It was raining profusely in Akwa City. The rain pelted and dirtied Ajaj Hashur’s bedroom window. The window faced the huge, king-size bed where a naked young lady lay, sleeping soundly. It was night. Ajaj Hashur was pacing up and down in front of his window. The quick flash of lightning briefly displayed his moving shadow.
Several months had already passed by. His relationships with his customers soured. His business deteriorated. His sour mood accelerated. He paced, eyes to the ground, in a deep brown study. Briefly, he stopped and glanced at the sleeping lady. In frustration, he had picked her up from one of those cheap, so-called “hotels” Akwa City had. They had loved, and he was still fuming. When the time comes, she will wake up and ask for her pay. He resumed pacing. He was wearing a sleeveless kaftan and white flat leather shoes.
Suddenly, thunder blasted into his ears. He stopped momentarily and looked up. That was when he remembered the dead priest. He gently placed his hand on his forehead. “Allah sariki, I forgot!” he exclaimed quietly. Asshir-called-Ogha!! He has not checked on him all this while. He just hoped that…
He promised himself that in a week’s time, he will go to Ofia. The young lady on the bed stirred and opened an eye. “Come back to bed, honey,” she purred. Angrily, he went and flashed on the light. “Get up and get out! Here!” he bellowed, went to the bedside drawer, drew it open, fished out a bundle of crisp money, counted some and tossed them on the bed. The lady jumped out of the bed and barely covered her nudity with a wrapper.
“In this rain?” she asked stupefied. Ajaj slowly raised his fists in front of his face and brought them down in one vicious movement. He barked aloud, “GET OUT!” Quickly, the young lady collected her scattered clothing and scattered money and left the room. She dressed up by his doorstep, arranged the money and kept it in her handbag. She searched fervently for somewhere else to sleep for the night. Luckily, she was allowed to stay in one of the rooms of one of the servants of Ajaj Hashur. She slept off after the servant in question had two rounds of free sex with her.
The daytime in Ofia found Ishai cracking nuts with a stone in front of the Okigbo’s hut. From a distance, she caught sight of the first Wise Man coming towards the hut. She continued cracking nuts until he approached her. “Early day to you, O Wise Man of Ofia,” she greeted and bowed, face lowered.
He lustfully ran his eyes over her and patted her head in acceptance to the greeting. “Is the eye of Ofia at home?” he asked. Ishai raised her head and said, “He went to see the family of the old Okigbo.” She got up. The Wise Man briefly looked heavenwards in puzzlement. “Your father is a strange one, my child,” he muttered. “The Okigbos of years past never met themselves, except in that outcasted land (Aro Village). It would be bad for him to imitate the ways of the outcasts.”
Quickly, Ishai defended her father. “My father is a special one, Wise Man. And besides, he visited the old Okigbo’s family. He could not have seen the old Okigbo himself in his grave.” With a sly smile, the Wise Man waived off her comment with a hand. “That does not really matter now,” he said offhandedly after another hungry look at her. She looked back at him, slightly puzzled. “What really matters now?” she innocuously asked him. “You,” he answered proudly and smiled, displaying a set of aging teeth.
He came closer to her but she backed away, sat on a small stool and resumed her nut-cracking. He grabbed a stool nearby and sat on it. “What about me, Wise One?” she asked without looking at him. “You are a ripe mango just hanging on a tree and waiting to be plucked and eaten,” he blurted out. Ishai concentrated fully on cracking nuts. For some moments, it looked as if she ignored the Wise Man’s outburst. When he opened his mouth again to speak, she deliberately made a large piece of a nutshell fly into his mouth. He clenched his teeth and heard a terrible crunch. The sound shook him to the bones and he flinched visibly from the aching dental pain.
Ishai, without taking her eyes off her nuts, said, “Wise One, what happened to the five mangoes you have already eaten?” The Wise Man spat out the large piece of nutshell and shook his head. “They have turned into seeds they are not edible anymore,” he said. She stopped for a moment and looked at him. “But you would have planted those seeds in the soil and I’m sure they will grow into riper mangoes,” she insisted. “And besides, you are too old to stretch out your hand and pluck anything. Your legs may not hold you and your eyes may fail you.” Within her, she laughed at his queer proposal of marriage to her, and she really felt pity for him.
“But I am a man, Ishai,” he defended. “And wisdom has never failed me.” He drew closer to her. “Listen, your father and we the Wise Men have been seriously discussing about you. And I felt that it would be wise for you to be my wife, since you are wasting time. It is true that you are young, but time does not wait for you.” Ishai let out a little laugh and resumed cracking nuts.
She was cracking nuts from one small basket and pouring them into another one. When the first basket was empty, when she had cracked the last nut, she got up. “Then I will wait for time,” she said to the Wise Man. “The right time.” She picked up the small basket of cracked nuts and left the Okigbo’s hut. She left the Wise Man staring after her, baffled. The Wise Man bit his lower lip, and flinched again.
