The young maiden his mother choose for him to marry, was very beautiful. Her hand was sort after by many in villages afar, but Okeke did not care about her, his heart remained with the woman he loved. The one he wanted to bear him sons, to grow up into strong powerful men. He heard her cries every night he lay with his new wife. Her crying hurt him but he knew he needed sons. But it seemed the gods were really out to get him, cause when his new wife got pregnant she did the impossible and gave birth to a girl child and so was her second child.
On the day the new wife gave birth to her third female child, Okeke went out and got very drunk. So drunk that when he got home he went into the room of his adored wife to comfort his sorrows. It would be the first time in years he would make love to her and the warmth of her hands holding on to him for dear life, the delicate way she screamed his name when she came made him feel like he was finally home. The next day Okeke woke up in his bed, his new wife lying beside him and thought maybe he dreamt it all, but nine months later his first wife gave birth to a child. A male child dark like the last one he burnt.
Okeke tried not to love this child. He repeatedly asked himself, why should I? I know what will happen. He will be like the rest before him, dead before he is strong enough to go to the farm. But as much as he tried pushing the child away, something about the child made Okeke love him. Okeke called him Nnamdi because the child looked like his father who died the year before. Even Okeke’s mother loved the child and was constantly playing with him, but all this didn’t change what Okeke knew what would happen.
It started when the boy was three. The boy would fall sick, he would scream of pain, his eyes and skin turned yellow. Okeke would call the medicine man and after deliberations with the gods the boy would get better only to fall sick a short while after. But the boy was strong, five years after it started the boy was still alive and this pleased Okeke, but the money he was spending on the boy’s treatment was taking a toll on him. It got so bad that Okeke had to sell most of his lands, the only one left was the family land but even that he also contemplated to sell with the boy’s latest illness.
‘Okeke what is this abomination I hear that you are planning to do? Ehn, Okeke, answer me. Are you planning to sell the land of your father and his fathers before him?
‘Mama who told you such a thing? You know, I’ll never do such a thing.’ But Okeke knew he had no choice only if he wanted the child to die.
‘It better be a lie o, you can not sell your family loom for a child that has not come to stay, no matter how much we love him.’
Okeke didn’t know what to do. He cursed the gods for putting him in such a situation. Why did they let him fall in love with a woman that was clearly cursed? Why would they give him a child that looked like his father but was from the spirit land, sent to destroy him?
If only Okeke knew. If only he understood. If only Okeke was born at a different time. A time when he would have know that Nnamdi and his brothers before him were not evil spirits but just children born with an illness, an illness him and his wife’s genes gave them.
A few days passed and Nnamdi started to get better. Although he was still weak but at least he had started to eat and his skin colour was going back to normal. Okeke decided to go to his farm, grateful that he didn’t have to sell it after all but it still weighted on his mind because he knew the boy would soon fall ill again. By mid-afternoon his first wife brought him his lunch, pounded yam and bitter leaf soup or food of the gods as Okeke called it. With it she also brought news of the boy’s improving health. So Okeke was in good spirit later that day as he walked back home from the farm, if only he knew his joy would be short lived.
He heard her screams long before he saw the crumbling walls of his compound. Screams he had heard so many times that he knew what the problem was before he walked through its gate.
‘Our son! Okeke! They have taken him from us. The Gods have decided to punish me again, Okeke.’ He stood and looked at her, his heart told him to run to her and hold her. Hold her close to his breast and cry for their son that he loved dearly, but his head told him other things and today Okeke decided to listen to his head.
‘Okeke tell me what I have done wrong? Is it a crime that a mother would want to bear and raise her own children? Answer me Okeke, is it a crime? Why then do they insist on punishing me? They have turned me into a laughing stock amongst my fellow women. Do you think I’m deaf? Do you think I don’t hear what they call? Mother of Obanjes. Why, why have they taken my sons from me?’
Okeke stood and looked at her as she threw herself to the floor, only to rise and repeat the process again. After what seemed like an eternity Okeke walked into his hut. He knew what he had to do. He had to go get the medicine man, so they can make plans on how to burn another son of his.
As he got ready, tying his wrapper full of holes round his waist, he turned around to see his second wife standing by the door of his hut.
“My husband, when you come back later tonight, maybe you can come to my bed as a thank you.’
‘Thank you for what? What have you done?’
‘I only did what a good wife should do. I knew how much you loved him. How it would have weighed heavily on your heart to do what was right by the boy. So as a good wife I did it for you. To show you how much I love you.’
Okeke wasn’t such what he was hearing. Was she saying what he thought she was saying?
‘It was easy my husband, you know the boy likes to eat too much. This way he can go in peace and not in the usual pain. We will have another child, Okeke, and this time I promise you it will be a boy. One that will stay and grow up to be as strong as his father. Just promise that….’
Okeke did not hear her last words. As she would never finish them. Her voice wouldn’t be heard by anyone one again; not even her daughters whom also followed the same fate as hers.
After Okeke was done, after he had rid his home of the evil he had never wanted. He finally listened to his heart. He walked over to his wife, the one he loved and held her, he held her as they both cried like little children. He held her until the cries turned into something much deeper. It turned into wanting, longing, lust, and later as Okeke struggled to pull himself away from her embrace, little did he know that he was leaving a part of him that would appear in nine months.
Another son, that this time would stay, stay and grow up to be like his father. Strong and feared by villages afar. A father that he never met but whose spirit he saw in the marvel of dewdrops that surrounded him.