Tina did not tell him that her parents were extremely tribal. She prayed that they would not unleash their archaic attitude to him when she brought him to meet them. After all, he loved her, he had a stable income and he was respectful. Isn’t that what really matters to a parent when it comes to their daughter being betrothed?
Her hands were wet with perspiration as they approached their house. They had driven sixty kilometres. David was nervous. The talkative Tina had not spoken all through the journey. He was afraid it was because he had not hired a better car. Or because he had chosen a black pair of trousers instead of the navy blue she prefered. Or because he had decided to keep his beards, she loved him clean shaven.
He watched her rub her hands too many times and breathe out forcefully after every couple of minutes. She looked lost, miles away. Sometimes she would hold her mouth as if in shock, like she was reliving something in her mind.
Tina held his thigh as they entered the already opened compound. She had called and asked them to be prepared,she would come over the weekend with a visitor. They were excited but she hang up quickly before they asked any questions.
Tina alighted the car before David could even turn the engine off. He wondered whether to follow her.
“Bae come, ” she called out.
She held out her hand to him and firmly gripped on him, like an overprotective mother. Her grip became tighter when she met her mother in the living room. Her mother rose and hugged them both. She was friendly, David thought. But where was the father?
Tina’s mother asked about town. Was it raining over there? Is it still as busy? Is Tina still staying in that flat? She directed all the questions to Tina whose mind looked so preoccupied about something else. She kept looking at the doorway but stopped her gaze when her father appeared.
He was a slender tall man, wrinkles were starting to form on his face. He had a firm grip. He sat on the sofa and took the TV remote and switched the television off. David sensed this was a man of authority. He looked at his fiancee and one could smell the fear around her.
She always spoke highly of him. He knew that Tina’s father had taken care of that family with nothing but love. He had strived to see his only daughter go through school.He even remembered Tina narrating how her father had taken care of her when his mother was bed ridden when she was twelve.
He was startled when Tina lightly slapped his thigh.
“Dad is asking how long you have worked with that company.” She said.
“Oh, three years sir!” David answered.
More questions were asked albeit in her vernacular language but Tina would jump in and answer them quickly. David was amused that they prefered to speak to him in their mother tongue. He understood very little. But the amusement did not last for very long.
“David, do you understand my language?” It was Tina’s dad. David glanced at Tina and did not like what he saw there. There was cold fear in her eyes. It was as if her life depended on his answer.
“Just a little sir. “David answered.
“From which part of the country are you from?” The father continued.
David was startled by the question but he answered respectfully. As soon as he did, the parents’ faces dropped.
“Whoa! Tina? Again? This one will kill me now!” Tina’s mother wailed,as she clapped her hands theatrically.
This confused David. Tina’s dad looked menacingly at his daughter whose eyes were fixed on the ground. Then he spoke, in their vernacular. There was silence. Tina craned her neck to whisper to her boyfriend.
“Dad says you walk out for a moment.” She said a tremor in her voice. He looked at her eyes. For a moment he thought of picking her up and taking her to a safe place but he stood and smiled at the disdainful faces of his would-be parents. He walked out to the hired car and leaned on it to try and figure out what was going on.
David could not erase off the look Tina’s parents had given him when he mentioned his home town. It was a look of pure repugnance. He did not want to believe that his tribe would be such a cause of strong emotion. He was amazed at how Tina’s parents could be so archaic. But what muddled his mind was Tina. She was very apprehensive. Her mother had also made a comment. What did she mean by asking Tina, “Again?”
Her quick steps towards him intruded into his thoughts.
“Let’s get in the car and leave.” David did as urged. He drove as if they were being followed. He feared that her lip, which she bit so hard would burst out bleeding.
“Bae, what happened in there?” He asked. Her well controlled tearbag burst out finally. He stopped the car and held her as she weeped in his arms. It was after a number of minutes that she found her voice.
“I have never told you this, but I guess I have to now that it was mentioned. Years ago I was engaged. The man came from your tribe too.” She paused and managed to laugh lightly. “I always seem to attract men from your tribe. When I brought Dan to see them, they were as discourteous as they were to you. But Dan was the unforbearing type. He hailed despicable insults at them and walked out on us. A fortnight later, he invited me to his wedding.”
Tina smiled again, a painful smile, “I learnt he kept someone on the side , just in case it did not work out well with me.”
She continued, “When you left , I thought I would find you gone. Your absence filled me with rage. Before they could give me a scolding about choosing a guy who is not from our tribe, I stopped them and said,
‘Dad, mum, I am in love with David. I love him and do not care from which tribe he is. Dan left because he was the wrong man, tribe had nothing to do with it. David is the one. Please find it in your heart to see him beyond his tribe because I will get married to him whether you prefer him or not.’ I left them astounded as if they had seen a ghost.”
David stared at Tina who had her eyes closed but tears forcing their way through. He was moved that she had bravely declared her love for him to her dictatorial parents.
“Look at me. Open your eyes babe. You are right. I am not Dan, I do not have a spare girl that I will run off too. You are the only one I have. I will not leave you. I will marry you and I will treat you in a way that your father will see that I love his daughter. But first, let’s go back.” David said.
Tina was stunned as he turned around back to her parents’. It was her turn to wait as David bravely walked to the house. He did not stay long.
“What happened?” Tina asked anxiously.
“They were asleep. I will come back another day.” David said.
He was not truthful. He did not want to add more ache to what she was already feeling. He did not tell her that they told him they would only listen to a man who spoke their tongue. Neither did he tell her that they walked out on him when he was on his knees begging for two minutes of their audience.
Wedding arrangements started. They had made up their minds that nothing would stop them. David’s parents were supportive. They told her not to worry. She was their daughter now. She wondered whether her parents would attend her wedding but she looked forward to the big day anyway.
It was a beautiful morning. Friends streamed in. As for relatives, only her uncle sat on the seats reserved for her relatives. A habitual drunkard who kept sipping through a bottle he had wrapped in newspaper. Tina knew she would pay his fare back home. At the reception, he insisted to talk to the audience. The wedding organizers tried to stop him but the kind bridegroom allowed him to say a word. When he spoke, the bride was driven to tears.
” My dear daughter… when my…my brother told me that you…you had a wedding… I jumped up with joy…then he said “STOP!” I asked “WHY?” Then he said…he told me that you are marrying a man from another tribe…and I asked him…so what? He could not answer. ..I…I told my brother…rubbish! I will attend that wedding. I know Tina…Tina is wise…Ti…Tina cannot pick that man for no good reason…” The crowd cheered at the drunk uncle but he was not through yet.
“Tina…do not worry…just like I know you, so do I know my brother. He…he will change his mind…he will see how happy Da..David makes you and he will say…(changing his voice) My…my son, I am sorry. You are a good son!” The wedding invitees clapped again as he struggled to stand straight, then down he fell.
Tina’s mascara was running down her cheeks. Only her knew what her uncle’s words meant to her. She knew she had to hang on to those words. But today, there would be no sadness. She slowly went to the podium and lent her hand to him. He woke up and she asked the DJ to play her favourite song. The bride and her uncle danced blissfully. The groom joined,the brides maids and groomsmen joined too. Soon all in attendance were dancing merrily.
That evening, David and Tina, in each other’s arms, looked back at the day’s events. They pondered on the inebriated speech made by Tina’s uncle. Even in his drunken stupor, he had seen the love the two shared . They knew he was right, her parents would change their mind one day. They would realise that love knew no tribe.