Once upon a time in the town of Enwan in Edo state, a state in Nigeria. There lived a beautiful maiden, she was called Omeaneneme, Ome for short, which meant ‘my own will never pass me by’.
She happened to be an orphan who had lost her parents in a fire outbreak that claimed their hut in the middle of the night. She was a rare beauty everyone seemed to agree on, but was against.
To many people, 25 is the perfect age for marriage but to her it was the beginning of adventures. Her golden eyes were the rare feature that distinguished her from the other maidens. It was unusual for a brown-skinned girl to have golden eyes, and because of it, many referred to her as a mermaid, a mammy water as it was fondly called. A look at her eyes sent her suitors running. There was something about her eyes that none could explain. The villagers tried their best to avoid her because her beauty was a mystery to many. She had no friends or relatives, so it is right to say that she was lonely.
She was a masterpiece of the master, a work of nature itself. One day, this maiden went to the village stream which was close to the forest to take her bath and as usual, as soon as the maidens present saw her, they suspended what they were doing and left the stream for her. Taking off her clothes, she dived in for a swim.
The tiger snarled at his rival, exposing sharp long teeth that would send any running for safety but this hunter was not budging. The tiger snarled again as if it was warning him not to pull the trigger. The hunter aimed and fired but missed.
Seeing his chance, the tiger pounced on him and torn off a flesh from his right hand which sent the hunter screaming for help.
After rendering the hunter harmless, it ran off into the thick forest, not stopping to take a rest for there were shouts behind him, accompanied by the sound of running feet which he knew belonged to the hunters.
They had been on its trail since the day it stepped its foot in this part of the forest. Even though it had done no harm, only defending itself when necessary but these hunters did not care about that. All they wanted was its head.
It ran towards the village since it could not go back to the forest, blaming its ill luck on the old witch. Where did she expect him to find the chosen one? Who would be able to stand the presence of a tiger.
It continued running, jumping over stumps with the hunters hot on its trail. He ran until he was sure he had outran them.
The tiger got to a hill and ran down only to find a stream at the end. It went deep into the water trying to cross over to the other side but after two steps, a girl which he had not seen before emerged from the stream with water dripping down her naked body.
She was a beauty to behold, her thick black natural hair was packed at the middle and she had golden eyes. She was the chosen one for she fit the witch’s description perfectly.
The girl saw the tiger a second later and screamed, frightened out of her wits. Ome made to run but a voice stopped her. “Please don’t run away from me.”
The girl stopped and turned round unsure of what she just heard. It is not possible, she thought.
The tiger stood where he was not moving. “My name is Romeo. I am a very wealthy man from a far away land and I need your help,” the tiger blurted out.
“Oh my! You can talk, how is that possible?” she asked, still maintaining some distance in case he decided to pounce on her.
The tiger narrated how a spell was cast on him by an old witch in whose presence he had misbehaved and how a kiss from a beautiful maiden with golden eyes would be the only thing to set him free from her spell. He expressed all the loneliness he had felt during the past few days, being hunted down by humans. The few harm he had done was just to protect himself from being killed.
The voices of the hunters got nearer and the tiger became frightened again.
She drew him quickly deep into the river until they got to the middle, away from the eyes of the hunters. She knew it was a dangerous thing to trust a tiger, but who wouldn’t after listening to such a story that just came out of the tiger’s mouth?
She drew him deep into the river until they got to the middle. Her hands soothed his nerves, whispering secrets to him through her eyes. Defeated, the tiger stared at her, expressing the pain and loneliness he had felt this past few days.
“Don’t worry, Romeo, it will get better from now on. I mean you no harm and no harm will befall you.”
The words got lost in the wind but that was after getting to the tiger’s ears he felt safe.
The hunters looked on unaware of what was going on. All they could see was the back of a village girl, so they took another route to trace the tiger.