Hi there, how you been? So about this short story you are about to read, it is actually the third part of a series. You can find part one here and part two here. I tried to write it as a stand alone. I know some might not have the time or the patience to read all three. But if you can please do, it is certainly better that way.
Ogonma smiled to herself as she listened to her children play with themselves. It was well into the night but the moon was full that day she had let them stay outside longer. They all sat by the fire that burned in front of her hut.
Looking around the compound she spotted Nwakaego sitting idly by herself, she was lost in thought. Even though Ogonma couldn’t not hear her thoughts she knew without a doubt what Nwakaego was thinking about. She felt a sadness for her “If only she knew what to do” Ogonma thought to herself.
With a sigh she turned her attention back to her children who were now asking for a moonlight tale.
“Okay, let me tell you a story” she answered
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….
By the time she had finished the story only Adaora and Ikenna – the older children – where still awake. She helped them put their siblings to bed before retiring for the night herself.
As she lay in bed waiting for sleep to carry her away she let her mind drift.
Ogonma was only fourteen years old when her mother had informed her that she was to become a second wife to Afamefuna. She did not know who he was but her mother had assured her that he was a decent man from a decent home. That did not pacify her, she had fallen in love with Dike the son of Efinita the blind man.
Ogonma had been distraught when she received the news of her pending marriage to Afam. She had gone to inform Dike in the hopes that he would decide to meet her father before Afam would pay her bride price but to her greatest surprise Dike had given her his blessings instead.
She had hoped against hope that he would find the means to marry her but, how could he?
He had become the sole provider for his family after his father had lost his sight, where would he find the means to marry a young and beautiful bride such as Ogonma.
The day came and after the bride price was paid and the celebrations were ended, she bid her family good bye and followed Afam to her new home.
Afraid and unsure of what to except from Nwakaego, she knew Afam had only decided to marry another woman because Nwakaego had not been able to give him a child.
But to her greatest surprise, Nwakaego had welcomed her and treated her like a sister, caring for her and teaching her how to make her home. Their home was a peaceful one, she treated Nwakaego with love and respect.
A few months after the marriage ceremony, her mother paid her an unexpected visit. Ogonma had been happy to see her mother but was worried because she had not informed her that she would be coming. She assured her that there was nothing to be worry about and that she just wanted to stop by.
“Let us go inside my child, let me sit down for a while” she said
“Okay mama. Let’s go”
They went into the hut Afam had built her and her mother pulled her close and began to speak.
“Ogonma nwam you are my child and I am your mother, I will not sit back and watch you throw your life away. Let me tell you my main purpose of coming here today”
She adjusted her wrapa, placed her hands on her knees and continued
“I have been told that Afamefuna is not a man, he cannot father any children. That woman he married has wasted her youth waiting on an empty shell of a man to fill her with children she will never bear. That will not be your portion.
I am a woman just like you and I am your mother, please hear my voice. It is your duty to provide children for your husband”
She paused, weighed down by the words she was about to speak.
Ogonma sat there perplexed, trying to make sense of what her mother was saying. Her head was spinning.
“Listen nwam, our people say it is not hunger that killed the goat that died inside a barn.
I want you to go to Dike. I know he will not reject you, and he bears a slight resemblance to Afam but-”
“what do you mean by that mama” Ogonma finally spoke. “Is that not a taboo, do you want me to be whipped around the village?”
My child nobody will whip you, nobody will know. You have to be careful and mindful when you go. This is the only way nwam. It is not a thing of joy for a mother to ask of her child but I do not want you to forcefully become nwanyị aga
“I cannot do this mama, tufiakwa.” She was getting up now, walking to the other end of the bed, she said “mama please don’t mention this again. If someone hears of this I will be in trouble”
Her mother stood up silently and walked to the door, turning around to face Ogonma she said “My child, hear my voice, use your tongue and count your teeth” and with that she walked out of the hut.
Ogonma spent the next two weeks deep in thought, what had come over mama to make her even suggest such a sacrilegious thing? But what if she was right? She did not want to end up like Nwakaego – the constant laughing stock at the women’s gathering.
In the end, her mother’s voice and her longing to see Dike again had prevailed and just as her mother had predicted, he didn’t turn her away.
A few months after her first visit to Dike she found out she was pregnant eight months later her first child Adoara was born.
She had been fraught with concern that the child might bear a resemblance to Dike during the entire period, she avoided going to him and wouldn’t even take the road that lead to his house.
That had been ten years ago. She had decided to stop going to him after her last child was born. The guilt that ravished her in the early days were almost all gone and seemed to vanish a little more every day. Nwakaego was still the laughing stock of the village and slowly withering away without a child.
“I did what I had to do” she would often tell herself
Even though she knew what she had done was a grave wrong, she prayed to ani every day to keep her secret and protect her children. The goddess seemed to have heard her prayers.
Adoara and Ikenna have now joined their younger siblings and were all sleeping soundly. Ogonma took one look at them – her precious children – and rested her head back on the bed.
Turning to face the door, this was custom for her. Every night before she finally drifted off to sleep she would turn to face the door, with her back to her children. Believing that if any danger was to come at the dead of the night, she should be the first to feel it.
The moonlight filtered in through the raffia mat that covered the door post. Watching as the dust danced around in the path of the moonlight she could finally feel sleep encapsulate her. With a yawn she shut her eyes and let sleep take her.