We Are Not Cursed #16

PART SIXTEEN

Edited by: Darlene Jones

 

 

The melon-shaped beads looked fantastic. Okuoba thought the dark red would complement her mahogany skin. However, what was left undone of the ornamentation process was drawing up the beads on a string to form bracelets and a necklace needed for the upcoming Mputa ezi ceremony.

“You don’t seem to like them.”

Okuoba quickly looked up at her mother, Oluchi, and beamed a smile. “I do, Mama. I think they are the creation of a skilled bead-maker. It’s just that I …” She picked up a bead from the colourful bunch on the raffia mat and began to turn it slowly between her fingers as if she was further evaluating the ball.

Her mother got down on her knees so they would be on the same eye level. “Go on,” she said, gently placing a finger under Okuoba’s chin, beseeching the young beauty with her eyes as well, “you know you can always tell me anything. And I mean anything.

“Well …” Okuoba looked away. She could tell her mother that she had reservations about the upcoming ceremony which would usher her and other maidens in Ngwo into womanhood. That the gods she once revered and believed to be ever awake were at present probably on a journey or lying dead to the world. But such concerns had receded lately.

Day by day, after her failed abduction, she found herself giving in to more and more thoughts of Dubem. Pleasant thoughts that left her strangely amazed. This had not happened to her before. Not with any other man.

Admittedly, his presence was a great influence on her thinking. She no longer saw the young male as one of her father’s servants. She thought growing into adulthood and diligent labour, which included working at her father’s farms, had made him the hard and overpowering male who appeared before her. His keen dark eyes were like lustrous black pearls, always seeking her, wordlessly calling her to him.

Wall Painting in Igbo land (Pic source: nairaland.com)
Wall Painting in Igbo land (Pic source: nairaland.com)

Once, she had dreamt of him. She had dreamt of those eyes of his as they focused on her, then languidly moved downward, inspecting every inch of her. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw him. She knew he was going to touch her. Waiting with anticipation, she offered him a coquettish smile. He ran his fingertips across her cheek, then speared his big fingers through her braids and cupped the back of her head. She gasped with pleasure. He pulled her to him, lowered his head and claimed her mouth in a hungry, demanding kiss. Desire unlike any she’d ever known before spiralled through her, making her want him desperately.

Okuoba became conscious of her surroundings the moment someone stepped into the obi. By the gods! Her nipples were tight, her breasts swollen, her hands and face damp with perspiration and her feminine core throbbing. Just thinking about the dream could do that to her.

No sooner had she turned than she saw her younger and only sister, Chika, settle close beside her on the mat.

The squeeze of her hand made Okuoba face forward. “I’m still waiting for you to say something,” said Oluchi.

Okuoba cleared her throat. Maybe the time wasn’t right to disclose how she felt about Dubem. Maybe the time wouldn’t come at all. “Do maidens on the threshold of womanhood dance a lot during Mputa ezi? I mean, will they dance in front of people—even potential suitors?”

“Of course, that’s how your father and his people saw me. He said I was irresistible—my dancing made it impossible for him to leave me. But then, the dancing only comes after you girls have gone through the final indoctrination.” Oluchi tilted her head, her brows almost coming together. “Is that why you suddenly look nervous?”

Okuoba nodded sharply, hoping the lie would be a suitable answer to the question.

“She’s lying, Mama!” Chika chimed in, laughing, prodding Okuoba’s elbow with hers. “Her heart has been seized by a love-filled symphony.”

Oluchi looked confusedly at the girls. “Am I missing something?”

Chika was about to talk again when Okuoba pinched her from behind. And then came the sharp cry of pain. The two sisters exchanged glances. Okuoba’s was stern—the watch-your-tongue type that had the power to temporarily freeze someone.

“Can you girls please tell me what’s going on?” Oluchi’s gaze jumped from face to face. But neither of the girls uttered a word. Looking like someone who had gallantly conceded defeat, she shook her head, chuckled, rose from the mat, then extended a hand to Chika to follow her. She said to Okuoba, “Just so you know: custom demands that the food for the participating maidens be prepared by their mothers. This food will be shared amongst the girls at the village square.” Bending slightly, she added, “Don’t worry. It’s a stage in every woman’s life and I promise you that it will be fun. Okay?”

Okuoba offered a weak smile.

“In the meantime, your sister will accompany me to the homes of a few friends of mine; women whose daughters will also be participating in the ceremony.”

As the duo were about to leave the obi, Umeh walked in, his snuff box in hand.

Okuoba watched as her parents engaged in a short discussion about the next planting season. Thereafter, she helped her father to his wooden stool, placing his walking stick beside him on the floor.

Umeh grinned and tapped the bottom of his snuff box. “They must be for the ceremony.”

Okuoba instantly knew that her father was referring to the bunch of beads on the mat. Taking her position on the mat once again, she said, “Yes, Papa. Do you like their colour?”

