Ebira – Kogi and Edo State
Ohunene’s gaze remained fixed on the masquerade, dazzled by the way his decked limbs and sticks moved to the rhythmic beats of the drums. He leapt, making it seem as if he was floating on air for a few seconds.
His skills entranced her. But it was the firm familiar hand on her waist that gripped her in a warm haze. An exhilarating one. The type that Mummy told her one could only find with one man.
“I’ve missed you Nene,” Ochuga murmured.
Her cousin had grown into a man. She wasn’t sure when this change happened because they’d been inseparable since the long school holiday when their parents dropped them off with Grandma.
Each year they ended up in Adavi. Each year they crossed that boundary they knew should exist between them.
It was after their first Eche-Ane festival that they shared their first kiss. Her first. And last year, perhaps because Grandma was in Lokoja, his hold had grown tighter as daylight gave way to dimness.
“You need a girlfriend.” Ohunene said.
The masquerade’s dance had reached a climactic crescendo and the women were cheering. Maiden dancers tied their wrappers tighter, ready to take his place.
Ohunene did not cheer. She knew it would be their last Eche-Ane. She would depart in the morning with her parents for Lagos. He would too, for his university in Benin.
“Live life when you move to campus in September.”
She turned round to face him. “I will come visit you.”
It was her mother that chose for her to study in the east. Miles from him.
“You will be too busy.” Ochuga told her, staring ahead.
She curved her neck back to the square, hoping he wouldn’t see the tears in her eyes.