In the beginning
The long road that led to the stream was very silent and a strange unusual feeling hung in the air, as she walked alone towards the stream she could hear the noise of the leaves under her feet. The once green leaves now brown were scattered on the flow dancing to the tune of the occasional wind.
As she walked on a little superstitious fear crept up in her mind, she had walked on for a few minutes in silence and no sound of any near human could be heard. A whirl wind had blown up few strands of withered leaves into a circular cone and as she walked on she could not but think what it meant; it was often shared in female gossip that such winds were thieves sent to sweep off the good of any house hold it welled up in front of, and often men of Owode village came out with incantations any time such winds welled up in front of, or within their premises.
She had also observed that for days her fathered had pampered her, He who the entire household feared had continuously refused her partaking of any serious domestic activity. She had wondered why her fathered of all people would bestow such grace on her. As she walked on in deep thought like a sleep walker completely drowned in her own thought, she could not hear the silent rustling of leaves in the nearby bush.
Her father’s strange attitude started after the men from Itoku had brought him gourds upon gourds of palm wine that she could not count, they had also brought some very big tubers of yam and some kegs of palm oil and Oyinbo man’s money at least so she heard. Her father had not allowed the visitors to see any of his daughters in fact, he had instructed all the women in the house to stay indoors and then after the visitors had left this foolish pampering from her father had began and lingered until early this morning, what connection could the men’s visit have with her father’s strange attitude towards her? They definitely couldn’t have come to ask her father for her hands in marriage, no that couldn’t possibly be (she thought quizzically to herself), in the first instance she has two beautiful sisters all grown and ripe for marriage, secondly; her sister were more beautiful than she is or so she thought and well the men couldn’t have come for her, that she is very sure of. She who is slightly taller than other girls her own age, who was very fair complexioned and as a matter of fact too fair for her own liking, she looked more like her father to her own dislike and never knew what her mother looked like nor could she bring herself to think that she looked like her, (for she never thought it possible that she could look like any woman) and if not for her bulging buttocks and heavy hips she could well pass for a boy, she wasn’t in the least half as bursty as any of her two velvet skinned sisters and definitely did not posses any of their pretty womanly charm. At these thought she shrugged her shoulders and walked on in silence.
Her gallant pace had drastically reduced into fearful light strokes on the now dully wet leaves, she could feel the wetness of the grass now under her naked feet, she felt the little chill in the air and felt an invincible cold grab her chest, her thoughts again began to probe the happenings of the past few days how her father had called all three of his daughters and told them that one of them would soon be taken in marriage. She was puzzled by the very fact that he had called her to such news, everyone in the household knew that if anyone of the girls was to be married out, well it would be Arinola the eldest of the three, not only because she is the most beautiful of the three; but also because she had the highest number of admirers and was the most popular of the three. Or could her speculations be wrong? Why would any man want her of the three? She the youngest and most unattractive, she who never raised her gaze to meet that of any man in fear that she would not get an approving smile, she who the girls jeered at and popularly spoke of her unpopularity among her playmates. Oh! If the men had not come and her father had not been so nice to her, and then suddenly became so firm that she should go to the stream alone this morning she wouldn’t have cared an ounce. He had refused her even the company of her little step brother, her step brother who had been and would always be her only close friend in the family, he was like her brother now and she never really remembered him as a step brother, he was her brother and he never refused her his company except on occasions like this when father vehemently refuses to let him.
Suddenly a new chill of fear swept through her entire being as she came to the realization, that the only answer to her endless question was the impossible fact, the men had indeed come to ask her hand in marriage, and she was as a matter of fact on the most popular and most fearfully dreaded mission of no return. Little wonder her step mother had insisted that morning that she tied her Sanya wrapper to the stream, how could she have been so clueless, how come no one had told her. (She was now panic stricken and was visibly shaky”) oh! How on earth didn’t she see it coming? She came to an abrupt halt, her mind completely overwhelmed with fear; she looked around to see if anyone was coming behind her and took a deep breath of relief when she saw no one.
They had walked a long way to Owode village but their excitement had kept them in high spirits, this was one of the favorite missions a young man was proud to partake in. They had talked on about it for months right from the very day Adewoyin had told his mother of a very beautiful damsel he had seen at Owode market, he talked on and on about how beautiful she is and how they must go immediately to ask for her hand in marriage. His mother had then made a number of inquiries about the girl and her family from the very reliable sources she had in Owode village, and none of them had any evil report about the girl or her family, they had been puzzled to hear of the girl’s humility and her quiet nature and ways.
They had heard that she had been motherless from childhood barely three months after her birth, her mother had died and she was raised by her step mothers. Her father held the reputation of a very successful farmer from a good lineage; she had also related to the boys the tales of how much the man loved his daughter’s late mother, and how much people thought that Wemimo looked like her mother.
