ICHEKANI

Emoche stirs in his sleep and mutters something of no significance to anyone. My husband can have the weirdest dreams. There was a time he dreamt that he fought a mountain, who has ever fought a mountain before? I don’t think that is the right question.

“How does one fight a mountain?”

I’d asked in awe. He’d smiled and placed a kiss on my forehead. I hate when he does this. Why tell me a dream and not explain its full details? But that is Emoche, always reserved, always looking inward, always contained.

He mutters again and this time, he turns away from me, I stare at his back. Who would have thought that I of all people would be Queen? I chuckle; the gods always know how to tell a story. How they play with our lives, regardless of the consequences. They do not care about us mortals but use us for their amusement. I look at my husband again but this time with sadness.

Emoche, you welcomed me when no other would have me. You strung your royal beads around my waist. My heart feels tender for you but the passion in between my legs is great for another.

Do not judge me reader; I would never have welcomed Emoche into my madness if I had known my life would take its course in this manner. Do not say that I am a woman without virtue before reading my story; it might be a common one, a story that has been told in a variety of ways. A woman married to one but in love with another. Yes, it is a common story but hear mine first before you make up your mind.

Should I bore you with the details of my birth? That it wasn’t an exceptional day. There were no thunderstorms, no rituals; it passed with no significant event except my birth of course. Should I tell you that my mother had been looking for a male child? And after 10 children, all girls, she thought the gods would give her what requested for but ended up with another girl. (This also sounds mediocre, it is a story as common as day but isn’t that the case in these parts.) When she felt the early pains of childbirth, my mother let out a scream of praise and went ahead to tidy her house in preparation for her son’s arrival. I have been told that she boasted to anyone who would give her audience how her son would be this and that. My father had already taken two other wives who had born him sons, he didn’t really care whether another was going to be born or not but my mother felt she needed the gratification. When I came out without a prick, I was told that my mother let out a howl and turned away from me. She cried for days and wouldn’t be comforted. Aichieni was the name I was given, ‘unexpected’ that is what it means. A boy was expected; a girl came. I find the name insulting; I despised my mother for a long time because of that name. I have always wished to laugh at her face, clap my hands at her and hiss but how dare I? I would have been whipped very well. Unexpected? How could she say I was unexpected? She knew I was coming, she saw me in her dreams, with the corner of her eye and even as a reflection in the water she bathed with. She has said so multiple times but confessed that she refused to believe that she was carrying a girl. She had done the necessary things, came to my father at the peak of her time, gave kolanuts to the elders, went to the stream at midnight, held vigil at the shrine, so why should she have a girl again?

My mother and I were never close; I doubt if she was close to any of her children, maybe to Onyeyibo her first daughter whom she left my rearing to. She enjoyed gossip with her age grade and spent most of her time at Ojonya’s house. According to gossip, my mother and Ojonya were the two most beautiful women of their grade. According to gossip, they had a vast number of suitors and picked from the top of the list. To be honest, I don’t see how my father topped that list, the man is not easy on the eyes and neither was Ojonya’s husband who was a timid man and was always seen washing her wrappers at the stream.

My eldest sister, Onyeyibo had no time to care for another child, she already had six of her own and was expecting the seventh. I was an extra burden she would not tolerate. I am happy she left me alone, I would have caused her a many havoc and heartache had she decided to pay me any attention. She wasn’t my mother, she was my sister, there was no way I would have given her the respect I was to give a mother.

I was left to care for myself. I climbed trees and plucked mangos when I was hungry, I took plunges in the deepest parts of our river when I was bored, hot and sticky, I hunted for bush rats and even had occasional wrestling bouts. These were not extraordinary events; they were common to anyone who didn’t have much going on for them. As long as I came home at night nobody cared about my antics and I enjoyed it so. My life carried on uneventfully until one of my escapades changed my life.

The heavy rain from the day before cooled the morning temperature, I was on my way to the bathing stream and just as I turned into the bush path that led to the stream landing, I heard the most ominous scream. I stopped dead in my track, I was not one to shy away from danger, and in those days being and acting like a female were the last things in my head. I turned towards the noise and shouted

“Who is that?”


Find out what happens next in Ichekani II

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