“Oh, Dunni, I don’t like the idea you’re suggesting. This Tunde guy sounds like a good catch, you know? I wish you would just stop thinking that work is all there is to life and just give yourself a chance. Try to get to know him.”
Another person who thought she had life all figured out. Dunni reached up and adjusted the gele on her head as she reined in her impatience. With the Cathedral packed full as it was, she didn’t need the extra aggravation making her hotter than necessary. Taking a deep breath out of the stale air the overhead fans circulated round the church auditorium, she shifted on the hard pew and looked again at her cousin. Her cousin Toyin had married straight out of university and probably thought all men were as sweet as hers.
Toyin was Folarin’s oldest sister, and was older than Dunni by about three years. She had been like an older sister while they were growing up, having frequently stayed with them in Ilorin during her university holidays instead of going back to her parent’s house in Lagos. She had virtually introduced Dunni to adulthood, taking her shopping for cosmetics and to Lagos to buy clothes, and talking her through her first boyfriend at seventeen. They weren’t as close as they used to be but Dunni had confided in her hoping for some support in the plans she intended to put in motion later that afternoon after the festivities.
“I won’t be part of it,” Toyin whispered as if reading her mind. “We’ve played our pranks while young, and you should leave all this sneaking around for Folarin’s nephews.”
Her brother, and Dunni’s favorite cousin, was seated on the pew directly in front of them, and on his laps squirmed one of Toyin’s boys, the youngest, at six, of her three sons.
“Look Dunni, you’re not getting any younger. Forget America o, where women get married at forty. I suggest you pack your bags and come back here to Nigeria and I promise you, by this time next year, you’ll be married and bouncing your twins on your knees.”
Dunni hissed. “Accept this man who will think he is better than me just because he’s a man, abi? Who will probably resent the fact that I’m independent, high earning woman.”
She closed her eyes and allowed the drone of the priest’s sermon to wash over her. It was the same one that had visited them yesterday, and he’d smiled kindly at her when the whole family had gone to greet him before the service started. As they walked away, her mom had told her that she might be meeting the potential mother in law in the priest’s office and she understood the priest’s words from Christmas day. But the meeting wasn’t confirmed though, as the woman might also decide to meet with her in the main hall. Dunni shook her head at the drama her life had turned into. When she opened her eyes, she had to bite her tongue to keep from snapping at her cousin. They hadn’t spoken in almost a year, and although Toyin had previously talked to Dunni about settling down, it had given Dunni faith that her cousin wasn’t as rabid as some other unsolicited advisers. Dunni had thought Toyin would at least help her escape the arranged marriage her parents planned, especially seeing as her cousin had chosen her own husband herself. Seems she was mistaken.
“Not all men are like that.”
“Toyin, I came to Nigeria to rest and spend time with my sick father, and not to get married on my mother’s whims. Certainly not to a man I do not know from Adam. And did I forget to mention, a man who will most likely end up sleeping with several other women on the side?” Dunni hissed again. “No, thanks.”
At the end of the tirade, Dunni was struggling to keep her voice at a whisper. She sneaked a glance around her again before she turned back to Toyin. Luckily, it was her cousin’s two older boys on both sides of them so she didn’t have to worry too much about being overheard by the marriage army. Still, one couldn’t be too careful. She had always tried not to dwell on her man woes, but her mother’s plans had spooked her more than she realized at the time.
“Dunni, I haven’t heard you this angry before.” Toyin sounded concerned. “I know men are not angels but surely they’re not all scumbags.”
“Toyin, we’re not all as lucky as you obviously are.”
“No, tell me the truth. I know you like your career but surely you understand it cannot be everything? There is more to life o.”
Dunni did not reply and Toyin continued. “Did someone cheat on you? Was that why you broke up with Douglas two years ago? I never did believe what you told me had happened.”
Pretending not to hear her cousin, Dunni shook her head but that did not stop the thoughts that flooded her mind. The wound that her last boyfriend left her with went very deep. The truth was that she hadn’t always been this prickly, and had actually looked forward to getting married at one point. It was also true that the dream had soured, and in a major way.
At twenty-six, Cupid had rescued her from a life filled solely with work. She had just finished her MBA at Wharton and been promoted to project leader when she met Douglas, an American on a temporary transfer from the New York office. After they worked together on a corporate project, he made a play for her, and even after he left Dallas, he’d persisted, not at all deterred by their different races. Some months later, Dunni lowered her defenses and they had dated long distance, commuting between the two cities for almost two years. They had been talking of an engagement and planning for Dunni to resign and move in with him when she realized she’d bought a flawed American dream. She couldn’t have it all.
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