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Elegantly dressed in her embroidered sky-blue Ankara dress, her leather shoulder bag slinging over her right shoulder, Maryam walked steadily across a big bright band laying on the floor of a narrow verandah in the rays of the evening sunshine and entered a living room furnished with antique furniture. As she made her way along to her bedroom, she came to an abrupt standstill when she caught a glimpse of wedding luggage in one of the corners of living room.
Moving forward silently like an innocent woman being hanged, Maryam reached the luggage and She looked searchingly, as if she hadn't never had seen such luggage like that. She wondered who could have afforded these luggage in her village when the economy of the country is in a deep recession. She leaned forward, and picking up a little silver box of an expensive jewellery, her mother who had been watching her, materialized at her side so suddenly she stiffened with fear the way you would stiffen when you see a ghost at your side.
"Welcome home, darling", her mother said in an exciting voice with a smile of welcome flashing across her bony face.
"Who are these luggage for?" Maryam asked, opening the box.
"It is for you," her mother said. "You would soon become the wife of a rich man."
The box suddenly slid out of Maryam's hand and dropped to the floor. Her face darkened, her heart started to thump quickly as if she had been on a long run in the bush to rescue herself from a menace lion that was chasing her.
"For God's sake, how often had I told you that I am not in love with him?" Maryam screamed and broke into tears. "You are gradually ruining my life".
"Don't be worked up, dear", her mother said. "Whatever your parents chose for you is always the best. You need to look before you leap. Men of nowadays are deceitful. That is we decided to give your hand in marriage to a man who would tend you with a loving care. The domestic violence between husband and wife has become common in this village. The rate of divorce is getting increased because many men could not dress their family the way they wanted be dressed or feed them with three squares of meals a day. But if you marry Alhaji Suleiman, you will just say what you want and you will have it without questions."
Still weeping uncontrollablely, Maryam threw her shoulder bag across the living room. She moved to an armchair and dropped down. Her mind drifted to Anas whom she had been in love with for almost five years. She wondered what would be his reaction if this news reaches him.
"I am not a materialistic," Maryam said in a tearful voice. "I had you that his wealth could never steal my heart to fall out of love with Anas and I am telling you again."
If Maryam mother's had not subdued her irate, she would have slapped Maryam badly across her face.
"How would you have a happy marriage?" her mother asked calmly.
"Money is not what brings happiness to a couple in their matrimonial home", Maryam said. "What brings happiness to a couple in their matrimonial home is the passionate love they have for each other."
"Okay, my dear daughter". Her mother moved to an armchair opposite her and gently sat down. "Alhaji Suleiman loves you and as long as he loves you, he would do whatever it takes to make you happy in your matrimonial home".
"This is a pipedream, mother. A couple couldn't live happily when one them has no true love in the other". Maryam got up, her pretty face trembling with tears. "There is always violence in a love-hate relationship".
"Now listen, my dear daughter", her mother called in a rising voice. "You either accept this arranged marriage or you remain spinster."
"I would rather remain spinster than to get a marriage of convenience. Alhaji Suleiman would never eat a ripe fruit of my tree". Maryam said and before her mother could say anything, she vanished in the air to her bedroom.