Marriage or Cage?
- Tales of the unwilling bride
By Mary Odiong
I was having my makeup done in the room when I first heard the voices. Loud, panicked voices and the sound of people arguing. Not again, I thought to myself, rolling my eyes. People had been fighting all day over the smallest of things.
The flowers, the food, the seating arrangements, the decoration, you name it and there was a problem with it. I wasn't surprised though, my mum, Dad and relatives were perfectionists. I pitied the wedding planner who'd taken up such a Herculean task of satisfying not only my 'supposed' husband's family but also mine.
My wedding was all anybody could talk about on my return from school, not that I was complaining but was I interested?.
I loved weddings; there was just something about it that got me every time. The idea of two people deciding to spend the rest of their lives together was so utterly romantic and everything about a wedding symbolized that decision for me.
It had surprised me that my parents had agreed to the wedding after knowing about my relationship with Haidar and called it finding the 'One'.
I chuckled ruefully when I thought about finding the 'One'. Haidar was everything I could ever ask for and more. Sweet, romantic, compassionate, he was the ideal boyfriend and I'd fallen for him hook, line and sinker. Seeing him made butterflies appear in the pit of my stomach.
I got up to examine myself in the full-length mirror placed in my room, ignoring the increasingly loud voices that had started coming from downstairs. Whatever it was that was wrong now could be handled, just like it had been handled previously. Seriously, they just needed to calm down because I was the right person at the moment to destroy the place.
I twirled a strand of my hair around my finger and fidgeted with my figure-hugging dress. Of course, it had been selected by my mum and I wasn't one to argue; it was her daughter's wedding, after all, I couldn't just go about telling her that the dress she'd picked up for me barely gave me room to breathe. I was naturally curvy and the dress did a good job of hiding that; I looked almost as thin as my sister and that made our resemblance even more prominent.
Both of us had the same pale skin which refused to get a shade darker. My sister often said people would die to get such a clear, creamy skin tone but how I wished I could spend urs at the beach with a perfectly fitted Bikini.
Approximately four hours later I was taken into the hall followed closely by my mother, my aunt and the few cousins who had been told the truth. A long veil covered my face and the corset I wore under the dress moulded my shape to fit into the dress.
The music began to play and I fixed my gaze firmly to the ground, begging myself to not let any tears escape. My father linked his arm with mine as everyone else left the room.
"My dear you have no idea what this means to us," he whispered in my ear and I nodded my head slightly, not trusting myself to speak.
It was to the beat of the traditional wedding march that I walked towards the stage, my father gripping my arm tightly, comforting me but all the while suffocating me. He let go of me when we reached where Saleem and the Imams sat and after completing the rites, he left me alone to take the biggest step in my life.
The rites were done, the lies concealed as I took Saleem to be my husband. My actions were mechanical, my tone robotic. I had always dreamt of the day I would get married but now I knew better. Those dreams hadn't been dreams, to begin with; they had been signs of the nightmare to come.
Fifty times. That was the number of times Haidar had called me in the past hour and also the number of times I had hit the red button and cancelled his calls. A part of me was dying as I did this to him but an even larger part was already dead inside of me. A kind of numbness had crept all over me and as a result of that, I felt nothing. Absolutely nothing. The shock had been so great that it had rendered me incapable of behaving the way a normal person would under the circumstances.
I leant my head against the car window, pressing my forehead against the cool glass to provide a reprieve to my burning forehead. I was ill, running temperature, it was a miracle that I had still managed to maintain some level of consciousness. I couldn't tell him, I couldn't even look at him without wanting to wrench my own heart out.
I was married to Saleem Abdullah, the Saleem I got to know a few hours before the wedding. The thought made me want to hurl and the one thing I wanted more than anything else was for someone to wake me up. Someone to come yelling for me in my room, shaking me so that I'd wake up.
It didn't happen, and no one woke me up. My family abandoned me, left me to the worst of fates and there I was in a car, married to the man I just met. I couldn't even dare move my face towards him, in fear of the amount of hate that I might put out. I had willingly sacrificed my happiness for my family's sake. I didn't even need to look at him for him to know how much I resented him.
The car came to a halt outside a huge mansion, the Abdullah Mansion to be exact. I had been here a couple of times with my family but never had the place looked so daunting, so intimidating. The gates opened to let the car in and I could feel the stare of the watchman following my face as the car slowly made its way inside. No sooner had we stopped that Saleem sprang from his seat, getting out and slamming the car door behind him.
A migraine made its way to my head that coupled with my burning fever didn't help my condition. I tried to move but my body felt too weak to even be able to move a single muscle. The driver had noticed my predicament and opened my door with a concerned expression on his face.
"Are you alright Ma?"
I shook my head, a sharp pain shooting through it as I did so. I gripped my temple and laid my head back on the seat. Everything was starting to spin around me, my eyes beginning to water. I distinctly heard the driver call for someone before it all faded to black.
"Will she be fine?" he asked and even in the state of near unconsciousness that I was in, I scoffed. He didn't care, the carefree tone of his voice made that obvious. He'd left me in the car and now was putting on act for who knows who.
"Well I've written down the required medicines and a nurse will arrive shortly to stay with her as you requested. I'm sure that when she wakes up, the temperature will be considerably lower. There's no need to worry, sir ."
A doctor, I assumed and tuned them out. Couldn't he just let me be? I'd prefer to be in this state forever than to wake up and have to face reality. A reality in which I was Saleem's wife, a reality in which my parents literally sacrificed me. Worst of all, a reality in which there was no Haidar.
A pain shot through my chest at the thought of his name. Haidar, Haidar, Haidar. Would he ever find out about what happened to me? What would he think? Would he hate me? I loved him so much, could he be able to see that? The questions made my head hurt and I felt the migraine come back with a vengeance.