“I envy her though. I heard from my mother that Gift was in America studying medicine or something and he’s now back and the super-rich. She will be living the good life she doesn't deserve” l overhear one of the girls whispering to her friends. Why do people whisper loud enough to be overheard if your purpose is to be heard anyway?
Standing in line to get water the girls’ gossip about me whilst others keep stealing glances at me. I ignore all of them. It’s none of their business.
“Imagine the hate he must be feeling to be saddled with that thing instead of his class. An uneducated reject of a girl who can’t even spell her name” the other girl snickers.
I recognized that voice Chenai the village whore. Dropped out of school at thirteen and spread her legs for anything with a third leg she is busy laughing at me when she is the uneducated one who is depended on others to take care of her and her numerous kids. How stupid is she l scoff mentally. At least l have worked to get what l have and not compromised my dignity for stupid luxuries.
“Such an ugly thing doesn't deserve such good fortune. Having to parade that black unfashionable thing as your wife” the third girl l think her name is Sekai says.
What is wrong with these people? They talk as if l asked to be in this predicament. Did l ask for my father to commit a crime or for me to pay for it? Did l ask to be taken away from the only family l knew and friends who loved me to be dumped in this barren village?
None of them has struggled to better themselves as much as l have but they are busy slinging mud at me. I felt anger and frustration at the injustice of it all but l never defended myself. Never one for drama l stayed quiet absorbing each barb they threw and blowing it to the wind. If they didn't care why should l?
“Hey Cloud you should have been called Fog instead because it suits you better” Sekai shouts and they all laugh clapping hands.
“Besides what will you do in the city besides fog your ‘husband’s’ house with your ugliness and stupidity. Why would anyone ever accept you in their life?’ Chenai cackles.
Whoever said stick and stones were right on the money.
My husband-to-be Gift was a rich man as they said. He could marry a woman of his class someone beautiful.
My behind and boobs were more than generous but were always hidden in unflattering big dresses Mai Shadreck made me wear. The caramel of my skin had turned into chocolate with the sun and l was too quiet and refused to compromise myself. So yes l got it in a Miss Ugly competition l would be crowned the stuck up Queen and the first princess too. After five years of living here and not once been asked out yeah l understood loud and clear.
Why would he ever accept me?
With unnecessary force l grabbed my bucket and placed it on my head sloshing water as l marched away from the jeering friends.
I will have the last laugh even if it kills me.
There was no point fighting the inevitable and wouldn't feel sorry for me. The only way to survive was to carve my happiness husband or not.
Friday arrived with my father’s sister l haven't seen in eleven years. She sits in my hut giving me ‘marriage advice’. How was this a normal marriage? And she sits there like lm supposed to happily go to the slaughter.
“Respect your husband and continue to be a well-behaved girl that l know you to be” she says.
All l hear is bla bla bla... This woman hasn't seen me since l was eleven years old. How would she know anything about me now!? What if lm a shrew or a thief? But as a ‘well behaved’ woman l sit quietly letting my face do all the talking. If she noticed she didn't say choosing to give the advice and go back to her house which by the way was not customary. She was supposed to do what Mai Shadreck was doing take me to my husband. To be fair l was going for breeding but they wanted to give it a more respectable name.
Then before we slept the uncles add in their own two cents. They would take me to my ‘husband’ Mai Shadreck will stay for a week to help me settle. I will be expected to be well behaved and not bring shame to the family. I was Gift's wife and their daughter in law. A fake one!
That evening l lay on my bed thinking of how unfair this life was. How God could let such things happen to me. I had been treated like a slave in my father’s house then treated kindly here but still not part of the family. I was so lost in thought l did not hear Mai Shadreck come in. The cold hand on my shoulder nearly gave me a heart attack.
"I’m sorry my dear l didn't mean to frighten you” she smiles.
Mai Shadreck is a lovely quiet but strict woman. I can’t say we were close but she never treated me unjustly. Her husband is a force not to be reckoned with and was very upset when his son died. To be honest l simply thought best to keep them at arm's length. No need to be chummy with your prisoners.
“Its okay aunty
“You have grown to be such a well-mannered beautiful child Cloud and l feel blessed being here to witness it all” she pauses to take my hands in hers.
When you first came l truthfully assumed the worst of you. I figured because of who your father was you were trouble too. Never have l been so happy to be proved wrong. How could they have let such a gift go l will never understand. A beautiful kind-hearted soul who made mango juice with all the lemons thrown at her” she arched an eyebrow trying not laugh at my confused face
“This is my husband’s land you silly girl. We knew and helped in all your activities you thought you were hiding. You made us so proud. Heck l threatened every male who even looked your way. Those ugly clothes were for a reason. You my dear have one attractive body men would go gaga over" she fidgeted guilty.
These people acknowledged and celebrated with me. I’m happy excited floored...it’s overwhelming. Her meddling did help me concentrate on my priorities but it also ruined my esteem. I’m not sure how felt about that though...
"My husband was angry at first at your father but after a while he regretted what he did. Unfortunately it was too late to rectify. But from what l heard about your family l think you were better off here though" she looks at me in askance. Slowly nodding l avoid looking at her not wanting to give details.
"Please my child we apologize for having a hand in this your fate but we hope you could see it as a stepping stone to something better something all yours. Are you hearing?” she sniffs. We are both a sniffling mess.
“Y.yes aunty” l stammer.
She hands me a box l hadn't noticed in a pretty wrapping paper and urges me to open it. It’s quite big and l wonder what’s in it. With excitement making my hands shake l tore the wrapping paper to reveal a plain box. Inside the first thing l take out is my degree in all its framed glory.
“There is more.”
Next is a brand new boxed cellphone sitting on top of a silver laptop never in my wildest dreams did l think l would even touch one let alone own them. I can’t help it l throw myself at her tears wetting her blouse.
“Thank you so much.” l cry out.
“No need my dear. You have earned it tenfold. Oh and Baba Shadreck thought it best we don’t give your hubby a stroke with the granny clothes thus the new suitcase with proper dressing” she giggles hugging me back. Honestly l don't care what the bag holds because anything would be better than those horrible clothes.
“How about you get some sleep and tomorrow will be a new day to your new life” she packs the things back into the box and leaves. Sleeping was the last thing on my mind with all these thoughts and feelings racing through me. But sleep did come and it took me to a world where happiness reigned supreme.