The room grew quiet as I walked in. I suddenly forgot how to walk properly as I concentrated on getting to the nearest empty seat. Twenty-two pairs of eyes followed. Each holding questions, disgust. Pity? My mother had told me an important family meeting was being held. Though the reason for the meeting was unknown, she made it clear that I was to attend.
Ada. The title had its perks, but its inconveniences were never far behind. Like this one. I was sure that I was only here as a figurehead. The first daughter. I would probably be allowed to offer no insight on whatever was brought up. But I was Ada and my mother had no sons, so I had to be here.
Seated, I was no longer sticking out like a sore thumb, but the eyes remained. Side discussions grew. One man, who thought he was being inconspicuous, nodded his head in my direction as he continued to chat to his group. I fought the urge to slide down into my seat. An uncle, whose name I always forgot, stood.
‘Ahem!’. He really did this only to get the attention of the people in the room. I was momentarily grateful for the diversion.
“My people! Nno! I greet you! Let us begin our discussion immediately. A lot of time has been wasted in gathering us together”. He shot a quick glance in my direction.
“It has been brought to our attention that one of our daughters has decided that she must remain unmarried for the rest of her days”.
“Arueme!” “Tufiakwa!”. Shouts of abomination and god forbids broke the general silence in the room. Mumblings turned into loud discussions with the urgency that drizzling rain turns into heavy showers. I buried my face in my hands. This was why they wanted me here.
Not because I was Ada but because I was the daughter in question.
“Yes! It is true o! I heard her say it!” my mother’s sister shouted. “I have pleaded and cried, but she has ignored me. That is why I have brought the matter before the elders. Our people say ‘Oge adighi eche mmadu’, time waits for no man. Being a doctor is not all there is to life! Ada is 34. When will she marry? When will she give birth? Does her decision mean I am never to hold my sister’s grandchild?”.
She burst into tears, wailing louder as people tried to console her. I stared at her as bile filled my mouth. I had always disliked Aunty Isioma. She talked too much, and her manipulative ways ensured my mother always took her side. Despite the ambush, I may have considered explaining my reasons for remaining single had she not spoken.
She continued to cry, repeatedly opening and squeezing her eyelids shut to force the tears out. A single tear emerged from her right eye and a half-smile graced her mouth in triumph.
Watching the drama unfold in front of me, I realised that she was right. Time waits for no one and I had a flight to catch. I stood up and walked out. Aunty Isioma fainted.