Oleng was discharged from the hospital the following day and returned to her normal life. Marvy was overjoyed when she told her that she had accepted Dave’s proposal but Zinny was quite reserved. She only told her congratulations and wished her happiness.
Due to Zinny’s lack of excitement towards the coming nuptials, Oleng decided to make Marvy her maid of honor instead of Zinny as she had always wanted which made Marvy very happy.
A month after their engagement, Dave decided to go and show his family the girl he wanted to spend the rest of his life with now that she was strong enough to travel. Oleng was scared to go with him at first but her aunt convinced her to go since, she would have to meet her potential in-laws someday.
Due to the hectic nature of Dave’s job, they had to go on a Saturday and proposed coming back the following day. Oleng planned that if she got to like his family, she might stay longer than that. She had never met his family before not even while they were still in school together. She had seen pictures of his parents, his younger brother and sisters but had never met them. She was glad for the opportunity of meeting them at last. She prayed they would like her. Dave insisted they would love her, what with her beauty and poise.
When he drove past her former house, she made sure she didn’t look at it. He squeezed her hand and sighed when he saw that she looked away. They finally got to the house and his mother was overjoyed to see him. His dad was not at home, only his mum and younger sisters. They exchanged pleasantries before he introduced her.
“Mum, Michelle and Felicia, meet Oleng, my fiancée.” He held Oleng’s hand, grinning.
Oleng knelt down before his mother and greeted her again. One look at Michelle told her the former didn’t like her.
“Get up, my dear.” Mrs. Sokari said and lifted her up. “Please sit.”
They all sat down and stared at her.
Mrs. Sokari looked dazzled by her beauty and petite nature while Michelle looked at her with disgust and Felicia with indifference.
“My dear, please can you excuse us for just a few minutes? You can go to the balcony to take some fresh air.” her fiancé’s mum told her.
“Alright ma” She quietly said and got up to go to the said place. She closed the sliding door to give them some privacy but Michelle got up to open it.
“No be only you need fresh air abeg” she harshly told her. Oleng shrugged and lent on the rails to look at the entire compound.
“She’s from Calabar, right?”
“What?” Michelle jolted up from her seat. “Calabar? God forbid.”
“No. She’s not from Calabar. She’s from…” Dave tried to explain but was cut off.
“They’re all the same. Calabar! God forbid! There’s no way you’re going to marry a Calabar girl into this house.”
Dave’s eyes narrowed. “But she’s not Calabar and even if she were, what is your problem with it?”
“They’re all the same to me. Be it Cross River or Akwa Ibom, they’re all the same.” she stated vehemently.
“Will you keep your voice down? What exactly is your problem with Calabar girls?” Dave was clearly irritated by his immediate younger sister’s behavior.
“Have you forgotten it was a Calabar girl who tried to snatch my husband from me a few years ago if not for the intervention of God?”
“And what has that got to do with Oleng?” he was infuriated.
“They’re all the same. She won’t be faithful to you. They are notable for their unfaithfulness.”
“My Oleng is not like that.”
“Indeed! Just give her a few years. By the time you can’t give her attention in bed again, she’ll look for someone else.”
“I thought I told you to stop shouting.” Dave was mad.
“Wetin? If she like, make she hear. Na lie I dey talk?” she hissed.
“I will not take this. Mum, will you just sit there while Michelle runs her mouth off?” Dave was furious.
His mum just shook her head sorrowfully. “Dave, my son, I’m not supporting Michelle’s reasons for objecting to your marriage to her but honestly, I don’t like Calabar girls.” she calmly told him.
Dave fell back on his chair like a deflated balloon. Michelle was all smiles.
“But why, mum? I told you about her and you agreed for me to bring her home.” he finally said.
“I know but I’ve been thinking. The bad things that are said about them are just too numerous. I don’t mind you getting married from other south- south states but Cross River and Akwa Ibom is out of the question.”
“But mum, Oleng isn’t like that. Let her prove the rumors false. Please. You’ll like her if only you’d give her a chance.”
“They’re also good at pretending. It was recently that we discovered all the prostitutes in our class who have been claiming born again Christians are all from Calabar.” Felicia chipped in for the first time.
