There once was a young boy and just like all the boys in his town, on his 11th birthday his father gifted him a house and a bride.
After his father left, the boy turned to his new bride and smiled cheerfully, “Hello. My name is George.”
She stared at the boy unable to understand his language. But after months of being tired and hungry and lonely it was comforting to be around someone her own age. So she said with tears in her eyes, “That man kidnapped me! Can you please help me get home?”
But George couldn’t understand the language she spoke.
But he could see she was very tired and hungry and sad. So George took his new bride to a bedroom with a sign that read, “Georgina.” Then he pointed at his new bride so she would know what her name was. He chose Georgina so everyone would know whose wife she was.
Georgina sniffed her runny nose, “But my name is Nivea. It was my mother’s name. It means Princess.” She said as tears rolled down her cheek and landed on the floor.
George pointed at the sign again and nudged her into the room. Then he locked the door. George had heard about other brides running away and he didn’t want to disappoint his father.
Georgina sat on the bed and sang a song about being kidnapped and the home and family she feared she would never see again. Across the hall George laid on bed his listening to her sing, and he hummed along because he couldn’t understand the words.
A few years later Georgina had a baby girl and she named her Nivea. That night the other wives in town gathered together to sing a joyous song because Georgina was no longer alone in the house.
George heard the singing coming from inside her room and knew the baby had been born. So he went to Georgina’s room and picked up the baby, placed it in a bag and sent it away to become a bride for another 11 year old boy.
All night Georgina wailed a song about her lost baby Nivea.
George listened from his bedroom humming the tune, but he couldn’t hear out the words.
When George grew into a young man, the people of the town decided that it was not good for wives to be locked in their rooms. So a law was passed that every wife would be given a field and some wood to build a house of their own.
So George walked Georgina across the field to an acre of land.
“This is yours now.” He smiled pointing at a dusty field with a pile of lumber neatly stacked in the corner. “You can pay me back for the land and the wood, a little at a time, by giving me half of all the vegetables you grow in your garden.”
Georgina nodded having learned George’s language. She looked at her field and smiled. She was glad to finally be out of her bedroom.
But after her wood was set into piles she realized that there was only enough to make a house exactly the same size as her bedroom. But undeterred she took a deep breath and started to sing a working song about building a house with not enough wood.
George watched her from the window in his bedroom. He could hear her singing and hummed the tune, but he couldn’t make out the words.
When George became a man, the town passed a law that all the wives given to boys on their 11th birthdays were not to be considered real marriages. It was also decided that all the women like Georgina would be free to marry anyone they wanted.
This didn’t bother George.
Georgina and George never spoke anymore. George worked his fields and Georgina tended to her garden.
George spent his evenings at the fancy Men’s Only Club downtown and Georgina spent her evenings at women’s only parties at a small restaurant on the edge of town
But that night Georgina gathered all the women in town to celebrate and they danced and rose up a chorus of voices about how good it was that none of their daughters would be married to men like George.
And George laid on his bed listening to the women singing. He hummed the tune, but he couldn’t make out the words.
When George was a very old man the town passed a law that clubs could no longer be Men’s Only or Women’s Only. So the word Men’s Only was crossed off the signs. And life went on pretty much as before.
But one evening George was sitting at the
Men’s Only Club and a very old women took the stage. When she began to sing George recognized the tune and realized it was Georgina.
George recognized the tunes. Georgina sang the song from the night her baby was taken. She sang the building song about not having enough wood. She sang about the night it was decided that brides would not be given to 11 year old boys.
And George sat in the front row singing “La La La” because he hadn’t learned the words. After each song George clapped and cheered.
When Georgina was done he walked up to congratulate her. “Georgina!” he smiled. “Georgina, it’s so good to see you up there! Your songs are so beautiful!”
But Georgina didn’t smile back.
George went on, “I haven’t seen you in such long time, but when I saw you on stage I thought I might invite you over for dinner. I so love your music and I think we could be friends.”
Georgina looked him in the eyes, “Where is my baby?” She asked with anger under her tone.
George looked at the floor and rubbed his neck, “Oh. You know that was such a long time ago. I was just a boy and I was only following the law.”
Georgina swallowed her anger and said, “Why did you give me a dusty acre and such a small pile of wood?”
George was now getting frustrated. “That was also a very long time ago.” he said firmly.
Georgina shouted at him, “Why did you never learn the words to my songs!”
George balled up his fist and shouted back. “If you can’t stop talking about the past, then I don’t think I want to be friends with you after all!” And he pointed at the door.
On her porch that night Georgina sang a song about George and the
Men’s Only Club.
And across the field George turned on the radio, because he didn’t want to hear Georgina sing.
Illustrations by Emilie Robinson
Special Thanks to Lawrence Richardson