ike nke anyi huru n’anya
maara na I nonyeere chineke
People slowly made their way to the
other side of the church, singing that very song and clapping to make up for
the lack of percussion instruments. The sound from the oja, wooden flute, harmonized beautifully with their voices. They all got to the place across the church
and began to circle what lay in the middle with their song slowly coming to an
end. The elders from the community didn’t follow the youths to the other side
because of what lay in the middle. But what exactly was lying in the middle of
the crowd at the place across the church? Ikechukwu’s lifeless body neatly
prepared for his final burial rite. The people of Nnewichi had come to pay
their final respect to their most loved and respected son at the graveyard.
“Irrespective of the circumstances
behind his death, what matters most is that he is at rest” said the priest.
Everybody knew the circumstances.
Another man was trying to steal Ikechukwu’s prize and there was foul play
Within the crowd was Ifeyinwa, Ikechukwu’s
prize, the one who was to get married to Ikechukwu a week from now. Unfortunately
death had done them apart before they could even begin their journey together. She had not eaten or slept since she heard the
news but she had not cried. Still the strain was telling on her physical
appearance. Ife’s usually beautiful face had welcomed eye bags as visitors;
dark patches were winning her normally fair skin in an epidemic battle. Perhaps
she hadn’t seen the need to bath or pay attention to her looks since her lover
was no more. When everybody began to throw hands full of red soil into the 6
feet hollow, the first tear since her beloved left her rolled down her left cheek.
Ikechukwu had left her, for good.
“This is what is right for us” Ife’s
mum said to her.
She had gotten her daughter to bath and was
trying to make her look presentable. Now that Ikechukwu was out of the picture,
her family was happy that she no longer had an excuse as to why she didn’t want
to marry who they chose for her.
“Chief Anunobi will take care of
all of us. I know he will do our family well” her mother’s spoken English
romanced by her thick igbo accent.
Ife didn’t reply. She hadn’t spoken
since the death of her lover. She paid no attention to her mother’s blabs.
“He even promised to pay for…” her mother’s
voice trailed off when she started dwelling on her thoughts.
She knew Ikechukwu had not died by
a misfired bullet on the day he went hunting. She knew it was all set up so
that the dirty fat chief Anunobi could end up with her. She had warned Ikechukwu
and begged him that they may elope eastwards of Nnewi but he didn’t listen. He
thought nothing could befall him because he was very charming and popular
within the community. He thought wrong.
“Eze nwanyi. You still don’t want to look
at me” chief Anunobi had come to
visit his bride to be. They were getting married. Her family had succeeded in
selling her to the chief without much of a fight from her. Ife was still in the same position she mostly was all week,
backing the entrance door into her room. The chief had gotten frustrated by the
fact that he hadn’t seen her face in a long while, less frustrated that he
hadn’t heard her voice. That’s why she was his prize. What mattered most to him
was her physical appearance. The fat old
man slowly walked towards the bed she sat on, making noise with his walking
stick on the wooden upper floor with every step. His physical appearance was
enveloped by a mild, pungent odour peculiar to him. She smelt it when he sat
behind her on the bed. He was too close to her for her to be comfortable but
she didn’t care about comfort anymore. All she wanted was for the whole thing
to come to an end.
“Talk to me my queen” he tried
pulling on her upper arm desperately needing her to face him but she didn’t budge.
Even if she wasn’t answering him,
he seemed pleased with the way his rough, charred hands felt on her silky fair
skin. He got carried away rubbing her skin and moved his hands under her shirt
towards her breasts squeezing them as much as he could. He couldn’t believe she
was allowing him go this far. She had never accepted gifts from him talk less
of allowing him touch her like this.
“Stop. We will do it tomorrow,
before the wedding”. She turned to look at him feigning a smile.
Nothing could make him happier than
the thought of him in bed with her tomorrow. He left with an uncomfortable
hardness under his wrapper wishing tomorrow could come quicker.
Everybody seemed happy on the
morning of Ife’s marriage to chief partly because they never thought they would
see the day it would happen. This to everybody in elder Madueke’s household was
the end of poverty in their lives. The fact that Ife had woken up with a slight
smile on her face was also a reason for joy in the compound. She got dressed
and did her make up while her younger sisters happily talked to her about what
she had missed out on in the past few days around the community. She said only
a few words but that smile she had on convinced everybody that she had moved on
and Ikechukwu was history to her. The chief came in just as she was done and
their eyes met. Her early morning smile never leaving her face. Her sisters
quickly excused themselves and closed the door behind them.
“We don’t have much time” the
impatient chief held her roughly and pushed her unto the bed.
He untied his wrapper and lay
beside her naked from waist down. Ife still fully clothed, straddled him, kissed
his cheeks, ear and neck slowly. She woke up smiling because of this moment.
Ife reached beside the bed for a small knife and slowly but firmly pierced the
chief’s heart. His last view was of his smiling bride as life quickly deserted
him. Before anybody could rush in after hearing screams from her room, she
completed the mission. She sent herself to join Ikechukwu, with that same knife.