Ogechi lay in bed with her eyes wide open. It was still very early in the morning, even the cocks were still asleep but she was already done with sleep. One would say that the excitement of the events of the day had stolen her sleep.
She listened to the muffled sounds of the women outside, the umuada were already getting ready for the activities that would take place this day. As she lay in bed listening to them set up extra cooking points and divide the different tasks among themselves her thoughts drifted off.
She was finally getting married, she had long awaited this day. Her mother was happy to see that Chukwu had finally answered her prayers. Her daughter was 29 years old and still insistent on waiting for Okoro’s son despite being so fortunate to still have suitors at her age. But she did, Ogechi was a beautiful woman with a pure and golden heart. Not once has it been said that she caused trouble at the market and no one could say that they had been wronged by her. She was gentle as she was beautiful.
Nwaudo, Ogechi’s mother never disliked Obinna, in fact she liked and accepted him many years ago when he first came for Ogechi’s hand. But she didn’t understand why he had decided to share his misfortune with her only daughter.
Ten years ago, when Ogechi was a ripe age of 19, Obinna and his father Okoro had come and made their intentions known to Ichie Obika and his family. Okoro was a hardworking and upright man and his first son Obinna followed in his father’s footstep, Ichie Obika spoke with his wife and she in turn spoke to Ogechi and they were all in agreement. It was a joyful day; the bride price was agreed upon and a date was fixed for the ewu-nna to be killed and the igba nkwu to be carried out.
Ogechi had been the happiest because she had secretly hoped that Obinna would come before other suitors began to flood her house and convince her parents otherwise and it had happened like she had hoped.
Ichie Obika was a proud and prosperous man, known in all the community for his love for his daughter and so he requested that two goats be slaughtered and cooked for the umunna in preparation of the igba nkwu. He asked Aiziza the best wine tapper to supply as much wine as the men could drink to his compound.
The next day was a day of feasting and merrymaking in Ichie Obika’s compound, the women prepared different meals and the men ate and drank and planned the igba nkwu.
Calamity struck that same day, as the sun was beginning to retire for the day, news reached Ichie Obika’s compound that Mazi Okoro had been found dead on his farmland.
Mazi Okoro had set off to the farm in the early morning to check the work that the laborers had carried out the previous day and had not returned by noon. As the sun was starting to set, Nnamdi his second son had headed to the farm to see what was keeping him and had discovered his lifeless body.
The marriage was put off as there was to be no merrymaking until after the akwamozu and the removal of the akwa ujuu. Ichie Obika had been very understanding as he had thought that once the mourning period was over Obinna would come and finish off what he and his father had begun before his demise.
But Mazi Okoro was a titled man and had to be buried accordingly, a big feast was carried out and for three days people came to his compound to eat drink and sympathize with the family. In the end Obinna decided that they were in no shape for another ceremony and asked Ichie Obika to give him a few months to recover from the expenses of the akwamozu.
That had been nine years ago. In the years that followed, Obinna lost his mother and sister to kitipa. It was rumored that a great evil had befallen Mazi Okoro’s compound but Ogechi refused to marry anyone else as she believed that Obinna was already her husband. She even threatened to run away with him and start a family without imego if her parents forced her to marry someone else.
This saddened Ichie Obika and his wife Nwaudo deeply but they let her be and prayed that their daughter would come to her senses.
Finally, so many years later the scheduled wedding was finally taking place. Ogechi’s mother had let out a sigh of relief and thanked Chukwu for finally intervening in the matter.
Ogechi was happy that she had not given in to the pressure and married someone else, all her friends and even her juniors had been married and had started to bear children but she had become nwunye nna. Sometimes she had worried that they were right but she had faith that Chukwu would reward her patience and endurance. She smiled because everyone had said that she was wasting her time waiting for him and that she would never leave her father’s house would have to eat their words.
But the smile vanished from her face as quickly as it had come, she was overcome with a different worry. It was true that everyone said she still looked like a young maiden but who will be fooled? Who knows if Obinna still cared for her or was carrying on with it as an obligation because she agreed to wait for him? Had she spent her child bearing years waiting for him? What if an evil cloud has indeed descended on Mazi Okoro’s household?
Everyone told the story of Ogomma and Ndubisi who were so in love that they had taken an oath to prevent their parents from forcing them to marry other people. As a result, they had courted a very long time because only when Ndubisi being the child of a pauper had reached his thirties was he able to afford the bride price and a feast. The story goes that they had been so in love during the courtship but Ogomma had died of iba two nights after the wedding, everyone said it was punishment because they had forced the hands of Chukwu in their union.
A cold shiver ran down her spine and she shuddered at the thought of a similar fate befalling her.
“Tufiakwa! Chukwu aju” she said to herself
She had thought that when this day came she would be free of all her worries and thinking. Now she realised that they had been replaced with new worries. There was no way to know what fate awaited her and there was little to be done but wait and find out.
The cocks had started to crow, day light was slowly engulfing the darkness and from her room she could hear that more people were starting to arrive her father’s compound.
“the day they have all being praying for is finally here” she thought to herself as she finally surrendered to sleep.
GLOSSARY OF IGBO WORDS
Akwa ujuu: Burial cloth worn by the family of the deceased
Akwamozu: Burial ceremony
Chukwu: God, creator of the universe
ewu-nna: The goat that is killed for the men of the family before the traditional marriage ceremony
Igba nkwu: traditional marriage ceremony
Imego: paying the bride price
Kitipa: small pox
Nwunye nna: translates as wife of father, a nickname given to unmarried women past marriageable age.
Tufiakwa: God forbid
Umuada: a family gathering of daughters, for which the female kinsfolk returns to their village of origin.