Aneke walked briskly, with her husband to the market square. Many times, she had walked far before realizing her husband was still behind.
Aneke: “My husband , if you are not in the spirits of the festival , you should go back’’
Nwokoye kept mute, he was not in the mood for small talks, for even though he did not show it, he was afraid of losing his daughter to the gods. This tradition had been in the land even long before he was born, would he refuse if his daughter was chosen? As he tried to keep up with his wife’s pace, he could see the gathering just ahead, and hear the sound of hundreds of people talking at the same time.
Emeka, out of curiosity decided to go to the market square, his mother had said many beautiful maidens would be at the market square for the festival. When his eyes fell on the maiden sitting on the floor in front of the shrine, he was mesmerized. He thronged through the crowd to the front, to get a good glimpse of her.
Emeka: “such beauty, and poise in a village maiden” he pondered in his heart.
“Why is she sitting like that?” Emeka asked a man standing by him.
Man: “She is privileged enough, to be chosen by the goddess Ohamiri to serve her all her life”
Emeka: “That cannot be” He thought sadly. He remembered how his sister was chosen when he was a young boy, unknown to them, she already had a love interest in the village. When she was chosen to be consecrated to ohamiri, she committed suicide. His father in fear, sent him to the United States through the help of a kinsman. The Udo family had to go through a month of cleansing before they were allowed to communicate with the other villagers.
Emeka: “Has anyone ever refused to serve the goddess” Emeka asked again.
Man: “Ha! It is a sacrilege, the only maiden who ever refused, killed herself” the man replied with zest.
Aneke was the first to see the maiden sitting in front of the shrine.
Aneke: “My chi o, they have killed me “she screamed in a shrill voice, and collapsed on the ground. Nwokoye rushed to his wife, with unshed tears in his eyes.
Nwokoye: “Ndi Umueke, help me, my wife is dying” Nwokoye shouted, as men gathered to carry Aneke. Obianuju was distraught, seeing her mother bundled away, her hands hanging limply. The priestess came out at that point, pouring libations on the ground, making a circle around obianuju.
Spiritualist: “Ndi Umueke, behold the virgin who the gods have found worthy to serve them, she is the servant of Ohamiri, she shall bless .Whosoever is in her good books, and calamity shall follow whosoever She hates. May the gods bless our Land because of her” The priestess said in a loud voice, that was unbelievable of a frail old woman.
“Come my daughter, this is your new home, the villagers will shower you with gifts, so that Ohamiri can bless them” she stretched her hand towards Obianuju, who got up and took her hand.
Emeka: “I will be damned” Emeka swore.
Aneke was revived, but every day, it looked like a piece of her was disappearing. Within days, she lost weight, her eyes held no life, as she walked around with a blank stare. She shut off her husband, and all her family members. At night, she would cry herself to sleep, and her dreams were always of her daughter, Obianuju. One cold harmattan morning, Aneke woke up, packed all her belongings in a sack cloth, and left the house.
Nwokoye: “Aneke, where are you going?” Nwokoye asked.
Aneke: “I am going back to my parents’ village, I have nothing left here”
Nwokoye: “What about your daughter, what about me?’ Nwokoye asked, grief written all over his face.
Aneke: “I have no daughter, I have no child, what good am I to you? please Nwokoye, get a maiden in the village, and marry” Aneke replied and walked away in a hurry.
Nwokoye: “Ha! gods of our land, what have I done for such calamity to befall me. People have many arrows in their quiver, I have got just one, and you decided to take that one” Nwokoye lamented. Obianuju, since entering the services of Ohamiri, became more beautiful, many said Ohamiri the most beautiful goddess, had decided to give Obianuju some of her beauty. The villagers brought gifts such as bush meat, farm produce, and velvet fabric.
One fateful day, Emeka went with his father to survey their vast plantations, the plantations bordered on the river that passed through Umueke. By the river bank, he saw Obianuju undressing,
Emeka: “It is that maiden again” He thought, at that moment, Obianuju raised her head and saw him. She quickly covered herself with a wrapper.
“Father , I have found my wife”
Emeka’s Father: “Really?” His father turned to him, then followed the direction of his eyes, to where Obianuju was fetching water with her water pot. “you lie, I will not vex the gods a second time. No matter how beautiful she is, she cannot be your wife, or any man’s wife for that matter”
Emeka: “To hell with your cultures, they are barbaric”Emeka retorted.
Emeka’s Father: “I sent you to the white man’s land to gain knowledge, not to become foolish. Only a foolish man wrestles with his chi” His father said vehemently, and left angrily. Emeka walked over to the river bank, to meet obianuju.
Emeka: “Hello, Beautiful maiden, I greet you” Emeka said. Obianuju looked at him, and walked away without a word. He ran after her, asking for audience.
Obianuju: “What do you want from me?” Obianuju turned suddenly and asked
Emeka: “I want to be your friend, I am Emeka”
Obianuju: “Are there no girls in Umueke, except the slave of Ohamiri”
Emeka: “I do not uphold such beliefs” Emeka replied.
Obianuju: ‘well listen, it is a taboo for us to be standing like this, so goodbye” Obianuju said and walked away.
Everyday afterwards, Emeka went to the river to wait for Obianuju, but he could not see her. On the fourth day of his endeavour, Obianuju came to the river.
Obianuju: “You again” she said, and this time there was a hint of a smile on her lips.
Emeka: “you know my name, but I do not know yours” Emeka quipped.
Obianuju: “I am Obianuju, child of Nwokoye and Aneke, servant of Ohamiri”
Emeka: “Your name is as beautiful as you are” that was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, that quickly metamorphosed into something dangerous, something that could cost them their lives.
…. SEE Episode 2 Below (You don’t want to miss this!)
SEE Episode 13
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