Ada couldn’t help but smile. Her grip was steady on the broom but she was lost in her little world, to notice the rising dust and the cold harmattan wind.
The pattern of her heartbeat had changed long before now. It always does whenever the thought of him pops into her memory.
It’s been two days now, yet she still felt his hands strong on her waist, almost as if they were still there. She could feel that glorious tinkling on the back of her head and his words—which carries her world, to that rosy bed where the problems of the outside world could never be remembered—still echoes in her ears. His arms, ironed with battle scars, were unimaginably soft. The strength in them brought home that longing comfort that Ada couldn’t resist, but cling on to. How long has it been since she felt something similar for someone else?
Ada giggled when she remembered the first time they first met. It was at Ogba River. He had helped her with her pot, not afraid of the fact that she was the King’s servant, a lady to the queen herself. The way he had looked into her eyes that day had won her heart. It was as if he was determined to bend any rule just to have her. The mystery behind his courage and fearlessness was still a puzzle to her.
“Ada, the chief will chastise you if she finds you day-dreaming. Again.”
Ada frowned when she heard the soft voice of her friend. That little distraction was enough to draw her back from the ocean of her wandering thoughts. She lifted her head and shot an eye to the left, to those tanned color skin, carrying a torso so smooth and bright. The long legs which streamlined the curve made the features so hot that it was impossible not to give a second gaze.
“I wasn’t day-dreaming. Mind your chores and stop poking.”
“You were not day-dreaming. What then were you doing?” the other girl paused with the sweeping and stood facing Ada. “Sleep-working?” she asked and Ada laughed,
“It’s sleepwalking, not sleep-working.”
“I know, we are not walking are we? We are working. They sound the same. Pardon my choice of words, but I would like to know what’s bothering you.”
Ada lifted her feature as she stopped sweeping. She felt relieved when the pain in her waist ebbed gradually. Sweeping this large compound was just one hell of a job.
The dust from the sweeping veered in all directions. They were tossed in every track as they caught up with the wind. The suspending clouds of dust were free, but in their freedom, they lacked free will.
“Don’t tell me you are still thinking about that godforsaken Ikedi?” her friend asked.
Ada’s bright emotion dropped and she leaned her jaw on the long broom—which was made from palm tree leaves and dried branch, tied together to make a whole. It was difficult not to think about him. Even the mention of his name sends chills down her spine and a sweet sensation in her stomach.
“Chinwe,” Ada called, not looking at her friend now, “He didn’t even say goodbye.”
Her vision blurred as the tears formed. She wished she could just curl up in a dark place and let her emotions out in tears. Why had he left her? What wrong could she have possibly done? Why were men this wicked?
“The gods of our fathers know best,” Chinwe said.
Ada felt her friend’s soft palms on her shoulders. It was comforting, but not as comforting as Ikedi’s, not even close. It was just a shoulder to lean on, a shoulder where she could pour out the tears and broken emotions.
She had not seen Chinwe move close. It was hard to see clearly with the tears clouding your vision.
“He is not the right man for you, trust me. No man in their right senses will treat a lady with such discontent. Please stop crying, the right man will come.”
“I keep on wondering what I did to him, where I had offended him. It hurts so much, Chinwe, the pain of not knowing and the heartbreak hurts so, so much.” Ada sobbed as she buried her head on her friend’s shoulder.
“I know. But you have to learn to let go. You have to learn to accept the truth. Ikedi is gone and the earlier you start realizing that the better. He might be out there enjoying himself with some other lady. You have to get on with your life, Ada. He is not the only man for you.”
“I wish it was that easy,” Ada said.
“It’s a gradual process, I know, but it is attainable. Count yourself lucky that you found favor in the eyes of the king; you are allowed to marry the man of your choice. We the other servants are prone to remain here and marry at the whim of the queen.”
“I wish I could change that,” Ada said.
She lifted her gaze to meet the coppery bulging eyes of her friend. She felt sorry. She was privileged to marry any man she loves, and here she was whining over a man who had brought her nothing but pain.
“I like it; at least I won’t have to go through the pain of heartbreak,” Chinwe said.
