, “Ejike since you have been supervisor, I have never taken up to N300,000 to the bank. I have been making a very marginal profit. With what my daughter has

 

 

introduced, I can see why. You said if she doesn’t stop coming you will leave. Well, I have instructed the market security to escort you out. Chinelo, you are taking over as supervisor. Whatever Ejike was earning, you will earn for starters. Once you can increase our daily sales in both the warehouse and salon, you will get a raise. Work with my daughter until I come back”

 

It was shocking to everyone. It was Chinelo that discussed with the stylists and braiders who were reluctant to agree. Word got out that this offer was available, people applied for work in the salon as nail technicians, stylists, braiders and even barbers. The space was large and not fully utilized. Chinelo set up the place to accommodate more workers. When the former stylists and braiders saw they had competition, they sat up.

 

I threw myself into the auntie Nneoma’s business because I didn’t want to wallow in self-pity. I began to question if my decision to wait until I enter the university was right. I tried to stop myself from calling Emeka; I didn’t want to appear desperate. I didn’t tell auntie and uncle about what happened.

 

In July, our WAEC result was released. I rushed to the school to check my result. I was scared, this was what was standing in my way of entering the university. I checked my result and I was speechless. I made all As. I ran home to call auntie Nneoma to share the good news. She was very happy for me and so was uncle Emma. I called my parents and informed them. There was jubilation everywhere. I also shared the news with Chiamaka. She was still in Abuja while Amanze had gone to Kaduna.

 

There was someone I wanted to share this with. It had been a month since the incident and he had ignored me. I decided to just inform him and hold my peace. I sent him a message telling him my WAEC result was out and letting him know my score. I dropped my phone after that to attend to other things. When I got back, I saw he had replied.

 

“Congratulations. I am proud of you. This is what you wanted and you achieved it” and that was it. No “baby”, no “I love you”, no “I miss you”.

 

I responded with “Thank you”.

 

 

I was at the warehouse two days later when uncle Chike called me. He said Emeka came to the house and dropped something for me. I left; I rushed home.

 

When I entered the house, I saw a box already in the passage.

 

“Who brought this?” I asked.

 

“Emeka now, your suitor”

 

“Why would he bring this for me?” I brought out my phone and called him but there was no reply. I called severally; he didn’t pick up. Uncle Chike helped me carry the box inside because it was heavy.

 

“He gave me three T-shirts and one face cap. He also gave me N5000. The man is a good man. I like him”

 

“He gave you things too? Why is he doing all this?”

 

“The man like you. He wants to marry you. See, woman has time when men will be disturbing her for marriage. If she misses the time, to marry go hard. This man is the only one that has come and he is serious. Do not miss your time. What again are you looking for?”

 

I looked at uncle Chike. Everyone was saying the same thing. Nobody is thinking about what I desired. Marriage was a good thing. Emeka is a good man but I wanted to achieve something before then. I needed to be in school. I feared what might happen if I was in school. I was right.

 

The box contained clothes, shoes, belts, and many other items. I was shocked. He even bought some things for auntie and uncle. It was a big box. I had to take the items inside in bits upstairs until I could carry the box up the stairs. Why did he give me all these? I must confess, I tried on some of the clothes and I loved them. They were modern and trendy. I could use them at the university. I also got two bottles of perfume, body butter, and body mist. I was grateful.

 

 

I sent him a message: “You didn’t have to get me all this. Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I wish you would talk to me so I can explain myself. Please forgive me if I offended you in any way”.

 

He responded: “I am happy you liked them. I got them for you; it didn’t make any sense taking them back to giving them out. Since I had you in mind when I shopped, I had to make sure you receive them. I am going back to Spain. Have a nice life”.

 

He was going back to Spain? Why didn’t he talk to me? I missed him and I had to bury myself into something I wasn’t really interested in.

 

The days went by, then months. I received my admission letter and I was excited. I

 

went to the university to process my admission with help from someone uncle

 

Emma knew there. He helped with the registration which made it faster. I did the

 

medicals and applied for hostel accommodation. I felt wonderful with myself; I

 

was now an undergraduate.

 

AKWAUGO

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