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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

THE WEDDING NIGHT - EPISODE1

The wedding night. Does it still exist in this fast-paced, digital, modern world? A world where a man and a woman will jump into bed before they even know each other's name or other personal details?
Well, it still exists in
some cultures round the world, mine included. Where I come from in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, the wedding night where the new couple sleep 'officially' together for the first time, is still considered a milestone in the marital journey.
In fact, there is a whole lot of ceremony and drama surrounding it which I will describe later. When my older sister, Neena got married five years ago, I witnessed the ceremony (minus the bedroom activities, of course!) and I loved it so much, I looked forward to my own marriage ceremony.
It finally happened some months ago, when my boyfriend Raffe and I decided it was time to formalize our relationship. We had been together for over four years by then. The only obstacle to our settling down together as a married couple was money. We just did not have the means for all the wedding expenses, especially with the type of elaborate one Raffe wanted.
He kept referring to his childhood friend, Tega's wedding a few years back that had been the talk of the town for a long time for its lavishness and extravaganza.
"But Tega has money," I reminded him. Tega was in the oil and gas business, with his own company, that was into exploratory activities in the sector. The fact was that Tega had more money than he knew what to do with. So, for my fiancé, a civil servant with an average salary to compare himself with Tega, an oil magnate was simply laughable.
"We are not as rich as Tega, in fact, we are not rich at all. Let's have a modest wedding ceremony, to suit our pocket," I suggested. But his competitive spirit, to outdo Tega, he referred to as 'that skinny little thing with 'craw craw head'* that used to run around barefooted in Okumagba Layout, Warri as a child' would not let him see reason.
"No, Oma. It's either we do it elaborately or not at all. It's a once in a lifetime event. So, we really need to get it right. Don't worry, we will get the money, somehow," he stated when I expressed doubts about getting the finance to foot the type of elaborate wedding he was planning.
  ***
It was a dark night, with no moon to cast shadows and light the way for the men walking in a single file down the narrow path in the middle of the forest. It suited their purpose, for that night's business required pitch blackness to keep off prying eyes, to ensure success. Just ahead, the tall man leading the group could make out the dark, thick pipeline that snaked its way through the bushes, meandering down to the sea some kilometers away with its liquid, highly prized contents...
The 'operation', which lasted for hours, winded up just before dawn. Save for a few that were leaking, most of the drums were filled with the crude oil from the pipeline. These had been loaded on barges in a creek, some meters away.
"Let's get out of here. We still need to get the barges to the ship before it sails tonight," the tall man told his men. They quickly gathered all their equipment and disappeared into the pale light of dawn...
***
"Honey, the manager at Bevin Hotel just called concerning the booking. He said we have till tomorrow to make a deposit for the hall or he will have to cancel the booking," I informed my fiancé over the phone.
"Let him go ahead and cancel. We don't need that place anymore," he said.
"And miss that place? Raffe, you know that's the most decent venue we can get at our budget," I told him.
"The plans have changed. We are going for Riverside Suites now," he announced.
"What?" I nearly screamed at him. "That expensive place? Our total wedding budget is not even enough to book an hour in that place. Where are we going to get the money from, Raffe? Have you gone nuts?" I stated hotly. The Riverside Suites, which overlooked the waterfront is one of the most expensive hotels in town with rates that only the extremely rich can afford. It was way beyond our reach, which Raffe knew quite well.
"That's your problem, Oma- you worry too much. I've told you several times to leave everything to me. I'm in control of the situation. So stop worrying about the money. Just go ahead with the plans," he stated reassuringly before hanging up.
'I should go ahead with our plans, he says. And where is the money going to come from? The moon?' I grumbled to myself, flopping on the sofa.
"And what are you grumbling about this time?" said Dafe, my cousin who had just come in from the kitchen with a plate of rice on a tray.
"It's Raffe! He wants us to change the venue of our reception to Riverside Suites when he knows quite well, we can't afford it," I stated vehemently.
"The Riverside! That's nice. It will make a beautiful setting for the reception," she enthused, as she sat down at the dining table and began eating.
"I know. But we simply can't afford it," I insisted.
"Maybe he got a loan or something. You know guys have a way of raising money when a situation like this-a wedding- comes up," she suggested.
"It can't be. He would have told me if he had taken a loan from a bank or anywhere else."
Later, that evening, on his return from work, I decided to confront Raffe about our money situation, on the need to avoid an extravagant wedding ceremony that will leave us in debt for years to come..
What went down between Oma and Raffe? Details later!

Note: 'Craw craw' is pidgin English for skin rashes.
To be continued...
Names have been changed to protect the identity of the narrator and other individuals in the story.
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