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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - the edge of the village, down the hill, She wore beads around her waist, sight of a beautiful lady, the devil and the deep blue sea, the goats, the teeming stars in the sky, pondered her beauty, tradition and his new-found faith, village.

“Mama, I am off,” he announced. “Okay my son. Be careful. The sun is out and the forest is teeming with snakes, so look where you step, okay,” his mother implored. “I will be alright Mama,” Onyeuke assured his aging mother. His mother’s goats were bleating non-stop out of hunger. He had to go fetch them some palm leaves so his mother would stop worrying. He wielded his machete as he strode past the thatched bamboo fence and out of the compound. He had a wrapper around his waist and an ete in hand. Ete is a rope-like material made from palm extracts of palm fronds and other specialized plant stems with high tensile strength, which is used in climbing palm trees. He was already sweating as the heat of the sun picked up steam. He walked down the hill on the edge of the village and disappeared into the forest. He slashed through thickets at the base of the palm tree he had set his sights on. When he reached it, he wrapped his ete around it and climbed effortlessly to the top. He cut down numerous fronds, enough to feed his mother’s goats for two days at least.

Before long, he was back on ground. He tied the fronds, lifted them onto his shoulder and walked briskly back to the village. As soon as he had climbed the Umungele hill, he caught sight of a beautiful lady walking away from their compound. He increased his pace in the attempt to catch up to her. She slowly picked her steps with sheer elegance. She wore beads around her waist, and her hair was braided to perfection. Each step she took sent the beads around her waist into a chaotic, yet rhythmic oscillation. Onyeuke was sure he had never seen her before. He knew every young woman in town. This beauty had to be from outside town, he assured himself. He was sure his mother would offer some clarifications, but he was enamored by her sheer beauty that he wanted to get a closer look at her. As if on cue, she stopped a short distance from their compound to exchange pleasantries with a neighbour. Onyeuke walked even faster, dumped the palm fronds in front of their house and inched closer to the two girls, with his gaze intensely focused on the stranger.

“Egoyibo how are you?” He asked their neighbor’s daughter who was chatting with the beauty that had caught his attention. “I am fine Onyeuke, thanks,” Egoyibo answered with a smile. “I don’t seem to know your friend. I think I saw her exit our compound. I hope all is well?” “My name is Olachi,” she answered before Egoyibo could introduce her. “You don’t know Olachi?” Egoyibo asked. “I am afraid I don’t,” Onyeuke answered with sincerity stretching across his face. “Olachi is the daughter of Mazi Ulakwu from Umuikenga.” “Interesting,” Onyeuke answered with a somewhat dampened enthusiasm. “I know your father,” he continued. “Most people know him, I guess,” Olachi replied with a partially masked frown. She had spotted the drop in Onyeuke’s enthusiasm. It was not the first time she would experience that. “Perhaps, I’d get to see you again,” he managed to add. He seemed to be caught up between the devil and the deep blue sea. Olachi’s beauty had left him dazed, but her lineage had put a damper on his interest in her. “Perhaps,” Olachi replied dispassionately.

He returned to his task of providing his mother’s goats with palm leaves. As soon as the goats saw him with palm leaves, their bleating intensified in anticipation of their favorite delicacy. He split the fronds in two, stowed one half under the orange tree in their compound and placed the other half in the goat’s pen. The goats began to feast on the leaves right away. His mother emerged from her hut. “You are back?” “Yes Mama. I saw Mazi Ulakwu’s daughter in front of our compound on my way back,” he pointed out. “Yes, she came to deliver a message from her mother to me.” She knew her son well enough. She could tell that he had been struck by Olachi’s beauty. “She is beautiful my son. I can see that she made an impression on you. Mind you, you are not to have anything to do with her,” She said matter-of-factly. “She is an Osu (outcast).” Onyeuke had been trying not to think too hard about that, but her mother’s unreserved comment had painted the situation in even a darker shade.

By night, he sat in front of his hut gazing at the teeming stars in the sky. His mother was snoring away in her hut nearby, and his younger brother Ugonna was laying beside her. Since his father Nwokeala died some eight years earlier when Ugonna was still suckling, he had become the father of the house. He helped with the rearing of goats and sheep. He toiled on the farm and sold whatever produce they harvested. He had to give up the white man’s school to help with more pressing needs at home especially given that his mother was not getting any younger. A few years ago, she fell on her way from the stream and ended up with a dislocated hip. That limited her ability to work on the farm; even though she ignored the Oyibo dokinta’s (medical doctor’s) instructions and continued to do the best she could to help raise her two sons. Whenever the pains intensified, she’d visit Onuoha, the local dibia (medicine man) for some medicine to help relieve the pain.

