The night was very chilly, calm and humid. The gentle breeze blew causing the mango trees to toss their leaves in a dance. The temperature of the weather had rendered my heavy cloth useless as I could still feel the unfriendly cold. Eventually, I had to fold my arms, sit on the abandoned clayed brick under the tree and placed my folded arms on my bended knees.
I had arrived at the scene an hour ago but Matilda wasn’t showing up. Myriads of thoughts began running through my mind.
“Has her father found out my secret affair with her and stopped her from seeing me?” I quizzed myself. However, I was optimistic that she would definitely turn up because failing to see me was uncharacteristic of her.
Her father Efo Kwame Dzimeyor (alias Efo Dzakpata) was a retired soldier who had fought in the first world War from the year 1914 to 1918. He was very strict and feared by the youth and some elders in the village because nobody could mess up with him and get away with it. He had close personal ties with the chief and his elders of the village and the only Roman Catholic priest in the village, Rev. Fr. Isaac Hudson from Jamaica who had been posted to carry out his missionary work and manage the only school in the village. Efo Dzakpata commanded a lot of respect and discipline in the village. Recalcitrant children were often brought to him by their parents for them to be given the military-style of punishment. As a result, parents always threatened their stubborn children with Efo.
Efo was fond of Matilda because she was the only daughter among seven sons and he had turned himself into a dog to ward off any man that tried to come closer to her. Therefore, my intimate and amorous relationship with Matilda was illegal and I could be slaughtered and buried alive should Efo find out.
Later, Matilda arrived in her usual sparkling beauty. I frowned to signal to her that I wasn’t happy with her lateness.
Just as I was about to complain, she planted a long passionate kiss on my lips. The single unexpected kiss erased all forms of complaints from my mind and instead filled me with romantic warmth. With a contrite heart and placing her arm around my neck, she said, “My sugar, forgive me for being late. I had to wait for the old man to sleep. You know how strict he is.”
I replied saying, “Don’t worry sweetheart, not forgiving you is like cutting my nose to spite my face.”
My statement made her burst into uncontrollable laughter and I couldn’t help but join in.
That night, we had a good night and mimicked some of the behaviors of Efo Dzakpata. We enjoyed the moments to the extent that we failed to realize it was getting late. I saw her off to her house but made sure I kept a 500metre distance as Efo could be lurking around with his gun. We gave each other a pleasant hug and I bade her goodbye.
Two weeks later, I was busily working in the backyard garden when my father, Opanin Fabena Konto called out my name. I left my work in order to attend to him. On reaching there, he was comfortably lying on the wobbling lazy chair with his cloth lowered to his waist. He told me I had a visitor. I looked up and saw Arnold, the village post Master. Arnold was in a white long-sleeved shirt tucked inside his khaki knicker with a black necktie to match. He wore black shoes and long white socks. He told me he had a consignment for me, reached into his bag and brought out a package in a big envelope.
I took it and thanked him with a harvested tuber of yam from the garden. I opened the parcel and it was a certificate of recognition as a volunteer. The British colonial government had sent some envoys a year ago to ascertain the extent of the damage caused during the 1939 earthquake in the Gold Coast. Our village was the worst hit. The envoys came along with relief items as well. Being one of the few people in the village that had the opportunity of being educated formally, I chose to serve as interpreter to the government envoy since almost all the villagers could not speak English.
The other educated ones in the village had been sent to Accra and Cape Coast by their parents to experience city life. For me, my father asked me to remain in the village and help him in his cocoa farm since I was his only child. I explained the content of the package I received to me and he was very happy and proud of me.
I waited till my father had drifted into sleep then I sneaked out of the house to show my certificate to Matilda. With a beaming face and impatient mood, I ran to Matilda’s house forgetting that I was entering the lion’s den.
As I got to the house forgetfully yelling out her name, her father, the almighty Efo Dzakpata appeared like a ghost. I was visibly shaking to the extent that I stammered and offered a morning greeting instead of evening. With his usual terrifying look, he asked of my mission in an intimidating and impatient voice. I stammered as I lied to him that my father had asked me to come and fetch some lighted coal from the fire to light his smoking pipe. He took the paper from me and without looking at it, entered the kitchen and fetched some lighted coal on the certificate. On seeing this, my eyes nearly came out of their sockets.
I took the paper from him and quickly rushed out of the house but before I could say Jack Robinson, my paper had burnt into ashes. My day went into complete darkness but I took solace in the fact that he never found out and questioned me about the secret affair between his daughter and me.
A month after that bizarre incident, I got over my ordeal and moved on because Matilda meant the whole world to me more than the burnt certificate.
We met at our usual spot one day but something about her was missing – – she was in quite a pensive mood. I asked her severally but she did not want to tell me. Upon persistence, she told me she was pregnant and her troublesome mother, Eno Arhinma suspected it. Eno Ama had decided to probe her that night.
My head began spinning while she wept bitterly with her head on my shoulder. I consoled and told her to go home while I figured something out. Lying on my bed that night, I thought of several options to choose from. I ruled out abortion since it was a great taboo in the village and my great and sincere love for her would not also allow me to run away from the village. I had Efo Dzakpata to also face. Conclusively, I resolved to take the bull by the horn and face Efo Dzakpata. First, I decided to let my father know.
The next early morning, I woke up feeling weak due to the sleepless night. I went and sat beside my father who was as usual, smoking his pipe. Before I opened my mouth to prompt my father that I had something to discuss with him, we heard “Agoooooo”. I turned and saw three village elders, Efo Dzakpata, Eno Arhinma (Matilda’s mother), head of THE DZIMEYOR FAMILY, Togbui Dotse Ahove and Matilda herself together with one of her brothers, Efo Kpogeh.
It was obvious that they were looking for me. The courage I had had the previous night all vaporized! I got up from my chair and stood behind my father. The look on Efo Dzakpa’s face showed that he wanted to devour me. The visitors were offered seats and the discussions began. I knew what was coming and felt so uncomfortable that left the scene and went into the garden to keep my ears out of shot.
Thirty minutes later, my father called out my name. I knew that my personal Judgement Day had arrived. When I got there, they were all quiet staring at me with different expressions on their faces. My father looked disappointed while Efo Dzakpata stared at me sternly with Matilda standing by his side. Efo raised his voice and instructed me to get closer to him which I did. He asked me to bring my hand. At this time, I almost broke down because I had come face to face with the “Devil.” I expected my father to come to my rescue but he ignored me.
Efo held my hand and joined it to her daughter’s saying :
“Your union (yours and Matilda’s) was arranged even before both of you were born. I returned from the first World War in 1918 with bruises, broken bones and sores all over my body. I was very weak and on the verge of dying when your father saved my life by treating my wounds and made sure I walked again without taking a penny from me. To show appreciation, I also decided that his offspring, whether male or female would have to be part of my family to maintain the legacy of your father in my family. Do you now understand why I warded off all those boys who came after her? I was preserving her for you. Your father and I knew of your secret affair but turned a blind eye because we knew both of you are meant to be together. You are 23 and my daughter is 19 so make sure you take care of her because she is the apple of my eye and I trust you won’t disappoint me. I also decided to be hard on you because I didn’t want you to get my daughter on a silver platter. I therefore, give my daughter Matilda to you, KOJO YESU and bless your marriage.”
We were both filled with happiness. My father looked at my face and finally gave me a broad smile. The relief I felt was unimaginable because how I had imagined things to be didn’t end up that way.
We got married officially and in attendance was Ms CHANELLE, the British Colonial secretary. In attendance was the lion whose mane I pulled but was left unharmed.