The wind howled as the rain fell fast. It was already pitch dark outside, even though the sun had barely slept. The candle had gone out. Ngozi got up and lit the oil lamp. Her husband lay beside her, sleeping soundly, snoring lightly. She sat up, her back against the wall, her heart pounding with fear. What would happen to her and her babies? Her husband will be disgraced for sure and she will be banished.
She hung her head in sorrow. After three years of waiting, she wasn’t about to lose every thing.
“Obi, get up” she shook her husband, rousing him
“Hmm, Nwa yi oma, what is it?”
“We need to talk” she sniffed, her nose running.
“You look sad my love, what is it?”
She looked at him, shaking her head, the sorrow heavy on her heart. She reached for his hand and placed it on her bulging abdomen.
“Two, I feel them. They kick and kick. Two, I’m sure”
He stared at her, his eyes wide, unbelieving. He raised his middle and index finger in the air, she nodded, her tears flowing unhindered. He bowed his head, sorrow sweeping over him like a river. He couldn’t lose everything now, everything that meant the world to him, because of some lame tradition. He never supported it, so he didn’t feel guilty now.
He scrambled to his feet and dragged out his leopard skin akpati *. Ngozi stared, her face tear stained, her eyes following his every move.
“We’re leaving” he said.
“Leaving? But…but I’m still three months away”
“Yes, Ngo. More reason for us to leave now, no one would suspect anything”.
She got up and joined him. Together they packed their important possessions and waited for the first light of dawn. Uka was much too slow and calm; nobody was up and about until the sun had begun to yawn.
And so before the cocks crowed, Ngozi, the village beauty, for whose hand men, young and old had fought, left her village under the cover of dawn, with her husband, a true son of the soil. They walked past Akuga and Ulomi, moving East. Their departure caused no small stir in Uka but they had left the territory long before anyone could bother to go after them. Not that it would matter, succumbing to the cruel judgment for innocence was not an option.
Their destination was a small settlement outskirts of Ulomi. Obi had been there once, on a ceremonial hunting trip. Only five families inhabited the area, others were mostly young renegades who had either eloped or were banished from their homes for unimaginable reasons. It seemed the perfect place. Folks were grateful to live free. Free enough.
The older women welcomed Ngozi, promised to birth her babies when her time came. They lived in a make shift hut while Obi built them a mud house.
Ngozi’s babies saw the world. Boy and Girl. Healthy and strong, they were fortunate to be far away from folks who feared the unfamiliar. Their little settlement grew larger and larger, filled with twin souls condemned to die, from Uka and beyond. Men, who had upheld tradition, cowered in guilt and fear when tables were turned. Women fought to save their little ones. Others wanted new homes, unsure of the future. They all sought refuge, where death did not rule in Man’s beliefs.
Uka’s tradition lost credibility, along with the young vibrant souls it once boasted of. Indeed it lost its very life, to that settlement, East of Ulomi.