One did not walk into Butterflae Brides Boutique without possession of three things: 1) generous budget, 2) a clear idea of what kind of gown one wanted, and 3) a firm wedding date. Madame Okoye did not have time for “interested” brides, only serious ones. This is what made Pomaa’s final visit to her soon-to-be mother in law’s establishment so ironic.
Mercy, her shop assistant gasped as Pomaa gazed at her reflection in the fitting room mirror.
“Sister! You look so beautiful!”
It was part of Mercy’s job to make every customer feel exceptional, but there was so much sincerity in her statement that made it hard even for Pomaa to be cynical. Mercy was right. She did look beautiful. Dare she say gorgeous? Regal, in fact! Pomaa gathered her skirts and sashayed out into the dressing room where her mother and three bride’s maids – Ayo, Frema and Lucinda – were waiting. As she stepped on the carpeted pedestal, the four women clapped their hands in delight.
“Oya, this one, Femi will eat you at the altar!”
The last comment was from Frema, who had just flown into Ibadan with her mother from Kumasi the night before. Her false Nigerian accent caused every lady in the room to clutch their bellies in laughter…every lady but Madame Okoye. She stood in the back of the dressing room, frowning at the spectacle. Her look was not lost on Pomaa, who quickly corralled her friends into order with a stern look. Her final fitting should have been a fun occasion, but her soon-to-be mother in law did not approve of riotous excitement.
“Madame Okoye, you’ve truly outdone yourself with this gown,” Pomaa said. “I don’t think there has ever been a gown made like this!”
“And there never will be again,” Madame Okoye sniffed. “Not in Ibadan, not in Nigeria, not even in the whole of Africa! The lace was handmade in my village. The silk was flown in from China. See – see how creamy it is! I even had the beads shipped in from South Africa.”
Monifa Okoye inched closer to Pomaa with every word she spoke. Her eyes, wild and intense, were fixed on her creation. She fingered the hem of the gown lovingly, as if stroking a newly born baby.
“I spared no imagination on this one,” she whispered. “I reveled in every moment I spent making it.”
A hush had descended over the room. Sensing the shift in the mood, Madame Okoye looked up at Pomaa through narrowed eyes.
“I hope you appreciate it!”
Pomaa responded immediately, like a programmed robot.
“I do! Yes, Madame, I do! Thank you so much. You have made my wedding day special.”
Monifa Okoye grunted and went back to the shadowy office that she had just emerged from. When the door clicked, Pomaa let out a long, hot breath.
“How do you endure it?” Frema asked. “If it was me…”
“Shhhh! She’ll hear you!” Pomaa hissed. She turned her attention back to her gown. “I endure it because I love Femi, and because he loves his mother, and because I have to.”
“And because of that ring, I’m sure,” said Ayo. “If a man gave me a diamond like that, I’d endure anything!”
“If you spent less money on Peruvian weave, you could afford your own diamond!” Lucinda joked. She yelped as Ayo punched in her the shoulder in punishment.
There was no controlling these girls. Pomaa had to get them out of there before Madam Okoye returned. Ei. Madame Okoye. Madame with an “E”, ooo. This woman who refused to let Pomaa call her auntie. This woman who frowned when Pomaa laughed and smiled when gloom shadowed Pomaa’s face. This woman who after tomorrow would be her in-law! God save her. It was alright. She could endure…and in time, she would convince Femi to move back to Ghana with her, at least for part of the year. It would only be fair, after all. He could not expect that she live apart from her family for all eternity. That, she could not compromise on.
“Mercy, please help me get undressed. I have to take these people out of here before they break your store!”
“Oh, sister. They won’t break the store,” Mercy replied with a sweet laugh. “Madame has built it very well.”
Pomaa smiled and shook her head. It was true. She had always thought Monifa Okoye was rather pretentious calling her bridal salon a “boutique”. The two story art deco monstrosity she had constructed hardly conveyed the quaint modesty that are synonymous with the building’s much smaller cousins.
“Mama, I’ll be finished soon, okay?”
Ernestina Agyemang touched her child lightly on the arm, stopping her retreat. Pomaa was the child of her old age. She had given birth to her at forty-three. Every day, she had prayed that God would give her the years to see her only daughter married, and now at 73, He had blessed her with the desire of her heart. What a good and mighty God He was! She smiled through glistening eyes. Pomaa knew what this moment meant for her mother.
“I’m so proud of you, Agyapomaa, my little one. So very, very, proud…”
“I know, Mama. I’ll be done soon, okay?”
Pomaa lifted the mass of fabric and scurried into the fitting room. Mercy followed obediently.
Her mother was always proud of her. She was proud when she brought home good grades, or bad grades; it didn’t matter. She was proud when Pomaa got her masters in economics, and equally proud when she gave up an opportunity to work in government to do event planning. She was proud when Pomaa shaved her head and then let it all grow back! There was nothing Pomaa could do to disappoint Ernestina Agyemang…and it was maddening. Other girls had arguments with their mothers, but not Pomaa. She could never recall a harsh word that the woman might have uttered to her. She had always felt like their relationship was a farce. Something this congenial did not seem authentic.
She turned her thoughts to Femi. Hot wetness shot between her thighs as she recalled the night before. He had made love to her with such urgency and passion, whispering how much he needed her and how much he would always need her. She was usually the one begging for one more round, just a little while longer, but last night Femi was a beast who could not be satiated. He left her in bed, spent. Had Frema not called her to pick her up from the hotel, she would have missed her fitting altogether! Madame Okoye would not have liked that at all…
Ei. Madame Okoye. Madame with an “E”.
“Come on girls, let’s get going,” Pomaa said, jiggling her keys.
“Agyapomaa, aren’t you going to say goodbye to your mother-in-law?”
She shook her head. Pomaa knew better than that. She made that mistake once when she and Femi first started dating three years before, and heard about it for weeks after.
“She does not like to be disturbed when she in her office,” she said darkly. “Let’s go.”
Ernestina stared at the office door and made towards it. It just didn’t seem right not to greet the person whose house you were in “bye-bye” before leaving. Reading her mother’s mind, Pomaa frantically grabbed her by the wrist and tugged her away.
“No, Ma, please. Let’s just go!”
“Hmmm…okay. If you say so. But it’s not polite, Agyapomaa. It’s not polite at all.”
What was this? Disapproval? Pomaa’s heart skipped a beat. The corners of her lips turned up ever so slightly.
“Come on, Mummy. I’ll take you to my newest spot for ice-cream before I meet Femi. Maybe then you can forgive me.”
Ernestina smiled. Silly child. She knew there was nothing she could do that was unforgiveable. She took Pomaa by the hand and told her to lead on.
Back in the recesses of her office, Monifa Okoye watched the entire exchange on closed circuit TV and sucked her teeth in disgust. She half-heartedly flipped through her pattern book and stared at the sketches with disinterest. A singular sinister thought paraded through her mind. Everyone was looking forward to this wedding tomorrow, but none more than she. She could not wait for tomorrow.