The doorbell chimed. Mrs. Azubike squealed in excitement. She shouted to her husband from the kitchen, “Honey, Nnenna is here. Get the door. I’ll set the table.”
Mr. Azubike, who was enjoying his latest novel got up from his recliner and walked to the door. He opened it and beamed at his beautiful daughter.
“Daddy,” Nnenna called affectionately and embraced him.
“My princess.” Mr. Azubike returned the hug. It was so good to see his daughter after many months. Since she left home to attend university six years ago, she only visited during holidays and special occasions. He missed having her around all the time. Now she was a grown woman, working at a top law firm and making the family proud. He couldn’t be happier.
Nnenna released her father and turned to her boyfriend. “Daddy, this is Collins.”
Mr. Azubike turned to the young man standing next to her. He extended his arm and the young man took it in a firm handshake. “Welcome to our home Collins. Come in, both of you. Your mother is probably shivering in excitement now.” Mr. Azubike chuckled as he let them in and closed the door.
Nnenna walked through the entryway into the living room, holding Collins’ hands and dragging him along. She was so happy to be home. It had been three months since she last saw her parents. Once in the living room, she told Collins to sit while she ran into the kitchen. Soon, Mr. Azubike heard squeals and laughter as mother and daughter greeted each other.
Mr. Azubike laughed as he sat on his recliner. “Women will always be women; such noisemakers.” He said.
In the kitchen, Nnenna stared at the delicacies her mother had prepared, “Mom,” She said as she shook her head, “You have gone overboard again. It’s a simple dinner, not a feast.”
“Mba, no, no.” Mrs. Azubike disagreed and wagged her index finger at Nnenna’s face. “This is no ordinary dinner my dear.” She laughed. “My daughter has decided to show us her husband and she calls it a simple dinner? No way!”
Nnenna laughed, “Mom! Husband? We’re still dating. He hasn’t even proposed yet.”
“Well, he will soon propose. Or won’t he?”
Nnenna couldn’t keep herself from smiling. “Yes, I believe he will. We’re in love mommy.”
“Eh hen! That is what I want to hear.” Mrs. Azubike responded. “Ngwa, help me take the rest of the food to the table. The young man must be hungry.”
Once they were all seated at the dining table, Nnenna introduced Collins to her mother. They exchanged handshakes and everyone proceeded to enjoy dinner.
“So, what do you do Collins?” Mrs. Azubike asked.
“Oh, he works as a teacher at a private school.” Nnenna replied. “Do you know the Premier School?”
“Yes, yes,” Mrs. Azubike responded. “Isn’t that the school known for paying its teachers a very large salary?”
Nnenna laughed, “Yes, that school. Although, I think the salary is well deserved. Teachers certainly merit a much higher compensation than most currently get, since they also help in molding and shaping children.”
“I completely agree with you!” Mr. Azubike, who was a secondary school English teacher before he retired responded. “And what do you teach Collins?”
“You’re going to love this dad,” Nnenna replied, “He teaches the English language. Grammar and comprehension to be precise.” She giggled.
“Really?” Mr. Azubike exclaimed. “In that case, I think he and I will become good friends.”
Collins smiled and nodded.
There was a pause as everyone ate. Then Mrs. Azubike spoke up, “How do you like the food Collins?” She smiled.
Collins dropped his fork and waved his hands in the air, moving his fingers vigorously. He had a huge grin on his face.”
Nnenna laughed, then signed to him in return. They both laughed, and Nnenna turned to her mother, “He said he has not had a meal this tasty in a very long time, and he wants to thank you very much for having him over. He also said he is delighted to meet you and he can’t wait to address you both as mom and dad.” She giggled, “I guess that’s an indirect proposal. Is that not so, Collins?”
He shrugged, still smiling. However, his smile slowly faded as he observed the change in Mr. and Mrs. Azubike’s expressions. Mrs. Azubike dropped her fork in shock and horror and Mr. Azubike was astounded.
“Nnenna, what just happened here? Your boyfriend cannot talk?” Mrs. Azubike asked.
“Mom, Collins is deaf, as well as unable to speak. So we communicate in sign language.” She smiled.
“He’s deaf and dumb!” Mrs. Azubike hands flew to her chest, as if to stop it from beating very fast. “You brought a deaf and dumb man to our house? You call him your boyfriend? Chineke!”
