‘He handed me a white but now blood-stained handkerchief’
The white wedding was to be in Lagos. John had left for Lagos long since. Five days to the date fixed for the white wedding my mother arrived in Owerri to take me to Lagos. We boarded Ekenedilichukwu luxury transport bus very early and got to Lagos around 5:00pm. John lived in an apartment somewhere in Mojisola Estate, Magodo, Lagos.
Lagos was a revelation to me in 1995. I had only ever been to Owerri, Onitsha and Aba, big cities in the east by their own rights. If they were paragraphs, Lagos was a complete chapter, the way it appeared to me. The wedding dress was chosen by John’s friend’s wife. Danco, as he was called, was John’s close family friend. The woman was nice and quiet. I thought she was helpless as I was when she realised I was the saddest and most reluctant bride she would ever handle. I wasn’t considered worthy to make a choice for myself so she did her best. I wore what they wanted me to wear for my wedding. I was not comfortable with any part of the entire thing but for me not to be comfortable with my own wedding dress was more than I could take. I secretly cried after testing the dress out. My bridesmaid, Engee, arrived just a day before the wedding. By this time I was already assigning myself to my fate.
Still, during the nights I refused to step into John’s bedroom. Whenever he was around that sly smile followed me around. He never complained about anything. On the wedding day I left the house early to dress up at one of John’s friend’s place in Marwa Garden, close to Mojisola Estate. Mr. Akin was married to a very cheerful and nice woman, Jenny (their marriage would later end in divorce). They lived in a very big house in this choice estate in Marwa Garden. I dressed up in Jenny’s bedroom. She was there for my makeup and everything. From there, we were driven to the church in Mr. Akin’s Mercedes Concorde. When I got down in church I heard the members of Christian Assembly Church, Ogba, Ikeja, talking to themselves and saying that I was too young and very beautiful. The exchange of marital vows was in the presence of Apostle Albert. We happened to be the first couple to wed at that church in the history of Christian Assembly. The wedding reception was at Air Force Base, Ikeja, with a popular Nollywood actor called Peter as MC.
The entire ceremony did not have any glow for me. I shuddered every time I remembered what this now meant between John and I; he was now officially my husband. That night I lay on my marriage bed, terrified. What John’s cousin’s wife asked my mother kept playing back over and over in my mind. My body trembled, literally. Fear crawled in every nerve in my body. I cringed at every sound my husband made as he undressed before his wardrobe. As he walked towards me where I lay shivering on the big bed that familiar smile was on his lips. It was one of the most dreadful things I would ever see in my first movements as a teen bride. It was going to be the least of my worries as events soon turned out.
The next morning I remember waking up sore, frightened and disoriented. I lay unmoving. My nerves raced around in panic. Then it dawned on me. I was in my husband’s house, on his bed: my marriage bed. He came out of the bathroom, whistling. Something about him had changed. He had a glow on his face. The sly smile was gone. In its place was a grin of genuine admiration. I watched him. I was trying not to breathe hard. Frankly, I did not know what to expect. He handed me a white but now blood-stained handkerchief. This was John as I had never seen him before. He was practically beaming.
‘This,’ he said, as he handed me the handkerchief, ‘is your glory, your pride!’ Does he deserve to have that? I don’t think so. I watched him, not sure how to respond. But inside I started feeling a little lightness. My struggling to breathe started to subside. I did not know what this feeling was at the time. I know now. It was relief. I lay back on the bed quietly as he bustled about and then left. Later on, he would give a car to my father for finding me with my glory and my pride! I lay watching him. Maybe this was not going to be the hell I envisioned it to be. That morning, it being a Sunday, we attended church thanksgiving for the wedding. During the thanksgiving, the wife of Apostle Albert, looked at me and said to the congregation: ‘Isn’t she very young?’ They all agreed with her. Members murmured and passed off comments. The next day people started leaving our house. Everyone was gone by the end of the following day after church thanksgiving. The house emptied itself of marriage guests. My mother only stayed two days after.
I was on my own. I was married. I just turned eighteen. My husband’s younger nephew, Adinnu, lived with him even before our marriage. He was the only person left after everybody was gone. He was nice and respectful to me, I remember. My husband would later get another apartment for him where he was always took his girlfriends to. He lived in the new apartment, but always came to eat whenever I cooked. I was still uneasy about my husband. As the first days drew by however I told myself that I was already tossed adrift on this sea. I might as well swim along with the currents. There was no escape now. I was trapped.
I thought of Jim a lot. I thought of how much different it would have been if it was Jim that had married me. I could almost reach out and touch the elation that would have caused. There was no elation here in my new home, no songs in my heart at the thought. If Jim was richer and more influential I was sure we would have stood a chance. Jim didn’t have, his family was not close to my parents and so, I lost him. How I wished things were different!
My husband was very generous. The wedding gifts he had purchased for me filled a room, stacked together with the gifts from friends, family and well-wishers. These gifts made no difference to my feelings. I remember the faces of some of the people who brought the gifts. They were elderly and sensible looking people, good people. Why then did nobody come to my help? Why didn’t anybody protest on my behalf? Didn’t they see the sadness in my eyes? Didn’t they know it was the wrong time for me to be married? I had enough time to brood and muse. There was no honeymoon for me. None was planned. After the week a pattern was already emerging. My husband went out every evening, he came back late at night. Sometimes he came home very late at night, well past midnight. I would have fallen asleep, exhausted by my anxiety and all day psychological drivel. Sometimes I would wake to his hands groping for me around 2:00am in the morning when he got home. The first time I tried to resist, he beat me. We got a wedding card from one of his girlfriends, one I had already met. I saw where he kept the card in a corner of his wardrobe. She wrote on the card: ‘Congrats on your wedding. But we have to go on with the relationship. U-Kay.’ I remember the feeling of emptiness that enveloped me as I read the card. The next day my husband came home accompanied by a lady in her late thirties he introduced to me as a business partner. The girl was with her younger brother, Obinna. This was his girlfriend, Mary, the one that bought the bag of goodies he gave me before the traditional wedding, the one that was supposed to get the bag of goodies herself. I did not know all that then. He said she just came in from Togo for an important business deal. I cooked and catered for them. She became a regular visitor in the house. I would attend to her whenever she was around. She always had a leering smile on the face. I did not understand why then.
During the day the house got very quiet and lonely. My husband had got an apartment for his nephew Adinnu, to ‘settle’ him after years of acting in the capacity of both housekeeper and business trainee. He moved out happily to his new apartment, taking whatever friendly company I had in my home with him. My mother decided to let my youngest sister Ola come stay with me. She would continue her education here in Lagos. She was ten years old. Ola was very happy to be with me. She was never happy about my home because she saw so many things that I didn’t even get to see. Whenever I stepped out to the doctor’s or to the market things were happening at the house. She saw some ladies that were supposed to be my friends one Peju and one Chy sneaking to the house and sneaking to meet my husband in our bedroom. Ola would never tell me what she was witnessing in the house till the day my husband beat us together and sent her packing…
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