“Can I tell you something?” Ada asked as they pulled apart from each other.
“Yes, anything that is less related to Ikedi.” Chinwe smiled with the purest of heart. Ada couldn’t say if she meant that as a joke.
“Sorry, to disappoint you,” Ada said and shrugged. It was as if her whole life has been entwined with Ikedi’s. Everything about her, besides the palace work, involves him.
“I told Ikedi about it.”
“About what?” Chinwe asked but opened her mouth when understanding suddenly flooded her.
“Amadioha!” she exclaimed
“Please stop calling the name of the gods. The surprise in your eyes is making me nervous already,” Ada whispered. She bit her inner lips and wiped her sweaty palms on the cloth lining her waist.
“But why?” Chinwe whispered. Confusion lined the edges of her eyes, “Why did you disclose such classified information with a greasy hand. It could separate your head from your shoulders you know.”
“I trust him,” Ada said. Despite the odds, saying those three words made the trust she had for Ikedi real. Even though he had abandoned her, even though he had left her weeping, she just wanted to prove to herself that whatever they shared was more than real. No matter how crazy it seems.
“Do you regret it?” Chinwe asked.
Both girls stood in silence for a while, letting it all sink in. The noise of sweeping from other servants filled the air and dust kept rising in all directions. Birds on the ornamental trees in the compound sings with the brightness of the new day, they have nothing to worry about.
“Why are you two standing like that? Get back to work before the wrath of Amadioha descends on you and your generation.”
Ada and Chinwe chuckled when they heard the roaring voice of the stout woman. She was the chief-of-servant and a very mean one. Her scorns have become fun among the servants. They always lookout for the first to receive it.
“We’ve just received the meanest morning cry,” Ada said but not pausing with her sweeping.
“The others will taunt us with it” Chinwe laughed “we just have to keep our heads down”
They continue sweeping, but the compound was filled with choirs of laughter when the chief of servant yield at a girl, who was trying to tie her loosed broom.
“At least we are not the only one,” Chinwe said, not able to control the laughter that was building in her eyes.
The day’s chores had eaten deeply into the evening, and now what was left from the light of the sun, tubes in any directions through the trees’ leaf and grasses, into the river, reflecting bright warm lights and faint rainbow colors. The melodies of the arboreal initially clouding the air, were now retiring to their nests, but the cold harmattan wind seemed anew and prevalent.Ada sat on the cold sand and watched in wonder as her friend immersed herself into the water again. Her head which was the only thing afloat, suspended the dark hair, like fine trends of delicate motile tentacles. Until fifteen to sixteen feet above the surface, the river was bottomless, but Chinwe always maintains her upthrust, like the professional she is.Female swimmers are rare in Alaocha; most people believe that unless one was gifted by the goddess of the seas and rivers— Idemili—they could not go to places in the river where the depth was cupped.The s
The sound of the ikoro (wooden gong), percolated the quiet, pale moon night, following the cheerful cries of the people and giving warmth to the cold harmattan air. The dancers filed themselves in a single column, dancing to the melody of the beat. The jidida on their frictionless waist were shaking vigorously with their body, creating a vibe in the air, and life on the face of the audience. Naked children were roaming playfully and joyfully amid the cold, with the full moon smiling at them; a day like this could not be spent on the lone arms of the bed.The monarchs sat at the far end, spreading their subject with happy smiles, especially those who rained longevity and presented gifts to them. A pat on the back from the King’s Ofor, left those of them who hadn’t come this close to the king, to shower endless praise and thanks to the gods of the land, as if they had just been granted access to see the maker.The King’s cabinet members sat on a b
A huge torch of yellow fire, as large as five average men placed on top of each other, lay resting now, on the center of the circle, to commemorate the blazing kindness of the gods of the land. The jamboree and songs of the people blast the night with melody. The drums, the Ogene (metal gong), the xylophone and every sweet talking instruments, played so well, that the burning woods joined the harmony as they gave out fairies of floating sparks. The festival had taken another turn as those who were not gyrating, were drinking or making bolus from the pounded yam, and swallowing the round ball, after covering it with the sauce of the egwusi soup. No running children to disturb the dancers, every one of them were busy gulping any edible delicacy they could lay hands on.Ada was tilting her head over the crowd, trying to find the loose black hair of her friend. There were oceans of black hair here, but she knew how to pick out Chinwe’s, from the crowd anytime. Just find the