They had walked on with excitement and we now about five minutes walk from the river when they caught the first glimpse of her, at this point Adewoyin who had followed them for the singular pupose of identifying his bride had to go back. This was the part of business the other men had to do without him. He was certain she was the one, how could he mistake her? The beautiful damsel that stole his very breath, and captured the whole of his heart. Ever since he first laid his eyes on her, he could not forget the picture of her face, as radiant as the sun, that innocent smile she wore like a royal diadem and the way she laughed at whatever it was her little brother whispered into her ears at the market. It all charmed him and he would never forget. He came to a sudden jolt as the pain of a pinch brought him out of his day dream, the men asked him to go back to the village, there the servant and horse that would take him back waited, he was too reluctant to leave his company, not because he feared they would not accomplish their mission, but because he wanted to be part of the whole excitement.
He however made his way back to the village accompanied by a very young member of the company who was also judged too young to accompany the men on their mission. He talked all the way back to the village of how beautiful his bride was, how lovely her dimples were and how excited he was to be the lucky groom……………………………………………..
Several years had passed since that memorable day. Oh! She would never forget would she? She could not help but wonder, but this was not a day for such day dreams of beautiful past memories, she was dressed for a special occasion that she needs must attend. At least she could not afford to be indoors or she would draw unwanted attention to herself, but she was particularly happy that his manhood had been proven, thou she was sad still.
How could she explain twenty years of childlessness, all the love in the world had failed her, her father never lived to see her own children; that’s if she would ever bear any. She was now close to tears, but it was not a day for sadness either. It was too expensive to be sad, what would her co-wives think, and what would her husband think? She felt a cold dread spread all over her as she made for the edge of her wrapper to wipe the tears that now freely fell from her face; this was a day she could not afford to breakdown. She had to be strong and act the role she has been forced into playing, a role that culture had freely given to her not minding her will.
It was definitely one of his happiest moments. Today, he Adewoyin, Olanbiwoninu, Adeoki celebrates the birth of a child, his very first child, after 20 years. He finally fathers a child. The entire village will be there to celebrate with him, even friends from far and near will come. What more could he ask for, he had waited for this moment and it’s finally here.
Sometimes when he thought of the last twenty years of his life, he couldn’t but wonder how all those years had passed and how he survived every day of those long waiting years. How his wife Awele had lost child after child to a disease he didn’t even know anything about. How much pain those years had brought him. He had married wife after wife. Today his wives numbered about sixteen, about five had left after vain years of trying to bear him children. At some point he had thought he was the one with the problem. He could vividly remember what Ifa had told him when he consulted the Ifa priest at Leijoka village. He would have children Ifa said; but, they would only come after years of great toil. He had thought Ifas’ verdict to be a question of two years or at most three. Although he told none of this to any of his wives, he had kept the saying all the same. Of this he is certain thou; many of his present wives would also leave after this his child’s christening.
He felt a little pity for some of them; Awero had lost two kids at birth, Wemimo, his first wive had not even ever conceived for a minute. Life had been miserable for him especially when Wemimo left to Lagos about ten years back. She had gone to court to officially divorce him and gone to Lagos to be married to another man after the death of her father. Oh! How he loves her. He was glad however when she came back and he did not hesitate to take her back even at his mother’s objection. She is his first wife and he had married her because of his love for her. She did not bear any child to the man she had married in Lagos for about three years and had come back to him because she said an Aladura man had told her that her children were with her husband, the one she had left to come to Lagos. If he prayed for any of his wives to bear him children, it was for Wemimo he prays for the most. He could only dream of how beautiful and fair her kids would be.
The occasion of the moment calls for his attention. This is the first child he had fathered who had lived to be named. Name him he must with all pump and pageantry. The entire village will know that he Adewoyin has a cause to celebrate.
Today is indeed a great day in Adewoyin’s house. She however did not feel very great. After losing two children successively at birth, how could she be happy? Her first child had died on the day of her birth, the baby was fair to look on but Iya Agbebi had told her that the child was too weak. It died few minutes after its birth. He second birth was more painful. The baby had been a still birth. Such painful things she didn’t want to remember. And after that other child for five years now she had not conceived. She had prayed, sacrificed to all the Gods she knew. She had even been crazy enough to join one of the Alaura churches and yet she couldn’t conceive. Her mind is made; she would endure this four walls of Adewoyin’s compound for another market day from today, on the next market day, when the compound is less crowded she would leave. Life here is unbearable and she was sure her absence won’t be felt. Aren’t there sixteen of them and what space does Adewoyin even have in his heart for her. He would not feel her absence and she is sure Maami would be happy to be rid of her now that she has a grandchild to look at.