Ijeoma led Apham into the house. She was conscious of the tension in his taut hand around hers. She squeezed, It will be okay. He squeezed back. If she had not spoken with her parents beforehand, she too would have been a juggle of nerves. But after speaking with them for almost an hour, she was certain that it would go better than they had anticipated. Inside the parlor, her parents were seated just as she had left them. She squashed down the urge to giggle when she noticed that they had changed into more presentable clothes. Her mother in a knee-length gown that she had seen her wear to social gatherings; her father wore a pseudo-formal shirt with trousers. She squeezed Apham’s hands again.
She opened her mouth to say something, but Apham’s hand had left hers and when she turned to look at him, he was going down on his knees. It didn’t stop there, he went flat down laying the front of his body on the cold tiled floor.
“Daddy, Mummy, your disobedient in-law has come to ask for forgiveness,” he said without raising his head.
Her parents looked at her with raised brows. Did you tell him to do this?
Ijeoma shrugged, then bent to tug him up. He resisted at first, but he came up to his knees, refusing to go further than that. Ijeoma started to join him.
“No, Ijem, come here,” her mother protested, patting the space beside her.
Ijeoma shook her head. Her mother made to talk again but her father placed a hand on her lap. She pouted and gave Apham a dirty look but kept her mouth shut.
They were here as a couple, Ijeoma couldn’t let him grove alone. Furthermore, it will strengthen his chance with her parents. She rubbed the length of her arm against his, he rubbed back.
“You have brought my daughter back,” her father stated in that calm, collected tone.
Apham bowed his head. “I’m sorry sir. It was wrong of me to marry her without getting your consent.”
“You are brave,” he continued as though Apham had not spoken. Ijeoma heard Apham drag a breath beside her. “And my daughter’s head was filled with no other thought apart from you, and that is why you succeeded in taking my daughter without my consent.” His voice had not raised a pitch but Ijeoma could feel the arrows shooting out of his mouth, disguised as words. “I am angry, my wife is angry and my other daughter is also angry. The whole family is angry. Do you think a simple sorry will solve the matter?”
It took a while for Apham to reply. He hadn’t realized that it was a question that he was supposed to answer, and when he did, it was a small “No”.
“Sorry will not solve the matter. You hurt my family two times, both times targeting my two daughters. A sorry will not solve the two matters. You have to do right by my two daughters. Until that, don’t kneel in front of me and my wife,” his tone left no room for argument.
Apham’s head whipped up. “Sir?”
“He means that you have to properly apologize to Iyora and do the right thing to me,” Ijeoma whispered.
“Yes sir.” He turned back to her father. “I will do that.”
Her father ignored him, picking up the TV remote, the flat-screen TV on the wall came to life. They were dismissed.
Apham stood up with Ijeoma and spoke even though the couple sitting in front of him didn’t seem to be listening to him. “I’m going to do the right thing sir, and come back for your blessing.”
Ijeoma tugged at his hand and pulled him out of the parlour. He followed behind her until they went outside, to the front of the house where a canopy stood. A plastic table sat under it, surrounded by four chairs. They sat down.
“That went quite well,” Ijeoma said but she was frowning.
“What do you think?” he asked anxiously.
She counted slowly on her fingers. “First you have to apologize to my sister, then we have to settle the problem with your family and then follow the traditional rites and get married to me. You know during the traditional marriage, you have to kneel in front of them to get their blessing, I think that is what he means.”
“That’s it?” Apham asked in wonder. Ijeoma nodded. “So until then, I don’t think I’m welcomed in this house.” His voice was sad.
“It’s okay. Under three months, I think everything should be settled. At least we are lucky that Christmas is not far off. It won’t be difficult to start planning our traditional marriage.”
When Apham didn’t respond, Ijeoma looked to find him staring at her. “What is wrong?”
“Uh? Sorry for what?” She reached across the table for his hand and held them.
“We should have done all these things before we started our life together. Because of me, all these things is happening to us. I regret pushing you, I regret pestering you…”
“Don’t say that,” Ijeoma said. “Please don’t say that. Don’t regret anything that happened between us. I don’t regret anything, why should you?”
“But, if I had not-”
“Everything happens for a reason, doesn’t it? Whatever happened has happened, let’s just look forward to the future, okay?” She rubbed his hand.
He smiled at her and placed his other hand on her hand. “I believe you.”
“So, as I was saying before, my sister has started with the wedding plans. You have to ask for her forgiveness. I don’t think it will be so difficult. I will go upstairs and get her for you. I don’t think my parents will appreciate you being inside the house now.’
“It’s no problem. I will wait outside here. Just get me a cup of water.”
“Alright.” She stood up. “I will be back in five minutes.”
Twenty minutes later, Ijeoma was still in her sister’s room, reconsidering the words she had said to Apham when she thought that it wouldn’t be difficult to get the forgiveness of her sister. Her sister was once again, playing hard to get.
Iyora had her laptop on her lap. From where she stood, Ijeoma could see her browsing through wedding albums. She groaned tiredly. She had been standing there for over twenty minutes and while Iyora would listen to every other thing she said, the minute she said her husband or called his name, Iyora would ignore her.
“There is not going to be any wedding if you don’t see him,” Ijeoma said.
Iyora bared her teeth at her in mock laughter. “And you think I’m bothered. Who told you I’m checking all these things for you? I want to start preparing for my own wedding.”
Ijeoma went to the window and peeped through it. She groaned when she saw that Apham was now standing, turning his upper body from the left to the right and stretching his hands. “Iyora please. He has been sitting outside for a while now. I haven’t even given him the water he asked for.”
“Is it my business? Go and give him water. If he is tired of waiting, he can leave.” Iyora shut down the laptop and got up from the bed, placing the laptop carefully on the table. She joined Ijeoma at the window.
“Do you hate him that much?” Ijeoma’s voice was sad.
Iyora didn’t say anything for a while. She continued looking at the man that was now tugging at the flower pots that sat beside the table. She tipped her head in thought then said, “I’ll go. But I’m only giving him five minutes. If he doesn’t tell me what I want to hear-”
Ijeoma shouted and hugged her enthusiastically. “Thank you so much sis.” When she moved away, she looked at Iyora questioningly. “What do you want him to say?”
Iyora gave her a blank look. “You will remain inside. If you like peep from the window, I will knock your head when I come back.”
Iyora picked a light sweater and was already walking towards the door.
“Can you take water to him as well?” Ijeoma put her palms together.
Iyora nodded slightly and then walked out of the room. Ijeoma remained at the window until she saw Iyora walking towards Apham. In her hands was a tall glass of water. She was tempted to remain at the window, but a knowing look from Iyora towards the window had her slinking away and putting down the curtains to prevent herself from giving into temptation. She would just have to trust her sister.