The Arrangement

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“No! Papa, I will not marry him,” She said to her father. It was the same argument they have been having for the past few weeks. “You will marry him, and that is final!” her Papa said — his voice firm and masculine.

“Papa, I refuse to throw my happiness away.” she tries to reason with her father. “Ebony dear, happiness is a luxury this family can not afford. Your brother is dying and needs money for surgery, and we have no other way.” She stares up at her Papa in tears. ‘oh, if only Jalen were rich,’ she said in her heart.
“Papa, please, Jalen can help just give him more time,” she pleaded with him.
“My son is dying! My only son is dying, and you want me to wait for a man who does nothing but sell bread?” Ebony holds onto the wooden chair in the dining room as her body trembles in misery.

“The wedding will be held on Saturday. You will be there, and you will smile and save your brother,” Papa tells her.
“I do not love him, Papa.”
“Love is not the foundation of marriage, my dear” He sits down next to his daughter and comforts her.

“Jalen, stop.”
“What do you mean, stop Bony? How can you ask me to stop? You’re getting married to another man in three days, and you want me to stop? How could you?” Jalen paces around the woman he loves. The thought of her being with another man broke every strength he had within.

“You are the only one I love.”
“If I am the only one you love, then why are you marrying him?” Ebony holds onto Jalen’s hand. She breathes in heavily. “Because he has the money to save my dying brother. Look, I will leave him as soon the year is over.”
“So all along it was about money, huh?”
“Len baby, please stop, you know it was not my choice.”
“You know what, it’s fine; you need to leave” Jalen opens the door to his one-bedroom house. It was the smallest house in the village.
“Are you asking me to leave your house?” Ebony stood in front of her fiance. Her eyes showed nothing but pain.
“Leave, please.”
“Do you think I’m happily marrying a man I do not love while the man I love watches me do it? You know if you were rich, I would not have had to marry this man.”
“Are you blaming me for my poverty even after telling you my story?” as if Jalen’s face could not look more betrayed.
“No, I blame myself for loving you even after hearing your story,” Ebony runs out the door. She tries her best to pace out in her vintage dress. Jalen slammed the door in anger. He went to his dining area, where he kept all the bread he sells. In anger, he threw everything on the ground.

Ebony stood in front of her future husband, Andre. He was a handsome bachelor in the village. His father is a friend of Ebony’s father.
” Do you Andre Walswood Take Ebony Tukion as your wedded wife?”

“Yes, I do” Andre wished for the ceremony to end already. He did not love Ebony, the way he saw it, he could never love her. “Do you Ebony Tukion take Andre Walswood as your wedded husband?”

Ebony turned her head to look at the crowd. Her Papa nodded his head in approval. At the very back, Jalen stood. A tear in his eye. Their eyes locked, leading them into a world where only their love existed.
“Do you Ebony Tukion take Andre Walswood as your wedded husband?”
Ebony looked back at Andre. ‘There is no way I will ever love this man,’ she said to herself.

“Yes, I do,” the crowd cheered. The new couple stood in front of everyone. The two father inlaws danced in front of the newlywedded couple as their tradition.

“I know you love another man; I too love another. Therefore we do not have to do anything,” Andre said to her.
“Thank you.”
The new couple started their lives.
Ebony knew when Andre would go out to be with the woman he loves. Yet she never had the chance to go to the man she loved. She was always busy with things around the house. Then Andre would come back, and they would go to places together.
One time they went to the lake together where Ebony lost her sandals, and Andre carried her back home.

******1 year******

Jalen knocked at the wooden door again. This time a little harder.
The door opened, revealing Andre.
“How may I help you?” Andre asked
“I need to speak to Bony,” Jalen scratched the inside of his hands. Something he does when he is nervous.
“Who are you?”
“Would you like to come in?”
“No, I will wait out here.”
Andre closes the door to fetch his wife.
Ebony walks outside to meet Jalen.
“What are you doing here ?”
She looks around to make sure no one saw them.
“It been a year, and your brother is out of the hospital. when are you coming back to me?”

“People will speak if I leave now” Ebony searched for reasons in her head.
“Bony, people will speak even if you don’t leave.”
“I know, but now is too soon.”
“You don’t want to leave; you want to stay here, don’t you?”
“Did he threaten you? does he control you.”
“No, he is gentle and respectful. He treats me well, and he takes care of me.”

Jalen looked surprised. He wanted to believe this could never happen. He always trusted she would never do this to him.

“You love him.”
“When did it start? when did you start loving him?”
“I think you should go home.”
“Three years! You were my fiance for three years. You’ve only been with him for one year. Bony, why?”
“Three years, and yet, you did not marry me. how long did you want me to wait?”
“You know I wanted to make enough money for your bride price.”

“To this day. You expect me to follow you and suffer?”
“Bony, I love you with everything I have.”
“What you have is not enough Jalen, it never was”
Ebony walks back inside, leaving Jalen stranded outside.

“Hey, I will be going out tonight do not wait up for me.”
“Are you going to see her again? you leave every night now.”
“We had an agreement, remember?”
“Yes, but you are my husband, Andre.”
“I do not love you, Ebony, and I will not pretend I do.”
Andre walks out the door.
Ebony stood in the same place. She knew he did not love her. She knew she loved a man who was in love with another.

Story by Tilisa Mlondani 

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