Laura was singing as she got ready to leave for work. It still amazed her that she had made her dream come true despite all the oppositions from her father. He had tried hard to convince her to change her career path, but she had insisted that a beautician was all she wanted to be.

And today, that was what she was, Laura thought as she came out of her bedroom to hear her father talking to one of the maids.

“Good morning, Dad.” She greeted as she came down the stairs.

“Morning, dear.” Her father turned to her. “I have something to ask you.”

“What is it, Dad? I’m running late.” Laura wasn’t really interested in anything he had to say.

She only still lived in the house because of her mother.

“I’m hosting a party and very important people will be there. I want you to be there too.”

“Dad, you know I’ve never been interested in any of your political get-together. It’s not my kind of thing.”

“I want you to be there, Laura. There’s someone very important I want you to meet.” Her father insisted. “And apart from that, I have an important announcement to make and you have to be there to hear it.”

Laura stared at him. What important announcement did he have to make? “All right, Dad, I will be there. Just tell me the time and venue.”

“It’s this evening by five p.m. and here at home.” Her father smiled, no doubt pleased that she agreed.

“This evening? Fine, I’ll be there. I’m off now.”

Laura exited the house wondering what her father could be up to now. Well, she would be finding out this evening.

***

She carefully dressed for the party, choosing a lovely lace dress and matching it with one of her designer shoes. It wasn’t as if she was interested in impressing any of her father’s friends. It was that she liked to look nice always.

Her father introduced her to a number of politicians she was meeting for the first time, and Laura smiled politely and talked with them.

“I still don’t see why I needed to be here, Dad.” She said to her father. “So far, there has not been any important person I needed to know.”

“Don’t be impatient, my dear. Everything has it’s time and place.” Her father smiled. “Oh, here he comes.”

Laura turned and saw a man in a suit approaching them. She frowned as she recognised him.

“Please, tell me that is not who you want to introduce me to, Dad.”

“It is exactly him.” Her father nodded. “Aaron, I am so glad you were able to make it. How are you, my boy?”

“I am fine, thank you, sir.” Aaron shook her father’s hand and then turned to her with an arrogant smile. “Hello, Laura.”

“Hello, Aaron.” Laura said without a smile. “Dad, you must know that I’ve met Aaron before. We were at the university together and we were not friends then.”

“Well, you are both all grown up now and can become friends.” Her father said. “It’s time for my announcement, so if you will both excuse me.” He gave them a smile before walking away.

“I think it’s been almost five years since we last saw, Laura. I must say you are looking lovelier than you did before.” Aaron held out his hand. “At least, we can shake hands like old friends, can we not?”

“We are not old friends, Aaron, and you know it.” Still, for politeness sake, Laura shook his hand. “Anyway, why are you here?”

“You don’t know?” Aaron frowned at her. “I thought your father must have told you.”

“Told me what?” Laura demanded, frowning too.

“Well, I wasn’t the one assigned to tell you, so I guess we will just have to wait for him to do so.” Aaron said and shrugged his shoulders.

“I can’t believe this. I knew he was up to something, but I’m not going to wait around while you people make plans that has to do with my future without involving me.” Laura turned to walk away.

But Aaron stopped her.

“I think you should hold on to hear this.” He said and pointed to where her father was standing with the microphone smiling.

“What is he about to announce, Aaron?” Laura wasn’t surprised that she felt a little afraid. Her father was probably trying to control her life still.

“You will hear him soon.” Aaron replied, his arrogant smile back. “But I will advise you to hold yourself tightly or you might end up fainting.” He laughed and then took her hand. “I think it’s time we move forward.”

Laura only allowed him to lead her forward because she wanted to hear clearly what her father had to say.

“Well, ladies and gentlemen, I have a very big announcement to make and it concerns my only daughter, Laura.” Her father smiled in her direction. “If you will all join me to celebrate, I will like to announce her engagement to Aaron Ndukwe, the son of Senator Ndukwe. Aaron has just been appointed the Commissioner of Urban Development in this state, so while we celebrate his engagement to my daughter, we should also celebrate him.”

“Oh my God!” Laura exclaimed, too shocked to move even as everyone started applauding.

“Try to smile, my darling, or you will give everyone the wrong impression.” Aaron whispered to her.

“How can you accept this?” Laura stared at him. “We have never dated. I don’t like you. You know that and I’m sure you don’t like me either. So, why should we be getting married?”

“All your questions will be answered once we get out of here.” Aaron replied in a whisper. “For now, be the good daughter and smile. And just say yes and hold out your hand when I do what I have to do.”

” What?” Laura stared at him confusedly. “What are you talking about? Anyway, I will not be a party to this.” She hissed and turned to walk away.

But Aaron stopped her by taking her hand and pulling her forward.

He took the microphone from her father and said. “Since I am yet to officially present my bride to-be with her engagement ring, I believe I should do so now in front of all you good people.”

Everyone applauded and made noises of approval even as Laura struggled to free her hand.

“Laura,” Aaron smiled proudly as he looked at her, “will you marry me by accepting this ring?” He brought out a red box and opened it.

Laura stared at the ring. Then she turned to stare at her father. He was smiling triumphantly.

He thought he had won, did he?

Laura took the microphone and with her eyes still on her father, said. “No, I won’t marry you, Aaron. We are not celebrating our engagement. Not today, not ever.”

She threw down the microphone and stormed out.

In her bedroom, where she was packing her bags, her father stormed in.

“Laura, how dare you disgrace me like that in front of my colleagues and friends?” He marched over to her and grabbed her hand. “You will go back there and apologise to everyone. Then you will tell them you are taking back your stupid words. And then say yes to Aaron’s proposal and wear his ring. Do you understand me?”

“No, I will not do that, Dad!” Laura glared back at him. “It’s such a pity that all you think about, Dad, is yourself and no one else. Why in the world would you want me to marry Aaron when you know perfectly well I don’t like him. I don’t even really know who he is, Dad!”

“I don’t have time for your excuses now, young lady.” Her father snapped. “I have chosen him as the man for you and that is final.”

“I will never marry him, Dad. Never!”

Since he wouldn’t let her pack, Laura stormed out of the house.

***
©Marie-Antoinette Otobo

***
My apologies for the many days we’ve missed this story. I will be posting Tuesdays and Fridays now until we finish it. Thanks.