We Met



Business trudged along today; could this mean that no one wanted to eat anything today? This week has been somehow generally—my mother had lost her wares at the market, my brother had nearly drowned in the village stream, and now this? Were these omens of a greater evil to come? The gods forbid!

I cleared the few plates that were used to eat today, and went to the business of washing them. As I cleaned the grime from the utensils, my mind wandered to the events before my elder brother’s demise. He had fallen from a palm tree during one of his usual morning taps, and was bedridden for four months. All the healers of our community and the neighbouring ones couldn’t help him; they had declared his case in the hands of the gods.

Then one night, he grew worse; he was moaning and his breathing came out in short, sharp breaths. I was outside when this was happening. I had looked up at the ukwa tree in front of our compound and there perched a huge black owl. It had big white eyes, deathly eyes—and they stared directly into my frightened eyes. In our village, seeing an owl meant that something evil would happen. And evil did happen.

My elder brother, Obinna died in the wake of the morning after suffering the pains of his fall for over four months. So what did these bad lucks mean? I seriously hoped that it was nothing serious.

I finished washing up and locked up my shop, heading home. I did not want to take my usual route home today. There was no need revisiting the past memories that path brought. Ujunwa. Just the name alone brought them all back. It was still so painful, so raw.

We had been so much in love that everything seemed attainable. She was the light of my world and I was the moon in her night. Everything was so beautiful, so perfect. Till the prince came. He was the prince of the neighbouring kingdom, and had picked an interest in her. Soon, we saw less of each other. Whenever I complained, she would claim that she was busy with one thing or the other. I suspected something was wrong, but I couldn’t put it down to the prince.

Till it was too late; till she informed me that she was getting married to him. She had found in him her soul mate, she couldn’t continue with what we were doing.

“What are we doing then?” I had asked, shock still reverberating through me.

“I… I don’t know anymore. I just can’t continue with you when my heart has been taken by… by another man.”

“Is it because I don’t have his kind of wealth? Was our love dependent on such things?”

Oh, Anayo, it’s not what you think. It is more complicated than that.”

“What are you trying to say? Wait… he is the reason you have been avoiding me, right?” The people who were in my shop looked furtively at us as my voice rose. We were outside, by the entrance to my shop. She didn’t reply and couldn’t meet my eyes. There was more to this than she had said.

“The thing is… I’m pregnant for him,” she said, sighing. The arrow of what I heard struck my heart with such force that I feared I would double over in pain. What was she saying?

“That is the truth,” she continued. “I’m very sorry for all that happened. I never meant to hurt you.”

The last time I saw her, she was leaving with her prince to his kingdom after their marriage; her belly has just begun to bulge out. That is what you saw with women, my friend had said, it was best to sleep with them and forget about them. Ejike was the playboy of our community. Sometimes, I was inclined to believe him. Maybe if was a bit like him, I would not have given all my heart to Ujunwa, and then getting the heart back pulverized and in pieces.

I rounded the corner that branched off from the path to her house, and resolutely headed home. The way my food selling business was moving worried me. In the beginning, things flowed smoothly. And being the only male food seller had its perks; people from both the village and beyond came to patronize me. They had praised my dexterity in cooking—thanks to my mother—and everything was just great.

All of a sudden, my shop seemed deserted; it seemed people were afraid to come and eat again. I would cook and plenty of the food will remain. I just prayed that no one has affected my business with a diabolical stuff. Such things were rampant in my community.

Suddenly, my eyes was riveted on a sight too glorious to describe. Bless the gods, it had to be a goddess walking among men. She had just come out of path leading village market, and instantly, she caught my attention.

She had the gait of a graceful cat, not too fast, and not too slow—almost as if she was dancing. As she delicately put one step in front of the other, I gazed as her large, shapely hips swayed rhythmically to her gracious steps. Who was she? And why haven’t you seen her before?

