Star-crossed



OBIECHINA

“You are good at fishing,” she said, startling me.

I didn't hear her approach the stream where I was fishing. She looked like the sun. Fair as a goddess with hair as soft and smooth as silk. She wore one of those clothes the missionaries brought. I heard this one was called a `gown'. The gown was just below her knees but the part of her leg I could see was magnificent. As I stood up, I was enthralled by her face. Oval, with dark brown orbs that seem to penetrate my soul; her nose was just perfect not to small not to big, as if she was measuring the amount of air that enters her nostrils.

“I didn't mean to startle you,” she apologized, “I just heard the noise of someone fishing and decided to see the person. You see, my father rarely allows us to leave the house. Now he went to the Big City. I wanted to steal some moments away from the house before he returns.”

“Uhmmm.. It's alright. No problem,” I replied. Looking at her, I suddenly realized how disheveled I looked. With nothing but a wrapper around my waist, I suddenly felt hot. Too hot. I wondered if the sun had grown larger.

“What is your name?” she inquired, smiling at me. Her teeth were immaculate and perfect. The smile had the same effect of taking too much palm wine.

“I am Obiechina, son of Akubuike. What of you?”

“I'm Rosemary. My father is the Catechist at the Mission.”

After that, things became awkward. My tongue was tied. I had nothing to tell her. What can I say?

“Do you usually fish alone?” she asked.

“Not really. Sometimes I come with my friends; other times, like now, I prefer being alone,” I replied, finding my tongue at last.

Awkward silence again. She just kept smiling at me. I was lost in her eyes. She said:

“Well Obiechina, I will be going. Nice meeting you.”

As she turned and started walking away, I had the premonition that we wouldn't see again unless I did something. Yet my tongue felt tied to the roof of my mouth. She was walking away. Say something man! Then she reaches the bend, and disappeared from my sight.

Immediately, as if they had minds of their own, my legs kicked into action. I quickly towards the bend. I reached and shouted:

“Rose... Rosemary!” She turned and looked at me. I nearly lost my nerve, but I was determined to see her again. “Can... Can we see again?”

“In a week's time. Here at the stream,” she said, still radiating that her charming smile.

I turned and running like an antelope went back to my fishing.

ROSEMARY

I knew that going to the stream would be a nice idea. But who would have believed that I would meet an interesting boy! And so handsome! Although a tad shy. But I can understand. He's probably never gone anywhere outside the village.

I reached home, and my brother Andrew—my best friend—was on the front porch with a scowl on his face. “Where have you been? Father is looking for you.”

Oh no! How long was I away from home? Facing my father is one hell of a task. I went into the study. There he was. He was looking outside through the window. His back was ramrod straight, gotten from years as a soldier. Then when he retired due to a knee injury, he came back to the village and was made the catechist—a position he got from being the most educated man of his time.

As I came into the room, he turned, and I was once again assaulted with the same ambivalent feeling I usually get whenever I face my father. A strict man, he rarely smiled, but that helped to accentuate his handsomeness. He had an almost straight nose with eyes that crinkled at the corners whenever he smiled or was very angry. Such as now.

“Where have you been Olileanya?” He had always called me by my Igbo name. He said the name reminds him of my mother (who I apparently resemble), whose name was Hope.
“Good evening Father. I went out to the village.” I answered.

“Would you have gone to the moon? My friend tell me where you went to!” He never hit us. But his voice was like the roar of a thunder.

“I went to the village stream. I felt it would be a good idea to explore the land of my birth.” I played the card I was sure to get to him. But it didn't work. He became even more enraged.

“I suppose associating with heathens is your very own idea of `exploring the land of your birth'. Don't even try to deny it. Sister Agnes saw you with a heathen boy today. Imagine the abomination!”

I guess I was losing it because at the mention of the boy, I was again enraptured by the ebony beauty I saw at the stream. His eyes, black, as if they were endless. He had the musculature of a warrior with ripples crisscrossing his arms and torso. And the dark hair on his chest...

“Am I not talking to somebody?” he queried.

In my reverie, I lost track of what he was saying. “Sorry sir, I did not hear you.”

You could see he was trying very hard to remain calm. He finally bellowed, “Let me repeat myself for the last time. I do not want to see you near any heathen member of this village. Do I make myself clear?”

“Ye.. Yes sir,” I stuttered.

With that, he dismissed me. I could now go back to my chores.

