BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
Copyright © Ufuomaee
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The first month was the hardest. Erhuvwun woke up to the realisation that she’d married a stranger, and the scarier part of that was the meaning of marriage, rather than the fact that he was a stranger. In every respect, she had been sold into bondage, and she was only now realising the value of her freedom.
Amadi had expectations of a wife. Great expectations, which she tried to meet, often to her displeasure and sometimes disgust. He didn’t care for her opinion, nor for her to do anything that she hadn’t already sought approval for. He told her what he wanted to eat, how he wanted it prepared and cooked, and when, where and how he wanted it served. When he was satisfied, then she ate, and quickly too.
Worst of all, he had no concept of rest. That to him was laziness. From dusk 'til dawn, she was busy doing something, and if she wasn’t actively engaged, she was on standby, waiting for instructions from him. And at night, every night without fail, she was to please him sexually.
Amadi had no idea how to please a woman, and Erhuvwun was too ignorant to know otherwise. Even if she did, she would have had to be mighty bold to teach him, considering his low respect for her and womankind in general.
Sex did get less painful, but it was still sore. Sometimes, she tingled, and it felt enjoyable for a while, but she never got to understand how he got so excited and would exclaim with pleasure every time he entered her. It was really not that exciting for her. But she liked that in those moments afterwards, he was calm and pleasant. Almost lovable.
In time, Erhuvwun adjusted to her new life, and found occasions to be thankful, to smile, and even to laugh. She even took to singing, and what was strangely satisfying was the appreciation Amadi showed for her singing. Whenever she sang, there was a pleasant atmosphere between them, and she could sense that he was reminiscing.
Still, she missed her old life. She missed her mother and her father and the other villagers that were like family. Most of all, she missed Akpos. They had grown up together, and he’d always told her that he would marry her. But when his uncle in the city had called him and told him of a great job opportunity, Akpos had been keen to go. He’d promised that he would return within the year to take her to live with him, after he had made enough money and settled down. The dream of their life together had kept her going through many lonely nights. And now, the dream was no more.
Amadi paused in his wood chopping. He could hear that familiar pleasant sound of song. Erhuvwun was singing as she prepared their dinner, and what a sweet voice she had.
He recognised the song, though he couldn’t remember the lyrics. His mother used to sing it to him whenever he fell and hurt himself. His father had hated it whenever she did and accused her of trying to turn his son into a sissy. He often told his mother that she couldn’t sing and said that music was the devil’s ministry.
Amadi closed his eyes as he shuddered, remembering his childhood. It hadn’t been easy to have been raised by a man like his father, who had oppressed his mother and insulted her for only giving him one child. And so, he’d married other wives, seeking more sons. But they had all produced daughters, who he despised and sent away with their mothers.
Eventually, he’d died of a heart attack, leaving Amadi his only heir. Soon after, his widowed mother ran away with a man from the village, and Amadi had hated her for leaving him alone. He’d decided that his father had been right about her…and about women. But there was something about the music that still penetrated his soul in a way nothing ever did.
Akpos grimaced as the commercial bus he was riding rode too fast and knocked out of a pothole on the inter-city expressway. But he didn’t really mind. He actually wished the bus could go faster, but as it was, the small vehicle was already overladen with people, their luggage and produce for sale, and was even going unadvisedly fast on the road laden with death-traps disguised as potholes. He winced as they rode over another, after the driver swung to avoid the worst part of it.
His face and shoulder were stuck out of a window, as he watched the trees roll quickly by. His sweaty, body-odour-ridden neighbour was pressed against him in the cramped vehicle, and he couldn’t wait for the conductor to announce their arrival at Benin, so that he could switch buses. With his other hand, he clung to his luggage, which was small enough for him to carry on his lap. His heart was racing fast as he wondered if he was too late already…or if he would arrive just in time to secure his beloved possession.
His cousin, Rukevwe, had paid him a quick, unannounced visit a couple of days ago, and he’d been shocked to hear that Erhuvwun was engaged to be married. Engaged?! He’d known that he had been taking time, but he’d expected and trusted her to be patient with him. However, his last contact with her, through this same cousin, was six months ago. And she was beautiful… He should have known better than to leave her alone.
He’d asked his master for an urgent leave, telling him that his father, whom he’d buried three years ago, had just passed away and he had to return home urgently to organise the funeral. He’d left at the earliest opportunity given by his boss and packed his little bag, with as much cash as he could get a hold of to return home and fight for his bride. If only he’d paid the bride price requested by Erhuvwun’s father six months ago, when Rukevwe had returned with word about Erhuvwun. If only…
The next dive into a pothole the size of a small paddling pool, made him wonder if they’d even arrive at Benin in one piece. Akpos shut his eyes and mouthed a quick prayer. For his safe journey and for his mission.
To be continued...
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