As Chioma made to speak, Adaku came out; she had come with a stool, meaning to sit outside for a little while. But when she saw father and daughter she stopped in her track.
Ejike: “Who made you cry?” he barked the question again. It was then Adaku noticed that Chioma’s face was stained with tears, she wondered who would have made her cry. Then she saw the look Chioma was giving her and realized that whatever was the matter with Chioma was connected with her. Fear came into her eyes, she was still getting massages for her broken ribs, and when she breathe in too quickly, she felt a sharp pain by her side. So, she couldn’t be yet again, at the receiving end of Ejike’s fists.
Chioma: “It is nothing father, I just had a fight with my best friend” she replied because a thought had come into her mind. It was the perfect way to get Adaku out of Chike’s life.
Ejike: “Is that why you are crying? Friendship is not by force” he said and took up his snuff box, and that was the end of the matter. Adaku hurriedly took her stool back inside, but before she reached her room, Chioma intercepted her. She dragged her by the hand and turned her to face her.
Chioma: “Not so fast, smelly girl. See here, I can easily tell my father that Chike is messing around with his barren wife, and do you know what that means for you, death” she said, and smile contentedly when Adaku shuddered with fear.
Adaku: “Please Chioma, we were once friends, please don’t tell your father. Not for my sake but for the sake of Chike”
Chioma: “Only on one condition smelly girl. You will cut every ties with Chike, you will never see him or talk to him, to him, you are dead!” she said and looked at Adaku furiously waiting for her to agree to her condition.
Adaku: “I agree. I will stay away from Chike, even though it will break my heart” she replied as a single teardrop, dropped from her eyes.
Chioma: “Save me the nonsense talk” she flipped her hands and walked away, happy that finally she would get Chike.
Adaku continued going for her massages, but this time, Chioma insisted she wanted to go with her. So every day, Adaku went with Chioma, to the medicine’s man house. While the medicine man worked on Adaku, she would take Chike outside and fill his ears with unimportant talks. When Adaku was through, he would run after her to get a chance to talk to her, but she would walk away, very fast. Chike became baffled by this new character. One day, the same routine happened, but this time Chike quickly held her hand, and turned her to face him.
Chike: “What is going on Adaku, tell me what is wrong”
He pulled her to his chest and held her. Adaku laid her head on his chest and for a moment, she wanted to give in and hold him, then she remembered Chioma. Like she had conjured Chioma from her thoughts, she materialized in front of her with a scowl on her face. Adaku quickly pushed Chike away.
Adaku: “Leave me alone, and don’t ever come near me again” she said and walked away briskly. Chioma smiled and tried to hold Chike, but the latter was not looking at her, but at Adaku’s departing figure.
Chike: “Did something happen to her?”
Chioma: “What has not happened to her? Did you know that as big as she is, she wets the bed?” she asked with exaggerated surprise.
Chike: “Yes I do because she told me. Half of the village knows too because you told them” he replied and pushed her away. Chioma looked at him with surprise, how could he still want Adaku after knowing that? She walked home with a sad heart; it was obvious that Chike did not want her, if he could still want Adaku after knowing her condition.
Chioma: “Does he love her?” she pondered this. She knew some of her friends talked about love, but she had never felt it. Could this be love that Chike felt for Adaku? Tear drops rolled down her cheeks.
Chioma: “It is that witch’s fault, she lured him away from me” she said to herself, anger and emotions filled her throat. In her heart, she swore that she would never let Chike be with Adaku.
When Adaku got to her husband’s compound, she rushed to her hut and shut the door even though the senior wife was calling after her, being worried about the way she ran into the compound. She shook her head in pity, she knew how Adaku must feel having to bear the stigma. She had lost all her friends, even her daughter Chioma did not walk with her anymore.
The maid that was made to take care of Emelu came in the morning to clean him as usual. Since Azagba ascended the throne of Igbundu, he had become sympathetic towards his younger brother. He gave him maids to take care of him; sometimes they tried to replicate Adaku’s singing. But Emelu only wanted his daughter to sing for him, the daughter he rejected because of his obsession for a male child. Emelu was wasting away, his skin was pale, his eyes sunken into their sockets. He thought of his daughter and wondered how life was treating her; he knew that Azagba had a hand in her disappearance. So when the maid that took care of him came that morning, Emelu spoke, for the first time in almost a year.
Emelu: “Give me something to write with” he said in a croaky, parched voice. The maid nodded, her face etched with shock. She ran out and came back in a few minutes with a biro and a pen.
Emelu: “You can leave me now” he said in a strong voice, which he was known for in his hay days.
The maid went outside and told her fellow maids that the erstwhile king was no longer mad. Soon the news got to Azagba, he was shocked and afraid. He ran from his room to the throne room, and grabbed the staff of office. He paced up and down in confusion; paramount on his mind was the issue of the kingship. Would the people rise against him, now that their beloved king was no longer deranged? He asked no one but himself. Since, he ascended the throne, it had been one calamity or the other, many of the oil wells in the village had dried up all of a sudden, even the Niger seemed to be lacking fishes. The people were starving; there was famine and abject poverty. His friend, the Ezidemili had deserted him, the gods only waited for his downfall. The stupid gods who couldn’t take care of themselves, but could cause havoc in his land, he thought bitterly.
Azagba: “I will not let go of the throne and the crown. I am the first son, I was meant to be king, and now that I am, I will not allow you take it away from me” he said through clenched teeth, holding on to the staff tightly. He brought out a small knife from the folds of his wrapper. He kept the knife as defense, because he didn’t trust his cabinet, they could assassinate him anytime. He looked at the knife and all he could think of, was gutting Emelu. But he knew he had to be discreet so no one would find out. He looked around the throne room and saw the trapdoor. The sight of the trap door brought fond memories of his brother, before he cheated him out of the kingship. They had not started out as enemies. He went down memory lane…
Question: What happened between the brothers to warrant the hatred they feel for each other, can you tell?
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