Ama is one frail good looking girl, who against all odds wins the prince’s heart in a dance contest. Agbana and her step daughters could not stop this flower from blossoming.
my mother left, my father was too
ashamed to bear the ridicule and looks from the people of Aloka-uto. A man who
could not make a woman stay with him till death is seen as a failure. It was a
taboo and it was even more painful than some grievous sins, for nobody ever
speaks of the situation. It was the side talks and awkward looks that really
killed. Aloka-uto people had perfected that skill. We moved out of the village
centre to the outskirts where people farmed. This was where my father met and
married my step mum, Agbana.
Agbana had two daughters from a
previous marriage; naughty Etewe and the timid but very silly Eketuwana.
Together, they made life too difficult for me. I was older than Agbana’s daughters,
but I looked smaller, a feature I inherited from my mother. It made some of my peers
including my step sisters to treat me like a toddler. I must confess it was
terrible and my father was always ready to ass**t my seniority anytime he felt
it was being trampled upon by my step sisters. It only happened when he was
available, but other times when business kept him away from home, Agbana and
her daughters were steadily on torment sprees. I had learnt how to endure and
hide these things from my father. The last time he heard of what Agbana did to
me, he went on rampage and disfigured her mouth. He went away for almost a year
and every single day was hell for me.
One morning, Agbana returned
from the village centre where she had gone to trade. She had news for the
family. My father sat on his favourite chair at a corner in the parlor while I
sat by his feet. Etewe and Eketuwana sat on a mat a little distance from the
two of us as we listened to the story our father told.
“Orji and his daughters! I have
great news” Agbana shouted from outside before she entered the parlour. There
was something about her voice that irritated me. It was not sonorous, in fact
it was very disturbing and in the morning whenever she woke us up, I woke up
with a frown. How can a woman sound so much like a man? I often wondered.
“Speak up Agbana” my father
replied, obviously annoyed that she had interrupted the favourite part of his
story. It was the part where the tortoise told the bird to tell his wife to
gather soft objects so that he could jump after the feast in the sky. Instead,
the bird told his wife to gather hard objects, tortoise jumped and his shell
smashed to pieces. I loved that story.
“It is all over Aloka-uto. It is
the news that makes all maidens and their mothers leap with joy. The royal
dance has been announced. Prince Ume is set to choose a maiden to be his wife!”
From the look on Agbana’s face,
she was more excited than the maidens who were to contest to win the prince’s
heart. My father smiled, while Etewe and Eketuwana stood up and danced around
like mad women who had escaped confinement. Agbana started singing. It was
awful and my eardrums ached. My father in the midst of all the chaos turned to
see my reaction, but it was not as loud as Agbana and her daughters’.
“Ama?” he started “Are you not
excited?” Agbana and her daughters suddenly stopped their jubilation and
focused on me. The moment this happened, I felt like being swallowed up by the
ground. Agbana’s stare was scary. Those bushy eyebrows!
I stuttered “yes… I am papa”
“Good!” my father replied “I
will give my dear wife Agbana some money to get you all beautiful costumes for
the royal dance. My daughters must stand out”
Etewe and Eketuwana shouted for
joy and clapped. Agbana began her choruses, her daughters joined in the
noisemaking. My father, a man of action, immediately brought out a wad of naira
notes from his wrapper and gave it to Agbana. “Take this…use it. Get the best
for my girls” he said, stood and left for his room. I still sat on the floor
and watched as they made fools of themselves. Few times, my eyes met Agbana’s eyes;
she hissed and shook her buttocks rigorously.
“Let’s go my daughters before
someone ruins our happiness” Agbana said and exited dramatically with her
…….TO BE CONTINUED