Okeke, the Mother of Obanjes and the new wife
Dewdrops had always marveled Okeke. He believed his forefather’s spirits lived in them, protecting him from the evil that seemed to follow him. But not today, today he felt they had abandoned him.
He couldn’t believe he was making this journey again. The drums of the medicine man was still dancing through his bones, making him shake with every step he took. It was the third time in seven years he was making this journey. Even though he had washed his hands and he knew they were clean, he could still see the bloodstains that filled his hands as he made the cuts on the boy. The first time he had done it, he had gone home and cried but those tears were missing the second time and now with the third he didn’t even feel the guilt anymore. All he felt was anger, anger that he didn’t listen to his parents when they warmed him about marrying his wife.
But how could he have not married her. She was his life and no matter how much he told himself that he hated her now, he knew it wasn’t true. He knew he only told himself these lies so he wouldn’t have to think of the truth. The truth of what his love really was.
He had met her when she was sixteen and he twenty-one. He had just been made a chief after single handedly destroying Nnobi village. Ok, maybe he had the help of the other warriors but everyone knew he killed majority of the opposing warriors. It was during this war that he met her. The movement of her waist as she ran while his sword was in the throat of another Nnobi warrior almost cost him his life. He stood there transfixed watching that waist run and it was only the cut of the enemy’s blade that brought him back to the war.
After the fight, which lasted shorter than the predicated two days the gods foretold, the king offered Okeke first choice on any of the Nnobi wealth that had been captured. But Okeke didn’t want wealth and even though he didn’t see her face, he knew he would never forget that waist. He found her with the other captured women and children and when he finally lay eyes on her face, he knew that this would be the mother of his sons.
Okeke’s father pumped up his chest and declared it would never happen. His mother wailed, throwing herself to the ground and tearing her clothes. His relatives threatened to seize his lands and not bury him when he dies, but in the end they all stood by him as he married her.
Okeke wasn’t seen for weeks after the five-day marriage ceremony. The yams and vegetables in his farm started to shrivel, but Okeke didn’t care. As much as he tried he couldn’t pull himself away from his new wife and he wasn’t surprised when she told him she was carrying his child.
The whole clan eagerly awaited the birth of Okeke’s child. Okeke wasn’t worried; he knew it would be a son. There had never been daughters in his lineage, so by the time the cry of his son reverberated from his wife’s hut he and the village men were heavily sated with palm wine.
Okeke couldn’t wait to teach his son to be a warrior like him. He would show him how to catch bush rat with his bare hands. How to sneak up behind preys, both humans and animals without them being aware of his presence. But none of this would ever happen.
It started on the day the boy turned one. One minute the boy was happy and playing and then from nowhere he started to complain about pains in his joints. They started off in little busts of sharp pain and then became prolonged, by the time the sun bid the day goodnight and said hello to the moon, Okeke’s son was rolling on the fall in persistent prolonged pain. Everyone was scared to touch him with fear of being burnt and his eyes and nails had turned yellow. Okeke called the village medicine man and after days of consulting and offering sacrifice to the gods, his son got better even though his eyes would forever remain yellow.
Okeke’s heart filled up with joy again, but as quickly as it did they were soon dashed like the fallen young maiden’s clay pot. His son fell ill three more times in almost the same amount of months and that’s when the rumors started. Rumors he heard but pretended to be deaf to, even when his mother came to announce it early one morning before the cock’s crow announced the dawning of a new day.
‘Okeke I told you, I told you not to marry that woman. I told you about their type and the sort they bring into this world.’
‘Mama, what is all this? It is not even morning yet. Please go home to your husband and leave me and my family in peace.’
‘Okeke I will not go o, if you are bold enough, come and carry your old wrinkled mother away. I told you this woman would be the end of you. I told you she will only bring you pain, but you would not listen. Instead your let your manhood think for you.’
Okeke went back into his hut and left her screaming at his door. He didn’t have time for such stupidity, but when his son died a month later after another spell of illness. His mother’s cries started to permeate his hardened heart.
The medicine man said to make sure the rumors were not true, that the boy needed to be marked and burnt. Okeke didn’t see the need, he knew there was no way he was the father of just an abomination, but still he let it happen. That morning walking back home after the rituals. Rituals that denied his only son the right to a proper burial, his heart felt heavy with every step. When he finally got home, Okeke did something he had never done before as a grown man, he cried and cried and not even the breasts of his beloved wife on his face made him stop.
When his second son was born, blacker than burnt wood, having yellow eyes but with no marks, Okeke saw this as a sign that the rumours were not true, but when a year later he was with the medicine man watching his child burn, he started to believe and by the death of the third child he knew the rumours were true.
Okeke didn’t know why such a thing would happen to him. Had he wronged the gods in his past life? He would sit in front of his hut for days, just thinking as the world passed him by. He didn’t even get up for the war against Iru Agu and he couldn’t remember the last time he felt the comfort of his beautify wife. He just wanted to sit and dine with his thoughts but his mother will not let him have peace.
‘Okeke my son, you cannot sit here and become useless. Get up and be the warrior your are.’
‘Mama please, please, just leave me alone. Can’t a man have some peace in his own home?’
‘No o, my son, you will not have any peace. Not while I am your mother and while you bring shame to your father’s name. You need to get up from here and go and marry a new wife. One from our village that will give you true sons. Sons that will stay, grow and become a blessing to you. Not ones sent to kill you.’
Okeke ignored her, how could he marry another woman when he had already had a wife he adored. Although entitled to as many wives he didn’t want any other woman apart from his wife, but his mother wouldn’t let him be. Everyday she came with a new family member, everyday it was the same story and soon Okeke gave in.