Agatha was pleased at the idea of a second proposal, even more pleased than she had been about the first one. If one proposal did not turn out as planned, the other certainly would. So when her friend informed her of a certain rich 70 year old gentleman who was in need of a wife, she jumped immediately at the idea of meeting him for an arranged marriage.
Now, as she sat opposite the dark, scrawny looking man in an expensive suit, the smell of fresh baked goods wafted in the air, and she inhaled greedily. If he was kind enough to take her to such an expensive place for their first meeting, Tina would definitely love him, she thought. The mere thought of Tina seemed to annoy her, especially after the numerous argument they had been getting into lately. To not ruin the moment, she decided to forget her, but it wasn’t easy. After all, she thought, she was doing these for her sake.
“I am Sir Eldred, but you can call me, Eddie. Well, if things go well between us,” the man’s yellowed teeth displayed each time he smiled. And he seemed to love smiling.
“I am sure everything will go well.” Tina’s mother said smiling back, taking a second glance at him, she wondered how long it would take for him to die. Not more than two or three years for sure. That certainly was a good price to pay for his fortune.
“I was told you have a daughter, and from the picture you sent, she is quite something, so beautiful, such beauty is rare, especially at my age.”
She laughed, “You are not that old.”
“I never said I was.”
Tina’s mother smiled apologetically.
“Let’s keep it brief, shall we? I have other engagements, he said looking at his blink wrist watch. I want you to arrange a meeting for your daughter and me. Let’s have a small chat, before we proceed with our arrangements. I will send a driver to pick her at 12; 30 pm tomorrow. Would that be okay?”
“Yes, of course. Thank you.”
“I should be the one thanking you. The pleasure is all mine.”
He dropped a handful of notes on the table as he left. And when he disappeared, Tina’s mother counted them and put the extra money in her purse, they hadn’t ordered anything, but coffee. She would have ordered something fresh out of the oven, if she did not have more important things to worry about.
That evening in their wretched and battered apartment, all hell broke loose again. Tina had been watching the Morning after. It was one of her favorite old time shows since she repaired the small abandoned TV in their neighborhood’s junk yard. There came a hurried knock on the door and it frightened her. Her neighborhood was not safe during the daytime and at night. It literally made no difference what time it was, burglary and murder could occur at any moment.
“It’s your mother!” Agatha yelled.
Tina was relieved, but not pleased. She let her in, and returned back to viewing the screen. Her mother went straight and unplugged the cord of the T.V from the electric outlet.
“I want to talk to you Tina, and this your attitude will not get you anywhere!”
“Couldn’t you just say that without turning off the TV?” she thought, but made no comment.
“Do you still have that dress I bought you?” her mother asked impatiently.
“The slutty one?”
“I wouldn’t use that word, if I were you. The new black one. That dress cost me a lot. You will have to wear it tomorrow, because there is someone I want you to meet.”
“The club owner? I thought that was on Saturday.”
“Um…this is a different person.”
“I am not in the mood to argue. Don’t you think it’s time for you to help me out around here? All you do is sit and watch TV, oh of course, that is when you are not hanging with that your nuisance of a boyfriend.”
“So marrying a man old enough to be my father will help you? How?”
“To start with, you won’t be my problem anymore. Just trust me and do what I say. I am your mother and I want the best for you.”
“I doubt it.”
“You doubt what? If you have another mother elsewhere, you’d better leave my house and go and stay with her. Stupid idiot! Such an ungrateful person! After everything I have done for you! Even your biological mother didn’t want you. Till today I ask myself why I picked you up from under that orange tree, while everybody else just walked past you. Somebody does well and this is the reward they get. Brought a burden upon myself by setting my eyes on you. I just never had the heart to leave you there if not you would have died. There has never been a man here to help me out. I did it all alone. And now you are all grown, you still want to remain a burden. What nonsense is this even? There is a chance to get out of this mess we live in and you refuse out of your own selfishness.”
“Since you like these old men so much, why don’t you marry them yourself?” Tina retorted.
Her mother drew nearer and slapped her hard across the face, but that did not stop her from speaking. “The only thing you have ever done for me Agatha was 19 years ago. And that was picking me up from a tree. Which, by the way, we both know is a fat lie. Because today the tree is orange, tomorrow it is an apple tree. The real question is, what did you do with my mother, Agatha? Where is she?!”
Another slap landed on her face, and she held her face where it struck. This was nothing new, she had lived with her for 19 years and was used to her battering since she was five.
