By Omodele America Salu
Before The Wedding.
Sade sat with her arms crossed over her chest and stared in bewilderment at the strange human she was sure was her best friend. She couldn’t imagine Chinwe thinking she should lie about her virginity, that was ridiculous. But Chinwe had insisted that it was the only way. She had, after all, told her fiancé, Thando, that she wanted to wait till marriage and he had not bothered with details. She hated that about the African culture; the denial; the desire to believe that everything was as it should be.
She had met Thando on the controversial social media network, Facebook, a year ago. He had been one of those guys who’d come on her picture and say sweet nonsense just to get her attention, and she still teased him about it till this day. But, he had also been different.
He was a South African by birth, but had lived mostly here in Lagos with his mother after his dad who was South African had married his girlfriend, asking his mum for a divorce. He was a sweet little thing, she thought. They had met each other frequently over the days before they had finally decided to make their dating official. She had told him she was one of the “no sex till marriage” girls. He had laughed. What was that? Scorn? She had thought so at that time until days and weeks and then months passed, but they had only cuddled. She would’ve thought he had a problem, but she had seen him bathing and she knew whenever they kissed, the large length of him pressed into her thighs making her deliriously weak, but she had taken a vow. He never for once pressured her and that made waiting even easier. She had asked him about it one morning over breakfast and he had held her hands in his staring deeply into her eyes reassuringly. “If this is what you want, we’d wait.” She had nodded yes, and that had been the end of it.
She sighed. “I can’t.” She said decisively. Chinwe looked at her liked she had grown a second head while nobody was looking.
“Nne, this is Africa.” She had always called Sade Nne whenever she wanted to be serious or spiteful. Sade didn’t know which one to go with. “Yes, Africa. But, it’s also 2017.” She tried to laugh as though it was funny, but Chinwe frowned in concentration and didn’t as much as lift an eyebrow. “This is a big deal, Sade. It is.” There wasn’t a way for somebody to be as serious as Chinwe was right now, but she had managed to sound more serious, stern even. “You told him you were waiting for marriage.” “Yes, indeed, I did.” “You told him you’d be ready after the marriage.” She added with more annoyance now. “Are you seriously going to sit there and say everything about me like I don’t know?” She shifted uneasily. “Sade,” she paused as if trying to choose her next words carefully. “This is Africa.” “And you’re saying that for the hundredth time.”
Sade groaned in astonishment and almost yelled out in frustration. “Waiting till marriage means you’re a virgin, and you’re not.” She whispered as though the walls would carry the words, through the doors and down the staircase looking for Thando’s room in the hotel they were currently having their engagement week. “You’re making this too big a deal, if you ask me.” “But I’m not asking you.” Chinwe snapped. “I’m only saying – you can say you lost your hymen doing whatever crazy thing you can come up with, virgins lose it every time and you’ve been celibate for some time now, that should count for something.” She said all in one breath. Now, it was her turn to look at her best friend as if she had grown another head, maybe with horns too. “That’s as ridiculous as me saying I once worked on a farm.” Sade laughed waving her un-callused palms in the air to buttress her point. She smiled absentmindedly at that, then she laughed. “Oh, please. You look like you were brought out from one of those magazines that feature brown skinned beauties.” She was right. Sade’s skin glowed with reckless abandon and a desire to blind, and probably intimidate all around her. She had an uncommon skin tone in a country full of dark skinned and light skinned. She was aware of that much and flaunted it wearing more revealing clothes than anyone should be able to get away with. Her hair made thick layers on her head and was a beautiful shade of brown with darker hues. She wore it natural. Her jet black eyes contrasting deeply with its white surroundings, she was adoringly beautiful and people always mistook her for a teenager – her rounded face pretty much gave the picture that contradicted her 28 years on earth.
