It was a very cold and rainy Saturday morning. Everyone stayed indoors, refusing to go out under the heavy rain or in the cold. They did their chores, including sweeping, cleaning and washing of clothes which they spread out in the veranda to dry.
At 11:35AM, the rain stopped. Mr and Mrs Okoji emerged from their room, already dressed in native attires and heading out for a friend's traditional wedding.
"You people should take care of the house." Mr. Okoji said, as he walked out the front door with his wife. Long after they had gone, Nkechi went back to her room while her brothers and sisters went about their own activities. Soon the house was quiet. Only Nkechi was in, the rest had gone to play or to visit friends.
In her lonely room and despite the eerie silence, Nkechi laid on the bed, reading a novel. Because of her passion for acting, she loved to read stories. As she read, she pictured each scene in her mind and acted out the facial expression of the lead characters. She laughed as she acted out weird expressions and thought what Bose's face would look like if she did it to her.
"Oh Bose. She'll just run for help." Nkechi smiled as she pictured Bose running away.
Taking her attention back to the novel, she read until she got to a part that reminded her of her own situation. A teenage girl in love with a Twenty something years old man. The difference was that, while the character's family supported her relationship, Nkechi 's family rejected hers. She sighed after she had read that particular chapter for the second time.
"He is a prince!" She said tartly as she tossed the novel on the other side of the bed. "He has royal blood flowing through his veins, why won't they support him being with their daughter?" Alex on the other hand was just a young man in the university. He had no job or enough money even to pose as royalty.
"I don't care about his money. I care about him and that's all that matters." Nkechi thought. She was seriously beginning to feel frustrated. Why did her own case have to be different? Why wasn't she allowed to be with Alex? "Oh Alex." She said his name, almost crying. Her mind drifted back to two nights ago, when she and Alex last saw each other. She really enjoyed her time with him. Unfortunately, things between them ended quite abruptly.
That night after her sister and mother walked Alex away from her life, her father came home and was very angry when he learned about what had happened. He yelled at Nkechi for what she did. That aside, he punished her, first, by withdrawing her allowances.
"If you have no money to spend you won't go about spending late nights with a boy you barely know." He said. "What do you even take us for? We don't raise loose girls in this house!" He yelled. "None of my children, girl or boy, will be loose. How can you, at your age keep a boyfriend and stay out late with him? What are you turning into?"
"Don't mind her." Her mother chipped in. "I told you to meet me at the shop today, you didn't. There was a producer I wanted you to meet but you stood us up. Tell me, how do you want me to plead with him to still give you the opportunity you carelessly threw away? You chose to go out instead with that good for nothing boy who wants nothing more than to take advantage of your innocence and then you made us very worried. Why?"
"Mummy its not like that..." She tried to explain but was abruptly cut short by her father. That night, he gave her severe punishments and warned her never to see Alex again. Apart from that, all privileges of being able to go out alone were stripped from her. Her brothers and sisters threw one or two hurtful words her way, they weren't pleased with her actions and they wanted her to know that.
Bringing her mind back to the present, she sighed and sat up on her bed. "No need for that Nkechi." She comforted herself. "There are better things to do than to wallow in self pity."
She got up and went to the sitting room. NEPA chose that moment to bring the light and she put on the television. Nkechi had barely sat down to watch the musical playing in it when a loud knock at the door startled her.
"What are you doing here?" She queried as soon as she opened the door and saw Bose standing outside. "You have guts showing up at my house, after selling me put to my mum?"
" Nkechi, it's not like that!" Bose said with a pleading tone. "I was worried that something bad might have happened to you. I didn't know you were going to stay out so late with Alex."
"That still didn't give you the right to tell my mum and sister the entire details of my personal life.
" Nkechi I'm sorry." She apologized. "Is that why you've been avoiding me after school hours?"
"Yes! Who knows what else you'll tell my mum."
"Nkechi I didn't mean it like that. I was worried something bad might have happened to you. Come on Nkechi, you know you are my best friend. I would never do anything to intentionally hurt you."
With her lips pouting, Nkechi eyed her briefly before piping down and opening the door wider so as to admit her into the house.
"It seems you are home alone." Bose said before taking her seat.
"Yes I am." Nkechi said with an attitude that showed she was still a little angry at her best friend. "Apart from that, I have been forbidden to go out alone. I can't go out without an escort. My pocket money has been seized and I cannot see Alex, ever again. Hope you are happy?" She finished, eyeing Bose with a frown.
"Oh come on! I just apologized."
Nkechi threw her hands up in resignation and took the opposite seat. "So, what brought you here?"
"I came to see how you were doing." She sighed. "And, I saw Alex today."
"Really? How is he?" Nkechi asked, straightening up. She was suddenly very interested in her friend's visit.
"Fine, but not fine. He is worried your parents must have beaten you up mercilessly. So he is considering coming over to ask for your hand in marriage."
"He what?" Nkechi asked with pushed up brows and wide eyes. "What is he thinking? Has he lost some nuts?"
"He is thinking rightly." Bose defended him. "Next year you will be 18, Nkechi. You can get married then. Both of you will be together and all these issues of parents looking over your shoulders will end."
"Bose, I haven't finished SS3 yet. You seriously want me to consider marriage? Tell me, how will I cope as a married woman and maybe a mother, when I get to the university?"
"You will find a way out. You always find a way out. Come on! You are not the first teenager who's going to be married."
"I need to think this through, Bose. Marriage is no child's play."
"Fine! Think all you want but I assure you, you're wasting time. The faster you make up your mind the better."
"In...deed!" Nkechi said with pushed up lips as she used one hand to wave her friend's assumptions aside. "I'm young, Bose. And I'm not so eager to give up my freedom yet. After my University education, I can consider marriage. But for now, Alex has to wait. But if he really means what he said, he should talk to my parents. There is no harm in telling them his intentions. Is there?"
"Ok. Suit yourself. I'll tell him you.... hmmm... better still, you tell him."
"Come on! No one is here to monitor you. Let's go and meet him. He is waiting for me at the same spot you two met on Wednesday."
"And why will he be waiting for you?" Nkechi asked with creased browse and firm lips.
"Its not what you're starting to think. He is waiting for feed back. So Instead of feed back, I think you two should meet."
"I can't. My parents or siblings may come home any moment from now. What will I do then? My father will trash me if I disobey him. He is still very angry with me as it is."
"We will be fast." Bose encouraged her. "The time is just 1:30pm. If we hurry, we will get there and back in good time."
Nkechi thought about it. After a while, she curved her lips into a mischievous smile and nodded. "Ok. I think I'm up for a little adventure."
"Now that's more like the Nkechi I know. So hurry up! We have no time to waste."
Young Nkechi went into her room and quickly got dressed in a pink t-shirt and a knee level, blue jeans skirt. She combed her hair neatly and applied gloss on her lips.
"How do I look?" She asked Bose after she came back to the sitting room.
"Stunning. Today might as well be your wedding day."
"Hahaha." Nkechi laughed. "Ok then, let's..... Oh! I forgot." She sighed in frustration. "I don't have any money. My dad withdrew my pocket money."
"I have enough for both of us. That's not a problem."
The next five minutes met them going out the door and out of the compound. The sun had torn its way through the clouds and was shining as brightly as ever. Its glow brought warmth, erasing all traces of cold Nkechi felt inside the house. Within few minutes, the girls got to the park and boarded a bus.