“Slap me! Kill me if you like, it’s still better than marrying one of those stinking old men. This is not the first time I have gone for a meeting and we both know they are all the same. And you keep sending me to them. How dare you? How dare you call yourself my mother? My mother would never do this to me!”
“I can see the devil has gotten into you. It’s that boy Elvis right? He has been filling your head with gibberish. Let me tell you, boys like that, don’t end up with girls like you. Sooner or later, he will get tired of you. Because you are just a toy to him.”
“Like I am to you right? I know that you don’t care about me. But unlike you, Elvis understands me. Unlike you mother he has been there for me even when you almost killed me, as you always attempt to by the way!”
“Just shut up and go to bed! Unless you want to spend the night outside. You and I know that I am the only person who cares about you. Don’t be a foolish fool and go inside!”
Tina went in, she knew the only reason she had gotten away with everything she had said without ending up outside was because her mother wanted her to be at home in time to meet the old man who wanted to marry her. Even though it was not the best of reasons, it had saved her from a horrible night spent outside with the mosquitoes.
The next day as soon as it was dawn, her mother prepared breakfast and called her to eat. A surprising gesture because they hardly had breakfast. Agatha insisted that breakfast was for the rich. Tina ate the bread and drank the milk scrumptiously. Just in case it was her only meal for the day.
After that, her mother led her to her room and sat her down in front of a mirror. She began combing out her hair, and it took a moment before Tina realized what she was up to. She was straightening out all the curls on her head; so her hair fell flat as thin, straight strands against her head. When she looked in the mirror, she was horrified at her reflection and she wanted to scream, but her mother was holding a hot curling iron in her hand, and she knew better than to do that. Besides, there was still that possibility that the ugly hair-do would get her out of an unwanted marriage.
The driver picked her at 1: 0pm and drove her to the mansion. When she arrived, what stood in front of her would have knocked her five senses out of her, if Elvis hadn’t shown her a far more magnificent one a few days ago. Her mother warned her to behave like a proper lady. She had no idea what that meant. But she wasn’t planning on putting on any silly performances.
The door man smiled at her, when she gave him her name.
“Sir has been expecting you,” he said, bowing politely.
He opened the door and pointed her in the direction of the living room. She was expected to find her way and not get missing in such a big mansion. And surprisingly she did, and in appropriate time too. The man she first set eyes on, she hated immediately, so she looked around. Perhaps it was a friend of his she was to meet. But to her disappointment he was all alone, crossing his legs and holding out a cigar. He stood up when he saw her, and held out a hand to her when she drew nearer to him. His shake was so firm and strong, that it made it obvious he was trying to make an impression.
“Hello, I am Sir Eldred. I have heard so many wonderful things about you. And look at you, you are even more wonderful in person.”
“My name is Tina. I am sorry I can’t say the same about you.” she answered smiling sweetly.
“Well, not yet. Take a seat. What can I offer you?
“Tea? Coffee Wine?”
“I am good.”
“I am fine. So why? Why do you want to marry me?” she asked as a matter of fact.
“Oh, I haven’t said I will marry you yet,” he said and laughed heartily at his own joke. It sounded like cackling of birds to Tina.
“So you won’t marry me then? I might as well take my leave.” she said rising.
There was something he liked about her aside the fact that she was beautiful and her eyes shone with intelligence, she was also stubborn and indeed he hadn’t met any woman whom he didn’t deserve as much as her. All of this only compelled him strongly to make her his.
“No, don’t go. Sit. Of course I want to marry you, not just yet.”
“Then why do you want to marry me?”
“Look around you, I would be honest with you he said, and Tina followed his eyes, the chandelier dangled and sparkled with a thousand light, the room was vast, décor was impeccable and the walls were designed and embedded in what looked like gold, yes, he was rich. That was obvious. All of this will belong to you, when I am gone, he said. But that’s not why I want to marry you my love. I want to because I understand you.”
“You? How can you understand me?”
“I grew up in your neighborhood Tina, and back then it was worse than it is today. I understand how bad it must feel like to wake up every morning and see the helpless state of things around you. No sustainable income to take care of your needs, he said eying her from head to toe. I have been there and I got out of it. Let’s work together to end it in your life and that of your mothers. I will take care of you both.”
“Unlike my mother, I don’t need anyone to take care of me. So in other words are you saying, I have nothing to gain from this proposal?”
He waved his hand in dismissal, “Nonsense. Don’t you want to be educated and respected in society? It’s a pity you know, if you don’t.”
Tina eyed him suspiciously, how much information had her mother divulged to this scrawny looking man. She had to give it to her mother though, she knew what she was doing picking men that could drop dead at any moment.
