He reads the text for the third time. Finally, my daughter will get married, he says to himself, almost in a whisper. She'll have a family of her own. A smile spreads on his face at that thought only to be fade quickly in a few seconds. In its stead, a sad expression engulfs the once radiant face.
"I'll miss you, my dear daughter," he says in a low voice.
His thoughts are interrupted by a tap on the door.
"Come in," he says.
A middle-aged woman enters, holding several files on one hand.
"Here are the files you requested, Sir."
"Thank you, Grace," he says.
His phone rings.
"Is there anything else, Sir?" she asks.
"No, Grace," he replies. "That's enough for today."
He receives the call while watching his secretary leaving his office.
"Hey, where are you?"
"In the office."
"They're coming in an hour's time."
"Oh... I'll be right there in a half-an-hour," he says.
He shoots to his feet, flips his coat on his left arm and closes the door after him.
"See you tomorrow," he tells his secretary, hurrying towards the elevator.
At the parking lot, his chauffeur rises his right hand to signal him where his car is parked. He opens the passenger door for him.
"Get me to my place," he tells him.
"No problem, Sir."
A few minutes of silence ensues in the luxurious MBW. The driver coughs, then steals a quick look at his boss from the rear mirror.
"Today, you're early off, Sir. Are you not feeling well?"
"No, he says. "There is an important matter that has come up at home."
The drive takes forty minutes than he'd anticipated. It's nearly twenty minutes to four.
"Don't bother, I will open it myself," Carlin tells his driver.
"See you tomorrow, Silk."
"Ok, Sir. Have a nice evening."
He looks on his driver speeding off by overtaking a truck and taking a sharp left turn.
He shifts his gaze to the house in front of him. While staring at what has been a home to his family for the past twenty-five years, Susan, his youngest daughter, springs from the front door.
"Daddy," she calls out, her arms raised up.
He lifts her up, and kisses her on the cheek. "Have you been waiting for me at the door?" he asks her.
"Yes," she replies, locking her eyes to his.
"You've grown heavy," he tells her.
"Where is it?" she asks.
"What?" he asks her in confusion.
"Why do you always forget?" she asks while hitting him on the chest with her tiny seven-years old fingers.
"Susan, it's time for bath," Liz, his wife, says as she emerges from the house.
"But, muummm...," she says, strengthening the hold of her hands around his father's neck.
"Don't mum me. Come here." She takes hold of her with some effort and disappears into the house.
Barely does he sit on the sofa than he hears the front's door bell ringing.
He opens it.
She hugs him for some seconds before introducing his fiancé.
"This is Tom," she says. "My fiancé."
"Hi," he says, shaking the young man's hand.
"Where is mother?" Jane asks, her eyes taking in the changes in the living room.
"They'll be here in a few minutes."
"Have a seat."
"Thank you," the young man says.
"Mum," Jane calls out when she sees her. They hug each other.
"Lookie, who do we have here," Jane says teasingly to Susan.
"Come, give me a hug," she tells her.
"How is your studies?" her mother asks when they've all sat down.
"Like I told you two months ago, I'll complete my master's degree in two months' time."
"I can see the determination in your eyes to fulfil your dream," Carl says.
"What?" Her parents ask in unison.
"I have landed a job in Canada with an international company. I'm supposed to report there in the next three weeks."
"That's good news," her mother says.
"What about the studies?" she asks her.
"I have discussed it with my lecturers. It's a win-win in both sides."
"That's good," Carl says, defeated what to add or even ask her daughter.
"Well...looks like we have sidetracked the young man sitting besides you," he says.
"Ahh...yes," she says in a shy voice.
"This is Tom. He's also studying masters and he too got a job in Canada."
"What a coincidence!" Carl exclaims.
Liz excuses herself, Susan tugging alongside her.
"My daughter told me that you want her hand in marriage."
"That's right, Sir."
"So, why of all the ladies do you want my daughter as your wife?"
"Well..I...she has...," Tom stammers. In quick succession of words, he says, "I just love her."
"But you can't love someone blindly. There must be a reason why you love her," Carl says.
"Dad," Jane calls out his name with pleading eyes.
"Ok," he says. "I can see my daughter doesn't want me to ask you questions."
Liz emerges from the kitchen carrying a tray.
"Help yourselves with the mango juice and bites," she tells them.
"How much are you willing to pay for the dowry?" Carl asks after everyone has filled their glasses.
"I...," Tom stammers again.
"My daughter narrated to us of your struggles after your parents died in a road accident when you're fifteen-years old" Carl says.
Tom looks stares down at the glass he's holding, afraid to look up.
"As Jane's father, I won't require of you a bride price. This isn't to brag about my social status. I don't want to sell my daughter to the highest bidder, or even the lowest."
"I don't know what to say, Sir," Tom says, raising his eyes to meet those of Carl.
"I hope you'll take good care of my daughter," he said.
"I will, Sir. That's a promise."
He sipped his juice, fighting against the voices inside his head that demanded for a dowry to be paid for their girl. He knew his parents, relatives and the elders wouldn't be happy with him.
He was prepared to defend himself against what he termed as unjustified tradition practice.
"Additionally, we will take care of the wedding."
"I...I...don't know what to say, Sir," Tom says.
"Don't worry. Wedding can be expensive which might leave you with less money to push on with your married lives," Carl says.
"Ohh...Dad, thank you," Jane says.
"Well... let's celebrate the wedding in advance, and hope it will last till death," Carl says.
He lifts his glass directs it at the two lovebirds. "Welcome to the family, Tom."
"Thank you," Tom says.
All of them smile as they sip their juice.