Umeh gave an appreciative nod. He opened his snuff box, scooped a bit of the dry dark-brown tobacco and sniffed loudly. An uneasy expression later appearing on the old man’s face prompted Okuoba to ask if everything was all right.

“Come closer, child.” Umeh waved.

PART FIFTEEN||PART SIXTEEN

______________________________

Mputa ezi (Right of Passage) ceremony:  This is a ceremony practiced by the Igbos in pre-colonial Nigeria. The ceremony is intended to showcase young females to the entire community as they advance from one level of life and responsibility to the next. 

Advertisements

49 thoughts on “We Are Not Cursed #16

  1. I like the way you are making her timid, shy and not able to tell her mother how she feels. I was pleasantly surprised by the dream. I enjoyed the two sisters and one having a secret the other pinching her! Sweet and yet, mysterious… What is in the tobacco or what will the father say next…Suspense is always keeping us waiting for the next chapter! Thanks for such a lovely one to read!

    1. Aw, Robin, I thought that since Okuoba was still a maiden, it was only natural for her to be shy when hit by the first waves of love and desire. The interplay between her and her sister was an instinctive one. As young man who doesn’t have a sister, writing that part was a bit tricky 😀 😀

      About the ending … I hope the next installment will be a wonderful follow up from here. Umeh sure has a lot on his hand now.

      Thanks for commenting.

      1. I like that you call Okuoba a “maiden” and how you are so sweet with your details and care taken to tell your story well. Thanks, Uzoma, for the treat of your story and will hope the novel gets discovered and published!

        1. Ah! In my mother tongue, Okuoba would’ve been addressed as “Agbogho” or “Agboghobia” which when translated means “maiden.” As a writer, “maiden” sits well with me.

          I dearly look forward to seeing my work in print. It’ll be a dream come true.

          Thank you so much, Robin. You’re a very wonderful friend.

  2. Uzoma, I like how you’ve changed the rhythm here, giving us a richer perspective for characters and sense of place. As you know, I love hearing about your traditions. But also, taking things down from a fever pitch to a slow burn makes the whole story more complex for me. I leaned forward in response to Umeh’s beckoning, eager to hear what he wants to impart. Excellent!

    1. Hehe. A change in rhythm is always good; it brings a new dimension to storytelling. We will be acquainted with the unspoken words of Umeh in the next installment. A tortuous climb to finding the truth and maintaining a happy family.

      I’m glad you are still fascinated by the culture of my people. A big thank you for commenting, my good friend.

  3. Beautifully written, as always. I wonder how the earlier event will affect the ceremony.

    Okuoba’s thoughts on Dubem will nicely complicate things, too. When that is made known, that will certainly upset somebody, and put Dubem in deadly danger!

    Great stuff. 🙂

    1. Oh yes, the events of the past will surely have a bearing on the upcoming ceremony. You possess a profound mind, Allyson.

      I thought this would be right moment to talk more about Dubem and Okuoba. Romance intertwined with suspense should be a delicious mix. But then, as you rightly said, someone (or even more people) will be upset, putting Dubem in great danger.

      As always, I relish reading your comments.

      1. Thank you! 🙂 I do agree this is the best time to talk of Dubem and Okuoba. Her thoughts for him are very important. How you wrote this was wonderful, not just because of her reaction to thinking about him, but also because these feelings seem to have caught Okuoba by surprise, too – showing how love and attraction cannot be planned for. Dubem will be delighted when he realizes she cares so for him.

        Yes, romance adds another layer and increase the risks by putting hearts and not just bodies in danger. These two characters have some adventure ahead. Great stuff! (I’m sitting here, grinning!)

        🙂

        1. Such a handsome comment, Allyson. I think one of the best assets of the writer is the ability to observe, to key in to the characters in his story. So, yes, I do share the same view with you about love taking Okuoba by surprise. Ha! It’s that surprise (love that you mentioned it!) that make her character believable and relatable.

          I enjoy reading your comments … always.

  4. Uzo my friend,

    I marvel how you penned Okuoba’s recollection of and growing feelings for Dubem. Not easy for a male author to convey such thoughts as expressed by a woman. As a writer, this is an area I need to work on.

    The lead up to and hints of the “Right of Passage” are interesting, to say the least. Many eastern cultures also have rites, especially for maidens broaching adulthood. These tend to be a kind of coming out (debutante) ceremony where young men and women size up one another under the chaperone eyes of their families.

    A lighter read, after a series of heavy episodes. Nice balance and relief.

    Looking forward to the next episode,
    Eric

    1. Ha, you are correct, Eric! Writing from a woman’s pov can be very challenging for a male author, especially if the writer has to portray the female character’s feelings and attitude toward others and life in general. That said, I dearly appreciate the extolment. But hey, you do well too … at least, Neela’s character in your story serial is believable.

      This “Right of Passage” ceremony back then in Igbo land was just not for girls alone. My people had a series of ceremonies for the boys too. But for the sake of this tale I will focus on the ceremony relevant to the women.

