Ìyàwó Tuntun (The New Bride)

by Mayowa Oluwashanu

My right hand was linked with my husband’s left as we made our way amongst the throng of people in the airport’s Arrivals. I saw them first — our mutual friends who had come to pick us up. I smiled when I saw the initials we had used for our wedding boldly written on the placard in their hands. ‘BE’20’. I slightly nudged my husband with my hip and he looked down at me. I smiled and nodded towards our friends. He saw them immediately and his smile broadened.

They didn’t see us till we reached them. I dropped the luggage in my left hand and pulled down the placard, the ray of the sun settling on my Silver wedding band. “Hey there!”

I watched as they laughed at each other, my husband’s arm coming around to encircle my waist. I loved the public show of affection.

The lady, Lara spoke up first. “You are glowing.”

I laughed. “I’ve received something I’ve always denied myself for a full week and some days. You think I’d not?”

Scandalized, Erioluwa, my husband pinched me.

Our other friend, Emma, pointed at where they had the car packed and we walked in the direction as they helped with our luggage. Emma was silent and I wondered why.

“I’m sure you enjoyed your honeymoon,” Emma said when we got to the car.

“Of course,” we replied in unison and we all laughed.

The journey to our new home was exciting as we kept talking about the highlights of my wedding. My friends were insisting my husband danced better than I did and I was having none of it.

“We’d check the video when the full coverage is sent,” I said as Emma drove into the compound.

“The ones we’ve been watching are half-baked, incomplete and unprofessional.”

I kept talking in my defense, but Emma just wouldn’t agree. “You lose this time, babe. Just admit it.”

We all got down. I turned to my husband, sulking. “Baby, can you hear that?”

Eri pulled me into one of our special warm embraces. My toes curled on their own accord in response. “It’s not a competition for me, baby.”

My hands went round him as I hugged him back. I stuck out my tongue at Emma and Lara, before looking into Eri’s dreamy eyes. “Don’t I just love you?”

He kissed me full on the lips. “I love you, too.”

“Honeymoon’s over, guys. The real world’s begun.” Emma said as he got the keys to our apartment from the back pocket of Eri’s Jeans.

“Why are you such a kill-joy?” I replied as we walked inside.

I seemed to be the only one bubbling with so much joy and I decided to keep it low.

Eri had woken up yesterday feeling queasy and begged me… No, insisted we come home today, interrupting our honeymoon. He’s not said much since yesterday and he’s barely talking now. I don’t even know what’s wrong with Emma. I detected this harsh tone when he spoke earlier. Could he be picking on me? What for? And Lara? She was more bubbly than I am and her silence today is very unusual.

That was when I noticed her red eyes. The ever-attentive doctor in me was awakened and I rushed to her side. “Lara, you’ve got bags. Have you not been sleeping?”

Lara gave me a weak smile. “The wedding preparation sapped a lot of strength from me.”

I shook my head in disbelief. “The wedding’s been over for almost two weeks. Your eyes are all bloodshot too. I’m the bride and my eyes are crystal clear. What’s wrong?”

Lara looked towards Eri and I figured she didn’t want to let him know whatever was wrong with her. I held her hand and gestured towards the dining, away from Eri and Emma. Just then, Lara looked at Emma and I saw him nod, as though giving an approval. My fear heightened.

Lara’s tears came in quick successions once we were seated. I gasped. It took a lot of strength for me to wait for her to speak up.

After what seemed like ages, Lara raised her head. “Bola, we… we lost… Daddy is gone. He’s gone, Bola. On Monday. A day… after you both… you guys left. We didn’t… we wanted you guys to come… you know. We wanted you guys to come back so we don’t, you know… disturb.”

Lara was crying again. And I could only stare at her bowed head. Lost Daddy? Daddy was gone? Where? I was trying to process everything and I eventually found my voice. “Why? How?”

Lara looked at me and placed her hand gently on my thigh. “It was expected, wasn’t it? But it’s still shocking.”

