March 2nd, 2013
Isn’t it ironic that I was the only one in my family who didn’t get along with Akunna, for all the 10 years she was with my brother…but yet now, I am the only one who is a suitable enough emissary.
After our discussion, Phillip and I had agreed that I would be the one to contact Akunna, to arrange the meeting with her parents, especially as I am the only one seemingly in her good books right now.
And so, call her I did, the very next day. To my utter amazement, there was no posing, no argument, none of that. Instead, she had been very cooperative, had said she would call back after checking with her family, and had returned my call in less than an hour, saying that they had agreed to meet with us on Saturday.
Even though I really didn’t want to go, and even as Patrick was very vocal about not liking the idea of me being in such a stressful situation, I just knew I had to do it. Not only would it possibly ease the tension if there was another pregnant woman in the room, I didn’t trust my Mom not to worsen things with her mouth. So, it was imperative for me to act as a chaperone. Patrick insisted on coming along with us, to be my own chaperone, but that was all fine and good. The more, the merrier!
Getting to Akunna’s parents’ house, I have to admit to have been rather taken aback. I had no idea that she was from such a modest background, not with the expensive and extravagant way she was always turned out. The living room was so small, it could hardly fit in our small delegation, consisting of Phillip, Mom, our paternal Uncle, Patrick and I. Patrick had opted to stand, to make everyone comfortable.
The mood had been akin to that of a home in mourning. For the first few minutes, we had sat in labored silence…nobody quite knowing what to say first.
“Bia! Did you people come here to waste our time?!” Akunna’s mother retorted, effectively getting the ball rolling.
Hmmm, like mother like daughter.
My Uncle cleared his throat. “We are very grateful for the audience that has been granted us. We would have come much earlier, but we…”
“Phillip! You, this Phillip!!!” Akunna’s mom exploded again, jumping to her feet, and cutting my Uncle short. “You who used to eat from my kitchen! You whom I took as a son! Is this what you have chosen to do to us? To put us to shame??!”
“Please, can you allow us to talk?!” my own mother snapped.
Chai! World War 3 was about to get started!
“My friend, sit down, and let them speak!” Akunna’s dad said, giving his wife a dirty look.
Finally, a voice of reason. A surprising one at that.
“Ehen…thank you.” my Uncle stuttered. “We would like to, first of all, apologise for the unfortunate situation we find ourselves in, and would like to see how we can reach some form of arrangement…to take care of your daughter, and grandchild.”
Akunna’s dad had listened quietly, his head bowed, and his finger tracing the ground. For some reason, I was reminded of the Biblical story of Jesus tracing his finger in the sand, and hoped that his musing would lead to him saying something profound.
“I want to hear from the young man,” he finally said, looking at Phillip.
Taken aback, it took him a moment to compose himself to respond. “Yes Sir?”
“Why have you decided not to marry my daughter?” the man asked.
Such a simple question, but such a deadly and loaded one!
“Sir…it just wasn’t working out. We weren’t compatible.” Phillip stammered in response.
“But you were compatible enough to impregnate her.” the man retorted.
“Don’t mind them, that’s how they are! Onye Calabar!” Akunna’s mom said, clicking her tongue.
I looked at my Mom in a panic, fearing her own response. But I think the Christianity in her had kicked in, and she decided to let that one slide.
“Sir, I am not here to face reprimands about the past,” Phillip answered, his voice indicating that he had fully regained his composure, and was ready to take them on. “What has happened has happened. A broken engagement is far better than a broken marriage, and I know you would not have liked being party to any such thing.”
“No, I would not have liked to be a party to a broken marriage…but I also don’t quite care for harbouring an almost 33-year old woman, with a bastard child, in my house,” Akunna’s father answered.
The silence that followed was as pregnant as Akunna and I are. What else could we say? It was a bad situation, and there was absolutely no sugar coating it.
“So, there is no chance of any form of reconciliation?” Akunna’s father asked.
“I’m afraid not, Sir.” Phillip responded firmly.
Akunna’s father nodded. “Is it true that you are already engaged to another woman?”
Phillip cleared his throat. “Yes, Sir.”
From the corner of my eye, I could see Akunna shaking her leg angrily, from where she sat in that tiny living room. Having to hear all this couldn’t be easy for her.
“Fair enough,” her dad finally. “We have decided that her monthly allowance will be Three Hundred Thousand Naira before the baby gets here, and Five Hundred Thousand afterwards.”
Huh?! Our collective reaction to the statement was unanimous.
“Sir, please reconsider…” Phillip pleaded. “That is way too high…”
At this point, Akunna’s dad was done. He rose to his feet. “Young man, we are not in the market square. This is not a negotiation. What I have said is final! Do you know how much it is costing me to feed her? What will happen when the baby gets here. We need to be able to take care of them properly!” and that was when I had caught that sly smile. “After all, you are marrying a money bags. That amount is pocket change where she is concerned.”
Of course! But of course they would use Diana as ammunition.
In the end, Phillp had agreed to their terms, and we had left their house with a long list of things they needed, and a schedule of things to take care of.
It was actually much easier than I thougt it would be