“You can’t marry that girl!” her voice bit into his soul.
“Why mama, why?” Emeka arched his brow and shot a look at his mother.
The sitting room was set in a way that his father’s picture was staring down at him. He wondered if the dead man would be proud of him. How he has handled things in his absence, how—
“What an adult sees while sitting, a child can never see Even atop an iroko,” she replied, snapping him out of reverie.
“Mama. Tell me what you saw. Otherwise, this wedding will hold, with or without you.” His face was murderous and his mother knew too well what it meant. Her late husband’s temper returned to his only son.
“Sit down. Is it me you’re using that tone for? I said it. That girl has bewitched you. You now shout at me, your mother, right?”
There was a ponderous silence as his face eased into a slight frown. Reaching for the headboard of the couch, he slumped into it and stared with intent at his mother.
“I’m listening, mother. Tell me what you saw,” his voice was even, like one who was pleading.
“I’ll tell you. I’ve made my findings and realized she’s not fit for you.”
“Fit for me? How do you know that? Hello!” — he snapped his fingers — “ I’m the one getting married Mom, not you.”
“Keep quiet and let me finish” she snarled and tugged at her wrapper, “You’re a free-born. You can’t associate yourself with an Osu. An outcast, Ikechukwu.”
Ikechukwu shifted in his seat, his mouth gaped as he rubbed his hands against his laps. Thoughts ran through his mind, the picture of his supposed wife floated before him, her smooth ebony face that shimmered like bronze, he saw the twinkle in her eyes, heard the soft laughter in her voice, watched her long braids dancing by the sides of her face.
He remembered her, Nneka Sophia. The lady that captured his heart. The lady who turned him inside out ignited the fire that burned through him. Her features were like that of a goddess and her voice, soothing to the nerves. The compatibility with her in the past few weeks was divine. He knew she was made for him. Otherwise, was her act of kindness orchestrated by the gods? Was sticking out her neck at the court for him a gesture forced by the gods? He thought as lines creased his forehead.
“Ikechukwu!” his mother’s voice jolted him.
“And so what?”
“You say?” she waved a hand.
“And so what if she’s an outcast? This is the twenty-first-century mother. Discussions like this hold no water.”
“Are you mad? I na Apu Ara? If you marry her, if you dare me, the consequences will be grave.”
“Mama forget that thing. I’m getting married to Nneka. She’s my life. You know all we’ve been through yet you want to use this jargon of OSU to scare me.”
“Try me! Ikechukwu try me and see”
He walked over to her side, cupped her face in his hand and traced other fingers on her hair and said, “Her forefathers were OSU. They are dead. And the OSU or whatever you call it died with them.”
“How would you like not having a mother?” the seething rage in her eyes couldn’t be mistaken.
“Marry Nneka and bury my corpse the next day!”
Ikechukwu slumped into the couch, his hand greasing his temple.
“Is that so? Ehn mama? Be ready to marry and bear me children because it’s either Nneka or no one.”
© Stephen Toochi