When Adanma turned seventeen, Darlington bought her a bouquet of flowers and remarked that she was as beautiful as the flowers.
But now, Adanma was twenty, Darlington said he could not compare her with those flowers. She is lovelier than the loveliest flowers, he told her. In fact, he knelt down on the dead roses in the garden and implored her to marry him.
“You can’t be serious, Darlington!” she said in mild irritation. “Itold you that I do not want to get married! If I get married, I willconsequently conceive and give birth and grow old and horrible and dreadful. I know how you feel, but I don’t want to get married.Marriage and pregnancy will ruin my beauty. I want to be youngforever. I’m sorry.”
Darlington wobbled to his feet. “Please marry me, Adanma,” he mumbled.
“I will never make you cry. We will drink milk and juice every day;we’ll even go to the sea as white couples do.”
She wheeled and stalked into the room. Darlington stood there in the garden, fighting back his tears. An expected rain came with a violent wind, and he smelt the rich odour of the roses. A raindrop slid down the green leaf of the mango tree and dropped on Darlington’s aquiline nose. He opened his umbrella and departed.
After a Church Service the next day, Darlington, again, entreated her to marry him. This time, she slapped him across the face, brushed him aside, and walked elegantly to her father’s exotic sports car. Darlington was not discouraged; he stole his father’s trousers and sold. He also stole his mother’s clothes and sold. All his friends’ suits and caps were stolen and sold. He then gave Adanma the money he had made from the sales. But she did not accept his proposals. She reiterated that she did not want pregnancy to ruin her beauty. She didn’t want babies tosuck down her pneumatic breasts. She wanted her breasts to keepstanding till the rest of her life. Her beauty was the most important thing to her.
“I wish I would never grow old, Mr. Darlington,” she said, examining her rosy face in the wall mirror. “I wish humans could not grow old and ugly and horrible! Why did God create beautiful things that will eventually grow ugly? Oh how I wish I would not grow old! I can’t give everything I have so that I won’t be wrinkled and hunchbacked and old and ugly. I am willing to give everything to be young forever. I can even sell my soul to the devil. Let the devil make my face to remain beautiful till I die. Then he will take me. Darlington, it’s better to die as a beautiful woman than to live as an ugly woman. God! God, the day I will see wrinkles on my face or gray hair on my head, I shall kill myself!”
“Please don’t, Adanma!” Darlington said, stunned.
“Why is it that we grow old?” She had begun to cry softly.” So one day my beauty will die? God, it is better to be beautiful in hell than to be ugly in heaven…”
Darlington gagged her, he stuffed her mouth with an apple, kissed her flowerlike hand, and then withdrew. The next day, he heard that she had spent the money on French perfumes, eccentric gowns, gold necklaces and high-heeled shoes imported from Milan.
Discouraged, Darlington left his broadcasting job in the city of Onitsha for the United States.
After washing toilets in the US for a little over a decade, hereturned with a luggage swollen with dollars. This time, he thought, Adanma could not decline his marriage proposal. So he grabbed his umbrella and headed out into the rain, which had picked up.
When he ambled into her surreal parlour, he saw her sobbing on the rug. She had grown old.”I am old and wrinkled and dreadful, Darlington, “she said, tearstrickling down her sagging cheeks. “My breasts are now sagging–flat.
No man can marry me. I am ruined!”
His heart was now jumping erratically in his chest.” I can marry you and I will marry you.”
“You cannot marry me, Darlington! I am now a dead flower!”
“I will come tomorrow and propose to you”.
“Don’t be melodramatic!” she snapped.
He kissed her trembling hand and left.
When he lumbered into her parlour the next day with the engagement ring he saw her dangling on the ceiling fan. She had killed herself. A loud cry of anguish broke from his lips. It was incredible. Who could believe that a beautiful woman killed herself because she was growing old? If he was caught here he would be accused of hanging her. He had to leave. And he left.
For seven days, he ate nothing. Hannah, the petite girl, who had been begging him to marry her, always asked him what the matter with him was. But she never received any answer.
One day–very melodramatic indeed–Hannah sank upon her knees and proposed to him, as though she was the man.
“Frankly speaking, I never loved you, Hannah, and will never love you,” he told her.
She stumbled to her feet. ” Why?–You must marry me?”
“I fell in love with one woman called Adanma when I was twenty-five,” he said, adjusting his bow tie.”Now I am forty-five and she isforty—dead!”
Hannah’s eyes sparkled with delight.” So you can marry me now?”
“I want to be with her in hell, to marry her in hell, and raise ourchildren in hell. I know she is now in hell because she committedsuicide. I want to join her”
“You must marry me, Darlington! You deflowered me! You sucked my breasts! So you must marry me! Otherwise I kill you.”
“Please don’t kill me. I want to kill myself so that the sin will sendme to hell where Adanma, my love, is waiting for me.”
Furious, she picked her kitchen knife and rushed at him. He caught her slender hand in the air and the knife dropped onto the Persian rug. He picked it and quickly plunged it into his heart.
Then, quite suddenly, he dropped down and the blood oozing out from his heart drained the rug
Hannah shrieked. Darlington woke up screaming. It was just a dream. Adanma, his wife, was snoring beside him in the bed. He kissed her rosy cheek and crept to the window to watch the morning sun rise from behind the dancing mango tree in the wind.
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