amaka rose early on a sunny monday morning, not requiring assistance for the first time in a long time. the furthest thought from her mind was that she would marry that day. and yet, like it or not, that is precisely what would happen.
she rubbed the crust from her her eyes and looked across the room at her younger sister, chisom, who was still asleep and drooling quietly onto her care bear pillowcase. satisfied that she could finally enjoy an unprecedented amount of freedom, she hopped down from her bed, tiptoed carefully past the crucifix that hung over the armoire and glowed eerily in the dark of night, opened the door and left.
at this hour, the house was quiet save for the hum of electronics and a thunderous snore down the hall. her older brother's, no doubt. she turned away from the bassoon and walked round the corner to the bathroom. reaching up, she turned the knob and entered: she was going to get ready all by herself today and shock everyone.
the response to her display of independence was better than she could have imagined. her mother high-fived her, her sister sulked. her brother, contrary to his usual indifference, rubbed the top of her head and messed up her afro puff, but she didn't even mind. as she chewed on her creamy golden morn, she couldn't help but feel that today would be a good day. the girls at school would let her play ten-ten with them, even though she didn't really know how to play; and that one girl who was bigger than everyone else wouldn't punish her for coming first in class last year by ripping up her art projects and denying her her "friendship".
it didn't matter as much that her mother once again chose to give her the grown-up coffee flask with brown stripes instead of the my little pony one she much preferred. it was some consolation that chisom didn't get a flask at all because she was still too young to drink consistently from a cup, unsupervised, without ruining her clothes. she would have to suffer the indignity of sucking her juice from a box of ribena. she, chisom, wasn't having it and let her discontent be known as loudly as she could. children! amaka shook her head, already weary of dealing with those so much younger and more immature than she. to her, chisom was the most foolish person she had ever encountered in all her years on earth, all six of them.
at her desk in school, which she shared with five other boys and girls, she became engaged in a staring match with chinedu, a long-faced boy who, for some inexplicable reason, caught her fancy today like never before. the feeling appeared to be mutual, because he didn't once look away. the air was virtually prickling with the sparks from their unvoiced attraction.
the ceremony unfolded in an organic manner, seamlessly and without announcement. as the other children looked on, stupefied, amaka and chinedu lowered their heads in near-unison below the table top and exchanged looks in lieu of the customary rings - at each other's underwear. hers bore pink pastel flowers; his were navy blue with a white, elastic band. it was a rite performed speedily and without pomp - overly simple, she would one day recall. but beautiful in its own way.
their marriage now sealed, they proceeded to spend the rest of the day in a version of holy matrimony, performing all requisite acts like seasoned professionals. they switched seats with some of their cohorts so they could sit side by side while they colored by numbers. at lunch time, they shared their jam sandwiches equally and each politely insisted that the other's was more delicious. they declined to split their beverages, but only because chinedu was not in the mood for amaka's blackcurrant ribena, preferring instead to sip on his orange-flavored capri-sun. and when it was time for siesta, the elderly mrs. singh amusedly watched them clamor to share the same mat.
alas, all good things must come to an end, and end they did. perhaps it was the forty-five minute nap that erased chinedu's memory of the rich morning that had transpired between him and his new bride. perhaps it is true that, as they say, all marriages are not meant to last. but as they rose from their siesta mat, amaka eager to behold her handsome partner with her eyes and embrace him with her arms, chinedu gruffly pushed her away as he rubbed his eyes and tried to remember where he was. proud as she was, amaka could not stomach his rejection. she stalked off.
and just like that, their actions signaled the end of a beautiful romance that had barely begun. by the time the mothers, drivers and house helps came to pick up their respective wards, the boy had teased the erstwhile love of his life mercilessly on more than one occasion, leading her to pummel him with her bare fists in order to save face. that day, she was accompanied home by a note in her school bag that was addressed to 'mama amaka', admonishing the little girl and cautioning her parents to ensure her ill behavior was not repeated lest she be sent to learn her sums elsewhere.
to this day, amaka claims that the tongue-lashing she received was worth every punch she laid on chinedu's fickle horse face. he insists that he does not remember.