It was as if Onyeuke saw Olachi’s face in the stars above and she was smiling at him. He pondered her beauty; her undulating beads and eye-popping curves that were accentuated by her every step. His mother’s words drummed in his head. “We do not marry from Umuikenga. An Osu and a freeborn do not intermingle in marriage. You can have any woman in the land, but not one from Umuikenga. With the white man’s religion, we have accepted to trade with and talk to them. It was different back in the day, but that is the closet we can venture towards them. It is abominable to consort with one in marriage,” she had stressed to him. 

Of late, he had been going to Church and he thought of what the Reverend James Whitehorse had always said in church through an interpreter, “We are all equal in the eyes of God.” He pondered if it was right to feel the way he did about her. He could not get her out of his mind. Torn between tradition and his new-found faith from the white man, he wondered whether he’d be treated well by his father’s kinsmen should he go ahead and venture into marriage with Olachi. Days went by and he could not seem to shake off his thoughts. He wanted to see her again. One afternoon, he ran into Egoyibo on her way back from the stream.

“So, have you seen Olachi since the other day?” He asked with a dose of unmasked curiosity. Egoyibo sensing that Onyeuke might have feelings for Olachi set her earthen water pot down and placed it on a heap of dry grass on the farm nearby. “Isi odikwa gi mma Onyeuke? (Have you lost your mind Onyeuke?) It seems you are in love with her. I saw the way you were looking at her the other day. Anyway, I am sure you know the consequences. I have not seen her since then. I hope you do not believe what the white man is telling you. Osus are osus, and we cannot intermarry with them, full stop!  If you are thinking of taking a wife soon, I suggest you look in the right direction. We, from Umuaka do not marry from Umuikenga, only other osu villages do, unless you want to be cast aside like them.”

“But Egoyibo, what if we are wrong?” “Tufiakwa! (God forbid!) I knew it. You have been brainwashed by that Mr. Whiteass.” “It is Whitehorse Egoyibo.” “I don’t care what his name is. He is evil. Amadioha (the god of our land) will strike you if you decide to pollute our land by marrying from the household of the chief of Umuikenga himself.” “I believe that we are all the same in the eyes of God, Egoyibo. We are the youth of this land, and we should start separating ourselves from the unsavory beliefs of our parents.” “By bringing an abomination upon us?” Mepee anyi gi Egoyibo! (Open your eyes to reality Egoyibo!)” “Reality means that you will be thrown out of the village and banished to Umuikenga or any other osu village. My brother that is the reality you should be thinking of.” “But why should anyone be made to suffer; considered inferior to others by the mere virtue of where they are from? Or the family or community they are born into for no fault or choice of theirs? I think it is barbaric.

When he returned home that night, he made up his mind to pay Olachi a visit. He imagined her in his arms. He thought of her full lips and her beautiful braids that shone in the sun. For a few seconds, he banished the negatives from his mind and basked in her beauty. A wave of euphoria surged through him as he imagined them together. He opened his eyes having sensed movement across the door to his hut. He peered through the darkness and there was Ugonna, his younger brother. “Why are you not asleep?” He asked him.

“I wanted to see how you were doing. Mama has been talking about the consequences of marrying that osu girl. You know dad is not here to protect us. If you do marry her, we will be banished from our land. We will lose everything we own here. I think you should listen to mama,” Ugonna beseeched him. “Ugo, something in me tells me that this tradition of ours is not right. I am trying my best, but it does not sit well with me. Someone has got to stop this barbarism.” “And you think you are the one? We don’t stand a chance Onyeuke. Please, I don’t want to be banished from the land I have known all my life. I do not want our lineage to be truncated by love. There are other women out there!” Ugonna implored his older brother.


Written by:
Victor Chinoo

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Nigeria's leading fictional story blog - the edge of the village, down the hill, She wore beads around her waist, sight of a beautiful lady, the devil and the deep blue sea, the goats, the teeming stars in the sky, pondered her beauty, tradition and his new-found faith, village. An African Literary Blog
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