The man snapped his fingers bringing her back to reality.
“Are you alright? Are you sure you don’t want a drink?”
“I am okay.”
“So Miss Tina will you marry me…let’s say in ten days?”
“What! Why so soon?!”
“I would think that the sooner you get out of that hell hole the better. Besides it doesn’t have to be a grand wedding, except you want one.”
Sir Eldred had moved closer to her without her realizing it, she had become lost in thoughts about what the future held for her with a man like this. As if in response, she felt a finger trace the hem of her very revealing dress.
“Stop it!” she said flinching from his touch.
“Stop what? This is what you will do for me isn’t it? His hand was rubbing her thigh slowly and Tina froze, a rush of emotions was running through her, disgust, hatred, fear, and others she couldn’t identify. And she got on her feet immediately.
“I have to go.”
Sir Eldred grip was suddenly strong again for his age, “Don’t go yet,” he said pulling her back down.
“I don’t need this. I need to leave,” she said fighting him.
He pushed her down on the cushion, and she rose once more, and then she noticed his belt was now placed in his hand. Before she could realize its significance, it landed on her back. She cried out, but he only pushed her down on the cushion.
“It’s going to hurt, but I will like it. You can’t leave only when I am done, so don’t even try,” his voice crawled her skin.
“You don’t have to do this, “she pleaded, but soon she felt the head of his belt land on her stomach and she cried out again.
Sir Eldred smiled satisfied. He was weeping her with his belt and her cries of pain brought so much pleasure to him.
He kept whipping her as he undressed, Tina was now crunched under his weight, and she fought tears. She had received beating all her life, but this felt different, it felt like the death of something in her, she knew it, that she would die than let this man go on with his evil intentions. He was whipping her behind now, and was so into it, he didn’t notice Tina lift the flower vase that was sitting on the side table. When he looked up he smiled and said tersely,
“Put that down.”
Tina used the vase on his head, and it broke into many fragments. He moved away from her and tried using his belt once more, but his head was in so much pain that he had to hold it for a moment. Tina picked up her purse and ran, she was almost at the door, when he caught her, spurn her around and smacked her hard across the face.
“How dare you? You slut!”
She didn’t need to touch her face to know she was having a nose bleed, she could feel the warm blood pour out of her nose. Soon he grabbed her and wrapped his two hands tightly around her neck, he was asphyxiating her, and she heaved mightily for air, her leg kicking and fighting in the air. She was losing it when she reached out for the pen knife inside her purse in time, and stabbed him at his side. She hadn’t planned on using it ever, but it was a safety measure she always carried along with her because of her neighborhood, just in case.
Sir Eldred was clenching his side in pain, he was now on the floor bleeding, and spewing curse words at her. Tina looked down at him horrified. She slipped behind the door she had entered and screamed out for help. The door man heard her and as soon as he came running in, she slipped out of the door and ran out.
She hid behind some yellow bushes and tidied herself, and then she walked quickly and managed to pass the guards without raising any suspicion, when she did, she ran home like a mad man. Agatha was at home and Tina could tell that she was in a good mood.
“Did it go well? Tell me everything? Why do you look so …so terrified?”
“I am okay ma. It’s just that he wants us to get married in ten days, can you believe it?” she said feigning a surprised look.
“Of course, you must have blown him away. I told you that dress was of good use.”
“Yeah I must have, too bad I have somewhere to be now, so I have to slip out of it.”
“Okay, but why didn’t his driver drop you off?”
“I insisted that I wanted to go home on my own.”
“I wanted to clear my head and think on my way back.”
“Hmm, I will just have to call him to thank him then.”
“For what?” Tina blurted out.
“What? What did you say?”
“Uhmm. You can call him later. He was extremely busy when I got there, I am sure he must be tired. Call him tomorrow morning.”
“No, I can’t wait that long.”
“You can! I mean… you have to show him that you are a good in-law and that you care about his health and_.” She was stuttering.
Tina’s mother beamed, “Of course, I will wait. You look a bit-”
“I am fine, just tired. I am going to be late if I don’t change now.”
“Tina, her mother called her name softly as she started to go, I think it’s only right you end things with Elvis.”
Tina nodded quietly and went inside. Soon she left the house dressed in a blue jeans and a white tee. On her way out, she considered going back in to inform her mother of what really happened at Sir Eldred’s place but she doubted her mother would believe her. She wasn’t sure of what the man was capable of, but something told her, it was not over yet.
To be continued…