They say that a woman is most beautiful on her wedding day, not Malaika’s aunty, Munira. The make-up artist, a distant aunty should have had her license revoked because she did an awful job. Maybe that is what a person gets for wanting free things. To cut a long story short, Aunty Munira looked awful. Her lips looked so huge and red. Her face was powdery white and in a snow white kaba and slit and a gold gele wrapped around her head, she could have passed for a ghost. Maybe her marriage might have lasted for more than three months if she had looked more beautiful. The good thing about her wedding day was that it was used as a point of reference for her younger nuclear and extended family members.
Malaika and her fiancé, Blessing had finally set the date for the wedding. It was going to be in two months. Her family was excited particularly her younger siblings because she was the first person in the nuclear family to be getting married. There was a younger sister, Mariam in her twenties, another sister, Joy in her teens and two younger brothers, Musa and Issah also in their teens. These siblings felt so important. They could not wait for the day.
Mariam had taken it for granted that she was going to be her sister’s abu amilya, which is the bridesmaid until she realized that she had serious competitors in the likes of Malaika’s best friend and another close distant cousin. For the first time in her life, Mariam tried hard to please Malaika. She did not quarrel with her. She run all the small errands like offering to get her air time from across the street. Finally, Mariam got selected to be the abu amiliya.
Preparations were ongoing and every day, Malaika would make and unmake wedding plans. First she would say that she wanted a simple wedding, but then she would see another wedding somewhere and decide that she wanted a similar thing. Sometimes she wanted a unique wedding. ‘I want my wedding to be wow,’ she would say. There were times that she considered hiring an events planner and other times when she declared that no event planner would be able to get her the wedding that she wanted. At first everybody said, ‘The wedding is still far way. By the time that it is near, everything would have been decided.’ Every day, there were talks about the wedding. It was spoken of at breakfast, at lunch time and at supper. Family members were located at whatever point of the earth that they were on and invited to the wedding.
Mariam went with Malaika to do dress shopping. Fashion and lifestyle magazines were bought. Time flew by quickly and three weeks to the wedding, Malaika had still not finalized anything. The only thing that was certain was that the family was on a strict budget in order to finance the wedding. Nobody was pleased about this budget at all except the bride-to-be and her parents. Musa was not happy that he would not be able to get his dream phone until at least three months after the wedding. Issah was angrier that Musa would not be getting his phone and that there was a tight budget. The boys were already tired of the wedding and wanted it to come and go quickly. As for the girls, they were still excited about the wedding.
It was two weeks to the wedding and Malaika had still not decided the design of the three clothes that would adorn her on her wedding day. ‘Why don’t you get a similar style like the one in this magazine?’ Joy suggested.
‘What?’ Malaika was indignant. ‘I want my dress to be unique. Who knows, maybe a thousand other women have the same design for their weddings.’ It was at this time that Joy got fed up with Malaika’s wedding preparations. That made the number of people already fed up with the wedding three, Musa, Issah and Joy. Malaika became a fashion designer. She would always sketch a design for the seamstress but she was not content with the seamstress’ interpretation. Malaika always felt distressed but it was understandable on the seamstress’s side because the sketches were so awful and she seemed to change the design with every passing minute.
It seemed like Malaika was running out of time. She had already taken a two-week leave from work for the wedding. It did not look like anything had been achieved apart from the invitations that had been sent. Mariam was getting tired of window shopping and scouring magazines with futile results. Her enthusiasm for the wedding had dwindled. Malaika on the other hand was always panicky.
‘My dear, why don’t you just get a wedding planner instead of going through all this stress?’ Malaika’s father suggested at breakfast one morning. He was concerned about her.
‘No, you don’t understand,’ Malaika said and was crying in a matter of seconds. ’Nobody wants to help me with my wedding in this family.’ Everybody was quiet. It was not that they did not want to help her but it was hard for her to be pleased and everybody was stressed out.
‘We want to help you,’ Malaika’s father replied. ‘It’s just that you don’t know what you want.’
‘No,’ Malaika argued. ‘Nobody wants to help me and they are just looking for excuses.’
