Talatu’s face was lowered, as her eyes seemed glued to a photo album lying on her lap. She didn’t seem to know that I was there. On moving closer I saw that it was a wedding album she was looking at. ‘Mother of the bride,’ I said, standing in front of her, ‘so engrossed were you in viewing these wedding photos that you neither heard my salams nor did you hear my footsteps. You must be missing your daughter very much, I mean three months after the wedding and you are still nostalgically viewing the wedding album.’ I teased. ‘I’m sorry Bint. You are right, I was truly engrossed in thoughts, and I didn’t hear anything. You are welcome my dear.’ she replied, rising up to hug me. ‘Thank you,’ I answered, ‘so why don’t you just go and see your daughter, instead of looking almost tearfully at her wedding album,? It’s not as if she lives in another town.’ I suggested.
‘My dear Bint, I wasn’t viewing this album because I miss Hani or I’m nostalgic about the wedding. I just picked it up to see the cause of all the misery in my life now. I can’t believe that such a happy event can become the sole reason for my nightmares.’ Talatu replied. ‘Nightmares? What are you talking about Talatu? Is Hani being mistreated? Did the groom turn out to be a devil in disguise?’ I asked with alarm.
‘I wish he did, in which case my only solution will be to take my daughter back home.’ She answered. ‘Really? So what could be worse than a bad groom for your newly wed daughter?’ I queried. ‘A groom who demands that everything be returned to him because his bride has refused to stay.’ Talatu responded. ‘Are you telling me that Hani is not with him now? So where is she?’ I asked. ‘Hani is at her uncle’s house. She left her matrimonial home exactly a week ago. But long before that, she had refused to accept him as a husband. She always kept her door locked as soon as she retired for the night.
According to him, even when they had dinner guests Hani will serve them and treat them well, but the moment they left she’d leave everything to her cook and run to her bedroom to lock herself up. In fact, he openly declared before my husband and his uncle that this marriage was never consummated. So all he wants now is for us to pay back the 20 million naira he spent on the wedding gifts and dowry.’ She explained. ‘But did you ask why Hani is suddenly against living with him? I mean she chose him herself, didn’t she?’ I asked.
‘No Bint, in fairness to her, she didn’t choose him. Her choice was a young man just doing his NYSC. I was the one who advised her that a corp member, who is yet to find his feet cannot possibly make her happy.’ Talatu replied. ‘And she obviously never agreed with you.’ I observed. ‘No, she didn’t. But I thought I could win her over by telling her about all the things she’d enjoy, as a bride to this rich man, which she would never get when married to her youth corp member. She always listened but will end up telling me she didn’t like Alhaji Abba and could never love him.
I told my sisters about my dilemma because I was actually very flattered when he expressed his desire to marry her. With his wealth and influence, he could have any girl he wanted in this neighbourhood. And to tell you the truth, I’d always secretly admired the house he lives in.
Whenever I passed by the house, I’d keep looking at it until my driver turns down a bend. So, the day I heard about him seeking Hani’s hand in marriage was like a dream come true. It seemed that my daughter would live in the house of my dreams. When I consulted my sisters over her refusal, they said I should be gentle with her, that once she sees herself in that beautiful mansion, with all those luxury cars at her disposal, she will accept the man.
So I did as they advised and the wedding took place. I had no idea she had continued to reject him until she left the house and he came to complain. Now, all he is saying is that he wants his money back. He said he is no longer interested in the marriage, after all he already has two wives who love him. As soon as he left, I asked my husband what to do and he said the problem was entirely mine. Jafar insisted that he had cautioned me against forcing Hani to marry this man but I didn’t listen. So now I should go and look for the 20 million Alhaji Abba is asking for and pay him. He said he’ll have nothing to do with the matter. That’s why you saw me looking so sad and engrossed. I have no idea where to start looking for the money.’ She concluded, sadly.
‘I hate to say this when you are already feeling as bad as you do now. But it’s all your fault Talatu. You should never have forced her, especially knowing that she preferred someone else. However, all that is in the past now. We have to find a way to refund him. The first thing I want to know is, this money he is asking for, did he give you people as cash or in form of gifts?’ I inquired. ‘No, they are mainly the bridal gifts he brought.
The money wasn’t much. And even the dowry was just 100,000 naira. But he sent 20 suitcases filled with clothes, jewelry, designer shoes and bags, cosmetics etc.’ Talatu answered. ‘And where are all these now?’ I asked. ‘Except for five suitcases that were said to be for me, my sisters, my in-laws and other relatives, all the other fifteen were taken back to his house along with her furniture and other decorations.’ She replied. ‘And all the jewelery is there as well?’ I asked. ‘Yes, everything is there in Hani’s apartment.
I made sure she sewed only about a dozen clothes items from the many dozens he brought, so the rest are all there. I told her she could sew the others later.’ Talatu disclosed. ‘In that case, the problem can be solved. Invite your relatives and go to the house. Bring out all the suitcases containing the things Hani didn’t use. Call him and tell him that here are things he brought. Return everything to him except what your daughter has used. And also declare that you have forfeited all the furniture and other decorations you took to the house in lieu of the money you can’t refund and the clothes that Hani had sewn. Give all those back and say you are sorry the marriage had failed, it wasn’t what you wanted. After that, leave the house. Later you can send a request for the formal divorce letter that will free Hani from the marriage. I think this is the way to go since your husband isn’t willing to help and you have no money of your own.’ I advised. ‘Ok, I’ll certainly try this Bint. Thanks very much and I hope it works. Otherwise, I wouldn’t know what to do.’ She lamented. ‘It will, in sha Allah. He might even let you take her furniture, if he was able to retrieve at least half or more of what he spent. I just hope you’ve learnt your lesson Talatu. Never force a loveless marriage on your children just because the suitor suits you.’ I warned.
Repeat. First published on Nov 16, 2019