Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Kidnapping the bride (Cont.)

The kidnapping of the bride is part the local custom. It is the way the bride's childhood friends express their feeling about this friend who is getting ready to leave their circle and step into adulthood. They are happy for their friend so it's not a sign of any ill feelings; rather, it's a way of temporarily jerking the groom and his family around and laughing at their expenses. It's a sort of power trip because they remain in control until the ransom is paid and the bride is returned to her in-laws to proceed with the rest of the wedding ceremony.

Ami's aunt welcomed them with open arms and a good breakfast. They gobbled down the "cafe au lait" and buttered bread plus a delicious creamy wheat porridge in the living room unbeknownst to the morning crowd headed to the market. For the rest of the day, they would have to be careful not to be seen from the road outside the gate. Once their hiding place was discovered, they would have very little leverage and might have to surrender the bride without getting paid the ransom.

Ami's uncle made them promise they would by his silence. A third of the ransom was what he wanted. He was just teasing. He left for work sometime around eight. Soon after, Ami's aunt followed, leaving her maid to care for the girls in her absence.

Ami's aunt was a rarity in the community. She had been to school up to tenth grade and successfully passed the end of grade test. Her parents were reluctant in sending her to high school because the facility was in the nearest city. Girls were usually allowed to go away from their parents sight so she had stop her education and get married. She was almost 18 and at her that age she was considered an old maid around there but a very envied one, she was. With her middle school education and her husband's connections, she was hired as a secretary. As a beautiful, educated woman working in an office, she was the canvass for Ami's life. Ami wanted to be at least like her. 

Once her uncle and aunt left, Ami started gathered her friends. The plan was to have some fun until around 1 or 2 o'clock if no one found them until then, she, Ami and another girl would go out and let themselves be found. If they couldn't be found, they couldn't negotiate, neither collect any the ransom.

"Ready for fun," Ami harangued.

She turned the radio and began dancing. A couple of the girls followed. Soon Mariama shed her shyness and joined in. They danced and laughed for a while then started a conversation about man, marriage and dating. In a society where girls are required to remain virgins until marriage, each girl sounded as ignorant and down right childish as the next girl. They were aware of their naivete and poked fun at each other for trying to sound expert on a matter they knew they only had wild guesses. The sole TV channel in the country transmitted from 12 noon to 2 and from 6:30 to 11:00 pm. They watched the midday news and musical show that followed. It was right at the end of programming that Ami's cell phone rang. They later found out that in exchange for a few coins, a neighbor's little boy had told the search party he'd seen Ami with a girl that resembled the bride-to-be.

"Ami, you Mariama, don't you?" An angry voice asked.

To be continued...

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