“Will you shut up, my friend!” her elder brother angrily told her.
“Please let her have her say. After all, she has to look out for her own interest too. No girl would like to be troubled by her brother’s wife when she goes visiting.” Michelle chipped in.
Dave shot her a dirty look and went to sit beside his mum. “Mother please, I love Oleng with my whole heart. She loves me too.”
“She’s only after your money.” Michelle put in.
Dave ignored her and went on. “Mother please, It took me a long time to get her to agree to marry me, please don’t spoil it for me. Please.”
“She was only pretending.” Felicia said and she and Michelle laughed.
Dave just ignored them.
“Dave, you know I love you very much and want the best for you. A Calabar girl is not good enough for you. I want you to be happy for the rest of your life. You know you need it. I doubt if she’ll stay when the going gets tough.”
“But you don’t even know her.” he insisted.
“I don’t want you to make a mistake that you’d regret for the rest of your life.”
“I’m not making a mistake. Even if I were, is it not my life? I’m ready to carry my cross. If she turns out bad in future which I seriously doubt, I’m willing to take my chances. It’s my life.”
“It’s not just your life, Dave. It’s not only the man and woman who gets married but their families also. What really do you know about her family? Tell me.”
Dave couldn’t say anything then because he only knew her mother and her aunt.
“What I know about her is enough for me.”
“Stop deceiving yourself. If you really want a wife, I’ll ask your uncle to look for one for you. If you want an educated one, no problem, we can arrange it but as for her, forget it.”
Dave sat back again like a man whose world was crumbling down. Never had he imagined that his family would reject Oleng. It was like a nightmare to him. He had been so happy when he had told his mother everything about Oleng and she had been joyous about it and had told him to bring her home quickly.
He had no doubt that the witches he had as sisters had poisoned her mind against Oleng whom they had not met before now. He knew there was no point calling his dad to intercede for him because his mum’s word was final in that house.
He had often been angry with his dad for seeming like a weakling because he never challenged his mum. He was so quiet a fellow who ran away from any sign of trouble. He suspected that his mum had probably troubled him, which was why he had gone to Abuja for a break. It was a hopeless case.
He turned to look at Oleng in the balcony for the first time since the fruitless argument started. She hung her head and he knew that instant that she was crying. She had probably heard everything. Michelle had definitely been loud enough. To be rejected by your potential in-laws right in your presence was a heavy blow. He felt sorry for her.
“Please excuse me.” she mumbled as she came into the living room and rushed out of it. Michelle and Felicia burst into laughter.
He got up and made to follow her immediately but his mum held his hand.
“Think about all I’ve said. Don’t ostracize yourself from this house because of her. She’s not worth it.”
“I can arrange one of my friends for you if you’re interested.” Felicia informed him smiling.
“You all have really disappointed me today. Mother, I’m surprised that in these modern times, you still practice tribalism. And you Michelle, if your in-laws had treated you like this, would you have married Tawari? You Felicia, I only pity you. You’re not married yet you’re maltreating someone who wants to marry your brother. As for me, whatever you all say or do, I don’t care; I’ll marry Oleng. She gave me a reason to live when I had none.” With that, he walked away leaving all of them quiet and lost in thoughts.
He got into his car and met Oleng sobbing bitterly.
“Please, I want to go home, back to Calabar. I don’t care if we get there by mid-night.” she angrily told him when he got in.
“Oleng…” he began but she interrupted him. “Please don’t say anything. I’ve never been more humiliated in my entire life. Please let’s just leave here.”
Dave shrugged sadly and drove out of the compound silently. Oleng didn’t say a word throughout the journey. Dave tried drawing her out to say something but she remained silent. They got to Calabar late. Oleng took her travel bag from the back seat and went inside. Dave called and called but she slammed the door shut when the surprised Aunt Vien opened it.
Dave decided to give her time to cry over the matter because he knew she was hurting too much to talk to him now. He waited till the following day to call her but her phone was switched off. He went to her house to find only a hostile aunt.
“What do you want?” she harshly enquired when she opened the door.
“Good morning ma. Please, I came to see Oleng.” he politely replied.
“For what? So you can take her back to your family to insult her some more?” she angrily replied.
