CHAPTER 2

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? 

Never.

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.

“Never”

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.

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