This is the concluding part of this story, click here to read the first part.
My mind quickly contemplated my options. I didn't know the first thing about this lady, and I wasn't prepared to go to jail for harbouring a fugitive. But as I turned to walk away, there was a loud, really loud rumble in the sky, as though God was trying to warn me.
The day had been extremely sunny, and now it was threatening to rain. I was placed in an impossible position. I didn't want any troubles, and jejely walking away would have been the smart thing to do, but it would have also been the inhuman course to take.
To cut a long story short, I had invited her to stay the night at my apartment on the condition that she would tell me who she was and why she was in a wedding gown in an empty park on a cold, starless night. She'd looked at me with wary, suspicious eyes, considered her options, and then decided that I was harmless. I know what you're thinking—what if I was a serial killer? Yes, following a stranger to his apartment seemed like a stupid option, but I suppose she imagined that death in the hands
of a mortal was better than death in one of nature's cruelest elements—the freakish cold!
Once she'd eaten and rested, she had told me her whole story.
The only daughter of a city merchant, she'd been betrothed off to a plump, dwarfish man with a battle-scarred face before she was even 18. It was a custom thing, an arrangement that had existed for a while between two families, and she'd had no choice. Not really. Her parents had made efforts to convince her that they were doing her a favour, and that the men in the city were promiscuous and not committed. She knew they were probably right. She‟d finished from the University of Zaria, and she'd met a lot of men with absolutely no sense of commitment.
But it was still supposed to be her choice who she married.
She narrated how her mother had blamed her "naivety" on her education, and how her father had forbidden her from protesting. The whole thing had seemed like a bad joke until the morning of that day in July. Her own mother had come to wake her up to get her ready to swear in the presence of God and man to love and respect a man for whom she had no feelings, no affection, and definitely no love.
Within an hour, she'd been bundled out of bed, prettied up, squeezed into a gown, and readied to walk down the aisle. Her friends—equally disgusted with the idea—had helped her escape in a taxi. She hadn't a clue where to go or whose support she could enlist. She was stuck in a bad place. “A forced marriage does not give the right to refuse. And in that sense, it is tantamount to slavery.” Those were her exact words.
Her story had rend my heart, and her experience had brought into life a practice I honestly believed was confined to the realm of film-making, moonlight tales, and fantasy.
A part of me wanted to judge her; a part of me wanted to tell her to go back, but another part of me was glad that she had run. Forced marriages are a cruel, harsh custom… That night, I had slept on the couch and let her occupy the bed. For the first time in a long time, I felt like my life was back on track; i felt strangely whole. In spite of the weather, my apartment felt warm and cozy in a way that it hadn‟t in a long time.
As dawn approached, I felt a grave discomfort in my stomach and a genuine sense of loss before I was even completely awake. It had rained throughout the night and I had slept like a baby. I got up hurriedly and
went to my bedroom. But the lady was gone. The damsel in distress. She was gone forever. Her bouquet rested at the edge of my bed, and a strand of her hair lined the pillow. But that was it. No notes, no hints, no nothing. Then I realized that I hadn‟t even asked her name.
To this day, I still hear her voice in my head; I still remember her story, and I still feel her pain. I still ask myself where she could have gone.
Even as I write, I still wonder what her name was.