He was flustered at the reply for a moment. “Aunt Vien, you have every right to be angry but I came to apologize on behalf of my family. I’m really sorry that Oleng had to go through all that. I came to tell her I don’t care if my family is not in support of my marriage to her. I don’t even care if the whole of Nigeria is not in support. I love her. I love her very much and I’ll marry her no matter what anyone says.” he vehemently declared robbing Aunt Vien of words.
“It’s a pity then because she’s not at home and she asked me to give you this.” She brought out the engagement ring he had given Oleng.
“No!” he yelled. “No! Oleng can’t do this to me,” he lamented. “Please, let me talk to her. Let me try and convince her that I don’t care what my family says about her. Please.”
“I told you. She’s not here. She went to see her friends.”
“Let me see if I can get her on phone. Her phone was switched off the last time I tried calling her.” He quickly brought out his phone and dialed her number. He brought it down dejectedly. “Still unavailable.”
“She doesn’t want to speak with you.” Aunt Vien informed him.
“Aunt Vien, please. You’re the only one who can help me get through to her. Please help make her understand that she is the girl for me.” he pleaded desperately.
“I don’t want her to be maltreated by your family when she becomes your wife.”
“I’m ready to ostracize my family because of her. I’m ready to ban anyone from coming to my house because of her.” He fiercely declared.
“Easier said than done.”
“Believe me, I’ll do it. Oleng gave me a reason to live again. She’s the only reason I’m alive today. I know you’ll not understand but she means more to me than even my life itself.” he passionately affirmed.
Aunt Vien stared at him for a long time before she invited him to come in.
He was there till late evening but Oleng didn’t show up and her phone was still switched off. He was mad with anxiety. Aunt Vien told him that she had probably decided to spend the night there. She wasn’t even perturbed.
Dave stayed till when it was very late and promised to come back the following day. He was there first thing the following day and stayed there till in the afternoon but Oleng didn’t come home and her phone was still unavailable. He was almost going mad with worry. Aunt Vien felt so sorry for him she gave him the house address of the place Oleng had gone to. She felt his love for her niece was genuine.
Dave thanked her profusely and rushed out of the house. He drove like a man chased by the devil to the place in Old Ikang road. He however comported himself before knocking on the door. He remembered Debbie when she came to open the door. The latter was surprised to see him but she let him in.
“Guess who is here, Oleng.” she announced as she led him into the sitting room. “Your fiancé.”
She and Jenny were still in Calabar because their families and boyfriends resided there though they had rented an apartment together.
“My what?” Oleng was surprised.
“Hi Oleng,” Dave calmly said as he came into the living room. “Hi Jenny.” He greeted her other friend who was seated on the sofa beside her.
“Good afternoon, Dave. Welcome.” Jenny was all smiles.
“Why did you let him in?” Oleng angrily questioned Debbie who sat down in a nonchalant manner on a chair.
“You go hide forever? You have to talk to him one time or the other, so why not now so we can be referees?” Debbie said and chuckled.
Dave went to where Oleng was seated and slowly went on his knees before her to the amazement of them all.
“As a man, I have a lot of male pride but to hell with pride where love is concerned. Sweetheart, I’m very sorry for what happened in my house the other day. You felt pain but I felt it more. It was as if my family physically stabbed me. All I can say is I’m very sorry. Please forgive them and forgive me. Please take back this ring.” He paused and brought out the ring and held it before her. “I gave you this ring with so much joy. Please don’t break my heart. I don’t care whatever my family says. I love you and I must marry you. Please take back the ring.”
They were all dumbfounded when he finished.
“Dave, I took that ring with joy but I can’t take it back again. Your family doesn’t approve of me. If we get married, they’ll make my life a living hell and I don’t want that. Things are better this way”
“No!” he yelled. “Things are not okay like this. I love you. I can’t live without you.”
“Yes, you can. You can move on.”
“You don’t understand. If you don’t marry me, I swear I’ll commit suicide.” he declared shocking them all.
“Don’t be ridiculous. Don’t say such things. You’ll meet a girl your family will approve of and you’ll love her even more than you love me.” She gave him false hope.
