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“Quick! Quick! Before aunty Ngozi comes back o,” Obinna said, panicking in a low tone as he stuffed the already plucked ube inside his pockets.

“Relax na,” I tried to calm his fears, as I kept peering into the leaves, looking for more mature pears. “How many are you with sef? Is it not only thirteen? Besides Aunty Ngozi has gone very far, she won’t be back soon,” I tried to encourage him.

This was the sixth time we were going to Aunty Ngozi’s compound to look for mature pears. She had earlier warned us to stay away from her compound; often times, leaving us with dreadful marks on our backs, from the painful strokes of a bitter leaf stick. This time, she had gone to see a friend and it we were optimistic that she would return by night fall.

“Is like the ube has finished oh,” I said, still trying to look for more pears, “these ones are still very small and premature. How many are you with?” I asked him, as I tried to reach for the next branch, higher. He didn’t respond.

Obinna, if you run with my ube ehn. Talk na let’s quickly leave this place before that wicked aunty will meet us here. You know how she use to mumu.”

Still, there was no response and it was no longer funny. Obinna had done this same thing the first time we launched the operation. He ran away with almost 23 pears, leaving 6 scattered on the floor.

“Obinna!” I called again and everywhere was still silent.

I decided to come down and as I slowly lowered my head under a tender branch overhead, something made me shiver. I looked downwards and my eyes fell on aunty Ngozi’s fiery look, with a terrible bitter leaf stick, fastened to her right fist, waiting to unleash its full potentials.

I moved my eyes sideways and I saw Obinna kneeling down with his hands raised up and his pockets still loaded with the forbidden pear. His mouth was filled with two pears already. He couldn’t spit them out, neither could he swallow them. I saw real fear painted on his face.

Taking a great gulp, I couldn’t move my feet again.

From that day till date, I have refused to behold the sight a pear tree, let alone, the fruit. I didn’t make the decision—the scars did.

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