Chinwe stood up, came around and hugged her from behind. “I love you,” she said defeated. “And I want nothing more than to see you happy, I just don’t want any surprises. Remember you’ve known him for only a year.” “That’s enough, babe. I love him.” She smiled dryly and walked towards the door. “Just make sure you know what you’re doing. I’ve to make preparations for your crazy bachelorette parteeyyy.” She said in a shrill voice shaking her shoulders with her chest heaved upwards in a kind of dance. Sade laughed loudly. Not too crazy, she hoped.
“….you may kiss the bride.” Was all Sade heard before she felt Thando’s lips hard on hers, probing softly, prying her lips open with his tongue and kissing her with such ferocity she had never known him for before. Her legs buckled and emotions blinded her as she felt desire drum up in her as hot blood coursed through her veins. His hands were on her waist, holding her tightly against him as their tongues danced together – a feverish dance of desire. She heard the crowd cheer on and she slowly separated from his bone-breaking grip. She willed her legs to support her as they turned to face the people she had known almost all her life. They were clapping and she felt herself blush scarlets or whatever the hell African people changed to when they were deeply aroused. “You’re beautiful.” He whispered, his breath hot on her neck and Sade could feel herself blushing again. She looked up to the crowd and she found her mum smiling and clapping, not crying anymore like she had done for most of the morning activities. She didn’t miss the winks and knowing smiles and she cursed her legs for betraying her. She couldn’t stand straight on her own and he was holding her closely, collectively calm – like they had just shared a drink, not mated with their tongues in what had to be the world’s most devastating kiss ever. She breathed in heavily and let it out slowly as people stood to congratulate them with hugs, kisses, words, and more backslapping than anyone could possibly tolerate. She put on her best smile and grinned excitedly to just about everybody and she knew she was starting to look replayed. Somehow, with all the merriment, Thando had been pulled away from her and she felt lost. She looked at him and marvelled at how he handled all the attention. She felt someone squeeze her hands tightly and she turned to meet the sympathetic eyes belonging to her best friend. She smiled in appreciation. From the corner of her eyes she could see him disengaging himself from his friend’s embrace and walking towards her. She stilled.
“Hey.” “Hey, wifey.” He replied sweetly gathering her up in his arms placing his chin gently on the gigantic bush that was her hair. She placed her fingers against his chest, pushing back to stare up at him. She suddenly felt shy staring up at him remembering the searing kiss they had just shared. He smiled and tugged at her cheeks. She pushed his hands away, laughing. “My makeup.” “I know. We’re going to be ruining more than that, tonight.” His words sent shiver through her spine and she couldn’t hold his gaze anymore. She looked away searching the people around them that seemed to all vanish in that moment. She heard her name and she turned, Chinwe was waving them outside. Thando removed his hand from her waist and gave her an arm, she passed hers through and they walked out of the church to the waiting crowds and cars – to the reception – another ceremony, she sighed yet again.
After The Wedding.
I stared at the monster I had just married five hours ago in disbelief. Chinwe’s words kept coming back to me no matter how hard I willed them to remain in the back of my mind. This is Africa. She knew! Oh, she knew and she wanted more than anything to understand what nightmare was staring back at her with his ugly fangs of prejudice, and inequality, and meanness clawing at her heart. She squeezed her eyes shut and took a deep breath before opening it again willing for it to be only a dream – a bad one. But it wasn’t. Thando was directly in front of her pacing and mumbling words she couldn’t comprehend. “But it doesn’t have to be this way.” She said softly. With that, he looked at her, and she saw it. Disgust. “You lied to me.” He yelled.