“You and I know that’s not true. Oleng, I’m not joking. I’ll commit suicide if you don’t marry me. There is something I haven’t told you. I went to that bank that day we met again to withdraw all my money to send to my parents because I had planned on taking my life that very night.”
“You can’t be serious.” She was stunned.
“I’m dead serious. Life wasn’t worth living again so I decided to end it that day but I met you. You gave me a reason to live. You brought my hopes back again and now you want to leave me? You don’t want to marry me anymore because of my family? Let me tell you, you’re worth more to me than all of them put together. Where were they when I was going through tough times? No where to be found; but you’ve always been beside me.
That’s why I couldn’t and I can’t let you go. I worked your NYSC posting so you could serve here, near me in this state. I worked that bank also for you so you wouldn’t be posted to a village. These things show how much I love you. Please marry me.”
Oleng was speechless. Dave had done all these for her without a single word. The most shocking was that he had wanted to commit suicide before he met her. Was he lying, just to get her sympathy? No, she shook her head. She knew him well enough to know he wasn’t lying. He was indeed very serious. She was so confused, she didn’t know what to do. She looked at her friends for help.
“Abeg marry am o! This kind love don pass me!” Debbie inserted.
“Yes Oleng. Remember you’re marrying him not his family. You both can live your lives in such a way that they won’t disturb you.” Jenny chipped in.
“That’s true and by the time they have their own families, they’ll be too busy to come and make trouble for you.” Debbie continued.
“You do love him, don’t you?” Jenny questioned.
Oleng looked at him still kneeling there before her and slowly nodded. She did love him even though it was not the intense way she had loved Eric but she loved him nevertheless.
“I have to call Aunt Vien.” she said and she switched on her phone.
“Aunt Vien, please I need your help.” she said desperately when the latter answered the call.
“Don’t think, just follow your heart. Marry him if it will make you happy,” was what her aunt told before she even said anything about her predicament.
“I don’t know, I’m so confused.”
“Don’t be, my dear, he loves you very much, that I know, so he’ll always be on your side whenever the need arises. Don’t be afraid of his family. They can only hurt you if you let them. And who knows, maybe if you show them love, with time, they’d come to love and accept you. Follow your heart. Do what you feel is right and frankly speaking, if I were in your shoes, I’d marry him without a second thought. Life is full of risks. Nothing ventured in, nothing gained.”
“Thank you, Aunty.” she said before ending the call. She looked at Dave. She stretched her hand and took the ring from him. He quickly took it from her and placed it on her middle finger again.
He got up and gently dragged her up. He kissed her and gave her a bear hug.
“Thank you. Thank you very much. I love you.”
“I love you too.” she replied happily.
Jenny and Debbie looked at each other and smiled.
“Hmm…This is delicious. I never knew you could cook so well.” Oleng licked her fingers.
“Now you can see one advantage you’ll have when you marry me.” Dave said laughing.
“I’ve seen so many advantages already but this is a much welcomed one. But I thought you didn’t know how to cook.” she said as she cut from the fufu and put it in the delicious egusi soup.
“You assumed I didn’t know how to cook and I knew cooking for you that night would take time, so I left you with that thought until I could you wrong.” He refuted calmly.
She shrugged and smiled. She had come to spend the weekend in his place as usual. It was two weeks after they went to see his family. They had put the incident behind them and were now planning a quiet wedding at the registry.
After they finished eating, they watched a movie. Oleng suddenly sat up and stared at him after the movie.
“What is it, sweetheart?” he enquired.
She looked down at her hands. “I’ve something to tell you. I’ve been meaning to tell you but didn’t exactly know how to put it.” she solemnly said.
His countenance showed alarm. “What is it? You’re getting me scared.”
“If you don’t want to marry me again after I finish telling you, I’d understand but please hear me out.” She still wasn’t looking at him.
“What? What do you mean by that?” he was baffled.
“It’s about my past. Why I broke up with Eric.”
“I don’t want to hear it.” He turned away.
She held his hand and made him look at her.
“Please you have to. I don’t want any secret between us.”
“But it happened in the past.”
“I know but I still want you to know. Please.”
“Alright, suit yourself but it won’t change the way I feel about you.”
“Thank you.” She began staring at her hands again as she narrated the story of her life.
