By Amarachi Okpunobi
Ifemelumma began to pound the akpu very fast and hard too, as she watched her father enter the compound. The odo, (mortar) was big and the aka odo was way taller than her. This made her smaller. She was sweating like a goat who has been making a final prayer before its death, as if it knew it would be sacrificed to Oduenyi. But the hides and skin would always not let an eye see the sweat.
Ifemelumma is a young beautiful girl who has become almost the favourite child of her neighbours. Her hard work was so evident that she could hardly say no to an errand for a neighbour. The other day, Mama Uwakwe pleaded for a pot of water from the stream and Ifemelumma filled all her pots. She wouldn’t have left the old woman with just a pot, who will fetch the others? She asked herself as she trekked back to the house from the stream. Mama Uwakwe has always been like a grandma to Ifemelumma after her two children were bitten to death by a poisonous snake in the farmland far away from the residential, ikpa agu. Her husband left her too since she wasn’t able to deliver another child. “Obi m a-gaghi echi”, my generation must not die, the husband said one day as he discussed with Maazi Eziokwubundu, Ifemelumma’s father.
Afterwards, Mama Uwakwe dished out a plate of ofe ugba for Ifemelumma. She laughed and chatted with Mama Uwakwe as she enjoyed the meal. Every ball of the Ji, (pounded yam) swam out of the soup with at least some part of the azu okpoo.
“Ifemelu, nwa m ji sie Ike”, Maazi Eziokwubundu encouraged her daughter. “You know, if you were a boy, I would have said that Chi anyi loves me most, mana ka o di ba”, he said this with a fake smile written all over him but Ifemelumma knew they were all unreal. She knows her father too well, he wouldn’t smile just at anything he says. Why would he make such statement in a hot afternoon after visiting the Eze Mmuo, Chief Priest? She quickly thought to herself before she responded.
“Nna m, I am more than a boy, you’ve not told me anything and I wasn’t able to do them. None Nna m, none!”
Oooo, I believe you. Where is my wife? Is she your mother is not back from the market?
Mba, Nna m, she’s not back, but the soup is almost ready, I will serve you immediately, Ifemelumma answered.
“Ngwa nu, let me go inside and rest before it’s time for the Igwe in council meeting this evening”.
Ifemelumma watched her father as he heaved a heavy sigh before going inside the hut. “O ga-enwe ihe mere ede jiri bee nwii, Something is wrong somewhere”, she said to herself.
Sooner than later, it was already evening. Maazi Eziokwubundu was ready to leave for the Igwe in council meeting with his okpu meemee and uwe isi agu and ogodo when Ugodiya came back looking worn out.
Nna anyi, are you going already? She asked rhetorically as she sat down on the nwanyi noduru okwu, small kitchen chair, in front of the house. I chezikwa ka anwu daa, you didn’t wait for the sun to go down? She asked again.
“Ugodiya, let me go before I will be late. I am going to trek you know”.
“Ngwanu, Nna anyi, go well”.
Ifemelumma! Ugodiya called out as she enters into the hut. “Hope you served your father his lunch?”
That same evening after dinner, Maazi Eziokwubundu was yet to be back from the meeting. Ifemelumma engaged her mother in a long talk. They chatted and chatted till Ugodiya was becoming tired.
“Ifee ike agwugo m, let me go and sleep the market was hectic today, if your father comes back tell him am asleep. You wouldn’t need to serve him dinner, they will definitely eat in Obi Eze, Igwe’s
Nne m, Ifemelumma called with a little anxiety in her voice. I have been pondering over some issues lately and father’s attitude when he came after seeing the Chief Priest left me wondering if the Dibia has seen death. Her mother was beginning to become curious.
Ifemelumma narrated the little discussion with her father in the afternoon.
“Nwa m ka chi foo. Whatever news your father has gotten from the chief priest should not be a problem to you. O ihe ndi okenye”. She replied Ifemelumma as she stood to go to sleep.
Ifemelumma, could not understand why her mother would act and sound that way, something is amidst, she said to herself.
The next day, Ifemelumma went to see Mama Uwakwe. In a glance at her, Mama Uwakwe could ascertain that her daughter was not well. Nwa m, O gini? She asked.
Ifemelumma tried shrugging it off but Mama Uwakwe insisted.
After their discussion Ifemelumma felt relieved and happy.
“She must go back to where she came from, period! The Chief Priest said unless she goes back, we won’t have another child for your information, she has only seven days to return if not whatever drum Ezenwanyi Mmili beats for us, we’ll dance”.
“Nna anyi, I believe something has to be done, Ifemelumma bu kwanu nwa m”
Ugodiya pleaded with a deep sense of pain and sorrow. Chi anyi a-gaghi agbawa m aka nwa.
“Nwanyi, if you want her to stay her, then I leave the compound for you both. I warnd you but you wouldn’t hear.
Ifemelumma eaves dropped in total bewilderment the argument of her parents as she was about entering the hut. Hot tears dropped down her cheeks and she wished the ground could swallow her. Her whole world was crumbling and coming to an end.
Bia nwanyi, enough of this discussion, you can while away your time crying and shedding this unending tears. I am off to my farm! Maazi Eziokwubundu stormed out of the hut. Just immediately, he noticed Ifemelumma sitting on the ground adjacent to the hut in tears. He held his peace and went away to the farm alongside with his matchet and hoe to the farm in mixed feeling. He loved Ifemelumma so dearly but his Obi is also very important to him.
“Ifemelumma cannot take over my Obi, I need a male child who will bear my name after death. The grave is calling me and I am not getting any younger”, he soliloquized as he walked to the farm.
Nne m, why didn’t you tell me I never belonged here? She asked her mother who was also swimming in the ocean of tears.
Nwa m sit down, let me tell you a story, Ugodiya beckoned on her daughter.
I was married to your father for eight years without a child. It’s either miscarriage or the child dies few days after delivery. We sought for help far and near and none was forth coming till we met Ezenwanyi Mmili’s shrine. She promised us a child but that was after several sacrifices made at her river. We were also to bring back the child after 14 years. What will you have me do my child, I accepted to do everything provided the result would be to have my own child.
Your father objected but my unending pleadings convinced him. And here you are, my daughter, I called you Ifemelumma because you have been made wonderful and a gift from Chi anyi.
Nwa m, you’re my child and I am not giving you to anyone, let Ezenwanyi Mmili take me instead. You must live my child, you must live! No nne m I will return to my mother, that is where I belong, not here. You deserve to live too, Nna m deserves to have his sons too.
… And that was the last statement Ifemelumma heard before she came out of dreamland.