I quickly covered the distance between us, all the while whistling to her to get her attention. She turned, and I nearly stopped dead on my tracks. Her face was surely crafted by the Mmiri, the goddess of beauty. She had an oval face with a sharp jaw that jutted out like a rock in the stream. Her nose was straight, with nostrils that were more slits than gaping holes. Her lips were full and sensuous, and fleetingly, I imagined what kissing her would be like.

She was walking with a bicycle with the front basket filled with vegetables. Obviously coming from the market. I looked at her legs. They were long and sturdy, the legs of a farming girl.

I reached her and for a moment, I lost my nerve. What could I possibly say to this effigy of Mmiri? She looked at me expectantly; her eyes went from curiosity to boredom to outright anger. Say something Anayo!

“Hello, beautiful maiden,” I said. It sounded lame to me.

“Hello.”

“Are you from this village?—don’t mind my asking.”

“Yes, I am. Any problem please?” She was fast losing patience with me and my ramblings.

“Uhmmm… not really. I just wanted to know when you will be going back to the gods.”

“I’m sorry?”

“So that you can tell them that I need a woman with your beauty as a wife,” I complimented, hoping that it would work.

It did! She showered me with a generous smile with a full display of her perfect white teeth. She was even more transformed by the smile. It made her glow like the sun—which blended well with her beautiful brown skin. Such perfection in creation! My eyes darted to her flat belly. She was wearing a cropped singlet and tied a wrapper to her waist. This gave me a good view of her belly. I could have placed my head there for a day without getting up.

What was wrong with me? Just few minutes ago, I was bemoaning my fate at the hands of Ujunwa, and yet few minutes later, I was almost undressing another girl. It was simply foolish. But we follow our own advices on few occasions, this wasn’t one of them.

“What is your name daughter of Mmiri?” At the mention of goddess, she hooted in laughter, the sound was an amazing melody to my heart.

“Agbomma is my name. And yours?” She smiled coyly at me.

“Mine is Anayo, the food seller,” I replied. Was that important? I don’t know.

We fell in step with each other, and talked about other things. She told me about her family. They lived at the outskirts of the village, by the boundary. She was a trader who had gone to sell her wares. I reached the place I was to take towards my house, and without thinking, bypassed it and joined her in going to her place. I really wanted to know everything about her. No one had affected me this much. Not even Ujunwa.

We got to the stream and her pace started slackening. She had long, powerful strides, so I was surprised when she eventually stopped at the bank of the stream. She kept her bicycle by a guava tree and flung her wrapper away from her waist. The shock of that had not registered fully before she also removed her singlet and tossed it by the plants there.

I stared at her nakedness for a full minute before my mind could start working. She was even more glorious when naked. Her breasts were full and firm, the nipples, taut. The groove to her womanhood was the stuff of fantasies. It worked perfectly from both hips to the junction of her thighs. I felt my manhood obeying the call of what I beheld. What was she doing? Perhaps she wanted me to make love to her? A total stranger?

Then she turned ever so slowly and waded into the water. After about twelve paces inside the water, she turned again and gazed at me. I felt myself burning up. My mouth felt parched and dry; I was hot.

She called out to me. “Anayo, you have a good heart. But you need to be stronger. And also careful. Not everything is what it seems.”

“What do you mean?” I asked, somehow, finding my voice.

“When you saw me, you thought I was an ordinary village maiden with a beautiful body. But I am much more than that. I am beauty herself—I am Mmiri, the goddess of the stream and beauty.”

I couldn’t think, couldn’t speak. I stood, rooted to the spot. She continued, “I wanted to appear to you because I have seen in your heart that you are true and loyal. Remain so and you will find the love and happiness that you seek.”

With a final, long look at me, she dived into the stream and was gone. Few minutes later, when I judged myself to be able to do a normal human act, I quietly went home, all the while, mulling her words over. I told no one of my encounter—who would have believed me, anyway?

But her words kept ringing in my head: Remain so and you will find the love and happiness that you seek.

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