“I didn’t.” She said quietly. “Yes, you did. That’s the problem. You lied to me that you haven’t had sex and you were going to wait for marriage! You made me believe you were a virgin! YOU DID!.” She swallowed her fear and faced him, looking him square in the eyes. “I did none of those!” She yelled back. He laughed hysterically. “This is fine, you know. On my wedding night, I find out you’re not..” “Because of lack of hymen?” She cut him short and that seemed to irritate him the more. “No, I figured it was normal – although rare. Until you told me.” Now, it was my turn to laugh hysterically. “So, you’re mad I told you the truth?” She couldn’t control the tears anymore, they spilled freely as her voice took on a shaky note. She continued. “You’re mad I didn’t make up a crazy excuse why my hymen wasn’t there anymore?” She said incredulous. He looked at her with disinterest, his eyes void of any emotions. He wasn’t even moved by her tears. “Well, guess what! I wasn’t raped, I didn’t lose it riding a bike or a horse. I lost it because I was in love and I thought that was the only way to keep him! He cheated and left anyway. So, I took the vow! A vow you didn’t care to hear, a vow that I kept until this day!” She screamed. She was visibly shaking now and crying, her chest heaving in response as she tried to wrap the sheets tighter around her breasts. She turned around, both hands crossed and resting on either sides of her shoulder.
She felt his arms around her and she leaned in basking in the warmth of his embrace. She wanted to feel safe, happy. It was, in fact, the opposite; unwanted, unhappy; like she was drowning.
She pushed him away, hard enough for him to hit the ground, but he didn’t. He was a strong man. But now, as she looked at him she didn’t see the strong man she had fallen in love with – in his stead, she saw a weakling; a man who couldn’t fight, who had a mentality as weak as his resolve. He reached for her and she took a step back. She had seen the look. She couldn’t stay with him, not after she’d seen the pity and disgust in his look. He had looked at her repulsively as though she wasn’t the same person he’d exchanged marital vows with. She saw his mouth form the words, I’m sorry, but she wasn’t listening. She was shaking her head vigorously, crying, and blindly searching for her clothes. She packed them up in her arms and ran to the bathroom, Thando close by.
I knew he was staring at me as I loaded my things into the boot of my car, but I didn’t mind. I wanted more than anything to leave here. I wasn’t going to be pitied or looked at strangely for the rest of my life. I called Chinwe and tried my possible best to sound calm.
“Heyyyyyyyyy, how’s it goingggg?!” Chinwe was screaming, and giggling, and shrieking
at the same time, excited. I held back the tears that threatened to choke me. “Can I stay with you for a little while.” I asked softly.
“I’m sorry, what?” I could imagine the surprise plastered across her face as her mind slowly registered the words that had been spoken. I knew I couldn’t blame her. I’d be shocked if she had gotten married the previous day, only to call me the next morning to ask to stay with me. Like, boy! What in the world was I? Husband number two? “I just need a place to stay for a little while. I can’t go home, relatives are still around and I’m seriously not in the mood to explain anything to anyone.” As soon as I said that, I wished I could take it back. I wanted to apologise if I sounded rude or curt, but I was suddenly feeling too spent to care about anything. I silently prayed my friend would understand. I had nowhere else to go to as it was. “Oh.” I knew my words had hurt her, she was just too modest to point it out. I made a mental note to apologise – probably buy her her favourite chocolates. “Please.” I wanted to sound desperate. I really did. “You know you’re welcome whenever, Sade.” At that, the tears I had been holding back rushed to my eyes without warning. I swallowed hard. “Thank you.” I whispered and knew she hadn’t heard me. She was long gone.
I got into the car, starting the engine. I knew he was still there, staring. I didn’t look at him, not for fear that I might succumb to whatever nonsense in apology he was going to give yet again, but for the fear that the stronger woman in me would go over to him and hit him hard. Hit him for the pain he was causing me, hit him for the looks I knew could only be regret, and most of all, hit him for thinking an apology made everything right. As I drove away, I looked ahead, towards the road. I looked beyond the love, beyond the pain, beyond everything – I looked beyond the woman society saw, and looked at me.
Omodele America Salu is a Nigerian based author from Badagry, born on the 2nd of April 1997. She currently is a beta reader, and a student of the University of Benin. She has written fictional/non fictional works; essays, short stories, poems (one of which was presented at the June 16th African Child in Benin City, Edo state). Currently working on her new novel, Trading Places. Salu lives in Lagos state, Nigeria.