I ran my hand over my face. Expected? Yes. Daddy had been sick up till the day slated for the wedding. He was weak on that day. But that didn’t hide the broad smile and sheen of tears I had seen through my veil. He had been joyous to see his only son finally married.

Eri came to my mind. Little wonder he had been uneasy. I knew my husband more than the back of my hand. Hadn’t that been the only reason his father loved me like his own child? He and I were the only ones who could tame his wild son. And I knew this was not news he would take well.

Lara’s scream got me on my feet and I tried to be calm as I beheld what was before me. Eri’s right hand was closed over Lara’s small throat like a lion’s paw on its prey’s. I saw our petite friend struggle to take his large hand off her.

“What did you say?” he bellowed and I trembled.

I rushed to him and hugged him hard, petting and rubbing his back, urging him to calm down. I spoke in a rush. “Baby… baby. Hold on. Please. Calm down. Leave Lara, please. I’ll tell you what happened… what she said. Please. Calm down.”

From the corner of my eyes, I saw Lara rush towards Emma who engulfed her in a hug. I relaxed in my husband’s arm. One mile covered. I felt him going limp and I tapped him before having him sit on one of the chairs. He opened his eyes weakly and I saw tears brimming in them. “Where did she say my Dad is?” He raised his hand and placed it on my cheek, his thumb running affectionately over my smooth skin. “And why are you crying, Mobolanle?”

I gave a wobbly smile as I took my seat on his thighs, my hands wrapped around his neck. I kissed his cheek. “Daddy’s gone to be with the Lord, Eri Mi. We’d see him later, when it’s our time.”

My husband fell against me and we cried together.

An hour later, after a thorough apology to Lara who actually took no offense, for she knew Eri well enough, we were at my in-laws’ home. I was nervous as were Lara and Emma with me. Eri was grieving.

My mother-in-law never liked me. She had chosen a dumb lady for Eri while he was in love with me and had her planted in his home. Eri had beaten the woman out of his house in his anger and caused my mother-in-law enough embarrassment from the lady’s family. I still wonder what my fault was. I was in Medical school and had only got the news from Lara and Emma. Eri had said it was nothing to have me bothered.

But the animosity between my husband and his mother long existed before I waltzed into the picture.

We walked into the house and I felt all eyes on me. Eri’s sisters had always been afraid of him and I had done my best to build a bridge between them. They came one after the other to hug him, all three of them. They hugged me too. Their eyes were puffed from crying. I understood all too well. If I had a father like theirs, I would gladly go to the grave with him, especially if I would be left with a mother a tad crazier than the devil himself.

We asked after Mommy and we were told she was in her room. I walked in with Eri and he sat with his Mom as close as he could. They didn’t say anything to each other. I stood by the door until Eri signalled that I come in. There were about three other women in the room that I didn’t recognize and I was uncomfortable.

Knowing Eri would say nothing, I tried to push my luck. I knelt before my mother-in-law and took her hands. I thought her hands were ice cold but I was destabilised when our eyes met. I swallowed hard, knowing I was wrong in even making an attempt. “Mommy, I’m so sorry for our . . . your loss.”

Without warning, she pulled her hands free from my grip and pushed me so hard that I landed on my backside. I saw Eri stood up, and neglecting my pain and hurt, I struggled to my feet and rushed to his side. He’d only cause more trouble for me.

Mommy dusted her hands as she raised her head to look at me. “We’ve only married you and see what you’ve brought upon us. I have always known. Your legs are bad!”

I was crying already. My support and aide in the family was gone. And she wouldn’t even let me mourn him properly. Without a word to his mother, Eri swept me off my feet and carried me out of the room and then, out of the house.

Lara and Emma didn’t need to be told to follow us. They must have envisaged what would happen.

I looked back at the house as Emma sped off. If his sisters wanted to see us, they’d have to come over. For I knew in my heart of hearts, that we just walked out of his mother’s life. And she would blame me till the day she breathes her last. By my mother-in-law’s books, I caused the death of a loving father and finally caused the eventuality of the separation of a mother and son.

What kind of a new bride am I?

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