“It’s mute mom, not dumb. He’s deaf and mute. Dumb is an insult, please don’t call him that.” Nnenna was upset.
“I suspected something was amiss when he didn’t say a word at the table and you kept answering for him.” Mr. Azubike said.
“Dad,“ Nnenna began, but Collins held her hand and stopped her.
“It’s okay dear,” Collins signed to Nnenna, “I can leave. I don’t want to upset your parents.”
“NO!” Nnenna signed in response, glaring at him. “This is new to them. Give them time, they will understand.” She turned to her parents, “He may not be able to hear or speak, but he is exceptionally good at lip-reading, so he understands what you say to him. Please be courteous. Please,” She pleaded with her parents. Tears welled up in her eyes.
Her mother spoke, “Of all the men out there Nnenna, you bring home this…this type? And you insult us by asking us to pretend to be happy about it?”
The tears fell from her eyes, “What’s wrong with him mom? He’s handsome—at least to me. He earns a good living teaching kids like himself what it takes to be successful in life. He is very kind.” She looked at him and saw the pain in his eyes, “He loves me unconditionally,” She continued. “I have dated other people and Collins respects me like no man ever has.” She turned to her parents, “Do you know how hard he has to work to be respected in a world where people like him are discriminated against? Do you know the obstacles his students have to overcome? Do you think you are helping by being this way? You are hurting him!”
Mr. Azubike rose and walked over to the side of the table where his daughter sat, raised her up and embraced her. “It’s okay Nnem,” He consoled, patting her back as she sobbed. “Stop crying, you know daddy hates to see you cry.”
“But Daddy,” Nnenna sniffled, “I love him, and he loves me! Isn’t that what matters?”
“It is, my princess. Your mother and I were shocked, that’s all. Surely you can understand?”
“I think he should leave.” Mrs. Azubike shouted. She was not going to sit back and watch her only daughter—her only child—marry a disabled man. Never. Tufiakwa.
“Mom!” Nnenna shouted.
Collins had read Mrs. Azubike’s lips and knew what she had said. He stood up from the chair, removed a small jotter and a pen from his pocket, scribbled a note quickly and tore off that page, then proceeded to walk out of the house.
“No!” Nnenna ran and held him back.
“Please let me leave before things escalate,” He signed. “We can talk about this another time, maybe tomorrow.”
“We came together, we leave together!” She signed in response.
“Nnenna, let him go. Biko, you deserve better.”
Nnenna turned to her mother, “Mom, please, stop. If he leaves, I leave.”
Mr. Azubike turned to his wife, “Honey, our daughter seems to love this man very much. Let us give him a chance.” He walked to his wife and held her in his arms. “This started out as a pleasant dinner but has turned sour. That’s not good. I know you are shocked and annoyed, but we raised a good girl. She is sensible. If she says this is what she wants, we should trust her.”
Mrs. Azubike calmed down. Her husband was right. Nnenna was a smart girl. She looked up at Collins and Nnenna. “Will you be willing to come back next weekend for dinner? Let’s start over.”
Collins smiled and nodded.
Nnenna wiped her tears and smiled. “Thanks mom. You’ll see, Collins will win your hearts like he won mine.”
Nnenna and Collins had left the house, and Mrs. Azubike was clearing the table when she saw the note Collins had scribbled as he was about to leave during the height of the misunderstanding.
Your daughter means the world to me. I would give my life for her in a heartbeat. I will never hurt her, and I am more capable of caring for her than you think. However, if you cannot accept me, I won’t make her choose. You’ll always be her parents. I’ll let her go, consoled by the fact that I had the opportunity to love an angel.
Thank you very much for dinner. It was very delicious.
She shook her head and crumpled up the paper. She was not completely happy with her daughter’s decision to date a deaf and mute man, but she loved her daughter and wanted her to be happy. Collins seemed like a nice enough guy, so she would open her heart and give him the chance he deserved. Like her husband said a few minutes after her daughter left, love can be found in the most unexpected of places. This was certainly true in Nnenna’s case.
By MAUREEN Onyeziri
Your comments bring out the beauty in our stories. Have your say in the comment box below. To share our story, click on the Facebook share button or on the twitter button.
Follow us twitter @lagosconvo
Copyright 2015 Lagos Convo.
Otherwise stated, all stories on www.lagosconvo.com are Intellectual Property of HMG STUDIOS LTD. No permission has been granted for the reproduction of our materials in part or whole on any platform, electronic or otherwise.