“I loved Eric. I loved him very much then but didn’t realize it was love until that fateful night. Remember you all had a graduation party at a club?” she asked and he nodded. “That night was the night I tasted beer for the first time. Eric and I drank beer. He was feeling bad at leaving all of us behind and needed the alcohol to take his mind of it. He asked me to join him and I obliged but stopped because I hated the taste. We later went ahead to take another alcoholic drink and before we knew it, we were tipsy.
We decided to go home when the party was getting heated and people were smooching. We got home and somewhere along the line, he declared his love for me and that was when I realized I loved him too. One thing led to another and we had sex that night. We had unprotected sex. When we did it the next time, we used protection but three months after he left, I discovered I was pregnant.”
“What?” Dave jerked sharply.
“Yes, I got pregnant for Eric.” She admitted ruefully.
“By Jove!” He yelled and got up to glare at her.
“My mum got to find out and she wanted me to have an abortion.” She stared at her hands.
“You mean you aborted the baby?” He sounded accusing.
“No, I refused to. I was scared. Moreover, I hated the thought of abortion. My mum was so angry, she shipped me here to stay with Aunt Vien. That was why I disappeared from Port Harcourt. Aunt Vien was so good to me throughout my period of pregnancy. I finally put to bed. I gave birth to a baby boy.” She couldn’t help smiling. “You should have seen him. He was so beautiful. He was a replica of his father.”
“You mean you have a son?” Dave couldn’t believe his ears.
“No, I said ‘was’” she stressed in an undertone. “He died a few hours after I gave birth to him. They said it was after birth complications. It hurt for a while but later on, I picked up the pieces of my shattered life and started afresh.” she finished with sadness.
“Wow!” was all he could say. After thinking for a while, he asked, “Was that why you broke up with Eric? Because you got pregnant? It wasn’t his fault, you know.”
“No.” she softly proclaimed. “He abandoned me. After ignoring me for a long time after I sent him messages through his box and phone, he sent me a message to terminate the pregnancy if it was his, he didn’t want to be saddled with an unwanted baby because he had a bright future ahead of him and to forget about him.”
“You don’t mean it.” He was bamboozled.
“I do. Eric who I thought was my soul mate abandoned me at the first sign of trouble. So you can see why I can never forgive him and why we can never be together again. He’s a beast in sheep’s clothing.” she pronounced with so much venom, he could only stare at her.
“My! My! Who could have thought that Eric could be so callous? But he said…” he trailed off and looked at her uneasily.
“He said what?” She was curious.
“Nothing, forget about it.”
“I don’t care about what he said. They’re all lies. He’s just trying not to get hated after behaving like an animal.”
“Thank you for telling me, sweetheart. Now I understand why you hate him so much. I’ve always wondered why. I promise never to be like that to you. I’ll stand by you through thick and thin.” he promised passionately.
“I believe you.” she declared, got up and they hugged.
“Do you have anything to tell me? Any dark secret?” she joked but was surprised when he became tense.
“Nothing, I’m clean.” He fielded quickly.
“Really? Why did you want to commit suicide?” She studied him expectantly.
“Sweetheart please, I’d rather not talk about it. I’ll tell you when I’m good and ready.” He held her hands and kissed them.
She shrugged nonchalantly. “No problem.”
There was a moment of silence before he said, “Sweetheart, what do you think about children?”
“What do you mean by that? I love children.”
“I mean, do you want to have children?”
She was amazed. “Of course, every woman wants to have children. Well, almost every woman anyway. I want to have children but not now. I want to get a job first so that I can contribute to our home before they come in. Why did you ask? Don’t you want children?”
“No. I mean, yes I do. I want daughters just like you.” He smiled. “You know I’m quite busy now at the office and I don’t want you to face the stress of pregnancy alone, so I’m glad you said you don’t want a baby yet.”
“Dave, I mean for maybe six months to a year not as if I mean two to five years.”
His expression was that of frank astonishment. “I understand. We’ll discuss further when the time comes.”
“No problem.” she grinned.
“I love you.” He drew her closer.
“I love you too.” She kissed and hugged him.
“Oh! Lest I forget, I got you something.”
“Hold on. Let me go and get it.” He gave her a peck before leaving the sitting room.