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. I carry hope in a fragile beaker for the young would-be lovers who are yet to voice their feelings for each other. Can their feelings, still in infancy and heavy with desire, survive the intrigues that surround them? Uzoma, I am panting to find out. But first, let me hear what Umeh has to say. Until next week, kachifo 🙂

    1. Kachifo! Ewoo, I meela nke oma (Thank you so much) :)! Hope you had a wonderful rest last night.

      Frankly, there is this unexplainable feeling that comes with writing about Okuoba and Dubem and the growing affection between them.

      More tragedy lies ahead. Only time will tell if it will claim the life of both or one of them.

      Your kind words give me strength.

  6. My children were screaming underground but I ignored them, until I had finished reading your intriguing tale. I have to give it to you dear brother, your descriptive power is second to none. You captured the entire scene, it aptly reminded me of my NYSC in Enugu state several moons ago! (Fourteen years to be exact!) Great job, I love it!! I wonder what Okuoba father wanted to say… till next week eh?
    Much love. 🙂

    1. Oh my goodness! You’ve just made my day a lot more brighter! No doubt you have shown keen interest in this serial so far and in return, I will do my best to keep up with this tempo.

      You are an excellent writer too, sis. I guess it is natural that we marvel even more at the works of others than ours.

      Sorry for the late response — the much time I’ve had to blog lately was dedicated the blogs I follow 🙂

  7. This episode brings a lovely sense of peace, of the family love and of hope for the couple everyone is routing for. But like other commentators, I can’t help the feeling that this is only a short respite before further drama unleashes. I love the way you seamlessly flow from one scene to another and keep the reader’s interest and expectations, Uzo.

    1. Words are inadequate to explain the joy I felt while reading your comment, Lena. It’s rewarding and encouraging to learn that my effort at trying to keep this story going is worth the while.

      Yes, a short respite does bring in a new air, setting up for more suspense ahead.

  8. You have an amazing grasp on drawing us in to a scene. I was engross with the sister’s exchange and their mother’s confusion. I love the added cultural implication while we are spectators to this young girl’s recalling of such a vivid dream. Now I’m left in suspense of what her father has to say to her. Can’t wait for the next episode!
    Well penned Uzoma!

    1. You bestow on me a wonderful comment, Glynis. Truly it was both exciting and difficult at the same time to pen this part. Exciting, because I dived into the feminine mind. Difficult, because I had to ensure that these characters didn’t look out of place.

  9. Oh, I missed Okuoba. And again, I liked the way you wrote from her POV. Her thoughts and actions feels so natural. Like Eric said, it isn’t easy for a male author to capture the thoughts of a female well. But you do it so well, bro.

    I look forward to the next instalment.

    By the way, I think the lady at the top (your blog cover) looks like Okuoba. 🙂

    1. Nwanne kedu? So good to read your comments once more!

      Oh yes, It was a giant step delving into Okuoba’s sensuality and femininity. But I can’t deny I enjoyed it, too. Man, she has of late become my most favorite character!

      Lol @ the young woman in one of my blog’s header pic. She sure is beautiful! An African to the core! I couldn’t help using the pic 🙂

      1. No problem, I can’t even remember where to start! I’m sure it’ll come back to me one day – I’m doing a lot of reading so maybe it will give me inspiration. I’m reading the follow-up novel to Half of a Yellow Sun – Americanah – it’s so good!

        1. I understand — getting back to writing ways after a long time can be challenging. But once you have your mojo on, it should be easier. Aha! Reading the works of others does help, too.

          So you’re now reading Americanah? That’s great. I bet while reading Half of a Yellow Sun you were introduced to some bit of an African culture.

          1. Yes that’s what I’m hoping!
            Yeah both novels explore Nigerian culture so it’s very interesting – but I think Americanah is turning out to be a very good universal love story whereas I think Half of a Yellow Sun was more concentrated on Nigeria’s history.

            1. Good … good! I must be honest that I have not read either of these books. But I now have Americanah on my Kindle. I’ve only managed to read Purple Hibiscus by Adichie.

              So are you going to do a review of any of her books? I’d like to read it.

              1. Well since there’s interest I may do – I must admit I couldn’t read the last 20 pages of Half of a Yellow Sun because it wasn’t going how I’d like it to haha!

              2. *kneels, hand extended* Please, please, please do a review. I am particularly interested in reviews of African book by westerners as they certainly bring a whole new outlook to what’s written.

                If I may ask, were the last twenty horrific or terribly depressing you had no choice than to put it down?

    1. Aw, that’s so sweet of you, Sheri. I am guilty of not spending quality time to read the blogs ot most of my favorite bloggers lately. But I believe that is about to end — hopeful by the end of this week. I’ve missed you a lot and hope all is well with you. Well, I will definitely drop by your blog.

      Thanks for the visit.

Your thoughts matter

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s