Arka was just stepping out of her compound with an empty ceramic pot on her hand when she saw Ishai from a short distance heading towards the iroko tree with a small basket of nuts on her two hands. She opened her mouth to call her, but quickly changed her mind. She noticed Ishai’s spirited gait. It was as if Ishai was excited about something. What is she going to do by the iroko tree? Arka wondered. After a moment, she shrugged and headed towards the well at the far corner of her compound.
Arka was not the only person who saw Ishai. Her own father did. Some metres away from the old Okigbo’s family house, the Okigbo sighted her from afar sitting besides some man with a drum between his laps. He stopped walking momentarily and shook his head. “She is a strange one, my daughter,” he said quietly to himself. “Well, I think that I shall show her to my mother, who has this gift of looking into someone’s face and knowing what is wrong with that person, and probably knowing that person’s future. Yes! I shall do that soon.” He resumed his walk back home.
Ogha and Ishai were quietly eating the nuts she cracked. They sat side by side on the sandy ground under the iroko tree. She stole a quick glance at him, remembering the first time she saw him bathing at the Gbo River. Funny things started appearing in her head, and she quietly gave her long hair a sad pat.
He saw this silent gesture from a corner of his eye. He also stole a quick glance at her, remembering the time she and two other girls were dancing by the Gbo River dressed in beads of terracotta. Funny things started appearing in his head as well, and he sadly patted dust away from his ikoro drum.
She turned quietly to face him and summoned enough courage to ask him, “Who are you – really?” He stopped eating the nuts. For a moment, he did not answer her. Then, he pushed his drum aside and got up. “I heave already told you,” he said. “I have told your father. I have told the Wise Men, and I have told everybody. I am a masquerader and I come from Akwa City.”
“I don’t believe that,” she countered. “I do not believe that masqueraders come from the city, carrying a drum like yours.” She pointed briefly to Ogha’s ikoro drum. Slowly, she got up and looked at him closely. “You are not an ordinary masquerader, are you?” In desperation, he held her by the arms. “Please! You have to believe me!!” he said, then let her go and walked away from her and sighed sadly. “My master has neglected me.”
“Your master?” Ishai asked. He nodded slowly. “Yes. My master took me in when I was small.” He hesitated, and after a long silence, he said, “I am an outcast of Aro Village.” As he turned to face her, she had her hand on her mouth in total shock and surprise. He went to her and held her arms again. His eyes held hers. “No! It’s impossible!!” she said quietly, and looked away. “It’s impossible,” she repeated more quietly. “Help me! Please!!” he begged her in desperation. She closed her eyes. After a moment, she looked back at him and her eyes were soft.
“From the first day I saw you, I started behaving funny,” she said. He drew her close to him. Their torsos merged. “Me, too,” he said, and kissed her. His hand was on her hair. The kiss deepened. Their very first kiss.
Suddenly, Ajaj Hashur’s heart lurched, and that ended the dictation. He clutched his chest. His secretary dropped her pencil and notepad and rushed to his aid. “Oga, are you okay?” she asked, concern lacing her musical voice. For a long moment, Ajaj was gasping for air. Gradually, he was breathing normally. “Phone the house. Tell my four wives that I am going on a trip.” In a frantic and surprised tone, his secretary asked, “To where?”
“Ofia,” was the stern answer. “Now, go prepare me. Hurry!” Without hesitation, his secretary obeyed. As soon as she left his office, he gently rubbed his chest. “What just happened to me, abdulsamallahi?” he asked himself. For him, this could only mean one thing: Asshir-called-Ogha has exposed himself. The anara and ulo had finished. Ajaj put his hands on his head and exclaimed, “Oh my God!! He will think I have neglected him. Oh no!!” Thirty minutes later, his secretary entered the office. “Oga, I have conveyed your message to your wives. The driver is waiting for you.” Ajaj nodded and got up. His heart lurched again. He clutched his chest. His secretary ran to his rescue once again. “Are you sure you are okay, sir?” she asked anxiously. “Take me to my car,” he gasped. She obeyed.
Ishai and Ogha were playfully splashing water at their naked bodies in the Gbo River. Their bodies collided and a struggle began. They kissed again. Their second kiss. Their very second kiss. Gradually, they stopped struggling, and they loved. In their love, they were two fierce animals exploring and discovering themselves for the first exhilarating time. After, they walked naked towards the iroko. They sat down and leaned against the smooth bark of the tree. They hugged and embraced themselves and waited for the sun’s rays to dry their bodies, each remembering the love. Their very first love.
TO BE CONTINUED…
— NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:
Yes, this story does continue because it is a work in progress. And so, I put a final lid here on showcasing this work here in NS. I just hope you understand, hm? It has been wonderful having a reading audience like you all comment on this ‘work-in-progress’. Thank you all for your time. God’s abundant blessings on you all! Amen.— :D