‘Maybe you should take things down step by step,’ Issah suggested ‘Set deadlines so that things will be faster. ‘It was surprising that Issah who was so fed up with the wedding preparations was the first to speak up. They all wanted their sister to have the best wedding after all. Everybody got busy and Malaika’s mother got a pen and paper to list the things that needed to be done. The dress was the first thing on the list. After many consultations with the family, the final three designs were chosen and the seamstress was contacted. The food list was discussed and Malaika’s mother employed the services of a caterer friend. As for the boys, they were only too happy to be charged with organizing the entertainment. Malaika’s father was put in charge of securing seating for the wedding. Now, the most important thing was left to be decided- the make-up artist to choose for the wedding. Nobody wanted Malaika to look anything near what Aunty Munira looked like on her wedding day.
‘I think that you shouldn’t wear make-up on your wedding day,’ Musa said. ‘It will be better than a make-up job gone wrong.’
‘What do you know about make-up?’ Malaika’s mother asked him. ‘Shouldn’t you be doing something entertainment?’ The boys were quiet on the issue. They had concluded that they had done all that they could have done and if an obsession with adding paint to the face ruined the wedding, then it served their sister right.
Somehow, it seemed like the family was running out of time. The seamstress did not seem to be finishing the dress on time. It felt like they were issues with the chairs and the boys were not sure that they would get the right gadgets for the entertainment. The day before the wedding, everybody seemed busy but they were not doing anything much. They just had to check and finalize all the arrangements. Malaika went to the salon and spent the whole day there. She came back with a gargantuan hairstyle to find the seamstress waiting with the clothes. Malaika half-expected to be disappointed but she was happy with the seamstress’ work. Malaika could not sleep the whole night before the wedding. She woke up several times before dawn.
Finally, it was morning and Malaika was the first in the bathroom. She spent an incredibly long time in the bathroom and when she finally came out, there was still so much time before the expected beginning of the wedding ceremony. Malaika was dressed and the make-up artist had still not arrived. The women were worried that something might go wrong. ‘Someone should call her,’ Malaika said. ‘Everything has gone on smoothly. I don’t want the make-up artist to ruin everything for me.’
‘I hope that Malaika looks like a caricature,’ Issah said. ‘That will teach her a lesson. I don’t see the difference that a make-up artist would make on her face. She is going to look the same way. If you are beautiful nothing can take that fact away from you.’
The make-up artist arrived in twenty minutes. She walked into Malaika’s room so nonchalantly holding a pink bag. She had on a long hair weave and had rouged her lips. On the right side of her mouth was a silver stud. Her fake eye lashes fluttered anytime she moved her eyes. She looked so elegant and inspired some confidence in the women that she was very good at her profession.
She started work immediately. No matter how hard the women tried to trust the make-up artist, their hearts kept on beating anytime she used her brush or a pencil or colour. None of them was as worried as Malaika. ‘Oh God, please don’t make me look like Aunt Munira,’ Malaika prayed. ‘Please’ She thought again that if the make-up was bad, she would rather rinse it off her face. Maybe her brothers were right. The make-up was not so necessary.
The make-up artist noticed that everyone was watching her intently.’ Guys. Chillax. I’m the best at what I do. You don’t have to worry. If I can’t get you what you want, then I won’t take any money from you.’ She was right. All the women had been watching her. Malaika could not wait for her to be done and to see her face. After an eternity, the make-up was done. Malaika’s heart thumped as the mirror was brought before her. When she saw her face, she was excited. ‘You look really lovely,’ Malaika’s mother said. The red blush on Maliaka’s cheeks made them look higher. Her stubborn eyebrows followed a thick long line. Her smoky eyes drew attention to her eyelashes which were looking longer. Malaika was looking elegant.
‘Yes,’ The make-up artist agreed. Malaika hugged her. The make-up artist might have been a little surprised by the treatment from Malaika. It was understandable because she did not know the story of Aunty Munira. It was still a long way away from the official start-time of the ceremony and Malaika did not know what to do to herself. She consistently asked if all the preparations were ready till everybody got tired of her.
Finally, it was time and Malaika’s family was very busy running from place to place. It was at night after Malaika left that they finally settled in the hall sipping drinks and complaining of their exhaustion.
Joy said,’ It’s good that Malaika got the wedding that she wanted- a not Aunty-Munira-like wedding.’
Malaika’s father said,’ Yes. And after all the trouble that we have been through this month, nobody in this family is getting married for another three years.’ The boys were only too happy to second their father’s decision.