“Who walk in the comfort of the night? Show yourself or I will strike you with my spear, the gods stake me if I miss the first blow,” The hardened voice of one of the night’s guard bellowed. There were five of them visible by the gloomy yellow torches, which lined the two hands of the narrow road, driving the shadows behind the palm trees which also stood as pavement. One would be a fool to think that the five guards were all there is. No one knows actually, but stories have it that the night’s guard are hundreds, most of whom were hiding in stations where the eyes cannot see. Other stories have it that some of the night guards are spirit born, who do not take titles or household names. That they are simply born out of the mercies of the night, to protect the Ofor, which was and still is the mantle of leadership in the kingdom. All these stories, told to children, most of them told by parent or village raconteur, who probably have never seen a night guard all
It was the dimples on those smooth cheeks and the way she speaks that he admired the most. Those whistling words that are always soothing to a grudging heart. No, that was not it; she had acted rudely last night when he presented his humble proposal. Okay, maybe it’s a far-cry from her smile, maybe it’s the mortar of kindness lurking in her actions, mixed with that fragile baby looks, which always flush with her eyelid. She had winked at him last night hadn’t she? Maybe or maybe not or maybe I am being a goat head for thinking she would want anything to do with me again. Not after all these passing moons and all that had happened.The Prince heaved and steered on his bed, the fur mattress from Umumba clan was the most expensive and finest in the whole Kingdom, but beneath that softness, he could feel some stinging hardness on his skin which had nothing to do with the wooden frame of the bed.Somewhere outside a cock crowed loudly, announcing the
Ada sat down on the cold morning shore of Ogba River, with her clay pot underneath her morning glowing skin. She wished she could be angry about how things had turned out, but she wasn’t; she had been angry long enough that being angry now was quite difficult. The sadness within her wasn’t even enough to pull tears from the well of the lachrymal, even if she wanted to, the pool of tears was suffering a heavy drought. This time she sat alone with her conscience dealing terribly with her thoughts. The ‘What ifs’ and the ‘What should have been’ kept floating everywhere in her head. She wished it was just a single thought; at least a solution might be lying in wait.Over the horizon of the east and piercing the leaves of the numerous trees; as if mocking her to smile with its ray, was the yellow glow of the sun. The birds still rested in their nest but their silent songs could still be heard, atoned with the cricket’s crisps which b
“Thank the gods you’re here. I have been searching the world for you.” The Prince panted haggardly like a swimmer who hadn’t seen the shoreline until now. Nothing about his posture was welcoming, the crease lining his young face, mirrored the worries that were obviously building inside of him. For the wealthiest and the most adorable young man in the entire kingdom, he was rather dressed like a commoner, with the girdle of his sword rounding the small pelt on his waist, and exposing strong muscular laps, almost like that of a yam tuber. The three birthmarks on both sides of his chest, were almost fading, a contrast to the identical ones on his left upper arm. His hair had grown long or maybe she hadn’t paid attention to notice them before. Their dark rich color, suggested that water might have imbued them one or two times, but they remained rough as if the only comb they knew were the grace of the five fingers.“What do you want?” Ada
The screeching of metals against the edges of the stone door echoed noisily. The slaves constrained in bars of speaking chains were the first to pass through the gate, and the others followed behind silently. They had been walking for hours in a tunnel of stones but the entry into the gate, introduced an open environment of sand. One of the hefty men—about seven to eight feet—who bore the keys to the chains, snorted angrily and lashed out with his whip, at the little boy who had fallen on the rocky ground.“Get up you lazy fool or I will lash you with my sword,” the man scorned as the boy cried out in pain and struggled up to his feet but failed. The wimp from the other slaves—about fifteen of them—was the only thing that tried to stand up against the huge man and the boy. Nobody moved a limb; they just stared helplessly as the man continued to flog the boy with the horse whip.The other hefty men laughed and spoke in ton