OBIECHINA

The following weeks were filled with activities I engaged in alongside Rosemary. She was simply an angel; intuitive, understanding, funny and very observant. She would ask questions about virtually everything. One time, I went to tap palm wine, and she tagged along. She wanted to know all about the process. I would barely finish answering a question before she threw the next one. Her curiosity even led her to taste the palmwine. I just couldn’t get enough of her curiosity. She wasn’t like our maidens in the village; they were timid, and rarely did anything daring.

So, it was with great excitement that I went home that day. I had finally decided to tell my father, Obidike that I have seen the girl to marry. I came into his obi when he was done eating the pounded yam and ọha soup prepared by my stepmother, and announced my intentions. His next words hit me with the force of a canon.

“My son. It is as if the gods themselves have told you the plans they have for you before you came to me with this your idea of getting married.”

“What do you mean, Nna m?

“Ocheogu, the chief priest has announced the next person to succeed him; it is you Obiechina,” he said, pride echoing in each word.
“Ocheogu? Me, succeed him? Why?” The very thought of being a chief priest sounded too incredulous. Why me? Why not the other able-bodied men in the whole of Iseleke?

“The way of the gods confound us mere mortals. By the way, who is the girl you are intending to marry?”

With what he had just announced, how could I tell him that I wanted to marry the daughter of one of the followers of the White Man’s God? But he was looking at me so intently that I had no option than to let him know.

“Her name is Rosemary, the daughter of Mazi Matthew, the Catechist at the Mission.”

Tah! Tụfịakwa! May the gods forbid it!” His voice rose with the vehemence of his curses. “What drove you towards those forbidden people?”

Forbidden?” I asked. Confusion was creeping into my mind as he sat up, and fixed me with the most sorrowful stare.

“Obiechina, my son, that girl, and her family are outcasts. They are osu. They do not associate with the freeborns of this village, only with themselves. You cannot marry any of them.”

That was something else. An osu? But how do I explain to Rosemary that I suddenly do not want to marry her again? As I went to my hut, all I thought was why there would such inhuman segregations among human beings?

ROSEMARY

His eyes was burning hot coals as they fixed on me; his mouth was a thin line, anger made him as still as a rock.

“Who did you say wants to marry you?” he asked, perhaps wanting me to change what I had said. But I couldn’t. It was the fact, the gospel truth.

“Obiechina, son of Obidike, the village prime minister,” I replied.

“That heathen boy? I thought I had warned you not to associate with him any longer? Obviously he has infected you with his life of disobedience and sin?”

“It’s not that. I—”

He cut me off with, “You what? Anyway, I think I know the solution to this problem.” That was the end of my discussion with him. I wondered how I would tell Obiechina that my father had disagreed to our intended marriage.

Why was his religion such a big problem? Wasn’t he a human being? But such lines of argument would never sway a man like my father; he was the most unbendable man in the world!

For the next one month, I hardly saw him. My father took me to almost every meeting he went to; and the rest of the time, I was constantly monitored by his spies in the village. The few times I met him, he seemed to be always lost in thoughts, so faraway. I asked him what the problem was many times but he found a way to brush the question aside.

Then one day, my father announced that he was being transferred to Onitsha, the big city. In two day’s time! I sent a message to Obiechina, wanting to inform him of the abrupt news.

When we saw, I was again marveled by his glorious beauty. Why did everything work against my love for him? Without warning, I started kissing him, wanting to have as much of him as I could before I left. He kissed me back, but then pulled back, and asked,

“Why-why are you doing this?” his eyes were smoky with desire, but his voice was calm.

“I want it to be my gift to you before I—” I said, as my voice choked on a cry that escaped from me.

“Before what obi m?” he said. The endearment cut through me like a knife.

I then told him about my father’s transfer, about the fact that our love was gone. I then asked him to make love to me, at least, I would have something to remember him with. But he was adamant in his refusal. He said that if we couldn’t marry, then there was no need to defile me. Then he walked away from me, forever.

OBIECHINA

It took all the effort I had in me to refuse her offer, but I was happy that I did. There was no need complicating things the more. As I thought about it, I was glad she was going away; with the realization that she was an osu, there was no way I could have married her. May the gods be with her.

One year later, I was installed as the chief priest of my village to continue the ancient line of men who were the link between the gods and men.

Post a Comment

2 Comments

  1. That was touching and sad that they didn't end up together. Nice one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks. Sadly, not all love stories have a happy ending.

      Delete