Nwakaego sat in front of her hut and looked on as Ogonma told her children a moonlight tale. Even though it was already late, the moon was full on this night and the whole compound shone brightly. Ogonma and her children sat warming themselves by the fire while she spoke. She was telling them the story of Mbe and the Lizard.
A long time ago, there was scarcity of cooking salt in Mbe the tortoise’s village. He was then appointed to go and purchase salt from a certain village. The kinsmen blessed him saying “whoever is pursuing you let him die and they all shouted “ise!!!” the tortoise thanked them and commenced on his journey….
Nwakego smiled to herself as she listened from a distance, she remembered this particular tale from her childhood. It had been one of her favorite tales, she had imagined a future where she would one day gather all her children by the fire and relay all the tales to them. That was not the future she was faced with right now. She sighed as she slapped off the mosquitoes that sang around her ears.
Mosquitoes seem to be the only companions she could keep of late, she had been disgraced at the women’s meeting for suggesting a possible solution to the stubbornness of the Akambi brothers at the market place. The boys had formed the habit of harassing innocent market goers and even throwing stones at young girls on their way back from the stream. Even Adaora had broken her water pot by accident because of their mischievous acts. Their mother had been quick to remind her that she had no right to suggest anything relating to children’s upbringing as she had no children in her womb. Nwakaego had left the meeting with a broken heart and vowed not to return as none of the women came to her aid as she expected they would.
Just this morning Ogonma her nwunye di had accused her of being incapable of bearing children because of her wicked and cold heart. She didn’t bother trying to explain to her that year after year of praying to ani hoping that each year would be the year that she would receive her own child has frozen off her heart.
She didn’t know how to tell her that Afamefuna their husband no longer came to her hut with any enthusiasm but as an obligation, and that has left her cold.
She didn’t wish Ogomna and her 6 children any harm but she couldn’t muster any joy towards her either. She remembers when Ogomma was just a young shy girl, she had been married to Afamefuna immediately after her first nso and was still unaware of the path of womanhood. She had taken her as her sister and tried to show her the path. In the first year, she had given Obiora his first child Adaora. Nwakaego had celebrated and rejoiced with her, even after she had borne Ikenna the following year and she Nwakaego was still without child. She had celebrated because atleast now the cries of children would be heard in the compound and she had faith that in no time ani would bless her with children of her own.
Now nearly 10 years later ani still turned her back to her and Ogomma had gone from the shy little girl that she raised for her husband to a torn in her flesh, demanding that Afamefuna their husband move her to the outer mkpuke while her and her children move into the mkpuke closer to the Obi.
Afamefuna is reluctant but it is only a matter of time before he will give in. Can she blame him? Ogomma had saved his name from shame and disgrace. It is only for the deep affection he had towards her that has stopped him back from taking her back to her father and demanding that the ngoo be returned as is the custom of their land.
She got up and walked to towards the Obi, she was headed to the sacred grounds where the chi of the house was kept, every day she has come here and pleaded and venerated the ancestors and the goddess ani. Her request was always the same, her feet felt light and removed from her body, like they were acting on their own. She knelt before the wooden idol that represented the chi of Afamefuna’s ancestors and called out to ani goddess of the earth and fertility. Her heart was heavy and tears streamed down her face, she was shocked to find that she still had tears to cry.
After a while she got up and walked back to her hut, by now only the older children sat by the fire. The younger ones had retired for the night. She went into her hut, the lamp that stood at the doorway illuminated the place. It was empty but for the bed at the corner and the few pieces of clothes neatly folded beside it. She made sure the bed was made, she took off her jigida and returned to her sitting position outside the hut.
The night was getting quiet, sounds of laughter and happy children was slowly being replaced by the sounds of insects- the sound of the night.
Nwakaego watched the entrance of the compound expectantly, soon Afamefuna her husband would return and head for her hut. She was hopeful that tonight ani would finally grant her wish.