Ijeoma faced her sister and told her with as much honesty as she could muster, “He treats me well, especially this period. I sometimes pity him. He thinks it’s his fault that everything keeps happening to us.”

“It’s his fault,” Iyora put in. “Why should he marry a woman without permission from her parents? And why should he sleep with his father’s wife? My God! How did you manage to forgive him?”

Ijeoma shrugged helplessly. “Love I guess.”

“The kind of love that they say is blind?” Iyora quizzed on.

“Maybe. I just knew that I love him enough to want to live with him for the rest of my life, enough to remain with him despite all that is happening.”

“And enough to run away from your parents house,” Iyora added impishly.

Ijeoma smiled.

“So, if this works, how will you go back to your life? Are you going to try for a baby immediately?”

“No, of course not. I have to give my womb time to recover. Apham suggests a three year gap, but three years seems so long. I was going for a year and half.”

Iyora shook her head. “I agree with your husband. You need to give your womb enough time. I understand that you are worried that your biological clock is ticking but don’t rush. I believe that your children are waiting for you and when you are ready, they will find their way into the world.” She patted Ijeoma lightly on her lap. “Besides, I’m the person that is supposed to be worrying. I’m three years older than you remember?”

Ijeoma rolled her eyes. “Yes, you are.” They burst into laughter.

“So what did mom and dad tell you?” Iyora came down from the bed and went to pour water from a jug into two glass cups on the table.

“They want to see Apham. He has to come and apologize to them before I go anywhere.” She reached to collect a glass of water from Iyora.

“That is reasonable. We have to plan for your wedding proper. That thing you did before is not regarded as a wedding.” Iyora snapped her fingers.

“What? Is it necessary? We married in the court and a pastor officiated the wedding. That should count.” Ijeoma placed the now empty glass on the small table beside the bed, staring at Iyora dubiously.

“Ah! No, that doesn’t count. Of course, you are married in the eyes of the law and the church,” she said the last word as though she was eating kola. “But what about in the eyes of tradition? Abi you have forgotten that you are Igbo eh? Your husband has not paid your bride price na?”

“I know, but it doesn’t mean we have to go through all-”

“You are going to have your wedding. Simple.” Iyora hushed her when she made to speak. “You are going to have your traditional wedding in the village. Your husband and his family will come and perform the needed rites. And we will have the white wedding reception. You will wear your gown and snap pictures and invite friends.” Iyora had already reached for a jotter and a pen.

“All this wahala,” Ijeoma complained, but inside her, excitement bubbled.

“Ehen na,” Iyora leaned down on the table and was writing furiously. “We are not going to miss anything at all.”

“Okay.” Ijeoma got up to look at what she was writing. “But we have to wait for Apham to come and talk mummy and daddy.”

“That is not a problem. The way things are now, you think they will make it difficult for the man? That’s right, have you called him?”

“Yes. I called him on my way up.”

“He should come with wine or something. He cannot come empty handed.”

Ijeoma nodded. “He said he would make a trip to the shopping mall before coming. I think he should be on his way now.”

“That is better.”

The two women joined their heads over the jotter and started laying the foundation for the wedding plan.

Apham pulled his car to a stop behind that of Ijeoma. He looked at himself in the mirror, brushing off invisible specks from his beards. He reached into the glove compartment and brought out a brush. He brushed his beards first, then reached to brush his head but felt the rough strands against his soft skin. Awkward laughter filled the car. He had forgotten he had no hair on his head. What else? He thought.

He adjusted the neckline of his purple Senator and straightened the short sleeves. He looked at the time and sighed. How will this go? When Ijeoma had called him, her voice had been filled with joy and hope. It had gone well with them, she said the excitement ringing in her voice. But they want to see you. You have to come and pick me up.

He hadn’t been surprised. Though he wanted to go with her to see her parents, she was adamant that his presence would not be accepted.

He reached for his phone on the space of his car and dialed her number.

“Babe, where are you?” she asked as soon as she picked up the phone.

“I’m in front of the gate.”

“All right. I’m coming.”

He didn’t have to wait long. When she came out, he was surprised. She had changed into a pair of shorts and a big shirt, both he assumed belonged to her sister. That must also have gone well, he mused.

“Wow.” Ijeoma took in his dressing. “You didn’t have to dress so extravagantly?”

Apham looked down at his clothes. “Is it that bad?”

“Well, it looks good on you. Which tailor-made it for you? I think he should make one for our wedding.” Ijeoma was studying the clothes, looking closely at the hems and stitches.

“Wedding?” He frowned.

Ijeoma gave him a wide smile. “Yes, wedding.” She brushed a stray thread away from his chest. “Did you get the wine? Hope you got something for my sister?”

Apham went to the boot of the car and opened it.

“Jesus!” Ijeoma gaped at the contents of the booth. “Are you coming to pay my bride price?” She burst into loud laughter.

In the trunk of the car, items ranging from well-packaged fresh fruits, a bag of Semolina, two crates of eggs were cramped in the small space. She could even see tubers of yam under a bag of rice.

“Well…” Looking at the things in the car, Apham understood that he had overdone it. “I was just anxious.”

“I know, honey.” She palmed his shoulders. “Don’t worry, it will be okay. Let’s just take the wine first. After everything, we can give them others.” She pecked him lightly and closed the boot of the car.

Apham got the wine wrapped in a brown paper from the backseat of the car and hand-in-hand, they walked into the house.