On the day she turned seven
months, three weeks and six days old the Anabraba child contracted an
infection that in two hours had turned her head the size of a prize
watermelon. Her mother, unable to handle the thought of giving
over a piece of her soul to the dustbin of all things flesh, abandoned
the fever-wracked infant in the hands of its father and fled for the
refuge of the nearest church. The father was a 35-year-old career civil
servant and a first-time parent: neither by training nor experience
was he equipped for the task thrust upon him.
on all other occasions that put to question his ability for success—Godspeed
Anabraba rose to the challenge.
mother gathered the courage to return to her deserted ramparts she found
that not only had her greatest fear been averted, but a lifetime of
change had also occurred in the six days that she was away. The
foremost indication of this altered state was the fact that now, unlike
before, it was only the sound of her husband’s voice that had power
to calm the baby’s paroxysms of protest, to lull her to sleep.
She ate faster and with no trouble when it was her father’s hand that
fed her; her wails turned to gurgles of delight when it was her father’s
hand that bathed her. Though Godspeed Anabraba had never before
shown interest in any of these motherly duties, now he volunteered for
them, he even altered his work schedule to allow for them. His
wife feared that he would take over the role of caregiver if she but
gave him a hint of acquiescence; she lived in dread of this possibility,
even, to her mind, eventuality.
In the ignorance of childhood
Godspeed Anabraba had made a pledge to himself never to fail at anything:
his whole life thereafter was one long struggle to keep his word.
His father—a tall, handsome man whose renown as a singer and dancer
would one day pass into legend—was a fisherman whose offspring was
strewn across the fishing ports of the Niger delta. Thus Godspeed
Anabraba from a young age had to fend for himself. Though his
mother—who had remarried after the mishap that was her first child—did
her best to ensure he attended primary school, he had to see himself
through secondary school by the work of his hands. But Godspeed
Anabraba was a bright, dedicated student: at the expiration of his secondary
education he was granted a scholarship by the colonial government to
attend university in the mother country.
On his triumphant
return eleven years later as an urbane, instantly respected member of
his young country’s meritocracy, Godspeed Anabraba—after first erecting
a mansion in his late mother’s village as a disavowal of his father—decided
to take himself a wife. He set about this task in a punctilious
manner: he considered only the prettiest and most accomplished maidens
from the best families. As such, it was no exaggeration when the
bulletin board of the 72-year-old Anglican chapel carried the notice:
Miss Perpetua Young-Harry, graduate of the
Springfield School of Catering and one of the most eligible of
our maidens, is to be joined in holy matrimony with Godspeed Anabraba,
Esq., senior civil servant and pride of our community . . .
Even the defeated suitors of the bride-to-be, stunned by this announcement,
agreed that it was a match that for convenience couldn’t be faulted.
But in other
areas it had more faults than the tectonic plates of the Nippon.
For one, Godspeed Anabraba did not love Perpetua, and this lack of feeling
was reciprocated. He saw in her no more than a pretty Plasticine
model that could be moulded to his requirements. She saw in hi--this
stranger with whom she had not exchanged one word before he won her
father’s consent--the oppressor who appeared out of the
blue to destroy any hope of the love match that is every young woman’s
ideal. It was especially painful for her, she who had been raised
on the sugar-and-spice diet of Barbara Cartland and Georgette Heyer,
to know she had no say in the matter, and worse, to be treated as such.
As the day of her nuptials drew nearer she contemplated running away,
starving herself to death, even handing her virginity to Furo Fiberesima,
the one she would have chosen had she been given a choice. But,
being a sensible woman, in the end she walked up the aisle without a
murmur of protest, and even unclenched her teeth for their first kiss.